Activist judges just effectively abolished Florida school boards. Gut check time for board members.

Activist judges just effectively abolished Florida school boards. Gut check time for board members.

In the last couple weeks, I’ve discovered a pair of stark realities that profoundly affect how I see my role as your representative to the Polk County School Board. Participating in the test-driven, teacher-hating Florida Model of education stunts the achievement and human growth of children, no matter which district or type of school they attend. Florida has the worst individual test score growth in America. And Florida experiences a relentless, catastrophic collapse relative to other states in measured aggregate performance of students after 4th grade on its favorite national test, the NAEP. This has occurred in every NAEP subject, in every NAEP cycle. Since 2003. I explained and documented that in my last article. The entire Jeb Bush era is characterized by these measurements and those facts. Florida has ignored or lied about these facts the entire time. And we’re all trapped in the lie and the fraud if we live in this state. There’s no place to go. We’ve got to win here. 2. Activist judges have abolished, with clarity, any meaningful governance role for elected school boards. This happened very recently in the 7069 lawsuit appeal. A number of Florida counties, including Polk County, challenged the “Schools of Hope” law from 2016, also know as House Bill 7069. On the surface, it was about charter schools and sharing referendum funds and various other practical policies. In reality, the suit was always about where power vests. The Florida courts have spoken unequivocally. Tallahassee has all the power over your kids and the adults who see them every day. In fact, the activist judges provided no limit on state power related to local power in governing. Your School Board is ceremonial, as I’ve said before. The courts agree with me fully. Go read the decision for yourself. The activist judges of the state appeals court demonstrated the power structure through two very, very important points. Both make it clear that we have a state school system, dominated completely by state officials. However, this is not the defeat it sounds like. As I will explain. Activist judges say: your local elected officials have no standing to challenge a state law on your behalf With narrow exceptions, the appeals court ruled that no School Board — or other local government — can challenge the constitutionality of any Florida law in court. Only private citizens can challenge the constitutionality of a...

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Florida’s perpetual NAEP collapse is America’s most important education story. That’s why no one, including the NAEP, will tell it.

Florida’s perpetual NAEP collapse is America’s most important education story. That’s why no one, including the NAEP, will tell it.

What do Michigan, Missouri, Maryland, Maine, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Texas, Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Iowa, Colorado, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Nebraska all have in common? Between 4th grade and 8th grade, an aggregated sample of the children of those states all caught and surpassed Florida’s children on the NAEP Math test in 2017, the supposed national “gold standard” for comparative state testing. The NAEP is Florida education leaders’ favorite test. And it says clearly that the measured “quality” of Florida’s state model craters with age year after year after year. Florida’s measured proficiency, in all subjects, always peaks for nine-year-olds and always collapses from there. Always. That is what a failed education governance model looks like. Waves of teachers and kids have come and gone; but the advocates and policies of the Florida Model have been in power since 1999, delivering the same results over and over again. And the results are the worst in America if you care about how kids grow. Florida’s astonishing and horrifying individual growth achievement gap Florida was tied for 7th on the 2017 4th grade NAEP Math test.  And it was tied for 36th that same year in 8th grade Math. (I’m excluding Department of Defense schools because they are not a state.) Florida was three points behind national leader Massachusetts on average Math NAEP score in 4th grade. By 8th grade, it was 18 points behind. A very similar collapse occurs in Reading. Go look for yourself at the NAEP’s “national report card.” That is what you call an accelerating achievement gap. This is what test-obsession and teacher hatred and transprently fake “accountability” gets you: a catastrophic collapse in test results. And it’s not just 2017. (It’s also not just the NAEP. More in a second.) It has always been this way, since at least 2003. Florida’s kids, whomever and wherever they are, suffer from America’s worst achievement gap in state-level growth. The longer children participate in the Florida system, the less proficient they are in aggregate, according to the NAEP. The data is unequivocal. Hiding in plain sight, with no clothes. That is Jeb Bush’s true legacy. Look at the chart I created below. Look at how numbingly and predictably consistent the collapse is. In every single NAEP cycle, in every single subject, since 2003, Florida’s NAEP score relative to the national...

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I choose Lakeland (and its American schools) over Fishhawk (and its Fishhawk schools)

I choose Lakeland (and its American schools) over Fishhawk (and its Fishhawk schools)

Fishhawk Ranch is a very wealthy, very white unincorporated enclave of Hillsborough County. Along with parts of South Tampa, Fishhawk is likely the wealthiest, whitest community in Hillsborough County. It has six zoned public schools — three elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. According to Florida’s DoE, Fishhawk’s least white elementary school is 62 percent white. The other two push 70. Fishhawk’s poorest elementary school has a 13.8 percent economically distressed enrollment. Fishhawk’s one high school is 70 percent white and 17 percent economically distressed. That one high school number is probably the best indicator of Fishhawk’s overall demographics. The Fishhawk developer markets Fishhawk schools as “the best schools in Hillsbourough County.” And each scores highly on the state’s fraudulent school grade scoreboard. At 79 points, Fishhawk’s Bevis Elementary is the highest scoring elementary school in Hillsborough County, of any kind — charter, magnet, anything. Wouldn’t be the “best” in Lakeland But it would not be the “best” in Lakeland. Not even close. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Hillsborough-County-leading Bevis is 8 points behind Lakeland’s Lincoln Academy magnet, which clocks in at 87. Lincoln has a 50 percent white and 32 percent “economically distressed” population. And Valleyview Elementary, a straight-up zoned school in South Lakeland, which also serves Lakeland city kids, scores higher than the other two Fishhawk elementaries with a 77. Valleyview is 56 percent white and 56 percent economically disadvantaged. In fact, the state scoreboard data I have analyzed says something pretty clearly: anyone who chooses to live in Fishhawk rather than Lakeland because of the schools is a fool. And that’s not meant as an insult to Fishhawk schools. I’m sure they carry out their missions competently and lovingly. It’s just a dumb choice to force on yourself, if you care about the state’s scoreboard data. You’ll be fine in either place, except that this is Florida; and you always have to suffer that. Helping the LEDC compete with Fishhawk So what’s the point of this? What are you doing, Billy? Why should anyone care about this demeaning comparison based on a fraudulent school grade scoreboard you despise? It grows out of discussions with economic developers and my last article about Kate Wallace and Lakeland Leads and the Lakeland education report that’s coming out. I want to help inform them, so that their work is as helpful and accurate as it can be. I guess you could...

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“The data” says 3rd grade retention is academic fraud; basic humanity says it’s barbaric child abuse.

“The data” says 3rd grade retention is academic fraud; basic humanity says it’s barbaric child abuse.

Run a thought experiment with me. Imagine if Kelli Stargel and Richard Corcoran singled out 8-year-olds who score lower on standardized reading tests than their peers. Imagine they ordered local educators to line up these 8-year-olds in the streets; and then, as punishment or motivation, they ordered these educators to kick those children in the teeth with steel-toed boots. Do you think this would work? Would it improve the test taking performance of those 8-year-olds? Do  you think this would make for effective academic policy? Now imagine Stargel and Corcoran were told, repeatedly, by multiple studies, that kicking children in the teeth with steel-toed boots is, in fact, harmful to those children. And yet, they persisted. Imagine they spent $587 million-plus of your tax money on the steel-toed boots. Would you think that violence against children was tax money and effort and humanity well spent? How would you react as a citizen? It’s actually worse than that This analogy sounds ridiculous, of course. Even Stargel and Corcoran and Florida would never do something this academically fraudulent and morally barbaric. No, in truth they do something worse: Florida’s barbaric and fraudulent 3rd grade retention law. And not only Stargel and Corcoran. Every single legislator who voted for it and every state educrat who has collected a paycheck since 2003 is complicit in human horror. I’ve always despised this law for its obvious human harm. All data says, unambiguously, that forcibly removing children from their age cohort for academic reasons (as opposed to kindergarten age reasons) puts their graduation and life outcomes in jeopardy. It is psychic violence, wreaking lasting harm on the human development of children. You can check out this essay from education writer Peter Green for a generalized rundown of the 3rd grade retention literature. But what really stuck me about Green’s essay is a 2016 Florida study that goes a step further. It shows the retention law, quite simply, does the opposite of even its stated academic intent. In addition to the human harm, third grade retention because of reading scores actually makes retained children worse test performers over time than they would otherwise be. Comparable children not retained scored higher. “7 years after retention, 94% of the retained group remained below proficiency” Here’s a summary of the finding of that study. Please read it. Notice all the previous studies, too. In 2003-2004 approximately 23,000 third graders were retained in Florida...

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Of Kate Wallace, Paula Dockery, Lakeland Leads, and the value of collaborative and constructive self-criticism

Of Kate Wallace, Paula Dockery, Lakeland Leads, and the value of collaborative and constructive self-criticism

From 2009-2015, the state of Florida had the worst individual test score growth of any state in America, according to an exhaustive study by Stanford University. If you were a child in Florida’s system during that time, your growth in performance on the state tests over the course of your education was the worst in the country. The image above shows it at the county level. Purple is bad. “Florida is an almost insane basket case,” noted one magazine writer. As you can see, no Florida county — not one — averaged a full-year of growth per child in that period of time. None. I have written quite a bit about this study, which the Florida state DoE and government has completely ignored, even to try to disprove it. Here’s a link that runs it down in great detail. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the Florida’s test score growth for individual children was any better before 2009 or after 2015. Those periods just haven’t been studied. If you care about test score growth, as the people in power in Florida purport to, it’s impossible to see this state as anything but a catastrophic failure unless you can refute that study. It’s what the data says. Clearly. Kate Wallace and the Foundation For part of that 2009-2015 period, a woman named Kate Wallace worked for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and its sister organization the Florida’s for Florida’s Future. She served as State Advocacy Director and Community Engagement Director from April 2012 to January 2017. That made her very powerful in public education in Florida. Anyone who follows Florida education at all knows that Jeb’s foundations are the real power in Florida education. They dictate to legislators; and legislators obey. Tallahassee then dictates mandates to local districts, generally without funding. It all rolls downhill from the “Foundation,” as these organizations are often known. The Foundation is the real state government when it comes to education. And has been for a generation. Kate Wallace now lives in Lakeland. She has been commissioned by a group called Lakeland Leads, which is Lakeland Economic Development Council-adjacent, but not really LEDC, as I understand it, to research and produce a report on the state of public education in Polk County. I’ve reached out to the folks I understand to be behind Lakeland Leads to share quite a bit of information...

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No, Commissioner Corcoran, there is no VAM “covariate” for selflessness, empathy, or honesty

No, Commissioner Corcoran, there is no VAM “covariate” for selflessness, empathy, or honesty

This ridiculous equation, created in 2011 and discredited nationally in 2014, is the cornerstone of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Kelli Stargel’s teacher bonus and teacher punishment programs. It is their weapon of choice to harm the people of public education. Yet, where can you find this equation reproduced? Or any information about its creation and use? It’s not easy. See this little paragraph on the DoE website? If you look very very closely, you will see this quote: For information on the factors included in the model, please visit http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/7503/urlt/0102687-value-added-model-white-paper.doc (Word). As I said above, the “model” in question is Cororcan/Stargel’s Value Added Model (VAM), that bizarre, discredited state equation that forms the crucial cornerstone of Florida’s state-level teacher evaluation system. This discredited equation determines who gets kicked out of “turnaround”schools and replaced by subs, as happened in Polk last week. And it plays a major role in DeSantis’ teacher bonus schemes imposed from Tallahassee. It is, right now, having a powerful negative effect on the Polk District’s efforts to pay people — and not just teachers. More to come on that. Your Department of Education is soooooo proud of this model that it has buried access to it in a very hard to find paragraph. I love how the link isn’t even hyperlinked to descriptive language. It’s just cut and pasted. Hilarious. When you follow the link, you come to a 2011 white paper. 2011. I would bet my house Gov. Ron DeSantis does not know this white paper exists and certainly has not read it. Yet it defines his approach to hurting teachers. I am begging any education reporter to ask him if he’s read the 2011 white paper. I’m going to email his staff and ask him myself. Retro Richard is using a 2011 VAM, discredited nationwide in 2014, to harm kids and teachers in 2019 Let me repeat this. At the height of a critical teacher shortage, Florida is still using an equation from 2011 that American Statistical Association discredited in 2014 to sow chaos in schools that serve working class children. See this statement from the ASA. And honestly, you have to read this Florida DoE white paper to believe it exists. I’ve screen-shotted the key paragraph below. Click to enlarge, and try to read it. And keep in mind that Corcoran just ripped away a certified teacher who had built relationships with grieving children who...

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