Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Reports expose fallacy of linking teacher pay to student performance

James Call writes that "a component in Florida’s teacher evaluation regime is student performance on standardized tests. At least 50 percent of the evaluation is based on test results. Now, comes a report by two researchers which calls into question the value-added model, like the one employed by Florida."

Morgan Polikoff [of University of Southern California] and Andrew Porter [of University of Pennsylvania*] studied the relationship between a VAM and the quality of instruction. After evaluating data from 327 fourth and eighth graders in six districts they found a ["surprisingly weak"] relationship between student performance and the quality of instruction provided by a teacher. Read the report here.
Call continues:
And StateImpact Florida writes about a Brookings Institution study that found the teachers who started the school year with higher achieving students earned better scores, on average, than teachers who started the year with lower achieving students.
"Report: weak link between VAM and teacher instruction."

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*The education experts at Florida's JMI who write policy briefs on education issues will no doubt be displeased by this research.

Scott campaign claims $3M April haul

"The political machine around Republican Gov. Rick Scott's re-election effort is boasting he raised $3 million in April, a showing the GOP hopes will end a streak of Democrat Charlie Crist out-raising the incumbent in hard money." "Team Scott boasts $3 million campaign-cash haul for April."

Stoopid: teacher salaries based upon tests given to kindergartners

"Under the plan, kindergartners and first-graders would take the standardized reading tests sometime between May 27 and 30."

The Legislature passed a law a few years ago that said evaluations were to be based in part on student growth as measured by standardized tests.

The problem was that students didn’t take FCAT until third grade. Also, there were no tests for many subjects, such as art, music, physical education and vocational classes. For those evaluations, Pasco and other districts assigned schoolwide FCAT averages to the teachers.

But for this school year, the Legislature changed the requirement and said the student-growth measure in the evaluation must be based on test results for students the teacher teaches.

"Rule means schools must test tots".

Session summary

"Bills eliminating state-level reviews of large development projects in more counties and environmental permitting regulations didn't make it out of the legislature but a bill favored by the real estate industry to entice insurers to write more flood insurance policies will go to Gov. Rick Scott's desk." "Session Summary: Growth Management and Real Estate."

Raw sewage

"Spreading septic tank waste on land is banned in Florida starting Jan. 1, 2016. Opponents wanted a year delay and a study of the environmental effects of spreading septic waste on land but their proposals failed during the 2014 Legislative Session." "Ban in 2016 on septic tank waste disposal now looming as bills fail to pass."

Even the extremists . . .

Even the extremists populating the Tampa Trib editorial Board recognize that "for the GOP to ignore even the possibility of climate change damage doesn’t seem to us a responsible — or conservative — response."

Florida already has experienced more frequent flooding, dying coral reefs, and tropical fish and plants extending their ranges. Rising sea levels are killing trees along some coastlines.

And those who scoff at government studies should consider that insurance companies, hardly emotional about the issue, are believers. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported the industry was expecting a rise in sea level and natural catastrophes due to climate change.

Of course, none of this means the sky is falling. The weather has changed dramatically throughout the eons.

But one doesn’t have to be a Chicken Little or want to throw the economy into a free fall to recognize the wisdom of objectively attending the facts and preparing for the possibilities.

"Both parties fail on climate change report".

Back at the ranch, "Marco Rubio clarifies climate change stance – sort of." See also "Marco Rubio's Climate Change Doublespeak."

Education equality

"The NAACP is holding a summit on education equality in honor of the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Wednesday's event in Fort Lauderdale will bring together panelists including Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree and David J. Johns, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans." "NAACP holds summit on education equality in Fla.". Meanwhile, "Groups protest race-based test standards."

Could it be magic?

"With a stroke of a pen, Gov. Scott removed more than 30 references to Common Core State Standards from Florida law. Scott signed three education bills Monday, addressing textbooks, data collection and standards." "Common Core vanishes from state law".

"The Politicians Have Left Tallahassee"

Former editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union and speech writer for Jeb Bush, Lloyd Brown shares his wisdom: "Resume Breathing: Politicians Have Left Tallahassee".

Rubio wants

"Rubio, who is a potential Republican presidential contender in 2016, also called for more private-sector options for Americans looking to save for their retirements." "Marco Rubio Calls for Opening Federal Retirement Plan to All Americans." More Marco: "Marco Rubio Calls for Opening Federal Retirement Plan to All Americans" and "Marco Rubio vs. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Florida Gubernatorial Issues."

Bondi bucks

"Pam Bondi’s edge over her various rivals continues to grow as she runs for a second term as Florida’s attorney general."

Already leading the polls, Bondi holds a considerable advantage over other candidates in the race. By the end of April she had brought in almost $1.16 million, relied on more than $684,000 of in-kind donations and spent less than $52,300. That figure doesn’t include two committees affiliated with Bondi -- “Justice for All” and “And Justice for All” -- which have already raised an additional $1.7 million.
"Pam Bondi's Edge Expands Against Rivals in AG Race."

Raw political courage

"Rick Scott Promises Speed-Limit Veto, Wins Applause."

"From Chain Gang Charlie to being a changeling"

Marc Caputo: " From Chain Gang Charlie to being a changeling, Crist stays a political step ahead of his flip flops."

Scott dodges climate change question

"Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday dodged the question of whether he still believes climate change is not caused by humans, responding that 'I'm not a scientist.'"

Florida's vulnerability to climate change was a focus in the National Climate Assessment issued last week by the White House as required by Congress.

Over the weekend, U. S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, disagreed with accepted scientific wisdom that humans were having an effect on what he called the “always evolving” climate, according to the New York Times. That led to editorials in the Washington Post, the Tampa Bay Times and the Sun-Sentinel criticizing Rubio for his stance.

"Scott says "I'm not a scientist" in response to climate change questions."

Nancy has had it with Charlie

"Most of the time, it's easy to be light and sassy about Charlie Crist. Frankly, on almost any occasion, he's good for a laugh. But last week he finally said something I couldn't laugh and sass about. I tried, couldn't do it." Nancy Smith: "Believe It: Charlie Crist Was Head to Toe About Racism."

He gone

"It was just last week that Democrat Eduardo “Ed” Jany faced questions about holes in his resume -- and on Tuesday, he dropped out of the congressional race against U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla." "Ed Jany Calls It Quits in CD 13 Race."

That glowing feeling

"Cabinet approves new FPL nukes, leaving south Miami-Dade County cities planning appeal."

"It’s ridiculous -- beyond ridiculous, really"

"Claims like this one recently circulated on the internet: 'Florida Democrats just voted to impose Sharia law on women.'"

Senate Democrats did vote against a bill that prohibits judges from applying foreign law in family-law cases if it contradicts United States public policy. In reality, though, the bill would have essentially codified existing practice. The bill didn’t single out Sharia law, and the United States Constiution still applies.

It’s ridiculous -- beyond ridiculous, really -- to suggest that Senate Democrats forced on women such elements of Sharia law as burqa-wearing and stoning to death. We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

"PolitiFact: Burqas, stoning, Sharia law and the Legislature."