Florida House and Senate Bill Allows Schools to Write Own Academic Standards

Florida’s Historic Capitol and Current State Capitol Building in Tallahassee, FL.
Photo Credit: Michael Rivera (CC-By-SA 3.0)

A bill filed in the Florida House and in the Florida Senate allows Florida school districts to write their own standards provided they are equivalent to or better than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Florida’s current standards which the bills would make the minimum baseline were the product of a review and revision of the Common Core State Standards.

Essentially, the revisions made stayed with the 15 percent threshold allowed by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. They did put cursive back in their standards, and the Florida State Board of Education in 2013 rejected the Common Core appendices.

Even so, the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards are still functionally Common Core just like every other state we’ve seen pursue the “review and revise” method of addressing them.

State Representative Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) introduced House Bill 825 in the Florida House. The co-introducers are State Representatives Stan McClain (R-Belleview) and George Moraitis, Jr. (R-Fort Lauderdale). The Florida Senate companion bill Senate Bill 966 was introduced by State Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) and it is co-introduced by State Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach).

The bill says a school district’s standards must “(b)e equivalent to or more rigorous than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, or courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program. Instructional materials adopted pursuant to these standards must be consistent with school district goals and objectives and the course descriptions established in rule by the State Board of Education.”

It also reads:

Curricular content for all subjects must integrate knowledge-based learning, critical-thinking, and problem-solving, and workforce-literacy skills; communication, reading, and writing skills; mathematics skills; collaboration skills; contextual and applied-learning skills; technology literacy skills; information and media-literacy skills; and the demonstrable, in-depth understanding of the founding values and principles of the United States as required by s. 1003.42

The bill states all standards whether the school adopts the state’s current standards or adopts higher ones they must meet the following requirements:

(a) English Language Arts standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language which significantly improves student outcomes.

(b) Science standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, the nature of science, earth and space science, physical science, and life science. Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner.

(c) Mathematics standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability, number and quantity, functions, and modeling.

(d) Social Studies standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, geography, United States and world history, government, civics, humanities, and economics, including financial literacy. Financial literacy includes the knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviors, attitudes, and values that will enable a student to make responsible and effective financial decisions on a daily basis. Government and civics content must strictly adhere to the founding values and principles of the United States as required under s. 1003.42. Financial literacy instruction must shall be an integral part of instruction throughout the entire economics course to and include the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories, in addition to understanding the basics of information regarding earning income; buying goods and services; saving and financial investing; taxes; the use of credit and credit cards; budgeting and debt management,including student loans and secured loans; banking and financial services; planning for one’s financial future, including higher education and career planning; credit reports and scores; and fraud and identity theft prevention.

(e) Visual and performing arts, physical education, health, and foreign language standards must establish specific curricular content and include distinct grade level expectations for the core content knowledge and skills that a student is expected to have acquired by each individual grade level from kindergarten through grade 5. The standards for grades 6 through 12 may be organized by grade clusters of more than one grade level.

Here are the reporting requirements the bill gives:

The district school superintendent shall annually certify to the department that all instructional materials for core courses used by the district are aligned with all applicable state standards, including those that are equivalent to or more rigorous than the applicable state standards or are aligned with courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program; and have been reviewed, selected, and adopted by the district school board in accordance with the school board hearing and public meeting requirements of this section.

The bill does not explicitly give the state the authority to reject the annual certification or whether or not they can determine whether a school’s standards are in fact higher.  There could be an administrative rule that does, but I don’t see any language indicating that in this bill.

Should the bill pass it would go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Note: I’ve reached out to State Senator Mayfield’s office for background on the bill, as well as, Karen Effrem with the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition to get her thoughts on this bill. I’ll update when I have additional information.

Update: Sue Woltanski, a parent in Florida told me she suspected the bill had to do with Hillsdale College’s Classical Curriculum. She wrote to me in an email, “The economic theories mentioned (the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories), I believe, is a priority of Hillsdale College. Our House Speaker (Corcoran) and a few legislators (specifically Rep.. Donalds) are closely tied to Classical Charters, associated with Hillsdale. “

Karen Effrem also got to me. “The purpose is to allow districts to write their own standards with the Common Core as the floor instead of the ceiling. So they use what they want if anything from Common Core, but still, give the appearance of using CC so as not to get the state’s or feds’ undies in a twist about rejecting the standards,” she said in an email.

An Open Letter to House Education Leaders About Student Data Privacy

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Karen Effrem, president of Education Liberty Watch wrote another fantastic open letter to the leadershiop of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee. It was co-signed by representatives of nine national organizations and 62 state grassroots organizations covering 31 states expressing concern about student data privacy in the attempt to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA).

Note: I signed the letter on behalf of Iowa RestorED. Truth in American Education generally does not sign on to letters like these primarily because we are made-up of representatives of other groups, but we do share the same concerns.

Using NAEP Proficiency for Accountability Sets Florida Students Up for Failure

From the beginning, the marketing of the Common Core and other progressive education schemes has been brilliant. The PR guys seized on words and phrases that sounded good to the uninformed public and then painted all opposition as manifestly unreasonable. Why would anyone not want “rigorous” standards that teach “critical thinking” and make our children “college- and career-ready”?

Now Jeb Bush and his minions (including his Foundation for Florida’s Future, or “FFF”) are doing the same thing in Florida on a related topic – assessments and school accountability. This time the popular terms are “proficiency” and “honesty gap.” But the real honesty gap yawns between what FFF claims to be doing and what it’s really up to.

As Karen Effrem of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition explains, all this has to do with school-accountability ratings included in the state plans required by the recent fed-ed bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (you know, the statute that supposedly eliminated federal requirements). FFF is pushing legislation imposing school accountability ratings that are linked to whether students are deemed “proficient” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – “the nation’s report card” – rather than whether they score at grade level on the state tests.

As Dr. Effrem observes, another Bush foundation website – “Why Proficiency Matters” – “makes it appear that these two achievement levels are completely equivalent and that anyone who opposes this idea is against honesty and raising student achievement.”

But like so much else in the “education reform” universe occupied by FFF and its co-advocates, (such as Achieve, Inc., which helped develop the Common Core national standards), this simply isn’t so. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution states flatly, “Equating NAEP proficiency with grade level is bogus.” Why? Because the NAEP proficiency score is “aspirational” – it was set significantly above what most students could be expected to achieve (as Loveless reports, even some education organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences objected to NAEP’s achievement levels from the outset as “fundamentally flawed” and “consistently set too high”).

Even the NAEP governing board warns against conflating the NAEP proficiency level with grade-level achievement. From the board’s “myths vs. facts” brochure: “Proficient on NAEP means competency over challenging subject matter. This is not the same thing as being ‘on grade level,’ which refers to performance on local curriculum and standards.”

This misalignment seems particularly apparent in math. The 2007 Brown Center Report on American Education projected that even in Singapore – with the world’s highest-scoring math students – over a quarter of students would fail to achieve proficiency on the 8th-grade NAEP test.

The irony here is that Bush and his cohorts nationwide are largely responsible for imposing the subpar Common Core standards on most public schools – thereby practically guaranteeing diminished student performance on any genuine achievement test, and especially on a test such as NAEP with elevated proficiency scores. Recent flatlining or declining NAEP scores have borne that out. Bush’s foundations, in keeping with their longtime enthusiasm for Common Core, refuse to acknowledge the connection between those standards and poor academic performance. But while downplaying this negative trend with NAEP scores, they push the bizarre notion that academic achievement can be improved merely by requiring higher scores – without fixing the underlying “Core” problem that depresses achievement in the first place.

Maybe there’s a larger plan in the works. Dr. Effrem outlines the devastating consequences of saddling Florida’s public schools with inferior standards and curricula and then subjecting them to the NAEP proficiency standard rather than a more realistic grade-level standard: “[T]he passing rate on the fourth-grade reading test would be cut in half from 54 percent to 27 percent. . . . The costs to local districts would skyrocket . . . . These costs would include remediation, progress monitoring, more summer school, and make-up exams . . . .” As she sums up, “the public schools would implode.”

Could this be designed to drive education in a different direction? One possibility would be increasing the number of charter schools (with, perhaps, their politically and financially connected management companies). In fact, the Florida House is proposing an increase in charter funding of $200 million and a school-turnaround plan that accelerates converting schools into charters. Whatever their possible benefits, charters are less accountable to the public and in direct competition with private schools that seek to provide an alternative to Common Core (charters, as public schools, teach Common Core).

An alternative direction would be Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s favorite project, private-school choice programs. The obvious problem here is that once government money begins flowing into private schools, government regulations will almost inevitably follow. Indeed, when the nationwide anti-Common Core movement originated in such states as Missouri, Utah, and Indiana, the Indiana parents were battling the national standards in Catholic schools –which were forced to administer the state Common Core test, and therefore to teach the inferior Common Core standards, because they accepted voucher students.

While it’s laudable to raise the bar on meaningful academic achievement, that won’t be done by setting the passing scores unreasonably beyond grade level while simultaneously imposing standards and curricula that practically ensure failure. In Florida, this failure will then be tied to high stakes such as 3rd-grade retention, graduation, teacher pay, and school accountability grades. Labeling so many students, teachers, and schools as failures — when they probably couldn’t meet the new requirements even without the downward pull of Common Core — is simply deceitful.

Whatever the motive of the proponents of this plan, Effrem warns about the negative personal and financial “accountability” consequences of holding students, teachers, and schools to an unreasonable standard. “Raising the bar to a level that is quite simply unattainable,” she says, “is just not fair.” If Mr. Bush and his foundations really want to improve schools, they should advocate freeing them from the snare of Common Core. That would be the honest thing to do.

Florida Stop Common Core Coalition Announces Ratings in Key Florida Races

Florida State Flag
The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC), an organization of fifty grassroots and parent groups from all over Florida, is pleased to announce the release of six Common Core and related education voter guides from six key contested primaries. The guides consist of detailed information about and links to candidates’ statements and records regarding the inferior Common Core standards, validity challenged high stakes assessments, data mining, and career tracking, as well as what they would do about it (see below). The races chosen are those where candidates have worked really hard against this dangerous system, publicly promised to work against it, or promoted it while making false claims of working against it.

“Our grading system, just like that in schools, rewards hard work and punishes deception,” FSCCC Executive Director, Dr. Karen Effrem explained. “We are grateful to Rep. Debbie Mayfield (A++), a national leader, and Rep. Ray Pilon (A+) for their incredible work against this terrible system. We also really appreciate legislators like Rep. Greg Steube and Rep. Matt Hudson, who even though they have been working in other important areas of public policy, are courageous enough to pledge to stand against special interests to fight Common Core. In addition, we are thankful for candidates like Ms. Laurie Bartlett, Mr. David Gee, and Mr. Steve Vernon giving so much of their time and treasure to protect the hearts and minds of our children.”

“At the same time, it is critical that promotion of this system and deceit about records not be rewarded. We want our supporters to be informed.” continued Effrem. “The actions, campaign materials, of Reps. Workman (F), O’Toole (F), Passidomo (D), Baxley (D), former Rep. Holder (F), and candidate Gruters (D-) are incredibly disappointing and dangerous.

Here is one example of that kind of deception with Joe Gruters being among the first to float the idea of the deceptive Common Core rebrand during the governor’s 2013 summit:

fsccc-gruters

Dr. Effrem concluded, “We as parents and grandparents cannot and will not tolerate Common Core deceit because the actions of these public officials have such enormous impact on the futures and privacy of our children” 

The races are listed below:

SENATE DISTRICT 12: Dennis Baxley (D)  David Gee  (A-) Marlene O’Toole (F)

SENATE DISTRICT 17: Debbie Mayfield (A++) Michael Thomas (C+) Amy Tidd (C-) Ritch Workman (F) 

SENATE DISTRICT 23: Frank Alcock (C) Frank Cirillo (C-) Doug Holder (F) Rick Levine(B-) Nora Patterson (C-) Ray Pilon (A+) Greg Steube (B+)

SENATE DISTRICT 28: Matt Hudson (B+) Kathleen Passidomo (D) 

 HOUSE DISTRICT 4: Laurie Bartlett (A) Wayne Harris (C-) Armand Izzo (B-) Mel Ponder(C-) Jonathan Tallman (C)  

HOUSE DISTRICT 73: Joe Gruter (D-) Steve Vernon (A)

“Noncognitive” Factors: Are they Fair Game for Data Collection and Instruction?

In February 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a draft of Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. To many who were aware of this report, it was alarming and controversial. In the summary of this report it says. “There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors—attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability—that high-achieving individuals draw upon to accomplish success.” It seems typical that when the U.S. Department of Education releases a report like this the groundwork has already been laid for implementation of the ideas, if they have not already been embedded into existing and newly proposed practice. (this report does not seem to be available on the ed.gov website anymore)

The Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA S227) would allow for the collection of data on “noncognitive” factors like those mentioned in the summary (see above). Karen Effrem has done a wonderful job of presenting issues and recommendations for SETRA in the brief she has prepared called Issues of Data Privacy, Parental Rights, and Federally Sponsored Psychological Screening in the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA)/Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) in the Context of Current Federal Law and Programs. Karen Effrem, M.D., is the president of Education Liberty Watch and Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition. She identifies and expands on four major issues and makes recommendations about them. The four major issues she addresses in this document are:

  1. SETRA seeks to expand federal psychological profiling of our children.
  2. SETRA only appears to prohibit a national database.
  3. There is continued reliance on a severely outdated and weakened FERPA.
  4. Reliance on PPRA that allows sensitive data prohibited in surveys to be collected in curriculum and assessments.

The Summary Response to the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee March Hearing “Strengthening Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students” is a brief summary that Karen has prepared.

A one page handout has been prepared for people to download and share. This one pager is a good initial attention getter that may be followed up with Karen Effrem’s brief.

You should be able to download a pdf copy of this one pager by clicking in the upper right hand corner of the document or by clicking here.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) intends to begin assessing “noncognitive” factors. To do so, they will collect data on socio-economic status, technology use, school climate, grit, and desire for learning. The NAEP is making a leap from gathering academic content knowledge data to gathering “noncognitive” data. In making this move to gather data on “mindsets” that could be used for psychological profiling, NAEP will likely be in violation of federal law. For more information about this, you are encouraged to read the letter RE: Proposed National Education Assessment Plan and student/parental rights that the Liberty Counsel has addressed to Dr. Karen Effrem.

There seems to be a whole industry involved in the collection, storage, and sharing of student data, including “noncognitive” factors. Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins have written an article called The War on Student Privacy that features some of the players in this industry.

The education system, legislative bodies, government agencies, and industry all seem to think and act as if they are entitled to student data, including student-level (personally identifiable information) and “noncognitive” factors. Are student data, including student-level (personally identifiable information) and “noncognitive” factors really fair game? Many parents would not think so.

 

Marco Rubio Speaks Out Against Common Core at GOP Debate

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was asked by Fox News anchor Bret Baier why former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was wrong on Common Core during last week’s GOP Debate.

Here is a transcript of Rubio’s answer courtesy of Karen Effrem:

We do need curriculum reform. And it should happen at the state and local level. That is where educational policy belongs, because if a parent is unhappy with what their child is being taught in school, they can go to that local school board or their state legislature, or their governor and get it changed.

Here’s the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education, like every federal agency, will never be satisfied. They will not stop with it being a suggestion. They will turn it into a mandate. In fact, what they will begin to say to local communities is: “You will not get federal money unless you do things the way we want you to do it.” And they will use common core or any other requirement that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people and our states.

Spot on.

Written Testimony on the Common Core & Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

Karen Effrem, MD the President of Education Liberty Watch and co-founder of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition submitted written testimony on the Common Core State Standards and Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  I’m embedding her testimony below or you can read/download it here: