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Dear Duval Public Schools, why are you setting up your teachers and students to fail?

Here is a letter I sent to the district a while back that several middle school ELA teachers helped me compose. As of yet I haven't received a reply and don't worry, I am not holding my breath.

Hello

My name is Chris Guerrieri, publisher of the blog, “Education Matters.” The Florida Times-Union and Folio Magazine frequently reprint my blog posts, which primarily focus on local public education issues. The high volume of e-mails I have received, coupled with personal interviews of middle school ELA/Reading teams concerning the District’s highly publicized initiative to increase student reading proficiency prompts my latest article. It is my understanding that as Director of Middle School English Language Arts and Reading, you are responsible for the latest “roll-out” of the reading initiative. As such, I hope that you will address and clarify some questions I have based upon my investigation to date.   

When I met with middle school ELA/Reading teams and teachers, they expressed grave concerns over the scheduling, curriculum, and resources for the Reading and ELA courses using the double block/”Hybrid ELA” scheduling. They had voiced their concerns to you, but felt ignored or dismissed. Other teachers who contacted me voiced similar concerns to your Literacy and Reading Specialists, and likewise were dismissed.

As the Director of this program, I am seeking your input on these issues they have raised:
1. Lack of the required Reading Endorsement or field certification. Although scheduled under the proper course code, the Intensive Reading and Regular ELA teachers are required to follow the identical curriculum split between reading and ELA.  
- How are ELA teachers lacking reading endorsements yet teaching a curriculum mandating  SRA instruction, considered to be teaching in-field?
-How are Reading teachers lacking ELA certification yet teaching a curriculum mandating ELA instruction that exceeds the scope of the SRA material considered to be teaching in-field?

2. Lack of materials needed to implement the “Hybrid.”
- When will or will both the Reading and ELA teachers receive class sets of SRA books? If they don’t receive class sets, how are they to proceed?  
- How can the Reading and ELA teachers do a “novel study” on the same novel with only five-seven copies of the book, but 24 to 26 students per class?  

3. Inappropriate novels.
- Why are selections being mandated that have objectionable language and/or material in them? - - How are Level 1 and Level 2 readers to independently read novels that are many grade levels above their reading comprehension?

4. Inferior ELA instruction and preparation for the writing and reading tests.
- Why must the ELA portion be taught in small groups, rather than the teacher directed format usually used of I Do, We Do, and You Do?
- How will the thirty minutes of allocated ELA time adequately prepare the students for the new writing and reading tests, when a teacher will only instruct one to two small groups a class, while the remaining four to five groups are “self-teaching.?”  Is this realistic for middle schoolers?

It appears that the teachers and the district agree that reading proficiency and comprehension is essential. The district has a plan that teachers fear is grossly inadequate, burdensome, if not impossible to implement, and jeopardizes their “in-field” status, as well as performance evaluations. As you know, well-intentioned people can make the greatest plans, but if they can't get buy in from the people implementing them, they are most likely doomed to fail.

I realize that you are busy, however, I hope you can find the time to respond to the above concerns. My readership is large, so potentially tens of thousands of readers, many of whom are parents, will read my article. I would like them to know your position as to these concerns, as it would be relevant to their views and may assuage some concerns. I assure you that should you respond before I post the article, I will send it to you to review for accuracy as to your responses.

I hope to finish the piece by September 7, 2014. I look forward to hearing from you prior to that date.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Chris Guerrieri

Publisher, Education Matters

6 comments:

  1. It is as if we are being set up to fail. How much longer does Vitti have on his contract? I also haven't heard about his evaluation for this year. Duval dropped in so many areas so it could not have been perfect like his self evaluation last year. I'd be curious to know about it. After all, our VAM scores were public.

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    1. The district grade has dropped from a B to a C.......I had no idea that data existed until I saw it looking for the school grades. Since he is in charge of the district, he gets that grade. He dropped. What happens to a Super when grades drop? What happens to teachers when grades drop? What happen to principals when grades drop? We should be consistent with our demotions when people's jobs are based on students' grades. Who's going to make this happen?

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  2. I guess that part of their solution to this quagmire was to drop SRA from the curriculum. They are still going full-steam ahead with novel study despite the lack of books for our oversized classes. (26 rather than 22) Not to mention, apparently downtown doesn't click the links to the email Vitti sends. If they did, they would have discovered that the writing test requires the ability to read, analyze, and compose a multi paragraph response, using text support from all of the excerpts presented, which were ALL nonfiction. The reading test link- also nonfiction. Whomever developed the curriculum for ELA/Reading didn't do their homework and presume our students already know how to formulate text based responses. If they had any real knowledge, we would have an entirely different focus. The newly purchased computer based programs clearly were intended to be substitute for teaching nonfiction analysis and writing. They don't cut it. Write to Learn uses the old five paragraph prompt response. Its other alternative is to have students write a summary to one text on its program. It must have been purchased without first checking out the writing testing format. Achieve 3000, as we are required to use it, is useless because it assumes it will be accompanied by teacher instruction and followup. Yet, we are going to be blamed when our kids crash and burn on these tests. I can hear it now: The teachers didn't teach the curriculum properly, the school-based admin. didn't push those teachers hard enough, and we have them every tool and resource to do well. Where is the School Board? Are they just Vitti's echo chamber? Or is this an effort to push us out? We will obtain other jobs, but our kids will lose a year of essential instruction. What does it say about our leaders when their egos and agendas take precedence over our students? Frightening times.

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  3. I want to self evaluate. Can I self evaluate? Self evaluate is good. Self evaluate is valid. You can publish my self evaluate. I like self evaluate.

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  4. The Super's eval has always been made public. Why not Mr. Transparency's?

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  5. Vitti received a three year contract. He received an evaluation June 2013, seven months on the job. His next one may not be due until his 2nd anniversary, November 12, 2014. It is a 3 1/2 year contract; he will serve until June 2016 and further, Board willing.

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