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Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Times Union’s unconscionable love affair with Gary Chartrand

First a little background on Gary Chartrand. He went from top 50 in grocery store news to the state board of education, thinks large classes are just fine and doesn’t believe teachers are professionals, for good measure started a scab teacher group PEN whose sole purpose was to weaken the union, he was never a teacher or worked in a school and the Times Union is in love with this guy.

The last guy they were in love with Ed Pratt-Dannals having proved to be less than worthy they have latched onto the Education Leader du jour Chartrand, it’s just too bad that like my cousin Mary they keep bringing home one bad boy after another.

The Times Union recently gushed over him in print saying, “…Chartrand has a family foundation that already has made a difference in the public schools.” Sadly it’s not the positive difference that the Times Union would have you believe.

He is responsible for bringing the KIPP charter school to town. KIPP after its first year was the lowest rated school in Northeast Florida. Now it has improved but have you noticed who has not replicated its magical program, the Boles school or any of the other country club schools that the Chartrand brood went to. The reason is because poor kids get tested and rich kids get taught. Another little known fact is it costs more to educate the KIPP kids and if it is like most other KIPP schools many of its gains come through attrition. Hmm I wonder how much better our public schools would be doing if they could get rid of their worst performers and had more resources.

Then he was instrumental in bringing Teach for America to Jacksonville. Not to Tampa and a lot of other places mind you, because they don’t want them, instead they want lifelong educators in their classrooms. Teach for America’s business model is the exact opposite of what people in education call best practices. They take recent grads without education degrees and put them first through a six week access course and then into the toughest classrooms the city has to offer where they serve a two year commitment; after which 90 percent of them leave. It’s pretty crazy that we use them assuring an ever revolving door of teachers since Duval County already has a hard time retaining teachers.

In the same editorial where the Times Union wrote Gary Chartrand’s name and then put hearts around it, they quoted Jeb Bush, “Low income students start school far behind their more affluent peers, They are less likely to get a great teacher and to me this is unconscionable.” This means the “difference” the Times Union credits Chartrand with is putting untested teachers, the majority of who leave before they approach anything appearing good with our low income students.

I might come off as hard on TFA but the truth is I think they do have a role to play. Districts after exhausting all other options should be able to call them up and say; hey we have these openings can you help us out. The problem here in Jacksonville is we go to them first, we pass on college of education graduates and experienced teachers and instead put hobbyists who think to themselves, I’ll give that a try, into our classrooms. If we truly want to improve we should never put TFA recruits in a classroom when there is a chance we can put a lifelong educator there.

Another “difference” Chartand has made is the introduction of race based education goals to Florida. He thinks all kids can learn, just black and Hispanic kids not as much. The Times Union like Chartrand might be for them but organizations like the NAACP, the Hispanic conference and the PTA aren’t. According to a recent press release, the, "Florida PTA believes all students, regardless of race, geography or gender should be expected to attain the same educational goals." But what do they know they aren’t former grocers who sent their kids to private schools and they aren’t current millionaires. Brown V the Board of Education like evidence that says smaller classes work and merit pay doesn’t are just trifling details to Chartrand.

Another Jeb Bush quote from the editorial where the Times Union carved TU plus GC 4ever into a tree seems to fly in the face of raced based goals. He said, “If you stand faithful to the fact all children can learn, it’s up to us to organize around them so that they can do more often than not and you have expectations that are higher and more meaningful for them.” He didn’t add, unless you are a poor black kid right Gary?

So when the Times Union talks about what a difference maker he is they must be talking about the fifty million he plans to bring to our schools. I worry about this too because Race to the Top has or should have taught us to be wary of gifts. That so called help, more standardized tests and an unfair evaluation system that doesn’t work made our problems worse. So I wonder what strings are going to be attached to Chartrans millions which when broken down is less than one percent of Duval’s annual budget. I mean besides the 11 million they plan to spend on TFA, which again has a business model which is the opposite of beneficial to our children. What are we willing to trade for less than a penny on the dollar?

I get it though we all like rich people and celebrities and the Times Union really likes them, wait a minute I don’t get it because when it comes to our kids and schools having a lot of money should not make one a “difference” maker. If the Times Union wants to be a ‘difference maker, if Vitti and the board want to be difference makers, if Jacksonville wants to be a difference maker in the lives of their children it’s time they picked up on that.

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