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Gary Chartrand's friends seem to be getting rich off education (rough draft)

Let me start by saying I don't think Chartrand is trying to get rich. He is more of a zealot than a mercenary but that hasn't stopped his friends from seeing a windfall from his position on the state board of education.

First there is his Jacksonville KIPP school that he invested millions to bring to town. They were the recent recipient of 1.6 million dollars in public money in the form of a cooperation grant between them and the District.

What's the grant for? So the district can lean from KIPP and emulate what it is doing. Sadly the only lesson we can learn from them is money does matter as they spend about a third more per child. The KIPP school has also been protected by Chartrands rule that school grades can only drop one letter grade at a time and allowed a I believe undeserved massive expansion. That though probably has more to do with Chartrand collecting school board members like normal people collect baseball cards.

Then there is Teach for America which Chartrand paid a million dollars to bring to town. The 44 million dollars best and brightest scholarships are nothing more than a give away to these temp teachers as first year teachers with high SAT scores are eligible for up to ten thousand dollars. It's an insult to veteran teachers everywhere or you know the people Chartrand thinks should have no work protections and be marginalized out of existence.

KIPP and TFA two organizations that Chartrand has close ties to, and are two organizations essentially getting millions of free tax payer money under his watch.

It's official the 44 million dollars is a giveaway to Teach for America

Writing about the controversial  program to give teachers up to ten thousand dollars based on their SAT scores Scott Travis wrote in the Sun Sentinel:

  First-year teachers without a current evaluation would be eligible if they met the test score requirements, which Walsh also found problematic since they haven't proven they're highly effective yet.


This means the program is nothing but a back door giveaway to Teach for America courtesy of board members Rebecca Fishman Lipsey and Gary Chartrand not the ancient research that charter loving and public school hating representative Eric Fresen would have you believe. It's just another selling point to the master of the universe types who think they are saving public education. It is a travesty that they can just show up and be eligible for the giveaway.

In case you need to be even further outraged, also form the article:  Fresen, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and has close ties to a charter school management company, could not be reached for comment despite calls to his office and home.  The studies he cited included one in 1996 from the Monroe County Community School Corp. in Indiana, a 2002 report from Cornell University in New York, and a 2003 study from the American Educational Research Association.

Earlier the Tampa Times reported he came up with the idea while reading a book waiting for a flight.

We should first all be embarrassed that this is how Florida does things, then we should be outraged that the legislature thinks it can waste 44 million dollars on hobbyists who do the exact opposite of what we know our kids need and finally we should do something. Florida must stop voting for these corrupt idiots.

Ten Signs Your Child Is in a Failing School District, Duval has many of these.

From the Huffington Post by Randy Turner
In these days of Common Core State Standards and continuing attacks on public education by billionaires and their bought-and-paid-for legislators, parents need a few guidelines on how to tell if their child is in a failing school district.
It has nothing to do with low scores on state-mandated standardized tests and more to do with the culture in the school district.
Here are 10 signs that your child is in a failing school district:
1. The large majority of your teachers have less than five years of experience- The best schools have solid veteran teaching forces, mixing in talented newcomers each year as teachers retire or move into administration or other job opportunities. When you run off your veteran teachers, you not only do not have teachers who can mentor the younger staff members and help them reach their full potential, but you also are increasing the odds that you are going to hire some less gifted teachers just to fill the vacancies. That makes it that much harder to understand why so many state legislatures are appropriating millions for inexperienced Teach for America instructors instead of spending that money to keep their best teachers in the classroom.
2. Teachers are overwhelmed with requests for data- Any time teachers are spending more time providing data for the bean counters in administration, it is a good indication that your school has gone astray. Most of that data is supplied through the use of one practice standardized test after another. In recent years, the situation has grown worse with many school districts adding costly practice tests given multiple times during the year. These not only take away from instructional time, but they also strip the children of any love of learning and they provide overly generous fees to the testing companies. What is worse, the expensive practice tests, whether students do well on them or not, provide no guarantee of success on the high stakes test at the end of the school year.
3. Teachers receive no support from administrators on discipline issues- In our ravenous quest for more and more data, one of the worst things that has occurred was the decision to measure a school's safety by its numbers of incidents, referrals, and suspensions. It was a natural progression for administrators, both at upper and lower levels, to find ways to game the system and avoid climbing statistics. In some schools, this has been done by encouraging teachers to handle every kind of situation in their classrooms and not involve the principal's office. Teachers receive the message that they are the ones who will suffer if students are given referrals. Because of that, behavior that would have been met with an instant office referral only a few years ago, is allowed to continue in the classroom and creates even more distractions for teachers and students.
4. Professional development is limited to indoctrination and data- An alarming trend the past few years has been the transition of professional development from learning techniques that will help the teacher to improve teaching and classroom management techniques to attempts to forcefully install a culture that would seem more desirable in a business than in an institution of learning. Much of this has come from the proliferation of consultants and motivational speakers who latched on to public schools after the implementation of No Child Left Alive and have yet to loosen their grip.
5. The message is tightly controlled, eliminating constructive criticism- At one time, the top administrators in public school districts were invariably educators who worked their way through the system, spending years in the classroom before going into administration. Nowadays, many top administrators have only spent three years or less in the classroom and are more like CEOs and executive vice presidents than educators. This had led to a culture shift with an overemphasis on public relations. Anyone in the school district or in the community who dares to question a decision is accused of trying to "hurt the children" or "attack teachers." When administrators surround themselves with yes-men and strictly control the message, it makes it much more likely that mistakes are going to be made, at a cost to the children and to the taxpayers.
6. School Board members serve as rubber stamps- Over the past few decades, the role of boards of education has changed dramatically. In many communities, the board of education acts more like the board of directors of a Fortune 500 company, rubber stamping whatever the superintendent or top administrator does without question. That is not what voters expect when they elect school board members. Obviously, you do not want to have board members looking over administrators' shoulders every minute of every day, but when the board of education places blind trust in anyone it increases the odds that something disastrous will happen. One of the major criticisms lodged against board members is that they "have an agenda," as if that is something bad. If the agenda is to stop out-of-control spending, or place more emphasis on education, what is wrong with that? When boards serve as rubber stamps for any administrator, they are effectively taking away local control of our school districts.
7,. The community is not involved in its schools- In many school districts, the community is kept at arm's length until it is time to pass another bond issue or tax levy increase. Or the community involvement is restricted to a carefully selected group of business and civic leaders or the spouses of those leaders. A successful school district is one in which the involvement is organic and comes from all segments of the community, not just the ones who are needed when it comes time to ask for money. In some school districts, the community is asked for its input and then guided to give the input the administrators are seeking so they can say whatever initiative they have has the support of the community. That is not community involvement; that is pure spin.
8. The district is top heavy with administrators- While there is certainly a need to have strong, capable administrators directing a school district, administration tends to grow far more than is necessary, using funds that could be spent much better in the classroom. Rule of thumb, the more executive directors of anything that you have, the more problems your school district is going to have.
9. An overemphasis has been placed on technology- While it would seem that the more emphasis placed on technology in this day and age the better, that is simply not the case. With many schools adding laptops, iPads, and other devices that students can take home with them, districts have begun a push to incorporate the technology into every lesson, complete overkill that works against the student in the long run. While it is vital that students are able to handle technology, it is just as important that they are able to participate in discussions, listen to lectures (schools are eliminating these and that creates a problem for students when they go on to higher education), and take notes. If your school district is pushing the idea that everything can be learned by consulting Google then your child is being shortchanged.
10. Not enough emphasis is being placed on civics and citizenship- In the push to make sure everyone is "college and career ready," many schools are depriving children of some of the most important knowledge they should receive- how to participate in their society as an informed voter, who has the understanding of what this country is all about. While it is important that students be ready to work, the idea that they should be doing so during their high school years at the expense of learning about government, history, and the things they need to know to be a full participant in our society is ludicrous.
This list leaves off other important factors- poverty, crime, and how many billionaires you have who are trying to force privatization of education down your throat, but for those who want to make a difference at a local level, these are the danger signs that your district is failing.

Barrak Obama turns on for profit colleges, when will he give up on charters too?

Seriously what's the difference between the two? As a group they both provide substandard educations and as a group making money not educating children is their top priority. Furthermore mostly through marketing they stop students from going to schools that will prepare them for college or the future. If one is bad, then how is the other good?

From Politico: On Wednesday, the Obama administration will begin choking off the financial lifeline of for-profit colleges whose graduates can’t find well-paying jobs — and the move is likely to accelerate a wave of shutdowns for an industry taking assaults from all sides.

I am not saying all charters are bad, unless apparently you are in Ohio and Louisiana, but enough of them are that the entire industry is suspect. In my home state of Florida nearly 300 have failed and one in six of the ones that remain are teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Furthermore as a group they under perform when compared to public schools. Then many of those that aren't doing poorly either financially or academically are part of chains that have set up in affluent neighborhoods, draining away resources from the schools there and offering zero in the way of innovation. 

This is a good move by the president. An even better one would be stop out sourcing our school aged children to for profit companies more interested in the bottom line than educating them and instead investing in our public schools.

Personal learning scholarships for disabled children aren't great they are despicable.

The budget for Personal learning scholarships for disabled children just tripled from 18 to 54 million dollars. However instead of celebrating the state helping needy families we should all be outraged. First public school children are not eligible for the scholarships, which most families use to pay for private schools and second since families have to pay the money first and wait to be reimbursed what poor family can take advantage? The answer is none.

Furthermore the program is administered by the well connected donor organization, Step up for Students and they will see millions, that will not got to children or families, for their involvement.

This is nothing but a give away to private schools, a well connected donor and welfare for the well off. We do have problems in education but they are not going to be fixed by giving the state's most affluent families free money.

To read more click the link:

The difference between Duval and St. Johns Counties (rough draft)

There are a lot of demographic differences but what I am talking about is how they engage the community. In Duval we have relied on a small group of business people who created the QEA to fill the gap between our resources and our needs while in St. Johns they have asked the entire community to step up.

Being business people not only did they demand control of how the money was used, in effect creating policy, something they were not elected to do but they went with business solutions putting the lion's share into a merit pay scheme that evidence says is doomed to fail. Much of the rest of the money is being given to temporary teachers (TFA) instead of investing in putting professionals in our classrooms. The long and short of it is we seceded control of our schools and went with with measures that history says will not work.

St. Johns on the other hand when faced with a gap between their needs and resources has gone to the entire community and asked them to contribute through a sales ta referendum. By doing this the experts, those elected and appointed to do the job remain in control, something Duval cannot say with the growing influence of both the QEA and the JPEF.

I wrote about Duval trying for a half cent sales tax to support education eight years ago, that would mirror what several south Florida districts were doing.

I get taxes aren't popular and most people feel they are paying to much already and others think the district isn't properly using what resources they have and to some degree I can agree with that but with that being said we do have needs, needs that Tallahassee has shown no interest in addressing. The question becomes do we want to give control to a group of millionaires without any education experience and an agenda or do we want the community to take responsibility.

To learn what St. Johns is doing click the link:

Pixar makes teachers the butt of the joke

I went to see Inside Out last night and first FU Pixar, I don't go to see your movies to get something in my eye. Second, watch the clip below,

When I saw it I couldn't help but chuckle, though two ladies five rows up let out mighty guffaws, teachers, I said to myself.

And yeah it was funny but it also exemplifies how teachers have become some sort of running joke for Hollywood.

Look at the clip again. The emotions in the teachers head have all but given up five months, two weeks and four days before summer vacation. The year is not even half over.

But it's even worse because the clip in the movie is different. In the movie the teacher isn't smiling, she is asking a question in a monotone voice as her class has also given up. One kid in the front row had his head all the way back like he was sleeping. While others looked bored and uninterested. Nobody was engaged.

So yeah, Pixar had a joke at the teaching professions expense, one I admit, I smiled at but should we really be smiling? There was a time when teachers were respected and even revered, but now more often than not we are the butts of jokes or presented as the bad guys by Hollywood.

I can't imagine any of the emotions presented in Inside Out thinking turning teachers into a joke is a good thing.

Why doesn't Morning Joe just say, I hate teacher unions

I know, I know, why do I watch it.

Today on Morning Joe teacher unions came up when they had the Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on. They had him on to talk about the new overtime rules that would benefit millions but hey why talk about that when you can bash teacher unions.

Joe's point was why should teachers be forced to join the union, to which the Labor secretary should have replied that nobody is forced to be a teacher but he didn't, he instead talked about all the benefits of collective bargaining of which there is many.

Joe immediately pivoted to but what about all the causes that teacher unions support that have nothing to do with education, why should teachers be forced to support them too.

Um, what non education causes, are teacher unions out there fighting for or against? Is it abortion or marriage equality or equal pay? Sure they might overwhelmingly support democratic politicians who support what I would call the affirmative of those issues but guess what those are the politician that support education too.

Instead of just making shit up I wish he would just say, I don't like teacher unions, heck I don't like unions in general. I don't think he could use facts to justify his position, but when does he ever, but at least at would be honest.

To check out the piece, click the link:

Teacher, DCPS has got it wrong about reading

From a reader/teacher/parent:

He (Vitti) has just tied our hands and tripled the workload. I am interested in what principals and teachers at the elementary level said that we should go the Engage NY route rather than a research based and proven text. I haven't met a single teacher who would rather have worksheets than a text. 

I just don't understand this madness. I don't understand any of it. Our district continues its downward slide in scores across multiple grade levels and subjects. We quit utilizing research based materials with documented success. We have a school board that extends a contract before we have results that would warrant that extension. We have a union that is a dream to work with according to administration but non-existent according to teachers. Parents expressing outrage over how a school is being run into the ground yet news sources that seem to dismiss or not even notice there is a problem. We are switching to using technology for the majority of instruction yet our schools lack the infrastructure to support it. It sounds insane!!! 

As a teacher, I am disheartened by all of this madness. My hands are being tied and I am not being allowed to do what I went to school to do. I am not being given a chance to really teach anymore. My heart breaks for these kids that really do want to learn because we aren't providing them with everything they need. We are not getting the job done and our scores demonstrate that. 

As a parent of two children within our system, I am even more bothered by the fact that they may not be getting all that they need when it comes to their education. I can fill in the gaps as much as I can on my own but my fear is that will not be enough. My fear is that there will be too many gaps for me to fill in. My kindergartner will be expected to learn from a bunch of worksheets?!?!?!? That seems like a recipe for disaster if you ask me. I pray that I am wrong but scores don't seem to indicate that I am. 

Don't get me wrong. I believe the use of novels for teaching reading is a step in the right direction. However, the novels should be carefully selected for each grade level, keeping in mind not only the standard you wish to teach but also whether the content is appropriate. 

I think the powers that be forgot that the texts often used in a basal come from novels that were award winning at one point. They often get the students interested in reading the novels from which the stories came. Were the basals perfect? No but I doubt a sheet of paper with a passage is enough.

Reader frustrated with the superintendent, 7 reasons we are heading in the wrong direction

From a reader:

When is the School Board going to realize that the superintendent is slowly running off good teachers and administrators? Here's a partial list of what has happened since Nicolai has been here:

1. The printing issue is a problem. Support techs have been told not to fix the printers that teachers have in their room and the replacement toners are not available for purchase through the districts discounted supply catalog. Teachers and administrators have been told that printing is to be done centrally at one printer in the school. 

2. In 2013-2014 , all elementary teachers struggled with a new lesson guide that was available to them only when hooked up to the district intranet. The reason? Nicolai did not want another district to steal all the hard work done by the curriculum writers. Now we are using EngageNY, which is freely available to anyone, including parents. 

3 Again, in 2013-2014, several thousands, dare I say, millions, of dollars of novels were ordered for elementary teachers to us to teach with. The support was spotty - some grade levels had better support than others, depending on who wrote the curriculum guide. The teachers were better this year with it - the second year of using the same novels. Now, new novels, new things and ways to teach. Another stressful year of "firsts".

4. Research -research that has been proven again and again, say that it takes at least 3 years to make lasting, effective change in student performance. Nicolai is not giving anyone or anything - except himself - 3 years of a chance to see how it plays out. NOTE TO THE SCHOOL BOARD - he is moving principals after less than one year at a school, but you are giving him more years? What in the H*LL are you thinking?????????

5. The morale at every school is DOWN. People are afraid. People are exhausted. And the extra hour at schools is a JOKE. Teachers are working 8.33 hours, and then have to prepare for the next day. There is no time to prepare at all during any break, because you have to meet with your grade level, or the content coach, or some other meeting.

6. The union is a joke. When the agreement was made with the lowest scoring schools in Jacksonville, they agreed to, and took away, the bargained rights. Teachers are staying until 5, 6 p.m. for meetings "because they agreed to it".

7. And, Nicolai has created a 2 tier school system. One tier is schools that are located in white suburbs, the other tier are students that ultimately go the black high schools. These schools have different expectations, different meetings, different hours, and have different summer programs. Welcome to the 1950s in Jacksonville. 

Having to print curriculum materials is only one of a long list of systemic problems that is going on in YOUR public school system.

First Coast's unbelievable discipline numbers. Mind boggling!

The first numbers below are how Lee and First Coast high schools did on the recent end of the year Algebra and ELA tests the last two year. There are tons of numbers we could look at and the ELA numbers represent different tests but for now let’s just look at these.

Algebra I
Lee 27-17
First Coast 38-37

Lee 35-37
First Coast 41-40

Lee had a ten point increase in algebra and a two point decrease in their ELA scores* while First Coast had one point increases in both. None of the numbers are great though a ten point increase in anything is pretty good.

Here is the thing the principal at Lee, Dean Ledford who by all reports was liked by his staff was demoted to Mandarin Middle while the principal of First Coast, Alvin Brennan, Vitti has publicly said he wants to keep around for two more years.

When Vitti met with Lee’s staff I am told he said that Ledford wasn’t right for the job at Lee because he struggled with discipline (why throw the guy under the bus like that???). I find this really ironic because no school made the news more for problems with violence and discipline than First Coast did, though admittedly Lee made the headlines a few times too.

I don’t have access to the numbers at Lee but I do to the numbers at First Coast and I thought about saying they were miraculous but the truth is they are unbelievable.

Class I Violations
Class II Violations
Class III Violations
Class IV Violations

SRO Arrests
If you notice there were stupefying decreases in every category. Geeze Louise if Brennan is that miraculous with discipline then why wasn't he given a fat raise and promoted to oversee the county. Please take a look again.

Brennan does have a reputation as being a disciplinarian but maybe he wasn't promoted because not even the district believes these numbers. Duval has had a history of hiding discipline problems too, brow beating teachers into not writing referrals, or not processing the ones that they do.

It's my bet and please let me know if I am wrong Lee and First Coast teachers, was that Lee was doing things the right way while First Coast was either cooking the books or making is so teachers there were to afraid to write referrals. The bottom line though is the principal at Lee was demoted and the principal at First Coast was called one of the city's best.

If the numbers above despite the drop in the school grade, test scores, and the exodus of teachers are accurate maybe Brennan is one of the best. If the numbers are to be believed that is.

Pro privatization web-site uses South Carolina tragedy to push for more charter schools.

Redefined Ed is a pro-privatization blog out of Florida with close ties to Jeb Bush and below is from a piece about expanding charter schools.

Quote of the Week
For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.  Perhaps we see that now.  Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.

Um first absolutely despicable but more importantly despite Obama's support of charter schools I don't believe for a second his message was about expanding charter schools and one would really have to twist themselves in knots to get there.

The lack of shame and dignity displayed by ReDefined Ed, Jeb Bush's pro-privatization blog is truly stunning.

It wasn't to long ago that the right tried to use the tragedy in Baltimore to push for more school choice privatization too.

Did the state just try to give 44 million to Teach for America?

The state board of education has one Teach for America alumni, Rebecca Fishman-Lipsey and at least one big supporter Gary Chartrand, though since they are all basically cut from the same cloth, non-educators/Scott supporters I wouldn't be surprised if they all shared the same opinion.

Teach for America takes non education majors from supposed elite schools and puts them through a five week boot camp before placing them with our neediest children where they are supposed to serve a two year commitment. This is the exact opposite of what we know to be best for our neediest.

Here is where it gets a little wonky, the state has offered 44 million dollars in bonuses to teachers, not ones who are nationally board certified or who have gone to school for advanced degrees, or you know things that matter but based upon teachers SAT and ACT scores. Hmm you know who I bet has some pretty good and easily accessible SAT scores? Recent graduates of supposedly elite schools.

Before you think I have gone all conspiracy theory on you let me remind you that the state also recently funneled 1.6 million dollars to Gary Chartrand's charter school KIPP Impact through a charter school cooperation grant.

At this point nothing they do would surprise me and it shouldn't surprise you either.

Now Trey Csar cares about transparency? (rough draft)

Trey Csar is the president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and a Times Union endorsed expert. He said something very interesting about transparency the other day.

From the Times Union when talking about the state's release of ELA scores. They’re the new results but they’re really the old results,” he said. “The state has not provided significant transparency into how it is ... computing the scores.”

Now he is right the state has not been very forthcoming and I would call it a cluster$#%^ if it wasn't insulting to cluster%$#^s. The scores however are different which he would have known had he bothered to look at all the scores, the problem is, now Csar cares about transparency?

First I don't think it should be lost on anybody that Csar's boss Gary Chartrand is at the center of the lack of transparency from the state. Up till recently the grocer-in chief who never taught was chair of the state board of education and is still a member of it. 

Furthermore despite the fact JPEF manages money for the district thier board meeting are off limits to the public. Now you might be saying they only manage the QEA money, money given to the district by a group of local millionaires but even that's a problem.

The QEA has in effect set policy for the district. They started a merit pay plan and endorsed untrained novices teaching our most vulnerable children (TFA). These are things which I remind you that we elected a school board to do and their meetings were off limits to the press and public too.

I can make a solid case for quid pro qu from the district to Gary Chartrand too. We gave his KIPP charter school 1.6 million dollars and allowed it a huge and I believe undeserved expansion which in future years will take out a lot more money from the district than the QEA brought in . 

If only somebody could have been at the meetings to make sure that didn't occur.

Where is the transparency for that?

Oh wait it doesn't exist.

Csar's concern about transparency seems very selective.

The Florida Legislature is just making #$&@ up or I hoped you studied for your SATs

A national board certified teacher? Who cares.

Went back to school and got a masters to improve your teaching? What a waste.

An amazing teacher that improves children's lives? Move along

Did well on the SAT ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago? Well now we are talking.

I knew Eric Fresen was dumb but this is beyond the pale. 

From the Tampa Times: About two years ago, state Rep. Erik Fresen picked up Amanda Ripley's The Smartest Kids in the Worldto read on the plane.

The Miami Republican had no inkling at the time that the book, an investigation into student performance, would end up driving a controversial $44 million line item in Florida's 2015-16 budget.
But as he plowed through it, Fresen found a common denominator among nations with top academic performance: well-paid teachers with high aptitudes. So he proposed Florida's Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarships, worth as much as $10,000 each.
To qualify, a teacher must receive a "highly effective" evaluation rating and have scored at or above the 80th percentile on the SAT or ACT they took in high school. For new teachers, just the test score would count.
This jackhole read a book while waiting for a plane and that's how he sets education policy? 
Instead of investing in public schools the legislature is bound and determined to use failed policies and gimmicks. We are doomed, officially doomed.