Florida Considering Having Their Public Schools Evaluate Parents

Schools which have had difficulty evaluating and getting rid of poor teacher will be responsible for evaluating parent involvement if a bill before the Florida House and Florida Senate is passed this year.

State Representative Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) introduced similar legislation last year which failed.  She reintroduced the bill called “Parental Involvement and Accountability in the Public Schools.”  In the Florida House it’s file number is HB 543 and an identical bill has been filed in the Florida Senate – SB 944.

This bill requires public K-5 teachers in the state of Florida to “evaluate the parental involvement as satisfactory, needs improvement or unsatisfactory on each of the following criteria as defined in district school board policy.”

  • The frequency of the student’s unexcused absence and unexcused tardiness.
  • Parental response to requests for conferences or communication.
  • Parental submission of complete and correct information, including, but not limited to, emergency-contact information; student-immunization records; and pertinent parental-contact information, which shall be on file and updated if changes occur during the school year.

A parental-involvement evaluation would then be sent along with the student assessment to the home which would indicate that the parent “needs improvement” when two or more of the following occur in a quarter:

  • The student has five or more unexcused absences.
  • The student has 10 or more instances of unexcused tardiness.
  • Five or more requests for communication between the teacher and the parent are made with no communication occurring.
  • The emergency-contact information provided by the parent is determined to be incomplete or incorrect.

Every school year data from these evaluations would be collected and then sent to the Florida Department of Education who then completes a report to be given to the Governor, the President of the Florida Senate, and the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

This bill is a flagrant intrusion into parental privacy.  While yes I understand some parents do a poor job of being involved in their child’s education this is the wrong solution.  A big brother response to the problem of little parent involvement is not one that can be best addressed by government.  An elementary school teacher (and I have visions of some 22-23-year old recent college grad doing this) is certainly not the person to make these assessments.  Also Representative Stargel seems to believe that teachers don’t already have enough to do and she wants to add to their plate.

Then again as a champion of local control, this looks like another example of a state foisting an unfunded mandate onto the local school districts.  The content of the bill makes it even worse.

Update: I had an email from Sandra Brevard, an education activist I know, forwarded to me.  She wrote:

The legislative analysis indicates that the cost impact on schools is “indeterminate.” It states there will be costs to publish the handbook, grade, and collect/report data.

The legislative analysis says the “evaluation data” will become a part of the student’s permanent record and be confidential following FERPA guidelines.

You can read the bill yourself below:

Florida HB 543 – Parental Involvement and Accountability in the Public Schools(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

P.E. Monitors and Student Privacy in Small Town Iowa

Grundy Center Community Schools have been using Polar Monitors in their P.E. classes for a decade now.  That still shouldn’t eliminate our concern for privacy.  The Revered Review did an investigation of the usage of these monitors which has garnered international attention in the past.  TRR’s article brings up the question of privacy:

Some have questioned the use of monitors in schools and outside the classroom, and the possible intrusion of students’ privacy. In addition, some Polar software allows health risk assessments by students to be completed, enabling personal information—such as alcohol use, sexual activity and even risk for heart disease and cancer—on students to be collected. So far, schools questioned by The Revered Review said they do not use these health risk assessments.

Indeed, the ACLU and Emmett McGroarty, the executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of the American Principles Project, also indicated parental consent and the opportunity to opt in to the monitor use were important. However, they also expressed concern about student privacy.

Superintendent Cassandra Murra said they received parental consent for the monitors and they gave the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out. In this interview while trying to alleviate the privacy concern actually raises a few more.

She said that communication is important. “We have to communicate with parents and the community,” Murra said. She explained that as part of the state’s health standards, some data on students is necessary, and parents now are more cautious and want to know more.

“It is a legitimate concern, and we have to be open and honest on what data is being used for.” She said they take FERPA rules very seriously. “The school district is looking out for the best interest of our students.”

“We’re not going to turn anyone into the Department of Health and Human Services,” Murra said. “We want parents to be responsible for their own children.”

The Grundy Center , according to Murra, “does not use the health care assessment software by Polar that contains personal student health and lifestyle data.”

However, 12th grade high school students do fill out a family history form—that includes immediate family, maternal and paternal family history. The family health history includes what diseases family members have, how a grandparent died, and other chronic illnesses that may run in the family.

According to Murra, this information is completed by the students and is completely private. “It is not anything that is presented or shared with anyone else.” The students alone have access to it, and she said it helps them understand what their risk is for certain diseases based on their family history, she said.

First off the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations which weaken FERPA.  So saying they take FERPA rules seriously doesn’t mean anything in light of what the Obama Administration now permits schools to do in terms of data mining.  Secondly, they currently don’t use the Polar software, again under new FERPA regulations who is to say that won’t change?  Third, the comment Superintendent Murra that they are “not going to turn anyone into the Department of Health and Human Services” demonstrates that it is a possibility.  She said, “we want parents to be responsible for their own children.”  What if Grundy Center gets a new superintendent who feels differently?

Heart monitors and equipment that help students learn to keep track of their progress is great.  Data collection of any sort is not.

Originally posted at American Principles in Action

Obama's Education Power Grab

President Obama 2012 State of the Union AddressPresident Barack Obama had a lot to say in last night’s State of the Union address, I mean a lot… apparently this was the 10th longest in words and 9th longest in time.  It was broadcast from 8:00pm – 9:30pm (CST).  I frankly don’t have time to dissect everything that he said, but with his comments regarding education it is clear that he does not care about parental or state rights.  In a nutshell when he said last night he said, “that government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”  It is clear, based on his speech, that he doesn’t think there’s much we can do better by ourselves.

On education he first referred to Race to the Trough:

For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country t0 raise their standards for teaching and learning — the first time that’s happened in a generation.

I know, that Mike Huckabee thought this was a brilliant idea, but bribing states with one-time money to adopt standards in way that undermines the democratic process, educational freedom, local control and parental authority was simply unconstitutional. Doing some simple fact checking demonstrates this wasn’t a good idea.  Like the idea that it raised the standards for teaching and learning is false.  He is right that this is the first time in our nations history that this has happened, and it was done in violation of the law.

So wonderful… he went on to demonstrate his lack of knowledge about how education is even run…

At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to lay off thousands of teachers.

Who hires teachers and lays them off?  Not states, but school districts; of course in Iowa some do want to eventually make that a state function.

He then continued:

Teachers matter.  So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.  Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  And in return, grant schools flexibility:  to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.  That’s a bargain worth making.

So here we see more meddling with education.  The “and in return”  now we get to No Child Left Behind waivers.  I’m not a fan of NCLB, but since Congress didn’t do what Obama wanted; they bypassed them.  Since President Obama is willing to do things “with or without this Congress” we shouldn’t be surprised.

Let me say something “radical” here (at least to the establishment and elites) there is no legitimate federal role in education – period.  There should be no bargaining with the states.  There should be no U.S. Department of Education stamp of approval on certain standards.  President Obama, unfortunately was not done, he presumptively spoke on behalf of parents and the states:

We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma.  When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better.  So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.

Now how does he propose to do this?  Probably he’ll do anytime the Feds want to foist something on the states, but threatening to withhold funds.   Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association said, “There appears to be no limit to the president’s desire for power. Car companies, banks, doctors, and now schools and the family. He’s gone way too far this time.”

Yes he has.  HSLDA in a press release today reminded that this again is historically unprecendented:

State-mandated attendance has not been the historical norm. In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony stipulated that parents provide religious instruction for their children. For the next 200 years, most education laws were minimal and focused on family-centered education, giving children the tools to read, write, and do arithmetic, helping them understand what it meant to be virtuous citizens, and allowing them to learn a trade.

This is ultimately up to parents, not the Federal government, to decide.  Again, it is unlikely that President Obama would get this through Congress so I’m sure he’d find a way to bypass them and bully the states like he plans to do with colleges and universities if they don’t cap their tuition at the level he’d like to see.

We see clearly Obama’s lust for power in his remarks on education.

Originally published at Caffeinated Thoughts.

Fact-Checking President Obama on Race to the Top

President Obama touted Race to the Top during the State of the Union

In the State of the Union Address, President Obama said:

“For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning — the first time that’s happened in a generation.”

Claim # 1: Race to the Top is less than 1% of expenditures on elementary and secondary education.  — True.

According to official projections by the National Center for Education Statistics, the United States spent $488 billion on elementary and secondary education during the 2009 – 2010 school year during which the Administration launched Race to the Top, which was a $4.35 billion expenditure.

Claim # 2: Almost every state in the union has committed to the Common Core Standards.  — False.

The Obama Administration considered it a binding commitment by the state to the Department of Education if the chief education officers and the Governors of each state signed off on the Common Core managed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers without consulting their legislatures.  As a result, nearly every state committed to the Standards.  The only exceptions were Alaska, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Virginia.  However, the states are still working on the implementation of the Standards and the accompanying assessments.  Many states (such as South Carolina) are attempting to withdraw their legally difficult-to-define commitment to the Department of Education.  Although the states have committed to the Common Core, assessments and standards have not yet been implemented or “raised.”  It will cost billions of dollars and, with the exception of Washington State, almost no state has analyzed how it will raise the money to implement the changes.  No guarantees exist that this process, which is expected to take 5 – 10 years, can afford to be completed.  It is not yet complete, at any rate.

Claim # 3: The Common Core State Standards are higher standards.  — False.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been the leading champion of the standards ever since they launched Strong American Schools, a public advocacy effort geared towards convincing Senators McCain and Obama to commit to national standards in the 2008 election.  They have commissioned several studies to analyze the quality of the standards that they first promoted then underwrote with donations to the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  These studies have the obvious bias to say yes to their commissioner.  The only serious independent study commissioned by the Pioneer Institute of Massachusetts and the Pacific Research Institute of California found the Common Core Standards were not higher standards.  They released their findings in the report Common Core State Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade

Claim # 4: The Obama Administration “convinced” the states to sign on to the Common Core.  — True (and illegal).

Convincing can be interpreted as giving a conditional directive pursuant to a policy change.  In this case, the Obama Administration tied the ability to compete for Race to the Top Stimulus funds to the implementation of the Common Core via two testing consortia funded by the Department of Education — the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC).  This was pursued in direct contravention of the federal statute the Education and Secondary Education Act of 1965:  “Sec. 604. Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”  The Obama Administration did give direction to the necessity of signing onto the Common Core and implementing accompanying assessments to be instituted in schools.

Claim # 5 is that this is the first time that one-size-fits-all reform has been undertaken by the federal government. — True (in violation of the law).

Education policy has historically been a state and local affair.  Federally-driven reforms are prohibited both by the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution and federal statute.  Race to the Top and the Common Core are indeed unprecedented.

Do We Need the U.S. Department of Education?

Nope… great article in Imprimis, the monthly publication of Hillsdale College, written by Charles Murphy of the American Enterprise Institute.  Money quote…

As far as I can determine, the Department of Education has no track record of positive accomplishment—nothing in the national numbers on educational achievement, nothing in the improvement of educational outcomes for the disadvantaged, nothing in the advancement of educational practice. It just spends a lot of money. This brings us to the practical question: If the Department of Education disappeared from next year’s budget, would anyone notice? The only reason that anyone would notice is the money. The nation’s public schools have developed a dependence on the federal infusion of funds. As a practical matter, actually doing away with the Department of Education would involve creating block grants so that school district budgets throughout the nation wouldn’t crater.

Common Core "going to hit like a ton of bricks"

Ann Doss Helms is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer and she is following the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board retreat.  Two of her tweets from the retreat are worth noting:

#cmsbd members say public knows little about federal changes that will shape local education, inc. Common Core Standards …

Common Core Standards are “going to hit like a ton of bricks,” says Ellis-Stewart. #cmsbd

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is the second largest school district in North Carolina.  The district has more than 141,000 students and 159 schools.  If the Common Core hits CMS like “a ton of bricks,” our children will be in deep trouble.