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2 posts from November 21, 2012

November 21, 2012

Christian group worked behind-the-scenes to reinstate prayer at Miami-Dade meetings

The Miami-Dade County Commission is poised next month to reinstate nondenominational prayers to kick off their meetings, after a group of commissioners approved the policy shift last week.

But the change was not spontaneous: The conservative Christian group pushing to restore prayer has been laying the groundwork for nearly a year and a half.

The Christian Family Coalition saw an opportunity to promote its agenda after Commissioner Katy Sorenson retired in late 2010, according Anthony Verdugo, the group’s executive director. Sorenson had been one of two board members who years earlier — in 2004, Verdugo said — changed the county’s practice to begin meetings with a moment of silence instead of a prayer.

Sorenson was replaced by the more conservative Lynda Bell, whom the Coalition had endorsed. There was other commission turnover as well.

Before then, “we didn’t feel we had enough votes on the commission to get it through,” Verdugo said. “We didn’t want it to be a divisive item for the community — we don’t need that.”

More here.

Gov. Scott, DOE respond to complaints about new teacher evaluation system

Teachers across the state have long voiced concerns about the new "value-added calculations" that will become part of their evaluations. And in recent weeks, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford has taken an even more vocal lead on this campaign, asking Gov. Rick Scott to delay implementation of the new evaluation system.

We now have copies of letters that Scott and Department of Education Interim Commissioner Pam Stewart sent to Ford, responding to his Nov. 5 requesting more time to perfect the "value-added model."

In his letter, Ford outlines several concerns about the methodology used for the "value-added model" and said it could have negative consequences on teachers' scores. Specifically, he said there were issues with the availability of sufficient data, inaccuracies in scores, students linked incorrectly to teachers and unworkable timelines for schools and districts.

Stewart's letter to Ford, written at Scott's request, addresses many of his concerns from an education policy standpoint. Scott's letter to Ford expresses the governor's efforts to make nice with the teachers union while also moving forward with policies the union has fought against.

"Elevating the teaching profession and showing respect for our educators is critical in order to make sure theat every Florida student is prepared for college and careers," Scott wrote. "This is the purpose of revising evaluation systems for teachers and school administrators and for moving toward performance compensation to rward outstanding performance in the future, both of which are key reforms of President (Barack) Obama's Race to the Top program that I strongly support."

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