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Everything that is wrong with VAM and testing in Florida in four minutes. A must watch!

Class size versus charter schools, one works one doesn't. Hint, it's charter schools that doesn't.

At the same time the state is voting to further limit the class size amendment, something the people of Florida have voted for three times, because Tallahassee does not want to pay for it, they have voted to force local school districts to share local tax revenue with charter schools, many of which are run by for profit management companies.

Smaller classes are one of the few reforms that has actual evidence that says it works, charter schools of which over 270 have opened and taken public money in Florida leaving families and communities in a lurch cannot say that. The Stanford Credo charter schools study, the definitive study on charters says, they as a group under perform in Florida, when compared to public schools.

Why is Tallahassee forcing districts to invest in an arguably failed reform while ignoring the will of the people and gutting one that has evidence saying it works? The answer as usual is follow the money as charter school operators are some of the biggest supporters of the republican legislators in Tallahassee. It's crony capitalism with our children paying the price.

We should demand our representatives do what is right for the children of Florida instead of doing what is best for the profit margin of their supporters.   

Wait what, Duval County schools done lost their mind!

I am just going to let them do the talking for me.

From the Times Union in an article about opting students out of standardized tests: 

There are other drawbacks to opting out, parents say.
Amy Hynes-Johnson, a Mandarin parent whose fourth-grader and two fifth-graders opted out of tests this week, said they sat in the testing room for 80 minutes at a time. But because they didn’t test, when their classmates had an after-test party at school, her children were sent to another room.
Oy vey, so the school can't find a place to send kids who opt out of testing so they don't have to sit there and do nothing but we can find a place to send them when they are to be excluded from a party? What the $%#@!!!!
I talked to an elementary school vice principal two days ago and she told me about all the children who were crying before having to take the tests. They said they did their best to calm them down but the stress we are putting on children is incredible. 
Stress, children, all over a test that most teachers can tell how their students are going to do without them even having to take it. 
We have gone to far if this is what is happening. 

Local Jacksonville education leaders who never taught or haven't taught much

The Huffington Post did a piece on all the education leaders who never taught including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Why Obama, why, why, why.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/education-leaders-never-teachers_n_4235177.html

And it got me thinking about local education leaders who never taught or didn't teach that much.

First there is our Superintendent Vitti who taught for just two years at two different schools in North Carolina and New York.

There is Trey Csar the president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund who spent two years as a teacher for America teacher in Louisiana.

Chair of the State Board of Education Gary Chartrand, a grocer by trade, says thirty years ago he substituted some but to be honest I can neither confirm or deny that.

School Board members Scott Shine, Jason Fischer, and Cheryl Grymes, nope, nope and nope.

Then there is Ashley Smith Juarez who I believe taught at Bolles for a couple years, it says in the SB biography she taught for public schools too but I can't find any record of that, she's so young the timeline would be really tight

So there you have it there is a woeful lack of teaching experience, especially local and public among our leaders. I can't help but think that has contributed to our schools spinning their wheels.

Why doesn't Vitti understand the importance of libraries?

A reader pointed out something I missed: “Do we really promote and teach the joy of reading,” School Board member Connie Hall asked.

Answer: NO. You don't fund media specialist positions, close school libraries, & then you you ask about promoting the joys of reading? Might as well be a rhetorical question.

The Mike the Teacher blog has covered the cutting of librarians extensively.


65% of existing Duval County Middle School libraries in 2012-13, were eliminated in 2013-14 (Vitti’s first full year as Superintendent).
79% of existing Duval County High School libraries in 2012-13, were eliminated in 2013-14.
90% of Duval County high schools (26/29) had no full-time librarian in 2013-14.
86% of Duval County high schools (25/29) had no librarian at all in 2013-14.
74% of Duval County middle schools had no librarian at all.
58% of Duval County elementary schools did not have a full-time librarian, but all had at least a part-time librarian.
In 2013-14, Vitti’s funding decisions eliminated library positions from 15 middle schools and 15 high schools (one other high school librarian was reduced from full-to part time).
While 90% of high schools didn’t have a single full-time librarian, Paxon (the college prep school) got TWO librarians.
Vitti cut the equivalent of 28 full-time positions at these middle and high schools where librarians were eliminated.


Having talked to some of the few librarians left they tell me more cuts are on the way as libraries across the city will be turned into testing centers and for a district with a reading problem how does this make any type of rational sense.

Vitti has a problem that many people in government have and that's unless it benefits them or it has worked for them they have no use for it. Take for instance Senator Rob Portman from Ohio who changed his tunes about gays when his son revealed he was one, Andy Gardiner here in Florida who has pushed for personal learning scholarships for disabled children because he has one and then there is Vitti too who has a child with dyslexia, he  starting the grasp academy to service children with it.

Vitti battled dyslexia too and the super should be applauded for overcoming his disability but at the same time this may have led to his lack of appreciation and understanding about the importance of libraries and librarians. Not everybody can learn from being thrown in front of a computer.  

Mike the Teacher pointed out it would take about 2 million to fully fund our libraries or about the cost of one of Vitti's computer programs that I am sure we will chuck in a year or too.

Librarys' and librarians are important despite what Vitti thinks and it's a shame he doesn't understand that even if he personally didn't have much use for them growing up.

Do you ever just get tired of the ridiculous stuff that comes out of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund?

Point one, their school choice report said charter schools do worse, we have no idea how voucher schools are doing, school choice drains much needed resources from public schools and the coup-de-grace, we need more school choice.

Point two a couple years ago Tommy Hazouri during his stay on the board said, who the hell is the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, when they tried to elbow their way into local education. fast forward and the creator of JPEF Gary Chartrad has his hand picked superintendent appointed and its hard to tell where the district ends and JPEF begins.

Point three, the director of JPEF has two years teaching experience, in Louisiana as a Teach for America teacher. I am siting on my couch with my wife and between us we have more teaching experience than the entire JPEF organization, she has none by the way (except for teaching me how to put the toilet seat down she wanted me to mention).

Point four is the wacky shit trey Csar, of the two years experience, says, take for example what he said in the Times Union the other day. When talking about the slow progress at The Transformation schools, funded by money manged by JPEF he said“What the district needs to do is to focus on closing the achievement gap,” said Trey Csar, head of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
“I have no doubt that the achievement gap is closable. The question is, are you closing it fast enough?”
Oh, we just have to close the achievement gap, its as easy as that. Tomorrow I just have to breath and the day will be great.
The real problem is Vitti, JPEF, Csar and the donors to the QEA, have no idea how to do that and reason one is none were educators, reason two is they don't respect or appreciate them.

Representative Eric Fresen votes to give his charter school owning brother tax payer money.

Oy vey, just when you think there is the worst of the worst another pops up. How Eric Fresen, who has had multiple conflicts of interest isn't in jail is beyond me. Welcome to Florida.

From the Miami Herald: The bill found little opposition at first — until House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, R-Miami, added the contentious provision about construction funding.
Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, have long sought a stable revenue stream for construction and maintenance. Unlike traditional public schools, they cannot levy property taxes for that purpose. But school districts oppose sharing their tax dollars because most of the money is earmarked for debt service. What’s more, they point out that many charter schools are housed in privately owned facilities that do not revert to the public if the school closes.
The bill that passed Friday would ensure charter schools receive about 40 percent of the amount traditional public schools can raise for construction and maintenance, Fresen said.
If the state does not provide enough money in the budget, as it has done in recent years, the school districts would have to make up the difference with their tax revenue.
That Fresen sponsored the amendment was controversial. His firm has helped build several charter schools, and his brother-in-law runs Academica, the state’s largest charter school management company, .
Fresen said he did not consider the amendment to be a conflict of interest because it would not increase funding for charter schools.
“There’s already money for capital outlay,” he told the Herald/Times. “All this does is create a predictable framework for this capital outlay money to be expended.”
Democrats also raised problems with the measure itself. Several voiced their concerns during a caucus meeting earlier Friday.
“The deal with charter schools was supposed to be that they operate on a shoestring budget,” said state Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston. “They didn’t need the capital outlay funding.”
Just so everybody understands, this means we are going to be giving for profit charter schools, like the one his brother runs, more tax payer money.
What the fuck beep!!!

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article16483178.html#storylink=cpy

Saying Jason Fischer represents district 7 is a bit of a stretch

Saying Jason Fischer represents District 7 is a liberal interpretation of the facts, yes he was elected but rather than the people in District 7 he represents Jeb Bush and the privatization movement and make no mistake when he talks about school choice, privatization is what he is really talking about.

First let’s talk about charter schools. Over 270 in Florida have taken public money and closed leaving families and communities in a lurch, including a half dozen in Jacksonville.. Also according to the Stanford Credo and a Jacksonville Public Education Fund study, Jacksonville’s charter schools as a group under perform when compared to the public schools. In fact the only ones that are doing well are either in neighborhoods that have traditionally done well or spend about a third more per child (KIPP) to educate them

Then there are vouchers, the same JPEF study lamented that we have no idea how they are doing. Furthermore not only does most of the money go to religious schools and they don’t have to take the same standardized tests that public schools do but the system is set up so they don’t even have to report how the money they receive is spent. Accountability it seems is a necessity for public schools but less than an after though for voucher schools.

These which drain resources out of the schools, again from the JPEF study, are two of the choice options that Fischer praises.

Jacksonville also recently voted overwhelmingly that employees should live within the city limits, well Fischer is advocating with HB 1145, that Duval educate children who not only don’t live in the district but whose parents don’t pay taxes here either.

Manny Diaz r-Hialeah when shilling for the bill said, “There should be no hesitation in allowing a student who has not been provided the right opportunity in whatever arbitrary, designated county they live in to be able to cross that line and get a better opportunity,” he said. “I will tell you that if that school district and that school that that student is supposed to be zoned for is doing their job and providing them the best opportunity, the parent’s not going to be looking for another one.

Yes no hesitation and if schools weren’t crappy then parents wouldn’t have their kids leave. Or maybe there are just too many back kids, or poor kids, or some other petty reason that people sometimes use to make decisions.

Also how isn’t this going to further segregate our schools? What poor or middle class parent can drive their child across the county line day in and day out? That would be none. All this is going to do is further drain resources from schools that can’t afford to lose them and Diaz and Fischer think that is a winning proposal.

Fischer is also for fiscal accountability, except for voucher schools which don’t have to report how the money is spent and for Charter schools many of which are for profit. It’s also interesting to see an elected official advocating for the end of democracy. Charter and Private school boards are not elected.  

I have long said public schools need more choice options and I applaud the district for creating dozens and dozens more but charter schools and vouchers schools aren’t here to add choices they are here to replace public schools and since charters do worse and voucher schools are without accountability it’s a bad deal for all of us. Just like Jason Fischer has been for district 7.

Finally, I am not sure how many of you know this but before Jason Fischer loved education, he loved soil and water; he just wasn’t elected to the soil and water board. Then just a little after the two year mark of his term he announced he was going to run for the state house. His biggest supporters have been charter school and voucher interests, one of who he works for.

Sometimes it is the little things about Vitti that bother you the most.

At the Jacksonville Public Education one on one conference Vitti went on about the transnational schools quite a bit. He said for the first time ever every position had been filled.

Well today in the Times Union he sang a different tune. Transformation schools have in the past suffered from high teacher turnover. Even now, not all of their teaching positions are filled. Vitti said the district is trying to hire for nine openings, and 27 more are unfilled for a variety of reasons, including that some teachers are on leave, that is out of more than 1,100 teaching positions.
“My concern is, do we have quality teachers in front of those students every day,” said Paula Wright, a board member, “A quality teacher can override … poverty, attitudes and all those negative things.”

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2015-03-26/story/duvals-transformation-schools-face-long-road-improvement

Okay, just 36 out of 1100 is a drop in the bucket, just let it go Chris who cares. the thing is the conference was just six weeks ago, did we lose 36 teachers since then, or did he know that there were openings and just went with the pep rally vibe he was selling. I don't know about you but I want a super who doesn't run from or spin problems no matter how small they might be. Deep breaths, who cares, I get it we have big problems and this probably isn't one.

A big one however is who was Wright referring to, she is obviously not convinced all the classes are staffed by quality teachers. I don't think for a second she is talking about the transfers, which makes me believe she is talking about the 200 or so Teach for America teachers. I am not saying they don't work hard or they aren't trying, I am saying those kids, our neediest of the needy, deserve better.

If we want them to improve anyways that is.

No information on how high and middle schools are doing with the QEA. Not even any spin.

The Times Union did a pretty big piece about the Duval Transformation schools. Thirty-six traditionally low performing schools that have seen unprecedented community support in the form of additional money.

The article went on and on how the elementary schools were doing, giving some pretty impressive spin from the district but do you know what the article doesn't mention once? How the middle and high schools are doing.

A couple years ago the department of education did a similar study offering unprecedented bonuses to high performing teachers to go to traditionally low performing schools.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/02/superintendent-vitti-reads-slate.html

The study reveled solid gains at the elementary level but zero gains in middle school and they didn't even try it in high school. So why no information about how the high and middle schools are doing? What's the big secret?

School board member concerned about discipline at the transformation schools

From the Times Union: But some School Board members say they wish there were more signs that transformation schools were catching up to the rest of the district.
“I’m still very concerned. ... We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Constance Hall, adding that when she visits transformation schools she sees teachers and students working hard.
It will take time, she said, for high-performing teachers to have an impact. National research shows it can take four or five years to turn around a persistently low-performing school, she said.
She added that she wants more improvement in children’s behavior, especially more respect for teachers and principals. But mostly she is concerned about reading progress.
“Do we really promote and teach the joy of reading,” she asked.
Okay, there is a lot of yada, yada, yada there but notice when Hall said,   She added that she wants more improvement in children’s behavior, especially more respect for teachers and principals.
Who wants to bet referrals are way down at those schools? If a sitting school board member mentions that discipline isn't where it should be shouldn't we stand up and take notice? Shouldn't we say, what about all of Vitti's reports that it has improved?
Discipline is hard but necessary and I am not saying to drop the hammer or be cruel but it is something we have to address and its something that is holding back the learning of many children. If a teacher spends just ten percent of their time disciplining, usually just a couple kids too, then the entire class has lost out on 18 days of instruction.
The teachers that transferred to those schools deserve every dollar they get and then some but if we wanted to make real gains, we should have had smaller classes, behavioral supports and wrap around services. You know things that have proven to work. 

Vitti makes some more exscuses

Superintendent Vitti is great at making excuses.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2015/02/superintendent-vitti-is-great-at-one.html

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/07/vittis-excuses-about-davis-promotion.html

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/10/is-anybody-buying-vittis-principal.html

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/07/how-vittis-grade-excuses-arent-good.html

Well today when talking about the transformation schools he made some more.

From the Times Union: Vitti said the district’s mid-year reading and math scores show that students in transformation schools, from kindergarten through fifth grade, have exceeded a year’s worth of expected growth in reading, with fourth and fifth grades making the most headway. Likewise in math, students in transformation schools in grades three through five exceeded a year’s growth, while kindergartners, first- and second-graders made about 80 percent of a year’s growth.
Despite the advances, the transformation schools’ achievement levels are far lower than at other schools, mid-year data show.
For instance, 75 percent of Duval’s fifth graders district-wide are on target for grade-level proficiency in math. But at transformation schools, only 38 percent are at or near that level, data show.
And in reading, 81 percent of Duval’s third graders are on target, but only 44 percent are, at the transformation schools.
It’s worse for fourth and fifth grades, where about half of Duval’s students score at or near grade level in reading, but only 16 percent of fourth-graders and 26 percent of fifth-graders are at grade level in the transformation schools.
“We cannot view the work in DTO as a one-year fix,” Vitti said, “but (it’s) a commitment to sustained and aggressive growth to accelerate student performance to grade-level standards.”
He is right it's not a quick fix but it's not a three year fix either which is what the QEA is going to pay for. Furthermore it's not just a school fix, we should have behavioral supports and wrap around services going on if we really want to make a difference too.

Vitti however threw most of his eggs in the merit pay basket because that's what the businessmen who gave the money wanted. They don't understand that education is so much more than a good teacher in front of a class and instead of being the adult in the room and explaining it to them Vitti just went along.

His whole spiel seems to be setting us up for disappointment.

We have to take everything Vitti says with a grain, make that a shaker of salt.

I really hate to say it but I believe everything that Superintendent Vitti says should be taken with a grain of salt and I base this mostly on his proclamations about improved discipline. Everyone knows the books are cooked. 

So when Vitti says the kids at the transformational schools have already gained a year’s worth, I am not buying it and it doesn’t help that Vitti has a lot riding on the QEA either.

From the Times Union: Most students at 36 of Duval County’s struggling schools made a year’s worth of progress in six months in reading and math, new district data show.
“I know we’re moving in the right direction,” said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, referring to the 36 schools in the Andrew Jackson, Ribault and Raines high school feeder patterns which are called Duval’s “transformation” schools.

I actually think moving some of our best teachers to our neediest schools was the right idea, though where worth every penny I think there were better ways than bribing the to move. Sadly we know that as soon as the money is turned off most will head back to the schools they came from.

But how do you staff those schools with Teach for America hobbyists too? On one hand they go we need these veterans there but then on the other they say let’s throw in some non-education teachers, a fifth of whom won’t last a year and the vast majority will be gone it two, as well. That’s F$%#ing madness.

Has there been improvement? I imagine in some classes yes, but I imagine overall they are not far from where they started.   

Some good news out of Tallahassee?

From State Impact: Nearly one in five Florida 3rd graders were at risk of being held back because oflow scores on the state reading test last year.
But this year the state might not hold back any 3rd graders. That’s because a Senate committee voted to suspend those penalties this year.
The bill requires an outside group to make sure the state test results are statistically valid.
Sen. David Simmons says he wants to make sure schools and the state can depend on Florida Standards Assessments results before making big decisions using those results.
“Common sense says that we need to ensure that this test that is being administered is, in fact, psychometrically valid,” Simmons says. “This amendment does that.”
I personally believe it is just a bad idea to fail kids, especially ones so young based on how they did on one test on one day which was the cornerstone of Jeb Bush's reforms.
Anyhoo if this amendment passes it's good news. It's baffling why makings sure we get things right meets such resistance from the republicans in Tallahassee. That being said, what abut the tenth graders who might not be able to graduate and all the kids who might be forced to take remedial classes based on a dubious test. What about the schools that are going to be labeled as failing and the teachers and principals who are going to lose their jobs. Where is their consideration.
This is a nice first step but what a long way we still have to go.

The true aim of Florida's school choice agenda.

If you haven’t been paying attention you might not know that the Florida legislature is about to require counties to educate children whose families not only don’t pay taxes in them but don’t live in them either. Representative Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, employed some pretty irresponsible rhetoric when trying to sell the bill.

“There should be no hesitation in allowing a student who has not been provided the right opportunity in whatever arbitrary, designated county they live in to be able to cross that line and get a better opportunity. I will tell you that if that school district and that school that that student is supposed to be zoned for is doing their job and providing them the best opportunity, the parent’s not going to be looking for another one.

This begs the question, if next will the legislature require fire, health and police departments to serve people in other counties who might prefer them too? County lines really aren’t arbitrary, they say the people in them will take responsibility for what happens. Now some do a better job than others but should we be burdening them or letting the other counties off the hook? Diaz obviously thinks we should.

Then there are literally dozens of arbitrary reasons a parent might want to move their kids to a different school that don’t have to do with academics. If a parent doesn’t want their child around minorities, poor children or thinks the sports department might be better at a different school now Diaz is empowering them to move.

Also what poor or middle class family can afford to drive their student across the county line day after day? The answer is none which means this will further segregate our schools draining precious resources from the schools that can afford to lose them the least. This will further segregate our schools into have and have nots.

What gets me the most is Diaz is saying schools are failing when they are not. Schools have been saddled with poor leadership from Tallahassee that serves special interests like charter schools (who Diaz works for in his day job), vouchers, and Jeb Bush’s political aims rather than the states parents, teachers and students.  How many schools and districts that have been chronically underfunded and burdened with poor standards (common core) does Diaz think are not doing their job? My bet it is exclusively the ones in the poor neighborhoods who don’t do well on standardized tests because to the republicans in Tallahassee that not addressing the problems that come with poverty is all that matters.

Public education is supposed to be like a rope. Lots of strands twisted together makes it strong. When the strands are frayed away the rope weakens and weakens until it breaks and that, the breaking of public education, not helping children is the true aim of Diaz and the school choice agenda.