The consent of the tested and punished, part 1: Florida tells Ted Dintersmith, “Educating children is like fixing a car.”

The consent of the tested and punished, part 1: Florida tells Ted Dintersmith, “Educating children is like fixing a car.”

You’ve heard me write and talk quite a bit about Ted Dintersmith, an education activist and philanthropist, whose perceptions and obsessions overlap substantially (but not completely) with mine. I have particular fondness for Ted because we are in lockstep in how we see the toxic state-level educational experience imposed by the toxic Florida state government. Ted’s new book, “What School Could be,” is a travelogue of sorts. He went to all 50 states in search of joy, creativity, and purpose in educational experience. In the course of that trip, he came to Florida. I saw him on his visit to Lake Wales, where he was very critical of the Florida Model. See this post for an account of that discussion that I wrote during the 2016 campaign. He also went to Tallahassee. There he had a short meeting with Rick Scott’s chief of staff. Dintersmith’s account of this meeting is, perhaps, the most concise and profoundly revealing snapshot I have seen of the lazy and destructive thinking that created and sustains the Florida model. It’s the most profound description I have read of the arrogance and contempt that people of power in Florida have for the humanity of your children. Just read this. (I’m asking for some fair use leniency here.) The meeting was short. I met with the chief of staff to Florida governor Rick Scott, who advises him, and previously Jeb Bush, on education. Her staff rescheduled a few times, but she met me at 2:45 p.m. in her office in the Florida State Capitol. Let’s refer to her as KM. [Billy insert — All indications suggest this is Kim McDougal, long-time state government fixture, now a lobbyist.] I introduced myself and began explaining what I was doing. I tend to talk fast but after a couple of minutes, KM stopped me. “Look. I know everything I need to know about education. You don’t need to tell me anything. What can I explain to you?” Me [Dintersmith]: I believe that the more test-driven a school is, the more it puts kids at risk in a world of innovation. KM: 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. Me: How do you know they’re learning anything? KM: That’s...

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What is Algebra? And is it memorable and useful enough to justify doing lasting harm to kids’ lives over it?

What is Algebra? And is it memorable and useful enough to justify doing lasting harm to kids’ lives over it?

This is a long-overdue response to Paul Cottle, a Physics professor at FSU, with whom I exchanged some very enjoyable thoughts and questions that culminated in this essay he wrote back in January. I think this is part of a vital discussion about the systemic purpose, meaning, and consequences of education. I hope we’ll keep it going.  I have a terrible mechanical/computational memory. My wife and I often played “Memory” with our kids as they grew up. I never won. Not once. Ever. The locations of the little cows always swam on me once we turned them back over. My wife and kids got a giant kick out of laughing at my frustration. Moreover, I can’t remember phone numbers; names; where we keep the pots; when I’ve locked a door (multiple times a week, I make multiple trips to our doors at night because I can’t be sure that I’m not remembering locking them last night). Family ridicule aside, I have come to regard this poor computational memory as something of a gift, rather than a curse. Because, on the flip side, I have a ridiculously good impressionistic/emotional memory. When something makes an impression, it never goes away. I internalize it — and potentially weaponize it — automatically. Without much effort, really. For instance, names don’t make an impression on me. But if that human whose name I can’t remember communicates their pain or fear or love or anger or experience to me, it attaches itself to an understanding of that person whose name I can’t remember. I am not a brain scientist. I’m theorizing here only from my own experience. But I think my brain automatically sheds clutter it does not think it needs so it can lock in on the deeper thoughts and human concepts that make me who I am. I think my brain has an ability to sense and assign value in what it processes — and discard what I don’t really value. It’s hard for me to know — or even speculate — that people who remember more of what they encounter than I do have greater difficulty discerning importance and value. So I’ll refrain from doing it. But I’m increasingly thankful, in my life, for my computational memory shortcomings. I think they are a feature, not a bug, of any talent I possess and any accomplishment I can claim. Memory, retention, and achievement This question...

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Kelli Stargel’s true colors: “I do not plan to be there” on April 24 when the School Board votes on the Stargel School Kill List

Kelli Stargel’s true colors: “I do not plan to be there” on April 24 when the School Board votes on the Stargel School Kill List

Take a look at this video I took of Sen. Kelli Stargel on Tuesday. Here’s the context for it. At our April 24th meeting, your School Board will address Stargel’s legislative mandate to choose a method for punishing and harming the people who attend and work at six Polk schools. These schools have been singled out because they are not Cs on the fraudulent school grading algorithm. In many cases, Stargel and the state have actively sabotaged these schools using this test score equation — the so-called Value Added Model — to disrupt teaching staff. For instance, Kathleen Middle is a point a way from a “C.” It would not be on this list if Stargel and Tallahassee had not used the fraudulent VAM equation in early 2017 to gut Kathleen’s teaching staff and replace it with multiple subs for half the year — against the principal’s wishes. Using VAM, the state forced Bartow Middle this year to wipe out much of its math department and replace them with subs — against the principal’s wishes. This is a mess of the Florida Model’s making. And despite it, a lot of really good work continues to happen at those schools. I would send my son to either, just like I sent him to a different D-school last year, where he had a good experience. Having done whatever she can to hurt the people of these schools, here are the choices, mandated without funding, Kelli Stargel is forcing on us via last year’s abusive House Bill 7069 law: Close the schools. Outsource them to charter operators that do not exist. Turn over millions in taxpayer money over time to useless consultants. Stargel’s big pay day for educrat consultants will mean less money for other schools and less money to address security, mental health, and humanity issues at those schools. The consultants will not be addressing any of that. Stargel and state government do not respect the choices of parents at those schools. They have not asked parents at these schools if they want the neighborhood school they have chosen closed or outsourced. I do respect those parental choices. That’s why I reject all of the options on Stargel’s ultimatum. They are harmful to my community, kids, teachers, and staff — as is our malicious and incompetent state government. But Stargel and that same state government, by law, says I can’t reject...

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Sheriff Judd seems to misunderstand his own law. So let’s start over, as serious and collaborative people.

Sheriff Judd seems to misunderstand his own law. So let’s start over, as serious and collaborative people.

The “School Security” law your legislators and Polk Sheriff Grady Judd recently produced swallows itself in fundamental and lethal contradiction. Ideally, all stakeholders would recognize this and simply start over again. Ideally, this time, lawmakers and Judd would seek good faith collaboration with subject matter experts in school operations. But we don’t live in an ideally governed state. Thus, it’s vitally important for you, the public, to understand this paradox: to implement Grady Judd’s Guardian program consistent with Grady Judd’s vision for it, which the state law wants to coerce your School Board to do, your School Board will have to break the same law Grady Judd helped create that is trying to coerce us. And by breaking Judd’s law, we will create massive daily firearm accident risk and impulsive behavior risk — the exact type of daily risk Judd seeks to avoid in his jails by preventing detention deputies from carrying weapons while performing normal duties. [Kids are not prisoners. Schools are not jails. But schools are full of human immaturity. These children are developing. Depending on their ages, they can be grabby, impulsive, angry, depressed. Some have disabilities that impair judgement. Some feel suicidal. A gun is power. It will exert the same gravity and endless possibility of violent disruption in a classroom that it will in a jail. It is a deadly, shiny object. See a full examination of that here.] I know that’s quite a bit in one paragraph to wrap your head around. I took me a long time to figure out how to articulate it. But this glaring contradiction at the heart of the law stems from three key facts: The Guardian program is an “arming teachers” program that excludes teachers from being armed. Elementary schools, which have the fewest security incidents, pose the most vexing cost, logistics, and safety challenge because they don’t have school resource officers. And there are a lot of elementary schools. The law requires either a school resource officer or “guardians” at every school, including elementary schools. But the state does not fund SROs for elementary schools. Thus, it seeks to strong-arm boards into “defending” elementary schools with a Guardian program that doesn’t actually arm teachers. Let’s look at each of these in a little greater depth. The Guardian program is an “arming teachers” program that excludes teachers from being armed. Arming teachers is an unsound operational and moral idea for the reasons...

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Don’t let Bill Thompson’s incompetence fool you, part 1: your School Board, other than me and Kay Fields, may well approve the Guardian program if you don’t stop them

Don’t let Bill Thompson’s incompetence fool you, part 1: your School Board, other than me and Kay Fields, may well approve the Guardian program if you don’t stop them

What follows is a typically lazy and inaccurate passage from Ledger editorial writer Bill Thompson. What separates it from normal, and makes it worthy for attention, is the civic importance of its misinformation. Here’s the quote, addressing our school safety work session last week with Sheriff Grady Judd and a whole bunch of silent police chiefs: “Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd foreclosed on the idea of arming teachers even before Scott enacted the Coach Aaron Feiss Guardian Program, named for one of the three Douglas High faculty members slain in the Feb. 14 attack. And it appears, so far, the board agrees with her. Only one board member, Sarah Beth Reynolds, publicly expressed openness to the idea.” There are four errors in the three sentences of that one paragraph. Two are serious, one highly disrespectful in its carelessness, and another just routinely disrespectful in its carelessness. (That’s more than an error per sentence, Brian Burns. Just FYI. Is this what we subscribers are paying for? Stop letting this guy misinform the public and hurt your hard working reporters for no value in return. Please.) First, Jackie Byrd did not “foreclose” on the idea of arming teachers; she opposed it. The Legislature and U.S. Senate Candidate Rick Scott foreclosed on it in the law itself. Here’s what it says. Click to enlarge: You may notice a sentence that reads: “Excluded from participating in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program are individuals who exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers as defined in s. 1012.01(2)(a).” There is a touch of wiggle room in the word “exclusively”; but by all appearances, this exclusion would apply to both teachers I know who expressed support for the idea of serving as guardians, at least in theory. I can’t count how many I’ve talked to who oppose it. (If you’re asking, “wait, who is even left to arm after you exclude teachers?” then you are asking the right question. I will answer it later this week.) Second, Bill misspelled Aaron Feis’ name. That suggests to me Bill did not care enough about Aaron Feis’ sacrifice to read the law named for him. As you can see, that law spelled Feis’ name correctly in almost exactly the same spot it excluded classroom teachers from the program. The School Board seems inclined to arm…somebody, anybody Third, and most important for Polk County, Bill is completely wrong about the sentiment...

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