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Backpacks not bullets.


Pam Stewart says the system is fine while it is imploding.

From the Orlando Sentinel: "Today (Wednesday) we are seeing the assessment respond as it is intended to respond," Stewart told a Florida Senate education panel.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/school-zone/os-online-testing-problems-education-commissioner-post.html

From the Times Union: Tuesday it was slow but better and Wednesday was even better, but as the week wore on more grades and students were added to the online test system and it is struggling to handle the load. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said it looks like when Duval added middle schoolers to the high school students taking the test, they and other students around the state apparently overloaded the system.

“Unfortunately, as I expected, with the larger districts joining the testing process this morning, along with middle schools, the system imploded,” he said.

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2015-03-05/story/duval-schools-cancel-testing-again

Um by intended to respond does she mean imploding?

You know I used to feel bad for Pam Stewart, who was intern commissioner twice, passed over by men not even from the state, but I get it now, shes either clueless, incompetent or both, and for her to tell a senate panel the prolems were fixed when they obviously were not she may have passed over to the criminal as well.

It's time for Pam Stewart and this entire testing fiasco to go. Pull the plug Pam before it gets any worse.

Becki Couch may have some explaining to do.

First let me say I was impressed by Couch, Hall and Wright as they battled with the other board members. Like most people they realized this was snot the time to extend the superintendent's contract.

This isn't the first time they have battled the other board members too, I have seen Couch and Wright ask hard and probing questions about charter schools and Teach for America in the past. Sadly however like then they caved when it became apparent that the majority of the board wasn't going to stand up to the privitizers and corporate interests or data wasn't going to sway the day.

When I went up there yesterday to tilt at windmills talk about how we needed to wait for all the data to come in and to let people know we had nearly a year before we needed to make a decision, I knew it was a foregone conclusion that the super's contract would be extended but what I really wanted was for one or more board members to go, hey lets use data when we make a decision, lets think about teachers and/or lets look out for our schools and children and for a second it seemed like there would be three who would cast no votes even if they were symbolic but in the end they all voted for the extension.

As I wrote earlier Couch was not happy about what happened but she said something very interesting when she cast her vote. She said she was making it out of loyalty and several readers have brought up some interesting and great points.

-That's the Broad Foundation training that every vote has to be unanimous or else the public loses confidence in them. Well, I have lost confidence that they never have rigorous debate and disagreement. Given the Sunshine Laws in this state, when do they thrash issues out?

-I am baffled by Couch's loyalty comment. To whom is she loyal? The students? The teachers? Vitti? She owes him nothing. I am left to conclude that she owes the charter school advocates who contributed to her campaign. She sits on a "public school" board and is owned by right-wing politicians whose aim is to destroy public schools. I would respect her if she was the lone NO vote (that shows political courage), but to vote AYE and then immediately say she didn't want to is bizarre. If you didn't want to, then you shouldn't have, idiot! You're not a teenager. Shouldn't you have moved past peer pressure by now?

Like I said at the beginning of the piece I was appreciative to a point for her efforts but at the end of the day she owes her loyalty to the schools, teachers and children of Jacksonville and she should show it by voting against the corporate interests even if she loses.

If Couch voted yes to give the public a sense of all is well, then it was a wasted voted because anybody who saw last night or who has been following the board over the last few months knows the board is in disarray. 

WJCT and The Jacksonville Public Education Fund team up to decieve the public and deamonize teachers.

This is getting really disappointing. I expect the Jacksonville Public education Fund to have an agenda after all they aren't run by educators but instead by ideologues but WJCT, our public radio station, they should both know and strive to do better.

JPEF is having a "Teaching Transformation" event on March 10th at the WJCT studios and I encourage everyone who can to attend, follow the link below. 

This is from the page describing the event.

“Teaching Transformation” will take you inside the local Quality Education for All Fund, aimed at supporting and retaining great teachers in some of Duval County’s highest-need schools. With teaching quality as the number one factor in student success, this is a crucial conversation that every public education advocate will want to attend.

http://www.wjct.org/events/teaching-transformat

Actually the research says teaching and in school factors contribute about 20% to learning/success, with outside school factors influencing much more heavily.See below.

Throw in the words, in school, and yeah they might be accurate, but the way it is written now implies outcomes are completely up to teachers and nothing could be further from the truth. This also means they want people to believe that teachers are completely responsible when kids don't make the level that some members of society, Gary Chartrand and the board of the JPEF, think they should, furthermore the statement discounts the importance of what else is happening in a child's life.

This is just one more example how WJCT has let their relationship with Chartrand and the JPEF make them a pawn to push their agenda, which like with Teach for America and Charter Schools is not grounded in data. Or who knows maybe it is their agenda too.

You don't have to agree with me, but you should agree with the research and they should put accurate information that reflects it.

Here are some links to the research: 

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2013/07/poor-schools-under-perform-because-of.html
http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/07/what-research-is-vitti-looking-at.html

Here is the thing even if you are like, they meant "in school" and innocently left it out, something I don't believe for a second, what problems get solved when we only address a fifth of it? the answer is none.

I guess another option is they were just completely ignorant but that opens an entirely different can of worms.

We should expect more and better of WJCT, unfortunately we are not getting it.

Becki Couch reads the school board the riot act.

It appeared she was mostly speaking to Jason Fischer and WOW!

From the Times Union: Becki Couch said she had asked for additional data that she didn’t receive before being forced to decide on the contract. For more than an hour in discussion, it looked as if the board was divided.

Couch said in the end she voted in favor to prove her loyalty, but she didn’t like her concerns being dismissed by the rest of the board.

“The way this was handled was very inappropriate,” said Couch. “This cannot occur on the board, where we box out people when they share that they have concerns. It looks bad to the public, like we couldn’t get our act together.”


The thing is the Times Union doesn't do what Couch said justice. She went on a three minute rant where it appeared she had tears in her eyes. Not tears of sadness mind you that the august body was unraveling but tears of anger as the board is transformed into something horrendous that doesn't represent our schools, teachers and children but a few peoples agenda, see her comment last month when she said she had never felt more pressured.

It was obvious that she felt her and other members of the board, Hall and Wright, were being disrespected and marginalized by the block of Gary Chartrand paid for ideologues (Smith-Juarez, Shine and good God what have you done Mandarin, Fischer).  

Sadly Mrs. Couch, Wright and Hall, joined the people they basically accused of bullying and marginalizing them and voted for the hastily put together agenda item. That last part was their words not mind. 

Not one teacher speaks up for Vitti

Now plenty of the cities elite did. I guess they enjoy having their own private superintendent who answers to their beck and call.

Terrie Brady, perhaps explained why.

During her portion of the meeting she talked about the poor state of morale for the district’s teachers blaming quite a bit of it not on the low salary or mountainous paper work but on their direct administrators, or you know the people Vitti hired.

Teachers cannot not do as an effective job if they are browbeaten, bullied and disrespected which seems to be the modus operandi for a good amount of the district’s administrators.How does Vitti expect for the district to reach its potential if he allows that to happen.

It is very telling that not one of his employees took the time to speak up for him, to say, the old man’s doing a great job please extend his contract.

That not the city’s elites who showed up to shill for him, should speak volumes.

Accountability and Data are great for teachers but completely unnecessary for the super and school board.

That was the message they sent to teachers and the public yesterday when they voted to extend superintendent Vitti’s contract.

The announced they had already decided to hold him harmless for this year, and I remind you this comes one year after a historically bad drop in student achievement here in Jacksonville, effectively gutting accountability. They simultaneously mentioned that the districts third and tenth graders as well as the districts teachers would not be getting a pass.  

In doing so they opted to ignore last year’s horrific data and this years as well (maybe they know something we don’t). Who cares how we do this year or how the QEA turns out they said, a lot of the members of the business community, i.e. our donors really, really like him, so we’re going to extend his contract for three more years.

The school board and the superintendent are always talking about the need to use data and to have accountability but it appears it’s only for other people not for them.

Hopefully the people of Jacksonville will remember this data and hold them accountable at the next election.

Vitti's contract extended.

It was a rough and tumble night but at the end of it Vitti's contract was extended 7-0. But that's not the story, the story is the fireworks that happened along the way.  To give you a little scope below are the titles of the blogs I plan to write in the next few days.

Becky Couch reads school board (Jason Fischer she was looking at you) the riot act.

Cheryl Grymes fails her first big leadership test, earns a Pyrrhic victory on supers extension.

Paula Wright reveals worst kept secret, we don't know what the beep we're doing.

Jacksonville's business community is dumb, really, really dumb.

Jacksonville School board is in disarray.

Zero teachers speak on Vitti's behalf.

Strange doings on the second day of testing.

First there was the letter from Pam Stewart:

Superintendents,
The department worked with AIR throughout the day and into the evening yesterday to better understand the issues that affected online testing in Florida on Monday. AIR has determined that a software issue caused log-in issues, including delays and error messages for a number of districts. AIR reports that of the 69,177 tests that were started yesterday, 67,745 were successfully completed.
AIR and its hosting provider, Rackspace, have worked to ensure that service is restored to the servers that support the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). Last night, AIR conducted an additional load test on the hardware that supports FSA and it showed improved performance after the software changes. AIR will continue to monitor server performance throughout the entire FSA testing window.
Districts may begin or resume testing as soon as they desire, and additional guidance will be provided to assessment coordinators shortly. ​
Sincerely, Pam Stewart
Hardly the, hey guys sorry we really blew that one, was it.  

Then there was AIR's apology which they released through Education Week not through the department of education or even a press release.

"AIR Assessment, the organization delivering the tests for Florida, accepts full responsibility for the difficulty," the organization said. "We updated student data, which was not immediately available to the testing servers. When students logged onto the test, the servers were forced to reach out to other databases to get the necessary student information."
"This substantially degraded performance," the AIR added. "This data is now available to the testing servers, so the problem should not recur.
http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/florida-testing-vendor-air-takes-responsibility-for-monday-problems/2219798

Um what? Okay sure but shouldn't you be telling that to the people of Florida at least through the people you work for instead of going through a national magazine. As bad as Pam Stewart's apology was this is just weird. They used the ostrich defense. They figure if they bury their gaff in the sand maybe nobody will notice.

Then there were even more problems. From State Impact:  For the second day in a row, some Florida school districts decided to suspend required testing because of computer problems.

And it looks like we may have a full scale testing revolt brewing in Miami. Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he won’t resume testing until the state can prove everything is working.

“Improving the system alone isn’t sufficient for me, for my teachers, or my students,” Carvalho said at a morning press conference. “I respect them too much. Either they have it right, or they don’t. And improvement of something that broke down is not sufficient.”
Florida I would like to blast you for failing to recognize and prepare for the most predictable of problems but it would make me feel like I was picking on a helpless puppy.

The Duval County School Board’s habit of manufacturing crises.

The Duval county school board has recently developed the bad habit of manufacturing crises.

A couple of months ago it was about the resolution to drop out of the law suit against vouchers. There were people in this audience that literally thought depending how the board voted they might have to find new schools for their children.

Now the headlines have read “tonight the School Board decides the superintendents fate” and none of the articles mention the fact that the decision doesn’t actually have to be made for nine months.

Other school boards from around the state are wrestling with testing, developing procedures to allow children to opt out, discipline and teacher morale, you know issues school boards should be talking about, while this school board is instead tackling something it does not have to. Furthermore few people follow local education closer than me and until the school board brought it up practically no one was talking about getting rid of the superintendent but then all of a sudden extending his contract became the most important education related topic in the city.

The superintendents own words however seem to indicate it’s not time.

A couple weeks back he said, I wanted to make the super bowl but we haven’t even made the playoffs yet. Well what’s wrong with making the playoffs before giving him an extension?  
The superintendent and the coach of the jaguars have several similarities, they are both young, passionate, work hard and bring a sense of optimism with them but unfortunately their on-field records are very similar too. The Jaguars have gone 4-12 and 3-13. Do you think the owner of the Jaguars is looking to extend his coaches contract? No of course not he is waiting for some on the field success as should you.

There is also some very important data just on the horizon that could undoubtedly influence your decisions, I and many others don’t understand why you are not waiting for it.

This summer we will know how most of our schools are doing and what if the results are even worse than anticipated? Next, the first year of the QEA something the super is inescapably tied to is also coming to an end. What if the results are abysmal? Wouldn’t the board be better prepared to make the decision to resign him or not with that data? I don’t know about you but I like to have all the information available I can to make a decision, not just some of it. If the board is demanding teachers be data driven then why don’t they lead by example and wait until all the data is in.   

I am hopeful our superintendent will turn things around though I wish he, and the board for that matter would spend as much time cultivating relationships with teachers as you do with the business community but at the end of the day, there is no imminent need to resign him for three more years. .
We have both more time and data to see before we have to.

I want to offer the board some alternatives to resigning him for three more years.

till the summer when some very important and telling data will be available before you make your decision or

Resign him for just one year, after all if that is good enough for teachers it should be good enough for him.  

Regardless of whatever they do, I hope we see an end to these manufactured crises, after all we have enough real ones to deal with

Superintendent Vitti really loves Gary Chartrand, let me count the ways.

From the Times Union: “With Gary being on the board, it provides perspective on issues regarding Jacksonville ...,” said Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. “There’s a level of ownership he’s taken in seeing that students in the Urban Core succeed through KIPP Academy and Quality Education for All, but at the same time, requiring more accountability, as well,” he said.
http://jacksonville.com/news/2015-03-02/story/chartrand-reappointed-second-term-state-board-education

You know because we need the perspective of a white Ponte Vedra millionaire who has never taught or worked in our schools to tell us what we need, I am sorry make that tell our poor black children what they need.

Chartrand must have developed his perspective for the urban core  when his kids were at Bolles

And Vitti's right about ownership because that is what Chartrand wants to do, own our schools, heck he already owns most of the school board.

If Vitti really thinks Chartand is the way to go and I get it, he can't really say, thanks for the money Gary but you are kind of a disaster, then Jacksonville is in big trouble.