Data Mining: Florida students leaving their privacy at the schoolhouse door

Recently when Governor Rick Scott was asked if he supported the data mining aspect of Common Core, Scott answered ‘no’ to the question. It appears the Governor did not get the memo from the Florida Department of Education that public schools have been data mining for years using “student surveys“.

Florida parents were shocked when their children came home from their first day of high school with surveys asking personal questions about their habits, family and beliefs. Students at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida were given forms to fill out by their teachers. Riverview high school English teacher Dr. Elinor Wachs sent students home with a “Multiple Intelligence Survey” (MPI) created by Surfaquarium to fill out. MIS questions included:

  • Ecological issues are important to me
  • I believe preserving our National Parks is important
  • Religion is important to me
  • I wonder if there are other forms of intelligent life in the universe
  • I value relationships more than ideas or accomplishments
  • I like to be involved in causes that help others
  • Fairness is important to me
  • Social justice issues interest me
  • I am willing to protest or sign a petition to right a wrong

Ms. Susanne Johnson, an Algebra teacher at Riverview, sent home a two page survey with her students (Note: Students received multiple surveys). Johnson’s survey asks:

  • Who lives in your home?
  • How many brothers and sisters do you have? How old are they?
  • Have you travelled outside the United States? If so, where have you travelled?

WDW – FL sent an inquiry to Superintendent Lori White about the district policy on student surveys. Scott Ferguson, Communications Specialist for Sarasota County Schools, in an email provided the following:

The multiple intelligences forms do not require approval at the district level.

Other teachers may use these forms or other forms at their discretion. We don’t track the number of teachers who use them.

Teachers use this type of form to learn more about their students. Teachers have various ways to get to know students so they can engage them in lessons by keeping students’ individual interests, learning styles and personalities in mind. Multiple-intelligences surveys such as these are one way for teachers to get to know students, but students may opt out of answering the questions.

Various forms may be used by teachers at various levels. Whatever forms are used are age-appropriate.

I don’t know how long the forms you sent me have been used in the district, but teachers have long used various ways to get to know their students, for the reasons stated above.

Regarding teachers requesting “private information,” see third paragraph above. If students believe the answers to the questions are “private,” they can refrain from answering them.

The forms simply help the teacher get to know the student in his/her class for that semester or year; they’re not considered educational records and do not become part of the student’s permanent record.

The use of such forms is not prohibited by School Board policies. These policies are posted on our website in the School Board section and are searchable by keywords.

Nothing on the forms sent home by either Ms. Wachs or Ms. Johnson states it is “optional” or that a student may “opt out”. Surfaquarium offers multiple surveys. WDW – FL asked Surfaquarium about the uses of their surveys in Florida by teachers and schools. We are awaiting answers to our questions.

One parent, who requested to remain anonymous to protect their student from retribution, stated, “These questions absolutely do look like data mining to find out the political leanings of the family of the student … perhaps then they ‘target’ those students for further brainwashing efforts or give the data to other groups for same purpose.”

Data mining is front page news, few believed it would already be in public schools. It appears public education has a thing or two to teach the NSA?

To view all survey responses click here.

RELATED: Florida School District lied and student privacy died

Sarasota County School District abandons 7-year old girl

Members of Sarasota County School Board. Click on photo to go the the Board website.

Michael Figgins, a resident of Sarasota County, FL reported to WDW – FL in an email:

A very disturbing thing happened today [August 20th, the first day of school in Florida]. I had just arrived home in the early afternoon, was getting my mail from the mailbox and I saw this very young girl walking alone on my street. She walked by my house once, then again and then again. I asked her if she was lost and she told me that she was lost. I asked her if she knew where she lived and she replied that she did not. Since it was the usual time that the younger children get dropped at the bus stop, I assumed that there must have been a mix-up somehow. After talking with her a little more she told me that she did know that she lived on my street, but did not know her address. She then remembered that her mom had written her address on a slip of paper and that it was in her backpack. She showed me the address and it confirmed that she lived on my street. As we walked to her house, it began to rain very heavily. The little girl lives approximately a quarter of a mile from the bus stop. We were both soaked by the time we arrived at her home. The grandfather was home and I explained who I was and that I was their neighbor. He was very relieved to know that she was safe.

Figgins sent an email to the Sarasota County Superintendent’s office to find out what happened.

Figgins noted in the email, “I remember last year when a 5-year old child was left, by the school bus driver, to wander all alone down Midnight Pass road. In that incident another neighbor was there to pick up the school system’s slack. Something needs to be done. All ended well this time. We might [not] be so lucky next time.”

Scott Ferguson Director of Communications for the District responded to the Figgins inquiry stating:

We have looked into the situation. Here’s what happened:

The second-grade girl at Phillippi Shores Elementary was supposed to ride the bus and so was her brother, a fifth-grader. For some reason her brother did not think there was bus service on the first day of school so he did not get on the bus when his sister did, but instead went to the school office. Both students are new to the school this year, and the boy did not mention his younger sister.

A staff member at the school contacted the students’ parents to say the boy was at the school and needed to be picked up (the message did not say that both children were at the school, only that the brother was there). Both parents came to pick up the brother and were reminded that their daughter was riding the bus home and would be arriving at the bus stop soon. However, when the second-grader arrived at the bus stop, no one was there to pick her up and she apparently started walking in a direction away from her home.

Mr. Figgins, we appreciate your assistance with the little girl and your concern about her safety. Her parents have since decided to come and pick up both of their children after school. Both students will have labels with the family ID number on their backpacks each day for the first two weeks of school, indicating that they will be picked up by their parents.

Although all our schools strive to help students avoid mix-ups regarding transportation, there is usually some confusion on the first day of school as everyone, including parents, gets used to new routines. Whenever we are made aware of these situations we address them immediately to ensure that students, parents, school staff and Transportation Department staff are on the same page regarding transportation of students.

Ellery Girard, our director of Transportation, provided this additional information: “We continue to communicate with parents of young children the importance of being at the bus stop in the mornings and afternoons. The transportation protocol is to drop all children off at their stops; if any child does not want to get off, or if there are students left on the bus at the end of the route, we contact the school and the bus returns them to school. The school staff then calls the parents to pick them up at school. Transportation also works with the schools to provide a route supervisor for their open houses prior to school opening. At the open houses we give parents bus-stop information and registration forms. The registration form gives parents an opportunity to let us know if they do not want their child dropped off without an adult at the stop.”

Figgins replied to the email from Ferguson stating:

Based on the email [above], it sounds like you all are attempting to duck and cover as per your usual. Telling me how hard the job is, does not justify or excuse the lack of responsibility on the part of the Sarasota County School District. I wonder, had I not brought this incident to your attention, would you even have cared. I suggest that you would have swept the entire incident under the rug like you do every other time you screw up and thanked your lucky stars that this little 7-year old was not abducted and murdered. Looks like you dodged another bullet. For now.

As soon as you realized that the little 7 year girl was lost, what was the first thing that you did? Did you contact the bus driver to confirm that the little girl was indeed on his bus? What would you have done if the little girl had gotten off at the wrong bus stop? Maybe you could have had a sheriff’s deputy stop the bus and find the little girl. There are many things that you could have done to ensure the safety of that little girl, but it appears that you did nothing to help. What we do know, is that you were tested by this incident and you failed miserably. I hope you realize that damage control is not a option this time.

Figgins ended his email with, “I understand that the little girl’s parents have decided to pick their kids up after school from now on. Can you blame them?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Scott Adams, a citizen journalist for WDW – FL, has written several columns about tragedies on public school buses. Two of them led to the deaths of young children.

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Public schools not protecting the innocence of children!

true-toleranceFocus on the Family in order to protect the innocence of children has created the parent resource website TrueTolerance.org.

True Tolerance states, “It seems like almost every other day there’s another story on Fox News or CNN about sexually explicit teaching or homosexuality instruction being mandated for children as young as kindergarten—many times against their parents’ will. We’re often seeing these lessons being promoted in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘safe school lessons,’ which is extremely misleading and makes it hard for parents to know how to respond or learn what’s really being taught.”

“You may teach your children a biblically based point of view at home—but when they go to school they may encounter something drastically different or even opposed to what they’re learning from you and their spiritual leaders at church. So what’s a parent to do? You might feel like other parents have similar concerns, but they seem silent—and you feel alone and isolated,” notes True Tolerance.

True Tolerance warns, “It seems as if every time you turn on the TV or look at a newspaper lately, there’s a story about bullying. The federal government has had several forums on the topic and there’s been nationwide YouTube and Facebook campaigns addressing it. Unfortunately, many homosexual advocacy groups have been quick to capitalize on all of the national attention–turning the movement into a campaign for more inclusion of  controversial sexual topics in public schools.”

True Tolerance highlights words that alerts parents to programs that may deal with controversial relationships, marriage and sexuality issues—as well as sensitive topics like teen suicide, drug use and risky behaviors, such as:

• family diversity
• social justice
• anti-bullying
• tolerance
• sexual orientation
• comprehensive sex education
• safe schools
• gender identity
• health education

True Tolerance notes, “In general, federal courts have recognized the fundamental rights of parents to direct the “upbringing and education of children.” But the courts have not been helpful in explaining the specifics of that right, beyond the right to choose private or homeschool education over public education.” To assist parents True Tolerance has a page titled, “Parent Bill of Rights for Public Schools“.

Of note is the section on True Tolerance about the Gay, Lesbian Education Network (GLSEN) and the national Day of Silence and Ally Week promoted in some public schools.

True Tolerance provides a free guidebook titled, “Empowering Parents: A How-to Guide for Protecting Your Child’s Innocence and Your Family’s Values in Public Schools.

Teacher Makes $4 Million Dollars a Year

In this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal, journalist and author Amanda Ripley, profiled a teacher in South Korea who makes $4 million a year. Yes … $4 million. His name is Kim Ki-Hoon and he teaches in one of South Korea’s private, after-school tutoring academies called “hagwons” where his lectures are videotaped then available for purchase on the internet. Mr. Ki-Hoon is paid according to his demand (which, evidently, is pretty high) in what Ms. Ripley calls “a free market for teaching talent.”

These private tutors are essentially “free agents”, meaning they don’t receive a base salary—their pay is based on performance. So, how is their performance evaluated?

Ripley writes, “Performance evaluations are typically based on how many students sign up for their classes, their students’ test-score growth, and satisfaction surveys given to students and parents.”

In South Korea, students truly are the customers. If you are a highly-respected teacher in a hagwon, countless numbers of students will pay for your services, which, as Mr. Ki-Hoon has demonstrated, can become quite lucrative. Most importantly, they are getting results.

South Korean students routinely outperform students in the United States on international tests. However, this wasn’t always the case. Ripley writes, “Sixty years ago, most South Koreans were illiterate; today, South Korean 15-year-olds rank No. 2 in the world in reading, behind Shanghai. The country now has a 93% high-school graduation rate, compared with 77% in the U.S.”

A startling statistic that Ripley uncovers is that South Korean parents spend $17 billion a year on tutoring services similar to Ki-Hoon’s, while American parents spend approximately $15 billion a year on video games. According to Ripley, in South Korea, “if parents aren’t engaged, that is considered a failure of the educators, not the family.”

So, what can the United States learn from high-performing countries like South Korea when it comes to educating our kids? Ripley has embarked on finding the answer to this question in her upcoming book, The Smartest Kids in the World—and How They Got That Way, which will be released on August 13.

Ms. Ripley will be providing keynote remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s upcoming education summit, Connecting the Dots, on September 17 to share what she has learned while researching the book. The annual summit will bring together leaders in business, education, and workforce development to discuss issues which are vital to America’s competitiveness.

EDITORS NOTE: This column is cross-posted with permission from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Education and Workforce blog.

Milton Friedman wrote, “Education spending will be most effective if it relies on parental choice & private initiative — the building blocks of success throughout our society.” 

Demonstrations against Common Core set for Broward & Miami-Dade on August 7th

The school board meetings in Broward and Miami-Dade counties will have parents and concerned citizens demonstrating against adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

There is growing concern that CCSS take education decisions away from parents, teachers and administrators. School boards will no longer be relevant as CCSS national standards and curriculum kick in.

Indiana has recently opted out of CCSS. As A.K. Fielding from Watchdog Wire – Indiana reported, “On Thursday, April 25, 2013, approximately 150 Hoosiers created a historic moment by coming together at the Indiana Statehouse to show support for HB 1427. The bill, introduced by Indiana State Representative Rhonda Rhoads, almost collapsed as interest groups such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce pressed for the full implementation of the Common Core program in Indiana.”

“With the support of State Senators Scott Schneider and Dennis Kruse, HB 1427 had the opportunity to procure a vote on Friday, passing by a vote of 53-42. This means Indiana will NOT be implementing Common Core, at least for now,” noted Fielding.

Floridians Against Common Core Education is leading the charge to stop CCSS in Florida. Their goal is, “To REMOVE the Common Core State Standards from the Education System of Florida to include the FDOE Standards, Curriculum, Accountability, Software, Textbooks and ANY & ALL reference to any tools pertaining to the Common Core Standards as Our Children are NOT Common.”

In an email from Maria Peiro demonstrators will will gather in front of the School Board buildings at 12:30 p.m. Demonstrators will carry anti-Common Core signs. “The signs are to be used outside during the protest as they are not allowed to be displayed within the School Board buildings. Once the rally is over, the anti-Common Core group will go inside and watch the meeting and support those speaking against Common Core,” states Peiro.

Additionally a petition is being distributed by Thais Alvarez, Bear Witness Central Broward County Director, to the School Board members. The petition states in part:

We have forgotten that our nation is a Constitutional Republic. The following request is consistent with the principles of a Constitutional Republic, as the rules as they currently stand are not.

The purpose of this letter is to respectfully request the following:

(1) that the rules dictating how much time Residents have to speak at school board meetings be changed, effective immediately;

(2) that during the time during which a Resident is able to speak, he also be allowed to pose questions to the Board;

(3) that school board meetings be held during the evening and/or on the weekend to allow for more community involvement and attendance;

(4) that there be a Special Residents’ Meeting held once a month on a weekend day for the sole purpose of allowing Residents an opportunity to voice their concerns; and

(5) to these ends, a request is made to be notified by the person in charge to inform as to the procedure that must be carried out to effect these changes, if this respectful request does not suffice.

Florida’s new Education Commissioner has close ties with Jeb Bush – good or bad?

Pam Stewart, Interim Florida Commissioner of Education.

The state Board of Education selected Pam Stewart to be interim education commissioner Friday. Some in Florida are questioning this move because of Stewart’s close ties to the Foundation for Excellence in Education started by former Governor Jeb Bush.

Floridians Against Common Core Education (FACCE) is calling for Commissioner Stewart and any members of the Florida State School Board to remove themselves from “Reformers” positions within the Foundation for Excellence in Education under the leadership of Jeb Bush. FACCE states, “Florida needs to remove itself from any question of ethics problems and this is the best place to start.”

Bush’s foundation partners with reformers nation wide to “see student-centered reforms adopted and implemented in their states.” The Bush foundation website has an interactive map listing all the Bush “reformers”. Stewart is a “Bush reformer“.

Jeff Solochek from the Tampa Bay Times reported, “In the Public Interest — an offshoot of the labor advocacy group Partnership for Working Families — issued a  press release Wednesday [January 30, 2013] stating that Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has influenced laws and policies in several states, often in a way that might benefit some of the companies that underwrite its existence.”

Michelle Malkin weighed in on the firing of Tony Bennett and Jeb Bush’s influence on education in Florida.

Malkin wrote, “The resignation of Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett couldn’t have come at a better time. His disgraceful grade-fixing scandal is the perfect symbol of all that’s wrong with the federal education schemes peddled by Bennett and his mentor, former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush: phony academic standards, crony contracts, big-government and big-business collusion masquerading as ‘reform’.”

“Bush’s foundation has now joined with the Common Core-peddling Fordham Institute under a new phony-baloney umbrella group: ‘Conservatives for Higher Standards.’ While its list of supporters includes federal bureaucrats, politicians and business interests, there are no grassroots conservative parents or teacher groups. So beware of this ‘conservative’ front. And remember: Astro-turfing runs in the Bush family. Under George W. Bush, the federal Department of Education paid GOP mouthpiece/columnist Armstrong Williams to shill for No Child Left Behind,” notes Malkin.

Heather Crossin, an Indiana mom who helped spearhead the drive to eject Bennett from office and reject Common Core in her state, put it best:

“This situation illustrates why it is crucial that parents be reinserted into the decision-making process when it comes to the education of their children. When their voices and concerns take a backseat to ‘command and control’ approaches to ed reform, the public trust can easily be broken.”

It’s actually quite elementary, Dr. Watson.

EDITORS NOTE: Florida’s education commissioner was once an elected position. That changed in 2003, due to a constitutional amendment that reduced the number of elected Cabinet members and also created the state Board of Education. Under the current system, the governor appoints seven members to sit on the state Board of Education. The board then selects the commissioner to oversee day-to-day operations at the State Department of Education.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Hoosiers say no to Common Core

Florida Tenth Amendment Center launches petition to stop Common Core

There is a growing movement at the state level to stop Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative. There is a new twist to the movement. The Florida Tenth Amendment Center (FLTAC) has launched county-level e-campaigns for local resolutions to stop CCSS.

FLTAC campaign links are listed by county at the bottom of this article.

FLTAC’s intent is to pressure all of Florida’s 67 county commissions to pass non binding resolutions against CCSS. One of the petitions was launched in Sarasota County, Florida.

According to the FLTAC website,  “This campaign is launched to demand a strong stand, however non binding and symbolic that might be, by the Sarasota county government in passing a resolution to stop Common Core Standards. Common Core is the latest effort by Washington to eliminate local control, i.e., parents and local government from exerting their rightful role over the education of the County’s public school children.”

The non binding Resolution reads as follows:

RESOLUTION OPPOSING “NATIONALIZED” COMMON CORE STANDARDS

WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution reserves the control of education to the States and the people; and is not an enumerated power delegated to the General government in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution; and

WHEREAS, Florida Executive Branch officials committed this state to adopting common standards with a consortium of states through the Race to the Top grant created by the federal Executive Branch; and

WHEREAS, this participation required the State of Florida to adopt common standards in K-12 English language arts and mathematics (now known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative) and to commit to implementing the aligned assessments developed by a consortium of states with federal money, all without the consent of the people exercised through their Legislative Branch despite the fact that the people fund K-12 education with over $1 billion in state and local taxes each year; and

WHEREAS, adoption of Common Core obliterates Florida’s constitutional autonomy over the educational standards for Florida’s children in English language arts and mathematics because 100 percent of the Common Core standards must be delivered through Florida’s curriculum, yet the standards belong to unaccountable private interests in Washington, D.C.
which have copyright authority and do not allow any standards to be deleted or changed, but only allow Florida to add 15 percent to those standards; and

WHEREAS, this push to nationalize standards will inevitably lead to more centralization of education in violation of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments; removing education of Florida’s children from the government closest to them to unelected and unaccountable officials outside of Florida;

WHEREAS, both the Common Core standards and the PARCC tests will create new tax burdens to pay for enormous unfunded mandates on our state and our local school districts; and

WHEREAS, the Race to the Top grant conditions require the collection and sharing of massive amounts of student-level data through the PARCC agreement which violates student privacy;

THEREFORE, the County/City/Township of ___________ resolves that the legislature of the State of Florida should:

Withdraw Florida from the Common Core State Standards Initiative; Withdraw Florida from the PARCC consortium and its planned assessments for Florida’s students, and any other testing aligned with the Common Core standards;

Prohibit all state officials from entering into any agreements that cede any measure of control over Florida education to entities outside the state and ensure that all content standards as well as curriculum decisions supporting those standards are adopted through a transparent statewide and/or local process fully accountable to the citizens in every school district of Florida; and

Prohibit the collection, tracking, and sharing of personally identifiable student and teacher data except with schools or educational agencies within the state.

Be it further resolved that the Board of County Commissioners, County of SARASOTA, State of Florida, declare that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Governor of the State of Florida, the President of the Florida Senate, the Speaker of the Florida House and the sitting State representative(s) and State senator(s) who represent the people of SARASOTA County.

ABOUT THE FLORIDA TENTH AMENDMENT CENTER:

The Florida Tenth Amendment Center is not affiliated with any political party. FLTAC does not subscribe to any ideology but the Constitution as intended by the Framers and Ratifiers. This is the standard by which we measure all holders of public office, regardless of that person’s party affiliation. We believe very simply in the following: The Constitution. Every Issue, Every Time. No Exceptions, No Excuses.

FLTAC petition links listed by county:

Alachua County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e418e8-e7a0-470b-877a-434032741282
Baker County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6a20b-4da0-4bb9-a89e-60b332741282
Bay County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6a32a-d588-450e-9b2e-6b8432741282
Bradford County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6a43a-974c-468c-b4bd-654632741282
Brevard County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6a5ae-ce9c-46a1-bccc-6ba532741282
Broward County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6a6fc-37c8-4299-bb21-6c0e32741282
Calhoun County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6a9af-f11c-428c-87f1-6c2a32741282
Charlotte County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6abbb-f7d8-469d-a711-6c9632741282
Citrus County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6acd2-e324-4c35-b91c-6cc832741282
Clay County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6af5e-f87c-4d66-81e2-6cfb32741282
Collier County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6b071-bf94-49da-97c3-6cc632741282
Columbia County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6b209-95dc-4172-97c8-6d7c32741282
DeSoto http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6bb55-ef24-4db2-b9df-6f1b32741282
Dixie County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6bce7-7754-422c-822e-6f1e32741282
Duval County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6be18-0954-41c8-93a1-6f6b32741282
Escambia County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6beb8-31dc-4a6b-9241-6f1e32741282
Flagler County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6cf23-a984-4973-bacd-704232741282
Franklin County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6d045-b914-4d32-b2c0-724532741282
Gadsden County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6d101-91ec-427c-ae26-718532741282
Gilchrist County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6d246-05e8-4dce-be4d-726332741282
Glades County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6d51f-ae60-42d5-b95f-72a532741282
Gulf County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f237-5e90-4c9b-baae-73c432741282
Hamilton County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f307-fe70-484a-b798-759a32741282
Hardee County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f5bb-a264-41d9-aff4-75fa32741282
Hendry County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f669-1240-443c-919c-761632741282
Hernando County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f716-709c-465e-adc3-762f32741282
Highlands County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f7cd-e394-4e6b-8714-765332741282
Hillsborough County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f87d-0018-4a54-a05d-765332741282
Holmes County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6f933-91d8-4136-abee-76a632741282
Indian River County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6fa71-59b4-4dd0-9989-762732741282
Jackson County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6fb37-ca7c-48f2-9370-72a532741282
Jefferson County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6fc18-faf4-4278-b7d6-773332741282
Lafayette County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6fcb2-8fc8-4300-ad42-776c32741282
Lake County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6fd39-01c4-4966-b68c-769e32741282
Lee County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e6fe9a-b340-478a-b655-77e932741282
Leon County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71554-4170-42fa-9da2-795b32741282
Levy County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e715ef-02e8-4b55-89c8-7ab832741282
Liberty County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e7167f-adfc-4364-9594-7acd32741282
Madison County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71731-8210-493b-bd83-7aeb32741282
Manatee County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e717e8-3418-4991-acf0-7b2632741282
Marion County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71881-be9c-4267-b169-7ad532741282
Martin County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e7190d-20c4-43e4-97dc-7ad532741282
Miami-Dade County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71a62-b48c-4453-8e07-7af832741282
Monroe County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71b3d-38d8-4d63-b3b2-7b9632741282
Nassau County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71c0a-ae20-41c9-aad1-7b8632741282
Okaloosa County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71cd8-3e3c-4b1d-8d73-7b8632741282
Okeechobee County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e71f5a-6950-4023-aa05-7be732741282
Orange County http://www.libertyactioncenter.com/campaign/51e72010-f780-4e78-8a51-7c6632741282
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Florida education chief changed Indiana grading formula to benefit charter school

WDW – FL reported that Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett recently recommended “the continuation of the transition safety net provision that prevents schools from dropping more than one letter grade in a given year.” It appears changing school grades is part of Commissioner Bennett’s modus operandi.

The Associated Press reported, “Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold “failing” schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett’s education team frantically overhauled his signature “A-F” school grading system to improve the school’s marks.”

In one email, Bennett wrote, “They need to understand that anything less than an ‘A’ for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work.”

In another, he wrote, “This will be a HUGE problem for us.”

The charter school’s founder, Christel DeHaan, has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett, according to the AP. DeHaan told the AP that she never asked for any special treatment.

Bennett told the Times/Herald Monday that Christel House was among the top-performing charter schools in Indiana. If it hadn’t earned an A, that meant something was wrong with the entire grading system, he said.

“It had nothing to do with politics,” he said.

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Florida’s “padded” school grades show “unprecedented declines”

Florida’s “padded” school grades show “unprecedented declines”

According to USGovernmentSpending.com Florida has historically spent about half of its budget on education. The chart below shows actual expenditures on education from 2001 – 2011 and projected expenditures from 2012 – 2018. Spending on education is projected to increase in 2014 to $42.86 billion, up $1.69 billion from 2013.

With spending on education is expected to increase, does that result in higher student performance? If school grades are an indicator the answer is – NO.

Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times staff writer, reports:

Florida’s elementary and middle schools saw unprecedented — yet unsurprising — declines in their state-issued grades released Friday.

About 53 percent of schools earned lower grades than a year ago, state education commissioner Tony Bennett announced. Data show that 548 schools were protected from even bigger drops by a “safety net” rule preventing schools from sliding more than one letter grade.

Amid growing controversy over Florida’s ever-changing quality measures, the state Board of Education imposed the safety net to help schools cope with shifting rules, tougher new tests and a transition to the rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Even with the safety net Solochek notes school grades show “unprecedented declines”. The 2013 school grades down as follows:

  • 760 A’s, compared to 1,242 in 2012
  • 677 B’s, compared to 609 in 2012
  • 721 C’s, compared to 494 in 2012
  • 353 D’s, compared to 212 in 2012
  • 107 F’s, compared to 40 in 2012

NOTE: Approximately 550 schools were protected from even bigger drops by a “safety net” rule preventing schools from sliding more than one letter grade. Elementary and middle school grades are based on the FCAT tests. High school grades, which include more factors, are not expected until late fall.

Blacks losing faith in government’s role in their lives?

The Gallup poll on college admissions contains a few interesting results.

Gallup reports, “Two-thirds of Americans believe college applicants should be admitted solely based on merit, even if that results in few minorities being admitted, while 28% believe an applicant’s racial and ethnic background should be taken into account to promote diversity on college campuses. Three-quarters of whites and 59% of Hispanics believe applicants should be judged only on merit, while blacks are divided in their views.”

The term “affirmative action” was first used in the United States in Executive Order 10925 and was signed by President John F. Kennedy on 6 March 1961; it was used to promote actions that achieve non-discrimination. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted Executive Order 11246 which required government employers to take “affirmative action” to hire without regard to race, religion and national origin. In 1967, gender was added to the anti-discrimination list.

Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, and has been questioned upon its constitutional legitimacy (see, Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 US 244 – Supreme Court 2003). Gallup notes, “The Supreme Court has heard cases that challenged affirmative action programs in college admissions in recent years. In 2003, it declared unconstitutional the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions process that automatically awarded minority applicants extra “points” in its admissions formula, but upheld the university’s law school admissions process that took race into account more generally when evaluating each individual applicant. This year, it vacated and remanded a lower-court ruling on a challenge to the University of Texas’ admissions program from a white applicant denied admission.”

“There are large partisan differences in support for affirmative action — Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to favor affirmative action programs. Republicans are one of only a few groups that show majority opposition. Whereas there were significant differences by education with regard to college admissions, there are only minor differences with regard to affirmative action programs in general,” states Gallup.

Florida: Islamic bias found in high school history textbook

Creeping  Shariah reports:

Two Brevard School Board members are reviewing a world history textbook used in ninth grade Advance Placement classes amid concerns that it is biased in favor of Islam — at the expense of Christianity and Judaism.

House Representative Ritch Workman and individuals from two citizens groups spoke against the textbook, Prentice Hall World History, at the Brevard School Board meeting Tuesday, citing examples of phrases and passages they believe show bias.

“Our children deserve facts and accuracy, not history being revised for our own failure or desire to not offend one culture or another,” said Workman, a Republican from Melbourne.

The textbook, which has been used in Brevard for the past three years, devotes a chapter to Islam, with sections including the rise of Islam and the building of the Muslim empire. Conversely, Christianity and Judaism do not have their own chapters and instead are referenced in paragraphs embedded in other sections.

Workman also expressed concern about how historic events are portrayed and what phrases are used. For example, he said the textbook reads Jesus proclaims himself to be the Messiah but declares Muhammad becomes a prophet.

School board members Amy Kneessy and Andy Ziegler promised to review the textbook, which is published by Pearson, a well-known printer of educational textbooks.

“No matter what the subject is, whether it’s math, English, science or world history, students need to have accurate, unbiased information,” Kneessy said. “If textbooks are unbiased or incomplete, it’s our job to fix that.”

Pearson Spokeswoman Susan Aspey said the company and its authors adhere to “the highest editorial standards when creating course materials, which undergo a rigorous review process.”

“The textbook referenced was approved by the state of Florida and meets all requirements for the High School World History Course,” she wrote in an email. “A review of the book shows there is balanced attention given to the beliefs of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.”

Ziegler said the underlining issue is accuracy and fairness — and should be investigated.

Read more.

Related video from an event featuring Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT for America,  in Jacksonville, FL:

FL Commissioner of Education talks out of both sides of his mouth

In January Tony Bennett, Florida Commissioner of Education, stated on his blog, “In my opinion, our students are best served in education when parents, educators, and communities communicate on issues facing our classrooms. That is why I will not use a top-down approach to Florida’s education reform … In my new position as Florida’s Commissioner of Education, I will keep the [student achievement] scoreboard up as a constant reminder to me and my colleagues of the importance of accountability in measuring teacher and student success. Parents should feel confident that when their child graduates from high school he or she will be ready for today’s competitive environment.”

One method of holding schools accountable is grading public schools based upon accountability measures such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).

According to Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times staff writer, “Florida school grades are due by late July, but their validity will be in serious doubt this year. A divided state Board of Education voted Tuesday [July 16, 2013] to prevent the grades from dropping more than one letter at any school, marking the second straight year the board padded grades.”

The State Board of Education may have been influenced by a letter from Bennet which states, “I recommend the continuation of the transition safety net provision that prevents schools from dropping more than one letter grade in a given year. The continuation of this safety net provision was the primary recommendation of the advisory task force. The department understands the superintendents’ concern that multiple changes to performance expectations, grade calculations and other variables within the calculation on a short timeline may have contributed to a reduction in clarity of the system. However, similar issues will likely be in play in 2015-2016 with a revamped accountability model and higher performance expectations of CCSS [Common Core State Standards].”

So which is it Secretary Bennett the “importance of accountability” or the “continuation of a safety net”?

Sally Bradshaw, Florida Board of Education member.

Solocheck notes, “Of the 262 schools slated to earn an F this year, just 108 will get that grade now, board member Sally Bradshaw said.” Bradshaw does not believe true accountability on educational standard are being met. Bradshaw stated, “I don’t understand when it became acceptable to disguise and manipulate the truth simply because the truth is uncomfortable.”

Could there be a political twist to this decision?

Solochek writes, “The [school] grades quickly became prominent in school vernacular. School board members and elected superintendents touted them in campaigns. Residents used them when buying and selling homes. Mayors gave out awards based on school grades.”

Governor Scott is up for reelection in 2014. Secretary Bennet is signaling this safety net will be extended due to the implementation of Common Core in Florida. That would take the heat off Scott as schools are failing at a higher rate due to new higher standards.

Can you say double standard in our public schools? Who does this decision harm most?

EDITORS NOTE: Commissioner Bennet was resigned from his position August 1, 2013 due to a cheating scandal in his previous job.

Leading Geneticist: Human Intelligence is slowly declining

 from Natural Society reports, “Would you be surprised to hear that the human race is slowly becoming dumber, and dumber? Despite our advancements over the last tens or even hundreds of years, some ‘experts’ believe that humans are losing cognitive capabilities and becoming more emotionally unstable. One Stanford University researcher and geneticist, Dr. Gerald Crabtree, believes that our intellectual decline as a race has much to do with adverse genetic mutations. But human intelligence is suffering for other reasons as well.”

“According to Crabtree, our cognitive and emotional capabilities are fueled and determined by the combined effort of thousands of genes. If a mutation occurred in any of of these genes, which is quite likely, then intelligence or emotional stability can be negatively impacted … Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ is less applicable in today’s society, therefore those with better genes will not necessarily dominate in society as they would have in the past”, writes Barrett.

This is not new and was covered in detail nearly two decades ago in the seminal study, “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. Herrnstein and Murray broke new ground and old taboos, and foretold a story of America’s society in transformation.

Herrnstein and Murray’s research findings are important to today’s key public policy issues, such as:

Immigration:

Herrnstein and Murray wrote, “It should be among the goals of public policy to shift the flow of immigrants away from those admitted under the nepotistic rules (which broadly encourages the reunification of relatives) and toward those admitted under competency rules, already established in immigration law–not to the total exclusion of nepotistic and humanitarian criteria but a shift.”

Food stamps and Medicaid:

“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 efficient way to raise the IG of a society is for smarter women to have higher birth rates. If the United States did as much to encourage high-IQ women to have babies as it now does to encourage low-IQ women, it would be rightly described as engaging an aggressive manipulation of fertility. The technically precise description of America’s fertility policy is that it subsidizes birth among poor women, who are also disproportionately at the low end of the intelligence distribution. We urge generally that these policies, represented by the extensive network of cash and services for low-income women who have babies, be ended,” stated Herrnstein and Murray.

Wealth redistribution:

“The question is how to redistribute in ways that increase the chances of 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. Cash supplements need not compete with that goal, whereas the social welfare system that the nation developed in the Twentieth Century most definitely does. We should be looking for ways to replace the latter with the former,” Herrnstein and Murray found.

Perhaps it is time to move away from bigger government to a system where people at the bottom of society take control and responsibility for their own lives? Being poor should not be a permanent condition. However, for politicians and government bureaucrats keeping people poor ensures job security.

IG Report: Florida state college presidents living like kings

Governor Rick Scott requested the Office of the Inspector General to review the compensation for Florida’s twenty-eight (28) State College Presidents. What the IG found in its Report #2013-12 is enlightening given the rising cost of higher education and growing student loan debt to pay for a college degree.

The IG report found:

  •  The total compensation reported for the twenty-eight (28) state college presidents in FY 2012-2013 ranged from $143,866 to $630,157 for a reported total of
    $9,811,292 paid from state appropriated funds, student fees, auxiliary funds, direct support organizations’ funds, grants and other non-state college funds.
  • State college presidents’ reported compensation included some or all of the following:  salary,  annuities,  deferred  compensation,  vehicle  provisions,  housing allowances, major medical insurance premiums, leave, incentives, and other compensation/benefits including annual physical exams, cell phones, internet access, relocation expenses, and memberships/dues.
  • Some college presidents receive post-employment perquisites including but not limited to the transfer of ownership of the vehicle provided by the colleges to the president, computer equipment, one year sabbatical with full pay and benefits, or health insurance for life after employment with the college ends.

The IG reported, “One statute limiting the amount that can be paid for the presidents’ salaries from state appropriated funds. We also noted that each of the twenty-eight (28) state colleges reported compliance with this statute to the Division as required. However, we found that: 1) there were no standardized parameters for boards of trustees to use to determine the reasonableness of the total compensation for the state college presidents or the factors upon which the total compensation is based; and, 2) the forms and amounts of compensation varied across colleges.”

The IG noted, “Instances where the total value of the presidents’ compensation was not readily transparent in that many of the contract terms did not contain assigned values. Some contract terms contained benefits payable to the presidents for life or benefits not yet earned making it difficult to ascertain the full financial obligation on the colleges from these  contracts.”

Concerning severance pay, the IG noted:

The twenty-eight (28) state college presidents’ contracts were reviewed for compliance with Section 215.425, F.S., and we noted that the contract language for severance pay varied across colleges. For example, some of the state colleges have presidential contracts that contain severance pay language if the president separates from the college “without cause”; some contracts address severance pay if the president separates from the college “for cause”; some contracts were silent about the conditions when severance pay was paid; and, some contracts, as written, were contrary to statute because the amount exceeded the limits outlined in statute.

Finally the IG found, “Only eight (8) of the twenty-eight (28) colleges tied the presidents’ contracts to performance.”

Sounds like Florida’s state college presidents are living like kings.

Florida Middle School students reading child pornography

Jewell DeMarco 2

Jewell DeMarco, language arts teacher Laurel Nokomis Middle School

Parents at Laurel Nokomis Middle School in Sarasota, Florida became outraged when they learned their children were reading the child pornography book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak is about a 13-year old being raped.

One of the parents submitted a complaint to the Sarasota County School Board to have the book removed from the Laurel Nokomis reading list. The book is used in a “gifted language arts class” taught by Jewell DeMarco. It is the language used in the book that the parents object to.

Speak promotes “group rate abortions” on page 30. Other examples of bad behaviors in the book are: “Student steals late passes” (theft) – page 26,  “sleep with the football team on Saturday night and be reincarnated as virginal goddesses on Monday” (promiscuity)- page 29; “slit my throat” (child suicide) – page 32, and “the crowd bumping and grinding the horny Hornet heinies” (group sex) – page 141.

Speak also contains graphic language including: “bitch”- page 20, “Asshole” – page 28, “pissed” – pages 30, 64 and 74, “Bitchy”- page 163. Other words and phrases used throughout the book are too graphic to include in the column.

A parent submitted a written request to have the child pornography book removed to Nancy Dubin, Principal of Laurel Nokomis Middle School. According to a letter to the District Superintendent provided to WDW – FL, “On June 21, 2013 I received a Patron’s Request for Reconsideration of instructional Material from [redacted]. The challenged material is the book, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, an award-winning novel, currently used in our 8th grade gifted language arts class.”

nancy_dubin

Nancy Dubin, Principal Laurel Nokomis Middle School

Dubin convened a curriculum council to review the appropriateness of the book for 8th graders. The council members at the school level were all teachers or administrators at Laurel Nokomis School. A member of the panel was DeMarco, the only teacher in the school using the book. The council reached the conclusion that “the material is appropriate for the end of eighth grade”, stating:

We feel this book should remain as an end of 8th grade book selection, with an alternate selection provided. It provides our students with a guided, approach to think about some of the choices that will face many of them within ten weeks of 8th grade graduation, as they move into high school and are socializing with much older, more mature high school students.

Additional comments:

“Relevant book alerts students to potentially dangerous situations. Best used as a guided novel study at the end of the 8th grade. Theme fits in with LNS anti-bullying program. Book is used throughout the county and the country in middle schools, in 7th or 8th grade. One parent says, ‘Education is key. Censorship is never the answer.”‘ [Emphasis added]

Scott Ferguson,  Communications Specialist Sarasota County Schools, wrote in an email to WDW – FL , “I have heard from five other middle schools, Brookside, McIntosh, Heron Creek and Venice, and Pine View so far. None of these schools is using the book.” At the time WDW – FL posted this column Ferguson has not heard from: Booker Middle,  Sarasota Middle or Woodland Middle.

There is no state or district list of approved novels. As mentioned above, if a teacher wants to use a novel in a class, he or she must get approval from the principal. A list of books that will be used in the classroom is sent to parents at the beginning of the semester. As noted above, a parent can opt to have their child read an alternative selection if he/she objects to their child reading a book that is on the list,” states Ferguson. [Emphasis added]

Ferguson reports, “The challenge has now moved to the district level (see PDF with attached memo) from Principal Nancy Dubin to Superintendent White and related documents from the school-level challenge. Student names have been redacted). For the district challenge, Sue Meckler, our director of Curriculum and Instruction, will determine the committee membership, per School Board Policy 4.3. The committee will not be able to meet until the fall because many of the required members are not on duty during the summer. However, the director will attempt to contact some members to see if they can serve on the committee. If so, they will be asked to read the book before the committee meets in the fall.” [Emphasis added]

Dubin, the principal, approves of the book taught by DeMarco. According to one parent, “The teacher [DeMarco] uses the book to denigrate the male students. She has them stand up and read passages from Speak in class. The teacher is using the book to push an agenda. It is child pornography, nothing more and nothing less. It does not belong in our public schools. We are have our youngest reading child porn sanctioned by a teacher. What message does that send? That is plain wrong!”

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Planned Parenthood Coaches 15-Year-Old Girl to Hide Porn From Her Parents
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“Killing Shakespeare” for Common Core but graphic books OK
Federal Judge: Teacher Who Punished Student for Expressing Catholic Belief Against Homosexuality Violated Student’s First Amendment Rights