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Thursday, April 30, 2015

JPEF clarifies they aren't responsible for the increase in graduation rates just creating the conditions so that it could occur.

Those guys are unbelievable. It's almost laughable.

I asked the JPEF if they were taking credit for the districts increase in the graduation rate and this was the exchange.

 Um, at the 3:45 mark, did you guys take credit for the increase of the graduation rate?

Chris: Actually, just the opposite. The video is trying to show that it takes a wide variety of players - like an orchestra - to help students succeed. So from teachers to volunteers to voters to nonprofits to the many other entities that support public education, everyone has a role to play.

To which I replied

That's cool, just when the narrator said, "the JPEF has created the conditions for change, a strategic quantifiable turn around that is putting Duval County on the map nation wide" while showing the improvement of the graduation rate it seemed to be like you were taking the credit, but you're not you are just taking credit for creating the conditions for it to occur. Thanks for clarifying. It's a good thing you guys are here if not Winter would have probably arrived by now.

That last part was a Game of Throne reference in case you missed it, but there you have it, everyone has a role to play and it was just their role to "create the conditions for change, a strategic quantifiable turn around that is putting Duval County on the map nation wide" That's it, that's the part they played.

Oy &^#$ing Vey

The Jacksonville Privatization Education Fund

JPEF will tell you the P stands for public, but their board of directors made up of privatization proponents and their school choice report which said, public schools do better than charters, we have no idea how voucher schools are doing and school choice hurts public schools but "duck it" we need more school choice anyways seem to indicate otherwise.

Well today they re-branded themselves.

Okay it's a bunch of flowery retoric until about the 3:45 minute mark when they seemed to take credit for the rise in the graduation rates. I kitten you not, check it out.

The thought of a non profit working to inform the people of Jacksonville and getting them involved is a laudable and noble effort. Unfortunately the reality of what they are, fronts for privatizers, is a lot different.

Don't believe the hype.

The American Enterprise Institute's warped values and aims.

ReDefined Ed, was at it again today describing privatization as pro choice and shilling for its epansion. "The basic idea is that for choice to truly drive improvements in the education system, market forces need a chance to work. For that to happen, parents need to be able to select schools based on quality, and new, better schools need to be able to meet their demand." 

I wonder which choice they think is best, charter schools, of which over 270 have failed in Florida taking public money and leaving communities in a lurch or Vouchers, you know the unregulated schools which nobody has any real idea how they are doing.  

The American Enterprise Institute is their latest dupe and they developed a series of talking points to push their agenda. It's amazing what a group of mediocre tenth graders can come up with.

Here are their talking points with my comments afterwards.

On how parents select schools:
They first want to know if it is safe, then about academic performance, then about all of the other things that the school offers to help make their child a more well-rounded individual. Test scores can tell us one important part of what parents are looking for, but parents need more and wider information to make an informed decision about their child’s school.

By wider information, they mean advertising campaigns and propaganda that make public schools look bad and choice schools look good, because often safety, test scores, and the ability to make a child a well rounded human being are not enough.

On political engagement:
Many school choice programs are designed specifically to help low-income families, a demographic group that is often disenfranchised from the political process. Organizations that want to help parents select schools should also think about how they can help connect parents with the political process to ensure that school choice programs are able to continue.

You know by draining away resources from what in many neighborhoods was the centerpiece. Ironically most choice schools after they cash their check want nothing to do with the political process. Even if you love the concept of choice you have to admit it is terrible for democracy.

On the way school choice can change families’ disposition toward schools (a topic we’ve explored):
Participating in the voucher program helped convert families from clients to consumers. No longer did they feel like they lived according to the whims of distant bureaucrats. They had taken their fates into their own hands. What’s more, they started to expect more from the schools that taught their children.

Yes because before parents didn't care what happened at their children's schools they were zombies walking through life. Do you find it ironic, there is that word again, that parents in Florida have been screaming for more resources and less testing but they are ignored but somehow choice is going to free them from the whims of distant bureaucrats?

 On the hidden costs of regulation:
With each passing year, scientists produce new knowledge about how the brain works and how children learn. Schools should be free to take advantage of this and change their organization and instruction accordingly, but ossified standards and regulations could stifle such efforts.

You know all that brain research that schools are missing out on. Did I say mediocre tenth graders? I meant mediocre eight graders.  

On improving the supply of good schools for parents to choose from:
At current funding levels, voucher and tax credit scholarship programs do not provide enough money to finance new buildings, substantial technology purchases, or any of the other upfront costs that come with starting or expanding a school.

There is the rub, they want more money, more money siphoned away from public schools and often into the bank accounts of mercenaries charlatans and privateers.

On the (often lacking) human capital pipeline:
The skill set that will lead to success in a school participating in a school choice program is not necessarily the same skill set that would lead to success of a traditional public or private school. New programs must emerge to help cultivate the unique skill set needed to lead and work in schools of choice.

Certified teachers?  Trained professionals? People with content knowledge, why all that's for suckers especially if we can pay what we'll call knowledge facilitators 12 bucks an hour. Learnin' that's what google is for.

Here is a link to the article

Privatization, charter schools and voucher schools, and yes there are some in it for the right reasons and who do a good job, as a group aren't here to serve children and communities. They are here to serve special interests and selfish interests.

We have to wake up people.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jacksonville will never reach its potential as long as it ignores its teachers.

Superintendent Vitti announced that next year behavior specialists will be put in some of our neediest and challenged schools. This is a great idea and one I and other teachers suggested eight years ago and at a minimum dozens of times since.

You see teachers understand that why so many kids act up or perform poorly in school often has nothing to do with school. As the people doing the actual educating we are closest to the situation and know what does and does not work as well as what our children, our students both need and do not need.   

Unfortunately like in most places teachers in Jacksonville have gone largely marginalized and ignored. There is no other field like education and I say that because in other professions the people that do it are routinely consulted and involved in the decision making process and the people making decisions about the profession usually rose from the ranks, that so ignores and marginalizes its rank and file . Imagine a hospital where doctors weren’t on the board or a police department run by laymen, whose experience consisted of reading a few articles and watching a lot of Law and Order.

Our golden boy superintendent only has two years of teaching experience total that took place in two schools in two different states. Then only two of our seven school board members have any real education experience. How do we expect to reach our potential? The answer is we never will as long as we continue to ignore and marginalize teachers, to think of them as easily replaceable rather than professionals.

So thank you superintendent Vitti for recognizing that our schools need mental health professionals, but shame on you and the city for not recognizing it despite the cries of teachers years ago.  Shame on you both for that and so much more.

Florida is broken for public education and so many others too.

For a long time now the republican dominated state legislature has blamed teachers and public schools for the ills of society. They have hoped people wouldn’t notice that they have saddled them with bad policies and a lack of resources and they have used flowery rhetoric like school choice and accountability to fuel their privatization agenda.  Well who holds them accountable because it certainly has not been the voters?

In Florida they have sent tens of millions to for profit charter schools and over a billion to unregulated private schools. All reputable studies also say as a group we have no idea how voucher schools are doing because they have barely any accountability measures in place and charter schools as a group perform worse.   

When Speaker Crisafulli adjourned the house three days early without a budget agreement, he not only thumbed his nose at 800 thousand uninsured Floridians, teachers and students but at all the citizens for Florida as well and not by just shirking this important responsibility as they have also ignored the will of the people with the class size amendment and with the acquisition of conservation lands.

Florida needs a better mechanism than elections, where just a third of the people because they are so disillusioned or apathetic bother to participate, to hold our political leaders accountable, because for public schools and way too many others the current system, just serves special interests or the selfish interests of those elected.   

Public education should be given to a non-partisan authority of experts to run and salaries and benefits of legislators should be withheld until budgets are passed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tampa Times loser of the week Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

Loser of the week
Pam Stewart. Florida's education commissioner was "exasperated, frustrated, dismayed, angry" as Florida's computerized testing system failed yet again and forced teachers and students across Florida to cancel testing for the day. They may be even more exasperated, frustrated, dismayed and angry over the latest testing debacle than Stewart.
It is my contention that students and teachers of Florida have been losing since she became commissioner. This testing debacle is squarely on her and the state board of education's shoulders and it doesn't help that she seems to routinely divorce herself from the reality that is occurring.

Is Duval County Public Schools at least partly responsible for a young mans death?

I have been saying that tragedy was just around the corner. That kids need discipline, consequences and then corrective support for their actions. I wonder if our lack of intervention and consequences after an in school fight at least partly led to a murder this past weekend.

Just look at the passage below from an article in the Times Union about a young high school student from First Coast high school that was gunned down at at house party. 

The students said Johnson, who was 18 but was initially identified as 16, got into a fight at the high school with a senior. Johnson, who was well-known for his scrappiness, won the fight against the larger combatant, the students said.

They said Johnson was warned not to go to the after-prom party because the student he fought was already there. He went anyway. Once at the party, one of Johnson’s friends directed derogatory lyrics from a song at the shooter, the students said.
He then pulled out a gun and shot both Johnson and the person who had been taunting him.

He was well known for his scrappiness. I wonder if the district ever took notice or if either student received consequences for the fight they were in. I somehow doubt it was the first fight for either. Maybe they both felt invincible because in the past their poor behavior had been ignored or dismissed.

I am not victim blaming here but if it turns out he was killed by a classmate how close were we from seeing this beef played out at school? It seems pretty close.

Kids need consequences for their behavior and fighting should never be tolerated. If the fights recently publicized would have happened at the landing or in a grocery store kids would have went to jail. Society wouldn't have just shrugged their shoulders and said, oh kids will be kids. they would have demanded we do something.

Vitti's heart may have been in the right place, we were probably suspending children at to fast of a pace and we were definitely ignoring the underlying causes of their behavior, who knows given proper training and resources restorative justice might even work. We however have an epidemic of violence in our schools and it's just a matter of time before a tragedy like the one that happened at the party happens at one of our schools.  

I wonder what would have happened if after the first fight both would have gotten a serious consequence followed up by behavior supports. I wonder what would have happened had our school system taken the time do thing right.

Discipline is not easy but ignoring it just makes our problems worse and in this case if the original beef happened at school and then nothing of consequence was done, ignoring discipline may have played a role in a young mans death, 

We have to wake up before this happens again.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Is the luster coming off the Voucher shine?

Here are some facts, vouchers schools drain money from public education, they have practically zero accountability financially and academically and nobody can say for sure how well of a job are they doing educating children. Are there good schools that take vouchers? I imagine there are but I also know there are terrible ones too.

Vouchers is an argument that could come to an end if the legislature would both fund public schools properly and put some reasonable accountability measures both academically and financially on schools that take vouchers.

Okay there have been three articles recently which I think are pretty disturbing.

First there is a charter school operator saying he was going to switch his school to a voucher taking private school in order to avoid accountability.

From the Sun Sentinel: 

A year-long battle by the Broward school district to shut down two troubled Fort Lauderdale charter schools is finally over: the schools have agreed to close their doors.

The Obama Academy for Boys and The Red Shoe Charter School for Girls will voluntarily terminate their contracts in June but say they plan to reopen as a private school in the fall.

The two schools have been rife with financial and academic problems, violations of state law and breaches of contract with the district, records show. The district has tried twice to shut down them down: once last March when the schools relocated and failed to provide a certificate of occupancy, and again in October when the schools failed to document how they spent $876,000 in public money.

The schools appealed both decisions to an administrative law judge and have been in a lengthy legal fight with the district since the fall. Christopher Norwood, the legal representative for the charter schools, said the schools' governing boards decided to terminate the charters and begin operating as a private school.

"When you are a private school, you don't have to deal with an elected school board. This school would not have to continue to always look over its back," said Norwood. "There's less regulation."

Reading above had to be a wake up call for many people. The next article is about how more and more private schools are dependent on vouchers.

From the Orlando Sentinel: Private schools in Florida are becoming vastly more dependent on state voucher programs that pay all or part of tuition for students with disabilities or from low-income families, an Orlando Sentinel analysis has found. 

The families of nearly 100,000 Florida students received vouchers worth about $544 million this year as the Legislature has steadily increased support for the programs. That growth has come despite critics who contend that vouchers divert money from public schools to private institutions that do not have the same student-testing or teacher-accountability rules and can freely mix education with religion. 

About 45 percent of the state's private schools that accept state scholarship vouchers rely on them for at least half of their students, the analysis found. That's up from 30 percent three years ago. And for 200 of them, at least 90 percent of their students are on either the state's McKay Scholarships for students with disabilities or Florida Tax Credit scholarships for low-income families. That's a 50 percent increase from 2012.

Finally the voucher program is having a harder than normal time finding donors.

Also from the Orlando Sentinel:

Expansion of a state program that pays private-school tuition for children in low-income families may be slowed this fall by an unexpected problem — fundraising woes. 

The state's Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program relies on corporate donations in lieu of taxes. And this year, the organization that raises nearly all of the funds fell short of its fundraising goal by more than $20 million.

I believe people are slowly waking up about vouchers and people should remember vouchers are not here to help children, they are here to undermine public education and to allow public money to go to private mostly religious organizations. The entire program should be under scrutiny.

Sunday funnies, they are funny because they are true!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Florida's legislature isn't serving our children.

By Kathleen Oropeza
With just days left in the 2015 Florida legislative session, it’s clear that citizens are not being served. Legislators are locked in an embarrassing health care battle they knew was coming for over a year. Things have ground to a halt and bills are dying on the vine.
Politicians who were assigned education reform bills last summer by powerful lobbyists are in a panic. They know full well that these ideas are hostile to public education and there’s no time to artfully conceal them in other bills.
There are at least 18 reform concepts dangling out there. They include destroying the Florida High School Athletics Association by turning student athletes into free agents, allowing students to “open enroll” across district lines, requiring districts to show borrowed money as revenue in capital outlay accounts to justify handing over even more tax dollars to for-profit charters and forcing districts to share voter-approved millage increases with charter chains so they can pay for and improve buildings the public may never own.
Desperate to keep these reforms alive, former Senate president Gaetz and Sen. Negron, a presidential hopeful, stuffed every single bill into SB 948 at an Appropriations Committee stop, making it ready for the Senate floor. It’s hard to imagine Sen. Lee, chairman of Appropriations, ever allowing something similar when he was Senate president.
In response, the House is packing HB 1145 with their “must carry/must pass” school reform assignments. SB 948 doesn’t match, which will lead to further squabbles. The entire enterprise is forced and awkward.
The reformers, vendors and choice investors driving these laws know that public education cannot be privatized all at once. Taking down something as noble as public education requires disciplined patience. The reforms found in HB 1145 and SB 948 will contribute greatly toward privatization.
Leaders who force passage of giant bills filled with ideas that could not stand on their own mock the legislative process. Florida public education is under attack from those who will not rest until every penny of the $19 billion dollars Florida budgets per year for public education is transferred to private hands. Lawmakers who knock each other over to please reform lobbyists are letting us down.
Parents, teachers and districts realize the toxic nature of education reform and are pushing back to protect our children and preserve our public schools. The outrage is growing. What we really want are leaders in the House and Senate who are there to serve us and no one else.
Kathleen Oropeza is co-founder of, a non-partisan Florida-based education advocacy group.

School Board member, lets Pam Stewart knows how bad this years testing has been. A must watch!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wall Street bankers face no punishment, teachers go to jail.

Then today former C.I.A. director David Petraeus was given probation and a fine. His crime giving away classified information that could have put peoples lives in danger.

Some of the teachers in question did what they did to save their schools from the unrealistic expectations of a system that often turns a blind eye, others sadly did it to make a few extra bucks. I have no problem with them losing their jobs and never teaching again but jail time? F*&$%ing ridiculous.

And shameful when you consider above.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gary Chartrand wants us to be more like China

First I will let his words do the talking for him and then I will comment.

From an article about bringing a non profit STEM institute to Jacksonville, in the Jacksonville Business Journal.

“There is a huge opportunity here,” said Chartrand. “We really do lag behind other countries in this area. ... They’re teaching [computer] coding in the first grade in China, so we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Um, parents how many of you want your six year olds to be writing code? 

Okay Gary Chartrand loves STEM, I believe its because of an article he read while waiting for a flight, or sitting in the john but regardless of its origin he loves it.  

Not wanting to be that guy that hates puppies just because he likes them, I looked into it and the results were decidedly mixed. Some people think the sky will fall unless we throw ourselves headlong into STEM while others think we have between plenty and way to many, while others want to add the arts to it and make STEAM. So unlike the grocer who runs our schools my jury is still out. 

So for a tie breaker I went to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics to see what the fastest growing jobs were.

Well friends if you look you will see a lot of Ms but not so many S T and Es. That's right the medical industry is exploding while the rest of the parts of STEM are currently out of the top fifty and as you can see coding is nowhere to be found.

If Gary Chartand would have said, man I am getting old and I need somebody to take care of me then he would have been dead on but for him to say we should be more like China and the hellscape they have created for their six year olds, it shows once again how out of touch he is.

I will say it again, if he wasn't rich, nobody would not give him the time of day.

Let me explain to you how bad the Times Union is on education.

In the last week education editor Teresa Stepzinski has done two articles about the budget crisis in clay county. The long and short of it is they are in a deep financial hole and people are about to start losing jobs. In neither article did she mention the opening of a new charter school by a for profit company that is going to undoubtedly exacerbate the problem nor the financial contributions they made to two school board members. 

Befuddled, I wrote Stepzinsky and asked her:  No mention in your latest Clay County piece about the charter school set to open which is undoubtedly going to exacerbate the problem and it's financial connection to two SB members, it seems to me you could have thrown a paragraph or two in there. 

I really don't understand how it's now news or relevant, its almost like you want to keep the people in Clay County in the dark.

If you have a minute could you explain it to me.

My response thus far has been crickets. Am I missing something here are those not relevant facts to Clay County's financial crisis?

The local media has without a doubt been partly responsible for where our schools find themselves by either ignoring stories or allowing the district to get away with things. The Times Union is the worst of all because their editorial board is undoubtedly on the wrong side of every education issue. The next tough or probing question they ask will be there first in a long time.

So shame on you Teresa Stepzinski and shame on the Times Union too.


Scott Shine pushing Fischer for the worst school board member ever title.

From a Times Union article about the district losing millions to charter schools and cutting positions: Board member Scott Shine expressed concerns about what happens if charter school enrollment continues to grow.

“This is not a sustainable long-term plan,” Shine said. He suggested trying to craft a three-to-five year range plan to best handle the upward trend in charter schools.
Um where was his three to five year plan when he was accepting money from charter school operators and thier friends or saying at last summers JPEF school board forum that the district needed more charter schools?
Now he's pretending to care? That makes him at best ignorant though I think it is more likely he is complicit because at this pace in three to five years there won't be much of a district left.

Now Duval County is worried about Charter schools?

What the beep?

It wasn't when the district was approving charter schools so fast that they have increased by about 300 percent over the last few years?

It wasn't when most of the school board members were accepting money from charter school operators or their friends?

It wasn't when they were applying for grant money to give to them, money other districts turned down?

It wasn't when Vitti who owes his job to charter school lover Gary Chartrand was attending conferences on how to bring charter schools to town?

It wasn't when charter schools realized they couldn't do anything in our poorer neighborhoods and started setting up shop down the street from A schools?

It wasn't when the board was allowing carters to open with dubious innovation, boards that weren't from Jacksonville or chains to expand when they had failing sister schools?

Now the board and super care?

I believe the answer is they don't care not even now. They just have to appear to do so too keep the city in the dark as they work towards a completely privatized district. The board and super have had plenty of opportunities to say no and push back and every time they have done the opposite.

Wake up Duval before it is to late.

Some real leadership from the school board, not Duval County's mind you.

From the Orlando Sentinel: ThSeminole County School Board wants to opt out of the state's new standardized test because members view the roll out of the Florida Standards Assessments as a "debacle."

 The leaders of one of the state's top-performing school districts agreed Tuesday to ask if they can skip the new FSA next year and give their students national tests, such as the SAT, instead. Computer problems marred the debut of the FSA, which has more online tests than its predecessor. There were more problems Monday, which delayed testing for thousands of students and further frustrated Seminole officials.

You should really read the article, the school board members used words like debacle, unacceptable and not educationally sound. maybe if Duval County wasn't to busy giving away the district to charter schools they could be like Seminole and other counties and fight back against the out of control and not educationally sound testing policies Florida has going.  

Also from the article: Board Chairman Tina Calderone said the FSA was “not educationally sound” and the district needed to take a stand. “We’re offering a solution, and we’re willing to own that solution as a community,” she said. “Then we can allow our teachers to get back to what they do best, which is teach.”

In Duval unfortunately we're to busy bowing down to the corporate agenda that wants to destroy our schools.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vitti's best friends the New Teacher Project blasted by the Marzano Center

I actually don't know if they are Vitti's best friends, that role seems to be reserved for Teach for America and Charter Schools but Vitti does go to the New Teacher Project whose overriding philosophy is you can fire teachers to improve school districts, whenever he wants some research done.

Yeah a group founded by Michelle "Fire them all" Rhee can't be biased or anything.

Well this is what the group out of Pasco county said about the New Teacher Project: Researchers for the Marzano Center blasted TNTP's methods, interpretations and findings in a 21-page document sent to the Gradebook on Tuesday. They suggest that TNTP failed to identify critical context, made inaccurate policy implications and relied on "factual errors and misleading misstatements." Moreover, the group noted that TNTP did not mention it is a competitor that could benefit from its recommendations.

Overall, the Marzano group called the TNTP paper "highly imbalanced" and insufficient to support its "high-stakes claims":
Recommendations based on incomplete reports can cause harm in such high-stakes situations. Educational researchers should hold themselves to the highest standards—making sure that data reported are accurate, without flaws, and able to be replicated. Scientific researchers are under an obligation to provide readers with sufficient information to make informed decisions. These are ethical obligations scientists share with their colleagues in the scientific community, even when findings may contradict the ultimate aim of the organization. Researchers should operate under circumstances where it is their duty to report negative findings, even when doing so does not benefit the organization responsible for implementing the study.

I think doing research is important but why does the super keeping going to a self serving group that has a history of being biased against teachers?

Oh wait a minute, I think I know after all.

Florida's high stakes tests have little to do with testing.

The Tampa Times when talking about testing quoted Duval County’s Superintendent Vitti. "Please be advised that placement in remediation courses will be based on Achieve3000 Lexile Levels for the 2015-16 school year. The Florida Standards Assessment results will not be in until after the school year begins, thus not providing enough time to use for scheduling."
Um, if that’s the case then why are we spending hundreds of millions on testing. I mean why can’t we use achieve this or Lexile that every year? I am sure we could figure out a way to count thirty-three percent of a teacher’s evaluation on it too and who wants to bet districts believe they more accurately gauge how students are doing anyways?
My point is there are undoubtedly cheaper and better ways to know how students are doing than using the high stakes tests we have now which begs the question why do we have the tests anyways.
There is the obvious answer, follow the money. The Bush family made a lot off testing as have many of their supporters and friends. Then I believe it’s to punish teachers for dare having unions represent them. In Florida unions have become enemy number one despite their very limited power and if you want proof compare Florida’s teachers’ salaries to the rest of the nations. Then finally there is the privatization of our schools. The powers-that-be would love to replace public education with vouchers and charters, which as a group do worse than public schools but that doesn’t seem to matter.
Superintendent Vitti let the cat out of the bag. Districts have better and cheaper ways to know how students are doing and why we aren’t using them is the question we should all be asking.

Monday, April 20, 2015

More Florida testing woes

Pam Stewart, who said we were ready for this years standardized tests blamed the latest snafu on “…a technical change that was made to the Florida Standards Assessment testing system over the weekend that was not approved by the Department. This change was unnecessary to the administration of the Florida Standards Assessment and resulted in a disruption that hindered students from being able to log in to the system and take their test today.

It seems to me that she thinks the company we have invested at least 220 million dollars in is just making things up as they go along.

What is it going to take for the governor to replace both her and the state board of education which is chaired by a campaign supporter of Scotts, grocer Gary Chartrand, who got us to this point and to say this year’s tests are null and void for student promotion and teacher evaluation purposes? If they aren’t ashamed or embarrassed shouldn’t they at least be worried about the validity?

Why is it so hard for them, when the stakes are so high to make sure we get things right? Often people say schools are failing society, I believe our leaders are failing our schools.

To read more, click the link:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Clay County school board for sale, reasonably cheap too.

Clay County has announced that because of dwindling reserves and enrollment that they are cutting staff

At the same time the Times Union has reported a new charter school run by Charter Schools USA a for profit management company is opening.

A quick review of Clay County’s supervisor of election site finds that two Clay County School board members have taken thousands either directly from Charter Schools USA, a Charter School Lobbyist, Jim Horne or PACs which I can argue are laundering money for charter school interests.

Ashley Gilhousen charter schools USA 500
                The Horne Group 1000 
Betsy Condon Red Apple Construction x2 1000
                Charter Schools USA x2 1000
                Treasure Coast Alliance 1000
                Floridians for strong leadership 1000
                Jobs for Florida 1000
                Florida conservative alliance 1000
                Jim Horne 1000

Clay County cannot currently support what it has now. What’s going to happen when this new charter school that they don’t need, (enrollment has been dropping and Clay County has consistently been one of the state’s top performing district), siphons millions out of the district.

These two school board members took thirty pieces of silver and put the desires of their donors over the needs of their constituents and I find it shameful.

More excuses from Vitti, what's a quater million dollars wasted anyways.

 This guy has been great so far at four things, belittling teachers, expanding charter schools, bringing in grants (that’s a god thing) and making excuses, which he does again today in the Times Union.

When talking about the district losing money in an audit he said: … most of the district findings and amounts are lower than in prior audits and lower than similar audit findings for most of the Big Seven districts in Florida.
Um how about him just saying, we are sorry this happened and we working to make sure this never happens again. He can’t do that though he has to qualify and make excuses. He can’t possibly be at fault for anything and I am reminded of his self eval where he gave himself something like 46 out of 47 highly effectives.

Vitti doesn’t own the problem, he doesn’t say, my bad I’m sorry we wasted tax payer money that we can desperately use, instead he says, hey it could have been worse and we %$#^ed up less than other districts. 


The article also talked about how a poorly performing charter school that the district gave a three year contract to also cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars. The charter school basically shrugged its shoulders at the news.

I just wanted to point out that the school in question, LoneStar spends about a third of its budget on administrative and management fees.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Memes that show just how messed up everything is.

20 fights at Lee High School today

That's what the text I received said and it came from somebody who if they said it was raining Dr. Pepper I would go get a cup.

This on the heels of the school board suspending a Vice Principal who broke up a fight protecting other students and staff and we shouldn't forget all the security staff who got the axe this year as the super wanted to get some new shiny toy or another..

The super's restorative justice initiative is a fiasco and one that courts tragedy and friends make no mistake by letting the students run the schools unhindered by both discipline and consequences for poor behavior then we are heading right towards one.

There may be elements of it that could be lauded, I have I have long thought schools need social workers and mental health counselors because so many of their problems and anger have nothing to do with school but like with many of the districts initiatives the roll out has been terrible.

Discipline is hard but ignoring it only exacerbates the problem and creates more as normally good kids see that they too can get away with anything. We don't have to be cruel, make ISSP mean something, have Saturday detention, make them clean the school grounds and require parents to shadow kids for a day, we can be creative but kids need consequences not hugs for poor behavior and for a consequence to be meaningful it has to be mean something and hanging with ones friends in ISSP for a period doesn't.


Here is a little more: 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

By suspending Vice Principal Oscar Harris the school board shows they just don't get it. (rough draft)

Originally I wasn't going to write about recently suspended Westside High Vice Principal Oscar Harris. I thought what's the story there? Staff member put in a dangerous situation as children run amok, that has got to happen dozens of times throughout the district daily. Now him being suspended for breaking up a fight, the board thought he was to rough even though all reports say the student threw multiple punches at him, is a little unusual, but how many times can I write discipline is pretty bad and if we don't do something about it we are courting tragedy, because friends I have done that story dozens of times and the response from the district has been to tie teachers hands and say things are better than ever.    

However the readers of the blog wouldn't let it go. They wrote: The issue with Oscar Harris at Westside is a crime, and this is coming from a teacher that works at Westside. Now, the news about his previous legal concerns are definitely egregious. I was surprised that they would even hire someone like that within the district. What really bothers me is that they suspended this man for doing his job. Mr. Harris is KEY to keeping this school running and functioning. 

When teachers have problems with students and their behavior, which there are alot of, Mr Harris always is willing to help resolve the issue. Calling parents, handling discipline issue, and BREAKING UP FIGHTS. Any teacher that teaches in a school like this knows that it's a DREAM to be able to have administration that takes a serious stance on discipline. Now, I don't know if anybody but me read the report, but the student refused to go down! This was even after they had separated the other students. They noted in the report that the student plays wide receiver on the football team which means that he is not the small poor child that some are imagining. 

and... Oscar Harris is no angel, but it would seem that in this instance he did nothing wrong. Comments on different news websites, Facebook, etc tell me that the public agrees and supports him. It's a genuine shame that no one in our district office or on our board will support him.

Here is a link where you can read the report that led to Mr. Harris's suspension
and it reads like Harris is a hero, putting himself in harms way to protect students and other staff members, furthermore it says he received a torn meniscus for his efforts.

Can you imagine Fischer or Shine breaking up a fight, what about Vitti in one of his fancy suits?Harris, who is 53 years old by the way, says he did what he had to do and the video and relevant parties all backed him up but still he was suspended, it's a travesty and it shows that the school board just doesn't get it.

For shame Dual County what is it going to take for you to take action, does a student have to kill a teacher or another student on campus for you to care?

So Mr. Harris the school board may vilify you but to us out here in the trenches, many of whom are afraid for their own safety and see the atrocious and often violent behavior from a segment of our students, you're a hero.

This is what passes for success on the Florida State Board of education

From the Tampa Times: Watching other states fight over education standards, and waver over reform efforts, State Board of Education vice chairman John Padget says he's "proud to be a Floridian."

"Some have gotten too scared of changes, and actually fallen down and dropped standards," said Padget, a Keys investor who once served as Monroe schools superintendent. "Think of where we are in Florida."

The board, commissioner, governor and lawmakers are aligned in their views of education and accountability, he said. They've held the course on adopting and sticking to high expectations, he continued, without fearing to make adjustments as necessary. He mentioned the latest changes to state testing law as an example.

"I predicted there might be a hiccup or two. There were. There may be more," he said. "We should not be afraid of change."

Um has he not been paying attention? Several law makers brought up bills to kill common core and where it’s true they didn’t get far, they were just the tip of the ice berg.

The hiccups he refers to were dropping the amount tests count towards teacher evaluations from 50 percent to thirty-three, an ending of hundreds of end of the year exams, and the elimination of several tests all together. Another hiccup might be the state legislature has doubts the tests are even valid and is requiring them to be independently checked. Furthermore the commissioner said if they are the results won’t be out till December when they do absolutely nobody any good.   

Padget an idiot an investor by trade shrugs his shoulders at all of above. Millions of people losing faith in the system is a victory to him.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

HB 7609 scaling back testing is not nothing, just really close to it.

HB 7069, a bill designed to scale back Florida’s testing agenda was signed into law by Rick Scott and that’s not nothing, unfortunately it is very close to it.

In passing the bill the Legislature and Governor admitted they had gotten several things wrong. First now tests will only count for one third of a teacher’s evaluation instead of one half and no longer will districts be forced to create end of the year exams for all subjects, including the ones taken by kindergarteners.

Since they basically admitted they had got those things wrong it made me think about some of the other things they have gotten wrong too. What about voucher schools which this year will take over 400 million out of the education budget and who have practically zero accountability. How about the expansion of charter schools, many of which are for profit and offer zero innovation, of which over 270 have opened taken public money and closed. How about merit pay which has no evidence that says it works and the gutting of the class size amendment which has lots of evidence that says it does. How about having zero educators on the state board of education, giving teachers a three percent pay cut and stripping them of work protections, race based learning goals and ignoring poverty?

Yes they passed a bill and I am sure there was much patting of backs going on but the truth is we were in a very deep hole and all they did was stop digging. Sadly we’re still in a that very deep hole. 

Florida’s test results not due till December, are you ^%%#$ kidding me?

Gary Chartrand, a grocer by trade, the chair of the State Board of Education is arguably the most powerful man in Florida’s schools not named Jeb Bush. He also has no idea what he is doing.
Today Chartrand’s choice for education commissioner, Pam Stewart, said not to expect this years standardized tests results until December. Since Chartrand never was a teacher or worked in a school he must not know that the results of tests are supposed to come back reasonably quick. That way students and teachers alike can learn what they need to work on and make adjustments. What kind of effective adjustments can teachers, students and schools make half way into the next school year? The answer is none.
Since Gary Chartrand has been on the State Board there have been over forty changes to the accountability system, the state initiated race based goals, spoiler alert minorities aren’t expected to do as well, the state has completely lost faith in the testing system, veteran teachers lost their work protections and charter schools have both grown and failed at an exponential rate.
We do have problems in education but without a doubt poor leadership has to be at the top of the list. The state board of education led by Chartrand a grocer, doesn’t have one true educator on it, how do we expect our school system to succeed when it’s not run by educators but instead run by friends and donors to the governor.
We could and should be doing better, step one is to replace the board with educators.

Duval County teams up with teacher hating group… again!

I have written several times about our Superintendents seemingly open distain for teachers. Heck, usually I just let his words do the talking for him, another example of this is the birds he hangs around with, i.e. birds of a feather flock together. First there is Gary Chartrand who on First Coast Connect said he was glad teachers didn’t have work protections and then there is the New Teacher Project (TNTP) Vitti’s go to guys for district surveys.

TNTP was founded by Michelle “fire them all and let God sort it out” Rhee and whose overall mantra is called the widget effect. The Widget Effect basically says you can fire (teachers) your way to improving schools.

The district is once again partnering with them and this time they want teachers to have their students take surveys rating them. Now I think it is a horrible idea to have student’s rate teachers. Students today in a lot of instances are already running the asylum schools I would hate to give them anymore power.

This is coming from the cool teacher too, who works hard at making things fun and finds it very important that my students like me.  That’s the thing though, teachers aren’t supposed to be their student’s friend and often they have to be firm with kids and make them do things they don’t want to do. Some kids get it too but a lot of our kids today, used to getting what they want when they want it don’t.  How many kids are going to be fair? How many kids are capable?

So teachers this is what I recommend. If you care what your kids think, and I know the vast majority of you do, ask them, but don’t give the district and the TNTP a tool to potentially use against you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How much does superintendet Vitti love charter schools

When talking about a charter school whose graduation rate went from just over one percent (um how weren't they closed) to just over 8, Superintendent Vitti had an odd response.

From the Times Union: Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti responded, “We can’t celebrate it, but we can acknowledge that it’s an improvement.... I think they’ve become stronger partners.”

This begs the question what would a charter school have to do to get some kind of  negative reaction from Vitti? I mean Stronger partners, really? 

Vitti loves charter schools and he apparently does not give a damn if they are terrible.

DCPS gives Charter School with 8 percent graduation rate a 3 year extension.

And that is up from a little over one percent the year before.
Lone Star Charter School is what is called a drop back in academy for students who had basically dropped out. In years past they would be working on their GEDs if anything but now charter chains see a revenue stream and an opportunity to make easy money.
You are probably wondering if the district would do a better job and the answer is yes. Where far from great the graduation rate for the kids in the Duval County over age academy is 14 percent.
From the Times Union: Either boost graduation rates or face non-renewal of contracts and possible closure: That’s the deal Duval’s School Board recently struck with operators of Lone Star High and two related charter high schools.
The ultimatum came in the form of a contract extension that the School Board approved unanimously, allowing Lone Star to stay open at least three more years.
Lone Star is a charter school operated by Accelerated Learning Solutions, an Orlando company that also manages Biscayne High and Murray Hill High, two more charter schools in Jacksonville.
All three are dropout retrieval schools, sometimes called “drop back in” academies, which focus on students who have quit regular high school or were planning to. Generally, dropout retrieval schools try to help students quickly recoup class credits, so that they can graduate with a regular diploma by age 21.
But most drop-out retrieval schools have graduation rates that are a fraction of traditional high school graduation rates.
For instance, Duval’s average graduation rate was 74 percent last year, but Lone Star High’s was 8.74 percent, an improvement over 1.23 percent the year before, and Murray Hill’s was 7.8 percent, up from 2.78 percent the year before.
Biscayne High’s rate was not available.
The state pays charter schools at least $5,400 a student. Last year that amounted to $2.83 million for Lone Star, but this year it’s expected to be $3.27 million.
Lone Star, a 5-year-old school serving 325 students, recently asked the School Board to extend its contract by five more years.
Now that’s chutzpah, a graduation rate in the single digits and here they are asking for a five year contract, but friends it gets even worse.
In 2010 they spent 452,034 dollars on school administration costs and that’s out of a 1.325 million dollar budget. Combined they spent just 515,000 on instruction and pupil services.
During the 11-12 school year they spent 445,000 on the school administration and then chipped in 275,400 in management fees or 13.5 percent of their overall budget. And remember friends this is for a school operating out of what looks like an abandoned Winne Dixie.
It was about the same during the 12-13 school year and last year their school administration fees went up to 673,000 dollars or about a third of their overall budget. And before you think, well they must include facilities, meals, and up keep in their administration costs, nope, nope and nope. Last year we got a discount as the fees dropped to 524,000 dollars
Follow the link and have your mind blown:
The bottom line is we are paying tons of money to a charter school with crazy high management and administration fees that is doing a crappy job and the school board renewed their contract for three more years.