Steve Wise Sought to Suppress Test Data for a Campaign Contributor

From Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel:

Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, is convinced.

Since watching some of Lockavitch’s 30-minute demonstrations , Wise, a veteran legislator and chairman of the Senate’s education committee, has used his influence to insert millions of dollars for Lockavitch’s program into the state budget since 2000. The 2012-13 budget the Legislature just approved includes an additional $750,000 meant for the North Carolina company.

But the program’s central premise — that phonics skills won’t help the “worst-performing” students — runs counter to decades of reading research and to Florida’s blueprint for reading instruction.

More significantly, Florida students who took part in Failure Free Reading last school year did worse, as a group, on the reading section of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test than similar, struggling readers not enrolled in the program, data obtained by the Orlando Sentinel shows.

The data, contained in emails from the Florida Department of Education and the Panhandle Area Education Consortium, also showed:

•Most Duval County summer-school students enrolled in Failure Free in 2011 scored worse on the Stanford Achievement Test, a commonly used standardized reading exam, after the lessons than they did before they started.

•Florida students gained fewer new reading skills in 2010-11, when they were enrolled in Failure Free, than in the prior school year, when they did not take part, the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading showed.

Florida schools face a tough job educating poor readers, but the Education Department determined Failure Free didn’t provide them worthwhile help — though it cost extra money.

“The use of Failure Free Reading with our most at-risk readers did not yield dramatic or cost effective results,” the department concluded in the summer of 2011.

By then, the state had spent $852,000 to implement Failure Free in 46 North Florida schools during the 2010-11 school year. Nearly $48,000 more had been spent on the Duval summer program. And the Legislature had earmarked an additional $750,000 for Failure Free to be used this school year in some North Florida and Panhandle districts.

Wise and Lockavitch, at a meeting last summer, urged the department not share its data about the program, according to the emails and interviews obtained by the Sentinel.

“I was asked not to disseminate the results of the Failure Free Reading intervention because the data was negative,” wrote Stuart Greenberg, executive director of Just Read, Florida!, the Education Department’s reading office, in an Aug. 5 email.

Lockavitch, however, told the Sentinel he didn’t want the information released because he didn’t think it was accurate. He challenges both the Education Department’s conclusions and methods. And both he and Wise say the department is hostile to Failure Free’s nonphonics approach.,

Lockavitch and Wise have known each other for some time. Since 2002 at least, when he first donated to Wise’s campaign. With the exception of then AG Charlie Crist and the failed state senate candidacy of Carlos LaCasa,  Lockavitch has only donated to Wise. Not very much – $1250 in three separate donations, but essentially only to Wise. Lockavitch curiously donated to twice in 2002; once as a health professional and once as part of the education industry.

Wise’s  attempt to cover-up data for Lockavitch is top dollar hypocrisy. And transparent. It is he who sponsored SB 736 which mandated all Florida teachers be judged on the sort of data he’s suppressing for a campaign contributor. Test scores for thee, but not for me.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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4 Responses to Steve Wise Sought to Suppress Test Data for a Campaign Contributor

  1. Sandra says:

    the good news is that Wise is term-limited and retiring soon. Before he leaves, I would say he has some explaining to do. No wonder he needs xanax.

  2. Melissa says:

    I’ve got one thing to say…come visit my classroom Senator Wise. Because of phonics…a student I received 3 weeks prior to Florida Writes was able to sound out one word. You may not think that impressive – but he wrote his heart out – that was his SUCCESS!!!

  3. Once again non-educators (politicians), believe education is a one size fits all business. I am an ESE teacher and was in the general ed. classroom years. Both of these assignments are at Title One schools.
    Most of my struggling readers are language deficient and need a variety of methods in order to learn to read. Phonics is an integral part of any reading program. We all use phonics at some point when faced with a word we don’t recognize.
    Perhaps if our lawmakers were truly interested in improving our overall reading scores, they would listen to teachers, and award funds to be used for a variety of programs that can help struggling readers. After all, we offer different treatments for illnesses based on the individual. Why can’t schools do the same?

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