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Setting the Record Straight for Florida GOP Leaders

StateImpact Florida recently published an email by state senator John Thrasher and other GOP “leaders” asking members to back Common Core. As I read the email, I realized it was probably written by the same people who wrote the recent Jeb Bush opinion piece for the Tampa Bay Times. Who wrote them? Staff at the Jeb Bush Foundation? You will have to decide. They are very similar.

Let’s break down how the authors of the email mislead and continue to play politics with students.

Email: ” The Common Core State Standards only set academic expectations in English and Math. They do not dictate curriculum – the textbooks used, the reading assignments handed down, the lesson plans employed by teachers, and the thousand other methods or materials used to help students learn. The standards are merely benchmarks for what a student should know by the end of the year at each grade level, from K-12.”

My Response: This had to be written by someone with little , if any, classroom experience. Let me educate Mr. Thrasher and his friends on a few things. Standards ALWAYS dictate (become) the curriculum which is all driven by what is tested. 

Email: “On international assessments in Math and Science, American students are embedded firmly in the middle of the pack. This hardly bodes well for America continuing as the dominant world power in the 21st Century.”

My Response: This is one of the oldest deceptions out there. First- students attending well funded public schools who are not in poverty score at the top of the world on international tests. Second- there is no connection between test scores and being a dominant world power. It is absurd for the authors of the email to make such a claim. We ranked dead last on the first such tests 50 years ago. I would say we are doing just fine. The US ranks consistently near or at the top in global competitiveness. Why must some manufacture a crisis? (Read Berliner, Biddle, Bracey)

What the authors ignore is that the US is at the top of the world in child poverty (see UNICEF REPORT). Since socioeconomic factors continue to be the leading influence on test scores, this shows the bankruptcy of ideas in the email. Florida is a leader in child poverty and homelessness. This is all ignored in the email. 

Email: “Even so, our academic standards currently do not set the bar high enough for children to be globally competitive.”

My Response: Apparently they do. As I said we have been a leader in competitiveness since World War II. See my last answer. We are very competitive. Linking standards or test results to global power and competitiveness is anti-evidence.

 

Email: ” Ultimately, local school districts and teachers remain in control of their curriculum and in charge of their classrooms.”

My Response: Huh?  If teachers are in charge of classrooms can they refuse to give state diagnostic tests they feel are a waste of time? Teachers are forced to only teach what is on EOC exams. The idea of “in charge” is absurd. And since standards become the curriculum, districts are hardly free to pick what they want. It is a little known fact that the state got rid of several courses that were once allowed to be taught- because they could not be aligned to Common Core. Districts free to choose? Give me a break.

Email: ” We already have academic standards; we are just raising the bar.”

My Response: Evidence please? There is no evidence this is true. Evidence for Common Core please?  Any evidence to abandon the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards? Nope. As I will show later- Florida loves to lower the bar in many ways.

Email: ” In 1998, nearly half of Florida’s fourth graders were functionally illiterate.”

My Response: This is the same deception that Jeb Bush was pushing last week.  Based on what?  Scoring a 235 on a test that requires a 240 to be considered on grade level means you are illiterate? Fantasy. This shows you how Florida has bastardized testing to manipulate public opinion, cling to power and justify fake accountability. 

Email: ” Every leading indicator – test scores, graduation rates, national rankings, participation and achievement in Advanced Placement – continues to rise thanks to higher standards.”

My Response: Thanks to class size law? Oh no! It is forbidden to mention that. But is the statement correct? Graduation rates are up around the nation and in Florida- the soft bigotry of low expectations has had  a lot to do with higher graduation rates. For example….

1. 25% of Florida graduates have not had to meet many graduation requirements due to waivers. They got a free pass from “accountability.”

2. Florida allows BYU- “Buy Your Grade:” For about $300 you can buy credit in a matter of three weeks.

3. Students are put on computers to do “credit recovery” where others do work for them at home and they can use phones to look up answers at school.

Did they mention Advanced Placement? Are you kidding? Two points…

1. Participation is UP because schools are throwing kids in there because the participation rate- helps determine school grades!

2. AP curriculum is totally different from the state. The state has NO say over the testing or what is taught. It is utterly absurd and disrespectful to teachers and students to conflate AP classes with anything the state does. 

 

Email: “Best of all, Florida’s Hispanic and African-American students are making the greatest gains, narrowing the achievement gap for the first time in our lifetime.”

My Response: Huh? Recent NAEP trends show gaps growing between Black and White students in many areas. Also the Schott Report shows the graduation rates for African American males in Florida below those in Mississippi and Georgia. 

 

Email: “Listen to what teachers say about them.” 

My Response: Contact me. But the email is misleading. The state has not been honest. Like the state- this email oddly fails to mention the massive increase in testing with Common Core. Billions of more dollars and hundreds of more hours spent- getting ready for (and taking) more tests. We tested nearly 80 days last year and the same is coming this year. Common Core increase that. Common Core has always been about testing- testing used as a political cudgel. Listen to teachers who know the 

Email: “Common Core is not a federal dictate or national mandate. States are free to adopt the standards or to not adopt them. And, if they have already adopted them, they are free to drop out at any point.”

Response: If you “drop out” you lose the NCLB waiver and a lot of money has to be paid back or is no longer available.  States were bullied into joining Common Core with federal money from Uncle Sugar. This immoral act was done during a time of financial crisis. Florida ceded control of education. This was done by the DOE dragging the legislature behind like a toy poodle. Common Core is a massive federal intrusion under the guise of “state control.” Try making a change without federal agreement and see what happens. 

This email is a defense of the status quo. This is the sad effect of ignoring poverty and violence. They cycle continues. Florida is now on its third set of standards in the last ten years. It is all a parlor game as political leaders try to keep power and push an agenda that looks to make it so onerous in public schools that people flee. And the state will now pay you to do so.

 

 

 

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