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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why does Duval County hate its teachers so?

First let me apologize on behalf of all the teachers in Jacksonville to all the citizens of Jacksonville. From the bottom of my heart I am sorry that we can’t completely overcome the effects of poverty and we all know that over 20 percent of our kids live in poverty and poverty is the number one measurable factor in education, those that live in it don’t do as well as those that don’t.

I am sorry that we haven’t been able to reach our full potential in the face of the capricious and usually ineffective management that has plagued this district for years. Are there good principals and admins in our district, yes there are but to many have reached their position because of whom they know rather than what they can do.

I am also sorry that we couldn’t convince the people of Jacksonville to elect school board members who are knowledgeable about public education, who care about public education and who will fight for public education or the exact opposite of many of this lot we have in charge now.

Finally I am sorry that the legislature many of you have voted for has saw fit to slash budgets, and don’t believe the hype about the recent budget increase, we are still way below 2007 levels and that doesn’t count paying for all the new unfunded mandates and common core, and who would prefer to send money to the sub standard options of charter schools, which as a group perform worse than public schools and voucher schools who as a group we have no idea how they are doing because the state refuses to put any accountability onto to them and finally who have embraced common core an untested experimental curriculum that does not address poverty, that doubles down on high stakes testing and which siphons hundreds of millions of dollars out of the classrooms where it is desperately needed. 

I am sincerely sorry for all of that.

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) study about teacher quality should be taken with a grain of salt. Started by Michelle Rhee who has long had negative feelings about teachers, their stated position is if districts fire enough teachers then districts will improve. They call it the Widget effect. I guess it is also just by chance that the TNTP provides a service for a fee that will find what they call qualified teachers to work for districts. I wonder how long it is before we employ those services too. I could have told you their conclusions before they even started and I imagine Vitti could have as well and that is why he picked them

I believe Vitti wanted a group to come in and back up his assessment that Jacksonville’s professional teachers weren’t doing the job. This is also backed up by his reliance on Teach for America, which takes non-education recent graduates puts them through a five week boot cam and then puts them in our neediest classrooms or the exact opposites of what we know to be best practices. Well by picking the TNTP, a very biased group that most districts would not even consider using, he got it.

As for the TNTP recommendations about teacher pay, the truth is there are some great new teachers that hit the ground running and some veteran teachers that have stayed to long but what they don’t mention is that the numbers in both groups are small. The study doesn’t mention that teaching is a craft that people grow into and get better with experience but despite that they recommend blowing up the entire system. The reason the entire study reads like a passage in the corporate reformers playbook is because that’s where it came from.  

We do have problems here in Jacksonville, serious problems and we need serious people to solve them. The TNTP study however doesn’t point us in the right direction and it shouldn’t be used a blue print to solve our issues. If our superintendent were a serious person he would know that. 

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