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The Test-Based Evidence On The "Florida Formula"

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Thanks for this. I am surprised there was no mention of the new charter school study done at UCF by Dr. Stan Smith. This is the most current scholarship. Also no mention of the one "reform" that Jeb Bush fought against and still does- the class size law. By ignoring this component how can his statements be taken seriously? Bush appears to cherry pick and make huge leaps that are not based on proper methodology.

I appreciate the stance of fairness and objectivity taken by this report. Still, it rankles me to see Jeb Bush given benefit of the doubt by saying that he is "sincere in his effort to improve U.S. education." Nothing could be further from the truth. I might be able to buy that he was a "true believer," if his foundation did not receive so much of its funding from charter school management organizations (many of them for-profit) and the testing industry. His foundation advocates for reforms that directly benefit those industries, while always advocating against reforms (or continuation of policies) that would put more resources into public schools (e.g., class size). His foundation is a clear-cut example of what Naomi Klein dubbed "disaster capitalism": create the illusion of a crisis where there is none (or where, in the case of public ed, the crisis is something entirely separate, e.g., childhood poverty) and then use that as the rationale for privatization. It is obvious when it comes to Jeb Bush and his cronies. "Look, public schools are failing. We need to privatize." Of course, it's a little more complex than that: in order to make sure the public schools are labeled failing, we must throw good money after bad at the testing industry. And whenever it looks like public schools might be rising to the challenge (even if it's just by gaming the system), that just means we have to raise the bar and the stakes and, yep, you got it, implement more tests. While some policies may have had positive impacts on certain things (as aptly pointed out in italics, test-based--which can sometimes mean almost nothing), overall the net gain is, in my opinion, almost nothing. I worked in Florida schools for 6 years before I left in disgust. Disgust at the testing obsession and how it negatively affected the school climate and all subjects not covered by state tests; disgust at the prospect of never receiving a raise or even a step increase again, despite making below the national average; disgust at the constant battering by the media and Florida politicians as if I (and my colleagues) went into teaching to sit back on our butts and get rich (as if!); disgust at the way the curriculum has been whittled down to nothing but reading, math and test-taking; disgust at the idea that a very flawed standardized test in a subject other than my own could change my evaluation in either direction. Florida is a perfect model of what NOT to do in public education, and Jeb Bush is the architect. And this was all made very clear when Florida received one of the two highest ratings given by Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst.

As Dennis notes, it's important to keep in mind that it's tough to describe a "Florida package" even as an intentional set of policies Gov. Bush and others are promoting in other states. One reason is the types of policies that Bush was unconnected with -- most prominently, the 2002 class-size amendment and also the Health Mothers-Healthy Babies initiative of his predecessor, Lawton Chiles. Another reason is the way Gov. Bush and others soft-pedal what I think is a very important policy, the hiring of reading coaches across the state using boosted taxes from the real-estate boom and supported by the Florida Center for Reading Research. One correction to your description of Florida policy, specifically the targeting of assistance at schools identified as low-performing. While it is true that state policy mandated interventions and assistance, the bulk of that was a mandated redistribution of resources within local districts. When I looked at the dedicated funding for state assistance to schools labeled D and F late in Bush's second term, my best estimate was that the direct aid was under $2m/yr. Because D and F schools were concentrated in poorer districts such as Miami-Dade, the state mandate that local districts redirect resources to those schools essentially was a structural underfunding of districts with high concentrations of D and F schools. To the extent that there were resources focused on those schools, it sometimes has been through federal flow-through funds (e.g., Reading First), especially at a time that the Florida legislature has slowly reconfigured the state education funding program to put a heavier burden on local districts and less on state coffers. (Florida's finance program is by and large a unitary system with a combination of substantial interdistrict redistribution and a legislatively-mandated level of property assessments. Some very good things about that, but it gives the legislature interesting authority over local property taxes.)

Mr. DiCarlo- I have written a response to this post, please let me know what you think: http://jaypgreene.com/2013/01/15/shanker-institute-scholar-bounded-in-a-nutshell-but-counts-himself-a-king-of-infinite-space/

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