Tag Archive | "Orlando Sentinel"


Why Does Florida’s Voucher Crowd Oppose Accountability to Taxpayers?

January 6, 2013

Originally published: December 31, 2012

While Governor Scott and incoming commissioner Tony Bennett are on record as wanting to hold voucher schools to the same standard as public schools, a top voucher advocate says no.

By: Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

Last week’s Orlando Sentinel editorial brought to light for Floridians the fact that private schools which receive taxpayer-funded vouchers aren’t held to the same accountability standards as are public schools. That could change as both governor Rick Scott and incoming education commissioner Tony Bennett think they should.

When it comes to school vouchers, we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with Gov. Rick Scott.

Remember his “education savings account” plan? Cloaked in a euphemistic Trojan horse, his “vouchers for all” gambit would have siphoned off withering public school resources. A reckless non-starter.

Yet in his 2013 legislative wish list, Scott struck a more reasonable tone, saying private schools that accept money under the state’s limited voucher program should take the same standardized tests that public schools use to assess students.

He’s right. We’ve been supporters of the state’s Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which provides low-income children with the opportunity to attend private school.

Christened in 2001, the program provides vouchers up to $4,335 to students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Funding comes from corporate kick-ins, which receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit.

But we also believe in accountability when public money is being funneled into private hands. Other states already recognize the wisdom of judging students by the same yardstick.

With Florida preparing to drop the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for a new test based on new standards, this is an ideal time for private schools that enroll these students to prove they’re hitting the marks Florida sets for public schools.

Scott wants to include voucher students when the new Common Core standards and tests — successors to the FCAT — debut in the 2014-15.

“Ultimately, everybody is going to Common Core,” he said.

A no-brainer idea that incoming Education Commissioner Tony Bennett embraces, telling the Sentinel that it’s “reasonable to expect all schools that receive public funds to be held to the same level of accountability.”

Florida’s program — the nation’s largest of its kind — has followed a more convoluted path. Voucher students took a nationally normed test like the Stanford Achievement Test. An independent researcher then distilled the results and correlated the results to FCAT students. A bit of a Rube Goldberg approach that made it difficult for parents to assess academic achievement when comparing public to private schools.

Give Scott credit for finally realizing that a common test scraps a needless exercise, while also giving private schools an extra measure of credibility. If taxpayers are footing the bill — and if private schools truly are doing the job — schools should be eager to showcase their results, as public schools must.

Not so fast says the director of Step Up for Students, the Florida non-profit which oversees the state’s tax credit scholarship fund. Writing critically a Tampa Bay Timeseditorial which mirrored the Sentinel’s, Jon East writes:

Under Florida’s scholarship program, students are required to take nationally norm-referenced tests approved by the state Department of Education. More than two-thirds take the Stanford Achievement Test. Another fifth, which comprises mainly the Catholic schools, take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The test-score gains are then reported publicly each year by an independent researcher, respected Northwestern University professor David Figlio. Starting this year, those gains are also reported for every school with at least 30 students who have current- and prior-year test scores. The validity of these testing instruments is not really in dispute, which is why it is more than a little disconcerting that their results have been scarcely mentioned. The state’s leading newspaper managed to write an entire editorial directive, “Holding voucher schools to account is overdue,” without a single reference.

East’s use of Figlio as his reference is predictable. The study East cites is Figlio’s second voucher study that he’s been commissioned to generate for Florida’s Office of Public Policy Analysis and Government Accountability in the past two years. His 2011 report can be found via this link. It is Figlio’s 2012 report which East quotes – and a stunning quote it was. Using what East refers to as “concordance” Figlio concluded:

“A cautious read of the weight of the available evidence suggests that the … scholarship program has boosted student performance in public schools statewide.”

For Figlio  to “suggest” such a relationship exists between vouchers and public school perormance unmasks his bias and reveals why Easy would put such stock in his, um, research. What it still doesn’t reveal is why East is opposed to holding his voucher schools to the same accountability standards as public schools.

Original article: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/why-does-floridas-voucher-crowd-oppose-accountability-to-taxpayers/


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Why Bennett Failed in Indiana and Why He May Again in Florida

The Road Ahead of FDOE

December 16, 2012

Originally published: December 14, 2012

By: Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

From Orlando Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell:

You may know Florida is getting a new education secretary named Tony Bennett. (No, not that Tony Bennett … though that’d be kind of cool.)

What you may not know is we’re getting him only because Indiana tossed him out. Voters of that very conservative state — Mitt Romney won by 10 points in Indiana — booted this conservative reformer from office just last month.

Apparently a big reason is that Bennett’s version of “reform” involved a whole lot of teacher-bashing.

Don’t take my word for it. Take it from one of Indiana’s leading voices of conservative school reform, lawyer and blogger Paul Ogden. He penned a piece titled: “Why Tony Bennett Lost —The Folly of Beating Up Teachers for Public Education’s Problems.”

We all know our schools need help. And maybe Bennett learned a lesson. But the last thing this state needs is another teacher-trasher.

Florida’s teacher trasher-in-chief, Jeb Bush, who is close to Bennett, likely used his political capital to assure Bennett was appointed.  But Maxwell goes to the politics of the matter and looks to one of Indiana’s most influential political columnist in Paul Ogden. Here’s a key part of Ogden’s bomb damage assessment of the aftermath of Bennett’s defeat:

When Tony Bennett was elected four years ago, I was puzzled when he made classroom teachers a primary target. I didn’t think that part of his reform philosophy was correct. As it turns out targeting classroom teachers is also bad politics. Teachers are great at networking and voting as a coalition. Unlike what many conservatives think, however, many teachers are, in fact, Republican.

My Democratic friends though are going to be pretty disappointed when they find out that electing Glenda Ritz Superintendent of Public Instruction is unlikely to stop the pace of education reform in this state. Education reform is driven primarily by the Governor and the Indiana General Assembly. Working around Ritz will be a piece of cake. In fact, an untold story is that Bennett’s abrasive style and reluctance to listen to input from others had actually started alienating supporters of education reform, including Republican state legislators.

Bush has been able to stay out of the line of fire during Florida’s recent debacles of its accountability systems that are of his doing. Bennett’s presence will allow his to continue to do so. Yet Bennett has been put into a job where he’s got to be a fixer and not a changer like he was back in Indiana. This may not what he’s all about. I lost count of how many times he used “accountability” during his interview.

Some board members coaxed contrition out of Bennett during his public interview on Tuesday, but he still has to prove it’s genuine. Rick Scott wasted several months on a good will tour he obviously had no intention of following through on, but he has a lightening rod in Bennett and a partisan state board to hide behind now. But the realities of Indiana politics translate to Florida. Republican voters will throw out republicans.

Original article: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/why-bennett-failed-in-indiana-and-why-he-may-again-in-florida/

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