Has the Florida Department of Education Become a Propaganda Arm of the Education Reform Movement?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the hacks at the Florida Department of Education would quickly respond to a U.S. Department of Education report which found Florida graduation rates to be, well, abysmal.  It took four days. Lets compare the two reports.

On Monday, Gradebook’s Jeff Solocheck wrote this of the federal report:

The new federal comparison, from 2010-11, doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Florida. For all students, Florida’s graduation rate was 71 percent, lower than all but five states (Alaska, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon) and the District of Columbia.

The state’s rates for minority groups were lower than the total — 69 percent of Hispanics and 59 percent of African-Americans. In comparison to other states, Florida’s Hispanic graduation rate surpassed that of 17 states and D.C., while its African-American graduation rate was better than five states and D.C.

Orlando Sentinel education reporter Leslie Postal wrote this yesterday:

Florida’s high school graduation rate for 2012 was 74.5 percent, an “unprecedented” jump from the previous year, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The graduation rate — calculated using a new federal formula — is 3.9 percentage points higher than last year’s rate 70.6 percent. That is the largest, single-year increase since 2003, using the federal calculation, the department said.

State officials said they were delighted, particularly with the hikes in graduation rates for black and Hispanic students, who have lagged behind when it comes to earning diplomas.

Florida’s graduation rate last year, however, was among the lowest in the nation, according to federal data on most states. Based on 2011 data, Florida’s rate of about 71 percent was better than that of only five other states.

The state’s high schools have been waiting for their grades for eight months, yet the FDOE was able to churn out this past year’s graduation numbers in the matter of hours. How convenient.

Meanwhile a one time charter school owner turned charter school bureaucrat quickly generated favorable data for state charter schools. On November 15, StateImpact reporter John O’Connor wrote of UCF professor Stanley Smith research which concluded that the state’s charter schools were not performing as well as public schools. Just six days later, Adam Miller, the FDOE’s charter school director released a contrary report.

Miller, who couldn’t explain the difference between his and Smith’s report, said “”we’ve got some phenomenal charter schools across the state that are providing parents with the opportunity to send their kids to a high quality school that meets  the needs of their child.”

Smith whose study factored in poverty, told StateImpact reporter Gina Jordan Miller’s study “poorly done” and “biased.”

Can Floridians trust what the FDOE is telling them? They can sure churn out favorable data in a hurry as it’s been known for a long time that Jeb Bush’s foundations and the FDOE work together on message and narrative. The FDOE’s July spin over what happened when mistakes were made in school grades was never pursued by reporters.  The summer’s  republican convention and the fall’s presidential contest are over.  Light will shine again on the FDOE’s competence. Perhaps its time Floridians find out whether or not the people who run the FDOE are more focused on an agenda than they are on schools and children.

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 Has the Florida Department of Education Become a Propaganda Arm of the Education Reform Movement?

  1. Bob,

    The two reports are different. The graduation-rate report would have been in development for months, since the calculations require analysis of several years’ worth of student files. I don’t see any reason to suspect falsification, though if the report was “near ready” this week, staff could have been released from other responsibilities to make sure it got out quickly.

    • Bob Sikes says:

      Dr. Dorn: Thank you for taking time to comment. I understand that the FDOE’s graduation data is accurate and that the FDOE and USDOE tweaked their numbers differently. I’m attemting to illustrate the FDOE’s pattern of trotting out data and spinning in response to unfavorable news that challenges their narrative of the sucessful Florida model.

  2. Ro says:

    US Dept, of Ed report vs. Florida DOE report….hmmm…which one has something to lose by those rates being abysmal. Given the number of kids who aren’t passing EOCs (which is a crock of bs), I would suspect the rates will tank in abig way this year. But that’s just a little ole parent watching the reality on the ground….

  3. Pingback: Has the Florida Department of Education Become a Propaganda Arm of the Education Reform Movement? | FPEP Blog

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