Monday, March 18, 2013

An Open Message to Legislators from Florida Civil Rights Groups

The Parent Trigger bill, and any others that could prematurely expand the number of charter schools in the state, should be voted down. To do otherwise would be to continue to perpetuate injustice and constitute a disservice to our students, their parents, taxpayers, and the state. The attached Joint Position Statement on Equity Issues and the Parent Trigger bill explains why we make this request.
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Joint Statement: Equity Issues and the Parent Trigger Bill

LULAC Florida and the Florida Conference of the NAACP oppose the Parent Empowerment in Education bill as unnecessary legislation that fails to address the persistence of educational inequity in Florida’s charter schools. We affirm the importance and positive impact of parent empowerment and engagement on student achievement. However, the Florida Parent Trigger bill misleads by asserting that legislation will provide parents an "empowerment" over school policy input; the truth is they already have it. There is no substance to the claim that Parent Trigger legislation empowers parents and no evidence that the parent trigger process leads to improvements in parent engagement, student achievement, or narrowing the achievement gap.

Florida civil rights organizations want solutions to civil rights problems before bills are adopted that lead to further expansion of the charter school network. These problems include segregated school environments and targeted denial of access.

Racial and Ethnic Segregation

Recent studies have revealed that more than half of the state's charters, 54 percent, enroll two-thirds or more of a single race or ethnicity, compared with 44 percent for traditional public schools (  As noted by a 2010 National NAACP resolution on charter schools, segregation is not innovation. Applicants for charters are required to state their plans to foster racial balance. Clearly, this requirement has not solved the problem. Policy makers must craft other solutions before we are ready for too-rapid expansion of a model that brings back past errors.

Exclusion, Suspension, and Expulsion

Civil rights advocates are concerned about the impact of charter school policies on students’ due process rights in these semi-private schools and on their potential impact on the school-to-prison pipeline. What happens when working parents cannot meet charter school requirements for volunteer service in the schools as a condition of their children’s continued enrollment?  What choice is available to parents of children whose average comportment does not meet exacting discipline codes?  As Dr. Bruce Baker stated, “Traditional public schools cannot shed students who do not meet academic standards, comply with more general behavioral codes or social standards, such as parental obligations.”( )
The extent to which our most vulnerable disabled students in Exceptional Student Education (ESE) programs are excluded from charter schools is striking.  According to a StateImpact Florida/Miami Herald investigation of 14 school districts representing more than three-quarters of Florida’s total charter enrollment, most charter schools in Florida are failing to serve students with severe disabilities. According to the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), 86 percent of charter schools statewide do not have any students classified as severely disabled. Students with severe disabilities served by charter schools are concentrated in a few specialized schools located in the state’s largest counties. As a result, severely disabled students in these charter schools are segregated from other students. Disabled students have no charter option in other parts of the state (
The Parent Trigger bill would do nothing to bring about access to charter school choice for Florida’s half a million ESE students.  Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado is an attorney, an elected official, the daughter of the City of Miami Mayor, and a broadcast journalist. It’s hard to imagine a more empowered parent. Nevertheless, when her daughter was diagnosed with autism, she was no longer permitted to continue to attend a charter school in Miami. As Regalado noted, “And if this happened to someone with influence, what happens to everyone else?”
The StateImpact Florida/Miami Herald investigation found that less than 3 percent of Miami-Dade’s charter schools enroll students with severe disabilities.  Regalado adds that charters also exclude “students with mild disabilities, like ADD, and students with behavioral issues” (
Data on the numbers of students who apply for admission to charter schools, along with the number denied admission and the reasons for exclusion, are not presented in the Florida Department of Education’s annual report on charter schools. Neither are data for the number and subgroup membership of students who are suspended, or expelled (or withdrawn after being counseled to go elsewhere), compared to traditional public schools.  Such data should be collected and made public to foster policy development that ensures the civil rights of Florida’s students.

Rights of English Language Learners (ELLs)

Does the Florida charter school law secure the rights of ELL students in Florida to attend and participate equally with other students?

This question was posed to Roger Rice, Esq., Executive Director, Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy (META).
His response:
No, it falls short.  The Florida law does say that ELL student have an equal opportunity to enrollment but doesn’t provide that they will receive the services they need if they do enroll.  We know that many parents will not seek to enroll their student in a charter school that can’t serve them.   For example, Oregon’s charter school law is similar to Florida’s but is much clearer and stronger in protecting ELL students by requiring that: “Consistent with federal civil rights laws, public charter schools shall provide limited English proficient students with appropriate services designed to teach them English and the general curriculum”.  The Florida law should include similar ‘appropriate services consistent with federal civil rights laws’ type language.  Otherwise equal enrollment opportunity means opportunity to receive a program that doesn’t meet the needs of ELL students.
Florida’s quarter million ELLs should have the benefit and assurance in Florida law that public charters will provide appropriate services before there is further expansion of the state’s charter school network.


These inequities in charter school policy have existed for far too long, for almost two decades now since the first school was chartered in 1996. The Parent Trigger bill, and any others that could prematurely expand the number of charter schools in the state, should be voted down. To do otherwise would be to continue to perpetuate injustice and constitute a disservice to our students, their parents, taxpayers, and the state.
Contact Information:
Rosa Castro Feinberg, PH.D., LULAC Florida State Commissioner for Education Policy and Special Populations,;
Shirley B. Johnson, Ph. D., Education Committee Chair, NAACP Florida State Conference,  

Reprint and distribution rights granted.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

National Movement Hits a Nerve in the Reformer Camp

Certainly a sign that media mogul, owner of the NY Post, and education reform entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch and cronies are noticing the national movement by parents, community members and taxpayers against excessive, experimental, and expensive standardized testing. Groups all over the nation are organized, state legislatures are revisiting decisions on standards, testing, and database development. Washington State teachers are refusing to implement the tests.

What is the sign? Yellow journalism or presenting manufactured sensationalized new reporting and a personal attacks - classic and consistent with the NY Post reputation. Why else would yellow journalists Susan Edelman and Candice Giove fail to report on standardized testing itself and the national opposition rather than choose to launch a personal attack on Lisa Nielsen,  ONE long time critic of excessive national testing. The national opposition is large, but then real journalists with integrity would know that.

So what does the NY Post care about standardized testing? Its owner cares.

In June 2011 Forbes reported that Murdoch's News Corp hired New York State Chancellor Joel Klein to develop an education division. Kristen Kane, former chief operating officer of the New York City Department of Education, was tagged to become COO of this News Corp unit. Two weeks later, Murdoch purchased Wireless Generation, a company that develops software and data systems to track student progress. The company is a contractor for the New York city school system. But Wireless Generation was awarded a $27 million no-bid contract, it got attention - too much attention, and the deal was investigated and the contract was "quietly rejected" by New York State Controller Thomas DiNapoli.

Regarding the $360 million dollar purchase price for Wireless Generation, Murdoch had this to say:

"Education in the U.S. is a $500 billion sector “waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching,” said Murdoch in a statement, and Wireless Generation is at the “forefront” of individualized, tech-based learning."

No testing, no data. No data, no need for million dollar contracts in each state and school district in the U.S. No contracts, no return on big investments.

Who pays? Who benefits???  The critics will not be so easily silenced. There are far too many now and far too smart to be fooled.

Related articles:


Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Garfield Stand and the Common Core: Will They Both Come to a School Near You?

 The “Garfield Stand” may eventually come to a school near you following the roll out of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and related assessment implementation across the country.  What is the Garfield Stand?  It is what the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School are doing---they are taking a stand on important issues related to student assessment.  You can read about it in the letter from teachers at Garfield High School and at additional links provided below.  Teachers at another school, Ballard High School, are not just in sympathy with their Garfield colleagues; they are taking the same stand.

This may be the start of our seeing the hundredth monkey phenomenon related to the CCSS and other education reform issues. Individual teachers may not be comfortable or may even be fearful of speaking out on these issues but when they realize other colleagues have similar views and concerns, collectively they may take a stand as we see at Garfield. 

Is the Garfield Stand a preview of what we may see across the country in the not to distant future as teachers have first hand classroom experience implementing top down education reform mandates?

I encourage you to read the letter from the Garfield teachers.  The Ballard teachers wrote a letter supporting their Garfield colleagues.  That letter is copied below.  In a few years how many of the statements below will have a ring of truth if MAP is replaced with SBAC or PARCC assessments?

 25 teachers at nearby Ballard High School signed a letter against continuing to use the MAP test, and in support of our Garfield colleagues
·       The MAP test is a resource expensive and cash expensive program in a district with very finite financial resources,
·       The MAP test is not used in practice to inform student instruction,
·       The MAP test is not connected to our curricula,
·       The MAP test has been repurposed by district administration to form part of a teacher’s evaluation, which is contrary to the purposes it was designed for, as stated by its purveyor, making it part of junk science,
·       The MAP test has also been repurposed for student placement in courses and programs, for which it was not designed,
·       The MAP test was purchased under corrupt crony-ist circumstances (Our former superintendent, while employed by SPS sat on the corporation board of NWEA, the purveyor of the MAP test. This was undisclosed to her employer. The initial MAP test was purchased in a no-bid, non-competitive process)
·       The MAP test was and remains unwanted and unneeded and unsolicited by SPS professional classroom educators, those who work directly with students,
·       The MAP test is not taken seriously by students, (They don’t need the results for graduation, for applications, for course credit, or any other purpose, so they routinely blow it off.)
·       The MAP test’s reported testing errors are greater than students’ expected growth,
·       The technology administration of the MAP test has serious flaws district wide which waste students’ time,
                        We, the undersigned educators from Ballard High School do hereby support statements and actions of our colleagues at Garfield High School surrounding the MAP test. Specifically, the MAP test program throughout Seattle Public Schools ought to be shut down immediately. It has been and continues to be an embarrassing mistake. Continuing it even another day, let alone another month or year or decade, will not turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.

I salute the teachers at Garfield and Ballard for taking a stand.  I feel it is unfortunate teachers feel the need to take such a stand.  Should they, and other teachers across the country, be making more of the decisions that will directly effect their instructional practices and their students’ education or should those decisions continue to be made by remote educrats and others at district offices, state departments of education, business and corporate offices, wealthy foundations, and Washington, D.C.?

The letter from the teachers at Garfield High School regarding the MAP test

Letter of support for Garfield High School teachers from Diane Ravitch

Garfield High School teachers say “NO!” to high stakes testing

Standardized test backlash: Some Seattle teachers just say 'no'

Garfield High teachers won't give required test they call flawed

Garfield High teachers refuse to give standardized test

Garfield High teachers refuse to administer District-mandated reading and math test

Garfield High School teachers boycott MAP assessment test

This article was originally published January 12, 2013 on The Underground Parent at and is republished here with permission from the author.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Don't Cry for Me JC Penney

Today I visited the local JC Penney store and happily purchased a pair of shoes on sale. What a deal! The salesperson was great, but prior to the end of the transaction asked if I wanted to donate 45 cents to Teach for America. I let her know that the question itself was upsetting to me. She gave me my receipt, told me about the online survey, and said I could voice my concern there. I did just that. Here's what I sent using the character limitations available.

"Upon checkout, I was asked if I would like to donate to Teach For America, which is not a charity. It is a controversial national organization that provides zero benefit to any schools or children in my community and questionable contributions to communities across the nation. The name gives the false impression it benefits teachers. The request upset me and hearing it offered to another customer caused me to leave the store. I am a long time shopper at JC Penney, but I will avoid it until I am made aware that the company has severed this inappropriate program that destroys an otherwise satisfactory shopping experience."

How did JC Penney get mixed up with TFA in the first place? I recall that Target and even Walmart targeted some donations to local schools. In any case, for my shopping needs as the holiday season approaches, I have TJ Max and Ross For Less on the top of my shopping destination list. I will not be buying much this season, but where I purchase will be as important as what I purchase.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Washington State Ballot Initiative: Redefining School Choice

Parents, community members, and taxpayers across the nation have been loud and clear regarding what they expect from public schools.
1) They want accountability; but do not want schools turned into centers of testing and test preparation instead of centers of learning.
2) They want safe, student-centered, and instructionally-rich environments that include art, music, and P.E.
3) They want reasonable class sizes and believe that class-size matters.
4) They want stronger local control and less federal and state control.
5) They want less standardization, less intrusive rules, less tests, and less data collection.
6) They want to retain parent rights, and not have them weakened by new FERPA regulations.

Education policy-wonks, education reformers, foundations, and legislators in both establishments persist in ignoring these concerns and persist in forcing their definition of education reform.

Washington State is one of  nine states that do not allow charter schools. "Washington voters have rejected charter schools three times before -- in 1996, 2000 and a third time in 2004." This November, voters will revisit this situation again via a ballot initiative 1240, based on a petition drive. The three week petition drive was funded this way:
According to Public Disclosure Commission filings posted Tuesday, Yes On 1240 has raised a total of $2.3 million and spent about $2.1 million to gather about 350,000 signatures. Most of the money has come from Washington technology leaders, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who donated $1 million.
Other reported funds and funders of the petition drive included $100,000 from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and $200,000 from Katherine Binder, chairwoman of EMFCO Holdings, $150,000 has been donated to the campaign from out-of-state, and $50,000 from Democrats for Education Reform, which is based in New York but has a presence in Washington state.

The successful petition drive was organized by Winner & Mandabach of Santa Monica, California, a company that specializes in "big-buck initiatives." 

The final and approved wording on the ballot measure read as follows:

             Initiative Measure No. 1240 concerns creation of a public charter school system.

Concise description:
This measure would authorize up to forty publicly-funded charter schools open to all students, operated through approved, nonreligious, nonprofit organizations, with government oversight; and modify certain laws applicable to them as public schools.

Ballot measure summary limited to 75 words:
This measure would allow a newly-created state commission or approved local school boards to authorize qualifying nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to operate public charter schools, limited to forty schools over five years. Public charter schools would receive standard per-student public school funding and be open to all students without tuition. Public charter schools would be subject to teacher certification requirements, government oversight, and performance reporting requirements, but exempt from certain state laws and school district policies.

Read more here: voters are unlikely to read is the 39-page implementation plan, which includes
What voters are unlikely to read is the 39-page detailed implementation plan or the "conversion charters" plan tucked within it.  These new public charters would be free of regulations required of the public schools except for testing requirements. Conversion charters permit parents or teachers to vote to turn a standard public school into a charter school via a petition process. While controversial so-called parent trigger laws are restricted to low performing schools and rely on a petition process, this ballot initiative allows any school including high performing schools to "convert."

 I1240 proponents attempt to distinguish "conversion" from "parent trigger" this way:
"...there is no parent or teacher “trigger” in I-1240. Under I-1240, it’s possible for a traditional public school to convert to a charter school only if the school meets rigorous application requirements, and demonstrates community need and parent and community support. One additional requirement before that conversion could happen is that either a majority of the parents or a majority of the teachers would have to sign a petition supporting the conversion. However, this is an additional requirement to demonstrate support for the school — a petition alone would mean nothing."
Parents, community members, and taxpayers are not so easily fooled by changes in a word or two and creating new definitions. Pass it now, fix it later is a bad idea. The devil is in the details, or lack of, and Washington state voters would do well to reject this ballot initiative. What is clear for the rest of the nation is that charter expansion for all is the goal.

While public schools strain under regulations, public charters would not. How does this make any sense? Wouldn't the public be better served by wider discussion of what type of customized conversion schools would be developed even in those areas where students demonstrate high achievement? How do customized schools navigate in a standardized-driven top down environment? Without that conversation first, how much more experimentation on children should the taxpayers be willing to pay for?

Below is a section of the final text of the ballot measure that references a conversion.

Part II
Sec. 201: (8) "Conversion charter school" means a charter school created by converting an existing noncharter public school in its entirety to a charter
school under this chapter.
(9) "New charter school" means any charter school established under this chapter that is not a conversion charter school.
Sec. 205: (3) A conversion charter school must provide sufficient capacity to enroll all students who wish to remain enrolled in the school after its conversion to a charter school, and may not displace students enrolled before the chartering process.
Sec. 213: (3) In the case of an application to establish a conversion charter school, the applicant must also demonstrate support for the proposed conversion by a petition signed by a majority of teachers assigned to the school or a petition signed by a majority of parents of students in the school.
Sec. 222: (6) Conversion charter schools are eligible for local levy moneys approved by the voters before the conversion start-up date of the school as determined by the authorizer, and the school district must allocate levy moneys to a conversion charter school.
Sec. 223: (5) A conversion charter school as part of the consideration for providing educational services under the charter contract may continue to use its existing facility without paying rent to the school district that owns the facility. The district remains responsible for major repairs and safety upgrades that may be required for the continued use of the facility as a public school. The charter school is responsible for routine maintenance of the facility including, but not limited to, cleaning, painting, gardening, and landscaping. The charter contract of a conversion charter school using existing facilities that are owned by its school district must include reasonable and customary terms regarding the use of the existing facility that are binding upon the school district. References:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Governor Scott left at the station and misses the testing and accountability train.

UPDATE ON DR. ROBINSON: Truth in American Education reported that Teresa Sweet of the Florida DOE responded to the concerns of Dr. Robinson of the Trinity Christian School in Deltona repeating the regulations and adding some detail.  Blogger Vander Hart concludes the following (bold added):
The only guidance that this provides is that principals can determine what to do with incoming transfers so this perhaps gives Dr. Robinson some latitude with which to deal with incoming students who have taken Algebra I, but failed the EOC assessment.  Since private schools don’t participate he could probably grant the credit.  Currently there is no way any of his or other private school’s students transferring out can receive credit for Algebra I and Biology unless they take the state’s EOC assessment.  Theoretically, the only way for a student to be prepared to take that assessment is for that private school to adopt the same standards as the public schools (read Common Core State Standards) at the moment.  As Sweet mentioned, there is a provision in the Florida Statutes for the Commissioner of Education to approve an alternative exam, but the current Education Commissioner, Gerard Robinson, has resigned effective August 31st.  So who knows when or if that’ll happen.
Yesterday, Florida Governor Scott promised changes to the testing system, but had no specifics other than no more teaching to the test. Today, the Florida Department of Education and the State School Board sent Superintendents a 12-page memo on testing and accountability rules starting this school year, rules that cement just the opposite on Florida's testing system.

In the meantime, Dr. Robinson of the Trinity Christian School in Deltona, Fl still has received no reply from the Governor regarding the impact of the end-of-course exams on students leaving private school for public school and reported here. In fact, in an interview today reported on the Truth in American Education website, Robinson elaborated that the unnecessary disruption and uncertainty affecting students and their families both leaving and coming to private school under the current testing system. Robinson cites an "influx of students transferring into his school from area public schools who took Algebra I, but failed the end of course assessment."  This situation "places his school in a conundrum because their transcript says they took a math class, but they don’t have credit for Algebra I so they’re not sure what to do with those students.  “Do we just put them back into Algebra I again?”

How are other states managing this? At least Oklahoma was forward thinking and established alternative ways for students with "special circumstances" to demonstrate their proficiency in 2011 including 11 alternatives for Algebra 1 alone.
From OK State Dept. website:
Students with Other Special Circumstances
Some students may have other special circumstances related to meeting the ACE Testing Requirements. Some examples of students with special circumstances include, but are not limited to, students who used proficiency based promotion to earn credit in one of the required courses, students who transferred to a public school from a private school or home school, or students with medical conditions that make testing difficult.  Students with special circumstances may be able to meet the ACE Testing Requirements through alternate tests or End-of-Course Projects instead of taking the EOI exams.  More information about students with special circumstances is available in the ACE Implementation Guide.
On the other hand, Texas school districts struggle with figuring out how to calculate the results of test results as they affect GPA. They consider whether greater points should go to a student who passes the first time and less to a student who has to take the exam more than once.

After the FCAT writing fiasco and a 40% failure rate in the new Algebra 1 end-of-course exam, Florida parents might have thought private school was a way to escape an out of control accountability system that does not serve the best interest of students and families.  Unfortunately, parent choice has no meaning under these conditions.  Governor Scott may have a new message, but the train has left him behind at the station/

And what of the students?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Florida Testing and Accountability System Creates Havoc in Private Schools

The smooth system of transferring credits from private schools to public schools has apparently been eliminated. According to an email sent to Governor Scott, the Volusia County Director of Assessment informed the Trinity Christian Academy in Deltona that credit will not be given to private school students who transfer to public school for courses, such as Algebra and Biology, because the standardized end-of-course tests are not available to them. If this information is correct, the Florida legislature, Commissioner of Education, and State School Board, by an act of incompetence or by design, have removed all alternative testing measures available to students in a private school that would serve in lieu of end-of-course-exams, leaving students unable to graduate from a public high school.

One Florida private school has raised this issue with Governor Scott in an August 10, 2012 email requesting a remedy to this surprising turn of events. Thanks to Sunburst, the open government email system, the public caught a ray of an additional lapse of serious magnitude in the state's accountability system that redefines parental choice.

“… these families bear the cost of education that our government would have had to carry. Private school students should not be penalized for choosing to go to Florida's private schools.”

Is this lapse a way to insert Florida's controversial testing and accountability system into private schools and exert control over religious schools? Will the standardized end-of-course requirement ultimately be required of all schools, public and private? Does the requirement apply to homeschoolers who transfer back to public school?

State education authorities have some explaining to do and an unambiguous remedy to develop. The public deserves a clear plan on how they intend to clean up yet another mess they have made with the state accountability system. In the meanwhile, parent choice has just been thrown under the bus.