Lake Wales’ educational competition shows that collaboration and mutual support are better.

Lake Wales’ educational competition shows that collaboration and mutual support are better.

There’s a myth that Florida Model supporters and casual observers of education tend to repeat as if it’s self-evidently true: competition between schools raises all boats, or improves everybody, or something. Nope. It does not. Absolutely not. Florida’s abject state growth failure over the last 20 years of competition obsession makes that brutally clear, just in data. That’s because, in reality, educational  “competition” creates terrible incentives for different schools and communities to hurt and slag off on each other. High stakes “competition” on the fraudulent scoreboard always always always devolves into varying forms of cheating and inhumane behavior and lying to ourselves about it. In truth, Tallahassee is like that horrible dude in high school trying to get two people to fight just so he can watch. That fight doesn’t help either of the fighters. It just bloodies and dehumanizes them both. I can think of no better illustration of this fact than Lake Wales. Since a majority of Lake Wales schools “went charter” as conversion charters in 2003, public and private resources have poured into Lake Wales, on all sides. All of this was in the name of “competition.” The Lake Wales community now contains three middle schools, two of which are self-selected charter (Bok North and South) and one of which is zoned default district-run (McLaughlin) with special arts programs and facilities. Lake Wales has a specialty district-run ESE school in Roosevelt; a well-regarded independent special needs charter called Victory Ridge; and five total elementary schools (four LWC, one district-run.) The district is considering adding an arts high school to McLaughlin. On the charter side, there’s a private foundation and Mountain Lake money. For all of that, a close look at the corrupt state scoreboard makes a strong case that all Lake Wales schools (charter or district), except Lake Wales High, lag the performance of schools that are their peers elsewhere in Polk County. District McLaughlin Middle and charter Janie Howard Wilson Elementary are using less than 60 percent of their capacity. And the Polk County/Florida taxpayers still had to bus a 10-year-old with autism 18.8 miles away to a district-run school in Bartow away from a “community” charter school she could almost see from her house. That is not success. It is far past time to find a collaborative and mutually supportive approach for the next generation. Here is how we could start. I take Lake Wales...

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In a crucial moment for advocacy, Kim McDougal keeps the FSBA impotent

In a crucial moment for advocacy, Kim McDougal keeps the FSBA impotent

This is aimed at my fellow school board members across the state and our umbrella organization, the Florida School Board Association. The FSBA is largely funded by taxpayers through dues that local boards pay. I’m going to dispense with much more exposition about FSBA and get to the point: The FSBA pays about $36,000 per year to consultants/lobbyists to represent the interests of its members, which are the interests of the public who elected us. The FSBA’s lead legislative advocate is a woman named Kim McDougal. She’s a lobbyist for the big statewide Gray Robinson law firm. She’s based in Tallahassee. (Everybody, on all sides of all issues, seems to work for Gray Robinson.) McDougal was formerly Rick Scott’s chief of staff. That means she owns Florida’s Death Purple/NAEP test score growth failures as much as Scott or Jeb Bush before him. The FSBA is the Vichy France of public school advocacy groups. Kim McDougal is its Petain. To be blunt: if Kim McDougal is the tip of the FSBA’s advocacy spear; then the FSBA has no spear. Indeed, I see no evidence that Kim McDougal actually works for the FSBA. I see every indication at she actually works for the very narrow interests of Richard Corcoran and the tiny, increasingly incoherent cabal of grifters who wield state-level power in education in Florida. Her job, in my view, is to keep the FSBA impotent and out of their hair. She is quite good at it. It’s no wonder that FSBA is the Vichy France of school board organizations. Faced with a hostile occupation by a destructive ruling force, it has chosen supplication over advocacy. Education activist and author Ted Dintersmith ran into Kim McDougal when she was chief of staff a few years back while researching his book “What School Could Be.” Their exchange is profoundly important for Floridians to know and understand. I wrote about it a while ago. It’s even more important for FSBA members to know and understand, especially now that the courts have rendered school boards officially powerless in relation to the state in all areas other than advocacy. Kim McDougal: “Educating children is like fixing a car.” As you read this, remember that Florida has the worst individual test score growth in America and that Florida kids collapse in aggregate proficiency between age 9 and 13 on the NAEP. Every NAEP year. Every NAEP subject since 2003. This...

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Jeb Bush is still Florida’s failed elected superintendent, part 1: The NAEP atonement speech Jeb should give

Jeb Bush is still Florida’s failed elected superintendent, part 1: The NAEP atonement speech Jeb should give

The governor is the elected superintendent of all Florida schools — and not much else. Sure, he or she signs some Medicaid checks, pollutes some springs, and serves as a part-time figurehead emergency manager. But nothing in Florida remotely compares to public education as a vehicle for projecting power and influence into the lives of a Florida governor’s constituents. Education is the largest portion of the state budget, the state’s largest employer, and the public function the government most directly controls. Other than taxation itself, compulsory education is the state law most inherently coercive of its citizens. Nothing else is close. Jeb Bush understands this better than any Florida governor or politician in my lifetime. In fact, I think he understands it better than any American politician of my lifetime.  That was the brilliant political insight of his 1998 campaign. No other candidate, win or lose, has understood it in the same way since. And that’s why Jeb Bush is still, in most ways, the governor and elected superintendent of Florida. Ron DeSantis is a minor TV personality who charges people money to golf with him; Jeb Bush remains the incumbent. Control education and you control everything else in this state.  Any governor who wants the power to make change has to run against Jeb Bush. If you want to change the corrupt and failed test-and-punish, teacher-hating model he inflicted on your children and the adults working with them, you’re going to have to win an election against him. If you’re a Republican, you have to beat him in a primary; if you’re a Democrat or an NPA, you have beat him in a general.  He’s really not hard to run against on the merits anymore. Donald Trump beat him to death politically with two education words he didn’t even understand: “Common Core.” And I wrote a piece recently that laid out conclusively how Bush’s “data-driven” myth of success is transparent hogwash — and always has been. It rests on two utterly brutal collections of data from two different tests that Florida loves. Bottom line: Jeb’s Florida Model stunts the growth of children, academically and socially. The data is unsparing about this and easy to read. The bigger question is why the entire educrat industrial complex has contorted itself into self-parody to avoid acknowledging it.     I’ve interviewed Jeb years in the past. He’s a smart guy. He can can read the same data I can. He knows. And I...

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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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