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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The Four Frauds of School Grades, part 2: of Lake Wales and the brutal human consequences of fake “competition”

The Four Frauds of School Grades, part 2: of Lake Wales and the brutal human consequences of fake “competition”

Please see part 1 of this series here. Florida’s punishment-based school-grade system is what breeds the fake competition that leads to anti-human stories like the one that follows. The four frauds are: Incomprehensible complexity, tied to gaming of test results, that takes a 38-page technical paper to explain. What’s actually calculated isn’t even a grade; it’s a score. And 62 gets you an “A.” It “grades” schools with self-selected, screened enrollments on the same scale as default, zoned schools. They do not respect parental choice. The penalties involved punish and stigmatize parents and teachers who choose neighborhood schools. The incentives created by those frauds set the conditions for what’s described in this article. The Shephard family moved to Lake Wales from Osceola County near the end of the 2017-2018 school year. I’m using fake names in telling their story because it’s unnecessary to identify them. They’ve suffered enough from the petty adult destructiveness of the Lake Wales Charter/Polk District community divide. This “healthy competition” between districts somehow landed their 10-year-old daughter Rachel, who has autism, on a 6:15 am bus out of Lake Wales for the daily 18.8-mile, 30-to-40 minute ride to Floral Avenue Elementary in Bartow. That ride, overseen by a largely untrained bus attendant, left Rachel agitated when she arrived at school virtually every day. By and large, until confronted, the Lake Wales Charter and Polk districts, as entities, reacted to this geographic and moral reality in the same way:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Kafka on the Ridge The Shephards’ son Thomas is gifted, as defined by testing. Rachel, 10, has a detailed Individualized Education Program (IEP) to address her autism. That is the plan crafted by families and educators for Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students. The Shephards are extremely attentive, thorough, and measured parents in my experience. Prior to the move from Osceola, they had been in contact with officials, including an ESE official, with the regular Polk district. The Shephards informed this official of Rachel’s needs; but they did not get a specific recommendation for a Polk school that could accommodate her prior to moving. I don’t know why. Rachel’s father did learn from the Polk district that Spook Hill Elementary in Lake Wales would be their district zoned school. But when he called to see if Spook Hill could accommodate the special needs of Rachel’s autism, he was told No. I’m not entirely sure why. I haven’t gotten a...

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Dear Gov. DeSantis: the Corcoran/Stargel/DoE VAM-pire is back, sucking teacher and student blood as always

Dear Gov. DeSantis: the Corcoran/Stargel/DoE VAM-pire is back, sucking teacher and student blood as always

Dear Gov. DeSantis: I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you don’t know anything about VAM. I’m going to bet that Richard Corcoran did not explain it to you when he talked you into putting him and his handful of teacher-hating grifters in charge of the biggest portion of our state government. That’s yet another reason you should have called me first. In any event, take a look at this: This is the absurd equation that your administration uses for Florida’s version of VAM, the so-called “value added model.” It grades teachers through test scores and a bunch of other incomprehensible nonsense inputs. For branding purposes, I’m going to call it Corcoran/Stargel-VAM. They still own it. And if they own it, you do too. Until you don’t. A terrible Democratic idea Republicans couldn’t wait to adopt The VAM concept actually started with Democrats and the “liberal” wing of the bipartisan corporate “education reform” grift that has dominated public education for a generation. VAM was then quickly discredited, years ago, basically everywhere. Here’s a link to a 2014 article (2014!!!!) from the American Statistical Association saying in an institutional way that it’s insane and immoral to use VAM in any “high stakes” decision. 2014. That’s from 2014. 2014. Let me say that again. 2014. Unfortunately, Florida’s backward Department of Education, House speaker-turned-Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and Senator Kelli Stargel couldn’t wait to adopt this terrible liberal Democratic idea — the worst kind of big government social engineering. In Florida, Republican education leaders always adopt the worst ideas of “liberal reformers” years after they’ve been discredited. I bet you didn’t know that either, governor. Florida’s Corcoran/Stargel VAM insanity peaked two years ago, when Corcoran and Senator Stargel — through DoE — used it to force tons of teachers to transfer out of so-called “turnaround” schools (another terrible idea for another time). The result was replacement with subs for much of the year. Here’s a good rundown of how sociopathic that was and how much human damage it caused.  The Corcoran/Stargel VAM story was so absurd that even Tallahassee looked to de-emphasize it. Two sessions ago, it told local districts they no longer needed to make Corcoran/Stargel VAM the core of teacher evaluation. Local “merit” pay does not depend on Corcoran/Stargel VAM anymore. But Corcoran/Stargel VAM still lives, sort of. That’s why I dressed up as a Corcoran/Stargel VAM-pire two Halloweens ago — to...

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Swimming hard against the stream in Polk, part 2: why I tentatively support the chief of staff position

Swimming hard against the stream in Polk, part 2: why I tentatively support the chief of staff position

I was the only member of the old Polk School Board to publicly oppose both the superintendent’s large raise and the most recent pay increases for senior staff late last year. You can read about that here. Please do; and keep it in mind as I explain my tentative support for the chief of staff position. I opposed those raises for precisely the same “optics” and solidarity reasons that a number of people have cited in objecting to the proposed chief of staff position. A key quote from my essay: Senior directors and above staff don’t live on the edge of economic insecurity the way or bus drivers and teachers and mid-level support staff do. We don’t have senior director and senior administrator shortages. So why is the chief of staff position a very different issue to me than senior staff raises? A tool for a better workplace and better functioning organization There are two great problems driving teacher and staff recruitment and retention in Florida and in Polk. One is obviously money. But the other is work environment. (I’ll come back to my approach to this two-pronged problem in a moment.) I support the idea of the chief of staff position because it’s a potentially a strong tool for addressing the work environment and overall function of the organization. If you’re a staff member, I think this can help your work environment by making your elected school board, especially the activist element of it, more connected to and effective within the organization. Indeed, the job description for the position opens like this: The Chief of Staff Shall: Help foster a culture of high standards, accountability, commitment and urgency within the district. Provide direct support to the Superintendent, the Board on behalf of the Superintendent, and provide coordination of District-wide endeavors. Serve as liaison and advise the Superintendent and the School Board on matters relating to the local Legislative Liaison function, communications, and other departments and functions as determined by the Superintendent. IF it works right — and that’s a big IF — the chief of staff can become the connective tissue between a much more activist board than has ever existed here and senior management. The chief of staff would have responsibility for the comprehensive district relationship with its active elected board. Superintendent Byrd said this, unequivocally, at our last work session. Superintendent Byrd said the chief of staff would very accessible to the...

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The four frauds of school grades, part 1: Comparing magnet and charter schools to each other — not zoned default schools

The four frauds of school grades, part 1: Comparing magnet and charter schools to each other — not zoned default schools

Here is a link to the Florida DoE’s 38-page technical manual for calculating a school grade. Take a look and see how long you can keep your eyes open. Within this guide, we see the first two frauds that define the Florida school grading system. It’s farcical to think that anyone in the public, at all, has any idea what makes his or her community’s schools an A or F. I once heard someone say: “complexity is fraud.” I certainly agree with that when it comes to representing human interactions through tortured numbers for the purposes of easy branding and collective punishment. In truth, this guide doesn’t even tell you how to calculate a school grade. It tells you how to calculate a score. Depending on your age-type of school, you pile up points based on various, mostly testing-related outcomes and “coefficients.” See below for an example. You can click to enlarge; but it won’t help. I don’t have any idea either. \_(ツ)_/¯ Extrapolating backward from McKeel Academy of Technology’s 796 school grade points, I think the top number of points available for a high school is 1105.5. But I’m happy for DoE to correct me. You compare McKeel’s point total — 796 — to the maximum — 1105.5 — to get 72 percent of possible points. That’s pretty high. DoE really should just stop there. Your school gets a score, a hard number that defines it. But no. Instead, your state government drops that hard number — so meticulously crafted with coefficients and slopes and whatever else — into a completely arbitrary and meaningless grade label range. And that’s what is reported to the public. See below. Click to enlarge. As you look at that range, ask yourself: why does 62 percent get a school an A, when 62 percent gets an individual kid a D or F? [Grades for kids have gotten pretty tortured and fraudulent, too. But that’s for a different article.] If A to F is supposed to mimic the common individual child grade system, then why doesn’t it mimic the common individual child grade system? The answer is simple: the A to F designation isn’t a grade; it’s a 20-year political branding gimmick hung onto an utterly opaque and tortured scoreboard system. It’s fraud. Simply eliminating the meaningless A to F labels and keeping the overall score would diminish human stigma without even harming the “accountability” nonsense...

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You’re invited to a Math-and-Sciencepalooza at the 7/23 School Board roundtable

You’re invited to a Math-and-Sciencepalooza at the 7/23 School Board roundtable

When we started the new School Board roundtable meetings, one of my priorities was to periodically bring in specialists to talk with us about ideas and points of view we might not be able to otherwise hear in regular work sessions and business meetings. So I’m thrilled to welcome FSU Physics Professor Paul Cottle and UCF Physics Teacher-in-Residence Adam LaMee to Polk County for our roundtable on Tuesday, July 23. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at the main administration building in Bartow. Egalitarian evangelists for Science and Math Paul and Adam are passionate advocates for meaningful, enriching science and math education that prepares as many students as possible for the rigors of math and science in college — and also provides lasting benefits for students who aren’t math and science majors or don’t go to college at all. It is well known in Florida education circles — though not terribly much discussed — that the state is not doing a very good job with Science and Math education. Access to in-person courses in high level sciences like Physics is declining. (In a piece of good news, Polk County has actually expanded access to in-person Physics classes in the last couple years. That is bucking a statewide trend.) Paul Cottle writes about these issues often on his excellent science education blog, “Bridge to Tomorrow.” He and I met virtually, trading posts and discussions on Twitter. And you can listen to Adam talk about that on this NPR “Florida Matters” discussion from last year, which Paul then wrote about in this article.  In other places trying to buck the trend of diminished Science and Math experiences, Paul and Adam have helped do the bucking. Both men work closely with local districts. And both emphasize bringing meaningful science and math education to a wide, diverse array of students. Both are particular advocates of encouraging girls to study more math and science. And both champion a hands-on approach to science. Both teach a model called “Studio Physics.” And I’m excited to report that they are bringing some toys. Calling all math and science teachers who can spare a couple of summer hours This promises to be a fun discussion, which I hope will lead to lasting partnerships with the district and perhaps some enhancements that help us reach more kids and align them more effectively with the...

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