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Friday, May 31, 2013

The problem with administrators and evaluations

The paper today had an article about a teacher who was fired. Her evaluations were satisfactory and then a new principal transferred in and things went downhill. I can‘t speak about this particular case but it is more common than you might think for teachers to go from satisfactory or better to needs improvement or worse all because of a change in school leadership.

Here in Duval we have had a huge leadership problem. Under the former super’s reign who you knew and who you were loyal to rather than one’s ability determined a lot of promotions. Where we do have a fair amount of outstanding leaders this sadly led to a lot of bullies masquerading as administrators and 27 year old vice principals being responsible for the day to day running of many schools.

A lot of these so called leaders play favorites on one hand and are vindictive of perceived slights on the other. Then sprinkle in the fact that many principals do like younger teachers, not for their ability mind you but because they are easily malleable and most don’t know what they don’t know and we have some real problems. The district has been skewing young for years now and that has led to many of our problems. We need a mix of young and energetic teachers and experienced teachers too.

Right after refusing to acknowledge let along mitigate poverty, school based leadership is probably the districts biggest problem and that is why we can no longer do things the same way. The district needs to be proactive and recruit leaders from the surrounding counties and then it also needs to recruit its next generation of leaders from the current group of teachers. Newsflash just because you can pass a test it doesn’t make you a leader and neither does being able to schmooze the higher-ups. Furthermore every school has teachers that most of the other teachers look up to and go to when they need help and they too should be recruited for leadership positions. Yes losing them in the classroom would be a blow but if we have learned one thing over the last few years it should have been that one principal or a couple vice principals can make or break an entire school.

Like I said above I won’t make a judgment about the teacher who got fired but I can say I was alarmed at something that Superintendent Vitti said in the article: Vitti said the teacher might have had a previous principal who was lenient.

I guess that is possible however he has only been here for a few months so I doubt he knows one way or another but you know what else might be possible? The principal in place now is a bully masquerading as an administrator. Having worked in Duval for over a decade, I know that is a real possibility too.


Duval’s lax consequences for bad behavior or you got to be %$#@ing kidding me!!!

DCPS recently made the national news for the treatment of a serial bully who put a classmate in the hospital. A judge temporarily banned her from attending school and the superintendent fought to have her readmitted.

I guess reasonable people can disagree on the harshness of her punishment. I personally think she should be at an alternative school for kids with discipline problems for the foreseeable future. But what no reasonable person should think is that she should have been allowed to go on a class trip to Universal Studios.

When I read that her victim ran into her on the trip I first felt bad that it happened but then I was outraged by the fact the bully was allowed to go. What’s next cripple somebody and give them the key to the city. Break somebody’s leg and get a cruise.

Sadly this is not a lone example either. All over the county children don’t get the consequences they deserve for unruly behavior and this little monster was even rewarded.

For shame Duval County, you better get with it before we remember the days when kids sent their classmates to the hospital as the good old days.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jeb Bush hates Unions more than he cares for students

Do you want to know why Jeb Bush likes charter schools, virtual schools and vouchers? It is not because they do better than public schools and it’s not because they are more innovative either. It’s because they are staffed by non-union teachers. If charter schools started to unionize then Jeb Bush would drop them like a hot potato. It is pathological with Jeb, he can’t help himself.

The latest example of this comes from a recent stop of his in Michigan which if possible is even worse off than Florida with how it treats its teachers and most vulnerable students. Bush hates unions so much he is willing to mislead, cajole and outright lie to sell his anti-union, anti-public school snake oil.

Joy Resmovits and Ashley Woods in the Huffington Post wrote about how he lauded Michigan’s charter schools which as a group are doing worse than even Florida’s charter schools. Not swayed by facts, Bush even said that Michigan’s charters were outperforming public school. Resmovits and Woods however found things differently:

But it is difficult to concisely characterize charter school quality nationwide, and the study on Michigan's schools Bush touted is less definitive than he made it sound.

That study, released in January by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, found that while students in Michigan's charter schools are raising their test scores more quickly than their peers in public schools, they are still performing at much lower levels. Charter school students in the state gain about two months of reading and math knowledge over their peers each year -- but 80 percent of charter schools perform below the 50th percentile of achievement in reading, and 84 percent perform below that threshold in math.

Another study -- this one by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers -- found that about a quarter of Michigan's charters fell into the bottom 15 percent of the state's schools on eighth grade math and the bottom 21 percent in eighth grade reading.

That poor performance has disappointed education advocates like Amber Arellano, who directs the nonpartisan advocacy group EdTrust Midwest.

"A lot of people here ... had hoped that charters were really going to be the solution to urban children's lack of quality options," Arellano told The Huffington Post in a January interview. "They're not. There are not enough high-performing charters here [in Michigan] to really address the educational inequities that we have here in the state. Just letting the market decide isn't the answer."

According to an EdTrust Midwest study, the operators of new schools that opened up after Michigan lifted its cap on charters in 2011 have below-average academic track records.

All of this begs the question, what won’t Bush say? I also have no doubt that when the education apartheid movement has finally run its course; people will consider Jeb Bush one of the biggest villains of the 21st century.

Dear Charter Schools, taking public money doesn't automatically make you a public entity; if it did, Halliburton would be its own branch of the military.

The U.S. Census Bureau says most charter schools are not public schools and a rose by any other name is still a rose but just because it has feathers and flies it doesn’t mean it is a duck.

It is way past time we stopped calling charter schools public schools and the only reason education deformers do so is they think it gives their anti-public school privatization agenda some cover. What they really are is publically funded private schools and despite numerous advantages many perform worse than their public school counterparts.

The US Census Bureau doesn’t think they are private schools:  and they aren’t the only ones.

Neither does the National Labor Board:

Many legal scholars:

And education policy scholars as well:

And if you still think they are, I have a bridge to sell you cheap.

Above was inspired by the Jersey Jazzman post:

Which had the great quote: Taking public money doesn't automatically make you a public entity; if it did, Halliburton would be its own branch of the military.

In 2000, 1 in 8 schools were considered high poverty schools, now it is 1 in 5

From the Hechinger Report

Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as a “high-poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education. To win this unwelcome designation, 75 percent or more of an elementary, middle or high school’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That’s about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools!

This figure was part of a large data report, The Condition of Education 2013, released by the National Center for Education Statistics on May 23, 2013. There’s a lot to chew on in it. But school poverty jumped out at me as a really depressing data point showing the growing income inequality in America.

Qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch is an imperfect measure of poverty. A mother with two kids who makes under $35,000 a year would be in this group. Certainly, that’s poor family in New York City, but maybe not destitute in Utah. I’ve also heard that many poor families feel that it is such a stigma to accept a discounted or free lunch that they don’t sign up for the program. So the poverty rates in many schools are probably much higher than the official statistics say they are. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Teachers or crazy union thugs?

Duval County poised to cut most media specialists

As the school board seems bound and determined to keep nine percent, or three times what they are required to, in budget reserves, you just knew something was going to be cut. Well friends it looks like it is going to be the county’s media specialists.

The scuttlebutt is principals have a choice whether to get the Testing Coordinator/Curriculum teacher position -- or keep their Media Specialists. Based on the heavy emphasis this state puts on learning-by-testing, guess which one principals are picking?

Education Matters also received the following e-mail:

Latest news on media specialists in the budget

I hate to be the bearer of more bad news, but my principal told me on Friday that all high school media specialists have been cut from the budget. She said that Title I schools will have the option of paying for the position out of their Title I funds. All of this news is such a shocking and drastic change from the plan to have a full time media specialist in every school.

I believe these cuts stem from the School Board workshop which was held last Tuesday. I heard on the news last week that the Board wants a larger reserve fund (an additional 3-5%) than is required by state law (3%). I am sure that cuts must be made in order to achieve the larger reserve fund. I don't think that the timing of the budget workshop last Tuesday and the news about cuts to our positions is a coincidence. There is another Board budget workshop scheduled for this Thursday so the budget is still in flux.

Mind you above was from a district media specialist not from a member of the district staff but if it is true it certainly is troubling and is the opposite of what the district has been saying. I also wonder how the people in Jacksonville will feel about the district sitting on 50 million dollars and cutting librarians.

For a district with a reading problem, getting rid of the county’s media specialists seems incredibly short sited.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

UNFs disappointing blame the teacher agenda

I am just going to get right to it.

First no response to Jeb Bush’s desire to blow up teacher’s colleges. You would think a, hey we respectfully disagree, would come from the college that has supplied many of the state’s teachers.

Next, their round table with the JPEF to discuss teacher evaluations, first JPEF is a proponent of TFA, which has a business model the exact opposite of what we know to be best practices and hey ignore poverty much?

Finally they recognized Gary Chartand as a pillar in the community. Other than being incredibly disdainful towards teachers and their representatives, being a proponent of large class sizes and believing in race based goals I’m not really sure what good he has done for the community. I guess being rich and a republican in Florida practically guarantees you an award.

I am a graduate of UNF and up till now I was a proud UNF graduate.

Education reformers seek new victims, colleges of education.

Teachers have long been the target of the Education Reform movement but after years of abuse teachers have began to push back.  Then after the Sandy Hook and Moore tragedies it has become harder to straight up demonize teachers. Education deformers no longer feel comfortable blaming them for society’s problems especially after a few gave up or risked their lives for their children. That however hasn’t stopped the corporate reform movement; no they just switched targets going from educators to their schools of education.

Before I debunk their latest attacks I want you to first think about the amazing hypocrisy of the education reform movement. Teach for America is the darling of the ed reform movement. It takes non education majors and puts them through a five week course and then places them in our toughest classroom or what people in education like to call the exact opposite of what should be happening. Yet somehow that is supposed to be okay and college of ed graduates who spend years studying and at least a semester teaching is somehow substandard. It’s worse however as the right often uses a study by Arthur Levine, who complains about lax requirements to get into colleges of education to validate their concerns but they never mention how the same Arthur Levine rails against TFA and saying it is not the answer. This however will not be the only example of the right trying to have their cake and eat it too.

Jeb Bush likes to take credit for Florida’s improvement over the last dozen years and there has been some modest gains the thing however is most of these gains are the results of the efforts of Florida’s teachers and the majority of them are graduates of the state’s colleges of educations not his Florida miracle which has been thoroughly debunked. These are the same colleges that Jeb Bush said he wanted to blow up at the Champions for Education meeting. Jeb Bush should not be allowed to have his cake and eat it to, not that that has ever stopped a politician for taking credit for something they had no control over while simultaneously and erroneously bashing their enemies.

Their main argument seems to be that people who go into the college of education have low GPAs and SAT scores. First there is a lot of debate about where the education deformers got their information and its reliability  and

 I get it though, each side could say I’ll see your study and show you one more but I want you to think about this. Only slightly over 30% of all Americans over the age of 25 have a four year degree. 100 percent of public school teachers have to have a four-year degree. So in effect the education reformers who are so critical are saying that teachers are the worst of the best.

Then according to the national center for education statistics, 52% of teachers have advanced degrees where only 10% of the general public does and doesn’t that shoot a hole in the poorly educated teacher theory?

Once again however in their zeal to bad talk teachers they don’t realize or they do and don’t care hoping that the public will miss it, that this argument points to inconsistencies in another one of the other crown jewels of education reform, vouchers. Private schools play by different rules including the education levels that their teachers are required to have. Sure all the teachers at schools like Boles and Episcopal have bachelor’s degrees or above but what about the small private schools in strip malls or on the recesses of town, you know, the ones that advertise on their web sites that they take vouchers. Many of the members of those staffs don’t have bachelors’ degrees at all let alone degrees in the subject areas that they are teaching. Yet the powers that be aren’t calling for universal certification requirements instead they are just screaming that colleges of education are substandard.

These reformers, many of who are seeking to make a buck off education, with their most sincere faces say, if of only children had better teachers they would graduate better prepared for life. That teacher quality is the number one in-school factor that determines how children do. They say in-school mind you so they can continue to ignore poverty which is the number one factor for determining success in school. Kids in poverty don’t do as well as those who aren’t and over a fifth of our kids live in poverty and another fifth just above it.

To those education reformers who say those things I respond instead of demonizing teachers for not being able to overcome the dehabilitating effects of poverty, parental indifference and so many other factors beyond their control, I believe we should get down on our knees and thank them because the vast majority of our children would be much worse off without them.

This isn’t to say every teacher is great or graduate from a college of education made the right choices to get into the profession but when one of my kids’ acts up I don’t punish the whole class because of them but that is the road that the education reformers have chosen to take. They see a few bad teachers and instead of working to replace them they decide to kneecap the entire profession instead.

During my third year of teaching, like many teachers do to hone their craft I went back to college and was taking a nature of the learner class. One day the professor showed a couple videos of teachers and asked the class to rate them zero through four, four being the highest. One of the videos showed a rather shrill woman who I found a bit boring and short with the kids. After the video was over I turned to my buddy and said I am giving her a zero, what are you giving her? He said, one.

At first I was a confused, I asked quite dismayed, what, how can you give this lady a one? He looked at me and said Chris, she showed up. So many people bitch and complain, blame and point their fingers at teachers not knowing what they do or go through but you know what they don’t do? I was silent. They don’t show up. They don’t go through the training and make the sacrifices. They don’t fight for better conditions for teachers, a fair wage and curriculums that give teachers and students a chance at being successful. They don’t do any of those things and as flawed as this lady was, she showed up and that is worth a point in my book. Feeling a little ashamed for my initial reaction and my short sitedness, I to gave her a one too.

And if above doesn’t make you wonder about the true motives of the education reform movement, most of whom have never been in a classroom and none of whom have fought for decent wages and working conditions for teachers, who blame them for societies ills, and many of who’s main goal is to make a buck off of education then nothing will.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Free the Ed White 7!

First some background. Ed White has the most disabled kids in the county. They have something like 350 kids who receive services including about a hundred severely disabled kids in the Intellectually Disabled Unit.

Next, teacher’s evaluations have two components, the principal observation and student data. These scores are added together and that score gives you a ranking, highly effective, effective, developing/needs improvement and unsatisfactory

Last year the intellectually disabled teachers did not receive the student data portion and as a result of only having half a score they were all deemed needs improvement which is credit to them because their principal thought so highly of them. If they would have gotten student scores they would have all been effective or highly effective  On paper because this score was omitted it seems like the whole department sucks. The reality however is nothing could be further from the truth.

The District has known about this for a year too and thus far has done nothing about it and now it is costing people opportunities. One teacher told me she was going to apply for the curriculum writing team but the first question was: what was your evaluation. Another may be blacklisted from teaching summer school because he too is unsatisfactory in the eyes of the CAST, the districts evaluation tool. Until this is fixed it is a beaming black mark on all their records.

People’s livelihoods are threatened and the district has been unwilling to fix what they admitted last year was a problem.

It is shameful and it is just one more example of a district which isn’t interested in taking care of the employees that carry out the one job, teaching, that the district exists to do in the first place.

Duval County’s 3rd graders perform slightly below state average in reading and math

43% of the state’s third graders scored a one or two in reading. On the other hand 45% of Duval County’s third graders did. The state’s percentage of kids from level 1 to level 5 is 18, 25, 23, 23 and 11. Duval’s scores are 18, 27, 23, 22 and 10.

In math 44% of the state’s kids were ones and twos where Duval had 46%. The state’s scores from level 1 to 5 are, 18, 24, 31, 17 and 10. Duval’s scores are, 18, 26, 31, 16, and 9.

To see all the district and school scores click the link.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ridiculous quote of the day, the power to tax is the power to destroy

The power to tax is the power to destroy, was originaly said by Daniel Webster but it has also become the catch phrase of many “outraged” republicans as they criticize the practices of the IRS. I get it though, nobody likes taxes but you know what the power to tax really is? It is the power to build bridges and establish parks; it is the power to maintain national defense and to give our neighbors who have experienced disaster a helping hand. It is the power to send a man to the moon and to educate our children. It is the power to do collectively all the things that we can’t do individually and even though we don’t like them, the power to tax forms the glue that holds society together.

I dare say all of our lives would be a lot worse without taxes.

Perhaps feedback from parents and students and if not perhaps a rock a rock to the head will improve teacher evaluations.

This former is one of the suggestions that a panel at UNF about teacher evaluations came up with. It’s similar to one of the suggestions that Bill Gates spent 50 million dollars to come up with. It was bad then and it is bad now.

Here is the thing. If teachers want to send home to parents or give their classes feedback forms them I think that’s great. The more information teachers have the better but only they should see it and under no circumstances should parent and especially student feedback be used in teacher observations.

Some kids today are to savvy not to use this little power to blackmail their teachers. Oh I can’t have an extension, extra credit assignments, what you expect me to study or do my work, well let’s just see whose evaluation suffers.

The entire notion is ludicrous.

Do you want to know how to have quality teacher evaluations and it doesn’t involve tying teachers to standardized tests either. It involves good leadership. It involves principals that are fair and knowledgeable, who have the pulse of the school and who knows how to motivate, develop and improve teachers.

Good principals more than feedback from students (a terrible idea) or standardized tests results (even worse) are what we need. They will know who is performing or not and they will know who can improve or not.

It’s not rocket science here people, let’s stop trying to make it so.

The silly things superintendents say

When talking about teacher evaluations, Superintendent Vitti said, he was open to using student feedback on evaluations because “the student voice has been missing” from the system.

When I read above I wondered what kind of “voice” he allowed his kids to have when they want to hit up the cookie jar, surely they get some sort of say right? I imagine after the kids pled their case the super and or his wife weigh all the relevant factors, proximity to dinner, behavior, status of homework etc. and then distribute or don’t distribute the cookies as they see fit. That’s the way it is done. Kids have their say, adults make the decision. The reality however is what kids say doesn’t always factor into what adults decide.

The problem with using student input on teacher evaluations as related to cookies is somebody not in the house, somebody the kids most likely had limited contact with, and somebody who has a limited understanding of what the cookie dynamic is, if the kids deserved cookies or not, would be making the decision if the input was relevant or not. That or the kids could bribe or cajole their parents into giving them cookies by holding something over their head (evaluations) whether they deserved it or not.

Do you want other people to decide if your kids get cookies or do you want kids who have no business getting cookies, getting cookies?

Neither do I.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Civics gets a fail in Duval County

From a long time reader:

God Bless Duval County Public Schools: Civics (new to 7th grade) is taught as a year long class with some geography and some economics included. In fact, 80-85% of the course is "Civics" and rightfully so is coded as a Civics class and 7th grade students are given credit for taking Civics. So the EOC (end of course) exam written by DCPS is given and counts as 20% of the students grade. What do my students say about this test?? Wait for it... It was mostly economics. Yes, the county tests the kids mostly on what the course is NOT called, coded, or given credit as. The FLDOE published guide lines for EOC's, silly silly me for thinking Duval would adhere to standards, benchmarks, and guidelines. No, DCPS grades these students on their knowledge of Economics and gives them credit for taking Civics, fails them for Civics because they don't know economics.. Either way epic fail!

Dear JPEF and UNF, its poverty stupid.

The face book post from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund started innocently enough: We’re co-hosting with University of North Florida a Round table on Measuring Teacher Quality this afternoon at 5 p.m. this afternoon. Join us for live coverage on Twitter via #JaxTVAM — and submit your questions for the panel!

But the truth is this buys into the narrative that all it takes is a highly effective teacher for a child to learn and nothing could be further from the truth. You know what a highly effective teacher cannot overcome? If a kid has had enough to eat or not; if they are worried about violence in their house or neighborhood and/or if the students parents care about or discount education, along with dozens and dozens of other things and as long as we continue to ignore poverty then we can have these Round tables till we are blue in the face an nothing will happen, nothing will get accomplished. It’s despicable how the powers-that-be ignore poverty.

Dear JPEF and UNF, its poverty stupid. Now instead of wasting more time, why don’t you do something about it?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Charter schools counsel out poor performing students.

Don't think for a second that the same thing doesn't happen here. -cpg

From by Dennis Ferrier
Leaders with Metro Nashville Public Schoolshave serious concerns about what is happening at some of the city's most popular charter schools.
Students are leaving in large numbers at a particularly important time of the school year, and the consequences may have an impact on test scores.
Charter schools are literally built on the idea that they will outperform public, zoned schools. They are popular because they promise and deliver results, but some new numbers are raising big questions about charter schools.
One of the first things a visitor sees when stepping into Kipp Academy is a graph that shows how Kipp is outperforming Metro schools in every subject.
However, Kipp Academy is also one of the leaders in another stat that is not something to crow about.
When it comes to the net loss of students this year, charter schools are the top eight losers of students.
In fact, the only schools that have net losses of 10 to 33 percent are charter schools.
"We look at that attrition. We keep an eye on it, and we actually think about how we can bring that back in line with where we've been historically," said Kipp Principal Randy Dowell.
Dowell said Kipp's 18 percent attrition is unacceptable.
MNPS feels it's unacceptable as well, because not only are they getting kids from charter schools, but they are also getting troubled kids and then getting them right before testing time.
"That's also a frustration for the zoned-school principals. They are getting clearly challenging kids back in their schools just prior to accountability testing," said MNPS Chief Operating Officer Fred Carr.
Nineteen of the last 20 children to leave Kipp Academy had multiple out-of-school suspensions. Eleven of the 19 are classified as special needs, and all of them took their TCAPs at Metro zoned schools, so their scores won't count against Kipp.
"We won't know how they perform until we receive results and we see. We would be happy to take their results, frankly. The goal is getting kids ready for college. The goal is not having shiny results for me or for anyone on the team," Dowell said.
Kipp Academy has started new counseling groups to try to retain children. MNPS said it constantly sees charters being held up as the model, but feels these numbers prove the two different types of schools play by different rules.

Al Roker joins the anti-teacher bandwagon

It's a slow news day and I just saw it again on TV. -cpg

NBC has those, The More You Know segments, Al Roker says what the country needs is more good teachers. I reject the epidemic of bad teachers narrative. The real problem with teachers is they don’t have a magic wand, or magic beans or fairy dust, because that is what it will take for many to be truly be successful as they are saddled with bad policies and a lack of resources, doing their best with children who don’t come from much. Instead of demonizing them for not being able to completely overcome the dehibilitating effects of poverty, we should get on our knees and thank them because their students would undoubtedly be much worse off with out them. Its poverty Al, not a lack of good teachers that is holding us back.

Shame on you Al Roker, you just pooped your pants again.

Teacher says, I quit!

To All it May Concern:

I’m doing something I thought I would never do—something that will make me a statistic and a caricature of the times. Some will support me, some will shake their heads and smirk condescendingly—and others will try to convince me that I’m part of the problem. Perhaps they’re right, but I don’t think so. All I know is that I’ve hit a wall, and in order to preserve my sanity, my family, and the forward movement of our lives, I have no other choice.

Before I go too much into my choice, I must say that I have the advantages and disadvantages of differentiated experience under my belt. I have seen the other side, where the grass was greener, and I unknowingly jumped the fence to where the foliage is either so tangled and dense that I can’t make sense of it, or the grass is wilted and dying (with no true custodian of its health). Are you lost? I’m talking about public K-12 education in North Carolina. I’m talking about my history as a successful teacher and leader in two states before moving here out of desperation.

In New Mexico, I led a team of underpaid teachers who were passionate about their jobs and who did amazing things. We were happy because our students were well-behaved, our community was supportive, and our jobs afforded us the luxuries of time, respect, and visionary leadership. Our district was huge, but we got things done because we were a team. I moved to Oregon because I was offered a fantastic job with a higher salary, a great math program, and superior benefits for my family. Again, I was given the autonomy I dreamed of, and I used it to find new and risky ways to introduce technology into the math curriculum. My peers looked forward to learning from me, the community gave me a lot of money to get my projects off the ground, and my students were amazing.

Then, the bottom fell out. I don’t know who to blame for the budget crisis in Oregon, but I know it decimated the educational coffers. I lost my job only due to my lack of seniority. I was devastated. My students and their parents were angry and sad. I told myself I would hang in there, find a temporary job, and wait for the recall. Neither the temporary job nor the recall happened. I tried very hard to keep my family in Oregon—applying for jobs in every district, college, private school, and even Toys R Us. Nothing happened after over 300 applications and 2 interviews.

The Internet told me that the West Coast was not hiring teachers anymore, but the East Coast was the go-to place. Charlotte, North Carolina couldn’t keep up with the demand! I applied with three schools, got three phone interviews, and was even hired over the phone. My very supportive and adventurous family and I packed quickly and moved across the country, just so I could keep teaching.

I had come from two very successful and fun teaching jobs to a new state where everything was different. During my orientation, I noticed immediately that these people weren’t happy to see us; they were much more interested in making sure we knew their rules. It was a one-hour lecture about what happens when teachers mess up. I had a bad feeling about teaching here from the start; but, we were here and we had to make the best of it.

Union County seemed to be the answer to all of my problems. The rumors and the press made it sound like UCPS was the place to be progressive, risky, and happy. So I transferred from CMS to UCPS. They made me feel more welcome, but it was still a mistake to come here.

Let me cut to the chase: I quit. I am resigning my position as a teacher in the state of North Carolina—permanently. I am quitting without notice (taking advantage of the “at will” employment policies of this state). I am quitting without remorse and without second thoughts. I quit. I quit. I quit!



I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible.

I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests.

I refuse to be an unpaid administrator of field tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit.

I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because administration comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time, under the guise of PLC [Professional Learning Community] meetings or whatever. I’ve seen successful PLC development. It doesn’t look like this.

I will not spend another day wondering what menial, administrative task I will hear that I forgot to do next. I’m far enough behind in my own work.

I will not spend another day wondering how I can have classes that are full inclusion, and where 50% of my students have IEPs, yet I’m given no support.

I will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode. Misery loves company, but I will not be that company.

I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments (like the EXPLORE test) that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices.

I totally object and refuse to have my performance as an educator rely on “Standard 6.” It is unfair, biased, and does not reflect anything about the teaching practices of proven educators.

I refuse to hear again that it’s more important that I serve as a test administrator than a leader of my peers.

I refuse to watch my students being treated like prisoners. There are other ways. It’s a shame that we don’t have the vision to seek out those alternatives.

I refuse to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know.

I refuse to watch my family struggle financially as I work in a job to which I have invested 6 long years of my life in preparation. I have a graduate degree and a track record of strong success, yet I’m paid less than many two-year degree holders. And forget benefits—they are effectively nonexistent for teachers in North Carolina.

I refuse to watch my district’s leadership tell us about the bad news and horrific changes coming towards us, then watch them shrug incompetently, and then tell us to work harder.

I refuse to listen to our highly regarded superintendent telling us that the charter school movement is at our doorstep (with a soon-to-be-elected governor in full support) and tell us not to worry about it, because we are applying for a grant from Race to the Top. There is no consistency here; there is no leadership here.

I refuse to watch my students slouch under the weight of a system that expects them to perform well on EOG [end of grade] tests, which do not measure their abilities other than memorization and application and therefore do not measure their readiness for the next grade level—much less life, career, or college.

I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.

I refuse to hear any more about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. This negates our hard work and makes us look bad.

I am tired of hearing about the miracles my peers are expected to perform, and watching the districts do next to nothing to support or develop them. I haven’t seen real professional development in either district since I got here. The development sessions I have seen are sloppy, shallow, and have no real means of evaluation or accountability.

I’m tired of my increasing and troublesome physical symptoms that come from all this frustration, stress, and sadness.

Finally, I’m tired of watching parents being tricked into believing that their children are being prepared for the complex world ahead, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.

I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads in preparation for the EOG tests and the new MSLs—neither of which are consequential to their future needs. As a parent of a high school student in Union County, I’m dismayed at the education that my child receives, as her teachers frantically prepare her for more tests. My toddler will not attend a North Carolina public school. I will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening.

I quit because I’m tired [of] being part of the problem. It’s killing me and it’s not doing anyone else any good. Farewell.

CC: Dr. Mary Ellis
Dr. June Atkinson

Friday, May 17, 2013

Superintendent Vitti changes his tune on the teacher academy; goes from mandatory to if you miss it there won’t be retribution.

The first letter to teachers read: All of this, and more, will be shared with you in detail at the 2013-2014 Teacher Academy this summer. You will have a choice of attending one of two weeks: the week of July 29th, or the week of August 5th. For those who miss both weeks, you will be expected to make-up the 5 days during the first semester of school by participating in five Saturday sessions.

A few hours later after I am sure a few inquiries from the union we got this:  As a follow up to the email below, please be advised that attendance at the Teacher Academy is strongly encouraged, but not required. Participation, or lack thereof, will not be factored into your evaluation. We strongly encourage you to attend one of the sessions and look forward to seeing you there.

Another change was point’s teachers would get for attending. The union initially said: No, you will not get your daily rate because this is not mandatory. No points will be offered.

But the latest e-mail form the super said: You will earn Master Plan points for participating in the Academy, and while participation is not required, it is strongly encouraged.

If your head is now spinning yours isn’t the only one.

Welcome to Duval County

School Board member Becki Couch late to the party again!

The super announced he wants to get rid of grade recovery. For years I have been writing about how some students game the system and making it available to all of them regardless of behavior and effort has handicapped student accountability.

I thought the best plan was to reserve grade recovery for these students who legitimately missed a lot of classes or for students who came consistently, behaved and tried hard but just needed a little more. To be honest though I am not so worried about the later group because teachers have a way of making sure those students have the opportunity to pass.

This is where Mrs. Couch comes in. She said in a Times Union article, “This has been a complaint for a very long time, even back when I was [teaching] in the classroom,”

Um, Mrs. Couch you have been on the board going on three years now. If you knew it was a problem, even from way back when you were in the classroom (3 years ago) maybe you could have done or said something. Maybe you could have fought for a change. I am confused what are we paying you for? Were there any other problems, like discipline, administrators acting like bullies, a one size fits all curriculum, that maybe we should address? SHEESH!

I was very optimistic when Couch was elected but the truth is she has been hit or miss.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Duval County asks its teachers to take it on the chin

Here are the facts. Once again members of the school board received a 2800 dollar raise. They went from making what a first year teacher makes to making what a 9th year teacher makes. Also a teacher would have to work 20 years to see that kind of raise.

Next the super wants to pay teachers a stipend well below their normal hourly rate to attend a week long teacher’s academy.

Finally the board wants to sit on 3 times the reserves it is required to or an additional 50 million dollars.

My question is why are teachers most of whom already spend a lot of their own money on their students and classrooms and who when compared to teachers nationally are grossly underpaid supposed to take it on the chin?

This is absolutely disrespectful.

Is Superintendent Vitti trying to pull a fast one on the district’s teachers?

This is part of a note we got from the superintendent about the summer teacher academy:

All of this, and more, will be shared with you in detail at the 2013-2014 Teacher Academy this summer. You will have a choice of attending one of two weeks: the week of July 29th, or the week of August 5th. For those who miss both weeks, you will be expected to make-up the 5 days during the first semester of school by participating in five Saturday sessions.

Nowhere does it say the academy is optional in fact it says, skip only if you are willing to give up 5 Saturdays in the fall. Nowhere does it say you have the choice of not attending.

Now it does say we will get paid a stipend, 75 dollars a day but if a teacher works a full day that is far below their rate.

The union however says the academy is optional: No, you will not get your daily rate because this is not mandatory. No points will be offered.

Points are what teachers use to recertify and we get them through trainings and or taking classes.

The district is trying to get away with training on the cheap. If you aren’t going to pay me my rate give me some points. If you aren’t going to give me some points pay me my rate but either way don’t present what is optional or mandatory. That’s insulting; it says teachers aren’t smart enough to tell the difference.

As you can imagine this was quite the topic around the water cooler. One teacher who has been through more rounds of training than she can count said, and the really sad thing is whatever they “teach” us will be out the window in a few months or a year or two at most, just like every other training they have given us.

Since the district at best is trying to train its teachers on the cheap or at worse trying to pull a fast one, I couldn’t really disagree with her.

Duval County sells out its teachers and students

Next year Duval County will continue its partnership with Teach for America despite the fact everybody admits this is the wrong thing to do. Trey Czar who will manage 11 million dollars to help train the TFA recruits said on the radio two weeks ago that first and second year teachers struggle and the districts own study said we have a disproportionate amount of rookie teachers in our struggling schools. Well TFA assure that we have a constant rotation of struggling, neophyte teachers in our struggling schools!

So what does Duval do? Read that first sentence again, it continues with its plans to employ these hobbyists who will be work with our most vulnerable children.

Oh and it gets worse, despite the fact Duval has a hard time retaining teachers it doubles down on a program where it knows that the vast majority of will leave after their two year commitment. Less than 25% of the first three classes have stayed to year 3.

How does any of this make sense? We should be cutting back not expanding. It’s ridiculous and it’s also offensive to veteran teachers who have made teaching a career rather than an extended summer job which is what it is to the vast amount of TFA recruits.

It also wastes money as many will get training on the districts dime that they will never use. Then their mere presence has pay, cost of benefits and pension ramifications for teachers.

How can we reach our potential when we insist of staffing our classes with rookie teachers who won’t stay long enough to get better instead of teachers who may become lifelong educators? The answer we can’t but that hasn’t stopped the powers that be from moving ahead.

Why is the Duval County School Board insisting we keep triple the amount in reserves?

First let me remind you that several school board members received a 2800 dollar raise. A teacher would have to work 20 years before they got a raise approaching that much.

From the Times Union: After asking for revisions on capital dollars and charter school money, board members then decided they wanted to see the rough draft with 9 percent of the general revenue placed in the district’s reserve fund.

State law requires that the school district tuck away 3 percent in the reserve fund, which would mean $24.7 million for 2013-14. At 9 percent, that number is around $75 million.

Why are we leaving 50 million on the sidelines again? How about throwing some of that to the district’s teachers and staff who haven’t received raises in years? If huge raises are okay for the school board shouldn’t at least little raises be okay for the teachers and staff too?

The reality is there are lots of needs in the district that are going unmet. Last I counted there were just 12 social workers for all 123,000 kids, many teachers have to pay for their own supplies and should we really have 50 kids in art classes or 60 or more in P.E.?

The school board seems to think so.


Despite 91 million dollars charter school advocates plead poverty.

In a recent piece on ReDefinedEd Sherri Ackerman, who has never met a charter school that performed poorly or a public school that didn’t, complained about the lack of resources that charter schools have. She mentioned that many lacked gyms and kitchens and computer labs and so much more but she never mentioned that many are profit centers for hedge fund managers and corporations. Hmm, I wonder if they would have those things if instead of fattening executive’s bank accounts they invested that money into the schools. So much for it being all about the children right?

I for one am tired of the pleas of poverty and their demands for a continuing revenue stream. They got 91 million dollars this year and 50-something million last year. That money would have been better served in schools with gyms and kitchens and computer labs and proper facilities, let alone certified teachers and a curriculum.

Then nobody forces corporations to open charter schools. Nobody holds a gun to their heads and demands it. It’s all voluntary and if these people don’t know what they are getting into then they shouldn’t be getting into it. That should be alarming too.

This is just one more attempt to divert the public’s money away from where it is desperately needed and it is appalling


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

House members say yes to cheap health insurance — for themselves.

What does this have to do with education? Well these are the same legislators who are voting for vouchers, charter schools, merit pay, odious evaluations, erosion of teachers rights and an expansion of high stakes testing. Then they vote to turn down healthcare for the poor while charging themselves less than 9 bucks a month. These people don't care about anything but their own private interests and many are trying to make a buck off education and save a buck, lots of bucks off of health care. -cpg

From the Tampa Times by Tia Mitchel

Florida House Republicans last month loudly and proudly rejected billions of dollars in federal money that would have provided health insurance to 1 million poor Floridians.
Quietly, they kept their own health insurance premiums staggeringly low. House members will pay just $8.34 a month for state-subsidized health care next year, or $30 a month to cover their entire family.
House Republicans, including Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, would not say why the House did not raise its premiums to match the Senate. The premium increase was also part of Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget.It's also less than the $25 a month House Republicans wanted to charge poor Floridians for basic coverage such as a limited number of doctor visits or preventive care.
In a statement Monday, Weatherford said: "We are aware of the differences in what House members pay compared to other state employees for health insurance and are looking forward to addressing it next session."
The discrepancy, even if it's addressed, doesn't diminish the awkwardness of House lawmakers accepting cheap, subsidized health insurance for themselves while effectively saying no to health care for others.
"I don't think there is a defense of that. I think its pretty unconscionable," said Karen Woodall, executive director of the left-leaning Florida Center for Economic and Fiscal Policy. "And then to turn around and the leadership to say the reason 1 million people aren't accessing taxpayer-funded health care is they don't want to use taxpayer dollars is very disingenuous."
Eleven of Tampa Bay's 13 Republicans voted against accepting federal Medicaid money and are receiving state-subsidized health care. Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, voted against taking federal money but does not participate in the state health care plan. Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has the state health care plan but wanted the state to take the federal money. The area's House Democrats receive subsidized health care but voted to accept federal money.
The topic of Medicaid expansion — or what Florida should do as an alternative — took center stage throughout the legislative session. But there was hardly any focus on what lawmakers pay for their own coverage.
The state heavily subsidizes the costs of providing insurance to all full-time employees.
But 24,000 supervisors and managers, including lawmakers, get the best deal.
While the House remains in that category, senators in 2012 agreed to increase their premiums to match the bulk of the state workforce.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, insisted on the change, saying it wasn't fair for senators to pay less than low-level state workers. Senators now pay $50 a month for health insurance, or $180 a month for their families.
"I think the public expects the state Senate to be treated the same as our fellow co-workers in state government and not be given preferential status," Negron said Monday.
House members, who earn $29,697 a year for what is considered part-time work, get the same coverage as other state workers, just at a lower up-front cost.
The state health plan has several options, including a standard Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy or HMOs that vary by county.
Taxpayers pay nearly $600 a month to cover each individual House member, according to the state. With the HMO, members have no deductible and pay $20 to see a doctor or $40 for a speciality.
Contrast that with what House members proposed for parents and disabled adults, who made less than $11,490 a year. In addition to a $25 a month premium, the state would contribute $2,000 each year.
The combined $2,300 could be used for whatever coverage someone could afford, most likely short-term policies with high deductibles and limited coverage.
"They would pay three times as much and not even get something that is one-third as good," said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, who argued on the House floor that the inequity was hypocritical.
All but 12 House members take advantage of the state health insurance plan. Waldman says members have defended it as part of the benefits package for a demanding job.
That may be true, he said, but "you can't take that compensation and turn a blind eye to the 1 million who are uninsured in the state of Florida."
Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and the architect of the House plan, said the amount House members pay each month should not be the focus of the discussion. Calls to other local Republicans, including Reps. Kathleen Peters, Ross Spano and Dana Young, were not returned.
"I think the entire state health care system is broken, and what we tried to do is try to fix it," Corcoran said, noting that conservatives have called his proposal a national model. "When you do that, everybody is going to be treated equally and fairly."
Contact Tia Mitchell at

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The nation's highest paid public employees.

Things could be worse, we could be Michigan

From People's World, by John Rummel
DETROIT - Double teachers' salaries, hold teachers in high esteem as other leading industrial nations do and insure quality pre-school education for all. Those were some of the high-sounding suggestions U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made during a meeting with the staff and students of the Brenda Scott Academy in Detroit.
Only one big problem: there is a Grand Canyon-size disconnect between those suggestions to improve education and what is happening on the ground in Michigan.

Respect teachers? The Republican-dominated Michigan legislature has done the exact opposite. It views teachers, their unions and the collective bargaining process as the primary reason for poor student performance. It has responded with a slew of bills to cuts wages, benefits, and union dues deduction and push private, for-profit schools that rely on online teachers, not teachers in the classroom.
The Brenda Scott Academy is part of Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), a state-created school district that has taken 15 "underperforming" Detroit public schools and placed them under state control. Republicans in the state legislature now plan to expand the EAA into a statewide district, eliminating collective bargaining and seniority in the process. Educators rightfully view it as a dismantling of public education.
Secretary Duncan acknowledged that only three out of every 10 children have access to quality pre-school education and far too many children come into to kindergarten already one to two years behind their peers. That initial disadvantage follows them a lifetime, he said.
Sixteen-year former Michigan State Board of Education member Marianne McGuire said Duncan's comments reveal "the problem is poverty, not teachers."
Kids coming from well-to-do homes where there are magazines and books, and where children are read nightly, start school a "step ahead," McGuire said. While Duncan and Snyder might recognize the problem, "they don't put money into it," she noted.
A case in point is the fact that state House Republicans will soon vote on a plan diverting $800 million from schools each year to pay for road repairs and construction.
if you want to do something to help schools don't take $800 million away, McGuire said. Use that money to have "smaller class sizes, new equipment, and fixing up crumbling buildings," she said.
She also countered Duncan's claim that the EAA is the "right direction" to go in.
"If we feel the schools are in bad shape, we should be doing something to fix the schools, not set up a whole new district," she said.
Also worrying educators was the "secret" plan to get education on the cheap being discussed by Snyder, people associated with information technology companies and the Mackinac Center, a right-wing think tank based in Michigan. The plan, recently exposed by the Detroit News, entailed using vouchers to pay for schools with a heavy emphasis on using online courses.
Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook criticized the project as "a scheme that takes funding from kids to divert more taxpayer dollars into the pockets of rich CEOs."
McGuire noted that those leading the so-called school reform movement are "not educators and have never been in a classroom."