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Friday, February 12, 2016

Duval is now a B district. How do I know? Because Superintendent Vitti told me so.

I received the following note from the superintendent and I felt since his emails are open to public records searches I would share it with you.


It was brought to my attention that a previous blog of yours suggested that under my leadership the district's school grade dropped to a "C" for the first time. For accuracy purposes, the district's grade fell to a "C" in 2011-12, which was before I became superintendent. To that point, I would only expect that you correct that information and now highlight that we are a "B" district. It will be interesting to see how you address the matter considering the facts.


Here is the thing I will occasionally get things wrong and I encourage people to set me straight because it does me or my argument no good to get things wrong.

I went back and checked and the super is right. The district slid to a C the year before he came. It remained a C his first two years and then for the 14-15 school year the state graded Duval a B.  The superintendent is right and I want to thank him for pointing that out.

I am not a big fan of our grading system. I believe it is a disaster and the only thing it can be used for is to compare districts to each other because all the districts are playing with the same crappy system. Now like the super I think it is silly to compare us to districts like Clay and St. Johns but I think it is okay to compare us to the other big, urban districts.

Overall however I feel like the system is terrible and should be disregarded and you know who agrees with me, or agrees with me when convenient that is? It’s superintendent Vitti and I will let his words do the talking for him.

Despite predicting that the number of D and F schools in the district would more than double from last year, Vitti said changes to the state’s accountability system since last year make it impossible to compare 2013-14 to 2014-15. For instance, in 2013-14 the schools were protected from dropping more than a letter grade by a state-mandated safety net. This year that provision is gone.

Vitti says new state standards ensure that there will be over 100 D and F schools in Duval County based on an arbitrary cut line and a test that hasn’t been fully vetted.
No one disputes the need for accountability in the public schools. But the standards must be fair. They must be reasonable.
And they should be broad enough to factor in the full school experience and not be based on just a few tests.
What concerns Vitti is that whenever the standards are changed so arbitrarily, the struggling students, teachers and administrators in low-income neighborhoods are hurt the most.
“There was never a question of whether the FSA was aligned to the new standards and therefore was valid in that sense,” said Vitti. “Unfortunately, a validation study did not address what was at the center of concerns for parents, teachers, and administrators...that the use of FSA for the purposes of school grades, retention, and teacher/administrator evaluation was unfair, illogical, impractical, and defied best practice regarding proper field testing. In other words, the use of the results to make decisions about students’ future and the performance of schools, teachers, and administrators.
“The FDOE and the State of Florida missed the opportunity to make the right decision,” Vitti said. “As a result, the legacy of a needed and strong accountability system for our students will continue to be questioned. I only hope now that the test will remain the same and the measures to define proficiency and growth after this year’s changes remain the same for the purposes of consistency and transparency. If this does not happen, then Florida’s accountability system is doomed.
I could go on and on as the superintendent has said over and over how the accountability system has been changed to the point of irrelevancy.
When the super was predicting 100 F and D schools to everyone who would listen then the grading/accountability system was horrible. Now that State has rigged the game and that’s what the state did, they fixed it so there would basically be the same amount of A-F schools this year as last year, now the super is saying “Hey it’s okay after all. Look here Guerrieri we’re a B district now.” Fair enough but who wants to bet if the grade would have remained a C, then I wouldn’t have got that note.
And that’s the thing, every positive thing no matter how small is parade worthy to the super, he feels like he can do a victory dance and every negative thing no matter how big gets a “who me" shrug of the shoulders, it’s that the accountability system has been changed over and over or its communication between admin and teachers, or teachers just don’t know how great the new curriculum is yet.  Vitti has been really great at two things, taking victory laps whether they are deserved or not and making excuses.

I am not the only one questioning Vitti's sincerity either.
from the Tampa Times

Florida's 2015 school grades became official Friday, concluding a months long saga over their validity and how superintendents across the state lost confidence in the new grading system. Some speculated that no one would care about the debut of the new grades based on the Florida Standardized Assessments.

But apparently Pinellas and Hernando counties, along with Duval County, still care. These three counties sent press releases Friday championing their improvements.
So yes to use the super’s words it is a fact we slid to a C the year before he got here and the state graded us a B this year those are facts.
The truth however is we are in trouble and the main reason is we have a super who is more interested in looking good and getting the last word rather than doing what is right. We have had successes, lots of them but I believe the vast majority of them have happened in spite of the super not because of them. 


  1. There are so many things wrong in our county that I want to say, but who needs the heat on them with Dr. Vitti trolling your blog. I have about 5 more years left in this county. I'm going to put my helmet on and ride the hills and valleys carefully.

  2. I enjoyed hearing Vitti talk about dealing with "a hostile working environment" yesterday. Talk about irony. Now he knows how every DCPS employee under him must feel. Most media sources I read neglected to mention where the public records request originated. Maybe they didn't want to bury the lead? A Miami law firm with ties to charter schools(and Vitti I'm sure) asked for the correspondence of 3 school board members. Not all 7 mind you. Just 3. I'll give you 3 guesses which ones they chose to focus on. It looks like their fishing expedition has paid off & the super won't be happy until everyone has kowtowed to his agenda. (He has leverage & he is great at playing the victim.) He's doing his victory laps now with a gentlemen's "B" in his backpocket. Vitti is a great salesman and politician but not much of a leader. Gloating over maintaining the status quo is hardly newsworthy.

  3. Interesting comment by Vitti: "It was brought to my attention " and then " It will be interesting to see how you address the matter considering the facts."

    I believe he religiously reads your blog, but then acts like someone told him about it. If there is someone on Duval County Public School's payroll who is reading your blog during work hours and reporting to Vitti, then I say shame on them for wasting taxpayer's money.

  4. In an independent taste test, 4 out of 5 consumers preferred Brand X. Dr. Vitti understands the need to market Duval Public Schools. The harsh reality is we need to sell the public on how good we really are. (It's not the parents who remain, but the ones who are leaving that we need to reach. That charter with the slick ads? Not better.) Whether or not seizing upon an invalid stat is savvy we can debate. I am working on a submission about school grades and how I understand what the superintendent is doing.

  5. Remember when Hall was followed home from a school board meeting?? Wasn't that around the same time as this records request?