On education and teachers, Kelli Stargel and Richard Corcoran are (very bad) Democrats. Come see.

On education and teachers, Kelli Stargel and Richard Corcoran are (very bad) Democrats. Come see.

I’ve talked quite a bit about how Kelli Stargel and your state government used the equation below to fraudulently evaluate teachers and sabotage traditional zoned schools serving marginalized populations of kids.  It’s called VAM (value-added model or measure). It’s basically a school grade for teachers — and just as drenched in bad faith. But you may be surprised to learn that in deploying this anti-teacher weapon of chaos, Kelli Stargel was just being the good education Democrat that she actually is. Below you will find an excerpt from this article about VAM, written in 2010.  2010. Let me say that again: 2010. This excerpt and article should be equally uncomfortable for Republicans and Democrats to read. Education Obama is the worst Obama The fact is, VAM was a terrible Democratic idea championed by Barack Obama’s Department of Education and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Race-to-the-Top, the disastrous successor to George W. Bush’s and Ted Kennedy’s disastrous No Child Left Behind, made VAM a national thing for a while. A short while. Education Obama is, by far, the worst Obama. I say that as someone who voted for him twice. I liked him very much on many other things. He also never embarrassed me as an American. But he was a conduit for elite, bipartisan, institutional policy on education. The fact that he and Jeb Bush agreed so often was sold as a lovely bit of national cooperation. Ask a teacher and test-stressed kids how all that good feeling worked out for them. [Usual disclaimer: I’m a No Party Affiliate. I describe myself as an anti-prohibition, pro-14th Amendment, moral conservative — with conservatism defined by honest human observation rather than religion. But most people call me liberal. I don’t care what most people call me. Call me whatever you want to.] VAM was quickly discredited by educators and statisticians alike and essentially abandoned by everybody else, right about the time Kelli Stargel and company started to think it was cool. Want to hurt teachers? Steal from Democrats I feel certain Florida’s education leaders thought it was cool because it was shown to fraudulently evaluate teachers in zoned neighborhood schools serving under-capitalized populations. It was a feature, not a bug. You cannot overstate their cynicism. You really can’t. Eventually, the disruption and fraud of VAM got out of hand. VAM discredited itself even in Florida, even among the Republican voters and...

Read More

Kelli Stargel’s weird, day-late letter — and the great value of public confrontation

Kelli Stargel’s weird, day-late letter — and the great value of public confrontation

You may remember that I invited Kelli Stargel to attend the Polk School Board meeting on April 24th. I wanted her to address the board and public before we voted on the so-called “turnaround” schools that she and state educrats conspired to sabotage in multiple ways over the last couple of years. Here’s how she declined the invitation. Stargel’s key quotes: her school closure/outsource list “is not a matter of [state] laws” and “it’s a board issue and you guys are going to have to deal with it.” The day after April 24th meeting, which I’ll come to in a minute, Stargel sent a very strange and self-justifying letter to the seven board members, Superintendent Jackie Byrd, and Wendy Dodge, our government affairs person. That’s it. Nine people. To my knowledge, she has not posted it publicly anywhere. The meeting was the 24th, Kelli This letter’s stated purpose, in the opening paragraph, is this: I am writing to provide some information that I trust will be helpful as you make the difficult decisions that are needed to approve turnaround option plans for the six schools in Polk County currently determined to need improvement. These decisions are critical for the families and students in our community. These decisions are so “critical for the families and students in our community” that she sent her helpful information the day after we took this critical vote. That’s how truly lazy and uninterested in her “community” this person is. Take a look. I’ll post a picture of the whole thing down at the bottom. The timing of this letter is just the first manifestation of its oddness. It seems to serve no purpose other than rebutting me. I’m the only board member whose positions, words, or actions are specifically addressed, although she doesn’t do it by name. But she’s literally making this self-justifying rebuttal to only nine people. Most, if not all, of these people already have quite well-formed positions on how I operate as a board member. Thus, the only real effect of this letter seems to be to provide me with material — and a pretty clear example of the benefits of my approach to governing and politics. So thanks, Kelli…I guess. Political confrontation and competition changes political behavior for the better I tend to hear a core critique of the idea that we should hold legislators and state educrats — as...

Read More

Tuesday’s state house election: Ricky Shirah will support schools and teachers. Josie Tomkow will hurt them and support Richard Corcoran. Choose accordingly.

Tuesday’s state house election: Ricky Shirah will support schools and teachers. Josie Tomkow will hurt them and support Richard Corcoran. Choose accordingly.

There’s an election Tuesday for state house seat 39, the seat the Neil Combee vacated a few months ago for a cushy federal government job. Here is the map so you can see if you need to vote. It’s basically Polk County north of I-4, plus much of the area between Lakeland and Auburndale. Click to enlarge. And go vote. If you are a teacher or any kind of stakeholder in public education, your choice is abundantly clear: If you want to change Tallahassee, and make it a partner in education, you should vote for Ricky Shirah. If you want Tallahassee to keep hurting you — if you like the Kelli Stargel approach — you should vote for Josie Tomkow. I don’t know Josie Tomkow. I haven’t met her. She may be a nice person. But I know she was selected by Neil Combee to fill his seat and do the bidding of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Neil is proudly loyal to Corcoran, who has been an enemy of every local community in Florida, especially in education. Tomkow has shown no indication of any positions that are her own. If you like excessive standardized testing and VAM scores and fraudulent school grades and threats to close schools, Josie Tomkow is your candidate. If you are a teacher or stakeholder of a public school, and you want Tallahassee to keep hurting you, she will keep hurting you. Because that’s what her leadership will tell her do. It’s just a fact, whatever your party or ideology. You are Josie Tomkow’s stepping stone to something personally beneficial. Her campaign is about her entitlement and the power of Tallahassee leadership — not you or your kids. By contrast, Ricky Shirah is a friend to public schools. He’s put in endless hours as a volunteer and supporter of Kathleen Middle and High School. He believes in the changes we’re trying to make here in Polk and in Florida. He won’t go to Tallahassee just so he can grovel to Richard Corcoran. Ricky is loyal, fiery, passionate and persistent. He’s in nobody’s pocket. That’s what I want in an elected official. I’m proud that he supported me as a board member; and I’m proud to support him. Ricky is, above all, loyal to Polk County and to your kids. Take a look at this video and see for yourself. Isn’t it time we had somebody representing Polk County...

Read More

The consent of the tested and punished, part 2: the Florida Death Purple, the NAEP, and the corrupt brand signals we tolerate from our government

The consent of the tested and punished, part 2: the Florida Death Purple, the NAEP, and the corrupt brand signals we tolerate from our government

You can find part 1 of this series at the bottom of this essay. This quote below comes from the final paragraph of FSU Physics Professor Paul Cottle’s latest installment in our ongoing dialogue. In this case, my usage of “STEM” intended to reference branding, not content. But I didn’t make that clear; because I’m not sure I had fully articulated it for myself when I wrote it. Now I know I should have said “STEM-branded.” That’s what I meant. And that would have been more accurate. And that context illuminates beautifully the point Paul makes below in response. Billy, I had to chuckle at your characterization of Florida’s education system as “STEM-based”. High school physics enrollment is down 8% over the last three years – and that’s after the state was already at half the national physics enrollment rate. High school chemistry enrollments are down 9% over the last two years. If this is what victory looks like… Here’s a link to some of his detail. Paul’s paragraph also helped me get to the core of my critique about Florida’s political standardized test obsession. Testing has become a tool of easy branding — and really nothing else. Test results send (often crushing) brand signals to individuals and their parents. To communities. To politicians and voters. To business recruiters, many of whom, understandably, seem to think that education systems exist to produce numbers to recruit businesses. The idea that these test results should be used constructively, to develop and nurture human potential, is barely even given lip service any more at the political/government level — as opposed to educational level. Remember, this is the Florida state government’s — Rick Scott’s — official position on educating children: “You’re making this too complicated. Educating children is like fixing a car. You take a car to the garage and pay them to fix it. We pay our schools $7,000 per student and expect them to be educated.” “How do you know they’re learning anything?” “That’s why we have standardized tests.” If you’re clever or shameless enough in your data manipulation, you can make those brand signals say almost anything you want about the same teachers, kids, and education system. So as consumers of test-based branding, we have to understand that our children are nothing more than branding units for Florida’s politicians and powerful. Doubt me? Let’s take a closer look. The Death Purple...

Read More

The Aramark contract and the Polk School District’s most damaging internal pathology

The Aramark contract and the Polk School District’s most damaging internal pathology

I’m an active and inquisitive board member. I do not believe the people of Polk County elected me to sit idly by and collect a $40,000/year salary awaiting “recommendations” from staff that I then rubberstamp as a formality when I show up for meeting once or twice per month. I believe the people of Polk County elected me to solve problems and improve the culture and direction of Polk district leadership. That means I have to ask questions of staff leadership, so I can figure out what those problems are and how we might solve them. Sometimes, I sense, this questioning annoys some staff members (but by no means all; many are extremely responsive and helpful) Staff are busy. I understand that, and I don’t hold annoyance against them. I try to be sensitive to their pressures and workload and not overburden them. More significantly, I sense my interest in information annoys my fellow board members. In fact, I have been lectured in meetings more than once by fellow board members about my propensity to ask for information, via email and otherwise. Kay Fields, particularly, during our “goal-setting” retreat, insisted that I follow a protocol for information gathering that staff prefers: this involves copying Superintendent Jackie Byrd and her executive assistant JoAnne Clanton on any request for information that I make of anyone via email. I think this is silly and burdensome for the superintendent and JoAnne. But that is what they and Kay and other members wanted. In the interest of trying to be a team player, I agreed. So now, when I ask a question of leadership, JoAnne runs down the answer. And then she sends it in a general note to all board members without saying who asked the question or including the text of the question. As voters, and stakeholders, I think it’s good for you to have this window of context into what I’m about to show you. Within an hour late yesterday afternoon, I received two very unsatisfactory answers to questions I asked. One concerned what specific mechanical steps the district/board needs to perform to get as many Lake Wales-area middle schoolers as possible to attend Lake Wales High, their home high school. This is a goal that everyone (Lake Wales and district) seems to share. The answer I got — through a generalized answer to the board — was long and bureaucratically...

Read More