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Monday, February 14, 2011

Betty Burney, a day late and a dollar short

So let me get this straight there is some miraculous stat which shows our kids are actually doing well at the intervening schools and the powers-that-be are conspiring together to keep it hidden. If that sounds far-fetched it seems to be what Mrs. Burney would have you believe in a recent op-ed to the Times Union. The problem with the test Mrs. Burney mentioned, the Post Secondary Reading Readiness test is it's irelevant to the problems that the intervening schools are facing. I don’t like the FCAT but passing that test is what they need to do. I bet the majority vast majority can add two didgit numbers too but that doesn't matter either.

Speaking of the FCAT, she complained about the 2010 results and here is the day late part. I believe she and all reasonable people should have been complaining about the FCAT for about a decade now. This test has single handily transformed education and not for the better. No longer as an education system are we concerned with all our children getting a well rounded education that prepares them for life, now all we are concerned about is if they can pass the FCAT or not. I have to say I also find this a little disingenuous because she and the district have readily embraced the FCAT when it told them what they wanted to hear but now she dismisses it when she hears something that she doesn’t like.

She however was right when like Deborah Gianoulis did the day before, she wrote about all the great things going on at those schools because there are many. Every day kids go to them and work with dedicated professionals and it is truly a wonderful thing. Unfortunate though, the vast majority of the good things happening at the schools are just the interactions between students and their teachers. The reason is because teachers have been hamstrung by the school board and the administration at 1701 Prudential drive's policies to the point that so many of the students and teachers start out in a hole so deep that few are able to climb out of it.

At no time does Mrs. Burney mention the real problem the schools are facing which is kids getting pushed to high school without the skills they need to be successful. This includes the ability to read and do math at grade level, discipline and a serious work ethic. Instead she mentions the districts rigorous graduation requirements and points out that kids are passing. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. There is absolutely no grasp at what the big picture is.

Well Mrs. Burney I will point out to you that there is a big difference between learning and passing. Just ask Florida State College at Jacksonville which says seventy percent of our recent graduates have to take remedial classes. Teachers in fear for their jobs, evaluations and performance pay, under tremendous pressure from their admins not to fail any children regardless of what they do or don’t do, or teachers sympathetic to the child pushed into their room without the skills they need, it’s not their fault they rationalize, can and do just pass children along. This passing however doesn’t always equate to learning.

Betty Burney has been on the school board for over six years and the problems we have today are the same problems we had six years ago and 3000 children who could be attending the intervening schools have left already. Blaming the FCAT when it doesn’t tell us what we want to hear, pointing to tests that don’t count and equating learning with passing when for many kids nothing could be farther from the truth is no way to get those children back and solve the education problems here in Jacksonville. Our schools, our teachers and most importantly our children deserve real solutions.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

1 comment:

  1. I talked two English teachers one at my school and one at Ribault about the post secondary reading eadiness test and they had never
    heard of it. My friend at Ribault said it might have been part of a college readiness test they give but not every student takes it, probably less than 10% of the student body and usualy just the ones that are heading to college. Now let me say we are giving the kids test all the time and this may be a new one or part of another one, I teach science and this doesn't come through me, and I may have asked the wrong questions or asked the wrong people, maybe I should have asked reaing teachers. But it would not surprise me if this was an example of a member of the school board skewing or cherry picking statistics to fit their point. A little more research may be required...