Cheating and ChatGPT (Denise Pope and Drew Schrader)

If you only read one piece this week about kids, schools, and education, this is it.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Denise Pope is co-founder of Challenge Success and senior lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Education. Drew Schrader is a school design partner at Challenge Success.This article appeared in The Hechinger Report, February 14, 2023

Recently, there’s been a virtual tsunami of stories about artificial intelligence and its impact on education. A primary concern is how easy programs like ChatGPT make it for students to cheat. Educators are scrambling to rethink assignments, and families are struggling with another addition to the ever-growing list of online tools that cause concern.

Yet, the conversations we have heard so far are really missing the point. Instead of asking “How can we prevent students from cheating?,” we ought to ask whythey are cheating in the first place.

From our research on hundreds of thousands of middle and high school students over the past decade, we have learned that cheating is often a symptom of…

View original post 865 more words

Looney Tunes

Welcome to the eve of another Florida legislative session or, as we locals call it, Looney Tunes when Florida’s attention-seeking representatives compete to see who can introduce the most crazy, most stupid, most overreaching, most gonna-get-the-internet buzzing, most own-the-libs bill for consideration.

A word about the title: Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) knows about the racism that infused the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. It’s not only the banned cartoons the link will inform you about; it’s also the way stereotypes infuse the classic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and more cartoons. Some people object that Warner Bros. edited that out in the 1980s, but it’s too pervasive for editing to remove the underlying, offensive themes.

Given the current governor’s anti-woke campaign, which includes banning any teaching in public schools that might make anyone (white) feel uncomfortable about the past, bring up systemic racism, or imply that we have a responsibility to address past inequities, the title bears a painful irony even as GOT uses it in its general slang sense of ongoing mayhem.

“I’ve never owned a slave.” How often has GOT heard a white person say that as if the only issue in discussing reparations is the economic theft of labor before the 13th amendment passed. How about the massacres and violence directed against Black people whenever and wherever they built up wealth–places like Tulsa, OK, Wilmington, NC, and too many others to list them all that destroyed their property and took their lives.

“I didn’t do that.” How about the GI bill that benefitted returning white veterans of World War 2 but left out returning Black veterans?

“I wasn’t alive then.” How about the redlining that limited Black people to certain neighborhoods that then failed to appreciate in value the way that white neighborhoods did? The main way that white families built generational wealth was denied to Black families because of the racism codified into law and human behavior. What about that?

Ron DeSantis seeks to bring back those days, those Looney Tune days (feel the bitter irony?) with his anti-woke campaign. There is legislation to ban investments in businesses with environmental, social, or governmental policies that consider anything other than the rapacious pursuit of profit. There is HB 999 that would eliminate programs and centers that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as well as majors and minors that could be considered CRT (critical race theory), gender theory, or intersectionality related.

Even now, the governor’s office is sending messages to colleges and universities demanding information about DEI programs.

But there’s more. SB 1320 would ban the use of preferred pronouns expressed by either a student or a teacher. It would extend the ban on classroom instruction about gender identity or sexual orientation through grade 8, the last middle school grade. (Because, as everyone knows, that’s all schools do. They’ve given up on teaching reading, math, science, and history because corrupting American youth is just so delicious and the mission is to reach them before they reach puberty around age 25 or so. Oops, sarcasm alert.)

HB 1069 would give authority over adopting sex education curriculum to the state Department of Education, which removes curriculum-deciding authority from local school boards. It would declare in statute that a person’s sex can only be binary, either male or female, as observed at birth from genitalia and that this is unchangeable, immutable, and forever.

Sponsor of SB 254, erstwhile Jacksonville Councilman, he has always looked like Richey Rich to GOT.

SB 254 would prohibit parents from seeking gender-affirming care for their children. Oh, those silly parents who think that Florida’s Republicans led by their Dear Leader really hold parents’ rights as a moral principle! If parents do that, Florida courts would be given the authority to remove custody of their children and place them into the state system.

Oh, and all health-care providers would have to swear that they are not providing gender-affirming care just in case parents escape notice.

Then there’s the bill that would require bloggers to register with the state if they derive income from what they publish online.

Let GOT declare now that no one pays him for what he writes in this little-noticed blog. Further, he has denied WordPress permission to show ads on the pages that would otherwise provide a small stream of income to offset the hosting and domain name fees.

GOT knows how the GOP sneers at him because he gives it away for free. But there are more important things to life than acquiring money.

But the silly season is not done yet. The last example is SB 1248, which would outlaw the Democrat Party without mentioning it by name. After enjoying his more than 15 minutes of Andy Warhol fame, the bill’s sponsor walked it back saying he was only trolling the opposition. But what’s really hilarious is that when GOT did a Google Search for a link, Google added ‘cartoon character’ to the description, which fits the Looney Tunes motif of this post, that nowhere appears in the actual article.

Let’s not overreact. Every Florida legislative session, as GOT suspects happens in many other states, features foolishness designed to gain attention. These bills are doomed to die in committee. Two months is not enough time for the hundreds of bills that are filed to even get a hearing, much less advance to the floor of either chamber.

However, we have also seen how one year’s crazy-pants bill laughed out of town becomes a common-sense-how-come-nobody-thought-of-this-before law two or three years later. The first year’s objective is merely to introduce the outrageous to the conversation.

Moreover, Florida is also prone to the strike-all-and-replace amendment that takes place the night before the last day of the session in the house speaker’s or senate president’s office. The first 59 days seldom matter. It’s what the strong-arm leaders will put on the floor on the last day with the threat to vote for it or else. Bills that die in committee have a strange way of resurrecting in the budget or other legislation at the end.

Constant vigilance is required. Keep an eye on the principal actors, especially the Top Gov, who’s off running for president in Iowa as GOT writes … oops, he hasn’t declared yet … off promoting his book in key early primary/caucus states.

AP The Never-Ending Story

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) supposes we’ll still be talking about the Ron DeSantis, Florida’s I-was-elected-by-a-margin-of-19-percent-so-shut-up governor, rejection of the new AP course, still being piloted, on African-American Studies in 2026 as he exits the executive mansion in Tallahassee.

Today let’s look at the alternatives to Advanced Placement courses and exams because Florida, under the prodding of its self-designated Top Gov (has he never seen the disastrous Dukakis tank ride from 1988? Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) remembers the scorn as people laughed and said Dukakis looked like Mr. Magoo. Must not since he replicated the comical effort with a campaign ad that tried to remind us of his Navy days, not as an aviator, but a lawyer,) is feuding with the College Board and wants to ban them from Florida including AP courses and exams.

Executive summary: There is no alternative to AP. Forget those reports of replacing the SAT with the CLT; the people behind CLT have nothing in regard to offering courses or exams for college credit. AICE (the Cambridge program) and IB are diploma programs, not a la carte offerings.

Before entertaining proposed alternatives, let’s hear from AP themselves. GOT as the AP Coordinator for his high school often has behind-the-scenes access that the general public does not. Last October, he was able to listen to a recording of a presentation made by a College Board VP about research into AP courses and the benefit they provide.

The Veep revealed that AP research concluded that there is little benefit to high school students taking more than 5 classes and exams. Above that, their research showed that additional AP exams did not shorten the time students spent in college earning their bachelor degrees. He offered two takeaways: One, we could greatly reduce the stress and anxiety of teenagers by not pushing them into too many AP classes with the accompanying heavy courseload; Two, schools should grow their AP programs not by getting existing AP students to take more classes, but by getting additional students to take an AP class.

That’s a huge difference between AP and the proposed alternatives, IB and AICE (Cambridge.) The latter are diploma programmes (English spelling deliberate.) Students are able to receive college credit for earning their IB or AICE diploma, but it’s all or nothing. Upon entering the program, they will spend their junior and senior years of high school taking a prescribed curriculum that includes core subjects like English, Science, and Math, theory of knowledge courses in which they study how we learn, and an extended essay, a research project into a topic of their choosing.

None of that is optional. IB and AICE students have to do it all or get no benefit from their efforts.

There are AP magnet programs that set expectations that students will take 8 to 10 AP classes and exams in their four years. But that is not necessary. AP allows an a la carte approach. Students can take one or two classes for which they have a particular affinity and not bother with others.

The advantage to that approach is that students have the chance to be teenagers in all their passion, hobbies, sports, after-school clubs, and goofiness. They can make choices about how much acceleration they will endure and they can focus on their developmental agenda as they choose versus an academic one.

Please understand that GOT is not trying to defend or make a case for AP. He is merely pointing out the uniqueness of the offering.

GOT looked at the CLT or Classical Learning Test. It has nothing to do with offering college-level classes in high school and the chance to earn college credits through passing end-of-the-year exams.

What are the alternatives to AP? Google to the rescue (?) in response to that question:

And just for giggles, you can check out this link. It says the same thing as above. No one gets college credit for extracurricular activities, not even the jocks who will get a full ride because of their talent on the gridiron, court, or diamond. Same for honors courses. Same for independent study.

Dual enrollment is an option, but again, it is an all-or-nothing approach. Students take classes under the auspices of a college or university that will gain them credits for high school graduation and a two-year college Associate Degree. That’s nothing to be sneezed at, but they don’t get the opportunity to limit themselves to one or two classes if they’re not up to the time and effort demanded.

There’s no alternative to AP. So if Ron DeSantis, in a typical pique because someone challenged him, forbids high schools from participating in the Advanced Placement program, he deprives them of this option with nothing to replace it.

Unless he orders Florida’s universities to remake their freshman survey courses into something high school students can do and to require them to grant credit. One never knows what Little Napoleon will do next.

But that would limit Florida students who gain those credits to Florida universities. They would find themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage if they want to go out of state to colleges like Harvard or Yale, you know–the ones DeSantis attended.

In the days ahead, we can count on Top Gov and his minions to employ sleight of hand to keep us diverted from this reality.

The Best Man

If things keep going the way they are going, LOL, the expression ‘Banned in Boston’ will be replaced by ‘Banned in the Bold New City of the South’, a/k/a Jacksonville, Florida.

While it’s debatable whether the picture books about Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron were disallowed in DCPS libraries or under review (GOT seems to remember that they were disallowed until they weren’t,) what isn’t debatable is that this book is definitely banned.

What’s a Grumpy Old Teacher to do? Why, buy the book and read it for himself.

First, understand that the objection was the positive portrayal of gay marriage. The person doing the review believed that other marriages were disparaged in the book. More than that, the reviewer concluded that the book portrays sexual excitement and thus would damage students. Oh, and by the way, the reviewer found that the book contained scenes of bullying and that the scenes were ignored by school administration.

Let’s dispense with that sexual excitement claim. If the reviewer is getting off by reading this book, um, that’s a private matter between her and her therapist. Nobody else finds anything titillating in the book or appealing to a ‘prurient interest’ as defined in the classic SCOTUS case, Miller vs. California.

It was Justice Potter Stewart who gave us the best (pun intended) take on pornography:I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

If you will allow GOT to apply that to the book in question: I know it when I don’t see it. This book ain’t it.

The book itself is book-ended by two weddings in each of which the protagonist participated. The book is written in first person and presents itself as a memoir from a boy recounting his years from kindergarten to early middle school.

The train wreck of the opening wedding does not disparage heterosexual marriage or as Christian Nationalists would sniff, “Between a man and a woman as defined by the body parts they were born with.” It was a brilliantly written episode in which a 5-year old resisted that which he was told he must do: be the ring bearer in a wedding that meant nothing to him and wear a too-tight outfit that brought on disaster.

This first chapter in the book brings together the protagonist and his best bud, who will accompany him along his journey through childhood and school. BTW, it’s really funny as well. If GOT as an adult can appreciate the humor, imagine how funny the book will be to children.

The text is brilliantly well-written. In the early chapters, the sentences are short and limited to basic vocabulary. As we move through the protagonist’s years, the sentences and words expand to match the growing development of the protagonist. While it is clear that the book’s major theme is the acceptance of gay men and gay marriage, it is slowly revealed through foreshadowing in the early chapters and the protagonist’s slower grasp of things everyone else already knows including his best bud.

The book contains scenes of everyday school life, the good and the bad. Some of that bad is bullying. In particular, there are two types. One is the ill-treatment of a student (5th grader) deemed gay. But the reaction of the adults is anything but negligent. In this, the reviewer errs, but perhaps because of her own prejudices, she skips over it.

The second is the middle school cafeteria, where the 7th graders do not allow the 6th graders to eat unless they pay protection money. The 6th graders are saved by a new student who comes with a bodyguard. It is a stretch to say that this plot twist makes the book unacceptable. It only means that the book falls within the prevailing ethos of this age literature in that the adults are incompetent but the kids save themselves.

Particularly hilarious are the off-hand comments about standardized testing when the kids use the ‘special pencils’ from the locked storeroom to bubble in the answer sheets. Bits like these make it clear that the author knew his subject and the kid-worldview of school well. One would almost be tempted to say the protagonist was the B.E.S.T. man, but that Florida joke would fall flat in the rest of the country.

This is a good book. Children will find it an enjoyable read. The only protest comes from those uncomfortable with a positive portrayal of two men in love who make a commitment of marriage and the matter-of-fact way others accept it. People like the protagonist’s parents, who think the matter of concern is that the gay uncle stop sabotaging relationships and have someone who will make him happy.

If you call that pornography, the rest of us can see why you would object to this book in school libraries. If you fight the culture wars, the rest of us can see why you would misinterpret this as propaganda in your self-declared war. But really, the book is nothing more than a fictional memoir of a boy growing up in today’s world who admires his uncle much as my nephew admired me when he grew up.

In closing, the book also depicts happy, loving marriages between cis-gendered, heterosexual couples, the protagonist’s grandparents and his parents. GOT can’t imagine how the reviewer overlooked that.

The CLT Exam

As we closed out one of the weirder weeks in Florida public education, where the governor did some backpedaling over the censorship his 2022 laws imposed upon public school libraries and classrooms, doubled down on his feud with the College Board, and readied legislation to take control of the nonprofit association that regulates high school sports, we got this, a report that education officials had spent the week hashing out their alternative to the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test, depending upon the era in which you encountered it.)

So THAT’S why the Florida Department of Education didn’t release December testing results to parents and schools until Friday even though they had sent the results to school districts last week.

They were busy examining the CLT and creating witty tweets like these:

Senior Chancellor of Florida’s Department of Education

The CLT began as a pitch to parents that it would help their home school, private school, or charter school children highlight their strengths better than the established SAT, ACT, and PSAT.

Here’s their comparison of their test vs. the SAT:

There doesn’t seem to be much difference except perhaps the additional fees for score reports that College Board charges after the first four reports/score sends that the College Board includes in the exam cost.

Looking at the sample exam available on their website, it doesn’t appear to be different from the SAT except in its choice of excerpts in the reading test (Anna Bronte’s 1847 Anna Grey, Naureen Ghani’s 2017 blog post about octopi, John Paul II’s 1984 essay on Christian suffering, and Aristotle’s treatise on government vs. the College Board’s offerings, which can be seen through practice exams it makes available on its website, that might include excerpts from other places.)

It’s the same for the writing test. There is no difference in the math tests.

One difference is that someone working through a practice SAT can score their work at the end to see how they might do on an actual exam, but the CLT sample test does not offer an answer key for self-scoring.

Why would this be more advantageous for home-schooled, private (Christian) schooled or charter-schooled (as in Classical Academies pushed by Hillsdale College)? Could it be that the CLT chooses texts that those students would be more familiar with as they are not exposed to other writings from cultures other than Western ones, including the Greco-Roman writings that formed the foundation of European thought?

But the CLT puts students at a great disadvantage. For one thing, if Governor DeSantis ditches all College Board products, Florida’s 11th-grade students will no longer take the PSAT/NMSQT that is used to award scholarships to the highest-scoring students. For another thing, few colleges accept this alternative and among those that do, none are Florida public universities although that is subject to change if the Governor decides to force Florida’s university system to accept CLT scores and perhaps no others.

No major or minor university or college accepts the CLT except for these, mostly private and/or Christian schools. Find the list here.

But the CLT comes with its own technical report as proof of its worthiness as an SAT or ACT alternative. It begins thusly:

That’s a marketing pitch, not a report on validity and reliability.

That’s a dated claim. The SAT is moving online next year with less time needed for the test and much faster reporting of scores.

Not defending the College Board, but providing evidence for SAT changes.

The technical report continues:

From the disguised shot at the Common Core standards, now anathema to all but its most dedicated proponents (yes, you’re thinking of David Coleman, CEO of the College Board,) to the dismissal of contemporary sources, this paragraph reads like something J.K. Rowling would put into the mouth of her character Dolores Umbridge.

There’s a lot more in the report, graphs, explanations for those unused to test lingo from testing experts known as psychometricians, and yes, we could have a lot of fun with that word, but they are serious people who try to make sure that standardized tests are good ones. The entire purpose is to get here:

And that is more than enough for Ron DeSantis to hang his hat on.

AP Forest for the Trees

The tree is interesting, stately and grand, but what about the forest?

Last month, the Department of Education in the Not-So-Free State of Florida sent a letter to the College Board, purveyors of the Advanced Placement program, to inform them that it was rejecting the course African-American Studies and would not allow it to be taught in Florida. Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) first wrote about it here and then followed up with a second piece here.

In the back-and-forth since then, the latest shot coming Saturday night from the College Board (think about that–the College Board, purveyor of AP courses and exams, must regard this as a crisis if they have discussed this on the weekend and issued a statement at 8 PM Saturday night), there has been much focus on who said what to whom and when.

What did the College Board know and when did they know it? It was reported that the College Board lied about its interactions with Florida officials. but the letter last night disputes that fact.

What was removed and why was it done? People are comparing the pilot framework with the official framework and speculating on the changes. This goes on and on. What logs were removed from the forest and why?

In an anti-Oprah moment, Florida tells its Black students that you don’t get to study reparations, you don’t get to study Black Lives Matter, you don’t get to study …

GOT, as the AP Coordinator for his high school, was able to sit in on a video conference that the College Board staged last Tuesday for its AP Community. (Their words, not mine.)

The presenters were at pains to make two points: (1) A course framework is not a curriculum. It merely lays out the topics teachers need to cover to prepare their students for the AP exam. Teachers create their own curriculum and have access, through AP Classroom, an online school if you will for authorized AP teachers, to create assignments for students by selecting from the numerous resources available.

(2) Nothing has been removed from the course. The suggested resources in the AP pilot framework are in the process of being put into the AP Classroom. The College Board needs permissions to do that and, as the permissions are granted from the persons who hold copyright over the source, the resources are added.

Further, those controversial topics are areas for students to explore. Rather than mandate them, AP has placed them as possible areas for research as it added a mandatory research project to the exam.

In response, Florida demanded access to AP Classroom (normally restricted to approved AP teachers) to see what resources the College Board is providing.

Florida claimed credit for making AP change the course, AP clapped back, and …

People, you’re reading about the trees. Let’s step back and look at the forest.

It’s as basic as this. Top Gov, a/k/a Ron DeSantis, says he has no problem with African-American HISTORY as long as it’s confined to a dry recitation of the facts.

But he has a huge problem with African-American STUDIES, which will affirm the value of Black people in our society, which will examine contemporary issues that affect them today and consider the multiple viewpoints that Black people have about those issues …

Hell, no <ahem> this time, Ron DeSantis has a huge problem with Black people, period. He’s not going to read this post, but GOT will tweak him anyway by ending with the anthem–

Whiplash, Part Two

We’re getting a deepening understanding about the events taking place regarding the Youth Risky Behavior Survey (YRBS) that culminated in the abrupt cancelation of plans to administer the survey in the next four weeks in Duval County. It is the abrupt reaction of the school district and the hastiness of its decisions that throw off long-set plans and NGO partnerships that is causing the whiplash.

One can only speculate about what might have happened behind the scenes from Tuesday’s School Board meeting in which our favorite ‘my way or the highway, no wait, forget the highway, my way, period’ group of malcontents complained about the survey and the questions that were asked to Friday’s receipt of a letter from Manny Diaz, Jr., the current Commissioner of Education.

Do people still overnight letters? Was this sent by certified mail? It would have been hilarious if this arrived by snail mail and the district pretended they never received it.

The letter is a classic example of bureaucratic dictatorship in which, without ever saying it directly, the bureaucrat makes clear the decision that will be made and leaves the impression that there will be consequences if the desired decision is not forthcoming. It also contains opinions stated as facts, another rhetorical flourish of someone who will brook no discussion of the issue. (Paragraph 1: “such an inflammatory and sexualized survey …” Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) wonders if the Commissioner has even seen the questions.)

But the letter overreaches and betrays the Commissioner as an ignorant man when it comes to education, child/adolescent development, youth culture, and youth behavior when he asserts that if a child even sees the questions, that will induce them to engage in behaviors they would not otherwise have imagined.

That won’t stop him, though, from lecturing Dr. Greene, who has earned post-secondary degrees in K-12 Curriculum and Instruction (Ph.D) and Educational Leadership (MS). Clearly, the man who carried the water for his charter school employer in the Florida Senate knows more than she does about what is helpful, educational, and developmentally-appropriate for youth. (“The primary focus of your district should be …” and “you should refocus your efforts on teaching and learning …”, also “my first priority has and will always be …”)

On top of that, the district received this letter from the Florida Department of Health (FLDOH):

A 30-day notice of cancelation effective immediately..

It is the FLDOH that gathers the surveys, analyzes the responses, and reports on the results. Without notice, it informed the Superintendent that it refuses to honor its contract even though a 30-day notice of cancelation is required by contract. The Superintendent was put into an untenable situation and was forced to abort the plans for the 2023 survey for which the school district was under contract with the Center for Disease Control to administer.

What a mess! Dr. Greene made this statement (reported in the story from News4Jax, a local TV station):

“Since 2009, the YRBS has been used to provide the district and health partners with extensive data about the experiences of our students and the services they need,” said Dr. Diana Greene, superintendent. “We know we are serving multiple students as young as middle school who are already moms and dads. Even though this survey is going away, we will do our best to remain attentive to the experiences and behaviors of our students and continue to work with other community partners to address their needs.”

How Duval County Public Schools will do that in the future is uncertain. We will have to await further whiplash … er, developments as this controverse du jour continues.

The original post, Whiplash, may be found here.


Anyone know of a good junkyard-dog style lawyer?

Today, at work/school, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) jotted a list of topics to work on. Among them were the developments in actions his school district is taking to comply with Florida laws, Department of Education edicts, and gubernatorial tantrums.

Like a good French restaurant with its soupe du jour, it seems we are in for an extended period of controverse du jour. Today, it’s the biennial survey of secondary students known as the YRBS, or Youth Risky Behavior Survey.

This week, the results of the 2021 survey were released and they were alarming. The middle-school and high-school age students of GOT’s district reported that

  • Nearly 1 in 4 middle school students (24.4%) made a plan to die by suicide
  • More than 16% of high schoolers reported attempting suicide in the 12 months before the survey
  • More than 21% of high school students and 17% of middle school students said they abused prescription drugs

GOT is sorry to have to link to a news report. He went to the actual website,, but it seems that they deleted the page that presented the full results:

Elizabeth Anderson, a former school board member, reported this on Twitter:

GOT replied in confusion because he’s thinking that for two weeks he’s been told of the March 9 deadline for him to complete the survey in his school and have it back in district hands. Was this referring to the 2023 survey?

GOT received a reply to his email that District personnel were packing the materials this week and would ship it to the schools next week. It seemed that the 2023 survey was proceeding as it had for the last decade. (GOT was made the School Assessment Coordinator (SAC) for his high school at the beginning of the previous school year and overseeing these surveys is part of his job responsibilities.)

But this is late. Normally, the survey materials arrive at school sites in late January. What was the hold-up? GOT had his suspicions and now it seems that they are true.

Before we reach the end of tonight’s tale, let’s divert into the actual survey process. If the box had arrived, it would have contained instructions for administering the survey, a list of the classes selected to do the survey (it’s only a few; the survey is a sample randomly chosen), cards for the students to use to log into the survey as it went online last time around, and most importantly, a parent notification letter that must be sent home to every selected participant’s parent to give them the opportunity to opt out of the survey.

That takes about a week. The letters are given to the students, you have to allow for absentees to get it the next class, and parents need to have time to send it back to the school. Opted-out students do not take the survey and the returned opt-out letters are sent into the district at the end of the survey.

Even if a parent does not opt a student out of the survey, students have the right to refuse. Last time, almost an entire class at GOT’s school refused to do it. It was probably that the socially dominant members of the class refused and the rest followed. But that doesn’t matter. We cannot force students to do this. It cannot be part of a class grade as it would be unethical to give a failing grade in biology, math, ELA, or even P.E. because the survey has nothing to do with the learning objectives of these classes. We cannot write discipline referrals. Again, that would be unethical as students have the right to say that they are not comfortable taking the survey and that they won’t do it.

Further, students can do the survey and skip any question they don’t want to answer. Before becoming the SAC, GOT would tell his students to be mindful of their privacy and that they could skip any question they didn’t want to answer. GOT would let them get started and then deliberately would sit at his desk and not watch the students as they answered the questions so that the students would feel confident that no one could match their responses to them.

Even when it was paper-based, GOT would place the envelope at the front of the room (his desk was in the back) and the students would put their survey in the envelope when they were done. Afterward, GOT would make a big show of sealing the envelope without looking inside to give students assurance that their responses were truly confidential and anonymous.

That’s the other part of the survey to understand. While asking about youth behaviors deemed risky takes us into deeply personal areas of their lives, the responses cannot be tracked back to any student.

The justification for the survey is that some youth are engaging in risky behaviors: tobacco, drug, and alcohol use; sexual activity; self-abuse like cutting; and having suicidal thoughts. To what extent are these prevalent among our youth? We as adults can sit around and speculate endlessly, but it’s like a teacher meeting GOT attended a few years ago when everyone was offering their opinion as to why few students wanted to be in the International Baccalaureate program. GOT grew impatient with it. If we wanted to know why students didn’t want the program, we should ask them.

Yes, if we want to know what youth are thinking, planning, and doing, we only have to ask them. They are very painfully honest in answering the questions if they know their answers cannot be tracked to them and they will face no consequences.

But the survey results give a necessary measurement of youth safety and health. Knowing the results, school and health department officials are able to plan how to address the concerns and seek funding.

Back to the story. GOT was planning to do a piece about the upcoming survey and publish it this week detailing what you have read in the paragraphs above about the process and what is found in the survey questions.

But then this tweet appeared tonight:

Surprise and yet not a surprise. GOT had suspected that the lateness of getting the YRBS underway was because the district was not going to do it given the Anderson report of complaints about the data gathering and questions. And yet, the school district had said nothing to its employees:

But then he found the story. News outlets in Jacksonville are reporting that the school district is canceling the survey.

Whiplash! Back and forth, back and forth, up is down, blue is red, purple is a beautiful thing until Top Gov decides otherwise. Then the brown flows down and you know the word <ahem> GOT is referring to.

If this keeps up, Jacksonville will earn a national reputation to rival the Luray Caverns in Virginia. The caving-in to DeSantis whims has been impressive.

Cover Girl

Nope, not this:

Not talking cosmetics.

Or even this:

A band!

Certainly not this:

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is sure this one will not be approved for a school or classroom library.

Laughter aside, the censorship of school libraries is a serious issue but we often use humor to process our experiences. The title of this post refers to this. GOT’s school district is issuing advice to its teachers about their classroom libraries and here’s the executive summary: Cover (it), girl!

Teachers, you’ve done a great job of self-censorship and we’ve been looking over your shoulder as we, too, have been reviewing books prior to receiving the official state guidance. Now that we have it, we’re going to question your decisions with a ‘second layer of review.’

Teachers, we’re expediting the process of getting books approved so you can get those books back into students’ hands … which means that students have no access to books as I make this video.

Also, we’re using technology! And, this is a wrench for us, a ‘heavy lift’ if you will, but we will give our teachers TDE to help review books and get this done even though we really, really want them to stay in their classrooms because we don’t really have any data how classroom libraries will help students perform better on their state tests.

Teachers, we’re looking to bring back retired media specialists as well. You know, the ones we got rid of ten years ago. Hope they kept their certificates active! In the meantime …

COVER (IT), GIRL! And maybe take this time to throw out all those books that haven’t been read in a long time because we realize that you spend hours and dollars buying books for your classroom that no student wants to read.

But it’s only temporary. Once we approve a book, you need not worry again unless someone decides to challenge it. Then, we pull it for review yet again! But seriously, with groups like M4L getting school board members elected, how often is that going to happen?

If you still have a school librarian, understand that they are reviewing books and have no time to provide actual media center services for the students. That’s not going to change for the foreseeable future.

In conclusion, you’re awesome, teachers! Don’t think about those weekly inspections because we don’t believe that your lesson plans are up to snuff, match the standards, or contain continuous testing of your students.

We have your back.

This is a parody piece, full of sarcasm for those who didn’t catch on. But the censorship of books in Florida schools is real. GOT’s district, like many others, is trying to be compliant, not complicit. There are those who will say that it works out to the same thing as the result either way is the same. It’s a scary time in Florida to be a teacher.

A Bill of Rights for Teachers

Consider Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) underwhelmed. As we continue to watch Ron DeSantis engage in newspeak, we see his latest offering in what he deems as a Bill of Rights for teachers.

Love those funny esses that look like effs. Sort of what DeSantis is doing to teachers.

What does the governor offer in his proposed legislation?

  1. Teachers have the right to not join a union. By virtue of accepting a job, teachers will not be forced to become a member of the local bargaining unit. However, Florida is already a right-to-work state and teachers cannot be forced to join and pay dues to the local teacher’s union. No new law is necessary.
  2. Teachers have the right to not have union dues deducted from their paychecks. But they already cannot be compelled to join the union. If they do, a paycheck deduction is the most convenient way to pay the cost of a voluntary membership. This right is not a right at all. It is union-busting as DeSantis and his Republican buddies hope that while people maintain a membership, they will neglect to pay dues and that will bankrupt the unions.
  3. Teachers have the right to increased compensation. He didn’t really say this, but the Governor is proposing to earmark additional funding for teacher salaries, this time not to raise the minimum (starting) salary, but for districts to apply to pay schedules in their discretion. It’s interesting that the Governor is finally doing something to address the chief teacher criticism of his salary appropriations in that veteran teachers have been ignored and most now make little more than rookies.
    • Pay particular attention to this one. We know DeSantis and how he operates. Veteran teachers will see this as money for them and meant for the upper levels of the pay schedule. But those with little experience will hardly look kindly on missing out on new funding. This one is meant to create dissension among the ranks of teachers.
    • Fun fact: After school districts and collective bargaining units negotiate and agree upon a contract, the pay schedules require approval from the state before they can go into effect.
  4. Teachers have the right to speedy contract negotiations. One of DeSantis’s complaints about the collective bargaining process is that some districts are taking too long and haven’t come to agreement about the 2022 appropriation. He cites districts like St. Johns County in northeast Florida. But that union did negotiate an agreement with the St. Johns County School Board. It was the rank and file, the actual teachers, that rejected it and told their union to go back to the table. So much for DeSantis’s appeal to teachers that it’s not you, it’s your union.
  5. Teachers have the right not to have their school be a focus of union activity and politicizing during school hours. It seems that would be an employer right, not an employee right, but for the record, union activity cannot take place during the school day, not even during teacher’s planning periods. No new law is needed.
  6. Teachers have the right to have their school board members limited to eight years of service in place of the existing twelve. Maybe this is an issue worth discussing, but working it into a speech about teacher’s rights is a stretch.
  7. Teachers have the right to partisan school board races. Again, maybe this issue is worth discussing, especially if it makes the political parties conduct a primary and the two candidates face off for the November vote, but it is a stretch to put it in the context of teacher rights.
  8. Teachers have the right to see their union decertified if less than 60% are participating members. Let GOT rephrase that. Teachers have the right to suffer union-busting tactics from the government. Minority rule! Not surprising this is coming from the Republicans who haven’t won the popular vote in a presidential election since 2004 and before that, 1988.
  9. Teachers have the right for restriction of their union officers’ compensation. No union official would be allowed to make more than the highest-paid teacher. Yet again, maybe this is worthy of discussion, but it’s not the government’s business to discuss compensation of a voluntary NGO’s employees. Would DeSantis propose legislation to limit the compensation of corporate CEOs? Of course not.
  10. Teachers have the right to ‘stand their ground’ (yes, he really used those words) in maintaining order and safety in their classrooms. The topic of school safety and classroom management deserve a post of their own. Let’s limit ourselves to noticing that DeSantis was making these proposals at a charter school. Has he ever visited a traditional public school for one of these announcements? Probably not, those schools are too busy educating students to tolerate an interruption for political purposes.

The above list was compiled from these sources among others: The Florida Times-Union, The Capitolist, and The Tampa Bay Times, here and here.

If you’ve made it this far, you have to be wondering how these are teacher rights. They are not; they are another example in the newspeak manner of how Ron DeSantis runs the (not-so) Free State of Florida.

Here’s a homework assignment for you. Look up the original Bill of Rights and then match each of the first ten amendments against what Florida teachers may think, say, and do in and out of their classrooms. It will be illuminating and disturbing.