Saturday, January 15, 2011

We Heard You Loud and Clear

Posted For, Sandra in Brevard,  Is Tally trying to push another poorly conceived education bill

“The Foundation for Florida's Future, an influential group formed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, has devised a draft bill that follows many of the same ideas [refers to merit pay]. The foundation's new proposal also deletes some of the provisions called draconian in last year's bill, which it supported.”

"We heard you loud and clear," said Patricia Levesque, the group's executive director, calling the new, still-in-flux proposal a "more implementable product

I wonder what Ms. Levesque meant by “we” and “you. I also wonder what the “we” heard exactly that was “loud and clear.”

I know what I didn't hear then. I opposed SB6 for the following reasons:

1) Bill proponents said that SB6 had to be passed in order to get Race to the Top funding. Obviously, that was not a truthful representation of the situation.

2) There was no cost analysis on the proposals included in the bill. When I asked members of the Brevard delegation on costs, I got a canned reply letter saying there was plenty of money, but no information on costs.

3) Bill proponents acknowledged the bill was flawed, but wanted to pass it now and fix it later.

I had no time to purse answers to some other questions. Why was Florida chasing Race to the Top funds anyways? What problem was being solved by a whole bunch of new tests and massive collection of data to fill databases? What burdens will it place on school districts? Frankly, I still do not know. I had given up looking for the draft bill the Foundation circulated in Tallahassee, when I bumped into it. I am unimpressed. In whatever form the bill takes, I will once again be looking for the funding mechanism, the justification for all these tests, and the rushed format to collect large amounts of data without clear plan on their usefulness.

Why reinvent the wheel?

Tennessee has been applying student performance to teacher evaluation for about 15 years. I still cannot understand why Florida is not following their model, which has a history of development and successful outcomes. Since 1998, a statistical analysis or TVAAS follows “student achievement over time and provides schools with a longitudinal view of student performance. TVAAS provides valuable information for teams of teachers to inform instructional decisions. TVAAS is not an additional student test, but a useful tool to help districts make data-driven decisions.” It can also estimate a specific teacher’s effects on educational progress.” The test used to supply the data is the Terra Nova, which is a commercial testing instrument published by McGraw-Hill and assesses K-12 student achievement in reading, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, vocabulary, spelling, and other areas.

In 2010, Tennessee Legislators mandated mandated that 50% of evaluation criteria to be comprised of student achievement data. The 50% is broken down into:

35% data from the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)

15% from “other measures of student achievement data selected from a list of measures developed by TEAC and adopted by the State Board of Education. The person being evaluated must mutually agree with the person conducting the evaluation on which such measures are employed.

Apparently, in Tennessee, these other measures are not limited to more test data. The approved list of acceptable measures includes, but is not be limited to, graduation rate, percent proficient on TCAP assessments, percent proficient on state-approved district assessments, and other measures approved by the Department of Education. The list of acceptable measures will be refined and approved by the Department of Education prior to the start of each school year.

According to a recent article, Florida does in fact intend to restructure the FCAT and to reinstate a national norm-referenced exam, which they dropped with the introduction of the FCAT; but Hillsborough County School Board voted to add one now. They will spend $520,000 to use the Stanford-10 to double-check the FCAT and to compare students with their peers nationwide. "Ever since the state discontinued the use of the norm-referenced test several years ago, we've lost any external control on FCAT scores," said David Steele, the district's chief information and technology officer.

So I find myself back at the beginning. I do not see significant enough changes in the draft bill presented by the special interest group, the Foundation for Florida’s Future from SB6. Nevertheless, the ultimate responsibility for drafting bills belongs to elected officials in the legislature. Whatever the legislation finally reads, I will hold the legislators to these standards:

1) Tell the truth about why the bill is a priority.

2) Present a plan that is implementable versus flawed to-be-fixed later.

3) Present a cost analysis – what Race to the Top pays for and what the funding mechanisms beyond the grant now and in the future will be.


  1. My daughter is a math teacher in another county (and t of t y). She is not a union member. In her school, she did not get a chance to teach until the 4th week of school, because the first 3 were taken up by testing, practice testing, and test prep.
    It's my opinion, far too much time is spent testing. In business, the boss is accountable. In schools, the principal is the boss and should be held accountable, but he/she needs protection for lawsuits from people fired.
    We don't need our schools to be run by politicians in Tallahassee.

  2. This is better journalism than anything the papers put out. What happened to the press?

  3. Madpole, you might be onto something, maybe I should send a link to Bob Stover? I'd doubt they'd pay her what she's worth

    Sandra is a talented lady.

    She never speaks until she's sure she's looked at an issue from every reasonable perspective.

    I'm not and never have been opposed to some form incentive based pay for most people. Good performers earn good money, average people earn average money, sub par people find another kind of work..

    There are a lot of different variables, even within a single job description and a small geographical area. These all have to be taken into consideration...

    As Sandra points out, Tennessee has had an effective system going for years. Why would we want to experiment with inventing an entirely new system?

  4. What happened to the press? Great question. Investigative journalism has nearly died. You have to hunt to a description of events. Now the press latches on like pit bulls to sensationalizing. No wonder that we know so little. Blogging can, and to some degree, is filling the void; but it has to be responsible. Of the millions of blogs, I visit less than a half a dozen. Seems like Sandra In Brevard blogs with integrity.

  5. DFTTS, I developed a respect for Sandra's opinions when I first started encountering her of FT's opinion page. When she started blogging on FT she developed a following within days.. However blogging is time consuming and it doesn't pay worth a damn.

    She decided working all day and getting paid for it was smarter than working all day so FT could earn money for it. Can't blame her, but it was a loss of, as you say Integrity in Blogging.. I'm happy to see her back, happier she's here instead of FT.

    Geezus, it's almost impossible to sneak anything past either one of you, I'm gonna have to be real careful now. On the other hand, the two best critics I could have,

  6. I can't remember my gmail password so just know this is IMOONLY.

    Education has been hi-jacked by politics. Thats all we have anymore in public education. I work right in the center of all the politics and since I started there I have lost hope for our kids. SB6 or RT3, it does not matter. Once Michelle Rhee gets here the face of education will change for the worse again. The whole crux of education anymore is getting the bottom 25% of the kids up off the floor, even at the cost of denying the top 10% of students what they need to succeed in a way that could turn this country around. It's useless to even try to fight it anymore.

  7. Dear iMoonly,
    I can understand your point of view, but I am not ready to throw in the towel on fighting back. I have not lost hope. The failure of SB6 was no fluke. The sales pitch is to raise scores of lower performing kids. The sales pitch masks the reasons behind new testing schemes and construction of massive data bases.

    Thanks to Grandpa Bud, I began to follow up on the testing issues. When I read articles, sometimes I just don't understand, there's an assumption I know what they are talking about, so I have to keep digging. Other times, there's a nugget of information to follow up on. I found one yesterday, but I'm sitting on my hands today.

    As Grumpyelder retells I blogged on the FT last year and I work full time. I cannot do both at that same level. I am trying to tell a huge story that is hard to tell, so I write in what seems to me manageable chunks of information. The first was posted earlier this month, now this one, and hopefully there will be one next Saturday. I hope you'll be looking for it. There are a bunch of dots through these posts, maybe we can connect them together. I have a hunch....

  8. BTW - Michelle Rhee is a non-issue for Florida. Yes, she's an unpaid member of Governor's Scott education transition team; but she's has started her own non-profit with the goal of raising $1 billion for school reform. She has a small staff. She is also engaged to the Mayor of Sacramento. She turned down all job offers that came her way, including one from private industry of $1 million plus, according to news reports. The legislators are the individuals we need to keep an eye on.


  9. Sandra - I very much respect your research and opinion on this matter.

    I do hope Ms Rhee did not sell out. Kevin Johnson is a big obama fan, and vice versa. About May of 2009 Federal Investigator Gerald Walpin was fired for checking into the irregularities of how federal finances were used within the Sacramento, CA mayors office.

  10. The district is currently working on the new format for evaluations under Race to the Top. The RT3 is the bigger issue right now because it is the Federal version of SB6. I think if Scott has his way, we'll fly right by SB6 (no reason for the state to do what the Feds are doing) and go straight to a voucher system. That is where you should focus your research. I know this because I work in HR and I see and hear all the activity going on right now.

    by imoonly

  11. IMOONLY again; also keep your eyes on what is happening with FRS. SB303 intends to totally gut FRS and DROP so that by 12/31/12 anyone in DROP will be automatically terminated.

    Won't be able to find a teacher, cop or FF anywhere in Florida.

  12. Sorry Anonymous, I read SB6 and followed it closely. It intended to link teacher salaries to ONE measurement. Tennessee has had a system in place for 15 years and does not do that. If the State applied for RT3 funds and the school district agreed to go on board, then the State will legislate how salaries will be tied to student achievement. This is a national movement, not just in Florida. The question for Florida legislators is why they believe we needed RT3 to begin with. Some States said "No, thanks."


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