Saturday, February 12, 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

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