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Monday, August 31, 2015

Eric Fresen says we should have charter schools just because.

First you should all know the Fresen's family owns and operates charter schools.

Now I will just let his words do the talking for him.

Fresen was less eager to remedy another School Board concern: the proliferation of charter schools opening near A-rated district schools in western communities. 
He said new charter schools won't open if they don't see a market. "You would think if a school is so good already, nothing is needed, but when something new comes in, everyone ends up doing well," he said. "Sometimes schools can get comfortable." 
Board member Laurie Rich Levinson argued that it's not a good use of public resources, especially if new charter schools leave traditional schools half-empty. 
Fresen countered, "I would never put a facility above the academic options of children."
You see who cares if charters waste money or don't do as well, as long as families have a choice. Oy vey, how to self absorbed mercenaries like this get elected? 
Also charter school don't think abut whats best for children, they think how can we make a profit and its disgusting especially since as Levinson put it they often end u doing more harm than good.

A round up of what the state board of education is up to.

Everybody should be alarmed by what the state board of education has proposed.

First the State board proposed spending seventy million dollars on charter school maintenance and another seventy million dollars on public school maintenance costs.  Sadly this is better than in some years past when charters got a hundred million and public schools didn’t get anything.

There are a little over six hundred charter schools, there would have been more but as of last count 295 have taken public money and failed leaving families and communities in a lurch and a little over 3,200 public schools in Florida. It hardly seems fair to allocate the same amount of money for both groups of schools but it gets even worse. Many charter schools are managed by for profit companies and business has been very good. Why should we send more money to them, money that will either go to help their bottom line or fix buildings that don’t belong to the public?  For profit management companies that operate charter schools should not see one penny more than the per pupil allotment.

Speaking of charter schools when asked why charter schools should be allowed to set up in neighborhoods that have successful public schools, Representative Eric Fresen, one of the most powerful men in Tallahassee, and like local business men and board of education member Gary Chartrand, has close ties to charter schools, said in the Sun Sentinel, "I would never put a facility above the academic options of children."

This basically means he thinks we should have charter schools “just because”. Not because they do better because the Stanford Credo the definitive charter schools study said Florida’s charter schools when compared to public schools do worse and not because they are needed either because more and more charter schools many of which are managed by for profit management companies are setting up in neighborhoods that already have great schools siphoning away resources from them, but “just because”.

Next I hope you like School Vouchers that send kids to private schools, of which over seventy percent are religious, because if you own property in the state of Florida you are about to pay for them.  The state board of education proposed raising school funding by 485 million dollars but only fifty millions of this is going to come from the state and the rest is going to be generated by higher property taxes.  

That 435 million dollar figure in increased property taxes is important because that number is nearly identical to the four hundred million plus that is diverted from the state coffers to pay for vouchers.

Maybe vouchers were acceptable to some despite the fact the schools that receive them have barely any financial and academic accountability when somebody else was paying for them. I wonder how acceptable they will be, now that we all have to.

I for one would rather see public money sent to public schools, rather than see money earmarked for the public good diverted to private schools especially since it means my taxes are going to go up to pay for it.

Then speaking of vouchers, Florida State University which was contracted by the state to study the voucher program released its report which said only twenty-five percent of students who receive vouchers leave D or F public schools. That means the vast majority of them leave successful schools. We’re not helping poor and mostly minority escape failing schools, how the program was initially sold, instead we’re paying for families “choice” to have their kids get a religious education. So much for the first amendment right.

Finally Gary Chartrand who as I mentioned above is on the state board of education, said he wants to revisit the class size amendment calling the law foolish. Mr. Chartrand despite his position on the board was never a teacher and doesn’t understand how large class sizes hurt education but furthermore it is worse because he sent his children to exclusive private schools that tout their smaller classes. Why are manageable classes okay for his kids but not for ours?

Like many in positions of power in Tallahassee Gary Chartrand doesn’t feel like he has to listen to the will of the people who have voted twice now for the class size amendment. He is right though we should revisit it but not to get rid of it like he wants but to make sure it is in place like the people voted for. Tallahassee has eroded it so much that many non-core classes which includes Advanced Placement classes and electives have huge numbers and some districts are ignoring it because it is cheaper to pay a fine.

Instead of allowing Chartrand and Tallahassee to further gut the class size amendment we should demand they obey the will of the people and fund it properly because if they don’t then it is time we stopped pretending we lived in a democracy where the people’s votes matter.   

The state board of education, which does not have a true educator on it often does things contrary to the best interests of public schools which means the vast majority of Florida’s children and families pay the price. Shouldn’t we have a board that looks to improve public education rather than one that one that continuously seeks to privatize our schools and injure it?

I think we should.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

I hope you like school vouchers, because you are about to start paying for them.

I hope you like School Vouchers that send kids to private schools, of which over seventy percent are religious, because if you own property in the state of Florida you are about to for them.  The state board of education proposed raising school funding by 485 million dollars but only fifty millions of this is going to come from the state and the rest is going to be generated by higher property taxes.  

That 435 million dollar figure in increased property taxes is important because that number is nearly identical to the four hundred million plus that is diverted from the state coffers to pay for vouchers.

Maybe vouchers were acceptable to some despite the fact the schools that receive them have barely any financial and academic accountability when somebody else was paying for them. I wonder how acceptable they will be, now that we all have to.

I for one would rather see public money sent to public schools, rather than see money earmarked for the public good diverted to private schools many of which are religious and have very little accountability both financially and academically especially since it means my taxes are going to go up to pay for it.

Gary Chartrand a millionaire advocated educating children on the cheap.

The League of Women Voters made a great point about Gary Chartrand the other day. Chartrand wrote an opinion piece that appeared in several news paers around the state which said we should have vouchers because if the students that took them returned to public schools pubic schools wouldn't be able to afford them.

That's right this Bard of Education member thinks it is a better plan to have kids go to unregulated schools that have practicality zero accountability and siphon hundreds of millions out of public schools than give public schools the resources they need.

From the League of Women Voters, hartrand makes a case that getting children from poor families out of public schools saves the rest of us money.  There may be another not so hidden agenda that Chartrand forgets to mention.
In a Tampa Bay Times column, Chartrand lists the following arguments in support of using tax credits for corporations who divert their taxes to private school scholarships.  He objects to the Florida Education Association lawsuit on the subject.  He argues that:
  • 78,000 mostly minority students would hit the schools if the tax credit vouchers went away.
  • Florida is projected to add 100,000 students over the next five years.  Building schools would cost at least $1.3 billion even if under enrolled public schools were filled.
  • Tax credit vouchers cover 80% of the per student funding public schools receive.  So, if those children entered public schools, it would cost $111 million more to make up the difference.
  • Tax credit scholarship are aimed at students of limited means. Their average household income is $24,000.  (Of course, the income cap for eligibility was much lower until last year.)
  • Corporate tax credits saves Floridians $1.44 for every dollar in credits corporations contribute to private schools.  (A smoke and mirrors view?)
There is another way to look at these numbers.
  • 78,000 mostly minority students are in schools with no standards or accountability.  Florida has abandoned them.
  • Only 12% of these children come from schools graded ‘D’ or ‘F’ according to the David Figlio report commissioned by the Florida Department of Education.
  • An April 2015 Orlando Sentinel article reports that half of the schools have under 100 students and hundreds of the 1100 schools have under 50 students.
  • The DOE reports that 73% of the private schools that take FTC scholarships tend to be very small religious schools.  In 2013, 127 taught creationism.
  • Public schools are under enrolled in low income areas due to vouchers and charters.  The vacancies make public schools less able to meet student needs, and the private schools cannot afford to even try.  Dividing up the money this way only ensures no sector has enough to do the job.
  • The law suit was filed when the legislature raised the income eligibility to $62,000.  This, for most Florida families, is not low.
  • Saving money on the education of students who needs are greater than most has visible consequences.    The Florida DOE Figlio reports show that achievement is not improved for students with tax credit vouchers.
  • Private and charter school real estate companies or churches are the big beneficiaries of school choice. The public pays for privately owned facilities.  Money comes out of already low salaries and benefits for teachers in those scchools.  The private sector makes millions; the children lose.

Gary Chartrand a grocer by trade who spared no expense to send his kids to exclusive private schools that don't accept vouchers is once again on the wrong side of whats best for our children.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Superintendent Vitti once again shows his deference to charter schools.

Superintendent Vitti had a real opportunity in the Times Union today to stick up for public schools and push back against charter schools. When news of the charter school at Murray hill was closing hit, he could have said, the district will work hard to get rid of charter schools that provide duplicate services, siphon away resources and that do a poor job when compared to the district’s schools.

Instead he shrugged his shoulders and said, “It speaks to the level of collaboration that should exist between districts and charters.” This after the district allowed two poor performing sister schools, which are also  for profit, to continue.

The district should ask itself one question when approving and/or allowing charter schools to exist and that is, can they do a better job than the district. If that’s the case the district should be as helpful as possible but if not and friends the vast majority of times the answer is no they can’t, then the district should do all they can to get rid of them.   
Wouldn’t you rather have a superintendent willing to fight tooth and nail for our kids and schools or one who thinks it is okay to partner with mercenaries and charlatans that do worse? I know I would rather have one wiling to fight.

Are vouchers causing property taxes to grow?

From WJXT: The proposal approved Wednesday by the board would boost spending to $7,209.39 per student, an increase of $104.33, or 1.47 percent, over the current year.

However, only $50 million of the $475.9 million hike in funding would come from the state. The other $425.9 million would come from local property taxes that make up a key part of the formula for education spending. That approach has drawn criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, who equate it to a tax increase.

Well friends last year the Voucher program diverted over four hundred million dollars from the state coffers and this is a program that is allowed to grow by twenty-five percent a year.

Some people contend that vouchers save money and I will admit it is probably a lot cheaper to run a school that doesn't provide as many services, than it is to run a district but in public schools buses still have to run, teachers have to teach and the lights cost the same whether there is 30 kids in a class or 20.  It diverts resources away and that has costs.

Then why do corporations get this tax break but people don't, you know regular folds like you and me. Why can't we take advantage of it and have the corporations pay their fair share to the state coffers? Oh its because we don't matter.

Vouchers are a bad deal, for children and a bad deal for tax payers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Times Union prints anther pro-voucher letter.

Doug Tuthill of Step up for Students the states voucher provider wrote the Times Union to advocate for them and he conveniently left out the millions and millions of dollars in administration fees his organization takes in.

He also left out how vouchers have practically no academic and financial accountability, how the money overwhelmingly goes to religious schools and how since the program is allowed to grow twenty-five percent a year soon it will take a billion dollars out of the state coffers.

In his letter he says vouchers work in harmony with school districts a sentiment not shared by the school board association, the teachers union, the NAACP, the league of women voters and many other organizations but he thinks for some reason, he is right and all the parties actually involved in education are wrong.

If he believes in them so much then why doesn't he have his boss Tampa millionaire John Kirtley who first donated to and then later hired school board member Jason Fischer who has advocated for charters and vouchers while ignoring the schools in the district he is supposed to represent use his money rather than money meant to benefit us all to pay for them?

The plain and simple of the matter is the school vouchers he advocates for and which circumnavigates the Constitution are a bad deal.

No oversight for Duval's charter school lotteries

As you know I have real questions about how the KIPP charter schools says they have a wait list while the district says they have never met their max enrollment. Another concern would be how they don't backfill either.

So I reached out to the district to see if they supervised KIPP's lottery and they told me they didn't supervise their or any charter school's lottery. Later however they might review their paperwork.

So as you can see we are just taking their word for how things are done. And remember some of these charter schools were using the district's computer system to recruit kids to go to their schools.


Oy vey people, now I wonder what kind of oversight in any capacity we have and let me remind you that last year two charter schools failed here mid year sending the school district and families scrambling.

Over 293 charter schools have failed. 14 in Jax, 4 in the last couple years.
Most have very little in the form of innovation.
As a group they don't perform any better, most here locally do worse.
Then finally since we expanded charters by 300 percent over the last few years the district grade has dropped to a C.

It's like we don't even care.

Gary Chartrand's class size hypocrisy

From the Tampa Times: Discussing legislative priorities for the coming session, some Florida Board of Education members renewed their desire to see the 2002 class size amendment scaled back in its application.
Calling the law "foolish," board member Gary Chartrand said he would urge lawmakers to take steps to make it easier for schools to measure class size as a school-wide average rather than a classroom count. He suggested a measure to apply penalties at the school average level -- simiilar to a bill that did not make its way through the spring 2015 session.
"I've been talking about this since I came on the board four years ago," Chartrand said. "I want to make sure I'm vocal on my issue.
Gary Chartrand who has never taught so he has no idea what a few extra kids in an already crowded classroom would be like also sent his children to an exclusive private school that touted its small classes, but hey that's his kids. Our kids can get packed in like sardines. Oh and screw the will of the people who voted for it twice and evidence which says it works.  
He also proposed today we give charter schools many of which are for profit a free seventy million today.
Here is an idea, instead of sending hundreds of millions to private schools and charters lets properly fund the class size amendment. 
This guy is the villain of the story.

Gary Chartrand and his crony capitalism

State board of education member Gary Chartrand, who has close ties to charter schools wants the state of Florida to spend seventy million dollars on charter school maintenance and another seventy million dollars on public school maintenance costs.  Sadly this is better than in some years past when charters got a hundred million and public schools didn’t get anything.

There are a little over six hundred charter schools hand a little over 3,200 public schools in Florida. It hardly seems fair to allocate the same amount of money for both groups of schools but it goes even worse. Many charter schools are managed by for profit companies and business has been very good. Why should we send more money to them, money that will either go to help their bottom line or fix buildings that don’t belong to the public?  

For profit management companies that operate charter schools should not see one penny more than the per pupil allotment. I thought republicans were supposed to be against crony-capitalism.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some common sense on testing out of Tallahassee?

From Politico Florida:  Some lawmakers hope to ditch Florida’s controversial new state exams by requiring the Department of Education to instead administer existing national exams, like the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills or the SAT college entrance exam...

Florida this year began administering new state exams, developed by Utah-based American Institutes for Research under a six-year, $220 million contract. Because of technical difficulties associated with the administration of the computer-based exams, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature ordered a separate company to study the tests' validity, and that report is due by Sept. 1.
Seminole County’s original proposal, which district leaders outlined in a July letter to the department, called for the state to allow schools to administer the Iowa Tests, which have been offered since the 1930s, for younger students, since the federal government requires annual testing in grades three through eight. Students in middle school would take the PSAT, a pre-cursor to the SAT, and students in high school would take the SAT.

I think above is great and the way we should go though I feel obligated to point out that if we did switch we would have wasted millions and millions of dollars. All for a test we won't know if is valid or not for another week, though I think we all know what the answer is going to be.  

I don't know what to think about this sudden burst of sanity.

Monday, August 24, 2015

JPEF loses its credibility when it acts as the district's cheerleader

And when it publishes agenda driven white papers, supports candidates who want to privatize our schools and takes money to put Teach for America in our classrooms but those are other stories.

Today it published, "Five hings that you need to know about the district"

It started off with: 
  1. The new code of conduct is working, and tweaks will further improve it. Last year, the school board passed major updates to the student code of conduct, and made some adjustments for this year’s code of conduct. You can read more about those changes from the perspective of 2013 Teacher of the Year Apryl Shackelford here. Thanks to these and other changes, suspensions were down 34 percent between 2012-13 and 2014-15, the district reported in its 2015-16 profile. Other improvements for this year include the introduction of the Non-Violence Project (NVP) to 24 middle schools, and ongoing partnerships to increase mentorship.
One thing you should know about above and that's there is exactly one teacher apparently who thinks the new code of conduct is working. Apparently the author has never met a teacher nor has a TV because fight after fight filled the airwaves last spring. Sadly two and three were not much better.
JPEF and this administrations fate and completely tied together, if this administration fails then JPEF will go down with the ship. Instead of parroting district talking points, if I was them I would want to make sure they were doing things the right way.

In Duval County, what does "nearly every" mean?

From the Times Union: More than 117,000 Duval public school students started the new school year smoothly Monday, officials said, without major hiccups, confusion or fights.

No major bus delays were reported and nearly every school got the books and materials they needed to start the year, said Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, while touring three schools.
It was the first day and there are bound to be hiccups, I think people would be forgiving but I have to say if I was a reporter and the superintendent said nearly every school got their books and materials, I would ask, well what schools didn't? A pretty fair follow up if you ask me.
Two things the district has taken on a massive and labor intensive project when they went away from books and decided they would provide materials to thousands of classrooms and this has been an area they haven't been all that good in. I hope I am wrong but this has the potential to be a disaster.
Next I have a hard time believing anything the district says and I know that sounds terrible and I wish it wasn't that way but I do. They ignore the stuff they don't like and over hype everything that they do. 
It's the new year and I like the new lunch program and I think Vitti is right about no more certificate of completion students walking too but at the same time, when I hear "nearly every" from him, it raises red flags. 
I would hate to be the parent of a child at one of those schools or classes that didn't make the "nearly every" cut.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is something unethical going on at the KIPP schools?

From the Times Union:

Many charter school operators counter that there’s more demand than space at their schools.

Kipp, for instance, operates a middle school and two small but growing elementary schools — totaling 830 students. It still has 1,200 students more on its waiting list, said Tom Majdanics, executive director of KIPP in Jacksonville.

The district however says they have never reached their max enrollment.

It’s a rather innocuous exchange at the 2 hour and 8 minute mark.

Superintendent Vitti asked if the KIPP School has ever maxed out their enrollment.

He asked a subordinate who answered they have come close but haven’t.

So why do they have a wait list if they have never reach their max enrollment?

Is it because they are picking and choosing who they take, because as I understand it that is both illegal and unethical.

How technology made me a poor teacher (rough draft)

On Friday, yes the day before kids come, I received a piece of technology that is bigger than my first car. It's an interactive presentation cart with a 60 inch television mounted on it and I am told once I figure it out it will be amazing, though despite the fact I went to a two hour training and took four pages of notes I had to get a para from another classroom turn it on for me.

Included with the cart is a license to All-in learning, that  looked amazing at the training and once I figure out I will be able to use with the license to Unique Learning systems that I was also given, again once I figure that out, to teach my kids. I will then be able to enter all my data, lesson plans and grades on the districts new computer program Focus, which replaces oncource which I feel was just a couple years old, but anyhoo, and once again I mean once I figure that out too.

Then I can supplement all that with brain pop, a program I have figured out and think is great, thanks DCPS for the license and super teacher another service that I went in with another teacher, my portion of was five bucks, which I will make her take because thus far she has refused to. I will be able to write all my IEPs on the new SEAS program too.

Finally I get all the emails for above and more on the new outlook e-mail system, which I detest but hey I am sure once I figure it out I will love.

It makes me wonder how did all those teachers get by for all that time without all these bells and whistles.

I also now know why we can no longer afford books.

Speaking of books that is how I used to teach, I had a topic, a book and I would develop a lesson, now I live in fear of the internet being down. For some reason I don't think the district trusts me to come up with lessons on my own. I also don't feel like all this technology has made me better, though who knows once I figure it all out I may change my tune.

I also get its 2015, and technology is where we are at but sometimes I feel like we may have gone to far to fast at the expense of things we need more.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Times Union's coverage of vouchers is hardly fair and balanced.

Gary Chartrand wrote a guest column supporting school vouchers in the Times Union, I wrote a rebuttal to the Times Union that thus far they has chosen not to publish. I started to wonder why.

I went to the TU search engine and typed in Tax Credit Scholarships, and School vouchers and I went back a year looking only at guest columns, this is what I found.

Guest Columns for Vouchers

A column for school choice (Jason Fischer’s second)

This was a guest column against them but vouchers were just a small part of a greater whole.

Letters to the editor were a little better but the coverage and I know they can only publish what is submitted to them hardly seems fair and balanced.

Local high school has 80 plus students in one class.

A local high school has more than eighty students assigned to one PE class and class numbers in the fifties and sixties are not rare. The teacher who has the class told me they were told that within the first two weeks the class would be leveled to a more manageable number though the administration's definition of manageable and ours might be different. I think this also speaks to the state of electives in the county something Vitti has put in the win category. It seems like there is probably more work to do.

Another teacher asked me if a class has thirty students why is the class set of books only twenty five. All I could do was make a joke about common core math and say welcome to Duval County.

Things have really changed since when I went to school here, it used to be each student got their own book and PE didn't really have any more students than the other classes. Progress right?

The district sees teachers as the enemy

From a reader and a teacher

I recently chatted with a mom of a 2 year old who was a working professional and zoned for a beach school. She said to me "I thought charter schools were better." It baffles me how some higher income parents have the perception that charter schools are better in Duval. I also spoke with a friend who is a working professional and is considering enrolling her child in Duval Charter instead of a strong Mandarin area elementary school. 

I am shocked at the lack of knowledge the general parent population has about charter schools and the frequent corruption that is involved. Less experienced teachers would be my number one concern, followed by weak instruction/curriculum. As a teacher, students coming to my 3rd grade class from faithbased or charter schools were often reading below grade level. A friend used to work for Duval Charter as a PE teacher and told me some horror stories regarding class sizes and lack of planning time.

Dr. Vitti and trickling down to principals need to stop seeing teachers as the enemy. Happy teachers will lead to happy workplaces. Strong neighborhood community schools are the ideal that parents want. DCPS can deliver a better education than nearly all charter schools and many private schools but the first step is uniting teachers with principals and the district office.

-DCPS Educator of 9 years

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Does the kid next to yours have their shots? Duval 67 out of 67.

According to a source with intimate details of local school immunizations Duval County ranks 67th out of 67 for counties for 7th grade immunization and 65th out of 67 for kindergarten. These two grades by the way are the only two grades that the health department requires the districts to report.

Before you go  pull your kids out, my source also says it is charter schools not district schools that have fallen down on the job, as most charter schools have chosen to ignore the requirement to report. 

This is what my source told me.
In meetings this week I learned that our immunization rate plummeted to 67th out of 67 counties for 7th graders and 65th out of 67 for kindergartners. Why? CHARTER SCHOOLS are counted in those numbers. Many never entered the shot record into the system that Tallahassee requires by law. (We only measure those two grades). We gave steadily been declining as more and more charters come on line. They are not required to have a registered nurse (or anyone medical) review the records like public schools do.
Also the percentage of children receiving mandatory screenings has dropped. Vision, hearing, scoliosis and BMI...because charter schools are not doing them...also state required.
Thought it was interesting that only this year do they realize at the department of health that charter schools are FULL of underserved kids. They are their own business and would have to pay for their own nurses. A few do contract out but the biggest one--USA, no nurses in Duval.

Dr. Wells, Director of the Duval County Health Department, has gotten involved and now she is requiring charter schools to comply with the state mandates that public schools have up till now to but how many kids were put at risk?

Charter schools are often praised for being able to ignore regulations that public schools have to comply with, but I am pretty sure neglecting the health of our children isn’t one of them. 

I have reached out to the Department of Health and when I learn more I will let you know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vitti fundamentally misunderstands why families are leaving for charter schools (rough draft)

 For a guy that likes to remind us he went to Harvard Vitti often just doesn’t get it.  He fundamentally misunderstands why families are leaving for charter schools though I think them leaving for the surrounding counties is a bigger problem, counties by the way that have very little in the form of charter schools..

The superintendent thinks if he creates more magnets and more choice options kids will return from charter schools but the reason families are leaving for charter schools isn’t about magnets or choices it is because charters are public schools with a private school field and they aren’t district run. People are over the district and that is both fair and unfair.

Think about it. Very few charter schools are innovative and offer special programs, though supposedly that is why they were created, and none of the local charter schools can compare with the district magnets and many of the neighborhood schools but parents are electing to send their children to them anyways. Why is that? 

They hear in the checkout lines at Publix how miserable and unsupported many teachers are, they see on television all the violence in our schools and they are bombarded by stories about inappropriate relationships between teachers and students and the the district disciplining teachers. Some families think they can escape common core or testing or they have bought the hype that public schools or failing a sentiment pushed by people who profit off of the destruction of public schools. Then they see and hear about all his plans and it reeks of desperation.  Better academics and specialized programs for the most part has little to do with them leaving.  

Instead of blowing the district up and I like some of the ideas, Vitti and the district should just go back to the basics, which is something we have sadly never tried. Let’s have disciplined schools and respected and supported teachers, those two things alone would lead to incredible improvement and those things not a 6-12 military magnet or a medical middle school or most of Vitti’s ideas will bring kids back.

It’s not a lack of choice sir, it’s they just don’t like the district and all the magnets or special programs in the world is not going to change that. Give them a safe school with a happy and supported staff and watch them return in droves.

Gary Chartrand couldn't be more wrong about vouchers

Gary Chartrand is a fan of private schools, he sent his children to them. Though the tuition at the schools they went to is exponentially more than the private schools that the vouchers he advocates 
for, pay for.

In his letter to the Times Union (here) he blames the teacher unions for bringing a lawsuit against vouchers. Let’s face it teachers unions have become an easy target, that’s probably why he doesn’t mention that the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and many other organizations are against vouchers as well.  

Gary Chartrand talks a lot about the money that it will cost if the students were returned to local schools systems. I think he really oversells it and he doesn’t factor in all the money that vouchers actually take out of the school system. Last year it was nearly four hundred and fifty million dollars and the amount is allowed to grow twenty-five percent per year. It won’t be long before vouchers take a billion dollars annually out of public education.

As for academic success that the students in the voucher program see, there are undoubtedly great schools doing a good job but there are also undoubtedly terrible schools doing a terrible job or that’s what Northwestern University Professor David Figlio, who was hired by the state to study our voucher system told me. Why is accountability paramount for public schools but all but ignored when it comes to private schools that accept vouchers, which don’t have to have certified teachers, a recognized curriculum and overwhelmingly are religious in nature?

The truth is, and this is something even Gary Chartrand’s local think tank the Jacksonville Public Education Fund admitted last fall, is that we have no idea how voucher schools are doing because they have practically zero academic accountability. Most don’t have any fiscal accountability either as only schools that get more than a quarter of a million dollars have to report how the money is spent.  

Gary Chartrand who is a grocer by trade and who was never an educator used his relationship with Rick Scott to land a spot on the state board of Education and he has been there for going on five years. Do you think with all the problems with accountability, common core, race based goals, teacher morale and turnover that things have gotten better or worse under his tenure? I ask because since this man has been on the wrong side of so many education issues why should we listen to what he has to say about vouchers?

Finally the state constitution calls for a high quality uniformed education system, not a public one that has accountability measures in place and a second one paid for with money diverted from the state treasury through tax credits that resists accountability.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Teach for America isn't cheap and I wish people would stop saying these are.

I will just get right to it.

The district pays for their salaries and benefits.

They may or may not pay a finders fee which I am told varies between 2,500 to 5000 dollars. Sometimes it is paid for by government grants or through private donations but somebody is paying it.

TFA teachers also can get 5,500 a year for two tears (11,000 total) in loan forgiveness or in money for grad school, money that teachers who come from a more traditional route are not eligible for (and how is that fair).

Then there is professional development which can be expensive and since TFA teachers constantly leave it exasperates the need for professional development.

Imagine if we could spend that money on people who wanted to make education a career instead of short timers looking to fill lines on a resume or to do something until grad school starts.

Teach for America is not cheap. It's a bad deal all around. 

Superintendent Vitti was deceptive on the radio today.

I will just let his own words do the talking for him. Listen until the 3:25 mark.

Notice how he never mentions once how the district changed a certification rule that saved sixty jobs?

I don't want to sound like a math major but isn't sixty plus sixty 120? Why didn't the super just say, we had this terrible rule which unnecessarily cost people their jobs and we got rid of it.

Instead he talked about aggressive recruiting measures that all said and done took us right to where  we were last year, you know when we had the bad rule and didn't do any aggressive recruiting.

I would like to know why didn't he just say, Melissa we had this dumb and unfortunate rule that we got rid of and the district is better off for it.

It's sad but i can't listen to this man and go, oh okay that's great, but instead I have to be concerned about how he is trying to spin me.

Lawyers, doctors and bussinessmen are better than teachers, there I said it.

Though I only said it because that's what the superintendent seem to imply on the First Coast Connect radio program at about the 4:30 mark when talking about Teach for America.

He even admits they, Teach for America teachers don't stay and go on to be doctors, lawyers and business leaders as if somehow being a teacher for a carer is beneath them. You know who I want teaching our kids? People that have trained to do so, committed to improving and growing and aren't looking to go do what they think are bigger and better things.

He said they (TFA) had a deep commitment to narrowing the achievement gap? My ass, it's more like a deep commitment to getting into grad school? 

The Florida Times Union shills for the district on teacher turnover (rough draft)

Teacher turnover is a problem here in Jacksonville and all around the nation, rather than addressing that the Times Union today shilled for the district and parroted their all is well narrative.

The article titled,  What Teacher Shortage, went down hill from there.

As of today about one percent of teaching positions are vacant according to the district. If that is accurate then that's really pretty good, though if your child is going to be in one of those vacancy rooms you might disagree.

I acknowledge that the district was aggressive this year and they should even be applauded but when you boil it down all they did was fix a problem that they created. I also don't think it should be lost on anyone how the district changed their rules, a good thing, as for years the district had been needlessly letting go qualified teachers because they were out of field, to save some sixty teachers from being fired. If they wouldn't have done that then there would have been as many openings this year as there were last, a point glossed over by the Times Union

In late June there were 655 resignations and in early July 178 early retirements and both of those numbers surely went up though the Times Union didn't bother to tell us what the numbers ended up being. Then at the last school board meeting the district let go forty teachers who didn't bother to re-certify, the equivalent of a resignation if you ask me. That's ten percent of the teachers in the district gone, with just those numbers alone. Throw in scheduled retirements, leaves and the ever revolving door that Teach for America creates and now we are up to fifteen percent or more of teachers that had to be replaced.

Also wouldn't it have been nice to know how many experienced teachers we were replacing with inexperienced ones? the Times Union apparently doesn't believe experience matters either.

Again the district was aggressive filling positions and that's a good thing (and they got rid of a dumb rule which is an even better thing) but they had to be and they will have to be next year and every year after unless they chang their ways and where salary is low, that's not the way I am talking about.

Don't we deserve a paper that asks the tough questions and holds the district accountable? Well friends we did not get that today.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Why doesn't First Coast high deserve professional teachers? (rough draft)

Monday teachers head back to work for a week of training and organizing, hopefully heavy on the organizing. Among them will be two hundred or so Teach for America hobbyists. In case you don't know Teach for America takes non education majors puts them through a five week boot camp and then places them in our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve two years though the last thing I saw said only four out of five in Jacksonville do so.

They aren't cheap either. TFA recruits who serve the entire two years are eligible for up to 11.000 in loan forgiveness, there is a finders fee that the district won't reveal though I am told by other sources it is five thousand dollars and then there is the cost of constant professional development. Rookie teachers typically get more and this program ensures we always will have a greater than normal influx of rookie teachers. 

I think the program is a disaster though the superintendent disagrees with me probably because he was only a teacher himself for two years and doesn't value experience. 

That's the set up here is the rub.

Superintendent Vitti told community activist Erica Madson when talking about all the turmoil and turnover at First Coast high school, over 90 staff members have left in the two years under principal Alvin Brennan,  You will get first pick at this school of all TFA candidates.

Um, my follow up question would have been why would any school want first pick let alone any pick of Teach for America teachers, they do the exact opposite of what we know to be best for our children and assure constant turnover.

She had a few different questions. "I asked why are we not first pick for educators certified for dual enrollment? Why are we not first pick for experienced certified teachers?" He did not answer me.

How does Vitti think it is okay to staff this school with Teach for America recruits? I mean don't the children there deserve certified and qualified teachers.

My bet is he thinks these TFAers won't know the difference if there are brow beaten, talked down to and forced to work eighty hours a week. I actually feel bad for these masters-of-the universe types looking to build their resumes or for something to do before grad school.

I talked to a First Coast TFAer last year and since she has moved on I feel okay sharing parts of our conversation. She talked about all the mental abuse inflicted upon her by the principal, how we would alternate between being condescending and ignoring her and I asked why she didn't go to TFA and ask for help. She told me that TFA told her not to complain and just go along, to suck it up, that if she did complain it might jeopardize her loan forgiveness.

I was blown away. Teach for America didn't care.

Schools have to inform parents if their kids have teachers who are out of field or if they have a needs improvement evaluation but if your son or daughter has a hobbyist with five weeks training its swept under the carpet.

And before I am raked over the coals, yes there are great Teach for America teachers and people that have been teaching professionally or who have trained for years who may have chosen the wrong field. The thing s if you were playing the odds with your child's future you would never pick a Teach for America teacher.  

Superintendent Vitti however thinks it is just fine, in fact he kind of bragged about it. 

Why the best and brightest scholarship? To pay off Teach for America is why

It's no secret that Tallahassee doesn't care for public school teachers and even though they are more expensive at least initially they would replace the whole lot of them with Teach for America temps if they could. Teach for America is now in three of the biggest cites in Florida, Jacksonville, Miami and Orlando and to make sure Florida gets its share of them is why we have the best and Brightest Scholarships. You see TFA is struggling to find recruits.

From the Huffington Post: Teach For America, the controversial education nonprofit that places recent college graduates as teachers in disadvantaged classrooms, saw a decline in its number of accepted corps members after previously seeing a drop in applications for the second year in a row, the organization announced Tuesday. 
TFA received over 44,000 applications for the 2015-2016 school year. Last year, the organization received just over 50,000 applications. The previous year, the organization hit a high of over 57,000 applications, topping off years of growth.
At the same time, by maintaining an acceptance rate of 15 percent, the organization is welcoming a smaller class of teaching corps members than in previous years. TFA will have a new teaching corps class of about 4,100 this year, compared to around 5,300 the previous year and about 6,000 the year before that
Instead of trying to staff our classrooms with professional teachers that will make it a career Tallahassee would prefer to pay for gimmicks which assure an ever revolving door of hobbyists n our neediest classrooms and it is shameful.
The entire system would be better if TFA just died away and we concentrated on doing what is best for our children.

Here is the thing, they aren't even cheap. TFA teachers typically get 10 k in loan forgiveness and I have heard finders fees are up to 5,000 dollars and none of this includes the cost of professional development which has to be done over and over because they leave so quickly.

Another bad week for Florida's charter schools

It is sad that you really can't go a week in Florida without hearing about some charter school scandal. This past week they involved a charter school repaying a loan it never took from its founder, I believe that is called money laundering and how Broward County may be on the hook for nearly two million dollars in debt that several failed charter schools accumulated by lying and cheating.

 As The Post’s Andrew Marra reported, Eagle Arts founder and board Chairman Gregory James Blount awarded one of his companies a contract to design the art school’s curriculum. Blount had no education background, but his company made more than $125,000 off that contract. Another company Blount owns earned $7,500 from the school in consulting fees and stands to earn thousands in interest from a reported loan it made to the school for nearly $39,000.
Despicable, this guy wasn't looking to educate children he was looking to get rich off lax charter school rules written by legislators who took campaign contributions from charter school operators.

Whats happening in Broward County might be worse.
Broward County schools may have to repay $1.8 million owed by two closed charter schools.
Obama Academy for Boys and Red Shoe Charter for Girls, both in Fort Lauderdale, agreed to close after frequent disputes with the district. But a recent State Auditor General report found the jointly owned schools could not verify their enrollments for the 2013-14 school year and therefore the state is owed $729,000. The district expects to be on the hook for another $1.1 million because the school also failed to keep proper enrollment records this past school year, said Patrick Reilly, chief auditor for Broward schools.

The state will likely withhold that money from future district allocations, even though the charter schools have closed.

First the kids that attended the schools most likely got shitty educations and have their entire lives hindered and second the loss of that money is undoubtedly going to affect even more children.

When are we gong to say having a for profit parallel school system run by mercenaries and    charlatans and that as a group performs worse than our public schools needs to go? When is enough going to be enough?
Check back next week for this weeks scandals.