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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Just what the BEEP is happening in Duval County?!?

Budgeting can never be easy in this time of limited resources and priorities have to be made but with that being said, what the BEEP is happening in Duval County?!?

Last year we need extra security, testing coordinators, more assistant principals and reading coaches and all we had to do was sacrifice the districts librarians. Fast-forward a year and it turns out we don’t need those things as much as we thought we did as they as well as three hundred support staff are on the chopping block. Throw in hundreds of teachers being surplussed and the district announcing it plans to ignore the class size amendment then what’s going on?

It seems like the district is making a concentrated push to save millions and millions of dollars but to what end? No really to what end? The QEA board is supposed to pay for those initiatives so what are all of the savings above going to?

Even during the height of the recession there wasn’t this much churn in staff and I for one am very concerned.

The Florida Foundation continues to give Bush credit where no credit is due.

Jaryn Enholf the spokeswoman for Jeb bush’s foundation said, "In Florida since the A+ Plan was passed and implemented in 1999, Florida has reversed a generation of decline in education."  The thing is where she might believe that she cannot prove that.  You see other states that did not embrace Bush’s draconian accountability measures and privatization agenda have also seen improvement. The truth is me saying his reforms have held us back has as much validity as her saying they propelled us forward. I also like how Bush and the foundation refuse to even mention the citizen driven class size amendment and its effects, I mean haven’t our supposed gains coincided with its passage?

Furthermore Bush never mentions how if we factor out poverty then our international scores zoom to the top of the rankings. How is common core addressing poverty? Will it make a hungry kid feel full, a scared kid feel safe, make up their pre-school deficits or get parents who have been absent involved? The answer is no and the truth is we don’t have a standards problem we have a poverty problem. The problem with bush and his supporters is they haven’t figured out how to make money off of mitigating poverty. 

One final point, we should all find it both very interesting and telling how all the parties that stand to make money off of common core have lined up behind Bush to support it, while the parties that won’t make any money, groups mostly composed of teachers and parents are opposing it.   

Arguments for Charter Schools don't hold water.

The Charter School Consortium’s spokesperson Lynne Norman-Teck did not have a very convincing argument in favor of charter schools. She pointed out that in 63 comparisons charter schools performed better in 58 categories usually by a point or so I might add but this falls apart when you consider charter schools are able to counsel out poor performers, discipline problems and take fewer ESE and English as a second language learners. With these advantages shouldn’t charter school be out performing public schools by a mile?

They aren’t and all the consortium can do is point to comparisons made by the very charter school friendly Florida Department of education. The FLDOE also says kids attending charter schools were five times more likely to be attending an F schools but she didn’t mention that because the only thing supporters of charters schools can do is to point to cherry picked evidence with little context.

An even bigger question though is what about the students that attended the 250 plus charter schools that have failed where do the kids that attended them get counted? Most likely it is in the public schools they have to return too. How would public schools be doing if they could ignore the scores of the bottom ten percent?

Then her second argument about how Charters receive less money falls apart too. First yes per pupil charters do get less but how about the hundreds of millions in PECO construction funds they have gotten over the last few years while public schools relieved none? A few hundred million dollars divided by a few hundred schools quickly adds up. Furthermore despite her claim charter schools get less per pupil it hasn’t stopped the owners of Charter Schools like Academia and Charter schools USA from becoming millionaires, or other schools paying their administrators/owners as much or more than some superintendents of entire districts.

If charter schools were parent-teacher driven laboratories of innovation that supplemented districts then I believe they would have a role to play. Unfortunately here in Florida too many are run by mercenary outfits whose first goal is to earn a profit and who compete with districts while producing an inferior product.

To read more, click the link:

Vitti, disingenuous or ignorant?

When talking about FLDOE’s investigation into the district’s ESE practices, Vitti said: “There are concerns that the principal may have been using ESE personnel for non-ESE-related issues for more operational type things like bus duty, hall patrol, general disciplinary issues,” he said Wednesday.

Um, “the” principal?  That implies one principal, well at an ESE meeting this past Christmas at least a half dozen ESE teachers in my region alone complained, among other things, that they were being pulled from working with their ESE kids to cover other non-ESE duties and Mason Davis, the director of ESE was in the room with us.

So did he not let Vitti know and he is down playing it or is Vitti just down playing it.

This is bad but I also think the states new policies are partly responsible (more on that later). 

The important thing going forward is just to get it right!

District hires charter school executive to lead Ed White High School, 4th change in six years

Replacing a crappy principal is a good thing. Replacing one with an out of town charter school executive, well let’s just say the jury is out.

This will also be Mr. Paul’s third job in three years, not a good sign for a school that has seen turnover with such regularity.

Former principal Chris Jackson will be taking his boot to the throat leadership to Ribault high school, where he will reunite with area chief Iranetta Wright.

To read more click the link:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The League of Women Voters blast charter schools.

From the Tampa times by Jeff Solochek

Following a year of research, the Florida League of Women Voters issued a report this week that's highly critical of the state's charter school movement. Education "reform" critics, such as historian Diane Ravitch and AFT president Randi Weingarten, have begun passing around the document, calling it a "bombshell."

In it, the League observes that Florida charters have a 20 percent closure rate because of financial problems or poor academic performance. Charter proponents have seen this as a good thing, as it weeds out the bad actors, and argue that the same should occur for traditional public schools. The League isn't convinced.

The report notes that many state officials with power over charter schools also have vested interests in charters, including lawmakers Rep. Erik Fresen and Sen. John Legg. These political leaders have acknowledged their ties, but argued they have no legal conflict of interest.

The League also suggests that some charters run by for-profit management firms screen students and then drop those who are not successful. Leaders of the McKeel charter schools in Lakeland told the Ledger in 2010 that they could dismiss students who did not meet academic requirements.

"Charter schools could fill a niche in Florida’s educational spectrum, but for many, their biggest contribution may be to corporate bottom lines," League president Deirdre Macnab said in a news release.

The group recommends actions such as limiting charter schools to fill unmet needs in local districts -- primarily focusing on low-income families, and creating stronger local oversight of charters.

Rebuttals to the League of Women Voters report have not yet begun. They probably will soon. Read the full report here. 

Gary Chartrand 94% of the Florida standards are Common Core

The Grocer in chief was on WJCT talking about education and below in bold are some of the highlights followed by my comments.

Chartrand, KIPP school is doing great. He didn’t mention how his own rule saying schools can’t drop more than one letter grade protected it from dropping to a D.

Gary Chartrand, 94% of Florida standards are common core. More like 98%

Gary Chartrand, Charter schools are public schools. Um what was he smoking when he said that.

Gary Chartrand, school choice is responsible for Florida’s improvement.  He fails to mention how other states that did not embrace choice have also improved. He also fails to mention the 250 plus charter schools that have failed and how voucher schools have resisted accountability and the class size amendment, its like it doesn't even exist to these guys.

Gary Chartrand, teachers being on a one year contract is a good thing. This guy really hates public school teachers.

What common core supporters won't tell you.

What common core supporters won’t tell you is that if we factor out poverty then our scores on international tests zoom to the top. To me that says, rather than blowing up the system and replacing it with an experimental curriculum, which is what common core is, let’s put in place things that mitigate poverty.  Wrap around services, social workers and a longer school year would work wonders for many of our kids.

Will common core make a hungry child full, feel safe, make up their pre-school deficits or get parents involved? The answer to all those questions is no. The truth is we have a poverty problem not a standards problem and if you want more proof look at the third grade FCAT results. A fifth of our children live in poverty and a fifth of our third graders scored a one on the test.

Common core does a few things however. It doubles down on high stakes testing which has sucked the joy out of education for so many students and teachers alike and it siphons hundreds of millions out of classrooms and to testing companies and their affiliates.

Unless we address poverty then common core is just the latest education fad doomed to fail.

Who is voting for and profiting off of charter schools in the Floirda legislature

And this list does not include people who just got campaign contributions.

From the League of Women's Voters, charter schools study.

 Senator John Legg Chair of Senate Education Committee is co-founder and business administrator of Daysprings Academy in Port Richey.
 Senator Kelli Stargel from Orange County is on board of McKeel Academies. She is on the Education Committee and sponsored the Parent Trigger Bill.
 House Budget Chairman Seth McKeel is on the board of McKeel Academy Schools in Polk County.
 Anne Corcoran, wife of future House Speaker Richard Corcoran has a charter school in
Pasco County. charter-school-delays-opening-for-a-year/1276912. Richard Corcoran is Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
 Senator Anitere Flores of Miami is president of an Academica managed charter school in Doral.
 Florida Representative Erik Fresen is Chair of the House Education subcommittee on appropriations. Representative Fresen’s sister is the Vice President of Academica and is married to the president. politics/content/ethics-commission-clears-miami-rep-erik-fresen-alleged-voting-conflict.
 George Levesque, Florida House lawyer cleared Erik Fresen of conflict of interest
concerns over charter schools. He is the husband of Patricia Levesque, former Jeb Bush Deputy Chief of Staff and currently Executive Director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education which promotes school choice.
 Representative Manny Diaz is Dean of Doral Academy, an Academica managed school. He is the leader for the new statewide contract bill in the Florida House. Doral College was cited by the Florida Auditor General for a $400,000 loan from Doral Charter High School. Conflict of Interest and procurement for Charters with federal grants:

So much for ethics in Florida.

FLDOE investigating Duval Schools for ESE violations. Um, what took so long.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bush Surrogate stands up for him and common core.

Apparently if you are not in love with Jeb and Common core, then you don't know what you are talking about.

I don’t think Lloyd Browns tactic of insulting people is going to sway many to thinking common core and Jeb Bush’s unwavering support of it is a good thing. When I have a discussion about different opinions I find using facts is a better strategy.

First common core does not address our main education problem poverty. Not only do our international test scores zoom to the top when we factor out poverty but I hope it is not lost on anybody that a fifth of Florida’s children live in poverty and a fifth of our third graders scored a 1 on the FCAT reading test.  I guess it is arguable whether common core is a better strategy than address poverty, but I don’t know how common core supporters expect it to fill a hungry child’s belly, make them feel safe in their neighborhoods, motivate more parents to be involved and make up the deficits that children living in poverty have pre-school.  I believe addressing poverty is a better strategy than basically blowing up the system, but people like Brown and Bush obviously disagree.

The really crazy thing is it would probably cost less to address poverty. We are sending 220 million to the American Institute of research over four years and this does not include the infrastructure updates and training programs that will cost tens if not hundreds of millions more to get district’s ready to fully implement common core.

What if we spent just that 220 million, 55 million a year to provide wrap around services to our most struggling children? The reason, because often why a kid acts up or does poorly in school often has nothing to do with school.  We could hire about 800 social workers and counselors to help and provide services to those children.  I believe that would make a dent in our problem though people like Brown and Bush disagree, preferring a more high stakes testing approach instead.  

Then Brown, once again calling people low information voters discounts the role of the federal government in the formation of common core. First the Federal government did not let a good crisis go to waste. They used the great recession offering cash strapped and desperate states what amounted to pennies on the dollar in exchange for local control and as the recession has waned they have used No Child left Behind waivers to force states to comply. Now some states might love common core but to ignore or down play the federal government’s role in implementing it is disingenuous.  

Ultimately Brown’s main argument seems to be Jeb Bush likes it and you should too.  Though you should have a problem with this because of the fact Jeb Bush was in charge of education for eight years, and his policies have dominated the state since he left office.  If there are problems in education and I think there are then shouldn’t he assume the lion’s share of responsibility? With this huge pivot to common core it seems to me that he is either asking for a do over or he is saying what he did failed.  Though once again I imagine Brown and Bush would disagree. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

So much for charter schools taking disabled kids.

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

Writes Chris Staiti for Bloomberg News:
U.S. charter schools must provide special-education services and avoid discrimination in admissions, academic services and athletics whether or not they receive federal funding, the Education Department said today.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter, the department’s Office for Civil Rights reminded charter school operators of their obligations under federal civil rights laws. Charter schools, which are privately run public schools, are barred from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, national origin or disability.
“Federal civil rights laws, regulations and guidance that apply to charter schools are the same as those that apply to other public schools,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said in the letter. The department “is committed to supporting the establishment of high-quality public charter schools from which all students can benefit.”
Charter schools have come under criticism for shunning special-needs students because of costs that can strain even the best-financed public school systems. Only 8 percent of students enrolled in charter schools have disabilities, compared with 11 percent in public schools, the Government Accounting Office said in a 2012 report.
Charter schools must also provide services for non-English speakers and establish non-discriminatory policies for discipline, Lhamon said in the letter. The department also provided guidance on racial diversity in admissions.
Scathing Purple Musings reported on the GAO study in 2012. State Impact and the Miami Herald found in 2011 that 86 percent of Florida charter schools do not serve special needs schools.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The evolution of school choice.

Have you noticed how supporters of charter schools and vouchers keep changing the narrative? In the beginning they were to save children from failing public schools but now that study after study has shown they don’t produce better education outcomes and often worse, the narrative has changed to one of competition being good for public schools.

They also can’t tell the truth and that’s charter schools are here to make people rich and to break the power of teacher unions and to change teachers from professionals to service workers too. Educating children, sure, maybe but that’s an afterthought for the movement.

And before some of you jump on me and say there are some excellent charter schools, I agree but you should be outraged by the flim flam artists and snake oil salesman that have co-opted the industry too. Furthermore you should want voucher schools to have accountability because if they don’t many will continue to pump through and dump out kids ill prepared for anything.

Then it was about competition, the implication that public schools were treading water and needed to be forced to improve and innovate. Two things most charter schools and voucher schools have dubious innovation at best but to be honest it is hard to improve when the powers-that-be, many of whom are choice advocates, think poverty is an excuse and have transformed schools into testing factories staffed by beat up teachers.

Then it evolved in collaboration, lets just do what’s best for the child, which if they were being honest would be keeping children as far away from most charter schools and voucher schools. But are people supposed to forget the demonizing of teachers, the high jacking of education by the high stakes testing movement, the starving public schools of resources and their creation of a crisis just so they can profit off of it. That’s the school choice movements jumping off point. 

There latest reason is school choice is modern day civil rights, and who cares that the NAACP has come out against charter schools, preferring society adequately fund its public schools. What won’t these guys say or do is my question.

But that’s what people do when they have a losing argument, they change it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Slammed by ReDefined Ed

I was slammed by the pro-privitization blog in an op-ed in the Pensecola News Journal. The link is their piece and below that is my repsonce.

The problem with school choice isn’t that choice is bad; it’s the choices that Ron Mattus of Step up for Students and the pro-choice crowd want us to have.

At the beginning of the legislative session, voucher proponents were basically offered the key to the treasury if they would have just accepted some legitimate accountability measures but instead of taking hundreds of millions more to help the students they claim are desperate for vouchers, voucher proponents fought tooth and nail against them.

I believe they fought against it because they knew if they had to have stringent accountability measures, vouchers would have collapsed like a house of cards and to be honest why would we expect any less. Teachers at private schools don’t have to be certified let alone have degrees and their curriculums don’t have to be recognized.

You should be asking yourself why is
accountability only for public schools, not for private schools that take public money? Mattus says, oh but they take a test. Well if he is so confident, if it is basically the same thing, then why doesn’t he insist they take the same test? This seems like a small price to pay to help so many more students.

Then I had an actual conversation with David Figilo, charged with analyzing the voucher program and he said, Chris there are some great schools that take vouchers, mostly religious schools, but there are some really lousy ones too.

Even if we ignore the blurring of the line between church and state that must draw a shoulder shrug from Mattus, who just wants to expand the program, saying parents and the free market will sort it out. 

I could have went line by line and debunked Mattus’s assertions but I think the bottom line is he and his group would have you believe choice just for choices sake is the right choice. I however, with resources being so scarce and the outcome so important would prefer we did things the right way and made sure every choice was a high quality choice and I guess that is where the distinction between us lies.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

How dumb does Rick Scott think you are? Very, apparently.

From the Tampa Times: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in an interview with the conservative Report Card blog, pronounced the controversial Common Core State Standards dead in the Sunshine State.

He has in the past been reluctant to take a stance on the standards, which he at one point supported.

 “I like to be positive and say what I am for, not what I am against," he told Report Card. "The Chamber of Commerce came out for Common Core, so rather than specifically renounce it, I preferred to say that The Florida State Standard is now 100% a Florida educational standard, but the fact is, Common Core is out.”

While Scott has said that Florida's standards are its own, Common Core foes often have called him out on this one. They have accurately noted that the Florida Standards are actually the Common Core with the addition of 98 items, mostly related to cursive handwriting and calculus instruction. Supporters of the Common Core did not protest the revisions, saying they were minor and noting the State Board of Education removed nothing.

Scott offered a different version of events to Report Card. He said, "The Florida Standard is derived from the Next Generation Sunshine State Standard, which was derived from earlier versions of the Sunshine State Standards. These standards pre-dated Common Core and a truly Florida’s own standards."

So just to sum up Rick Scott says they are dead but the truth is other than a name change and some minor cosmetic changes they the Florida Standards are the same thing as Common Core.

Gosh, gee, wow, he really thinks we are dumb.

Florida FCAT results remain flat. Here is how we change that.

That’s the headline but it’s not the only thing that FCAT results tell you. FCAT results also tell you a child’s zip code. The schools that had the highest percentage of children doing poorly are invariably on the poorer side of town. I hope the irony that 20 percent of our third graders scored a one on the FCAT and 20 percent of our students live in poverty is not lost on anyone.

Our elected leaders in Tallahassee and Jeb Bush would have you believe that common core and school choice will fix those things. I ask you how an experimental curriculum is going to put food in a hungry child’s belly, make them feel safe as they walk home or get up to now absent parents involved? Then not only are we 15 years into the school choice movement here in Florida but if you look into the numbers the charter schools in the poorer neighborhoods often performed worse than their public school counterparts. The school choice movement unfortunately has made it impossible to know how private schools that take vouchers and are exempt from accountability are doing.

The good news is there are solutions, the bad news for our leaders in Tallahassee is they don’t involve sending hundreds of millions to testing companies and charter school operators looking to make a buck or continuing to blame, demonize and marginalize teachers. Which up till now have been their only two solutions. 

If we really want to turn this around then the students in our poorer neighborhoods need to be in smaller classes so they can get individual attention, the one reform with evidence that says it works. They need wrap around services because quite often students act up or under performs has nothing to do with school. Then we need a longer school year because often our poorer kids need more time to learn and less time in between so they don’t lose what they learned and finally after the foundation is set we need more curriculum options, trades, skills, and the arts that play to kids strengths and keep them interested in school. If we do those things that will cost money, money that won’t go to campaign contributors then we can turn this around. 

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mommas are talking in Duval county and they are not happy!

School Discipline, by Greg Sampson

We employees can talk about discipline all we want to, but it is now out of our hands. Mamas are talking, and they are not pleased.

Then we have this reaction from two school board members:

Let me summarize it for you:

                Jason Fischer: Fight? What fight? (Don’t blame me.)
                Paula Wright: Boys will be boys. (It’s the end of the year.)

What do we want from our Board? How about some passion about the safety of students. How about a recognition that we are bleeding enrollment because the children do not feel safe in our schools—not in the locker room, not in the cafeteria, not in the hallway as they move from one class to another.
The superintendent goes on ad infinitum with his surveys about how to develop career academies to keep students from leaving for charter schools. That’s not the issue. They are not safe. That’s the issue.

Clueless board members do not help. The discipline initiatives that began this school year: deans of discipline, restorative justice, keeping violent students in in-school suspension instead of out-of-school suspension, have not produced the results we need.
The superintendent admitted his approach last spring was wrong: “the one size fits all maybe didn’t work.” But he doesn’t understand that, as long as he sits on high on Prudential Drive insisting on making all the decisions rather than listening and trusting the people who work at the schools, he will never get it right. If the principal of First Coast High believes he/she needs seven security guards, there is a reason for that, and it isn’t a perverse desire to strip classrooms of resources.

Board members, you need to hold the superintendent accountable. While it isn’t your job to micromanage the schools and decide on student punishment short of expellable offenses, we did elect you to examine the superintendent’s policies for effectiveness. Please schedule a workshop in the next 30 days to thoroughly examine why student behavior has gotten out of control this year.
Mamas are talking, and they are not pleased.

What’s the difference between Becki Couch and Paula Wright? Millionaires love Couch and hate Wright

Let’s see they both have a legitimate education back ground. They were both elected in 2010. They both sometimes ask tough questions and then they vote against the cities students and teachers and to me they have both been a disappointment. Though to be honest, other than Couch supporting Vitti and Wright supporting Kriner to become superintendent, their terms in office have been nearly identical.

The super donor millionaire group however has given Couch ten grand and Wright nothing. That would have been glaring enough but the same group has given Wright’s opponent Darryl Willie ten grand too.    

I think I may have finally found something I like about Wright. 

Who really runs Jacksonville's schools? A bunch of rich white millionaires, that's who.

Who owns our schools? It certainly isn’t the taxpayers.

Who runs our schools? It certainly isn’t the duly elected school board members.

The answer to both questions is a small cabal of rich white families; some of who don’t even live in Jacksonville and who have close times to the privatization movement.

I did an analysis of School Board donors over the last few cycles and below contributed the most amount of money by far and contributed to multiple races at the same time. You only do that if you are buying influence.

Cynthia and Dan Edelman
2014: 1000 Becki Couch, Scott Shine and Daryl Willie
2012: 1000 Ashley Smith Juarez, 500 to Martha Barrett  
2010: 1000 Fred Fel Lee
Her Husband also gave 1000 to Ashley Smith Juarez in 2012, 500 to Martha Barrett and 500 to Couch in 2014

The Chartrand family (and Greg Delaney and wife)
2014, 1000 to Couch and 3000 to Willie
2012, 1000 Fischer, 5000 Ashley Smith Juarez
2010, 100 Couch, 500 Barrett
2008, 2000 Ken Manuel

Preston Haskell
2014, 1000 to Couch
2012, 1500 to Hall, 1500 to Grymes, 2000 to Cuff,  1250 to Smith-Juarez
2010, 500 Barrett
2008, Hazouri 500, Manuel,  935 (in-kind), Stan Jordan, 500
2006, 500, to Bronner, Priestly-Jackson and Drake

Halverson (President of Haskell)
2014, 500 couch, 1000 to Willie and shine
2012, 500, Hall, Cuff, Jenkins and Grymes, 1000 Ashley Smith Juarez
2008, 500 Ken Manuel

Peter Rummell (and family)
2014, Couch 500
2012, 1000 Hall, 1500, Grymes, Cuff, Jenkins, 500 Heymann
2010, 1000, Lee, 500 Barrett,
2008, 2000, Gentry, 1000 Manuel, 500 Hazouri

Jonathan Baker (there were lots of Bakers so it’s hard to know about family members)
2014, 500, Shine, 1000 Couch and Willie
2012, 1000, Fischer, 500 Smith Juarez, Cuff, Hall, Barrett, Burney (returned) and Heymann
2010, 500 Cohen, Eric Smith, Fel Lee

The Weavers (including Thomas Petway)
2014, 3000 Couch, 2000 Willie
2012, 2000 each Heymann and Smith-Juarez, 500 Grymes (Petway)
2010, 500 Eric smith
2008, 500 Manuel, 1000 Gentry

The Clements
2014 2000, couch
2012, 1000, Smith Juarez, 500 Cuff

Weaver, Chartrand and Edelman are also part of the QEA, the shadow school board

Chartrand, Baker and Edelman’s husband Dan are on the board of KIPP,  Baker is on the board of several charter schools.

Edelman, Baker, Chartrand, Deloris Weaver, Poppy Clements are on the board of the JPEF, Chartrand’s pseudo education club which has ever closer ties to the district.

Money not what’s best for our kids seem to drive education policies here in Jacksonville. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Campbell Brown must have been a terrible reporter!

Speaking at an American federation of Children (privatization good/public schools bad) summit, Mrs. Brown said: I spent most of my professional life in television journalism. I was at NBC News for 11 years. … I mostly covered politics. I had a show on CNN for almost three years after that. My first boss in TV was Tim Russert, the late host of Meet the Press, who was a wonderful man and a great friend and mentor to me. And he taught me, when I was young and pretty clueless, the ways of the old school journalism. This was before MSNBC and before FOX. And so back then, I remember going to work every day, as Tim had taught us, believing basically when you were covering a story, both sides had some merit. And both sides deserved a fair hearing. And your job as a reporter was essentially to referee the match. But, as I think a lot of you know, sometimes you look at a problem, you evaluate a problem, and it’s very clear that both sides do not have merit. And referee is not a role you can play when the lives of children are hanging in the balance. (applause) –

Does she have blinders on? She can’t see both sides of the story? On one side we have public schools starved of resources, burdened with high stakes standardized tests and an often stifling curriculum tasked with doing a nearly impossible job blamed for all the ills in society and on the other side, the choice side, we have schools who fight accountability, pick and choose who they take and keep and fill the coffers of mercenaries looking to make a profit. Yes, there are good and bad players on both side but I don’t think my 
description is far off.

Mrs. Brown has no questions though? Not about all the charters that have failed or the voucher schools that teach creationism? Not about the billionaire hedge fund investors or the Chinese investors buying green cards? Nothing, everything is hunky dory?  

She then went on to union bash for a bit, implying her judgment was better than trained experts and the law and demonizing millions of teachers for the actions of a few that the union had lied to protect, you know because that's what union do, they joyfully love risking their credibility to protect a handful of bad teachers.

She doesn’t see because she doesn’t want to see and she hates unions because she hates unions. If Mrs. Brown approached her reporter gig like she approaches school choice she wouldn’t have lasted a hot minute.

For shame Mrs. Brown, for shame. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Van Zants anti-gay comments draw outrage, while Gary Chartrands got a pass,

When I wrote about the chair of the state board of education, Gary Chartrand's controversial remarks last Fall I was suspended from the Times Union's blog roll for about six weeks.

The Washington Post however agreed with my sentiment, that perhaps they were out of line.

Fast forward to this week and Van Zant's ridiculous remarks are all over the place and drawing a fair amount of face palms and outrage too.

Why did Chartrand get a pass? I mean isn't crazy homophobia crazy homophobia?

To read more about Chartrand click the links:

Local Charter School exec John Baker not above paying for influence or being deceptive about success.

Mr. Baker on the board of many charter schools told the Daily Record: We're in our fourth year. We have made some progress, not the progress I had hoped. We were a B-school last year at the middle school. We're a C this year. Our FCAT scores, I believe, are accurate when I say we are among the highest in the Northwest quadrant.

Yes they were a C but they were protected by the Chartrand rule which says school grades can only drop one letter grade, if not for that they would have been a D and yes Gary Chartrand is on the board of KIPP too. I wonder if protecting his beloved school played any role in him pushing this rule through the state board of education.  He also doesn’t mention that in it first year they were the lowest rated school in Northeast Florida. Growing pains I guess.

Then take a look at whom Baker has thrown his money around to in school board races

2014, 500, Shine, 1000 Couch and Willie
2012, 1000, Fischer, 500 Smith Juarez, Cuff, Hall, Barrett, Burney (returned) and Heymann
2010 Cohen, Eric Smith, Fel Lee

He has given money to all the school board  races in each cycle 2010-present and in 2012 he gave money to opponents. Talk about hedging ones bets.

Duval’s Assistant principals may get a reprieve

If you have been following many were told they were going from ten month to 12 months which sent them into a tizzy as they wondered how they would pay their bills.

The district now says it is not a done deal and if it becomes one, it may not go into effect until next year.

The mere fact they considered throwing so many under the bus now however does speak volumes.

Stay tuned.

The problem with Charles Van Zant isn’t what he said; it is he is pretty typical for Florida’s republican legislators.

Not just the state of Florida but the nation has reacted with outrage over Charles Van Zant’s comments that the American Institute of Research (AIR) the group administering Common Core in Florida is trying to turn children gay. What I don’t understand is why this is outrageous considering all the other things the Republicans in our legislature have said and done.

They voted for cheap and comprehensive health benefits for them while denying the Medicare expansion for hundreds of thousands of poor Floridians who desperately need it.  They balanced Florida’s books on the back of its teachers and public service workers when they took three percent of their pay. This money did not go to the pension fund but instead to the general fund, thank a teacher for the surplus.  They did this while at the same time giving a tax break to people who bought expensive yachts.

Routinely Florida legislators that work for, own or who have family members that own vote for charter school legislation that will benefit them and they have so twisted what amounts to ethics here in Florida that this causes few to bat an eye. Then they say they are for local control but the state board of education, which ironically doesn’t have a true educator on it routinely overrides duly elected school boards and rubber stamps charter schools.  

With vouchers the legislature literally had to twist themselves into knots ignoring their stances on STEM, accountability and teacher evaluations to vote for an expansion this year. Then they forced merit pay on teachers despite the fact study after study says it doesn’t work and testing experts say tying teachers pay to a high stakes test is foolhardy.  They routinely thumb their nose at educators who they have practically reduced to second class citizens.

There are however plenty of reasons not to like AIR.  They brought the disastrous VAM evaluation method to Florida and how after that they got a second chance to do anything  is beyond me. Then they are charging the state of Florida five million dollar to field test questions in Utah, the Florida of the mid-west, both quickly come to mind. Pam Stewart who approved AIR is the state’s 6th  commissioner of education under Scott if we count her two intern stints.

Then there are plenty of reasons to dislike Common Core too. It doubles down on high stakes testing which has sucked the joy of learning and teaching out of education for many students and teachers alike. It’s untested and it doesn’t address the real problem in education, poverty.  What the republicans in Tallahassee haven’t told you as they have been running around saying the sky is falling on education, is that if we factor out poverty then our scores zoom to the top and that was before common core.

What do you think is a better idea, to give our struggling schools extra resources or to blow up the entire system? Rick Scott and most of the republican dominated legislature think it is the latter. Then finally it siphons millions and millions out of our classrooms where it is really needed, giving it to testing companies instead.

So yes we should be outraged by Van Zant but the republicans in the Florida legislature have given us many other opportunities to be outraged too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

School choice, the modern separate but equal.

The school choice advocates led by Jeb Bush say that their movement is an extension of the civil rights movement but in reality it is an extension of what instigated the civil rights movement, separate but equal, which did really well with the separate part but was far off on the equal part.

The school choice movement wants the public to fund two school systems. One will be made up of traditional public schools and the other will be made up of charters and schools that accept vouchers.  Make no mistake that’s what is happening and that’s what they are calling for, the creation of two parallel school systems.

One will take all comers, public schools, while the other, choice schools will be able to pick and choose who they take, can counsel out poor performers and discipline problems and generally excludes special needs and English as a second language speakers.  One uses all of its resources to educate children while the other often fills the coffers of owners and investors.

The school choice crowd believes public schools should be measured by high stakes standardized tests and their teachers should be evaluated on those results. They also believe charters and vouchers should feel free to do whatever they want. The free market sorting out the bad ones from the good ones as they come and go. These are the two systems being set up and like America couldn’t tolerate two systems in the fifties, how long can America tolerate two systems now? 

These two systems are far from equal but the school choice crowd is trying to convince you it is what we need and they fan flames of intolerance towards unions and they cherry pick facts or take them at out of context, like we are falling behind the rest of the world, when the truth is if you factor out poverty something the school choice crowd callas an excuse when they aren’t ignoring it our scores zoom to at or near the top. 
There are undoubtedly problems in our public schools, most created by ignoring poverty and the school choice crowd looking to manufacture a crisis and then profit off of it, separate and unequal paid for by the taxpayers.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Will common core turn you child gay? Florida Rep thinks so!

Does Reince Priebus think black people just shut up and go to the charter school they are told to?

First I hope nobody thinks I am making light of the struggles of the black community and I acknowledge that despite inroads there is still a long way to go.

School choice is a hot button topic right now and many of their supporters are saying it is the next civil rights moment, Rand Paul, Jeb bush and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, all say school choice is a civil rights issue and they are fighting tooth and nail for expanded school choice.

However the NAACP isn’t. They in fact are resolute against the school choice movement.

This despite the fact we all know there were inequities with public schools for generations and things still aren’t where they should be. They look at charter school schools and see a back door to segregation. They look at charter schools and see mercenaries trying to profit off their kids and they look at charter schools and see that they are providing an inferior product too.  

They obviously don’t understand that Paul, Bush, Priebus and the rest of the school choice movement say that they are fighting for them, or maybe they know what they are really fighting for and it isn't them.  

The solution is to fix the problems in our public schools, not to outsource our kids futures to what Priebus is selling.

Does Accountability strangle Innovation? Education reformers would have you think so.

Oy vey, public schools need accountability, so we can know who is failing and get rid of them. Charters and Voucher schools don’t because it hurts their innovation. Um is it just me but are the education deformers, err, reformers attempting to have their cake and eat it too?

Get ready to be bamboozled, hoodwinked and out and out lied to in 3, 2..

From the USA Today:  Charters were conceived as an alternative to underperforming public schools. This allowed educators and entrepreneurs space to create new schools and new teaching models. The fact that education dollars were now allowed to go to schools chosen by parents and children generated competition, better matched students' interests and needs, and gave teachers the opportunity to exercise their own judgment and be accountable for the results.

Objective analysis has also found charter schools to be successful, particularly with students from low income backgrounds. In 2013, researchers at Stanford University studied charter schools in 27 states and found that, on average, students in charter schools outperform traditional public school students in reading, and do about the same in math. Students below the poverty line and African-American students were both found to fare better in charter than in public schools when their standardized test scores were disaggregated.

This is the happy story part. But creeping bureaucratization and regulation are endangering the entire charter school movement.

The author went on to complain how charter schools in some states had to take the same tests and evaluate their teachers the same way that public schools had too. I went on to wretch.

If charter schools were described what the authors, Rick Hess and Michael McShane, two long time public school haters, then maybe people wouldn’t be fighting against them.  President Obama may have buried his head in the sand but it is all to clear to those paying attention that charter schools as a group have become profit centers for mercenaries’ often dubious innovation at best. But what gets me and should tell you all that you need to know, is if they think students' interests and needs need t be served and teachers should have the opportunity to exercise their own judgment and be accountable for the results, then why aren’t they advocating for those things in public schools, you know like most public school parents and teachers are already doing. They don’t do that because they haven’t figured out how to make a buck.

Also what objective analysis are they looking at and does the Stanford credo, on average really say that charter schools are doing better? It says that in Florida one of the biggest charter states around, where over 250 have opened taken public money and closed leaving families and communities in a lurch, are lagging behind.  

Here is a link to the CREDO
go to pages 66 and 69 and see if charter proponents should be really having a party and don’t forget all the stories about then counseling out poor performers and discipline problems and how they take fewer ESE and ESOL students as well.  Also don’t forget that many charter schools are opening in the affluent neighborhoods where kids generally do better and that schools like KIPP and the Harlem renaissance charters spend a lot more than their public school neighbors. I look at the charts and see that despite numerous advantages charters meek out a point here or there but then again I am not trying to get rich off of them.  Finally the authors included a dozen self-serving links but couldn’t provide one to the CREDO, I wonder why?

Ultimately their message seemed to be accountability, soul crushing and stifling accountability, that’s good for public schools, just give charters more money and trust us.

Superintendent Vitit’s ADHD is messing with people’s lives

Last year the super said we needed testing coordinators, ISSP teachers, permanent subs, extra security and some schools needed more assistant principals and you know what other than replacing librarians with testing coordinators practically nobody disagreed, but now he says we need none of above and we can throw about 250 clerks into the mix as people we don’t need either.

As the super changes his mind and the course of the district as often as the wind changes directions people’s lives are being negatively affected and that’s just not right.

The super doesn’t have an easy job and priorities have to be made but if he loses the staff, who he is treating like they are disposable then the ball game is over.

Duval County throws its assistant principals under the bus.

Sadly they aren’t the only ones as hundreds of security guards and office staff are getting pink slips as we speak.

Assistant principals were on 12 month contracts, which means they work all year. Teachers are on ten month contracts but they can set it up so they can get paid over the summer. Since APs worked scheduled to work 12 months there was no reason for them to set up summer pay.

Well APs were just told they were now ten month employees. That means for most they get two more pay checks and then nothing else. The AP I talked to on the brink of tears she said, she didn’t know how she was going to pay her bills. That she was losing six thousand dollars. It’s worse because when she became an AP they reduced her hourly wage but because she was going from 10 to 12 months she was going to make more in the end, and because of the districts abrupt change now it turns out she actually taken a pay cut.    
If they were told six months ago, so they could have time to prepare you kind of tilt your head and begrudgedly  go okay, if the memo came down that next year the change would took place would be even better, but it seems neither of those things has happened and instead dozens of lives are being thrown into chaos.

Furthermore a lot of schools last year were given an extra AP and now many of those positions are being cut, leaving dozens more to wonder if they will have gigs next year.

The district wonders why it has a hard time keeping and attracting talent, well it’s because they throw their employees under the bus at an increasingly and alarmingly rate. 
For shame.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Is anybody else fed up with Becki Couch’s hypocrisy?

I am just going to get right to it.  In the Times Union she said:  ...that the report highlights charter schools and middle schools as the district’s biggest challenges.
In weeks past she said the district would actively try and bring families back from charter schools too.
If that’s the case then why has the district allowed struggling charter schools to expand and approve new ones that are both unnecessary and whose operators don’t have a history of success.
If that’s the case then why is she accepting thousands of dollars from charter school owners and supporters?
That’s hypocrisy you can take to the bank and apparently Mrs. Couch is.

Is Jason Fischer trying to scare kids away from public schools?

First Mandarin just what is wrong with you? In 2012 you had two other viable candidates but you chose Fischer, what was it, that before he loved education he loved soil and water? Was it he couldn’t seem to figure out if he was in the navy or just worked for them? 
Why were you so angry Mandarin? You realize you have not just some of the best schools in the city but in the state don’t you? Why vote for somebody who doesn’t want to improve public schools but instead wants to privatize them and force kids into sub-standard options?
Okay, in a Times Union piece about middle school, long a thorn in the side of the district, years ago Hazouri talked about how we need to clean them up, Fischer said: Regardless of structure, Duval’s middle schools have to become more nurturing of sixth-graders, Fischer said.
Those students are leaving the protective environment of elementary school and are thrust into a place where they will be treated like mini-high schoolers. But many are not ready for that.
“Their whole world is changing,” Fischer said. “Societal issues become more noticeable in middle school. They may see more violence and more drugs as … some high school experiences back up into the middle school. And yet they’re still kids.”
Yeah all those violence and drug experiences that our high schoolers experience are now finding there way into middle schools too. Where is the flashing danger sign I wonder?
We do have issues and there are fights and I am sure there are drugs too, but Fischer makes it sound like our schools could double for the HBO series OZ. Now it is true I have joked to my friends that every high schooler should be required to watch it and then told, and that’s the good part of the prison, but the truth is they are not the lawless dens Fischer seems to be implying that they are.   

The problem with choice isn’t choice; it is the choices Jeb Bush wants us to have.

The problem with choice isn’t choice; it is the choices Jeb Bush wants us to have.

First I think it beyond the pale that this man who sent his children to exclusive prep schools, where they didn’t have to take standardized tests and where they had many academic classes to satiate his children’s interests, or the exact opposite of the system he has created, is talking about choice so passionately. In effect he has set up a public school system for your and my children that he wouldn’t let his children near. That would be bad enough but he doesn’t even stop there.

He then praises charter schools and vouchers.

First vouchers, at the beginning of the legislative session, voucher proponents were basically offered the key to the treasury if they would have just accepted some legitimate accountability measures but instead of taking hundreds of millions more to help the students he claims are desperate for vouchers, voucher proponents fought tooth and nail against them.

I believe they fought against it because they knew if they had to have stringent accountability measures, vouchers would have collapsed like a house of cards and to be honest why would we expect any less. Teachers at private schools don’t have to be certified let alone have degrees and their curriculums don’t have to be recognized.

You see Bush thinks accountability is only for public schools, not for private schools that take private money. How he rectifies his common core juxtaposition, it is so incredibly important for public schools, but private schools can teach creationism as science is fine with him is beyond me. 

Then there is charter schools, many of which are run by for profit companies with close ties to state legislators. Bush doesn’t care that despite taking fewer disabled and English as a second language learners and often counseling out behavior problems and poor performers, that if you were attending a charter school you were five times more likely to be attending a failing school than if you were attending a public school and that the Stanford credo says despite the advantages outlined above charter school students as a group lag behind their public school counterparts or that most importantly over 250 charter schools have opened, taken public money and then closed leaving families and communities in the lurch.  How many of the tens of thousands of families with kids in those schools wish they had made a different choice? Bush doesn’t care and in fact he wants to double down.
He would steer kids to charter schools like the ones recently approved in Jacksonville Florida if he could. Let me tell you about the owner of that school, Jonathan Hage. He operates just 58 schools but is able to live in a 1.8 million dollar house, sends his children to an expensive private school and a conservative estimate of his salary is 3.4 million dollars. By comparison superintendent Vitti in Jacksonville runs 161 schools, makes 275 thousand and sends his children to public schools. I don’t know how much his house is worth and where I am sure it is nice I would guess it is worth less than 1.8 million dollars. Hage also owns a 350 thousand dollar 43 foot yacht, which he named Fishin-4-Schools. An ironic name if there ever was one. Oh and the three schools closet to his new charter are all A schools. So much for saving poor minorities right?
There are problems in public education but undoubtedly the vast amount of them are caused by ignoring poverty and Bush and the pro-choice crowd. These people should not be able to manufacture a crisis and then profit off that crisis too. These people should not be able to say public schools must have high stakes standardized tests and common core but private schools that take vouchers can have a pass and these guys should not reward mercenary charter school operators to who making a profit is more important than educating our children.
Choice with is a euphemism for privatization in Florida is a bad choice especially in this era of lax regulations that are seeing charlatans and mercenaries setting up shop on every corner they can and we can thank Bush for that.
If Bush really believed in choice he would be striving to make all schools like the ones his children went too. But he is not and that should tell you all you need to know.
Finally I love how these guys point to one or two shining examples of choice school success but then ask us to ignore the schools in abandon strip malls that have teachers with AA degrees teach creationism as science
The problem with choice are the choices that Jeb Bush is offering us.

Explaining why Florida’s fourth graders outperform the nation.

It seems like quite juxtaposition that Florida’s fourth graders perform so well on the NAEP, the nation’s report card, while the other grades only do as well or lag behind their peers from around the nation. Actually since Florida fails many of its third graders it really makes sense.

Many of the fourth graders were two-year third graders or were forced to spend a summer remediating before promotion. In effect we are rigging the game in fourth grade by making sure the students as a group there have had significantly extra time to learn what the need to and that allows them to outperform their peers from around the nation.

I have agreed with very little of Florida’s accountability system over he last fifteen years but here I actually think this is good policy, not to fail kids that do poorly on one test, but to require extra remediation. Some of our children especially those mired in poverty need more time to learn and less time between grades so they don’t lose what they did.

Budget cuts statewide have practically eliminated or seriously reduced summer education something many of our kids could use. I think if we are going to be serious then we need to open up more summer school opportunities. 

Some people talk about burnout for both teachers and students alike but I think at least for teachers many of whom take summer jobs this is just a red herring to save money. As for students if done correctly where opportunities to have fun are mixed with opportunities to learn it can be very beneficial. Then when I was in high school a little over 20 years ago, every summer I took summer gym. I was able to earn an extra credit, get some exercise and it stopped me from running the streets unsupervised, what parent today would turn that down?   

So yes, the fourth graders in Florida are doing better than their peers nationwide but it is because we have rigged the game in order to allow them to do so but ultimately what does it matter if as a 12th grader they are lagging behind. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Charter school proponents don't let facts get in thier way.

One of the frequent questions I have to charter school proponents is if they have such innovative practices then why don’t they share them with public schools? Public schools always share their best practices with each other but for some reason charter schools seem exempt.  Then when asked what these magical innovations are they often can’t articulate them.

Maybe the truth is they really aren’t doing anything much different from public schools. In a letter to the editor John Maloney talked about all the individual attention kids in charter schools receive and he implies that does not take place in public schools. Mr. Maloney must have never heard of differentiated instruction a tactic teachers employ to meet children individually and a practice that has been around since the dawn of public schools.

He then went on to criticize Patrick Murphy for voting against school choice and to give charters a lot more credit than they deserve.

I was actually proud that Patrick Murphy voted no on the choice amendment because he recognizes that the legislature isn’t funding private schools like the one that he went to. Instead they were funding schools, some without certified teachers, some even employing teachers without degrees, recognized curriculums and with no way to assess accountability. Murphy wasn’t voting against choice, he was voting against a lack of accountability.

Maloney is right charter schools are not inherently better than public schools. No they are worse.  Despite taking fewer disabled and English as a second language learners and often counseling out behavior problems and poor performers, if you were attending a charter school you were five times more likely to be attending a failing school than if you were attending a public school and the Stanford credo says despite the advantages outlined above charter school students as a group lag behind their public school counterparts.  he is right about poor performing charter schools closing too as over 250 have opened, taken public money and then closed leaving families and communities in the lurch.  

I also love how these guys point to one or two shining examples of choice school success but then ask you to ignore the schools in abandon strip malls that have teachers with AA degrees teach creationism as science.

Finally for parents who want a religious education, don’t like gov’ment schools or have an irrational hatred of unions then choice may be a viable option for you, but should the public be subsidizing those choices? Public schools, warts and all, many created by the proponents of choice looking to manufacture a crisis then profit off it, as a group are the best thing going. The answer is to fix our problems not to out-source our kid’s education to sub-standard options.

To read the original piece click the link: