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The Times Union gets it wrong about Vouchers and High Stakes Testing... again!

For a moment I thought the Times Union’s editorial board stopped at Wall Greens on the way to work and picked up some common sense juice. You see they were rightfully critical of the passage of Senate Bill 850, the bill that expanded vouchers. In case you didn’t know they legislature used parliamentary tricks to pass it on the last day, folding the voucher parts into a popular bill providing extra resources to disabled kids.
Unfortunately the Times Union’s editorial board reverted to their broke clock like track record on education issues and regurgitated the talking points of the six figured executives of Step up for Students the organization that administers the states voucher program and is paid handsomely for doing so. One part they got especially wrong was the part about high stakes testing. 
The editor wrote, “It’s surprising that a test that is roundly criticized suddenly becomes essential.” This is “essentially” a dig at the people against vouchers, where he basically calls them and me since I am one of them, a hypocrite for railing against high stakes testing but then demanding the kids that take vouchers do so.
The thing is High Stakes Testing is the rule of the land, a rule created by the people who love and want to expand vouchers. I think they are bad for all kids but unfortunately I am not the one who makes the rule and for the state legislature to say HSTs are great for public schools but unnecessary for voucher schools is ridiculous but it doesn’t stop there.
The legislature also says STEM, teacher evaluations and certification, VAM, Common Core and accountability in general are important for public schools but then shrugs their shoulders when applying those things to private schools that accept vouchers and say, “ahh the free market will figure it out.”
I believe vouchers without accountability are a bad deal and I don’t think it is asking too much to make sure they are doing what they say they will do before being allowed to expand.
Finally I would like to address one more point, the editor wrote there is turmoil in public schools and parents are looking for more options. Well the turmoil was caused by the legislature who routinely deprives schools of proper funding, initiates experimental curriculums (common core) and takes every opportunity available to kneecap the teacher profession. They in effect have created the “turmoil” and said, hey check out vouchers. I find it repugnant that they have created this crisis and now seek to and benefit off of it at the expense of public schools.  

The Jacksonville Public Education Funds undeniable conflict of interest.

The JPEF has partnered with numerous non-profits and organizations to bring awareness about the upcoming school board races.

The School Board 2014 Coalition is a group of nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations. It is led by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and includes:
§                 100 Black Men of Jacksonville
§                 Beaches Watch
§                 Duval County Council of PTAs
§                 Jacksonville Kids Coalition
§                 Jacksonville Urban League
§                 JCCI
§                 Junior League of Jacksonville
§                 League of Women Voters of Jacksonville First Coast
§                 NAACP Jacksonville Branch
§                 National Panhellenic Council
§                 Northside Love
§                 Teen Leaders of America
§                 The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida
§                 United Way of Northeast Florida
§                 War on Poverty – Florida
§                 WJCT
All of these organizations have pledged not to support or endorse any candidate. Our goal is to educate the community about their choices and promote increased participation in school board elections.

Sounds great until we realize the board of the JPEF has picked out candidates they have both endorsed and supported.

Daryl Willie
Cindy Edelman and her husband 2,000 dollars.
John Baker, 1,000 dollars
Gary Chardrand, his wife Nancy and daughter Meredith, 2,500 dollars
Poppy Clements and her husband 2,000 dollars
Cleve Warren, 255 dollars
Deloris Weaver's husband and son, 1,500 dollars

Scott Shine
The Clements 500
The Weavers 1000
Baker 500
The Chartrands 500
The Edelmans 1000 
They just got on the Shine band wagon, more money is bound to come

Becky Couch (who doesn't even have an opponent) 
The Clements, 2000
The Weavers, 3000
Baker. 1000
The Chartrands 1500
The Edelmans 1000


Um what am I missing here? The JPEF should immediately recuse themselves from any forums; at the very least the appearance of impropriety is great. 

Duval's education policies don't address our problems.

By Greg Sampson

“In short: the 50-state equity strategy is to blame individual teachers. Or reward them. Blame individual teachers while blithely ignoring the real problem… a dysfunctional system that underdevelops and undersupports teachers, and does both with impunity when it comes to students in high-need communities. Reward individual teachers while ignoring the empirical evidence… which shows that working conditions are far more important than bonuses in persuading teachers to stay or leave their classrooms.”

Good article in Valerie Strauss’s WaPo blog, Answer Sheet. I highlight the above quote because it speaks to a new program in Duval County about which many of us are skeptical: Transformation schools (or as I learned yesterday are now called DTO schools. I’ll leave to readers to ponder why DCPS leaders changed the label for the program.)

For those desiring background knowledge, this is the program the superintendent has entered into with private donors and community organizations such as the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, in which teachers with high Value-Added Model scores (VAM) will receive $17,000 to 20,000 annual pay supplements for teaching in Jacksonville’s most struggling schools.

In summary, what the teachers told the President and Secretary of Education is that years of reward and punishment based upon identifying “good” and “bad” teachers will not work. Rather, they should be establishing and promoting policy that gives teachers the time and resources needed to improve their practice: collaboration time, job-embedded professional development, mentoring.

But one of the reasons students do well in China is the time teachers are given to learn. In China teaching is a learning profession and teachers study each other’s lessons and spend many hours crafting good lessons, teaching classes for many less hours per week than US teachers but spending more time learning, out of class (Stevenson, 1994; Stigler & Stevenson, 1991; quoted in a paper by Jo Boaler, Stanford University, co-founder: www.youcubed.orgDavid Foster, Executive Director, Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative).”

Teachers need less class time and more collaboration time. The loss of the 45 minute collaboration time, during which all teachers in secondary schools were not teaching classes, really hurt us this past school year. Work suffered. Scores tumbled. One year does not prove causation; one year cannot support correlation. But put these two together, and the pairing does raise questions that need answering.

Teachers are pushed all the time to collaborate, plan together, discuss data, design common assessments, on and on. But in our district, as in the US overall, teachers don’t receive enough time in their day to accomplish it all.

Perhaps that JPEF/DTO program money would have been better spent giving all teachers more non-student time to work together.

Andy Gardiner blames unions to distract from his own failures.

I found incoming senate president Andy Gardiner’s reflexive attack of teacher unions troubling. When the FEA filed suit against senate bill 850 (voucher expansion), he said the unions may have given up on these children, but I haven’t.

First that’s very arguable, this legislature has routinely slashed education budgets, attacked the teaching profession and made policy decisions, common core, high stakes standardized testing, vouchers, charter schools and merit pay that are not supported by evidence but which quite often benefit their campaign donors. Those things not protesting a hastily thrown together bill that violates the Constitutions single subject clauses have caused exponentially more harm to children.

I also want to remind everyone that unions don’t establish budgets, create curriculums, hire or fire teachers. All they do is try to make the mutually agreed upon contract language, the rules, are enforced. Furthermore because Florida is a right to work state, things like strikes the one truly effective tool that unions have has been taken out of their toolbox.

The truth is we have serious issues in education many caused by the policies Gardnier supports, unfortunately instead of trying to fix them Gardiner seems more interested in hyperbolic rhetoric and blaming one of the groups trying to do so

Florida teachers leaving in droves

From State Impact, by John O'Connor

Florida teachers are leaving the classroom at a faster rate than the national average, according to a new study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Richard Ingersoll for the Alliance for Excellent Education.
About 8 percent of Florida teachers left the classroom from 2008 to 2009. Nationally, 6.8 percent of teachers left the classroom during the same period. Florida’s rate of attrition is higher than other large states, such as California, Illinois, New York and Texas.
Predictably, those rates are higher at schools with a high percentage of low-income or minority students. Those schools are also more likely to employ teachers with less experience.
“Teachers departing because of job dissatisfaction link their decision to leave to inadequate administrative support, isolated working conditions, poor student discipline, low salaries, and a lack of collective teacher influence over schoolwide decisions,” the report states.
Ingersoll estimates the turnover cost the Sunshine State between $61.4 million and $133.6 million from 2008 to 2009.
Long-term, the trend means students are now more likely to have a less experienced teacher. In 1987-1988, the most common amount of teacher experience was 15 years. In 2007-2008, teachers were most often in their first year. The figure has risen to five years’ experience since the Great Recession.
The report recommends formal induction programs, which include several years of mentoring, scheduling a common planning time for teachers and making professional development a priority. Hillsborough County schools have reduced their attrition rate with a mentoring program funded in part by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Hat tip to our friends at StateImpact Indiana for pointing out the study.

Duval's charter schools, fail, or epic fail

From Context Florida by Julie Delegal

Florida’s schools have been graded since FCAT began under Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1998. There weren’t any consequences for the first few years — no “turnaround” lists, no teacher bonuses — as schools were given the chance to adjust to the brand new test.
Standards of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test have been ramped up a few times over the past 15 years, and school scores have been tweaked accordingly. The “safety net,” which prevents a school’s grade from falling more than one letter over the course of the year, is in effect again for 2014 scores.
This year, Jacksonville’s first round of grades brings good news and bad news. Yes, Duval County’s elementary and middle schools have earned more A’s, but they’ve also earned more F’s — 22 of them, total. And six of those F’s belong to charter schools.
Charter schools are hybrid entities. Private educational groups run charter schools using public money. The private educators, in turn, pay leases to the property owners and/or fees to the franchise.
An example is Charter Schools USA. In a profile of its CEO, Jonathan Hage,Florida Trend magazine reports that once a charter school is on its feet, CSUSA takes roughly 10 percent of the per-pupil tax dollars that come through the door. In Florida, charter schools receive about two-thirds of the per pupil funds that traditional schools receive. The schools collect capital improvement funds from the state for site-related needs, and they don’t pay property taxes, even though the real estate sites are privately owned assets.
Charter schools were supposed to be the superheroes of education. “Give parents a choice,” proponents said. “Loosen up on the regulations. Let us innovate and show you what we can do; we’ll bring those innovations to the public school classroom.”
In Jacksonville, with its areas of almost intractable poverty, it’s easier said than done. While some school-grade calculations are still pending, 32percent of Jacksonville’s elementary and middle charter schools graded so far this year have earned F’s.* By contrast, so far, only 12.5 percent of Duval’s traditional public schools scored F’s this year. Speaking in proportionate terms, and without accounting for sample sizes, Jacksonville’s charter schools, as a district, have 2 ½ times the number of failing schools than do our traditional-district schools.
We are paying for it dearly — not only in terms of student failure, but also in terms of diffused resources. Test-based accountability is a little too high-stakes in Jacksonville as compared to our nearest-peer district, Hillsborough. (Hillsborough County is exempt from the provisions that count test-scores as 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations.) Nevertheless, standards-based accountability permits educators to zero-in on students’ specific academic needs in order to better serve them.
That’s harder to do, though, when privatization is draining precious dollars from traditional schools, whose scale operational costs remain roughly the same despite losing students.
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told the Jacksonville Times Union that the district’s traditional schools lost $70 million in pupil funds last year due to privatization — charter schools, voucher schools, and other “contract” schools.
Despite the financial crunch, though, Duval’s traditional district schools outperformed charters on the “A” end of the grading scale, too. So far, 23percent of our traditional district elementary and middle schools earned “A” grades, compared to just 10 percent of Duval’s charter schools. Jacksonville’s traditional public schools also beat charters on passing grades, that is, the percentage of schools scoring A’s, B’s, and C’s: Sixty-six percent of graded traditional schools “passed” so far compared to only 58 percent of charters.
The idea that charter school operators should make a profit by providing children a better educational experience should offend no one. The fact that the numbers say they’re not doing a better job, while they’re draining away precious public resources, should alarm everyone.
All figures were retrieved on July 17 from Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s interactive website. Only already-graded schools were included.

Andy Gardiner Florida’s worst legislator ever.

Good job Orlando sending this guy to the Florida senate what a cartoon rodent wasn't available? Listen to his rhetoric about the Florida Education Association filing suit against senate bill 850.

Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando and who is in line to become the next Senate president, not only criticized the lawsuit in a statement but pledged to do even more once he assumes power later this year. “We will empower parents and children with unique abilities as long as I am in the process,” said Gardiner, who has a child with Down syndrome. “The teacher’s union may have given up on these children, but I have not.”


The Union has given up on these children??? What?!? It is unbelievable what comes out of these people’s mouths. Hey Gardiner how about adequately funding education? How about making decisions based on evidence and facts not what profits your campaign contributors and how about putting an end to standardized tests something millions of parents and teachers have begged for.

How dare this guy blast the union when he is part of an establishment that has tried its hardest to kneecap public education, privatize our schools and ignored the needs of millions and millions of children. 

Sir you are a big part of the problem. 

The problem is not tenure.

Salon has a great piece on how blaming tenure for the problems in education is ridiculous, to read it click the link:

“I would love — love — to believe teachers could account for more like 90 percent of student achievement, but this is simply not reality,” Beardsley says. “Until others realize this, pretty much all efforts at reform will continue to disappoint.”

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/16/tenure_haters_big_delusion_why_campbell_brown_has_teaching_all_wrong/#comments


Campbell Brown is behind the push against tenure but it is charter school and privatization interests behind her: Before Brown left CNN three years ago, her evening news show carried a memorable tagline: "No bias. No bull." She can't say the same for her foray into the education wars.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/10/campbell-brown-new-york-schools-rhee

When defending senate bill 850 Patricia Levesque can’t help but attack teacher unions.

When defending senate bill 850 Patricia Levesque can’t help but attack teacher unions saying their lawsuit was a new low for the Florida Education Association. The thing is there are lots of people against voucher expansion. The Parent Teacher Association, people for the separation of church and state, people who believe there should be accountability for how public money is spent as well as numerous other organizations. Have they reached a new low too?

Levesque also says it is all about the kids, well friends if that was the truth she would call for the legislature to properly fund education, to stop treating teachers like easily replaceable cogs and for an end to high stakes standardized testing rather than throwing in with a lot who lobbies for more public money but at the same time resists any and every call for accountability. 

Instead this is about privatization, and the two options she wants to replace public schools with, charters which have seen over 260 open, take public money, close and leave communities in a lurch and private schools that take vouchers sans practically any real accountability measures, aren’t as good as the public schools we have now. 

The Privatizers five step playbook!

Look familiar? Florida's playbook!

Embedded image permalink



Charter school fail!

In Florida it is all about Privitization

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Rick Roach
The Sentinel Editorial Board is appalled that after 16 years of using the FCAT standardized test, the academic performance of Florida's kids remains basically flat ("Schools hit sour notes with FCAT swan song," June 22).
The board shouldn't be surprised. The explanation is on the Florida Department of Education's Website under "item difficulty." The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test has been designed to flunk a pre-set number of kids — from 40 percent to 50 percent.
And if, when all the tests are in, it's discovered that the test designers were off, there's a simple fix: The pass-fail minimum score can be moved up or down to get whatever failure rate officials want.
Why would they do that? A big reason is that if public schools can be made to look bad enough, the public will be willing to hand them over to privatization. It's always wise to follow the money.
Readers need to know that Orange County schools already use sophisticated software programs to track daily student progress, and if a particular instructional program isn't working, teachers do the common-sense thing: They switch programs.
Hard evidence of our success is available to those willing to look past political agendas and check the data for themselves. If more people were willing to do that, the foolishness would stop. And something else would happen: There would be more money for real education.
The Sentinel says, correctly, that "close to 33,000 students might be held back next year for failing to learn enough." Readers may be surprised to learn that a great many, maybe most, of those 33,000 third-graders are good students.
Recently, Laela, the daughter of one of my constituents, had an almost straight-A average for the year. But her FCAT score was one point shy of the minimum passing score, and she was sent back to repeat the third grade.
Should you care? If you pay taxes you certainly should, because every one of those 33,000 kids who repeats third grade costs about $11,000. Do the math, and it's clear we're talking real money, to do something that research says is a mistake — making kids repeat a grade instead of identifying and fixing their problems.
Laela was fortunate, however. With coaching, she proved herself on a benchmark test and went on to fourth grade.
Will a new test to replace FCAT help? Not if the political aim of making public schools look bad stays in place.
Judge "Rick" Roach is an Orange County School Board member for District 3.