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Strange doings on the second day of testing.

First there was the letter from Pam Stewart:

The department worked with AIR throughout the day and into the evening yesterday to better understand the issues that affected online testing in Florida on Monday. AIR has determined that a software issue caused log-in issues, including delays and error messages for a number of districts. AIR reports that of the 69,177 tests that were started yesterday, 67,745 were successfully completed.
AIR and its hosting provider, Rackspace, have worked to ensure that service is restored to the servers that support the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Last night, AIR conducted an additional load test on the hardware that supports FSA and it showed improved performance after the software changes. AIR will continue to monitor server performance throughout the entire FSA testing window.
Districts may begin or resume testing as soon as they desire, and additional guidance will be provided to assessment coordinators shortly. ​
Sincerely, Pam Stewart
Hardly the, hey guys sorry we really blew that one, was it.  

Then there was AIR's apology which they released through Education Week not through the department of education or even a press release.

"AIR Assessment, the organization delivering the tests for Florida, accepts full responsibility for the difficulty," the organization said. "We updated student data, which was not immediately available to the testing servers. When students logged onto the test, the servers were forced to reach out to other databases to get the necessary student information."
"This substantially degraded performance," the AIR added. "This data is now available to the testing servers, so the problem should not recur.

Um what? Okay sure but shouldn't you be telling that to the people of Florida at least through the people you work for instead of going through a national magazine. As bad as Pam Stewart's apology was this is just weird. They used the ostrich defense. They figure if they bury their gaff in the sand maybe nobody will notice.

Then there were even more problems. From State Impact:  For the second day in a row, some Florida school districts decided to suspend required testing because of computer problems.

And it looks like we may have a full scale testing revolt brewing in Miami. Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he won’t resume testing until the state can prove everything is working.

“Improving the system alone isn’t sufficient for me, for my teachers, or my students,” Carvalho said at a morning press conference. “I respect them too much. Either they have it right, or they don’t. And improvement of something that broke down is not sufficient.”
Florida I would like to blast you for failing to recognize and prepare for the most predictable of problems but it would make me feel like I was picking on a helpless puppy.

The Duval County School Board’s habit of manufacturing crises.

The Duval county school board has recently developed the bad habit of manufacturing crises.

A couple of months ago it was about the resolution to drop out of the law suit against vouchers. There were people in this audience that literally thought depending how the board voted they might have to find new schools for their children.

Now the headlines have read “tonight the School Board decides the superintendents fate” and none of the articles mention the fact that the decision doesn’t actually have to be made for nine months.

Other school boards from around the state are wrestling with testing, developing procedures to allow children to opt out, discipline and teacher morale, you know issues school boards should be talking about, while this school board is instead tackling something it does not have to. Furthermore few people follow local education closer than me and until the school board brought it up practically no one was talking about getting rid of the superintendent but then all of a sudden extending his contract became the most important education related topic in the city.

The superintendents own words however seem to indicate it’s not time.

A couple weeks back he said, I wanted to make the super bowl but we haven’t even made the playoffs yet. Well what’s wrong with making the playoffs before giving him an extension?  
The superintendent and the coach of the jaguars have several similarities, they are both young, passionate, work hard and bring a sense of optimism with them but unfortunately their on-field records are very similar too. The Jaguars have gone 4-12 and 3-13. Do you think the owner of the Jaguars is looking to extend his coaches contract? No of course not he is waiting for some on the field success as should you.

There is also some very important data just on the horizon that could undoubtedly influence your decisions, I and many others don’t understand why you are not waiting for it.

This summer we will know how most of our schools are doing and what if the results are even worse than anticipated? Next, the first year of the QEA something the super is inescapably tied to is also coming to an end. What if the results are abysmal? Wouldn’t the board be better prepared to make the decision to resign him or not with that data? I don’t know about you but I like to have all the information available I can to make a decision, not just some of it. If the board is demanding teachers be data driven then why don’t they lead by example and wait until all the data is in.   

I am hopeful our superintendent will turn things around though I wish he, and the board for that matter would spend as much time cultivating relationships with teachers as you do with the business community but at the end of the day, there is no imminent need to resign him for three more years. .
We have both more time and data to see before we have to.

I want to offer the board some alternatives to resigning him for three more years.

till the summer when some very important and telling data will be available before you make your decision or

Resign him for just one year, after all if that is good enough for teachers it should be good enough for him.  

Regardless of whatever they do, I hope we see an end to these manufactured crises, after all we have enough real ones to deal with

Superintendent Vitti really loves Gary Chartrand, let me count the ways.

From the Times Union: “With Gary being on the board, it provides perspective on issues regarding Jacksonville ...,” said Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. “There’s a level of ownership he’s taken in seeing that students in the Urban Core succeed through KIPP Academy and Quality Education for All, but at the same time, requiring more accountability, as well,” he said.

You know because we need the perspective of a white Ponte Vedra millionaire who has never taught or worked in our schools to tell us what we need, I am sorry make that tell our poor black children what they need.

Chartrand must have developed his perspective for the urban core  when his kids were at Bolles

And Vitti's right about ownership because that is what Chartrand wants to do, own our schools, heck he already owns most of the school board.

If Vitti really thinks Chartand is the way to go and I get it, he can't really say, thanks for the money Gary but you are kind of a disaster, then Jacksonville is in big trouble.

It's time for Pam Stewart to go!

I will just get to it.

For months school boards and superintendents have been telling her and the state that they were not ready for the new tests but she held fast saying, full speed ahead. 

From the Tampa Times: The issues surfaced in 36 counties after months of warnings from superintendents, teachers, school boards and politicians that Florida's transition to new tests was too rushed and schools were not ready.

She cared not one iota about the consequences this reckless endeavor would have on children, teachers, schools and districts. Since the day she has arrived she has not carried water for their interests but for Jeb Bush's instead and its time she left to go work for his foundation (or one of his friends) which I am sure is in the cards. 

What happened today was an unmitigated disaster and thus far this has been her public response:

 A spokeswoman for Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said state officials are looking into the cause of the problems.

Wow what leadership there. I am sure she is waiting for Jeb Bush to get back to her with a way to spin this so its the union's fault or a statement saying this is what we had attended to do all along and all is well. We would get better leadership from an elementary school student council. 

It's time Pam Stewart left and for her to take her tests, which have wasted millions and millions of dollars, been used for purposes they weren't designed for and sucked the joy out of teaching and learning alike for so many, with her.

First day testing problems, oh Florida, a round up of testing news.

I was going to write about how the first day testing woes were easily predictable but Miami Superintendent Albert Carvalho beat me to it.

Sadly, today's midday cancellation of state assessment due to state's technical issues was both predicted and preventable.

The new contract proposal encourages veteran teachers to be average.

First let me say I recognize the hard work of both the union and the district in negotiating the new teacher contract but I believe they should go back to the drawing board and come up with something that is fairer to our veteran teachers, those that have made education a career and proven they can do the job. If not I will be voting against it.

Now they both might say their hands were tied by the teaching profession kneecapping Senate Bill 736, The Student Success act but regardless the contract among other things encourages our best and most experienced teachers to be average.

A first year teacher who is effective can make a thousand dollar raise while at the same time a veteran tenth year teacher who gets a highly effective evaluation can only get a five hundred dollar raise. Where is the motivation for veteran teachers to go above and beyond because until year fifteen their raises will be less than what rookie teachers can earn for being effective? To give you some scale last year about five percent of teachers were highly effective, three percent developing/needs improvement and the vast majority effective. Which means most new teachers will be getting a thousand dollar raise while most veterans will be getting less. The district with its reliance on Teach for America is already disrespectful and disdainful of veteran teachers and the union with this contract seems to go along with them.

Furthermore a rookie teacher today can expect to earn more than a current veteran teacher on a professional service contract over the next fifteen years and earn potentially hundreds of thousands more over the course of their career.

This is all very ironic as the school board is seeking to extend the contract of Superintendent Vitti for three more years while at the same time telling teachers to choose money or security.  Teachers are professionals too and should be treated like it, this contract however does not.

More about Al Brennan at First Coast

I will update this periodically.

I liken this to how one abuse victim speaks up others do so as well. What starts as a trickle turns into a flood. Well that's the way it seems to be with Al Brennan too. Why the administration, heck multiple administrations has let this serial abuse take place is beyond me.

From teachers that used to work with him.

   I used to work at Englewood High where he was a principal. The way he treated his teachers as if he owned them and they have to be submissive to stay on his good side. Even veteran teachers didn't want to go head to head with him, so imagine how new teachers feel and have to deal with under his administration.

First Coast wasn't under any deadline to improve when Brennan showed up, rather under the leadership of Vincent Hall the school had already improved to an A school, with high performing sports teams and a decrease in discipline problems. The minute Brennan stepped in he wanted to change a fully functioning system so it could be done his way. His way has dropped the school grade, teacher and student morale and caused spike in discipline problems.

His Wed in-service speech/presentation was epic. He berated the teaching staff in charge of testing students in the computer lab for allowing the students to basically destroy the computer lab. He was spot on, those teachers did a poor job. However those teachers need admin support in the area of discipline. Would've been nice if he mentioned the consequences associated with students defacing the computer lab. I guess he was too busy doing his favorite thing: threatening teacher's jobs and certs.

Principal admits Duval's new discipline techniques are failing.

From the Times Union: She (the principal at Oak Hill) added that teachers want more parental support and to be able to remove disruptive students from class more often than the district discipline guidelines allow. Duval is transitioning to more restorative discipline techniques, she said.

We may have very well been suspending to many students in the past but this restorative justice model that vacillates between ignoring and coddling poor behavior is not working, it's a disaster and sends the wrong message.

We don't have to be cruel but ignoring bad behavior creates more bad behavior. First it encourages the student that committed the first infractions to escalate and then it tells the other kids that they can misbehave too and if teachers are begging for help which the principal above seems to indicate then the district should listen and give that help. 

Discipline is hard but ignoring it only makes the problem worse not better and remember for a consequence to be effective it must be meaningful. Talking to some kids about their feelings may not be enough. Sure get to the root cause of the bad behavior, often home life but just as often a lack of consequences for previous bad behavior, though it doesn't sound like that is happening either but don't ignore the bad behavior at the same time.  

Sadly our superintendent likes to say look the numbers are down rather than do anything to meaningfully address the problem. 

Al Brennan principal of First Coast High school has no comment about his bullying

Teachers leaving in droves, those that remain report being miserable; that's what is occurring at First Coast high school because an already very difficult job is made nearly impossible due to the bullying of the school's principal Al Brennan and please don't take my word for it, read the comments of any blog I post about First Coast or look at the survey it's teachers completed.

Thus far the district has shrugged their shoulders at the problem there and in other schools around the district and when given a chance to defend themselves, Al Brennan had no comment. Ida Walker of Oak Hill however had plenty to say.

From the Times Union:  High staff turnover means 13 of the school’s 30 teachers are new to the profession and “struggling with the demands of the job, the demands of the curriculum, the demands of my expectations,” said Ida D. Walker, principal.

The school’s leadership team also is new, including two principals, a dean, a guidance counselor, and reading and math coaches and “interventionists,” who work with students.
Walker, recently from Tallahassee, said the school is under a deadline to improve or face possible state takeover, transformation, closure or reorganization as a charter school.
“I’m balancing the sense of urgency of turning around a persistently low-performing, high-needs school … with building relationships,” said Walker. “The reality is the staff may be still adjusting to my leadership style.”

Look it took guts to go on the record like that but her words speak volumes. Good leaders motivate, inspire and empower not wait for you to adjust to their leadership style. Also don't they get it, if a teacher is miserable they are not going to be as effective as they could be no matter how hard they might try.

Mrs. Walker only 12% of your staff think your school is a good place to work and learn, maybe instead of waiting for them to get your leadership style its time you changed your leadership style.

Four more years of crazy, Gary Chartrand reappointed to the state board.

Rick Scott said the heck with the notion of having a real educator on the state board of education and reappointed Gary Chartrand. This despite the fact a few weeks back he admitted in the Times Union that he didn't really know what he was doing when he was first appointed something I would argue contuses to this day.

Gary Chartand has ties to several charter schools, brought Teach for America to Jacksonville, funds the anti-union organization P.E,N. and last summer cackled on WJCT's First Coast Connect how glad he was that teachers no longer have work protections and were reduced to service workers on ten month contracts. He also used his position  as a state board member to try and influence the Duval County school board to drop put of the voucher law suit and has used his incredible wealth to collect school board members like a twelve year old might collect baseball cards.

Chartrand is on the wrong side of every education issue, his ideas are bad and his experience in education is non existent. I firmly believe when it is all said and done, Chartrand will not be the hero of the story, a role he is attempting to use his money to buy but the villain.

If only Andy Gardiner were poor

Andy Gardiner has a disabled son. This is without a doubt the motivation behind him pushing for legislation to help disabled children. Some people might see this is noble. I see it as incredibly selfish.

What if Andy Gardiner and his children lived in poverty? Would he then be fighting to improve thier lot? We know poverty is the number one factor effecting children in school. Those children that live in it invariably do worse than those that don't. But instead of addressing poverty, Gardiner has passed blame the teachers evaluations, sought to out source our children's education to for-profit charter schools and private schools with practically zero accountability and brought in an experimental set of standards common core, and none of it addresses our real problem.

What if Gardiner's son was a student forced to take high stakes standardized tests or maybe a teacher that was forced to teach to the test? Would he be seeking to end the testing madness that has sucked the joy to of education for so many teachers and students alike?

Poverty and high stakes testing aren't his particular problem so he shrugs his shoulders at them and that brand of selfishness, how can I personally benefit from legislation, is a rampant problem in Tallahassee.