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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran's amoral leadership

Just in case you didn't know it Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is not an educator, he's a legislator that championed charter school bills that benefited him and his wife who runs charter schools. Since we live in Florida this is okay, most decent places wouldn't entertain something like this. 

At the recent State Board of Education, ironically a group also devoid of educators, Corcoran on the job for five months went after a superintendent who started as a teacher who then after two plus decades moved to become the superintendent of Duval County, one of the biggest districts in the nation. 

During the meeting where he was both condescending and rude he made several outrageous claims and assertions.

From the Tampa Times:

Duval superintendent Diana Greene told the board that she was committed to working with the state, but that she also had to devise plans acceptable to her community. She laid out a vision for improvements that some on the board called "bold." 

(Board member_ Grady was nonplussed, saying he wanted to see results, and not just receive promises of positivity and collaboration. He signaled a willingness to wait and see. 

Corcoran was not so charitable. He blistered Greene for what he called a “travesty of justice” for children who deserve better. 

The commissioner repeatedly asked the superintendent why she had not stepped forward to adopt a “Schools of Hope” charter operator, IDEA Academy, as an outside operator for the most struggling schools that Greene said still do not look likely to improve their state grades. 

Corcoran championed the “Schools of Hope” program, which eases the path for state-approved charter school providers to open in high-poverty communities, while House speaker. 

Duval should “go aggressively in another direction,” Corcoran said, adding, “Are you afraid of the competition?” 

Greene, visibly annoyed, pushed back. She said her district had 40 charter schools already, and that the community did not prefer IDEA. She added that she had been in her current job for only 10 months, and had seen enough to know in her professional judgment that the schools can improve without taking the step that Corcoran advocated. 

“I have seen what is going on in the school district,” she said. “It has the ability to turn it around.”

Um we have a school of hope already in Jacksonville, the KIPP school and to say it was lackluster wouldn't be an understatement and neither would it be to say it is expensive. This school alone got an extra two million dollars inserted into the state budget because reasons.  There is no reason to think the IDEA charter school would do any better.

Then speaking of a travesty of justice, well that pretty much sums up Corcoran's entire career. As he has meandered from living high on the hog on the republican corporate card to ramming through legislation that personally benefits his family.

Then he while rigging the game time and time again in favor of charter schools has the chutzpah to ask Greene if she is afraid of a little competition. Well the truth is Corcoran and his school choice pals on the state board and elsewhere are afraid of playing a fair game because they know they will loose. 

Finally Corcoran gave a preview of next years big bill and that's one that allows him to decide what schools can be taken over by charters.

From Florida Trend,

“What do you do when you have a district that has 21 schools in D or F and on the verge of constant turnaround? In turnaround, out of turnaround. You’re talking about generations of kids,” the former House speaker explained after the meeting. “At what point do you say, ‘Maybe we should put them in receivership, maybe we should have legislation that allows us to go over there and take over.’”

At the end of the day Corcoran is as despicable as he is unqualified which is very.

Curry is laying the groundwork to take over our schools.

Florida’s commissioner of education Richard Corcoran blasted superintendent Greene at the state board of education meeting about the status of some of Duval’s low performing, re: don’t do well on the high stakes test, schools.
Despite Corcoran’s bombastic and bordering on rude comments, one might confuse the exchange as two educators having a disagreement on what’s best for Duval’s children. It wasn’t, it was political theater on the part of Corcoran who nobody should believe for a second cares about the fate of our poor and minority children on the north and west sides of town.    
First nobody should confuse Corcoran as an educator, he is not. The closest he came to education before being appointed commissioner was his wife runs charter schools and while he in the legislature he routinely championed bills that would benefit him and his family. Green on the other hand has two plus decades of experienced and has risen from teacher all the way to superintendent of one of the largest school districts in the nation. In a state that cared about education and exchange like what happened never would have.
During the meeting Corcoran asked Greene why she didn’t just give the low performing schools to charter schools something of which Duval already has 40 of. Most of these charter schools however aren’t set up in the neighborhoods that serve our poor and mostly minority students because most of the ones that did have failed and are closed. The truth of the matter is charters that set up in areas mired in poverty often do considerably worse than the public schools there.
Now some might point to the crown jewel of the local charter school movement the KIPP school as evidence they can succeed, but you would be wrong. One of the schools they opened had to merge with another to avoid a failing grade. It’s school day and school year are longer, it serves a smaller percentage of free and reduced lunch and minority students than the nearby schools and it spends about a third more per student than traditional public schools do. Despite all these advantages it’s grade goes up and down more often than your typical yo yo.
Corcoran who despite routinely disparaged DeSantis before he became the republican nominee was appointed to his job as commissioner doesn’t really care about things like above because his goal is not to improve our schools, it is to replace them with charters, a goal that another local politician and political ally of his, Lenny Curry seems to have as well.
Curry has never been a supporter of our local public schools, as evidenced by him funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to his super donor, Gary Chartrand’s charter school, or vetoing an unanimously passed City Council resolution asking the state board of education not to raise algebra cut scores because it would lead to more, and again poor and mostly minority, students failing. Then instead of supporting the tax referendum, that would have the side benefits of creating jobs and increasing property values, something most mayors have traditionally supported, he has  undermined the efforts by directing the city’s legal counsel to come out with a laughably bad ruling which says the board must ask the City council for permission.   
Now with the formation of the Charter Review Commission a once a decade exercise the city does to supposedly improve the city, Curry sees an opening to take over our schools and replace them with the charter school network that his mega donor Gary Chartrand and others have envisioned. If you think this is hyperbole, this was actually floated during the last CRW when Duval only had a handful of charters and the Chamber of Commerce’s most recent legislative education agenda stated they wanted to, “Advocate for reform of the current Duval County School Board governance structure to ensure, Jacksonville has the foundation to build a world class educational system” This in short means they think the school board has done a poor job and they want the city to go from an elected school board to an appointed one, flowery language aside. Oh and who works for the Chamber of Commerce? Why it is city council president Aaron Bowman who undoubtedly along with Curry packed the CRC with foes of public education.
Ask yourself, why would Corcoran go so hard after a superintendent on the job just ten months who has infinitely more experience in education than him?  Why wouldn’t Curry support a referendum to help our chronically underfunded schools? Why would they appoint so many charter school proponents to the Charter Review Commission? Individually they might be explained away but collectively they represent a coordinated effort to replace our board and our public schools.  
I can see the pitch now, Education Commissioner Corcoran says DCPS can’t manage its schools, and the charter review commission says the same thing, it’s time to let the mayor do it. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

If Vouchers are so great why do their supporters feel compelled to lie and mislead?

Glenton Gilzean Jr.  wrote a passionate piece in support of school vouchers that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, unfortunately he left out a lot of important details, that the general public may not be aware of. According to the Step up for Student’s website, only about a quarter of recipients came from schools with a D or an F grade, while ten percent came from schools with an A grade. This means the overwhelming majority of students who took vouchers came from schools performing well according to the states metric. Which begs the question why are we providing these students vouchers. Well there are two reasons and the first is religion, Florida wants to get in the business of providing a religious education to students, as two thirds of the schools that take vouchers identify themselves as religious.    

He then mentions a wait list for vouchers which I find odd as the amount of students receiving vouchers actually declined last year and please don't take my word for it, again, go to Step up for Student's, the voucher provider, web site and look there. The main reason there is a wait list is the amount we pay for vouchers has gone up over the years as they have gotten more expensive. Voucher providers used to say they could provide an education cheaper which reminds me of the saying be careful what you pay for.

Gilzean Jr. goes on to make the laughable argument that vouchers don't drain resources from public education. First the program is allowed to grow each year which means it will drain even more money year after year but public schools are obligated to offer many more services than private schools including basics like lunch and transportation. Then with this new voucher program, families that make as much as 77k are eligible.  Quite simply put the cost of electricity, a teacher, a bus, and so many other things don’t go down just because enrollment does.

Private schools can also take and keep whoever they want, teach whatever they want and most don't even have to report what they do with the money they receive. There are so few standards we might as well say there are none all happening at the same time that public schools are buckling from all the accountability heaped upon them. How anyone thinks this is a good use of public money is beyond me.

Finally, I have a question, if vouchers are so great why can’t the proponents of vouchers be honest with people. Why do they have to make fancible claims like it saves children from failing schools, or they don't siphon resources from public schools. Why can’t they be honest and say they want to provide a Christian education, and standards don’t really matter? They don’t because they know the truth is a losing argument for them, and once again don’t take my word for it, go to the chief voucher provider, Step up for Student’s web-site, and explore.

Vouchers, friends aren't here to save poor kids from failing schools, they are here to provide a religious education and to drain public schools of resources until there isn't anything left. They are not here to contribute to the common good.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Florida needs a teacher strike and that is the simple truth of it

Today in Orlando education activists and supporters met to discuss the dreadful state that Florida had become. My Facebook feed is full of optimistic pictures and texts. People have pledged to get and stay involve and to galvanize the public to get involved as well.

I imagine several hundred people left Orlando fired up about the future. The things is what's different from 18, or 16, or 14 when we all pledged to work hard and elect pro education candidates? Nothing is what. We will never change the make up of the legislature and elect enough pro education candidates because the state has been gerrymandered to make sure it won't happen.

Look at the last election when the state went republican by about a tenth of one percentage point but still republicans sent overwhelming majorities of legislators to Tallahassee. Elections won't matter but a strike might.

People say we can't strike. Well have we challenged that in court. Teachers in West Virginia were told they couldn't strike and they did so twice and won.

People say teachers will lose their jobs. Well teachers are already leaving in droves and could they really fire us all? It's projected that state wide next year we will already be 10k teachers short.

They say teachers can lose their pensions. Well most teachers today don't have pensions because now days most teachers don't make it 8 years to become vested.

I want to be optimistic and hopeful, I do. I am willing to wear red, march, write letters and blogs, and contact legislators until my fingers hurt, like i did this past year and the year before and the year before that, the thing is none of it mattered and I can't see it matter going forward. The only thing that may work is a strike and the right to strike is what we need to fight for. Any of our leaders telling us different, advocating something different are just spitting in the wind.

All across the nation teachers are striking and wining, while Florida where it is probably worse than anywhere else calls for more of the same. Friends we have to do something while there is still something worth fighting for.

To read more click one of the links:

Republican representatives bemoan testing for private schools, do absolutely nothing to help public schools.

In case you missed it, the mist devastating for public education, legislative session in history ended two weeks ago. During it they passed a bill letting private schools take directly from the public coffers, money for vouchers and did nothing to stem the over accountability through testing that public schools face.
Now that you are caught up let’s see what happened yesterday,
From the Sarasota Herald Tribune,
A member of the audience pointed out that private schools do not have the same accountability measures imposed on public schools, including the same testing requirements.
Both (Representatives) Robinson and Gregory argued that there is too much testing in public schools, and said that they would rather scale that back than impose new testing requirements on private schools that enroll voucher students.
“I don’t think the answer is to take these ridiculous burdens and apply them to everyone,” Gregory said.
 Um, do you know what representatives Robinson and Gregory did to scale back the testing going on in Public schools while voting for tens of millions more in vouchers at schools where there is no testing? Absolutely nothing, then they have the chutzpah to say public schools are tested too much. If the republicans in Tallahassee didn’t have corruption and hypocrisy, then they wouldn’t have anything.
The republican party’s goal is to dismantle public education and at this point there can be absolutely no doubt about it.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Nick Howland Basically admits the CRC is going to try and give the mayor control of our schools.

Let me throw you some numbers, 15, as in Mayor Curry was reelected with 15 percent of the city voting for him.
18, the number of percentage points that Nick Howland lost after raising six figures to a former teacher who ran for elected office for the first time
7, the number of current school board members we have who are in theory only answerable to the voters of their districts.
I had the following exchange with Nick Howland unhappy with a blog I had written.
Dude, the Mayor never asked me. Bowman did. We know each other thru FCMA and are both Navy veterans. I met Shine ONCE before my SB campaign. When I was the chair of the city’s EPB, where I was pretty even keeled. Scott didn’t even know I registered as a candidate! His “handpicked” successor was Donnie Horner Jr. Also, hate public schools? I was the only general election candidate last year with Kids in public schools! I’m a public school kid, so is my wife, brother, Mom, Dad, nephews. I’m open to good charters because my mom helped found noble street in Chicago, and it works, particularly for Hispanic and African american kids in the inner city. And in Chicago they need it. Stop making stuff up - and running people over - to support your view. It’s ugly and it’s unbecoming.
Ugly and unbecoming, hmm, you mean like running for a position you had no business running for, courting charters and taking money from people who would privatize our schools, that kind of unbecoming? Also do you not think Bowman and Curry came up with the list together? Do you think Curry whose children also attend public schools supports public schools? He sure didn't seem to when he was at The Porter's House last week or when he has dragged his feet about the tax referendum. Look send me an email saying you are committed to leaving the school board alone and not giving mayoral control over schools and I will celebrate you like the hero you would be, but short of that you should expect me to cover the CRC closely and often, and if you don't think I can sway public opinion just look at the last school bard election. Finally I never said you hate public schools. Sheesh man, if you are going to bitch at me, at least get it right.
So what should you take from this, well it doesn’t seem as if Mr. Howland and I are going to have a beer anytime soon, but I also wanted him to prove me wrong about him joining the CRC to give the mayor control of the school board.
After waiting nearly, a day for his response I sent him this.
Hey, you know your silence is deafening and you are just proving what I think. Nick I get it you think I am a jerk, well prove me wrong about what I think about you. I would love to be wrong and would admit it to whoever would listen.
He replied and we had the following exchange.
Silent because I’m working. I’m committed to doing what I think will benefit the city, the community and it’s citizens. That’s it. Not everything’s a conspiracy.
and its apparent that you think mayoral control and a change to the make up of the school board would benefit the city, an opinion I disagree with
Why is apparent? I’ve not studied those issues or opined on them?
Notice once again I asked him if he had any plans to change the makeup the school board and give the mayor control and he said no, deflecting saying he hadn’t studied the issue.
This is reminiscent of last summer when I asked him if he supported amendment eight, a proposal so bad the supreme court eventually kicked it off the ballot that would have secede control of our schools to private interests. He said he needed to study the issue then too. Um what do you need to study, either you are for local control or you aren’t, either you are for voters picking their school board representatives or you aren’t.   
I didn’t believe Howland back then, to many of his donors were for amendment 8 and I don’t believe him now. Curry is undoubtedly chomping at the bit to take over our schools and who do you think put Howland on the Charter review commission.
Howland who is basically a less angry Scott Shine who inexplicably has been appointed to the CRC as well, had his 18-point loss rewarded and like the public didn’t want what he was selling then, there is no way they will want what he is selling now, yet there he is proving the power structure of this city doesn’t really care what the voters think.
Probably nobody in the city’s history has been more critical of school board members and superintendents than me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize this system is far better than whatever Curry’s lackeys on the CRC will come up with.
The fix is in my friends, the fix is in.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Bowman insulted the city when he recommended Shine and Howland for the charter review commission.

Friends the fix is in. I have no doubt that the mayor will try and take over the school board bolstered by a handpicked charter review commission that will suggest giving him control. Democracy is being robbed from us in slow motion. Bowman put Shine and Howland on the commission for one reason and that's for them to vote for a mayoral takeover of our schools.
Curry by the way was reelected with about 15 percent of the popular vote. Yes he did when and we should acknowledge that but he didn’t win with a mandate to blow the system up, something Scott Shine definitely wants to do.
Perhaps the least prepared and most disagreeable school board member in recent memory, Shine seeing his defeat as being inevitable chose not to run for reelection. Since his term mercifully came to an end he has ratcheted up his calls for the privatization of our schools and called for a two term limit on school board members, and yes our members are already term limited but he wanted that to spread across the state. To be honest I am all for two terms being the limit, unlike Shine I think it’s better that each locality decides for themselves. This is one of the guys that should be ushering the city into a new era? It’s beyond laughable that he should be on the CRC.
Howland was Shines handpicked successor who ran a morally ambiguous campaign where he courted republicans and charter school supporters and despite the fact he raised an absurd amount of money lost to a former teacher with no political experience, by 18 percentage points. He was overwhelmingly rejected by his community yet for some reason Bowman thinks he would be a great fit on the CRC? More likely it is because of his anti-public education views and apparent willingness to dismantle the system.
Both of these picks are embarrassingly bad and insulting and there was only one reason they were made and that's to set up the take over of the school board.

DeSantis on the stump lying about education

Republicans in Tallahassee have gerrymandered districts, and suppressed voters and as a result they have dominated Tallahassee. Now DeSantis, who has bragged about packing the supreme court, not that it wasn’t already very conservative, is now straight up lying to people about school choice.
From the Palm Beach Post:
 Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that pours state taxpayer money directly into private schools for a new Family Empowerment Scholarship, which critics say violates the state constitution.
On a three-city tour of private schools, DeSantis touted the new program, which is expected to cost $136 million and be used by 18,000 lower-to-middle-income students in the coming year.
“Your success shouldn’t be limited by family income, what zip code you live in,” DeSantis said at Potter’s House Christian Academy in Jacksonville. “It should be based on you working hard and getting the most out of your God-given talents.
DeSantis uses that zip code line a lot, as do others who seek to privatize education but as you can see below most of the children taking vouchers aren’t coming from zip codes mired in poverty where most of the schools blamed as poor performing are and more than a few come from some of the most affluent zip codes around.  
I am sure the zip code line was market tested to death and it’s also a straight up lie and DeSantis either knows that and doesn’t care or he’s ignorant which is just as bad.
Furthermore, this latest voucher program isn’t targeting families in the poorer neighborhoods, it’s looking for those squarely in middle class ones. Also from the Palm Beach Post,
 While the tax credit scholarships are used by about 100,000 lower-income, mostly black and Hispanic students, the Family Empowerment Scholarships targets a new market.
Under the legislation, a family of four earning as much as $77,250 annually could qualify for the scholarships, which equals 300 percent of the federal poverty level, although lower-income families would still get a preference.
If DeSantis really cared about kids in poor zip codes, instead of starting another voucher scheme which will hurt many of them by siphoning away resources, he would say, we are going to do whatever it takes to mitigate poverty, but that's not what he has done.

Friends I don’t like it when politicians lie to us or use cherry picked self-serving and or distorted facts and sadly that’s just about all the pro privatization politicians in Florida have.

No photo description available.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

It is time to put the canard that vouchers save kids from zip codes to bed.

Over and over school privatization proponents say that students shouldn't be stuck in zip codes that provide a poor education and that we need vouchers to save them. The problem is nothing could be farther from the truth. During the last school year less than a quarter of voucher students came from schools with D or F grades and over ten percent come from schools that have A grades.

Vouchers aren't here to save children form poor performing schools, they are here to give a religious education, an overwhelming Christian education as two thirds of the schools taking vouchers identified themselves as religious.

This saving kids is nothing but a talking point they can use because children in poorer neighborhoods, children living in poverty don't do as well as those that don't but god forbid they do something to address poverty.

You know, maybe if voucher schools did a better job than public schools we could hold our noses and shrug our shoulders but that's not the case. The problem is the most recent voucher report said the average voucher student regressed.

Why should we expect anything different from schools that can employ teachers that don't have to have degrees or certifications, and can teach whatever junk science and history that want.

Friends vouchers are not hear to improve education or save children from zip codes, and it's time the privatizers stopped pretending they were.No photo description available.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Best and brightest bonus leaves out almost half of all schools and most teachers at A schools

Showing complete disrespect to teachers, Tallahassee passed a bill allowing them to be armed and then after teachers begged for a raise, instead passed a bonus scheme that leaves almost half out including the majority of teachers at A schools. Talk about a lack of teacher appreciation week. 

The best and brightest got rid of the dreadful SAT requirement but made it so the school would have to move an average of three percentage points up over three years for the teachers regardless of their evaluation to be eligible for the bonus while still leaving out guidance counselors and dozens of other teachers in areas not considered important enough by the state legislature.

This means teachers at a little less than half the states schools (48 percent) wouldn't have been eligible and this would include 68 percent of teachers at A schools.

From the Daytona Beach News Journal

 Their remodeled bonus program would cost $284.5 million. The governor wanted something closer to $423 million so it could make a difference.
Legislators also tweaked B&B. They dropped the part about rewarding 50-something aged teachers for being able to locate their Reagan-era SAT scores. But because the answer to every educational question is to be found in standardized tests, they tied the new bonus program to overall school grades.
Something that makes it less a bonus for individuals who are good at teaching and more a group bonus for bringing up test scores.
The new B&B has three bonus tracks. One for recruiting qualified teachers for math, science, reading and computer science. Another for retaining teachers who taught somewhere for two years or more, and a third for recognizing teachers selected by principals for recognition. This leaves a lot of details for schools, local school systems and the state Education Department to work out.
Florida's teachers are some of the worst paid in the nation and this session did as close to nothing as possible to address it. There were thousands of openings this year a number which I am sure is going to grow and Tallahassee is more than okay with it as it offers huge tax breaks to charters, and hundreds of millions to charters and private schools that take vouchers

Friends if has to be apparent to you by now that Tallahassee wants to dismantle public ed and harm the teaching profession and it is shameful. 

Mathew Tanner out of south Florida has done some yeomen like work when he assembled a list of schools that would and wouldn't be eligible based on the new criteria.

If the Potter's House Christian Academy was a public school it would be fast tracked to close

It's not however it is a private school that takes vouchers and as a result it is primed for expansion.

Why should we care about the Potter's House, well mostly because Governor DeSantis, flanked by Mayor Curry and others was there to sign a massive expansion to the state's voucher program. Up to now the voucher program had only diverted money earmarked for the state coffers. Now the state plans to take a hundred and thirty million out of it, a plan that can grow by ten percent a year.
We should also care because the Potter's House represents all that is wrong in the voucher program.

Schools that take vouchers are required to give their students a norm referenced test to see how they are doing. However unlike with public schools there are no consequences for how children do. The school isn't graded so a grade isn't effected, kids are allowed to matriculate on no matter how they do and teachers evaluations aren't effected. Furthermore schools that do poorly aren't put into a turn around status with the threat of being closed, taken over or replaced with a charter school. Nothing happens except the scores are put in a report that few read. I read it.

During the 16-17 school year, the mean student regressed in both reading and math. From page 11-   The mean gain score for FTC students was - 0.3 normal curve equivalent in reading and -1.2 normal curve equivalent in math.

The Potters House, the school that the governor choose to go to, to announce this massive expansion did considerably worse.  No photo description available.
The average student at the Potter's House regressed even more dramatically than the average voucher student did and on average they all did  Um why are we expanding vouchers again? How can we load up our public schools with ever increasing accountability, while we shrug our shoulders at what happens in private schools that take vouchers? 

Then while the Governor is pushing for the expansion of private schools with hardly any accountability he is increasing the accountability, though one might say ratcheting up the screws on public schools.

The schools of hope bill gives massive tax breaks and grants to charter schools to open up near public schools.

From the Florida Phoenix,

More charter schools: The bill opens the door for a major expansion of charter schools across Florida. Charters are public schools run by private entities, and there’s been tension between traditional public schools and charters that have blossomed across the state.
The new charter schools could be set up in certain low-income areas called Florida Opportunity Zones, part of a fairly-recent federal program designed to bolster economic development in low-income communities. This is significant because there are 427 zones in communities across Florida and charters could set up shop in those zones. Those specific charter schools are called “Schools of Hope.”
What is a persistently low performing school? The legislation changes what it means to be a school that has repeatedly struggled. The designation has to do with A through F grades given to schools by the state.
Essentially, the new definition means there will be more persistently low-performing schools in Florida. And that means charter schools can open up shop to serve students in those low-performing school areas.
 Friends the goal isn't to improve education, the goal is to destroy public education, a goal that DeSantis has gleefully embraced. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Mayor Curry's hypocrisy

When talking about a proposed referendum to finally pay for Duval's crumbling school infrastructure, we have the oldest schools in the state and over a billion in maintenance backlog, he said he needed more details. He said so after visiting a private school, where the governor signed a bill allowing vouchers to grow by 130 million this year alone. Money that comes out of public school's budget and with practically no accountability.

He said this only a few weeks after he directed the city to spend millions of dollars to buy the landing without any plan whatsoever! That's called hypocrisy but its made worse as he wants to continue to starve our schools that are desperately in need of repair and upgrades, undermining our children's education. 

Who is Curry representing? It seems to me it's special interests and not the needs of the citizens of Jacksonville and our children. We all deserve better.

We are not being led by a man who has our best interests at heart. new schools would increase property values and attract more businesses bringing more jobs. Instead we are being led by a man who serves special interests.

Shine, Brock, Hogan, and Jameson have conflicts of interests which should stop them from joining the Jacksonville Charter Commission

First Shine and Brock have both given council president Aaron Bowman money, giving off at the very least the appearance of impropriety. There are almost a million people in Jacksonville we can’t find qualified applicants who haven’t given money to Bowman? Brock by the way is a frequent donor to the republican party. If somebody can make the argument, they bought a seat on the JCC they shouldn’t be on the JCC.
The same argument could be made about Chris Hagan, who through his lobbying firms, two because one isn’t enough apparently, Hagan partners and Hagan Gillmore have given thousands of dollars to the republican establishment.
Then there is Heidi Jameson who works with Bowman at JAXUSA an arm of the chamber of commerce, who Bowman gave 4,500 dollars to during his campaign, for office space. Since Bowman works there and pays for their services as well, and with Jameson being his office mate, there are just a lot of questions and potential red flags.
The CRC should beyond reproach and a city of a million should be able to find suitable candidates who are too. Instead Council President Bowman filled it with people who have shady connections to him and that should outrage us all. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Lenny Curry shows his true colors, shills for private schools while snubbing his nose at public ones

Lenny Curry was at the Potters House Christian Academy a school that FLDOE says has moved children backwards (see below), to meet the governor who signed a new voucher bill that takes over a hundred million out of public schools pockets. Later Curry was asked about the referendum the Duval County school board passed asking for a half cent tax and he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't support the referendum for November and it needed more details.

Here are some details, teachers at voucher skills don't have to have degrees or certifications nor do they have to teach any recognized curriculum. Most of the schools are religious in nature and most of the kids who take vouchers are not fleeing poor schools. Then there is so little accountability in these schools you might as well say there is none. There are some details that Curry and school privatization advocates often ignore. 

So instead of supporting our public schools where most of our children attend, Curry was actively celebrating the privatization of our schools.

Curry and the Times Union editorial board have both said November is to soon for a referendum and it will be to expensive, well I submit another year of crumbling schools will be even more expensive. Also it's the hope of many that this can free up some money and help address the shrinking and under paid staff. Rome is burning and Curry who doesn't support public education is fiddling.

To read more, click the link,

Potter's house where kids go backwards,if it were a public school it would be on the fast track to being closed but since it is a private one it is allowed to expand...
No photo description available.

Council President Aaron Bowman’s dreadful charter review commission picks.

Aaron Bowman’s dreadful charter review commission picks.
First, who is Aaron Bowman, well currently he is the president of the city council and represents district 3, (Atlantic and beach heading towards the beach.
Next, what’s the charter review commission, well it’s a once a decade group that reviews everything Jacksonville and makes recommendations to change things. The last go around their big recommendation was to make the school board all appointed something or something similar I am sure will happen this go around.
That out of the way let’s talk about some of the horrible recommendations he made.
First there is Scott Shine the worst and most unprepared school board member in recent memory, seeing the writing on the wall he didn’t run for reelection, instead he joined a pro privatization group which is looking to dismantle public education.
Then there is Nick Howland the Scott Shine look alike who wanted to replace him on the school board and who despite raising tons of money lost by 18 points to former teacher Elizabeth Anderson. Hmm makes you wonder what Bowman saw that the beaches didn’t.
Then there is special interest lawyer Lindsey Brock who according to the Times Union “has been active in organizations related to the port. Geeze Louise I wonder whose interests he is going to look out for?
Next there is lobbyist for the Northeast Florida builder’s association Chris Hagan and nothing screams looking out for the little guy like lobbyist for builders.
Then there is Heidi Jameson whose chief qualification seems to be she works in the same office at JAXUSA with Bowman.
Throw in Bowman’s BFF on the council Matt Schelenberg who has done nothing for public education but complain about it when the superintendent finally said enough is enough and had the audacity to ask the city to start paying its fair share and Frank Denton the retired editor at the Times Union who wrote one piece after another that supported the privatization of our schools and privatizers like Gary Chartrand and we have a recipe for, hmm, what’s greater than disaster?
Bowman’s pick are both shameful and dreadful. The charter commission is supposed to be a serious exercise to improve the city, not staffed with a bunch of hacks who want to privatize public ed and serve special interests.
For shame Bowman, for shame.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

DCPS fails students when it refuses to fail students

Duval County fails student when it refuses to fail students
I went to summer school twice growing up, once in fourth grade and the other in sixth and both times for math. I just wasn’t that in to it and if I didn’t do it at school it didn’t get done and back then they would fail you for things like bad grades that came of the result of dozens of missed homework assignments. That wouldn’t happen today and not just because fewer and fewer teachers give homework, nope it’s because DCPS has created a near zero tolerance policy for failing students, which ultimately fails students.
We should all understand that one of the goals of education should be not to fail student. Teachers and schools should do all they can to see students develop the skills they need to be successful at the next grade and friends that is what is going on. That being said, despite the best efforts of their teachers, some students may not be ready for promotion at the end of the year (even sadder is we know longer have money for things like summer school) and at this point the district has to options, retain them in an effort to have them get the skills they need or to promote them unprepared. The district seems to have unilaterally decided the second option is the preferred one.  
One teacher told me, “I have a XX student who failed every quarter last year but made enough growth on IReady (a computer program the district is relying on more and more, much to the chagrin of many teachers) that they passed him up. This year he has failed every quarter of XX grade, but will make the growth score again. He has made improvement but he is nowhere near where he needs to be for XX grade, but he will be promoted.
Imagine that a student not ready for the next grade struggles when pushed ahead. Professional educators like the superintendent and her administration should know this is what will happen but that hasn’t stopped them from implementing their pass at all costs plan. All across the district during early release days and during professional development, teachers are being instructed by their principals and district administrators not to fail any students regardless of grades or skills and that if the student doesn’t have the grades they will be administratively promoted.    
Several teachers told me that if they believe a student should be retained because of what they have done in class, they the teacher would have to have both reams of paperwork and then defend the decision to area administrators and perhaps the superintendent herself. Since this is the case, at this point I think we should ask ourselves if the district believes teachers are professionals or not.
I believe they are but when downtown questions every decision they make and overrides many of them despite the fact it is the teacher and not the superintendent or some other administrator who was been working with the child, they have just told that teacher and all the others that they are not professionals. One teacher asked me, when speaking on the condition of anonymity as they all did because they feared retribution, what does it matter what I do all year long if some admin can come in and just summarily override all the work I have put in? The answer is it doesn’t and them doing so diminishes the teaching profession.
Now principals and administrators might argue they aren’t forcing teachers to do anything, Area superintendent Cagle wrote in her memo in all caps that she NEVER told any teacher to change grades, but what choice do teachers on one year contracts that can be let go for any or no reason really have but to comply?
When people complained about tenure, they would pound their fists and say, but it protects bad teachers. The thing is it never did, for you see bad teachers don’t usually last long. No tenure was there to protect the teachers, who questioned and pushed back. The ones who would say, hey passing a student to inflate the districts numbers, or ones who won’t be successful is wrong. Tenure was there for the teachers who said, no, when they were asked to do something they knew they shouldn’t. Well who is going to say no, now? I submit that if a person, a teacher or even a principal knows they can be fired for saying no, even if they know saying no, is the right thing to do, then the chances of them saying no aren’t that great. So maybe the district didn’t tell any particular teacher to change their grades but teacher after teacher told me the implication of them not doing so was loud and clear.   
The district might likewise defend their stance by saying children who are retained are more likely to drop out and face hardships in lives. They might say the evidence says that passing them along actually benefits them.  This reminds me about how algebra 2 was a requirement for graduation for a couple years and because of it a lot of students graduated with certificates of completions rather than diplomas.
Somewhere along the line somebody read that students who take and pass algebra 2 achieve this or that, and because of that every student regardless of ability, desire or aptitude then had to take it. Now this may have been an earnest and sincere attempt to improve student’s futures but it didn’t work out that way for all of them. After hundreds perhaps thousands of students had their futures hindered as they finished school with a certificate of completion rather than a high school diploma, by this seemingly innocent policy choice the state stopped having algebra 2 be a requirement for graduation.
So what’s the point? We can’t make unilateral policy decisions, based on limited data points that have nothing to do with the child. Instead we have to look at what we know about them specifically and make the best decision we can based on it. I.E. we can’t worry that little Johnny might drop out in five years, or little Suzie might live her entire life in the bottom socioeconomic quartile and instead we should worry about them getting the skills they need now.
Furthermore teachers are being encouraged to inflate grades as well. One teacher told me her department was encouraged to give more grade recovery options, so students could raise their grades from Ds and F to Cs and Bs. At first they thought they were being singled out but after talking to peers around the district they found other departments were being encouraged to do the same.   
They said to me, We try hard to safety net our students so they wouldn't earn poor grades as well as documenting and documenting but is the state of Florida aware that Duval County is bullying teachers everywhere to not grade with integrity, to just pass children on, and to only accept a 3 letter grading scale?

Is Monday the new Wednesday? Is zero dollars in your bank account the new $70? Are level 1’s and 2’s now level 3? Is needs improvement the new highly effective? I think not.
It’s also not just teachers that are having their decisions questioned but parents too. Several teachers told me that they had parents who were in favor of retention and they were likewise being told no.
All this is even more troubling because of what happened in Manatee County while Green was the superintendent there. There the state found that several administers had worked to inflate the graduation rates.
This was reported in the Sarasota Herald,
Diana Greene allegedly withheld information in a report from the Office of the Inspector General that concluded Saunders inflated graduation rates by ordering school administrators to creatively re-categorize students who were dropping out so they would not count against the district. Greene also disregarded the OIG’s recommendation that a copy of the investigation be placed in Saunders’ personnel file.
Is that what we are doing now, “creatively re-categorizing” students and if we do so are we doing it to make the district seem better or are we doing it to actually help the students?
I reached out to the district on three separate occasions to see if perhaps the policy had been misconstrued, to see if something was lost in translation, when I didn’t get a response I went directly to the superintendent and six of the board members and only Elizabeth Anderson, one of two current board members who was a former teacher responded.

“It is my understanding that the district is working to raise awareness of the high number of students being retained. The new directives are an effort to review students who are in danger of failing in order to provide the appropriate supports needed to assist students with being successful in promoting to the next grade level.

As we work to create a culture of meeting students at the individual level, there may be situations where a retention becomes a serious consideration, and we must be certain that all appropriate instructional interventions have been exhausted prior to making this final determination. We must become diligent in creating early warning monitoring systems to safeguard student success.

It is my hope that as our respected teachers and administrators work to identify children at risk of retention, they are able to present these cases to review committees, to share interventions and differentiation strategies, in order to work toward a more comprehensive support system for students, teachers, and leaders. In the past this may have looked like “defending” ones professional competence. It is my belief that this is not the case now.

I am aware that many of our current staff- teachers, administrators, and district personnel, are coming out of an era of isolation, fear, and retribution. As we move forward toward finding new solutions, it may take time to trust that the intentions of new leadership are to identify systemic problems and seek solutions. We must do this together for the good of our children and the future of our communities.”

The next day, May 2nd, some 19 days after I started asking questions the Superintendent sent out an email to her principals that was forwarded to me, that I have included and it’s very reasonable and nuanced and I don’t believe it for a second and in fact it is what happened. In fact it sounded like something that Superintendent Vitti would routinely write when he was questioned. Now Greene did not blame middle management like Vitti would do and instead attempted to justify her decision.

I showed the letter which was not forwarded to the staff, to several teachers, and they stood by their assertions that they were being pressured to change grades and not being treated like professionals.

If we are going to be as successful as we can be, we can’t continue to marginalize teachers and we must treat them like the professionals they are and support them, even if they decide a student, a decision which I am sure they agonize over, should be retained.

Then if our students are going to succeed we need to put them in situations where they can do so, and promoting a student without the skills they need isn’t going to do so. It’s a sad fact but it is a fact that many of our students start school behind and more than a few need more time to master material. Instead of rushing and forcing them through we should meet them where they are at and develop systems to help them.

If we can’t do those two things, the most obvious two things in the world, then we will never meet our potential.
Below is the superintendent's letter to her principals, two things you be the judge and notice it says, share if you want, not hey if anybody has some misconceptions lets try and clear them up.
Team Duval Principals
I have received questions recently about our policy and practice related to student retention. This note is to clarify my philosophy on this issue with you. Please feel free to share this with your teachers and schedule your own staff conversation on this. This is an important topic for collective dialog.

While there is no directive to completely eliminate retentions in our schools, there has been an effort throughout the district to raise awareness of the high number of students beingretained.  Additionally, there are ongoing efforts to review the progress of students who are in danger of failing and provide the appropriate supports to help our students promote to the next grade level.

This review is not intended to diminish professional judgement of teachers in any way.  Retention is built into the system, through state assessments for third grade students, credit requirements for students to enter high school, and graduation requirements that provide additional hurdles that can delay on-time graduation.  As with any profession, there is a time when it becomes necessary to examine systems to ensure effectiveness.  Our current data suggest retention is one area in which our systems may need further refinement.  I do hope these efforts, along with the actions already taken by our teachers each day to meet individual student academic needs, will improve our promotion rate compared to previous years. We see evidence of teachers working on this goal in our classrooms each day.

The increased emphasis on 
student retention is a result of some particularly concerning district data. Approximately 16% of all current Duval County Public School students have been retained at least once during their educational careers. Among those retained, 58% are African Americans, which is more than all other subgroups combined.  Across the district, we have ten year olds sitting in second grade classrooms and sixteen year olds enrolled in our middle schools. We have individual cases where children were retained as many as six times during their experience in school. This has contributed to a rise in our state dropout rate, reported at 5.3% (2016-17).
Retentions are also having a significant impact on student graduation and other important social metrics. When analyzing the 2017-18 graduating class, 79% of the students who did not graduate had one or more retentions while enrolled in our school district. This impacts Jacksonville on a larger scale.  A recent analysis revealed that 72 percent of former students arrested under the age of 21 (between August 2017 to July 2018) did not complete their high school diploma. Of those former students, 62% were retained at least once.

As we create a culture of meeting individual student needs in a district of our size, I recognize there are situations where retention becomes a serious consideration.  In those cases, we must strongly consider the known negative effects of retention, and we must be certain that appropriate instructional interventions have been provided prior to making this final determination.  In other words, we must be confident that we have done all we can do, and retention should be carefully determined as the best remaining educational strategy for that student.
Research indicates that retention as early as elementary school puts a child at a higher risk of failing to achieve a high school diploma and dropping out of school.  For this reason, we need to continue to monitor our students through early warning systems to safeguard student success. These systems will improve our capability to identify students who may be at risk for failure and make sound strategic decisions regarding instructional practice.  Through close monitoring of individual student progress, we are better able to provide the appropriate support, and in the end, more children will be successful in moving to the next grade level. 

As we raise awareness regarding this issue and begin to look carefully at individual students who are at risk for failure, we may find multiple paths to achievement. For some, the many intervention strategies and methods of providing tiered support have and will continue to be successful in helping struggling students succeed.  For others, a deeper review may reveal that mental health or other wrap-around services are needed to ensure their academic success.  Our district has made a substantial investment in academic coaches, interventionists, mental health resources, and other supports to ensure each child receives the high quality education that I know our district is capable of making happen each and every day. 
I hope that this clarifies not only the notion that this is not a directive, but the start of a collaborative conversation with our teachers and support staff to ensure we create a culture of success for the children who enter our classrooms. As school leaders, please assure your instructional staff that we value their professional judgment and are committed to continuing this dialog as we prepare for an outstanding launch to our 2019-20 school year.

Kind regards,

Dr. Diana Greene
Superintendent of Schools