Saturday, January 28, 2012

The baby's got the hammer, again

UPDATE: Round 2 - Wise and Stargel bring the same bill back, filed in November 2011. The Parent Involvement and Accountability Bill requires quarterly grading of parents.

The Legislative Analysis reveals:
1) This system will have impact on costs, but those costs are "indeterminate".

2) This bill qualifies as an unfunded mandate. How the schools will pay for all is undefined. The legislative analysis lightly treads on potential costs to counties. Will this mean a tax hike?

3)The "evaluation data" collected will become part of the student's permanent record and protected as confidential using FERPA guidelines.

The blog below was written last year and remains relevant today.

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.  Will Rogers

The same can be said for Florida anytime the legislature is in in session. For the last week, Grumpy readers have been hearing about a scheme that has Tallahassee and Obama have teaming up to data mine our children, all in the name of education reform (off course). That would allow them to:

  • Analyze information and make recommendations with the goal of aiding a person's decisions and improving quality of life."

  • Provide several different reporting capabilities for use by a myriad of stakeholders

From the politicians point of view, the government knows everything it could ever want to know about a entire generation of future voters. Everything from their basic IQ to their hobbies as well as a few things we might not want to discuss here.

It just got better, why stop with the kids, why not collect a little more information about their parents. Representative Kelli Stargel and Senator Stephen Wise want the teachers to grade parents as well. Remember, the school already ha a ton of information about students parents: age, marital status, occupation, social security number, address, phone number and more. A great deal of this information is certain to make it into the child's Microsoft Profile. Why not categorize their parenting skills and add that to the kids profile.

There is another more immediate reason the idea is completely absurd. It won't have any affect at all on the parenting skills of parents who"Flunk", but it will sure as hell piss them off. The school and the school board will hear from every failing parent. You couldn't pay me enough to answer phones either at schools or at the Board of Education for a week after report cards come out.

It may not be Politically Correct to say this, but the majority of the parents you'd expect to get "Flunked" or going to be same ones where police respond the most often to assault and domestic violence calls.It doesn't take much imagination to figure out that the first thing some of those bad parents are going to do is pay a visit to the school. Some of those visits will be ugly.

Grading parents will accomplish nothing of value, it will lead to poor relationships in some cases between entire communities and the schools, and it will strain already shaky relations between the BAD parents and the schools. On a positive note, it will give a moment satisfaction to a few teachers, that satisfaction might end suddenly when they get confronted by a furious parent.

Everyone in every walk of life grades the people they have to deal with regularly. Depending on your personality, the servers at restaurant you frequent might run towards you, or away form you when you come it. The clerk at the local convenience store might mutter something to another clerk before they smile at you. When you might leave your doctors office, the doctor might say something to his nurse about your great sense of humor... or he might say, at least I don't have to them again for a while.

Does anyone think Senator Wise or Representative Stargal would have the courage to tell individual voters exactly what they think of them?On another note Senator Wise seem determined to shove things through as soon as possible. He wants to end public input tomorrow.He knows damned good and well people from from Central and Southern Florida can't just jump in their cars and take a ride to Tallahassee

But you can send emails:

Mike Haridopolos

Stephen Wise

Thad Altman

Ritch Workman

I listed the ones closest to where I live, you can find yours here

To view original reader comments on this article see

Monday, January 23, 2012

Data-obsession: Who protects the students?

Public school P.E. programs are incorporating technology to monitor students weight and physical activity habits. According to a recent piece of investigative reporting in the Revered Review, a specific technology from Polar Fitness"is used in more than 10,000 K-12 physical education programs across the United States." The report reviewed the way the technology is being used in a number of states and school districts.

Some of this technology may be beneficial to students and parents may agree with their student's participation. However, little has been published on the cost benefits for parents, community members, or taxpayers to evaluate. In the current data-gathering obsessed environment, the use of this technology has raised concerns regarding:
  • Parent consent

  • Privacy and security

Use of monitors intrusive

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York affiliate of the ACLU, sent The Revered Review the following statement: “The question here is whether these monitoring programs are voluntary or not. It’s one thing for children to participate voluntarily with their parents’ consent. But if they’re being compelled or shamed into participating, then it’s extremely problematic.”

Lieberman continued: “Monitoring children’s vital signs is very intrusive, and even a voluntary program must have clear privacy safeguards, including limits on how long the data can be stored and who has access to it.”

Security and privacy
Emmett McGroarty, the executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of the American Principles Project, said if schools are using the monitors, there should be full disclosure to the parents. If they are used beyond the school day, it could be “highly dangerous” as it could be an “infringement on parental rights.”

Full disclosure by parents, and the ability to “opt in” rather than “opt out” should be allowed, McGroarty said. “I really would urge the taxpayers to get a closer look at what’s going on, and who is funding this.”

The company issued a press release on January 19, in regards to its Polar Activity monitor: “The activity data is stored on the web service. All information is securely stored and the data is available only to authorized users with a password.”

A company press release does not quite cut the mustard. The school districts need to ensure that parents and students have clarity. That is not too much to ask.

Read the full article for more information.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Florida Republican Primary Debate: Will there be a question on education reform?

On Monday, January 23, Brian Williams will be in charge of the MSNBC Florida Republican Primary debate from Tampa, Florida. So far, there has been zero questions on what the candidates positions are when it comes to education reform initiatives. Will that pattern of silence change?

What is it that parents, community members, and taxpayers would like to know?

Here is a Grumpy Educators short list:

1) What is your position on the development of the student longitudinal database from birth to the first year of college, the sharing of some data without parent consent, and privacy and security concerns?

2) There is broad consensus on the need for accountability; however, there is also broad consensus that classrooms have been converted into centers of test preparation rather than centers of learning. What is your view of the federal role in education?

3) There is a widespread grassroots parent movement to opt-Out of testing. Do you support the parent right to opt out?

4) Some say the billions spent on testing and the database is required to evaluate teachers. How does the expense match the need to conduct employee evaluations?

5) What is your position on the federal role in the development of national standardized testing spending and the financial impact on states and communities?

6) What is your view of the role of locally elected school boards in decision-making?

7) Charter schools in Florida have a mixed record of success, on financial and academic success. What is your position on the expansion of charter schools?

What question do you want to hear asked?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

U.S. House of Representatives Consider Education Bills

Parents, community members, and taxpayers are researching, analyzing, discussing, and sharing information. Interest and understanding of the issues are increasing daily.

Below is one such analysis of three pieces of education legislation in the U.S. House.

Read the information, share it, discuss it, and form an opinion, and let your U.S. Congressman know what you think.

H.R. 2218 Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act
The Student Success Act
Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act

H.R. 2218 Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act

Currently, under ESEA, competitive grants have been awarded states or charter school developers to provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools, and support the financing of charter school facilities. H.R.2218 will streamline and modernize the Charter School Program to support the start-up, replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools; streamline program funding and administration at the federal and state levels; and promote choice, innovation, and excellence in education.

Recommendation: Do not support. The federal government should not be promoting, supporting, or funding charter schools in any manner. This should be left entirely up to the state without influence of any kind from the federal government.

The Student Success Act

This act supports the protection of state and local autonomy and limits the authority of the Secretary of Education. This act would end the school improvement grants (SIG) that created and funded four unproven and ineffective turnaround models. This act does away with AYP and repeals federal requirements for highly qualified teacher designation.

Secretary’s Authority: The bill protects state and local autonomy over decisions in the classroom and limits the authority of the Secretary of Education. The legislation: (1) prevents the Secretary from creating additional burdens on states and districts through the regulatory process, particularly in the areas of standards, assessments, and state
accountability plans; (2) prohibits the Secretary from supporting efforts around state standards and influencing and coercing states into entering partnerships with other states; and (3) outlines procedures the Secretary must follow when conducting a peer review process for grant applications that will bring greater transparency.

Recommendation: Support. This could be better but it is a move in the right direction.

Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act

The majority of the issues addressed in this act are ones the federal government should not be involved. Many of these issues should be left to the states address as they see fit. This act calls for making student achievement data a significant of evaluations. I do not support the use of student achievement data to evaluate teachers. While it sounds great, this is not a reliable way to evaluate teachers. Various reports and questionable research may recommend this but the solid research does not recommend this. I am okay with this data being used to evaluate schools and districts. This act also calls for performance based pay. I have been aware of a push for this for more than 25 years and have yet to see a plan or a plan in place that will work in the education arena, especially with teachers.

Recommendation: Do Not Support. Some of the issues in this act should not even be proposed or addressed. Many issues addressed in this act should be left entirely to the states without influence of any kind from the federal government.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Florida: Parent, community member, and tax payer opposition strengthens

Florida legislators introduced a Parent Trigger bill, calling it the Parent Empowerment Act. Under the bill, parents and teachers could vote to turn a public school into a charter school if 51% agree and the local elected school board has no say in the matter. However, in a combined statement, these Florida parent groups have come out publicly opposing the legislation:

  • Florida PTA
  • Fund Education Now
  • Citizens for Strong Schools
  • 50th No More
  • Marions United for Public Education
  • Save Duval Schools
  • Support Dade Schools

The Tampa Gradebook reports Parents Across America - Florida opposes the bill.

Bill sponsors Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican and Senate deputy majority leader Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers did not comment on the opposing parent views.

Parent trigger advocates fail to acknowledge the lack of accountability at the federal and state for over ten years of failed education policy that developed both the US DOE and Florida DOE into overblown bureaucracies. Parent triggers merely change the deck chairs; but do not address the underlying expensive, expanding, and experimental unfunded and unfundable mandates driving U.S. education into the ground.

One central issue is the obsession with high stakes assessment, which has turned classrooms into testing centers instead of environments of learning. Florida is one of the recipients of Race to the Top funding and participating in the development of national assessments based on the common core curriculum. This initiative will increase the assessments students will take during the school year. In response, a petition is circulating to empower parents to opt-out of the FCAT.

The data required for the high stakes assessments and complex accountability systems rely on the student longitudinal database. New regulatory changes allows some student data to be shared with research organizations and governmental agencies without parent consent. Security and privacy concerns go unaddressed.

Florida is the next stop for the Republican primary candidates. So far, these important education matters have gone ignored at federal and state levels. Will that change? If not, Republicans are on notice with yet another petition.

Here's a petition you can sign and know exactly what you're signing: "Stop the Dept. of Education's Power Grab." The petition faults the media for never asking about education in the GOP debates; it faults the GOP for manipulating the candidates in such a way that the strongest candidate is the one who says nothing about education, and for pretending to be the opposition party when it accepts education reforms with open arms.

What do we want the winning GOP candidate to say? A few things:

1. Acknowledge that American public education is going bankrupt. We believe this fact is as important as the Afghan war or gay marriage. A civilization that ignores its young will not have a long life span.

2. Point out and oppose the great rip-offs of local control inherent in Obama's "Race to the Top" and "Common Core Standards": the dissemination of your family's personal information from the Dept. of Education to the federal government at large, a payout to publishing and testing corporations totaling $30 billion nationwide which the states will have to pay (who knows how?). The schools get nothing but the shiny new standards, laid off teachers, and, for the first time, control of curriculum from Washington.

To learn more, please go to the petition, scroll down to the bio of the petition author and the automatic signer. If you agree with our petition, sign it and send it to people and sites you think would agree. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Republicans Put On Notice Over Education Reform

Florida’s legislative session opened with education bills pouring out like M&Ms.
With eyebrow raising speed, on opening day, the Senate Pre-K 12 Education committee considered and passed SB 962, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program on January 9, 2012 by a vote of 4 to 2, and came back on January 10 to revisit some changes, and on January 11, the bill moved to the Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. The legislative analysis notes the fiscal impact on taxes, fees, and general revenues are unknown. Governor Scott has asked for $1 billion in educational funding, which raises eyebrows after last year’s deep cuts. Where’s the money?

The Palm Beach Post reports that activists were on hand to remind the legislature of widespread unhappiness. Henry Kelly of Florida’s TEA Party put constituent sentiment this way:

"If you remove party labels from the equation, there's just no confidence in our political leadership, either left or right, that they're doing the right thing," said Henry Kelley, a tea party leader from Fort Walton Beach who last year organized an all-day event on opening day attended by several GOP leaders. "The honest assessment is I'm not highly enthusiastic that citizens are going to win. But we're going to be there. We've realized what happens when we don't get involved. We're still going to show up and we're still going to try to influence because otherwise the choice is to do nothing."

In spite of the tens of thousands of words in blogs and news reports regarding cheating scandals, fraud, funding concerns, and ethics questions, Florida legislators turned a blind eye to move full steam ahead on so-called education reform initiatives. During the recent New Hampshire Republican debate, no question was asked about education reform initiatives. Parents, community members, and taxpayers find federal and state elected leaders across the board maintain no interest in the public’s legitimate concerns. Around the nation, school districts struggle to meet unfunded mandates from federal and state initiatives while budgets are cut.

What should a constituent do?

Republicans should look into the petition developed by retired California teacher, Doug Lasken – as a way to express frustration. Doug is a retired 25 year veteran of LA Unified, current private school debate coach and language arts specialist who has consulted for the California Dept. of Education (during its productive years before Common Core), WestEd and the Fordham and Pioneer Institutes. Doug’s petition disavows allegiance to and support for the Republican party regarding its education policy, or more accurately, its lack of education policy. Read the resolution below with its founding signatures.

UPDATE: If you agree, sign it, circulate it, and publish it. Contact Doug Laskin to add your name to the petition at:

We the undersigned do not agree on all things, but we are in close agreement on education, and in particular these five propositions:

1. The federal government is barred by the United States Constitution from imposing academic standards and public school curriculum on the states, the very thing it is attempting to do through the Obama administration programs Race to the Top (RttT) and the Common Core Standards (CCS).

2. In addition to imposing standards and curriculum on the states, RttT mandates that states collect extensive and detailed personal information on students, and that this information be submitted to the federal Department of Education, from which it will be available to other agencies. We oppose this on Constitutional grounds.

3. The national price tag for CCS is estimated at $30 billion (and perhaps as much as $210 billion) most of which cost is to be borne by the states. This money will enrich special interests- the publishing and testing empires- but will do very little to save America's bankrupted public schools. The undersigned believe that spending $30 billion on standards is like painting a car before junking it- good for the painters, a useless expense for the car owner.

4. The news media has decided that since conservatives object to spending money, and since conservative views are represented in the Republican party, then people who object to RttT and CCS must be represented by the Republican party. The undersigned have found, however, that the Republican party, as distinct from individual candidates, does not represent those seeking sound education policy. Time and again, at all levels from local to federal, the undersigned have encountered ignorance and indifference regarding RttT and CCS from the Republican party and the people it has helped to achieve office. Republicans as much as Democrats have been seduced by the $30 billion and slick sales talk into acquiescence to RttT and CCS.

5. Therefore, we the undersigned here state that the Republican party does not represent our views on American education, that the Republican party is in fact aligned with the Democratic party in pushing through wasteful and highly problematical Democratic programs, and that we therefore disavow allegiance to and support of the Republican party in its policies towards education, and we ask that the media acknowledge that this diminution of Republican support has occurred.
Founding Signers:

Doug Lasken , Teacher

Susan Holloday, Taxpayer

Catherine Banker
Former member of California Curriculum Commission

Marilyn Reed
12 year veteran of a public school board
Education Reform consultant with the Commonwealth Education Organization
Wexford, Pa

Veronica Norris

Wayne Bishop, PhD
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, LA

Director-School Board, Francis Howell School District: 2000-2003