Florida Schools Have A Crisis In Wealthy Student Achievement

I made a statistical case last week that wealthy schools, as a class, clearly underachieve on the FCAT in Polk County. This includes charter schools. No one has questioned my data or conclusions. And I’m about to show you that the identical pattern applies in Florida as a whole, when measured on a county-by-county basis.

But first, ask yourself this. Taken at face value, what is the point of the FCAT? What is the point of modern high stakes standardized testing–which I like to call scoreboard education?

In a world of good faith, I think the FCAT is supposed to provide an evaluation tool aimed primarily at teachers and to a lesser degree administrators. It is designed to tell you, based on test score achievement, if your school and teachers are performing well compared to their peers and compared to some abstract standard we establish for them. Are schools and teachers taking the students they have and helping them achieve to their best ability, as defined by test scores?

Thus, one would expect that the ultimate measure of the teacher is the difference between the score a student received and the score he or she would have received if no teacher ever entered the room. That should be the point of the FCAT and standardized testing–to attempt to measure that instructional “value add.”

But that’s just in a world of good faith. We don’t live in that world. Think about that as you look at the charts that follow. Think about the term “value add.” And think about this series of inspiring education quotes.

First, from Maready the Great:

“In review of all the data, magnet, choice and charter schools are making a difference, which should be studied and implemented in other schools. Charter schools are not the total answer but are part of the solution.” — Lakeland Ledger

And…

“Analysis of the data would allow for an open forum to work together in solving the education issues in Polk County. If we do not recognize there is a problem, then there cannot be a solution.” — Lakeland Ledger

Add from loquacious Florida Southern College business professor and McKeel board member Larry Ross:

“We have got in Florida a ­Republican-controlled Legislature, looking for an alternative to the traditional public education model, which a lot of people think is broken,” he said. “And we have a number of legislators who have been able to sponsor and usher through very favorable charter legislation.” — Lakeland Ledger

And one last person, a powerful state senator named John Thrasher from St. John County. (He is sort of a Townsend family friend, at least of the elder Townsends.) More importantly, he’s an architect of some our state’s education “reforms” over the last decade or so. He’ll tell you himself:

Working alongside Gov. Jeb Bush, we raised K-12 education standards, introduced greater accountability and competition in our schools, and challenged schools to focus resources on the classrooms, not administrations. And just this year, we passed the Student Success Act, which rewards great teachers and empowers charter schools to continue to innovate and improve.

The record and the results are clear. Our reforms have worked wonders in K-12 learning.

Senator Thrasher, if your reforms have worked wonders in K-12 learning, why do your allies on the McKeel board consider the traditional education system “broken?” Is it broken? Or have you worked wonders? Please clarify. And if it’s not broken, why have Republican leaders like you felt it necessary “to sponsor and usher through very favorable charter legislation” designed to upend the traditional system which you supposedly reformed to great success?

With respect, could it be that you are all deeply full of hooeey? That everything you say about education is focus-grouped drivel with no meaning?

“A lot of people” think that. They include me.

I think the evidence suggests that the entirety of Florida’s state-level education bureaucracy and evaluation apparatus serves the true aim of John Thrasher and Seth McKeel’s vision for public education: justifying the creation of free private schools for their kids and grandkids and using your money to do it. They couldn’t do it with vouchers, so they’re doing it with predatory charters and a thousand other cuts. Killing off teacher unions as a viable political opposition is a bonus. But, in the end, it’s about making sure their kids don’t have to share space with riff-raff, with the exception of a few very, very special riff-raffians.

I submit that Florida education policy has nothing whatever to do with “achievement” and quality of educational experience. And as you follow me through the charts and analysis that follow, ask yourself whose perception of the public education debate rings more true: mine, or the muddled incoherence of the underachievers.

Randomness and Order

Check out these two unadorned scatter charts below. Do they show a similar vector in plotting?


2010_Reading_12_11_correct


10th_Math_correct_12_11You’ve already seen the top chart if you’ve been reading the last couple of weeks. It’s the 2010 3rd grade mean (average) FCAT scores in Polk County, plotted school-by-school against free and reduced population. My analysis of that can be found here if you’re not up to speed.

Concerned that my chosen slice of FCAT world might have been a little fluky, I recently plotted another FCAT-related combination, one as different as possible from Polk’s 3rd grade reading. I chose FCAT 2011, 10th grade Math. Only this time, I did it at a state level, measured county district-by-county district. (This data sample also included a handful of odd, sort of one-off special districts, which make for useful outliers. They show a wide range of possible scores. The spread of possible scores is at least 277 to 371.)

I ask again, do these two charts produce a similar right-to-left flow of dots? If you say yes, don’t you have to ask what accounts for the similarity? I see two possibilities:

1) The random interactions of Polk’s 3rd grade teachers and students in 2010, against all laws of probability, produced a clear statistical pattern relating to free and reduced lunch population. And that pattern matched almost precisely the pattern produced by the random interactions of all of Florida’s 10th grade math teachers and students the next year.

2) There is a rigid, obvious, predictable statistical correlation between free and reduced lunch population and FCAT score–in any combination.

I think the second is more likely.

However, Florida’s entire political education evaluation apparatus and rhetoric operates as if option number one explains the similarity of those charts. Mull that for a second as I note a couple of intriguing data elements not directly related to score.

Florida’s 10th grade Math population skews significantly wealthier than Polk’s 3rd grade reading. That moves its dots way to the right of the state chart’s dots. Polk’s 10th grade Math population is 57 percent, much lower that the 72 percent population in 3rd grade. That suggests to me that we’re either losing a significant portion of poorer kids to some sort of attrition–dropping out or just disappearing–or that fewer eligible families claim free and reduced lunch in 10th grade than in 3rd. Most likely, it’s some combination of both.

Also, both charts produce a very odd gulch between free and reduced populations, at a similar wealth point. For Polk 2010 3rd grade Reading, there are no schools with FRL population between 55 and 48 percent. For the state 2011 10th grade Math, there are no districts between 66 and 61. In Polk, 2/3 of schools are on the poor side of the gulch. In the state, 2/3 are on the wealthier side. I don’t know what to make of it, exactly, but I find it intriguing. It says something about that way people–and socioeconomic forces–distribute data. I just don’t know what it says.

McKeel Empire, Meet St. Johns County

Now, look at the two charts below. They are the same two charts, annotated to reveal some of the identities of the blue dots from above and drawn with a median score line.


AnnotatedPolk_2010_Reading3rd_12_11


State_Annotated_FCATMATH_2011_12_11As a refresher for non-STEMMY types like me, “mean” equals average. You add up all the scores and divide the total by number of scores to calculate the average that any individual kid would score. The dots are average scores of all students who took the test.

Median is slightly different. Median refers to the score that is dead in the middle of all scores. An equal number of scores are higher and lower. So I’ve drawn a median line for mean scores. This smooths out the effect of outliers; and I think it makes better sense for illustrating underperformance and overperformance. If there’s an automatic way to draw a median line on my Excel chart, I couldn’t figure it out. So I did it manually. My line could be slightly off, but any tiny tweaks do not remotely change the pattern. Please draw your own line if you don’t like mine.

As you can see, wealthier kids and their teachers underperform on the FCAT when the obvious, predictable correlation of mean score and FRL population is included. Said again, poorer traditional schools clearly get more out of their kids–in terms of test scores–than do fancy schools. In Polk County and in Florida. Just look at the dots and the lines. Who is under the median line? Who is above?

Clearly, we have a crisis in rich kid education. Is little Ethan learning? Not really. At least not compared to the kids his parents won’t let him play with.

Let’s look again at the state chart:


State_Annotated_FCATMATH_2011_12_11

You will notice that the champion underperformer in the state is its richest county: John Thrasher’s St. Johns County. Congratulations on your legacy of reform, senator. The greatest overacheiver, rural little Gilchrist County, scored a mean of 339 with a 59 percent FRL. St. Johns, with an astonishing 17 percent countywide FRL, managed a 344. And I’m sure the usual suspects crowed about it.

The only thing I know about Gilchrist County, which is northwest of Gainesville, is that it contains a little town called Trenton. My Palatka American Legion baseball team got into a absolutely awesome bench-clearing brawl there in the summer of 1988. Players, parents–it was a spectacle. I was warming up in the bullpen at the time. I am pretty slow on a good day, and that wasn’t one. So I managed not to get to the pile in time to throw a punch. Good times. Little did I know that players and fans with which we traded body slams and twangy barbs would be producing Florida’s best scholars in the 2000s.

Today, I feel certain that Gilchrist County is Florida’s fastest growing county because we all know that test score achievement–not demographics–sell neighborhoods and regions. Right? Maybe some economic development professional con confirm that for me.

Polk County comes in almost exactly on the median line, which, I have to say, feels right. We’re not overperforming; we’re not underperforming, as a county. But look at our school-by-school chart.

AnnotatedPolk_2010_Reading3rd_12_11Which schools are keeping us from overperforming? The McKeels, Valleyviews, Lincolns, and Ridgeviews. With the exception of Lakeland Montessori (usual disclosure: my son goes there), rich schools in Polk — and especially predatory charters — are not pulling their own weight. If they were, Polk’s numbers would clearly exceed the median line. I suspect it’s the same everywhere else.

Here’s the key question for most wealthy schools: a handful of schools show that wealthy student populations similar to yours are capable of scoring of much higher than your populations are scoring. Why aren’t your kids scoring that high? What are you doing wrong?

In fairness, one can rightly argue that school-by-school 2010 3rd grade FCAT Reading in Polk is not the same pot of data as county-by-county 2011 10th grade FCAT Math. I agree. But, really, does anyone think any other combination is going to look any different on a scatter plot? Really? If I were Mitt Romney, I’d bet you $10,000. However, I am not Mitt Romney. So I’m just going to post at least one additional combination a week, in perpetuity, or until I get tired of it. And we’ll see just how consistently this pattern of right-to-left upward angles reproduces itself.

What are you good at? What’s your value add?

To close, let’s refer back to the question I posed at the beginning.

What is the point of the FCAT? What is the point of modern high stakes standardized testing–which I like to call scoreboard education?

My answer: In a good faith world, it is designed to tell you, based on test score achievement, if your school and teachers are performing well compared to their peers–and compared to some abstract standard we establish for them.

What do you think? Is it doing that? Does our evaluation tool work for anyone? It seems to be harming rich kids with a false sense of achievement. And it seems to harm poor kids by giving McKeelish types the PR ammunition to slander the overperforming teachers at traditional schools and plunder their resources and generally drive them out of education.

In my view, Florida’s scoreboard education apparatus is nothing more than an elaborate and opaque Census, telling us what we already know about where wealth is distributed. And don’t you conservatives hate the Census? Why do you want to duplicate it on state level?

I, for one, would chuck all of this garbage out tomorrow. There are a billion more productive ways to pursue accountability if we care at all about making that abstract concept real. Our current system employs none of them because it is not interested in evaluation. It is interested in justification and rationalization of predatory policies. If we trust that our teachers and administrators are not fundamentally failing, much of the scoreboard education agenda falls apart from its own incoherence. And if you don’t think McKeel and St. Johns County are failing, then no one else is either.

I also asked you, dear reader, to think about the term “value add.” What is the value add of predatory charters, based on what I’ve shown you? What is the McDump Empire good at?

I would argue that it’s only good at screening and getting rid of kids. And the numbers, quite frankly, show it’s not good enough at that. I do, however, have great faith in its commitment to improving selectivity, at least. That’s its product. Larry Ross very helpfully said it last week.

He knows McKeel’s target audience–people who want to say they send their kids to an elite private school without paying for it. Trust me, the McKeel folks believe even more strongly than I do in the rigid predictable correlation of FRL and raw test score. They count on it. They know they can use the wealth and demographics of their student body to expand their government-funded business. They know that achievement is irrelevant to marketing.

As my late lamented economics professor grandfather used to say, “Isn’t education a wonderful process?”


Creative Commons License home image credit: Tim Lewis

30 thoughts on “Florida Schools Have A Crisis In Wealthy Student Achievement

  1. My first though on skimming this is to let you know that the FCAT was never intended to measure teacher success. It is completely invalid for that measurement. 

    And I think this video explains pretty clearly why testing is one of the worst ways to measure how good a teacher teaches. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uONqxysWEk8

  2. I agree completely. Like I said, I would toss it all out. But I’m trying to see it from the point of view of good faith testing advocates and illustrate that their good faith is being exploited. And always has been.

  3. First time reader, but I’d say you think that charters are predatory. What about the Montessouri school? My kids went to our church school through 8th grade then public high school very well prepared and high achieving. I would be more in favor of increasing choice, even at the non charter level (pick the school you want to attend without boundry definition.

    • I’ve addressed LMS issue a number of times before, in previous posts. It’s a relatively tiny school, fewer than 100 kids and isn’t bent on growth. Hence I would not call it predatory. That said, I have proposed that no charter/special school, my own included, have a FRL population that’s less than the district population at large. And I’m willing to have that applied to my own kid’s school, even if it means he’s got to go.

      I don’t think all charters are predatory, but those who seek to replicate large wealthy private schools are. 

      And I don’t have a huge problem with people choosing schools in principle, if we simply free the traditional schools from this mountain of garbage that we impose on them because it’s useful for certain and political and cultural class to trash them.

  4. A question about your graphs. The bottom line, the percentage of free or reduced lunch. Moving from left to right has more students on free or reduced lunch? 100% being a hypothetical population entirely on free or reduced lunch?

  5. Correct, if I’m understanding what you’re asking correctly. 100 would be 100 percent free and reduced lunch, as in every kid who took the test was FRL. Polk has a whole bunch of 3rd grade schools with population over 80 percent FRL. State 10th Math has no districts at that level, which is why all the dots shift toward the middle of the FRL scale for the state. Does that answer the question, or am I misunderstanding?

  6. So, as the population of free and reduced lunch increases test scores decrease? Schools with more free or reduced lunch score lower on the FCAT tests (or at least this one measurement)?

  7. Correct–in a very orderly, predictable way. But I argue that performance relative to the prediction increases.

    • I guess that’s the part that I’m missing here. If you had asked me before I read this piece what I would have thought might happen in this situation, I would have probably predicted just what you’ve shown here. So the case you’re making is that the schools with more affluent or involved parents aren’t doing better enough? Those schools should be performing much better than appears to be the case from this measurement? If you take Montessori out of the mix, I see roughly 50-75 points separating the better performers from the worst, or between 11% and 16% better. Is that all tracking with your assessment? Are you arguing that they should be doing something like 50% better?

      • I only say affluent. Involved is a subjective value judgement. I argue that the “better” performers shoudl be doing much better than they are, and that the “worse” performers should doing worse. I’d have to go analyze your numbers to answer specifically and don’t time right now. But I think you are correctly summarizing my general argument, with the exception of the involved part. I’m only using affluence because that’s the measurement available.   

        • I should think “involved” is a very important parameter to consider. As I understand it, any child can be enrolled in any charter. There are standards that must be met, but affluence is not one of them though perhaps that makes meeting some of them easier. I see a more significant barrier to charter school attendance being the requirements on the parents to get kids enrolled and participate while the child is attending. I think it’s also pretty clear that parental involvement is one of the largest factors in childhood educational success.

          So the charters are doing 11% – 16% better with 5% less funding than a traditional school (by law the district keeps a 5% administrative fee from the public funds distributed to charters). It seems to me like they are winning for all of us.

          I’ve said before that I’m a proponent of 100% private education. I understand people who want to make an equality of opportunity argument with public funding for education. Fine then, I can live with public financing for primary and secondary education. Just make it the backpack funding model so that parents get to make choices in a competitive educational market that more properly services the needs of the students than the needs of the unions and the bureaucracy.

          The primary reasons I don’t like public funding is that it opens the educational environment to politicization and polarization. Billy can argue about “predatory” charters whose parents are just trying to carve out a private school environment with public money and Federal bureaucrats thousands of miles away get a say in the schools because Federal money is being spent there. Private funding would bypass all of that. I believe even poor students would  do better in that world than the one we use today to warehouse them.

          The affluent are always going to make more opportunities for their children. Money affords better choices, that’s just basic economics and how life works.

          • @SkepticalEnlightenment:disqus  I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Although “involved” is mostly a subjective measure like Billy said, I think it contributes pretty highly to success, as well. But I’d like to find some studies that back that up. And like you said, affluence may not be the reason that scores are higher, it could just be that more involved parents happen to be more affluent. It’s kind of a chicken and egg issue.

            The one part I’m a little uneasy with from your post is the strictly private funding idea. The Miami Herald article that Tom Palmer linked to in another thread shows some of the problems that can happen when schools are run by management firms and private corporations. Granted, those aren’t providing all of the funding for the schools right now, but they are managing the money and also providing loans. To keep a long story short, the charter system in South Florida has a lot of issues that I think can be attributed to these private firms’ management. If there were a way ensure that the conflicts of interest were controlled and financial info was more transparent, I’d be more open. Here’s the link to the Herald story again: http://bit.ly/uYjf9S

          • Brandt,

            Individuals make choices all the time that require thought, discernment, research, and even soul searching. Selecting a school for your child should rank right up there with your choice in religion. There are always going to be crooks (and I don’t necessarily grant that from the Herald article), and there will always be people who fall victim to fraud and abuse. This field of endeavor is no different than any other. That’s what courts and lawyers are for.

            A free market in education would invariably produce numerous failures as it would just as likely to produce many great successes. Markets respond to buyer’s preferences with rapidity when there is a buck to be made. Good educational “companies” will want the generational business that multiple children families can bring. Fly by night operations, not so much. Reputation will be come vital as good schools desire to retain their students and keep that income.

            Why is it that when the market can solve almost any human need, there are these certain sacred cows that limit open thinking on how to provide for them? For generations we’ve had this monopolist educational system that is slow to adopt innovation, traps students in poor performing schools, and continues to deliver mediocrity in spite of steadily increasing financial inputs? Companies in that situation go bankrupt and better producers arrive to address the market. We don’t need to coordinate it from DC or even Tallahassee. Spontaneous order will rise to serve the needs of our children just as surely as it does to make sure enough turkey’s get to Publix for the holidays.

          • Careful Brandt, stray too far off this cliff and you may never return. I want you to hang around to talk to me.

          • My family gives up things like big vacations and new cars so that I can make the choice for my daughter to attend private school. We sacrifice to do what we feel is in her best interest. Parents all over the world do that. Families in poorest Africa give up much of their annual earnings to provide a private education they feel is superior to the “free” government education. http://bit.ly/bJXzCm Let’s stop designing our educational policy around those who won’t. Make a safety net for those who just plain can’t and force those who can to take the responsibility. Get the politics out of education and we can stop using it as a football.

            And why don’t we have a full government monopoly in higher education (aside from the financing that is)? How can parents and students be allowed to select between MIT, UF, or PSC? Why aren’t we mandating college curriculum? Isn’t there an overriding Public interest in ensuring enough STEM graduates?

            I’d love to see Walmart open some schools. Whenever a Walmart opens in a poor part of town the residents immediately benefit from a wider selection of things like fresh foods available and at something like 20% less cost. Walmart’s not acting out of altruistic reasons, they’re just making a buck. I even hate that the Banks and Credit Unions have been able to lobby the politicians and prevent Walmart from going into retail banking.  Any market that Walmart enters gets better for the consumer and forces their competition to raise their level of services.

          • “I believe even poor students would  do better in that world than the one we use today to warehouse them.”

            If poor students would do better with charter schools, why is McKeel always in such a hurry to get rid of them?  I think you missed the points of Billy’s graphs.  The data shows that not only is McKeel underperforming, they are doing it with one of the lowest FRL populations in Polk County.

          • If you really believe that any charter is expelling students simply on the base of their economic status, file a lawsuit. As a recipient of state funding, all charters are required to serve all qualified students. Decisions on the part of the schools on the basis of economic status should be treated as civil rights violations just as you would with race or sex. I’ve yet to see any evidence pointing to such violations. I think it’s just as likely parental apathy is a explanation for that. My own family’s experience with charters is that there’s typically a waiting list and a list of requirements to get through including the ongoing demonstrable participation in the school and your child’s education. Even poor people can do that. There’s no fee for entry or big money donations needed. You can’t just send your kid to the bus stop. Either the charter schools are working hard to keep “just enough” free and reduced lunch students to provide cover, or there’s a percentage of that population that will put in the effort to be there. Why blame conspiracy when hard work can just as easily explain their presence.

            I’m confused, how are they under performing? What’s this theoretical standard that they are not meeting? I previously pointed out that they were doing 11-16% better on average and they do it with 5% less funding than an equivalent public school. Is that not the case from these numbers? As others have pointed out, FCAT may or may not be a good indicator of performance. I’d rather look to graduation rates, SAT’s, LAT’s, college acceptance figures, parent satisfaction, or other external measures. Perhaps one of the reasons that the spread isn’t larger is that everyone is teaching to the same test, the FCAT. Maybe the amount of prep you can squeeze into a kid’s brain isn’t all that much different between wealthier kids and poorer kids. With all that funding on the line, do you think teachers and administrators are not fully emphasizing the curriculum needed to do well on that test? Maybe FCAT is really well suited to children’s post-educational needs, I don’t know enough about it to make that determination. But it would be beyond belief that the adults whose livelihood depends on school performance on that test don’t make sure to push test preparation to its limits.

            Billy’s data nicely correlates FCAT scores with the free and reduced lunch population, but correlation does not prove causation. Perhaps the causes of poverty also have the affect of diminishing school performance.

          • Skep, the core element of my analysis that you’re missing–or least not addressing–is that my numbers suggest that if you simply traded the students bodies of Alturas and McKeel, Alturas would do more with Mckeel’s kids and McKeel would do less with Alturas. And that goes for the non-charter school, too. Charter is not the predictor, wealth is.

          • If wealth is truly a predictor, that would be completely unsurprising to me. I rather doubt though, that you could take a poor population change only their level of affluence and immediately see the gains. People aren’t in relative poverty just because someone’s not giving them their fair share.

            What I find disappointing in the numbers is how narrow the gaps seem to be. I wonder if the test scoring isn’t being “normalized” somehow to bring scoring into a fairly narrow band. I also worry that education innovation isn’t taking place as rapidly for us as it is in other places. In some school districts they are actually measuring and tailoring curriculum daily to the child’s individual needs. I’m concerned that even in our charters education is dominated by “old tyme” educators going about things in the same old ways. Maybe I’m just impatient and positive change is coming.

            When I look at that data, I want to study Montessori and figure out either what they are doing right or what the social characteristics are that provide that success. How big is that school? Is it just a hangout for Mensa class kids or something?

          • Very small. Hang out for hippies who don’t like homework actually. Now you are asking good questions about my actual findings. Much better. Thanks.

          • I’m just happy the iron grip of the education monopoly is starting to fail. I’m sure there will be fits and starts as we figure out better ways to deliver quality education, but charters are a start at that.

          • I’m just happy the iron grip of the education monopoly is starting to fail. I’m sure there will be fits and starts as we figure out better ways to deliver quality education, but charters are a start at that.

          • Yet again you ignored the research.  Why are charters, like McKeel better?  Any idiot can teach high-level kids. And the data shows they are not outperforming any other school, once demographics (clearly the single greatest causation factor related to test performance.  This has been documented since the 60’s) are taken into account.  Real techers know they have very little to do with high kids performingas they should.  The real work comes with students overcoming well documented challengeslike poverty.  Schools doing that are the ones we should be looking at.  Not how charters, like McKeel are educating smart kids.  If McKeel would have the guts to take all kids who apply, regardlessof ability, like public schools do, and they continue to perform as well, then this teacher will listen. Don’t buy into the public schools are broken debate.  

          • This threaded discussionis broken. Almost impossible to readot rtypea reply. Needa better way. :)

  8. Another excellent piece.  Perhaps McKeel’s staff should spend more time at the beach training?  

  9. Re, this: I am concerned, however, that you really never mention magnet schools and their percentages and just spend time on the charter schools.  Do you consider magnet schools predatory and if not why not?”
    OK. First, I did write this:  “Which schools are keeping us from overperforming? The McKeels, Valleyviews, Lincolns, and Ridgeviews. With the exception of Lakeland Montessori (usual disclosure: my son goes there), rich schools in Polk — and especially predatory charters — are not pulling their own weight. If they were, Polk’s numbers would clearly exceed the median line. I suspect it’s the same everywhere else.”

    I suppose one could argue “especially predatory charters” part. But I’m definitely not excluding district-run fancy schools and have tried to make that clear.

    However, I do not consider the magnet schools predatory in the same way — even though many are just as exclusive. That’s because they aren’t working on a growth model. They don’t have legislators with direct ties to their boards writing legislation that allows them to expand in other commuities. Their marketing plan doesn’t depend on publicly denigrating traditional schools as “broken,” when the data doesn’t justify it.

    Other than that, I don’t really have any great arguments with your points. I’m glad you raised them and brought them here. I’m very please with this whole discussion.

    • I am very pleased with this discussion as well, although I cannot say whole as there are parts that were rambling and disconnected from the main topic. However, I am so pleased because there are specifics being discussed here that are not being discussed anywhere else except in conversations among teachers. It feels like no one sees what is happening but us. I appreciate the clearly articulated manner that you bring this vital issue to the awareness of those who are not in education (career or politically connected). Today, the state board of education passed a measure that will raise the cut scores for students taking the FCAT. This means that fewer students will pass. Plain and simply stated, more set up to fail tactics. Last year, 77% of 3rd graders passed the FCAT. Under these new cut scores, only 55% would have passed. (numbers based on an article published today announcing the changes).
      Given that teacher pay is now supposed to be based on test scores, is there no end to the attack? That is what it feels like to all teachers. The moral could not be worse, and stuck in the middle are the children. Does anyone remember them?
      I will not even get started on the increased drop out rate. I am just disgusted at what this state is doing to education all in the name of “less government”. What a joke.

      • Thanks Dapne, but you can’t hold Skeptical Enlightenment against the rest of us. We don’t ban for incoherence. Please share this information and discussion with whomevere you can, and thanks for reading.

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