Sunday, February 27, 2011

Education Reform: A Good Old Fashioned Crisis

Posted For

Sandra in Brevard

Kids don't change

Why can't our Highly Paid Educational Experts figure out
how to Teach Them

National and state policymakers cite U.S. student performance on international exams as the reason for urgent education reform. These results are the indicators that the U.S. will not be able to compete in the global marketplace. And so the reforms begin....again.

In 1983, a report titled "Nation at Risk" described the grave outcomes for the nation if the reported decreased S.A.T. scores at that time, were not taken seriously. In the context of the Cold War, the report found a "rising tide of mediocrity" was sweeping through the public education system.

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves."

In 1990, the U.S. Secretary of Energy commissioned the Sandia Laboratories to support the claims in the "Nation at Risk" with real data. The study of declining S.A.T. scores revealed that overall scores had indeed dropped, but the scores of sub-groups had increased, known in statistics as Simpson's Paradox. The fact that more students of all backgrounds were taking the S.A.T. than in previous years is significant in understanding test scores. The government received the report, did not like the analysis, shelved it, and the narrative continued. Others who examined the analysis found the findings relevant, but the media took no interest. What has resulted is a national past time of reform efforts in every single administration since - Democrat and Republican. In 1980, the U.S. spend $16 billion on education to $72 billion in 2007.

In other words, the U.S. has been in a sustained state of an education crisis for 31 years, dominated by an industry of professional education reformers, non-profit educational consultants, publishing corporations, and software developers, standing in line to answer the call of legislators and politicians, who promise to make education their number one priority and fix the broken system.

After 12 years of test-driven schools with questionable outcomes, isn't it long overdue that we hold the Florida legislature accountable? Failing to pass legislation that meets the requirements of Race to the Top funding has funding consequences. The requirement, as I understand it, is that legislation must mandate that teacher evaluations be based to some degree on student achievement data. Current bills are far more complex and attempt to standardize a process statewide. Proponents acknowledge the bills are incomplete and will be fixed over time. There is worry over costs and silence on the math.


We are in a budgetary crisis now, but I do not believe we have been in an education crisis at all. The word has been used effectively to manipulate public opinion for 30 years. After reading commentary and opinions from a variety of viewpoints, I conclude we do have serious problems that require precision akin to a surgical team, whose members are knowledgeable and experienced working with children and adolescents, armed with the relevant data gathered over the years, and unaffiliated to politics, large corporations, and money-pumping non-profits.

Not a dime should be diverted from classrooms and students in order to fund solutions and experiments that fail to identify the problem and fail to identify all the costs.

Missed a blog on education reform efforts in Florida? You can find them all here.



  1. I'm in a country with the highest literacy rates & the lowest taxes in the Western Hemisphere. Soon I will be back in good old Bretard County.

  2. What country would that be? We're learning that sometimes in different places the statistics are based on different factors.. A very recent example was in Wisconsin. They talked about the State's great performance on the SATs. The numbers sounded terrific, until you found out ony 4% of the kids take em.


    Experts see perils in Hillsborough's teacher evaluation plans.

    Say you buy a piece of equipment to run your business. The paperwork from the manufacturer comes with the product, and states the ways it should be used and should not be used. You decide to ignore that information and things just don't work out too well. Which business model is this? Experimenting with children is wrong.

  4. Grumpy - I am sure glad you point out that details on statistical data matter. The Sandia Report in 1990 debunked a myth that was created in 1983. This crisis myth has been perpetuated until today.

  5. Something happened to my post...reposting:

    Experts see perils in Hillsborough's teacher evaluation plans

    Let's say you buy a piece of equipment for your company. The paperwork included by the manufacturer says what the product should be used for and what it should not be used for. You decide to ignore the manufacturers information and use it incorrectly. The outcomes are wrong. What kind of a business would do this? That's what Hillsborough County School District is about to do.

  6. How much has federal dollars hindered reform?

  7. "Value-added is being used by hundreds of school districts nationwide, including New York City and Chicago. But research shows it's often inaccurate."

    "One federal Education Department study found such systems misclassify up to 35 percent of teachers in a single year. That error rate falls to 25 percent using three years' worth of data."
    Not bad... a proven error rate of only 25%, according to the Federal Government, I assume that would be the same Federal Government that is bribing Florida to the tune of $9,975,288.00 to start using the system.

  8. boondoggle. Brevard delegation wanted this last year and want it this year. Ask them why they wanted the federal money to begin with. Now that they have it, they want to spend it on something that makes no sense?

  9. Anonymous... At a state level, after last years fiasco why didn't democrats didn't field candidates more in tune with public sentiment. They should have realized the Progressive Agenda was beconing unpopular very quickly, but no one was really thrilled with Tallahassee Republicans either..

    Had they run moderate or conservative leaning people the results might have been very different.. Instead they ran progressives and let people like Haridopolis stand unchallenged.

  10. Grumpy - there were several races right here in Brevard that would have unseated some questionable Republicans in the primary. Same in other parts of the State. Why did some of this old crowd not get unseated then?

  11. Early on I thought Ellis would take on Altman, that didn't happen, I think Ellis needed a break.. If you really looked hard, The official list showed someone running against Workman, but I think you had to hire a private investigator to find out anything about him.

    Haridopolis and a few others are more ordained than elected.

  12. Tobia had a good challenge, but maintained his position. Same crew. Money keeps the "ordained" in place and they do what they want. They still need to explain themselves. We don't all have our head's in the sand.

  13. For the most part, my sites stick with state, national and international issues, Might be time for someone to set up a site that deals with Local and State issues. The new Florida Today format isn't that easy for people use. Most can't even find the blog page, if they do it's loaded with spam.

  14. Our local delegates, no matter how they are elected. vote on State issues. why do our local legislators think this boondoggle is better than last year's boondoggle? Anybody know?

  15. When I look at the companies that stand to profit, and the non profits who are pushing the legislation I find many of the the nons are funded by the fors.. Hillboro is a great example.

    There is very big money involved, remember these schemes are being pushed on taxpayers nation wide..

    I can guess why the legislature is is all for it... but I don't have any evidence that allows me to say it.

  16. Value-added measurement is used for evaluations. What is proposed in Florida is very different. It mirrors to a large degree the plan Rhee put in place in D.C. You're right Grumpy, it is a scheme pushed on taxpayers, communities, parents, and students. How much will this experiment cost?

    No answer from the bill proponents on costs. The public has a right to know.


    Just read this for yourself. Notice Pearson is mentioned here. Pearson is contracted by Florida to do the FCAT scoring.

  18. Anyone know how much Pearson contributed to the 2010 Elections here in Florida?

  19. WIth the recent Supreme Court decision, such disclosures are nearly impossible to uncover.

  20. Citizens National didn't change the law in a way that allows contributions to be disguised any more than they already were. In fact in some cases they might be easier to spot since corporations no longer have contribute via employees.

  21. If that is how it is, then you should have no trouble getting the answer to your question.

  22. Had no problem at all, he raised somewhere over 300 grand, no major donors, whole herd of small ones. He's got friends in the real estate buisness. If they or anyone else on the list was buying favors for those dollar amounts, he'd be the cheapest...... never mind.


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