Are Standardized Tests the New Hunger Games?

Are our children being used in a new, horrible form of the Hunger Games? Are the odds ever in their favor?

Are you willing to be a tribute for your child? Listen in to learn how …

. #Mockingjay


FL Gov Rick Scott Lost Jobs? I guess it’s not working. #PinkSlipRick

“A loss of 49,163 jobs at companies with more than 100 employees between January 2011 and November 2013, according to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) data filed by large employers. These companies are required to provide advanced notice of plant closing and mass layoffs to the state and federal government.”

“A loss of 1,097,092 total private sector jobs between January 2011 and December 2012, according to the online research site which measures job growth using numbers complied by the U.S. Department of Labor and Dun and Bradstreet.”

Common Core Math Problem – Benchmark 2014

Question: If Florida Governor Rick Scott has ‘lost jobs’ in both the public and the private sector, whose vote do you think he has lost?

A. Republicans

B. Democrats

C. Independents

D. The Tea Party

E. Libertarians

F. Everyone

G. How can he lose votes when no one voted for him in the first place?


Read more here:

VAM made me do it – Florida’s teacher evaluation system #ForgiveMe @dianeravitch

I am thinking of ranking my pets by VAM scores.
I figure I will judge my dog based on the amount of cat litter I find on the floor and I will judge my cat by the amount of dog hair I find on the couch. To be fair, I will factor in variables like the number of frogs I find on our truck in a week and the depth of the hole the rodent in my backyard is digging.
Of course, I am not telling my animals exactly which factors will be judged… and I will be basing the amount of food they get upon the score they receive (minus 200 and divided by the coefficient of BS, squared).
What do you think? Will they love me more for giving them this opportunity?



VAM = FL Teacher Evaluation System: #HugeFail


Pic via


One Parent’s Polite Response – #Rheediculous – Money Over Children ? #TryAgainRhee

A few days ago, many parents here in Florida received an email from a representative of Michelle Rhee’s organization, Students First. The person who wrote the email is Catherine Robinson. Apparently, she works for the organization ran by Michelle Rhee.  

(I refuse to link to Rhee’s Student First website – but you may google ‘Students First’ to find the web address. It is easy to find. Her link sits right below this link: Rhee Under Investigation | )

So, about this email. Apparently, Ms. Robinson offered Florida parents a chance to win a $5 gift card. The parents were encouraged to go online and jump from article to article. They were encouraged to write ‘polite’ comments in favor of  Rhee’s idea of ‘transformative’ (corporate) education reform.

I will not go into the details of Michelle Rhee’s vision for education. If you want to learn more, you can google the name “Michelle Rhee” or attend one of her conferences. They must be incredible as I hear she charges $35,000 a pop to speak.  I am not sure if you get refreshments for that price, but I have also heard that her conferences are “BYOMT”(bring your own masking tape).

Anyhow, back to the email sent to Florida parents…

Not long after the email went out, a FL activist for public education, Bob Sikes, wrote this article: Michelle Rhee’s Florida Rep Calls for Astroturf Campaign on Parent Trigger – The link for that article is found here:

Remarkably, Ms. Robinson then defended her email in the comments below the article and even managed to insult parents in her comments, despite her repeated advice to ‘be polite’. She also defended Rhee’s Students First organization. Feel free to check out her comments. I did and I decided to respond.

Here is my response: 

Ms. Robinson,

You write: “And so now I’m organizing over 119,000 Florida parents, teachers and concerned citizens.” … I politely ask you to verify those numbers.

Why do I not believe that 119,000 people in Florida agree with you? Let me politely explain.

I am also an advocate. I also interact/organize tens of thousands of parents. I have yet to ever meet one that agrees with Students First’s ‘transformative’ reform. So, I am politely interested as to where you get the number “119,000″.

I might also add, politely, that many on the Rhee website did not join out of support for your policies. Many joined to keep an eye on the destructive policies of your organization. Many others joined by mistake after signing a poll regarding Trayvon — the Students First pop up upon signature tricked quite a few of us.

I politely remind you, Ms. Robinson, that very few people in FL or elsewhere agree with excessive standardized testing, selling out public schools to corporate charters, or destroying communities by closing schools. We politely ask you and Students First to stop.

As far as politeness, I might politely remind you to practice what you preach. It is funny that you use the word ‘vitriol’ to describe Florida’s parents. I have heard that word ‘vitriol’ thrown at us parents before. (see link: ).

I stand, politely, in disbelief. Why be so insulting? I politely suggest that you be more polite.

To say parents are full of “vitriol” is unbelievably rude not polite, I might politely add. You do remember that we parents are, in fact, the parents, don’t you? How can you, Rhee’s Students First organization, Jeb’s ‘Foundation for FL’s Failure’, or any other organization claim to represent parents while also insulting those parents and hurting their children with harmful policies?

So, I politely ask: What exactly do you have against caring parents?

Perhaps this is why you are offering gift cards for polite comments? If so, I politely applaud you for finally reminding those involved in your organizations to be polite.

That, I might politely add, is long overdue.

Polite enough? 

Oh, and not to be impolite, but you can keep your money. My kids are worth more than 5 bucks.


Picture Link

How to Argue that Testing & Privatization are Harmful to Public Education – by Dov Rosenberg (Reblogged)

How to Argue that Testing & Privatization are Harmful to Public Education

by Dov Rosenberg on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 1:12pm · (Reblogged)

High stakes tests & charter schools make public schools less effective:

   A) High stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability, are harmful to children, and make public schools less effective.

   B) Less than 20% of privately-managed public schools (charter schools) are successful; they also segregate children and minimize the decision-making power of parents & the community, ultimately making public schools less effective.


High-stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability:

  • Constrict wide expanses of knowledge into only what can be measured by a multiple choice test.
  • Many tests contain nonsensical questions, have multiple correct answers, or have no right answers at all (look up Pineapplegate).
  • With hundreds of millions of American kids taking the same test, ethnic & regional differences aren’t considered, making them unavoidably culturally biased.
  • Unduly reward the superficial ability to retrieve info from the short-term memory.
  • Pass/Fail status is often determined by politicians while test scores are often manipulated for political purposes.
  • National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: “Standardized tests have not increased student achievement.”
  • Measure only low-level thought processes, trivializing true learning.
  • Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring; scoring errors can have life-changing consequences.
  • Curricula constructed from high-stakes tests are based on what legislators assume children will need to know in the future. Countless previous attempts at predicting the future have ended in failure.
  • Provide minimal feedback that is useful to classroom teachers.
  • Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (common in children).
  • Test results are not able to predict future success.
  • Claimed to be used as a diagnostic tool to maximize student learning, but are actually used to punish students, teachers, & schools.

High-stakes tests are harmful to children:

  • Minimal time for socializing & physical activity b/c recess & PE are cut in favor of test prep, particularly affecting low-scoring students.
  • Testing anxiety has lead to sickness, vomiting, & even incontinence in the classroom.
  • Excessive testing stifles the love of learning.
  • Year-end tests require sitting still & staying focused for 3.5 hours, which leads to behavior problems.
  • Encourage the promise of extrinsic motivators such as rewards for high scores (bribes) & punishments for low scores (threats).
  • Pressure to pass tests has lead to stimulant abuse in teenagers.

High-stakes tests make public schools less effective:

  • The lowest & highest achievers are left out as instructional resources are focused on learners at or near the pass/fail threshold.
  • Fewer opportunities for kids to enjoy creative classes that make them love school.
  • Arts & other electives are cut in favor of test prep & testing, particularly affecting students from low-income families.
  • Children don’t receive adequate instruction in non-tested areas like science, history, geography, government, etc.
  • Divert billions of state taxpayer funds from public schools to pay huge testing firms like Pearson & ETS (Educational Testing Services).
  • Divert precious time resources to test facilitation, preparation (such as begging proctors to volunteer), & administration.
  • More established parents move to private schools to avoid the abundance of testing in public schools.
  • When test scores trigger automatic retentions, much older students in classrooms can cause additional behavior problems
  • On norm-referenced tests, nationally, 50% of students are below average, by definition.  Thus, requiring all students to be at or above “grade level” is statistically impossible. 
  • Give testing firms control of the curriculum
  • Test scores are used to evaluate teacher effectiveness in lieu of more effective administrator observations
  • Reduces teacher creativity & autonomy, thereby reducing the appeal of teaching as a profession
  • Minimize teachers’ ability to accomodate multiple learning styles and provide adequate differentiation
  • Create unreasonable pressure on students & teachers to cheat as well as on administrators & school districts to “game the system”

Less than 20% of charter schools are successful:

  • Even the pro-charter documentary “Waiting for Superman” notes that only 1 in 6 charter schools succeed.
  • Charter schools can artificially inflate their published success rate by deflecting low-scoring kids back to public schools, usually

Charter schools segregate children:

  • Most charter schools are racially homogenous.
  • Without diversity requirements, charter schools can market to specific demographics, ultimately segregating communities.
  • Children from the same neighborhood often go to different schools, don’t know each other, & don’t play outside together. Alienation negatively impacts neighborhood communities.

Charter schools minimize the decision-making power of parents & the community:

  • Private control, as opposed to elected control via school board, leaves curricula to be defined by a corporate agenda.
  • Corporate-controlled charter school home offices are often centralized out of state.
  • One more thing for parents & kids to worry about as they wait for acceptance letters.
  • Undermine a fundamental democratic principle that the people closest to (& therefore most knowledgeable about) problems are the best positioned to deal with them.

Charter schools make public schools less effective:

  • Taxpayer dollars are deflected from public schools into charter schools where they’re utilized w/o transparency or accountability.
  • Charter schools have the freedom to select high-achieving kids w/ few needs so low-achieving kids w/ high needs get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Charter schools aren’t obligated to provide special services for high-needs kids so they often get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Only families who can navigate application processes can apply to a charter. Families w/o the time or know-how to “work the system” (often very poor and/or immigrant families) are ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Private entities have already tried running school districts according to corporate models & seen disastrous results.

What’s best for kids?

Dov Rosenberg (pictured at the Save Our Schools: March and National Call to Action   )

Why is NAACP promoting vouchers in FL ? We say NO – Separate is STILL not Equal. -Response to Rev Manuel Sykes, NAACP letter in Tampa Bay Times 6/14/12

It is difficult to counter an article written by a Reverand and the NAACP. For a moment, I was speechless.


I found my voice.


Here is my response / comment to the writer of the 6/14/12 article in the Tampa Bay Times entitled, Florida program gives disadvantaged a chance to succeed in school by The Rev. Manuel Sykes, special to the Times, Pastor of Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg and President of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP.


Rev Sykes, with respect, I am confused? 

I understand this document: “The NAACP resolution on charter schools – In a process established by the NAACP Constitution, this resolution was adopted by the delegates to the 101st Annual Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, during the legislative session in July, 2010. It was subsequently ratified by the NAACP National Board of Directors at its meeting on October 15, 2010. This resolution is now the policy of the Association, and is “binding on the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, the Officers, and all units.” 

Link to NAACP resolution:

But, I do not understand your opinion. I wonder how you support vouchers as a representative of the NAACP? As a public ed activist, teacher, parent, and Hispanic, I have many objections to vouchers and the privatization of public schools. I believe separate is still not equal, never was, never will be. 

It is apparent that the NAACP agrees, as evident in their above resolution.

Are you speaking for the NAACP with this opinion ?
Much respect and concern from FL

This is the news I usually see from the NAACP regarding vouchers. 

” RALEIGH – The North Carolina NAACP and representatives from several organizations gathered at the state legislature yesterday. They delivered an open letter to House Speaker Tom Tillis’ office that protests what they called the state’s regressive school voucher program. The letter states the ‘Stam plan,’ a reference to Republican lawmaker Paul Stam, would cause the state to lose much-needed revenue from the private sector. The plan gives corporations the option of diverting money they owe to the state to private nonprofits to finance private schools.” Video on link–others-protest-nc-school-voucher-program


I tweeted NAACP CEO Ben Jealous:

@BenJealous Public ed activist/teacher/mom here with a question: -> Is the NAACP in FL standing up for vouchers?


 NAACP Resolution on Charter Schools QUES: @BenJealous so why this now in FL? #Help


Excellent responses from Dr. Diane Ravitch

@gatorbonBC  Pulling the wool over the eyes of the gullible. No black or poor child helped when public sector destroyed.

@gatorbonBC @BenJealous Big money is pushing vouchers. Big money is not pushing civil rights issue. That’s the mask.


I am hoping to hear from the NAACP regarding this Tampa Bay Times article. We shall see.


Further reading: The voucher double standard on accountability, with a twist

By Sherman Dorn on June 13, 2012

“While I am no cheerleader for Florida’s accountability system, if we are asking students with disabilities in local public schools to take FCAT and for schools and school districts to be responsible for their outcomes,  it is a double standard to let schools receiving public funding through the McKay program to be let off the hook.” 

High Stakes Tests Good for Kids and Taxpayers? This Parent NOT Buying it ! -Response to FL Commissioner of Education

I am revising this blog and forwarding it to our Florida Commissioner of Education who recently spoke at the FL School Board Association Meeting.

The Tampa Bay Times reports, “People have a right to speak out, [the Commissioner] offers, and that [high stakes testing] resolution is a “perfect example of adults expressing concern about the future. Unfortunately, the resolution is short on providing hope to schoolchildren who are Florida’s future.”

This parent disagrees. 

No, we parents/taxpayers/ adults do not think high stakes standardized testing gives school children “Hope”.


No, we see valuable class time (nearly 1/3 of a typical school year by much estimation) spent in standardized testing, test prep, test remediation, test validation, etc. We see an exorbitant amount of our taxpaying dollars spent ($250 million dollars to Pearson) paying testing companies for these tests. We are well aware of inaccurate scoring and invalid test questions (all while they profit immensely). 


As a parent and a taxpayer, high stakes testing fail in each regard. We are graduating students who are bubble sheet ready rather than career ready. We know, as one parent said, “Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity!” You will have a hard time convincing a parent that excessive testing and all the negative labels attached to our children, combined with our wasted tax dollars, gives hope. It does not.


It is, in fact, the definition of insanity.


I hope those who read this article will read further on this topic. Read Dr. Diane Ravitch, who once agreed with No Child Left Behind and all this high stakes testing. She reminds us to: “Attack the soundness of the tests. The standardized tests crush creativity, enforce routine and rote thinking. These bubble tests are not good for education or for our kids. The tests are flawed with multiple errors: They involve random error, statistical error, and measurement errors. They are certainly not good enough to decide lives.” (via Twitter) She also reminds us that parents are the key: ‘When parents awaken, game over.’
Which countries lead in education, globally? Try Finland. And, surprise, surprise, they do not buy in to this high stakes testing culture. Finland does not even have a word in their language for ‘accountability’. Go figure.

This parent is not buying it … 

Wear Red for Ed

Originally, this blog was my response to Tampa Bay Times article entitled, “FCAT Pressure Help Students and Teachers to Achieve” 


Shame on NPR – Never Underestimate The Power of Parents – National Resolution on High Stakes Testing

Response to article entitled, “Five Reasons the Anti-FCAT Resolutions Won’t Work” printed in NPR publication :

In my opinion, the premise of the writer’s opinion is flawed. The National Resolution on High Stakes Testing, written by parent organizations and endorsed by hundreds of counties across the nation, is not an anti FCAT resolution. It is a proactive resolution on the entire high stakes testing culture. It is proactive as it encourages parents to make their opinions known. Parents standing resolved with teachers, counties, and legislators will make a difference. I encourage parents and others to speak up on testing and seek more valid, well rounded forms of assessments. 

There is an assumption that parents are helpless… that they can not win.
That is not true. We vote our leaders in, we will vote them out. It is silly to underestimate the fierceness of a mother lion when protecting her cub. We will stand resolved against high stakes testing for our children/cubs. We will make a difference… with NCLB, RTTT, Common Core, or whatever unfunded testing mandate they name next.
I am confident in parents.
Try reading Dr. Diane Ravitch, instead.  Link to article here: When Parents Awaken, Game Over.  

Trayvon … Same ALEC, different TRIGGER – May the world start asking, WHO? … Those who wrote STAND YOUR GROUND called it empowerment, too. #DoYouFeelEmpowered?

Connect the Dots … that is all we ask.

There are alot of emotions about Trayvon’s death… the world is watching. Let the world know that this Stand Your Ground Law is just another product of ALEC…

Through the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. These so-called “model bills” reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.


“First principle regarding everything the right-wing throws up — If it’s a multi-state effort, it’s coordinated. And if it’s looks coordinated, look for the dirty fingerprints of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ”

Same group pushing privatization, big pharma, and parent trigger…. Same ALEC … different TRIGGER.

“The whole story is not being told about these laws, either. The same group that lobbies for these ed reform bills attacking public education, our pensions, and collective bargaining … These bills are a product of ALEC:


“Florida, under Jeb Bush, was the pioneer. But, now, thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council, it is just one of many states that offers gunmen that license to kill.

Remember, if you can get one person to ask, Who is ALEC … then maybe, some good can come from this horrible situation.

“It is no coincidence that so many state legislatures have spent the last year taking the same destructive actions: making it harder for minorities and other groups that support Democrats to vote, obstructing health care reform, weakening environmental regulations and breaking the spines of public- and private-sector unions. All of these efforts are being backed — in some cases, orchestrated — by a little-known conservative organization financed by millions of corporate dollars. The American Legislative Exchange Council was founded in 1973 by the right-wing activist Paul Weyrich; its big funders include Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to Koch Industries. Many of the largest corporations are represented on its board.


“According to the Center for Media and Democracy, 98 percent of ALEC’s revenues come from corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” — Ghandi

“Former Miami Police Chief Timoney: “Laws like “stand your ground” give citizens unfettered power and discretion with no accountability. It is a recipe for disaster. ”


“So does this law embolden people? Think road rages that escalate to tragedy and bar brawls that could have ended in no more than bruises. A Tampa Bay Times investigation identified 130 stand-your-ground cases since this became law in 2005, with 74 people cleared of wrongdoing. Reports of “justifiable homicides” have tripled. Also troubling: The law is applied differently depending on where in Florida you are.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.


Wear Red for Ed

This week, wear your hoodies.

Florida’s Parent Trigger … Same ALEC – Different Trigger


A weekend interview with parent activists Kathleen Oropeza and Rita Solnet about Florida’s Parent Trigger Bill :


“And I don’t think that I am alone. Obviously.

So I think what we are seeing is a shift in thinking. …

People are realizing that if you want to have a democracy,

you have to be a part of it. “

Full article here:.


Yesterday evening, the parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin addressed a crowd of supporters

at the “Million Hoodie March” held in New York City’s Union Square.

NewsOne’s Elon James White was there and created this exclusive video report:


When folks say money can’t buy everything… remind them that it can buy some #pffft .. Response to Matus opinion on parent trigger

Well, Ron.

When I read your blog post, I had one heck of a response. But, as I scroll through the comments below, I see that many well spoken, highly educated, caring activists have already covered the basic objections. So, ditto what they say.

There was a better story here, Ron.

A story of hard work, dedication, true grit. A story of folks giving up every waking moment of their days and nights to raise their voices.

There was a victory here. We worked hard for it and we got it. That was the real story.

You missed it.
Oh, well, Ron. Maybe next time…


Oh, and one last thought. I must say, your post had me spitting fire. I was thinking thoughts, like ‘Et tu, Brute?’ I mean, it just seemed so unlike you to write such a slanted piece. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. But, after I posted the comment above, I went back and did a little reading on you. I found this statement:

“Ron has left the Tampa Bay Times to take the post of assistant director of policy and public affairs at Step Up For Students, the Tampa-based group that oversees Florida’s corporate tax credit scholarship program.”


Oh, OK, Ron. I get it.

So when you wrote, “But I know that kind of talk won’t get us rowing in the same direction,”

I misunderstood. I thought we were still rowing in the same direction.

Good luck in your new position, Ron. 

We will be right here.

Rowing away…

As the African says: 

This is my tale which I have told, 

 if it be sweet, if it be not sweet, 

take somewhere else and let some return to me.

This story ends with me still rowing.

~Anne Sexton


In response to “Florida parent trigger debate didn’t bring out best from established parent groups” a blog post by Ron Matus,  March 13, 2012 :