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madfloridian

Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: Florida
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 79,894

About Me

Retired teacher who sees much harm to public education from the "reforms" being pushed by corporations. Privatizing education is the wrong way to go. Children can not be treated as products, thought of in terms of profit and loss.

Journal Archives

Pearson fails at testing again in FL. Crashed during FCAT computer tests today.

From the Tampa Bay Times.

Computer problems shut down FCAT testing in Pasco, Hernando and elsewhere

Problems with Florida's annual FCAT test on Tuesday rekindled simmering concerns that the state isn't ready for its next steps toward full computerized testing.

At least a dozen Florida school districts, including Pasco and Hernando, were forced to suspend online testing Tuesday as students had trouble signing in to take the annual exam.

State education officials blamed test provider Pearson Education for the situation, which appeared to be related to the company's servers. Other problems included slowness when students tried to download test questions or submit answers, and a warning screen that students should notify their teacher or proctor.

"This failure is inexcusable," education commissioner Pam Stewart wrote in a letter to Walter Sherwood, president of state services for Pearson.


Pearson has a history of problems with Florida testing as well as elsewhere in the country. But they keep getting contracts, keep getting richer on public money. Twice when I taught I had parents who had to hire lawyers to find out why their child failed the FCAT. I don't think they ever succeeded.

Here is more about Pearson's long string of problems in Florida.

Company causing late FCAT grades in Florida has history of problems.

This is from 2010, so the powers that be in education have known.

The testing company responsible for the delayed release of this year's FCAT scores has a history of problems — in Florida and across the country. Now, Florida education leaders fear their planned rollout of a new computer-based testing system is in jeopardy because the company, Pearson, is not prepared.

Education Commissioner Eric Smith criticized Pearson in a recent letter for using an "untested" system for computer-based tests that the state plans to use in high schools next year.

The lack of a "proven" system created "unacceptable" problems for schools that tried out the new tests this spring, Smith said.

"The problems experienced by schools have created a lack of confidence in Pearson, our program, and computer-based testing in general. The product seems to be so new and untested that even Pearson staff cannot provide clear and reliable instructions for successful implementation," Smith wrote in his June 4 letter.


Accountability seems to extend only to public school teachers.

Pearson was invited in January this year to meet with President Obama and Arne Duncan at the White House. I guess no one told them it was not a reliable testing company.

Crossposted at Daily Kos.

Fracking in Florida sanctuary? Environmental agency won't say for sure. Only fined $25,000.

From the Tampa Bay Times this week.

Oil company drilling in sanctuary fined $25,000 for violation that could be fracking

The Texas company that stirred controversy by applying to drill for oil in Florida panther habitat was doing more with one of its wells than what its state permit allowed.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Friday afternoon revealed that it had fined the Dan A. Hughes Co. $25,000 for violating its permit. The violation involves using a process that sounds like fracking — although the word "fracking" appears nowhere in either Friday's DEP news release or the legal paperwork about the fine from 10 days earlier

.....However, the DEP news release says Hughes "proposed an enhanced extraction procedure that had not previously been used in Florida. The company proposed to inject a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to achieve some openings in the oil-bearing rock formation that would be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhancing oil production."

That matches the dictionary definition of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking: "the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas." Florida Petroleum Council executive director David Mica said it may mean Hughes was fracking, or it could mean it used one of several similar procedures.


I didn't even know there was oil drilling going on in Florida. Guess I am very naive.

Corkscrew Swamp is located near Naples, Florida.

There's a whole lot going on in Florida in secret ways right now. One Tampa home builder did not disclose until closing that drilling rights beneath the homes had been sold already.

Home builder grabs drilling rights beneath thousands of Tampa Bay homes

But in January, when the young parents cracked open their closing papers, they noticed an alarming clause. Their home builder had quietly signed away the rights to the land beneath their home to its own energy company. It now had free rein deep below the surface to drill, mine or explore.

Selling underground mineral rights has long been big business in the oil- and gas-rich boomtowns of Texas, North Dakota and beyond.

But homeowners here might be surprised to learn that they, too, could be part of the prospecting. A Tampa Bay Times analysis found that D.R. Horton, the nation's largest home builder, has pocketed the rights beneath more than 2,500 Tampa Bay homesites, whether the homeowner realizes it or not.


I believe the home builder has made some offers to back off since this was publicized. But it makes me wonder what else is going on secretly in this state.

Crossposted at Daily Kos

FL's largest charter school company under investigation. Academica audit underway.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

Florida charter school management company under federal scrutiny

The state's largest charter school management company has come under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education for potential conflicts of interests in its business practices, federal authorities have confirmed.

The Education Department's Inspector General Office is auditing the South Miami-based Academica Corp. as part of a broader examination of school management companies nationwide. The audit will be complete this summer, department spokeswoman Catherine Grant said.


This is happening just as the Florida legislature is considering loosening laws to allow expansion of charter schools in Florida. One bill was to be voted on today. Have not yet heard the result.

The Education Department's findings come as the Florida Legislature considers a bill that could weaken school districts' ability to control business practices at new charter schools.

Under current law, school systems have the power to negotiate contracts with new charter schools. HB 7083 would mandate the use of a standardized contract, meaning school districts would give up most of their leverage.


These charter schools have huge holdings and financial assets in this state.

From Daily Kos 2011:

FL's richest charter school company has close ties to state legislators, Bahamian retreats.

Academica’s achievements have been profitable. The South Miami company receives more than $9 million a year in management fees just from its South Florida charter schools — fees that ultimately come from public tax dollars.


More about their land holdings.

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas On a sun-drenched weekend in September, a group of South Florida charter school principals jetted off to a leadership retreat at The Cove, an exclusive enclave of the Atlantis resort. A Friday morning meeting gave way to champagne flutes, a dip in the pool and a trip down a waterslide. The evening ended at the casino.

.."Zulueta had reason to cheer. During the past 15 years, Zulueta and his brother, Ignacio, have built Academica into Florida’s largest and richest for-profit charter school management company, and one of the largest in the country. In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Academica runs more than 60 schools with $158 million in total annual revenue and more than 20,000 students — more pupils than 38 Florida school districts, records show.

....But the Zuluetas’ greatest financial success is largely unseen: Through more than two dozen other companies, the Zuluetas control more than $115 million in South Florida real estate — all exempt from property taxes as public schools — and act as landlords for many of Academica’s signature schools, records show.


All exempt from property taxes.

More at this link about charter school fraudulent practices in other states as well.


Cartoon about one-size-fits-all testing. Couldn't have said it better.



This is courtesy of Canadian education blogger, Joe Bower. Overtesting is happening there also.

David Staples, the Wildrose and their war on teachers and learning

It is hypocritical for adults to demand students and teachers be held accountable in ways that they would not hold themselves to.

Standardized testing is what constitutes an amazingly contrived and unrealistic form of assessment that is used by people outside the classroom to judge and control what happens inside the classroom without ever visiting the schools.

Teachers are not afraid of accountability -- but they do oppose being held accountable for things out of their control. Teachers also know that there is nothing transparent about having children fill in bubble-tests.

The best feedback parents can receive about their children's learning is to see their children learning. The best teachers don't need tests because they make learning visible via projects and performances collected in portfolios.



I am going to reply to you point by point.

You said I was ranting here.

"What good is that doing? I wouldn't listen to anything Newt has to say anyway. He's full of hot air, a liar and a cheat. I do believe tenure should not mean teachers can rest on their laurels until they choose to retire. They must adhere to the same protocol as everyone else all the way through. We've ALWAYS had testing. Unfortunately, the teachers are promoting students that should not be promoted."


Agreed about Newt. Perhaps you should tell it to Arne Duncan and President Obama who are putting his policies into play.

Tenure does not mean teachers rest on their laurels. They can be fired for cause. I am not sure what you mean about teachers "must adhere to the same protocol", so I can't address that.

Yes, there has always been standardized testing. BUT..it was always used to evaluate where the student was academically. It was used to make instruction better. Now it is used to hire and fire teachers and take the place of teachers' gradebook, student portfolios, and classroom work.

It is used to fail schools which are then turned into charter schools which usually are owned by private companies.

You said:

"I've met high school grads that can barely spell basic 2nd grade words"


So have I. But if you are only blaming teachers, you are way off base.

You said:

"And like Obama said, "It's not about me...It's about YOU!"


Unfortunately it IS about him now. These are his policies, his goals, his stated plans for public schools. He supports Arne Duncan 100% and seems to have no understanding of the harm being done by these policies.

You said:

By the way...if you're voting Republican, you're helping to put money grubbers in office. What do you expect? We've been trying to tell you....YOU'RE VOTING AGAINST YOUR OWN BEST INTERESTS!


If you ever read any of my posts before, and somehow I don't think you have.....you will know that my late hubby and I were Obama supporters and campaigned for him. Your quote is insulting to me and others who are criticizing his policies and not the man.

You would know I plan to vote Democratic, but that I will not donate as long as such devastating policies are in place.

Any public school teacher who votes Democratic in the fall WILL be voting against their own best interests. That is a fact. Insulting me does not change a thing. The Democrats are promoting the policies of Bush and Newt Gingrich. Arne took him on the road trip, not me.
Arne gave him respect he did not deserve, not me.

So go ahead, continue your insults. I have truth on my side.

Thank you, Raul Grijalva: Obama’s Market-Based Policies Endanger Public Education.

It is so refreshing to see a Democrat having the courage to speak out about this harmful policy.

A Free Market in Schooling?

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He sees right through the Obama education policy and recognizes that it is a continuation of George W. Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind.

In this astonishingly candid interview with Josh Eidelson in Salon, Rep. Grijalva lacerates Race to the Top, high-stakes testing, privatization, and the other features of the Obama education policy.

Rep. Grijalva recognizes that the Obama program is now driven by financial interests:

Obama’s education secretary is “a market-based person,” his education policy manifests a “market-based philosophy,” and “we continue to starve public schools,” the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus charged in an interview Wednesday afternoon.


Here is more from Josh Eidelson's interview with Grijalva at Salon.

“A self-fulfilling conflict of interest”: Charter schools, testing mania, and Arne Duncan

The privatization of education “began as driven by ideology, but now it’s getting momentum because of the financial aspects,” Rep. Raul Grijalva argued to Salon.
The Arizona Democrat called charter schools “a step towards” privatization, called the Chicago teachers’ strike a “necessary pushback” and warned of a “self-fulfilling conflict of interest.” A condensed version of our conversation follows.

Interviewer: You were the first congressman to echo a call from the Network for Public Education for hearings on standardized testing, saying it’s critical to hold hearings on what you called “mandatory testing and privatization efforts” and “the dismantling of public education.” What do you want those hearings to accomplish?

Grijalva: I understand accountability. I don’t have a problem with testing as a teaching tool, to help to guide the improvement in children. But what’s happened is the standardized testing has become the end-all-be-all in terms of curriculum, in terms of how you prepare students for the future.


He calls for a hearing.

A whole hearing on testing, the culture of testing, and what it is producing for public education.

What you see … is a real move toward the privatization of schools, based on what test results are. A school doesn’t do well, a school doesn’t do well again, then suddenly there is a movement to either let that school be run by private management or let the students then go somewhere else — usually to a private charter school.


Thank you for paying attention to the outcries of teachers, Raul Grijalva.

There is no doubt at all now that Arne Duncan with the apparent approval of President Obama is fulfilling the dreams of Newt Gingrich for Free Market schools.

From 2009:

Newt Gingrich teaming up with Arne Duncan for an education road trip.

For the last twenty years, we have tried to improve education while accepting the fundamental principles of a failed system, guarded by the education bureaucrats and teachers unions. We must now transform math and science education or fall behind. It really is that simple.
Source: Gingrich Communications website, www.newt.org, “Issues” Sep 1, 2007

Introduce competition among schools and teachers

We should apply the free enterprise system to our education system by introducing competition among schools, administrators, and teachers. Our educators should be paid based on their performance and held accountable based on clear standards with real consequences. These ideas are designed to stimulate thinking beyond the timid “let’s do more of the same” that has greeted every call for rethinking math and science education.
Source: Gingrich Communications website, www.newt.org Dec 1, 2006


Arne Duncan started off his time in office by threatening California if it did not comply with his wishes.

U.S. education secretary is expected to withhold millions of dollars in education stimulus money if the state doesn't comply with his demand.
By Jason Felch and Jason Song
July 24, 2009
California could lose out on millions of federal education dollars unless legislators change a law that prevents it from using student test scores to measure teachers' performance, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is expected to announce in a speech today.


Now that kind of high-stakes testing that overrides teacher judgement, daily grades, classroom tests, and student portfolios is taking over the country.

It is refreshing to finally see a Democrat speak out in a common sense way for public education. I hope Raul Grijalva does not get on our bad list now....because what he is doing takes courage.

Michelle Rhee's group gets to brag that Howard Dean, Elizabeth Warren are on their side.

Now that really hurts in my gut.

Elizabeth Warren, Howard Dean, and the progressive case for Education Reform.

There is even a video of Dean speaking out for charters school and denigrating public schools without considering all the in-depth causes for problems.



During a recent event at Castleton State College, Governor Dean described visiting a struggling high school in New Orleans where his son, a Teach for America Corps Member, taught. Dean was appalled by the poor education that many of the students were receiving, and realized that we need to do whatever was necessary to improve outcomes for those kids. And great public charter schools, he explained, should be part of the solution.

Opponents of education reform frequently try to frame the issue as part of Republican ideology. It’s a convenient political maneuver, for sure.

But it’s not true. Reforming the structures that systematically deny poor kids a quality education is—and ought to be—a bipartisan priority.

Unsurprisingly, many progressive Democrats—headlined by President Barack Obama and Senator Cory Booker—have joined GOP leaders like Governors Bill Haslam and Jeb Bush as outspoken education reformers. And based on recent statements, you can add Senator Elizabeth Warren and Governor Howard Dean to that list.


Her solution? Instead of a ZIP code-based system that exacerbates inequality, students should receive vouchers to attend a public school of their choice. This would give all kids—regardless of where they live—a shot at a great education. And while that would be a radical change, we shouldn’t hold back:

“An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs.”


A shock? Oh yeah, a really big shock. Huge amounts of money and resources taken away from public education in one big move. A big shock indeed.

Public schools are for everyone. Charter schools are not. They need high test scores, so don't produce....you're out.



Howard Dean praises TFA, tweets that public schools have "low expectations" ....

and don't hold kids "accountable". He had high words of praise for Teach for America on Hardball, which shows he has not been paying attention to the voices of the public school advocates.


Tom Whitby ‏@tomwhitby Apr 14

Howard Dean say's that "Teach for America is revolutionizing education across the country." I am missing something. #edchat


...Joan Walsh ‏@joanwalsh Apr 14

Wow, really Howard Dean? Yikes...


And this exchange with him.

Katie Osgood ‏@KatieOsgood_ Apr 15

.@GovHowardDean @GetUpStandUp2 I'm a Sped teacher in Chi & giving neediest kids the least prepared tchrs is immoral. http://atthechalkface.com/2013/06/30/an-open-letter-to-new-teach-for-america-recruits/

Howard Dean ‏@GovHowardDean Apr 16

@KatieOsgood_ @GetUpStandUp2 Perhaps, but lack of holding kids accountable is also immoral, and so are low expectations

mad floridian ‏@madfloridian 9h

@GovHowardDean @KatieOsgood_ @GetUpStandUp2 Gov Dean you are spouting ed reform talking points We tchrs don't have "low expectations".


That is like slapping teachers in the face. Those are the worst of the very bad talking points from the "reformers", the "privatizers". To say to even imply that teachers do not hold kids accountable and have low levels of expectation for them....is (to use Dean's term) indeed IMMORAL.

At his twitter feed he says he will ban anyone who tweets to his twitter site. So that means I am banned Joan Walsh, Kattie Osgood, and a few hundred others who responded are banned from his site (or should I say his "sight".)

I mean why have a twitter feed if you don't want people to have discussions about what you say? Why bother? That's how you know who is responding and communicating.

Makes me think the "reformers" like Dean don't want to hear what the teachers have to say.

And that's a shame.

Here's some more of the very long conversation. He starts out with questioning the credentials of Diane Ravitch. Not a wise move on his part.

https://twitter.com/GovHowardDean/status/456554082484776961

There are a lot of people on that thread. It should get the attention of some politicians who are not paying attention to educators.










"we have not spoken earlier, as we are a staff that exists in fear of bullying, retaliation...

and losing our jobs."

These are the words of the teachers from a San Diego charter school in March on the loss of a fellow teacher. They were asked not to discuss the circumstances with parents or students. They decided to speak out.

Another great post from Anthony Cody at Education Week.

San Diego Charter Teachers: Bullying Contributed to Death of Colleague



At a San Diego school board meeting on Tuesday, March 11, dramatic testimony from teachers and parents uncovered serious questions about the way their charter school has been run. Harriet Tubman Village Charter School is known for high test scores, but the death of a first year teacher has contributed to a sense of deep concern. Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers, once said: "Dare to stand before those you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." The testimony at this meeting is riveting. And the discussion that follows is disturbing.


And the teachers spoke.

We apologize that we have not spoken earlier, as we are a staff that exists in fear of bullying, retaliation and losing our jobs.

We have concerns regarding the protection of our students, the success of our school and the integrity of the charter. Our charter requires us to follow the credentialing requirements of the Education Code. Several teachers this year and last year taught without proper credentials in the subjects they were teaching. In fact, this is the case for two teachers at the moment. One teacher, when initially stating she was not qualified to teach a subject, and felt uncomfortable teaching the subject, was told she could do it, she was capable, and to do it "until we get caught, and then we have a year to fix it." We also have questions regarding whether one of our administrators actually holds an admin credential, as there is no record of it with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

....I want to tell you the story of Sarah Jenkins. Sarah was a young, bright, dedicated, caring first year teacher at Tubman. When administration had concerns about Sarah's abilities and performance they did not provide support for her or guidance. Instead they piled more and more work on, called her names, and criticized her at every single turn. On October 24th, Sarah wrote an email to the administration informing them that she had a medical condition that made it difficult to meet their excessive demands. She ended the email by begging for positive support, writing "being kind, helpful and specific helps me better myself. But calling me incompetent is not helpful but rude and unprofessional." The next day, Sarah was terminated, which I believe is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sarah passed away three weeks ago from complications of stress-related seizures. When administrators found out we did not receive support or compassion. Instead we were told to not share this information with students, not with parents, that Sarah was only at our school for two months, and at the end of the day she didn't make an impact.





Career teachers cost too much, talk back at meetings, resist mindless rote teaching, expect to be

treated with respect.

Great piece by Anthony Cody at his Education Week blog.

Teachers: A Call to Battle for Reluctant Warriors

Subtitle: We just wanted to teach.

When I was drawn to teach in Oakland, I saw a chance to give students the chance to do hands-on experiments, to answer their own questions, and explore the natural world. On field trips to the tide pools I found out some had never even been to the Pacific Ocean, an hour's drive from their homes. I did not enter teaching to prepare students for tests. I wanted my students to think and reason for themselves.

....But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

....Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone's goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher "leaders" who are willing to echo reform themes - sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions.

....Some teachers are even declaring themselves Badasses, and expressing outright defiance. There will be protests this summer - mark your calendar. Teachers are organizing for a protest at the Gates Foundation in Seattle on June 26. And the Badass Teachers (BATs) will be rallying in Washington, DC, on July 28.

We just wanted to teach, to make a difference in the lives of our students. But when that is made impossible, then we have no choice but to get organized and fight, for ourselves, and for the students we serve.


I respect Arne Duncan as a basketball hero.

I do not respect him as the Secretary of Education. Very few educators do.

He has done a lot of harm to our public education system. Those of us who talk about it out loud are considered disloyal. Especially disloyal if we point out that it is bipartisan policy.

Good for Anthony Cody for this column.

Good for the teachers who are making their voices heard. And especially good for the parents who are joining the fray with their own voices.



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