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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Florida Charter school, get your kid FCAT tutoring or we will kick them out!

From the Cornerstone Charter Academy in Orlando Florida.

So much for being public schools.

Instead of cutting taxes, Rick Scott should invest in Bright Futures.

Rick Scott has said he wants to cut taxes by 500 million. Now before you get excited I hope you understand none of that money is going to go to trickle down to you. Instead it will got Rick Scott’s friends and supporters.

Well what if instead of cutting taxes for his friends he instead invested in Bright Futures which has been slashed. 

Bright Futures allows many kids to go to college something they might not be able to do otherwise and for other kids it helps assure they don’t graduate overburdened by debt. This is a great thing for Florida and helps strengthen our economy.

Quite often Tallahassee plays lip service to education saying how important it is but then enacts policies that harm our children and limit their access to a high quality education. Charters, vouchers, merit pay, odious teacher evaluation bills and cutting Bright Futures all have detrimental consequences to education in Florida.

If Rick Scott is sincere about wanting to help the children of Florida, especially it’s poor and minority children, who are disproportionately affected by slashing Bright Futures (and many of the other ed reforms too) then instead of giving his friends and supporters a tax break he should invest in their futures.

If he is sincere that is.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How poverty affects education

Should teachers be armed?

Four reasons why everybody should be against Common core (rough draft).

Endorsing common core is to endorse the high stakes testing culture we have now. Somewhere along the way tests went from being a tool to see how kids were doing to the whole kit and caboodle. Common Core does nothing to eliminate or even tone down the testing which has sucked the joy out of learning and teaching for countless students and teachers.

The Cost, despite what Pam Stewart says common core is going to be expensive, estimates for Florida range from a couple hundred million into the billions. Now undoubtedly some of those costs will replace costs we otherwise would have incurred. Some of those costs that is and it should be a huge red flag that the powers that be are not trying to clarify the expenses.  Most of that money by the way will be diverted away from schools and classrooms.

Next it does not address the problem facing our schools which is poverty. When you factor out poverty our children zoom to the top of the international rankings. Common core does absolutely nothing to address poverty and until we do all common core does is throw money down a hole, sorry make that into the bank accounts of testing companies, who are the primary financial backers of people like Jeb Bush who support Common Core.

Finally if Jeb Bush is for it you should be against it. Everything he has supported from his A-F grading scale to charters and vouchers have done great harm to education. He is a flim flam man who sends his children to exclusive prep schools with small classes without high stakes tests while at the same time sentencing our children to schools he would never send his kids to.  Furthermore since he was in charge of our education system for 8 years he in effect is saying, I got it wrong with the standards we had in place when I was in charge, I would like a do over, a very expensive do over that doesn’t address our problems (poverty) and allows my backers to get rich, sorry make that richer.

The problem with common core is not the standards and that should not be lost on people.

The reason behind Florida's A-F grading scale revealed.

This is about Indiana but it may as well have been about Florida. From the Diane Ravitch blog:

Jan Resseger here describes the eloquent case that Fort Wayne’s Mark GiaQuinta made against the A-F grading system.

Fort Wayne refuses to grade its schools by A-F because the board, of which GiaQuinta is president, understands that it will stigmatize schools attended by poor children but do nothing to improve them.

The A-F system was created to set schools up to fail and be handed over to charter operators or to discourage parents so they would abandon their school and seek vouchers.

There is no state where the A-F system makes schools better.

It is a tool of corporate reform, whose only purpose is to stigmatize schools,  destroy the school community, encourage public officials to abandon them, and hasten the cycle of decline.

Labeling schools A-F is not accountability; it is a ranking system that has no redeeming feature.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How does Common Core address poverty? Spoiler alert it doesn’t.

Trey Czar was on the radio program First Coast Connect and was asked how Common Core addresses poverty and poverty friends’, not low standards is the number one problem facing our schools. Mr. Czar said good question, we have to break the cycle of poverty and education is how we do it.

Um okay, but rather than answering the question it seems more like he twisted himself into a pretzel. Does common core take care of hungry children’s bellies, or make neighborhoods safer. Does it give parents to worried about how they are going to put food on the table the time and energy to help their children out? Does it give kids more time to learn material and put our best teachers in our struggling schools? Does it put into place social workers and mental health counselors because why a kid acts up or does poorly in school often has nothing to do with school?

The answer to all those questions is a resounding, no.

It does however siphon millions and millions out of the classroom and into testing companies bank accounts.
The problem with common core is not the standards; it is it doesn’t address the problem.

Trey Czar of the JPEF, nobody knows how much common core is going to cost

On today’s First Coast Connect radio program, Mr.  Czar admitted we don’t know how much common core is going to cost. He did say he didn’t think it would many additional costs. Spoiler alert Florida has already put 100 million aside for common core projects.  

Shouldn’t we figure out how much common core is going to cost before we proceed? Where are the republicans who like to sell that they are fiscally responsible demanding a cost analysis? They are nowhere to be found that’s where and that is because many see dollar signs when they see common core. Why the shoulder shrug to the question about how much it is going to cost.

How can our leaders be calling for a complete overhaul of education and not be concerned about the cost?

Why are private school teachers paid less than public school teachers?

Don Geatz the president of the Florida senate says it is because many teachers wish to avoid the tyranny of the union.  That they would prefer lower pay, worse benefits, no pension and job security rather than be in a union. Our union by the way is so stifling I can barely get them to return an e-mail.

Another reason might be many private school teachers can’t get licenses as public school teachers. You might hate public school teachers but there are minimum qualifications to be one (a four year degree and a license) that private schools don’t require.

When people think about private schools they usually think about places like Bolles and Bishop Kenny and rarely think about the private school operating out of the abandoned strip mall that advertises for vouchers on their web-site.

There are other reasons why some teachers might prefer private schools, smaller classes, the ability to discipline more effectively and fewer ESEOL and ESE kids. Is that worth making substantially less money? I guess to some.

But at the end of the day the reason public school teachers make more money, have generally better benefits, pensions and work protections is because of unions. And one of the reason we have vouchers and charter schools is so the power of unions can be broken.  

Education reformers for the most part could care less about how children do in school.

10 reasons we should get rid of Teach for America

From Education Week, by John Wilson

Reason Ten:  Paying a fee for a TFA recruit is a misuse of taxpayer funds when state and federal governments have given millions to this organization. The higher the fee the more a district is exploited.

Reason Nine:  Allowing placement in elementary school positions where there is no shortage of skilled teachers is a ploy to assure that you will have no choice but to honor the agreed upon number of TFA recruits.

Reason Eight:  Locking yourself into a contract with no escape clause assures that your potential career teachers who are more qualified cannot receive preference in hiring.

Reason Seven:  Contracting for out-of-state TFA recruits undermines opportunities for local graduates of teacher education programs and diminishes loyalty in the community.

Reason Six:  Once you commit to a number of TFA positions, TFA owns those positions for the duration of the contract. You lose the power to hire the best applicants for your district.

Reason Five: Follow the money trail. While TFA is a non-profit, they operate like a for-profit with a large network of staff to market the program. TFA staff are expected to raise funds at the local and state level. In addition, the organization has a huge financial commitment to branding and political/legislative operations.

Reason Four:  The TFA business model thrives on turnover, a dynamic that spells instability for a school district. Good teachers hit their stride after 4-5 years, but less that 20% of TFA recruits stay that long.

Reason Three:  TFA is a short-term response to long-term needs. Unwittingly, they undermine the political will to invest in teachers and the profession. Districts entering into contracts with TFA become co-conspirators.

Reason Two:  The limited preparation that Teach For America provides to recruits does not adequately prepare them for classroom management, understanding of curriculum, lesson plan alignment, special education needs, parental involvement, teamwork, and collaboration. Content knowledge without appropriate pedagogy will never equal accomplished teaching.

Number One Reason:  Poor and minority children need and deserve the most prepared and most experienced teachers. To give them less is malpractice.

To read more click the link:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Student poverty grows in the United States

The bias Politifact has for Common Core

Politifact recently debunked numerous Anti-Common Core points and they found them all from mostly false to pants on fire.

Pam Stewart on the other hand tells whopper supporting common core and she gets a half true.

I wrote the author and said: Isn't that a little generous? Everybody says it is going to cost additional money, some a lot of additional money and she says it's not. Sure put some context to it but at the end of the day what she said was false and I believe she said it to mislead the people of Florida.

To which he responded: thanks. I don't get to choose the ratings. They have a group of editors who do that. Angie Holan is the main editor,

The implication is obvious and that’s he wouldn’t have given Pam Stewart a half true.

Politfact loses its credibility if it doesn’t just present the facts and remains consistent with its rulings. Over common core it has lost its credibility.

When is a lie not a lie? When Ed Commissioner Pam Stewart tells it.

Pam Stewart is going around telling people that common core won’t cost anything additional. Well the Department of Education’s very own 100 million dollar budget for common core disputes that. But they aren’t the only one; even the pro Common Core Fordham institute says it is going to cost millions to implement.

Despite all this Politifact rated Pam Stewart’s statement as half true!

They wrote: Indeed, the Florida Department of Education created a spreadsheet in February detailing more than $100 million in Common Core projects the state had embarked upon.
The items included $24 million for the creation of student tutorial lessons, $4.7 million to generate math assessments and lesson study toolkits, and $25.5 million for a database of test questions for teachers to use. Funding for the vast majority of these projects came from a federal Race to the Top grant that Florida won, in part, for agreeing to adopt the Common Core.  
During the spring 2013 legislative session, Florida lawmakers noted that testing for the new standards would require computers, and they adopted a law barring the state from using Common Core-affiliated tests until all schools had the needed technology in place. The bill analysis noted that the State Board of Education requested $442 million for the improvements, a number later revised downward to $100 million.
So the Common Core price tag is well documented.
But that doesn’t make Stewart completely wrong.
So despite all the evidence that it will cost more, Politifact basically agreed with Pam Stewart.

I get it some people like common core especially a lot of powerful people but shouldn’t we have the facts before we move forward? 

The nefarious intent of charter schools.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Diane Ravitch, the case against school privatization.

Prepaid college plan and bright futures get more difficult.

Prepaid college plan and bright futures get more difficult.
Two education programs that really helped out a lot of working class families have been dramatically altered here in Florida. The Sun Sentinel is saying that the pre-paid college enrollment fund Florida Prepaid used to provide a cheap and simple way to save money for college, but these days it's more complicated.
The cost of the most popular four-year university plan has quadrupled since 2006. At the same time, the costs of college tuition have become difficult to predict, with prices increasing 15 percent some years and nothing others.
Next Bright Futures aren’t so bright, from the Fort Meyers press; Florida’s scholarship program for high-achieving students once covered 100 percent of tuition for top scholars.
Years of state budget cutbacks and too many smart students, however, have turned Bright Futures into a shell of its former self. Now, the best a student can do is get about half of the tuition covered by Bright Futures, which is funded through the Florida Lottery.
Florida really had one of the best systems around but after years of cuts it is a shade of its former self. These are two programs that really helped out a lot of poor and middle class families and now they won’t. I don’t call that progress and it is just more proof that Florida pays lip service to the importance of higher education.

Friday, October 25, 2013

America short 389 thousand teachers!

From Think Progress:

Over the last five years, the number of students enrolled in K-12 schools has gone up by 1.6 percent, and to keep up with that growth, the country would have needed to hire an additional 132,000 teachers, according to analysis from the Economic Policy Institute. But instead, over that period the U.S. slashed 258,000 jobs in local education, a group mostly made up of teachers (although one that also includes counselors, administration, and aides). That leaves the country with a deficit of 389,000 educators.

I guess that is what happens when you deamonize, marginalize and try to turn teaching from a profession into a service industry job.

Be sure to thank  Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, the Waltons, Teach for America and the other corporate reformers for this sad state of affairs.

Diane Ravitch, Charter Schools in Florida

From the Diane Ravitch blog: 

Egged on by Jeb Bush and his powerful political machine, Florida has been eager to hand out charters and slow to enforce any quality control.
The end game is to marginalize traditional public schools and eventually to turn over the lion’s share of public education to for-profit charter operators and chain schools.
That way, education will be just another consumer good, not a civic obligation.
And the motto of education will be: caveat emptor.
Take your chances with fly-by-night operators, schools run by ex-cons, schools run by fast-buck entrepreneurs, schools run out of church basements.
That’s the vision.
Florida wants to be first in making it happen 

Teachers or crazy union thugs?

Charter Schools just look for profits first and foremost.

Take for example what is happening in Tampa. Charter schools U.S.A. one of the big mercenary charter school operators is looking to put a charter school on McDill Air Force base. The thing is McDill already has a school and it is A rated.

CSUSA points out that it is at 93% capacity, not over capacity mind. Now there isn’t a middle school or high school on the base but that hasn’t stopped McDill children from attending middle and high school.  Why then does McDill need another school?

The answer is they don’t but CSUSA sees an opportunity to make money banking on parents preferring to send their kids to a middle school on base rather than one a few miles down the road.  Charter schools are not public schools and thus feel no need to work with districts strategic plan doing what is best for the district, no they are only concerned with doing what is best for their bank accounts. If the public school on McDill AFB was at 120% of capacity or failing or if students had to travel a long way to go to middle school then we could have a conversation but it isn’t and they don’t.   

The Tampa School board should say no thank you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Vitti, give me five to seven years, teachers I will fire you tomorrow if you do not perform

You know a lot of new teachers really aren’t given a fair shake. They often have to go to the toughest schools and the hardest classrooms because that’s where the jobs are and there many flounder. Then they get micromanaged and bombarded with paper work that often has little to do with teaching.  I have no doubt many would succeed if they were put into classrooms without the discipline problems and academic short comings and where parents were involved.

In short we don’t put them in positions where success is likely and then either they get burned out and leave or we don’t give them the time to develop into the great teachers they otherwise would be.

I mention above because in a conversation with the Times Union’s editors he said he may need 5 to 7 years to get Jacksonville to where it should be and I believe hm. In the past I would often write how the successor to Ed Pratt-Dannals would need years to dig us out from the hole he created and where I am also optimistic about Vitti my assesment hasn't changed. 

Vitti has also done some things that make me scratch my head and there seems to be a disconnect from his message that teachers are to be treated as valued colleagues by principals rather than as easily replaceable cogs but the short is he’s been there for less than a year and I am not ready to give up on him because like most young teachers don’t, he probably still doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.  

The thing is he is most likely going to get the time to learn and improve while many teachers won’t. In a recent article in the Times Union he said he was considering firing the principals and half the staffs at schools that don’t turn their schools around. He didn’t make it sound like they had 5 to 7 years either. One and done was the impression that the article gave.

Some of you might be thinking well if I go to work and don’t produce I can be let go at a moment’s notice and I concede that point but what if your job was building a bike while riding it…. In the rain… while blind folded, or what I like to call teaching, wouldn’t you hope for some leeway?

Teachers often working with limited resources and support aren’t always able to overcome the dehibilitating effects of poverty. They aren’t always able to overcome apathetic or absent parents or grumbling stomachs because kids are hungry or shaking legs because kids are scared. They aren’t always able to overcome a system which sets up so many for failure and sucks the joy of learning out of them with such an emphasis on high stakes testing.

The powers-that-be might chide them for this or call them failures and threaten their jobs but I thank them because I shudder when I think about where these kids, as behind as they are, would be without them.  

Then think about this who in their right mind would want to go to work at a school that had just fired half its staff?  Wouldn’t they constantly be thinking am I next? Who needs that? When the economy turns around nobody will.

I get it we want results and we want them now, but since he knows results despite hard work don't always show up over night I hope the super wouldn’t ask of teachers what he wouldn’t be willing to give up himself.

Kathleen Shanahan says Teach for America is better than anything Florida has to offer.

The soon to be departed state board of education member was on the redefined Ed blog today and I asked her the following question: … thoughts about Scott appointing a TFA alumni with a very brief connection to Florida to the board of ed? In short was she the best and most qualified that Florida had to offer. Thank You

To which she replied: On my board replacement, I think a TFA teacher will be a great voice of practicum and understanding on the SBOE. I look forward to assisting any way I can in her transition and am sure she will do a great job on the SBOE.

So there you have it a TFA teacher will be a great voice, not that she was ever even a TFA teacher in Florida. Professional teachers from Florida, not so much after all what would they know anyways right?  By the way what could this woman possibly add to the board? She has been in Florida for about five years, never taught a day  in a Florida classroom and had had even quit her job as a TFA supervisor  to open a consulting company before being put on the board.

It is beyond the pale that these people, Shanahan, Scott, Bush, Chartrand etc . tout Florida as such a success but then have nothing but open distain for our teachers. It really is amazing.

Thomas Friedman, um what did he say about public education again?

Some people like him but I find his writing reminds me of a reasonably bright 14 year old meandering on about a subject far above his head.

Apparently he is in china with Wendy Kopp the founder of Teach for America as she seeks to spread her brand of Mcteaching around the globe.

He wrote: Shanghai’s Qiangwei Primary School, with 754 students — grades one through five — and 59 teachers, I think I found The Secret:

After I read that I thought I had found the secret too, a class size with a ratio of 13-1. Smaller classes are often chided by education reformers but the truth is they are one of the reforms with evidence that says it works. 

He also wrote why he felt teachers there were so successful: These are: a deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development, a deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning, an insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers.

I wonder if Wendy Kopp picked up on anything or if he noticed the irony being there with her. You see her organization does the exact opposite of what is described above.  Instead it takes non-education types and puts them through a five week access course before dumping them in our neediest classrooms. Her organization by the way is insulting to professional teachers as she tries to turn teaching from a profession into a service job that she believes anybody can do.

It turns out however that it’s not the smaller classes that have led to their success it’s the small amount of teaching that their teachers actualy do. Read the following sitting down please:

Teng Jiao, 26, an English teacher here, said school begins at 8:35 a.m. and runs to 4:30 p.m., during which he typically teaches three 35-minute lessons. I sat in on one third-grade English class. The English lesson was meticulously planned, with no time wasted. The rest of his day, he said, is spent on lesson planning, training online or with his team, having other teachers watch his class and tell him how to improve and observing the classrooms of master teachers.

So first classes are just 35 minutes long?!? I have long said our classes (90 minutes in my district) are way too long and lead to down time and discipline problems. If teachers only had to teach in 35 minute spurts they would undoubtedly be going full speed the whole time. More amazingly however is this guy just teaches for 105 minutes or about a third of the time most teachers I know do. He is there for 8 hours a day but spends just an hour-forty-five teaching. He has more planning period a day than most teachers do in a week.   

Friedman has never been a friend of public education and teachers and before he writes his next rant slamming them I hope he remembers the things he saw, that adequate resources and appreciated well trained teachers lead to results and a lack of resources and overworked and marginalized teachers don't.  Then I hope he tells Kopp to get a clue too.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Vitti, 5 to 7 years to improve district.

From the Times Union

Superintendent Vitti gets mad props! He draws the ire of Jeb Bush’s blog.

Superintendent Vitti was the subject of a hit piece from the ultra conservative Redefined Education blog earlier today. Funny I thought only I wrote those.  If you didn’t know it redefined Ed is Jeb Bush’s blog (though he never contributes) that he uses to spread his public school privatization agenda.

The author of today’s piece Doug Tuthill complained about a perceived adversarial relationship that Vitti is cultivating between public schools and charter schools, and no, despite what Bush and Tuthill would have you believe charter schools are not public schools. I guess Mr. Tuthill didn’t see the super at the recruit charter school conference and is unaware of the former charter school lobbyist that the district just hired.

From the article: That Duval parents are choosing non-district schools in increasing numbers suggest these schools are adding value to the community’s K-12 education system. Ideally, we’d expect the community’s top public educator to celebrate this success, but Vitti, like most district superintendents, sees these schools as competitors to be defeated and not assets to be nurtured. –

First, kids came back this year and as Vitti works out the kinks more will continue to return and  perhaps Vitti sees them as something that need to be defeated because he knows that private schools that receive vouchers as a group don’t do any better than public schools and he knows that charter schools as a group do worse. These despite the fact charter schools and voucher schools have tremendous advantages, including picking who they take and keep, over public schools. Maybe the super just wants substandard options to go away, something we should all want.

I want to see Mr.Tuthill’s piece about how charter schools often ignore districts strategic plans and open up anywhere and often go above districts to the state board who rubber stamps applications, to get their approval. I also want to see him acknowledge that as they are done in Florida (and in many other parts of the nation) they have degenerated into profit centers first and places where children get educated second. I am not a fan of charter schools but even charter school fans should be alarmed about what they have become.  

I have been a critic of Vitti’s close ties to charter schools because I want a super who is pro public education no matter what and is against the privatization wave that is passing through Florida but if he has drawn the ire of Jeb Bush’s blog, I say bravo sir and keep up the good work.

Doug Tuthill, Step up for Students bashes public education, says public schools aren’t “well suited” for educating children.

Mt. Tuthill definitely has some brass.  While advocating for private schools that take vouchers and charter schools, the first does no better than and the second worse, over public schools, he wrote: School districts have owned and managed public schools for 150 years, and the results indicate they are not well suited for this task.


Um, didn’t we put a man on the moon, build an interstate highway system and don’t we lead the world in innovation and technology? Not bad for a system with results saying it’s not up to the task of educating children.

Let me tell you a little about Mr. Tuthill, he took thirty pieces of silver from Jeb Bush and now runs (in between bashing public schools on Jeb’s blog) Step up for Students, the states voucher program, which took home over 7 million dollars, or the cost of 125 art teachers, in profit last year. He then used some of this money to support pro voucher legislators so he could get more money. Basically he used public money to try and get even more public money while siphoning money out of our classrooms oh and he makes over six figures too.

If he thinks public schools are doing a poor job how can he advocate for things that do worse? Oh, he’s well paid to do so and that should tell you all you need to know about Mr. Tuthill.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Colbert on common core!

The false promise of advanced placement classes, shame on schools putting grades above what's best for students.

I have heard the story below a hundred times if I have heard it once. 

From a reader:

My daughter is an example of a student being eaten by the education machine. She is a good student, in the top 10% of her class...except for math. In math she has ridden the fat part of the curve for her entire school career with a solid B. In their zeal to meet state mandated standards for AP enrollment, the guidance department has quite an effective propaganda spiel in place. The lure of finishing college early, or having the luxury of taking "fun" classes in college because the tedious stuff is done as a high school AP student is dangled in front of the kids. The idea of spending $89 for an AP exam rather than $300+ per credit for a course in college is the carrot on the stick for the parents.

My daughter enrolled in 3 AP classes for her senior year - English, foreign language and statistics. Within a month she was drowning in stats, so much so that she is losing sleep and using more than half of her study time to deal with this one class when she has two other AP classes on her plate. Even with extra help from the teacher before school she will be lucky to get a passing grade for the semester. Trying to get her out of the class has been like asking the guidance director to cut off an arm. Who's purpose are they trying to serve? Shame on me for buying into the propaganda and allowing her to enroll in a class for which she was not qualified. But shame on them for putting the school's report card with the state ahead the best interest of the students

The biggest problem with eductaion is... Charter Schools.

Please don't think things are much better here in Florida.

From the Diane Ravitch blog:

Charter schools were supposed to be creative sources of innovation. They were supposed to show what could be accomplished when government got out of the way. The newcomers would give lessons to the professionals, who couldn’t be trusted.

But it hasn’t worked out that way. In Ohio, charter schools are some of the worst schools in the state. 83 of the lowest performing 84 schools in the state are charters.

Guido H. Stempel III, a distinguished professor emeritus in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, says that the people of Ohio have been cheated.

Stempl says the driving force behind charters is greed.

He writes:

“There are 27 organizations, and 25 of those are for-profit. One of those, with 17 schools, is run by an Islamic minister.

We have a double standard. There are 200 state laws that apply to public schools and not to charter schools Qualifications of teachers are not checked as they are for public school teachers. Auditing of finances does not occur as often.

The names of public school board members are public and listed in a state directory. There is no record of who the members of school boards for charter schools are or how they are chosen. Public school boards must have a regular meeting schedule, and if they schedule additional meetings they must notify local media.
The public does not know when charter school boards meet.

There is, in short, a lack of oversight.”

When the state ordered the state’s largest charter operator, David Brennan, to close two of his low-performing schools, “One reopened in the same place with a new name and the same staff. The other was the same story except that they replaced 30 percent of the staff.

“The charter schools are getting almost a billion dollars from the state. This year charter schools got bigger increases in state funding that the public schools did. Money was taken from appropriations for districts. More that a million dollars was taken from the five districts in Athens County.

Why do the legislature and governor protect charters from accountability?


Monday, October 21, 2013

Blaming teachers and Common Core do not address poverty

Instead they are designed to distract you from poverty and that’s because mitigating poverty sends resources and money into classrooms and schools instead of to testing company and charter school managers’ bank accounts.

Once again poverty is the number one factor affecting education. Kids that live in poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t and two things: over a fifth of our kids live in poverty and another fifth just above it and when we control for poverty America’s international test scores zoom to the top.

Until we address poverty we will continue to spin our wheels in the mud and that’s undoubtedly what the teacher blamers and common core supporters want.

What Duval Teacher’s United says about teacher raises

After weeks of trying to get an answer they finally wrote back and said: They are still in negotiations we are hoping by winter break. These are not raises but a bonus.

Succinct right, well that’s what 56 bucks a month gets you.

So six months after the district received the money teachers will see it, some of it, maybe, and despite the fact most districts are giving out raises it seems as if Duval has decided to play it safe and go with a onetime bonus.  

And before some of you complain, the bonus will not make up for the three percent stolen from teachers three years ago and life should be more than just being happy you have a job. If you think that, you have been tricked.

Vitti’s troubling links to charter schools.

I have already outlined his trip to the conference whose theme was how we attract more charter schools and how he hired a charter school consultant to work for the district. Well it turns out this charter school consultant once worked for Eric Fresen one of the most ardent anti-public school legislators that Florida has produced over the past few years.

Eric Fresen has often voted on legislation that would benefit his family members who worked for charter school companies and is also a proponent of high stakes testing. Seemingly everything Fresen has done in Tallahassee has siphoned money out of classrooms and into the bank accounts of testing companies and charter school conglomerates.

And I could go on and on, type his name into the search box.

My question is why would anybody who supports public schools want to have anything to do with Fresen or anybody associated with him too?  

This is troubling.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Corporate ed reformers have not improved education, they have however improved their bank accounts.

From the Huffington Post by Randi Weingarten

If you had $50,000 or more to invest in the privatization of public education, you could have been welcome at a recent meeting in Philadelphia of self-described school reformers. But if you're an educator or parent interested in strengthening public education, you'd be out of luck, because that closed-door meeting was limited to deep-pocketed donors and investors -- and it wasn't meant to discuss how to restore funding to help children in Philadelphia's resource-starved public schools, or to address the educational and financial failures of the city's charter schools.
Far from it -- it focused instead on "education investment strategies" and how to "support rapid charter school growth."
And in Boston last week, Jeb Bush convened the annual summit of his Foundation for Excellence in Education, which an independent monitor calls "a dating service for corporations selling educational products -- including virtual schools -- to school chiefs responsible for making policies and cutting the checks."
These meetings and their promoters press for school vouchers, franchise charter schools, cybereducation, testing and mass school closures, even though these sanction- and market-based reforms haven't moved the needle -- not in the right direction, at least. Dissatisfaction with these approaches has led many parents, educators and policymakers to look for alternatives that are both public and aimed at helping all children succeed. That's why the American Federation of Teachers and numerous partners are joining together to reclaim the promise of public education to help all kids be ready for a good future.
That was the focus of a very different meeting in Los Angeles in early October. More than 500 teachers union members and leaders, students, parents, community organizers, civil rights advocates and faith leaders gathered to solidify our joint commitment to fight forhigh-quality public schools for all students. The meeting, sponsored by the AFT with the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, the National Education Association, and Communities for Public Education Reform, was the culmination of a dozen nationwide community town hall gatherings that identified a set of common principles rooted in the need for public involvement -- parents, teachers and the greater community -- in our public schools and public school system.
These principles also lay out solutions geared to providing all students access to the great education they deserve. This means ensuring equity -- that those with less get more to level the playing field. The principles seek to ensure that students are respected and their teachers are well-prepared and supported; that teachers can teach a rigorous, engaging curriculum; that testing is used as a tool, not a weapon; that kids have access to wraparound services to meet their social, emotional and health needs; that neighborhood public schools are safe and welcoming; and that children have many instructional opportunities and multiple pathways from pre-K to high school graduation.
These discordant sets of meetings epitomize the divide in American education. On one side are those who seek to dismantle and privatize public education and who see it as a lucrative market. It includes those who stand silently as deep cuts devastate public schools, and then argue that public education is failing.
On the other side are those who believe in the promise of public education as a civil right and a gateway to opportunity. It is exemplified by the highly successful New York Performance Standards Consortium, 39 diverse public high schools that have won waivers from four of New York's five standardized high school exams required for graduation, with great results, including that 85 percent of graduates attend colleges rated competitive or better. This side includes the parents and educators demanding an end to the devastating cuts that have had disastrous consequences for children in public schools in Philadelphia, Chicago and elsewhere. It includes alliances like Great Public Schools-Pittsburgh, which is trying to stop school closures and the overemphasis on standardized tests.
Momentum around reclaiming the promise of public education is growing. Yet market reformers still seem to operate in an evidence-free zone. The more data that emerges about the ineffectiveness of privatization, competition and test fixation, the more their proponents double down.
Our focus must be to rely on what evidence and experience tell us kids need. We are at a pivotal moment -- a moment when we must reclaim the promise of public education without further detours, distractions and delays.

The JPEF’s shameful use of the military to try and score common core points.

This was their post on Facebook:  We standardize some common and important things to make life, and travel, easier. For example, electricity outlets are the same shape and size across the country, no matter where you go. A set of common learning goals will help children who move into and out of Florida - such as military families - be successful in school. Common Core State Standards will make our state more military-friendly and more attractive to out-of-state businesses considering relocation.

…such as military families be successful in schools, well there you have it friends support common core or you hate the military.

Fact number one, nobody knows if common core will improve education or not.

Fact number two, an endorsement for common core is an endorsement for high stakes testing.

Fact number three, it is going to cost billions of dollars and that is money going to testing companies rather than schools.

Slow down JPEF, slow down.

Common Core does not address the nation’s real problem, poverty (rough draft)

Common Core does not address the nation’s real problem, poverty

Let me ask you a couple questions.

Will common core fix hungry children’s stomachs?

Will common core change apathetic parent’s minds?

Will common core make some neighborhoods safer, bring economic opportunity to parents worried about putting food on the table or give kids the basic supplies they need to be successful?

The answer to all those questions is no. The problem we have in education is not dumbed down or mediocre standards as common core supporters would have the public beleive, it is our dogged denial of poverty and poverty friends is the number one measurable factor in education. Students who live in poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t. Common core does absolutely nothing to address poverty and until we address poverty we can have one miracle fix after another and we will find ourselves right back where we are.  
Over a fifth of our children live in poverty and another fifth just above it and the problem is getting worse not better. It is beyond the pale to think a deeper dive into fewer topics is going to change that. Instead we must put into place things that will mitigate poverty.

We need legitimate after school and summer school opportunities’’, often two of the first things cut during lean budget times.  Kids who live in poverty often need more time to learn material and less time in between school years so they don’t lose what they have leaned. Furthermore we must strive to make these times fun for kids. One of the solutions in my district is to give kids an extra hour of school. Well friends many of the kids forced to stay after think it’s a punishment.  What have I done wrong, they ask their teachers.

Kids in our poorest schools need smaller classes so they get more individualized instruction and our best teachers to provide it. Instead people like Jeb Bush who sent his kids to exclusive prep schools that tout smaller class sizes say we should give our better teachers even more students.  The problem with this is twofold, first no teacher ever said give me more kids  and that will make me a better teacher and quite often we make working conditions so intolerable at our schools with the most poverty it is hard to get our best teachers to go there, not that we are trying to do so anyways. Instead many districts are doing the exact opposite of best practices and staffing the classes with Teach for America hobbyists who think, I will give that a try. This assures our neediest kids will have an ever revolving door of novices who often don’t know what they don’t know and don’t stay around long enough to learn it.    

Furthermore why would teachers want to work at those schools knowing their pay and future employment will determined by how their students do on standardized tests, that and the fact they are often micromanaged by administrators more interested in artifacts than instruction. We could and should have our best teachers work with our most challenging students unfortunately we put in place obstacles to them doing so.

If we offered autonomy, smaller classes, behavioral support, job security and adequate supplies to those districts identified being the best we could get teachers to go to those schools. Unfortunately those things cost money. Common core costs money too but that money unlike the ideas above is money siphoned out of the classroom and to the bank accounts of testing companies who are the ones both selling and trying to profit off of it.

Then we need to slow down on the reliance on standardized tests which are doing a job they were never designed to do. Standardized tests have sucked the joy of both learning and teaching out of education for many students and teachers; furthermore they have become punitive and do little to help students improve.  Starting in the third grade why don’t we give a test the first week of school to see what kids don’t know and the same test the last week of school to see if they got what they needed. Florida’s FCAT perhaps the most famous of high stakes standardized  tests does nothing to help teachers know what kids don’t and by the time the results come out it doesn’t aid teachers in knowing what to teach either.

Then we have to slow done on the remedial classes which have taken the place of electives, i.e. those classes which make school enjoyable to so many. We make school such drudgery for kids and then we wonder why they don’t do well. I have learned in my 13 years of teaching that if we put kids in situations where they will likely succeed, then they often will but that’s not what most education reforms do.

We can’t just stop with classroom and school fixes either.  We must also start addressing the entire child. The school reformers like to blame public education but the truth is, why a kid acts up or does poorly in school often has nothing to do with school. We need social workers, mental health counselors and nutrition programs that extend beyond the time our children are in school.

I am against Common Core but it has practically nothing to do with the standards and just because I am against common core it doesn’t mean I don’t care if my students do well in life or not. I am against then because they are an endorsement of the current system of over testing, we lack the infrastructure/computer resources to do it correctly, many teachers feel as if we are not ready, it siphons money out of schools and classrooms and it does nothing to address poverty.   Proponents make it all about them wanting to better prepare children against people that support dumbed down and mediocre standards who don’t care about children and they refuse to address legitimate concerns about a whole host of issues.   

Then I would also like to point out that the big supporters of common core are also charter school, voucher and merit pay fans. None of which has evidence saying they work better or at all. How can they be so consistently wrong and expect the public to give them another chance? My grandmother would call that chutzpah.

Jeb Bush while criticizing those against common core asked for solutions. Well above are a few I believe would have a much greater impact than common core but I also have one more. And that’s for Jeb Bush, who never taught a class in his life and who wants to send public school kids to very different schools than he sent his children to, to get out of education. He is doing infinitely more harm than good.    

People have to decide if we want our limited resources to go to schools and classrooms or if we want them to go to testing and software companies.  People have to decide if they want to address the real problems facing our schools or if they want another miracle fix, an untested, expensive miracle fix at that.

We can debate all day long if a deep dive into fewer standards is better than a hodge podge of standards that get lightly covered.  But what we should stop debating is the number one cause for poor performance in school and that is without a doubt is poverty. Until we address poverty and put in place things that mitigate poverty all we are doing is spiting in the wind and putting both teachers and students in impossible situations where failure not success is likely.

Chris Guerrieri                                                                                                                                              School Teacher

This week in science.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jeb Bush says I blew it but can I have a do over please.

Jeb Bush was in charge of education in Florida for 8 years. During that time he decided to fail third graders, enact the A-F grading system which has been more punitive than helpful and was also in charge of our standards. He had an iron glove around the throat of education.

This is what he said in Boston earlier this week: I understand there are those opposed to the standards. But what I want to hear from them is more than just opposition. I want to hear their solutions for the hodgepodge of dumbed-down state standards that have created group mediocrity in our schools.

At least some of those “dumbed down state standards” must have come from Florida right? Does he mean despite all his efforts Florida schools are mediocre too? Remember he was in charge in Florida for 8 years.

It sounds like he is saying oops, if only I would have come up with common core when I was governor then things would have been a lot better in Florida, and now he wants a do-over.

More likely he wants to make him, his family members and supporters money.

He then went on to slam teachers, this guy really can’t help himself, by saying, Delay is a strategy designed for the comfort of adults, not the progress of children.

Who does he think is providing instruction, staying late, spending what little money they have on their children and classrooms? He obviously thinks he is better able to decide what teachers and students need despite the fact he never spent one day in a classroom.

He is asking for solutions, well I have one, get of education Jeb you are doing much more harm than good.

Whose side is Vitti on? Charter schools or Public schools

Make no mistake there is a battle going on between people who feel public schools helped build this country and those that would privatize education. Charter schools are the number one weapon of the corporate raiders who look at our children and see dollar signs. Furthermore charter schools are not public schools as the pro-choice crowd would have you believe. Instead they are publically funded private schools run by people more concerned with the bottom line and profit margins than educating our children.

That’s why I question our superintendent’s motives. First he went to a conference, on the districts dime, whose theme was how we attract more charter schools and now he hires a 29 year old former charter school lobbyist to represent the district.

He says all the time he wants students to leave charter schools and come back to public schools but when you couple above with 12 new Duval charter schools opening I can make the case for asking the question, whose side is he really on.

I want a super who is unabashedly pro public education not one who says one thing and does another.

Two things, yes public schools do have problems but the solution is to fix those problems which we could do and there are some charter schools that do it right unfortunately the movement has been co-opted by real estate moguls, Chinese millionaires looking for green cards and bankers looking for a quick buck. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pam Stewart likes common core so much that she seems to be willing to mislead the people of Florida about it.

She has been commissioner for a little less than a month and already she has had issues with being honest with the citizens of Florida.

First she suggested we rebrand Common Core, which is controversial and has brought together strange bed fellows on both side of the debate. But is it right that in an attempt to quell some of that controversy she direct the Florida department of education to change the name? The thought must be that if they can’t convince you to get behind Common Core maybe they can fool you into thinking it has gone away.

Then she was either deceptive or ignorant about the price of Common Core, neither of which bodes well for us. She said she didn’t believe we would incur any additional costs where everybody else thinks it will cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, which is a pretty big disparity there.  

I get it she’s a Jeb Bush sycophant and wants it but is it right for her to be deceptive to the people of Florida. Shouldn’t she try to sell it on its merits (if it really has any) rather than attempt to change the name and hide the cost? Don’t the citizens of Florida deserve to have all the information and not be subjected to misdirection and tricks?

Thus far it doesn’t seem like Mrs. Stewart thinks so.

Duval County picks charter school lobbyist to represent district.

I just threw up in my mouth a little, well friends it seems like the fix is in.
From the Miami Herald: The Duval County school system has a new contract lobbyist -- and it's not who you might expect.
John Sullivan will serve as the district's top advocate in Tallahassee.
Sullivan, 29, comes to Duval County Public Schools having previously lobbied for the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools and the Florida Charter School Alliance.
For education insiders, that's a big leap. Florida school districts and charter schools have had an icy relationship since the economic downturn, partly because they've had to compete for public dollars.
Duval County schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said he wasn't concerned about Sullivan's charter-school background.
"I wanted someone who was fast, responsive and brought a new perspective," Vitti said. "That’s why I went with John. He has experience in Tallahassee, and has been earning the respect of lawmakers and his colleagues."
Before becoming a lobbyist, Sullivan interned for state Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican who now chairs the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Sullivan also worked for a consulting firm run by former state Rep. Ralph Arza, R-Miami.
“I have a passion for education and have advocated for all students during the past two [legislative] sessions," Sullivan said. "I look forward to using that experience for the students in Duval, and fighting for them in Tallahassee.”
Vitti said Sullivan's hire is part of a larger plan to make the Duval school system more of a player in Tallahassee.
"It’s part of rebranding who are we are as Duval County Public Schools and thinking more like a large district," he said. "We want to be more involved in policy."
Vitti added that the school district's strategy for competing with charter schools is transparent: "You don’t have to be an insider to know our approach. We’re creating schools that offer better instruction and are more focused on customer service."