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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Teach for America perpetuating many of the issues that already exist within the system.

From Cloaking Inequity, below is an excerpt of a bigger piece:

Graduating from college, I was energized and ready to take my place on the front line of education reform by becoming part of the Teach For America Corps.  Many entering corps members are captured by the convincing sales pitch of TFA recruiters on campus. While I did meet with one of these recruiters who reinforced my decision to join, I had also spent time in my undergraduate coursework studying parts of education reform, including charter schools and Teach For America. I knew the criticisms, but I thought I knew what I was getting into.  I was wrong about many things regarding Teach For America.
Here are 5 things I did not expect from my Teach For America experience:
Unpreparedness for the Classroom
The 5-week summer session at Rice University was a fast-paced, well-run training session, but it was not enough to prepare me to lead my own classroom in my first year.  While I learned valuable techniques and tools to become a teacher, it certainly did not equip me for creating systems in my classroom, writing unit plans, and creating valuable assessment. Five weeks was not enough to create the type of magic that Teach For America describes in its vision.  Training was like leading us to the top of a cliff before we had to jump off into the reality of our own classrooms. All I can say is the mountain was high and the fall was hard.
Lack of Focused Support
I imagined being a part of TFA would provide a network of resources. I didn’t imagine I would have to recreate 2 high school history curriculums on my own without any training. My “manager of teaching leadership and development” (MTLD), who is supposed to be my main support in my classroom, was a Teach for America alumni who had spent two years in the classroom before moving into his current position. How is a 2 year teacher (who taught middle school math, no less) going to give me the sort of advice I needed to teach high school history?
I never thought I would feel so alone in a organization like TFA. I imagined being a part of the Corps would provide me with the support I needed, even though I would be an inexperienced first year teacher. During my first semester, I was visited two times by my TFA manager.  Afterward, we met for coffee, and he would ask questions about my vision for my students, but never offered the type of resources and support that I needed to make my teaching life more bearable. Looking back, I’m not even sure what a two-time visitor could have offered that would have really helped me.
Shame has a terrible place in this organization.  I never believed that shame would become a motivator in my Teach for America experience, but shame holds onto the necks of many Corps members.  Placing young college graduates in some of the toughest teaching situations with 5 weeks of training has negative repercussions on the mind, body, and soul of Corps members.  The message is “If only I were stronger, smarter and more capable, I could handle this. I would be able to save my students.”  Unfortunately, TFA intentionally or unintentionally preys on this shame to push Corps members to their limits to create “incredible” classrooms and “transformative” lesson plans. Would these things be good for our students? Of course.  Is shame a sustainable method for creating and keeping good teachers in the classroom? Absolutely not. It is defeating and draining.
I never imagined not making it through 2 years of teaching, but there were so many occasions that I thought about quitting. I experienced anxiety attacks and mental breakdowns from the unrealistic expectations and workload. The immense amount of pressure that TFA places on Corps members, however, is not matched by a reciprocal amount of support and preparation.  What TFA lacks in support and preparation, they replace with “inspiration.” Will this “inspiration” and “vision” change the education system? Not without some backing, and I am afraid that TFA teachers do not last long. After my two years of experience, I have learned a lot about teaching and what works for my students, but I will not teach next year. I am burnt out. I am done.
As I enter my final semester, I have to be careful when I speak about Teach For America because TFA is more than one experience. For instance, not every Corps member has experienced a KIPP school with 3 principals in a year and a half.  There are many unique stories, so I have to analyze it in two parts. There is the effect of Teach For America on its members and the effect of Teach For America on the education system. Do I believe that young people are coming out of Teach For America with important skills and knowledge about education and the education system? Yes. Do I believe that Teach For America as an organization is solving the problem of educational inequality? No. Teach For America sets forth a plan that is creating more conversations about solutions but it is perpetuating many of the issues that already exist within the system. Teach For America is like when you shake a machine because you cannot make it work, and you think what the heck, maybe this will magically solve the problem.  Unfortunately, 5 weeks of training and throwing unprepared, young people into the classroom will not create a sustainable solution. Most of us are human and the pressure to create transformational change is too great without the proper training, resources, and preparation to do the job as it should be done.

Why do we blame teachers again?

From the NYTimes, By Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegar
WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.
And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Teachers

By Kathy Palomino via the Dallas Morning News
"So, after 20 years of being a teacher, all I can say is: Help. Write to your legislator about providing funds to lower class sizes. Give us more paid time to plan."
On Friday morning at 4:30 a.m., I heard the beeps of all my electricity going off. I realized that the ice storm had caused a power outage and that I faced a day with no heat or light. I smiled because I knew that I didn’t have to teach and contentedly rolled over to go back to sleep.
Later, as I cooked on the gas grill, I realized that I must have been experiencing some serious stress — I was very happy to be stranded in my house with my family. It occurred to me that the teaching profession has gone out of control with its demands and that I would never let any of my children entertain the idea of going into the profession.
That said, I have to stress the fact that I work in a supportive workplace, and I adore my students. In my most recent evaluation, I smiled at my boss and told her, “God has been good to me!” And I sincerely mean it.
But in the teaching profession, the pressure of No Child Left Behind has left its mark. The onus of student success has fallen on the teacher, and the student’s own motivation is our responsibility also. Cultural differences, economic differences and parental style differences are the teacher’s responsibility to fix. Too many low scores on the dreaded STAAR test can spell the end of your career — an end to your livelihood. An end to being able to support a family.
Instead of the usual chatter during teacher training, there is now only the silence of shell-shocked professionals. While the presenter reads us another PowerPoint, we stare vacantly at one another and wonder when we can actually get into our classroom to synthesize our learning into lesson plans and activities.
On top of it all, student success is really a top priority for us. I have woken up on many a night in a panic over a student. Did I document problems well enough? Have I truly retaught concepts well enough? And I lie awake for hours trying to plan ways to prevent their — and my own — failure. I have been to students’ houses to take them food or firewood. I have made calls to interpret to doctors. I’ve worked in a charity so that I could search for other ways to better the life of my low-income students. I truly have to say that I have given blood, sweat and tears. And I am not unique — my co-workers are just as caring.
So, after 20 years of being a teacher, all I can say is: Help. Write to your legislator about providing funds to lower class sizes. Give us more paid time to plan. Pay more of our health plan so that it doesn’t cost $675 a month to provide insurance for our families. Pray for us. Above all, don’t let your babies grow up to be teachers until the profession reforms. We’re hurting out here, and something has to change — for the sake of our children.
Kathy Palomino is a first-grade teacher in Rowlett. Her email address is

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools

By Cindy Long
Workplace bullying is on the rise. About a third of American workers have been impacted by bullying in the workplace, either as a target or as witness to abusive behavior against a co-worker. Unfortunately, it’s even more prevalent in the field of education. In a recent survey of medium-sized school districts, 25 percent of employees reported that they had been bullied.
To read more click the link: Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools

Common Core flies in the face of best practices

There is an education term, best practices, which simply means you see what’s working some place and then do it some place else.  Well we know we have schools that are wildly successful, lots and lots of schools, so instead of blowing up the system and putting common core everywhere then why don’t we just emulate what those schools are doing.

Those schools often have extra resources because of involved parents and they don’t face poverty.  We can’t wave a magical wand and make these problems go away but we can put in place things that will help. Mentors, social workers and counselors can be put in place, we could make classes smaller for more individualized attention, the days or the year longer too to address deficits but you know what these things don’t do? They don’t pad the wallets of testing companies.

I don’t understand why these powers-that-be think things are going to change at our poorest schools if we put new standards in place. Won’t those schools still have the same problems? Absentee parents, a lack of a base and more pressing problems like violence in the streets and no food in the cupboards? How does common core address those issues?

Common core is an expensive role of the dice that doesn’t address our problems and furthermore it exacerbates testing which has ruined education for untold teachers and students alike.

The reason we don’t do best practices in our struggling schools is it will cost money not make money and that’s all you should have to know about common core.

Friday, December 27, 2013

It is time to ask tough questions about Charter Schools!

From Mark Naison via Facebook

The powers that be in the Democratic Party, including our President, have made Charter Schools their main vehicle for educational renewal in low income communities. And there are more than a few civil rights leaders, and elected officials in Black and Latino communities who view them as a chance to give families in their neighborhoods better educational opportunities. We have now had six years of strong support for Charters from the Obama Administration, backed up by Race to the Top Money.

It is time to ask some hard questions.

In those years have we

1. Narrowed the gap in educational achievement by race and class, whether measured by test scores, high school graduation rates, college completion rates, or any more holistic measures?

2. Helped stabilize and improve inner city neighborhoods and protect them from gentrification, displacement and demographic inversion (moving the poor out of cities into the suburbs)?

3. Creating a stable force of talented committed teachers in inner city communities, many of whom live in the communities they teach in?

4. Helped reduce neighborhood and school violence or disrupted the school to prison pipeline?

If the answer to all or most of these questions is no, we-- meaning advocates for public education-- need to get in an honest conversation with the civil rights community about charters, understanding the basis of community support for these schools while respectfully pointing out how real estate interests, profiteers and ambitious politicians have taken what began as an experiment and turn it into a scorched earth policy that may well be doing more harm than good.

School grades shouldn't always corelate to performance

From a reader

The main issue is that school grades don't necessarily correlate with what people think. My school earned an A, and the students were shocked. When it comes down to certain high schools, it is about numbers that more connect with gains than achievement. Instead, people think the A represents the highest level of academic ability. It does not, and it should not.

 Schools get the students they get; teachers work with the level of students they receive. Why should schools like Stanton or Paxon be compared to our non-magnet students? They should not; in fact, they should be held to an even higher level of accountability as most of the students they receive are reading, writing, and doing math on level or way above the standard. When a school like Jackson last year earned the B as referenced in another entry, it meant that gains took place in certain categories for whatever reasons. (I understand that those reasons sometimes are variable.) 

This year First Coast and Lee went up 1 level (to a B) and 2 levels (to an A) respectively, not because every student can read and write on level, but because they made gains in various areas set forth by the Florida Department of Education. The A is sometimes about a high level of achievement, the progress a school makes, or both. What we need is a more concise and clear way to define achievement, so everyone understands what the grades mean. 

There is a research article that really redefined my beliefs about literacy and teaching pedagogy. It is called  "The Early Catastrophe: 
The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3."
How can we possibly grade all schools in the same way? 

I encourage anyone who believes that the system could or should ever work the way it does to read this article. Schools should always, and I mean always, be about progress. Even then, progress should be defined based on many things. Once you read this article, you will understand.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Charter Schools USA wants us to ignore their failures.

Jonathan Hage, make that millionaire and CEO of Charter Schools USA Jonathan Hage complains about failing public schools and he says that only by putting more money into his bank account  (emphasis mine) will kids have a chance. 

He talks about the greatness of his charter schools while at the same time he wants us to ignore his failures (and I am sure his bank account) Tampa recently tuned down his application to start a Charter School on McDill air force base sighting the poor result of several of his schools and three schools he was given to run in Indiana buy his pal Tony “I love charter schools” Bennett all received failing grades. 

Bob Sykes writes in Scathing Purple Musings, Hage’s “we are the change we’ve been waiting for” message was rich in hyperbole, but completely lacking in policy, proposals or facts on the ground.  Who can blame him? His outfit earned three F’s  at the three Indianapolis schools Tony Bennett handed to him – along with $6 million more of Indiana taxpayer money than he supposed to have gotten.  Meanwhile, he’s in the midst of again leveraging the gamed appeals system he helped put in place to bag another building on MacDill AFB.

I don’t know how else to say it but this guy and his ilk don’t care about helping children, anything they say is a subterfuge to their real intent of taking as much tax payer money as they can. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ed Reformers, if only the rich had more money!

It has always befuddled me the rights trickle down argument. That is if the rich have more money they will spend it and it will benefit everybody. We have had 30 plus years of it and all it has led to is unprecedented income inequality. If the rich had cats or newspapers instead of money they would be featured on cable TV shows like hoarders.

What’s my point? It’s education deformers like Robert Enlow president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice are still calling for education savings accounts (ESAs), which families can use to cover private school tuition, tutors, therapies, online courses – or a combination of those tools – and even college expenses for everyone regardless of income. Hey make an obscene amount of money? Well here is a few thousand more at taxpayer’s expense. That expensive private school just got a little cheaper.

Furthermore I guess it doesn’t matter to Enlow that study after study says kids who attend voucher private schools don’t do any better but facts and evidence rarely deter these guys from what their gut says or what their lifestyle demands.

Later in the article he went on to bemoan high stakes testing saying parents did not choose private schools because of how well they did on them saying, Moreover, not one surveyed parent said “higher standardized test scores” were the main reason they chose a private school. Why then are we pushing schools down the standardized path?

But his answer is not to do away with them or diminish their importance; instead his answer is to give taxpayer money to rich people and to siphon resources out of public schools.

I want to make one more point. He then went on to say competition has been great for a number of industries, agriculture, transportation, power, communication and, most recently, computers and the Internet.

Isn’t agriculture practically owned by a few super companies and don’t we give out huge farm subsidies, didn’t taxpayers build the transportation infrastructure and bail out Detroit, aren’t most power companies (besides big oil) quasi-governmental institutions using tax payer funded infrastructure, communication resulted only after the government broke up a monopoly and they use citizen owned air waves and didn’t the government develop the internet and then just give it away? 

All of these entities owe much of their success to the tax payer and the government and where I am not saying our schools are problem free, ignore poverty and over test much, I am saying it's not the hapless boogeyman people like Endlow would have you believe. Once again facts and evidence rarely deter these guys from what their gut says or what their lifestyle demands

Monday, December 23, 2013

Teachers, the greediest people around.

Or at least that’s the way John Hage millionaire owner of Charter School U.S.A. makes them sound.

Writing in Redefined Ed, Jeb Bush’s pro-privatization blog, where they never met a public school that was good or a charter school that was bad, he said: Now that the education reform movement has grown to nearly 2.3 million students in charter schools and hundreds of thousands more in other reform alternatives, it is my wish that education reformers avoid becoming like the very system we want to transform.

We don’t want to be driven by adult interests. Nor do we want to become just another blob of regulation and red tape filled with political subterfuge that closely resembles the current broken K-12 traditional education system.

I find it rich that millionaires complain about teachers and their adult interests. Though I admit I have lots of them. I like to pay my rent, I only want to eat ramen noodles the two days before payday and occasionally I even like to go to a movie at night.

As for the broken system, I admit our system has huge problems, like ignoring poverty and depending on high stakes testing to grade our schools. The problem however is these are championed by Hage and his ilk. They in effect have put in place roadblocks and then chuckled while using them to prove their points.

Furthermore speaking of a failed system, Charter Schools U.S.A. has been denied expansion in Tampa because of poor performance. It’s the height of hypocrisy that he complains about public schools when the schools he runs despite numerous advantages aren’t performing any better and often times worse than their public school counterparts. 

This guy is a mercenary and I take some solace knowing that if the reform movement/err privatization movement is using him as your poster boy then they are doomed.

To read more about Hage's utter lack of humility, click the link:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

40 Duval Schools benefit from grade protection

Yada, yada, yada, and the state board of education has a rule that schools can’t drop more than one letter grade no matter what. Many others and I have debated the reasons behind this rule many times. Regardless 40 Duval schools benefited from the rule this past year and that means about a quarter of our schools should have dropped two letter grades.

Look I think we have a lot of good things going on and I think after years of poor management we are finally headed in the right direction. This is just another example of how far we have to go and the hole Pratt-Dannals and the old school board left us in.

The thing that gets me though is who besides my blog is reporting it? I mean who and isn’t this something the people of Jacksonville deserve to know?

Our media has let our city down and in doing so has caused or exacerbated many of our problems. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jackson drops to a C in Iranetta's last year, would have beeb a D without the Chartrand rule.

People were shocked when Iranetta Wright the principal of Jackson high school was promoted to area chief last summer. Under her stewardship the only thing that Jackson had really accomplished was chasing most of its children away as enrollment dropped dramatically. That is except in the 2011-12 school year when the grade miraculously rose to a B.

People questioned if one good year after four abysmal ones was good enough to see her elevated so high, especially since the district had put lot and lots of extra resources into the school. Well friends it turns out the B grade was an aberration because in her last year there the school grade dropped to a C but would have dropped even farther if the state wouldn't have put in a one letter grade drop rule. Without that the schools grade would have been a D or worse.

I am told she has brought her bullyesque self promoting style to her district position too.

How did she get that job again? Especially in this era when many principals are one and done if their school doesn't improve.

Vitti should have some explaining to do!

To read a little more click the links:

Florida's school grading system has been so tweaked and massaged it has been divorced from reality

Duval's scores would be very similar. From the Tampa Times editorial board: 
Good high schools. Great faculty. Underperforming students. • That's the condensed version of recent education reports out of Tallahassee spawned by an accountability system gone awry. Apparently schools and teachers are doing great, it's just the students who aren't making the grade.
Gov. Rick Scott and local educators boasted last week that Florida high schools are doing above-average work. Some 240 high schools, or about 48 percent of Florida high schools, earned A's. And earlier this month, state reports showed a minuscule number of teachers with "unsatisfactory" job performance.
Yet Florida's graduation rate is below the national average, according to the U.S. Education Department. And these median four-year graduation rates, buried in the state's accountability formula, show the reality for Tampa Bay area students:
82 Percentage of Pasco students who graduated from A-rated high schools, meaning 18 percent missed graduation.
79 Percentage of Pinellas students who graduated from B-rated schools, meaning 21 percent were left behind. No school in the district scored less than a B.
75 Percentage of Hillsborough students who graduated from B-rated high schools, meaning 1 in 4 didn't graduate.
70 Percentage of Hernando students who graduated from C-rated high schools, meaning 30 out of 100 didn't graduate.
No matter what Tallahassee says, that's not good enough. It is time to overhaul Florida's school grading system, which has been so tweaked and massaged as to be divorced from reality. A system giving grades that parents, educators and students can't trust is an exercise without a purpose.

Obama's Common Core Hipocrisy

I get tired of people like Jeb Bush, Arne Duncan and President Obama saying this is what your kids need while they send their kids to some place all together different.

President Obam's administration is selling Common Core as a savior for our schools. The rhetoric he and his strange bedfellow Jeb Bush have generated is truly staggering but like how Jeb Bush sent his children to private schools with small classes and without high stakes testing, Bush said the former was a waste for public schools kids and endorsed the later, Obama's children go to a school that Diane Ravitch points out wants nothing to do with the common core.

What's good for our children obviously isn't good for their children and that should be all that we need to know.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Frank Denton jumps on the DCPS bandwagon.

In an editorial he said the old school board was known for its stupidity. I used to scream that from the roof tops but was generally ignored by the Times Union as they parroted the previous administrations all is well message and this despite the fact everybody knew it wasn't true. 

I must have written the Times Union hundreds of letters detailing what was going on yet it seemed like they took every opportunity to ignore them especially after Phil Frentz retired. Now it seems like they are rewriting history and if you want proof go back and read the TUs editorials or go to my blog because every time they wrote we have the right leader for the job or we are headed in the right direction I disputed it. .

Denton and the Times Union can't just jump on the DCPS bandwagon because unless they exercise due diligence and the Times Union does its job, something it really didn't do for a while, then we will just have a repeat of what went on for years. 

Denton might now try to rewrite history but in doing so he might be dooming us to repeat it. 

Poverty holding children back is not just a theory

Poverty not effecting children should join the list:

Poverty is a lot more than just an excuse.

The ed deformers say poverty is nothing but an excuse. Yeah kind of the way gravity is just an excuse that we don't float off into space. More and more academic research is coming out showing how debilitating it actual is.  

New research suggests that children who experience poverty early on in their lives may suffer negative brain changes that can lead to lifelong problems, such as learning difficulties, depression and the inability to cope with stress. This is according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with cognitive achievement throughout life.

First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.

People always say education can be the great equalizer, then they turn around and siphon out resources and kneecap the profession of teaching.  You know why they say poverty is nothing but an excuse? It is because the money it would cost to address it would go into our schools and not into their bank accounts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pittsburgh says no thank you to Teach for America, it is time Jacksonville did the same.

Teach for America does the exact opposite of what we know to be best but that hasn't stopped Duval from putting a hundred or so of these hobbyists in our classrooms each year. There most muddle through for up to two years before they are off to do something else. Pittsburgh (and Tampa) have said no than you. 

From the Washington Post: Here’s some education news that you don’t hear every day: The Pittsburgh school board is rescinding a $750,000 contract with Teach For America, and keeping open an elementary school slated to be shuttered.

The board’s four new members, taking a new reform tact, drove the decision to drop the contract by a 6-2  vote with one abstention; in late November, before the new members were sworn in, the board approved the contract 6-3.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Danielle Montoya, regional communications director for Teach For America, said the new vote was the first time any school board had reversed itself on bringing in TFA corps members into a district. Earlier this year, however, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a line item inserted into the state’s higher education legislation that would have given $1.5 million to Teach For America over two years.
At a hearing in Pittsburgh last week, some board members took issue with a plan that Superintendent Linda Lane said would add to the district’s teaching diversity. Teach For America is known for hiring non-teachers, mostly new college graduates, and then giving them five weeks of summer training before placing them in high-needs urban and rural schools. Regina Holley, a board member, expressed skepticism at the hearing about how TFA corps members could be properly trained to handle difficult classrooms with so little training, saying, “I find that a bit outrageous.”
The school board also voted to keep open an elementary school, which is way below capacity in terms of student enrollment, that the previous board had agreed to close. The Pittsburgh City Council had called for a moratorium on school closings even though the panel has no authority over the school system or the school board.
Closing schools and hiring teachers through non-traditional routes are big parts of the modern school reform agenda, and the Pittsburgh news reflects growing opposition to it. TFA is an organization that is highly popular with school reformers and the Obama administration, which has given it tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, but a growing number of people, including former TFAers, have been speaking out against its short training and other issues.

Diane Ravitch: Who is Common Core really for?

From the Diane Ravitch blog:

Education Week reports that 68% of districts plan to buy new instructional resources to meet the demands of Common Core.
That is, some 7,600 districts plan to buy new materials.
Most are planning to buy online resources, presumably to prepare for online testing.
I wish some researchers would estimate the shift of resources to pay for the new stuff.
As districts purchase more Common Core aligned materials, hardware and software, what do they spend less on?
Class size? Teachers? The arts? Physical education? Social workers? Guidance counselors? Librarians?

This is not a good news education blog: Jacksonville’s drop out rate skyrockets and the district is rated a C for the second year in a row by the state.

If you have been following the news you might think everything is rosy here in Jacksonville but not so fast. Our drop out rate is the highest it has been in years growing a whopping 30% to 4.1% of all students.                                                                                 . .                                                                                                 08-09        09-10         10-11       11-12         12-13

Then despite the fact many of our individual school grades went up, our overall district grade remained a C.

Yes, lets celebrate good news but the problem around here is to often we ignore bad news. For years the Pratt-Dannals rein of error parroted an all is well message and everyone new things weren’t. If we want to be successful we need to have an honest conversation and that includes discussing our warts too. 

My take on Jacksonville’s school grades

First I have to say our schools were never as bad as they were reported to be. The privatization movement had to be jumpstarted but when Florida’s poor education reputation began to spread like wild fire, hurting business and home prices something had to be done and thus we have had frequent changes to the grading system. This is a grading system that has fundamentally changed education and not for the better. Now it is hard to fail kids regardless of what they do and don’t do, others are put in classes they have no business being in and discipline has been gutted too. Furthermore when boiled down all school grades tell you is zip codes, the poorer grades are in the zip codes with the poorer families.

I also think there is a degree of hypocrisy going on. Vitti knows the grading formula has been massaged to the point of irrelevancy but there he was saying look how good our schools have become, while at the same time not mentioning the district still received a C grade overall. The grading system is a joke and he knows it but in his defense I imagine the same scenario was played out by superintendents all over the state who likewise know the system is a joke. 

Furthermore if you haven’t picked up on it I think the system is a joke but I wonder what the people who put I in place think. I mean if our public schools are now moving mountains, then why do we need vouchers and charter schools which despite having advantages aren’t performing any better. Is it they don’t believe in the grading system or is it because they want to fill the coffers of friends, supporters and all to often of then themselves?

Finally we’re not anywhere where we could and should be. Discipline is still a huge problem. Rigor needs to be stepped up and more kids should be in tracks, be it college or trade that play to their strengths. Then there is poverty, we can’t continue to ignore it and hope we miraculously improve. Though changes to the grading formula might make it seem like we have. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Is Florida a success or a failure? Well it depends on which test you believe.

When the NEAP scores came out that measured Florida’s 4th and 8th graders people like Jeb Bush bent over backwards to say how well Florida was doing.

Fast forward to the PISA results and oh boy, Florida is failing its kids, mostly because we aren’t doing more of what Jeb Bush says we should be doing.

And somehow they use both the good scores and the bad scores as indicators that the corporate reforms that Florida is full speed ahead on are working, though if you dive behind the cherry picked numbers they use you might come up with a different conclusion.  

And what does NEAP and Pisa stand for? Who cares, it’s just one more test for our already tested to death kids have to take. Instead of worrying about how we compare to the nation and the world we need to start worrying about how many kids we get to college, graduate that don’t hate school and how many we can get out of poverty. I don’t care what some kid is doing in Michigan and Singapore, though I wish them well. I care that our kids have a chance.

To read more click the link:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Teachers push back against the corporate reform movement. Stop the corporate takeover of our schools!

Education reforms are unraveling. Standardized tests and Vouchers join the list.

Two stories in the news recently exemplify that point. The first is the revelation that a steady diet of standardized tests does not lead to being able to analyze material and think logically.

In a finding that should give pause to backers of standardized test-based school reform, a new study by neuroscientists at three major universities shows that students who achieved  the highest gains on standardized tests did not show the same gains in the ability to analyze material and think logically.

The second is the notion that private schools do better than public schools and that incorrect notion has fueled the voucher movement.

"For several years, there has been this bipartisan push for education reform.... One of the main assumptions is that if you further deregulate, adopt a private-style method for schools, that it might be more effective and lead to higher academic outcomes.... The evidence doesn’t necessarily bear that out."

Throw in all the charter school news, the push back against odious teacher evaluations that rely on Value Added Measures and the unraveling of Common Core, then what do they have left.

Friends these corporate reformers aren’t about improving education, they are about improving their bank accounts and nothing else. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Want more proof it is all about the money? Look at what Pearson Testing just did.

From the Washington Post: Pearson Charitable Foundation, the nonprofit arm of educational publishing giant Pearson Inc., has agreed to pay a $7.7 million settlement to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman after he determined that the foundation had created Common Core products to generate “tens of millions of dollars” for its corporate sister.
“The law on this is clear: non-profit foundations cannot misuse charitable assets to benefit their affiliated for-profit corporations,” Schneiderman said in a statement Thursday.

Friends to the ed reformers like Pearson and most Charter School operators it’s not about helping kids, it’s about making money and it is shameful! 

How much teachers make by state

I am in my 13th year and make 5k under the state average and 11k under the national average:

salary list

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Duval Charter School Graduation Rates are abysmal. Public Schools reach historic highs!

 Duval County’s graduation rates soared to historic highs, 72 percent but I can’t help but wonder what the rate would have been if all the charter schools hadn’t been pulling the average down.

Duval Virtual Instruction Academy 66.67%

Murray Hill High School 2.78%

Pathways Academy High School 14.63%

Siatech 33.33%

Duval MYCROSHOOL 16.67%

Lone Star High School 1.23%

In fact only one Charter School is doing anything approaching well and that’s the River city Science Academy.

Admittedly the amount of kids that potentially could have graduated from charter schools represents a small number but come on people, that’s abysmal no matter how you slice it.

Why do we have charter schools again? It’s obviously not to prepare students to be successful in life.

To look at our grad rates (you will have to explore some) click the link:

Tony Bennett takes job with testing company.

Even though it was both predictable and inevitable that Bennett would take a job with a charter consortium or testing company it didn’t stop people form throwing up up in their mouths a little when he finally did so.

Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has found new work helping to pitch a Common Core test to state education leaders.

ACT spokesman Ed Colby said Friday that Bennett will help the company pitch its Aspire test throughout the states.

ACT is more widely known for its college-entry tests administered throughout the Midwest. But it is also one of many testing companies looking to sell their tests to states that have adopted Common Core standards.

Bennett resigned as Florida’s schools chief earlier this year, shortly after The Associated Press published emails showing he altered Indiana’s school grading formula to help benefit a GOP donor’s charter school.

Bennett is scheduled to appear before the State Ethics Commission next month on charges he misused state resources when campaigning for re-election last year.

Remember folks, this guy was hired to run our schools not to fill his pockets, a line that is often blurred in Tallahassee. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Does KIPP Jacksonville have padded rooms for discipline?

Some people compare KIPP’s education style to child abuse. I wouldn’t go that far but I do know they spend more money than public schools do to educate their students, they often over sell their  accomplishments and after three years KIPP Jax’s grades have been F (lowest grade in Northeast Florida, B and D. Despite more resources they are a long way from the savior they were promised to be

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It’s time Duval County stopped wasting money on suspension centers.

I have never really liked the ideas of suspension centers. Not only are they in school suspension at alternate locations but it scrubs the stats as attendees aren’t counted as suspended, furthermore they have been made moot by the addition of dedicated in school suspension teachers at our middle and high schools.

There are two things we can do that would greatly improve discipline in our schools. First take the nearly million dollars we are prepared to spend on suspension centers and hire more social workers. We need to start address in the whole child if we want to have success with many. And yes I know there are social workers at the suspension centers but I also know 12 social workers would be better than 4.

Then we make ISSP mean something instead of the joke it is and always has been in many schools. Miss a day you stay in ISSP. Don’t finish your work or act up, you stay in ISSP. You don’t eat when the rest of the kids do and you get two bath room breaks one in the morning and one in the afternoon where all the kids go together and it doesn’t happen while other kids are in the halls. Then ramp up the days, instead of 1 day give them 5 instead of two give them 10. For a consequence to work it must be a consequence not just an opportunity to goof off with ones friends.

Come on Duval, this isn’t rocket science.

To read more and find out what I have written in the past, click the links:

ESE students in Duval not getting the services they need

Let me first start by saying I applaud the listening meetings that the district has been having with the ESE staff. They are long overdue and much needed. However where listening is nice now it is the time for action.

This is what several teachers at the meeting reported.

At some schools if they don’t like a service usually co-teaching or support facilitation, because they are expensive, they are simply rewriting IEPs and dropping the service. At other schools support facilitators are taken away from their students to sub for absent teachers or to proxy tests and at schools all across the district ESE teachers report being given impossible schedules and not enough planning time to fully implement their responsibilities.

Parents of special needs children, please check that your children are getting the services that they need and deserve.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The shell game that Charter Schools Play

From a reader, via Facebook

Charter Schools are a three shell Monte game. No pea. In the last two weeks we have received 6 ESE (Exceptional Student Education - kids with issues) students back from the local Charter schools. These students leave the Charter schools for numerous reasons but many times because of behavioral issues. The Charter schools have already cashed the State of Florida funding check (your tax dollars) and now the neighborhood public school has no money for this student, stretching resources even thinner. And make no mistake, ESE students chew up resources.

They arrive back with no IEP (Individual Education Plan ) a legally required document by the State of Florida. The average IEP takes about three to four hours to complete (my school has 150 ESE Students out of a total school population of 700) not including numerous bureaucratic hoops and hurdles to be jumped through. This document is not required of Charter schools.

By returning at mid year without this completed document and no State monies it puts Public Schools wayyyy behind the 8 ball. The teachers at your local public school are responsible for these students FCAT testing in which their scores have a direct effect on salary and evaluations.

Class sizes are also stretched because these students are "inclusioned" into regular classrooms leaving aside their behavioral problems. Ask any teacher how the social and educational chemistry of a class can be affected by two or three ESE students with behavioral problems being dropped into a classroom midway through a school year. It's not pretty. Pity the poor fools for public school teachers because in the end, it's all their fault. And the ultimate losers? In the immediate instance the students and tax payers of Duval County, but in a longer unfashionable view the citizens of Florida and the United States.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The complete failure of Jeb Bush’s education reforms

First let me say I have thought they have been a failure for quite some time. He however doesn’t as he travels around the country extolling their virtues.

I am also not in favor of using standardized tests to give us a snap shot that we base education policy around, but you know what, Jeb does as the FCAT was the center piece of his reforms.

With that out of the way let me explain how his reforms have completely and utterly failed using his own metrics of success.   

We are a decade into his education reforms, for a decade we have been selling vouchers, charter schools, high stakes standardized test, merit pay and blame the teacher evaluations in order for us to make our students internationally competitive and where has it gotten us?


Florida, ground zero for his reforms performed poorly on the PISA international tests while two other states that have thus far resisted his reforms Massachusetts and Connecticut (who like Florida did ponnied up 600k for its own results) and fared much better.

Some might argue that they have fewer kids in poverty and should be doing better to which I respond duh! And maybe its time that we stopped filling the coffers of testing companies and charter schools and instead invested in ways to mitigate poverty in our public schools.

We have had a decade of his reforms where Jeb Bush screamed to anybody who would listen that we need to prepare our children for international competition, well Jeb your reforms aren’t doing it.

The Guardian is running a piece about the failure of Market reforms so if you would like to read more, click this one:

Education Reformers ignore poverty except when it gives them cover

 Education reformers are well known for saying poverty is an excuse… except when it gives them cover. Ron Mattus writing about Florida’s poor showing in the PISA in Jeb Bush’s blog wrote:

 Florida students scored 467 in math, 485 in science and 492 in reading, far below Massachusetts (at 514, 527 and 527, respectively) and Connecticut (at 506, 521 and 521 respectively). It’s worth noting that Florida has a far higher percentage of low-income students, 56 percent, compared to 34.2 percent for Massachusetts and 34.5 percent for Connecticut. –

There you have it, poverty is an excuse except when it explains their failure.

My grandmother would call it chutzpah. My psychology professors would call it cognitive dissonance. I just call it plain wrong and it is time we said enough is enough 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nothing has changed concerning discipline in Duval Schools

From a reader about discipline:

Nothing has changed. One Dean of Discipline is replacing 3 Asst. Principals, so even more behavior is ignored. Vitti was flat-out lying when he wrote to Judge Davis and said the Code of Conduct is adhered to. At the high school where I teach, students are on their cell phones constantly, even during class, and if you confiscate it, the parents are not having to pick it up. It is given back to the student at the end of the day. Writing "too many" referrals is showing up on evaluations. Is that legal? No support from DTU, as usual.

Why is Natishia Stevens of the ACLU promoting violence in Duval County schools?

Natishia Steven of the ACLU was very critical of Judge Henry Davis for bringing attention to violence in our schools. She had two points, the first was figures released by Duval County don’t back the judges assertions about violence and second batteries don’t happen every day like the judge says. Both of these points remind me of the of the commercial where the girl says, if she heard it on the internet so it must be true.

First any stat coming from DCPS has to be taken with a grain of salt. Duval county until just recently has criminally ignored discipline for entirely too long. Referrals have gone unprocessed and punishments are watered down. Often what should or would have gotten get kids arrested in the past turns instead into a period or two in ISSP or some other slap on the wrist. For Stevens to look to DCPS for her stats shows a naivety to our problems and does a disservice to all the victims of bullying, assaults and batteries that take place in our schools.

Then let me ask you a question. If you were the parent of a child who experienced unprovoked violence would you care if it didn’t happen every day? Steven says, hey it only happened 78 times last year where children were arrested for aggravated assault, that’s not so bad.

I personally have seen the violence first hand and I have witnessed what happens when children don’t receive consequences for their behaviors and let me tell you the judge was right on. My only criticism of the judge would be the new administration has decided not to ignore discipline anymore and has put in place deans, added security and ISSP teachers, something I don’t think they would have done if discipline was the pretty picture that Stevens paints and we need to give these measures time to see if they work.   

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Some Florida legislators push back against education reforms

First after one charter school scandal after another Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, filed senate bill 452 last week which would require charter schools to meet a specific instructional need that local district schools can’t in order to obtain approval. Even charter school advocates should like this bill because how many scandals can their industry take before the entire public turns against them.

Then Senator Dwight Bullard introduced a bill pushing back performance pay at least to the 15-16 school year, which would give lawmakers and other officials an opportunity to review and improve the system.

Finally the Florida Superintendent association asked for more time to properly implement common core, Volusia County Schools Superintendent Margaret Smith addressed the board at a meeting in Gainesville and said the Florida Association of District School Superintendents is concerned schools aren’t ready to implement new standards.

“We as superintendents see the need for an adjustment to the timeline as one that could not have been anticipated when the initial plans were made,” Smith said. She told the board that the association will propose a three-year plan to implement new standards for English, literacy and mathematics.

That’s push back against charters, blame the teacher evaluations and common core, three of the corporate reformers crown jewels. 

As if we needed another reason to dislike Arne Duncan

Senator Elizabeth Warren said, “The Department of Education needs to be aggressive in watching out for students, not for profit-making loan servicers. They’re there for our students, not to help loan servicers make a profit.”

Oy vey, Arne Duncan is the corporate reforms movements wet dream. 

To read more click the link:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The slimy relationships between taxpayer funded for-profit charter schools and Florida legislators

If this doesn't make you want to have restrictions on Charter Schools then you are either clueless or own one.

From the Miami Herald, by David Smiley

Fledgling Doral College got a $400,000 windfall two years ago that helped the small start-up open its doors. The “grant” came from Doral Academy Charter High, a publicly funded school run by the same company.
The deal helped Doral College stay in the black and furthered a joint effort with the charter school to establish an in-house dual-enrollment program. But the transaction also caught the eye of Miami-Dade school district auditors, who have spent the last year questioning why and how a school funded by the state could hand hundreds of thousands of public dollars to an unaccredited, private college.
“The authority and legality of said expense is also not clear to us,” investigators wrote in an audit presented Tuesday.
Auditors say both the grant and a problematic lease they scrutinized are evidence of a larger issue created when the independent governing boards tasked with overseeing charters share close ties with the companies paid to run the public schools, often for a profit. In the Doral case, several board members of the school and college serve in various other capacities for charter school giant Academica, which manages both schools.
Academica president Fernando Zulueta declined to comment Tuesday when approached by a reporter.
But in a biting response to the audit, an attorney representing the school said the grant was a legitimate transaction between partners in education, which existed under the same company when the charter school first set aside the $400,000 for the college. The district’s critical audit, attorney Eleni Pantaridis argued, omitted crucial facts and was the flawed work of a biased investigator who “does not support the charter school system.”
“They’re picking and choosing the facts that benefit them and ignoring the facts that don’t,” she said Tuesday during a hearing.
Auditors, under the supervision of investigator Jon Goodman, began scrutinizing the deals about a year ago after a review of Doral Academy Charter High’s financial statements uncovered the grant and a lease agreement that auditors also investigated.
They said the lease allowed the school’s landlord to terminate the contract early and leave the school on the hook for $4.5 million in improvements to its facility, which is owned by Academica stockholders.
In the case of the grant, auditors were unsure of its legality — though they have shown no proof that it is illegal — and pointed out that Doral College is unaccredited and unable to provide dual-enrollment courses under Florida law. They also said the transaction, which essentially forgave a previous $400,000 loan, was approved by the chairs of the college and high school without going before the full Doral Academy Charter High board during a public meeting, as required.
Investigators also put together a flow chart, showing what they said was the intertwined relationships among the high school, Doral College and Academica, which manages 54 Miami-Dade charter schools and brought in $9.5 million in management fees during the 2011-12 school year.
The chart shows that some high school board members work as principals for other Academica-run schools and serve on the boards of other Academica-affiliated institutions. For instance, Luis Fusté, chairman of Doral College, is also the vice chairman of Doral Academy.
But Fusté said in a statement that his dual roles were easily explained: “The college program was originally under the same umbrella as Doral Academy High School and was created to provide seamless college access to its high school students.”
Investigators also included the Doral College president, state Sen. Anitere Flores, on their chart.
Flores, a Miami lawmaker, said she hadn’t yet read the audit and couldn’t comment on the $400,000 grant, though she noted Doral College is not the entity being audited.
Pantaridis, the school’s attorney, said in her response that “the composition of Doral’s board is completely consistent with all state and district requirements and in no way violate any Florida statutes or the charter school contract between Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Doral Inc. None of Doral’s board members have any financial interest in Academica, the landlord or any other entity that does business with Doral.”
She also said the landlord of Doral Academy Charter High has waived its early termination clause in its lease, and the scrutinized grant had been previously approved by the high school’s board as a loan in annual budgets — issues criticized by auditors as “after-the-fact” actions.
She also said auditors failed to note that the college had already paid back $200,000 to the high school.
“Auditors appear to have simply targeted the two transactions as part of a fishing expedition,” she said.
On Tuesday, Pantaridis successfully argued that the district’s audit committee should delay a hearing on the issue before sending the audit to Miami-Dade School Board members, some of whom attended the hearing. She said auditors gave her only two business days to review their final audit before Tuesday’s hearing.
Chief Auditor Jose Montes de Oca, however, said he has no political motivation and more meetings won’t produce a softer audit.
“The findings won’t change,” he said.