Wednesday, June 3, 2015
More proof that Superintendent Vitti makes it up as he goes along.
The Times Union just finished up a massive piece about the single gender leadership academies at Butler middle school and the gist is Superintendent Vitti is really excited and we will be seeing a lot more of them in the near future.
You might be shocked but I think this is a terrible idea but after you read below I think you will agree.
From the Times Union: Many students still aren’t reading on grade level. There are still discipline issues. Parent involvement could be better. Teachers sometimes feel burnt out or overwhelmed.
The girls and boys alike are frustrated with their peers who still aren’t buying into the new school. Ti’lar said many of her classmates still pull the same antics, and YMLA seventh-grader Ahmareon Ellis said peer pressure contributes to misbehaving.
“They start picking on you if you’re doing the right thing and the only way you can get cool points or whatever is getting kicked out of class, being funny, class clown, doing things that you’re not supposed to be doing,” Ahmareon said.
“There’s a large sum of people who still don’t act right,” Aaron Wetherington, an YMLA eighth-grader, said. “They don’t want to be an outcast so they follow the herd.”
The boys proposed a solution to the problem: sorting classes by behavior instead of academic ability. That way, the kids who do want to learn aren’t distracted.
“Most people want to be a leader and want to make a difference in this school,” Hiram said. “To be honest, it’s kind of tiring when one kid does bad and everybody has to suffer for it. It’s not fair.”
YMLA Principal Truitte Moreland said he’s gotten comments from the community about what’s happening at Butler and how wonderful it is, but he replies: “We’ve got a long way to go.”
Dozens of kids sat quietly in Butler’s auditorium, some heads bobbing along to an original rap two of their peers had penned on lined notebook paper.
“What would we be without black history?” they rapped at the Night at the BOLD Museum of Black History event on Feb. 27. “What would we be without black history?”
As the girls finished their performance, flashed big smiles and quickly sat down, the audience burst into applause.
Noticeably absent from the crowd — parents. Only a small handful attended the event that Friday evening, hosted by the “Building our Limitless Dreams,” or BOLD, after-school program through the Boys and Girls Club. Students began planning the event in December or January and decided what kind of performances the show would include.
“Honestly? No,” parent Pamela Roberts said when asked if Butler has strong parent involvement. “Look around,” she said, surveying the auditorium.
Data collected in January showed that just 8 percent of Butler students were reading at grade level based on district standards. While that’s above the Duval Transformation Office average, which includes schools in the Raines, Ribault and Jackson feeder pattern, it’s below district average, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said. The transformational middle schools had an average of 6 percent while all district middle schools averaged 23 percent of students reading on grade level.
Note: The state says 23 percent of butlers kids read at grade level and no school approaches the six percent number sited. I asked the reporter for some clarification but she never got back to me.
So let’s examine things, first the article never mention the huge staff which I believe probably had more to do with any success than a leadership academy and single gender classrooms, but even if you disagree you have to admit the success is shaky, but you know what, that isn’t going to stop superintend Vitti from heading full speed ahead.
Also from the Times Union:
“I’m not ready, at this point, to signal victory,” Vitti said. “But I am willing to say that we are on a shorter road to victory than we were just a year ago when it comes to the educational experience that takes place in the building at the old Butler school.”
Cohen is glad the district recognized something needed to be done differently at Butler. While the schools have the right leadership, Cohen said he’s anxious to see where the schools will be in five years. Everyone starts out the gate running fast, he said.
“Progress being slow, I don’t want that to be an excuse for people to not operate at max capacity,” Cohen said. “Our children deserve to have everybody in that building operating at max capacity, and if you’re not operating at max capacity, we need to get people in there who can.”
The new model at Butler has been so successful, the district has fast-tracked its plans to expand single-gender education in Duval classrooms. More kids will be sitting in girls-only and boys-only classes this fall.
At the end of March, Vitti said a high school wasn’t likely for 2015-16 and the district was instead exploring single-gender classes or schools at the elementary level and possibly expanding Butler to include ninth grade for 2016-17.
But by the end of May, Vitti said five to 10 elementary schools had expressed an interest in creating single-gender grade levels or classrooms, which would be opt-in for parents, for 2015-16. Even more schools are considering professional development for gender-specific strategies, he said.
So he is not ready to declare victory but he is ready to expand to five to ten more schools. Hmm what’s wrong with slowing down and making sure things are working and it is a victory? Why is making sure we get things right to much to ask for this superintendent?
Remember last year when open enrollment was the greatest idea ever before it crashed and burned? Vitti is not data driven, he just goes with his gut and often students and teachers pay the price.So at the end of the day I believe we do have some encouraging signs but the credit isn’t going to where it is due and expansion isn't something we should even be considering at this point.