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More Florida testing woes

Pam Stewart, who said we were ready for this years standardized tests blamed the latest snafu on “…a technical change that was made to the Florida Standards Assessment testing system over the weekend that was not approved by the Department. This change was unnecessary to the administration of the Florida Standards Assessment and resulted in a disruption that hindered students from being able to log in to the system and take their test today.

It seems to me that she thinks the company we have invested at least 220 million dollars in is just making things up as they go along.

What is it going to take for the governor to replace both her and the state board of education which is chaired by a campaign supporter of Scotts, grocer Gary Chartrand, who got us to this point and to say this year’s tests are null and void for student promotion and teacher evaluation purposes? If they aren’t ashamed or embarrassed shouldn’t they at least be worried about the validity?

Why is it so hard for them, when the stakes are so high to make sure we get things right? Often people say schools are failing society, I believe our leaders are failing our schools.

To read more, click the link:

Clay County school board for sale, reasonably cheap too.

Clay County has announced that because of dwindling reserves and enrollment that they are cutting staff

At the same time the Times Union has reported a new charter school run by Charter Schools USA a for profit management company is opening.

A quick review of Clay County’s supervisor of election site finds that two Clay County School board members have taken thousands either directly from Charter Schools USA, a Charter School Lobbyist, Jim Horne or PACs which I can argue are laundering money for charter school interests.

Ashley Gilhousen charter schools USA 500
                The Horne Group 1000 
Betsy Condon Red Apple Construction x2 1000
                Charter Schools USA x2 1000
                Treasure Coast Alliance 1000
                Floridians for strong leadership 1000
                Jobs for Florida 1000
                Florida conservative alliance 1000
                Jim Horne 1000

Clay County cannot currently support what it has now. What’s going to happen when this new charter school that they don’t need, (enrollment has been dropping and Clay County has consistently been one of the state’s top performing district), siphons millions out of the district.

These two school board members took thirty pieces of silver and put the desires of their donors over the needs of their constituents and I find it shameful.

More excuses from Vitti, what's a quater million dollars wasted anyways.

 This guy has been great so far at four things, belittling teachers, expanding charter schools, bringing in grants (that’s a god thing) and making excuses, which he does again today in the Times Union.

When talking about the district losing money in an audit he said: … most of the district findings and amounts are lower than in prior audits and lower than similar audit findings for most of the Big Seven districts in Florida.
Um how about him just saying, we are sorry this happened and we working to make sure this never happens again. He can’t do that though he has to qualify and make excuses. He can’t possibly be at fault for anything and I am reminded of his self eval where he gave himself something like 46 out of 47 highly effectives.

Vitti doesn’t own the problem, he doesn’t say, my bad I’m sorry we wasted tax payer money that we can desperately use, instead he says, hey it could have been worse and we %$#^ed up less than other districts. 


The article also talked about how a poorly performing charter school that the district gave a three year contract to also cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars. The charter school basically shrugged its shoulders at the news.

I just wanted to point out that the school in question, LoneStar spends about a third of its budget on administrative and management fees.


Memes that show just how messed up everything is.

20 fights at Lee High School today

That's what the text I received said and it came from somebody who if they said it was raining Dr. Pepper I would go get a cup.

This on the heels of the school board suspending a Vice Principal who broke up a fight protecting other students and staff and we shouldn't forget all the security staff who got the axe this year as the super wanted to get some new shiny toy or another..

The super's restorative justice initiative is a fiasco and one that courts tragedy and friends make no mistake by letting the students run the schools unhindered by both discipline and consequences for poor behavior then we are heading right towards one.

There may be elements of it that could be lauded, I have I have long thought schools need social workers and mental health counselors because so many of their problems and anger have nothing to do with school but like with many of the districts initiatives the roll out has been terrible.

Discipline is hard but ignoring it only exacerbates the problem and creates more as normally good kids see that they too can get away with anything. We don't have to be cruel, make ISSP mean something, have Saturday detention, make them clean the school grounds and require parents to shadow kids for a day, we can be creative but kids need consequences not hugs for poor behavior and for a consequence to be meaningful it has to be mean something and hanging with ones friends in ISSP for a period doesn't.


Here is a little more: 

By suspending Vice Principal Oscar Harris the school board shows they just don't get it. (rough draft)

Originally I wasn't going to write about recently suspended Westside High Vice Principal Oscar Harris. I thought what's the story there? Staff member put in a dangerous situation as children run amok, that has got to happen dozens of times throughout the district daily. Now him being suspended for breaking up a fight, the board thought he was to rough even though all reports say the student threw multiple punches at him, is a little unusual, but how many times can I write discipline is pretty bad and if we don't do something about it we are courting tragedy, because friends I have done that story dozens of times and the response from the district has been to tie teachers hands and say things are better than ever.    

However the readers of the blog wouldn't let it go. They wrote: The issue with Oscar Harris at Westside is a crime, and this is coming from a teacher that works at Westside. Now, the news about his previous legal concerns are definitely egregious. I was surprised that they would even hire someone like that within the district. What really bothers me is that they suspended this man for doing his job. Mr. Harris is KEY to keeping this school running and functioning. 

When teachers have problems with students and their behavior, which there are alot of, Mr Harris always is willing to help resolve the issue. Calling parents, handling discipline issue, and BREAKING UP FIGHTS. Any teacher that teaches in a school like this knows that it's a DREAM to be able to have administration that takes a serious stance on discipline. Now, I don't know if anybody but me read the report, but the student refused to go down! This was even after they had separated the other students. They noted in the report that the student plays wide receiver on the football team which means that he is not the small poor child that some are imagining. 

and... Oscar Harris is no angel, but it would seem that in this instance he did nothing wrong. Comments on different news websites, Facebook, etc tell me that the public agrees and supports him. It's a genuine shame that no one in our district office or on our board will support him.

Here is a link where you can read the report that led to Mr. Harris's suspension
and it reads like Harris is a hero, putting himself in harms way to protect students and other staff members, furthermore it says he received a torn meniscus for his efforts.

Can you imagine Fischer or Shine breaking up a fight, what about Vitti in one of his fancy suits?Harris, who is 53 years old by the way, says he did what he had to do and the video and relevant parties all backed him up but still he was suspended, it's a travesty and it shows that the school board just doesn't get it.

For shame Dual County what is it going to take for you to take action, does a student have to kill a teacher or another student on campus for you to care?

So Mr. Harris the school board may vilify you but to us out here in the trenches, many of whom are afraid for their own safety and see the atrocious and often violent behavior from a segment of our students, you're a hero.

This is what passes for success on the Florida State Board of education

From the Tampa Times: Watching other states fight over education standards, and waver over reform efforts, State Board of Education vice chairman John Padget says he's "proud to be a Floridian."

"Some have gotten too scared of changes, and actually fallen down and dropped standards," said Padget, a Keys investor who once served as Monroe schools superintendent. "Think of where we are in Florida."

The board, commissioner, governor and lawmakers are aligned in their views of education and accountability, he said. They've held the course on adopting and sticking to high expectations, he continued, without fearing to make adjustments as necessary. He mentioned the latest changes to state testing law as an example.

"I predicted there might be a hiccup or two. There were. There may be more," he said. "We should not be afraid of change."

Um has he not been paying attention? Several law makers brought up bills to kill common core and where it’s true they didn’t get far, they were just the tip of the ice berg.

The hiccups he refers to were dropping the amount tests count towards teacher evaluations from 50 percent to thirty-three, an ending of hundreds of end of the year exams, and the elimination of several tests all together. Another hiccup might be the state legislature has doubts the tests are even valid and is requiring them to be independently checked. Furthermore the commissioner said if they are the results won’t be out till December when they do absolutely nobody any good.   

Padget an idiot an investor by trade shrugs his shoulders at all of above. Millions of people losing faith in the system is a victory to him.

HB 7609 scaling back testing is not nothing, just really close to it.

HB 7069, a bill designed to scale back Florida’s testing agenda was signed into law by Rick Scott and that’s not nothing, unfortunately it is very close to it.

In passing the bill the Legislature and Governor admitted they had gotten several things wrong. First now tests will only count for one third of a teacher’s evaluation instead of one half and no longer will districts be forced to create end of the year exams for all subjects, including the ones taken by kindergarteners.

Since they basically admitted they had got those things wrong it made me think about some of the other things they have gotten wrong too. What about voucher schools which this year will take over 400 million out of the education budget and who have practically zero accountability. How about the expansion of charter schools, many of which are for profit and offer zero innovation, of which over 270 have opened taken public money and closed. How about merit pay which has no evidence that says it works and the gutting of the class size amendment which has lots of evidence that says it does. How about having zero educators on the state board of education, giving teachers a three percent pay cut and stripping them of work protections, race based learning goals and ignoring poverty?

Yes they passed a bill and I am sure there was much patting of backs going on but the truth is we were in a very deep hole and all they did was stop digging. Sadly we’re still in a that very deep hole. 

Florida’s test results not due till December, are you ^%%#$ kidding me?

Gary Chartrand, a grocer by trade, the chair of the State Board of Education is arguably the most powerful man in Florida’s schools not named Jeb Bush. He also has no idea what he is doing.
Today Chartrand’s choice for education commissioner, Pam Stewart, said not to expect this years standardized tests results until December. Since Chartrand never was a teacher or worked in a school he must not know that the results of tests are supposed to come back reasonably quick. That way students and teachers alike can learn what they need to work on and make adjustments. What kind of effective adjustments can teachers, students and schools make half way into the next school year? The answer is none.
Since Gary Chartrand has been on the State Board there have been over forty changes to the accountability system, the state initiated race based goals, spoiler alert minorities aren’t expected to do as well, the state has completely lost faith in the testing system, veteran teachers lost their work protections and charter schools have both grown and failed at an exponential rate.
We do have problems in education but without a doubt poor leadership has to be at the top of the list. The state board of education led by Chartrand a grocer, doesn’t have one true educator on it, how do we expect our school system to succeed when it’s not run by educators but instead run by friends and donors to the governor.
We could and should be doing better, step one is to replace the board with educators.

Duval County teams up with teacher hating group… again!

I have written several times about our Superintendents seemingly open distain for teachers. Heck, usually I just let his words do the talking for him, another example of this is the birds he hangs around with, i.e. birds of a feather flock together. First there is Gary Chartrand who on First Coast Connect said he was glad teachers didn’t have work protections and then there is the New Teacher Project (TNTP) Vitti’s go to guys for district surveys.

TNTP was founded by Michelle “fire them all and let God sort it out” Rhee and whose overall mantra is called the widget effect. The Widget Effect basically says you can fire (teachers) your way to improving schools.

The district is once again partnering with them and this time they want teachers to have their students take surveys rating them. Now I think it is a horrible idea to have student’s rate teachers. Students today in a lot of instances are already running the asylum schools I would hate to give them anymore power.

This is coming from the cool teacher too, who works hard at making things fun and finds it very important that my students like me.  That’s the thing though, teachers aren’t supposed to be their student’s friend and often they have to be firm with kids and make them do things they don’t want to do. Some kids get it too but a lot of our kids today, used to getting what they want when they want it don’t.  How many kids are going to be fair? How many kids are capable?

So teachers this is what I recommend. If you care what your kids think, and I know the vast majority of you do, ask them, but don’t give the district and the TNTP a tool to potentially use against you.

How much does superintendet Vitti love charter schools

When talking about a charter school whose graduation rate went from just over one percent (um how weren't they closed) to just over 8, Superintendent Vitti had an odd response.

From the Times Union: Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti responded, “We can’t celebrate it, but we can acknowledge that it’s an improvement.... I think they’ve become stronger partners.”

This begs the question what would a charter school have to do to get some kind of  negative reaction from Vitti? I mean Stronger partners, really? 

Vitti loves charter schools and he apparently does not give a damn if they are terrible.

DCPS gives Charter School with 8 percent graduation rate a 3 year extension.

And that is up from a little over one percent the year before.
Lone Star Charter School is what is called a drop back in academy for students who had basically dropped out. In years past they would be working on their GEDs if anything but now charter chains see a revenue stream and an opportunity to make easy money.
You are probably wondering if the district would do a better job and the answer is yes. Where far from great the graduation rate for the kids in the Duval County over age academy is 14 percent.
From the Times Union: Either boost graduation rates or face non-renewal of contracts and possible closure: That’s the deal Duval’s School Board recently struck with operators of Lone Star High and two related charter high schools.
The ultimatum came in the form of a contract extension that the School Board approved unanimously, allowing Lone Star to stay open at least three more years.
Lone Star is a charter school operated by Accelerated Learning Solutions, an Orlando company that also manages Biscayne High and Murray Hill High, two more charter schools in Jacksonville.
All three are dropout retrieval schools, sometimes called “drop back in” academies, which focus on students who have quit regular high school or were planning to. Generally, dropout retrieval schools try to help students quickly recoup class credits, so that they can graduate with a regular diploma by age 21.
But most drop-out retrieval schools have graduation rates that are a fraction of traditional high school graduation rates.
For instance, Duval’s average graduation rate was 74 percent last year, but Lone Star High’s was 8.74 percent, an improvement over 1.23 percent the year before, and Murray Hill’s was 7.8 percent, up from 2.78 percent the year before.
Biscayne High’s rate was not available.
The state pays charter schools at least $5,400 a student. Last year that amounted to $2.83 million for Lone Star, but this year it’s expected to be $3.27 million.
Lone Star, a 5-year-old school serving 325 students, recently asked the School Board to extend its contract by five more years.
Now that’s chutzpah, a graduation rate in the single digits and here they are asking for a five year contract, but friends it gets even worse.
In 2010 they spent 452,034 dollars on school administration costs and that’s out of a 1.325 million dollar budget. Combined they spent just 515,000 on instruction and pupil services.
During the 11-12 school year they spent 445,000 on the school administration and then chipped in 275,400 in management fees or 13.5 percent of their overall budget. And remember friends this is for a school operating out of what looks like an abandoned Winne Dixie.
It was about the same during the 12-13 school year and last year their school administration fees went up to 673,000 dollars or about a third of their overall budget. And before you think, well they must include facilities, meals, and up keep in their administration costs, nope, nope and nope. Last year we got a discount as the fees dropped to 524,000 dollars
Follow the link and have your mind blown:
The bottom line is we are paying tons of money to a charter school with crazy high management and administration fees that is doing a crappy job and the school board renewed their contract for three more years.

Florida really does not like teachers.

First senate bill 736 they took away Teacher’s work protections and put all the ones hired after 2011 on annual contracts where they could be dismissed at the end of the school year for any reason.

They then said half their evaluations (perhaps soon to be lowered to a third) would be based on a complicated mathematical formula called the Value Added Model or VAM. The National Education Policy Center, and the American Statistical Association among many others have said it is bad policy to evaluate teachers based on VAM scores.
This is highlighted by the fact that even children who receive a perfect test score can negatively affect a teacher’s evaluation. The Palm Beach Post reported: …it turns out that teachers’ evaluations can be hurt by students who earn perfect scores on Florida’s standardized tests.
That’s right. When students have earned a perfect score one year, Florida’s teacher-rating formula predicts that they should earn scores higher than perfect the following year. When they don’t, their teachers get demerits for supposedly not helping them improve enough.
The piece didn’t talk about the damage a near perfect or just a good score could have on teacher’s evaluations and remember since teachers are now year to year these scores can have both pay ramifications as Tallahassee has forced districts to develop merit pay options despite the lack of evidence that say they work, and employment ramifications as well.
Finally I will just add that Florida’s teachers are some of the lowest paid in the nation and the high stakes testing agenda that Florida employs has put both unbelievable pressure on teachers and practically killed creativity and innovation.
The bottom line is we can’t continue to hammer and drive teachers out of the profession if we expect to have a top notch system, but maybe not having one is the point. 

By killing the class size amendment Tallahassee has stuck a knife in the heart of democracy

It has probably flown under the radar in most circles but Tallahassee is about to stick a knife in the heart of democracy. In 2002 the citizens of Florida voted to limit Florida’s class sizes, which is a reform that has a proven track record of success, unlike merit pay, charter schools and high stakes testing Florida’s other preferred reforms.

In 2010 the legislature balking at paying for more teachers tried to have the original amendment changed so it would no longer look at individual class sizes but instead school wide averages. The people of Florida said no, meaning they had twice voted for smaller class sizes.

The legislature then decided to circumnavigate the will of the people by changing most classes from core classes, including advanced placement classes, to electives. Art, music and PE classes ballooned and many soon had 70, 80 or even more students.   

Now once again they are seeking to ignore the will of the people as the legislature in Tallahassee is about to pass senate bill 818 which says no longer will districts get fined for being out of compliance. Now I always though Tallahassee instead of constantly trying to kill the class size amendment should have properly funded it but when they remove the teeth which forced district to comply with it, they will effectively kill the bill. In effect why should districts comply if there is no longer any reason for them to do so?

By symbolically sticking a knife in the heart of the class size amendment after gutting most of the requirements a few years ago, Tallahassee has also ignored the will of the people, twice, and stuck a knife in the heart of democracy as well.

Florida's testing system has jumped the shark

Florida’s testing system may have finally jumped the shark. If you don’t know Jumping the Shark first happened on an old episode of Happy Days, where the Fonz on water skis jumped a shark and it signaled the decline of the once great show. HB 7069 signals that Florida has jumped the shark on testing.

Among other things in the bill it says this year’s tests won’t be used unless they are independently verified to be valid. That is right friends, we have spent tens of millions of dollars, including millions to buy test questions from Utah and we’re not sure if the test is valid are not. How is it possible that we have gotten to this point?

It even gets worse because Tallahassee has also said, they don’t believe the Department of Education has the ability to or doesn’t trust them enough to tell us if they are valid or not, so instead they are going to hire an outside organization to do so.

At a minimum there should be a house cleaning at the Department of Education and on the State Board of Education as they have led us to this point. Then Governor Scott through executive order should say this year’s tests will be used for nothing but research purposes.

We shouldn’t be using the state’s children and teachers as Guinea pigs, wasting millions of dollars is pretty bad too.