Sunday, November 19, 2017
Education

PolitiFact Florida: Common Core opponents attack research group

RECOMMENDED READING


In choosing the American Institutes for Research to create new accountability tests for Florida, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart stressed the group's ability to create tests specifically tailored for Florida.

"The new assessment will measure each child's progress and achievement on the Florida Standards, which were developed with an unprecedented amount of public input," Stewart said in a news release.

Common Core foes, who contend the "Florida standards" differ little from the widely adopted national Common Core academic standards, were again disappointed. With their efforts to derail the initiative itself foundering, one group took aim at the testing company instead.

They noted the American Institutes for Research, called AIR, was tied to the Common Core with its work creating tests for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Then they accused the organization of promoting a homosexual lifestyle for children.

"This is completely unacceptable. Besides implementing the same deceptive plan discussed at the governor's summit in August, the state has chosen a company that has a significant history of promoting identification of the GLBT lifestyle for children as young as seven years old," Florida Eagle Forum lobbyist Randy Osborne said in a Florida Stop Common Core Coalition letter to supporters.

The group takes a page from Utahns Against Common Core, which also blasted AIR for its work on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues after that state adopted AIR tests in 2012.

There is some basis for the statements.

AIR has an active practice area creating materials for schools on LGBT youth issues, in which it studies the youngsters' experiences and offers recommendations for how to help them survive a world that can be harsh and judgmental. It describes its practice in this way:

"AIR's Human and Social Development program develops knowledge and understanding about LGBT youth that takes account of their experiences and needs. AIR also enhances opportunities for the healthy development, well-being, and safety of LGBT children, youth, and their families by providing workforce training and technical assistance to service providers across systems addressing behavioral health, child welfare, education, juvenile justice and homelessness."

AIR only provides materials on gay and lesbian issues to schools and organizations that request it. It also does similar work in the areas of bullying and substance abuse in addition to its efforts in education, health and workforce matters.

And the group does not promote the issues, spokesman Larry McQuillan said.

"We are not an advocacy group," McQuillan said. "AIR is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization. We do educational assessment, research, health policy research and communication, and international development. We have supported many states by providing high-quality assessments of their specific state standards."

That is generally how the organization is viewed.

"AIR is known for being an independent and important provider of high-quality educational research, resources, and training for federal, state, and local stakeholders," said Anne Hyslop of the New America Foundation. "Their work is widely respected, and they have a long history of producing valuable contributions to the field."

She suggested that the attack had more to do with Common Core than AIR itself. AIR received no criticism when selected to develop Florida's hotly controversial "value-added" model of teacher evaluations.

When it came to standards-related testing, though, the Stop Common Core coalition suggested that AIR's work on LGBT issues would come through.

"We know that our children's tests will likely include these types of issues and that the test and other data will go to the state, the federal government and to corporations," said co-founder Karen Effrem, urging tea party conservatives to pressure Gov. Rick Scott to stop the process.

The issue could resonate with groups who find that even simple acknowledgement of LGBT people is activism to be demonized, said Daryl Presgraves of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Florida Department of Education spokesman Joe Follick did not bite at the rhetoric, which he deemed essentially irrelevant.

"AIR was chosen for their ability to provide an assessment that aligns with Florida's standards. Not anything else," Follick said.

So it is true that AIR does research on LGBT youth issues and offers advice to organizations that request it on how to assist these children. But AIR does not advocate a homosexual lifestyle for children, nor is it an advocacy group at all. There is no indication that the organization or the state will have a homosexual agenda in its state testing.

We rate the statement Half True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

Comments

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.Commander of the school’s Air Force JROTC program, Beckman is also an Eagle Scout mentor, National Honor Society president and swim team captain.Beckm...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

Makerspace lab exposes Eastside students to tech skills and fun

BROOKSVILLE — The lab at Eastside Elementary School looks high tech, featuring new flooring, cabinets and furniture. Assistant Principal Michael Lastra calls it cutting edge."It’s not like your typical classroom," Lastra said. "The school wanted it t...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Pasco school district proposes future changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones

Plans to erase the attendance boundaries for Ridgewood High School have grabbed all the attention.But the Pasco County school district also has proposed changes to west-side elementary and middle school zones for consideration this fall.They’re just ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

At St. Petersburg High, alums push to complete private funding for home field improvements

ST. PETERSBURG — The athletic facilities at St. Petersburg High are just like Bob Carter remembers from 50 years ago.He recalls it all fondly: The concession stands, ticket booths and bathrooms are still the same. The track is still outdated asphalt,...
Published: 11/15/17
In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

In union push at USF, adjunct professors strive for more respect and a living wage

TAMPA — Robert Ryan cleaned out his office in May. He knew he was dying.He had kept driving to the University of South Florida even as he lost the use of his left arm. He had kept teaching English, even as tumors ravaged his mouth so that he could ha...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

Hillsborough Education Foundation, Yoobi team to surprise students

The kids at Bing Elementary knew something special was about to happen when a six-foot white dog with a "target" over his right eye walked into the classroom.And they were right.On Tuesday (Nov. 14), volunteers and corporate supporters joined the Hil...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

New aviation programs at PHSC help propel students toward dreams

DADE CITY — Dustin Snodgrass has a photograph of himself as a child in the pilot’s seat of a kid-size model airplane. Snodgrass, now 28, recently took a big step toward his goal of flying real aircraft with his first solo flight through a new profess...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

Hillsborough teachers show up in the hundreds to clamor for promised raises

TAMPA — A weeks-long salary standoff between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers hit an emotional peak Tuesday as hundreds of teachers and students turned out to ask the School Board for their promised raises."War has been declar...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/15/17
Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

Romano: Sorry teachers, you simply can’t win this one

When it comes to your principles, there is no shame in putting up a fight.You can fight City Hall, and you can fight the power. According to the song, you can fight the law. You can even fight the good fight, whatever that means.But you cannot fight ...
Published: 11/14/17