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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Slate’s dangerous assertion that merit pay works

A couple years ago I received my districts bonus as one of the top 25% of teachers, I was excited and told my friends some of whom I believe are much better than me and I was shocked to learn they hadn’t received it. I went home that day with some silver in my pocket but feeling like crap.

Slate Magazine recently did a piece saying merit pay can work but it’s got to be for more than the nominal amounts that school districts usually offer. The article sited a study that paid veteran teachers with a history of results 20 thousand dollars over two years to go to our schools that are struggling (i.e. doing poor on standardized tests) the most. The article then said they did significantly better than teachers hired through the normal process. 
From Slate:
In 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Houston, researchers at Mathematica identified open positions in high-poverty schools with low test scores, where kids performed at just around the 30th percentile in both reading and math. To fill some of those positions, they selected from a special group of transfer teachers, all of whom had top 20 percent track records of improving student achievement at lower poverty schools within the districts, and had applied to earn $20,000 to switch jobs. The rest of the open positions were filled through the usual processes, in which principals select candidates from a regular applicant pool.
In public education, $20,000 is a whopping sum.
If a transfer teacher stayed in her new, tougher placement for two years, shed earn the $20,000 in five installments, regardless of how well her new students performed. In public education, $20,000 is a whopping sum, far more generous than the typical merit pay bonus of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.
In the process, a remarkable thing happened. The transfer teachers significantly outperformed control-group teachers in the elementary grades, raising student achievement by 4 to 10 percentile pointsa big improvement in the world of education policy, where infinitesimal increases are often celebrated.
This is a bit misleading; you see the candidates from the regular applicant pool were most likely first year or novice teachers. Our inner city schools face a lot of churn and burn and turnover with their teacher staff. So in essence the article is saying is veteran teacher do a lot better than first year teachers. Can somebody let Teach for America know please?   

A couple years ago, a couple years after I received merit pay my school relieved a sig grant and the entire staff, all 120 of us were paid to an extra 5000 dollars to stay not that I think many of us had plane to go elsewhere as they gave us the money during pre planning. Where appreciative of the money I always wondered what would have happened had the district spent the 850 thousand dollars to hire 12 new staff members, a mental health counselor and a social worker because so often why a kid acts up or does poorly in school has nothing to do with school. What would have happened had they hired art, music, drama and home ec teachers’ positions that had been cut so school wouldn’t have been such drudgery for so many children? What would have happened if we hired extra teachers so classes could have been smaller so kids could have gotten more individualized attention? I think we would have done better and I also think we often put kids in positions where success is hard to achieve and then we scratch our heads and wonder why they didn’t do so. 

Next I wonder about the great teachers already at the schools where these established veterans were sent. You know the ones who were already succeeding and not going to get the extra 20k. How do you think they felt? Did their performances suffer and what did this for to collaboration?

The article is right in the regard we do need to get our best teachers at our most struggling schools. We can’t hope a significant number of first years are going to suddenly catch fire or stay long enough that they hit their grooves.  But we don’t have to bribe teachers to do so. Instead let’s give teachers behavioral support, make classes small, not over load them with paper work and put in place systems that serve the child when they are not in school. If we did those things we might just discover we already have some of our best teachers at those schools.  

The Slate piece wasn’t terrible but I believe in parts it was misleading, especially the part where it says merit pay does work.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why did Bill Gates spend 170 million on Common Core?

Bill Gates can’t understand why he would pay a more experienced lawn man over some random person he picks up in front of the Ace Hardware with his truck. This post however is not about that.

It’s also not about his small school initiative which he spent tens of millions of dollars on and later abandoned or about his stack rating evaluations that backfired at Microsoft and that they just recently stopped using.  

And it’s not about him saying it will be a decade before we know if any of his education reforms will work which reduces kids and teachers to nothing but pawns in his mad experiments.

No this is about him spending 170 million dollars on common core.

It is truly maddening that despite the fact none of his ideas have worked and he admits it will be at least a  decade before we know if anything he has done ever will, he keeps throwing money at education , he must not be very bright. Or maybe he is brilliant.

One of the things slowing Florida down from completely implementing Common Core is the lack of band width and computers. Hmm computers, who have I heard of that has something to do with computers. Oh yeah that’s right, Bill Gates.

So is he some altruistic nincompoop who just can’t get it right or is he some heartless business who sees an opportunity?

It is my bet, the latter. 

Children are more than just test scores

Standardized tests suck the life out of a classroom. -Little boy
This is happening all across the country, in your back yard too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Florida teachers, they are coming after your pensions.

The latest villain in the right’s education narrative is pensions. They complain that they are somehow bankrupting our country and they aren’t above lying and misleading to convince people.  Dropout Nation about as anti-public education and teachers can get is just one in a long line of deceivers.

They complained about how the NEA spends money to lobby, like only charter schools and testing companies should be allowed to lobby and one of the entities that received money was a group called the Coalition to Save FRS, which is fighting efforts to overhaul the Sunshine State’s virtually-busted defined-benefit pensions. The NEA affiliate tossed $90,000 over to Coalition to Save FRS in 2012-2013.

Virtually busted?!? Florida is considered to have one of the best and most healthy pension funds around!  There is no financial emergency and the last one certainly was not created by teachers and other civil servants with pensions.

Want proof? The Miami herald reported, the retirement fund increased by $9.65 billion during the last year even after making payments of $6.2 billion to retirees.

Pensions are under attack, and facts don’t seem to matter to the attackers. 

Why parents hate Common Core

By Diane Ravitch by way of CNN  

The U.S. Department of Education is legally prohibited from having any control over curriculum or instruction in the nation's public schools, but nonetheless Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a zealous advocate of the new Common Core standards for students' proficiency in English and math.

First, he said their critics were members of extremist groups, and he recently assailed the parents who criticize them as "white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were." His remarks were prompted by the nearly unanimous outrage expressed by parents -- moms and dads -- at public forums in suburban districts in New York, following the release of the abysmal results of the new Common Core tests. 

The high failure rate did not happen because the students are dumb, but because the state chose to set an unrealistic passing mark. The state commissioner knew before any student had taken the test that only 30% or so would pass; that is where the state commissioner set the passing mark.The parents weren't angry because they found out their child wasn't brilliant, but because most were told by the state that their children were failures. Only 31% of the state's students in grades third through eighth passed or exceeded the new tests. Among students who are English-language learners, only 3% passed the English standards; among students with disabilities, only 5% passed them; among black and Hispanic students, fewer than 20% passed. The numbers for math were better, but not by much. 

Duncan likes to boast that the Common Core standards were adopted by 45 states, but neglects to mention that the states were required to adopt "college-and-career-ready standards" to be eligible for $4.35 billion in the education secretary's signature program called Race to the Top. 

Some states adopted them without seeing a finished draft. The standards, unfortunately, were never field-tested. No one knew in advance whether they would improve achievement or depress it, whether they would widen or narrow the achievement gap among children of different races. It is hard to imagine a major corporation releasing a new product nationwide without first testing it among consumers to see if it is successful. But that is what happened with the Common Core standards. 

Experts in early childhood education say the standards for young children are developmentally inappropriate. Teachers say that they have not had the training or resources to teach the new standards. Field-testing would have ironed out many of the bugs, but promoters of the standards insisted on fast implementation. 

No one yet has estimated the costs of shifting from state standards to national standards. Duncan awarded $350 million to develop new tests for the new standards, but all of the testing will be done online. 

Los Angeles intends to spend $1 billion on iPads for the Common Core Techology Project, designed to help prepare for the standards. If that is the cost to only one district, how many billions will schools across the nation pay for software and hardware and bandwidth for Common Core testing? This will be a bonanza for the technology industry, but will put a strain on public school budgets in a time of austerity. 

The Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking and reasoning. It is time for public officials to demonstrate critical thinking and to stop the rush to implementation and do some serious field-testing.

It is time to fix the standards that don't work in real classrooms with real students. It is time to stop testing students on material they have not been taught. American students take more tests than students in any other nation. Our dependence on standardized testing has become excessive. 

Standards alone can't right everything that needs fixing in American education, and some experts, like Tom Loveless at Brookings Institution, say they will make little or no difference in student achievement. 

Public officials should listen to the moms and dads. This is a democracy, and it is not the role of public officials to impose their grand ideas without the consent of the governed.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why would anybody want to be a teacher?

I just read an article about how the Koch brothers are funding anti-tenure legislation all across the nation. I can’t go a day without reading how pensions are bankrupting America; remember when teachers created the housing bubble that nearly wrecked the world? Oh neither do I. Then there is Common Core, which ratchets up high stakes testing further eroding flexibility, and creativity.

Sure the attacks against teachers have slowed down some as alternatives sold as saviors like charter schools and vouchers have failed and a few teachers sacrificed their lives to protect children in Connecticut and Oklahoma but after years of being the villain of the narrative it’s hard to forget all the assertions about lazy teachers only concerned with their Cadillac benefits and summers off that people like Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates and Arne Duncan have made. Now they reserve their nastiest attacks for unions and teacher colleges.

I have also read something like half of all teachers are going to retire in the next ten years and that’s got to be half the teachers that made teaching a career because we all know almost half of all new teachers don’t last five years.

Throw in salaries for most teachers not being on par with other professionals and benefits getting more and more expensive and providing less and less and I ask again why would anybody want to be a teacher?

Oh I remember, it’s my kids thanking me for being there and it’s the light I can sometimes see go off when they finally get what I am teaching. Today it makes it worth it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear Morning Joe, are you going to be misinformed shills or are you going to be news people?

I was really disappointed with your Arne Duncan interview this morning.  The toughest question you asked was "how is your day?" You also let him mislead you and the public. All those poor numbers and rankings he sited zoom to the top when you factor out poverty something must of our suburban mothers don't have to contend with and over a fifth of our children live in. Furthermore common core, what he is pushing does nothing to address poverty our real problem.

Are you going to be misinformed shills or are you going to be news people?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dysfunction on the Duval County School Board.

This probably can’t be good moving forward.

It’s been tradition that the vice chair take over for the chair for a while now so it was no surprise that Fred Lee nominated Becki Couch to be chairperson. It’s when it came time to select a vice chair that fireworks really flew.

Jason Fischer nominated district 5’s Connie Hall but she declined, way to go district 5, when you elect a part time board member you really elect a part time board member. This was followed by Paula Wright making an impassioned plea for the position. If you don’t remember she also lobbied to be the chair last year but only Hall supported her.

Unswayed Couch proceeded to nominate Ashley Smith “privatization” Juarez, Fischer then nominated Grymes and Lee nominated Wright, who I guess seeing the writing on the wall, Wright and remember this was just after a speech where she extolled her accomplishments, said “no thank you”.

The board then rebuffed its new chairperson and elected Grymes 5-2. Yes that’s right, the new chairs first official act failed and she did not get her hand picked second. 

The word dysfunction comes to mind.

More deception from the FLDOE!

Last spring’s charter school study quickly fell apart under scrutiny. Its chief problem among many was that more than a hundred charter schools were left out.

Then there is the infamous Chartrand rule, named so because it benefits a charter school that chair of the state board Gary Chartrand has close ties to, that prevents schools from dropping more than one letter grade. To be honest I think the state’s grading system is a travesty, simply shows where the poor kids live and is all about punishing instead of helping but at the same time I am against our government out and out lying to us too.

Now we come to common core. Opposition is growing daily but the Florida Department of education has a way to stem the tide. It’s going to change the name.

From Redefined Ed:  The new standards might also have a new name, said Joe Follick, a spokesman for the department. Given the input that the state has taken and the changes that are likely to be made, “it would be disingenuous to call them common core standards,” he said. 

Oy Vey, where do I begin? So our standards aren’t going to be common after all? What’s disingenuous is the state attempting to be deceptive. What’s disingenuous is people are selling common core as a cure all and nobody has an idea if it is going to work. What is disingenuous is the powers that be think siphoning millions out of the classroom is the best use of our limited resources.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Even liberals think all unions do is protect bad teachers.

Arne Duncan was a topic on Morning Joe this morning and I couldn’t believe I what I was hearing. First they showed a complete lack of knowledge about the situation and I have to say being ignorant is okay it’s when you start to comment that I have a problem.

At first they thought the kerfuffle was just because people had become too politically corrects and that his comments were taken but not meant to be racial and where there were racial undertones, I felt they were more sexist and dismissive of women and people who disagreed with him. In short as well as being misinformed and completely made up, they were elitist and ignorant. The morning Joe cast seemed to agree Duncan’s remarks weren’t racist but the inverse, saying urban black moms, would have been

Then they talked about how everybody gets a trophy and how students are no longer pushed to be successful. Mike Barnicle said teachers in a “preponderance” of schools will tell parents how great their children are while at the same time the kids can’t perform simple tasks like add four plus four but as bad and insulting as that was it wasn’t the humdinger of the segment. No, that came from Donny Deutsch.
He said he understood people’s frustrations with public schools but they were doomed to fail since unions main purpose was to protect bad teachers. What!!!  

My union does not protect bad teachers. In fact my problem with my union is they don’t protect good teachers from the intimidation practices of various administrations, being overworked and from often being put in no-win situations. Talk about pay and benefits and you have their attention, talk about being brow beaten, marginalized or given more work than one person can possible be expected to do and you can’t get a call returned. The last thing they do is protect bad teachers.

Not only has Deutsch bought the talking point that unions protect bad teachers but he is selling it on Morning Joe too and doing so as if that somehow gives Duncan the right to marginalize parents and teachers who he insulted over the weekend.

So there you have it, the hosts of morning Joe think kid getting trophies whether they deserve them or not and unions protecting bad teachers sum up the problems in education.  

Oy vey!

I am beginning to think public school supporters have been doing it wrong. We have waited and hoped the administration and left leaning outlets like MSNBC and the New York Times came to their senses and started standing up for public schools (and yes there are a few exceptions) but the problem is the weekly charter school scandals, and the lack of evidence that corporate reforms work seem to go in one ear and out the other while the story they heard from their neighbors, cousins, brothers, uncle about a union protecting a bad teacher resonates, it takes hold.

Public school supporters need to find allies where they can and I am sure there are some on the right because waiting for help from traditional friends hasn’t been working.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jay Carney defends Arne Duncan’s anti-suburban mom remarks.

From CNN, The White House spokesman also defended Duncan, though Jay Carney said he had not seen all the comments.

"His point was that we need to be honest with kids and parents -- all can agree on that," Carney said on Monday.

First he didn’t see all the comments? Oy vey, then why comment on them? If he hasn’t seen them then how can he know what Arne was thinking?

Another problem is Arne isn’t having an honest conversation with kids and parents. He is selling common core as a savior when it is both untested and does absolutely nothing to address poverty. He regularly omits those two facts when talking about common core.

Arne isn’t interested at all in being honest with people and if the administration defends him then it  too isn't interested in honesty.

The truth is we do need to have an honest conversation but it should be about how we can replace this buffoon with somebody who knows what he is doing and who cares about public education.  

For shame Mr. Carney, for shame!

Arne Duncan insults teachers and parents everywhere.

Arne Duncan walked back his infamous “white suburban moms” comment earlier today chalking it up to him just being in artful

Speaking to CNN, Duncan said: "My wording, my phrasing, was a little clumsy and I apologize for that."

Mind you he’s not really apologizing for what he said, he’s apologizing for having not saying it better.

You know I get a little tired hearing about preparing all students to be globally competitive and the notion that all it will take to do so is higher standards. Common Core does absolutely nothing to address poverty.  Nothing and poverty not low standards is the number one problem facing our education system and the proof is out here. When controlled for poverty American students do well against international competition. Duncan and the other ed deformers ignore this fact and expect us to believe all it will take is higher standards to turn around schools in neighborhoods filled with poverty. As if they will somehow fill bellies, make kids feel safe and get parents involved.

Duncan went on to say, "I didn't say them perfectly, and I apologize for that," he added. "My point is that children from every demographic across this country need a well-rounded, world-class education and frankly we have challenges not just in our inner cities but in our suburban areas to and we need to have honest conversations about that."

Yes let’s have a conversation about a well rounded education for all our children and let’s start with the education he received at the Chicago Lab School. You know the education with expansive art options, smaller classes and that shied away from high stakes standardized tests. He’s not pushing for that type of education for the nation’s children. I wonder if he thinks the kids at exclusive prep schools need higher standards.

Duncan’s message is clear, if you are against common core you are either a nut job or against kids being successful in life. He ignores legitimate concerns like costs, doubling down on tests, it is untested, it’s one size fits all and the fact that it ignores poverty. Duncan who has never taught a day in his life can’t understand that more and more people are against Common Core because they do care about their and others children and not because they are against anything connected even remotely to Obama and the federal government.

Duncan insults parents and teachers everywhere and not just with his callous remarks but with his untested corporate policies too. 

Reader: Vitti and the school board need to get into the schools!

From a reader, 

Dr Vitti and school board members, I am only in touch with high schools and upper level teachers on a daily basis for which I have my opinion about the job your doing., all of you have only one prayer of making any noticeable improvement in our high schools. GET YOUR FANNY IN A CAR AND GO TO AN URBAN HIGH SCHOOL. GO INSIDE AND ASK FOR THE TRUTH AND CIRCUMSTANCES THAT EXIST EVERY DAY. 

Dr Vitti , there is nobody that goes to any meeting that you or any of the folks you brought up from Miami that are even giving you a shred of truth about whats happening on a daily basis in our high schools. By your early firing and cleaning house down at the district, aint nobody gonna tell you or any of the mafia a single word, but what they think you want to hear. Believe it.... if you want the truth, the real truth about the screwing the teachers , principals and administrators believe you have put on them, go ask for the truth with the promise of no repercussion for their honesty. I believe the only chance that our high schools have is if you get in touch with the truth about the bad calls you and the district have made and make an honest effort to undo the blunders that have been made.

 # 1 you have not added any security to First Coast High, In fact the one dean of discipline position you did add was to replace FOUR administrators and FOUR security guard positions. One for 8 is not an upgrade. In fact, it only took students a couple of weeks to realize that they can do as they please, and the adults are completely outnumbered on that campus. 

#2 Yes, you did add an official ISSP Teacher, but so what? We already had an adult who supervised the ISSP room. It was a security or paraprofessional, not a much higher-paid teacher. For the same money, we would be much better off with 2 or 3 security guards. 

#3 Not only did you strip us of 4 administrators, you sent us one of your dethroned royals from the ivory tower that doesn't want to be here to begin with and followed that up with a curriculum principal that's never been a curriculum principal or any kind of principal for that matter. And the list goes on and on. 

I really believe that the only chance you have of not making yourself continue to look like a fool on a daily basis is to act and act quickly. Be self effacing about what you have done so far and fix it. We need more teachers, for overcrowded classrooms, we need experienced security, we need more and experienced administrators and we need a discipline policy with teeth in it. We have got to have something to be able to retake control of our schools from the thugs, thieves and kids that are here to roam the halls and grounds because we have no one to help corral em. 

And lastly, if all of this seems too far fetched to swallow, send your wife out to any high school in Jacksonville to substitute for a week at a time at each of them. I believe when she got a hold of your ear, you would solve our problems by sundown the next day.....Dr Vitti you are on your way to adding your name to a growing list of those that came in and had a chance to make a real difference and instead left us worse off than ever, not to mention what you are doing to your own future possibilities as one that could be remembered as a renowned superintendent. Please don't screw it up any worse. Please clean up the mess you've made. You have a multimillion dollar mop, use it, silly!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Arne Duncan is not qualified to have his job.

From a reader,

Not only has Duncan never taught a day in his life, but he's never even attended a public school. As a child he went to the University of Chicago Lab School…and then to a private university (Harvard). He majored in Sociology (and basketball). His only experience with education is watching his mom tutor kids. Duncan isn't qualified for his office.

Would any president appoint a non-medical person to be the Surgeon General? or a non-attorney to be the Attorney General? Since the Department of Education was established during the Carter administration, Democrats and Republicans alike have appointed non-educators to the office. The only Secretary of Education who actually taught in a k-12 public school was Terrel Bell in Reagan's first term. 

That's the respect that politicians give to educators…it's insulting! 

Superintendent Vitti’s hits, misses and the jury is still outs.

I wrote this last summer and since the Times Union printed a report card I thought I would update it and reprint it.

Looking at the superintendent’s evaluation it seems as if the school board minus African American members Hall and Wright, and Couch, who whose scores were in the middle and the only one that got it right, had a love fest for Superintendent Vitti. Grymes and Fischer think he walks on water and Lee and Juarez think he can heal the sick. It’s unknown if they plan to start naming schools after him this week or next. 

I think the super had done some nice things but he has had some misses too, so I give you his hits, misses and the jury is still outs. 

His hits: the relaxation of the learning schedule. For years admins beat the drums if a teacher fell behind, which killed creativity, innovation and hey sometimes you just got to reteach. Also in his memo he said admins were no longer allowed to cajole teachers and even though most admins skipped that part it was a nice gesture. 

Pulling back from the Schultz center was long overdue. The district was literally giving millions of dollars to the Schultz Center to provide training and then providing the staff to do the training, sheesh what a boondoggle that was 

His realignment of the District into four areas was pure genius and will help provide continuity of program. Unfortunately I have heard varying degrees of Oh MY God what has he done, about three of the people he has chosen to be area chiefs. A big miss is replacing bullies with bullies. 

 His idea to have district administrators teach 5 one-hour classes to students is a great first step. Duval’s administrators have long been disconnected from what is happening in our schools. They blow in with their edicts and directives with either no realization or care about the consequences they sow. For years many teachers have considered them the enemy whose sole purpose was to hinder. 

I wrote that I thought his parent academy might be dead on delivery but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it is a good idea. I just think we need to take care of things like student accountability and discipline first. 

His charm offensive was a great idea. Vitti traveled the district meeting with parents and stakeholders in a fashion that hasn’t been done since; well Pratt-Dannals did it to during the artificially created budget crisis, claiming poverty while the district was sitting on over a hundred million dollars. So Vitti gets props for not lying to our faces, time will tell how sincere he was. 

Then there are his misses. 

There was his gaff with the teacher’s academy, which was mandatory before it wasn’t mandatory. I am not sold on the need of a teacher’s academy but I am sold that if teachers are going to give up their time off then the district should pay them for it. 

There has been an apparent disconnect with what the administration is saying and what librarians are hearing. He says everything is fine where the librarians are hearing the sky is falling. 

Quite frankly he has spent too much time promoting corporate reforms. He has doubled down on Teach for America, which does the exact opposite of what we know to be best practices, preferring to go with them instead of trying to put life long educators in our classrooms. And then he has sped up the march of charters in the county including attending a conference about how to attract more charter schools. I sometimes wonder does he work for the people of Jacksonville or does he work for Gary Chartrand. 

It hasn't been in the papers but the district was fined 1.59 million dollars for violating the class size amendment. I know some of that was a parting gift from Ed Pratt-annals the gift that keeps giving but some of that has to fall at Vitti’s feet too. 

His lack of humility, hubris filled self evaluation was a humdinger. Jesus himself wouldn’t have gotten 47 out of 48 highly effectives but somehow he felt he deserved them. There is a fine line between hubris and confidence and he obliterated it leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many of those he is supposed to be leading. 

Then there are his promotions. Once again the creation of area chiefs is a brilliant idea but many of us in the trenches wish he would have hired leaders not bullies masquerading as administrators to fill the positions. 

Then there his jury is still outs  

Vitti said he wanted to decrease the amount of tests students are required to take which was solely needed. But when the school year began there were more tests than ever. I have heard he has admitted his mistake and said in the future there will be fewer but that doesn't change what happened. Tests tests and more tests suck the joy of learning out of school for so many. We can’t make school miserable for kids and then scratch our heads and wonder why so many are doing so poorly.  

He has ignored discipline and no more is that evident by the fact the serial bully that the judge barred from going to any public schools was allowed to go to Universal Studios upon her return. I think it sends a bad message that students can beat classmates so badly that they go to the hospital and still be allowed to go on the class trip. Then again he has put in a dean, extra securit and an ISSP teacher to mixed results in our schools. So he obviously recognizes there is a problem.

There are his staff additions to schools, yes we need art teachers and music teachers but if we are being serious we need more than one in every school. Yes we need deans but wasn’t that what assistant principals and principals were supposed to be doing? Do we need a test coordinator, i.e. what used to be one of the duties that assistant principals would do if we are scaling back on tests. Graduation coordinator sounds like a fancy way of saying guidance counselor and isn’t ISSP something a paraprofessional could run? Finally a full time substitute teacher sounds like a nice luxury, unfortunately in a district with a reading problem where we are cutting librarians of half funding them assuring schools will only have part time librarians it is not a luxury we can afford.  

His reorganization is a risky one. Yes we had too many administrators and yes a lot of them had risen above their ability but he now runs the risk of putting a lot of pissed off people in our schools, bumping quality school based administrators and having the whole thing blow up in our faces. There is a lot of risk reward here. 

Finally, there is grade recovery which I have never been fan of but going from any kid being able to take it for any reason (including a few legit reasons) to ending the program all together is likely to have some repercussions. We have to be prepared to see more kids fail or for more admins cajoling teachers into passing kids who they shouldn’t, neither of which is good for the district.   

If I were rating him, I would put him at the low end of effective, which is probably the best we should expect from somebody who has never run anything nearly as big as DCPS over his first seven months. He has had some nice ideas but note to Lee, Grymes, Fischer and Juarez he is not walking on water quite yet.  

Chris Guerrieri 

School Teacher

Arne Duncan’s backhanded insult to teachers.

When Arne Duncan said …he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” He wasn’t just insulting suburban moms he was insulting teachers too.

“Their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” Hmmm and who works at those schools and who is teaching the children? Why teachers of course.

You know teachers who according to Duncan have been running some kind of scam to fool parents into thinking their children were smart and their schools were doing well. He must also think, thank goodness common core has come along and exposed those lousy teachers and schools for what they are.

Mothers, teachers, schools, according to Duncan nobody is doing their job; the hubris of this guy who has never taught a day in his life that only he knows what schools need is mind boggling and nothing close to being deserved. Then if he thinks our suburban schools the ones that can whether the dehibilitating effects of poverty and parent apathy are failures then what must he think of our inner city schools.

This guy, take a deep breath Chris, this waste of space has done nothing to improve education. Instead he has endorsed policies that have hurt both children and schools. It’s beyond time for him to go.

Here is a petition you can sign if you agree.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

All you need to know about charter schools, hint, it is not pretty!

Charter Schools and the Future of Public Education

Warning, it is not pretty, click the link:

Arne “I never taught a day in my life” Duncan’s latest Gaffs.

Arne “I never taught a day in my life” Duncan continues to put his foot in his mouth. On a recent trip to Haiti he suggested one of their the things their education system needed was data systems,

One of the many needs here are clear data systems, having transparency, knowing basic things, like how many children we have, how many schools there are, how many teachers we have.  I think it’s so important that everybody be transparent and honest on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Notice he didn’t mention things like books, desks or even roofs, instead going straight to the need for data systems. I guess they can keep the data on abacuses because computers are in short supply too.  

Today however he turned his attention to suburban moms who are against the common core.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

That has to be it right; parents can’t be concerned with all the high stakes testing, the teachers who feel they are being rushed into a new system, or all the billions of dollars siphoned out of the classroom and into the bank accounts of testing companies.  No, none of those could be reasons why parents find themselves against common core.

I would say Duncan was a jackass but I don’t want to insult jackasses.

Corporate education reforms, vouchers, charter schools and common core take a beating!

Let’s start with Vouchers, from the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet: More trouble has cropped up for the D.C. school voucher program, the only federally funded program in the country that sends children to private school using public money to pay the tuition.

A new U.S. General Accountability Office report says that  the local agency that administers the program — which has used $152 million in federal funds since 2004 for more than 5,000 students from low-income families – lacks the “financial systems, controls, policies, and procedures” to ensure that federal funds are being spent legally. It also says the U.S. Education Department has not exercised its oversight responsibilities well enough.

No good news about Charter Schools either. Two were called educational travesties and ordered to close in Ohio. From the Columbus Dispatch:  In a rare move, the state schools superintendent has ordered the shutdown of two brand-new Columbus charter schools — open for only a few weeks — because of conditions so unsafe they amounted to an “educational travesty.” 

Sadly something like this happens about once a week in my home state of Florida.

Finally lets talk about Common Core, apparently it is set up so teachers will fail as the Teacher of the Year in New York State couldn’t even register a highly effective while teaching it. From the Diane Ravitch blog:  New York’s Teacher of the Year testified to the State Senate Education Committee that the education evaluation system made it impossible for her to be rated “highly effective” because of the “dysfunctional implementation” of the Common Core standards.

Corporate reform: A lack of financial oversight, charter schools not teaching and public school teaches set up to fail, sounds about right.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Smaller classes are only a waste for public schools

Gary Chartrand, Jeb Bush and the staff from ReDefined Ed (Jebs blog) often call the class size amendment a waste of money when they aren’t ignoring it when talking about Florida’s education improvement. 

They don’t like to mention that Jeb and Gary both sent their children to schools that tout smaller classes. You see for the rich and privileged it is essential but for the great-unwashed masses it’s a waste. 

Well friends it turns out smaller classes was the third most important reason why parents send their kids to private schools barely behind discipline and environment.

Did the redefined ed bash the private schools for wasting resources? Did they say lets just give the best teachers 7 more students and that will make parents happy? No, not at all.

So remember friends when ed Reformers talk about changing schools they aren’t talking about changing them into the types of schools they would ever consider sending their kids too.  

Alabama says "NO" to Common Core

From Alabama, by Ashley Roberts

The state of Alabama has opted out of participating in the Common Core English and mathematics standards. 

Last month, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice proposed rescinding the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement with the National governor's Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers, "in an effort to reassure the public that Alabama remains in complete control of its academic standards," according to a news release.  

At this morning's meeting, the state board of education voted 7 to 2 to approve the resolution.
"The purpose of rescinding this MOA is to remove any remaining question about whether Alabama's standards in Math and English Language Arts were in fact a state initiated and a state-led effort," Bice said. "Both NGA and CCSSO simply provided the coordination needed to make the development process a reality."
"Some continue to see this collaborative relationship with NGA and CCSSO as one step in some federal overreach to state control of our academic standards," he said. "By rescinding the MOA, this removes the only signed agreement between Alabama, the NGA and CCSSO, even though it was executed solely for the development process only."
Bice has said this move does not "diminish Alabama's working relationship with NGA and CCSSO, who provide exceptional opportunities for states to work collaboratively on a wide variety of topics and policy issues."
"It affirms that the governance of our standards is retained by our Alabama State Board of Education as recommended through our state approved standards development, review and recommendation process," he added. "This was conducted by Alabama teachers, principals, college professors and appointees representing educational experts from throughout our state." 
Abolishing Common Core does away with the current state of Alabama graduation exam. According to the AP, the requirement for graduation is now passing all required courses. 
Comon Core is a state-led K-12 curriculum of English and math standards that aims to prepare students for college or the workforce. Click here to learn more about Common Core. 

Commissioner Stewart congratulates Duval for raises they did not give.

The problem is teachers in Duval did not get a raise. Instead they got a onetime bonus which was about 20% less than what Scott sold to the people of Florida. The reason Duval's teachers received a bonus instead of a raise is the district was afraid the allocation would be a onetime thing and not reoccurring. Other districts have looked at it differently and give their teachers raises but Duval decided to play it safe.  

Just a little note, where grateful and every little bit helps, the bonus only makes up about a third of the money stolen  from teachers over the last 3 years.

Is Pam Stewart ignorant? Is she being disingenuous? In my opinion it wouldn’t be the first time for either.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

W.C. Gentry tries to protect his legacy, cover up the truth

I had reservations about Mr. Gentry when he ran for school board only after a failed attempt at the Florida Legislature.  A wealthy man entering his twilight it seemed to me that he was just looking for another feather in his cap.

His term  on the board saw morale of teachers plummet, discipline problems skyrocket and a superintendent incapable of doing the job well. Mercifully he did not run for reelection. Now if only he would have stayed silent in his retirement.

In a recent letter in the Times Union he took to task judge Henry Davis who has been critical of DCPS’s discipline policies. Gentry points to an article in the Times Union that says discipline has improved in the district, unfortunately those same statistics came from the district. This is the same district by the way that pleaded poverty under his watch while sitting on over a hundred million dollars.

Furthermore our new superintendent obviously doesn’t agree with Gentry because if he did why would he increase security and put a dean of discipline and an ISSP teacher in the majority of our schools? The truth is if the district had its act together he wouldn’t have had to do any of those things.

Where I think Judge Henry should give the District more time to see if the measures work I don’t believe he was wrong because discipline was a disaster under Gentry and Gentry should be ashamed for what happened under his watch while he was on the board.

It is unbelievable to think that now removed from the board he suddenly cares about discipline.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Common Core what's it good for?

Religious school advocate wants public money but private curriculums.

While shilling for public money to finance religion based schools, Robert B. Aguirre said it is up to religious schools alone to set curriculum.

During a blog chat on Redefined Ed I asked him if public should pay for classes that present non scientific topics, such as  intelligent design as science. To which he replied: Vouchers - or any form of public assistance for students - should never dictate curriculum. That is the role of the private school.

He then went on to talk about choice as if it was somehow holy saying:  The whole point of educational options is just that - options. The whole point of empowering parents is to give them the power (as opposed to some entity) to determine what educational option is best for their child. This is the very nature of parental empowerment and equal opportunity to education.

Sad to say a lot of parents don’t make the best choice or even informed choices for that matter  and this is made even harder because the forces in favor of school choice have sold the narrative that public schools are failing and private schools an charter schools are doing better and none of that is true.

What Mr. Aguirre and many of the pro school choice advocates often fail to acknowledge is public school aren’t just for a set of parents and their children, they are for all of society to benefit whether they have children in public schools or not. That is why everybody chips in not just parents.

What the supporters of vouchers for religious schools actually want is the ability have cake and eat it too, they want money from the public but also want to set their own standards, hiring practices, certifications etc, that are often in opposition to societies minimum public standards.   

The bottom line is if people want to send their children to private religious schools either they or God, who I am a fan of, should provide.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why does Florida treat its teachers so poorly?

Florida's teachers are among the worst paid in the nation

There are zero work protections for teachers hired after 2010

There are Odious teacher evaluation measures

Pay based on standardized test scores, coming soon

Often vilified by leaders such as Gary Chartrand and Jeb Bush

It’s NEAP time friends and in case you don’t know that’s the standardized test given every couple years that the powers-that-be use to compare the states and other countries. Since it began in the early nineties, Florida has seen small but steady growth.

Right leaning pundits say this shows that Jeb Bush’s A-F grading scale and school choice options are working. They never mention the class size amendment nor can they prove those reforms didn’t actually slow down Florida’s progress but they beat the NEAP drum never-the-less. But lets put the last part of that aside for a moment.

If people like Jeb Bush and the REdefined Ed blog are continuously pointing to Florida and saying what we are doing is working then why does Florida treat its teachers so poorly? That is a question we should all be asking.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Strange bedfellows, liberal teachers and the Cato institute against the Common Core.

I doubt we could agree on the sky is blue and puppies are cute but here we are agreeing that the Common Core is the wrong way to go.

From the Cato Institute by Neil McCluskey:  Just about anyone who opposes the Common Core national curriculum standards, under serious reexamination in Florida right now, is either a kook or a goof. That, at least, is the impression an impartial observer would get from listening to Core supporters.

But the reality is quite the opposite: education thinkers from across the political spectrum are taking on — and apart — the Core.
In the face of powerful and growing grassroots concern, there is a major effort underway to paint Core opposition as grounded in “misinformation” and plain old craziness. For instance, former governor Jeb Bush, arguably the Core’s greatest champion, has repeatedly questioned the motives and knowledge of Core opponents. Recently, he accused them of employing conspiracy theories, and several months ago he berated the Republican National Committee for voting to condemn the Core “based on no information.”
Mr. Bush is not alone. In a recent oped, Michael J. Petrilli and Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute characterized Core opponents as a “small but vocal minority of conservatives” coupled with a bit of “the far left.” In other words: scary fringe types.
Like in every group, there are some Core opponents who say outlandish things, but that is the exception, not the rule. Much more important is the diverse group opposing the Core who are the exact opposite of the “kook” stereotype: education experts.
The Common Core is opposed by scholars at leading think tanks on the right and the left, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute. My research has shown that there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes.
Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek, an education economist and supporter of standards-based education reform, has reached a similar conclusion, recently writing: “We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact.”
Hanushek’s conclusion dovetails nicely with Common Core opposition from Tom Loveless, a scholar at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. In 2012, Loveless demonstrated that moving to national standards would have little, if any, positive effect because the performance of states has very little connection to the rigor or quality of their standards, and there is much greater achievement variation within states than among them.
In fact, Loveless has been one of the clearest voices saying the Core is not a panacea for America’s education woes, writing: “Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.”
Moving to arguably the far left, education historian Diane Ravitch has also taken on the Core, noting that it is untested, was assembled behind closed doors, and was essentially foisted on schools by the federal Race to the Top contest. That it also seems intended to produce huge increases in test failures — as occurred when New York employed Core-aligned tests without Core-aligned curricula — seemed to push Ravitch over the edge.
“I hope…that the Common Core standards are great and wonderful,” Ravitch wrote on her blog when she first came out against the standards, but added: “I wish they were voluntary, not mandatory. I wish we knew more about how they will affect our most vulnerable students. But since I do not know the answer to any of the questions that trouble me, I cannot support the Common Core standards.”
There is an extremely well-informed opposition to the Core, and dismissing opponents as loony does Florida’s children no service. Indeed, as the Sunshine State struggles with how to move forward, ignoring crucial analysis and research puts them in serious danger.

Jeb Bush switches gears... again (rough draft)

Have you noticed how the problem in education went from all those teachers with their feet up on their desks protected by union dues who only cared about their Cadillac pensions and benefits to our standards sucked? 

For a few years there Jeb Bush and his ilk had many convinced it was teachers specifically union teachers that were the problem in education. That is until teachers started pushing back and people began to wake up. Now we aren’t where we should be as John Stewart recently pointed out during an interview with Diane Ravitch. He made the point that many people feel the education system has serious issues but at the same time are very satisfied with their neighborhood schools.

Now that teachers are a bit back in favor partly and sadly due to the sacrifices of some in Connecticut and Oklahoma we aren’t getting beat up on as bad and now we need the (very debatable) better standards that Common Core provides to save us. I find this ironic because old Jeb was in charge of Florida’s standards for eight years and back then they were good enough.

This isn’t the first time Jeb Bush has switched gears either and as long as there is a buck to be made I don’t think the last either. When he started selling charters and vouchers it was so poor kids could leave their failing neighborhood schools and experience better options. The problem however for the ed reformers is that charter schools and voucher schools despite sizeable advantages performed no better and often performed worse.

Now they say we need vouchers and charters because competition makes everyone better.

Jeb Bush is a con man, a flim flam artist and a snake oil salesman all rolled into one. He isn’t here to help kids, he is here to make a buck and to serve his pathological hatred of unions and at the end of the day he will be the villain of the story.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Arguments against the class size amendment make little sense.

Three things you should know about the class size amendment in Florida that mandated classes be smaller..

It is one of the few reforms that has actual evidence that says it works.

Education reformers hate smaller classes because it is money that schools have to spend on teachers instead of tests and…

No teacher ever said; give me five more students and it will make me better.

One of the arguments people like chair of the state board of education, Gary Chartrand and ReDefined Ed blog writer Patrick Gibbons make against the class size amendment is the money would be better spent elsewhere. Here is the thing they fail to acknowledge, if the money wasn’t being spent on smaller classes it wouldn’t be spent on education at all.

It’s not like in 2003 the Florida legislature was about to say, hey district’s here is 20 billion dollars spend it how you like before the class size amendment was enacted. No, education would not have seen a nickel of that money.  It is a ridiculous argument to say non-existent money would be better spent elsewhere.

So sure make the argument the money would be better spent on other things, though some examples would be nice, but people like Chartrand and Gibbons should keep quiet until the money is allocated first.

Supporters of Common Core ignore our real problems

By Michael Weston via Facebook

Standards are not the problem in education. We keep spending money on the latest silver bullet while ignoring the real problems. Providing silver bullets is a very lucrative business these days. Perpetuating the myth of failing schools is the greatest marketing hoax thus far this century.

Factor out poverty level students and the US holds up most favorably to other nations. New standards, new tests and new curricula do nothing to ameliorate the real issue. Unfortunately, these "reforms" all lead to a narrowing of curriculum and the over reliance of high stakes testing. This contributes to a decline in the education experience of students in all economic brackets.

Dump common core and the billion$ it sends to the parasitic education industry. Provide students pathways to success; all students, not just those who are college bound.