FSA rule changes; reading endorsements; and defying the Supernova of edu-words that consume all clarity, reason, and children

 

According to my printer, the Florida Department of Education’s guide to giving the FSA is 276 pages long. See for yourself.

That’s 276. With a two; a seven; and a six. I doubt the manual handed out to Guantanamo Bay waterboarders killed so many digital trees. It certainly tortured fewer 8-year-olds. It would be interesting to compare them one day.

State testing policies flow out of the state law that Kelli Stargel and other politicians write on orders from Jeb Bush’s henchpeople and into this operational document. This operational document then flows into localized trainings. These are mostly power point-type presentations given online and discussions with school-based test co-ordinators, as I understand it. Please correct any flaw in my understanding.

Everyone — mostly teachers — who administers this test (against their will) is supposed to process and retain all this information, under pain of serious punishment — like losing your teaching certificate if you screw up. When 99 percent of people say they hate “Common Core,” they are talking about this Denali of bullshit, not the nuances of turgid academic standards.

I would not want to be tasked with boiling down this horrific mountain of incomprehensible, child-hating state bullshit into a smaller mountain of local bullshit. But that’s the job our local test and “accountability” people have. And this year, for all that 276 pages, three bullet points on page 30 have caused a special stir — beyond the normal moral revulsion at the educational and human waste of this system. These are “New Standardization Policies.” See below:

These three largely bureaucratic and abstract description bullets do not specifically say:

  • “You cannot wake up a sleeping 8-year-old.”
  • “You cannot encourage a sleeping 8-year-old with his or her head on the table because the test overwhelms them to continue because his or her ability to stay with his or her friends is in jeopardy of he or she does not.”
  • “You cannot offer an 8-year-old an extra cookie at lunch if they finish the test.”

[Late update: Now they do say most of that in writing. A DoE FAQ came out this afternoon. See a couple images below. Click to enlarge.]

Prior to today, each of those messages was been conveyed orally in trainings built to embellish what’s written. The dozens of reports I’ve received are very specific — and not just from Polk.

Moreover, if you violate one of these as a teacher, Big Brother will send you to the Florida Ministry of Love and revoke your teaching certificate and livelihood. That specific message has been conveyed in Polk, according to multiple accounts. I suspect it’s the same elsewhere; but I’m not certain. This is probably a point-of-emphasis from DoE’s “Train-the-trainer” sessions.

Who is the test-giver secret police?

These “new standardization policies” are designed by the Jeb Bush Foundation people who give Kelli Stargel her orders and by Gov. DeSantis’ Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and DoE Chancellor Jacob Oliva to further hurt and defraud your children and their teachers. Like everything else, they are designed to help chase your children out of the public schools you’ve chosen and into untested, unmonitored private grifter schools. They are a part of Richard Corcoran’s fever dream of driving 2 million kids into the arms of Ralph Arza and Pastor TigerSee this article for further explanation.

Understand this, everyone: state education leaders are at war with public education, your children, and teachers. They are here to hurt and exploit your kids. So we need to be at war with them; or we won’t exist. The sooner everyone realizes that; the sooner we can win the war and save public education.

And with that in mind, I fully encourage defiance of anything not spelled out in writing in the “new standardization policies,” from anyone willing to risk it. Wake a child up; comfort and encourage child; put your arm around one and tell them it will be OK; offer them a cookie or an extra PE period.

Who is going to report you? Does DoE have a Gestapo army of informants? How does this work?

Who is the comrade informer who calls Richard Corcoran and says, “Mrs. Jones who makes $45,000 a year in her 15th year, comforted a child during FSA. Bring her in for interrogation and re-education.” I want to know that person’s name, so I can do some interrogating of my own.

Have we required the “reading endorsement” for nothing? Can we stop right now? Or reduce the number of people taking it?

Now I’m going to shift gears to something totally different; but exactly the same.

This subject will mean a lot to Reading teachers — and seem utterly incomprehensible to all other human beings. It remains incomprehensible to me. I’m not even sure there is an objective answer to it; so we should make our own answer in Polk County.

Very briefly, very high level: the state recently required some set of Reading teachers to take a number of courses, which they must pay for themselves, to receive a “reading endorsement” on their teaching certificate. The timing is confusing; who has to do it is confusing. But everyone agrees it’s a massive burden added to the already massive burdens our teachers carry.

But in the last couple of days, various communications have emerged suggesting that, maybe A) Polk’s universe of reading endorsement requirees has been too large B) Polk can choose not to do it all, maybe, according to an incredibly passive-aggressive DoE note.

Now, I’m feel you, reader. You peruse those three paragraphs and go: wait, can’t somebody just clearly state who has to do this; and who doesn’t? And why? In a paragraph or two? Why is this so hard?

I’m about to show you. I’m going to just cut-and-paste some content related to this. I’m stripping out the names of all people involved. You have to read this for effect. You have to experience it. Understand, the question that a couple teachers are asking here is simple. Do I really have to do this?

First, let’s start with the Polk District document from May of 2019 explaining the reading endorsement issue. It begins:

Florida has created legislative language requiring teachers serving students in need of Tier 3 literacy interventions to earn the Reading Endorsement. Specifically:

Now click to enlarge the sheets below seeking to provide specifics.

In the last couple days, two teachers have sent questions to Polk School Board members related to their experiences on the Reading Endorsement issue. One of them included a response from state government  about the Reading Endorsement in his/her email to us.

This teacher took the state’s marvelously passive-aggressive response as state permission not to do the Reading Endorsement at all. I tend to agree, even though it’s clear to me that the DoE note isn’t actually saying what it’s trying to say it’s saying.

Note the part in bold, which is my favorite. This is all a game to Tallahassee; a game of lives.

FLDOE’s response to my inquiry:

Dear Ms. XXXXX:

Thank you for reaching out to the Florida Department of Education and for your tireless efforts as a teacher in Polk County. You are to be commended for your dedication in providing quality instruction to our students. The Commissioner of Education, Mr. Richard Corcoran, has asked the Just Read, Florida! office to respond to your email regarding reading endorsement. We are pleased to respond on behalf of the Commissioner.

In Florida, the responsibility of operating, controlling, and supervising the public schools lies with the district school board and school superintendent. This is referred to as “local control” and places decision-making in the hands of those closest to the student. Because of this, the best individuals with whom to discuss these concerns are administrators at the school and district level. 

The department has not required districts to mandate every teacher become certified or endorsed in reading. Districts decide which teachers are selected to deliver the intensive reading interventions including the course and when during the instruction day. These decisions are made by the district in accordance with their approved K-12 Comprehensive Reading Plan. The plan defines which students are to get interventions and how. You can find your district’s plan and your district’s reading contact on the Just Read, Florida! website.  Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Thank you!

I, Billy, particularly enjoyed the exclamation point on the Thank You! Trolling is a dark art form I sometimes appreciate. I also love the fact that no actual human being took credit for this note. It is “signed” Just Read Florida! This could be a trollbot.

In response to the other teacher asking about this, Polk senior staff responded with a good faith response that stitched together various answers. It mostly came from a Polk district staffer I like very much. It’s genuinely empathetic and trying to be helpful. It is very well-intended. And there’s probably no other way to write it. But just try to read it.

Good afternoon,

Thank you for the opportunity to share information about the reading endorsement/certification requirements. Please find attached documents that were distributed to all staff May of 2019 via an email from XXXXXX. The documents were co-developed by the K-12 Literacy Department and the Certification Department. The documents are separated by K-5 and 6-12 to ensure clarification based on teaching assignments. The information below provides a bit more background that may be helpful as there are several reading statute/rule updates that impact different teacher groups and the information is easy to confuse.

Please know our team members have been and will continue to be responsive to any staff member that needs assistance interpreting statute/state rule to their individual situation. Many schools have also invited district team members to meet with their faculties to ensure clarification and to alleviate anxiety. These meetings have been well-received by all in attendance! XXXXXX will reach out to the leadership team at XXXXX and schedule a time to address their faculty (individually and/or as a group). She will also reach out individually to the teachers that have shared their concerns this week. And to ensure all communications are shared with current staff members, the documents will be distributed in the weekly email this week and every few weeks for the remainder of the school year.

Please let me know if additional information, clarification, or assistance is needed. Thank you

———-

Florida statute 1011.62(9) states, “…shall provide for intensive reading interventions through integrated curricula, provided that, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, the interventions are delivered by a teacher who is certified or endorsed in reading.”

Intensive reading interventions are interventions and services provided to Tier 3 students. Tier 3 students are students that earned an Achievement Level 1 on the previous FSA ELA.  Star Early Lit and Star Reading scale scores are used in accordance with PCPS’s state-approved K-12 Reading Plan for students without an FSA ELA score (students in grades K-3, students that have moved into the state or public school system after the last FSA ELA administration, or a student that did not sit for the FSA ELA last year). However, please know that teachers and school teams may reclassify a student’s Tier level of intervention based on current data if there is evidence to suggest a student’s FSA ELA score is not an accurate representation of their current performance and progress. This prevents a student’s FSA ELA score from being the only determinant of intervention needs.

There are many certifications eligible to provide Tier 3 intensive instruction, but only teachers assigned to provide ELA/intensive reading interventions are required to be reading endorsed/certified. Certifications that are eligible to provide intensive interventions include Elementary Education (K-6), Elementary Education (1-6), ESE K-12, Reading K-12, and Reading (Endorsement K-12). This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the more common certifications held by teachers providing Tier 3 intensive interventions. This new piece of legislation has not really impacted secondary teachers as they have always had to have Reading certification to be assigned to teach Intensive Reading which is the course used to provide Tier 3 intensive interventions to secondary students scoring an Achievement Level 1 on the FSA ELA. Please know, however, not every teacher holding Elementary Education or ESE certification is required to be reading endorsed. Teachers are only required to be reading endorsed if they are assigned as the teacher of record for ELA instruction and/or Tier 3 intensive reading intervention. For example, an elementary school may choose to “departmentalize” instruction versus the use of a homeroom model where a teacher provides all core instruction for their students. If a group of 4 teacher departmentalize, there are usually two teachers assigned to provide ELA and Social Studies instruction and two teachers assigned to provide Mathematics and Science instruction. All four teachers may hold the same Elementary Education certification, but only the two teachers providing ELA/reading instruction are required to be reading endorsed/certified and that is only if Tier 3 students are being served in the ELA class. However, it is the district’s recommendation that any teacher holding a certification eligible to provide Tier 3 intensive reading interventions earn the reading endorsement/certification as teaching assignments made by school administration can be changed from year to year. Please note ESE teachers assigned to teach Access  ELA/English(K-12) are required to earn the reading endorsement/certification as students assigned to Access ELA/English are considered Tier 3 students.

Reading Certification requires a master’s in reading by a state-approved college/university and passing scores on the Reading subject area exam. The Reading Endorsement may be earned by successfully completing 5 Reading Competency courses. The coursework offered free of charge through PCPS is a state-approved program meeting the state-identified requirements for each course. Staff may also choose to take classes from other institutions, but there is a fee associated with courses offered at colleges/universities, NEFEC (North East Florida Educational Consortium), or the Schultz Center. FDLRS offers Reading Competency 4 at no charge to staff. The state just passed, at the November 2019 board meeting, an amendment to state rule 6A-4.0292 allowing teachers to become reading endorsed by passing the Reading subject area exam. If a teacher passes the exam then the course work is not required. There are many teachers opting to study for and take the Reading subject area exam. Prep books for the Reading subject area exam were ordered for the Professional Library housed at Jim Miles as soon as the state passed the rule amendment allowing passing scores on the Reading subject area exam to satisfy the reading endorsement requirements. The district K12 Curriculum Department has also ordered prep books. The prep books in the Professional Library and the K12 Curriculum Department are available for check-out by teachers. Please know teachers are required to pay for the subject area exam and, upon earning passing scores, pay to have the endorsement added on their certificate.

Teachers who graduated from a state-approved teacher education program in 2006 or later may have already satisfied up to four reading competency courses through their degree coursework, however, the only way for a teacher to know if any coursework has been met through their degree work is to apply for the add-on reading endorsement through FLDOE. Once the state receives the $75 add-on application fee, the completed application, and official transcripts, DOE will evaluate the transcripts and either issue the endorsement if all competencies have been satisfied through the degree work or issue an official Statement of Eligibility that specifies what, if any, coursework has been satisfied and what coursework remains outstanding to complete the endorsement. If a teacher is issued a Statement of Eligibility for Reading (Endorsement), the teacher has three years from the date of the original add-on application to complete the coursework and add the reading endorsement to their certificate without the need for an additional $75 application fee. After three years, the state will require another add-on application and $75 fee to add the Reading (Endorsement) to the professional teaching certificate. The link provided here lists the state-approved teacher educator programs (and effective date): http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/preparation/initial-teacher-preparation-programs/approved-teacher-edu-programs.stml . Teachers holding a degree on this list may choose to apply for the reading endorsement which will prompt DOE to evaluate transcripts to determine if any reading competency courses have been satisfied through degree coursework. If a teacher’s degree is not on the list, then all five reading competencies are required to earn to the reading endorsement.

If a teacher is assigned to provide Tier 3 reading interventions to students next school year and does not have the reading certification/endorsement, the teacher will be out-of-field and must successfully complete two classes each year until the reading endorsement has been completed. This is standard practice for any out-of-field assignment. The district’s Certification Department is the best source of assistance with items related to certification, out-of-field assignments, and statement of eligibility letters issues by the state. Our team is happy to assist in this area, but we always include certification team members in responses to ensure accurate information is provided to individual teacher inquiries.

Up until the state rule requiring a teacher providing tier 3 intensive reading interventions to be reading endorsed/certified, elementary education certification (and other certifications covering elementary core instruction) satisfied the certification requirements for elementary ELA teachers and courses. However, given the new research available in reading and the number of students across the state struggling to demonstrate grade-level proficiency, the state has added the reading endorsement/certification to increase teacher knowledge and craft in the area of reading instruction. The time spent in coursework is an investment, but there are positive returns for teachers and students as our craft is refined based on research and practice.

Please know our team is very aware of the anxiety associated with this requirement. The team has worked to develop the hybrid school-based model and expedited courses to meet the diverse needs and preferences of teachers, but we aren’t able to modify or amend the requirements within each course as the course content is prescribed by the state.

Thank you again,

I wrote back in response:

That’s a lot of content for any human being to try to process. My perception is that the universe of people we/DoE required to get the endorsement has shrunken since it was first announced. Is that perception incorrect? DoE/Read Florida was pretty clear in its recent passive aggressive note that we decide who must do it? Why would not take them at their word? If it is not incorrect, who can we tell that they need not do this? And how quickly can we?

I don’t have an answer to that yet.

You are not crazy. But this vicious, corrupt governance system is — at all levels.

I received a different note from a teacher recently — a nice one — in which this person said:

I wanted to take a second … to express to you my gratitude for what you do in advocating for students and teachers and for communicating your critiques of the system that we work in. I have only this year come into public schools after 15 years of experience in private and international schools, and until I discovered your work I thought that I was going crazy whenever I would look around and see the way that our system here works and ask, “Did somebody actually think this would be a good idea?” (I don’t speak about local decisions here at the school, as I can only praise our administration for their efforts in trying to do what’s best for students in the context of an incentive structure that is at best arbitrary and at worst malicious, but about the “test and punish” regimen that our poor students have to endure for 12 years).

No, you are not crazy. None of you. You’re heroic.

You are working in a system designed by its leaders to destroy itself so it can crush and sell its kids — as data, as voucher fodder, as anything but the flesh-and-blood America future.

If you work in this system, it is vital for your sanity — and for winning this war — that you internalize this reality. It is vital to understand this reality if you plan to stay in public education. And I want you to stay in public education desperately. You are all that is keeping its beautiful heart, which still beats every day, alive. You are the Spartans at Thermopylae preserving Greek society. No one can expect that sacrifice; but I can admire it beyond words.

Comply where you must to get through the day; but don’t ever, ever believe that you will comply yourself into being valued by a system designed to destroy you. To attempt to comply yourself into being valued will drive you insane — and stress and embitter you beyond recognition. Never buy-in to the bullshit. Never. It’s vital for your life.

You are the resistance. You sacrifice yourself every day in this because you care about the humanity of the kids this system is working to destroy. The beautiful experience you still deliver every day — that has kept my kids in public education — emerges from your incredible will and creativity. Your resistance is the noblest collective act of any group of Americans in a generation. You are better than me. So don’t thank me. Ever. Indeed, you need to ratchet up your demands of all your elected officials and leaders — including me.

Every day has to be the Red Weekend

It is true that the incentives that come down from Tallahassee drive the local public school experience. But in my observation, Polk County has a habit of taking destructive, malicious, yet vaguely written mandates, and somehow making them worse. Polk’s unelected staff tends to conjure the most obtuse and overly compliant local specifics possible from this ephemera of bureaucratic prose.

That must stop. And not just stop. Flip to the other side. The only way we win this war together is to make every day the Red Weekend in as many different ways as we can. Mandates as badly and vaguely written as the incompetent DoE’s leave lots of room for defiant interpretation.

We must find that room and exploit it — and then dare Ricard Corcoran and Kelli Stargel to punish our community openly. Pick. Fights. What did the Red Weekend tell you about what happens when these people can’t hide behind their passive aggressive notes and distant authority?

Maybe we lose; maybe Kelli and Corcoran destroy public education in Polk County. But at least they would be doing it, not us. And here’s a great way to start the defiance in earnest. Simply take DoE and Corcoran at their word:

In Florida, the responsibility of operating, controlling, and supervising the public schools lies with the district school board and school superintendent. This is referred to as “local control” and places decision-making in the hands of those closest to the student. Because of this, the best individuals with whom to discuss these concerns are administrators at the school and district level. 

Consider that done, Dick.

2 comments

  1. Could you aso do an article on ESOL endorsement? FEA said all Elementary teacher have to be esol endorsed on our own time and dime. Is this true?

  2. How can they say it is a “local decision” but also say that they ( the DOE) won’t renew our certificate if we don’t do it? I am a 2nd grade teacher with 25 years experience and these classes are making my job so much harder because of the time they are taking up. Also, I can assure you that they are not enhancing my teaching one bit.