Wednesday, August 27, 2014

School District in Florida Votes to Opt-Out of Common Core Testing

 Update: will you look at that?  Another Florida district is considering this idea (Palm Beach County School Board). 

“They say testing has gotten out of control and creates too much pressure for students and teachers. After discussing the opt-out idea at a recent meeting, board members asked their lawyers for further study. They will discuss it again at a workshop in the next few weeks.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” School Board member Karen Brill said. “We must explore the consequences, but we cannot allow fear to hold us back.”

In what can only be called unbelievable courage, a school district in Florida, Lee County, has voted to opt the entire district out of Common Core testing.

The school board vote was 3-2 with the superintendent warning, "This will hurt children."

From News-Press:

Throughout the tense three-hour meeting, more than 33 people came forward to share their thoughts on the matter.

Emotions came to a head when mother Lori Jenkins took the stand. She said her son was on leave from school due to a terminal heart condition, yet the district still sent someone to proctor the FCAT exam at his home. The audience gasped with disgust.
Keith Martin, the board's attorney, was not sure that there were any "immediate, clear" consequences to the action. He said it was possible the Governor could remove the school board members from their positions of power.

"Go ahead and remove me from my position," Armstrong said. "I'm a plumber. I deal with worse things every day."

He also said:

"Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward," said Armstrong. "We cannot allow the fear to hold us back."

The meeting adjourned without discussion regarding what test – if any – will now be used in place of the state tests. The board members did not address if the decision will include charter schools.

In case you were wondering what these Common Core tests are like, here's your chance to take one yourself.

From Anthony Cody's Living in Dialogue (about Chicago teachers and their possible test boycott):

We have a saying in the testing resistance movement – don’t feed the beast, starve the data monster.


uxolo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said...

I admire the dedication of board members to fight for what's right.

Anonymous said...

Charlie has gone on a weekly rant as of late on the school board's defiance of policy. This defiance is apparently outrageous. And I agree with Charlie.

A Florida school board defies Florida state law and administrative rules in opting the district out of mandatory state testing. Apparently, this defiance is courageous and admirable.

So, we support our school boards picking and choosing which laws, rules, and policies to follow. They can defy those we don't like and that's A-OK, even courageous and admirable.

Got it.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

swk: Just asking: Is civil disobedience an alien concept to you?

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

Really, Ivan? Do you understand the concept? Just asking.

Civil disobedience refers to citizens defying what is perceived to be unjust laws, rules, etc. Members of this school board --- a governmental agency --- were not acting in their capacity as citizens, but rather government agents. They took an oath of office to enforce all state laws and agency rules and they deliberately chose to defy one or more of those laws and thus violate their oaths. That is not technically civil disobedience but rather a constitutional conflict.

If all parents in Lee County organized a protest and chose to opt out of the test, that would be civil disobiedence.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

SWK, I didn't say it was right but I admire their courage. These Board members may pay for what they did but as Ivan points out, it was a form of civil disobedience. (That's my opinion and you can disagree.)

I'm not sure I see the correlation between what Charlie is talking about - a systemic inability/unwillingness to follow policy - versus one time when these elected officials were asked to vote their conscience. I'm pretty sure they know it will likely not stand.

Sometimes you just have to stand up for what you believe is right.

Anonymous said...


You are, of course, entitled to your own definition of civil disobedience, but so am I, and in my definition, "civil disobedience" includes, but is not limited to, "civilian disobedience."

-- Ivan Weiss

mirmac1 said...

I said I admire them. And I do.

If a law was broken, why didn't the board's attorney state the consequences? Is it anything like in WA where Randy Dorn just unilaterally said, yeah, CCSS is nifty - let's jump right in and to hell with the human and financial costs.

Laws rightfully are changed, or not in the case of NCLB. Look at what is happening to CCSS around the country. Some people have to lead - and these elected school board leaders are doing what they hear their constituents want.

Anonymous said...

mirmac, I agree with you that laws can be changed and unjust laws should be changed. As elected, sworn school board members, do we even know if they attempted through legitimate means to change the law? Did the Lee County board members who voted to defy state law make any attempt whatsoever to work with their school board association to advocate a change to the law? Did the board as a whole, or the members individually, lobby the state legislature to change the law? They are elected to uphold the law, not act defiantly against it.

As for Randy Dorn and his unilateral decision to adopt the CCSS, the law in fact grants him the unilateral authority to adopt and revise the state's content standards. In other words, he was acting within the statutory authority granted to him by the state constitution as well as the legislature.

But more to your point, Dorn provided the legislature with a report detailing the costs of implementing the CCSS and the legislature had the opportunity to put the brakes on before Dorn adopted them. They didn't take the opportunity.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh SWK, you know that most state legislatures didn't read the fine print or grasp what it truly meant. And that's why now, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Anonymous said...

What fine print? What chickens? So, far only Indiana, South Carolina, and Oklahoma have adopted legislation dropping the CCSS. Indiana adopted a set of standards nearly identical to the CCSS and South Carolina is retaining the CCSS until they can draft a new set of standards (which many people believe will be nearly identical). Oklahoma did legitimately drop the CCSS and have reverted back to their old standards. For that, Oklahoma has joined Washington as the only two states to have lost their waivers. You say, who cares? Me too.

But I'm still waiting on this mass exodus you keep predicting when people come to their senses. All I'm seeing are conservative states taking political stances against the CCSS but really taking no substantial action to do anything different.

--- swk

Charlie Mas said...

At issue here is testing. The school district in Florida does not, in fact, have the authority to opt-out of the state-mandated tests.

The state can, of course, now enforce their law and withhold state funds for the district.

I don't just oppose the violation of rules but also the failure to enforce them and the refusal to hold violators accountable. In a case of civil disobedience the violators are willing to accept the consequences of their act. We have seen the violation, now let's see the enforcement and the consequences.

It may be a distinction without a difference, but I see willful, public violation of a law motivated by a principle as something other than the thoughtless, routine violation of a law out of indolence.

Charlie Mas said...

Seattle Public Schools, by the way, does not defy policy, they simply ignore it.

Benjamin Leis said...

Well to be fair you forgot North Carolina and Missouri who have adopted legislation and at least Louisiana and Ohio are in play right now as well and more concretely the two testing consortiums have lost a fair amount of ground recently.

PARCC is down to 13 states and
and SBAC is down to 22. With several states withdrawing over the summer.

So I thinks its fair to say there has been a reasonable amount of momentum here.

Anonymous said...

Ben, I didn't include North Carolina and Missouri because neither of these states have actually repealed the CCSS. NC will do a review and MO will keep the standards while a task force reviews and possibly adopts a new set of standards. But, I should have included them.

Also, despite significant drops in PARCC participation and only minor drops in Smarter Balanced participation, all of the states that dropped participation will be testing the CCSS (unless they have also dropped the CCSS), just not with one of the consortia's tests.

Still, no evidence of a major sea change in the CCSS landscape. Wishing still won't make it so.

--- swk

Just Saying... said...

swk states: " Did the board as a whole, or the members individually, lobby the state legislature to change the law?"

The above actions wouldn't have mattered.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Shall I really put up all that is happening with Common Core? I'll see if I can get to it but I suspect it will more than prove my point.

For one, Bobby Jindal, the governor of LA, is suing the government over CCSS. Pretty big step to me.

Anonymous said...


About Randy Dorn and the report he submitted to the legislature detailing costs and impact of CCSS adoption....

Mr Dorn defied a law written expressly for him. 6696 stated that the report was due on or before Jan 1, 2011. The report was 30 days late.

The report was submitted less than a week before important votes by Education committees on CCSS.

Less than a week after the vote Rep. Brad Klippert dropped a bill to delay CCSS adoption for two years. Even though the deadline for submitting bills was 10+ days away, Rep. Sharon Santos, head of house ed committee, refused to give the bill a hearing.

Swk, you are right; Randy Dorn submitted a report. However, the manner in which this entire scenario played out likely showed mostly that Gates Foundation money trumps written laws, which is pretty much the story of Common Core no matter where you go.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Dan: swk can speak for him/herself -- but I thought the point was not so much that there was a thorough airing of issues and/or robust debate (there was not) -- but that the WA legislature did in fact get the data -- and then went ahead and pretty much went along with the Gates Foundation/ed reform proposal. At the time, there was a lot of jumping on of bandwagons, nationally, and dangling of carrots, federally. It also allowed them to look sincere and caring about perceived problems of educational drift or failure to achieve. That of course is how GWB got sign on at the beginning of NCLB, and how Obama has managed to keep things afloat with Arne Duncan's interference.

Because the costs for all this weren't in the same budget that adopted common core (and the Republicans would simply -- at that point -- wanted to have someone identify which additional program to cut to fund it) no one took the courageous step to oppose it on fiscal grounds (yes, those pesky "teacher union" types opposed it -- but that is only because they are trying to shirk the evaluations that other employees have to put up with, right? Right?) And of course there are always a few anti-test folks, but they are like the anti-vaccine folks -- the powers-that-be just ignore them.

Only now that that the chickens are coming home to roost are backbones finally beginning to stiffen. I think swk is right in that it will take a significant number of states bucking this (like 15 to 20 -- and a few will have to be big population states) before the feds will think of backing down on their new-found authority to muck with education at the local level (and the concomitant ability to make Big Ed happy and willing to contribute to campaigns). I see rumblings, but not a strong push. I hope Melissa is right and significant resistance is starting to coalesce. Frandly, if there are states out there who had no, or terrible, standards before -- maybe CC is a good thing. We had better standards than CC, and it is a huge waste of WA taxpayers money to have gone down this rabbit hole.


Anonymous said...

Let me try that penultimate sentence again:

"Frankly, if there are states out there who had no, or terrible, standards before -- maybe CC is a good thing (for THEM)."


seattle citizen said...

CCSS is merely the Gates Foundation's attempt to build a mega-tool to gather student data on a national level in order to wrench public education into the GF's vision of education as a "data driven" techno-machine where all inputs are controllable and all outputs actionable.
GF imagines education as a computer program.
Our kids aren't bits and bytes: They're flesh and blood, each unique, complicated, messy...human.
Cummings, paraphrased: That which can be measured isn't worth a good god-damn. Art (humans) cannot be measured.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, please don't spend your valuable time on proving your point on my account. I know what's going on on the CCSS and assessment front --- what's public and what's going on behind the scenes. If you feel it necessary to your readers, go ahead of course. Just don't do it for my benefit.

But I will make a prediction --- more states will drop CCSS, especially as we get closer to the presidential election. Those states will be primarily red states with conservative state legislatures and governors --- you know, those same states that have decided that poor people in their states don't need health care (i.e., refused to expand Medicaid). Most will simply rebrand CCSS. Some will revert back to their old (but not necessarily better) standards. PARCC will continue to lose members as they tire with the top down decision-making of Achieve and the lack of customer service provided by Pearson. Eventually, within 5 years, PARCC will fold. Smarter Balanced will lose some states but will be able to maintain for some time. They may even pick up some former PARCC states.

Dan, if you think legislative staff (both committee and caucus staff) didn't see drafts of the report prior to the delivery of the final report, you clearly don't know as much about the legislative process in our state as you let on. And even if they didn't get early drafts, legislative staff would have read the report and summarized it for their members as soon as they got it. They didn't need a week --- they didn't need two days. I'm sure the chairs of the education committees received briefings as soon as the report hit. Besides, the bill cutoff days are fairly meaningless on these kinds of issues. Even if the policy committee cutoff passed, the legislature would have dealt with the CCSS in the budget. They didn't need a policy bill. As for Rep. Klippert, a minority member (who isn't even the ranking minority) doesn't get to throw a monkey wrench in the discussions and negotiations between the committee chairs, OSPI, and the Governor's office. The bill to which you refer had no chance. None. Besides, these kinds of things don't get debated by the legislature as a whole --- the committee chairs, ranking members, legislative leadership (the ones who even care about education issues), and the Governor's office make these decisions and get their members to agree. That's what happened with CCSS in our state.

Jan, there is some debate as to whether or not the CCSS are better or worse that Washington's previous standards --- the EALRs and GLEs. But there is some consensus (at least in math) that the CCSS were not a wholesale shift (as they were in other states that had terrible standards). That's why there is not a teacher revolt in our state. It's not a major shift for them.

seattle citizen, Gates didn't dream up the CCSS, despite the belief by many in the anti-CC camp. There has been a movement toward national standards for nearly two decades. Who was one of the strongest voices for national standards back in the day? Diane Ravitch. She was pushing for national standards before the Gates Foundation even existed. Good thing she's come to her senses before her dream was realized, huh? Oh, and she was a major voice for test-based accountability. But that's besides the point. As for the testing consortia, I know for a fact that state assessment directors were talking about testing cooperatives and consortia --- to try to get to scale and bring down prices --- long before stimulus dollars were even discussed. As much as many of you like to think all of this was being manipulated by the man behind the curtain, states have not been entirely duped. They've been having these discussions for years.

--- swk

seattle citizen said...

@swk - Gates might not be the initiator of CCSS (or any set of standards) but his foundation sure is all over them. Hundreds of millions spent (including millions towards PR - selling them; see the 500,000 given to the Seattle Times)because, well-intentioned or not, Gates et al believe that we can create a system whereby everything is measurable (that MS stands to make millions, if not billions, on ed-related tech might or might not be pertinent.)
Why do "they" want everything measurable? For good reasons and bad - Yes, some measurement OF INDIVIDUALS BY INDIVIDUALS is good and helpful. Some accountability is, of course, necessary. But some of the bad reasons (teaching to the test; an over-reliance on the believability of "adaptive test" scores; use of "value-added" metrics to judge and execute teachers...) are so dang bad that they torpedo public education completely.
GF et al really believe in "metrics" and data - they think it will help because they work for a foundation(s) that are funded by free-market tech and industry dollars. Their mindset is such that everything in a classroom can be accounted for and measured. Their measurement tool, now CCSS/SBAC/PARCC, does NOT include many important aspects of education - why not? And since it doesn't, those things not included are pushed out.
Gates might not have invented standards, but they sure appreciate how they can be used in a technological equation to streamline education into an assembly line of craptitude.
Lastly, the push to get CCSS into states was undemocratic: It is well known that there is all sorts of propaganda out there, driving CCSS into the world. This, like any other manipulation, is undemocratic (it utilizes funding not available to the masses) and spooky - Orwellian.
(Ravitch figured this stuff out and backpedaled furiously away from her early support of such systems. Yay! A hero to many...)

seattle citizen said...

"...try to get to scale and bring down prices...states have not been entirely duped. They've been having these discussions for years."
Of course: Industry has fought taxation - states are starved for funding, and are trying to slash costs everywhere. They are taking away pensions, dropping services....and "streamlining" education to make it cheaper. CCSS and the rest of the reformista crappola supports this and has been pushed for this very reason. Look at the attack on teachers and ask yourself how much can be saved by deprofessionalizing education, turning it into a production line that any ol' body can work on, and how the workers (teachers) then become mere warm bodies trained to deliver the system. Then bring in TFA and create a rotating crop of new and therefore cheap teachers who can stand in front of the room until their pay becomes to high, at which point they can be replaced with another Teach-Tron 3000.
Heck, with data systems and online learning, who needs teachers at all? Automate the teaching process and states will REALLY save some money, eh?

Anonymous said...

seattle citizen, I clearly don't share your bleak, Orwellian vision of the future (or present, for that matter).

And I certainly don't buy in to your impotent and fatalist crappola regarding how the masses are being manipulated by the ruling class and the bourgeoisie.

--- swk

seattle citizen said...

@swk - My view is not bleak or fatalistic: things change, particularly when people take action. Hence the pushback on CCSS (yay!)and other "reform" initiatives.
You're welcome to your viewpoint. Maybe standardizing education into a technology-driven, online, inhumane production line WILL produce better worker drones, who knows? :)

Benjamin Leis said...

@SWK - I respect your interpretation of the what's currently transpired and in fact I've posted somewhat similar predictions as well in the past. At the same time, I also don't think that given what has actually happened over the last 6 months that its purely wishful thinking to say the situation has become more fluid. We're beyond the point of just education blogs and rallies. Actual legislative bills have passed, real delays have been implemented in timetables, actions have been taken that required serious amount of support. It's certainly possible that this represents window-dressing and after this flurry of activity nothing will have changed on the ground. We'll need to see how things unwind to really know. However, all waves of education reforms in the past have followed a life cycle often faltering after a burst of energy. I believe, there's a limited window for them to take root before the next cycle occurs. The possibility that the CCSS have lost that window and that the push back will succeed is also tangible. Neither outcome is assured so I'm usually cautious about assuming the result or labeling one end or the other as a pipe dream.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SWK, I directly answer some comments for all - it's never about one person.

And to answer what you said to Dan about the legislative reports, I'll lay odds there was NOTHING said about tying participate to RTTT funds.

"Gates didn't dream up the CCSS, despite the belief by many in the anti-CC camp."

True, they came to him and he just funded it. What a guy.

Discussions for years over standards. Again, NO ONE is against standards.

And you want to criticize Ravitch for (a) being disillusioned with the sausage-making and (b) actually doing her homework and admitting she was wrong? It's a crime against humanity, I tell you.

"And I certainly don't buy in to your impotent and fatalist crappola regarding how the masses are being manipulated by the ruling class and the bourgeoisie."

Well, you'll have to forgive the rest us due to all or some of the following:

- Iraq War
- Afghanistan war
- Wall Street debacle (and no one punished)
- continuing and growing economic disparity which is - yes - very much behind the growth of poverty in this country which, in turn, is directly related to public education (ed reformers want to pooh-pooh this point and/or pretend like a swell teacher can solve all those issues)

I could go on and on. And I'm not a fatalist - I'm someone looking around and asking questions and NOT accepting Arne Duncan and his crappola.

"The possibility that the CCSS have lost that window and that the push back will succeed is also tangible."

You know why? Because, once again, those in ed reform wanted THEIR vision and to control the message. It - will -not - work and they have ONLY themselves to blame. (I read Rick Hess - a noted conservative ed writer - and boy, does he call some people out for what he seems to think is supreme overreach and stupidity. See, I don't just read Diane Ravitch.)

dan dempsey said...

SWK et al.,

The WEA were proponents of CCSS in 2010 & 2011, because WEA leadership backed it. The leadership had very little contact with members in regard to CCSS.

In WA State to recall a public official misfeasance or malfeasance must be shown before a petition for recall can even be started.

I filed for the recall of Randy Dorn in Superior Court in Pierce County (where Dorn resides) because he violated a law written expressly for him 6696.

Mr Dorn was defended by the attorney general. I lost because the judge ruled that this law was for the legislators benefit and none of them initiated the recall. The fact that the public had zero idea of what was happening and was unable to make comment on the report because of its late publication was not important. So much for open government.

I would have appealed this to the supreme court but did not wish to spend the $280.

At this point I'd already come to the conclusion that the game is rigged for oligarchs.

-- Dan Dempsey

seattle citizen said...

YEs. As Charlie often points out, policy (the product of an elected board and subject to public Comment as is well and good in a democracy) is not worth the paper it is written on. For instance, when and how were the district's new Amplify interim assessments that are to be administered three times in late fall and early winter? Amplify, working with, yes, Gates, brought us the inBloom debacle, where student data was to be gathered at a national level. Now SPS will use their "common" (across district) assessments?
Who paid for these? Who approved it? I have found no evidence of an approved contract, only a 2012 RFP. So CCSS/SBAC infiltrates further into a student's year without public comment; it just appears.
JUST like MAP, the district will no doubt evaluate teachers based on Amplify scores. SBAC/Amplify will generate rubrics and lessons purporting to address CCSS. Teachers whose evals depend on the test scores will use these products, probably all on the same page on the same day, to instruct. Skills and content not in these products will not be taught, nor assessed.
And so, undemocratically, a district-wide system of CCSS adherence slips quietly in the back door.
The oligarchy knows what's best.

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