People, Politics & Business

Scoundrels, Educrats, Rogues and Champions

Jeb Bush On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" : Controversy in Florida

CJ Westerberg, April 12, 2010 1:38 PM


Updates:  4/16/10:

From Miami Herald:

"Gov. Charlie Crist's political mentor, former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, resigned Thursday as Crist's campaign chairman in his race for the U.S. Senate.
Mack wrote a terse, two-paragraph letter to his one-time protege that said Crist was wrong to veto a bill (SB 6) that would have made it easier to fire teachers and tie their pay to student test scores.
"As you know, I strongly disagree with your veto," Mack wrote his fellow Republican. "Your veto I believe undermines our education system in Florida and the principles for which I have always stood."
New York Times link here:

"Gov. Charlie Crist has been jawboned and buttonholed as he has traveled around the state in recent days, and his office was deluged with 120,000 messages. Passions have not run so high in Florida, the governor said, since the controversy over ending the life of Terri Schiavo in 2005. . ."

From Mike Klonsky's Smaller Talk:
"Florida Republican Gov. Crist has vetoed the anti-teacher SB6 bill passed by a Republican legislature. Crist acted in response to massive and militant student/teacher protests. Lots of lessons here for us. #1 If you don't hit it, it won't fall. . . ." read more.

and The Daily Riff related story HERE.


What Florida Does, So Will Our Nation?
Why Parents & Schools Need To Know About Merit Pay
& High-Stake Standardized Test Scores

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush visited Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski during their special "Great Expectations" in Education day at Alexander Elementary School in Gainsborough, Florida.  He had much to crow about with NAEP scores in Florida being an outlier state showing gains while the rest of the country stagnated.   However, the state of Florida is enbroiled in a hot-bed of controversy between teachers and policy-makers.  Here is a bit of background info:

See here for conservative-oriented The Foundry's recap.  An excerpt:

"Results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading assessment have just been released and are, well, uninspiring. Reading achievement, despite significant increases in spending over the past few decades and increasing federal policy intervention in the past decade, has remained flat.

The lackluster results indicate that the top-down approach of federal policy, characterized by No Child Left Behind and the current administration's policy, has not led to significant increases in student achievement.

But, despite the bad news, there is an outlier among the states- Florida. The Sunshine State's results are a bright ray:

Reading scores for all students. While 4th grade reading across the country remained flat, 4th grade reading in Florida rose two points and 8th grade reading role 4 points over 2007 figures.
Although these gains are good, the improvements made by sub-groups (special needs students, African American students, Hispanic students, English language learners, and low-income students) are the most impressive."

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss doesn't like the new Florida bill one bit.  Link here with excerpt:

" . . .A growing coalition of teachers, students, parents, school administrators and others are publicly protesting what is probably the most heavy-handed attack on teachers in the country at the moment.

Thousands of people have signed petitions being sent to Florida's governor, Charlie Crist, demanding that he veto the bill if it passes the legislature. He's indicated that he supports the legislation but is coming under more pressure than he probably expected.

The protesters had hoped the Obama administration would end the high-stakes standardized testing culture and pseudo-accountability regime of No Child Left Behind; after all, Barack Obama bashed NCLB when he campaigned for president.
. . ."

And from the Florida Sun-Sentinel, a terrific Q&A on this bill here.

Get the idea of the contentiousness of this issue? 

While we applaud Florida's gains, the heavy "lift" came from the lowest performing students.
What changes were made to and by that school system?
What changes were made to the LEADERSHIP?
What changes were made by the TEACHERS?
What changes were requested of the PARENTS?
What changes were requested of the STUDENTS?
What tools (ie. technology) and training were implemented?

You get the picture.  You can't ask for higher test scores without changing and clearly articulating and supporting the vision for change:  the leadership, the training of the teachers, the culture, the environment, the buy-in of the families, etc.

Furthermore, as Jeb Bush describes in the interview below, he says that these reforms "lift all boats".  Do they?  Are reforms based on high-stake standardized testing culture lifting the kids in the middle?  At the top?

One example we like is the accountability culture created by what Joe Scarborough calls the "holistic approach" of Harlem Village Academies, supported by entertainer John Legend in this interview and video HERE, previously featured in The Daily Riff.  Yet, it is one example that works for the situation and environment.  Can we extract lessons that work from them?  Yes.
Will it absolutely work for every school, every environment?  No, not necessarily. 

Yet Harlem Village Academies doesn't hold their breath for a once- a- year "high stakes standardized test" culture to read (when it's too late) what happened.  Assessments are taken constantly and consistently by teachers to implement changes immediately to address problems and advancements made by students.  Teachers are valued and given great autonomy in the classroom, yet expectation in culture are clear and are supported by the leadership.  Parents, too, are part of the equation. Yet, this is not a culture created by the union on one side of the room as "protector" of the status quo and the edu-crats on the other side of the room making demands as to "outcomes" with no or little regard to the elements involved in creating those desired outcomes.  

It recognizes that kids come into a class at different levels and have learning spurts at different times and may take three or four years of cumulative work to see the effect made by various teachers.  How can you measure every teacher every year based on high-stake standardized tests?

Scarborough, we must admit, addresses this topic brilliantly beginning at the 9 minute mark (at the very very end!) in the video BELOW.    This is the money quote and the real crux of the merit pay and test score issue.  We recommend the whole clip to understand full context.

When it comes to testing and assessments, we better know what we are doing!  See more on test score topic from The Daily Riff here.  Plus more videos from "Morning Joe's" special on education "Great Expectations" here.

Check it out:

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