Jeff Solochek's Confused Interpretation of Third Grade Retention

Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director

Jeff Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a confused and confusing column yesterday about the effects of the new testing law (HB 7069) on third grade retention, saying the following:

Because the law no longer mandates retention, districts are now figuring out how to have uniform decisions throughout their elementary school systems.

Here are four pieces of evidence showing that his statement is not true:
His earlier column on the subject:
This wording [The diluted Hays amendment requiring a validity study allegedly before retention] does not end or put off the retention of third graders.

The language to which he refers for the statement above that third grade retention is not ended:
1216 (c) Until such time as an independent verification of the
1217 psychometric validity of the statewide, standardized assessments
1218 first implemented in 2014-2015 is provided,for purposes of
1219 [determining - stricken]  grade 3 English Language Arts student performance
1220[ retention pursuant to s. 1008.25(5) - stricken] and high school graduation
1221requirements pursuant to s. 1003.4282, student performance on
1222 the 2014-2015 statewide, standardized assessments shall be
1223 linked to the 2013-2014 student performance expectations.

Because the legislature struck the language referring to the third grade retention statute related to the validity study requirement, there is no protection for third graders being retained due to an invalid test.

Additionally, the language above is only for the 2014-2015 school year.  There is no language to indicate that the third grade retention policy is changed, weakened, postponed, or stopped any time beyond 2015.

Another place in the new law:

922 (b) To be promoted to grade 4, a student must score a
923 Level 2 or higher on the statewide, standardized English
924 Language Arts assessment required under s. 1008.22 for grade 3.

House K-12 Education Chairwoman Marlene O'Toole during floor debate on the final bill:

It requires third grade students who receive scores in the bottom quintile of 2014-15 ELA assessments to be identified as at risk of retention.  Until the validity of the assessments is confirmed, these students will receive intensive instruction and support. Members! Members! To be clear, this does not restore social promotion.  Scores will be linked and the third grade retention policy was not changed. (Emphasis added).

Solochek goes on to say in the column that there are ways to still have a student promoted called "good cause exemptions": such as other tests and portfolios.  This is true, but nothing has changed with those exemptions and they have been in law for a long time.. In addition, those exemptions only are allowed to kick in after the student has failed the FSA test, which we have extensively documented is invalid and there is not protection in the new law from third graders being retained by taking an invalid test.

This column does a disservice to the Times readership, making them think there is a new relaxation of mandates when there clearly is not.  This adds confusion to an already complicated situation.  Apparently Politifact does not fact check its own reporters.

Posted in Testing. Tagged as 3rd grade retention, FSA, Jeff Solochek, Rep. Marlene O'Toole.

Bush's poll Numbers Continuing to Sink Due to Common Core, Honesty, & Cronyism Concerns

Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director

The wind may be leaving the sails of Jeb Bush's ship Air of Inevitability.  His big lead is eroding in poll after poll as parent and taxpayer outrage about his involvement in and undying support of Common Core and the accompanying invasive, punitive, and invalid tests. As other candidates truly enter the race, instead of pretending to be "strongly considering" it, there is more anger about his perceived skirting of campaign finance laws, the appearance of his continued iron fisted control of Florida Legislature and GOP, his testing policies that have metastasized to other states and to federal law, and continued scrutiny of his past financial dealings.

Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times said this about Bush and Common Core in his recent  article about how Jeb's claim to still be considering a presidential run so as to be able to skirt campaign finance laws and gather more money:

At some point this year, however, Bush may find his non-campaign campaign makes primary voters start to doubt his honesty as much as they do his positions on Common Core and immigration reform.

That was a follow-up to Smith's note about Bush's Common Core position in relation to Florida Senator Marco Rubio's now officially announced run:

He [Rubio] must have sufficient money to communicate. This may be the first election in which billionaires pick a presidential nominee and that's good news for Rubio. Bush is likely to raise far more money than any other Republican candidate, but he faces so much hostility and skepticism in the base due to his last name and his support for Common Core education standards that he may need all that money.

During that speech, Rubio also took a shot at Bush's air of inevitability

RUBIO: I've heard -- I've heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn.
AUDIENCE: No. It's your turn.
RUBIO: But I cannot. Because I believe our very identity as an exceptional nation is at stake, and I can make a difference as president.

And later Rubio subtly took a shot at his last name:

And we're never going back. You see, we American are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future, and before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America, but we can't do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past.

Here are some more examples of why many voters are skeptical of Jeb Bush:
Here are some examples of recent polls and focus groups showing that voters are not buying the educational and other political snake oil that he is selling:

Overall, according to this recent graph based on a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll:

As you can see from this chart based on our March 2015 NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, Walker has the highest net support, meaning that the most GOP primary voters say they COULD see themselves supporting him rather than saying they COULDN'T see themselves backing his candidacy.

Rubio comes in a solid second. Rubio's home state rival, Jeb Bush, does a little bit better than breaking even.

New Hampshire Public Policy Polling as discussed this week in St. Peters Blog
A new poll published by Public Policy Polling shows Florida Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio need to do a lot of work to become competitive in New Hampshire, the site of the first Republican Presidential Primary election next January.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is looking very strong, leading with 24 percent support. That's 10 percentage points higher than the second-place Republican, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. And what's most impressive is that Walker was only at  percent when PPP surveyed New Hampshire voters back in January.

Rand Paul is third with 12 percent, and Jeb Bush comes in fourth with just 10 percent support. Marco Rubio and Chris Christie follow with 8 percent. Mike Huckabee and Dr. Ben Carson are at 7 percent. Rick Perry is at 4 percent...

...Bush continues to face some early skepticism from conservative voters. His overall favorability spread is only 41/40 among New Hampshire voters, and among voters who identify themselves as "very conservative" he's actually on negative ground at 34/45. Only six percent within that group say Bush is their first choice to be the Republican nominee.

According to this Bloomberg New Hampshire focus group, the idea of Bush as the front runner engendered laughter and not a single one of that group would support him.
Florida Mason Dixon poll reported 4/17/15 as discussed in Sunshine State News Rubio Catches Bush

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's, R-Fla., high-profile rollout of his presidential campaign this week paid off in Florida, a new poll shows.

Rubio edges former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., in Florida according to an early presidential primary poll from Mason-Dixon released on Friday. Taking 31 percent, Rubio has the slightest of leads over Bush who gets 30 percent. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pulls 8 percent, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., garners 7 percent while Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., takes 2 percent in the poll while 5 percent back other candidates and 17 percent are undecided.
Florida Quinnipiac poll as discussed by Florida Politics 4/2/15

The former governor continues to lead the field of potential 2016 candidates with 24 percent. That's 9 percentage points more than the next candidate in Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who comes in at 15 percent. Marco Rubio is a close third with 12 percent.

However that's an 8-point drop for Bush since the last time Quinnipiac polled Florida voters two months ago, when he topped the field with 32 percent of the vote. (Emphasis added)

"Bush has a lead over the field in his home state of Florida, but it's not anywhere near insurmountable, " said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll.

Even the vaunted big donors that are supposed to be part of the "shock and awe" campaign to lock up support with the big money are not, according to the New York Times, all that thrilled with Bush:

Three months into what allies once confidently described as a "shock and awe" drive to overcome his rivals and dominate the Republican presidential field, Jeb Bush's early campaigning looks like the juggernaut that wasn't...

...For all the Republican "bundlers" who have signed up to raise money for Mr. Bush, others remain uncommitted or are hedging their bets by aiding more than one candidate. Some are privately chafing at what they view as the Bush camp's presumption of their loyalty.

Bush may have thought that his last name and all of the millions of dollars in donations he is receiving would give him an unobstructed path to the nomination, but he did not anticipate the wrath of millions of mama and papa bears and teachers not ready to yield their children and students to the government/corporate education reform that he is peddling.

Posted in Political Aspects of Common Core. Tagged as 2016, Adam Smith, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mason Dixo, New York Times, polls, Public Policy Polling, Quinnipiac, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, St. Peters Blog, Sunshine, Tampa Bay Times, Ted Cruz, Wall Street Journal.

Three Anti-Common Core Republican Senators Declare for President While Hillary Defends Standards

The last several weeks have been encouraging for parents and taxpayers that want to see a presidential candidate stand for the Tenth Amendment regarding education and against  the federal over reach of Common Core and the associated tests and data collection system.  Three Republican US senators have declared their candidacy for the highest office in the land: Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Senator Ted Cruz declared at Liberty University in Virginia and said in his speech, "Instead of a federal government that seeks to dictate school curriculum through Common Core...imagine repealing every word of Common Core.

Senator Rand Paul has always been against Common Core and has been innovative enough to introduce federal budget legislation to de-fund the US Department of Education (2011 - S162) He did not mention Common Core or education during his speech, but many statements at various events including in Florida as well as his co-sponsorship of various bills and amendments have shown that he is strongly against  the standards.


Senator Marco Rubio just declared at the Freedom Tower in Miami.  He also has said on numerous occasions that he is against the standards.  His speech did not specifically mention Common Core, but did talk about school choice and affordable higher education.

And opposite the three Republicans, Hillary just days after announcing her candidacy, defended Common Core in Iowa, saying:

"Wow, that is a powerful, touching comment that I absolutely embrace.  You know when I think about the really unfortunate argument going on around Common Core it's very painful because the Common Core started off as a bipartisan effort, it was actually non-partisan, it wasn't politicized, it was trying to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country no matter what kind of school district they were in, no matter how poor their family was, there wouldn't be two tiers of education.  Everybody would be looking at what was to be learned and doing their best to try to achieve that," Clinton responded.

Mrs. Clinton does not seem to understand that many New York Democrats oppose Common Core and that opposition is just as bipartisan as the alleged support for the national, federally funded standards and tests.

Photo Courtesy of Truth in American Education

It will be interesting to see how the campaign progresses as both establishment candidates, Clinton and Jeb Bush both strongly support Common Core. 

Posted in Political Aspects of Common Core. Tagged as 2016, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz.

Common Core Linked Vocabulary Site Teaches 6th Graders Sexually Inappropriate Material

More sexually inappropriate Common Core aligned curriculum has been found, this time in Collier County. Here is the report from WINK News in the Naples/Fort Meyers area:

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. Some Collier County parents are taking exception to a new pop-quiz vocabulary question some kids were told to answer.

Middle school students in Collier County may have been learning a little bit too much for their age after a racy practice test question during a vocabulary quiz has left parents baffled.

"The question involves a man making a donation to a sperm bank, it describes a man making the donation, it's not appropriate for a sixth grader, certainly not appropriate for a collier county public education," CCSD parent Doug Lewis said.

In trying to dodge criticism, the website says that it has over 110,000 questions and has only received four or five complaints in the last several years.  The Collier School District has at least temporarily suspended its contract with the company.

The website's blog has 348 articles related to Common Core and appears highly tied in and supportive of the standards.  One article even mentioned how Florida "has artfully decided to dodge the political maelstrom associated with the Common Core by essentially giving the standards another title."  Sexually charged material in Common Core aligned English (ELA) curriculum is not new news.  There are several books on the official Common Core exemplar reading list for junior high and high school that have extremely sexually graphic material like The Bluest Eye that covers rape, incest, and pedophilia; Dreaming in Cuban that contains a sex scene between unmarried teens; and In the Time of The Butterflies that also contains graphic sexual material. Florida's State Board of Education rejected the official list of the exemplars but gave districts the choice to choose any of them.

This is yet another reason to reject the Common Core/Florida Standards and their aligned tests and data mining systems.

Keep in Touch