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.