I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Common Core: Rebuked from the Right....and the Left??

Woodrow Wilson summed it up aptly when he said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something" With respect to the nationwide implementation of Common Core State Standards, Wilson's words ring true. Right-wing conservatives hate common core, Country-Club Republicans are luke-warm supportive. Local control, FISCAL conservative/libertarian types (like me) are leery of another mandate being shoved down our throats locally. And why do we have to change long division from the standard, easy to teach tried and true method we were all taught and know---- to some stupid, difficult to teach more complex and multiple-step method? Do we really need to change long-division into a Rube-Goldberg contraption?  Why?  (It reminds me of the disaster created when some genius decided it was better to ditch phonics and do "whole language"--what a failure that was....  Better yet, could this be the new and improved "New Math" of the early sixties? Yeah, I'm leery of this, that's putting it mildly....

 Now, though, even the liberal New York state teacher's union, in the bluest of the blue states-New York-- are rebuking Common Core. From an article today on MSNBC:

  “Educators understand that introducing new standards, appropriate curriculum and meaningful assessments are ongoing aspects of a robust educational system,” NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said in a statement on Saturday, after the union’s board of directors voted unanimously to approve a resolution withdrawing its support. “These are complex tasks made even more complex when attempted during a time of devastating budget cuts. [The education department’s] implementation plan in New York state has failed.” 

Looks like Obama and Duncan may have to take a page out of Florida's playbook and make some revisions so they can essentially keep it, but jettison the toxic "Common Core" name. Time for a re-set and a rebranding. Perhaps they could call it Obama-Duncan state standards. LOL.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Economic Profit and Winning Trumps Academic Achievement at Many Public Universities

CNN has completed an excellent investigation and video on college athletics misconduct, that is worth the five minutes it takes to watch/read.  We all love an excellent college football or basketball game, and the skill and talent some of these athletes possess is nothing short of amazing!  But sometimes when the viewer is subject to watching the cringe-worthy after game interviews with some of these students, it calls into question the fidelity and effectiveness of the college education these athletes are receiving at these institutions.  According to this STUNNING article that not surprisingly received very little exposure, this is the ongoing, dirty little secret that many universities simply will not discuss.  Students are being run through these colleges, most do not graduate, but some do, and these athletes, particularly the stars, are given tutors and there are allegations that the grades these athletes get are "given" to these students and much of the homework is completed on behalf of the athletes by "assistants" that are employed by the universities. This amazing, interactive chart allows the reader to click on the logo of various schools to see how they track and account for struggling student athletes.  Not surprisingly, many of the top performing colleges provided 0 information, which is reprehensible in my opinion.  Remember, these are public universities funded by our tax dollars.  from the article:

"They're pushing them through," said Billy Hawkins, an associate professor and athlete mentor at the University of Georgia.
"They're graduating them. UGA is graduating No. 2 in the SEC, so they're able to graduate athletes, but have they learned anything? Are they productive citizens now? That's a thing I worry about. To get a degree is one thing, to be functional with that degree is totally different."
Hawkins, who says in his 25 years at various universities he's witnessed some student-athletes fail to meet college reading standards, added: "It's too much for students reading below a college level. It's basically a farce."
Gurney, who looked into the situation at the University of Oklahoma, put it bluntly: "College presidents have put in jeopardy the academic credibility of their universities just so we can have this entertainment industry. ... The NCAA continually wants to ignore this fact, but they are admitting students who cannot read."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Strong Disciplinary Procedures Narrow the "Achievement Gap"

 I feel our discipline procedures are out of whack.  I've discussed it over and over here on my blog, and every time I get a chance at meetings I discuss this.  It seems that some students get harsh punishments for their first offenses.....Often including out of school suspensions for some first offenses.  Other students, based upon varying circumstances but ultimately driven by political correctness--get chance after chance after chance after chance after chance, sometimes receiving as many as 39 referrals before they are finally kicked out.  It makes no sense, it's stupid.

Parents want safe learning environments for their students and environments that are conducive to learning--It's the #1 reason parents choose private schools!  And those administrators who support a skewed discipline system that attempts to placate some social justice organizations (that accuse us of institutional racism based upon discipline statistic OUTCOMES) will be the same ones in a few years asking "Why are our enrollments going down?"  "Why is Santa Rosa's school population exploding and ours is stagnant?"  Our enrollments are going down, and the "achievement gap" is getting wider, because our discipline process is uneven. . ..That's why!  So what does discipline have to do with the achievement gap and parents leaving the public schools for private/home school/charters, etc.?  Strong discipline and the narrowing of the achievement gap go hand in hand.  This research paper points to the correlation.  From the paper:

"by imposing a strict discipline code, principals can reduce the overall number of student infractions, which increases achievement both by limiting the number of offending students and by reducing the negative spillovers associated with disruptive behavior....t the threat of suspension deters students from ever committing an infraction, particularly those students who pose the greatest risk for poor
behavior. Losing classroom time as a result of suspension has a small negative impact, while exposure to disruptive behavior significantly reduces achievement"

The paper is extremely interesting.

Friday, January 10, 2014

School Board Open Discussion Workshop this Thursday, January 16th 3:00PM

The Board will have a special workshop to discuss various  topics of interest, the public is invited and encouraged to attend. We will have a public forum where members of the public can address the board.  The meeting starts at 3:00PM at the Hall Center, 30 E Texar Drive.  The meeting will be  in room 160.

The topics for discussion will be:

- January 2014 and February 2014 Calendar – Moultrie (5 minutes)
- Update on Concern Expressed by Citizen at December 17, 2013 Board Meeting/Public Forum Regarding
Baseball Facility/Handicapped Access at Pine Forest High School – Moultrie (5 minutes)
- Facility Utilization/Under Utilization at District Middle Schools – Bergosh (5 minutes)
- Changes to Dual Enrollment Rules-Impacts on Current Students – Bergosh (5 minutes)
- Legislative Issue-Raising Dropout Age from 16 to 18 – Bergosh (10 minutes)
- Woodham Middle School’s Robotics Team – Superintendent (10-15 minutes)
- Update on Fingerprint Process for District Employees – Superintendent (5-10 minutes)
- Discussion of Budget Calendar – Superintendent (5-10 minutes)
- Update of Professional Development Center – Superintendent (10-15 minutes)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

School Choice-The Catalyst for Saving The American Public School System

I met Dr. Ben Scafidi, the co-author of the study pictured on the right, in Milwaukee a few months back at a conference on School Choice.  Every parent and policy-maker in American Public education should read his report-it’s an eye-opener.   (The electronic version can be found here.)

Dr. Scafidi’s presentation on School Choice blew the lid off of the conference room, a perfect mix of credibility and humor.  His intelligence, passion, and command of the subjects of economics, statistics, and school choice were clearly evident in his presentation.
Additionally, he was extremely gracious as he fielded individual questions from many conference participants (myself included) long after his portion of the presentation had ended—something we all appreciated.

The research paper Scafidi wrote focused on the detailed results of a parent survey about why these same parents chose to send their students to private schools over public schools.  As a sitting school board member on the front lines of the business of education, this presentation confirmed many of the suspicions I harbored about why parents choose to send their students to one particular school over another.    

From the report:

“Beyond their long-time concern about the quality of the education their children are receiving in public schools, parents are as, or even more, concerned that children in America are facing a plethora of social and cultural challenges that can have a significant negative impact on their lives and futures. As a result, an increasing number of parents are seeking to enroll their students in private schools and are taking advantage of tax-credit scholarship and voucher programs where
available.  Based on the results of the 2013 GOAL Scholarship Parent Survey, GOAL scholarship parents had many reasons for choosing a private school for the K–12 education of their children. The top five reasons why those families chose a private school were all related to a safe school climate and effective classroom management, including better student discipline…..The surveyed parents
placed low emphasis on the results of standardized test scores.”

My takeaway as a public school policymaker:  We must improve or we will be gone, we will cease to exist 

In Need of a Re-Balancing

     Our middle schools county-wide appear to be in desperate need of a “re-balancing”.
In looking at the latest pupil membership report for Escambia County Schools (December 2013) here, and adding the data for capacity and satisfactory student stations found in the Florida Inventory of School Houses under the summary data, facilities tab, located here—we appear to have way too much underutilized capacity at several middle schools.
     Bailey middle school is bursting at the seams, and Ransom, Ferry Pass, and Ernest Ward appear to be about right.
     Brown Barge Middle School’s (BBMS)capacity is artificially capped by the District—there is significant pent-up demand from parents to lift the cap at BBMS—but little appetite from the administration to do so.  This is unfortunate.   Therefore, BBMS’s (artificially maintained) excess capacity will remain.
     On the other side of the spectrum, where parents have made the decision to send or not to send their students, we have a significant problem.   Something must be done about Woodham, Warrington, and Bellview Middle Schools, with excess satisfactory student station capacity of 973, 619, and 438 respectively at these three schools.
     Woodham and Warrington have me particularly concerned; between these two schools there is  underutilized capacity of almost 1,600 student stations— a number of vacancies equivalent to the entire