Category Archives: Academic

Against Testing

Against Testing
By Dr. Richard Thripp
May 8, 2021

An over-emphasis on testing is often justified on the basis that we need to be able to measure student learning and achievement. Proponents of testing herald it as valuable data that teachers and administrators use to inform their practices. In truth, teachers rarely use data from many of the standardized or district-level assessments being used, and administrators often use it to draw precisely the wrong conclusions. Assessments themselves are often lacking in the way of design and relevance, with a focus on multiple-choice questions with 4 choices per question and questions that are misaligned with curricular standards, what is actually being taught, and what is of actual importance to be assessed. Furthermore, as a teacher, I have on several occasions observed district assessments where the “right” answer was in fact subjective and debatable, due to another choice being just as good. In some cases, such as a question that claimed the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee was established in the 1950s (it was established in 1938), they are just plain wrong.

Although I am astute enough to avoid subscribing to the logical fallacy of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, nonetheless it is not debatable that assessments gobble up valuable instructional time. Why do we keep finding ways to restrict, curtail, and interrupt instructional time? Tests on top of tests, along with unnecessarily disruptive events, announcements, safety drills, and school procedures that are almost deviously designed to entice truancy. For example, in my teaching practice at a high school, it was discovered mid-year by administration that they had no way to produce reports on students who skipped only some periods, but not the whole day. This burden was promptly shifted to teachers by way of a mass email asking teachers to report such students, which once again serves to take away instructional time. Many teachers have 10%, 20%, or even more of their periods taken up with tasks such as distributing testing notifications or other papers to students, writing passes, unlocking or asking a colleague to unlock credit retrieval assessments, and sending mountains of emails.

While the aforementioned problems are not new, in the wake of COVID-19 they have been exacerbated by increased absenteeism, and, in Florida, a 2020–2021 school year that started out with fake promises of fewer assessments, when in fact politicians and school leaders should have said we are not only going to do the regular amount of assessing, but add assessments for the noble goal of enhanced “monitoring” of student progress, plus administer all the assessments that were canceled last year due to the virus. Clear-minded educators know that assessments are of no value unless they are assessing the fruits of actual teaching and learning. Teachers and students alike are dejected, with a sizable proportion of students just guessing or picking at random on most items. Others want to succeed, but have not actually had the requisite instruction needed to succeed on the assessments. Instead of making time and space for education, we test them anyway, and then we congratulate ourselves for doing such a good job testing them, bandying about terms like “accountability” and “growth.” Sometimes, as in April 2021, we announce that statewide exams are not going to count, but we are still going to do them and they may count depending on how it goes. Where is the logic? When are we going to end this charade? Most educators are loath to speak out because in education, we live by the Japanese proverb, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” This needs to change.

Florida Schools Should Be Mostly Online

Florida Schools Should Be Mostly Online

Monday, November 30, 2020

Dear reader,

Many of you may not be aware that Florida has long been a leader and pioneer in online learning with the founding of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) in 1997 and our continued focus on providing online learning opportunities to students of all ages. We are global leaders in e-learning, simulation, and remote technologies, home to the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando as well as the Institute for Simulation and Training, the Center for Research in Education Simulation Technology (CREST), TeachLivE™, and more at the University of Central Florida, and the Florida High Tech Corridor cooperative with University of Florida and University of South Florida. We have even gone so far as to pass a state law requiring most high school students to take at least one virtual course!

Why, now, do we find ourselves hamstrung during an unprecedented pandemic that should be Florida’s time to shine—a unique opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in remote instruction and e-learning from our homes, while preventing community spread of a deadly virus which repeatedly and indubitably spreads in our schools? We have an estimated 21,596,068 residents as of this year, and already 18,441 have died of COVID-19—over six times the deaths that occurred in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That’s one of every 1,171 Floridians who have perished.

These are not just meaningless numbers. Even a small city like New Smyrna Beach has lost 24 souls at this rate, and the worst may in fact lie ahead of us. Sources tell me that nine out of 10 schools in Volusia County have had a COVID-19 infection, and in my four weeks as a Social Studies Core Teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, I have seen numerous students and administrators quarantined for potential exposure, as well as accounts from students who have recovered from COVID-19 that it was the sickest they have ever felt. There are reports that two paraprofessional educators in Volusia County have died of COVID-19, although these are discussed anonymously and in hushed voices for fear of reprisal—an unfortunate sentiment given that transparency is essential toward combating this crisis.

I have heard my fellow citizens explain that their children must be in school in order for them to work at their jobs and make ends meet. This is a legitimate concern, and is a reason I have advocated for comprehensive federal relief directed chiefly to the American people at large. This pandemic is on track to exceed the 420,000 total deaths our nation endured in World War II, in less than one-fourth of the time. We must not give up, nor consign ourselves to accepting the ongoing conflagration while waving the white flag of surrender on the basis of inevitability and small-minded group think. The importance of learning in a face-to-face, in-person setting is overwhelmingly superseded by the importance of not dying and not causing others to die—deaths which are senseless, preventable, and presently occurring, and should not be permitted to continue to occur.

While waiting for federal relief, we must take decisive action at the state, district, and school levels. My friend on the Volusia County School Board tells me that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is calling the shots. Well, Mr. Corcoran, where are you? You pride yourself as a public servant, a husband and father to six, and the son of World War II veterans. You say you are a “passionate advocate for improving the education system in Florida” who “fully believes every child can learn and that all children deserve the opportunity to receive a world-class education.” There is a mountain of evidence emerging of the benefits of masking and of avoiding prolonged exposure in indoor spaces to people from outside one’s household. We haven’t even begun to educate our teachers on the science of COVID-19 epidemiology—some of my colleagues believe it is safe to put students in a “mask-free zone” of the classroom with desks precisely six feet apart, and our students and staff regularly flout masking and social distancing guidelines. It is quite difficult to provide a world-class education to a dead child, and furthermore it is best that their siblings, parents, grandparents, extended family, and teachers remain among the living.

As a co-editor of the 2019 academic anthology, Handbook of Research on Emerging Practices and Methods for K–12 Online and Blended Learning, I saw that many states, universities, and school districts across the United States are implementing blended and fully online learning with positive results. Consistency, training, administrative support, instructional design and planning, and ample technology and funding are key to successful e-learning initiatives. Unfortunately, we haven’t done well with these in Florida in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This needs to change. Although it is impossible to deliver a perfect solution on short notice, we just need something workable. Teachers should not be having to simultaneously broadcast to students at home—in fact teaching fully online would be more sensible. We should also be drawing on the expertise and technological resources of our public institutions including Florida Virtual School and the Center for Distributed Learning at University of Central Florida.

Presently, Volusia County schools are going back in-session for 3 weeks, which will undoubtedly be deadly for some and hazardous for many. Then, we have a winter break in excess of two weeks. Most districts follow a similar schedule. The rest of the school year should be fully or mostly online. Florida is about to surpass one million COVID-19 infections. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with three promising vaccines on the horizon, but in the interim the suffering and deaths of my fellow Floridians is only intensifying. Recent, large-scale research shows that children are super spreaders of coronavirus. There is value in even occasional in-person instruction, but do it outdoors on a cool day, or at 20% capacity for the teachers, students, and parents who want it. Right now, we are sending previously online students back to school. I have 111 students and 105 of them are face-to-face. We already have blood on our hands. We should not seek to fully drench ourselves in blood.

During my Education PhD coursework at the University of Central Florida, I specialized in instructional design, teaching over 300 future teachers about educational technology in blended and fully online settings, working on e-learning projects at national, interdisciplinary, local, and collaborative levels, and working alongside in-service educators and administrators in doctoral courses. Some were assistant principals for schools who funded satellite Internet connections via USB dongles for students to work from home, on their school-provided laptops, in households that did not have reliable Internet connections (Spectrum cable Internet has now gone up to $69.99 per month here). We can provide remote instruction even for disadvantaged and marginalized students with the proper technology and funding. When there’s a hurricane, why is it that we are able to mobilize massive evacuations, cancel school, cancel football games, and suspend tolls on toll roads, for a disaster that kills so few people in comparison? Let’s give coronavirus the hurricane treatment.

Veteran teachers are retiring specifically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are being forced to make a choice: Your money or your life? I started as a Social Studies Core Teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School on October 26, 2020 because the prior teacher resigned mid-year after more than two decades of service. My dissertation was on the Florida Retirement System. She and other teachers are giving up well over $100,000 each, because to receive a full pension you must work 30 years or wait until age 62. Although making way for new teachers is nice, and new teachers are much cheaper thanks to a decimation of retirement benefits orchestrated by the Florida legislature in 2011, the circumstances under which we are doing so are abhorrent. Our schools are in widespread upheaval, and it is clear that the teaching and learning that is occurring is severely diminished. Our classes are being disrupted with standardized testing make-ups and levels of truancy that are unprecedented in recent memory. We are losing veteran educators and bleeding institutional knowledge. Various people are haphazardly being confined to quarantine, and our teaching schedules continue to morph like Jell-O. At this point, it is clear to all who judiciously weigh the totality of the situation that Florida schools should turn to remote learning for the remainder of the 2020–2021 school year.

Dr. Richard Thripp
Social Studies Core Teacher
New Smyrna Beach High School

On American Financial Disenfranchisement: No Gift of Moral Hazard for the People

When will the American people enjoy the moral hazards conferred upon wealthy individuals and corporations?

It is so common to hear self-righteous commentary about the dangers of moral hazards that we scarcely notice it. A moral hazard occurs when someone is protected against risk, typically by the imposition of negative externalities. Typically we hear about unemployment benefits and other welfare payments imposing a moral hazard on society by enabling and encouraging freeloaders who are stealing your tax dollars. The evidence undergirding such rhetoric is dubious at best, and yet these purported moral hazards receive infinitely greater attention than enormous aid and safety nets provided to those who need and deserve them the least.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many American corporations came close to insolvency in March 2020, before being propped up by an unlimited firehose of aid from the Federal Reserve. Our central bank began to do something unprecedented, even during the Great Depression: To directly purchase corporate debt. This program is being conducted in addition to many other gifts that serve corporate interests and our nation’s arrogant, parasitic elites. The present disconnect between the American stock markets and Americans’ lived economic experiences is a product of this regime.

Typical, hard-working Americans have no mechanism by which to secure interest-free loans. They don’t have access to virtually unlimited credit lines that can be paid back whenever, with no imposition of interest or penalties. Their feet are held to the fire, if they are lucky enough to be issued credit at all.

In March, when the Federal Reserve stepped in, corporations that would otherwise have had to take loans at 15% interest, if they were lucky enough to be offered a loan at all, suddenly could secure much larger credit lines at half the interest or less. Nationwide, the value of this gift soared into the trillions, as can be seen in corporate valuations and the increase in wealth for the top 1% of Americans, the top 0.1% in particular, and the top 0.01% especially.

This gift is barely recognized. Most Americans do not even understand it. We don’t have laws to tax or regulate it. It’s a quintessential moral hazard, allowing firms to operate in a sandbox where profits are privatized but risk and losses are borne by the people. Similar, smaller moral hazards are conferred regularly upon wealthy and privileged Americans.

One is left asking: When will we confer a gift of moral hazard to the people at large?

The oppression of people of color in the United States of America is as much encapsulated by a knee on George Floyd’s neck as it is explicated in our regime of economic oppression and financial disenfranchisement. The mechanisms and tautologies of these deprivations are sweeping and manifold. One manifestation of this is the proliferation of alternative financial services—payday lenders, check cashing fees, and more. There are many others, and they affect the vast majority of Americans to varying degrees. Student loans and credit cards come to mind. Credit reports and their ramifications are part of this oppression. Bankruptcy is socioeconomically stigmatized and harshly penalized for individuals, but celebrated and rewarded for big business and American elites.

During my congressional campaign, I came to support a universal basic income of $1,000 per month to each American adult, universal healthcare (Medicare for All) for all Americans guaranteed and paid by the federal government, and assumption and forgiveness of all student loan debts public and private. Even these proposals do not nearly approach parity with the value of the benefits, gifts, and privileges afforded to those at or near the top of our economy. The American people are being economically murdered. We are being killed, put in danger, marginalized and derided, having to suffer for no just cause, and having our lives shortened by inequality, inequity, disenfranchisement, and oppression. Meanwhile, those who reap the rewards of this unjust regime have the gumption and obliviousness to believe they earned it in full.

What is the #1 predictor of entrepreneurial success? Not ingenuity, grit, or tenacity. It’s access to pre-existing wealth, such as your family’s money and connections. The United States of America isn’t a meritocracy. In fact, it is similar to aristocratic regimes we overthrew and rebuked.

American financial disenfranchisement is only getting worse, and nothing has been solved. To add insult to injury, the climate crisis has been disproportionately caused by plutocrats—and yet the brunt of the ramifications are borne by disadvantaged people. In 2020, this has become clearer than ever before. We must speak up, speak out, march, lobby, protest—and yes, run for elected office and win.

Prologue: The Financial Concerns of Future Teachers in Florida

The Financial Concerns of Future Teachers in Florida
Richard Thripp, PhD
Independent Scholar

(To be written)

Keywords: financial literacy, preservice teachers, Florida Retirement System, retirement knowledge, financial challenges, plan preferences, investor behavior, nonwage benefits, personal finance, financial education, pensions, retirement plans, investing, risk, money management, defined contribution, financial concerns, millennials, Generation Z

I have always found personal finance interesting. Sadly, this is unusual. Most people find it dull, boring, uninteresting. This is true not just in America, but worldwide (Lusardi & Mitchell, 2011). People themselves are not to be blamed—there is plenty of misinformation out there, and most financial curricula does a very poor job of capturing the student’s attention. Nevertheless, I find myself frequently lamenting that people should be motivated by self-interest. The return-on-investment for financially educating oneself is immense—perhaps thousands of dollars per hour. There are few places this is this clearer than in the financial planning of preservice teachers.


In the fall of 2019, I completed my PhD in Education at the University of Central Florida (UCF). I majored in the Instructional Design and Technology track (one of 13 tracks offered), completing instructional design coursework, projects, comprehensive exams, and an internship, while also co-editing an academic anthology on online and blended learning (Heafner, Hartshorne, & Thripp, 2019) and teaching EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators to preservice teachers for three years. My supervisor, Dr. Richard Hartshorne, also agreed to serve as my dissertation committee chair. Eventually, I settled on conducting questionnaire-based research of the financial literacy of preservice teachers.

Having dabbled in analyzing National Financial Capability Study data previously, I became friends with Dr. Gary Mottola, Research Director for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation. Gary agreed to come onboard as the lone subject-matter expert on my committee, along with famed motivational scientist Dr. Bobby Hoffman (I am an alumnus of the Applied Learning and Instruction Master of Arts program) and renowned statisticians Drs. Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn and Shiva Jahani (we wanted the CV line item for Shiva as she may seek a tenure-track position in the future).

There was no particular reason to have three statisticians on my committee, and at times I wish this was not the case—Dr. Hahs-Vaughn was tough as nails, insisting that Likert-items be treated as ordinal rather than interval-level data, taking a specific interest in financial education research including finding publications I had overlooked, and interrogating many of my premises and assumptions in a way that may have gone unquestioned in most dissertations. Being that the ID&T track does not actually have much ID&T coursework, I was able to earn an Advanced Quantitative Methodologies in Educational and Human Sciences certificate with no additional credits using the Core and Electives portions of the ID&T program, which connected me with many statisticians as graduate students in other disciplines who flock to UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education for its exemplary statisticians and statistics courses.

Completing a PhD is an ordeal and an achievement, accomplished with the help of others but ultimately on one’s own. I often say, quite seriously, that I would have stopped at the master’s degree if I had it to do over again. My wife Kristy and I had a baby in February 2019, and I did not get my best work done on the dissertation until afterward. Laypersons are often surprised to learn that I also deprived the taxpayer of tuition along with receiving free health insurance, a $5,000 fellowship, and $60,500 of payroll disbursements. This, in fact, the norm for many PhD students, who are seen contributors to the United States’ scientific output, receiving funding that is ordinarily unavailable to seekers of professional degrees (MD, JD, PsyD, PharmD, etc.). During my master’s I applied only to this PhD program and was surprised to be accepted. I am very grateful for being given so many opportunities at the University of Central Florida. Higher education, particularly at the doctoral level, is considered by economists as an opportunity cost in and of itself, which is why being paid to go is well-advised.

My dissertation (Thripp, 2019a) was arguably three dissertations in one, involving the development of a nine-page questionnaire, the administration and analysis of responses from 314 future teachers in two modalities (print and Web) during the Summer 2019 semester and first few weeks of fall, and a concurrent comparison study of 205 American college-aged, college-attending adults on Amazon Mechanical Turk who I paid $1.00 each to complete the same questionnaire (with the removal of several items specific to preservice teachers). The questionnaire was unprecedented, attempting to measure investing acumen, preference for two types of retirement accounts, and other items in ways that had not been done before or even considered. It also included many free-response (written or typed) qualitative items, and the dataset was robust with participants consistently answering most, if not all, of the items.

Although my dissertation has already been republished as an e-book by The International Society for Technology, Education and Science, titled A Survey of Investing and Retirement Knowledge and Preferences of Preservice Teachers (Thripp, 2019b), this publication has no additions. My committee prohibited my discussion of any of the qualitative data (handwritten and typewritten responses to open-ended questions) due to the breadth of the quantitative data and my lack of time and energy to do this rigorously and comprehensively. Therefore, additional publications are required.

Following my December 2019 graduation, I made an unsuccessful bid as a Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives for Florida’s 6th district, which ended in my defeat by three percentage points in the August 18th, 2020 Democratic primary. Although I am profoundly disappointed, as are hundreds of donors, supporters, and volunteers for the Richard Thripp for Congress campaign, it has been a relief for Kristy, our son, and I to settle into a more leisurely pattern instead of the frenzied pace I have maintained for the past eight years.

The typical thing for me to do at this time would be to write and submit academic journal articles based on my dissertation. However, I am not all that eager to become a professor, and have taught only college students, never grades K–12 (a prerequisite for many such positions). In addition, I would prefer to present the material to a wide audience, without delay, in a less scientific manner that appeals to laypersons. This paper will attempt to do that.

(To be continued)


Heafner, T. L., Hartshorne, R., & Thripp, R. (Eds.). (2019). Handbook of research on emerging practices and methods of K–12 online and blended learning.

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2011b). Financial literacy around the world: An overview. Journal of Pension Economics & Finance, 10, 497–508.

Thripp, R. (2019a). A survey of investing and retirement knowledge and preferences of Florida preservice teachers (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from University of Central Florida STARS database. (Accession No. CFE0007868)

Thripp, R. (2019b). A survey of investing and retirement knowledge and preferences of preservice teachers. I. Sahin & W. Wu (Eds.). Monument, CO: International Society for Technology, Education and Science.

Keynote: Investing and Retirement Knowledge and Preferences of Preservice Teachers

Keynote presentation by Dr. Richard Thripp on July 15, 2020 at the International Conference on Humanities, Social and Education Sciences (iHSES).

It was great to co-chair this conference and present on my dissertation research, which has also been published as an e-book here.

Investing and Retirement Knowledge and Preferences of Preservice Teachers

New teachers are facing lower pay and less generous retirement benefits than the prior generation, yet their financial and retirement knowledge, concerns, and preferences have received little attention. To investigate these areas, I developed a 39-item survey instrument and administered it to 314 preservice teachers in undergraduate teacher education courses at the University of Central Florida, who were primarily female elementary and early childhood education juniors and seniors ages 18–25. Florida public employees are offered an unusual choice between a traditional pension plan and a defined-contribution plan similar to a 401(k) in which they can select their own investments, and 54% of surveyed preservice teachers preferred the 401(k)-like plan structure. However, their preferences may be ill-advised, given that in a mock portfolio allocation exercise intended to assess retirement investing sophistication, preservice teachers directed more than half their retirement money to low-risk money market and bond funds, which will likely underperform stocks over several decades. Furthermore, they anticipated that low salaries will impede their ability to save for retirement. For comparison, I also administered the survey to 205 U.S. college students or graduates ages 18–25 on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform for $1.00 each. Worrisomely, preservice teachers had significantly lower financial knowledge and retirement investing sophistication. These findings suggest a need for financial education targeting Florida preservice teachers, particularly given that the Florida Retirement System substantially cut its benefits in 2011.

Here are the slides on SlideShare (below).

Click here or see the YouTube video embedded above for a recording of my presentation.