Algebra baffled me when I was a freshman in high school long, long ago. I can handle math just fine when there are actual numbers to calculate, but my eyes glaze over when you substitute X or Y for a couple of those.
I did not do well in that course. The teacher kept jibber-jabbering about this or that, and I couldn’t keep up. Two weeks into the course, algebra might as well have been Sanskrit, and it only got worse.
Maybe that wouldn’t have happened, though, if my small-town Ohio school had progress monitoring like Florida is ready to use. The program uses computer-based progress monitoring in English language arts and mathematics, administered three times a year.
It will replace the loathed Florida Standards Assessment.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and outgoing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran took a victory lap about this and, well, they deserved to do that.
There were some complaints from House Democrats that it creates three high-stakes tests for students instead of one, but I believe critics missed the point. Notably, the Florida Education Association — a teachers union — agreed with Corcoran and the Governor on this. When was the last time that happened?
Renzo Downey of Florida Politics reported on the example of fifth-grade teacher Monique Stinson.
After COVID-19 caused havoc last year, she said only 6% of her students were at grade level in August after returning to classrooms. But, she said, using progress monitoring to track her students’ academic needs improved that number to 76%.
“Progress monitoring is about communicating with all stakeholders, including the child, to create a plan to assist students in closing their learning gaps and or accelerate their learning,” Stinson said. “When children are aware where they are, what their goals are, and how they can read those goals, they are more likely to work to get there.”
Now, on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention: Stephanie Murphy. The retiring U.S. Representative from Orlando spoke some hard truths to her Democratic colleagues.
POLITICO reported that when Murphy jumped into the 2016 race at the last minute, she ignored the advice of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to concentrate her speeches on the danger posed by then-candidate Donald Trump. Instead, she spoke about pocketbook issues and stunned 12-term incumbent Republican John Mica to win the seat in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.
As Murphy prepares to leave at just 43 years old, she says the Dems today have abandoned the approach that helped her connect with voters.
Murphy said leadership tried to “beat moderates into submission to ram through President Joe Biden’s agenda.”
“I can’t tell you the number of times I said, ‘You can’t keep promising rainbows and unicorns when your political reality is such narrow margins in the House and a dead-even Senate,'” Murphy said. “They took the difference between rainbows and unicorns and political reality — which is anger and disappointment — and turned that anger and disappointment against their own members.”
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Blaise Ingoglia. He received the modern-day Florida political equivalent of a sword tap on the shoulder. DeSantis endorsed him over Rep. Ralph Massullo. Until that moment, it was shaping up as a spirited Republican Primary race in Senate District 11.
“Blaise Ingoglia is a strong conservative who fights to keep Florida free and to deliver for his constituents,” DeSantis tweeted. “I endorse Blaise for Senate District 11 — he will be a force in the Florida Senate and will serve the people of Pasco, Citrus, Hernando, and Sumter counties well.”
We quickly saw how far DeSantis’ blessing could go when Massullo dropped out of the race. However, Massullo received a nice consolation prize when the Governor endorsed him for re-election to his seat in House District 34.
“I was able to speak with Ralph Massullo earlier today, and he informed me that he intends to run for re-election to the Florida House,” DeSantis tweeted. “Ralph is a smart, conservative member, and I endorse his re-election.”
The biggest winner: Marco Rubio. His annual quest to make daylight saving time permanent seemed somewhat quixotic because it never got traction in the U.S. Senate.
That changed Tuesday when the Senate unanimously passed Rubio’s aptly named Sunshine Protection Act. However, that’s only the first step — albeit a large one. The measure needs House approval, and there is no assurance that it would happen anytime soon.
If the House passes the bill, President Joe Biden would have to sign it, and he has a few other things on his mind these days.
If it clears those hurdles, Rubio’s bid to, as he put it, “lock the clocks” wouldn’t take effect until November 2023. That would allow transportation industries like airlines and trains time to adjust their schedules.
But momentum seems on Rubio’s side for this one, and it’s about time.
Spring forward, fall back, as Florida’s senior U.S. Senator so delicately put it, “is stupidity.”
Dishonorable mention: Val Demings. It’s not unusual for political candidates to — how should we put this — stretch the truth. Often, however, there can be at least a sliver or two of fact that clever consultants can exaggerate to resemble something that might be sort of true.
However, even by that standard, Demings’ claim that Rubio backs tax hikes like those indicated in Rick Scott’s 11-point “Plan to Rescue America” is bogus.
Demings, who wants to unseat Rubio in November’s U.S. Senate election, charged in ads on Facebook and Instagram that “Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are planning to hike taxes on millions of Americans, including seniors and working-class Floridians.”
However, PolitiFact said it could find no evidence that Rubio plans to do that.
The fact-checking outfit rated Demings’ charge “false.”
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Ileana Garcia. The Republican state Senator from Miami apologized for making one of the most bizarre remarks of the Legislative Session.
During the contentious debate over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, she said that “gay is not a permanent thing.”
The backlash was rapid and furious, forcing Garcia to tweet her regret at saying those words.
“My comments in no way were intended to generalize or disregard the experiences of any member of the LGBT+ community,” Garcia wrote. “I was trying to explain my very personal life experiences and did not properly articulate my sentiments.”
Fair enough. So why do we include her in the “loser” category after she acknowledged her mistake?
Because she is in professional politics, that statement — regardless of her apology — will follow her for however long her career lasts. Opponents will feed it to her for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
That’s how it works.
The biggest loser: Broward County schools. A recent state audit found multiple school safety violations in Broward schools. That’s unacceptable in the district where a deranged shooter murdered 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida reported that the audit criticized the district for failing to inform the Florida Department of Education about at least two incidents where a school safety officer was disciplined or dismissed.
One incident, the report said, involved a sheriff’s deputy soliciting a minor. The other involved an officer discharging his gun “near” the school he was assigned to protect.
Even more frightening, the audit concluded that the county had not ensured that school safety officers had completed required mental health crisis intervention training.
Come on, guys!
Do we need to stress that this district must do everything to the absolute letter of the law?
No excuses. Period.