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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Veteran ELA teachers being micromanaged by the district, blamed for things they cannot control.

I received the following note from a long time reader.

There was an emergency ela meeting today because the district is all bent out of shape because we aren't using achieve 3000 enough!

So now ten weeks into the year we are having to reinvent the wheel...the new expectation is 2 articles a month.

We shared laptop carts so they could do one stop shopping which was not good enough for the district because they want instruction going on while one group is doing achieve EVERY DAY.
We are trying to work out the technology issues and we actually LIKE the program, but not being bullied, you know? We try our best to support the district but the teachers just were on the point of collapsing with this news.

Then all day on planning day we had a tech guy repairing many of lap tops...and we had no access during October because it was a marathon of testing.

Yet somehow us being behind is our fault.
Here is another note from another teacher.
When being on the exact day of the curriculum guide outweighs the students depth of knowledge on the subject, something is terribly wrong with our system.   During our teaching academy all the second grade teachers were told to do one Making Words lesson per week.   We argued we would  not finish the book if we did that.   Our district coach-teacher assured us that this is what the district wanted.   Flash forward to Week 5,  all the second grade teachers were called in and asked what lesson we were on.  We were all on Lesson 5 just like we told to be on.   Our Reading Coach told us that we were behind and that we should be on Lesson 13.   She told us, she didn't care how we did it but just catch up.   Now at Week 9, I am sitting in my mandatory administrative meeting with my principal and the teachers and the reading coach when the district coach walks in.   She asks what I am doing in Making Words.  I tell her how I have planned to catch up to the current district plan.  She informs me that I am all wrong.   I should not be trying to catch up, I should be doing the original plan from the Teacher's Academy, but I should still be doing at least 3 lessons per week. She didn't say how to plan 3 lessons together, but I should be doing them.   Now, I am confused.   Either way, I am going to get docked and my principal decides which plan of action she feels like that day.

When the district decided to collapse one second grade class, our principal notified the parents the students would officially begin on Friday.  However, she brought them to us on Wednesday.   We all underwent an Ethics course during pre-planning that told us not to listen to the grapevine.  However, it was the grapevine that notified me that I would be getting 5 new students the next morning.   If I hadn't listened to it, I would have had 15 minutes to ready myself for 5 new kids.   It wasn't fair to the children, their parents, or their former or new teacher.

I will tell you that I am hearing from teachers that I know from all over the county.  They are tired, they are on the brink,  they are making mistakes because there is just too much to learn.  Families are suffering because teachers don't come home when they are supposed to because they fear for their jobs.   Teachers are contemplating suicide because no matter how hard they work, it is never good enough.  Good teachers who dare to speak up are the ones being put on growth plans or are being punished.    Good teachers know they don't have to be treated like this and they are leaving.   Students don't learn in this environment.  Students pick up the feelings of the adults and transfer it to each other hence the behavior problems in Duval County.
Teachers have had enough and I have said it before we will never reach our potential as long as we continue to treat our teachers so poorly.


  1. Yes, to all of the above

  2. It is AWFUL. I am a veteran teacher and it makes me sick how we are being treated in this district and the miscommunication makes it worse. My job is to teach children, but I can't do that. I'm expected to be on the right day of the guide or else I'm questioned. We have competitions for kids to do better on Achieve. The district is just wanting to replace me with a computer program.
    I've cried more this year than I even did my first year! I cry because I know what's best for students and the pacing of this new curriculum isn't it. There are mistakes all over it (like find the workbook page but said workbook page doesn't exist!) but I get old by a district specialist that if I was a good teacher I wouldn't need to read so much into the curriculum. One set of people tells me to make it my own the other berates me for not opening up my arms and welcoming it.
    At the end of the day the people that are suffering the most are the people who matter most: the teachers and the precious children we teach. It's heartbreaking because when they don't perform, the district will just blame us rather than themselves.

  3. Effective teaching requires more than a pacing guide, mandated hours spent using newly-purchased computers, lock-step adherence to room aesthetics and board configuration. Ineffective and insecure leaders require such robotic machinations because they, themselves, do not know how to effectively educate a classroom of diverse learners, so they dumb down the process to lowest common denominators: easily observed requirements that can be easily checked off on a simplistic form that compiles data to justify the existence of teams of administrators and their minions.

    Public education is circling the drain, ladies and gentlemen.

  4. As a former DCPS teacher, I completely agree with all you've stated. It is ludicrous to think that success can come out of the current state of the county. Their "pendulum" swings plans and goals will never be FAIR to anyone who works outside of Prudential Dr. I've relocated to VA, and difference between school districts is like night and day. My current district is one of the most high - achieving districts in the country, and in my opinion, it's that way for ALL the things DCPS lacks (but blames its teachers for instead)...state of the art technology, parental involvement, competitive wages & benefits, etc). Praying that one day, DCPS comes out of the DARK AGES and into REALITY!

  5. This, in a nutshell, is why I left Duval County. It broke my heart to do it after 17 years invested in the system, but the micromanagement is just ridiculous. Principals running scared for their jobs come down hard on teachers who are overwhelmed and frustrated. Let's throw in that there are serious behavior issues in some classrooms that ARE NOT DEALT WITH. Duval needs to realize that people cannot be squeezed into a machine and all brought out exactly the same. Needs are not the same. Students and teachers are not the same. Come on, Vitti- this is Education 101.

  6. This article seriously makes me want to throw my phone across the room!!! I am so (pardon my language) pissed off by the curriculum change this year that it isn't even funny. You know, we have the huge 8x10 or whatever size picture of Mr Viti at the front of the school. I was just thinking last week when I walked by, "what is so special about him?" I thought he was supposed to make things better, but it seems as if things are getting worse. I have asked a few teachers, what is the point of having a teaching degree, if all of their curriculum is verbatim out of a book? I seriously think this has gotten out of hand. After reading this, seeing teachers are affraid to complain (which I can understand) that we the parents need to start complaining!!!
    This article is about ELA, but the same goes for math. They have about a day, maybe 2 at most to try to catch on to a new concept, before they are pushed to do something else. I get aggravated to have to spend a couple hours a night with my 4th grader on math homework. I even make up extra problems for him to work on on my white board. They just don't have long enough to catch on. He is terrific at math. Both his father and I are excellent at math as well. Yet he comes home with a C or a D on his test. Then I find out he had one of the higher grades in his class. That should tell you right there that there is something wrong with the mandatory curriculum that Duval county has imposed on our teachers and kids!!!
    Don't let the county fool you. They don't give a crap about their teachers or students. I am finally under the impression that they're only in it to make their test scores higher!!!

  7. This is why I too chose to leave DCPS after 20+ years in the county. It was a tough decision to make, but when they renewed his contract through 2019, I saw the writing on the wall. I used to tell myself, "It can't get any worse, right?" Wrong. I'm at a private school, making less, no pension plan, but happier than I've ever been because I'm actually TEACHING. What a concept! I went to school to teach, not to be an automaton and spew information from a worthless curriculum guide written by teachers in the county that needed the money over the summer. I was tired of seeing our best and brightest being forced into mediocrity because we all have to do EVERYTHING exactly the same at ALL times. Absolutely ridiculous. Not to mention the improvement the move has made on my family and home life as well. I'm no longer in misery, constantly stressing about things I have no control over. I come home happy, I have time to plan and prepare, I decide what my students need, and no one is wagging a finger in my face telling me I'm wrong. The trade off was well worth it.

  8. I have 20+ yrs and I feel like a beginning teacher. I work every evening and weekend and still can't catch up. I am physically sick from exhaustion. And I know when I'm evaluated, I'll get nothing but criticism. Behavior is out of control because teachers are under so much pressure not to write referrals, but until you write 5, the kid won't get a meaningful consequence.

  9. After 10+ years with DCPS, I will be calling it quits in December. I have been working all of my years at a Title I school, and I can definitely say it is not the students that is making me leave. The continuous disrespect and miscommunication that comes from the district specialists and regional superintendents have placed a final straw. I, along with several of my colleagues district wide, am coming before school, staying late after school, working through weekends, only to be told that I'm not doing enough by people who stay in our rooms for 5 minutes to only criticize. That I'm not on pace with the guide. That I don't have enough journal entries (when there is nothing about journals in our guides), that my instruction needs to be differentiated (but you just told me to follow the script verbatim..). It pains me to leave my darling students to some less experienced teacher, but my health has suffered setbacks over the stress and exhaustion from working with DCPS. Enough is enough.

  10. But with the usage issue, now comes the results portion. Your students aren't scoring high enough. They are finishing an article much to quickly and scoring a 63%. Why are they only spending 20 minutes on an article that should take longer is what you get asked. Just see above!!! Seriously?!?!? So, now you not only have to make sure they are on the computer using the program but you also have to closely monitor their usage WHILE teaching your lesson so that you DON'T fall behind on the CG.
    Let's talk centers next. In one breath we are being told that centers are optional in the upper elementary grades but in the next breath we are told they are not. So, you do your best to get centers in during that short 90 minute block which will cause you to fall behind because some of those Engage NY - oops, I mean Duval Reads - but it is copied from Engage NY so isn't it theirs? - but we stuck our symbol on it and rearranged a few articles so it's Duval Reads - either way, some of those lessons are over 100 minutes. You pull in centers, you won't finish that lesson on time. That leads back to WHY ARE YOU. BEHIND!?!?!?

    Then, of course, there is the accountability of those centers. You have the teacher led group of course. Easy, I can do a quick assessment on them to make sure they get it. You have your Achieve 3000 group which the computer assesses. But, on one of the many "walkthroughs" of my room, I was asked why my students were doing an exit ticket for the centers. So, out of this optional/not-optional 20 minute center time, you MUST have your students complete an exit ticket. I actually asked her if she was serious on that one. I was told yes. So now I have to design an exit ticket daily for my DIFFERENTIATED centers!?!
    Okay, so now you have to get copies for some of these materials. Let's talk "BIG BROTHER" or "1984". We are moving to having a single location copier and printer!!! Each teacher will be given this handy dandy disk to go on our ID badges. We will load what we want printed to this disk. We will then go to the principal's office (where our printer will be located :), place our disk on it and all of our stuff will be printed. Sounds nice but then there is that pesky "Why do you need that for instruction?" question that will inevitably be asked. So, as our printers are dying, they are not being repaired or replaced at this point because we are moving to this wonderful new one stop school-wide printer.
    Then there is the leveled library that we must have. At the Teacher Academy, we were told that the county would be moving back to leveling libraries according to Lexile scores but that it would take a year or two. Fast forward to mid-September and we get email after email from big brother telling us we had until October 15th. Then it was moved to October 5th. When was I supposed to do this??!?!? Additionally, many of the books in the library are MY OWN! I'm now being expected to relabel them ASAP because our district control freak wants it done yesterday!!!! But I had better not use on iota of class time because that would put me even further behind on the CG.
    I really could go on and on. I mean our district leader has her own school. How is she running it and our schools? I've seen some of the nasties she sends to principals that ultimately trickle down to us through all of these iron-clad mandates that aren't iron-clad but are. This isn't teaching anymore. I don't know what it could be called but it's not teaching and that is a true shame. Our children deserve better than this. Parents should be angry. I know as a parent I am. Unfortunately, as a teacher, I can't say much or they will be in my room EVEN MORE questioning my every move so much so that I can't even teach. I've been in this system quite a while and this, by far, under the leadership of Dr. Vitti, has been the worst I have ever seen it. Even Dr. Wise was no where near this.....

  11. Part 1Teachers, regardless of subject area are being micromanaged beyond belief. We are told in one breath that the curriculum guides are simply for reference. We are free to pull in outside materials and to "make the lessons" our own. Then, when we do this, we are constantly questioned as to why we are using something. Why do you need that copied? Why are you using that article? Why aren't you using you interactive journal? Why don't you have all of the pages done in the module?
    Then there are the computer programs. You must have this test done by such and such date! I have had administrators come running to my room while I am in the middle of a lesson and say these students must finish the iReady test by noon. Forget the fact that one student had already missed a week of instruction due to illness! He had to now miss ANOTHER day so that I could stop my lesson and put him on the computer to finish this program that HAD to be done by NOON or else the WORLD would STOP SPINNING!
    Then there was the whole science PMA. We were given less than one week's notice to give it or else! Fine, I'll give it. But wait, it had to be done computer based (disregard that the Science is still FCAT 2.0 and paper based) so hang on, you must use other subject areas instructional time to hold the two 70 minute sessions required for the PMA. But we were told not to worry about having to take 70 minutes. If they finished, just stop the test and not worry about part 2. But didn't I just sign something that said I would follow the instructions to a T? Oh boy!
    Then there is the whole usage issue with the computer programs. Your students must use Achieve 3000 and iReady with diligence. It doesn't matter if the ELA lesson per the TE is over 100 minutes and you are only given 90 minutes to do it AND centers. Get the kids on it!!! It doesn't matter if they miss instruction. Just pray they don't pull that child's module on one of their MANY (and I mean MANY) walkthroughs to see if they are doing every single page.

  12. According to Dr. Vitti and the media our ELA scores ranked us 4th among big districts last year. Also noteworthy, NY was ranked 10th. We are now using NY's curriculum (AKA Duval Reads), yet, when we used the curriculum written by professionals in Duval County we scored higher than NY. Has anyone questioned Vitti about the rationale behind that?

  13. Same here in Brevard County. I have given up. "Let whatever you do today be enough."

  14. You do realize that the only thing that really matters is the big money that is being made by testing companies. The human component is no longer an essential part of the equation.

  15. With everything that is going on, I can't believe I haven't heard the words "teacher strike" yet in Duval County.

    1. Right!!!! Teachers and parents need to band together and put a stop to this nonsense!!!!

    2. Sadly, something of that magnitude would probably have to be orchestrated by DTU, and I really don't think they care what is going on. They should be a leader in resolving these issues, but they are silent.

    3. They are pathetic! And dues went up this year. It's not worth $60/month. It's not worth anything. Whenever I say, "Call the union" teachers say "Well, I don't want to bother them." Bother? You pay $60 frickin dollars a month. Members need to light up that switchboard! When is the last time you called? Good luck getting through to anybody.

    4. Not to turn this away from the real issue at hand, but just wait until next year and you'll hear plenty from your "Union". Your mailbox will be stuffed with political ads. If you needed the union, do you really think they're going to be there for you? Save that $60 a month and use it for a weekend getaway.

  16. "dtu is the most accommodating union in the country". Dr.Vitti

  17. This whole thread should be published in the TU, but unfortunately our Jax news media is also the "most accommodating"! The public should know the truth of all that's going on.

  18. We've been emailed changes to the curriculum guide at 8:30 the night before and expected to implement those changes before the next day. Fourth Grade ELA is now doing mandated science experiments. Our writing lessons consist of nothing more than "free writes." One of the last module assessments had a college level poem. I personally spoke to the head of the ELA department who told me that it was a complex poem and that because I told my students to go line by line, instead of every two lines, I caused them to miss the gist.

    I'm ready to strike or quit.