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Ultimately it is president Obama who is responsible for Pearson's testing fail

A little background. Pearson who is paid millions to be responsible for the FCAT experienced massive computer failures today.

From Bonnie Margola, via Facebook

 Quote: "One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you're not learning about the world, you're not learning about different cultures, you're not learning about science, you're not learning about math," the president said. "All you're learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that's not going to make education interesting."

"And young people do well in stuff that they're interested in," Obama said. "They're not going to do as well if it's boring."
The president endorsed the occasional administering of standardized tests to determine a "baseline" of student ability. He said his daughters Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, recently took a standardized test that didn't require advance preparation. Instead, he said, it was just used as a tool to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses. The girls attend the private Sidwell Friends School in Washington."

At the end of the day President Obama doesn't want your kids to have the same education his kids are getting. And all he does is play lip service to the needs of our kids and our schools. 


The hypocrisy of the Voucher movement in Florida

The voucher movement is championed by the Florida legislature. They say they believe in a lot of things but when the rubber meets the road their beliefs have a way of fading away. Rifting off of a Scathing Purple Musing piece.

They say they believe in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) but at the same time they are okay with voucher schools teaching creationism as science.

They say they want all of Florida’s kids to have a great teacher, unless your kid goes to a private schools that takes vouchers. Those teachers don’t have to be certified, let alone have a degree. Then how do we know how they are doing unless we can link them to a test. Now I think that idea is dumb and ineffective but the Florida legislature doesn’t.  

Then there is common core which they say will save us all from mediocrity and allow us to compete in the global economy, unless of course your student takes a voucher.

With so many incongruent positions how can anything they say or do be taken seriously?

In Florida up truly does equal down.

To read more click the link: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/florida-republican-hypocricy-unmasked-in-voucher-expansion/

Another Gates idea fails spectacularly

And before I get started Gates was identified as a national philanthropy that my home town's school board and super want to bring to town. Oy vey

Bill “It will probably be a decade before we now if our reforms work or not” Gates won’t have to wait that long for InBloom his info gathering service as after 100 million dollars he pulled the plug.


It joins small learning communities in the dustbin of education ideas. One other his teacher evaluation system is circling the bowl while common core remains propped up by the billions he has invested.


If Bill Gates were just a regular guy nobody would give his terrible ideas the time of day. 

Vitti knows we need social workers and counselors, chooses to fund TFA instead

In a Times Union piece about uneven discipline the superintendent gave an impassioned plea for more social workers and mental health counselors, a sentiment that has been expressed on Education Matters dozens and dozens of times, because often why a kid acts up or doesn’t try in school often has nothing to do with school.

He said there are complexities behind those numbers (suspensions/referrals), some having to do with student behavior, some with teachers’ and administrators’ behaviors and assumptions, and some with parents.
Also, there’s a community-wide lack of mental health and emotional support for students growing up in poverty, he said. Florida ranks 49th among 50 states in mental health funding, he added.

“We have children dealing with depression, anger and frustrations that are linked to their socioeconomic situations,” he said.

With better funding, he said, schools and their community partners could scale up support services from social workers, psychologists, mentors and improve the school’s outreach to parents.

The super is dead on and the super also had the resources dangled in front of him to put a huge dent in the problem. He passed.

Instead the super has chosen to spend over 5 million dollars (not counting benefits, salary and district training) on Teach for America Teachers, rookie non-education majors who at best have a whiff of classroom management training. It gets worse to because most of them will be put in our neediest schools where “We have children dealing with depression, anger and frustrations that are linked to their socioeconomic situations,”

Instead of bringing scabs in, why wasn’t the money invested in people who can really make a difference?
You know what gets me about our super? He has a lot of good ideas that are only half implemented and he talks the talk but doesn’t always walk the walk about what is best for our students.   

Voucher parents aren’t the villains of the debate, they are the pawns.

Former Senator Al Lawson writes I have little tolerance for those who try to cast these parents as villains in public education. Education is a not a zero-sum game, and this scholarship is simply about giving poor families more options.


I don’t know if he is naive or if he thinks the public is because vouchers is a lot more than giving poor families more options and the pro voucher crowd uses those same poor families he claims to care about as pawns in the education debate.

First let me say no matter how often Lawson and the other supporters of vouchers repeat it, it doesn’t make it true. Yes some of the students who took vouchers and left public schools were struggling but some were doing very well too. Vouchers have more to do with parents wanting a religious education, their distrust of gov’ment schools and irrational hatred of teachers unions that getting better education outcomes. I know this because the states own experts says the children that get vouchers don’t experience better outcomes and I would add that private schools can pick who they take and keep and put requirements on parents, which are significant advantages when determining performance. These also help mitigate the facts that private schools that take vouchers don’t have to have certified teachers or teachers with degrees, recognized curriculums and many teach creationism as science.

Then for every independent group Lawson can come up with to say vouchers save money I can find a handful of superintendents and parent organizations that bemoan the loss of resources and report being able to do less and less because of it. Does Lawson really think the annual siphoning of hundreds of millions of dollars has not just no effect but a positive one?     

Furthermore there are lots of reasons why people oppose the expansion of vouchers. First for religious reasons, vouchers don’t just blur the line between church and state, it obliterates it. There is the accountability, that Lawson and many voucher supporters’ fight against and the fact vouchers annually siphon hundreds of millions out of public schools and the tax base which pays for many services.

If we are being honest other than a religious education there is very little that students who take vouchers can get that they couldn’t get in public schools and the public should not subsidize a family’s choices to leave. There is no manifest need that Lawson or the other voucher proponents can point too.

Are there great schools that take vouchers? Undoubtedly is what the states voucher expert David Figilo reports but he also says there are very poor ones too and unfortunately Lawson instead of weeding out the bad apples wants to expand the program. Also where are his cries insisting that Florida’s public school children receive adequate resources? They weren’t to be found in his op ed and that should tell you all you need to know about where his loyalties lie. Instead all he is interested in doing is beating the voucher drum, willing to undercut the many who attend public schools to help the few who choose not to.

Doug Tuthill plays tricks to sell vouchers

Doug Tuthill, who receives nearly a quarter million in salary as president of Step up for Students paints a pretty dramatic picture of a parent fighting for her child’s voucher in the Miami Herald. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/20/4067746/tax-credit-scholarships-strengthen.html

It’s a pretty standard trick too. He says look at this one parent while simultaneously hoping you will ignore the millions of parents in the Parent Teacher Association who have come out against the proliferation of vouchers, who are fighting for their children.  

That however is not where his tricks stop. He says that children that receive vouchers were the lowest performers in the district’s schools they left behind. Some of them were but according to David Figilo the states voucher expert some of them were doing very well too. Later he omits that if his plan succeeds then the value of vouchers will go form under five to over six thousand dollars, the income of families that will be eligible jumps to over sixty thousand and the fees Step up for Students receive will nearly triple from about 8 to about 24 million dollars. That is money that will never see a class room. Most egregious however is he then makes light of the hundreds of millions of dollars annually siphoned out of already resource starved schools doesn’t hurt them.  

But tugging on heart strings and omitting information is where his tricks end because more people are becoming aware of the inner workings of Step up for Students. They have seen the video where they admit to paying off legislators with campaign donations and they know the only waiting list is one kept on the back of an envelope, Doug Tuthill’s own words in a piece on his blog, ReDefined Ed.  People understand that despite being able to pick who they take and keep children that attend vouchers don’t get better education out comes and they understand that private schools that take vouchers don’t have to have certified teachers or teachers with degrees, recognized curriculums and many teach creationism as science. Finally they understand how the proponents of vouchers resist accountability, saying state tests are good for public school children but bad for them.

Tuthill wants you to look at the few students vouchers do help while ignoring the fact most could get the same services in their public schools. However should the public really be forced to fund someone’s religious choice, distrust of “gov’ment” schools or irrational hatred of teacher unions?  Should we really be handicapping the many to help a few? Tuthill obviously thinks so.

Parents doing the dirty work for Step up for Studnets

Step up for Students is having parents do their dirty work for them. Another parent goes to bat for them in the Ocala Star-Banner , http://www.ocala.com/article/20140420/OPINION/140419646/- which means another parent asks us to subsidize her choice ignoring the fact her choice hurts us all.

When criticizing the Florida Parent Teacher Association for fighting for all children and families including hers, what Chanae Jackson-Baker is really doing is asking us to subsidize her choice to put her children in a private school.

As a parent I can understand that she is doing what she feels best even if she fails to acknowledge that private schools that take vouchers in Florida are the wild west of education.  Their teachers don’t have to be certified or even have degrees for that matter. Their curriculums don’t have to be regulated and many teach creationism as science and then despite their assertion that there is accountability, there is no way to measure it as they are required to take a norm referenced test rather than the states.

I spoke with David Figilo the states experts on vouchers and he said as a group students in private schools that take vouchers don’t perform any better than their public school counterparts. He went on to tell me there were some really excellent private schools that take vouchers, mostly religious schools, but there were some very poor ones too. I would like to add private schools that take vouchers can pick who they take and keep and can put requirements on parents something public schools can’t do.

The Parent Teacher association however has a different responsibility than an individual parent and that’s to look at the overall health of our public schools something through the siphoning away of resources is hurt by vouchers.  They understand that public schools are here to benefit all of us whether we have children attending them or not. They recognize that we should all want them to be as strong as possible and recognize the dilution of resources hurts us all.

Then there are lots of reasons why people might oppose the expansion of vouchers too. First for religious reasons, it doesn’t just blur the line between church and state it obliterates it. Then there is accountability, that John East and many voucher supporters’ fight against. They may take a test but there is no direct comparison between how voucher kids and public school kids are doing. Then it annually siphons hundreds of millions out of public schools, which are already starved for resources, and out of the tax base that goes to pay for other state services.

She also got a few things wrong. If Step up for Students gets their way, the values of the scholarships will go up to over six thousand dollars and the income of families eligible will exceed sixty thousand dollars. Then she never mentions that Step up for Students management fees will triple from around 8 to around 24 million dollars and that’s a year.

Vouchers undoubtedly do help a few students but if we are being honest how many students couldn’t get the same services in their public schools. Should the public really be forced to fund someone’s religious choice, distrust of “gov’ment” schools or irrational hatred of teacher unions?  Should we really be handicapping the many to help a few? Should we really be subsidizing Chanae Jackson-Bakers choice, which may or may not help her, but hurts us all?

Duval could stop the proliferation of charter schools with two simple rules.

Even as big a critic of charter schools as I am I believe they have a limited role to play as a supplement to public schools. Unfortunately the powers-that-be, despite dubious quality and the fact the only thing they seem to do really well is put money in the pockets of their owners, have set them up to replace public schools.

Jacksonville which has seen the amount of charter schools double over the last few years could stem the tide and protect students and families too, with just two simple rules.

The first rule is more than half of the managing board of charter schools should be from Jacksonville, this is a similar rule that many counties have an enforce. The whole concept of charter schools was parent driven laboratories of reform, not mercenaries looking for profit centers. This would make sure that there was at least some local involvement.

Next charter schools should not be allowed to expand whether grades or sister schools until they have earned at least two consecutive C grades, another rule some districts have. That way we know at the very least there are minimum standards being met.

Is that asking a lot, half the board being locals and at least an average grade before expanding? Some charter school outfits might think so because if those two rules were in place we would have a lot less than the 31 charter schools that we have now.  

Notice I am not asking that the charter school serve a need, sink up with strategic plan or be innovative, something charter schools are supposed to do/be already but have been allowed to get a pass on.

The school board has said they want to push back against charter schools and adopting these two reasonable rules would allow them to do it.

Unfortunately reasonable and school board are not words that often go together. 

Duval County rolls over to Charter Schools USA while other cities fight back.

From the Tampa Tribune:  Four months after the Hillsborough County school board denied an application for a charter school at MacDill Air Force Base, the district is raising questions about who’s in charge at three other schools operated by the company that proposed it, Charter Schools USA.

Those calling the shots at Henderson Hammock, Winthrop and Woodmont charter schools are from out of town, a violation of their contracts with the school board, district charter school director Jenna Hodgens said.
State law doesn’t require local control of charter schools, which are public schools operated privately, but it does give school districts wide latitude to establish their own conditions.
“We feel strongly about a local board,” Hodgens said. “Other districts don’t push the issue, but we do.”

We would be one of the districts that doesn’t push the issue.

I pointed out to our school board that none of the members of the charter schools board were from Jacksonville but this revelation was met with a collective shrug of its shoulders.

Jason Fischer also took campaign donations from charter schools USA, and coincidently enough it is in his district where the new school is being built, oh it started construction even before it received approval.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a board that was more interested in doing what is right for our students than adding to the bank accounts of millionaire, mercenary charter school operators?

That’s obviously a priority in Tampa. 

Parent blames public schools for the problems supporters of vouchers created.

The Step up for Students save our millions of dollars in fees, err let the program expand campaign has really for lack of better words stepped up. At first it was their six figured executives writing letters to the editor but they have now turned to parents to do their dirty work for them.

Terriya Washington wrote an impassioned piece to the Times Union and almost the first thing she complains about is budgets have been cut. 

I hope this irony is not lost on you, as it is the legislature in Tallahassee, filled with voucher proponents and pubic school detractors who fund our schools. If Washington is upset that budget cuts have led to a reduction of services she should be upset at the very people she talks so highly about.  

She follows this up with muddying the facts. Yes, the Parent Teacher Association is against the expansion of vouchers as are people who are for the separation of church and state, which vouchers obliterate. Likewise are scientists who believe the replacement of actual science with the junk science of creationism is totally unacceptable. 

She then says the Florida Legislatures is trying to expand vouchers so more poor students can receive them but that’s not true. If Step up for Students has their way they now want to give scholarships to families earning a little over sixty thousand dollars. Then she is totally wrong about the assessment piece too. The tests they take are very different so there is not an apple-to-apple comparison.

Later she complains about over crowded classrooms, which is also a result of the supporters of vouchers gutting the class size amendment. Once again she complains about the problems that the supporters of vouchers created while demanding her voucher.

I can appreciate her caring about her parents and being an active parent. I really can but at the same time the public should not subsidize her choice to leave pubic schools especially when the siphoning away of resources exacerbate the problems she sites as reasons she left.  

I have a message for the parents who are taking vouchers. If you don’t like the problems in public schools find out where they came from and who caused them and then point your outrage in their direction. You will be pointing towards Tallahassee not towards your local public school.  Furthermore instead of demanding the public subsidize your choice, let me suggest you demand the powers-that-be fix the problems, many of which they created in the first place. That way everybody benefits.

Vitti versus Stewart with the commissioner of education job on the line.

I have been wrong about things before. I thought Ed Pratt-Danals would be working for a KIPP school by now and I thought Obama was going to be good for education and neither has come true. So I might be wrong about Superintendent Vitti angling for a bigger job too, but follow me for a moment. 

The state board of education only kicking and screaming appointed Pam Stewart to be education commissioner. Yes I know they said complementary things about her but she was passed over first by Gerard Robinson from Virginia and then Bennett from Indiana before getting the job. To be honest if they hadn’t hired her after two stints as intern commissioner that would have been really telling.

So here she is finishing her first year and se has come up with some humdingers. She attacked the parent of profoundly disabled little boy for questioning the states overbearing testing policies. She made cosmetic changes to common core and then changed the name hoping nobody would notice that for all intensive purposes the same thing. Then she hired the same group that did the disastrous VAM to replace the FCAT and is paying Utah 5.4 million dollars to field test the questions after saying field testing was unnecessary.

Yeah I get it, perhaps we could chalk al of above to the nutty nature of Florida but now lets add in Superintendnet Vitti’s push back against Stewarts doubling down on Florida’s failed accountability system. 

He penned a letter to the board outlining why moving forward without a pause was a mistake and Chartrand the chair of the state board of education and Vitti’s rabbi, urged Stewart to take the recommendations under consideration. She didn’t and a bill making its way through the Florida legislature is basically a cut and paste of what Stewart has recommended.  I want to add despite the fact that the PTA, the teachers union and the superintendents association have come out against it; so much for school choice or local control right.

So what does Vitti do, he strenuously objects (anybody remember that scene from a few good men) but this time he brings the DTU, the NAACP and the school board with them and fires another shot across the bow of Stewart (and the legislature).

"I am vehemently against using this test next year the way right now that the legislature is saying we need to use it," said Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. "Anyone will tell you that before you use an assessment it needs to be properly field tested."
Vitti and other school officials were critical of the field testing to take place in Utah.
"Utah looks nothing like Florida," he said.

 I get it my evidence is a little thin, a barely competent education commissioner, disagreeing with a woefully incompetent board and a superintendent supported by the latter pushing back against the former. But if you buy Vitti’s claim that he wants to spend a career in Jacksonville I have some swampland you might be interested in cheap. He is not the 35-year-old superintendent of the 20th biggest school district in the nation because he likes the Jaguars. No this is a stop on his way to bigger things.  


Then again I have been wrong before. 

Florida Voucher Proponents Change their Narrative again.

Have you noticed school choice advocates like Steve Knellinger, who recently wrote an op-ed in the Tampa Times are constantly changing their narrative? They have gone from saving children from failing schools, to competition, to kids just learn differently. But other than a religious education, what can kids get in private schools that they can't get in public?

I will tell you, they can get a non-certified teacher, heck they can get a non-degreed teacher too as there are no requirements for teachers to meet. They can get an education in junk science, creationism, while failing to get an education in actual science; in fact they don’t have to have any recognized curriculums. Then there is no way to actually compare how they are doing with public school students because they fight against accountability. They don’t fight against public money, no they want more of that; they just fight against proving it is being well and properly used.

Vouchers undoubtedly do help a few students but if we are being honest how many students couldn’t get the same services in their public schools. Should the public really be forced to fund someone’s religious choice, distrust of “gov’ment” schools or irrational hatred of teacher unions?  Should we really be handicapping the many to help a few?