Opting Out

Sarcasm alert: This piece is dripping with it and, if you’re not careful, will ruin your clothes.

An Opt-Out form for parents to instruct teachers about the instruction they wish their instructees to be instructformed.

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) really should have thought of this years ago. How much easier his life would have been and how far fewer the many, many hours he has put into teaching would have been.

Why struggle the entire year to cram an overloaded curriculum into a short-circuited school year? Why sweat out the pacing guide that says a 13-year-old child will outrun a racehorse over the course of nine months? Why put in 10 or 11 or 12 hours a day, arriving at school two hours before the first bell rings and staying until the last child who has come for after-school help has to leave?

All it takes is one simple opt-out form given to parents at the beginning of the school year with all the year’s topics listed. Check off everything you don’t want your child to learn in Algebra or Geometry.

Proofs are hard? Check it off. GOT will excuse your child.

Too many defnintions to learn? Check off half the topics on the list. It really doesn’t matter which ones; pick them at random. But your child will only have to do half the learning.

Theorems? Schmeorems. Check off the ones you don’t want taught. GOT will respect your orders.

In return, his long day will dwindle into those obscenely-short, but in the contract, hours that makes teaching the laziest job in the world. In fact, even during those must-be-on-property hours, GOT can finally, finally … HALLELUJAH! … become that tired cliche that never really existed and sit at his desk, feet up, cup of tea in hand (GOT is not a tea drinker, he loathes the stuff unless it’s on ice, but let’s not spoil a long-held false idea that namby-pamby, liberal teachers don’t drink real American beverages like coffee) reading the newspaper.

They still print newspapers, don’t they?

All because the world of education has become one of parents checking off a list of what children should learn. Father knows best, amiright? Amiright? AMIRIGHT?

Let’s time-travel back to the 1950s, a decade of segregation, a decade of long-faded TV shows that featured no black people, a sterile world of white-people-only …

Go ahead and make checks on that list. GOT double-triple-dog-dares you.

An end-of-year bonus awaits GOT. When the test scores come in and are atrocious, the administrators, state inquisitors, and district staff like the assistant deputy nepotistic washes-the-board’s-cars-on-the-weekend in charge of raising test scores superintendent show up, all GOT has to do is pull the forms out of his desk.

The parents opted out.

Charged for a Crime That Does Not Exist

When Hamlett came up with “criminal responsibility for conduct of another” as a possible charge, there was a problem. It’s not an actual charge. There is no such crime. It is rather a basis upon which someone can be accused of a crime. For example, a person who caused someone else to commit robbery would be charged with robbery, not “criminal responsibility.”

Meribah Knight, Nashville Public Radio, and Ken Armstrong, ProPublica

The actual events took place in 2016. Pro Publica, an independent, non-profit newsroom performing investigative journalism, dug deeper into the story. At the outset, know that you should read the actual story. It’s long, but it’s worth your time. Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) purpose in writing about it is to amplify the Pro Publica piece. Linking to it three times in one paragraph ought to give you an idea of how important GOT believes it is.

Here’s your Civics education, kids. You know, the education that politicians, elected officials like governors and legislators, believe is essential to your functioning as an adult member of our civil society. So essential that in Florida, we have a new test (don’t make me deaf with your groans) and a new requirement for ‘civic literacy’ in post-secondary education. We’re talking college here.

State college and university students will be required to take an assessment in addition to a civics literacy course as a graduation requirement. Currently, college students are only required to complete one. 

Rachel Fradettte, Naples Daily News

What do we really learn from the Pro Publica article? We learn that prisons-for-profit is an institutional fact in at least one Tennessee county, which leaves us wondering how many more are there that have avoided the publicity?

Rutherford County markets itself and its ideas to other counties as having the capacity to jail children because it’s for their own good, ignoring established research and federal law that recognizes that incarceration of juveniles never produces a good outcome. Instead, it leaves children to grow into adulthood traumatized and struggling to live productive lives.

We see yet one more example of the overwhelming racism baked into the structure of our civics, which is to say, our system of governance. Beyond the shocking statistic that Rutherford County locks up 48% of the children referred to juvenile court versus a Tennessee average of 5%, we also see that it is mostly black children who fall into this tough love program.

We see that the judge, elected to preside over cases in juvenile court, sees herself as an advocate for the reforming of children. She’s on God’s mission according to her words. So here’s another civics lesson in real-life America: the bleeding of religious beliefs into the functioning of government.

Normally, judges shy away from publicity and media lest an expressed opinion might taint the perception of impartiality in a future case. But this judge appeared weekly on a radio segment to explain her agenda. Another civics lesson in how the courts are becoming politicized.

What are we to make of our constitutional protections? There is a right to counsel, a right to a timely day in court, a right to a jury decision, a right to demand a warrant … but the idea that a jurisdiction would make up a crime that does not exist and arrest children (8, 9, 10 years old), is so preposterous that the Founding Fathers didn’t think a specific provision in the Bill of Rights was needed.

Mack Trucks shares market outlook at NACV | For Construction Pros
Do they still make Mack trucks these days?

That’s a hole we can drive a Mack truck through. GOT remembers that expression from his youth.

So yes, kids, yet another lesson in civics in real-life America. Elected officials, even those who serve as judges, can abuse their offices if no one is around to say no.

It is time to say no. Isn’t that what the politicians are telling us?

Junk Mail, Yet Again

How to Filter Spam With Apple Mail
There ought to be a law! Wait, there is. Maybe there ought to be a tax, which would suppress the spam, support government services, and shift the attention of the anti-vaxxermaskers to a new target. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

In this series about email spam that regularly shows up in teachers’ work cyber-boxes, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) has looked at typical pieces like survey invitations (Junk Mail) and professional development come-ons (Junk Mail, Again.) In this third piece, it’s time to look at a type of spam that targets teachers in particular–the union-busting message.

Let’s quote the message in full:

Why do people choose to join a union? Typically, it’s to secure better working conditions, get a better deal from your employer, or have a workplace representative that has their back when things get tough. A well-functioning union should represent the interests of all their members and stand behind them.

Do you feel like the Florida Education Association (FEA) is living up to your expectations?

When management unilaterally imposes working conditions, it’s the unions job to push back and protect their members.

Is your union just paying lip service or are they standing up for you?

If you believe that they are not on your side, you have options. Removing your bi-weekly financial donation to them is a powerful motivator to take you seriously. It’s time to play hard ball.

From Samuel Cohen or sam@optouttoday.com.

Look at the email address and no, don’t think for a moment that the person’s name is real. But ‘optouttoday’? That’s a slick move to co-opt the wellknown name of the anti-testing movement, Opt Out. In Florida, see here.

Opt out of testing? Opt out of your union. In particular, the Florida Education Association, the statewide umbrella organization that union locals join for the purpose of organizing collective action across the state.

But hold the phone! No one joins the FEA directly. Teachers join their local unions, who in turn belong to the FEA. The FEA is funded by the locals, who remit a specified percentage of local dues to the FEA.

It’s a funny appeal that lacks this basic knowledge. No one makes a bi-weekly donation directly to FEA. So why does the email target FEA and not the locals?

In the interest of research, GOT went to look at their website and received this message from Malwarebytes:

Website blocked due to reputation


Malwarebytes Browser Guard blocks pages that come from websites with relatively light traffic and have been reported to have malicious activity. If you trust this website, please click CONTINUE TO SITE. Otherwise, choose GO BACK.

But fools rush in … the site seems to have been created in the wake of the Janus decision. It is the brain child of the Freedom Foundation. The light traffic is most likely due to the fact that the site seems ancient (at least, in internet years.) And it’s full of propaganda, like the calculator that will try to show you how much your union dues would be better invested in a retirement plan at 6% interest.

Darla (also most likely a fake name paired with a fake quote) shows up on every page thanking them for telling her about her ability to opt out of union dues. They couldn’t find another person? Or are they merely lazy and thinking teachers are too dumb to notice?

So why the spam email now? Years ago, when GOT was a child and the nation worried about a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, he remembers adults saying that both nations had programmed their computers to retaliate. Long after everyone was dead, the computers would continue to fire nuclear missiles at each other.

That’s what this spam reminds him of. Long after its time has passed, the Optouttoday website’s bots keep firing off messages to annoy teachers who are moving through a busy day and limited planning period time.

Not a great way to promote a failing cause.


PS: For a laugh, know this about the Freedom Foundation and their high-handed morality: During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the group received assistance between $350,000 and $1 million in federally backed small business loans from Commencement Bank as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. The nonprofit stated it would allow them to retain 82 jobs.[40] Their loan was seen as notable, since they campaign against excess government spending and are small-government advocates. The Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat noted that the Freedom Foundation has “been rallying against government spending and taxes since the early 1990s”, and noting the organization’s website states “We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived. We accept no government support.”

(Source: Wikipedia. Scroll to the end.)

Junk Mail, Again

One Year in American Junk Mail | TakePart
85% of all email is estimated to be spam. Cue Monty Python …

The next specimen of junk mail that is hitting teachers’ school cyber-mailboxes is one that comes from ‘Teachers of Tomorrow.’ Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) might almost (do you hear the dripping sarcasm like you would react to fingernails dragged across a blackboard? Oh, you young people and your whiteboards, you have missed out) fall for it if the spammer had bothered to disguise their identity.

They did not. It’s SimpleK12, an online company offering practical professional development. From their website:

“Our mission is to help educators inspire their students, engage their learners, perfect their craft, and share their experiences to help others do the same. Never stop growing. Never stop learning. Never stop sharing.

Online professional development. Anytime. Anywhere… even at home in your pajamas! We call it PD in your PJs. So put your bunny slippers on, and come join us!

We help motivate, inspire, and enrich more than 800,000 teachers per year. In turn, these teachers are also there for each other. They are all in the same boat. They stay up late and get up early. They grade papers in the car, make lesson plans while making dinner, email parents while folding laundry, run the school newspaper while watching ballet practice… and SimpleK12 gives them the ideas and support they need to never give up.”

PD in your PJs? Put your bunny slippers on? When GOT posts this on social media, please, please, please, comment with your best laughing emoji.

That last paragraph brings to mind this old song:

Do work while cooking dinner or folding laundry? Would they dare say these things if their audience wasn’t mostly made up of women?

In GOT’s day, we would call this a guilt trip. Rip up your ticket; don’t get on the plane. Take off your cape if you’ve ever worn one. This psychological manipulation of teachers must stop.

Let’s see what they have in mind in return for offering $100 off a SimpleK12 membership. But that’s mindboggling! How much does a membership cost that they are offering $100 off?!

Ha! They are soliciting people to follow them on Instagram. Their handle is @texasteachersACP. They claim they are the place to “keep up with the latest classroom trends, program updates and giveaways!” In the small print, they have this to say: “You are receiving this email regarding your enrollment in our program. Check often for important updates on your certification.”

GOT did not enroll in their program. Further research reveals that these people are preying upon, oops, offering people an alt-cert path into being a public school teacher.*

Then, why are they soliciting existing public school teachers?

Too many unrelated links in a junk email. GOT’s head hurts and he will stop here.


*Anyone who did not pursue a traditional path via earning a teacher degree from an accredited college and is interested in a teaching career should contact the public school district for which they want to work for more information about alternate certification and entering the profession.

Junk Mail

One Thing You Can Do: Reduce Unwanted Mail - The New York Times
“You’ve got mail!” lost its allure years ago. Sorry, AOL.

In Florida, teachers’ email addresses are a public record, a fact that is a spammer’s dream. Usually, that means an index finger workout to keep pushing the delete button, but recently Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) mailbox got a few typical and recurring pitches.

First up, this pitch from … oh, GOT will cut and paste for you: Imagine Learning, a provider of supplemental solutions for K-12, is conducting research to gauge your reaction to proposed names for its suite of instructional materials. Teachers and administrators are invited to complete the survey to provide feedback on preferred names.

In return for entering a drawing for one of TEN, count them, TEN gift cards worth $100, Imagine Learning asks for five minutes of GOT’s time. And what did they want to know?

  • Whether Spark, Plus, or Max would be a good brand name to attach to their corporate moniker of Imagine Learning. How relevant, impactful, contemporary (modern and reflective for our times), and postive association does each option have? Oh, and how engaging?
  • Then, point by point, describe the reation to each brand: easy to understand or confusing, not clear at all; excitement for learning or boring, not exciting at all; engaging for learning or not engaging at all; inspires learning or uninspiring name for learning; memorable for using in classrooms or forgettable name; confidence for learning or the name does not inspire confidence; unique name or ordinary, like other products; novel, sounds fresh or tired, old-fashioned.
  • Now, they want to know if any of these negative responses are evoked by the name: racial or ethnic concerns; it does not promote high expectations for educational outcomes; it evokes association with groups/ideas contrary to educational values; no concerns; other–write in the comment box provided.
  • Rank the proposed names with an explanation.

Following that, they want more demographic information to add to the information they gathered before getting to the actual questions. They solicit interest in participating in future research. Finally, do you want to enter the drawing? Then give us your name, employer, and email address.

A typical junk mail solicitation with a prize, not really a prize, but a prize promise. Let’s cost that out. (Never solicit a math teacher, IJS, right?) If 2,000 people answer the survey and 10 receive a card, that gives GOT a 10 out of 2,000 chance of winning, or 1 out of 200, or 0.5%. Multiply that times the value of the card, $100, and the expected return of participation is 50 cents.

Two quarters. Two rounds of “shave and a haircut, two bits.” If that is the reward for 5 minutes of time, Imagine Learning is offering teachers $6 an hour to answer their survey, far less than federal minimum wage.

All because they can’t figure out the obvious: if you want to pitch your edutech product, it doesn’t matter what you call it. The customers only ask two questions:

  • Will it raise test scores?
  • You got some data to back that up?

Part Four: Florida Called …

This is an unexpected part four to a three-part series about Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis’s proposal to replace FSA testing with state-mandated progress monitoring tests. Part One: Warp Speed, Mozart, and Page Not Found, Part Two: Warp Speed, Mozart, and …, and Part Three: Warp Speed … comprised the series until today.

Among us older types, Boomers et al., Seinfeld was must-see-TV in the 1990s. So many enduring jokes and tropes came out of the series. One of the most famous was George getting dissed as he scarfed down a bowl of huge shrimp:

Sorry, George, but Jerk Store doesn’t begin to cover what Floridians have to suffer.

Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, has released a proposal to end annual, which is to say once-a-year testing, in Florida’s schools. While questions abound as to how much testing is going to be replaced with more-often, three-times-a-year progress monitoring … such as:

  • Will the End-of-Course exams in Algebra 1, Geometry, Biology, U.S. History, Civics, and the new U.S. Government test also be replaced?
  • How will the progress monitoring assessment results be used in accountability for schools & districts (grading law), teachers (evaluation law), and graduation (student law)?
  • What company will run the platform for the assessment? Who will develop it? Who will own the questions?
  • How will the new progress monitoring tests impact Florida’s law regarding the closure of schools that do not score high enough on the tests?

One thing is clear. The Governor cannot change Florida law and its testing requirements by fiat. These testing changes require action by the legislature and passage of new laws to change the mandated testing.

The screen shot is from the fsassessments.org website. Click on FSA, Students and Families, Practice Tests and you will find it.

Thus, it is very interesting that Florida is already implementing this new ‘Adaptive Progress Monitoring.’

The screen shot shows you that Florida’s current testing platform, run by Cambium Learning Group, already has a practice test up for the math and reading tests pictured.

So, question number one seems to be answered. The new APM applies only to the reading and math tests for grade levels 3 to 10 and 3 to 8, respectively. End of Course exams will not be affected.

But it goes further than that. Grumpy Old Teacher has been administering retake exams for Algebra 1 and 10th grade Reading these past two weeks. On the operational side, the same tests show up. Yes, you read that right. Somewhere in Florida, schools are already administering the APM tests.

Because Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) school has not been notified to do so, GOT assumes that the state is field testing the new idea with a sample of selected schools. Even without the legislature meeting and passing a new law, the Governor and his henchman, Ed Commissioner Richard Corcoran, are moving ahead with the change.

Hey, Ron! Hey, Rich! Florida called. We want our Constitution back.

UPDATE: Apparently, GOT is getting ahead of the actual story. The APM that is found on the testing platform was implemented last year as a free service for Florida districts needing to do ‘robust progress monitoring’ and needing the assist to meet the FLDOE emergency order requiring the same.

Of course, that is what gave DeSantis and Corcoran the idea in the first place.

And it will be a good starting point for what they have in mind.

Part 3: Warp Speed …

The third in a three part series picking apart Florida’s governor’s B.E.S.T. and maybe-not-so-brightest (and for those keeping score, that’s a slick reference to another Florida promise that its legislature feels no need to uphold with its soon-to-graduate young people.) Part One looks at the ongoing and apparently unsolvable problems Florida has with operating online platforms. Part Two looks at the unfulfillable promise of customized and unique testing experience to every student.

At last we get to the most disturbing part of the Governor’s famblasting with confuzzles, trumplebumples, and whovillians blamburbling a la the most delicious nonsense Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) ever served up.

Eliminating the once-a-year FSA with three-times-a-year progress monitoring will give schools two opportunities to improve.

Nice sleight-of-hand, Gov’nor, but Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is watching the cards.

Over the years and especially during the DeSantis (gov’nor) and Corcoran (House Speaker) era, Florida has tightened the thumb screws on its public schools. Under current law, a school that receives a D or F grade gets ONE year to improve. Get it up to a C or face the profiteering of a law that enriches ed management consultants, charter school operators, or … oh, hell, just shutter the damn building and let the parents figure it out.

One year.

But now, Governor DeSantis magnimously gives two chances.

Except those chances come every three months.

A school facing sanction used to have one year–ten months–to produce the test scores.

Under the new proposal, those two chances coming every three months means that schools only have half that time.

Florida’s drive to privatize all its schools was already moving at a fast pace. But if DeSantis and Corcoran have their way, we’re kicking the process into warp speed.

All that stands in the way is JEB Bush’s (please clap) ego, He may call in his many markers in the legislature to sabotage DeSantis.

Florida Man (Men) upping their game and moving to a new level.

What can a GOT say? We allow the rest of the country to say, “At least we’re not Florida.”

Part 2: Warp Speed, Mozart, and …

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) continues his thoughts on Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, and his testing initiative. Part One may be found here.

Algebra? Reading? Dammit, I’m a musical prodigy. I don’t have time for that <ahem>.

This is the second of a series about the news from Florida that the governor will propose legislation to the 2022 legislature to do away with the annual Florida Standards Assessments and replace them with progress monitoring assessments that are given three times a year: Fall, Winter, and Spring.

In the first part, GOT looked at the sorry record that Florida’s state government has in obtaining and operating internet platforms that actually work halfway decent.

In this second part, GOT will take up the claim that the new F.A.S.T. (Florida Assessment of Student Thinking) will actually deliver a test that is “customizable, unique to each student.”

Mozart was not only a genius, but a child prodigy. He wrote his first piece of music when he was only FIVE years old. Whatever his personal problems, he had a celebrated career that ended upon his death at 35 years of age.

The hype of computer-based education is that it can customize its offerings to every child, assessing their unique needs and delivering exactly what they need to maintain their educational progress.

But no one need delve into the messy details of how that happens to understand the philosophical conflict between the promise of a customized, unique education and tests that demand the achievement of standards. Standards by their very definition mean something that everyone has to demonstrate to receive a seal of approval.

Given Mozart’s talent, it would have been the waste of a millenium and a life to slam the piano cover down upon the keys and his fingers and insist that he study algebra. If we are truly customizing education to the individual’s talents, interests, and passions, we would excuse a Mozart from an Algebra End of Course exam.

Please stop laughing. Okay, GOT’s belly is shaking, too. Like we are ever going to do that in American education.

So what does the Governor and Florida Department of Education mean when they say the test is ‘customizable, unique to each student”?

They’re thinking along the lines of iReady, which has a defined learning path for students in its computer-delivered instruction, and the only customizable feature is what place in the path the software’s diagnostic assessment will put them.

These assessments work via algorithms that start students with test items that match their grade level. Based upon right or wrong answers, the algorithms move students up the grade-level standards (as determined by a human, what GOT humorously calls carbon-based intelligence vs. cyber devices or silicon-based intelligence) or down.

Believe it or not, GOT has seen sixth-grade students moved to second-grade standards only because they could not determine the time from an analog clock.

Now here’s the dirty secret about iReady; as originally designed by Curriculum Associates and presented to teachers, it was meant to be a tool for the classroom.

GOT doesn’t know if this is true anymore because he moved from a middle school to a high school seven years ago, but he does remember when iReady first came to his district and was implemented. GOT was the school’s math coach at the time, something he now recognizes was a waste of time and talent, but that’s fodder for another post.

After the iReady people presented their professional development at a meeting of the district’s math coaches and lead teachers, the particular rep for his school visited GOT in his office.

In the ensuing conversation, the iReady rep had this to say: iReady in the classroom is meant to support the teacher. A student can do an iReady lesson two times. If they are not successful, the program shuts down their access to that lesson and notifies the teacher that intervention is needed.

After the teacher works with the student, they have the ability to turn the lesson back on. Also, the teacher can review the student’s placement on the learning path and, if they determine that it is not appropriate, they can change it. They can move the student.

I was about to explain that to the room when your district shut me down. They did not want teachers to know that they could use their professional judgment and change what the computer algorithms had done.

This is why GOT has always supported programs like iReady IF AND ONLY IF they are given to teachers as tools to use, not dictates to follow.

Alas, it is not meant to be. When a Ron DeSantis or a Richard Corcoran brag about a customizable test, unique to each student, from which they will extract standardized data, know that they belong in the ‘shut teachers down’ crowd.

The words sound good, but they are phoney. The progress monitoring tests they have in mind will only result in students being plopped all over the standardized, everyone must do the same but not at the same time, map.

Warp Speed, Mozart, and Page Not Found

Every "Star Trek" USS Enterprise, Ranked
To boldly go where no governor has ever gone before …

By now the world of education knows and most have discussed the announcement Florida’s governor made Tuesday, September 14 that he would propose legislation for the 2022 session to end once-a-year state assessments in favor of three-times-a-year state assessments.

We’re moving at warp speed into a new era of testing, one that is not unanticipated by those of us who pay attention. Ed reform has been talking for several years about moving away from the once-a-year test into continuous testing, a/k/a progress monitoring, that is delivered through ed tech companies like Curriculum Associates (iReady) or NWEA (NWEA, whatever the initials initially stood for are not now known.)

Many Florida school districts already have contracts with one or the other. The Governor’s proposal is not quite there yet, though. He wants Florida to build a progress-monitoring platform that the state would own.

Currently, states administering either the Smarter Balance tests (previously administered by AIR, the American Institute of Research, but recently spun off into a stand-alone group, Cambium Assessment) or the PARRC (administered by Pearson, everyone’s favorite company to take to the whipping post) do not own the actual tests. They pay these companies to do their testing, but the copyright rests in the hands of the corporations.

In 2017, Florida passed its annual education bill that did another makeover of its state public education system, including charter school expansion and accountability requirements. But this time, the new law also required that Florida begin releasing actual FSA tests in three years to give everyone their first look at what children actually encounter. While Florida could pass this law, it did not own the actual tests. It would have to negotiate with the testing consortiums and pay for the release.

Then, 2018 brought the election of Ron DeSantis, who enticed the legislature into authorizing a new set of standards known as B.E.S.T., or Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), now under the leadership of the former House Speaker, who is among the most hostile to public education ever, Richard Corcoran, promptly abandoned the obligation to release copies of a test that was heading for the exits.

Thus, since 2019 when the new standards were authorized, the Florida Standard Assessments (FSA) had an expiration date put on them circa 2023. The question was what would replace them. Most of us anticipated a BEST test as in la plus que ca change, the more it’s the same thing.

Except, if Ron DeSantis has his way, it won’t be. Shorter, more frequent tests will be the order of the day. The state will operate the testing platform, which means it will own the test items and the copyright. That might be good news except …. cue the shark theme from Jaws.

Runs through the head of every student who is told, “We need you to take this standardized assessment.”

Recently, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) had to renew his driver’s license and the old one did not satisfy federal law for identification purposes. It wasn’t gold-star worthy. (Yes, that’s a very obscure joke thinking about Elaine Bennis of Seinfeld during the episode when she had to decide who was sponge-worthy.) GOT had to dig out all his ‘I’m a real person’ documents, including his birth certificate (really, at 64, someone doubts this?), social security card (soiled and faded because it’s about 50 years old), and utility bills, &c. &c. to verify the address.

When he arrived at the site where he had made an appointment and after he had moved through the security checkpoint, including walking through a metal detector, GOT noticed that the location had posted signs that the state’s computer network was wonky. They promised that if the state’s systems were down and people couldn’t complete their business, they would receive a priority appointment to come back at a later time. For your understanding, GOT made his appointment in late July and the first one available was in mid-September.

Then, there is the huge failure of the CONNECT system, which is what Floridians must use to apply for and receive unemployment benefits. It was so bad at one point that the state allowed people to fill out paper applications instead. CONNECT has been described as a system designed to fail, which surprised no one as it was the brain child of former Governor Rick Scott, who has built a political career on celebrating his escape from poverty and making it impossible for anyone else to do so.

This past week, GOT has been involved in putting students through a retake test for Algebra 1, for which students must earn a pass or they will not receive a diploma. As usually happens, someone decided right before this crucial computer test to change something. The software broke and chaos ensued as we spent hours reconnecting student laptops to all the needed networks so they could access the testing platform.

All of which is to say that no one should have confidence that a testing platform operated by the state of Florida will perform as needed. Indeed, assuming the opposite is the B.E.S.T. (pun intended) way to go.

End of Part One. GOT knows that screen reading is tiresome when the post grows too long. At 800+ words, it’s time for break.

When One Window Closes, Another Opens

Types of Windows For Your Home – Forbes Advisor
Time for Testing! All you slackers who stayed home because of Covid and would not show up last year … we got you.

Peter Greene of Curmudgucation fame recently published a piece on the Forbes website, Schools Should Not Succumb to Testing Panic.

The sentence that leapt out at Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) was this one: “The danger at the moment is that instead of trying to lift the state of student education, states, policy-makers and school districts will decide to put all their effort into raising test scores.

While Florida has yet not put all their effort into raising test scores (they probably don’t have to–read on,) GOT knows that the test grind goes on, hand-in-hand with the pandemic and, unlike past years, there will be no waivers.

That is a point of confusion for some parents. For the senior classes who graduated in 2020 and 2021, Florida waived the requirement to pass the 10th grade FSA reading/writing test and the Algebra 1 End of Course exam. That made sense given that no exams were given in 2020 and many students were kept home in 2021 due to Covid concerns. Seniors missing out on their final chances to pass these tests were not prevented from graduating. The situation was not under their control.

BUT! For future graduating classes, 2022 and beyond, the requirements were not waived even though many of those students missed the opportunity to sit for the exam. Thus, while there is not overt pressure for raising scores*, we are still staring down the barrel of a cannon in that we have unusually large numbers of students needing to sit for and pass state assessments.

It is easy to imagine Florida’s Commissioner of Education, whom GOT will not name as he knows how to stay out of trouble, channeling the famous Soup Nazi from the TV show Seinfeld shouting, “No diploma for you!” to kids in future graduating classes.

Thus, as we have barely opened for the new school year, it is time for the Fall Retake window and students who have spent their summers doing what high school teenagers should be doing over the summer and that is not hitting the books to prep for state tests … need to sit for state tests.

Could we give the students a break and let this window stay closed? We could, but there are not many opportunities during the school year. Florida does not administer state assessments upon demand (there’s an idea for improvement.) There are only four opportunities for students to retake these crucial graduation-necessary exams: September, December, Spring, July.

Given the impact on the future of a young person who does not receive a diploma, we have no choice. When a test window opens, we have to schedule, pull from class, and sit students to take them.

That works against student learning. Those who struggle the most get pulled from the classes where they are learning what they need to know to pass the exam. Some students miss 12 or more days of vital instruction taking these retake exams, which have to take precedence over remaining in the classroom with their teachers.

You might be thinking, “That’s crazy! That’s stupid!”

GOT can only reply with a Forrest Gump quote: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

This is Florida after all.


*GOT is speaking from a high school perspective. Elementary and middle school teachers may be receiving pressure to raise scores due to Florida’s school grading scheme … oops, law.