Florida Legislature: Make Public Schools a Priority

Legislature: Make Public Schools a Priority

Public schools are the foundation of our democracy; they give all children a chance, no matter their background, no matter their zip code.

Please, legislators, make our children your first priority in your grand budget bargain.

We’re charged with providing a first class education for all, but with current budget projections, we’ll barely stay afloat. We know you can do better and the public will support you when you do.

Those of us who have children and grandchildren are awestruck by the opportunities now available in our public schools. Students today take rigorous college courses that were beyond most of our wildest dreams when we went to high school.

Now please make other dreams possible. As you know, many Florida families are facing significant challenges, and they bring those challenges with them into our public schools.

Research shows that income level is the surest indicator of success in school. Our D and F schools are not “failure factories”; they better resemble emergency centers. These schools don’t need labels; they need help.

For starters:

  • If you have $200 million to invest in “Schools of Hope” (corporate charter schools), let local school boards compete for those funds so we can create turn-around schools. We have been anxious to pilot ideas such as wrap-around services to assist families with medical and other needs. Actual resources to do this at our existing low-performing schools would be a godsend. Think globally, but please invest locally.
  • Vote for current proposals that seek relief from the over-testing of our children and the convoluted teacher evaluation system known as VAM. That would help student, teacher and parent morale immensely.
  • You’ve heard from superintendents around the state that Florida is facing an alarming teacher retention and shortage problem. Florida ranks near the bottom in average teacher salary. Treat and pay teachers as professionals and they’ll both stay and join the ranks.
  • Don’t adopt “proficiency” language that could raise the passing score once again and artificially turn hundreds more schools into D and F schools.
  • To make a lasting difference, fully fund Pre-K education. That would be an investment that would pay terrific dividends for our kids and state forever.

Please stand firm on a responsible budget for Florida’s students and families. Public schools need your support more than ever; don’t forsake them in their hour of need.

Rosanne Wood represents District 2 on the Leon County School Board. This piece represents her personal opinion and not that of the school board.

Tallahassee Democrat My View, April 30, 2017

“Assignment of School Grades Arbitrary and Capricious”

Without the inclusion of learning gains, said Rosanne Wood, retired principal of SAIL High School, “these grades say more about zip codes than about how much students learned after they walked in the door.”

While SAIL often earned an “A” under the accountability system, Wood, a longtime critic of the school grading system, still describes school grades as “arbitrary and capricious.”

“One day your school is a D, the next day it is a B,” she said. “The only thing that changed were some arbitrary lines in the sand, drawn by folks who have no idea whether the school is a good one or not.”

Rosanne Wood is running for Leon County School Board

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I hope you have heard by now that I am running for the Leon School Board in the 2016 election. I’ll be running for the seat in District 2, currently held by Dee Crumpler, who does not intend to run again.

I decided to run because I feel compelled to do something to help our public schools. I plan to draw upon my 36 years of experience as both a teacher and principal at SAIL High School to make every school a place where all students, parents, and staff members feel valued and respected.

  • I will advocate for policies that value learning more than test scores.
  • I will ensure that every dollar spent supports the needs of our students.
  • I will be an engaged school board member and a strong partner in the leadership of the district.
  • I will seek out innovative solutions inside and outside of Tallahassee to solve some of our toughest problems.
  • I will work to forge partnerships with the community to help us close our achievement and opportunity gaps.
  • I will insist on clear policies for ethical conduct in all facets of the school system.

I want to make a real difference for our children. I believe I bring the experience, leadership, and integrity that are required. I hope you agree. If you want to get involved or donate to the campaign, go to RWOOD.NET and like me on Facebook Rosanne4SchoolBoard.

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What a Waste–Florida End-of-Course Testing Needs to Go

For the past 4 weeks, middle and high schools have been scrambling to figure out how to get their students scheduled to take mysterious, state-controlled, computerized end-of-course exams. Students who take actual computer classes have been relegated to study halls for weeks at a time. Teachers have been limping along with half of their students gone, trying to keep the other students entertained while not covering any new material. What a waste.

You see, teachers are not allowed to give or grade their own students’ final exams in American History, Civics, Biology, Algebra I, Algebra II or Geometry. At great cost to taxpayers students are required to take end-of-course exams designed by the Pearson Testing Company.  In fact, teachers are not allowed to see these tests, ask their students about the tests, or ever see the results; other than some score that the test company assigns them over the summer. Can you imagine how insulting and frustrating that is to teachers and students?

Additionally, the state requires that 30% of the final grade be based on these tests, half of which will be scored sometime in June, the others in September.  Can you imagine how many seniors have been sweating over whether or not they were really going to graduate next week?

A few days ago, the Department of Education Chancellor declared that the scores for three of the courses wouldn’t count against students’ final grades this year because the scores won’t be known until September. Hasn’t that been obvious for months? Why have the schools and students been put through this agony?

Since teachers of those courses were instructed not to give their own final exams, no final exam grade will be calculated at all for Algebra I, II and Geometry. So much for the importance of final exams! However, when these tests are finally scored, they all will count for or against a school’s grade, no matter how many computer glitches or crashed servers. Ridiculous.

In my experience, teachers are well-trained to make and grade their own final exams. Students strongly prefer taking exams in their own classrooms, not computer labs. What learning takes place if students and teachers can’t see the results? Why use computers if you can’t get the results back quickly?

I can’t understand why the Legislature quit trusting teachers to do their jobs. Are we ever going to return to sanity and get the state and giant corporations out of the business of testing our students to death?

We do not have all this time to waste. I support giving students a well-designed reading, writing and math competency test for graduation. But, PLEASE, stop micro-managing the classrooms and put an end to all of these wasteful, state-run, end-of-course exams–now.

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Melanie Humble, teacher extraordinaire, capture’s Rosanne’s Question to Parents- What do you value most?

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Futures not as bright for our 2015 graduating seniors

 My View, published in the Tallahassee Democrat, May 7, 2015

One of the best things the 1997 Florida Legislature ever did was to enact the Bright Futures Scholarship program, funded by the Florida Lottery. It has helped keep the best and brightest of our graduating seniors in Florida.

It has also been a tremendous incentive for high school students to take the most difficult classes, do community service and keep their grades up. If you’ve ever had a teenager in your house or in your classroom, you know that you need every positive incentive you can get!

This scholarship program has made it possible for thousands of students to go to college, many of whom thought it was out of their reach. Talk about a great investment in Florida’s future.

I shook my head as I read James Hand-DeMaria’s letter to the editor decrying his — and others’ — lost chance at a Bright Future’s scholarship, because of his SAT score. Terri Gimbel, a guidance counselor in Leon County Schools for 29 years, told me that it is devastating to have to tell many of her students that despite their high grade point averages and community service, their test scores are no longer good enough to qualify.

What happened? Until 2007, Florida paid 100 percent of tuition, books and fees for the highest Academic Scholars award and 75 percent of tuition for the Medallion and Gold Seal (vocational) scholarships. It worked so well that the program went from awarding 43,000 scholarships in 1998 to 179,000 at its peak in 2011.

The cost went from $70 million to $423 million. To cut costs, the Legislature began paying for fewer classes, eliminated paying for books and fees, and decreased the award to approximately half of what it used to cover for our top students.

To cut costs even more, the 2011 Legislature quietly and significantly raised the SAT/ACT passing scores. Along with James, 25,000 fewer students received an award last year than in 2011.

For Academic Scholars, the SAT/ACT qualifying scores were raised slightly. But for the Medallion Scholarship, the Legislature increased the SAT qualifying score almost 200 points, from 980 to 1170. The ACT required score leaped from 21 to 26. These arehuge increases for students who typically don’t do as well on these tests, but formerly would have qualified for the Medallion or Gold Seal awards.

Perhaps the Florida Legislature should take note of the abundant research that is showing college success is not primarily a function of one’s SAT or ACT score. In fact, recent studies show that students who had low or modest test scores, but good high-school grades, did better in college than those with good scores but modest grades. This makes sense. The discipline and studying habits of students who get good grades in high school follow them into college.

When the Legislature reconvenes it should take a hard look at SB 1546, by Senator Flores and HB 1275, by Representative Nunez. Their bills provide a reasonable solution and are supported by research.

Let’s not dim our children’s futures. If money is that tight, they could consider giving the awards on a sliding scale, based on family income. With Florida’s $77 billion budget, how can we afford not to invest in our most precious resources — our kids!

Rosanne Wood is a retired Leon County Schools principal. Contact her at rosannewood@gmail.com.

http://www.tallahassee.com/story/opinion/2015/05/07/futures-bright-graduating-seniors/70959252/

Learning Disrupted and Florida Testing Canceled Due to Server Crashes

Thousands of students missed instruction today and are sitting in 3-hour home rooms. Why? because every time large groups have to test, classes have to be canceled.

Due to state-wide server crashes, once again all schools in Florida are being disrupted and more instructional time is going down the drain. Yet, students and schools are STILL being held accountable for results on these ill-planned, unreliable, high-stakes tests! Complain to the governor and Legislature now! Don’t make our kids pay for the state’s ineptitude!student_asleep-620x412

Read a full summary on current legislation here.

Listen to the Parents–High-Stakes Common Core (FSA) Testing is Killing the Love of Learning! As a Matter of Principle-OPT-OUT

common core opt-outMarch 5, 2015

Jackie Pons, Superintendent
Leon County Schools

Dear Superintendent Pons,

As parents, we are supporting our fourth grader in opting out of testing associated with the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). We love the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), and our son’s fourth grade teacher is wonderful, but the focus on the FSA is having a detrimental impact on our child’s love of learning. During the summer between second and third grade, he came to me crying one day because he missed school. He is one of those children who took to school easily, was eager to please his teachers, loved all his subjects, and did well on tests. Now, he gets depressed every Sunday afternoon because school is looming before him. We believe this is because the classroom has become focused on the requirements of the FSA and that he and the rest of the children are being pushed unnecessarily and beyond what they are capable of as a result.

We are not wholly opposed to the Common Core. We want our son to work hard, practice skills that are complex, and be exposed to a wide range of subjects and opinions. What we are opposed to is the hyper focus on testing; weakening teachers’ autonomy in the classroom and tying measures of their performance to testing; using our children to make huge profits for testing companies; and creating circumstances where teachers have to spend too much class time drilling children to perform on tests that are ill-conceived and developmentally inappropriate.

Inspiring children to love learning is a sacred duty of parents, teachers and schools. Homework time used to be fun in our house for everyone. It was a special time for us as parents to be really engaged in what our son was learning at school. Sometimes it was challenging, but we could help him and watch him take on that challenge. Now, homework is deeply frustrating for all of us. We all dread it. Sometimes, as parents who’ve had success with tests like the GRE and LSAT, we don’t understand what the test preparation assignments are asking. Parents talk, and we know this is true throughout our neighborhood, and we believe Florida’s focus on the FSA is responsible.

Now, we are helping our son learn how to take a stand when something is wrong. The FSA is unacceptable, and we are supporting him to refuse to take tests associated with it. All three of us prefer to follow the rules, so we don’t take this step lightly or comfortably, but because we believe it is the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Terri Poore,

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