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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Duval County put's it's teachers V.A.M. scores out there for all to see.

Somethings you should know about VAM scores, the Department of Education admits they are wrong more than a third of the time. The score also does not factor in important things like absences, behavior or poverty. I could go on and on and point you to experts who say the use of VAM scores is both dangerous and irresponsible too.

I also thought that last year it was reprehensible that the Times Union put out every teacher's VAM scores and did so as their site transitioned from free to pay. The bottom line I believe influenced their decision not informing the public and I warned them about all the inconsistencies before hand.

So now the district has done it too and broken it down by both school and evaluation and student growth score points and left it up, not password protected for every one to see.

I looked over several schools VAM pages including my own and now know who is effective, needs improvement and everything in between and it made me feel a little dirty as if I was looking at somebody's secret.

Our district doesn't seem to respect its teachers that much and that's a real problem that we are going to have to overcome if we want to meet our potential.

I have decided not to include a link because I have to live with myself and I feel like my colleagues business is their own.

Is the solution to guns in schools more guns?

Sarasota Republican Greg Steube thinks so and has introduced legislation to make it happen.

When John Oliver posted his internet meme which said, one failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all have to take our shoes off at the airport, while at the same time there have been 31 school shootings since Columbine and no changes in the regulation of guns, I am not sure more guns was what he had in mind.

Florida's response to the FSU shooting and the other tragedies around the nation should not to be to put more guns in our schools or armed guards at the doors. If Florida is not willing to put in reasonable restrictions like extending waiting limits, reducing the size of clips and magazines, and requiring back ground checks for everyone purchasing a gun, then can we please address mental illnesses? 

Some state legislators have talked about returning the state surplus which I remind you was built with a three percent income tax applied to teachers and other state workers to the citizens of Florida. Instead of putting a couple bucks through automotive fees or the ending of home phone taxes back in our pockets let me suggest we invest that money in creating a mental health infrastructure that would help prevent future tragedies. It would also have the added benefit of improving school performance because often why a kid acts up or does poorly in school has nothing to do with school.

Could we all use fifteen to twenty extra dollars? Sure but who among us wouldn’t spend that money to help keep our loved ones safe? 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Arne Duncan and the D.O.E don't give teachers anything to be thankful for.

The worst education secretary of all time made headlines again this week. After threatening to gut special education throughout the country implying teachers don't really care about disabled children he has now gone after teacher colleges.

Diane Ravitch put it better than I ever could.

According to, the U.S. Department of Education will cut federal funding to education schools whose graduates have students who get low scores. This could incentivize education schools to direct their students away from urban districts with high poverty, or from teaching children with disabilities and English-language learners. Researchers have repeatedly warned about the danger of over reliance on test scores for high-stakes decisions. It is always wise to think about unintended consequences.

I want to add that this is the same department of education that drools over Teach for America and policies like this result when we have non eductors carrying out education policies.

I wish Duncan would resign because then we would all truly have something to be thankful for.

The Duval County School Board only takes care of their own

A comment from hopefully a new reader:

I don't generally read your blog but a friend of mine sent it to me. I am a district administrator and I am sickened by this information. 

I have worked at the DCPS office for almost 10 years and have gotten nothing but about a 1% raise last year. Why in the world can the board members give their personal auditor (who is known more for taking long lunches and preparing cookies and parties) over $20,000?

 If they are giving her what other districts pay (and I agree that teachers here should get what other districts pay) then I want the board to approve raises for all district employees to make what other districts pay. they are only taking care of her because she is theirs. 

They don't work or care about the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Duval’s all about fair market value, unless you are a teacher, then you get sh*ted on.

I  received the following message about a huge raise the board plans to give to their auditor.

I follow your blog regularly and feel that you need to address an issue I was just made aware of.  I have been told by contacts in the budget and HR office downtown that the Board Members have just approved a $30,000 raise for their PERSONAL auditor.  This is insane.  Nobody in the district should get a RAISE that is almost equal to the starting teacher salary.  Not only that but I am told the auditor is also getting an assistant---  so she gets more money and less work---  i don't know a single teacher who gets that hookup.  Also, the board members have recommended hiring a personal assistant for each of them - for what I don't know.

I just find it interesting that they are handing out raises and building an army of staff when teachers do not even have an approved raise this year.  This is crazy.

I decided to ask the district if it was true and contacted the director of communications. First let me tell you she has always been professional, polite and helpful and I know it can’t be the easiest thing either as I am sure some in the district consider me the enemy.  It’s not her fault her answer blew me away!

The Board recently approved an adjustment to the Board Auditor’s salary.  This is a district position that reports to the Board.  The increase of $23,000 was made after a market analysis comparing Duval’s salary for this position to other similar sized districts in the state of Florida.  The analysis also compared the scope of work and personnel managed by this position.  The adjusted salary and organizational changes align the salary and work of the Duval County Board auditor with these districts. 

Okay, sounds reasonable right, the board plans to give its auditor a 23 thousand dollar raise, they said they did an analysis and that’s fair market, okay fair enough.

But then I decided to look at the fair market for teachers. Duval often compares itself to the other six big districts, Broward, Orange, Hillsborough, Dade and Palm Beach, so that’s where I went

In Hillsborough county teachers start at 38k, are making 42 by year 4 and if I taught there, year 13, I would be making 54 thousand dollars.

In Dade County they start at 40,500, something it takes ten years to get to in Duval County and if I taught in Dade I would now be making about three grand more.

Let’s check Broward County
They start at 39 and by year 4 they are at 41, again making Duval’s pay scale look shameful.

I also have no doubt if I would have continued to check I would have continued to find how ridiculously bad our pay scale is compared to comparably sized districts but I don’t think my blood pressure could have taken it.

Here is the districts pay scale so you can see how embarrassing it is.

Then the city and district wonder why we have a teacher morale problem and why we can’t keep teachers, here is an idea pay them fair market value or is that just for district staff and not for teachers!

Absolutely shameful.

School choice advocates are really thumping thier chests now!

School choice is a hot issue and some people have even attributed the results of the recent election to it. I disagree thinking it was more a flawed candidate, not running against Rick Scott but instead running against a very unpopular president in a mid-term election where turn out is generally low. I think there was a fair amount of apathy and ignorance going on too. I believe if people really cared about the future of education and took the time to be informed very few would support school choice advocates.

Feeling emboldened and using misleading talking points “school choice” backers are now coming out of the wood work attacking organizations like the state’s School Board association.

First it is both reprehensible and disingenuous to say the school board association is attempting to handicap and hold back poor and mostly minority students. The school board association has been a leader in fighting for more and equitable resources, against the high stakes testing culture which is sucking the oxygen out of education and against the accountability system which tells just one thing a schools zip code, as those schools in the poorer zip codes invariably perform worse on standardized tests which to Tallahassee is the only metric that matters.

Here is the thing that most school choice advocates, many who have sold the failing public school narrative and supported policies that handicap public schools won’t tell you and that’s their true aim is to privatize and replace our public schools and the options they are selling perform much worse.

Let’s look at private schools that take vouchers. They resist accountability like that rather than educating children was their jobs. Accountability is a buzz word when it comes to public schools but it is practically non-existent with voucher schools. They don’t have to have certified teachers, recognized curriculums, and the vast majority don’t even have to report how the money they get is spent. Why is accountability paramount for public schools but gets a collective shrug when talking about private schools that take vouchers.

Then there are charter schools of which over 260 have taken public money and closed leaving families and communities in a lurch. Many are also for profit and that not what is best for their students drive their policies and finally they are bringing back segregation driving a wedge between communities. This attractive concept has been co-opted by privatizers and modern day pirates looking to make a buck and our children are paying the price for it.

Then despite for the most part being able to pick and choose who these choice options take and keep and being able to put requirements on parents neither charter schools nor private schools that take vouchers are performing better. With those tremendous advantages they should be killing public schools but they are not.

Also where is the concern for poor and mostly minority children when it comes to going to college? The huge cuts to bright futures which have basically coincided with the rise of vouchers. These cuts will stop tens of thousands of poor and mostly minority children form going to college and reaching their full potential but like how accountability gets a shrug that too gets a shrug from school choice advocates.

School choice is a complicated issue and the people looking to privatize our schools or profit off of them or who have an irrational fear of gov’ment schools and unions shouldn’t be the ones we are listening to or be allowed to drive policy. Choice simply for the sake of choice is a bad choice and if the people pushing for more really cared about our children they would push for high quality, not for profit, accountable options, but they aren’t and that should really tell you all you need to know.

Finally I think the answer should be to improve our public schools, to give them adequate resources and not to saddle them with stifling, untested and often unreasonable policies. Then use high quality choice schools whose main goal is not to make a profit and who don’t resist accountability to supplement them. Or you know the exact opposite of what we are doing now.   

Monday, November 24, 2014

If superintendent Vitti and the school board were teachers they would be on success plans right now. (rough draft)

I guess it would be possible to spin last week into good news but the way I see it, it was a pretty big fail for the school board and super.

First the district applied for grants it was no longer eligible for, from WJCT:  

Vitti told board members this week that the district learned some of the schools slated to receive upgrades no longer qualify for the bond. That’s due to a change in Jacksonville’s status as a so-called “Empowerment Zone” site, a federally-recognized high-needs area.
“Our bond counsel went through the specifications of the QZAB II in our application, and it became clear that our Empowerment Zone designation expired at the end of the ‘12-13 year as a city,” Vitti said.
As a result, 16 schools, including Loretto Elementary, Fletcher High and Jacksonville Beach Elementary do not meet the socio-economic threshhold to receive QZAB dollars. That amounts to about $6.1 million in upgrades and resources, according to the district.
Vitti said he was unsure who was responsible for allowing the city’s designation to expire.
Now this may be cleared up and it's unclear how much responsibility the district bears for the snafu but it seems to me this was a box that the district should have made sure was checked. The district however was able to brush this off as a bump in the road off because it somehow managed to find sixteen million dollars in the couch cushions of the Ivory Tower. From the Times Union:
Vitti had good news on that front: School officials scrutinizing the district’s capital fund accounts discovered that about $18 million from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years went unspent.
The money can only be used on capital projects — such as building construction, major repairs, technology purchases, and some transportation costs. It can’t be used on personnel or scholarship programs, for instance.
Vitti told the board he wants to spend $6.1 million of it on technology upgrades at the 16 schools that no longer can use bond money.
So it seems at the end of the day we will only be out six million dollars, just a six followed by six zeroes. Not anywhere close to being as bad but who the heck is doing our accounting down there. We just had 18 millions dollars lying around in a bank account marked, open in case of bond fiasco! Not to be to demanding but shouldn't the district at all times no how much money it has?
The district treated this discovery like a victory where I look upon it in horror wondering what else is going missed.
Being the super is most definitely a complicated and difficult job but you know what else is? Being a teacher is and have you seen all the paper work and data teachers are required to keep? It's mind numbing and never enough for the district's data police. The district isn't giving teachers a break as it piles more and more on their plates and has higher and often unrealistic expectations.
Losing out on six million dollars and then miraculously finding 18 million more are big and alarming deals and the city should treat them as such. 

We should and have to do better.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Sunday not funnies because they are true


Then finally check out this link to buzz feed, it's hilarious.

The randomness of VAM and how it punishes teachers

From a reader

My VAM counts the AP scores of 34 students who were in my AP class. I am punished because one parent refused to have her child take the test (the child is in college and doing just fine), and because one student walked out of the test after 30 minutes because his ADD medication ran out two days before and concentration was out of the question.  There was no punishment for the proctor who let him leave. 

The worst part is the other 124 students had no effect on my evaluation - they were not important to the state of Florida. I could have showed them movies all year, not graded one essay, and given them all A's for occasionally coming to class - or I could have failed them all VAM says they don't matter. They matter to me, they matter to their parents, they matter to my peers, but they don't matter to the politicians, law makers, and corporations.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Duval overlooks the simplest answer when tackling middle school reform.

Sometimes I really just want to go down to the school board building and knock some heads together. I mean seriously people this doesn't need to be treated like brain surgery, I mean unless we are going to start doing transplants.

When talking about middle school reforms the board suggested adding accelerated programs, turn them all into magnets, push academic competitions, link middle and high school colors, putting a chess club in every school, and blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada.

Look I love the idea of having a chess club in every middle school but the problem is the schedule. 8 ninety minute classes every two days is just way to much. Heck a full time load in college is 4 classes and I an adult who loves going to the movies start to fidget in movies well before the ninety minute mark so I can imagine what horror middle school classes must be.

If they are serious about improvement we need to go to a six period/fifty minute classes that meets everyday. Kids will have less time to get bored and thus aggressive, the material will be covered every day rather than every other and as a teacher I can tell you it's easy to go from zero to fifty, where zero to 90 is a lot harder.

Throw in smaller class sizes and mental health and wrap around services then we would really be cooking with gas.

The school board is looking at every solution but the best and most obvious but then again if they weren't it wouldn't be Jacksonville.

To read more click the link:

If Jeb Bush didn't have hyperbole and rhetoric he wouldn't have anything.

In the Sun Sentinel the headline read, JeB Bush blasts public schools. In the article he was quoted saying both,  An ideal system, “wouldn’t start with more than 13,000 government-run, unionized, politicized monopolies, who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system that nobody can escape.”   and  “Working with the Florida Legislature, we implemented a suite of bold reforms, Florida went from a national failure to a top-10 state in education.” I don't know what to be more appalled by, his hyperbole or rhetoric

Who is the enemy he is pointing to, is it the government or unions? Are all 13,000 monopolies trapping good teachers, administrators and struggling students? Isn't there one doing well, even the ones in Florida the state he later goes on to praise does that mean the unions here are okay? Are none of the good teachers in the unions? If things are so bad why do parent organizations usually agree with the unions and finally if there are 13,000 of something doesn't that kind of negate the word monopoly?

Then it would be disingenuous of me to say there hasn't been improvement in Florida's test scores, though many people I know think years ago when we weren't slaves to tests and teachers were treated as valued members of society rather than being constantly vilified things were better. Here is the thing though other states that didn't enact Bush's reforms have seen improvements too and me saying Bush's reforms have held us back from reaching our potential has as much validity of Bush taking credit. 

Also what about the citizen driven class size amendment, that the legislature has constantly under funded and tried to gut. Haven't most of our improvements coincided with that?  Couldn't we say that has caused our improvement. Former Florida Education commissioner Gerard Robinson thought it was at least partially responsible but maybe that is why he is a former education commissioner.

We do need serious people to come up with serious solutions and unfortunately all Bush brings to the table is hyperbole and rhetoric.

to read more click the link:

Thanks Florida for inspiring me to be mediocre.

I wanted to thank the state of Florida for inspiring me to be mediocre, my principal and students and their their parents may not be so grateful. You see senate bill 736 which ties teacher evaluations to teacher pay is in full effect this year. When the state legislature passed the bill they said they would be rewarding the best teachers but the truth is they have inspired most of the best teachers, those with experience and a proven track record to just get by.

As a veteran teacher with a professional contract, one I have to renew every five years, I am guaranteed a job as long as I prove to be effective and don't commit any acts of moral turpitude. In short I can't be fired just because my principal doesn't like me for refusing to work prom, leaving before six, he has a neighbors cousin who wants to try the job or some other reason. I am also not eligible for merit pay.

Now I could give all of above up and go on a one year contract where I could be fired for any reason at the end of the year but I don't think that's a good idea and most veteran teachers agree with me.

Now here's the rub, I only have to score an 80 on a 200 point scale to be considered effective something I could probably do sleep walking through the day in my pajamas. To give you some scale last year I received 77 points in student growth, which means I only needed three points from my principal (I got sixty), now it's true this year I have to depend on the district average for reading teachers, but as things stand now that's just 20 points.

Segue, half of my evaluation is based on a subject I don't, teaching students I don't know at schools I don't work at.  Welcome to Florida where up is down, black is white and people who want to dismantle public education are in charge.

My career has been turned into a game of get to 80 points, because at 80 I am effective and I will get paid the same as I would have had I gotten to 200, not that anybody in my district, who has to depend on the averages of a group of teachers to get their student growth scores is going to get to close to 200 anyway.

Lesson plans? What's the point I can only lose ten points if I don't do them.

Professional development? Nope I can free up my afternoons now because the most I can lose for that is another ten too.

Using Data and creating a nurturing environment are now optional as well.

It might be difficult to half ass the rest of my career but every time I feel bad for not giving my all to my students I can just think about the disrespect the state of Florida has heaped upon me and all the other professional teachers.

There are other small problems too, like how merit pay has very little evidence that says it works and tons that says it doesn't and the states use of VAM scores that don't factor in poverty and the Department of Education says are wrong more than a third of the time but to be honest what does it matter to me. I have just effectively toiled for the last 14 years for the honor of having to just score an eighty on my evaluation for the rest of it.

So Florida, thanks, not for the opportunity to earn more money but the clarity to know from now on I come first. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Eval came in and I went from being an art teacher to being a reading teacher.

Vam scores

Teacher's evaluation are being released which is probably sending hundreds if not thousands into a tizzy but let me tell you my story.

I am the art teacher at my school and I got forty percent of my eval from my principal, 10 percent from my IPDY (everybody in the district was maxed out), but my and every other art teacher's student scores come from the average of the district's reading teacher scores, yep you read that right. Students I didn't teach in a subject I don't either.

The way I see it, it is virtually impossible for any art teacher to get high performing, now I am satisfied with my effective but the problem is eval's now have pay ramifications with highly effectives about to make an undetermined amount more than effectives. I guarantee you there are art teachers and probably others losing their well you know right about now.

This is my thing, if they are going to base pay on how students do can they at least be my students in a subject I actually teach? 

Also how many other teachers evals are being based on students or subjects they don't teach?

My bet is a lot.

Welcome to Florida, it gets a little nuttier everyday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Elections in Florida have grave consequences for public education.

Elections in Florida have grave consequences and one of the worst will be student essays will now be graded by computers. In an effort to save money, probably so the state can funnel more into charters and vouchers, the department of education in all their wisdom, or lack thereof, has decided to have this years common core essay test graded by computers.

Students can be retained, teachers can be fired and schools can be closed are just a few of the high stakes possible outcomes.

from the Palm Beach Post: Many educators are horrified.
“Personally and professionally, as a parent and as an educator, I do not want machines scoring students’ writing in Florida because the technology required to grade students fairly and accurately does not exist and because using what does already exist will only promote an inadequate, reductive understanding of writing,” said Paul Corrigan, an English professor at Southeastern University in Lakeland. “In a time when almost everyone in the larger discussions on education agrees that writing skills are as important as ever for students to develop, we shouldn’t hand off the assessment of writing skills to computers that simply are not up to the job.
“The way we test inevitably shapes the way we teach,” he said. “Writing, which requires nuance, thought, and creativity from students, requires humans to teach and to assess.”
Sadly this will not be the last affront to public education.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Times Union lets down the city again!

When talking about a recent public education forum at Jacksonville University, the Times Union editor wrote:  This shared sense of accountability must be sustained and nurtured for the sake of school children.

Pretty powerful words. However what the editor didn’t write and failed to mention was not one person who had ever taught a day in a Duval County Public school class room spoke or was asked to attend. Once again actual educators were left out of the loop. Charter school and voucher proponents however were well represented.

But think about the word accountability and apply it to the states voucher program that takes hundreds of millions out of the state’s coffers.  The teachers don’t have to be certified, the schools don’t have to have recognized curriculums, the vast majority don’t have to do any financial reporting detailing how the money sent to them is spent, finally there is no test given to them that grades their teacher, students and schools.

Where is the accountability the editor writes so eloquently about? Why is it only a necessity for public schools but not for private schools that take vouchers?

The editor was too busy patting the back of the conference that excluded teachers and most parents (it took place at 8:00 on aWednesday) to consider that or like most of the attendees they just didn’t care.

The Times Union has really hurt and set our schools back.

Choice just for choices sake is a bad choice.

The JPEF’s study on school choice was very enlightening.

The study pointed out that it couldn’t even evaluate the quality between public schools and private schools that take vouchers. I think that should enrage even the most ardent supporter of vouchers. It means we are giving money to these schools and at the end of the day we really have no idea how they are doing. It also blows a hole in accountability doesn’t it? Why is accountability a necessity for public schools but draws a collective shrug when applied to private schools that take public money?

Then the study mentions how choice options are draining tens of millions of dollars away from the district, something JPEF doesn’t seem all that concerned about. This loss of resources has a huge effect on class size, getting those kids that need extra help those resources and a whole host of other things. Despite that JPEF suggests we double down on more choice options which will siphon even more money away.

Most of this money is diverted to charter schools which have exploded over the last five years. At no time does the report mention many are run by for profit management companies and as a group perform worse than their public school counterparts, a fact one can plainly see if they visit JPEFs web-site.

The study makes no effort to tell us which option is better. I mean isn’t that the question we really want answered, are charters and voucher schools better than public schools or vice versa. If one of the options is better should we really be funneling our children into the worse option just so we can say parents had a choice? It’s almost like the JPEF doesn’t want the answer, which really isn’t all that surprising.

You see I don’t think it should be lost on anybody that the board of the JPEF is made up of numerous charter school operators and pro-choice advocates. Their money bank rolled the findings, which are basically

1. School choice doesn't produce better results.
2. We need more school choice.
3. School choice hurts the district
4. Who cares we need more school choice
5. We have no idea which choice is better.
6. Haven’t you been listening? WE NEED MORE SCHOOL CHOICE!

Finally the sample size they used to come up with their recommendations was 1,000 caregivers and parents, not much when you consider the 130 thousand students that attend both public schools and charter schools, then add another 20 thousand private and home school children.  This means the potential sample size was a quarter million parents and care givers and the study barely reached half of one percent of them.  While they are making their policy recommendations that is not mentioned at all.

I think we do need more school choice options. We need more schools like Frank Peterson, A. Phillip Randolph, and the academic and arts magnet schools but what we don’t need are more voucher schools and charters especially when one under performs and the other is set up so we have no idea how they are doing. What they really represent is privatization.

Choice just for choices sake is a bad choice and the answer is to fix the problems in our public schools and give them the resources they need to succeed not to further drain their resources and outsource our kids’ education to as a group substandard choices.

 Without a doubt I believe public schools are by far the best thing going and that’s even with all the obstacles put in front of them. The thing is even if you disagree shouldn’t we be having an honest debate? Shouldn’t we be looking to facts and evidence to make our decisions? Instead Jacksonville gets the self-serving report by a think tank financed by charter school operators and pro choice fanatics

Summing up the JPEF school choice study.

On the Times Union's web-site, Olgator had the perfect summary of the JPEF study on school choice.

1. School choice doesn't produce better results.
2. We need more school choice.
3. Parents really like magnets.
4. There's not enough money to expand magnets.
5. There's so much money available for charters we can't build them fast enough.
6. Charters somehow get rid of low performing students and kick them back to public schools.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reviewing the JPEF's webinar on school choice.

JPEF has been involved for five years the amount of charter schools has increased 344% in five years. The JPEF board is supporting about a half dozen of them.

When talking about public school choice they include private schools as an option.

They say they made their recommendations after talking to 1000 parents, or basically a sample size of about one half of one percent. I suspect they came up with most of their recommendations after Gary Chatrand read a pamphlet and said, that’s a good idea.

They admitted charters select parents. They said some parents loved the fact they are required to be involved a certain amount of time or required to do a certain amount of things. Unfortunately that means families that can’t be as involved or have time constraints, you know less desirable, are basically counseled out.

they talked about supporting choice as long as it was on equal footing, well how are charters and vouchers that can put requirements on parents on an equal footing with public schools that can't? 

Despite public schools being better they think it would be best if people went in without any preconceived notions.

The brief wasn’t designed to tell what choice options are better. Um, why not, isn’t that really the top question we want answered? Furthermore if we don't answer it aren't we steering at least some kids into sub-standard options

Finally they mentioned how school choice in the district had exploded and wasn't going anywhere. That however doesn't mean its a good thing. Choice for the sake of choice is a bad choice.

The JPEF study leaves out how bad charter schools have been for Jacksonville. Imagine that!

The JPEF left out some very important information when it comes to charter schools in their school choice study. During the 2008-2011 school years the district's overall grade was a B. 

However by 2012 when the proliferation of charter schools really taking off the district’s grade dropped to a C and has stayed their since.  

Charter schools many of which are run by for profit management companies and as a group perform worse than their public school counterparts, something the study also didn't mention, along with vouchers, siphon away resources from public schools and have created a downward spiral I am not sure we can come out of.   

I have always thought we should have more schools like Frank Peterson,  A Phillip Randolf, Douglass Anderson and the academic magnets so more students and parents can have choices. The thing is when our elected leaders and the JPEF talk about choice what they are really talking about is the privatization of our public schools with vouchers and charters and Jacksonville is a prime example for how poorly that has worked.

The answer is to adequately fund and fix the problems in our public schools not to outsource our students education to for profit entities, charters or schools that resist accountability, vouchers, both of which siphon away resources and perform worse

It is time to end high stakes testing. OOF!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Incoming senate president Andy Gardiner says, my education ideas are kind of just made up.

Public education is in for a long four years. I wonder what will emerge or if anything will. at all

From ReDefined Ed: State Sen. Andy Gardiner told a gathering of educators and tech industry representatives that his view of education is informed by his experience as a parent of three homeschool children.

Um, that would mean he has zero public education experience even as a parent. I doubt he lived on a deserted Island which made attendance possible which means he thought, there was no way he was going to let his children go to a gov'ment skool! 

He went on to say: One of the biggest challenges home education parents face is gaining access to a quality curriculum, the Orlando Republican said. Parents should be able to download an app that lets them browse information about local schools — including their curriculum, what they teach and how.

“As a parent, I can decide that’s the best place for my child to be, or if I’m going to choose to homeschool, I can use that curriculum to provide for my child,” he said.

Perhaps home schooled children face problems gaining access to a quality curriculum because their parents are home schooling them! 

Oy vey!

Public education is in for a long four years. I wonder what will emerge or if anything will.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What it really means to be a school teacher

By Valerie Strauss

There was a big furor among educators around the country recently when Time magazine ran a cover that said, “Rotten Apples:  It is nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” The cover, accompanied by a story that was somewhat more nuanced, sparked a mountain of response, including a post by Nancy F. Chewning, assistant principal of William Byrd High School in Roanoke, Va. on her blog, Leading by Example.  You can read her entire letter to Time magazine here. Following (which I am publishing with her permission) is the part of Chewning’s letter to Time that talks about what life as a public school educator is like today in the era of high-stakes testing and “no-excuse” reformers who ignore or give short shrift to how much a student’s life outside school affects their academic achievement and puts all of the blame/credit on teachers:
 …. First, let me clarify what it means to be a public school educator in the United States today. Unfortunately, at college campuses around this country, [education students] are berated by their peers for their career choice. I was told on many occasions at the University of Virginia that I was wasting my time and talent on teaching. After graduating, the Rotten Apples are then afforded what the Economic Policy Institute calls “the teaching penalty.” The EPI’s studies and those of theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that teachers earn 12 percent to 14 percent “less than other similarly educated workers” and “60 percent of what their peers earn.”
These Rotten Apples then spend their summers attending conferences and classes, which most pay for out of their own pockets, to learn skills and knowledge to enhance the instruction their students receive when they report in the fall. They return to their classrooms in late July or early August using their own money to pay for essential supplies for themselves, for their classrooms, and for their students.
Is anyone in Silicon Valley paying for their own office supplies? I can assure you they are not.
The Rotten Apples come into work between 6:30-7:30 a.m. because most are helping students in some way before the school day ever begins. They often feed their students breakfast. They teach all day even during their planning periods. They get less than 30 minutes for lunch, and many have students with them during their lunch breaks. The Rotten Apples then work with students after school either in the classroom or out on the playing fields coaching. After a full day they go home and grade papers, prepare lesson plans for the following day, maintain an online classroom and gradebook, and answer emails. Most don’t stop until at least 10:00 p.m. The Rotten Apples do this day in and day out throughout the school year. The OECD report indicates that “American teachers work far longer hours than their counterparts abroad.”
In addition, they have now been asked by society to be counselors watching for both signs of drug use and mental health issues in their students. They buy students clothes, they provide them with meals, they purchase medicine for them, and they worry about their safety after they leave school and go home to what are often unsafe neighborhoods. In our society, they are expected to keep every student safe at school as well. How many times have we recently seen where teachers risked their lives or gave their lives for their students? ….
In the spring of each year, thanks to No Child Left  Behind, the Rotten Apples are held to a standard in this age of high stakes testing that no other profession is held to: a 100 percent pass rate. If teachers are held to this standard, why wouldn’t their working peers whom we have already established are paid significantly more be held to this same standard? Let’s look at doctors and nurses, for example. According to a new study from the Journal of Patient Safety, 440,000 people per year die from preventable medical errors. In fact, this study found that medical errors were the third leading cause of death in the United States today.
Have you characterized doctors or nurses on your cover as Rotten Apples? You have not. Is the government setting impossible benchmarks for doctors and nurses to make to correct this problem? No, they are not. Why? Because money talks in this country. The American Medical Association spent $18,250,000 in 2013 and $15,070,000 so far in 2014 lobbying our government; in fact, they rank Number 8 in terms of organizations lobbying our government for influence. The NEA[National Education Association] isn’t even in the ball park with the AMA, as they rank 221st.
As Senator Elizabeth Warren has so aptly stated, “The system is rigged,” and it is definitely rigged against public education. In the latest Gallup poll, 75 percent of American parents said they were satisfied with the quality of education their child was receiving in public schools. However, the latest Gallup pollshowed that only 14 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job. Have you done a cover calling Congress Rotten Apples? Why no, you have not. In fact, I checked your covers for the last two years and not once have you said a disparaging word about Congress on your cover. Yet, the approval rating for teachers is 75 percent, and you have chosen to go after them….
You should be ashamed that you have not written about and publicized what is the civil rights issue of our generation: poverty in this country. As I was writing this response to you,JAMA Pediatrics released a study by Dr. Glenn Flores and Bruce Lesley. Some of the highlights of their study are as follows and directly quoted from there:
*Childhood poverty has reached its highest level in 20 years
*1 in 4 children lives in a food-insecure household.
*7 million children lack health insurance.
*A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds.
*1 in 3 children is overweight or obese.
*Five children are killed daily by firearms.
*1 in 5 experiences a mental disorder.
*Racial/ethnic disparities continue to be extensive and pervasive.
*Children account for 73.5 million Americans (24 percent), but 8 percent of federal expenditures.
*Child well-being in the United States has been in decline since the most recent recession.
When schools open their doors to kindergartners, some of the most important connections in their brains have already been formed. Those in poverty have had their brains in a stressful state since birth. Moreover, they arrive on the doorsteps of school with a word deficit compared to their fellow students who did not grow up in poverty. Address poverty and students will be more prepared for school from the very start. As Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the School of Law at the University of California in Irvine, wrote earlier this year as they took away teacher tenure in his state:
“The problem of inner-city schools is not that the dedicated teachers who work in them have too many rights, but that the students who go to them are disadvantaged in many ways, the schools have inadequate resources and the schools are surrounded by communities that are dangerous, lack essential services and are largely segregated both by race and class. Taking the modest job security accorded by tenure away from teachers will address none of these problems.”
 Addressing poverty as a civil rights issue will. A majority of the American public agreed in the latest Pew Research Global Attitudes Project that inequality is the greatest threat to our country and to the world….
Your cover infuriates me because it is an indirect attack on poor defenseless children who so desperately need these people you have characterized as Rotten Apples. For your information, most people are not reading print media any longer … but they will see that horrid cover depicting every American teacher as a Rotten Apple as they stand in line to get their groceries at the grocery store. And so you have perpetuated an attack on the only people left it seems in this country fighting every day to help children.
In the course of the week that I wrote this response, let me tell you what my Rotten Apples did. Rotten Apple One made sure a student had the basic necessities needed to attend school. Rotten Apple Two and Three made sure a student had the proper medical care when no one in the community responded. Rotten Apple Four stood up and begged for a judge to have mercy on her student when no other adult spoke on his behalf. Take away these people, drive these kinds of educators away from teaching, discourage others from joining the teaching force, and who will fight for children today? Who on a daily basis will look after the American schoolchildren?
Marian Wright Edelman said, “If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.” And Martin Luther King, Jr. said so eloquently, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I have been silent for too long. I will no longer be silent as the media attacks public education.
The real question is who will stand with me and raise your voices to protect our children?

Gary Chartrand donates to homeless shelter and demands all meals be vegan!

Do I have your attention? I hope so.

Mr. Chartrand after city budget cuts to the Clara White mission, I guess all those First Baptist Church city council members missed the help thy neighbor sermons, stepped up and has pledged fifty thousand dollars a year for the next five years. Pretty awesome right. He had the means, saw a need and filled it but you know what he didn't do?

He didn't start a public policy group to steer homeless policy.

He didn't try to have the leaders of Clara White replaced with people who have his same thoughts on homeless people that he does.

He isn't trying to out source homeless shelter services to substandard for profit options.

He isn't trying to replace the professional staff at Clara White with people who think hey I will give that a try for a couple weeks.

He hasn't bought a college of social work or a news service to influence opinion on homelessness either.

And as far as I know the meals don't have to be Vegan.

Chartrand a grocer by trade probably realizes he doesn't know all the ends and outs or has the background or experience needed to make a difference but he does have the money that could help.

If only he would take the same way of doing things with education. We need the cities elites to help out but we don't need the cities elites to take over.

To read more click the link:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How Gary Chartrand bought a school district (rough draft)

People might not have noticed it but the Duval County Public School district was sold to local grocer Gary Chartrand. 

First Gary Chartrand started a public education policy group, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and it has come a long way since former mayor and school board member Tommy Hazouri disdainfully asked who these guys were when they tried to interject in education policies. Fast forward a few years and JPEF and the district routinely partner on a wide range of services and events including them managing the Quality Education for All (QEA) funds but more on that in a moment. The JPEF also writes a lot of white papers on education topics that invariably reflect Chartrand's way of thinking.

Next Mr. Chartrand started to collect school board members like kids collect baseball cards. He and his friends helped get six current school board members elected and it would have been 7 but Paula Wright managed to defeat their hand picked and well financed candidate. 

Gary Chartrand then bought a news service and a respected one at that. Most of WJCT's education pieces come with a partly funded by the Chartrand foundation tag. This helps to explain the puff pieces on KIPP, which Chartrand is on the board of, the lack of tough questions about Teach for America, which Chartrand brought to town and so many other stories which could have been potentially embarrassing to him and eye opening to the public. In fact WJCT loves Gary Chartrand so much they created a champions of education award and gave it to him as well. Another recipient was Trey Csar and that name might sound familiar because he is president of the JPEF and neither taught for one day in Jacksonville. Finally in case you were wondering only one of the first five awards went to an actual teacher.

Not satisfied then Chartrand also bought the Public Policy department at Jacksonville University. He donated an undisclosed amount of money (they wouldn't tell me how much), sits on the Public Policy advisory board and donated to the mayoral campaign of the Public Policy director Rick Mullaney. At their recent forum billed as a who's who in education, not one teacher spoke and most of the panelists came from the local KIPP school, which Chartrand also brought to town, people who arguably owe their jobs to him, Superintendent Vitti and Commissioner Stewart, the affable president of the JPEF Trey Csar and another JPEF staffer to tell how great the QEA is.

The QEA initiative is a pot of fifty million dollars that local philanthropists led by Gary Chartrand raised for the school district. The thing is they didn't go, hey here is some money fill your needs, they met behind closed doors and decided how the money was to be spent. We have no idea if anything like, hey here is all this money now please let the KIPP charter school expand, of I really hate labor lets hurt the power of the union by expand Teach for America or anything else that might be coming down the pike. Furthermore what do we have a school board for? They are supposed to be the ones to divvy up resources and to set priorities and policies.   

Also as I mentioned the district isn't even managing the money, the JPEF is further blurring where the district ends and Chartrand JPEF begins.  

I am not even done. Chartrand brought PEN, the professional educators network, billed as an alternative to the teachers union to town.

Now follow this; Gary Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education. The State Board of Education over sees the Department of Education and hired commissioner Pam Stewart. The Department of Education is handing out grants, 3.3 million dollars’ worth to only three winners, to foster partnerships between districts and charter schools. Gary Chartrand is on the board of the KIPP charter school in Jacksonville. Superintendent Vitti and the Duval County School board (Jacksonville) have applied for the grant. 
Florida also has a rule that prevents schools from dropping more than one letter grade. A rule that Chartrand helped develop and protected his KIPP school from dropping from a B to a D two years ago, something WJCT failed to point out when they covered the recent KIPP expansion.
So let's sum up. Chartrand, who never taught nor worked in a school a day in his life has paid for the school board, bought a public policy department at a local college, created an advocacy group that backs up his ideas and holds sway over a local major news source, that likes him so much they give him awards. Game over people! We have sold control of our schools and at a bargain basement rate too. 
I don't feel like he is the twisting arms or putting horse heads into beds to get his way sort but his influence money is everywhere and nobody should be so naive to think that doesn't play a huge role in who gets what and what we get told.
Here is the thing if you like race based goals, think anybody can show up and teach, that teachers shouldn't be treated as professionals or have work protections and think the privatization of our schools with vouchers and charter schools are good idead like Chartrand does then this all out assault on democracy might be okay with you.
However if you don't maybe it's time you said enough is enough already.