The Florida Education Three Ring Circus

I’d planned to put up a brief but satisfying indictment of the FSA testing clusterfuck, but I figured it was ground currently well-covered, and I decided, therefore, to offer instead some some observations of the current weather in Florida public education, mixed together with an ample helping of therapeutic steam-letting.

Florida’s Education Policymakers Show Their True Agenda

It seems as though we are truly starting to witness a well-warranted rebellion among parents of Florida public school students. I couldn’t be happier. I read a lot of education blogs, and the one thing that really stands out is the paradox that is readily apparent to any onlooker: All the facts point to an unjustified attack on public education by selfish politicians who see it as an easy issue to manipulate for their own purposes, without regard for the truth or what is right. Strangely enough, the reaction from Tallahassee always seems to be the same: more of the same old bullshit. More attacks on public schools, more attacks on teachers, and more testing. Somewhere along the line, we need to stop this runaway train and kick the people pretending to drive it off altogether.

It’s time to show the smug, hubris-saturated politicians just who runs things around here.
Parents are beginning to see anti-public education politicians for what they are: an entire class of corrupt, unprincipled miscreants who see money ripe for the picking in our state treasury.

It was bound to come to this sooner or later, because, if you decide to denigrate and persecute a whole profession, and use an entire sub-population of our state (K12 students) as a prop on your stage while doing so, several regrettable effects are sure to manifest.

Pissed-off Teachers

First, and perhaps most importantly, is the fact that Florida teachers are just plain pissed-off on a perennial basis. Teachers are fed up with being the scapegoat for all of American society’s failures. Teachers are tired of politicians who blame teachers for everything and exert great amounts of effort tirelessly attempting to recruit parents into their disgracefully deceitful campaign to malign public education and funnel public money to private pockets. Teacher morale is extremely low, and the undercurrent is one of exasperation and cynicism. Such an outcome was inevitable.

Students notice frustrated, angry, tired teachers. They empathize. The ground level effects that intrusive education mandates flowing downward have had are pervasively suffocating on many levels and in many areas. Instruction has been reduced to near sterile monotony in compliance with requirements district-adopted, “reform” driven bunk masquerading as instructional strategies.

Take Learning Focused Strategies, for example: Pasco County Schools put every instructional employee through a four day training at who knows what cost, in an effort to come up with the final answer to mythical instructional maladies.

Rampant Institutional Stupidity

I remember attending the first day of the silly, insulting training, when the presenter opened her total bullshit monologue with, “LFS isn’t the last great thing, it’s not the current great thing, and it’s not the next great thing. Learning Focused Strategies is the final piece of work we need to do to be great educators.”

Four days of suicide-inducing drudgery. Forced participation in activities designed for kids. Ridiculously repetitive material bound in a huge manual full of wasted pages and old ideas. I remember wondering why they couldn’t just email the whole affair to us so we could dispense with all stupid theatrics of a district training.

We were compelled to uniformity in all our instructional practices by a draconian code imposed upon us from outside. We compliantly adorned our walls with all things LFS, whether we used them or not, just to deflect the seemingly perpetual, predatory walkthroughs by inept but hungry administrators eager to root out “ineffective” teachers. Pasco concocted its own custom elixir of equal parts LFS and Marzano (we’re still afflicted with him). The former usurped individuality, eliminated academic freedom and imposed mediocrity, while the latter enforced compliance. Soon, students were asking questions like, “Why does it feel like every class is the same except the subject?” Or, “What’s all this bullshit up on all the walls around here supposed to do?”

I refused to do “foldables” on principle. When the presenter at the training was making us plod through one embarrassingly idiotic activity after another, I remember thinking three things to myself. The first was, “I am awash in an ocean of stupidity,” while the second one was, “I feel like a fucking two year-old.” The last one was, “Whoever came up with this bullshit needs his ass kicked.” I might have done some silly LFS activities to appear compliant, like every other teacher I knew, but I never did a foldable. I still feel some sort of strange, revolt-laden satisfaction with that. The smallest things…

While LFS seems to have largely drifted off to wherever stupid ideas go, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning has come up with a new, mo’ better mojo: Success Planning. He’s reportedly already piloting his new opus in twelve schools. Oh fuck. Here we go again. Elbows on desk; face cupped in hands; I just can’t believe this shit.

Pissed-off Students and Pissed-off Parents

Kids get tired of testing, and parents get tired of their kids being used as tools in an endless campaign to discredit public schools.

The corporate privatizers and their politician friends just got way too carried away, and forgot that in the end, it’s the parents who drive education, and parents overwhelmingly reject the vilification of teachers for corporate profit. Parents are waking up to the fact that much of the testing is actually more about “evaluating” teachers than assessing student gains. Indeed, if assessing student gains were the goal, there were already many reliable, time proven examinations in circulation before we even started this whole testing circus that would (and did) accomplish that, without all the unwarranted expense of developing the state’s own signature suite. Funny thing is, now, all these years later, it seems that uniformity of states via Common (rotten to the) Core is the going rage, and all of Florida’s hard work is quickly becoming, admittedly or not, all for naught.

I’m afraid that things will have to get worse yet before they get any better. Parents would do well to look out for teachers, since we teach their kids. It’s hard to look out for students when you denigrate the very people who, outside of the parents, put the most energy into guiding them to adulthood. Happy teachers make effective schools.

From the beginning, corporate “reform” has been a house of cards. It’s been a race to get the goods before teachers and parents could react. The goal has been to transform education from public to for-profit without having to explicitly call it that, through the use of apt tactics like onerous testing regimens, charter schools and vouchers, and oppressive evaluation protocols. 

What needs to happen now is that every politician or bureaucrat associated with the corporate educational “reform” and testing crusade of the last few years in Florida (and the rest of the country) be driven out to pasture and left to talk to themselves. They can do less harm from there.

People need to vote. The old adage that my mother used to use really is true: If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch. I can bitch. The lousy scoundrels who have hitherto dictated policy have done so because of a huge disconnect with their own electorate born largely of voter disengagement. It has to change.

Vote for politicians who don’t use education to get elected. It’s easy to tell the difference. The ones who pepper their speeches with talk about “reform” and “accountability” are full of shit. The ones who talk about actually funding education and loosening the ropes around the teaching profession are the ones who mean to help.

In the meantime, the Withering Apple cheers on all those brave parents who choose to OPT OUT!


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