Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Friday, August 31, 2012

Jeb Bush offends minority milk in education speech

From the Miami News Times, By Kyle Munzenrieder

Last night, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush addressed the Republican National Convention on the topic of eduction. Well, education and milk. He talked a lot about milk, and how many different types of milk there are. Even during a night in which an old man talked to an empty chair on national television, Jeb's milk obsession stood out.

Here is the critical milk portion of Jeb's speech:
Go down any supermarket aisle -- you'll find an incredible selection of milk.

You can get whole milk, 2 percent milk, low-fat milk or skim milk. Organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D.

There's flavored milk -- chocolate, strawberry or vanilla -- and it doesn't even taste like milk.

They even make milk for people who can't drink milk.
Now, before we move on, we would just like to FACT CHECK one portion of this excerpt. You can in fact NOT find milk in any supermarket aisle. You can usually only find it in the dairy aisle. Just trying to keep them honest. That's what we in the media are here for folks.

That being said, if you will allow us to editorialize here for a moment, we are generally concerned that Jeb only mentioned those well known milks. The mainstream milks if you will. But what of those minority milks you never here about? Is this not America? Should not every milk be counted? Even those on the bottom shelf?

Because Jeb decided to apply his dairy elitism, Riptide would like to shine a light on those forgotten milks who apparently were left out of the "big tent" of the modern Republican party.

Powdered milk
Goat's milk
Soy milk
1% milk
Cookies and Cream flavored milk
Almond milk
Condensed milk
Breast milk
rBST free milk
Rice milk
Hemp milk
The 2008 Academy Award winning film, Milk
Banana flavored milk
Milk of magnesia
Milk shakes
Evaporated milk
Banana flavored milk
UHT milk
M.I.L.K., a Korean pop girl group
Raw milk
Camel's milk
Boiled milk
Muscle Milk (yeah, bro)
The 1989 Red Hot Chili Pepper's album, Mother's Milk

Is Jeb Bush Clueless or completely clueless

Last night during his blame the teacher’s union education speech, where he went on and on about his debunked Florida miracle he said a lot of things that were either wrong or self serving but what got me the most was when he compared education to buying milk.

(paraphrased) Look at when you go to the grocery store and you walk down the milk aisle, you have 2%, low fat, vitamin D, chocolate, strawberry, and whole milk too, why can’t choosing a school for our children be like that.

First education is a bit more complicated and nuanced than buying milk, to compare the two is more than a little insulting but far more important is educating our children is a solemn trust, an important duty that one generation does for the next. It shouldn’t be diluted and fractured, splintered to the four winds or outsourced to people seeking to profit off our children something the Bush family has done.

Friends the evidence is coming in, vouchers don’t work, charter schools aren’t better, standardized testing does not make better students, value added evaluations lie, merit pay judges the students in a class not the teacher of that class and school choice is just a fancy way of saying, somebody is going to get rich off your child.

The truth is public education despite its warts is the best thing going and it is a society that is okay that 20% of our kids live in poverty and another 20% just above it, that is letting our schools down, not the other way around.

Education is the same as buying milk, and this guy was a governor, people listen to him? Sheesh!!!

America comes in 24th

From the Diane Ravitch blog:

Economist magazine has published a major international survey of early childhood education.

The survey establishes the importance of early childhood education, which is supported by extensive research.

It says: “This Index assumes that all children, regardless of their background, legal status and ability to pay, have a right to affordable, quality preschool provision.”

Then, it ranks 45 nations by their provision of early childhood education.

The United States is #24, tied with the United Arab Emirates.

Can we expect to see editorials across the U.S. about this shockingly poor performance?

Can we expect to see a Hollywood film–documentary or fictionalized–about this shameful statistic?

Will we soon hear reformers insisting that all three- and four-year-olds should be able to participate in a high-quality program that has well-prepared and credentialed teachers and small class sizes?

Now that’s a reform movement we could all support.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why TFA and KIPP can't be trusted

From the Diane Ravitch blog,

Michael Paul Goldenberg explains why progressives are suspicious of KIPP and TFA:

There are a couple of key issues that seem to arise (or sit just below the surface) in nearly every conversation about educational policy these days. No one who is critical of the school deform movement (in which I squarely place KIPP and TFA) thinks that because poverty is such a devastating factor that no one should try to create better schools with great teachers, and in other ways to improve education for the nearly 25% of American children living below the poverty line. It’s grossly unfair to suggest that in criticizing deformers, their motives, and their policies, Diane Ravitch and many others are saying, “Until poverty is addressed, do nothing about education.”

KIPP, TFA, and other programs may well have started out as well-intentioned attempts to make things better for underserved students, schools, and neighborhoods despite poverty. But they have morphed over time into fiscal and social conservative models for how to create miracles without needing to address critical social and economic issues. Whether that transformation reflects the political views of those running these programs or simply represents mission slip combined with the influx of capital from those who saw an opportunity to promote panaceas meant to convince politicians and the general public that obviously most public schools were horrible (and please note, this analysis slyly shifts tactics by starting with the neediest, most disadvantaged schools and communities but then creating policies like NCLB that are guaranteed to make the vast majority of public schools appear to be “failing” because of doubtful criteria and truly crazy mathematics). Once the notion that “US public schools are failing” becomes accepted common wisdom, the financial vultures move in with a host of projects that are almost entirely about making a profit from a crisis. This is the way disaster capitalism operates.

So maybe KIPP, TFA, and other magic bullets are “pure of heart,” but looking at them over time, it appears reasonable to start picking at all the ways in which they have become cult-like, absurdly self-promoting, creating and/or believing all the hype that arises about them, and desperately denying any and all criticism raised about what they’re actually doing. And so we hear some people suggesting that these are examples of people really doing something good, really making a difference, and being unfairly bashed by mean-spirited critics like Diane Ravitch.

Two points I have to try to make here. First, KIPP et al., will look either like pawns or frauds as long as they are so unwilling to recognize their role in a national crisis that goes far beyond schools, one that is fundamentally about the concentration of unprecedented wealth and power in the hands of the few coupled with unprecedented levels of poverty and need among a scandalously high percentage of the nation. They fight so hard to stave off reasonable questions and criticism that I can’t see how Schorr expects people not to continue to get a clearer picture of what’s behind the hype.

But perhaps at least as important is the TYPE of education KIPP provides, the kind of teaching TFA promotes, and what that means for students. On my view, KIPP is a very regressive philosophy. It’s “work hard, be nice” mantra sounds wonderful to many people, but to me, given that KIPP is working mostly with poor students of color, it sounds very much like “get back in your place. Don’t complain. Do what you’re told.” And given that there is so much emphasis on chanting, rote, and in general the sort of bunch o’ facts education that none of its wealthy backers and cheerleaders would EVER accept for themselves or their children, it feels racist, classist, and reactionary: designed to ensure that inner-city students of color and poverty are pacified with marginal and minimal skills that will not lead them to satisfying, challenging lives with competitive salaries. Frankly, I would scream if my son were in a KIPP-style school, and so would most educated parents.

I can’t possibly develop this argument completely here, but I hope I’ve raised a couple of key points that will get some folks who don’t understand why there is a great deal of animus towards KIPP, TFA, and other projects coming from progressives. We want a better analysis of the social/economic justice issues to inform the debate. And we want a better kind of education for all students, not just those whose parents can afford Sidwell-Friends and the like. The day President Obama puts his daughters in a KIPP school or one staffed with TFA novices is the day I’ll start considering that he really believes those are fine approaches to education.

Republican leaders pile on public education

From, by Félix Pérez

Today is the third and final day of the Republican National Convention (nominee Mitt Romney delivers his acceptance speech tonight), and keynote speakers at the gathering and the party’s newly adopted platform spared little opportunity to heap blistering criticism on public education, educators and the unions that represent them.

Leading the way in bashing public education and teacher unions was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has a national reputation for shouting down teachers and voters in public forums. Christie reused the approach that backfired on Bob Dole when he ran unsuccessfully for president in 1996, namely, seeking to drive a wedge between teachers and the unions of which they are members and on which they rely to have a voice in the classroom.

“They said it was impossible to speak the truth to the teachers union. They were just too powerful. Real teacher tenure reform that demands accountability and ends the guarantee of a job for life regardless of performance would never happen.” He went on, “They [Democrats] believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents, and lobbyists against children.”

Again, playing to the argument that teachers are separate and apart from the unions that they themselves created and lead, Christie narrowed his eyes, looked sternly into the camera and said, “They believe in teachers unions. We believe in teachers.”

Education Week blogger and retired North Carolina special education teacher John Wilson said Christie is no friend of teachers.

Governor Christie, diminishing pension benefits does not demonstrate a belief in teachers. Raising class sizes so that the rich can have lower taxes than the middle class — which includes educators — does not benefit teachers. Freezing or, even worse, cutting salaries is not a gift that teachers welcome. Refusing to fund education for our kids and claiming that money does not matter is not a believable argument for teachers. No, Governor Christie, you and your fellow Republicans have not shown the respect for teachers that they deserve.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan spent the bulk of his remarks last night shredding President Barack Obama, steering clear of offering specific proposals on what he and Romney would do about education and failing to mention his budget proposal, which would impose severe cuts on education, health care and other programs and services that serve students and children.

Romney has hailed Ryan’s budget as a “bold and exciting effort” that is “very much consistent with what I put out earlier.”

Fox News and the National Journal were among the news outlets that questioned the truthfulness of Ryan’s remarks. Fox news writer Sally Kohn wrote, “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.” National Journal wrote: “Facts matter. Ryan ignored them, and thus loses moral authority . . .”

Other speakers featured at the convention were governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio. Both men have spearheaded efforts to slash funding to schools and take away the right of educators to speak out on behalf of their students through collective bargaining.

The platform approved at the convention by the party and the Romney-Ryan ticket remained true to longtime education proposals that do not reflect what educators know firsthand works best for students.

Diverting money from public schools for private school vouchers retained its central status. “School choice — whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits — is important for all children . . .”

Also trotted out anew was the GOP’s preference for allowing states to decide how to spend federal funds targeted at poor students and students with disabilities, an approach that ignores the historic and current trend among many states to cut funding for education services for children with special needs.

Who is picking the next superintendent? Gary Chartrand or the school board

I find it very interesting that Nickolai Vitti didn’t apply for the Pinellas County superintendent position. Quite frankly they are in much better shape than we are. Now it could be that he really likes a challenge but I suspect it is something else, make that someone else, Gary Chartrand.

Gray Chartrand isn’t about fixing the problems in public education he is about privatizing public education and because of this I believe he is one of the most dangerous men around, however he is also one of the most influential men around too.

Despite the fact he has never been a teacher or as far as I can tell ever worked in a school, he runs the Chartrand foundation a sort of education think tank, he is on the board of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, the State Board of Education and he also ran his protégé Ashley Juarez-Smith for school board. Just for grins and giggles he was instrumental in bringing both KIPP and TFA to town as well. He is huge in education circles in Jacksonville and Florida, the same circles that often excludes and blame teachers for things beyond their control and is seeking to privatize public education.

To give you an idea about what he does and doesn’t believe in, Mr. Chartrand doesn’t believe in smaller class sizes, teaching experience and is a big fan of merit pay and standardized tests, in affect he goes with his gut rather than evidence or the thoughts of teachers.

The rumor on the street is that Vitti waited to apply for the Jacksonville position because of his close ties to Chartrand and because Chartrand often dictates to the school board what they should and should not do. If this rumor is true then it is something we should all be concerned about.

All you could possibly want to know about superintendent candidate Kriner Cash

To find out all you could possibly want to know about superintendent candidate Kriner Cash click this blog's title or paste below into your browser. -RPG

Jax superintendent candidate Kriner Cash lauded and criticized

From the Charlotte Observor, by By Andrew Dunn

There’s no doubt that Kriner Cash, superintendent of Memphis City Schools, is strong-willed and reform-minded.

He has brought in tens of millions in grant money. And he has been making some academic progress in the historically poor-performing district since taking the job in 2008.

But the urban school district’s polarizing merger with suburban Shelby County schools means he would bring some baggage with him to North Carolina, should he be selected Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ superintendent.

Supporters say he has modernized the Memphis district’s business operations, improved graduation rates, initiated groundbreaking management policies and kept money in the classroom despite budget cuts. But others note that progress has been slow, and question his handling of recent controversies.

“Dr. Cash has come in with some extraordinarily ambitious goals. ... And he certainly has some great successes,” school board member David Pickler said. “Unfortunately, there has not been the level of actual change exhibited.”

Cash’s candidacy comes as his future in Memphis is uncertain. A year ago, the Memphis City Schools board extended Cash’s contract through August 2013, when the consolidation is expected to finish.

At the time, he made it clear that he would not stay with the district if he weren’t chosen for the top job.

“I cannot report to anybody,” Cash said, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Cash did not return a phone message seeking comment.

‘New day’ in Memphis

Cash was the Memphis board’s unanimous choice to lead the district, which is 92 percent minority students, and he brought with him a reform agenda based on best-practices management and data.

“A new day is dawning for Memphis City Schools,” Cash said on his selection day, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Starting today, the sun is going to shine for the whole world to see on the mighty bluff of Tennessee.”

He’s had some success.

The district’s graduation rate hit 73 percent in 2011, up from 62 percent two years before, and test scores have inched up as well.

Cash was also key in securing a seven-year, $90 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Memphis district also won $70 million in the federal Race to the Top competition.

And last May, President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at Memphis’s Booker T. Washington High School after the school won a national competition for the honor.

Handling missteps

One of Cash’s signature accomplishments, however, is controversial – as are a few of his stances and his handling of a number of high-profile missteps among those who work for him.

Cash pushed for a new teacher evaluation system that draws from a model piloted in Washington, D.C., schools. It evaluates teachers on 11 areas during 15-minute observations. It’s meant to provide a more nuanced view of quality in teaching, but critics say it dampens creativity and leads to widespread firings.

A few months after Obama’s visit, Cash defended the school’s principal after it came to light that she had been suspended in 2009 for altering students’ test scores and attendance records.

Most recently, Cash’s second-in-command was forced to step down after an incident at a party to celebrate Cash’s bid for the top post in the combined school district.

During the Feb. 18 bring-your-own-beverage party, Deputy Superintendent Irving Hamer reportedly made comments about the breast size of a secretary. After an investigation, Hamer resigned, though he will be allowed to work at the district through April 30.

“There was a certain degree of tone-deafness (by Cash) I thought that exhibited,” Pickler said.

Read more here:

Memphis polls yield low grades for Jacksonville superintendent candidate Kriner Cash

From the Charlotte Observor, by Ann Doss Helms

This is a story they wrote about him when he was applying for their superintendnet position.

Most teachers and staff of Memphis City Schools gave Superintendent Kriner Cash below-average grades in a survey released while Cash was in Charlotte auditioning for the superintendent’s job.

The random-sample email poll of employees was commissioned by a panel overseeing the merger of Cash’s urban district with the suburban Shelby County Schools. A report says it was done to identify “confusion and concern” among employees of the two districts.

Cash, one of three finalists to be superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, got an A for overall job performance from 3.5 percent of the 1,225 Memphis City Schools staff, mostly teachers, who responded. He got a B from 14 percent, a C from 30 percent, a D from 22 percent and an F from 26 percent (some did not answer that question). The survey has a 2.9 percent margin of error for city schools employees, according to a report posted late last week by the Shelby County Transition Planning Commission.

A March phone survey of just over 1,200 members of the public in Memphis and the surrounding county yielded similar grades for Cash.

Cash and the president of the Memphis teachers’ union both said Monday they don’t believe the staff survey accurately represents the views of the district’s 16,000 employees.

“There’s a lot of anxiety in the climate right now, but it is not reflective of my leadership,” Cash said.

Like teachers in CMS, those in Memphis have faced job cuts and a new system of rating teacher effectiveness based on “value-added” test score numbers, classroom observations and other factors. But those in Memphis also face the looming merger with the smaller Shelby County district.

Cash said “you’re not going to win popularity contests” while trying to make a “sea change” in the culture of low-performing schools. But he said his recently deceased wife was a longtime teacher and he values that work.
“I have the highest respect for good teachers,” Cash said. “Everything I do is with teachers at the helm.”

Keith Williams, president of the Memphis Education Association, said he thinks the survey was designed to ensure that Cash isn’t chosen to lead the merged district. Memphis serves mostly black and low-income students, while Shelby County Schools are predominantly white and not as poor. Williams said the Transition Planning Commission has “really overreached the bounds” of its mission and is “trying to destroy Dr. Cash.”

Employees of both districts, but especially Shelby County Schools, gave county Superintendent John Aitken more favorable grades than Cash’s.

Williams described Cash as personable and a good listener who lets teachers have a voice in change. “I would think that Charlotte would benefit greatly from someone of his expertise and skill levels to bring people together,” he said.

Cash, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark and Heath Morrison, superintendent in Reno, Nev., spoke at a series of public forums and had private interviews with the school board last week. The board is scheduled to meet again Wednesday and Thursday in closed session.

Whether the Memphis survey would affect the CMS decision wasn’t clear Monday. Board Chairman Ericka Ellis-Stewart and Vice Chairman Mary McCray couldn’t be reached for comment. Neither could Randolph Frierson, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, who helped interview candidates last week.

Judy Kidd, president of the Classroom Teachers Association, has voiced support for Clark as “the only person who can hit the ground running to get this district moving forward.” Her group emailed members urging them to support Clark in an online poll being conducted by the research/advocacy group MeckEd. As of Monday evening it had garnered almost 1,700 responses, 75 percent supporting Clark. Morrison got 13 percent, and Cash 11 percent.

Read more here:

Is the fix in for Superintendent Applicant, Nikolai Vitti

When the county first started to look for a new superintendent, about two years too late if you ask me, I thought we should target the number 2 person from a district like Miami Dade, Tampa or Charlotte, an up and comer from a district that has a similar size and demographic makeup and one that was doing better than ours. So in that sense, the board by putting Vitti in the final three has done well.

However the more I learn about Dr. Vitti, how he thinks we can fix problems through perception and how he doesn’t think teachers are professionals or experience matters, the more reservations I have about him. Then let’s face it on opening night when the envisioning committee interviewed him and during his questioning by the school board the next day he was very lackluster and furthermore he doesn’t have the experience that the other two candidates has.

What does he have going for him? Well he is an up and comer, though some have described him as a coattail rider, and he has close ties with the state board of education. The latter means he has close ties with Gary Chartrand (who the school board asks how high, when he says jump) who is no friend of public education. The state board also has a shelf life of about two more years as I can’t see Rick Scott winning reelection so ultimately that would give us no benefit.

Do I know empirically that Vitti would be bad for schools? No, I just have his statements, anecdotal evidence; the turnaround schools in Miami didn’t display eye popping improvements and a sprinkle of guilt by association.

The thing is I don’t have any of these reservations/questions about the other candidates. In my opinion picking Vitti is really risky and yeah I could concievably see high rewards but the thing is whith what the district has been through over the last few years, a safer pick seems more in order.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I am not sure if Nickolai Vitti, superintendent applicant, thinks teachers are professionals

I think teachers are professionals and experience definitely matters. I am not sure if Dr. Vitti feels the same. He touts bringing in Teach for America recruits to his turn around schools to give them an added dose of enthusiasm. Um isn’t this the same thing he would have gotten from college of education graduates who unlike TFA members might choose to spend a life time educating our children.

TFA chips away at the notion that teachers are professionals and says, look anybody can do it, training and experience do not matter, and that is just not the case. Their original mission was to be a supplement, to fill districts holes where needed but recently districts have begun having TFA recruits take the place of professional teachers and college of education graduates and the reason is not because they do it better. It is because they are cheaper, are often willing to be yoked and they weaken the power of unions.

Well which is it Dr. Vitti, are teacher’s professionals or can anybody do it.

Hazouri and Couch display some outrageous double standards

The problem with our school board is they don’t have a clue

I found it very interesting that school board members Couch and Hazouri went on and on about a remark that Kriner Cash made to a colleague years ago. Mr. Cash said he jokingly told a colleague of Middle Eastern decent that he better shave his beard before he is confused for a terrorist and shot. Somehow things escalated and a letter was put in his permanent file.

First the joke isn’t that funny and second who cares.

Have our school board members never set foot in one of our middle or high schools where teachers are regularly berated by students who receive zero consequences for their behavior. They are outraged by something Mr. Cash said years ago but they are ho hum at what teachers have had to endure over the last few years as the district gutted discipline in an effort to appear to be doing better. Now they are outraged? Well shame on you Mr. Hazouri and Mrs. Couch for not caring about what teachers have had to endure under your watch.

Mr. Cash is not my favorite out of the finalists but to bring a fairly innocent moment of indiscretion that happened years ago up as a reason for possibly disqualifying him is outrageous.

Fix your house first school board before you cast stones.

Duval County School Board wastes thousands interviewing Kathy LeRoy

You hear different things about Mrs. LeRoy. She is an autocrat with no people skills and she does some nice curriculum work. I don’t know enough about either to judge. But what I do know is the district wasted thousands of dollars interviewing her.

Originally the board had narrowed down their list of finalists to four, Kriner, Vitti, Robbins and Miller but after an impassioned plea from Mrs. Leroy’s friend, Paula Wright they decided to give her an interview as well and this despite the search company had her rated fairly low and reasonable people beleive she isn't ready yet.

Fast forward a few weeks and after interviewing the five we have cut the list down to three, Kriner, Vitti and Robbins. You can’t think for a second that if they would have brought in the original four that only one would be leaving town out of contention. No, having Mrs. Leroy interview undoubtedly gave one candidate the ability to survive another round of cuts which will cost the district thousands of dollars.

The current school board has a habit of spending our money on its friends while teachers spend their own money to outfit their classrooms with necessities. I think we all hoped for better.

The Republican Party can't hide their contempt for public education

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, By Valerie Strauss

It was obviously too difficult for the authors of the 2012 Republican Party platform to hide their contempt for public education, because it is evident throughout the section on schooling.

What’s more, the education section is used to promote the party’s cultural values, going on at some length about support for abstinence education and its opposition to using federal funds in “mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening program.” The message appears to be that schools should teach kids not to have sex but shouldn’t use federal funds to screen students who may be so mentally ill that they are dangerous in a classroom.

The platform says that school choice is “the most important driving force for renewing our schools,” and proceeds to hail homeschooling, private school vouchers and private higher education.

It insists, incorrectly, that “since 1965, the federal government has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with no substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates (which currently are 59 percent for African-American students and 63 percent for Hispanics).”

Actually, student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the country’s report card, shows substantial progress in closing the achievement gap over the past several decades.

For example, 80 percent of black students in fourth grade scored below basic in 1992, but by last year, it was 49 percent. The percentage of white students scoring below basic in 1992 was 40 percent, and last year it was 16 percent. Reading score improvements have been significant, too.

But why let facts get in the way?

Interestingly, the one program that gets mentioned by name in the education section of the platform is the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides publicly funded “vouchers” worth up to $7,500 for families to use to pay private school tuition.

“The Republican-founded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country,” the platform says, without spelling out whether it believes all public school students should receive vouchers. Some Republican leaders support this notion.

The $14 million program — which has served more than 3,700 students, most of them black or Hispanic — was created in 2004 by a Republican-led Congress but lost favor under the Obama administration, which opposes vouchers, seeing them as a move toward privatization of public education and as an impractical way of giving all students an excellent education.

The administration wanted to end the D.C. voucher program, but House Speaker John Boehner made it a personal crusade to save it, and maneuvered the White House into striking a deal to preserve it.

Vouchers are one area where Republicans and the Obama administration part company when it comes to school reform — and it’s a fundamental difference.

One can accept that Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan believe in public education — even if you think the bulk of their school reform policies are hurting public schools. But there are too many Republicans who call public schools “government schools” and want the public education system entirely privatized.

Here are other questionable items in the GOP platform:

* It says that one thing that works in school to improve student achievement is “periodic rigorous assessments on the fundamentals, especially math, science, reading history and geography.”

Actually, there is nothing in legitimate education research that tells us that is true.

* It says, “We advocate the policies and methods that have proven effective: building on the basics, especially STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and phonics; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards.”

There is no evidence that shows merit pay or social promotion are effective motivators.

As for strong leadership by principals, superintendents and locally elected school boards, Republican leaders in a number of states are moving to strip power from school boards and tell principals and superintendents how to do their jobs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Even if Jacksonville wins it loses

Even if Jacksonville wins it loses

I have been following the school board's now six-month ordeal to find our new superintendent. In six months they have finally narrowed it down to three finalists. This might be all and good if it wasn’t for the fact that four members of this current board will be looking for new work in just a little over two months, replaced by a vastly different board and it dawned on me even if we do win, Jacksonville loses.

The next round of superintendent talks won’t be for two more weeks until the second week of September. At that point they will dig deeper into the candidates backgrounds, plan trips to their home turf and hopefully this time include the public which was basically shut out from meeting the final five. How long is all that going to take? A month, six weeks? It doesn’t seem like the board has any urgency at all to pick the next super, just a self-imposed mandate to pick him (the three finalists are all male) before the second Tuesday in November.

Even if they pick a great candidate and there is considerable debate if a great candidate applied or not, then that person will become superintendent with a shroud of illegitimacy hanging over their head. Whenever they do something the public or the new board doesn’t agree with, the public and the new board can say, “well he wasn’t our pick, he was the pick of the last board, who left him as a parting gift as they turned out the lights.” I imagine the job of superintendent is hard enough without that sword of Damocles waiting to skewer them at every turn

If the board would have shown a since of urgency, Pinellas County took about five months total to hire their new superintendent, and had a new super in place before this school year began then I could have seen this lame duck school board picking the next superintendent but that wasn’t the case. Instead they seem bound and determined to drag it out right up to the eve of four out of seven members departure.

Nobody is saying this board doesn’t technically have the right to pick the next superintendent but just because you can do something doesn’t always make it a wise move to do so. As a casual observer it seems like hubris not a manifest necessity is driving their decision to pick the next superintendent.

Instead of picking the next super, somebody who won’t work for them, somebody who they won’t be able to direct, somebody who they will likely have very little contact with, why don’t they just do the due diligence and let the next board make the final decision.

We need the last few months of this board to be marked with common and good sense not just a desire to leave a mark.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Did Fell Lee say he wants to wait for the next board to be sat before the new superintendent is picked?

Fell Lee during the debate said he thought we should slow things down because his main goal was to get it right even if that took two months. Well friends in two months we will have a completely different board. Is Mr. Lee suggesting if we want to do things right we should slow down? If he is I completely agree with him.

Republicans and Democrats are both bad for teachers

from the Daily Censored, by P.L. Thomas

For about thirty years now, public education as well as its teachers and students have been the focus of an accountability era driven by recurring calls for and the implementation of so-called higher standards and incessant testing. At two points during this era, educators could blame Ronald Reagan’s administration for feeding the media frenzy around the misleading A Nation at Risk and George W. Bush’s administration for federalizing the accountability era with No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—both Republican administrations.

For those who argued that Republicans and Democrats were different sides of the same political coin beholden to corporate interests, education advocates could point to Republicans with an accusatory finger and claim the GOP was anti-public education while also endorsing Democrats as unwavering supporters of public education. To claim Republicans and Democrats were essentially the same was left to extremists and radicals, it seemed.

As we approach the fall of 2012 and the next presidential election, however, educators and advocates for public education have found that the position of the extremists—Republicans and Democrats are the same—has come true under the Barack Obama administration.

Educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators, public education, or teachers unions.

Discourse, Policy, and How Democrats Are Failing Education

Behind the historical mask that Democrats support strongly public education and even teachers specifically and workers broadly, the Obama administration has presented a powerful and misleading education campaign that is driven by Obama as the good cop and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as the bad cop. Obama Good Cop handles the discourse that appeals to educators by denouncing the rising test culture in 2011:

What is true, though, is, is that we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic.

Yet, simultaneously, Secretary Duncan Bad Cop was endorsing and the USDOE was implementing Race to the Top, creating provisions for states to opt out of NCLB, and endorsing Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—each of which increases both the amount of standardized testing and the high-stakes associated with those tests by expanding the accountability from schools and students to teachers.

Under Obama, Democratic education policy and agendas, embodied by Duncan, have created a consistently inconsistent message. More recently, Obama has shifted into campaign mode and once again offered conflicting claims about education—endorsing a focus on reducing class size (despite huge cuts for years in state budgets that have eliminated teachers and increased class size, which Bill Gates endorses) and making a pitch to suport teachers unions and even increasing spending on education, leading Diane Ravitch to ponder:

Well, it is good to hear the rhetoric. That’s a change. We can always hope that he means it. But that, of course, would mean ditching Race to the Top and all that absurd rightwing rhetoric about how schools can fix poverty, all by themselves.

Throughout Obama’s term, Obama’s discourse has been almost directly contradicted by Duncan’s discourse and the USDOE’s policies. Obama tended to state that teachers were the most important in-school influence on student learning while Duncan tends to continue omitting the “in-school” qualifier, but these nuances of language are of little value since the USDOE under Obama has an agenda nearly indistinguishable from Republican agendas:

• Promoting that all states should adopt CCSS and the necessary increase of testing and textbook support to follow.

• Endorsing market dynamics and school choice by embracing the charter school movement, specifically corporate-style charters such as Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).

• Embracing and promoting “no excuses” ideologies for school reform and school cultures.

• Criticizing directly and indirectly public school teachers and perpetuating the “bad” teacher myth by calling for changes in teacher evaluations and compensation, disproportionately based on student test scores.

• Funding and endorsing the spread of test-based accountability to departments and colleges of education involved in teacher certification.

• Funding and endorsing the de-professionalization of teaching through support for Teach for America.

• Appealing to the populist message about choice by failing to confront the rise of “parent trigger” laws driven by corporate interests posing as concerned parents.

If my claim that Republicans and Democrats are different sides of the same misguided education reform coin still appears to be the claim of an extremist, the last point above should be examined carefully.

Note, for example, the connection between the issues endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the anti-union sentiment joined with endorsing the next misleading Waiting for “Superman”—Won’t Back Down.

The Democratic National Convention will be home to DFER, Parent Revolution, and Students First to promote Won’t Back Down as if this garbled film is a documentary—including a platform for Michelle Rhee.

There is nothing progressive about the education reform agenda under the Obama administration, nothing progressive about the realities behind Obama’s or Duncan’s discourse, nothing progressive about Rhee, Gates, or the growing legions of celebrity education reformers.

If the Democratic Party were committed to a progressive education platform, we would hear and see policy seeking ways to fund fully public schools, rejecting market solutions to social problems, supporting the professionalization of teachers, embracing the power and necessity of collective bargaining and tenure, protecting students from the negative impact of testing and textbook corporations, distancing themselves from Rhee-like conservatives in progressive clothing, and championing above everything else democratic ideals.

Instead, the merging of the education agenda between Democrats and Republicans is Orwellian, but it real, as Ravitch warned early in Obama’s administration:

This rhetoric represented a remarkable turn of events. It showed how the politics of education had been transformed. . . .Slogans long advocated by policy wonks on the right had migrated to and been embraced by policy wonks on the left. When Democrat think tanks say their party should support accountability and school choice, while rebuffing the teachers’ unions, you can bet that something has fundamentally changed in the political scene. (p. 22)

In August of 2012, educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators—and this is but one symptom of a larger disease killing the hope and promise of democracy in the U.S.

This tragic fact is the inevitable result of the historical call for teachers not to be political. Now that educators have no major party to support, the failure of that call is more palpable than ever.

End of course exams cloud 57,000 Florida students future

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Leslie Postal

Thousands of students — upwards of 66,000 across Florida — failed the state’s new (and required) algebra exam this past school year.

More than 28,000 of them tried again to pass this summer, retaking Florida’s end-of-course algebra 1 exam.

Only 32 percent of them passed on their second try, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

That means that statewide more than 57,000 students still need to pass the exam — some because they didn’t try again this summer and some because they did and failed again.

The next testing opportunity runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 19 (each school district will decide when in that window it will give them algebra test).

The exam is a graduation requirement for teenagers who entered ninth grade last year (this year’s sophomore class) and for those in the classes behind them.

The complicated thing is that many of the students who didn’t pass the algebra test passed their algebra 1 class. So they’ll be taking geometry this school year — but still must study and prepare for the algebra exam.

School administrators said they’ll offer a variety of ways for that to happen, perhaps in a class, after school or on Saturdays.

But they are worried about those students because geometry also comes with a required end-of-course exam, so they’ll be staring at that, too, come spring.

Times Union education editor Jeff Reece said, I’m not trying to be objective or fair.

He said the following on the live blog of the school board interviewing the candidates for superintendent.

I'm not trying to be objective or fair. I will control the conversation, and I don't want a lot of unproductive back and forth between posters. I post those things that I think contribute to the actual conversation.

The conversation has just become what he makes it, what he decides, just like the education coverage in Jacksonville has become, education coverage that has done this city a disservice.

We wonder why we are in trouble, how things got so bad, well part of the problem is those people charged with informing us have fallen down on the job, they have let their opinions supercede the search for the truth.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Education Matters beats Duval County’s live broadcast of superintendent candidate questioning

The live broadcast averaged about 60 views at a time and had 171 total. Over the same period 242 people visited the Education Matters blog site.

The Times Union’s live blog had about 15 people who commented but it is impossible to know how many people just checked in. Ed Matters may have beaten them both combined.

Maybe it is time the powers-that-be stopped ignoring Education Matters because the public obviously isn’t.

The envisioning committee drops the ball, doesn’t ask the most obvious question to superintendent candidates

In between questions that involved words like diversity and vision, the envisioning committee never asked the most obvious question and that is, do any of the candidates have any reservations about being hired by a lame duck school board. Four out of the seven board members that are doing the hiring won’t be there come November.

How does that not come up?

Hey, just have some of those bureaucrats in the Department of Education cobble together key guidelines. How difficult could it be? Presto we have an evaluation system

By Jac Versteeg, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Florida Legislators and Gov. Scott acted as if it would be easy to create the new system of teacher evaluations they ordered up in the so-called Student Success Act of 2011.
Hey, just have some of those bureaucrats in the Department of Education cobble together key guidelines. How difficult could it be?

Very, it turns out. Last week a Florida administrative law judge ruled the state DOE’s first stab at writing a rule to govern the evaluations “wholly invalid.” Judge John Van Laningham’s 57-page treatise on such arcane topics as “incorporation by reference” provides a dizzying introduction to the rules of writing rules. The judge, ruling in a case brought by an English teacher, a math teacher and the state teachers union, essentially says that the state’s checklist for evaluating teachers is so scattered across reference materials and Internet sites that school districts can’t tell what the heck is on it.

The judge notes that this matters a great deal because, under the Student Success Act, school districts have to fire teachers who get several poor evaluations.

Judge Van Laningham did not strike down or uphold the rule’s substance. The adoption method was so sloppy he never got that far. A separate, ongoing lawsuit seeks to strike down the whole evaluation process.

The state’s alleged goal is to create a “value-added” evaluation that looks at more than student scores on high-stakes tests, although those remain a key component. Principals and others observing teachers in the classroom are supposed to figure how what “value” the teacher adds. Palm Beach County already had said it would hold teachers harmless for the first year while it tries to better train the observers. The judge’s ruling should give teachers everywhere a similar reprieve.

Just as it did with the FCAT, the state is imposing an “accountability” system that isn’t proven. No state is operating a “value-added” evaluations system Florida can copy. Changes and reforms five years down the road won’t help the teachers ousted under early, flawed versions of the new evaluation system. For politicians this was easy. It will be very hard on teachers.

The Duval County School board caters to elites, teachers and parents left out in the cold

Tonight the envisioning committee is meeting to question the prospective superintendent candidates. Seven out of 7000 teachers and seven out of the cities 250,000 parents were invited to join the 42-person committee. Business leaders, politicians and friends of school board members filled out the majority of the slots.

My question is, if this group led us into the ditch, why do we expect them to lead us out?

Teachers in Duval should protect themselves

With the board and leaderships poor track record of looking out for teacher’s interests and with the new requirement that test scores be tied to evaluations it is more important than ever that Duval County teachers protect themselves and let me suggest you do so by doing the following:

I recommend teachers SAVE all the records on the students they teach (attendance, tardy, discipline, grades, FCAT scores, etc.) That way if there is a problem you can say, so and so missed 30 days, so and so got 5 referrals and could have gotten ten more and/or how was so and so supposed to get the material when they were late 68 times. You know the things that teachers have to go through day in and day out that the administration and the evaluation tool ignore.

Then take the info home for safe storage too. In the event there are any problems with your evaluation take all this info to the union, your lawyer and whomever you have chosen to stand up for you. Lord knows the district isn’t going to do it. Teachers are nothing but numbers on a spreadsheet to the administration, that can most likely be replaced by another number that is cheaper.

Why this religious zeal over algebra?

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, By Roger C. Schank

Whenever I meet anyone who wants to talk about education, I immediately ask them to tell me the quadratic equation. Almost no one ever can. (Even the former chairman of the College Board doesn’t know it). Yet, we all seem to believe that everyone must learn algebra.

Why this religious zeal over algebra? It helps students learn how to think, people claim. Really? Are mathematicians the best thinkers you know? I know plenty of them who can’t handle their own lives very well.

Reasoning mathematically is a nice skill but one that is not relevant to most of life. We reason about many things: parenting, marriage, careers, finances, business, politics. Do we learn how to reason about these things by learning algebra? The idea is absurd.

Yet, we hear argument after argument about the need for more STEM education (pretending we don’t have lots of unemployed science PhDs). Everyone must study chemistry, memorize plant phylla and do lots of trigonometry.

The argument for algebra rests on the transfer from math to other areas of life, something that has never been proven despite the claims of people such as University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.

The defenders of the existing system love mathematics because it is easy to test and there can be test prep courses and state-wide tests and national tests and tests comparing us to other countries, all signifying nothing.

It isn’t just mathematics that is the problem, of course. Why do we all learn to balance chemical equations or memorize homilies about U.S. history? Because back in 1892, the president of Harvard University designed curriculum and said that those subjects should be the basis for high school classes.

Any cognitive scientist worth his salt knows that it isn’t subjects like algebra or chemistry that matter. It is cognitive abilities that are important.

You can live a productive and happy life without knowing anything about macroeconomics or trigonometry but you can’t function very well at all if you can’t make an accurate prediction or describe situations, or diagnose a problem, or evaluate a situation, person or object. The ability to reason from evidence really matters in life, the names of famous scientists and their accomplishments do not.

We can teach people the skills they need if we allow them to choose what interests them and then teach them to predict, evaluate, diagnose, etc., within their area of interest. Teaching algebra and then hoping those skills will transfer to other areas of life is simply fantasy, a fantasy that makes our kids bored and miserable in school.

The average person never does abstract reasoning. If abstract reasoning was so important, we could teach courses in that.

We need to begin teaching people to reason well enough to make sensible political and life choices. This is a very important idea in a democracy.

Defending KIPP is indefensible, unless you ignore the evidence.

From School Matters, by Jim Horne, note this an abridged version, to see the complete article, click on this blog's title or scroll down and paste the URL into your browser.

Problems with KIPP's evidence that they out perform neighborhood schools:

• KIPP results are powerfully impacted by selection, even when lotteries are involved because parents self-select by entering the lotteries. This dynamic is absent in public schools; thus, comparisons are distortions.

• KIPP does reap benefits of attrition. Students and their parents must sign highly restrictive agreements, and once those agreements are broken, KIPP can send a child packing. Public school cannot (and should not) have this option.

• KIPP, and many charter movements across the U.S., are segregating schools by race and class. KIPP schools are isolating children by race and class in ways that do not address how public schools are in need of reform (public schools are too often highly segregated also due to the community-based inequity that public schools reflect and perpetuate).

• KIPP schools work in conjunction with TFA and other alternatives to staffing that also perpetuate the ways in which public schools need reform—assigning poor children and children of color inexperienced and un-/under-certified teachers. (See my challenge above for more on this indefensible process.)

• KIPP schools, and many charters, underserve bi/multi-lingual learners (commonly called "English language learners") and special needs students—populations that tend to negatively impact test scores and overburden schools in terms of funding and staffing.

• KIPP, and other "miracle" charter schools, often have funding advantages, and combined with all of the above, are thus not scalable—making KIPP advocacy a distraction in the public school reform argument.

All of these evidence-based concerns are well documented and thus show that making comparisons between KIPP outcomes and public school outcomes is an agenda-driven campaign of misinformation that benefits primarily KIPP advocates.

Finally, however, these are not my primary reasons for rejecting KIPP, and I regret that the main reason KIPP defense is indefensible remains mostly unspoken.

KIPP's "no excuses" ideology is racist and classist.

KIPP is primarily a mechanism for isolating "other people's children" and "fixing" them, creating a compliant class of children unlike the middle-class and affluent children who have experienced and certified teachers and rich academic programs while sitting in low student/teacher ratio classrooms.

KIPP's primary focus on authoritarian discipline creates a police state in schools; KIPP's test-prep focus reduces the learning opportunities for some children.

So I stand with Ravitch in my challenge and hers: I reiterate, If KIPP is so wonderful, when will we see schools treating middle-class and affluent children like KIPP treats their students?

Defending KIPP is indefensible, unless you ignore the evidence.

[1] Search "KIPP" here on Schools Matter for a powerful collection of commentaries and evidence by Jim Horn addressing KIPP.

Why Vouchers in Florida are failing

Think about this, the children who receive the vouchers come from the families that really care about education. The ones that are willing to jump through the hoops. These are the kids who despite their poor surroundings should be having the most success in schools but the data doesn’t show that.

From the Diane Ravitch blog: The latest evaluation of the Florida voucher program showed that students in voucher schools made academic gains similar to their peers in public schools.

I am old enough to remember the old rhetoric:

Vouchers were going to “save” poor children from “failing” public schools.

Vouchers were going to “close the achievement gap.”

Vouchers were a panacea, all by themselves, for producing high academic achievement.

None of that is true.

If you read very, very carefully, you could find some tiny gains, but no panacea; no closing of the achievement gap.

When does all the high-flow rhetoric end?

Imagine if all those millions had been used to improve the public schools and to unite communities in common purpose.

It’s time we stopped trying to outsource our kid’s education especially since it is not leading to greater educational outcomes and instead worked on improving our schools.

Connie Hall, School Board district 5, is missing in action again.

When the Times Union asked her opinion on picking the next superintendnet this is what they wrote: Multiple attempts to reach Hall last week by text and phone call were not returned.

This on the heels of her ducking questions about why she asked the school board to withdraw the contract her for profit company was about to receive.

From the Folio:

A woman who answered the telephone at Hall’s company, Ready for Tomorrow, took a detailed message for Hall. A second message was left later the same day, but neither call was returned. Reached at the same number on Aug. 16, the woman said she had emailed Folio Weekly’s contact information to Hall but declined to provide a number for her. “Thank you very much,” she said, as she abruptly hung up. The contact number Hall gave to the Supervisor of Elections was disconnected on Aug. 15. Johnson said she didn’t have a current number for Hall and none of the schools where Ready for Tomorrow staff tutored had a telephone number for the company.

From the Times Union:

Hall did not immediately respond to a phone call Tuesday seeking comment on why she requested the withdrawal.

I have to think Guerrieri, of Gaines-Macintosh, Hall's district 5 competitors, would have been interested in keeping the public informed and answering questions.

This is not a very good start.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why doesn't Jacksonville’s black community care about its children? (rough draft)

Yeah I said it, and it is what a lot of people are thinking too, so take a moment and let it sink in.

Now of course I am not talking about every black person in Jacksonville but I am calling out the ones that live north of interstate 10 in school district 5 and once again I ask you why you don’t care about your children because if you did care about them, then there is no way you would have accepted Betty Burney as your school board representative the last eight years or voted for her hand picked successor, Connie Hall.

While thousands of kids have left district 5 and those who remained behind often languished in schools mired in poverty and saddled with poor leadership from the district those two ladies made a killing off our children.

Betty Burney’s net income went up 70% while on the school board to nearly a half million dollars. When she joined the school board in 04 she also owned six properties and today she owns 16. I wonder how many are foreclosures where families with children once lived. Mrs. Hall on the other hand received nearly four hundred thousand dollars in no bid contracts over the last 18 months from the district and that’s on top of the six-figure income she received from the district the last few years she worked there. She was set to get nearly a half million more before I started asking questions and now she has swept her company and non-profit that performed the same duties just for a lot less under the rug. All that money went to those two and ladies and ask yourselves how your son or daughters school is doing?

A couple more questions, how many of you are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, seen your net income rise greatly, been recession proof and benefited from huge contracts the district was handing out? HOW MANY?!? My guess is not many of you.

This might sound a bit like sour grapes to many of you as I ran for the district 5 seat won by Mrs. Hall and you are right I am mad but I am mad at myself more than any of you who didn’t take the time to do the research or ask the tough questions, who voted for the status quo despite how disastrous it has been.

I didn’t ask one person for money and in fact I turned money away. I turned down the teacher’s union endorsement because I didn’t want to be beholden to them, I didn’t put up one sign or knock on one door and I was the recipient of a hit piece from the Times Union at the behest of Betty Burney, though in the piece you won’t find that mentioned and finally I am a white kid from a sliver of Murray Hill forced into district 5 a predominantly African American district. All I did was talk to anybody who would listen and post stories about the district on my blog.

Despite all this I still got 2800 votes, 23 percent of those that voted. I was telling my friends I thought the outcome for the three of us running would be 6000, 4000 and 60, with me getting the sixty.

I kick myself and I wonder what would have happened if I would have done more because if I could have gotten another thousand votes I would be in the runoff but because I didn’t the district despite her dubious history and obvious self serving nature, is about to be run further into the ditch by Betty Burney part II.

I knew I was in trouble when Corrine Brown started passing out flyers saying not to vote for me and to vote for Connie Hall instead. Corrine Brown really does deliver. I believe there are three thousand or so people in those poor neighborhoods, suffering while others benefit that would vote for Hitler in Corrine Brown told them too. They would think to themselves, you know I thought I had heard Hitler wasn’t that nice of a fella but if Corrine says he’s okay, he’s okay with me.

On the campaign trail a black preacher told me, Chris, I like what you have to say but you don’t realize what you are dealing with over here. I looked at him puzzled, I had heard already several times that I was the wrong skin color to run in district 5, but I reasoned if Alvin Brown was able to “overcome his race” then I could too and besides at the end of the day I had to believe parents just want what’s best for their kids and more of Betty Burney couldn’t be it.

What do you mean I asked? And what he said really shocked me, he said, Chris the black community is okay with a thousand people failing if just one makes it. Everybody knows Burney is terrible and Hall will likely be so as well but they need somebody to make it. Is it about “hope” I asked, they have to have hope that they can make it too. All he said back, was, that’s a good question.

What makes it all the more maddening is the black community had a viable alternative to both Mrs. Hall and me, Pervalia Gaines-Macintosh. Where I think I would have been better than her, I think she would have been solid. She unlike Hall and Burney has been in our schools over the last few years and unlike them she hasn’t profited off our children either. She grew up there and still lives in the neighborhood and I bet not in a quarter million dollar house either.

Yet she was snubbed worse than I was. District 5 had the option of picking a teacher and ed advocated me, a long time resident, who is on our schools helping our kids, Gaines-Macintosh or Connie Hall who I have no doubt sees dollar signs when she looks at our kids and they chose her. How didn’t they think their side of town needed a fresh set of eyes? Haven’t they noticed their neighborhoods dying? Or is it they just didn’t care.

District 5, wake up and that includes those citizens that live in Murray Hill, Lake Shore, Cedar Hills and off Wilson Boulevard, i.e, those parts of the district south of interstate 10, those parts of the district that have been ignored by your representative over the last few years, because if you don’t you can expect more of the same.

Expect more of the same or start caring friends. The choice is yours.

John Thrasher says charter schools should stay out of St. Johns county, they are for poor districts

From scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

Well, it’s because they like to cherry-pick students, Senator. And they think they can do so because they dropped $100,000 into choice-privatization zealot, John Kirtley’s PAC before the primary earlier this month. .

But John Thrasher’s puzzlement is still a bit of a surprise. Reports St. Augustine Record reporter Marcia Lane:

The district would lose about $12.8 million yearly in state funds and need 200 fewer teachers based on the peak number of students that could go to the new charters.

Each student going to a charter pulls the Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) funding away from the district’s traditional public schools. Fewer students also mean fewer teachers would be required in the traditional school system.

State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, expressed surprise when told of the charter requests and wasn’t sure why they wanted to come to a successful district such as St. Johns County.

“Why fix or try to fix something that’s not broken?” Thrasher said, noting people are “happy with the schools, they’re performing well and they do a good job.”

Thrasher has been a proponent of charter schools and said he did vote for districts to give more consideration to charter schools with a proven track record. But, he said, the schools are primarily intended to go into areas where there is the most need, usually urban districts.

“I’m not sure why a charter school would necessarily want to come to St. Johns County. Frankly I think public schools there are doing a superb job — Superintendent Joyner, the teachers, the parents, the students,” Thrasher said.

What did Thrasher think was going to happen when the legislature - under his leadership -was passing legislation that greased the slides for leeches like Academica’s Zulueta brothers with high-performing charter school legislation? Does he remember he his party gave charter school lackeys on the state board of education the right to overrule St Johns schools if they turn down Academica?

Of course Thrasher knows. And this smells like pretend outrage. He may realize that for-profit charter schools like Academica are a political hot potato right now. Perhaps he’s worried about his own political hide the first Tuesday in November.

The St. Johns episode is not new as school boards across the state are having to defend saying no to big for-profit charter schools like Academica and Charter Schools USA. The state’s public school advocates have learned to not trust Thrasher. But his “I’m not sure why a charter school would necessarily want to come to St. Johns County, ” gives pause. Is this a signal for for-profit charter schools to stay out of districts who clearly don’t want them? Perhaps this is where the “choice” at all costs mantra hits the wall.

When does “Overall, no significant impacts are observed” mean rousing success? When talking about vouchers of course.

The Wall Street Journal has an odd article today trumpeting “A Generation of School Voucher Success” by voucher advocate Paul Peterson of Harvard and Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution.

The article is based on a study of a privately funded voucher program in New York City and its effects on college enrollments of those who received vouchers.

The study concluded that “Overall, no significant impacts are observed.”

However, there were statistically significant gains in the college enrollment rates of black students, and statistically insignificant gains for Hispanics.

Why the difference? It’s not clear, but consider what the study says about the two groups compared:

African American and Hispanic students differed from one another in a number of respects. Although students in the two ethnic groups had fairly similar baseline scores, African American students were more likely to be male, have a parent with a college education, come from one-child families (but are also more likely to come from families with four or more children), and, not surprisingly, come from a family in which English is spoken in the home.

But overall, the study produced “no significant impacts.”

If you read the study, check out p. 12, “Results,” which begins:

“The offer of a voucher is estimated to have increased college enrollment within three years of the student’s expected graduation from high school by 0.6 percentage points—a tiny, insignificant impact“

This somehow got spun in the WSJ article into “A generation of school voucher success!”

This study does not delve into test scores. One can only guess what the study would say if there were big test score gains.

The D.C. voucher program, the Cleveland voucher program and the Milwaukee voucher program have not produced any evidence of gains in test scores.

This is from the final evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program:

There is no conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement. On average, after at least four years students who were offered (or used) scholarships had reading and math test scores that were statistically similar to those who were not offered scholarships (figure ES-2). The same pattern of results holds for students who applied from schools in need of improvement (SINI), the group Congress designated as the highest priority for the Program. Although some other subgroups of students appeared to have higher levels of reading achievement if they were offered or used a scholarship, those findings could be due to chance. They should be interpreted with caution since the results were no longer significant after applying a statistical test to account for multiple comparisons of treatment and control group members across the subgroups.

Voucher students in DC saw no test score gains, but were more likely to graduate from high school:

The graduation rate based on parent-provided information was 82 percent for the treatment group compared to 70 percent for the control group.

Studies comparing voucher schools and public schools in Milwaukee and Cleveland have not detected any differences in test scores.

Earlier studies of the NYC private school voucher program showed no gains in test scores, which the study notes:

The original study of the New York City voucher experiment identified heterogeneous impacts. Although no overall impacts in reading and math achievement were detected, positive private-sector impacts were observed on the performance of African Americans, but not of Hispanic students (Howell and Peterson 2006, 146-52; Mayer et al. 2002, Table 20).

When vouchers are celebrated, the subject of test scores is irrelevant. When public schools are condemned, the subject is always test scores. Truly, a double standard.

Wonder why.

School board member WC Gentry you are killing us, let me count the ways.

First you took no minutes when the board decided to fire the superintendent, how you didn’t think it was important to is beyond people capable of rationale thought.

Next you thought it was okay to vote to give a contract to a woman you had endorsed and supported with campaign contributions.

Then you finance attack mailers against a district 3 candidate. Now I am no fan of Ashley Juarez Smith but sir shouldn’t you be above that?

Mr. Gentry this is the legacy you leave behind.

10 most inaccurate school reform sayings

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, by Dov Rosenberg

1. High-stakes standardized test data produce the fairest, most reliable,
(bigstock) and least expensive evidence of student comprehension as well as teacher ability.

2. High-stakes standardized tests are updated routinely to eliminate confusing and/or culturally biased aspects, and questions on these tests are comprehensible by any child who can read on grade level.

3. Testing anxiety is rare, affects mostly low-achieving students, and has a minimal impact on test results.

4. High-stakes tests do not take an unreasonable amount of time for students to complete and test preparation does not take an unreasonable amount of instructional time throughout the year.

5. We would coddle and ultimately damage kids who receive special accommodations if we taught and/or tested them according to their ability to read and comprehend English. The fairest way to teach and test high-needs kids is in the same classroom, with the same curriculum, and with the same high-stakes tests (in addition to other high-stakes tests) as kids who don’t receive any special accommodations.

6. Poverty and high class size don’t matter when you have high standards.

7. The Common Core State Standards will significantly increase student achievement while saving taxpayer money.

8. Charter schools are more effective at instructing kids than nearby public schools and can do so for less money without putting financial burdens on nearby public school districts.

9. Parents have more decision-making power at charter schools than at public schools and the upcoming feature film, “Won’t Back Down” accurately depicts how parents are empowered to fix failing schools once parent trigger laws are in place.

10. Business leaders should run public schools and school systems because they are usually successful when permitted to apply a corporate model to public education.

Do you have others to add?
at Monday, August 06, 2012

Does Jackson Principal Iranetta Wright know where the bodies are buried?

This was an interesting comment on the Times Union's web-site. It is by Educatedone a frequent commented on education issues. For a little scale Ed White which is about to have its forth principal in five years is one of those schools that according to the article is scheduled to leave the intervene list.

One must wonder why Principal Iranetta Wright has been allowed to remain at the helm of Jackson High School.

A quick review of Jackson's data would indicate serious problems with her leadership.
The students obviously get that something is wrong with Jackson's leadership. In 2009-2010, there were nearly 1200 students. Enrollment as of 6/11/12 is a little over 700 students.
1200-700=500 students GONE

With regards to academic performance, the school has not made a lot of progress since she first became principal of the school in 2007.

Reading and Writing are extremely important to the success of our students because in order to understand Math and Science concepts you have to know how to read and write.

In 2007, Reading proficiency was 18%. In 2012, it has only increased by 1 percentage point to 19%.
In 2007, Writing proficiency was 80%. In 2012, it has only increased by 2 percentage points (with lower passing score than 2007) to 82%.

Some are going to argue that she has been able to increase the number of students making gains. And gains are great. However, we need to create a culture of moving our students to proficiency. Iranetta cannot get these kids proficient.

Another argument some might argue is the improbability of this happening at the high school level.

Well, let's look at Ribault High School (which has had more F grades than any other school in Northeast Florida and maybe even the entire state)

When Dr. James Young arrived at Ribault in 2009:

Reading proficiency was 18%. In 2012, the Reading proficiency has increased by 13 percentage points to 31% (highest in school's history).

Writing proficiency was 75%. In 2012, the Writing proficiency increased by 5 percentage points to 80%.

What Iranetta has not been able to do in her almost 6 years, James has done in 3 years.
It is time for Iranetta to get the boot. It is not fair that other principals have been demoted, or transferred from their school only after a year or two at the helm.

What does this lady have on the district that the rest of us don't?


Diane Ravitch on CNN

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Florida's voucher system, figures lie and liars figure

In advance of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where school reformer Michelle Rhee is expected to appear with former Governor Jeb Bush, Northwestern University Professor David Figlio released his annual study on Florida’s voucher schools. The article that the Tampa Bay Times ran on August 23 repeated the conclusion of voucher proponents, but did not consult with education experts, other researchers, or metrics experts on the subject. Given the apples-to-oranges-to-moldy-peaches nature of Dr. Figlio’s comparison, the headline “Voucher students make academic gains similar to other students” is tenuous at best.

As the article correctly stated, private school voucher students are not required to take the FCAT, which is a criterion-referenced test. The FCAT answers the following question about each public school student: How well is this student mastering the standards that a typical student in the same grade would master?

The private school scores used in Figlio’s study, by contrast, comprise results from a completely different test, the Stanford Achievement Test, which is a norm-referenced test. Norm-referenced tests (NRTs) seek to discover how an individual student compares to all of her grade level peers in a percentile ranking. Educators say that FCAT and NRTs were never intended to measure the same things, and were never intended to be compared.

Education experts have raised questions about the validity of developing a concordance between tests that were designed to measure vastly different things. But even if such a concordance were valid, advocates still have reason to be concerned. Is it good science to use a questionable four-year-old concordance tool that was developed on a completely different cohort of students?

As we continue, in Florida, to separate education reform “wheat” from education reform “chaff,” we need to rely less on economists, policy institutes, and political think tanks than on consulting actual educational experts. Education research on the whole shows that privatization is no Superman. We need our journalists to read studies and to consult with outside experts when “conclusions” like this are presented.

Julie Delegal

News flash: Schools aren't businesses

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, By Larry Cuban

That big, middle-size, and small businesses were heavily involved in the Arlington public schools, an urban district across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. in the mid-1970s, was evident by the end of my first year as superintendent. The extent of business participation in Arlington differed little from that in other districts and mirrored arrangements made years before I was appointed.[i]

The Arlington School Board annually contracted for millions of dollars worth of items and services from local banks, food suppliers, and construction companies. From buying Worcestershire sauce to paying retainers to legal firms to using pest control companies, Arlington firms did business with the School Board daily.

Business leaders brought Junior Achievement programs into high schools annually. Local firms contracted with the district’s center for adult education to train and hire non-English speaking and low-income residents. Each of our three comprehensive high schools had vocational education programs that sent hundreds of students into local firms to work a few hours a day. The district’s Career Center enrolled 10th through 12th graders in over a dozen different programs that blended classroom and workplace training in construction, hospitals, motels, television studios, auto body shops, and beauty salons. A network of business-school contacts existed throughout Arlington that produced two-way traffic between classroom and workplace. The district celebrated local and national companies’ involvement with schools each June at luncheons at which I awarded prizes to top students while praising cooperating business firms.

There were also formal relations between school board and business leaders. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, which I joined in my first year as superintendent, represented small businesses, professionals, and corporate satellites’ in the city-county. Each year the Arlington County Chamber of Commerce presented at Board budget work sessions their views on next year’s expenditures and revenues. Their recommendations seldom varied in my tenure as superintendent: cut administrators, raise class size, reduce proposed teacher salary increases, drop bilingual programs, and get rid of “frills.”

For each of the seven years that I served, the Chamber of Commerce fought increases to the school budget, damned teacher salary raises, called for lower taxes, and criticized programs for non-English speaking children as costly extravagances. The Chamber did support the Career Center. After a few years of experiencing this pattern of treatment, I resigned from the Chamber. Adversarial relations between the Chamber, myself, and the School Board, however, had little effect on the richly textured relationship of the business community to the schools, as described above.

Finally, there was indirect business involvement through individual service of civic-minded corporate managers. Local business owners and executives often sat on board-appointed committees or served on advisory councils to neighborhood schools. Occasionally, firms would release employees to tutor students and participate in career days held in various schools.

Based on my Arlington experiences, I offer three obvious points about linkages between businesses and schools.

First, a school district is inevitably part of the business community as a tax-supported institution buying products and enlisting the help of companies to provide services.

Second, efforts to improve schools necessarily involves key business leaders because the school board is dependent upon the business community for tax-based revenues, expertise, and political support. Vital interests, however, clash when school officials seek more revenues to provide basic services by urging higher tax rates that clearly affect business profits.

Third, businesses’ direct and indirect involvement in schools may cause tensions simply because they differ in fundamental values. While schools seemingly behave as business organizations in many respects and even perform business-like functions (e.g., managing people, planning, providing services, and budgeting), they still are expected to meet public obligations and are held politically accountable for student outcomes — e.g., elections — an accountability mechanism absent from businesses.

Consider other distinctions between education and business. One difference resides in the values that attract individuals into varied occupations. What brings many people into teaching is serving the young. Like medicine, nursing, and psychotherapy, and social work, teaching is a helping profession. What keeps those who continue in their career as educators, however, is a complicated meld of private interests — job satisfaction, summers off, social status — and public values, one of which is influencing the minds, character, and lives of the next generation.

Those who enter and stay in business are driven by different values — not better or worse, just different. Love of competition, rising to the top of an organization, successfully building a business and reaping its financial rewards and helping others — all enter into the ineffable mix of motives and values that distinguish those who pursue business careers from those who stay in education. Rather than draw too sharp a contrast, there are educators who start businesses or join firms in sales, marketing, and managing. So, too, do corporate employees leave investment banking, marketing, and engineering to become teachers. A two-way traffic between business and education careers exists precisely because some people hold both kind of values and take risks to shift careers.

My experiences in Arlington with businesses, while revealing tensions and occasional conflict, have been bland compared to current back-and-forth criticism among policymakers and practitioners about “corporate reformers” and “privatization of public schools.” What is more disturbing, however, as I look back at my experiences as a teacher, administrator, and professor, is the gradual creep of marketplace values into schooling that go far deeper than charter schools, Teach for America, KIPP, and use of student test scores as the bottom line of schooling.

[i] I adapted this from Larry Cuban, “Corporate Involvement in Public Schools: A Practitioner-Academic’s Perspective,” Teachers College Record, 85(2), 1983: pp. 183-203.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The odd case of Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals financial disclosures

In 2009 the superintendent reported an income of 278,000 dollars and a net worth of 759,200 dollars

In 2010 the superintendent reported an income of 275,000 dollars and a net worth of 759,200 dollars.

In 2011 the superintendent reported an income of 275,000 dollars and a net worth of 759,200 dollars.

The amount of his mortgage went from 58,000 dollars to 51 thousand dollars over that three year period too. To give you some scale I paid 8,400 dollars in rent last year alone.

So let me get this straight, in a three year period he made 823,000 dollars and his net worth didn’t change one iota.

Financial disclosure sheets are supposed to be accurate representations of
what our public official make and where not a tax or mortgage expert something seems really strange about above.

Going back a few years it seems like he was doing a lot better financially before he got his 130,000 dollar raise in 08 because back then he reported his net worth at 806,000 dollars.

Odd to say the least

Being on the school board has been very lucrative for Betty Burney

From December 2004 to December 2011, Mrs. Burney’s net worth went up by about 70 percent from, 272,780 dollars to 446,521. It must be nice to be recession proof.

In 2004 Mrs. Burney reported owning six properties and in 2011 she reported owning 16. I would say she was a mogul but in 04 she reported 28,000 in rental income, where in 2011 she didn’t report a cent. Maybe she is just a collector and yes that seems strange to me too.

School Board chair Betty Burney says, I didn’t know.

This is what she said when it was revealed she voted for contracts that benefitted her sister. Her premise was she didn’t know sisters were close family members. I wonder if she will say the same thing when confronted with the fact she put inacurate information on her financial disclosure sheets.

School board members get paid what a first year teacher does, 37,300 and have been paid that amount for at least the last three years. Well friends this is what Mrs. Burney reported on her financial disclosure sheets as school board salary. In 2011, 32,000, in 2010, 29,031, and in 2009, 31,958, which is roughly about 18 thousand dollars less than what she received over that time period.

I am guessing that instead of being deceptive, at least in this case, we will reveal more of her financial disclosures later today, she just reported her net, not gross school board salary. Which begs the questions, once again, how didn’t she know, and why has Jacksonville entrusted its children in the hands of somebody who obviously doesn’t know much.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We all know Duval County doesn't care about its teachers

This was a comment on another post and if you have a friend who is a teacher in the city it may be something you have heard before. -cpg

Chris as I have said before I got out of teaching due to a Principal like that. I came from a good middle class elementary school where I had a High performing evaluation and merit pay to an inner city school with a principal who thought I couldn't teach. So I went from a great teacher to an Unsatisfactory one in less than 6 months ! To top it off 23 teachers at that school either quit , retired , contracts not renewed , transferred or like myself were given unsatisfactory evaluations. The principal was moved from another school due to pressure from parents as her personality didn't fit the other school. So this one wasn't a fit either as she was so out of touch with her staff it was incredible. But as we know Duval County doesn't care about its teachers

Those darn liberals ruined education in Florida.

Yeah they did, with their, get rid of trades, skills and arts, everybody is going to go to college, spare the rod, mentality.

Have you heard above before?

Here are a couple facts; the republicans have been in charge of both Florida houses and the governor’s mansion since 1988, some 14 years.

Shouldn’t our problems with education, and we have many, a lack of adequate funding, poor leadership and bad programs, along with everybody has to go to college and the gutting of discipline just to name a few, be assigned to who caused them.

Does the buck stop with who is in charge or does it stop with a scapegoat pointed at by those in charge?

If you care about our children it is time some of you woke up.

The history of last in first out, and lets face it, in education experience matters

From the Huffington Post, by Mark Epstein

Michelle Rhee's latest idée fixe since departing the Washington D.C. Public Schools is the elimination of seniority hiring practices in public education to ensure that only the best teachers are kept on the job while the deadwood, ostensibly the more senior slackers in the schools, are shown the door.

To accomplish this the "last in first out" policy enshrined in state civil service law must be re-written. This is the goal of New York's Michael Bloomberg, who claims that he must layoff 4,600 teachers this coming September, and will be forced to get rid of the best young teachers unless the law is changed.

Getting rid of LIFO was the elusive Holy Grail sought by Joel Klein, Bloomberg's first schools chancellor. Now that he has left the job, his successor Cathie Black has made the cause her own. But Bloomberg, who wants to be remembered as the "education mayor," finds his claims of major school reforms and improved graduation rates increasingly called into question.

So far Governor Cuomo and the state legislature appear reluctant to act. They claim that no objective criteria for judging teacher performance exist yet.

If you live in New York, you are treated to a daily dose of get rid of LIFO articles in the tabloids. Aside from almost daily editorials, there is an endless litany of "news" stories about young teachers who will be sacrificed on the altar of seniority if the law isn't changed in time. The only stories about senior teachers you'll be treated to either involve cases of sexual deviation or criminal activity. It seems the older you get the more licentious you become.

By now Rupert Murdoch has expended so much ink on the topic that he probably could have skipped his "repeal LIFO" campaign and used the productions costs of the articles to sponsor a buyout of all those teachers he thinks should be forcibly retired.

Rather than a debate, what we have instead is a giant echo chamber that won't allow an opposing point of view to even sneak in the back door. It's no exaggeration to say that more than 50 articles and editorials have appeared on the subject in the New York papers over the past two months all advocating one point of view.

Whether it's the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report television show showering praise on the accomplishments of Michelle Rhee, or wise men such as the Journal's Bill McGurn applauding the "Scandal Sheet" [New YorkPost] owned by his parent company, for defending the rights of kids by pushing its LIFO agenda, in contrast to the Times, which McGurn accuses of "avoiding the dysfunctions" of the public schools; what we are really witnessing is one of the more distasteful exercises in advocacy journalism and piling on to visit the New York press in the past five decades.

All the editorialists and reporters make two basic claims about last in, first out that are either untrue or unproven.

The first claim that LIFO "is a cherished doctrine of public sector unionism, and not just among teachers," is either misleading or ignorant of the facts.

That's because seniority hiring and firing as well as teacher tenure owes its existence to the wave of civil service reforms that followed in the wake of President Garfield's assassination by a disgruntled office seeker, Charles Guiteau. Calls for a merit based civil service system to replace the old spoils system of political appointment swept the country on both federal and state levels of government.

The laws governing hiring and firing of public employees has nothing to do with union arm-twisting of pliant politicians because the unions didn't exist when the laws were written!

If the same reporters who love to write stories about how little students know about American history would only use the vast research facilities of their newspapers they'd discover a completely different narrative, albeit one that doesn't neatly fit their agenda.

"Times change people change," so it might be useful if we compared our current three-term mayor with an unsuccessful candidate for that job as we headed towards the 20th century.

The failed candidate was Theodore Roosevelt who rather than enjoying the unbridled support of the New York Post, ran afoul of E.L. Godkin and the paper's editorial page. Roosevelt who would go on to earn the title of the great "trust-buster," wasn't considered enough of a buster for Godkin because he had refused to break with the Republican party over the nomination of James Blaine, a supporter of the old political patronage mill.

After losing the election Roosevelt went on to secure an appointment on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and continued his crusade to clean up the spoils system and create a professional civil service based on merit rather than patronage over the next six years, a campaign that he had begun in the New York State Assembly where he had served.

After his stint in Washington, Roosevelt turned his attention to cleaning up the New York City Police Department as its commissioner, and then went on to further his civil service reform campaign as governor.

By the time Roosevelt became president in 1901 civil service law had a firm foothold on the federal and state level. New York City had established several Boards of Examiners to ensure that merit rather than patronage secured positions for teachers as well as carpenters and engineers and a list of other professions too numerous to list here who worked for the municipality.

A teacher's board of examiners struggled mightily against the pressures from city hall to keep politics out of the schools. An editorial in the New York Times titled "A Tammany School Board Still," attacked Mayor Gaynor and Tammany's attempts to roll back the clock on civil service reform by gaining complete control over teacher and administrative appointments to the schools, thus undoing fourteen years of school reforms.

Referring to the civil service education laws the Times editorial states "This law has for fourteen years been the great safeguard of the State's schools. Until it was passed it was common for young men and women, without experience or training to be appointed teachers in the city's schools." (The New York Times, Sept 24, 1911)

If this strikes you as an indictment of mayoral control over the schools, that's precisely what it is.

Contrast this with our current mayor's campaign in conjunction with today's New York Post. In it's current incarnation the Post along with the Daily News and Wall Street Journal are calling for a return to the spoils system.

That's because with complete control over the schools Bloomberg, for the past eight years, didn't take one step towards restoring anything approaching the rigor of the now defunct Board of Examiners. Instead his "reform" has relied on a broken state testing system that neither provides reliable results for student performance or teacher competence.

All we are left with is a series of cliches that plays over and over like a looped recording. Almost every article and opinion piece rehearses the same lines: "as everyone knows the youngest teachers are the most effective; as studies demonstrate getting rid of the worst 10% of a teacher cohort will shrink the racial achievement gap; teacher merit should be tied to student test performance."

So now the state legislature is being hammered to rewrite civil service law and hand even more arbitrary and capricious power to a mayor who pretends that a failed agenda that has squandered close to $100 billion in increased funding during his rule will be turned around if he's given the power to get rid of deadwood. He should start with himself.

Given his presidential ambitions it's a pity he didn't study Teddy Roosevelt's path to the White House.