Angry About DeVos? Get Educated About the Threats to Public Education
The appointment of Betsy DeVos to U.S. Secretary of Education has awoken many people to the current threats to public education. These threats did not begin with Ms. DeVos. For several decades, public school have been labeled as failing (not true, see * below) and “education reforms” have been instituted to “save” them. Rather than save public education, such reforms have led to high stake standardized testing, Common Core State Standards, increasing School Choice efforts, the defunding of public education, the rise of Vouchers and the push toward privatization of public education. These efforts have been pushed forward by both Republicans (No Child Left Behind, vouchers, Jeb Bush’s A-F School Grades and other test-based accountability reforms) and Democrats (Race to the Top, Common Core, and Obama/Arne Duncan’s Department of Education “Global Work Force” policies).
In Florida, however, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida Future and Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) have dominated the creation of education policy in Tallahassee for over 15 years. Until her nomination, Ms. DeVos served on Jeb’s FEE Board. Senate Education Committee member Senator Tom Lee has publicly complained that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future “has locked this legislature down. You can’t get a bill out of this legislature that isn’t supported by the Foundation for Florida’s Future.”
After 15 years of “Jebucation” in Florida, it is now estimated that (at least) 25% of a student’s school year is spent preparing for and administering state standardized assessments. Curriculum has narrowed to focus on little more than tested subjects, limiting exposure to art, music, and, for many elementary students, even recess. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent developing computer based state assessments and much more on the technology infrastructure needed to administer them. Standardized testing, in the form of progress monitoring, begins at age 4, in Voluntary Pre-K. The results of state mandated assessments are used for promotion, retention and graduation decisions, to evaluate teachers and determine their salary, to grade schools and districts, and even to influence local property values. Florida retains more than ten thousand, mostly low income, 3rd graders each year based on state test scores and then brags that its fourth grade test scores lead the nation. The stakes are so high that local districts spend millions on local progress monitoring and computer programs designed to assess whether children are ready to take the state tests. By law, all new teachers are given annual contracts that must be renewed, giving them essentially no job security. It should come as no surprise that Florida was recently ranked 42nd out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., on a “teaching attractiveness” rating. At the same time School Choice initiatives have led to the underfunding of traditional public schools and ever increasing funding of voucher systems, where schools need not participate in the test-based accountability system. Ms. Devos has called “Choice-Friendly Florida” her K-12 model for the nation.
When it comes to instituting these damaging education policies, Jeb’s powerful foundations repeatedly refer to Florida as a national “leader.” We wish people would stop following! We invite those horrified by Ms. DeVos’ appointment to join us in calling out and pushing back against Florida’s high stakes, test based accountabaloney “reforms”.
First, we encourage you to get educated about the current state of public education. This list is a place to start. If you know of other good resources that we’ve missed, please leave links in the comments. Please follow us at Accountabaloney.com and on Facebook for upcoming calls to action.
A brief primer on the problems with high stakes standardized testing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPs46yOcwP0&feature=youtu.be
“Common Core Dilema – Who Owns Our Schools?” by Mercedes Schneider
“Rein of Error” by Diane Ravitch
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