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Saturday, October 21, 2017

All that is wrong with Teach for America as told by a Teach for America alumnus

The Times Union printed an op ed from a former Teach for America alumnus where he went on and on making some dubious and self serving point while completely ignoring many legitimate concerns about the program. Here is a snippet.

From the Times Union:
For clarity, Teach For America is an organization that places mostly recent, high achieving college graduates in a low-income school district under a two-year contract to teach.
I read that TFA takes teaching positions from more experienced teachers.
I read about the high turnover rate of the TFA teachers.
I read articles questioning the effectiveness of TFA teachers.
While I understand these criticisms and thought long and hard about whether I should accept the position in Jacksonville, I would contend now after my two-year experience that TFA is massively undervalued and has an unwarranted negative public image.
teach for america has an impact
The first criticism mentioned was that TFA takes teaching positions away from more experienced teachers.
In Duval County alone, the school district had over 200 vacancies as of February 2017. Those vacant rooms will likely be filled by a cast of rotating substitute teachers where learning is certain to be challenging, often through no fault of the specific substitute.
Every TFA teacher who enters a city for their first year undoubtedly gets hired because of the vast amount of shortages, particularly in the math and science departments.
At my placement school, Jefferson Davis Middle School, over 40 percent of the newly hired staff in the past five years have been TFA corps members.
Another criticism leveled at TFA is the high turnover rate for corps members. They may leave after their two-year commitment to attend graduate school or pursue other interests.
This criticism is not only unfair, but it is also wrong. Over 60 percent of TFA teachers continue as public school teachers beyond their two-year commitment, which is a lower turnover rate than for non-TFA teachers at the same schools.
The Duval County School Board has cut the Teach For America budget. The board cited the turnover rate as a contributing factor that led to the decision to cut TFA and focus on marketing to attract new teachers.
I came to Jacksonville in 2015 as one of 120 corps members. Sixty percent or about 72 of us are still teaching in these high poverty schools in Duval County. Of the remaining 48, many are still supporting education through policy, law, in administration or as Teach For America staff.
Regarding TFA teacher performance, a Columbia University study in Duval County shows that students with TFA teachers demonstrated additional growth in mathematics learning compared to the students of other novice teachers.
I could debate each and every one of those points and I have many times but what I think seals the deal is the following, also part of the op ed from the Times Union.
• Ben Kerns is a former Teach for America instructor in Duval County.
• He lives in Atlanta.
WTF!!!! This guy did his two years and left. If its such a great program and it does so much good, then why is this guy living in Atlanta now?
The chutzpah of this guy! And the ridiculousness of the Times Union printing a piece from a guy who quit and moved away after just two years. Both are mind boggling. 
Here is the bottom line, TFA is an expensive program that does the exact opposite of what we know our most vulnerable children need and any district that is serious about educating children should be striving to put professional educators or people that will spend more than two years while waiting for grad school to start, in our schools and classrooms. Thank goodness the district finally came to its senses and is finally phasing it out. 
One last thing, when anybody steps into the classroom I think they deserve respect. I like TFA members am not an education major, though unlike them I didn't get 10,000 dollars in loan forgiveness and have been in the classroom 17 years, it's this terrible and expensive program I am against.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

WJCT hosting anti-public school event, for shame

Why don't you reserve a seat and go.

http://www.wjct.org/events/schoolinc/

WJCT is hosting a showing of School Inc a controversial series that asks why schools are not run like businesses, this Thursday, October 19th at their headquarters downtown. Then stay for the panel, made up mostly of charter school executives, discussion.

Created by the far right Cato Institute, and funded by the Koch brothers School Inc hits all the high notes of privatization while ignoring poverty.

The real question is why public television would show it and I believe you have to look no farther than their donors which locally include Gary Chartrand, and if you think that is sort of like putting the wolf in charge of hen house security then you are not the only one. Trey Csar of JPEF and Daryl Willie of TFA Jacksonville are also on WJCT's advisory board.

I plan to go and if allowed ask tough questions and to try and make sure public education is defended. If you have the time you should too.   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrDfCy5Q9wI&t=125s


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Have you ever taught a murderer? (rough draft)

It was twelve years ago and I was new to Ed White and I had a run in with convicted murderer Randall Deviney then a freshmen or sophomore. He was lingering in the halls after the tardy bell had rung and I told him to move along. I was met with a tirade of threats and curse words. I stepped forward to do something when a coworker waved me over and said, Chris let it go, the main implication being this was a bad one, though I later learned even if I had done something, like gasp write him on a referral, nothing substantive or equal to his offence would be done, this was just a kid teachers would have to tolerate and hope would go away. Three years later he did go away but that was only after he murdered his 89 year old neighbor, somebody he described as his grandmother.

What's my point? How many kids have we turned on our backs on who went on to do what Deviney did, or met the fate of his neighbor because we as a district didn't want to tackle discipline, because we play lip service to it, because we don't take it seriously, and the reason is because it is hard.   

Deviney may have been to far gone once he got to high school and I was warned away, but was he to far gone in middle school or elementary? What would have happened had we as a district said no to his behavior, here is first a consequence for your behavior and then some help for you so it doesn't happen again. My bet is I wouldn't be writing this blog, heck I bet I wouldn't have written a lot of blogs like this either.

We could and should be doing better, if not society will continue to pay a steep price.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Will veteran teachers be allowed back on the grandfather pay scale?

Duval County has two pay scales for its teachers.

One for teachers hired after 2010, who are on annual contracts and veteran teachers who opted to join it that gives teachers raises of up to 2001 dollar if their evaluations are highly effective. The veteran teachers however had to give up their professional services contract, and go on annual contracts to join it.

The other for veteran teachers gives more modest step raises but they are allowed to keep their professional contracts, which they can renew every five years and can continue to do so as long as they are considered effective. This is called the grandfather pay scale.

I stayed on the grandfather pay scale (hey no jokes about my ever whitening hair) which means
while first and second year teachers were being given 1000 and 2000 dollar raises over the last few years while I received a 750 dollar step raise. The other difference is I am on a five year renewable contract while they are on a one year contract.

I voted against the new contract, I thought it was great for new teachers and veterans who switched to the new pay scale but a bad one for veterans who stayed on the grandfather scale. Scott Shine even chided me for saying I was against it.

As the old contract is coming to an end and a new contract where the district wants to greatly reduce raises, 2000, and one thousand dollar raises having proved unsustainable, I wonder how many people would have voted against the last contract knowing what we know now and if veteran teachers would have switched, giving u their professional contracts. 

Three years ago, the board with a few questions here and there from Couch and Wright was pretty much rubber stamping anything Vitti brought to them and Vitti made a lot of promises including about being committed to increasing teacher pay.  Now he may have been sincere because Florida has recovered nicely from the economic down turn and has more money for public education, unfortunately they have decided to give it to charter schools, vouchers or just not invest in education. When inflation is factored we are spending at a lower level than before the recession, but we could and should be doing more and maybe Vitti thought we would be. The thing is if you follow public ed in Florida you should have been able to see this coming as the legislature routinely does all it can to kneecap public ed.

This is what I think should happen. If veteran teachers switched from the grandfather pay scale to the optional pay scale because of the promises of higher step raises, if the district greatly reduces those raises which is the proposal now, they should be allowed to get their professional contracts back and yes I know the state won't go for that but the district should do what is right and make arrangements for them anyway.

I think most of us get it. The state sucks when it comes to public education, its run by a bunch of bastard coated bastards with bastard fillings, and sadly past administrations thought they had to follow suit. It doesn't however have to be that way.



I feel like we have a new board and new leadership, one that isn't just interested in hobnobbing with the city's so called elites and making splashy shows that rarely pan out, one that is more interested in doing the right thing. I wish we had more money as I am sure they do too, but as usual the state is letting them and all of us down and since that is the case I hope they settle for at least doing the right thing.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Representative Aaron Bean doesn't understand how things work. Why did people vote for him?

When Scott Shine said Representative Aaron beam was gutless and clueless when he supported HB 7069 a public school kneecapping bill, I didn't realize how right Shine was. 

When a parent asked his office about the class size amendment,

From Action News Jax: 

A Bean legislative aide emailed her back saying cutting class size has cost the state money because more classes means more teachers, classrooms and supplies.

http://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/investigates/duval-county-students-get-reshuffled-to-cut-class-sizes/618983294

Um yeah? Um, what? Did Beam think smaller classes was just going to magically happen? Of course it cost the state more money because more classes does mean more teachers, more classrooms and more supplies.

This guy represents people by the way.

Why do people vote for letters next to their names and not qualified people? I am a democrat, heck I am a liberal democrat, heck Bernie Sanders might tell me to slow my roll, but if there were a republican who supported public education and wanted to fund it properly, I would say, sign me up, and yes, I know there are more carrier pigeons than the type of republican I described. In 2012 so disillusioned with Obama's education policies I looked hard at his republican rivals, unfortunately all of their policies were worse, which if you look back is kind of hard to believe.

This is what I am saying, just because Beam is the son of a former legislator, it does not make him qualified, heck Scott Shine said he was gutless and ignorant, and this from a self proclaimed friend of Beams, who would know better?

Don't vote for the R, or even the D, vote for somebody who is gong to support public education, our children and our state deserve it.
    

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

DCPS says no to bully Gary Chartrand and Teach for America (rough draft)

Before Teach for America lovers lambaste me, just know once somebody is in the classroom, they have my respect, but that being said, I believe with every fiber of my being that TFA is a terrible program and we should strive to put professional teachers or teachers that have a chance of making it a career in our classrooms. Plus its ridiculously expensive to boot.

A quick primer, Teach for America takes non education majors, puts them through a six week teacher boot camp and then plops them down in our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve two years and then they go work for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. I kid you not check out their staff list, which is a large collection of individuals who love education but who don't want anything to do with being in the classroom.    

Pat Willis and the board did something they couldn't do while Vitti was here and that is stand up to a rich grocer, Gary Chartrand, who despite the fact he never taught a day in his life and sent his children to expensive and exclusive private schools wanted to control local education, and like a villain in a Scooby Doo cartoon, he almost got away with it.

Today however despite the fact he tried to black mail the board and sent his bought and paid for hatchet men, Fischer and Curry after them, the school board said no, well except for Scott Shine, but at this point he is little more than Chartrand's errand boy so that was to be expected. 

From the Times Union:

Scott said he did not agree with some of the cuts to this year’s budget, especially those affecting the Teach for America program and some initiatives backed by the Quality Education for All Fund.
Teach for America is a national nonprofit that recruits non-education majors to teach in high-need schools. The district has, for the first time in several years, declined to work with the organization to hire newly recruited teachers.
The Quality Education for All Fund is backed by a group of local philanthropists. They funded a variety of school initiatives, including teacher and principal training, and bonuses for high-performing teachers at certain low-performing schools.
This year, Duval reduced its funding for some of the QEA-backed programs.
The thing is we need the philanthropic community to help out, but what we don't need them to do is tell the district how to do things. Children are to important for them to experiment with ideas. Chartrand despite his money was finally told no and even if that costs the district a few dollars that's a good thing.

I haven't said this often, but I am proud of this board, well most of them anyways.

Ashley Smith Juarez calls out Scott Shine... again!!!!

Having checked get elected off of his bucket list, Mr. Shine continues to be a poor representative of his constituents and don't take my word for it take board member Smith-Juarez's.

From the Times Union:

Scott said he did not agree with some of the cuts to this year’s budget, especially those affecting the Teach for America program and some initiatives backed by the Quality Education for All Fund.
Teach for America is a national nonprofit that recruits non-education majors to teach in high-need schools. The district has, for the first time in several years, declined to work with the organization to hire newly recruited teachers.
he Quality Education for All Fund is backed by a group of local philanthropists. They funded a variety of school initiatives, including teacher and principal training, and bonuses for high-performing teachers at certain low-performing schools.
This year, Duval reduced its funding for some of the QEA-backed programs.
Scott said after the meeting he believes those cuts were not necessary, that there is money in this year’s budget to fund these efforts. For instance, he said, the district should look into cutting its “under-performing reading coaches and interventionists.”
He also noted district officials have promised to conduct an audit or “deeper dive” into the district’s spending last year after an over-expenditure of $21 million caused the district to borrow from its five percent reserve fund.
Board Chairwoman Paula Wright said the board’s auditor did issue a report, which she will discuss with the board at an upcoming workshop.
Ashley Smith Juarez, vice chairwoman of the board, asked Shine why he didn’t bring up alternate spending proposals before now, considering that a state deadline for the approving the district budget is just a few days away.
Shine said he didn’t believe he would have been successful before, but he wants to register his concerns.
http://jacksonville.com/news/education/2017-10-03/duval-county-school-board-approves-budget-next-year

Dammmnnn, I can take a stab at answering her question, and this is just my opinion from having watched him for the last three years so take it for what it is worth, and that is he had no idea the deadline was coming up and why would he. he treats the job like its his hobby and long ago stopped representing the people of district 7.   

Oy vey

Let me also review a couple of Shine's other recent hits.

Teachers are paid enough because of Florida's low cost of living, and a bill that would cause schools to be taken over by charters is a good one because union teachers will be fired. He also said the Duval delegation that supported the bill was both gutless and uninformed and here I actually happen to agree with Shine.

District 7, is this the person you want representing you? You have to do better. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Florida charter school and voucher legislature advocate sentenced to sixty days in jail

One of the biggest advocates of charter schools and vouchers former state Representative Eric Fresen was sentenced to sixty days in jail and a year of probation. Where he had no problem sending tax payer's money to for profit companies that run charters and private schools with barely any over site, he sadly had a problem with paying his own taxes. Welcome to Florida.

From the Miami Herald:

Even though he failed to file tax returns during his entire eight years in the Florida Legislature — a two-term tenure during which he headed a powerful budget committee and preached fiscal responsibility — former Miami state Rep. Erik Fresen still walked into the federal courthouse for his sentencing Friday expecting to get slapped only with probation.
He walked out with a jail sentence.
The Miami Republican will have to serve 60 days in jail — and a year of probation — after pleading guilty to the crime of failing to file a 2011 tax return on $270,136 in income.
He will begin his jail term on Nov. 17 and serve 15 days in jail per month for four months, an intermittent sentence intended to keep him earning some income to pay back his remaining tax penalties.
“I want him to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in jail so that every holiday for the rest of his life he’ll think back to that,” U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said.
During his time in the legislature despite close ties to charter schools Fresen routinely pushed the sending of more tax payer money to them.
Also from the Miami Herald:
A familiar face is back at the center of a perennial tug-of-war in the Florida Legislature between privately-managed charter schools and district-run public schools over taxpayer money for construction projects:
Erik Fresen, the Miami Republican who controls the purse for education funding in the Florida House. His connections to the charter school industry continue to raise questions about conflicts of interest.
He has fast-tracked a mid-session bill that would limit school district spending on capital needs. It would also force districts to share their construction tax money with charters.
Fresen is a $150,000-a-year land consultant for Civica, an architecture firm with a specialty in building charter schools. Many of those schools were built for Academica — which has been described as the largest charter school management company in Florida and which counts Fresen’s brother-in-law and sister as executives.
Fresen says he simply wants to hold districts accountable for the money they spend and ensure equitable funding for charter schools, which are classified as public schools.
“Nothing in this bill has anything to do with anything that I do for a living,” he said.
But Fresen, 39, is dogged by questions that his goal isn’t so well-intentioned. His ties to the charter school industry — well-documented during his eight years in the Legislature — have long rankled public school supporters and made him the subject of at least one ethics complaint since he was elected in 2008.
“Our Legislature should not be for sale. I think that seems to be what’s happening,” said Kayla Rynor, who helps lead the advocacy committee at Miami Beach Senior High’s PTSA. “The appearance of impropriety just doesn’t sit well and I’m not sure why it’s not a violation of state ethics laws.
I am not sure why writing legislation for charters while having close associations with them doesn't violate state ethics laws either but if it did, about a dozen other republican legislators would have or be violating them as well. 
Sadly in Florida our ethic laws are so porous you have to be caught with a live boy or a dead girl for anybody to take notice.
It's beyond ironic and insults the senses that he wanted to send our tax payer money to charter schools while thinking at the same time he didn't have to pay taxes. 

Is Willis listening to the people about weather days?

I really think so.

First I think the new schedules placement of the bulk of the weather days at the end of the year was masterful. That being said, nobody really has the appetite for making up the weather days and Superintendent Willis seems to be listening.

From the Times Union:

The School Board will vote at its Oct. 3 meeting how to make up the six school days lost to the storm. One proposal from Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis would have one weather day and six early release days be restored to full school days

http://jacksonville.com/news/education/2017-09-28/duval-schools-quick-change-storm-shelters-back-again

Using the early release days is a suggestion I and many others have given, and even from an instructional point of view makes sense. What's more valuable, time in the middle nine weeks, or time at the end of the year when nobody wants to be there. 

Superintendent Vitti got a lot of credit for going on listening tours and there was a time even I applauded him, that is until I realized he wasn't listening. I doubt there was one substantive change made from all the listening tours and community meetings he did, they were all just for show. Willis is already leaps and bounds ahead of him on that front.

If you like Mrs. Willis's plan, and I love it, please let your school board member know. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Scott Shine says teachers don't need raises.

Are you $#^ing kidding me? #$%^& #$%@ on a stick What is wrong with this $%#& *&%@!!!!

Deep breaths, deep breaths. Also symbols above only replaced the words puppies and kittens, so please nobody write me up or threaten to sue me.

From the Florida Times Union: Among its requests is a general bid for more state money to raise teacher salaries beyond the one-time bonuses. Florida is the 36th lowest paying state for in the nation for teachers, according to the Florida School Finance Council, a group of district officials which advises the state.


Board member Scott Shine pointed out that those rankings don’t consider the cost of living differences among states.
You know because the cost of living is so low here in Jacksonville. Teachers are riding high on the hog.
Mr. Shine a millionaire by the way has the chutzpah to imply teachers salaries are just fine because the cost of living in other states is higher and the the thing is he couldn't be more wrong.
Want to see how wrong, play around with this.
http://www.bestplaces.net/cost-of-living/jacksonville-fl/detroit-mi/50000

There are plenty of places that have a lower cost of living and pay more but hey facts...
District 2 is this really the guy you want representing you? How many of you think teachers are paid to much?
You have to do better.

John Meeks: use early release days to make up weather days!

Dear Editors,

After the damage has been done by Hurricane Irma, there is still a storm to be weathered with the remainder of the school year in Duval County.

The school system has built-in 'weather days' on which are treated as additional days off until they are needed to make up for school closings.  There were five weather days allotted for this school year.  Hurricane Irma closed Duval County Public Schools for six days.  And hurricane season is not over yet.

I know that it is essential for us to recover lost learning time for our students.  I also know that we cannot win any war debating which days to sacrifice to play a futile game of catch up.  For example, December 21 is slated to be a make up day.  Do we really think that attendance will be high on that day?

Instead, I think that we should suspend early dismissal days for the remainder of the school year.  First of all, those 'half days' wreak havoc with block schedule planning, parent pick up times, and after school programs.  

For those who would lament the loss of professional development and faculty collaboration, don't worry.  Teachers have PLC (department or team) meetings, monthly faculty meetings, and online training that can do the job just as well if not better than early dismissal days.

For those parents who still can't quite pin down when their child gets out of school on any given Wednesday, this is your chance to have one less thing to worry about after the storm and the school system can make it happen.

I know that I am not alone in this sentiment.  Please prove me right, community.

Sincerely,

John Louis Meeks, Jr.

DCPS should use early release days to make up weather days

Last year, Duval was the only county in Northeast Florida to make up the days missed due to hurricane Mathew. Every district missed days, but we were the only ones to make them up.

I also have to say I think Willis and the board were masterful with their placement or weather days, putting the bulk of them at the end of the year.

That being said, I don't want to be staring at the few kids that come that week, asking them what they want to do, when the truth is neither of us will want to be there.

Several people including teacher/advocate John Meeks have suggested we use our early release days to make up at least some of the weather days, a suggestion I also made last year, and a suggestion I wholeheartedly agree with.

We could make up two or three days using early release days.

You might be asking about the training we would be missing, well let me tell you about the training I received last year. Now there were a couple good trainings that I thought had value, but there were also three or four times were insurance agencies and banks came to sell us their products, and there were a couple times the PTA fed us too and have you seen me, I love to eat, but they could probably feed us during the day.

Then there were the district trainings consisting of remote power points where if we managed to stay awake or not go mad from boredom we weren't allowed to ask questions. As close to being a waste of time as possible.

Principals are allowed to call staff meetings where teachers are supposed to stay late and where not a fan of those times either, if there were relevant trainings, we could have them then.  

I will say, I thought the district did a good job with the hurricane, unlike last year when nobody seemed to know what was going on, but let's join the rest of Northeast Florida and build a schedule where weather days are no longer needed or lets show some more flexibility and use time, early release days, which for most people could be better used.