Florida’s High School Graduation Rates – a Shocking Report

For the first time ever, new data details just how many students by race are not graduating high school in each state. The data, released by the US Department of Education, measures how many ninth graders graduate with a standard diploma within four years.

The 2010-2011 results indicate that affirmative action may be a failure.

As Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life state, “The practice of affirmative action has been a classic example of the ‘everything not forbidden is compulsory’ mentality, as the idea of forbidding people to discriminate by race mutated into the idea of compelling everyone to help produce equal outcomes by race.” Herrnstein and Murray noted, “It is a mark of how far things have gone that many people no longer can see the distinction between ‘not interfering’ and ‘treating the same’.”

Have we reached that point where the data shows that efforts to interject fairness into our education system have failed?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed. Ultimately these data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career.”

The School Year 2010-11 Four-Year Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates for Florida are:

All Students – 71%
American Indian/Alaska Native or Native American – 70%
Asian/Pacific Islander – 86%
Black (not Hispanic) or African American – 59%
Hispanic/Latino – 69%
White (not Hispanic) or Caucasian – 76%
Children with disabilities (IDEA) – 44%
Limited English proficient (LEP) Students – 53%
Economically Disadvantaged Students – 60%
Asian – 86%

What does this data tell us? Nothing new really.

Asian and white students graduate at a higher rate than blacks and Hispanic/Latinos. Economically disadvantaged students do one percentage point better than black students. The District of Columbia has the worst graduation rate in the nation at 59%, while Iowa has the highest at 88%.

According to Take Part, “Despite the District of Columbia State Board of Education being only 1.4 miles (a walk through the capital building) from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s office, Washington, D.C. ranked dead last in national graduation rates at 59 percent. D.C. boasts the largest disparity in the country between white students and minority students who graduated during the 2010-2011 school year. Eighty-five percent of white students graduated, while only 55 percent of Latinos and 58 percent of black students earned their diploma. Iowa graduated 88 percent of students. Every major racial and ethnic group had a graduation rate over 73 percent.”

While Secretary Duncan points out this data is a snap shot, it is revealing in that it tells us what we are doing in public education is not working.

Graduating from high school is a key indicator of future success, even more so than a college degree. Studies show that states have been lowering standards for graduation. States and the federal government have poured more money into education than any other industrialized nation. Yet public schools are not graduating our young. Millions of our youth are without a high school diploma, even one that is watered down to the point of becoming meaningless.

With nearly 7000 students dropping out each day, a study from the Alliance for Excellent Education predicts that 12 million students will drop out in the next decade.

Herrnstein and Murray found, “As of the end of the twentieth century, the United States is run by rules that are congenial to people with high IQs and that make life difficult for everyone else … The systems have been created, bit by bit, over decades, by people who think that complicated, sophisticated operationalizations of fairness, justice, and right and wrong are ethically superior to simple black and white versions.”

The data is black and white. Will we continue as a nation to force the Utopian ideal of equal outcomes on the education system, or not? Are equal outcomes achievable? Is doing the same thing getting different results? These are the questions.

Herrnstein and Murray suggest as their first policy prescription: A wide range of social functions should be restored to the neighborhoods when possible and otherwise to the municipality. Perhaps it is time to get back to neighborhood schools?

How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions?

The debate over whether teachers unions help or halt education reform has caused much controversy among educators, parents, and communities as a whole. Critics are up in arms over the alleged hold unions have on education policy—specifically regarding how difficult it is to fire an ineffective tenured teacher. Proponents of the unions argue that they protect teachers’ rights, support professionalism, and aren’t against reform.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute took an in-depth look at the role unions play in each state. The study ranks teacher unions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on resources and membership, involvement in politics, scope of bargaining, state policies, and perceived influence.

The five strongest are: 1. Hawaii, 2. Oregon, 3. Montana, 4. Pennsylvania and 5. Rhode Island. The five weakest are: 1. Arizona, 2. Florida, 3. South Carolina, 4. Arkansas and 5. Virginia.

Click here for the full state-by-state report.

This timely study represents the most comprehensive analysis of American teacher unions’ strength ever conducted, ranking all fifty states and the District of Columbia according to the power and influence of their state-level unions. To assess union strength, the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now examined thirty-seven different variables across five realms (see below map):

Click on map for larger view

The study analyzed factors ranging from union membership and revenue to state bargaining laws to campaign contributions, and included such measures as the alignment between specific state policies and traditional union interests and a unique stakeholder survey. The report sorts the fifty-one jurisdictions into five tiers, ranking their teacher unions from strongest to weakest and providing in-depth profiles of each.

Broward Schools consider observing Muslim Holidays

Today, November 1, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. the Broward County Public School Diversity Committee will take up a request for schools to be closed on Eid, a Muslim holiday. The Council on American Islamic Relations -Florida (CAIR) will be at the meeting presenting a proposal for Broward County School System closure on Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.

The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report states, “Broward County public schools are being asked to close for two Islamic holidays a year under a controversial proposal before the district’s Diversity Committee. The request, from the Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, would make Broward the first in Florida and one of only a few districts in the country to add Muslim holidays into its calendar.” [Emphasis mine]

Speakers from both sides of this issue will be present to comment on this request. Pensacola  Florida based ACT for America has sent out an alert asking its members to contact to Broward County School Board. CAIR in an email states, “We ask parents of all Muslim Students attending Broward County Public Schools K-12 to be present at the meeting on Thursday November 1st at 6:30 pm. Your presence at this meeting will show unity and support for the proposal in requesting school closure for these two Muslim holidays. The larger our presence the more impact it will have!”

The fundamental question is: Are Muslims required to celebrate typical American holidays?

Muslim American Sheikh Ahmad Musa Jibril in his column Celebrating The Holidays of The Infidels goes into great detail to show how Muslims must not celebrate the holidays of infidels lest they become like them.

Jibril concludes after his lengthy analysis of the Qur’an:

[I]t is clear to anyone who has a heart and understanding that it is prohibited to celebrate the holidays of the kuffar [non-Muslim]. Whether this be by participating with in them in any way, greeting them, mingling with them on their holidays, entering the places where their parties are taking place, or any symbolic move, action or gesture that would appear symbolic or sympathetic for their holiday.

We should not purchase gifts for parents on fathers or mothers day, rather every day of a Muslims life is fathers and mothers days.

We should not celebrate birthdays because those better than us did not do so, and its origin was by the kuffar.

We should not decorate for their holidays as they do on Christmas, nor should we wear like them as they do on Halloween, nor should we eat as they do on Thanksgiving.

We should not eat Turkey and say our intention was otherwise; there are 364 days in the year for you to enjoy your Turkey, to choose that day specifically is symbolically participating in their holidays.

The same applies to those who decorate their homes with Christmas trees or seasonal lights during Christmas season, then claim their intention was otherwise.

If we do not wake up and take a stand, we will wake up one day before a hopeless generation that knows Islam only by its name. This is because celebrating and enjoining in the holidays of the infidels is a cancerous tumor in the core of the Islamic belief that will spread and will not stop until it devastates us and causes us to loose our identity and dignity. Worst of all, it will subject us to the curse and wrath of Allah.

Jibril writes, “[T]he Jews, Christians, and their likes were in the Muslim lands, and that they celebrated their holidays there. Not once was it recorded that the Muslims joined them in their celebrations, or even greeted them for their holidays. Had it not been for a strong command from the prophet (Sallah Allahu Alayhi Wasalam) that we not enjoin them in their holidays, we would have heard many situations in which the prophet (Sallah Allahu Alayhi Wasalam)’s companions and their followers did so.”

Watchdog Wire will report on the outcome of the Broward County Public School Diversity Committee meeting.

Do we really need to hire more teachers and adminstrators?

The candidates for President have different strategies for dealing with education and visions of the role of  the federal government in public schools. President Obama has stated that he wants the federal government to hire more math and science teachers. Governor Romney says the decision on hiring teachers is best made at the state and local levels. Who is right? A new study sheds light on the hiring of teachers and administrators since 1992.

The findings show states have consistently hired more teachers and administrators, far outpacing the growth in student population.

According to Dr. Benjamin Scafidi’s November 2012 study The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools“Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent. During that same period, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew by 386 percent. Of those personnel, the number of teachers increased by 252 percent, while the ranks of administrators and other staff grew by 702 percent—more than 7 times the increase in students.”

America has more teachers than ever in the classroom and more administrators overseeing them.

Dr. Scafidi’s research found, “[I]f student growth had matched that of non-teaching personnel from 1992 to 2009 and if the teaching force had only grown 1.5 times faster than the pupil enrollment, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year—the equivalent of an $11,700 a year increase in salary for every American public school teacher.”

According to the study from 1992 to 2009 Florida had an increase in student population of 33% with total school personnel increasing by 55%. From 1992 to 2009 teachers increased by 70% and administrators and other staff increased by 41%. 

In 2002, Floridians approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution that set limits on the number of students in core classes (Math, English, Science, etc.) in the state’s public schools. The class size amendment took effect in the 2010-2011 school year. It appears this amendment was ill advised as the number of teachers to pupils doubled despite the amendment.

The costs to meet Florida’s class size Constitutional mandates are negatively impacting overall education funding at the district level.

Dr. Scafidi states:

However, parents, other citizens, and policymakers may want to cast a wider net in looking for opportunities to improve the education offered to students. In contrast to the static student achievement in public schools (despite massive increases in taxpayer funding), school choice programs have a good track record. All forms of enhanced school choice tried in the U.S. have led to an improvement in academic outcomes—in just one case was there no effect—for those who remain in public schools. The most recent empirical study on that topic, by Figlio and Hart (2010),33 shows ‘evidence that public schools subject to more competitive pressure from private schools raised their test scores the most following the introduction of Florida’s program.’ They found that the greater the competition for Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program, the larger the benefits to Florida public school students. [Emphasis mine]

Florida has been a national leader in providing parents with school choice options.

According the the Department of Education website, “Florida’s A+ Education Plan was the impetus for policies and programs that thrust Florida into the spotlight as a national leader in providing parents and students with a wide array of school choice options directed to meet individual learning needs and styles.” Among these choices is charter schools.

According to the Florida DOE, “Charter schools are public schools of choice. They are very popular—and among the fastest growing school choice options in Florida. Charter schools are largely free to innovate, and often provide more effective programs and choice to diverse groups of students. Since 1996, the number of charter schools in Florida has grown to over 400 in 2010. Charter school student enrollment has grown well over 175,000 students.” For statistics on Florida charter schools click here.

Offering school choice options, particularly opening charter schools, remains in the hands of local school boards.

Sarasota County, Florida has been a leader in providing charter school options for public school students. The numbers of students enrolled in Sarasota County charter schools has gone from 1,807 in 2004-2005 to 5,728 in 2012-2013, an increase of 300%. At the same time the number of teachers, administrators and support personnel have all declined. Sarasota County is doing more with less, yet remains one of the top districts in Florida on FCAT scores.

The ratio of growth in teachers and administrators nation wide continues to outpace student growth. Florida is no exception but has experienced less of it compared to other states such as Hawaii and Ohio.  According to Table 2 – Comparing the Increase of Students to the Increase in Public School Employment, FY 1992 to FY 2009, Delaware, Florida and California are tied for third lowest with a ratio of growth of  1.5.

The demand by parents for charter schools is increasing. Does this study show that teacher quantity is not a factor but teacher quality is?

Educators Set Student Goals By Race?

The Florida Board of Education has a history of lowering educational standards and has now come under-fire for doing so based upon a student’s race. CBS Tampa reports, “The Florida State Board of Education passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race.”

“On Tuesday [October 9, 2012], the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post,” states CBS Tampa.

This decision has raised eyebrows, some calling it racist. But is it racism or reality? Is lowering goals the right way to deal with student achievement in reading and math?

This issue is not new, rather it has been swept under the rug since 1994. Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray in their seminal book on cognitive ability The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life state, “The question is how to redistribute in ways that increase the chances for people at the bottom of society to take control of their lives, to be engaged meaningfully in their communities, and to find valued places for themselves.”

Herrnstein and Murray found, “Ethnic differences in higher education, occupations, and wages are strikingly diminished after controlling for IQ. Often they vanish. In this sense, America has equalized these central indicators of social success.”

Herrnstein and Murray asked, “What are the odds that a black or Latino with an IQ of 103 – the average IQ of all high school graduates – completed high school? The answer is that a youngster from either minority group had a higher probability of graduating from high school than a white, if all of them had IQs of 103: The odds were 93 percent and 91 percent for blacks and Latinos respectively, compared to 89 percent for whites.”

The key factor in setting goals is IQ. Is it time for Florida to lead the way and reintroduce IQ testing for all students?

Herrnstein and Murray concluded:

  • We have tried to point out that a small segment of the population accounts for such a large proportion of those [social] problems. To the extent that the [social] problems of this small segment are susceptible to social-engineering solutions at all, should be highly targeted.
  • The vast majority of Americans can run their own lives just fine, and [public] policy should above all be constructed so that it permits them to do so.
  • Much of the policy toward the disadvantaged starts from the premise that interventions can make up for genetic or environmental disadvantages, and that premise is overly optimistic.
  • Cognitive ability, so desperately denied for so long, can best be handled – can only be handled – by a return to individualism.
  • Cognitive partitioning will continue. It cannot be stopped, because the forces driving it cannot be stopped.
  • Americans can choose to preserve a society in which every citizen has access to the central satisfactions of life. Its people can, through an interweaving of choice and responsibility, create valued places for themselves in their worlds.

Herrnstein and Murray found, “Inequality of endowments, including intelligence, is a reality.”

“Trying to pretend that inequality does not really exist has led to disaster. Trying to eradicate inequality with artificially manufactured outcomes has led to disaster. It is time for America once again to try living with inequality, as life is lived: understanding that each human being has strengths and weaknesses, qualities to admire and qualities we do not admire, competencies and in-competencies,  assets and debits; that the success of each human life is not measured externally but internally; that of all the rewards we can confer on each other, the most precious is a place as a valued fellow citizen,” found Herrnstein and Murray.

Finally, Herrnstein and Murray wrote, “Of all the uncomfortable topics we have explored, a pair of the most uncomfortable ones are that a society with a higher mean IQ is also likely to be a society with fewer social ills and brighter economic prospects, and that the most effective way to raise the IQ of a society is for smarter women to have higher birth rates than duller women.” Shocking words in 1994 and indeed even more so today. Is it time to have a national public debate on cognitive abilities?

RELATED COLUMNS:

Does Florida Really Want a Strong Commissioner of Education?

Watchdog Wire Education Archives

Florida Public School Teacher Exposed by Students

Parents are becoming more aware of the quality of the teaching their children receive in Florida’s public schools. Additionally, there are a number of websites that allow students to candidly rate their teachers. Among them is RateMyTeachers.com.

Pine View School in Sarasota County, Florida is unique and its students are considered gifted. Principal Steve Largo writes on the school official website, “The only public school of its kind in the State of Florida and one of only several throughout the country, Pine View takes its ‘tradition of excellence’ very seriously.” [My emphasis]

One of the faculty members at Pine View is science teacher David Yotsuda.

Yotsuda holds a Bachelors Degree in English as a Second Language (ESOL) and English from Hawaii Pacific University, yet he is teaching advanced placement science courses. President Obama stated during the first Presidential Debate that he wanted to add 100,000 science and math teachers. Perhaps the Sarasota County School Board should first determine if they have teachers with science and math degrees teaching science and math, starting with Pine View?

Students continue to question what is happening in Yotsuda’s science classroom.

“Yotsuda recently showed Al Gore’s film ‘Inconvenient Truth’ with the purpose of analyzing ‘how politics impacts science’,” according to Principal Largo. The film was part of an advanced placement environmental studies course taught by Yotsuda. Several parents questioned why a film that has been proven in court to be misleading and is based upon a theory of global warming that has been discredited is still being shown in public schools.

Parents point to what former students have said about Yotsuda and his penchant to wander off topic in the classroom.

In 2009 one student wrote on Yotsuda’s RateMyTeachers.com page, “I was looking forward to actually learning something in his class, but was in for great disappointment. Horrible teacher in my opinion. Does everything but teach. He skips important chapters that are crucial for our advance into the next years. Instead of teaching he shows us movies that are irrelevant to want we have been learning. His subject isn’t even SCIENCE, he used to be a language arts teacher. He doesn’t know the answers to simple science questions and must check the book for the answer.” [My emphasis]

Several former Yotsuda student’s comments include:

“Spends too much time on tangents  Some examples: Disney, Hawaii, male roommate, Disney, Tickle me Elmo Extreme, Season Passes to Disney, Volunteering at Disney, Marathon, Solar cars, Disney, Hawaii …

“Obsessed with Disney, his male roommate TOMMY, who likes to play with solar cars and Advil  and Hawaii. FYI guys, my roommate just broke the solar car while playing with it at the Hawaii version of Disney …

“Obsessed with Disney. He has a male ROOMMATE who he is willing to call his ROOMMATE instead of his housemate. Also rants about how overpriced Tickle me Elmo extreme costs.”

Other students posted positive comments such as, “Mr. Y was a pretty cool guy, but he gets off topic very easily, and every assignment was so simple. I had a 98 all year. Don’t talk in class or he’ll say you have diarrhea of the mouth … Pretty awesome teacher, if you pay attention he actually covers a lot in class, even if it is indirectly … Two years purposefully. I’ll always remember him, he’s excellent and our study guide once for a final, WAS the final. It was amazing. Oh, and be prepared for stories and a lot of “FYI GUYS~!”

Yotsuda leads the Pine View sustainability program. He is listed as the faculty point of contact for the Pine View Welcome to Sustainability@ PV! website which states, “We, at Pine View School, believe that educational growth and the well-being of society are inextricably tied to the health of the environment. Accordingly, we embrace our responsibility for environmental stewardship and are committed to integrating leading environmental practices and sustainability principles into our learning, teaching strategies and extra- curricular activities.” Yotsuda was behind the Sustainability@PV logo contest.

For a high caliber school such as Pine View it is both fitting and proper for students and parents to judge the quality of faculty members. It appears Yotsuda has no degree in science but is teaching it at Pine View. His students may be the best judge of his classroom performance.

Currently there is no Department of Education procedure for students to candidly rate their teachers and have those ratings posted online. Perhaps it is time to create such a website?

NOTE: The featured photo used is courtesy of Justin Lebar.

REPORT: Child Obesity Caused by Single Parent Households

In 2010 Michele Obama made it her mission to address the “child obesity epidemic”. The goal of Mrs. Obama is to reduce child obesity from the current 20% of all children to 5% by 2030. WebMD reports, “To accomplish this, the plan makes 70 recommendations for early childhood, for parents and caregivers, for school meals and nutrition education, for access to healthy food, and for increasing physical activity.”

According to WebMD, “Obesity is an excess proportion of total body fat. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight. The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI.”

“U.S. kids haven’t always been obese. Only one in 20 children ages 2 to 19 was obese in the 1970s. But around 1980 child obesity began to rocket to today’s stratospheric level: Nearly one in three kids is overweight or obese, and nearly one in five is frankly obese,” notes WebMD.

What is the cause of this stratospheric increase in child obesity? ANSWER: Single parent households.

In July 2010 the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reported, “Prevalence of childhood obesity and its complications have increased world-wide. Parental status may be associated with children’s health outcomes including their eating habits, body weight and blood cholesterol.” [My emphasis]

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the years 1988–1994 provided a unique opportunity for matching parents to children enabling analyses of joint demographics, racial differences and health indicators. Specifically, the NHANES III data, 1988–1994, of 219 households with single-parents and 780 dual-parent households were analyzed as predictors for primary outcome variables of children’s Body Mass Index (BMI), dietary nutrient intakes and blood cholesterol.

The NHANES survey found:

  • Children of single-parent households were significantly more overweight than children of dual-parent households.
  • Total calorie and saturated fatty acid intakes were higher among children of single-parent households than dual-parent households.
  • On average, Black children were more overweight than children of other races.

The study results implied a strong relationship between single-parent status and excess weight in children. The NHANES survey states, “Parental involvement in the development of school- and community-based obesity prevention programs are suggested for effective health initiatives. Economic constraints and cultural preferences may be communicated directly by family involvement in these much needed public health programs.”

Mark Mather from the Population Reference Bureau reports, “In the United States, the number of children in single-mother families has risen dramatically over the past four decades, causing considerable concern among policymakers and the public. Researchers have identified the rise in single-parent families (especially mother-child families) as a major factor driving the long-term increase in child poverty in the United States.” To read the full report click here.

Data from the Sarasota County School Board shows that since President Obama took office the number of children who are classified as obese is Sarasota public schools has risen as the children progress from Grade 1 – to Grade 3 – to Grade 6. The cohort obesity numbers go down at Grade 9. For example, 15.7% of students in Grade 1 in the 2008/2009 school year were obese. In 2011/2012 school year 18.8% of students in Grade 3 were obese. An increase of 3.1% of students in grade during school year 2008/2009 18.8% were obese. In Grade 6 that cohort increased to 20.1%. The Grade 6 cohort in 2008/2009 data was 21.5% and in 2011/12 dropped to 17.6%.

Public schools do not keep data on obese children who live in single parent households. 

Many are questioning whether the First Lady is addressing the root cause of child obesity – single parent households. Some see this health initiative as expanding government control of parents and children. Setting caloric standards is the first step in setting eating limits. Limits lead to control of food sources, leading to the redistribution of calories. Should not we be focused on the rising number of single parent households?

Perhaps it would be better for the First Lady to focus on increasing the number of traditional two parent families? After all, she has a traditional family and her husband and children all have normal weights according to the BMI calculator.

JUST FOR FUN:

As an aside, Watchdog Wire looked at some well known public figures and calculated their BMI scores.

Using the BMI calculator we determined that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, who is 6′ 3″ tall and weights 236 pounds, is overweight. If Tebow gains 5 pounds he will be categorized as “Obese Class 1”. In fact the entire New York Jets offensive and defensive lines are obese.

Muscle Chemistry lists the height and weight of actors. Those in Hollywood who are overweight according to the BMI calculator include: Whoppi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Sylvester Stallone is rated as Obese Class 1.

American Public School Students Going Hungry?

The Huffington Post column “Michelle Obama’s Low-Calorie School Lunches Slammed By ‘Hungry’ High Schoolers” reports, “Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative has been the subject of conservative criticism for some time, and now there’s another group joining in on the attack.”

The group that HuffPo is referring to are public school students, whose video titled “We Are Hungry” [watch below] about school lunches has gone viral.

The video beings with the statement – Active teens require between 2,000 and 5,000 calories a day to meet energy and growth needs (“A Guide to Eating for Sports“).

According to Beverly L. Girard, PhD, MBA, RD, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Sarasota County Florida Schools, “President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act on June 4, 1946. Though school food service began long before 1946, the Act authorized the National School Lunch Program. The legislation came in response to claims that many American men had been rejected for World War II military service because of diet-related health problems [recruits were undernourished]. The federally assisted meal program was established as ‘a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities’.”

Upon signing the National School Lunch Program legislation President Truman stated, “Despite our capacity to produce food we have often failed to distribute it as well as we should … Congress has contributed immeasurably both to the welfare of our farmers and the health of our children.”

Have we met, if not surpassed, the initial legislative intent of Congress? Do we need government to be concerned about those volunteering for our military services having diet-related health problems? Do we need to be concerned about the redistribution of food given our nation wide system of grocery store chains? Is government the best determiner of a child’s eating habits? Do taxpayers need to provide welfare for farmers?

Many citizens are questioning governments expanding role in the free and reduced lunch program as amended by the Health and Hunger-Free Act of 2010. The new guidelines — the first major overhaul of school meals in 15 years — mandate public school cafeterias serve less fat and sodium and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Taxpayers are also questioning the growing number of students on free and reduced lunches. Sarasota County, one of the wealthiest counties in Florida, has 50.37% of students in the district currently eligible for free or reduced price meals according to Dr. Girard.

Dr. Girard notes, “The determining body for the revised USDA meal pattern was the Institute of Medicine, chaired by Virginia Stallings, MD, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania.” Why does one institution have such power in determining what and how much children should eat?

The lunch caloric ranges for students are: elementary students – 550-650 calories; middle school students – 600 to 700 calories and high school students – 750 to 850 calories. Dr. Girard states, “If a child eats lunch at school for the 180 days of the school year, they receive about 16.4% of the meals they eat in a year at school. Sarasota school lunches represent adequate portion size and nutritional balance.”

Michelle Obama is concerned about obesity in America. It appears that the free and reduced lunch program’s initial intent to address the diet-related health problems of our draftees is no longer needed. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the need for this federal program?

If obesity is a problem then is there an over redistribution of food in America?

Is this the the American version of Hunger Games?

In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.” ― Leon Trotsky.

Leon Trotsky was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist. He was one of the leaders of the Russian October Revolution in 1917, second only to Vladimir Lenin. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army and People’s Commissar of War. He was also among the first members of the Politburo.

RELATED VIDEO:  “We Are Hungry” done by students from Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs,Kansas.

Teacher Takes Students to Terrorist Linked Mosque But Not To A Church

According to Scott Ferguson, Communications Specialist for the Sarasota County School Board, about 90 students from Riverview High School took a field trip to three houses of worship on Thursday, September 20, 2012. One was left off the list – a church.

The teacher who organized the field trip was Riverview High School Social Studies teacher Stephanie Simmons. Ferguson notes, “As always, parental permission was required for any students who attended.” According to Ferguson a fourth house of worship, the Taoist Tai Chi Society, listed on the permission form was not visited due to time constraints.

The public high school students visited Temple Emanuel, Kadampa Meditation Center (Buddhist) and Mosque Salaat.

Ferguson states, “The purpose of the field trip was to provide information about these religions to students in order to promote knowledge and understanding. Ms. Simmons felt that the students already were familiar with the teachings of Christianity so they would have a basis for comparison with the tenets of Judaism, Buddhism and Islam.” [My emphasis]

Bill Warner, a private investigator, reported in October 2009 that Muneer Kazem Arafat, a member of the Islamic Society of Sarasota/Bradenton (ISSB) raised funds for suicide bomber’s families. Mosque Salaat was being built at the time by ISSB. Warner reports, “Imam Muneer Arafat’s former mosque in Sarasota raised money for martyrs families – hosted terrorists Sami Al Arian, Mazen Al Najjar and Hussam Jubara.  Muneer Arafat, revealed in court that he declined Sami Al Arian’s invitation to join Palestinian Islamic Jihad because he was a member of a different group!”

Sarasota Imam Muneer Arafat

According to Warner, “Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton (ISSB) featured repeated guest appearances by Al-Arian terrorist colleagues Mazen Al-Najjar and Hussam Jubara. Al-Najjar, who was a Director of IAF, was deported from the United States in August of 2002.” Joe Kaufman, Chairman of Americans Against Hate, stated, “Given the fact that Al-Arian’s colleagues were heavily involved with ISSB, and given the fact that ISSB was raising money for the families of martyrs, it is imperative that law enforcement focus much of its efforts on ISSB.”

“The Department of Justice, on Saturday, November 24th, 2001, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) arrested Mazen Al Najjar, in Tampa, Florida. The arrest is based on a final order of deportation recently upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, Georgia. Mazen Al Najjar was ordered deported because he violated his visa. Mazen Al Najjar,” reports Warner.

Ms. Simmons reported that at Mosque Salaat a woman did most of the presentation to students. She showed slides of the architecture used in mosques and photos of mosques around the world. She pointed out several features of the mosque in Sarasota, including the dome, balcony, purification rooms, carpet and courtyard. The presenters talked about how the mosque was received by neighbors and the community and showed the students Arabic writing and the calligraphy used in artwork around the mosque.

Florida Ranks 2nd On Parent Power Index

The Center for Education reform has released its Parent Power Index. According to its website, “PARENT POWER means parents have access to quality educational options and are provided with good information to make smart decisions about their children’s education. The PARENT POWER INDEX gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether their state affords them power – and if not, what they can do to get it. ”

The top ten states are:

INDIANA: #1 Overall PPI: 84.0%
FLORIDA: #2 Overall PPI: 83.0%
OHIO: #3 Overall PPI: 79.0%
ARIZONA: #4 Overall PPI: 78.0%
D.C.: #5 Overall PPI: 77.0%
LOUISIANA: #6 Overall PPI: 76.0%
PENNSYLVANIA: #7 Overall PPI: 75.5%
UTAH: #8 Overall PPI: 75.0%
MINNESOTA: #9 Overall PPI: 74.5%
WISCONSIN: #10 Overall PPI: 70%

To see how your state ranks on the Parent Power Index click here.

According to the Center for Education reform, “Florida ranks consistently in the top ten for its charter laws. Florida also has been a leader in providing educational options for children with broad school choice programs. More than 22,000 children with special needs use private schools. Another 38,000 receive tax credits. Parents will find state websites easy to navigate to learn about their schools and the options available to them. Florida also is the top scorer on Digital Learning Now’s index for online learning opportunities. While there is no parent trigger available and much work still to be done, Florida ranks high in affording parents power.”

“Florida is leading the nation in transforming education for the digital age. Florida leads the nation in online course enrollments, with more than 250,000 course enrollments last year. Florida can improve by adding digital enrollments to its data collection, exploring innovative ways to provide students with Internet access devices, and creating a statewide website to provide a one-stop-shop for digital learning,” reports the Center for Education Reform.

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR EDUCATION REFORM:

In the emerging landscape of education reform, the Center for Education Reform is the leading voice for structural and sustainable changes that can dramatically improve educational opportunities for decades to come. Our guiding purpose is to improve the accuracy and quality of discourse and decisions about education reform, leading to fundamental policy changes that make a difference long after news and election cycles have ended.

As part of our core mission, the Center works on three primary fronts:

  • Generating and sharing leading ideas and information
  • Supporting and enabling grassroots activism
  • Protecting and stimulating media coverage and issue accuracy

“Vote for Obama” Pledge Prof. Under Investigation

Professor Sharon Sweet is being investigated after dozens of complaints were received by Brevard Community College. Complaints allege that Professor Sweet required students in her mathematics classes to sign the below pledge to “Vote for President Obama”. According to College officials an investigation has been initiated and all of Professor Sweet’s students will be interviewed. There are over one hundred students in Professor Sweet’s mathematics classes. Professor Sweet has been removed from the classroom and all teaching and campus duties.

The in depth investigation will be conducted by senior college staff according to John J. Glisch, Associate Vice President, Communication. As of this date no other Brevard Community College professors have been implicated according to Glisch. The investigation is expected to take time due to the large number of interviews needed.

According to RateMyProfessors.com Professor Sweet is rated overall poorly by students. Some student comments on the RateMyProfessors.com website include:

6/1/12 Class:MAC1105 – Had to use the math lab A LOT because I couldn’t understand her. Lets you correct problems on your test and gives half your points back BUT she counts the final twice – counts as the final AND replace your lowest test score. My lowest test was an 87. I got a 60 on the final (accumulative, HARD) and she STILL replaced it! Many students failed 🙁

12/11/11 Class: MAT1233 – She is an aweful person. Told the class no excuses you miss a test its an F. My sister passed away, I got an F, for attending her funeral. Sad Sad Lady. She doesn’t explain and doesn’t help.

8/2/10 Class: MAT 1132 – Sharon was awful she wouldnt even help her students get out of her class…everyone dropped her class after the first test, then you would think shed cut everyone who stayed a break..that witch still ended up failing the ones who stayed.

11/15/-9 Class: MATHLA – This is my second time taking Sweet, i still think shes a great teacher. extra credit, test corrections so even if you get a 50 you still have the chance to make it a 75. Also all homework due on test day, review before test. i dont understand why no one likes her. even if you not good at math she deff. give you the chance to get an A! TAKE HER!

Brevard Community College released the following statement:

Brevard Community College has received complaints alleging politically-based inappropriate behavior on the part of Associate Professor Sharon Sweet, an instructor of mathematics.

The allegations center on her soliciting support in her classes for President Obama in the upcoming election.

College officials learned of the allegations Thursday afternoon, Sept. 13, following a call from a concerned parent and immediately began an investigation.

The College has specific policies that address the political activities of faculty and staff, which state that no College employee shall solicit support for a political candidate during regular College work hours or on College property.

Based on the allegations, Associate Professor Sweet has requested, and been granted, a leave of absence without pay effective immediately.

The College will continue its investigation into the matter, which will include interviews with students in her classes.

Additionally, the College is taking steps to reiterate its policy on political activity to all faculty and staff.

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Professor makes class sign “Vote for Obama” pledge

A citizen, whose nephew attends Brevard Community College, reports that he brought home the below bookmark pledging to vote for President Obama. The bookmark and pledge was handed out during a mathematics class taught by Assistant Professor Sharon Sweet. This occurred “while the student was in class at the request of his College Algebra teacher, Sharon Sweet, from Brevard Community College in [Melbourne] Florida.”

On the tear away GOTTAVOTE.org pledge form that students recieved, was the requirement to “state their party affiliation”. The student reported that Sweet has repeatedly stated her personal political views in support of President Obama in class. The student noted, “There is an older gentleman in the class that will argue with her but he said most of the students did not.”

Actress and Singer Tatyana Ali supporting GOTTA VOTE

GOTTAVOTE.org is a site paid for by the Obama-Biden campaign to urge Floridians to register and vote. The website is targeted at young voters.

It appears Sweet may have violated the College’s harassment policy by handing out the GOTTA VOTE pledge. The Brevard Community College policy on harassment states:

Definition of Harassment

Harassment is any repeated or unwelcome verbal or physical abuse which intimidates or causes the recipient discomfort or humiliation or which interferes with the recipient’s educational or job performance. Any form of harassment related to an employee’s, applicant’s, student’s, or student applicant’s race, ethnicity, color, genetics, religion, national origin, age, gender, gender preference, physical or mental disability, marital status, veteran status, ancestry or political affiliation is a violation of this policy. [Emphasis added]

Brevard College policy states, “Any employee or student of this institution, who is found to have harassed another employee or student … will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination, suspension and or expulsion, within the provisions of applicable current College Procedures and Board rules.”

NOTE: According to the Brevard Community College staff directory, Sharon Sweet is an Assistant Professor in the Mathematics Department at the Melbourne Campus. A request for comment has been sent to Ms. Sweet and Ms. Darla Ferguson, Chief Equity & Diversity Officer for Brevard Community College.

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UPDATE:

The following was posted as a comment to this column:

Darla Ferguson forwarded your email to me. I am the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Learning Officer for the college. Thank you for referring your concern to us. The college does have specific procedures related to the political activity of faculty and staff. The expectation is that no employee of the College shall solicit support of any political candidate during regular work hours or on College property.

The college first learned of this concern on Thursday and an investigation was initiated. Any inappropriate activities will be curtailed and the faculty will be dealt with according to college policy.

Again, thank you for your concern. The college is taking appropriate actions. We do not want any student to feel coerced.

Linda Miedema, PhD, MSA, BSN

Vice President Academic Affairs

Chief Learning Officer

BCC Administrative Building, Viera

Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working

A new study titled Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working by State Budget Solutions found that, “Higher levels of funding do not ensure higher graduation rates, nor does it directly correlate to higher test scores on the ACT.” Florida’s numbers show that spending more on education has not moved the needle on student ACT scores or reduced the state’s drop out rate.

State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including a state-by-state analysis of education spending as a percentage of total state spending, and a comparison of average graduation rates and average ACT scores per state. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates.

Florida is no exception to this rule. State Budget Solutions reports, “None of the states spending the least on education (as a percentage) had the lowest average graduation rates. The same is true for ACT scores. An outlier to this general trend was Florida. In 2009, Florida spent less on education than 46 other states. In fact, Florida spent five percentage points less than the national average on education. Florida also underperformed in ACT scores, ranking third for the states with the lowest average ACT scores, but did not similarly underperform based on average graduation rates.”

Here are the Florida specific numbers provided in the study:

Percent of Florida’s Total Spending on Education:

2009 – 25%
2010 – 24.8% (NOTE: In 2010 Florida received an additional $700 million in federal RTTT funding)
2011 – 25.2%
2012 – 25.6%

Average ACT Composite Score for Florida:

2008-09 – 19.5
2009-10 – 19.5
2010-11 – 19.6

Florida Education Spending & Student Performance Data:

2009-10 Per Pupil Funding $400
2009 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 76.3%/63.6%
2010 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 79.0%/65.0%
2011 Drop Out Rate/NCES Drop Out Rate 80.1%/66.9%

NCES: National Center for Education Statistics

According to the study, “Each year, the United State spends billions of dollars on education. In 2010, total annual spending on education exceeded $809 billion dollars. Although it is unclear whether that figure is adjusted for inflation, that amount is higher than any other industrialized nation, and more than the spending of France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia combined. From 1970 to 2012, total average per pupil expenditures in the U.S. has more than doubled.”

“Despite higher levels of funding, student test scores are substantially lower in the United States than in many other nations. American students scored an average of 474 on a 600-point scale, performing only slightly better in science, with an average score of 489. By comparison, Canadian students scored an average of 527 and 534 on the same tests, and Finnish students scored 548 and 563, respectively,” notes the State Budget Committee study.

A conclusion of the study is, “As a result of centralization, states have less authority to develop state-specific metrics to accurately measure education initiatives. Localized control results in more narrowly tailored metrics and a better understanding of failure and success based on those metrics. Oversight at a local level is more practical and more effective than federal oversight.”

RELATED VIDEO: Teachers union speaks out against new film ‘Won’t Back Down

Putting Adults Before the Kids

Mark D’Alessio at the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce points out a few facts about the dismal performance of Chicago public schools:

As of 12:00 a.m. this morning, more than 26,000 teachers in Chicago officially went on a union-led strike impacting 400,000 kids in 675 schools. The first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years was brought upon the city’s children and their parents as a result of failed negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public School officials. Some topics of negotiation include teacher evaluations, guaranteed wage increases, and health benefits.

Although the details of the contract negotiations are murky, according to the Wall Street Journal, preliminary demands from the Chicago Teachers Union included a 19% salary raise in the first year. The current average teacher salary in the city of Chicago is $70,000. Additionally, the union is demanding that any members who are laid off be first in line for new jobs. This would not allow a principal the flexibility to hire the best teacher for the job, but the one that the union says is “next in line.” And finally, the union takes issue with a new teacher evaluation system which would be based partially on students’ standardized test scores.

But Tampa’s schools aren’t any better and in some cases worse than Chicago’s. Below are the Chicago, IL and Tampa, FL public schools numbers according to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Nation’s Report Card in math and reading:

Chicago, Illinois NAEP Report Card Scores:

8th grade math

  • 90% of black students are not proficient.
  • 80% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 84% of low-income students are not proficient.

8th grade reading

  • 87% of black students are not proficient.
  • 79% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 84% of low-income students are not proficient.

Tampa, Florida NAEP Report Card Scores:

8th grade math

  • 90% of black students are not proficient.
  • 77% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 83% of low-income students are not proficient.

8th grade reading 

  • 88% of black students are not proficient.
  • 76% of Hispanic students are not proficient.
  • 80% of low-income students are not proficient.

The Battle Over Florida’s Amendment 8 Begins

On November 6, 2012 Floridians will be asked to vote on eleven amendments to the state constitution. Of these amendments Amendment 8 has become the flash point with groups favoring and opposing passage digging in their heels. The war on words has become a full-fledged battle for the hearts and minds of voters.

The proposed ballot question reads:

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

The proposed measure would amend Section 3 of Article I of the Florida Constitution to read:

There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Two groups launched websites explaining Amendment 8: Say Yes on 8 and Vote No on 8.

Vote No on 8 states, “Amendment 8, the so-called ‘Religious Freedom’ Amendment, isn’t about Religious Freedom at all. Amendment 8 actually allows the government to give our tax dollars to any group claiming to be a religious organization.”

Say Yes on 8 states, “Amendment 8 preserves time-honored partnerships between government and social service organizations. Amendment 8 ensures continued delivery of social services by faith-based organizations, lowering government costs for taxpayers. Amendment 8 eliminates discrimination against churches and religious institutions that provide social services.”

Amendment 8, if passed, would take the Blaine Amendment out of the Florida Constitution. The Blaine Amendment refers to constitutional provisions that exist in 38 of the 50 state constitutions in the United States, which forbid direct government aid to educational institutions that have any religious affiliation. The Blaine Amendment was originally aimed at Catholics, most notably the Irish, who had immigrated to the U.S. and started their own parochial schools.

In 2002, the United States Supreme Court in the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris decision partially vitiated these Blaine amendments when it ruled that vouchers were constitutional if state funds followed a child to a privately chosen school, even if it were religious. For a voucher program to be constitutional it must meet all of the following criteria: the program must have a valid secular purpose; aid must go to parents and not to the schools; a broad class of beneficiaries must be covered; the program must be neutral with respect to religion; and there must be adequate nonreligious options.

Billy Atwell in an editorial for the Diocese of Venice in Florida states, “Some support the work of faith-based institutions, but disagree with these institutions accepting government money. They fear faith-based groups would become beholden to the mighty arm of government. Shouldn’t these groups be allowed to serve those in need and do what they do well? It is one thing to say faith-based groups shouldn’t accept government dollars—it is entirely different to outlaw their eligibility for these funds. The current law also flies in the face of religious freedom. Singling out capable social service providers simply because they are faith-based is fiscally unsound and, without a doubt, discrimination.”

While the arguments used by each group focus on religious freedom the real issue is control of taxpayer dollars for K-12 education.

For many it boils down to money, particularly money for K-12 schooling flowing into charter or private faith-based schools. Proponents argue that parents should decide where their child goes to school and the money allocated by the state should follow the child. That is not the case in Florida. Public education fits the definition of a monopoly. This amendment would free parents from being forced into a particular public school. School choice would be empowered if Amendment 8 passes by giving the funding for the child directly to the parent.

Florida Representative Stephen Precourt, a spokesman for the Say Yes on 8 campaigns, stated, “They shouldn’t be telling a group that just because you’re faith-based organization you shouldn’t be participating in the market! Education is a marketplace.”

The ballot question boils down to: Should public funding for education follow the child?

RELATED COLUMN: North Carolina Voters Say Public Education Underperforming, On Wrong Track

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