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Archive for the category “Educational Issues”

Florida Testing: High Stakes Obsession

The Florida Department of Education(sic) has proposed allowing students to use PSAT scores as a substitute for the FSA Reading Test graduation requirement. Here is some background. As of now, students can use the SAT or ACT as substitutes for the FSA Reading Test. They can also use the PERT test as a substitute for the Algebra I graduation testing requirement.

Suddenly there is panic in Tallahassee. Jeb Bush Pam Stewart want to change things again.

Stewart and her cabal claim the PERT is not rigorous enough.  They also want to raise the score required to substitute the SAT for graduation.

They do this every few years. Graduation is a moving target in Florida public schools – and that’s they way the cabal likes it.

Florida wants to make another test – high stakes. They want to turn another test that was never designed to be used for high stakes graduation requirements – into an essential part of the Florida testing regimen.

Here are some effects of turning the SAT, PERT, ACT and now PSAT into high stakes tests:

  1. More time testing, as schools require these tests during the school day. The SAT and PSAT basically take an entire day of instruction away.
  2. Less time learning- unless you count learning how to bubble in all of that personal information on the PSAT and SAT.
  3. More money diverted to pay for these tests. Palm Beach County- for example- spends over ONE MILLION dollars a year on the SAT and SAT prep alone.
  4. Attendance issues. On the days the SAT and PSAT are given- many students (not tested) stay home.
  5. Double testing issues. The PSAT test usually falls in the FSA retake testing window. Last year- many schools did not have enough free staff to offer both tests so students lost a chance to take the FSA.

It is malpractice to use tests for purposes they were never designed for. Can the results ever be valid? And what about the random cut scores assigned? This is education policy by whimsy.

Governor Rick Scott is probably running for the Senate so he will not make his base mad. He needs the Jeb Bush sycophants. He needs those who make a living by scapegoating public schools for the ills of society. And he needs those who manipulate and bastardize data to cook up the concoction needed to push an agenda that uses meaningless testing as a hammer.







Massive Local Testing in Palm Beach County Suffocates Instruction

The fairly new leadership in Palm Beach County appears to believe in two main things:

  1. Put students in front of computer screens for mind-numbing (and expensive) practice and 2. Test students until the cows come home.

The slogan for the school district should be, “Weigh the student but don’t feed them much.”

I wanted to find out how many local tests students were forced to take. These are tests that are not  mandated by anyone but local authority. These are standardized tests and not teacher  made assessments that are built to fit actual instruction.

So how many tests were secondary students forced to take from the first day of school through today? I gathered information from 5 schools and 10 students. The results are stunning.

The average secondary student was forced to sit for 38 different tests from the middle of August through today.  38.

Is this malpractice? Yes. Does anyone appear to care? No.  Mounds of useless data are keeping a lot of people employed and students perpetually numb.

Less Teaching and More Testing in Palm Beach Under Avossa

Since Robert Avossa took over in Palm Beach and neutered the School Board, testing has gone up and teachers have less teaching time. Avossa does not appear to be concerned. When told that PLC meetings were pulling teachers out of the classroom to discuss data- Avossa quipped that it only amounted to a few minutes a week and was not a big deal.

This comment shows how out of touch the superintendent is when it comes to teaching. He appears to be unaware of how important it is to be in class as much as possible. When test results comeback- teachers have THEIR names attached to the results- not the name AVOSSA.

Also this year- Avossa bamboozled the Board into agreeing to increase testing more by giving the PSAT test to 9th graders. Students now sit for this test in 8th, 9th, 10th and then take the SAT during the school day in 11th grade.

This test shuts down high schools for about five hours and ties up staff. And here is a shocker. The day the PSAT was given- it was a makeup day for graduation testing. Students LOST a chance to take a graduation test because resources went to testing HALF of each school. This is stunning malpractice by the Board.

The PSAT and SAT were never designed to be FORCED on students during the school day. ESOL students and exchange students who speak little to no English were also forced to test.

Students who spent 7-8 hours taking the FSA graduation test in October- will be forced to take a diagnostic test that takes two hours- in January- if they did not pass.

Nobody cares. This is nuts.


Comfortably Numb in Palm Beach Schools

Good reading teachers in Palm Beach- and across the state- are being told they must use certain computer programs. It does not matter how successful your students are without these programs. You must use them.  This is mind-numbing but common practice. Excellent teachers are berated into using programs they know are not good for kids.

Students are put on computer programs from an early age and it continues through middle school. Then- not surprisingly- these students end up in reading classes in high school where they are forced back into more computerized torture.

Instead of spending millions a year on computer programs- why not give each reading teacher $10,000 a year to buy kids books to read. There is not ONE skill that cannot be taught or acquired in a reading workshop model.

Leading reading researcher Dick Allington noted that for every 90 minute reading block- about 60 minutes should be used for kids reading whatever they want.

A large majority of time in school consists of sitting in front of a computer and answering questions.

In order to help kids and save lives- you must be very brave.


Guess the President

Here is a quote from a Presidential message sent to congress. Do not scroll down to the end to see who it is from. Can you guess?

We are looking for a strong supporter of Head Start and someone who recognized the role poverty plays in education.

“To the contrary it only demonstrates the immense contribution the Head Start program has made simply by having raised to prominence on the national agenda the fact–known for some time, but never widely recognized–that the children of the poor mostly arrive at school age seriously deficient in the ability to profit from formal education, and already significantly behind their contemporaries.”

Guesses? FDR?  LBJ?  JFK? Maybe IKE?


The message was from Richard Nixon – sent on February 19th, 1969. This was less than a month after taking office. This was a President who would go on to peacefully desegregate Southern schools using cabinet level committees and not federal coercion. That rarely told story is for another time.


Avossa or Abbott & Costello in Palm Beach Schools?

Local testing has increased a lot since Robert Avossa became the new superintendent. Along with a gaudy salary and benefit plan- Avossa has increased testing beyond belief. High school students are being forced to take as many as 100 local assessments this year. 

But who is requiring them?

At a recent meeting (according to someone who was there) Avossa denied requiring the assessments. Avossa’s assistant, David Christiansen, also denied requiring them. Chief Academic Officer Keith Oswald said he told principals NOT to require these assessments. 

Oddly- all three refused to tell principals to stop requiring the massive testing regimen.

At least one area superintendent said he was not requiring the assessments.

So it is the Principals?

The 100 or so assessments were rolled out as “optional” and up to the professional judgment of teachers. This is what a high ranking district official – Diana Fedderman- told teachers over and over back in August. So what happened?

A high ranking district official told me that his/her bosses were in fact requiring the assessments and the principals met to require them too.

Is anyone telling the truth? And who is on first?

Palm Beach Testing Calendar-October

In case you thought there might be less testing this year, I will post the current testing schedule for one high school during the month of October.

TEST                                          MANDATED BY

ASVAB                                        School

Biology Diagnostic                      School

US History Diagnostic                 School

Math Diagnostic                          School

English Diagnostic                      School

Reading Diagnostic                    School

FAIR Test                                   District

PSAT                                          District

ePat                                            State

FSA Writing                                State

FSA Reading                              State

EOC makeups                            State

FCAT (seniors only)                   State

*Diagnostics are being given every few weeks so there are several required each month.

As you can see, there will not be much teaching going on this month. It is only October!

It is PSAT Bullying Time Again

This is the time of year when school districts and schools bluff, bully and  berate students into taking the optional PSAT. 

I am not sure how all districts handle this but in Palm Beach students are never told that they can opt out of this test. Students are forcably signed up. Another day of learning is lost and teachers become (unpaid)  proctors for The College Board.

This is all part of the numbing process. Districts and schools make students believe that massive testing is normal and to shut up and sharpen those pencils.

The PSAT should be optional and students should sign up IF they want to test. Stop bullying kids into thinking they must take this test or their futures are bleak. 

Despite what we hear, one main goal of the PSAT is to give The College Board personal information about students and begin tracking them.

Let the numbing begin.

When data trumps evidence…

At one Florida school, the obsession with meaningless data has caused harm to many students. Last year, hundreds of students in reading classes were forced to use the “Reading Plus” computer program as a core program. The results on the state graduation test (still FCAT for these Juniors and Seniors) showed a passing rate of 20%. Dismal at best.

One teacher took about 160 students and never used the program once. The teacher only had the students engage in self-selected reading, book talks and book discussions. The state test passing rates for these students was 77%.

You would think that this year all students would be able to join the community of readers and avoid “Reading Plus.” Foolish mortal!

Citing the need to gather “data,” the school continues ( this year)to require the computer program for most students while that one brave teacher is still allowed to save 160 kids.

160 saved and 600 lost.

The obsession with data defeats evidence. What the hell are we doing to kids?

Palm Beach Increases Standardized Testing

Things are getting out of hand down in Palm Beach. Secondary principals  are requiring teachers to give 30-40 diagnostic tests this year. This is a massive increase in standardized testing. The district confirmed that they are not requiring it, so is Robert Avossa even aware that he has test crazed principals who are forcing kids to spend hours testing on a weekly basis? Does this violate the 5% state rule? Is the Board asleep at the switch? How could Avossa not know? As it stands now, many students will be taking multiple diagnostic tests  every week.

When you constantly weigh the child and don’t feed the child – the child dies.

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