Sunday, March 14, 2010



SENATE 0002: This bill would ask Florida voters to amend the state's constitution so that class size limits would be based on averages, not on maximum numbers of students per actual classroom. If approved by the Senate, the measure would go before Florida votes on the November general election ballot, and 60% of voters would have to vote for it in order for it to pass.

Action: It now been passed by large margins in three separate committee votes.

Outlook: There is an implementation issue to be resolved. If the Legislature does pass the bill and it does go to the voters in November, what to do about class size requirements for the current year? Under current law, the October  reporting cycle is the one used to determine if schools and districts are in compliance with the constitutional requirements regarding class size. One option being considered is moving the class size count day from October back to the first day of school. This could allow schools and districts to be assessed according to the current requirements right away, and then avoid changing the rules in the middle of the year. This method, however, would not allow for the considerable adjustments in enrollment that historically take place in the first few weeks of the school year.

SENATE 0004: This bill is consistent, in part, with proposals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Florida's Future, and Achieve, Inc. It is also consistent with the state's Race to the Top grant proposal. This bill would eliminate FCAT administration for mathematics (Grades 9 and 10) and science (Grade 11) in favor of end-of-course examinations. It would require students to pass Geometry, Biology I, Algebra II, Chemistry or physics, and an "equally rigorous science course" in order to graduate from high school. It would also require passing certain end-of-course examinations in order to receive credit in most of those courses, and would allow students to earn credit in those courses by examination only. It would also require high school students to take at least one virtual course in order to graduate.

Action: It passed the Senate PK-12 Education Committee earlier this week by a 6-2 party line vote.

Outlook: The bill is being fast-tracked to the Policy & Steering Committee on Ways & Means. Further action is possible as early as Monday.

SENATE 0006: This bill is consistent, in part, with proposals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Florida's Future, and Achieve, Inc. It is also consistent with the state's Race to the Top grant proposal. It would require that more than 50 percent of the salary of instructional personnel and school-based administrators (including those in charter schools) would be based on student learning gains and would require differentiated pay for difficult assignments. It would forbid school districts from considering an employee's experience or education when determining compensation. It would abolish professional services contracts for teachers hired after July 1, 2010 and limit those teachers to holding only probationary or annual contracts. It would also require that non-instructional personnel would be compensated under a performance pay plan. It would require all high schools (including all charter high schools) to implement end-of-course examinations in all subjects not tested with FCAT, IB, AP, or similar examinations. The bill would shorten the time available to obtain professional certification and would abolish certification on the basis of a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards credential. The bill requires local school boards to impose a punitive ad valorem tax if the school district fails to comply with these new requirements.

Action: It passed the Senate PK-12 Education Committee earlier this week by a 6-2 party line vote.

Outlook: More work on appropriations and implementing bills is expected next week, which may lead to discussions about how to pay for some of these proposed requirements..

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The movement to adopt nationwide standards achieved another milestone event this week. After several delays, the Council of Chief State School Office (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) released a draft set of K-12 "common core" standards for literacy and numeracy in k-12 schools. The standards are supposed to replace the current differing state standards through a voluntary adoption process. So far, all states except Alaska and Texas have committed to adopting the standards (and Kentucky somehow did so even before the standards were released).

Adopting a set of common standards will make it possible for commercial school test publishers to create products that can be adopted nationwide, and thus make it possible to compare student test results from state to state, as is done now with NAEP test results.

These standards being promoted as "common core" standards instead of "national standards," because Congress has not officially been involved. However, the Race to the Top grant program requires states seeking federal funds under that program to adopt common standards, and this has made it all but certain that the standards will soon be adopted in all or nearly states.

Both the College & Career Readiness standards (released last fall) and these new K-12 Standards are being developed under the aegis of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, who previously promoted the America 2000/Goals 2000 standards. It is important to note that these proposed standards are presented as being literacy and numeracy standards in history, social studies, and science but they are not history, social studies, or science curriculum standards per se. For example. 11th and 12th grade students in history and science courses are supposed to be able to "write arguments focused on discipline-specific content in which they introduce a substantive claim, establish its significance, distinguish it from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization so that claims, reasons, data, and evidence are purposefully and logically sequenced." Actual science standards are supposed to come later.

A parallel effort to develop nationwide science standard by the National Research Council has also begun. (The NRC provides Congress with science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter originally signed by President Lincoln.) The NRC is developing a framework for "next generation" standards for K-12 science education, and the panel is apparently working with the intent of reducing the scale and scope of the standards in favor of deeper understanding of the actual nature of science. Although this effort is technically separate from the effort of the Common Core Standards Initiative, there is considerable overlap in the influence of Achieve, Inc., which is heavily involved in both efforts.

The CCSSO/NGA assigned the actual work of creating these two sets of standards (the College & Career Readiness Standards and the K-12 Education) to a consortium of the following organizations and businesses:

  • Achieve, Inc. (A foundation created by governors and publishers of tests and textbooks; funded by the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, IBM, Intel, GE, and several insurance companies.)
  • ACT, Inc. (A foundation that publishes the ACT college entrance test and other college placement tests)
  • The College Board (A membership association of schools and colleges that hires ETS to create college entrance examinations such the SAT; funded by the Gates Foundation.)
  • NASBE (The National Association of State Boards of Education; funded by the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, ACT, and ETS.)
  • SHEEO (State Higher Education Executives Officers; funded by the Gates Foundation.)

State adoptions will have to be "validated" by NGA-CCSSO to ensure that the standards have been adopted in a meaningful way.

Florida's Race to the Top grant proposal included this commitment:

Florida will adopt the CCSS prior to August 2, 2010. The state adoption process will begin in February 20 I 0 or upon the official release of the CCSS. The process for standards adoption is clearly defined in Florida law (s. 1003.41 , F.S .). The Florida Education Commissioner will first submit these proposed Florida standards for review and comment by Florida educators, school administrators, representatives of community colleges and state universities who have expertise in the content knowledge and skills necessary to prepare a student for postsecondary education, and leaders in business and industry. These stakeholders will submit recommendations regarding any additional content, within the parameters of the multi -state agreement, to adopt in Florida. Florida will ensure that the CCSS represent at least 8S percent of the state's English/language arts and mathematics standards. The Commissioner, after considering any comments regarding additions to the proposed standards, will submit the standards for written evaluation by national and international experts on K- 12 curricular standards and content. The Commissioner will then submit the standards and evaluations reviewed by the curricular and content experts to the Governor, the President of the Florida Senate, and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. At the same time, the standards will be posted on Florida's standards review Web site (www.flstandards .org) for public comment from March through May 2010. After reviewing comments from the Governor, Legislators, and public, the Commissioner will post a final draft of Florida's Language Arts and Mathematics CCSS in June 20I0 for State Board of Education adoption in July 2010, after which the CCSS will become Florida's NGSSS in Language Arts and Mathematics. (pp. 64-65.)

The proposed K-12 standards may be reviewed and public comment may be provided through April 2, 2010 at

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The Governor made three appointments to the seven-member Florida State of Board of Education this week. Members serve four-year terms.

The Governor reappointed Kathleen Shanahan, currently the CEO of WRSCompass, a Tampa construction and environmental services company. She was originally appointed to the State Board of Education by Governor Bush in 2006. She previously served as Governor Bush's chief of staff. She holds a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego and an M.B.A. from New York University.

Crist also appointed Susan Story, currently President of Gulf Power Company, a Pensacola electrical utility. Story has previously served on the Florida Tax and Budget Reform Commission, a powerful entity that operates only once every twenty years to set long-range tax policy. She holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University and an M.B.A. from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She will replace outgoing Board member Linda Taylor, a former teacher from Fort Myers.

The Governor appointed Mark Kaplan, Vice-President of Mosaic Fertilizer, a phosphate mining firm in Tampa. He is also a registered lobbyist for Mosaic. He was also a chief of staff for Governor Bush. Kaplan holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida and a J.D. from Florida State University. He will replace outgoing Board member Peter Boulware, a Tallahassee car dealer.

Miami Herald (Web page)

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In what amounts to a watershed event for the standards and accountability movement, education historian Diane Ravitch explains in a new book why she no longer believes that market-based approaches to schooling (e.g., performance pay and high-stakes testing) are best for students. She argues that important decisions about schools should be made by educators and not by politicians or corporations, that charter schools should be created to educate the neediest children in collaboration with other public schools and not in competition with them, and that teachers should be compensated as professionals and not with corporate-style bonuses. 

Wall Street Journal (Web page)

Washington Post (Web page)

Many of the responses to Ravitch's article and book have come from people whose agenda she previously supported, and some of them seem to take personally that she has changed her mind, A number of online commenters have simply dismissed her article without actually commenting on its content, but policy researcher Rick Hess instead takes the time to respond thoughtfully.

Education Week (Web page)

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Rick Hess also continues his grueling vivisection of the Race to the Top proposals. This time, he's examining the use of educational jargon in the grant proposals. Grant proposal writers may learn from his admonishments.

Education Week (Web page)

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The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education & Labor held a hearing recently to hear expert testimony regarding the proposed "All Students Achieving through Reform Act” (H.R. 4330). This bill would crate a new competitive grant program to expand and replicate charter schools serving low-income students, students in schools with low graduation rates, and students in schools in need of improvement.

The committee heard from six witnesses favorable to the charter school movement. Their testimonies are available online.

U.S. House of Representatives

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(1) Value of corporate tax credits forfeited by Florida each year to fund private school vouchers: $100 million
(2) Current per-student value of each private school voucher: $3,950

(3) Estimated per-student value proposed in Senate Bill 2126: $5,500
(4) Corporate profits for 2009 of Pearson PLC, a major education publisher: $648 million
(5) Percentage increase this represents from the prior year: 45


(1-3) Orlando Sentinel (Web Page)
Wall Street Journal (Web Page)


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