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Trey Csar and Superintendet Vitti call Gary Chartrand out.

You know its bad when two men who owe their jobs to him cal him out for his disastrous testing policies.

From the Times Union: Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said it seemed designed to make schools and districts look bad and state leaders look tough. “No student, teacher, principal or school deserves to be labeled as failing based on this flawed process,” he told teachers. “State officials are manufacturing and ensuring lower performances in the name of ‘greater accountability and higher standards.’ But to what end? … Florida’s system has … been ruined by political and ideological ambition and arrogance.”

Meanwhile, parents should pay attention to the percentile ranking of their students on the reports, said Csar, of the public education fund.
Percentile data makes it easier to rank students along with their peers. Students with 88 percentile scored higher than 87 percent of the students in their grade.
Even if a child’s percentile is substantially below 50, parents shouldn’t panic, Csar said. They should contact their child’s teachers and look at schoolwork and homework.

“It’s just one window from one test,” he said. “It has the potential to be helpful.”
Admittedly Vitti's words were a lot stronger than Csars but there can be no doubt that one of the people that they are talking about is state board member Gary Chartrand who brought them both to the city.
Now we have to just hope that Gary Chartrand which has called for raisin the cut scores and going ahead with school grades listens, sadly though I wouldn't hold my breath.


Republican Legislator says he is tired of people blaming Tallahassee for education problems.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne said “It’s so easy to blame Tallahassee” for the problems in the education system, adding that he’s tired of hearing “how we screwed everything up.”

As the head of the Brevard County delegation I guess this is what passes for leadership.

When he is talking about how Tallahassee which has been completely controlled by republicans for going on for seventeen years screwed things up I wonder what he is referring to?
Maybe it is the demonization and marginalization of teachers which has led to an exodus of veteran teachers and a shortage.

Perhaps he meant how Tallahassee has chronically underfunded education and the lottery scam that gave them the cover to do so.

Maybe he means how they have ignored the will of the people with the class size amendment which Tallahassee has effectively gutted.

Then again he could be talking about siphoning nearly a billion dollars out of education and into voucher schools which have practically no accountability, the growth of for profit charters of which over three hundred have failed, the dozens of changes in the accountability system which have culminated in the FLDOE deciding using a flawed test to grade schools and evaluate teachers is okay? Perhaps its ignoring poverty and completely altering the system to go with Common Core may be the screw ups he is talking about.

There are problems in education and most were created by Representative Workman and his colleagues not our teachers or their unions as they would have us believe.

It’s time we fixed the problems in education and a lack of leadership is one of the biggest we have. 

Unfortunately Tallahassee where it is supposed to come from seems much interested in harming our schools than improving them.

Public schools pay the price for Tallahassee’s hypocrisy.

Often the people and legislators in Tallahassee who are fighting hardest to keep Florida’s failed school accountability system in place are school vouchers staunchest defenders. They scream that we must have accountability for our public schools but then they shrug their shoulders when it comes to private schools that accept vouchers.

In the public school system schools can be labeled as failures, children can fail or be forced to take remedial classes, teachers can be fired and every penny has to be accounted for. In the voucher system the only real accountability measure that private schools have is they are required to report what they do with the money if the amount is over 250 thousand dollars, which only a handful of them take in.

The people who support vouchers also say we must listen to the parents of children who accept vouchers because they know what is best for their children but at the same time they ignore the parents of public school children who have been complaining about a lack of resources and high stakes testing for years.

I will close by saying the state constitution calls for a high quality and uniform education system. What we have is neither high quality nor uniform as public schools pay the price for Tallahassee’s hypocrisy.

ELA teacher vents about the new curriculum

From a reader, a veteran teacher in the district,

25 books for 80 kids.... each kid is supposed to have their own so that can make it home...the curriculum call for a portion of the reading to be done at we are naturally way behind... and then demeaned by the district for being behind.

Unit 1 assessment.... literally makes no sense.... they hired some third graders to cut and paste in from Engage NY..... it was a disaster.

The time it takes to implement these lessons is actually double the time...everyone is behind...and everyone is getting crap form Bays (assistant superintendent) and her minions

Chris, I am not one of those complain about everything teachers...I work hard...I have one numerous awards for my teaching, but this new curriculum is BAD... I mean really, really bad.

Teachers are afraid to speak up and when they do, they get a visit from the district and they don’t come to offer support.

Veteran teacher speaks out, says the curriculum guide is killing us.

From a veteran Duval County Teacher,

I just read your post on the reading curriculum and the topics on each grade level are so inappropriate. Just another little pointer... The math curriculum is way too difficult for our kids too and we are pressured to be on the CG (curriculum guide), whatever it takes.

We had CC (common core) envisions textbooks the year before that were brand new and only used last year- ONE YEAR!! They have been taken away... Brand new books that are appropriate grade level material that DO have rigor no matter what they say.

I bet the public would be shocked to know these materials are available but teachers are not allowed to use them b/c principals do what their bosses deem is worthy not the teacher of 24 yrs. And I adore my principal, it's not their fault. Thank You for keeping it real when everyone else fears the wrath of the lead by intimidation administration.

I have to say it’s better than the years of Math Investigations which screwed over a generation of kids... At least it has a script and work included but it's way too difficult for most kids to process directions independently and the fact of being pressured to be on the CG when the lessons are so long is disturbing!

They don't care.

And having another tool that is brand new and we are not allowed to use per our judgement is so frustrating. I talked my principal into letting us use the books for "centers" as long as we can show data as to why a kid may be using it when someone walks in the room. And we were only allowed to have 6 of the books at that! There is a chart of the only materials we are allowed to use . That text is not on the chart. I've purchased stuff from TPT and can't use it unless I sneak it. Anything copied must be approved. Micromanaging to a "t". Ok I'm done with the rant. Just adding material to your blog... 

Gary Chartrand paints a very poor picture.

By Greg Sampson

How do you judge an artwork? If your criteria are whether or not the artist painted a picture that aligns with your tastes, you have made a subjective judgment, but more important, you have made a biased judgment.

If, on the other hand, you look at the brushwork, the use of color, the perspective in the scene, the choice of medium, and the originality of the artist’s conception, you are making a subjective judgment (one based upon your perception) but it is valid because it is not biased.

You may not like an artist’s work if it does not look like a photograph, but you can view a Picasso cubist painting and see how he distorted the perspective into geometries that nevertheless conveyed something essential about his subject in a brilliant way. You can proclaim him “proficient.” Maybe even “Highly Effective.”

Or you could try for an objective measurement. Take rap music, which our youth love and I abhor. Nevertheless, I can tell good rap from bad rap. We could measure rap music objectively: how many beats to the rhythm, the variations upon the main beat, do the couplets really rhyme; we could even look at the spellings of the rhymes and pass judgment. I could analyze an artist’s rap and report on those facts. But does that tell us if it is a good rap or a bad rap?

You are now wondering why this post is appearing in this blog, Education Matters.

I am responding to Gary Chartrand’s statement: “The FSA test score is the only objective piece of information the state provides to parents about how their individual child is doing,” said Gary Chartrand, a member of the board and a recent chairman. (

I challenge that statement:
·         Why does Chartrand not believe that subjective judgments, if unbiased, are valid?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that only one measurement is valid?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that only the State of Florida can provide an evaluation about how their children are doing?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that school districts, individual schools, and teachers are unable to provide feedback to parents about how their children are doing?
·         Why does Chartrand believe a state test that aligns to less than two-thirds of Florida standards is more valid than the test I give in my classroom that aligns to all of Florida standards?
·         Why does Chartrand believe that a child’s inability to solve a problem correctly on my test is not an objective measurement?

Gary, if you’re reading, I invite you to submit a response. I am sure Chris will publish it.

Is a schism developing between Chartrand and Vitti? (really rough draft)

Here is the thing, Vitti owes his job to Chartrand and nobody should think any different. They also have a special relationship and often times over the last few years it has looked like Chartrand has been pulling Vitti and the district's strings.

Vitti however for all his flaws is not a zealot, He has had a rocket trajectory becoming one of the youngest supers around and he's not done yet in his quest for world domination which merely heads through Jacksonville. The thing is he knows the test can be a bump in the road, parents are going to see F and D schools explode and eventually demand change. Some of Vitti's resistance without a doubt comes from a sense of self preservation. 

I also genuinely believe he wants what is best for our kids and for then to succeed. He just has no appreciation or respect for the job that teachers do and he is in way over his head. Ten-fifteen years from now he might make a pretty solid superintendent if he ever starts to value teachers that is.   

Chartrand on the other hand is a zealot, he does not want public schools to thrive let alone survive. He wants to replace them with charters staffed with non union teach for america hobbyists or to funnel everyone into voucher schools where the free market will sort it out.

Now look at what they have both said over the testing debacle.

First Vitti, From WJCT, Vitti said, "I'm not ruling out that opting out wouldn't be a possible option if we continue to see absolute stubbornness, arrogance, on the part of the department and many state officials right now in Tallahassee regarding the direction of accountability in the state of Florida."

He is definitely talking about the state board of which Chartrand is a member, stubbornness and arrogance describe Chartrand to a t, and if you doubt me just look at what he said.

Several members used their comments at a board meeting on Monday to urge Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to recommend more stringent “cut scores” to the board in the coming weeks. The new scores will be set as part of the state’s move to the Florida Standards Assessment, or FSA.
“The FSA test score is the only objective piece of information the state provides to parents about how their individual child is doing,” said Gary Chartrand, a member of the board and a recent chairman. “Some states, like Massachusetts, New York or Wisconsin have little or no gap between their state results and their national test results. Florida should move in this direction.”
Charrand who was never an educator and who sent his children to expensive and exclusive private schools that don't rely on high stakes tests apparently feels he knows better than professional educators.
Furthermore Chartrand doesn't care one bit about parents, if he did he would be listening to them, as they in a tremendous vice say, hold off on these tests and scale back the state's reliance on them. Humiliating schools and teachers is his only goal.
Chartrand and Vitti are on the opposite side of this issue but both for self serving reasons. 

Just who would the state board of education listen to? (rough draft)

My bet is only Jeb "stuff happens" Bush.

The state board of education last weeks aid they had lost confidence in the accountability system.

Then this week the PTA said, "The fact that the school districts have lost faith in the decisions of the Department of Education must be rectified. Parents and community stakeholders will not continue to tolerate this mess," the Florida PTA said.

And the Florida Association of School Administrators has joined the growing call for Florida to temporarily halt school grades while leaders sort out the concerns and questions surrounding state testing and accountability.

"District and school based administrators also question why we continue to push a high stakes test which was not administered the first time as a base year and was flawed in administration," FASA executive director Juhan Mixon wrote in a message to members early Friday. "We concur with the superintendents' conclusion that, 'There is no evidence that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is fully aligned to or measures Florida Standards.' And we echo the superintendents in asking for an 'extensive review of the accountability system."

Followed by the Florida School Board association who likewise had damning words for the commissioner and state board. In a statement today, the group said it "firmly supports the Florida Standards and valid and reliable state assessments to measure student progress in mastering those standards.
"However, Florida school board members are deeply concerned about the integrity of Florida’s current accountability system, which they believe has continuously deteriorated," the group continued. "Additionally, the FSBA is concerned with the lack of trust from educators, students and the broader public in the fairness of statewide assessments and standards."
Only the state board of education, commissioner of education and a smattering of politicians seem to want to go forward. The reason, they don't represents the state's schools, students, parents and teachers and instead they represent outside interests who want to see our system fail.

Vitti has the audacity to tell people he knows what teachers think. (rough draft)

In a Times Union piece about Florida’s testing debacle, the superintendent said,  But for now, the state’s proposed cut scores are still too high, said Vitti, who pointed out that Florida has repeatedly raised academic standards in recent years to make students more college-ready. 

It raised cut scores before the new tests and again with new, tougher tests, artificially boosting the numbers of students who’ll be considered below grade level or failing, 

Vitti said. "Teachers feel as if this is all part of a long litany of insults,” he said. "The accountability system manufactures low performance and then issues scarlet letters of D’s and Fs.”

I don’t want to dismiss the fact that teachers are concerned about the FSA and frustrated by the way the state does things because we are but what Vitti is apparently tone deaf to is that many teachers feel a lot of the insults are coming from him.

The super has taken pot shots at the quality of the district’s teachers practically since day one.

Discipline which admittedly was far from great before he arrived has gotten worse.

Teachers feel micromanaged and ignored by the district.

Help is rare and criticism from the district is rampant.

I was at a JPEF community meeting a couple weeks back and there teachers spoke about the districts culture of fear not about how crappy the FSA tests are.

So yes teachers are concerned about the FSA however many are more concerned about what is happening at one Prudential drive more so than what is happening in Tallahassee.  

Here are just a few things the super has said about teachers.

When will Vitti take some responsibility? (rough draft)

Superintendent Vitti hits all the right notes when he talked about the latest FSA test results in the Times Union. He said the test won’t show growth, there are questions about the validity of the test and higher scores not fewer students doing well will lead to a lot of failing schools, kids failing and teachers getting poor evaluations.  These are all accurate critiques but the truth is he is leaving out an important detail and that's what role he has played in where we find ourselves.

Superintendent Vitti was brought on board to improve the district and I remind you that every other district is playing by the same terrible and unfair rules that the state has set up. This means even though the game is terrible, the playing field is level.

When we look at the results that way then it becomes pretty obvious that district  has not improved and many of us in the trenches think we have taken a few steps back.

It’s also a shame that so many important decisions are going to made on this one dubious test but you know what, it has been like that for over fifteen years now. For a decade and a half we have been labeling inner city schools failures because their kids don’t do well on standardized tests and blaming teachers for those failures. The test may have changed but the system hasn't.

Now that Vitti is at the top of the education ladder here in Duval (and remember after his first full year as superintendent, we had a catastrophic grade report) instead of stepping up and taking any responsibility for what he has brought to the district, the new curriculum that relies on worksheets, teachers poor morale and substantial turnover, his leadership decisions, wasting money on the QEA, the expansion of charter schools and the over reliance of technology at the expense of human capital, which have all contributed to our poor showing, he says who me? Nah it’s the tests fault.

Superintendent Vitti is completely correct with the issues he brings up about the new test, it is a Shakespearean tragedy what the state inflicts upon its schools, teachers and students but as the three year anniversary of the supers first day fast approaches its time he took some responsibility for where we find ourselves as well.

In the Times Union he did his best to manage expectations for the results which are going to be pretty poor and yeah we can blame the test but the truth is there is plenty of blame to go around.

Is Florida about to start arresting parents or forcing kids to leave school over opting out?

I ask because that seems to be where we are heading.

First look at what education chairman Marlene O'Toole said a couple weeks ago: "You're not allowed to do that (opt out) and keep your child in a public school," she said. "So if you want to have your child learn another way or do something different, you always have the option to take them (out). School boards should not be ... saying, Well, okay. There is no okay."

Then throw in what Kurt Browing, superintendent of Pasco county said, As much as Browning says he wants to see the system changed, he has yet to change his stance on opting out. He sent his message to parents in February that "There is no opt-out provision," and advised all employees in a memo around the same time, "At no time may a school or its staff encourage students to abstain from participating in the statewide tests."

The article above went on to talk about how students would be forced to sit during the testing time if they refused to take it but the state seems to be getting more and more militant and giving parents fewer options. Though one of the options as O'Toole pointed out is to take your kid and leave, perhaps to take a voucher where there is no test to take.

If it is illegal to opt out then there has to be a consequence for doing so, which is sad because during all the FSA problems districts routinely announced they had better ways to assess children than the test. A test which I remind everybody just prompted sixty-four of sixty-seven district 
superintendents to say they have lost confidence in the system.

It is becoming more and more apparent that the FSA is not being used as a tool to improve education but rather being used as one to bash it into submission. 

Humiliation not improvement is the goal of the commissioner and state board of education.

Sixty-four of sixty-seven of Florida’s school superintendents said in a letter that they have lost confidence with the pubic school accountability system, joining millions of teachers and parents and numerous civic organizations statewide. They have urged education commissioner Pam Stewart and the state board of education not to give school grades based on the much maligned Florida Standards Assessment until all the bugs are worked out and confidence can be restored. The commissioner and boards response thus far has been to say not only will we go forward but we will make passing scores as high as possible and we should all ask why.

I believe it is because the commissioner and board, none of who were elected and were appointed by an administration who is more interested in privatizing our school system than improving them, want to humiliate the state’s schools and teachers.

Higher passing scores will lead to more schools being labeled as failures and more teachers being labeled as ineffective. Then the states reliance on high stakes testing and insistence in using a flawed test will also drive more families to take vouchers which have don’t have the same ill-conceived accountability measures in place. In fact they have practically no accountability measures in place as voucher schools don’t have to have certified teachers, recognized curriculums nor take a test that shows any type of growth, furthermore they don’t even have to account for how they spend the money given to them unless they take over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which is the vast majority of them.

Isn’t it time the Commissioner of Education and the state board of education supported our schools rather than continuously tried to injure them? Sadly they might not do so unless we demand it.

The new ELA curriculum off to a slow start. (rough draft)

When the district decided to go away from books and go with hand outs employing an outfit named Engage NY I had my reservations. Engages reputation was less than sterling and I thought the districts plan to provide materials to all of its ELA elementary classrooms was ambitious to say the least especially considering the districts track record.

Not wanting to be that guy who hates puppies just because the district likes them I decided to wait a few weeks before I wrote about it. Such an ambitious plan would undoubtedly have bugs and need some time to work out, especially here in Duval where we can never seem to hit the ground running.

So last week amonth into the school year I started asking elementary school teachers what they thought and most answers started with well let me tell you, and then they would go into talking about how sometimes the lessons were to complex or not complex enough, while other lessons were inappropriate and how the entire curriculum didn't leave a lot of room for flexibility, reteaching and exploring outside materials. 

They did say however that the district had been fairly good with getting teachers materials, though often there weren't enough to send home and two separate fourth grade teachers complained they were missing materials, so maybe there is a fourth grade glitch but overall at least that part was working much better than I expected. 

I felt the initial consensus was somewhere between not that great and ugh, we're working through it.

Then in the last few days I received the following two notes.  

I teach third ela and am on the verge of quitting. The new curriculum is horrible. I have several teachers willing to talk to the media so long as they can be anonymous. The public needs to know that our new curriculum is HURTING our students. They aren't learning anything. Any idea why this isn't on the front page of the paper?

We are all at a loss! The new Duval Reads curriculum is horrific, and now we are told that the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments are not aligned to the FSA. In 4th grade we have four Social Studies Lessons and they are at the end of the 9-weeks. We have Social Studies standards to teach, and I can't quite figure out why the district feels they can overlook that fact. In addition, there is a Florida Statute that states our elementary children are to have 30 minutes of continual exercise per day. Recess is mandated by the state.

I think teachers are willing to try new things, even radical new things but thier ability to teach what they know to be contrary to their students needs is limited. I suspect that many teachers willingness to give the new curriculum a chance is running out. 

I have a feeling as the year goes on I will be getting a lot of notes like above and just for the record, I love puppies.

How many ninety plus kid classes are there in Duval?

It's just an elective so what does it matter? Well if you are the teacher of the class, a student in it or a parent of one of the students, it might just matter.

Earlier this year I wrote about a PE class that had eighty kids in it. Trying to be as positive as possible the coach said, the administration planned to level the class in the next few weeks, I wondered at the time if that meant they would just have fifty or sixty students.

Fast-forward a month and the teacher now tells me there are over ninety kids in that class and that he has 450 kids on his role. Just PE right, who cares, who cares that it is both dangerous and nothing can get done.

What about foreign languages should we care about them? At another school the foreign language teachers have 250 kids in their classes.

I get it we have limited resources and lots of needs but it seems to me we are setting lots of teachers and students up to fail. I however feel like we are spending a lot of these limited resources on technology, new laser etched computers, and computer programs are over the place when what we really need is teachers teaching.

It's about priorities and having manageable classes where meaningful instruction can go on sadly is not one of them for to may of our classes.