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Shared from the Orlando Sentinel
By Kathleen Oropeza, Guest columnist
August 2, 2013
Florida’s school grades are not statistically valid. They’re not true. They are not measuring what is “real.”
This disturbing admission from the Florida Board of Education last week is made more scandalous by the resignation of Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett. Now, districts must deal with his “safety net,” which spares 155 schools from being deemed an F and leaves 107 on the chopping block, facing sanctions and potential closure.
Bennett, handpicked by Gov. Rick Scott, came to Florida fresh from being fired by Indiana voters. He was caught red-handed manipulating the Indiana A-F school grades in official emails to favor a major political donor and for-profit charter-school developer.
Scott, aided by former Gov. Jeb Bush, made disgraceful choices in appointing Bennett and his predecessor Gerard Robinson. Both men manipulated data for political convenience and resigned, unable to defend the indefensible.
For 15 years, Florida politicians have held up our A-F school-grading system as the education-reform gold standard for the nation. A whole expensive, unpiloted system was built on viewing our neighborhood schools, filled with our sweet children, as A’s or F’s.
School grades are the single high-stakes arbiter of property values, teacher pay, school funding and quality. Dozens of states have been lobbied heavily to adopt Florida’s A-F school-grading system as the foundation of their reform agenda. Now this same system has been exposed as invalid. Worse, it’s deliberately rigged by the reformers themselves to permanently keep certain teachers, children and schools from ever rising above an F.
As parents, we teach our children empathy for others and the importance of fair play. How do we tell our children that although their grades are improving, their school is an F? How do we explain that a school grade is not true, but arbitrary?
It was deeply disappointing to hear Board of Education members insist that it would be better to let 25 F schools balloon to 262 F schools because those students need the “truth.” Where’s the truth in a statistically invalid system? Will there ever be any truth when we need task forces and emergency meetings to flip the facts? Our children deserve so much better than this.
Our governor-appointed Board of Education routinely uses its considerable power to shape outcomes. Who can forget the FCAT Writes disaster a year ago, where student scores went from 1’s to 5’s in one phone call?
Then there was the No Child Left Behind waiver crisis last summer that threatened to throw hundreds of schools into F status because of Florida’s choice to record English language learners and exceptional-student education test scores in a punitive way. The solution to that self-induced drama was another “safety net.”
Sadly, teachers and school leaders have warned politicians, the Board of Education and profit-driven policy influencers for years that Florida’s A-F accountability system is a house of cards. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, politicians stick to the script, rigidly intent on hawking Florida’s “good news.” Such blind faith exposes the lie. Florida’s A-F school-grading system cannot be a model of success on one hand while seeking to rapidly grow the number of F schools on the other.
Education reform is a political tool. Using data manipulation, Florida politicians and their appointed boards can create one crisis after another, doom children, deceive parents, destroy teachers and pass radical laws that give for-profit charter developers and others unfettered access to our public tax dollars.
Manufactured crisis is exhausting. Bennett’s solution to reduce the number of schools hurt by failed metrics is a short-term fix for a deep problem. Florida’s A-F school-grading system has lost credibility and needs to go.
Florida must return to an elected commissioner of education who answers directly to us. The people of Indiana used their votes and got it right. The last thing Florida public education needs is an appointed reform puppet.
Our children deserve a leader who believes in them and will fight for them, and who views the job through the powerful lens of love. It’s time for the state to stop wasting our money tweaking a fiasco and start showing some empathy for the real human beings who are the heart and soul of our schools.
Kathleen Oropeza is co-founder of FundEducationNow.org, a nonpartisan Florida-based education advocacy group.
Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel
“Poner en Secuestro” (Sequestration) es una serie de recortes automáticos al presupuesto Federal que tomara efecto el 1ro de Marzo, si el Congreso no toma acción.
Estos recortes son enormes, de hecho, “El Secuestro” eliminara $86 millones en IDEA y Título 1 en el estado de Florida. Sufrirán nuestros niños más vulnerables y necesitados. Aparte de Florida el único otro estado que sufrirá recortes es California.
El Departamento de Educación de Florida perdería servicios críticos para 95,000 estudiantes K-12 ademas de 750 maestros en 130 escuelas.El programa de niños con impedimentos perderá $31 millones y 380 de los maestros más esenciales. Cerca de 2,700 niños pre-escolares del Programa Head Start
serán afectados por los recortes presupuestarios ademas, 8,000 estudiantes de colegio quienes perderían el programa “Work-Study” que les provee el puente crítico entre el colegio y su vida profesional.
Es imperativo que le dejemos saber a nuestros representantes electos nuestro sentir en cuanto a daño que sufrirán nuestros niños de implementarse el “Secuestro Presupuestario” (Sequestration).
La delegación de Florida y sus colegas en el Congreso deben estar conscientes que el “Secuestro Presupuestario” es un problema de adultos que perjudicara en última instancia a nuestros niños. Enviamos representantes a Washington para que encuentren soluciones bipartitas que hagan sentido.
El “Secuestro Presupuestario” tendrá un impacto negativo a largo plazo el las vidas de nuestros niños y en la economía de Florida. Tener acceso a sólo uno de estos programas podrá significar el éxito o el fracaso para estos jóvenes. Estos programas cambian la vida de nuestros niños de una forma positiva.
Si los “adultos” en el Congreso permiten que pase la fecha límite, causarán un daño inmerecido a los niños de Florida.
Sólo quedan unas horas, toma acción ahora y dile a la delegación de Florida que usen el poder que nosotros le otorgamos para evitar el “Secuestro Presupuestario”. El tiempo se acaba, llama ahora o escribe un correo electrónico al la delegación del estado.
Without question, the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut committed evil. Millions of prayers have been said by all of us. Who could do such a thing? What do we tell our own children, who thankfully came home from school on Friday, about an act so cruel?
Moms lost babies and babies lost their moms. The hearts of 26 families have been thrust into a forever pain no one deserves.
Yet bubbling up from this insanity and death is a kernel of grace. Training kicked in as teachers pulled children walking down the hall into class rooms, teachers read stories, prayed quietly and hugged their little ones close in tiny spaces. Teachers told their children over and over how much they loved them just in case they were the last words young hearts would ever hear. Bravery is not on most job descriptions. Bravery cannot be tied to a test score. There’s no “effective bravery” training. Bravery wells up from the core of a person’s soul like a calling.
Please remember that. As we lift these 26 beautiful souls up in prayer, we must give thanks for the overwhelming bravery demonstrated by the teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook. Teachers are “all in” for our kids. In our hearts, we all know it.
If parents and teachers both believe they would sacrifice their lives for the children they love and teach, it means we are part of a very sacred team. In the months ahead, each of us must make this an indelible part of our understanding of what it means to be a teacher.
As we continue to pray for peace, understanding and ways to prevent another tragedy, please take the time to consider the teachers you know in this new light.
May the blessings of the Season be yours.