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Is the Jacksonville Public Education Fund about elevating teachers or about elevating themselves? (rough draft)

Before I begin I want to remind everyone that the JPEF is spending five million dollars to bring Teach for America to town, which seems directly opposed to the notion that they are elevating teachers or the teaching profession.

Today they had a guest column in the paper where they spent a good sixth of the time talking about thier accomplishments. Used car salesman don't sell as hard as they do. It reminds me of the time they said they were responsible for the rise in local graduation rates, I shit  kid you not.

So they gathered together 17 people, 17 out of 8,000 if they were all teaches and my bet is they weren't, I contacted both the TU and the JPEF to see the list but neither have gotten back to me and from that group they made a list of suggestions. Suggestions the TU gave validity to when they printed their piece and I don't know about you but I don't want any of my students evaluating me, one of the suggestions, and I am the cool teacher. Teachers already have too little and students already have to much power that the thought of giving them more is crazy.

So yes teachers do support relevant evaluations but for the article not to mention the clumsy and unwieldy CAST evaluation system makes me think the entire thing is bogus. I don't know anybody who thinks the CAST is an effective or good evaluation tool and for the JPEF to gloss that over means they are attempting to protect the district which is a terrible thing for the city's teachers and the city itself.

Here is the thing too when they get in bed with the district then they have a vested interest in making sure that the district appears to be doing well, it destroys any appearance of impartiality. They will spin fold and manipulate anything the district does into a positive because anything negative will impact them as well.

Having a non profit supporting education is a great thing, having a non profit with an agenda to privatize and support the district regardless of evidence isn't. We have the latter not the former.

To read more about how great they think they are click the link: 


  1. Funny. The article says the list of 17 members can be found on the opinion page blog on . . . As of 5:35 pm, it isn't there. Runaround maybe?

  2. It's up now, and at least one of the participants is a former teacher.

  3. The CAST system, sold to teachers as being objective, is invalid and unreliable. It is invalid because many of the things evaluators look at have nothing to do with teaching and unreliable, because no two evaluators observe the same lesson and choose the same ratings. The same lesson receives different marks at different times. Unfortunately, our administrators still too often tailor their ratings to how well they like the teacher. Or,as I have experienced, 'if I mark him high he will leave. So I will mark him down so he will have to stay.' Student feedback is important, but if it is the determining factor ... this is the coup de grace for public schools. People who think this stuff up have no idea of child development stages.

  4. I think you and I share common concerns about the CAST system and its limitations as a subjective measure of teacher effectiveness. However, the Teacher Roundtable event was not attempting to rewrite the CAST rubric or to ask the district to adopt another means of evaluation altogether. Rather, the intent of this first Teacher Roundtable was to provide a few suggestions about ways in which the current teacher evaluation system as a whole, including CAST, could be better conducted.

    You and I also agree about the downfalls of having students directly evaluating teachers; that obviously would be impossible to universally implement across all grade levels. That said, I think that administrators having purposeful conversations with students and analyzing student work would be great ways to augment the data used in the CAST. Overall, we thought that some sort of student-based factors should play a stronger role in teacher evaluations.

    I would also like to clarify that while there were 17 members of the Steering Committee, more than 50 teachers participated at the Teacher Roundtable itself. Every single member of both the Steering Committee and the Teacher Roundtable were practicing classroom teachers in 2014-15, and many were school and district-level Teachers of the Year. By no means does this group attempt to represent all teachers in DCPS; however, there were a wide range of experience levels, subjects/grades, and backgrounds.

    Again, the goal of this first Teacher Roundtable was not to find the perfect way of evaluating teacher effectiveness. That would be beyond the scope of this group. However, we met together, shared ideas, and came up with some interesting suggestions and things to think about as the district moves forward with its teacher evaluation system. It is our hope that these suggestions generate productive conversations and new possibilities.

    Our next Teacher Roundtable event is on September 19th. I hope you can join us! The Roundtable is open to all public school teachers in Duval County, and we look forward to seeing you there.

  5. Well, I struggle with the student evaluation part of the idea. If, at the end of the day, a student believes he or she is learning, that is the goal. Students usually will say some version of the following:
    1. I like the teacher, but I don't really learn all that much.
    2. I hate the teacher; she/he teaches me nothing.
    3. I like the teacher, and I learn so much.
    4. I don't love the teacher, but I learn so much.
    Typically, students won't learn much from a teacher they hate. I have never heard a kid say that he/she hates a teacher but learns a lot. They may say that a teacher is mean, but that just signifies that the teacher is more strict and has good classroom management. I will never understand when people want to teach, but they don't feel like they need to connect with students.
    Now, I am not saying teachers should be up-to-date on pop culture, but students should feel respected and supported throughout the educational process. I am not the teacher students go to when they are having a difficult time at home or work or whatever (at least not usually); however, I connect with my students because I get them to understand that the skills I am teaching them will take them to college and beyond. I am there for them when they need help with the academic, and I understand when the non-academic interferes with the academic. I hold them accountable, just like I hold myself accountable for my teaching. If most of the students don't get it, I may need to reteach the concepts. And I admit when I am wrong; students respect that.
    Also, VAM means nothing without context, so it should NEVER be used in the evaluation process. Principals should instead be able to look at teachers within the same schools and throughout the district concerning scores. If 2 ELA teachers are teaching relatively the same students in terms of reading level, the gains should be similar. If they are way high or way low, then that needs to be considered concerning the evaluation. Unfortunately, there is still more to it. If 1 ELA teacher has an awesome reading teacher to collaborate with or a history teacher who regularly reinforces reading skills, then that is benefit to the students/teacher. Another teacher may not have that same support.
    My suggestion is to allow good teachers to be assigned to schools to assess other teachers, not AP's who regularly have an average of 3 years of teaching experience. Let the AP's deal with the students, who they usually don't spend enough time dealing with anyway. Master teachers can really see the pedagogy behind the lesson and actually help teachers who need help. When an AP with limited experience tells even a new teacher what to do, it comes off as usually unhelpful and punitive.
    I struggle with the start of the article most of all. "Public school teachers are the most important in-school factor in student achievement." Of course, this makes the most sense; however, the reality is that teachers in Duval just don't stay. If we had people itching to be teachers, then okay, be harsh. The truth is that none of this will matter. Duval doesn't attract the best of the best because the best teachers want to be at schools that will give them autonomy and respect. Eventually good teachers seem to matriculate out of the most difficult schools. Now, some may stay, but they are rare indeed. Look at the average teaching experience of teachers at each school. Holding teachers accountable who only stay 1-5 years inevitably will lead to nothing. Attracting people who are invested in the community, who want to stay, who are not told what to do, who feel like they are building a school culture, and who are paid a respectable wage should be the ultimate goal.

  6. To Mr. Scott Sowell, you have made a good response and I agree that we should work toward a better teacher evaluation system. I would quibble about Teachers of the Year, which you seem to think means the best teachers, the master teachers, with great expertise. In all my years working at DCPS schools, they are not necessarily so. They are the teachers who won the popularity contest, no different from homecoming queen, because there is no objective selection criteria. Teachers are nominated and people vote someone the 'honor.' Therefore, participation of Teachers of the Year means little.