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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Superintendent Vitti admits Teach for America leads to increased turnover but sticks with them anyways?

Below is part of a note he sent to the John E. Ford K-8 community

In addition, I have communicated to our Human Resources Services department that new Teach for America (TFA) teachers not be assigned to Ford thereby reducing potential for increased turnover.

Right there he admits TFA leads to increased turnover. WOW

Since that is the case, instead of investing in finding people who will be life long educators why are we investing in these hobbyists?

No I am asking you. Why are we wasting time, money and training into them when the district knows they will most likely leave? 

Vitti picks none of the above for John E. Ford

Originally he tapped Jacqueline Byrd to replace LaTonya Parker at John E. Ford K-8. That didn’t last long as Byrd left the district and the super decided to go with district admin Mary Mikels.  Well friends according to someone close to the situation, Mikels is now out, heading to yet a different elementary school but instead of going back with Parker the district has chosen Paula Renfro another district admin, though she does have Montessori experience, to lead the school.

Below is a letter that the superintendent sent to the John E. Ford community.

Dear John E. Ford Community:
I sincerely thank you for attending the Community Meeting hosted on Thursday by Board member Wright. The discussion allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the long-term and immediate challenges and opportunities facing John E. Ford and the admiration you hold for principal Parker.
There were particular themes and concerns consistently expressed that include 1) a critical need to improve the quality of implementation of the Montessori program 2) dissatisfaction with the recommended removal of Ms. Parker and replacement with leader without Montessori training or experience 3) continual principal changes at the school leading to turnover of teachers and 4) need for additional resources to support students and train teachers in Montessori implementation.
I greatly considered and reflected on each of your comments, frustrations, and suggestions. In addition, I met with Ms. Parker the morning following our meeting to hear her thoughts and reflection of the year, specific needs, and plan of action for improvement.
While I enjoyed my conversation with Ms. Parker and can clearly see the strength of her interpersonal skills, I remain convinced that her lack of experience as principal along with an unclear plan of action prohibit her from building the model Montessori program that we all want for John E. Ford students.
As a result, I have given considerable thought to the needs expressed and overwhelming concerns about the quality of Ford's Montessori program. Consequently, I am recommending a leader who not only has the instructional leadership to raise FCAT scores that dropped in multiple areas and grade levels, but the experience to build a model program.
I am convinced that John E. Ford can be a state and national model for Montessori implementation due to its rich blend of magnet and community students, involved parents, and committed teachers. However, to reach that goal, we must continue the collaboration, commitment and passion demonstrated during last week's meeting. Ms. Paula Renfro is a veteran leader with 14 years of experience as a principal and a deep understanding of the Montessori program, urban schools, and student achievement. Ms. Renfro spearheaded the development of the Axson Elementary Montessori program, and most recently served as an Executive Director within the former cluster configuration. She is our most experienced and proven administrator in Montessori programming with an urban core background.
Ms. Parker will remain at Garden City Elementary as principal so she can hone and develop her leadership skills in a stable and small school setting, an environment I am convinced will contribute to her success. Ms. Mickel will replace Ms. Renfro at Kernan Elementary.
In addition, I have communicated to our Human Resources Services department that new Teach for America (TFA) teachers not be assigned to Ford thereby reducing potential for increased turnover. We will engage our Teachers' Union on establishing a long-term plan for teacher placement at the school due to the training investment, and commit to additional Montessori training and resources that support teachers and students to raise student achievement.
I thank you again for your commitment to John E. Ford program and especially children. Together I know we will improve John E. Ford and build the program and students we all imagine it can be.
Nikolai P. Vitti, Ed.D.
Duval County Public Schools

It seems to me that the super met somewhere in the middle. He still replaced Parker but went with an admin who has Montessori experience. A member of the PTA wrote me, We would still prefer Mrs  Parker, but at this point, I think we're resigned to it.

Florida Charter Schools lag behind Public Schols

From the Tampa Tribune, by Anastasia Dawson

 Charter schools are on the rise in Florida, seen by some as a solution to chronically under performing public schools.

But Florida's growing penchant for funneling public money into charter schools hasn't universally translated into better performance, according to a national study released last week.

Florida students in traditional public schools, on average, read at a higher level than those in charter schools and do just as well in math, according to the study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, released Tuesday.

This despite benefiting from selection bias, low numbers of ESE and ESOL students, fewer numbers on free and reduced lunch, the ability to both counsel out poor performers and bad apples and to put requirements on parents.

Why is Florida so heavily investing in charter schools again? The answer is a simple one, follow the money.

Superintendent Vitti’s inexplicable love for Teach for America

The super has said that Teach for America teachers are the same as every other teacher. He also said placing them at John E. Ford, a Montessori school may have been a mistake and he did so at a community meeting last Thursday where parents and teachers alike both complained about high staff turn over. My question is if they are the same as everybody else why would it be okay to place them at another school but not there?

Paula Wright SB, district 4 said at the same meeting, that’s a common complaint, high staff turnover, that many schools have. Well if that is the case too, then why s the district investing in teachers they know will leave after two just two years.

I believe TFA has a role to play as a supplement to our teachers, not as a replacement for them. The district should strive to put life long educators in our classrooms not hobbyists on a walk-about. And if the Super is being honest with himself and us then it seems like he feels the same way too.  

Superintendent Vitti should keep LaTonya Parker at John E. Ford. Schools are more than just test scores.

In a way what is happening at John E. Ford K-8 is a microcosm for what is happening all over the nation. Are schools testing factories where how kids perform on standardized tests is all that matters?  Or are schools places where kids come to be nurtured and allowed to grow?

First I think Superintendent Vitti should be commended for meeting with the parents and teachers of John E. Ford K-8 on June 27th. He had to know going in it wouldn’t be easy to have a meeting with angry parents and frustrated teachers. The reason they felt that way is because the district had announced plans to replace first year principal LaTonya Parker.

Now the reason given for replacing her on its face seems valid, if you think schools should just testing factories that is. The superintendent reported that the test scores of the K-8 fell farther and more dramatically than any other school in the district.

A parent however countered that schools should be more than just test scores, a vote for schools being a place where kids are nurtured and allowed to grow. It wouldn’t be the last such vote that way before the night was over.

Parents and staff also spoke passionately and with frustration about the frequent turnover of principals; Mrs. Parker would be the fourth to leave in five years (fifth if you count Jacqueline Byrd who lasted just a few days) and the high turnover in staff, both of which they said led to the schools precipitous drop in scores. Every time there is a principal change more experienced teachers leave they bemoaned.

They also said something that is more rare than you might think in the district; they talked about how Mrs. Parker was a real leader. A leader they supported and whom they felt could, after this first year hiccup, get the school heading in the right direction. If the district is heading to a customer service model then the customer’s spoke loudly about what they wanted and that was for Mrs. Parker to stay.

The superintendent after taking a fair amount of criticism from the 50 or so gathered school parent-teacher leaders did point out a few things, like how he is ultimately responsible for what happens in the district’s schools and if John E. Ford failed again it would be on him, a sentiment that Paula Wright, SB district 4, who was also in attendance echoed. He then said that had he been in charge a year ago (the super arrived in November) that he never would have put Mrs. Parker in charge of John E. Ford. Not because he didn’t have faith in her as a leader but because the job was such a “heavy lift”.

If you didn’t know, first John E. Ford is a K-8, one of only two in the district. It has a *Montessori program, a Spanish emersion program and where it is a magnet school for those programs it also takes in neighborhood kids too. It is not a dedicated magnet, like Paxon or Stanton. He indicated that would be a lot going on for an experienced principal, let alone for one taking their first job. He also emphatically stated that he thought Mary Michaels, the principal he chose to replace Jacqueline Byrd, the person he had chosen to replace Mrs. Parker, before she left for Polk County to be deputy superintendent, would do a better job.

A parent then asked if the meeting was just another example of the district going through the motions and if the decision to replace Mrs. Parker was final. The superintendent replied, no, and that the highly passionate group of school leaders had given him something to think about. The following are some of the things I hope he considers when making his decision.

First Mrs. Mickels was not the superintendent’s first choice to replace Mrs. Parker. Initially he went with Jacqueline Byrd. Mrs. Mickels  has not had Montessori training, nor does she have school-based knowledge about what is going on at the school both of which are things that Mrs. Parker has.  Mickels will take time to get going where Parker can start running the first day.

Scores are bound to go up no matter what happens. I don’t want to make light of it but the scores are so low now that they are bound to improve no matter who is the principal there next year. The super promised interventions, which will also help. When you couple that with teachers and parents who are motivated enough to fight for their leader it is hard to imagine what they can’t accomplish.

Next it will prove that he is actually listening to what the people of Jacksonville are saying. When Vitti arrived he did a listening tour of Jacksonville and many rightfully applauded him. The previous administration had a deservedly tone deaf reputation. The thing is, our leaders in this era of politicians going through the motions have to do more than just “listen”, they sometimes also have to act upon what they have heard and the message, loud and clear, was John E. Ford wants to retain Mrs. Parker. This is a group that likewise seem dedicated to doing whatever it took to make sure there is not a repeat of this years scores.  

Is there a risk going with parents and teachers over data? Sure there is but as I wrote above many believe schools should be more than just test scores. 

We will know Tuesday July second Superintendent Vitti’s opinion on the matter. 

 * The Montessori philosophy recognizes that children work and think differently than adults, and emphasizes self-directed activity on the part of the child and observation on the part of the teacher. It stresses the importance of adapting the child’s learning environment to his or her developmental level, and of the role of movement in absorbing concepts and practical skills.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rick Scott, pressure on Florida's teachers is about to get worse

From the Florida Current, by James Call

Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Tony Bennett engaged Florida's teachers of the year Thursday in a roundtable discussion of education philosophies. Most of the talk focused on the transition to Common Corestandards and the assessments that will be used to measure student and teacher performance.
“The implication of Common Core will be one of the largest policy implications lifts the states have engaged in the history of education,” Bennett said during the talk with about 40 teachers. “In the very near short-term we’re going to have to make some decisions about what will be the assessment regimen for Common Core -- if you were going to ask me what is item No. 1 for the next 30 to 60 days, that’s item No. 1.”
Florida and 44 other states are adopting a set of achievement standards designed to teach what students need to know to succeed in college and careers. Thursday’s roundtable discussion came amidst concerns about the Common Core transition and expectations that Florida schools are going to post falling grades when school grades are released later this summer.
The roundtable event was scheduled as part of a two-day meeting that brought teachers from across the state to Tallahassee. The idea behind the summit, according to the governor’s staff, is to provide Scott the chance to hear from classroom instructors about best practices and ideas to improve school performance.
The teachers also had a chance to probe the minds of the governor and the education commissioner. In response to a question about a vision for Florida’s education system Scott discussed the importance of preparing young people to work in a rapidly changing world.
“The pressure on education is not going to slow down. I think it’s going to get worse,” Scott said. "Companies that were very successful 20 years ago are gone today. And the change is happening, the expectations of what their employees need to know is going to get more aggressive all the time."

Reporter James Call can be reached at

Florida’s Worst Legislators

The following legislators got an A rating from the Foundation for Florida’s Future, Jeb Bush’s pro public school privatization think tank. Sens. Anitere Flores, Bill Galvano, Andy Gardiner, John Legg, Gwen Margolis, Bill Montford, Jeremy Ring, Kelli Stargel and John Thrasher; and Reps. Michael Bileca, Jason Brodeur, Manny Diaz, Erik Fresen, and Carlos Trujillo.

Half of these so-called legislatures voted on legislation that would financially benefit themselves or family members and all are part of the blame the teacher movement. And if you would like to see how, type their names into the search box. This is no honor roll but instead it is a roll of shame.

To read more click the link:

Friday, June 28, 2013

So God made a teacher.

Friday Funnies


The utter failure of Standardized testing

Standardized tests do have a role to play as a component of education; the problem is they have become the end all be all instead.

Anybody who hasn’t had their head under a rock for the last five years knows the tests weren’t designed to evaluate teachers, that they destroy teacher creativity, innovation and to a degree morale and that they have led to an erosion of the joy of learning for many children too. It also caused us to give up on the classes like music, art, drama as well as skill and trade programs that many of these kids looked forward and replaced them with intensive this or remedial that.

Yet for some reason the powers-that-be continue to double down on their implementation and ratchet up the high stakes. Now many children advancing to the next grade and teachers keeping their jobs are determined by just a few hours each spring. The only people who really seem to be benefiting are the high stakes testing companies, over 3 billion for Pearson last year alone.

Maybe, just maybe in a bizzaro type way all of above would be worth it if it led to academic gains but as Diane Ravitch revealed in her blog, they just haven’t worked. She wrote: There were big achievement gains from 1971-2008 for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, and big achievement gains for students at every age level tested–ages 9, 13, and 17.

From 1971-2008, in reading, black students at age 9 gained 34 points; at age 13, 25 points; at 17, 28 points.
From 1971-2008, white students at age 9 made gains of 14 points; at 13 points, 7 points; at 17, 4 points.
From 1971-2008, Hispanic students at age 9 gained 25 points; at 13, 10 points; at 17, 17 points.
However, for the past four years, from 2008-2012, the scores have been stagnant for every racial and ethnic group and for every age group with the singular exception of Hispanic 13-year-olds and female 13-year-olds.
From 2008-2012, the acme of the high-stakes testing era, there were no gains for black students at ages 9 or 13 or 17.
It’s a definition of insanity to do the same things over and over and expect a different outcome, well friends we have four years of data that says high stakes standardized tests aren’t working. Wouldn’t it be insane to continue down the same path? The era of high stakes testing should mercifully come to an end and then we should track down all the students who went though it and apologize.
 Want some light reading about the pervasive nature of high stakes tests? Click the links. 

The J.P.E.F. really, really, really wants you to like Common Core.

Trey Czar, Gary Chartrand fan and director of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund wrote, The Jacksonville Public Education Fund -- along with Duval County Public Schools, the Florida Department of Education, Governor Rick Scott and others -- believe that all children deserve a chance to learn at the highest levels and succeed in the 21st Century world. Common Core is an important step in this goal.
Wow! Can I believe that all children deserve a chance to learn at the highest levels and succeed in the 21st Century world and not believe in common core? Am I dooming them to mediocrity by thinking we should slow things down?

A lot of people’s problem with common core is it is too much too soon. They don’t believe schools have the technology to support it and teachers don’t feel they have the training to adequately implement it. Then in Florida teachers will have their salaries and in many cases their employment determined by how their students do on high stakes tests, which the common core brings in spade. This makes many reluctant and the anti-teacher Florida legislature has done nothing to dissuade their fears.

Czar then wrote: Opponents are claiming that it's too expensive, too difficult, or will brainwash the minds of students in the United States.

In his defense some people really do believe those things but he doesn’t mention that some opponents instead of rushing to implement Common Core just want us to slow down and get it right.

Maybe he wouldn't love common core so much if his job was on the line.

To read his piece, click the link:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Polk County becomes Duval South as six administrators head that way.

Kathryn Leroy was hired to be the superintendent of Polk County and she has taken 5 long time Duval administrators with her. 

Jacqueline Byrd, will be deputy superintendent, and Tony Bellamy and Kenneth Reddick will be regional assistant superintendents. Jaquelyn Bowen, will be the senior director of reading and Aaron Smith will be the senior director of math. All five will earn six figures.

Byrd, Bellamy and Reddick had been reassigned to schools as principals before their departures. 

To read more click the link:

Arne Duncan insults teachers and enrages the Bad Ass Teacher Association

The bad ass teacher association is a fast growing internet group of teachers who are fed up with the bad teacher narrative, high stakes testing agenda and the public school privatization aims of many influential individuals and groups. In short they are tired of being the whipping boys and girls for the ills in education and have decided to push back and today Arne Duncan stepped into a hornets nest of righteous indignation. 

Just go ahead and skip to the 23-minute mark, up till then it is just blah, blah and more blah. Then this man who has never worked in a classroom has the nerve to insult the nations teachers.

He says we should look to South Korea, Singapore and Finland and emulate what they do. He claims that their teachers come form the top third of college graduates and America’s teachers come from the bottom third. First there is no study that backs this up which means he is just parroting anti-teacher right-wing talking points at best or talking out of his less than bad ass at worse.

But lets look at his claims, first Finland is highly unionized, they don’t believe in standardized tests and funding education is a top priority for them not an after thought as it often is here. Mr. Duncan how come you omitted those points?

I am a little less familiar with Singapore though I imagine since they cane people discipline isn’t a problem and South Korea though I wonder if the teachers there are so great then why two different organizations have tried to recruit me? I am glad they are all doing well but to point to their teachers class rank as the reason is short sighted and quite frankly it’s what you might expect a bright 12 year old, the equivalent of Jeb Bush, to come up with and not the secretary of education.

The main argument that Arne and the other teacher haters have is people who go into the colleges 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, where 100 percent of public school teachers have them. 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?

Within 9 hours the original post by Bonnie Cunard questioning Duncan’s validity has 197 comments from all over the nation as teachers, who on Monday also swamped the White House switchboards with their demand that Duncan be replaced with an educator, voiced their dissatisfaction.

Why Mr. Duncan would choose to insult millions of teachers beyond me but it is indicative of his corporate style reforms and to be honest it doesn’t seem that smart of a thing to do.

Please feel free to check out the page and if so moved voice your dissatisfaction as well.

Students protesting education reform

This video takes place in Chicago, but sadly the concerns there are the concerns everywhere. -cpg

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It is tough to be a black kid in Florida

I could have written “poor kid” but we should all know by now that nobody cares about poor kids.

Lets get right to it.

Charter schools are being put in poor neighborhoods and being sold as miracle cures, unfortunately snake oil is closer to the truth. Stanford’s CREDO, the definitive study on charter schools said that kids in Florida charter schools lose an average of seven days in reading and hold steady in math, which is hardly a miracle right. However it is worse because when you factor in selection bias, low numbers of ESOL and ESE students, the ability to counsel out poor performers, kick out kids with discipline problems and their ability to impose requirements on parents, with all that going for them, they should be killing public schools but they aren’t and instead they are lagging behind.

Then there is Teach for America, which does the exact opposite of what we know to be best practices. They take non-education majors and put them through a five week teacher boot camp and then put them in our neediest classrooms, you know the ones with all the black kids, err make that poor kids. There they stay for two years and leave, or most of them do anyways, only 8% of Jacksonville’s first class of TFA teachers made it to year 4. That’s right instead of recruiting our top teachers to work with our most needy students we would rather have an ever-revolving door of neophytes, so much that the champions for, privatization, err, change recently pledge to invest 11 million dollars into the program.

Say some of them do somehow make it through all this and graduate with a well rounded education, well there is no guarantee they will be able to go to college since the state changed the bright future rules. From the Gainesville Sun: The percentage of Alachua County high school seniors receiving Bright Futures will drop by 63 percent under the new guidelines. Low- and middle-income students will feel the brunt of the changes unless action is taken.

The Miami Herald also weighted in: Starting next year, Florida students will need to post higher scores on the SAT and ACT scores to qualify for the state-funded scholarships. The change will likely cause the number of college freshman receiving Bright Futures awards to drop dramatically, with poor and minority students suffering the most.

Who is going to pay for college, oh some of you are thinking they can get student loans, well not so fast. According to the Washington Post, The Obama administration’s rules for approving student loans are causing a disproportionately large number of blacks to be denied because of blemished credit histories.

A reduced chance of getting a quality education, coupled with no scholarships and no loans to go to college for those few that do make it is sadly what many of our neediest kids are now facing. Sadly that’s what I believe many of their parents and grandparents faced too.

The real problem is the only time the state doesn’t ignore poverty is when it says poverty is an excuse, well look where all the schools that are struggling are. There isn’t a school in Mandarin or at the beach doing poorly. St. Johns has zero charter schools too. They are all in high poverty areas.

Poverty, by the way, is the number one quantifiable measurement in education; those students that live in it as a group do worse than those that don’t. But that’s not to say we should just throw our hands up, quit, dismantle public schools, though many influential members of the state government would like us to and ship the students out.

Instead we should employ common sense solutions that don’t break the bank or reinvent the wheel, and perhaps most importantly that don’t wreck neighborhoods in the process. We should have disciplined and rigorous classes. We do students no favors when we pass them along without discipline, or a work ethic, or the basic knowledge that they need. We need to provide legitimate after school and summer school opportunities to catch the kids up to where they should be. We could make the schedules more manageable (8 classes at a time, really) and make school more enjoyable to kids by making sure each student had a least one elective on their schedule. That and we can make many of their education experiences more meaningful by offering more trade, skill and arts opportunities. We can’t continue to make school such drudgery or irrelevant for kids and then wonder why so many do poorly or drop out. Then we need social workers and mental health counselors because often why a kid does poorly in school has nothing to do with school. We could make a change. We could be doing so much better if we wanted to.

Please forgive the pun but a lot of kids, our poor white kids and our poor black kids start behind the eight ball and we don’t do much to help them get out from behind it. It is almost like the plan from the beginning is to keep the cycle of poverty that affects so many of them going.

It is tough to be a black kid in Florida

I could have written “poor kid” but we should all know by now nobody cares about poor kids.

Bill Gates throws more money at bad education ideas

It has been a while so many might have forgotten but bill Gates first idea was smaller schools. He reasoned that if small schools on the plains of Nebraska were successful why couldn’t we translate that t the inner city. Well the reasons are legion and he eventually gave up on it admitting it didn’t work out like he hoped.

Next after pondering why he would pay an experienced landscaper more than a rookie (teachers are landscapers in the analogy) he decided the best way to improve education was to come up with the best teacher evaluation system possible. And after spending 50 million dollars he decided that kids should evaluate their teachers (a major component of his new proposal) or what teachers like to call one of the worst ideas of all time.

A few months ago he called for spending 5 billion dollars to put cameras in every classroom. He says it is so teachers can get feedback but his previous distain for teachers makes many of us think he doesn’t quite trust us.  Say you were to divvy that 5 billion out over ten years we could put about 700 social workers in our most struggling schools so they could tackle what Bill Gates and others to be fair, continuously ignores and that is what happens outside of the classroom is just as important.

Now we get to his latest humdinger high tech bracelets.  According to Yahoo Voices, Gates Foundation, started and run by Bill and Melinda Gates has stepped into he fray by offering cash to Clemson University to study the effectiveness of using sensors worn on the wrists of school children to measure how engaged they are in their lessons, and thus, the effectiveness of what is being taught. Oy Vey and WOW!!

Sprinkle in his union busting, charter loving, voucher promoting pursuits and it is truly stunning that this really rich and supposedly smart guy is on the wrong side of every education issue.  

Education Matters turns 3 years old today

Education Matters turned 3 years old today. In that time there have been nearly 800,000 unique views and not counting my mother and I that’s still almost 1,500. I kid but I also figure something like 3 million posts have been read.

Speaking of posts there has been over 4000 in the last three years and over half of them were original material. The posts have been featured on Buzzfeed, the Folio, the Times Union, State Impact, the Victims Advocate and even the Washington Post.

There have been visitors from all over the world including five digits worth of views from France, Germany and over 26,000 hits from Russia.

People have left nearly 1700 comments that I have accepted, unfortunately due to some trolling I had to switch to moderating comments last fall.

135 people have subscribed to the blog, which is very easy to do, hint, hint.

The most popular post is; The Florida Legislature moves the goal posts on teachers, with over 5400 unique views.

But what I am most proud of is the dozens of people who have contributed to the blog. When I started the blog I imagined it as a space where teachers and stakeholders could come tell their stories and where it hasn’t worked out quite that way, I always like it when I get a post from somebody else.   

Jeb Bush’s foundation thinks teachers are selfish and lazy

Patricia Levesque, the executive director of Jeb Bush’s foundation wrote while defending ALEC the far right lobbying group, We at ExcelinEd believe every child can learn when kids become the focus of education. We advocate for data-backed, proven reforms and innovative ideas. The proof is in student learning results. Period. And that should be the metric for determining good public policy.

First let me say that when I spent hundreds of dollars on food and clothing for my kids this year, and worked hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime, like many teachers did, it wasn’t all about me. It was all about the kids. Teachers routinely sacrifice greatly for their students. It's Levesques's side that seeks to privatize education and make a buck off of it. 

As for data driven policy, um merit pay, charter schools, vouchers all have evidence that says they don’t work, that they aren’t good policy but that hasn’t stopped Jeb Bush and his foundation from pushing their public school privatization agenda. These are not data backed proven reforms.  

Every time these people speak their cluelessness and myopic hatred of teachers shines through.

To read more click the link:

Charter students lose the equivalent of seven days of learning in reading in Florida

From the Tampa Times by Cara Fitzpatrick

Students attending traditional public schools in Florida learn more in reading than their counterparts in the state's charter schools, according to a new study by Stanford University. There was no difference in math.
Charter students lose the equivalent of seven days of learning in reading in Florida. This is a different result than a review of charter school performance touted by the state Department of Education earlier this year.
That was just one point in a sweeping study done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, at Stanford. The study, which is an update on the 2009 CREDO study, tried to gauge how well charter schools are performing nationwide. It looked at data from 25 states and the District of Columbia. New York City was considered separately from New York State, bringing the total number up to 27. That accounts for about 95 percent of charter students nationwide. 
The researchers said those days matter more depending on the overall quality of education in a particular state. A difference of a few days might not matter as much in a high-achieving state. In a low-achieving state, it could be crucial.
The 2013 CREDO study also has some interesting demographic trends about charters. Charters now nationwide are serving a greater percentage of black, Hispanic and low-income students than traditional public schools. Charters also serve fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools. Demographic trends vary within the states.
The big question with charter school studies often is how to accurately and fairly compare performance when there are differences in school populations. Selection bias also is an issue - do the same kinds of parents and students seek out charters? Charters often are accused of cherry-picking students, while traditional public schools must accept all students. (To be fair, public magnet schools often select the best students for their programs, which can boost overall school performance. But there's transparency about the process.)
The CREDO researchers attempted to avoid some of those pitfalls by creating a "virtual twin" for each charter student. That is, a traditional public school student with the same demographic profile with the only difference being that one went to a charter. (Read more about that method in the study.)
CREDO's researchers also mention that no one study can be used to form general conclusions about charters. It must be considered as part of the existing body of research done on the subject. The issue, they note, is political in the current climate of so-called education "reform."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Duval County Public Schools communication problem, another admin leaves the district

First there was the disconnect between the district and the district’s librarians. Vitti said everything was fine but they heard and continue to hear the sky is falling.

Now his principal reappointments are dropping like flies. The latest to go is Kenneth Reddick who was demoted and lets face it folks it was a demotion from director of turn around schools to Fort Caroline.

To be honest I don’t have a problem with him, Byrd and Bellamy all leaving the district but is anybody else concerned about the lack of communication that must have went on, why were these appointments made if they were just going to leave or was that the point. 

It also throws our principal group into turmoil and may lead to hasty decisions.  Zeina Khanachet, went from AP of Curriculum at Englewood High School with only two years experience to principal at Southside Middle. No offense meant but I imagine this lady doesn’t even know what she doesn’t know.

Shouldn’t the super have sat down with these individuals and laid out their fates? Shouldn’t he have asked for resignations before he made assignments? Does it look like we have a plan to you or does it look like we are winging it?

Florida's charter schools lag behind their public schools

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes
Orlando Sentinel reporter Leslie Postal has skimmed through the much ballyhooed Stanford CREDO Institute and found that Florida’s charter schools aren’t measuring up to public schools.
The average charter school student in Florida loses the equivalent of seven days of learning in reading compared to the average student in traditional public schools, according to an updated national charter school study by researchers at Stanford University. Charter school and traditional school students are on par in math………But the study noted that charter school students have “markedly different learning gains” across the 27 states included in the study, even with demographic differences were taken into account……In 11 states, such as Louisiana and Tennessee, charter students gained more in both reading and math than counterparts in traditional schools. But Florida was not among those, with its charter students lagging in reading and doing no better in math. The study noted, however, that differences in states’ overall academic achievement would influence whether the differences in days of learning made an actual difference to particular children.
This is at odds with what the Florida Department of Education concluded this past March:
According to data collected by the Florida Department of Education, charter schools in the state are outperforming their traditional public school peers. The report – titled Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparisons of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students — found that of the 63 metrics measured by state exams, charter students outdid their public school classmates on 55. Moreover, charter schools have managed to narrow both racial and income gap between their students, something that the state’s education system has been struggling with. The report was put together based on scores from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests and Algebra End-of-Course Exams from the 2011-2012 academic.
The Bush foundation was doing the same thing. It’s top policy analyst Matt Ladner Tweeted that “Florida charter school students outperforming district school peers.” Mike Thomas even complained that the report wasn’t getting enough play.  No wonder the Bush foundation has been silent on the CREDO.
How does the taxpayer-funded FLDOE come up with conclusions  so at-odds with such a widely respected study like CREDO? What difference was there in the data? Perhaps the FLDOE study was conveniently released one month before the legislative session. See my post here. Lobbyists for Florida’s charter schools couldn’t tout the study enough while testifying on behalf of legislation which benefitted their clients.
Stay tuned for the spin.

Another administrator says "no thanks" to Vitti

This was in my in-box. -cpg

Bellamy has left too. They placed Zeina Khanachet, AP of Curriculum at Englewood High School (only two years at that position and as a administrator), to Bellamy's principal position at Southside Middle.

Two years? Wow another data driven decision form our superintendent.

The real question about Charter Schools

I can’t just point to CREDO, the definitive study on charter schools when it backs up what I believe and that’s charter schools are a poor investment. My opinion hasn’t changed even with the results of their recent study that says charter schools are improving. I am just not sure CREDO is asking the right question.

With selection bias, low numbers of ESE and ESOL students, fewer numbers on free and reduced lunch, the ability to both counsel out poor performers and bad apples and to put requirements on parents, the question shouldn't be why are charter schools improving, it should be why aren't they killing public schools.

These defacto publicly funded private schools have so many advantages over traditional public schools and yet when you look at the numbers despite their recent improvement they aren’t doing any better than public schools. You would think if charter schools had more of the best and public schools had more of the worst then charters should be doing much better. Bottom line is they aren't.

To read more click the link:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Is superintendent Vitti’s reorg plan about to blow up?

The first domino fell when it was revealed Jackie Byrd rather than go to John E. Ford K-8 left the district. Education Matters actually heard about her departure last week but was waiting to get confirmation from the district before reporting on it. Fear not, we stopped holding our breath long ago.

The problem with Vitti’s plan and quite frankly I like elements of it is it is like dominoes falling. People are forced out of the district into school administration, school administrators are forced into the classroom and classroom teachers are forced out. I have two concerns, first are we going to have a lot of pissed off people in our schools and second are these people even going to be able to do the new jobs they find themselves in?

Another problem is there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the changes. Older admins report they haven’t been told what is happening, while newer lesser-experienced admins are putting up pictures on the walls and some of the picks are baffling. First there is the promotion of Iranetta Wright which is unsupported by data and some say with decency and then there is the massive demotions of people like Byrd and Tony Bellamy. Like him or hate him but going from the number 3 guy in the district to running a junior high is an in your face demotion. Some people might not handle that well.

There is a lot of risk reward with the reorg and I have to tell you right now I see a lot more risks.

Since Teach for America has 350 million in the bank why is Duval County looking to give then 11 million more?

This is from the Washington Posts Answer Sheet: Teach for America (TFA) is a well-established, national program with revenues totaling $270 million for fiscal Year 2011 (its most recent annual report). With total  expenses of $219 million, TFA’s net assets increased by over  $50 million and now total over $350 million. 

Not only does the district pay a 2500 finders fee and then pays the salaries of the TFA teachers but the district through the champions of education is looking to spend 11 million more. Um why?

Wouldn’t that money be better spent trying to put lifelong educators in our classrooms?

Of course it would but that hasn’t stopped the county from wasting money.

Teachers speak out against Teach for America

I asked about TFA on a Facebook group for teachers and these were the responses.

I just don't get it. Why do we need to PAY for recruits when districts can hire ACTUAL CERTIFIED teachers for the low cost of a starting salary. Grrrr

 Its a cheap alternative to hiring experienced teachers. Since I'm one of those experienced "high dollar" teachers, this really annoys me.

Fight it tooth and nail. TFAs have only six weeks training. It blows my mind that districts SPEND money to get TFAs who are NOT teachers with 4 year teaching degrees. As a parent, I would never, ever, allow my child to be taught by a TFA, just as I would not send my child to a doctor with six weeks training. Teaching is a profession. Not a temp job.

"It is expensive to train these new teachers, and the investment is lost when they depart. The inexperienced teachers are less effective, especially their first year, and if the turnover is high, a significant portion of them will be first year teachers. As this research shows, student achievement suffers when staff turnover occurs. These schools need stability, as do the students. It is difficult to establish and sustain a solid, positive school culture when turnover is this high. As a result, Oakland is now making a substantial shift in its hiring practices, away from programs such as Teach For America. "

 A waste of money on a temporary work force. TFA is laughing all the way back to the bank. Maybe share TFA's financial statements with your Board members. Maybe share this and do some more research as well

TFA is about putting long term subs in our classrooms--they pay them less, don't have to pay step raises, retirement or other benefits and in two years --they just start all over again--it is just a warm body in a classroom that fulfills unfunded mandates and keeps those of us with real professional teaching certifications from getting jobs because we cost more-demand more and expect more. While the majority of TFA are simply waiting to get into grad school, get their preferred job or hoping the economy will improve. 5 weeks of training--great just what I want for my kids in a teacher--NOT!

Just a way to reduce teacher salaries...and de-professionalize trained educators. "anyone can do it"...

Teach For Awhile is not cheap - there's a fee attached to each teacher hired and some administrative fee. It's no bargain - especially when it probably costs the same to hire an edu-tant as an experienced teacher.

Scabs for America. And many of them are unwitting.



I have worked with at least 10 TFA teachers and only 1 stayed for more than 2 years. One went on to be part of TFA at the national level. One is working for a similar program in S. America, two went on to travel to Australia, one didn't make it past her 1st semester, one opened a charter school in our district boundaries, and I'm not sure what has happened to the others. The kids in our district deserve teachers who are in it for the long haul. Kids become attached to these young teachers but are then asking the following year, "what happened to Ms. X and Mr. Y?"

The corporate "reformers" heart TFA- keeping teachers' salaries down is one of their objectives. Besides, do we really want to use the Peace Corps model for our educational system? Wasn't the Peace Corps developed to help Third World Countries? Mmmmmmmm.

The district in this case, is obviously looking to use TFA as a bandaid to what is more than likely a gaping wound. They are sold on it's pricepoint obviously, and not on it's success rate. Again, they cut budgets at the classroom level and the kids suffer for it. To me, it matters not how many TFA teachers are great or not, because the program doesn't adequately prepare good or bad teachers to be prepared with the realities in the classroom. The kids end up being the victims of cost cutting measures. Most areas do not have teacher shortages either, based on the number of RIFs that have been doled out in the last few years. They cut, then replace with this shoddy program...

 I would also like to add that there is no "shortage of teachers"---there is a shortage of political will to pay and support professional career teachers. The "teacher shortage" is a manufactured crisis-one of many that education deformers use to push their agenda of profitting from public education funds.

 It's union busting, too.

And I could go on and on too. -cpg

Minnesota says “NO” to Teach for America, while Jacksonville doubles down

I believe that Teach for America despite having a business model that educators know to be the opposite of best practices have a role to play. They should be a supplement to our schools. Unfortunately instead of trying to put life long educators in our classrooms the district has decided instead to put an ever-revolving door of rookie teachers.

I think that is a bad idea and so does the governor of Minnesota. This from the Diane Ravitch Blog: In a rare setback for Teach for America, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed an appropriation to fund more TFA recruits in the state. Minnesota has a small number of TFA corps members, but the governor questioned why the state should underwrite the wealthy organization to supply ill-trained teachers who don’t plan to stay on the job.

I have the same questions about Jacksonville?

Hillsborough County says No to Teach for America

When asked why they didn’t want to bring in Teach for America recruits James Goode, who oversees teacher recruitment for Hillsborough County Public Schools. "It's just not in the best interest of our district to spend money like that in these lean times.

"Their intention is not to remain beyond two years. ... Our view is longer term. ... We're looking to hire teachers who are in this for a career," Goode said.

Duval County on the other hand despite the evidence that they spend more money to train replacements and despite the evidence that few stay beyond their commitment and despite the evidence that putting our least experienced teachers in our toughest schools is bad for our kids can’t get enough of them.

Friends we may be the worst run school district in the state.


Federal Government: Standardized tests are very flawed

From the Huffington Post, by Jessica Klein

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan conceded Tuesday that there are serious flaws in standardized testing, telling attendees at a meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) that much criticism about testing “is merited,” according to Education Week.
Duncan was speaking in San Francisco, Calif., at AERA’s annual five-day conference. His remarks came on the same day that both Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, proposed a moratorium for negative consequences on teacher evaluations tied to the first few years of implementing Common Core State Standards, a more in-depth set of math and reading benchmarks for standardized tests.
A protest was held before Duncan’s speech. Picketers held signs denouncing his policies and his appearance at AERA. Some picketers' signs took aim at Duncan’s and President Obama's Race to the Top program, a nationwide competition in which school districts and states compete for grant money based on assessments reflecting teacher effectiveness and student learning.
During his speech, Duncan addressed the protesters’ concerns. According to EdSource, he noted that the “solution to mediocre tests is not to abandon assessment,” but to support “much better assessment."
Duncan also addressed the difficulties schools may face during the first few years of Common Core implementation. When asked if he would put a moratorium on standardized testing while schools got adjusted to Common Core Standards, he said, “We understand this is a difficult tough time of transition. We’re spending a huge amount of time listening to ideas about how to do it."
The Common Core State Standards initiative has been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C. While New York and Kentucky have already begun testing based on the new standards, the rest of the states will start doing so in 2014.