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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pittsburgh and Durham end their contracts with Teach for America, when will Jacksonville get a clue?

From the Diane Rvitch blog

Shortly after posting that the school board of Durham, North Carolina, voted not to renew its contract with Teach for America, I recalled that another major city had done the same, reversing the previous board’s decision to bring in 30 TFA recruits.
Last December, the newly elected majority on the Pittsburgh school board voted 6-2 not to renew its contract with TFA. The issue was how to fill positions at hard-to-staff schools. One of the board members who voted not to renew TFA said, “Board members said they’re concerned resignations from teachers in those schools stem from a lack of support for the educators. “People will come to hard-to-staff buildings if they know they will have support there.”

Jeb Bush really hates local control of education

Common Core, charter schools, high stakes testing all wrest control away from local communities and Jeb Bush love them all. Funny because I thought local control was a plank of the Republican Party but it turns out it is just one more of those things they talk about but don’t really believe in. 
Patricia Levesque of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (re: privatization), weighed in and it’s significant because I bet she doesn’t go to the restroom without running it by the old Jebster, when Lee County decided to exercise local control and opt-out at least temporarily of the states standardized testing system.
"We are deeply disappointed by the Lee County School Board's vote to abandon Florida's academic tests and with it, their responsibility for the success of the community's students.
"Not only do these academic checkups provide an honest assessment to parents of how their children are progressing in school, they also prepare students for the future because tests are a part of life.
"Measuring student achievement is the cornerstone of a strong accountability system that allows our children to learn to their full potential and be competitive with their peers across the state, nation and around the globe. Tests also shine a light on where school systems need to improve, where they need to invest more resources. Without them some schools and students would fall through the cracks.
"The Lee County School Board is neglecting its duty to ensure a meaningful education for their students and uphold state law."
"Instead of refusing to participate in a small number of state tests which actually provide taxpayers and the public with some meaningful measure of how schools and districts are performing across the state, Lee County should first look locally. Last year, the county required more than 160 tests over and above state required assessments. A better choice would be focusing on fewer and better tests in their own community instead of using the state as a scapegoat."
Dripping with self-serving hyperbole, basically she is saying, hey Jeb knows what’s best for your children and you’re worse than pond scum if you question him. 
Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence tells us to stand up to unjust laws and in my mind that’s exactly what the Lee County School board is doing, and doing it because they both know and care about their children something we definitely can't say about Bush and his cronies. 

The out of control rhetoric from Voucher Supporters.

First don’t think for a second these people care about children. If they did instead of filtering them into sub-standard options that resist accountability they would be working night and day to help improve our schools, to make sure they had proper resources and programs and that their staff members were well provided for and treated with respect, or you know the exact opposite of what is happening now.  

John Legg, who to be honest has been the best of the worst when it comes to education.

“It is now apparent to me that the Association’s stance on educating low income students and access to choice in education is too conflicting with my own. “It saddens me that the FSBA would take a position that looks to eliminate customization in education.”
“Over the years and in particular the last legislative session, I have worked, in good faith, with many that now wish to eliminate school choice for all,” he said. “It is apparent that these groups were disingenuous with their efforts and have put their political views over that of our students’ needs.”

Gov. Rick Scott, "It is unconscionable that trial lawyers and unions have ganged up to use these children as a political ploy. Quite simply, this careless action could have terrible consequences on the lives of Florida's poorest children, who with the help of this program have a chance to escape poverty."
Patricia Levesque of former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education: "If these organizations sat down and talked to the families benefiting from this hugely popular program, I think they'd be humbled and embarrassed by their actions."

John Kirtley, the millionaire bully behind Step up fro Students threatened to play a larger role in Florida school board races in the future.
"If the FSBA moves forward with this reckless suit, the Florida Federation for Children will actively serve the interests of parents and become involved in more school board races for years to come,"
Gary Chartrand, who sent his children to exclusive prep schools completely unlike the ones vouchers pay for, “I believe in choice and in freedom especially for those children that have limited mobility and limited financial resources. The Florida tax credit scholarships provide this freedom for our most underserved population to choose a school that best serves their needs.  The FSBA “is acting without consideration for this population by filing a law suit against this program. This is surprising and disheartening, and I call on them to rethink their position and withdraw the lawsuit.” –
Florida House Speaker-Designate Steve Crisafulli: “This proven, popular program is essential for preparing children for success in college and the workforce.  I hope School Board members will reconsider their actions and put the needs of children first.”
This is the same group who have starved pubic schools of resources, blamed teachers and deamonized their representatives. They have subjugated the children to high stakes testing and teachers to VAM based evaluations, which nobody who is knowledgeable thinks.
For the children? Not even close. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Education Matters looking for more First Coast High School parents and teachers to tell their story

I have already talked to numerous members of the faculty at First Coast high school, those not to afraid to speak  but I would like to talk to more and to get their stories of bullying and abuse of power out there and that goes for any parents who may have been disrespected or slighted by the principal as well.

You can leave a comment here or send a note to and I promise to be discreet.

I know some people are afraid but I am reminded of the old saying all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Abuse and disrespect rarely stop just because you hope it does. 

Duval County makes a big mistake hiring Brennan at First Coast High

From a reader responding to the principal at First Coast High School's bullying of his staff:

Abusers have no concept of the damage they perpetuate, as the boss bullies the employees, the students suffer. If he talks like that to grown, educated adults, imagine how he speaks to and about students and parents. A school should be a Safe Space for all. One must wonder why the district chose to rehire a man with a reputation for bullying, is it ignorance or do they simply believe that the school deserves to be punished? 

Under the leadership of Vincent Hall the school improved in safety and improved the C grade to an A. Perhaps if the district explored stability in the administration by keeping the effective leaders at the schools they are in, like our neighbor Clay County (ex: Clay High), we would not watch schools repeatedly plummet. Ineffective administration shouldn't be put on action plans and/or moved to other schools or district jobs, they should be either formally trained or fired. This school in particular has also had the unlucky fortune of being saddled with an administrator that had been demoted from her principal throne after tanking an elementary school. I suppose giving her a stab at a large high school is First Coast's reward for all their hardwork. 

The bottom line is that he believes First Coast teachers just don't give a damn, according to his statements to the superintendent. On the contrary, they care so much they are staying despite the hostility and desperately trying to save a school that one man hates. No one wants the situation to be true, but only he can change it.

Florida's failing charter school industry. Students, families and tax payers paying the price.

From the Sun Times Editorial Board
Why do we let charter school owners get away with so much?
Private charter schools are funded by taxpayers, yet Florida law does not require their operators and key staff to undergo background checks — financial or criminal. And unlike traditional public schools, charters are paid to serve special-needs students, yet are not required to actually offer the services. And as the Sun Sentinel discovered this summer, many don't bother.

Now our reporters have found that failed charter school operators are being allowed to open new schools, under new names, despite past financial or other problems that led to previous charter closings.
No less than seven groups of applicants with ties to failed or floundering charter schools are seeking second chances and public money to open 18 more.
As reporters Karen Yi and Amy Shipley found, most will likely win approval. That's because school districts say they are restricted from turning away applicants based solely on past problems running charter schools. State laws allows district officials to evaluate what's on the application, such as academic plans, budget proposals and student services. But the application doesn't ask questions about previous school collapses or controversial professional histories.
Take a quick look at the type of folks being allowed another shot at public cash:
•A group that opened three new charter schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties this year — and shut them down on the first day of school.
•The founder of two charter schools that failed in 2007 amid accusations of stolen money, shoddy record-keeping and parent complaints, state and local records show. A state investigation later chastised school directors for next-to-nothing oversight.
•An educator who was banned from New Jersey public schools, then consulted for two schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties that shut down last year. The Palm Beach County school district closed one of the schools because of poor academics and financial difficulties; the Broward school failed due to dwindling enrollment.
The list goes on.
But according to Florida state leaders, none of that matters. Because of the political muscle of this growing industry, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott play hands off with these private, but publicly funded schools.
Keep in mind, the charter school business is booming. Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have received 90 applications to open charter schools in 2015-16. That's not counting the 620 already operating statewide, double the number around in the last decade.
Given what's at stake, why are they not held accountable?
After all, when a charter school fails, its students start to fall behind. Parents lose, too, as they scramble to find their child a good school with an open seat.
For these reasons and more, we call on Gov. Scott to stand up for the children in failing charter schools. More attention is needed to ensure their educational gains — not to mention taxpayer dollars — are protected.
Yes, there are plenty of good charter schools. Many serve the needs of parents who want something better than low-performing public schools in their neighborhoods.
Still, charter schools shouldn't face lesser accountability standards.
Florida needs more oversight of charter schools. Operators should be forced to report sooner than later when they can no longer pay to turn on the lights or keep students enrolled. They should be required to provide a permanent address months in advance of opening, not weeks, like today. And the law should be changed to allow local officials to look beyond the black-and-white print on an application and take past failures into consideration.
The failures in the state's charter school law cannot stand.

Duval teachers blamed for things outside their control.

From a reader about the Brennan piece:

I have been fortunate to be under principals who really seem to value their teachers as much as they can with the resources they are given. I have heard horror stories like those above, and they are not hard to believe. Now, AP's have been another story; they have been varied and inconsistent in terms of quality. 

Overall, Vitti seems to support methods that make teachers feel like powerless peons, like we are the ones who created the system in the first place and now have to pay for it. WE did NOT send students to school without early learning, lunch, school supplies, or discipline. WE did NOT put people in charge who have the power to uplift or destroy teacher morale. WE did NOT create the massive paperwork or testing issues that occur every day. Those downtown don't seem to value teachers at all; otherwise, we would have our stipend right now to pay for basic supplies. We would have 2 days to give the baseline test, not 1. We would have less than 40-50 students in electives. We would have technology that actually works. We would be valued over TFA. We would be supported if students have to be sent out for ANY reason. We would be able to use our time effectively. We would have an ID machine that works. We would have an effective tardy policy. We would have a Student Code of Conduct that enforces discipline consistently. 

Seriously, I really like my principal; however, he is bound by the "gods" downtown who lord over everyone, staring down from a crumbling ivory tower of ignorance. Vitti and those with whom he surrounds himself do NOT understand how learning really works, how students can truly make gains, or that we TEACHERS will still be here when he has handed off the baton to the next person who makes promises he/she cannot or will not keep.

I will say that there is 1 thing that I can praise Vitti for, and it is the Grade Recovery policy change. It has altered how my students think about their progress in class. I wish I could think of something else that he has done to revolutionize DCPS. 

Maybe someone else can come up with something/anything for which downtown can be praised...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Principal Al Brennans most despicable comments at faculty meetings. First Coast HS parents he is in charge of your kids.

I met with numerous members of the First Coast teaching staff and sadly they are a miserable lot. It doesn't have to do with the kids either and to be honest it rarely does but with the principal who talks to them in a fashion that would get them fired if they did the same to a student. Bullying, intimidation and threats are alive and well at First Coast High School but its not kids people have to worry about but the principal Al Brennan.

Below are confirmed quote from multiple sources.

(First Coast Parents) are Malicious and Vile and they would lie about anything.

I didn't even want to be principal here... preferring a school closer to his house.

You (teachers) are in the palm of my hand as I (pick who to) surplus

Go to Kinko's if you want to make copies (as he changed the locks on the copier room telling teachers there would be no more ink or paper).

If you show up Sunday, (during pre-planning for teachers to work on their rooms) I will open up my window and laugh at you.

If only I didn't have to depend on teachers, who are to incompetent to count students (paraphrased over the intercom during classes).

Teachers can't tutor students anymore unless you can support it by data and have my permission. (paraphrased)

This is my rodeo!

Finally and I hope you read this twice.

At a staff meeting Mr. Brennan told a story where he crossed paths with an autistic student at Walmart, he then  proceeded to mock and ridicule the child. What they told me was to reprehensible to write.

Finally it is truly horrifying when you consider that above has very little to do with the bullying and intimidation tactics he uses which is why the staff contacted me in the first place.

This man is in charge of staff and students.

Welcome to Duval County.

First Coast HS parents are the most vile around

Or that's what their principal Al Brennan said though his exact quote was, First Coast parents were malicious and Vile and they would lie about anything. So according to numerous members of his staff.

But don't worry parents Mr. Brennan seems to think even worse of his staff.

Follow this story as it develops. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

More Duval discipline horror stories.

From a reader in response to, Duval's big Discipline Lie. 

Very similar things are happening at my high school. Kids are being sent back to class who are cursing at the teacher; students are literally refusing to work, won't follow the phone policy, are late every day, and generally create havoc in the classroom. The excuse/line from admin is that if teachers have good classroom management, then there won't be any discipline issues. That is rubbish. I have been in Duval for 8 years, and there are always two or three students in class whose goal in life is to undermine teachers and do nothing all day. Are they in every class? Sometimes. Admin should support the people who are actually trying to teach those students, not condemn them for seeking help.

Currently, we have admin roaming the classrooms, micromanaging every element of a teacher's day. We don't have time for that and are constantly stressed out. It has only been 2 weeks! We spend our Common Planning doing inane things like that I learned in the College of Ed, being yelled at by the AP, and wasting precious minutes in the day. By the way, the average admin has less teaching experience than I do at 9 years. It is ridiculous that I have to sit there and listen to people, who I would not let teach my own kid, lecture on how I should teach. 

The myth that things are getting better is untrue on all sides. The admin and those downtown are constantly undermining the teachers who do the actual hard work. Yeah, I said it! The students are who they are. They will always be great or frustrating. It is the adults who make life difficult, not the students.

Questions Parents with Special Needs Children Should Ask Their School

By Greg Sampson

Questions Parents with Special Needs Children Should Ask Their School:

1.       Has my child received all the accommodations written in his/her Individual Education Plan (IEP)?
2.       May I see the documentation from each teacher?
3.       How often does the Support Facilitator (SF) meet with my child?
4.       Do the reading and math goals support my child achieving proficiency under the standards, or have the standards been modified?
5.       (Elementary and Middle School) Does the IEP keep my child on track for a regular high school diploma? If not, how can this happen or why do you think my child should be slotted for a different type of diploma?
6.       My child received a grade less than a C in this class. What did you do to prevent that? Did you comply with the IEP? Can you prove that?
7.       (Secondary schools) Has each teacher received a copy of the current IEP? If not, do they have access to it and have they read it?
8.       When my child misbehaves, is it a true misbehavior or is it a manifestation of his/her disabilities? What positive behavior intervention strategies are you using to keep my child calm?
9.       I know schools receive extra funding for SES (Special Education Students). How are you using that funding—for services for my child or is it going into the general budget?
10.   My child is in a regular ed class. What training has the teacher received to understand her/his needs and to provide him with the support required?

 No doubt, readers, you can amend and add to this list. Weigh in with your comments. Let’s make 2014-2015 the year DCPS does right by each and every one of its SES students. 

A message to parents, get involved.

By Greg Sampson

A Message for Parents

School has begun and already we are going through the contortions of revising master schedules because the district does not give schools the teachers they need to do it right.

Compromises are being made. Class size restrictions complicate things because if we have one middle school geometry class of 23 students and can’t add more, what do we do with the extra 3 students who belong in that class? We don’t have enough teachers for to create a second class. Whose child is left out?

Why is a Level 4 mathematics student not in an advanced class? Sometimes it is only that mistakes are made when the district forces schools to constantly revise the master schedule mere days before schools open.

We will fix most of it eventually. Some of it we won’t get to or won’t know about. I’m not blaming the school or the district in this post. Please get that straight. But I do have a message for parents.

YOU are your child’s advocate. There is no one better. You must make sure that the school your child attends has done the right thing in your child’s schedule. You must ask your child to look at the schedule and, if something does not seem right, contact your child’s school to find out the reasons. If something needs changing, you are the one who has to insist that the school make the changes.

Talk to your child everyday about what happened. We care about your children and work to keep them safe, but sometimes your children do not feel comfortable talking to adults at the school. They need you.

Come to us with their concerns. We will help.

You may feel you have been brushed off in the past. However, at every school there are people who care. This year there is a vibe that school personnel need to “stay in their lane.” Nevertheless, the superintendent has also preached that schools need to be oriented to customer service. Find someone like me. I will make sure that your concerns get to the right person.

When it comes to special needs children, you have to double down. Attend IEP meetings. Take a copy home with you. Follow up during the year to make sure that your child is receiving the support and services the school is required to provide.

Talk to your child. Find out how often the support facilitator (SF) comes to the class and works with her/him. How often does the SF pull the child out of class for small group learning away from the distractions of other students? When your child has a test, are the accommodations given—not only the once-a-year state test, but all tests?

You would be surprised what schools will do under budget pressures applied by the district. Don’t let your child’s education be compromised. The SES (special education services) audit the state did in the Spring barely scratched the surface.

Parents, you have the power. Be involved, check it out, demand that your child’s school provides safety and services.

Over testing is slowly killing education

By Greg Sampson

Bells have rung, doors have opened, and bodies clad in new uniforms (polos and khakis) have slid into seats as shrugged-off backpacks lie on the floor. Another school year has begun. Students are quiet and attentive. Teachers wonder how long that will last. New lessons, new books. There is nothing like opening day excitement.

Across America, children are sharpening their pencils, and that can mean only one thing: TESTING! For the next three weeks, teachers will twist their lessons around the many beginning of the year tests that spread through the grade levels like an Ebola virus. Lest you think I exaggerate, know that we now test kindergartners with as many as seven standardized tests.

But you protest, tests are to see what children have learned. Why test them before they have learned anything?

Experts will tell you we have to measure learning and until we test them, we don’t know that they don’t know. You see, unless we give a 6-year old student a math test full of word problems, we won’t know that they don’t know.

But you protest, if students get the answers wrong, how do you know that it was the math and not the fact that they haven’t learned how to read?

Experts will tell you that testing is necessary to measure teacher performance, school quality, and educational improvement in general.

You protest, who are the experts? Read this blog. They are the many persons with the policy prescriptions to offer alternatives under the label “Choice.” And, if you really want to have some fun, suggest that their choices should undergo the same testing. They come unglued.

A savvy Hollywood producer should develop a series of horror movies like Friday the 13th or Halloween around the concept of school testing. It would be a blockbuster series.

Above I compared testing to the Ebola virus, but it really is more like a cancer. Ebola is swift; people die or recover in a few weeks. Testing is slowly killing education. Like a cancer, it eats away at the healthy parts of education. There is a tremendous amount of issues involved with testing, but the biggest one is that the scores are manipulated by state agencies that decide what constitutes a passing or proficient performance.

      These scoring levels are not constant. State agencies change them from year to year to match—what? In Florida, basically the Department of Education manipulates these “cut scores” to get the result they want. They play around with the school grading formula as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Duval's big discipline lie

From a reader:

The Discipline Lie

Before the school year ended in June, I paid a visit to an administrator’s office and one thing was clear with all of the referrals I saw spread everywhere – they were not being processed timely or not at all. To be clear, the referrals were available on the secretary’s desk for anyone, including another student, to take a slow walk to a trash can. The referrals were visible as far as my eyes could see. Ironically, my purpose for visiting was to find out why the signature on the referral that I got back did not match the administrator who was suppose to sign it. 

Of course the secretary stated that everything regarding the referral was handled. Dumbfounded, I approached the administrator and this person also stated that it was okay because there simply was not enough time to handle everything. I will add that on the last day of school, this secretary’s desk looked the same way. Nevertheless, here we are in another school year and already kids are creating challenges by walking out of class, attending an extra lunch, texting, and even fighting. So, what kind of response did I get from a referral I was forced to write about a Class II offense? I got a statement from another office secretary indicating that I needed to withdraw my referral although the student clearly used his phone more than once in violation of the code of conduct. 

The secretary went on to indicate that a conference was held with the parent and the student is a “good kid”. So, what are we as teachers suppose to do when we are constantly being disrespected by students and undermined by folks that have no business dealing with discipline issues. Let’s not even talk about ineffective administrators who believe it is better to let a kid spin out of control and send them back to class with the belief I can teach them when they are not interested in learning. 

We need an electronic referral system so these lies can stop. It will give more transparency to the entire process, will be more reflective of what problems are actually occurring, and will provide statistical data that will identify where funding may be needed. In addition, too many teachers are being forced to copy referrals, take photos of referrals, and walk them to the administrator just to make sure that everyone knows that “Johnny has been a bad boy and needs to be dealt with today”. 

As for the folks downtown in the ivory tower, they need to burn any report that they have received that shows discipline issues are decreasing. They have been fooled and the problem is not getting any better, it is simply being hidden, and teacher’s need for help with out of control kids is being ignored. Finally, make no mistake about it, we do not write referrals because we want to or we don’t know discipline issues when we see them; we write referrals as a last resort. If nothing is going to be done with problem kids, let’s just erase the code of conduct, and stop leaving teachers to guess what the office secretary is going to do to address a discipline issue.

Just because Gary Chartrand is rich, it doesn’t mean he should be able to try to decieve people.

Last week I wrote a piece about a flyer filled with lies that the Willie campaign had sent out.

And I asked why candidates associated with Chartrand felt the need to deceive people.  

Well it turns out it was a PAC, the Citizens for Florida Prosperity, that had sent the flyer out and to answer my question it is because birds of a feather flock together. Look below to see who was funding the PAC. . 

Now I am sure they will say they just donated to the PAC and had nothing to do with the flyer but don't we all know the truth here.

Just because they are rich it doesn't mean they should be able to try and decieve people. 

The crazy juxtaposition of Florida’s voucher supporters.

Many of the people who support vouchers often point to the disintegration of the family as a reason we have so many problems, but then say, families know what’s best for their children.

They scream about school accountability and how it is so important except with the private schools that take vouchers.

They want teachers to be evaluated using high stakes tests because if not how can we know how they are doing, again except for the teachers that work at the private schools that take vouchers.

They say our kids need common core and STEM to compete internationally, say it with me, except for the private schools that take vouchers.

We should all support the lawsuit filed by the Florida School Board association and supported by the PTA and the League of Women voters questioning the validity of Florida’s voucher program which by the way torpedoes the first amendment.

Society should not be paying for some families’ irrational fear of Gov’Ment schools, hatred of unions or if they want their child to have a religious education. Instead we should be striving to improve our public schools and if people who oppose the lawsuit really cared that is what they would be fighting to do.

To read an alternate opinion, click the link"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

District 4 rejects Willie and reelects Wright

I have to tell you I was worried about this race. Willie had a ton of cash and the support of the cities "so called" elite. At the end of the day however enough people saw through Willie's deceptive campaign tactics and were turned off by his lack of ideas and supporters. I like to think I helped too.

Now we just need Mrs. Wright to be the school board member that we know she can be. Especially now that she doesn't have to run for reelection. We need her to stand up against the bad ideas and policies that are infecting our city like a virus. I also don't care if the votes are symbolic. Often change starts with just one person saying no and I hope to hear that a lot from her until we turn things around.

Our students, teachers and families desperately need her to do so.

Teachers are losing the "Teacher Wars"!

In Alexander Nazaryan’s New York Times book review of Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein he spoke as if she was being fair and balanced to both sides and we see how well that has worked in cable news. He gives the impresion the book is about how there is an equivolancy between teachers and their represenatives and those trying to reform education. The problem is there isn’t.

He wrote, While Ms. Goldstein is sympathetic to the unionized public-school teacher, she also thinks the profession is hamstrung by a defensive selfishness, harboring too fine a memory for ancient wounds. By ancient does he mean ongoing? Teachers are given all of the responsibility but none of the authority to educate our children in an era of diminishing resources, where they are blamed for not being able to overcome the problems of society, poverty, violence and apathy, while being saddled with experimental curriculums like common core and subjected to VAM evaluations the department of education admits to being wrong over a third of the time. I’m a teacher and I ask you just when am I supposed to get over this?  

He then went on to use Albert Shanker a former union boss, who never gets praised by the right for coming up with charter schools but who is often criticized for saying, I don’t represent children I represent teachers, to prove his and the books point that unions have been out of touch. The problem is he never said it and for either Nazarryan or Goldstein to perpetrate this myth is irresponsible and bad journalism and may just show their biases.

But worst of all where are the mentions of the hundreds and hundreds of charter schools that have opened, taken public money and closed leaving families in a lurch, over 260 of them have done so in my home state of Florida alone.  Or how about the charter schools that council out poor performers and kids with academic problems, don’t take disabled or ESOL students, suffer from massive staff turnover or the millions they spend to influence policy? Nowhere, but I’m supposed to get over some ancient slights.

I found his last statement the most repugnant of all. “Watching a great teacher at work can feel like watching a magic show,” Ms. Goldstein writes after visiting an elementary school in Newark. Her book is, above all, a tribute to these magicians, a plea for more wizards in the classroom. As if this makes up for union and teacher bashing for several paragraphs.

A plea for more wizards in the classroom? Teaching is hard work not magic and we will see less and less of it as the teaching profession is being reduced to a service profession. At the same time magic solutions are often all that the reform movement is offering.  

There are problems in education, problems created by inadequate resources and by pretending poverty does not exist. The answer is not to demonize and marginalize teachers but to fix the problems.  Siphoning away even more resources and outsourcing our children’s education to the reform movement who often is more concerned with bottom line than educating our children something the review also fails to mention, are not solution we should entertain.  

There is a war against public school teachers and public education going on, and sadly those seeking to profit off it, including "fair and balanced" authors are winning.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The JPEF “Greatly Concerned” by Willie’s actions.

Yesterday I wrote they didn’t care and I was apparently too hasty. I am sure their on-call Sunday Facebook person doesn’t have much power.

Well today they got back to me and said: Hi Chris, we looked up the claims on the portion of the mailer you sent us. Some of the information that is attributed to us is inaccurate, and that concerns us greatly. We'd encourage everyone to visit for current and accurate information.

The only thing that Willie got right is there is currently 16 F and D schools in district 4 everything else he straight made up.

Now we just have to see if the Times Union who endorsed Willie and who I informed about his deception, including the JPEF’s reaction, cares.

Finally cheers to the JPEF. I am pretty hard on them but at least here they saw something wrong and they acknowledged it. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund doesn’t care that Willie is using their site to mislead people.

I contacted the JPEF to ask them their thoughts about Darryl Willie using their site to mislead people. This was their response.

JPEF produces a number of useful data tools for everyone in the community, including policy briefs and School Facts Jax ( The first we learned of this flyer was from you, Mr. Guerreri, and it appears he is citing our data products, just as he did the Florida Times-Union. Similarly he could have cited the Florida Department of Education or DCPS itself. In fact, more than 30,000 people did so over the past year. We always encourage community members to look at the data directly and make their own conclusions.

I.E. we don’t care he can do whatever he wants.

I wonder how they would feel if somebody their board hasn’t donated thousands of dollars to would have done it.

The JPEF pretends they are above the fray but the truth is they are in the thick of it and since their board consists of privatizers and anti-pubic school activists I believe we should all be concerned. 

Did the JPEF say our children are moving backwards?

No but that’s sure what it looks like they said on a Flyer produced by D-Willie, what Darryl Willie call’s himself on his face book page.

The exact quote is, Black and Latino students have seen marked decline in FCAT 2 scores. Our children are moving backwards!**
**Jacksonville Public Education Fund  

I contacted Trey Csar of the JPEF to ask him how he felt about D-Willie using their site for political gain in a misleading way but have yet to hear back. 

Why do candidates associated with Gary Chartrand feel the need to be deceptive?

Just call me Gary is what half a dozen people have told me he says when they first met him. He’s on the board of numerous charities, love him or hate him, he is involved in education and willing to spend huge amounts of money, and I bet he even rescues puppies and helps old ladies across the street too. 

He’s also the most dangerous man in Florida education and the people he supports feel the need to stretch the truth to get elected. First there was Ashley Smith-Juarez in 2012.

And now there is Willie, who sent out a false and despicable flyer denigrating his opponent Paula Wright.

You know what else these two have in common? The tens of thousands of dollars that Chartrand and his friends have funneled into their campaigns.

Don’t you want somebody on the school board who loves public education, who wants to work tirelessly to fix the problems, who has great ideas? Well that’s not the case with Gary’s candidates.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Willie takes in more than 12,000 from outside the county, including 1,650 from New York’s Michael Bloomberg and family.

He received money from California, Charlotte, Washington DC and New York City among others but Ponte Vedra seemed to be his most fertile ground where he took in tons of money from the Chartrand family and their friends.  You know Ponte Vedra the district 4 of the south.

He also received very little money from District 4 and that should tell you all that you need to know.

To see his donors and where they do and don’t live, click the link.

Darryl Willie is the nastiest of the nasty. Deception fuels his campaign. Updated

I get it, he wants to be elected but to stoop to lie and spreading falsehoods is beyond the pale. It’s also what people of low character without ideas resort to.

Just look at this mailer that Willie is sending out.

He says that while teachers are spending money out of their pockets Wright went on 165,000 dollars worth of trips. First it goes unsourced, but strangely he sources other outrageous assertions later. I have scoured the school board agendas and can’t find any figures approaching anything like that.

Also doesn’t that number seem oddly specific? I am guessing his campaign divided the travel budget by 8 to come up with that number. Now you might have a problem with the board budgeting a million plus for travel, but to attribute that number without a source to Wright is ridiculous.

Next he says, Wright was the only board member who voted to protect a teacher who hit kindergarten children. This is sourced “April 8th 2013”, the Times Union. Here is the article in question and notice how it doesn't mention Mrs. Wright once.

Then he says that in 2010 there were only 4 F or D schools in the district and now there are 16. First grades don’t matter even Vitti says they have been massaged, folded, spun and mutilated into irrelevancy. But just so you can see, here are the grades of the district 4 schools since 2010 (note the most recent high school grades are not available).

Brentwood: C-F-C-C-D
Kirby Smith: A-A-A-A-A
Andrew Jackson: D-F-B-C
Henry Kite: D-C-D-C-C
Dinsmore: C-C-C-C-D
Garden City: C-C-B-C-D
Ocenaway: B-C-D-C-D
Northshore: F-D-B-C-D
John Love: C-F-B-C-D
Lake Forest: C-D-C-D-F
Sally Mathis: A-D-C-C-D
Ribault HS: D-C-A-B
Highlands: C-F-A-B-B
Long Branch: C-A-B-C-D
Saint Clair Evans: C-B-C-D-C
Darnell Cookman: A-A-A-A
Mathew Gilbert: D-C-D-D-D
Richard Brown: C-D-C-D-F
Stanton: A-A-A-A
John E. Ford: B-C-C-C-C
Northwestern: D-F-D-D-F
Ribault Middle: F-C-D-F-F
Highlands: C-F-A-B-B
Pine Estates: C-C-C-D-D
Andrew Robinson: C-D-D-F-F
First Coast HS: D-C-C-A
Lavilla: A-A-A-A-A
Biscayne: C-B-C-C-C
Ocenaway: A-B-B-C-C
A Philip Randolph: C-C-A-B

You know what I see? A lot of work needs to be done and more deception from Willie.

Finally Willie’s flyer claims, Black and Hispanic students have seen marked decline in FCAT 2 scores, our children are moving backwards. Um, what the beep does that even mean. Is he talking reading or math? Is he talking third grade or tenth, or what grade in between? Did he mean the FCAT 2.0, which schools took last year? What's he talking about? Maybe you can find something on the JPEF site because I sure as heck couldn’t.

I don’t know what is worse about Willie. That he has been bought and paid for by a cabal of rich white families who don’t live in district 4 who want to privatize our schools. His ideas are wretched, or he’s a straight up liar. Any of which should preclude people from voting for him. 

Final exams for Florida's kindergartners. We have lost our way.

From the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, by Valerie Strauss

Just when you think things can’t get any worse for kindergartners, they do.
It used to be that kindergartners could play  — which is how early childhood development experts say young children learn and are socialized best.  Today 5- and 6-year-olds are forced to sit for hours at a time doing academics, often with little or no recess, and in some places, no time for a snack. Homework goes home every day with many kindergartners.
Stories about the bastardization of kindergarten come from across the country. John Gemmill of Dodge City, Kansas, told me in an e-mail that he spent at least half of the 186 days he teaches a year giving some sort of mandated standardized assessment — with strict rubrics to follow — to kindergartners in his classes last year. One veteran educator described his granddaughter’s Houston kindergarten class as a “sweat shop.” This past spring the interim principal and four teachers at an elementary school in Elwood, N.Y., sent a letter to parents saying the annual year-end kindergarten play was  being cancelled so kids could keep working hard to be “college and career ready.” (This really happened.)
So what’s next? How about final exams for kindergartners?
In 2011 the Florida Legislature approved a statute that is to go into effect during the new 2014-15 school year requiring that school districts develop and/or administer seven or more end-of-course assessments to all students — and did not exclude kindergarten. As a result, school districts have been developing final assessments in subjects including math, language arts, music, science and social studies to give to students, including kindergartners. In Florida, the results of end-of-course exams affect the evaluation and pay of teachers.
Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of the advocacy group Fund Education Now, said it would be outrageous to give kindergartners these new exams. “We support fair measures of accountability, but forcing 6-year-olds to take 7 potentially high stakes tests is unacceptable.”
When news of the final exams for kindergartners became public in Florida, one legislator, state Sen. David Simmons told WFTV that the legislature didn’t mean for kindergartners to have to take end-of-course exams and that he would work with colleagues to resolve the problem. WFTV said:
Simmons said all that the law requires is for a teacher to sit down with a kindergartener and ask about what he or she learned.
“To assure each one of those children is helped, that we know what the deficits are in each child, so we can address the deficits,” said Simmons.
But Christine Bramuchi, co-founder Fund Education Now, said it is Simmons who is misinterpreting the law. “Politicians may try to backtrack on end of course assessments for kindergarteners, but the law speaks louder than words. The statute clearly states that our very young children will be repeatedly assessed.”
Let’s watch what  happens.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We wouldn't have half the problems we do if the powers-that-be listened to teachers

Since day one in 2007 when I started writing about education issues I and numerous other teachers have said the district needed more social workers and mental health counselors because often why some kids act up in school has nothing to do with school.

Now suddenly it's a good idea?

I don't know whether to be happy or spit because we wouldn't have half the problems we do if the powers-that-be listened to teachers.

To read more click the link:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Welcome to Duval County where throwing paint against a wall hoping something sticks is the solution to our problems.

The Times Union just did a piece on our new reading initiative and it made me remember our old reading initiative which we started with great fanfare in 2011.

Then when I was looking up what the Times Union and I wrote three years ago about it, I found these stories from 1999 and 2005 about, you guessed it, new reading initiatives..

Okay you are probably wondering what my point it. The reading initiative, the QEA, whatever blue ribbon panel that recently met on education, 8 years of TFA now are all symbolic of Jacksonville's problem and that's we don't address our real problem, poverty.

We say, lets have a new reading initiative, lets pay teachers to transfer, again, and before you say not to this degree well a few years ago they offered people a free masters degree to go to Jackson and I think Ribault too.

We keep throwing paint against the wall hoping something sticks while ignoring the real problem poverty and we could be doing things that address it, that mitigate it but gosh darn it why would we when we can have another reading initiative or try merit pay one more time.

A bad couple days for Florida’s Charter Schools

First three were forced to close on opening day, two in Miami.

and one in Columbia county: 

Another leaves families in a lurch cutting its enrollment just as school was about to start

Then yet another turns away a student whose parents didn’t complete enough community service hours:

Don’t worry public schools will be there to pick up the slack while doing a better job at the same time.

And finally the Florida Courts pushed back against Charter Schools USA, both questioning the way they do things and denying their appeals to expand.

Choice just for choices sake, especially when the alternate choice is substandard and takes money away from public schools and puts that money into the pockets of charter school operators more interested in thier bottom line than educating our children, is a bad choice. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rick Scott's ugly math!

He also balanced the state books on the back of teachers (and other public service employees by taking three percent of their pay) and thinks we're to dumb to notice that the Florida Standards are the same thing as the expensive and unproven Common Core.

Ever seen a failing school in an upper middle class neighborhood?

Heck, I really want to vote for Paula Wright now

The Times Union today endorsed Darryl Willie and in doing so they endorsed a small cabal of rich white people (the QEA board who are all Willie donors) running our schools, Teach for America which does the exact opposite of what we know to be best for our children, charter schools, which as a group in Jacksonville way under perform when compared to their pubic school counterparts, half baked ideas like open enrollment, which where somewhat attractive should never have been suggested a few months before the school year was to begin and with no way to pay for the transportation it would have required.

When the Times Union endorsed Willie they also endorsed those things too. A broke clock is more right than the Times Union.

Scott Shine says I am angry and uninformed. He’s half right too.

I am angry. My blood boils every time one of these business types runs for the school board thinking they can run education like a business and turn things around, undaunted by their lack of experience and institutional knowledge. I am even angrier that they use flowery phrases as a substitution for real ideas and solutions.

From Mr. Shine’s website: 

Safety and Security
My first priority is to ensure our children are safe, not only while at school, but coming and going. Shine supports, and will work to maintain, the current level of public safety officers in our schools. I support the increased use of technology and monitoring to prevent outside threats from harming our students. I believe we must always be vigilant.

How different from all his opponents who couldn’t care less about safety who are calling for cuts to safety officers or none of them.  Is he calling for cameras? I can’t tell but an example of an idea is, we must have more social workers and mental health counselors working with our troubled children to prevent them from striking out in the first place and instead of spending 600 grand on a study (something the QEA grant does) we’re going to put people in place to help them.  

Student Readiness
I want to see students achieve the best grades and highest graduation rates they can. What’s more, I support more emphasis on readiness for vocational training and college. Studies show that 9 out of 10 jobs in the new economy will require education beyond a high school degree.
Funny because I think his opponents only want to see them meet 75% of what they can. Now it’s great how he supports readiness for vocational training in college but what he doesn’t address is that most of the kids taking advanced and AP classes are also the ones in our academies too. In effect we are double serving those children while the child who might not be college ready or want to be college ready goes unserved. An idea would be, I would like to see every child by the time they are in high school pick a career academy they are interested in and I am dedicated to finding the transportation money to make sure they can attend.
Support Teachers
More than half of Duval County Public School teachers leave their jobs in the first five years of employment. Studies suggest this is largely due to job satisfaction. This is an important concern, as we know teacher effectiveness increases the longer they are working in the system. I support new methods to improve teacher satisfaction, recruitment and retention. Teachers are the engine that runs our education machine. We need to find the most effective teachers we can, and do our best to keep them in Duval County schools for the long term.
He’s right on the facts, sounds great too except after reading you notice he doesn’t have an inkling of an idea of what to do. How about creating an ombudsman position that teachers can take their complains to. How about ending the practice of overriding teacher’s book selections. How about pledging monthly town halls throughout his term with teachers to listen to their complains and concerns?  How about saying teachers with satisfactory evaluations can no longer be non-reappointed. Come on Scott what’s a brother got to do to get an idea????

Seriously look at his page and then demand he do better.
So I am angry that this guy is in his den right now thinking, hey I can do that job. I am angry that he lacks ideas and I am beeping pissed off that he might become of my bosses too especially since it seems like he is just hoping his name recognition gets him there.
As for being uninformed, it’s true I am not a Scott Shine expert and apparently I did get it wrong about him being paid for his government work, but his problem is I am informed about what is happening in our schools something I can't say about Mr. Shine.