Monday, February 15, 2016
Duval's much ado about nothing press conference (rough draft)
When I heard the district was having a press conference to discuss improved school culture, I was hot. I don’t want to say I have talked to every teacher or even all the ones that I have agree with me but most of the ones I have and know feel we are heading in the wrong direction as a district.
Then to be honest my Mel Gibson conspiracy theory inner nut took over for a minute and I thought it might have been a set up to talk about the texts that came out last weekend. I believe they were released to distract us from the real issues facing the district and to hurt a political foe of charter school interests.
I was ready to go in guns blazing and now I have to say I am a little embarrassed, I took off my pajamas early and got dressed for no reason as none of above really occurred.
Now the district did talk about improvement in several areas but they were all very vanilla.
Are your standards based on common core, does your principal care about safety, are you getting more professional development. All legitimate and fairly important topics to which most people said yes. Just like I imagine most people would say puppies are cute, and ice cream is tasty. Not exactly ground breaking topics.
I and Denise Amos of the Times Union asked if there were any questions about how the staff felt about the curriculum, i.e. a teacher may say they like their school, but they also do not like the curriculum they are required to teach and they feel it is appropriate, was there any questions like that addressed in the survey. The super admitted there were no such questions on the survey.
See that’s the thing, like many of us, we may like or love our schools but at the same time we find what we are required to teach inappropriate for a variety of reasons.
Professional development has increased (that doesn’t mean it is good) and I believe every principal cares about safety (that doesn’t mean discipline has improved) but answering those questions in the affirmative doesn’t address our issues.
So sure the survey may have some peripheral value but time and time again the district has shown they aren’t all that interested in really hearing what the staff has to say. Where are our survey monkeys about discipline, Duval reads, common core math, a lack of recess and admins in our classrooms not looking to improve instruction but for gotcha moments. If they really are interested in knowing what staff thinks then those are the questions they need to be asking about.
So to sum up, on my day off where I planned to pajama and Netflix all day long I dragged myself down to the school board building to attend a press conference where I learned exactly what I already knew. Don’t be concerned, I have my pajamas back on.
Now that I think back there was one bit of note. I asked about why only 14% of Duval’s teachers are considered highly effective where 40 percent of the states are. The super said, our distribution was more realistic than other districts. I am not so sure about that, I get it too, evaluations are on a bell curve where we should have fewer highly effective and needs improvement on the ends, but I think we have a lot of highly effective teachers not graded that way for a variety of reasons most of which have nothing to do with their teaching.