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Friday, January 31, 2014

If you think Rebecca Fishman-Lippsey should be on the state board of education you may be a crazy person.

Two years of teaching experience in New York a decade ago, five years of Teach for America administrative experience, and Teach for America does the exact opposite of what we know to be best for our children and 7 years living in Florida and this embarrassingly limited resume got her on the state board of education. 

I don’t know what is more insulting Scott putting her on the board or her thinking, hey I am qualified.

Recognizing people might disagree I received the following two comments on a blog about her woeful lack of experience.

 Isn't this blog about "solutions"? Perhaps your energy would be better spent on researching and sharing best practices rather than bad-mouthing hard working people who are trying their best to achieve the same goal- improve the lives and opportunities of students. Your hateful opinions have no place in a legitimate debate about how to improve education. Re-think your strategy if you really care about the future of FL schools. 

Hey here is a solution don’t put people woefully under qualified on the board. There has to literally be hundreds of thousands of teachers and parents who are more qualified than her. Lets start with one of them. How is that for a solution.

I then received this second comment.

Really? You approve comments? Talk about hypocrisy- you spew hate but won't let others speak freely.

Yes I do preview my comments because occasional I get comments form nut jobs like the one who sent me above.  If you think for a second she should be determining the fates of Florida’s children schools or teachers, or you are not outraged by her selection you are probably a crazy person.

That’s not me being hateful, that s me caring about our teachers, our children and our schools. Jump on my wagon, there is room. 

Florida’s citrus grower board member has opposed evolution

Oy vey and we wonder why Florida has the issues it does.

From the I can’t make this up file. The Tampa Times has said our newest state board of education member has opposed the teaching of evolution.

Hey don’t have any actual teaching experience? Don’t believe in science? Go with your gut rather than facts and evidence? Then the state board of education may just be the place for you.
Here is an old quote from Andy Tuck our latest addition to the board.

"As a person of faith, I strongly oppose any study of evolution as fact at all. I’m purely in favor of it staying a theory and only a theory," he said. "I won’t support any evolution being taught as fact at all in any of our schools."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Florida’s latest attempt to end teaching as a profession

Steal 3% of their pay, subject them to odious teacher evaluations, end tenure, double down on high stakes testing, tie their salary to test scores and the list goes on and on. Florida has been downright unfriendly to its teachers.

The latest blow to the profession kind of just sneaked in and that was the raising of certification scores, now the tests that teachers have to take to keep their jobs will be harder. That’s the set up.

With the appointment of Rebecca Fishman-Lipsey to the state board of education Teach for America now has unprecedented access at the state level and do you know what Teach for America recruits will never have to do because the vast majority only stay two years is? Take and pass a certification test that’s what.  

Typically teachers get a temporary certificate which gives them three years to pass their certification tests and often times satisfy other requirements too. Teach for America teachers won’t have to worry about it because they are off to law school or Wall Street by the time year three rolls around.

Now here is the rub, since there will be fewer and fewer professional teachers do you know what that makes room for? More teach for America teachers that’s who. Hobbyists who think I will give that a try and who go through five weeks of training and then into our most needy schools where they will be replaced by another batch in 21 months.

Friends Florida’s leadership is doing all it can do to end teaching as a profession.

Florida Board of Education Member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey dishonors Florida’s teachers

When talking about raising the passing scores for teacher certification tests, Mrs. Fishman-Lipsey said

Board member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, a former teacher, said requiring higher scores is "giving honor to the profession" by making it a more exclusive club. 

Okay I guess we can debate about that but my real question is what would she know,  her only education experience comes through TFA and those teachers since they only stay for a cup of coffee will never have to take certification tests. Isn’t there a bit of hypocrisy her being in favor of tests she never took and is never going to have to?

Here is her teaching experience taken from her Linkedin bio:
Corps Member / NYC DOE Public School Teacher
Nonprofit; 1001-5000 employees; Education Management industry
2004 – 2006 (2 years) Greater New York City Area

She has some nerve talking about honoring the profession when she and the man who appointed her, Rick Scott so dishonor it.

This is an embarrassment to Florida.

Gary Chartrand gets his citrus grower

The other day Gary Charrand the chair of the state board of education and a grocer by trade said what the state board of education needs is a citrus grower, well today he got his wish as citrus grower and dabbler in education Andy Tuck joined the board. He joins Chartrand and Teach for America recruiter and New York transplant, Rebecca Fishman Lipps. Between the three of them they have zero experience teaching in a Florida classroom but hey what could go wrong.

Since it is Florida, I wondered what other profession needed representation on the board, teachers of course are excluded.

How about a surfer because we need somebody to hang ten, which coincidently enough is the number of changes Florida has done to its accountability system over the last couple of years and nearly the amount of education commissioners there has been under Scott.

How about a killer what trainer because the powers that be already think all you have to do is throw teachers the occasional fish.

An astronaut, I know Chartrand would love to blast the teacher unions into space.

Finally how about Mickey Mouse, oh wait the state board is already a Mickey Mouse club.   

The Chutzpah of the school choice movement

The ReDefined Ed pro privatization blog likes to highlight kids who go to charter and private schools to accept vouchers. The young man they highlighted today attends a small private Christian school but also a neighborhood public school where he attends the NJROTC class.

To be honest I am not for charter school kids, private school kids or home school kids participating in public school sports, classes or activities. I feel like if the parents want their kids to be separate for their educations then that’s how it should be for everything.  Let them start a club or a team where they are at. I don’t like it that they want public money to finance their choices, then they want their kids to play with teams and join clubs at public schools and have public schools bend over backwards to meet their needs but then they don’t want have anything to do with.

The reason however that this story caught my eye is the private Christian school that the young man takes public money to attend teachers creationism as science. It seemed more than strange that Redefined ed which has worked hard to change the school choice narrative to one of collaboration that they would celebrate the public school for taking this kid in and not mention that his regular school teaches him junk science, though with groups like ReDefined Ed you rarely get the entire picture.

Creationism and a dismissal of science is what you get from a lot of these small schools that take vouchers but you also often get non certified teachers and teachers without degrees making ten bucks an hour.

The main problem with vouchers isn’t that they siphon out much needed resources from public schools; it is that there is very little oversight with what they are teaching and who is doing so.

I wish this kid good luck but I believe both his parents and ReDefined Ed are doing him a disservice.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Republican double speak in Tallahassee

Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said his priorities for the upcoming legislative session would include "restoring trust and integrity into the school grading system."

Wow those are pretty damning words and can there be any doubt that he is talking about disgraced former ed commish Tony Bennett who was run out of town after inflating the grades of a charter school that was owned by a financial backer.

Well friends we have to be careful because Bennett is back and pushing his new employer’s tests as the cure to Florida’s testing ills.  

Who wants to bet that Tony Bennett rebounds nicely and Florida’s schools foot the bill?

This however isn’t the only hypocrisy coming from the republican leadership in Tallahassee. While extolling the virtues and need for technology, Will Weatherford also wants to steal money supposed to go to public schools and instead divert it to private schools that take vouchers of which over 160 teach creationism as science.

Look I think creationism can have a role to play in education just in a religion or philosophy class but the truth is it has no business in a science class. Regardless, how can Tallahassee say how important science and technology is and how we need to channel kids into those fields while filtering money into schools that ignore and denigrate science.

Then all of this is on the heels of Scott requesting 81 million in maintenance money for charter schools and not one single solitary penny for public schools.

Finally I would like to point out that there are problems in Florida’s education system but it is the Republicans that have been completely in charge of the system here for going on 16 years now. Isn’t enough enough?  Aren’t you tired of them and their friends profiting off of public education while kids have to go without and teachers have to dig into their pockets to pay for the basics?

Rick Scott thumbs his nose at Florida’s public Schools. 81.3 million reasons to vote against him

This is really the type of story that should make your blood boil. Rick Scott is hyping his educational bill as historical and it’s not, it doesn’t even get us to 2007 levels but that’s not what is really outrageous.  

He is recommending 81.3 million dollars for school maintenance a number most experts agree is woefully low, the thing is he doesn’t want public schools to see a dime of that money as it is all earmarked for charter schools the majority of which are for profit, profits that will be getting bigger and bigger with this infusion of public cash.

There are currently 520 charter schools, some 250 others have open and closed throughout the years and they serve a little over 200 thousand students. He wants them to get 81.3 million dollars.

On the other hand there are over 3,600 public schools and they serve nearly 2.6 million kids.  He wants their share of the maintenance budget to be zero.

 Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said he was disappointed that no PECO dollars had been earmarked for traditional public schools.

"Let the governor explain to the children in crumbling public schools across Florida why they don't count, too," he said.

I hope that is all the reason 2.6 million families need to vote against him.

Valerie Strauss blasts the president's SOTU speech: rhetoric versus reality!

From the Washington Post

There’s nothing new about President Obama giving speeches in which he talks about school reform in ways that have little to do with reality (see, for example, here and here), but there was something especially disconnected about the education rhetoric in his 2014 State of the Union speech.

He managed to criticize standardized tests in which kids simply “fill in a bubble” without betraying any irony that it is his Education Department’s policies that have led to their growth in number and importance in public schools.

He  said that “research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education,” but he failed to mention that his administration only made it a top reform priority last year when there was no chance he could persuade Congress to fund any serious early-education proposal.

He talked up his signature education program,  Race to the Top, without a hint about the controversy its reform demands on states that accept federal funding has stoked for years. He said the Race has ”helped states raise expectations and performance” with “the help of governors from both parties,” a reference to the Common Core State Standards which he did not mention by name most likely because there is a growing revolt against the initiative  in many parts of the country. Some states, in fact, are actually changing the standards and dropping the Common Core name because they don’t want to be associated with it.

He did make one apparent nod to the Common Core opposition when he said “some of this change is hard,” but he did not note that one of the reasons it is so hard is because the administration has promoted untenable implementation policies with timelines that states say are impossible to meet. He also said that change requires things including “more demanding parents.”

He praised “the great teachers” who helped a boy named Estiven Rodriguez learn to speak English and get an education that is allowing him to go to college — without a hint of acknowledgement that teachers around the country feel abandoned by his administration as it pushes evaluation systems that unfairly evaluate educators by student standardized test scores. 

He noted that “we’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value,” without noting that the administration’s proposal to create ratings of colleges and universities based on criteria that may include how much money graduates make has been met with a lot of understandable opposition in the academic world.

He gave an awkward nod to Tennessee and Washington D.C. Public Schools for “making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math” — an apparent reference to increased scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The NAEP scores don’t actually measure technology and engineering, and there are big questions about whether his policies had anything to do with the rise in the scores. In the District, for example, while there were rises in math and reading scores on the 2013 NAEP, the school system still has the largest achievement gap among urban school systems, NAEP scores were rising well before Obama became president, and there are questions about changing demographics in the city.

There also seems something contradictory about praising Tennessee for improving science and critical thinking skills when at the same time it is one of the leading states in the country in terms of numbers of public schools that teach creationism as a legitimate alternative to evolution. The Tennessee and D.C. references came straight from an op-ed that Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently had published in The Washington Post in which Duncan said: “We don’t know all the reasons why students did better in Tennessee and the District in 2013 than in 2011. But it is clear that they shared a similar approach to bettering education — taking common-sense, but politically hard, steps to help students.” Actually, that isn’t clear, but never mind.)

Perhaps the biggest disconnect between what Obama said and facts on the ground was this: “Change is hard 

…. but it’s worth it — and it’s working.”

Working? How? For whom?

We’re all ears, Mr. President.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

President Obama spoke about education and I hurled (rough draft)

The following is about the parts of President Obama’s state of the union speech that had to do with education.

Teachers got a mention right off the bat; he talked about how their sacrifice had led to the highest graduation rates of all time. It didn’t get a clap.  Okay the speech had just started so lets give that a pass.

Later he talked about how all children deserved access to a world-class education and used the example of one New York Student who had great teachers and innovative tutoring programs and was going to college. These are the meat of his comments:

Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance.  Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math.  Some of this change is hard.  It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test.  But it’s worth it – and it’s working.

That last sentence is very debatable.

In praising Race to the Top, his signature education agenda for raising standards, he has in effect given a thumbs up to blame the teacher evaluations and doubling down on the high stake testing that has sucked the joy out of learning for so many teachers and students alike. Furthermore if he doesn’t want kids to fill in bubbles he needs to let his secretary of education and Pearson testing know because they have been doing that more under his administration than ever before. I guess since he sends his daughters to an exclusive prep school which doesn’t kill and drill and then over tests its students he might not know that’s what is happening in our public schools but at the end of the day he is in effect sentencing our kids to go to schools he wouldn’t let his children near.

He also mentioned how working with governors from both parties standards were being raised. He didn’t call it common core but anyone who was paying attention knows that was exactly what he as talking about. This is the same Common Core that teachers all across the nation are fighting against, and not because it is some government takeover, though it is RttT traded cash strapped states desperate for money the equivalent to pennies to give up local control but because it ignores poverty, doubles down on high stakes testing, siphons millions if not billions out of the class room and as New York’s Carol Burris put it because they have seen the standards, Support is disappearing, not because schools don’t have the Common Core curriculum, but because for the first time they do.  After last year’s testing debacle, teachers are frantically attempting to implement the standards using the modules provided by the state. Kids and parents are reeling from the effects of teaching the Common Core standards, at the fast pace needed to get through them in time for the tests.

But did you notice how he never mentioned common core? If he wants it and believes in it then why didn’t he have the courage to mention it?

He had the courage to parrot a recent comment by Arne Duncan about how things have improved in Washington DC, a district wrought with cheating accusations and voucher and charter school scandals and Tennessee, the state with the most schools that teach creationism as science in the country.

How does the president connect his call for increased research in technology and science and his praise for the state, Tennessee, which thumbs its nose at science by teaching creationism, more than any other? Oh I guess it’s the same way he can pat the back of teachers, praising their sacrifice but then subject them to Race to the Top.

Finally I would like to mention poverty, something he mentioned over and over but instead of recognizing how it effects and holds back children mired in it he ignored that fact.

Poverty, higher standards will fix that.

President Obama spoke about education and I hurled

Science isn't for poor kids in Florida.

Bob Sykes from Scathing Purple Musings did an excellent piece about how on one hand Florida's leadership screams about the need for science education but on the other hands sentences poor children through the use of vouchers to schools that ignore science. 164 schools that take public money in Florida teach creationism as science. We're paying for that with our tax dollars by the way.

Here is the piece.

The nation’s supposed need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals drives much republican education policymaking in Florida. Governor Rick Scott turned a state college over to the influence of a state senator in the interest of graduating STEM grads. Mouthpieces for Common Core never stop lecturing about the need to prepare students to “compete in a global workforce” that’s largely STEM dominated.
But such focus is at odds with another republican obsession: school choice. Gradebook’sJeff Solochek reported yesterday that 160 Florida private schools teach creationism while accepting state voucher money.
So, yes, to STEM, but don’t worry about teaching evolution, today’s most important scientific life science theory. Such blinders justify President Barack Obama’s assertion that republicans don’t really want “science in its rightful place.”
The nation’s science teachers – the majority of which are union members – responsibly teach evolution and its companions like Darwinism and the Primordial Soup Model astheories – which are all backed by scientific research and collected data. Creationism,  or as textbook publishers are often tasked to do by ideological school boards, Intelligent Design, is not.
I guess those Florida republican legislators who are always looking for loopholes to expand the tax credit scholarship voucher program aren’t looking to get any STEM professionals from those 160 private schools.  Neither are those corporations who contribute and get the tax breaks.

If President Obama thanks teachers during the SOTU I may hurl.

I will just get right to it, the president’s actions and words about teachers rarely match up. He talks about how teachers are very important and valued treasures but then he saddles us with terrible high stakes testing, blame the teacher evaluations and a secretary of education that completely disrespects the profession.

Race to the Top, Arne Duncan, Common Core which ignores poverty and doubles down on testing and his embracing of charter schools are all detrimental to education and unfair enough if that’s what the president believes in but I and many of my colleagues are tired of him telling us that yellow liquid he is pouring down our legs is water when we all know it is something different.

Jeb Bush, he doesn’t hide his disdain for teachers. I couldn’t tell about his brother because quite frankly we were invisible during his presidency but Obama, he smiles at us, tells us how great we are and pats us on the back; the problem is he leaves a knife there too.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Arne Duncan, the world’s worst secretary of education, make that human being

Arne “I never taught a day in my life” Duncan somehow parlayed a jump shot into the secretary of education position.  There he championed making education into a game with his and President Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative which black mailed cash strapped states into giving up local control to the federal government for what basically amount to pennies. Not satisfied with that or championing the corporate takeover of our schools he has proceeded to insult everyone from soccer moms; who according to him their children aren’t as smart as they thought they were, to teachers who according to him come from the bottom of the academic barrel. He never met a high stakes standardized test he didn’t like or think was too much, and if you think all that is bad you should read what he said just this past weekend. Arne Duncan is undoubtedly the worst secretary of education human being ever.

The master of hyperbole he started his editorial rant in the Washington Post praising international tests, that experts say shouldn’t be used to make policy decisions but then despite improvements said it was a “national failure to make nearly enough progress to keep up with our competitors.” He then went on to ignore poverty, praise common core which will undoubtedly make his inevitable future employer Pearson billions, odious teacher evaluations that have only proved effective in driving teachers out of the profession, Tennessee which leads the nation in schools that teach creationism and Washington DC which in the wake of the Rhee cheating inspired scandals has more than a few questions to answer.

In short he ignored the biggest problem that education has, to many kids living in poverty and praised just about all that is wrong in the system and this despite him being our supposed nation’s top teacher. His logic is so flawed it is embarrassing. He implied lifelong educators, people who have dedicated themselves to children are nothing but a pack of liars presumably doing so to keep their opulent lifestyles intact.

He wrote: There are important lessons here. What these two places (Tennessee and Washington DC)  also had in common was a succession of leaders who told educators, parents and the public the truth about educational underperformance and who worked closely with educators to bring about real changes. They pushed hard to raise expectations for students, even though a lower bar would have made everyone look better. And they remained committed to doing the right thing for children, even when it meant crossing partisan lines or challenging ideological orthodoxy.

Rather than address our problems and support our teachers, Mr. Duncan would prefer to blame them and double down on testing and the two localities he points to as success have both been wracked by cheating scandals and one teaches non-science as science in just about all of its schools.

Finally perhaps the most despicable in his litany of despicable was when he mentioned courage. How it takes courage to demand more from teachers and systems. Despite his flowery rhetoric what he was really saying is he thinks it takes courage to double down on testing which is becoming increasingly unpopular and to drive lifelong educators out of the field or to make it borderline unbearable for those that remain.  

You know who has courage? Teachers, saddled with first No Child Left Behind and then RTTT, devoid of proper resources because school districts have to spend so much money of testing, working in a system that ignores poverty, that is who. They do the best they can with what they have, often put in situations where success is at best elusive, spending their own money on the basics and leaving their own children in front of the TV so they can take home mountains of work.  The truth, something Arne Duncan wouldn’t recognize if it sat on his lap is the only thing teachers are really guilty of is while being set up to fail, not being able to overcome the dehabilitating effects of poverty and they have more courage in their little fingers than Duncan, the nations Bully in Chief can imagine .

How does this guy, who once again never taught a day in his life, have a job in education again? Oh that’s right because he can play basketball.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

164 Florida schools take public money and teach creationism as science

From Slate, a state by state breakdown of schools that take public money and teach creationism.
Arizona: As many as 15 schools that teach creationism may be participating in the state’s tax credit scholarship program for disabled children or children attending underperforming schools. (Arizona has not released a list of private schools that have received students on this scholarship.)
Arkansas: Responsive Education Solutions operates two campuses in Arkansas that use creationist curricula. (See Texas.)
Colorado: At least eight schools in Douglas County teach creationism while participating in the Douglas County Scholarship Program.
Florida: At least 164 schools teach creationism while participating in the state’s tax credit scholarship programs for disabled children and children from low-income families.
Georgia: At least 34 schools teach creationism while participating in the state’s tax credit scholarship program for disabled children.
Indiana: At least 37 schools teach creationism while participating in the state’s voucher program for children from low-income families.
Louisiana: The Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 allows teachers to use “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner,” specifically theories regarding “evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”—in effect, allowing creationist material inside classroom. It’s no coincidence that the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank that provides such “supplemental textbooks,” helped write the bill, which the American Association for the Advancement of Science described as an “assault against scientific integrity.”
Ohio: At least 20 schools teach creationism while participating in a tax credit scholarship program for children in underperforming public schools.
OklahomaAt least five schools teach creationism while participating in a tax credit scholarship program for disabled children.
Tennessee: A 2012 state law, like Louisiana's, permits public school teachers to teach the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of theories that can “cause controversy,” specifically citing evolution, global warming, and cloning, thereby providing legal cover for teachers who want to forward creationist pseudoscience.
Texas: The state’s largest charter program, Responsive Ed, receives $82 million in taxpayer money each year, but that hasn’t stopped its schools from adopting acreationist curriculum that seriously misrepresents the science of evolution. These materials wrongly portray the fossil record and the age of Earth as scientifically controversial, assert that there is a lack of “transitional fossils,” and claim evolution is untestable.
Utah: At least five schools teach creationism while participating in a tax-credit scholarship program for disabled children.
Washington, D.C.: At least three schools teach creationism while participating in a tax-credit scholarship program for children from low-income families.
Wisconsin: At least 15 schools teach creationism while participating in a Milwaukee or Racine voucher programs.
To see Florida's list which includes an alarming number of local schools, click the link:

I am the only one who cares about your child (rough draft).

These are the words I spoke to a parent a few years back at a hastily arranged parent teacher conference. She called outraged and demanded she, my administrator and me have a conference to explain why I called her son a clown and had written him up nine times in nine weeks.   

At the conference I listened to her rant for what seemed like an eternity during which she said some I thought pretty disparaging things about me including all but calling me a racist, her son being African American and I being white.  

Several times I looked at my admin for assistance but he would just advert his eyes. I had come to him several times about the student in question and his mom was right I had written him up nine times in nine weeks but the most relief I had received was the student being sent to ISSP to finish the period though at least a couple times the student was back before the period had ended. As for the clown comment, I will plead the fifth.

Most of the referrals were for defiance and disrespect. The days he came to class and mercifully went to sleep I let him. To be honest I stopped caring about him doing his work and all my battles were with him trying to stop other kids from doing theirs. You see I couldn’t tolerate or allow him to stop the other students from learning and if I brooked his disrespect I would open the door for others to be disrespectful too. Kids are kind of like firecrackers and if one kid gets away with it soon more and more will be trying too as well. The referrals may have said different things or had different offences written down but basically he was a hijacker. He was hijacking my classroom and preventing other kids from learning.

At first I would give him multiple warnings and pleas to calm down before sending him out but I admit towards the end, I would give him just three warnings before sending him to the dean. 

After what seemed like an eternity she finished and it was my turn to talk. I had tried to address her concerns as they came up but was talked over during the administration sanctioned complaint fest and so after a point I quietly listened even to her personal criticisms of me not mentioning once that she had never returned a call or answered the letter addressing my concerns about her sons behavior that I had sent home. 

She finally finished and leaned back. I took a deep breath and said, I hear your concerns but I want you to know I am the only one who cares about your child.

It was like a bomb went off, as she and my admin both jumped in with, how can you say that, how dare you go there. Mind you she had just talked for what seemed like an eternity and I had not gotten a word in. 

I reminded calm as I always tried to do when her son was cursing me out or yelling at me and when the mother and admin had finished, I added, and I can prove it too.
You see when I was told about the conference earlier in the day I e-mailed all of his teachers and asked how this particular student was doing in their classes. I already knew because most of his teachers and I had discussed his behavior and performance before but I wanted to have something to show the mother.

Terrible, horrible, disrespectful and doesn’t do anything but disrupt class were common themes throughout the e-mails. One teacher even wrote, I have written him up twice but nothing happened so I have quit trying.

After the student’s mother looked through the e-mails, I said again, I am the only one that cares about your son because nobody else is wiling to saying no to him.

The meeting broke up a few minutes later, my admin gave me a disapproving look and the mother went on her way. A few days later the kid stopped showing up and I have never seen of heard from him since, though I do wonder what would have happened if somebody else had cared enough to say no. 

Let me ask you a couple questions. If you get at a fight at the Landing and the police see it, what would happen? Say you are at work and you don’t feel like doing it or you have been late forty times in a fifty-day period, what would happen? Say you’re having a bad day so you decide to curse out your boss and encourage your other co-workers to do so too, what would happen?

You would face serious consequences is what would happen. You would go to jail or you would lose your job, you would quickly learn those behaviors are unacceptable. However if you are a student at P.S. this or P.S. that most likely the only lesson you learn is you can get away with it.  

I am not saying we need to take kids out back and beat them with a switch or cane them in the public square but for a lot of bad behaviors there should be serious consequences. Right now with the city and district debating about who should pay for the out of school suspension centers or judge Henry Davis receiving negative feedback for bringing up violence in our schools I don’t think either the district or the city really cares about our children enough to say no to them.

Instead they say bullying and suspensions and crime rates are going down. I have to shake my head because as somebody who spent a lot of years in a comprehensive school and still knows lots of teachers who are, I have to say what has really improved is our ability to ignore and endure bad behavior.

An underutilized ATOSS that kids don’t have to go to is not a consequence. A period of ISSP for being disrespectful to a teacher is not a consequence. Being allowed to be continuously late to class is not a consequence and I could go on and on and on.  The only thing that has real consequences going happening on a consistent basis in our schools is bullying teachers into ignoring bad behavior and the consequence for that is more and escalating bad behavior.

When we ignore bad behavior or when we don’t say no, the lesson we have taught is bad behavior is okay.
I don’t think that is a lesson you want your kids to learn.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Duval’s suspension centers are a colossal waste of resources.

These are the numbers from the Times Union: 5 suspension centers, 626 kids per month on average attend and figuring 20 school days in a month that averages out to a little over 6 a day. To serve these six students we provide transportation, a teacher, a social worker and police officer or guard. That’s three paid staff members, and a bus driver to take care of on average slightly over six students a day. Former school board member W.C. Gentry thinks they are a good investment too. 

What am I missing here?

Furthermore the district just put full time ISSP teachers in all its middle and high schools and that’s really what suspension centers are, in school suspension at an alternative location.

In these days of limited resources suspension centers are a big loser. 

Manny Diaz’s charter bill is an affront to decency

The Miami republican is just another example of how legislators with close ties to the charter industry introduce or vote on legislation that will benefit them personally.

From the Tampa Times: House leaders picked state Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., of Hialeah, to shepherd a controversial bill that would revamp the way hundreds of charter schools statewide enter into agreements with local school boards.

Yet, in the eyes of some observers, Diaz has a clear conflict of interest: He has direct ties to the charter school industry.
The Republican lawmaker has been named dean of Doral College, a newly minted private university run by the state’s largest for-profit charter school management firm.

He makes 100 grand by the way in his new gig.

Diaz who was a shop teacher formerly has the gall to tell us he got the job on his merits. 

The incestuous and devious world of Florida's Academia Charter schools

Rep. Erik Fresen, who chairs the House panel that controls the education budget, is the brother-in-law of Academica founder and President Fernando Zulueta, which also operates Doral College. The president of Doral College is also a state lawmaker: Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

They hired representative Manny Diaz to be Dean
"He rose through the ranks in the public school system, which is impressive, and wanted to try something else," she said. "We are happy to have him at Doral College."
Zulueta said Diaz had "the right credentials and experience for the position."
My head is spinning.
Okay in the article it points out that we have citizen legislators and they all have jobs but do they all have to introduce legislation that financially benefits them and their family members? Why does it seem to me that their goals are not to improve education but to improve their bank accounts instead?  

Local thinks corporate charters are the way to go.

 In the Times Union Paula Neitling (former DCPS librarian???) compared charter schools to large chain stores like Star Bucks and she couldn’t have been more right.

Charter schools are like those stores because making a buck is there sole focus and don’t think for a minute the pleasure of serving your coffee or the noble goal of educating your child is the top priority for Starbucks or the Renaissance charter school that Mrs. Neitling gushes about because they are not.

Ninety percent of charter schools exist for one reason only and that’s to fill the coffers of their owners and if that means they have to cut arts, counsel out kids, ignore the disabled and the poor then they will not hesitate to do so.

So where Mrs. Neitling might feel comfortable having her children educated by mercenaries I would prefer professionals educate mine. 

Warts and all, many of which were created by politicians who seek to profit off the privatization of our public schools, public schools are far and away the best option out there. 

Oprah's charter school closes down.

Friday, January 24, 2014

School choice advocate accuses teachers of anger, hatred and name calling.

From the gift that keeps on giving, ReDefined Ed, by Wendy Howard:

While working on our upcoming National School Choice Week event that will showcase the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision I noticed some similar behaviors between those who opposed desegregation in that landmark case and the behaviors of those who oppose school choice today.

Anger, hatred, name calling. Shall I go on? People can be very cruel when they feel threatened or disagree.


For years the school choice movement vilified teachers, portraying them as union thugs who only cared about comfy pensions and Cadillac benefits as charter school and voucher proponents sold their substandard wears as alternatives to failing public schools. And according to Mrs. Howard these are the good guys?!?

Education reformers and school choice supporters are constantly trying to rewrite the narrative as more and more people stop buying the snake oil they are selling and waking up to how bad they have been for education. Patrick Gibbons of Redefined Ed thinks teachers were tricked into thinking they were victims so they wouldn’t support school choice which is really just another name for privatization.

Teachers and public school supporters are guilty of one thing though and that’s not waking up sooner to the assault on public education and public school teachers. We sat back as profiteers, mercenaries and union haters wrote the narrative. We woke up late because we couldn’t understand the vitriol and hatred channeled our way but we didn’t wake up too late.     

Mrs. Howard is right though, people can be very cruel especially when they are trying to make a buck and everyday folks like teachers who dedicated their lives to children are standing in their way.
Another day, another self serving and ridiculous change to the school choice narrative.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) is bad for our schools!

Yes I am talking about the same group that announces Jacksonville’s teacher of the year finalists, the group that has been instrumental in generating community involvement in our schools and who has connected donors with teachers who need supplies too. Yes I am talking about the same JPEF whose members are so cheery and nice that I have no doubt that in their free time rescue puppies and help old ladies across the street. Despite all of that I feel more than comfortable saying they are bad for our schools.

When the JPEF strays over into suggesting policy, their name and their cozy relationships with the chair of the state board of education Gary Chartrand and with superintendent Vitti, gives them instant credibility and this despite the fact they have done nothing to earn it and noting in their background suggests they should have it.  
There is not one person in the entire 11 person staff that has public school teaching experience in Jacksonville or Florida for that matter. According to their bio’s only one has what I would consider real and sustained public school experience, while two others mention their brief time working as Teach for America teachers and in KIPP charter schools. You could find more teaching experience in the lounge of any European Street on a Friday afternoon during happy hour. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying they are bad people, on the contrary I have met several and find them all affable and earnest but like how you wouldn’t want me, a short chubby teacher with zero ups on your basketball team especially with the game on the line, we shouldn’t want them suggesting or developing policy either.

When the JPEF takes 11 million dollars to bring more Teach for America recruits, which exacerbates our teacher turnover problem and assures students in our neediest schools will have a constantly changing band of novices, to town; they hurt schools, professional teachers and students.

When the JPEF advocates for schools to have a value added measurements (VAM), which by the way is something both education experts and mathematician alike say shouldn’t be used to make high stakes decisions (like grading schools and teachers) they hurt schools, teachers and students.  

When the JPEF shills for Common Core which doesn’t address poverty the real problem in education, siphons untold millions out of schools and classrooms and doubles down on the high stakes testing culture we have that has ruined education for countless teachers and students alike, they hurt schools, teachers and students and I can’t help but think their lack of real experience has led to their horrendous policy ideas and positions.

Sadly in education a lack of experience almost guarantees you a leadership position or a policy development role, because in no other profession where the people that actually do it are ignored or marginalized like teachers are.  

Gary Chartrand the chair of the state board of education who is also on the JPEF’s board and is responsible for bringing the KIPP charter school, Teach for America (TFA) and the scab Professional Educators Network (PEN) to town recently said what the state board needs was a citrus grower and since he is a grocer that makes a certain amount of since. He said this on the same day the state board of education welcomed Rebbecca Fishman-Lipps a recent transplant from New York who has two years of Teach for America experience under her belt, which by the way is two more years of experience than Chartrand has.  That’s right the state’s leading education figure has zero teaching experience. Could you imagine a day when Jacksonville’s sheriff had a background in accounting rather than law enforcement? Would the people of Jacksonville stand for it?

Then there is Arne Duncan the nation’s secretary of education who recently said teachers come from the bottom of the academic barrel and who also said that the reason white suburban soccer moms did not like Common Core was because it showed that their children weren’t as smart as they thought there were. He wants America’s schools to be more like Singapore and South Korea’s (I guess Finland’s schools are too unionized) and like Chartrand he has never taught a day in his life. Can you imagine that? The nation’s top teacher has zero teaching experience. That’s the equivalent of a Supreme Court justice who has a background in plumbing not the law and who’s only judging experience comes from the pie contest at the county fair. Do you think the American people would accept that?

Gary Chartrand never taught a day in his life. School board members Jason  Fischer and Fel Lee never taught a day in their lives, Jeb Bush the architect of Florida’s education system and who plans to run for president on it never taught a day in his life and the staff of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund whose name and close relationships with Gary Chartrand and Dr. Vitti gives them instant credibility have zero public school teaching experience in Jacksonville, in Florida and of the 11 member staff have just a handful of years overall.

It’s no wonder our schools aren’t reaching their potential. The people in charge, the people making policy and signing the checks, for the most part have either no or a laughably inadequate amount of experience. Nobody with legal problems would hire somebody whose experience consisted of watching a Law and Order marathon. Nobody would look to somebody with only first aide training to perform surgery either. And it’s not like there aren’t lots of choices too. There are hundreds of thousands current and former educators who have dedicated their lives to children and who better know what education needs in Florida but instead Rick Scott choose a grocer, a Teach for America Alum with zero experience in Florida and two years over all and is about to pick a citrus grower to be on the state board.

Our public schools undoubtedly have problems but the biggest one by far is a lack of qualified leadership and our schools will undoubtedly continue to have these problems as long as we allow arm chair quarterbacks who never played a down in their life to run the show.

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, staffed with a bunch of good eggs does some very nice things but they should concentrate on those things and they should without a doubt also stay as far away from dipping into the realm of policy as possible.

They however aren’t the only ones.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

250 charter schools have opened taken public money and closed over the years in Florida.

Let that sink in for a moment. 250

That represents hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wasted and tens of thousands of kids who at best, at best had their educations disrupted.

Some people might be saying that 250 figure represents the charter closures over the last 15 years and that things are undoubtedly getting better as the charter industry learns from its mistakes.  The answer to that would be no as 25 closed during 2013 alone and many of those closed while school was in session.

Other people might be saying it doesn’t matter if there have been starts and stops because the charter schools that remain are doing better than public schools. The answer to that is wrong again. First about 40% of charter schools don't receive grades being mysteriously exempt for one reason or another. Then the Stanford CREDO study, the gold standard of charter school studies says students in Florida’s charter schools lag behind their public school counterparts. Finally look at their graduation rates which by and large are atrocious.  

Even others might say none of above matters because it’s about charter and public schools coming together to serve the needs of the child whatever they are, which is the current charter school narrative. Other narratives however have included competition, innovation, and saving kids from failing public schools and which means when this kumbaya narrative loses steam they will switch to something else.

So what has Florida learned from all this lost money and lives disrupted? Absolutely nothing as it seeks to make the expansion of charter schools easier.

Last spring superintendent Vitti attended a conference about how to attract more charter schools to Florida and in the past year the Duval County school board despite a shoddy record of success approved a dozen or so more charter schools including two high schools within a couple miles of Forrest high school.
Then Florida’s legislature in the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee right now is discussing a bill that will take away local control from school districts, not that there is much left anyways, and will require the very friendly FLDOE to review charter school applications which will then tell districts if they pass muster or not.

Also friends we can’t count on our Department of Education to be either fair or balanced. Every day they send districts news articles to disseminate to their staffs and the other day one of the articles was a very misleading from the Jay P. Greene blog which said charter schools are worth the money. Some people like charter schools and the department of education hired most of them but where were the recent pieces from Salon or Forbes detailing all the abuses that happen in charter schools, the Tampa Times article detailing how the operators of a failed school in Wisconsin that took millions in tax payer dollars, simply packed up and moved to Florida to try again or the article in the Daily News about KIPP charters putting misbehaving kids in padded rooms. I assure you the FLDOE has an ample selection of news articles that report all the terrible things that are going on in charters but instead chose to go with a pro privatization blog to sell their point.

KIPP by the way is one of the types of charter schools the Florida legislature wants to attract more of to Florida and the proposed legislation wants to offer them before they operate a day in our state, high performing status, if it can show evidence it has done well in a different state. This is a big deal too because if a charter school gets high performing status they can be awarded a fifteen year contract (teachers only get one year for being high performing) and are allowed to expand with very little oversight. KIPP by the way can’t use its Florida school to get high performing status. Located in Jacksonville, during its first year of operation it was the lowest rated school in northeast Florida. During its second year it miraculously raised its grade to a B and despite not showing any sustained success was allowed to expand. What was their grade last year? It fell to a C but it was protected by Florida’s rule that says schools can drop only one letter grade a year. A rule by the way that was voted for by state board of education chair and Jacksonville resident Gary Chartrand, who invested a million dollars into the school and got his friends to invest nine million more.  

Another type of charter the Florida Legislature wants to bring to Florida is the Rocket Ship charter school. Rocket Ship charters are a chain based out of California which is presumably where the millions in management fees would go. Rocket Ship charters are known for their large classes, replacing teachers with computers, relying on Teach for America teachers because they are cheaper and hey who cares if they burn out and for eliminating the arts to have more time for test prep. They are also known for high test scores which is the only thing that the Florida legislature really cares about.

You know what gets me most of all, well tied with the fact numerous legislators vote or introduce charter friendly legislation that either they, friends or family members profit from because so many either own charters or are in bed with them, is they want to create all these schools they wouldn’t let their own children near. Chartrand, Jeb Bush and even president Obama are all charter school fans but they send or sent their kids to exclusive prep schools which had small classes a commitment to the arts and which don’t rely on standardized tests. KIPP, Rocket Ship and other charter schools are great for our kids but not for theirs.   

I get it though; despite all the evidence some of you don’t like government schools. I believe you have been poisoned by anti-union and liberal indoctrination rhetoric but at the end of the day the reason does not matter because you to should want charter schools to be done right too. You should want schools to be on solid financial footing with the lion’s share of funds being put into classrooms instead into exorbitant rents and management fees and you to should want local control instead of answering to management boards based out of New York, California or someplace even farther away. You should want charters that don’t see kids just a test scores so they can expand and get even more money.

 I also get it that some of you want choice even if the choice is a bad one because the choices parents had for years, home school, private school or to get involved in local politics or the school your child attends to make it better are no longer good enough. Instead you want the public to subsidize your choice. I always find it ironic that often the same people that often rail against welfare recipients are the same ones that call for vouchers and charter schools which at the end of the day is just another form of welfare. Unfortunately most of that money goes into the pockets of corporations that are more interested in the bottom line than educating our children.

I wonder though if some of you get the fact public schools are for all of us whether we have a child in public school or not. I wonder though if some of you get that a strong public education system benefits all of us, and that diverting what limited resources we have hurts us too. I wonder if some of you get that many of the problems we have in public education were either created by or exacerbated by the same people who now point their fingers and say what a disaster they are, many of whom are seeking to profit off of public education too.

We don’t need more charter schools and less regulation. History, and recent history at that, has shown us that has led to millions of dollars lost and thousands of kids having their educations kneecapped. What we need to do is pump the breaks on charter school expansion and to invest in our public schools with great leadership, appropriate resources and a curriculum that benefits our kids needs and that doesn’t rely so heavily on high stakes testing or basically the exact opposite of what we have been doing. What we need are fewer charter schools and with the ones that remain done right.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How stupid does the Florida Department of Education think you are? Apparently very!

Common core is gone and make way for the Florida Standards and who cares if they are 99% the same and bring the same liabilities, high stakes testing and siphoning money out of schools and classrooms with them.

Pam Stewart like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain is merrily telling anybody who will listen that common core is a thing of the past and Florida Standards is what all the cool kids are doing.

Sadly I am not even sure if this is hers or the FLDOE’s biggest recent whopper.

Last spring they put out a charter school study written by charter school advocates that said charter schools are the bomb like pretty girls say, unfortunately the truth is they are more like Ishtar, new coke or what we drop on people in the Middle East.      

Then she and the board decided to keep the school one letter grade drop rule or what I like to call the Chartrand rule because it greatly benefitted a charter school he is heavily involved with. It says no school can drop more than a letter grade even if they did really, really bad. You know what if I had an A school, I might take the next year completely off because the lowest my grade would drop would be to a B.

Mrs. Stewart also said common core wouldn’t cost the people of Florida an additional dime. Gosh I bet Maryland wishes they were as lucky as us because it’s going to cost that small state over a hundred million dollars.  By the way conservative estimates here in Florida start at about 300 million dollars.

Then there is the rebranding of common core which is her and the FLDOE”s latest sleight of hand.
Maybe she thinks we won’t notice, or maybe she thinks we are too stupid to.  

To learn more click a link:

The state has renamed the academic benchmarks used to measure student learning gains, teacher performance and school grades the "Florida Standards." Education Commissioner Pam Stewart Tuesday called the decision appropriate.

Common Core is out — the name that is. Instead, the state’s education benchmarks for public schools will be called “Florida Standards.”

The reworked set of standards will feature Common Core heavily, with a few deletions and many additions.
The Florida Standards, as the board is calling it, refers to “all the standards that Florida has adopted,” not just English and math, like Common Core, Stewart said.