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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Some serious questions about Superintendent Vitti's leadership.

This is a comment left by Educatedone on the Times Union's discussion board beneath an article about recent principal moves. I think they brought up legitimate questions about both who the super promotes and fires.

Once again Superintendent Vitti continues to demonstrate that he has two standards. While he continues to hammer school-based administrators under the guise of academic accountability, he promoted Cluster Chiefs Ms.Jennifer Brown and Ms.Iranetta Wright, both former principals whose school's DOE accountability performances were both failing (F grades back to back years). Those individuals were not demoted but elevated and received increase financial compensation. However, he continues his marketing campaign to be viewed as the tough superintendent that is holding principals accountable but in reality he is carefully sorting and selecting principals that he no longer want in the principal seat while rewarding some principals whose track record does not support their promotion or elevation to senior leadership status.
It is amazing that he and his staff had the assessment data for these two schools and other failing and marginal performing schools since the summer but he and his staff failed to pull the trigger on these two school principals until September. Why wasn't this decision made before school started? What new data was provided based upon he alleged history of these administrators? And, to add an insult to all of DCPS assistant principals; he has the gall to select an AP from a high school in Miami. This person has no middle school experience, however, any thing or person from Miami Dade County Public Schools is acceptable regardless of their lack of experience or competency. All you have to do is look at the persons' credentials and experience that he brought to DCPS from Miami and DOE. Privately and around the water cooler - they are referred to as the classic cases of the "Peter Principle".
I hope that the Duval County School Board applies the same criteria that he is using in evaluating, demoting or dismissing school-based administrators. If the Board will carefully review the performances of all schools under his leadership in comparison with their performance under Mr.Pratt-Dannals leadership, they will find that we have more than double the number of schools that are rated as "D" or "F" under his watch. He will quickly tell you that the assessment system has changed and it will change again this year so don't expect any significant improvement. However, the same assessment standards/criteria was being applied to all school districts in FL; so why is St. Johns, Clay, Orange, Hillsborough, Broward, Pinellas; Volusia and other school districts academic performances improving while Duval's Ds and Fs accountability grades/schools are increasing?

You expect spin from Sonita Young and the district about Teach for America but today on First Coast Connect all you got was misinformation.

I have to be careful when writing about Mrs. Young, wife of exiled Ribault Principal James Young; because last time I did she had my principal write me up. I know because that is how he started the meeting.

Well today Mrs. Young director of human resources for the district and Crystal Roundtree the area TFA director were on First Coast Connect talking about a recent report from Columbia University about TFA, and yes that is kind of like discussing hen house security and why it is overrated with wolves. Despite the fact the report said TFA greatly exacerbated the teacher retention problem and that their members perform no better than similar teachers they made it sound like TFA was the best thing since sliced bread.

Right away Crystal Roundtree started with the spinning saying how awesome it was that first year TFA teachers returned at an 84 percent rate when compared to a 77% rate for other first year teachers. She didn't mention that TFA members get 5,300 dollars a year in loan forgiveness, which I am sure helps make up a lot of their minds. Unfortunately regular teachers don't get anything. She then completely glosses over how the numbers slip to 33 and 63 percent respectively. Roundtree later also wouldn't tell Ross the host the amount TFA members get just saying they qualified for some AmeriCorp benefits.

It was also around now that Young said something that made my jaw drop. She said more TFA teachers were coming back for a third year so they can move into leadership positions, just what we need, 24 year old vice principals right. My jaw might have dropped again if it wasn't already open when she said that even though many left teaching, many stayed in the city and that brought ancillary gains. I kid you not, them leaving teaching but staying in the area "is something we shouldn't overlook." Yeah she said that as a justification for why we should continue with TFA.

Then despite the fact Roundtree said that TFA teachers were doing better it can't erase what the report actually said, "Results varied slightly across models that controlled for additional teacher and school characteristics, but all results suggest that TFA teachers are at least as effective as their non-TFA colleagues. No adjusted models indicated that TFA students learned less than other students."

Furthermore Young can say they help our lower economic schools have certificated staff but that doesn't change the fact that practically none of them have professional certificates. Instead they have temporary certificates which if you have 56 bucks and a college degree you can have one too. In fact since they create an ever revolving door they are actually stymieing those schools from having a staff made up of professional certificate holders.

They both then followed up with how only TFA cares about our poorest students. Young said all our kids deserve high quality teachers that have the training and skill to work with them, five weeks in ideal conditions makes up TFA's pre first day training by the way. Crystal echoed the sentiment saying they firmly believe all kids can achieve.  It's a good thing these ladies brought TFA to town because most teachers I know think kids deserve whatever they can get since most of them can't learn anyways. (sic) They say those things to give themselves some undeserved moral high ground because if they really cared they wouldn't send hobbyists or extended camp counselors to work with our neediest kids and instead would leave no stone unturned in trying to find professional teachers to staff those classrooms.

All in all I thought Melissa Ross did a solid job in the interview though I wish she had mentioned how the district is spending five million dollars over three years on the program which I believe is nothing but an indulgence to Gary Chartrand the anti-public school teacher activist who brought them to town. Regardless if you agree with that or not, how many professional teachers who would stay for more than two years could we have found with that money? My bet is more than enough. Furthermore I don't think it should be lost on anybody that the segment was sponsored by the Chartrand foundation. Like I said overall I thought Ross did a good job but their affiliation with Chartrand makes me wonder about the questions not asked. 

Finally I would like to say I doubt these two think anybody could go through a five week access course and do their high price jobs successfully and I will tell you neither is as hard as working at an inner city school, but at the same time they expect parents and the community to buy it.

Don’t buy it for a second.

To listen to the interview, click the link:

To see the study, paste bellow into your browser.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Once again Vitti shills for charter schools over public schools.

The superintendent wrote a letter to the state saying the district would be applying for grants to bring more charter schools to town and he used the KIPP school as justification, he said that KIPP was far exceeding the results of the neighboring local schools. This is both true and deviously and recklessly false.

Yes KIPP's scores are better than the neighboring public schools, though if we look at them historically it is just by a nose, but KIPP has also lost a third of it's beginning class, 88 to 64, which probably wouldn't raise an eyebrow except for KIPPs reputation of counseling out low performers.  Then they also spend about a third more than public schools do and can put requirements on their parents too.

I submit that is any of the neighboring schools had a third more resources and could council out their bottom third they would be leaving KIPP in the dust and how Vitti cannot acknowledge that and instead heaps accolades on them does a disservice to the school system he is supposed to represent. At best it is extremely disingenuous to do so.

For shame superintendent Vitti, it's time to stop standing up for charter schools and to start standing against them.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Duval should stop wasting money on Teach for America and create their own teacher recruitment program.

By Bradford Hall

Teach for America Founder and Chairman Wendy Kopp recently penned a letter to the editor of the Washington Post touting her organization’s effectiveness and slamming critics of her organization.

In her letter, she writes, “But some of the criticism is based on misrepresentation and toxic rhetoric.”

If I were thinking about Duval County Public Schools and its “partnership” with Kopp’s organization, I am inclined to agree with Kopp.

TFA has misrepresented the teaching profession by using its own toxic rhetoric that anyone can become a teacher and that it only requires two years to significantly improve student achievement.

According to the Center for Public Education, students are more likely to achieve better results with a teacher who has at least five years of teaching experience.

Just months ago, Dr. Douglas D. Ready, an associate professor of Education and Public Policy in Teachers College at Columbia University, compiled a report of his findings about TFA Jacksonville that clearly shows it misses the mark for its overwhelming teacher turnover rates and evidence that students taught by TFA corps members learn no better than those taught by non-TFA teachers. Here are some of the highlights of the study:

 Of the original 55 TFA Jacksonville corps members, none of them remain teaching in
Duval County Public Schools today.

 Only 11 of the 61 TFA teachers hired in 2010 were still teaching in the district last school

 TFA membership was the strongest single predictor of early-career attrition from DCPS.

 Even compared to early-career teachers in the same school with similar backgrounds and
teaching responsibilities, TFA teachers were still more likely to leave DCPS.

 Results varied slightly across models that controlled for additional teacher and school
characteristics, but all results suggest that TFA teachers are at least as effective as their
non-TFA colleagues. No adjusted models indicated that TFA students learned less than
other students.

Ready’s report clearly shows that criticizing TFA is not misguided but continuing to fund a revolving door of teachers in and out of already hard-to-staff schools is blatantly misguided and an expensive mistake.

Our district, for the next three years, will give TFA nearly $2 million (and that is only 20 percent of the total costs) for teacher performance no better than teachers who take the traditional route to the classroom. Pursuing this further, TFA corps members do not even equate to five percent of the district’s teaching force.

An even better opportunity is the district owning its own human capital efforts.

NYC Teacher Fellows is a program designed to recruit teachers for hard-to-staff schools. Fellows will go through The Spring Classroom Apprenticeship where they will co-teach in a high needs area for ten weeks. Those fellows will then go on to teach summer school classes while being coached by master teachers. In addition to school-based support throughout the regular school year, professors and staff from local universities are also on hand to observe the teacher fellows and provide direct support. The fellows can also choose from several universities where they want to earn a master’s degree in education.

According to the NYC Teacher Fellows, 47 percent of fellows are recent college graduates while 53 percent are career changers. An impressive 92 percent complete their first year; 72 percent are still teaching in their third year; and over half remain for five years or more. The program also boasts that 398 of the fellows now serve as principals or administrators.

In short, Duval County should have the capacity to build its own top notch recruitment model too.

Where it concerns our children who are our neighbors, we, as a local community, should come together and find a solution to lower attrition rates in all of our schools. The Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program is definitely on time as we champion the exit of TFA in Duval County.

More students, not enough books or supplies and admins micromanaging teachers, Duval's recipe for failure.

From a Reader:

Yeah. We don't even have enough literature books for class sets, let alone to take home. One of our grade levels has about 12-15 books per teacher. Vitti is all into buying online stuff; however, again, our average teacher has 3 computers in each classroom with an average of over 25 students. 

I live in fear, but not about retribution or getting fired. I fear that I cannot teach my best because people in charge cannot give my department the resources and support necessary to do our jobs. By the way, we are in week 7 starting Monday, week 8 for teachers, and our school has still not given us supply money. I have easily spent more than 200 dollars already on supplies for my own classroom, so I would have paper, pens, highlighters, ink (seriously), chart paper, etc.

Name another profession that you have to buy your own supplies before you start. 

On top of that, we have loads more students than ever before, and we still have not been given enough teachers or admin or security to handle all of them. This is by far the worst year for managing students that I have ever seen, and I cannot blame admin too much as there are so many students and not enough manpower. We do, however, have enough to pay higher ups to come into our classrooms and tell us how to do our jobs every couple of is clearly not being spent in the right places.

Florida's poor education leadership has failed us.

When talking about problems in education we often hear about over testing and a lack of resources but another big problem Florida has is lack of quality leadership.  Under Scott there have been 4 different education commissioners six if you count Pam Stewart's two intern stints. Robinson his first appointee resigned after backlash about constant changes to the grading system. Bennett his second resigned to defend himself against ethics violations in Indiana where he recently agreed to pay a 5,000 dollar fine. Then Stewart the current one has somehow managed to keep her job despite saying Common Core wouldn't cost any extra money, its costing hundreds of millions more, the Value Added teacher evaluation mess which saw some teachers evaluated on students they never taught and spending five million dollars to field test Florida's next tests to Utah, perhaps the least similar to Florida state in he union.

Then lets consider Scott’s appointees to the state board of education which came up with both race based goals and who rubber stamp, often over districts objections, everything to do with charter schools. There is Gary Chartrand the chair a grocer who brought several charter schools to Jacksonville, Marva Johnson a cable TV executive, Andy Tuck an evolution denier and orange grower and Rebecca Fishman Lipsey who spent two years in the classroom, in New York and was a Teach for America executive before becoming a consultant. Not one true educator in the bunch. Can you imagine running a police department or hospital without police or doctors? Well with these people in charge of education that is about the equivalent.

And then there is Rick Scott himself. He has endorsed common core despite the fact it does absolutely nothing to address poverty and then thinks just because we are calling it Florida Standards nobody will notice. He has dramatically increased the rate of privatization through charter schools and vouchers which have no evidence saying they perform better than public schools and among other things he stripped teachers of work protections and instituted a merit pay system (SB 736) which might sound great to some but has never worked in practice and then failed to fund it.

Public education in Florida gets a bad rap but the truth is it is our leadership that has failed us.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What is worse, teachers working in fear or kids going without books? Welcome to Duval County.

Below is a letter I received from a reader and at their request I redacted anything that might give their identity away. I think it is especially powerful because the teacher is working at a school they like for a principal they like too, something a lot of teachers can't say but despite that their fear is still apparent.

Finally, things don't have to be like this. I believe if we want to see improvement a great start would be treating teachers with the respect they deserve and giving them the supplies they need. We're really in trouble when books are considered a luxury. -C

I'm the one who posted about the textbook problem at the high school level. Please don't mention my name or any other relevant info that may lead to my identity. I prefer to play it safe.

I teach XXXXXXX at XXXXXXX. I love what I do. Teaching is my calling. I can't imagine not teaching high school students the beauty of literature and writing - the subtleties and nuances in literature, the writer's purpose, historical context, and all of the processes that go into analyzing amazing literature. I have an excellent rapport with my seniors - they love my class, they want to sign up for my class, even if they aren't of the AP caliber. I have an excellent reputation among my colleagues, administrators, and students.

My principal is a great guy. I really like him. He's very approachable and supportive. However, he plays by the rules; therefore he will not distribute any books to students, although they are in the building. Yes, that's correct - the books are in the building, but they will not be given to students because of the directive from downtown. My principal will not deviate from any policy coming from downtown. He doesn't want to risk jeopardizing his own position at XXXXXXX. I completely understand this.

It's my understanding that some of the other high schools distributed books. I've heard Stanton's principal did; however, she has a leg to stand on - who wants to piss off the parents at Stanton? Not even Vitti would do that. She also held on to her Media Specialist, and students have access to the media center that is actually used as a media center, and not a testing center.

I don't even have to tell you how overworked we all are. Everyone. Every school. Ridiculous directives, documentation in lesson planning, common planning, PLC's with coaches who are trying to justify their own positions. Focusing on the day-to-day instruction in classrooms is becoming more and more challenging each year. Now, without books....well, I feel like this is the final straw. I'm fed up. I've never commented on your blog before (although I am a regular reader) until just recently with the book problem.

When I asked why this directive is being forced upon schools (even schools like us, who have enough books), I was told that if there are not enough books for every student in the county enrolled in that course, then NO ONE gets a book. They are forcing everyone down to the lowest level, so we can all be in misery.

I also teach XXXXXXX. My students have access to this textbook online, so there are no problems with this course. It's primarily affecting AP instructors.

And, just so you know, the county is allowing certain math courses to have books at home. I believe it's Algebra I and II, and geometry. That's it. I have several colleagues who are just as frustrated as I, and I could share some of their stories, but I won't. It's not my place to speak for other people. Suffice it to say, we are all at our wit's end.

I would love to see the Times Union reporter contacting principals and inquiring whether their students received books to use at home. For every subject. What will they say? How will they respond? Let them send a photographer to photograph the books at schools that are not being distributed, and are just sitting in a room collecting dust.

I will trust that you will keep this information as generic as possible should you choose to post about it. Thanks for trying and making people aware of the 'real world' in dcps.

These are frightening times for Duval's young readers.

If the district can't get buy in from our teachers, how successful can we be?

From a reader:

I guess that part of their solution to this quagmire was to drop SRA from the curriculum. They are still going full-steam ahead with novel study despite the lack of books for our oversized classes. (26 rather than 22) Not to mention, apparently downtown doesn't click the links to the email Vitti sends. If they did, they would have discovered that the writing test requires the ability to read, analyze, and compose a multi paragraph response, using text support from all of the excerpts presented, which were ALL nonfiction.  The reading test link- also nonfiction. 

Whomever developed the curriculum for ELA/Reading didn't do their homework and presume our students already know how to formulate text based responses. If they had any real knowledge, we would have an entirely different focus. The newly purchased computer based programs clearly were intended to be substitute for teaching nonfiction analysis and writing. They don't cut it. Write to Learn uses the old five paragraph prompt response. Its other alternative is to have students write a summary to one text on its program. It must have been purchased without first checking out the writing testing format. 

Achieve 3000, as we are required to use it, is useless because it assumes it will be accompanied by teacher instruction and followup. Yet, we are going to be blamed when our kids crash and burn on these tests. I can hear it now: The teachers didn't teach the curriculum properly, the school-based admin. didn't push those teachers hard enough, and we have them every tool and resource to do well. Where is the School Board? Are they just Vitti's echo chamber? Or is this an effort to push us out? We will obtain other jobs, but our kids will lose a year of essential instruction. What does it say about our leaders when their egos and agendas take precedence over our students? 

Frightening times.

What responsibility does SOTRU's Al Letson have in the school privatization battle?

First let me say I have listened to dozens of pieces on Al Letson's radio program The State of the Re:Union and been captivated by every one. It is an amazing show bringing light to important stories that might have otherwise remained hidden.

That being said I want to know the motivation behind him emceeing WJCT's American Graduate Champion Awards dinner where they celebrated foe of public school teachers and advocate of privatization Gary Chartrand. 

Does he share Chartrand's disdain for public school teachers? Is he for the privatization of our schools or was this just another gig and free dinner for him, which I think in a way would be even worse.

I fully admit there are a lot of people who think Chartrnd is doing good work, he is definitely not afraid to throw his money around and he is also able to get the people in the circles he travels in to do the same. At the same time however you must admit that if he was an averge citizen without the money to back up his ideas, like most teachers he wouldn't be able to get the time of day from anybody with any real influence. You must also admit that to public schools and teachers many of his ideas have been destructive. Does Letson care about the entire package or like most did he just look at the dollar signs and go with the flow.  I would like to know. 

I am still going to listen to the SOTRU but sadly now I do so knowing either Letson is on the wrong side of the debate or he just doesn't care enough to make a stand.

To read more click the link:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dear Duval County, where are the books?

I am a proud graduate of Duval County Public schools and I remember like clockwork at the beginning of each school year I was assigned all my books at once. My how things have changed.

I posed a question on Facebook, Duval teachers, do you and your kids have enough books?

These were the very disappointing answers. 


 I helped one teacher stock her classroom with needed books... She has spent lots of her own money to get her classroom ready. I just pitched in as her adopted room mother. I adopted 2 teachers this year, but one is in Alachua county. I helped her with consumable supplies.

I already weighed in on this one. But you should also know that the online curriculums are also not ready. We've been waiting six weeks for the student uploads to take place for middle school math, digits (Pearson, if you have a rotten tomato in your hand), which means teachers cannot assign homework without spending time at the copy machine, do diagnostic assessments for differentiation, or do the online tests. The curriculum was sold that all this online technology would save teachers hours of grading and data production. Achieve 3000 for ELA has also been slow for activation. That might have now come through since Vitti ordered all the middle schools to have the testing part of Achieve 3000 done by Friday. It never ends, but is this tragedy or farce?

My son is in 6th grade and still doesn't have a science book.

No, we only have 27 Economics books for the whole school and they are 11 years old. I got a classroom set of the JA book from my friends there.

well the novels that we were to use in class, no they didn't give us enough. Some teachers went out and bought class sets of their own....not happening here, i dont have that kind of money

oh and the whole SRA thing got scrapped???? who paid for all those books and materials that won't be in use now????

Nope. They have in-class books for pre-calc. They take photos with their phones--if they have a phone, and if they have storage--or get it offline.

Not a full set of novels for ELA 5th grade. Some (actually quite a few) walked off last year. I have purchased a few but don't want to spend all my $ on replacements. And I will never let students take them home anymore so they can catch up when out of the classroom when we are reading (which is happening way too frequently to be this early in the school year.)

Nope. Not even for ap macroeconomics which really really needs a book. It's hard enough with a book.

My heart aches and I feel your pain since I walked in your shoes until 6/11/14. I have since relocated to Colorado Springs. I Have met teachers and parents and love to question them about their experience with the school system. I have heard not one comment similar to what we experienced in Duval County. And, Colorado Springs is a community of about 750,000 people and there are 6 districts within this community. This is a different world. Duval County has had problems for too long and they have continued under each new Superintendent. Enough is enough.

NO! Am buying more with my own $$. Ridiculous\

As a person who grew up in the now legendary NYC public school system that gave us all our text books on the first day of classes, I have to say, really Duval County School Board?!? Bet we can find a few administrator salaries we could cut to pay for more books and not have the system suffer one iota.

Just so you know it is not all bad, one teacher, out of a dozen wrote, Yes. AND we got "permission" to use the consumables as consumables!!! How cool is that?!??

Where's the money for the books? Or since we are planning to willfully violate the class size amendment are we saving it to pay the fine?

Oy vey, if there is a plan for success here I am sadly not seeing it.

Dear Duval Public Schools, why are you setting up your teachers and students to fail?

Here is a letter I sent to the district a while back that several middle school ELA teachers helped me compose. As of yet I haven't received a reply and don't worry, I am not holding my breath.


My name is Chris Guerrieri, publisher of the blog, “Education Matters.” The Florida Times-Union and Folio Magazine frequently reprint my blog posts, which primarily focus on local public education issues. The high volume of e-mails I have received, coupled with personal interviews of middle school ELA/Reading teams concerning the District’s highly publicized initiative to increase student reading proficiency prompts my latest article. It is my understanding that as Director of Middle School English Language Arts and Reading, you are responsible for the latest “roll-out” of the reading initiative. As such, I hope that you will address and clarify some questions I have based upon my investigation to date.   

When I met with middle school ELA/Reading teams and teachers, they expressed grave concerns over the scheduling, curriculum, and resources for the Reading and ELA courses using the double block/”Hybrid ELA” scheduling. They had voiced their concerns to you, but felt ignored or dismissed. Other teachers who contacted me voiced similar concerns to your Literacy and Reading Specialists, and likewise were dismissed.

As the Director of this program, I am seeking your input on these issues they have raised:
1. Lack of the required Reading Endorsement or field certification. Although scheduled under the proper course code, the Intensive Reading and Regular ELA teachers are required to follow the identical curriculum split between reading and ELA.  
- How are ELA teachers lacking reading endorsements yet teaching a curriculum mandating  SRA instruction, considered to be teaching in-field?
-How are Reading teachers lacking ELA certification yet teaching a curriculum mandating ELA instruction that exceeds the scope of the SRA material considered to be teaching in-field?

2. Lack of materials needed to implement the “Hybrid.”
- When will or will both the Reading and ELA teachers receive class sets of SRA books? If they don’t receive class sets, how are they to proceed?  
- How can the Reading and ELA teachers do a “novel study” on the same novel with only five-seven copies of the book, but 24 to 26 students per class?  

3. Inappropriate novels.
- Why are selections being mandated that have objectionable language and/or material in them? - - How are Level 1 and Level 2 readers to independently read novels that are many grade levels above their reading comprehension?

4. Inferior ELA instruction and preparation for the writing and reading tests.
- Why must the ELA portion be taught in small groups, rather than the teacher directed format usually used of I Do, We Do, and You Do?
- How will the thirty minutes of allocated ELA time adequately prepare the students for the new writing and reading tests, when a teacher will only instruct one to two small groups a class, while the remaining four to five groups are “self-teaching.?”  Is this realistic for middle schoolers?

It appears that the teachers and the district agree that reading proficiency and comprehension is essential. The district has a plan that teachers fear is grossly inadequate, burdensome, if not impossible to implement, and jeopardizes their “in-field” status, as well as performance evaluations. As you know, well-intentioned people can make the greatest plans, but if they can't get buy in from the people implementing them, they are most likely doomed to fail.

I realize that you are busy, however, I hope you can find the time to respond to the above concerns. My readership is large, so potentially tens of thousands of readers, many of whom are parents, will read my article. I would like them to know your position as to these concerns, as it would be relevant to their views and may assuage some concerns. I assure you that should you respond before I post the article, I will send it to you to review for accuracy as to your responses.

I hope to finish the piece by September 7, 2014. I look forward to hearing from you prior to that date.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Chris Guerrieri

Publisher, Education Matters

Thursday, September 25, 2014

John Thrasher's hall of shame

Before wanting to run FSU into the ground he did his best to kneecap public education. Since he has been in the news a lot lately, I thought I would bring you some of his most infamous hits.

Then let’s let him know, we understand he has a pathological hatred of unions especially teachers unions, but politics is supposed to be civil not about crushing your enemies when you get the chance. Tell him to drop his union busting bills

I have long thought John Thrasher was no friend of education but it turns out he has been no friend of Florida either. His friends you ask, my guess is anybody who can add to his bank account.

I just wonder what some teacher did to him to make him hate all teachers so much.

State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, expressed surprise when told of the charter requests and wasn’t sure why they wanted to come to a successful district such as St. Johns County.

But another leader with statewide stature, GOP Sen. John Thrasher of Jacksonville, is proposing to hit Florida's public-employee unions in the wallet by making it harder for them to raise and spend money. Unlike Mr. Scott's proposal, Mr. Thrasher's doesn't have fairness or financial justifications behind it.

"I believe in the golden rule," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, according to the Florida Independent. "He who has the gold makes the rules..."

There are a few dozen more but I think you get the point.

The appointment of John Thrasher gives FSU a permanent black eye.

From on Presidents and Politics by Jennifer Proffitt Ph.D.

I’ve had several people ask me why I am “surprised” that the BOT chose Senator Thrasher to be our next president, and obviously, I am not surprised. I’ve been predicting this since February. But I am extremely disheartened by the absolute lack of consideration of the key constituents of the university, namely faculty and students. The Trustees completely, utterly, shamelessly ignored the will of campus and selected their political buddy over three extremely qualified higher education leaders.

I keep thinking, how are we going to recruit and retain faculty at a university that doesn’t care what the faculty think? How are we going to retain and recruit faculty at a university whose president knows nothing about the academy (but everything about the Capitol), denies science and whose own voting record demonstrates anti-union, anti-faculty, anti-tenure attitudes and policies?

I saw an article in the Democrat this morning with a headline that one of the faculty leaders on campus is eager to work with Thrasher (though I'm not sure that's exactly what he said), and yes, obviously we will need to do so (though, folks, he still has to go through the BOG, which was grumbling earlier because the search was a national embarrassment—and still is).  But that doesn’t mean let’s roll over. I’m happy to work with anyone who has the best interests of the institution at heart and who respects faculty so we can move this university forward--absolutely. But we will not give up shared governance; we will not give up academic freedom; we will not give up tenure; we will not give up integrity; we will not give up on our faculty one tiny bit because someone made a campaign promise to increase salaries. We will, however, hold anyone who makes such promises to them. But I guess Senator Thrasher is gonna have to manufacture money in his basement because as Trustee Rolando said, unless the legislature finds religion and allocates more money to higher education, then the argument that Thrasher knows the legislature and can steer more funds to us is garbage.

The fact that this search was a sham from the beginning only adds to my, let’s call it frustration, that a non-academic politician with personal, political, and financial ties to the BOT members and most of the PSAC members was rammed through despite loud opposition by all facets of the community (and calling him a non-academic is not name-calling—there’s evidence that has been presented and reported multiple times—and having a law degree does not make one an academic if he/she hasn’t worked in academia). Let’s not forget that alumni—who are also donors—are also outraged. I’d love to know how many people pulled their donations. I have anecdotal evidence of this, but I would like data.

Perhaps others aren’t hearing the same things I’m hearing: faculty already being recruited or applying for jobs, students and parents upset that politics trumped experience and merit, alumni outraged, community members flabbergasted that this could happen at our university.
So, no, I’m not surprised by the outcome. I’m surprised by the blatant in your face we don't care what anyone thinks politics after the search firm recruited excellent and qualified candidates. Wasted everyone’s time and taxpayer money just to give FSU a permanent black eye.

WJCT joins the marginalize teachers crowd!

A little more about WJCT's dinner supporting education figures. First it is beyond the pale that they honored Gary Chartrand. That guy has done more to harm public education in Florida than anybody and to be honest I am not a fan of Betty Burney either. The only thing that improved with her on the school board was her bank account. I guess some people can disagree with me but one thing we should all agree upon was WJCT's shoddy treatment of teachers.

They acknowledged/celebrated five people in the education world at their dinner and only one was a teacher.  You know one of the actual people that does the educating. That's how it is though in education, the people that do the job are also the people most often ignored, neglected, and marginalized.

There are 7,000 teachers here in Duval but only one was worthy of acknowledgement. That's half as many as who serve on various WJCT boards, Gary Chartrand and Trey Csar, that were recognized, which makes me think that was a more important contribution to them than being involved in education.

Sadly WJCT joined the ranks of those people who believe teachers are an unnecessary evil in education and instead celebrated a privatizer and a few others who either have never or its been years since they saw a classroom.

If you think about it, it really is shameful. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WJCT can't really be considered a source for Education News anymore

I have to say I like what Rhema Thompson, WJCT's education reporter has done over the last few months  which makes me sad to say that they have jumped the shark.

You see as part of their  American Graduate series they threw a dinner honoring among others Gary Chartrand the local millionaire and sworn foe of public school teachers and champion of privatization.

From WJCT: Chartrand is executive chairman of Acosta Sales and Marketing agency as well as chairman of the State Board of Education. He was also recently chosen to head the WJCT Foundation.
WJCT CEO Michael Boylan presented the evening's awards.
"The motivation for American Graduate Champion was to provide mentors for other people in our community to know that the rank and file from the Chairman of the State Board  to a local teacher can be impact our community in such a significant way," he said.
By significant does Boyland mean dreadful? Chartrand has done more to harm public education than anybody in Florida over the last few years has and in a state where there are a lot of bad actors that is saying a lot.
Well now we know why WJCT hasn't covered Chartrand's attempts to buy school board seats, his homophobic remarks, and his donation to a pac that out and out lied about Paula Wright among other things.
WJCT instead traded their journalistic integrity for 30 pieces of silver.

Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli cherry picks the Constitution

Incoming speaker Steve Crisafulli recently penned an op-ed in Florida today extolling the virtues of standardized testing and then doubled down saying in the Tampa Times: According to the Florida Constitution, the state has the paramount duty to provide a high quality public school system. Without an accountability system for all public school students, the state cannot ensure that children attending our public schools have the opportunity to receive a high quality education."

Maybe without an accountability system but who says it has to be the one we have now that is so based on high stakes tests which many experts say do more harm than good and VAM scores which the DOE admits are wrong more than a third of the time and don't factor in poverty.

But what really gets me is he paraphrased the Florida Constitution because it says a lot more.

The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.

Let's look at two words, paramount and uniform. Florida is currently ranked 38th in per pupil spending according to the Florida Tax watch.  Couple that with superintendents and school boards throughout the state lamenting a lack of resources and our education system hardly seems paramount.

Now uniform. Florida sends hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools, which as a group under perform when compared to public schools, over 260 of which have taken public money and failed leaving numerous communities in a lurch and many of which are for profit and voucher schools which are exempt from the accountability system that Crisafulli joyfully advocates for. Hardly seems uniform does it.

Notice it nowhere say schools and teachers have to be graded on a system that most experts and people in the education world believe is a disaster.  

Ignoring and misrepresenting the Florida Constitution seems like a poor start to his speaker ship and it should concern us all no matter where in the state we live.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

20 year Duval teaching vet, this is the worst I have ever seen!

From a reader:

 Yet, at the elementary level, they are forcing these children to read entire novels that are sorely lacking in any sort of literary value! 4th graders are being forced to read a book by a "local" author yet it is a book that few seem interested in. We can't use the textbooks because there "aren't enough". We can't run copies yet we are supposed to have the items preprinted for the interactive journals. We lack the basic supplies such as paper yet I am expected to print 30 plus pages in lesson plans a week for just 1 subject, not including my documentation of small group instruction. 

Printers are slowly being phased out in the schools and rumor has it, computers that teachers may or may not be getting will not even have a DVD/CD drive. That is, of course, assuming our teacher computers (some of which are 6+ years old) are even replaced. However, I am supposed to implement technology in my classroom. That is, when the computer ports in the classroom are working or the network is actually working. That is also assuming that my 6+ year old teacher laptop isn't being shut down in the MIDDLE of a lesson for an UPDATE that should have been done AFTER school when I wasn't in the MIDDLE of TEACHING AN ACTUAL LESSON to my class!! My computer shut down 4 times in the past week for UPDATES in the MIDDLE of lessons!! 

I have worked in Duval for over 20 years. I am also proud to say I am a product of Duval County Public Schools. However, this year has been unreal!! To call it a HOT MESS would be a gross understatement! I have never seen such disconnect and such hand tying as I have seen this year. We aren't purchasing the textbooks and other materials needed to do our jobs so where is the money going?!?!? We have core classes that are overcrowded and no one downtown seems to care. Let's pay the fine rather than do as the voter's wished and limit class size. All I can do at this point is do my best and pray that it is enough because we certainly aren't getting any help from the powers that be. Sad!

Representative Crisafulli’s teacher conspiracy theory

Crisafulli our incoming speaker of the house penned an opt-ed advocating for the states continued reliance on high stakes test. There was a lot wrong with his reasoning, like an absence of facts and him just making stuff up but what really got me was his teacher conspiracy theory.

He wrote:  The recent misuse of the phrase “high-stakes tests” can be attributed to the fact the results are now high stakes for teachers. Starting this year, teachers are eligible for performance pay based in part on student progress. Teachers aren’t graded on a child’s ability to pass a test, but are rewarded for helping children make progress.

Oh he thinks teachers met together at their secret head quarters where they had to give the secret union handshake to get in and there hatched an ultra secret plan to discredit high stakes testing to avoid merit pay.  He is implying that before tests were used to reward teachers there were no problem with high stakes testing at all but now all of a sudden people are complaining and it's because of teachers. It must be because he believes teachers are to lazy to work for the wonderful rewards the state plans to give us.

Oh those darn teachers, just trying to trick people.

The disdain this guy shows for teachers is dripping off his op-ed and he isn’t above being deceptive to sell his points either and this guy is about to be the leader of the house too but more on that in a future post.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Incoming speaker Steve Crisafulli's willful chutzpah, ignorance and hypocrisy about testing.

The incoming speaker of the house Steve Crisafulli did an op in Florida Today where he advocated for Florida's culture of high stakes standardized tests which have faced withering criticism recently from local school boards and parents, i.e. those closest to the problem. I don't know what worried me most about Crisafulli's op ed, his ignorance, chutzpah, hypocrisy or his apparent disdain for teachers.

First the hypocrisy. Crisafulli is a huge supporter of vouchers. The public pays for students to go to private schools which are exempt from the high stakes test. Why are they a necessity for public schools but not for private schools that receive public money? 

Now for the ignorance. He says because of testing our graduation rates have gone up, well friends graduation rates all across the country have seen dramatic rises, even in states that have not relied on high stakes testing. He then points to the our ranking sixth in the Quality Rankings report. This is a fairly new group which pushes corporate reforms. Most knowledgeable people don't give it much credence but lets look at how we got that ranking.

We were 32nd in providing chances for success, 36th on school finances, and 5th on tests and accountability. In short our grade was so high because they like testing and Florida does too! 6th sounds impressive but if you go to the report and look at it, you would be hard pressed to be as impressed as the speaker designate. (note there are other categories)

Then there is his apparent disdain for teachers. He wrote: The recent misuse of the phrase “high-stakes tests” can be attributed to the fact the results are now high stakes for teachers. Starting this year, teachers are eligible for performance pay based in part on student progress. Teachers aren’t graded on a child’s ability to pass a test, but are rewarded for helping children make progress. We understand children come from different backgrounds and possess varying knowledge and skills, but every child can learn.

The state is using VAM scores to determine teachers effectiveness. The department of education says they are inaccurate more than a third of the time and yes children do come from different backgrounds but VAM scores don't account for poverty but somehow he thinks it is fair to measure teachers with this system. Then yes every child can learn but depriving schools of proper resources, and saddling teachers with inappropriate metrics makes it that much harder, 

Finally his chutzpah. Those people closest to our schools, the states parents and school boards have started a tsunami of protest but the designate who is not a teacher and as far as I can tell has had little interaction with them announces proudly that he knows best. I doubt he would be appreciative of teachers telling him how to run his agriculture business.  

I wish just once one of these guys would say, I just don't like public schools and I am going to do everything I can to privatize them. I would disagree with him but at least he would be being honest. 
Friends this is who is suppose to lead us for the next two years and I hope you are as troubled by this as I am.

Sunday Morning whiffs on Common Core

Sunday Morning did a piece on common core this morning

and despite interviewing principal Carol Burris who is against common core, the tone of the piece was far from fair and balanced. 

Have you noticed that whenever somebody is for common core they start their talking points with something like, Launched by state officials, the Core was backed by the federal government, offering grant money to states signing on.

Well this Sunday morning piece was no different as that is a direct quote and yes, launched by the cash strapped states during the great recession where they traded local control for those grants. 

There were two pro-common core people interviewed, the secretary of of playing basketball with Obama, education , Arne Duncan and Tampa superintendent MaryEllen Elia but it's the questions the interviewer didn't ask that really got me.

Like how does common core address poverty? CBS gave us our middle of the pack international stats but they didn't mention how our scores zoom to near the top when we factor out poverty a pretty big oversight if you ask me.

Next I want to know if the countries we are trying to catch use common core because as far as I can tell they don't?

Finally I would have liked a  mention about all the people who are going to get rich off common core and all the money being siphoned out of our classrooms to pay for it.

CBS didn't think any of above was worth a mention.

Nobody is against tough standards what the pro-common core speakers implied but for them to dismiss and for CBS to ignore legitimate questions and concerns does our children and schools a disservice.