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More general cluelessness from Representative Adkins

When Tallahassee talks about school choice they are really talking about privatization and I think I can prove it.

When defending her school choice bill Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach said, "Parents do know what is best for their child.  Not government. Not bureaucrats." This is the same representative which has insisted we keep with the high stakes testing agenda despite the protest of most of the states parents.  Apparently Representative Adkins only thinks parents know best if they are opting their children out of public schools.

I wonder if she thinks the parents of the thousands and thousands of children who were enrolled in one of the 270 Florida charter schools that failed knew best too.

Margrett Raymond the founding director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, known as CREDO, the definitive study on charter schools which says Florida’s underperform when compared to public schools, disagrees with Adkins, she recently said:

This is one of the big insights for me. I actually am kind of a pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And it’s [education] the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed. Frankly parents have not been really well educated in the mechanisms of choice.… I think the policy environment really needs to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. I think we need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools, but I also think we have to have some oversight of the overseers.

We do have problems in education but by far the biggest is the leadership out of Tallahassee which has been abysmal.

The big lie that the Jacksonville Public Education Fund is trying to tell (rough draft)

I have said several times that Jacksonville Public Education Fund does some nice stuff but what does it matter if what they do to harm education far outweighs it?

First a little background about the Jacksonville Public Education. Their first foray into education policy brought a “who the heck are these guys" from then school board member Tommy Hazouri.
They were founded by Gary Chartrand the local grocer who has his thumbs in every local education pie from Jacksonville University’s public policy institute to funding WJCT’s education coverage. He brought in the Professional Educators Network, a faux union, the KIPP charter schools, and Teach for America as well. Then he was instrumental in Superintendent Vitti getting hired and he and his friends have given money to at least 5 of the 7 school board members. I would say he was Duval's very own one man education Koch brother but since he really lives in St. Johns county I can't 

Chartrand used his money not just to start JPEF and all of above but to get on the State Board of Education too where he serves as chair. There he helped start Florida’s race based goals, minorities aren’t expected to do as well, expanded charter schools and vouchers, stripped teachers of work protections, brought in common core and several other corporate style reforms.

He undoubtedly influences everything JPEF does and people have to know by now that JPEF is ideologically driven as him. They think what is best is for kids is to be tested (ad nausea) and to be funneled into charter schools and voucher schools, while public schools wither and die on the vine. They just can't come out and say it because they know people would push back.

Please don’t just listen to me but instead you should let their own words do the talking for them.
This past summer they did a school choice study which said, choice siphons resources from public schools, charter schools do worse than public schools and we have no idea how voucher schools are doing because of the complete lack, emphasis mine, of accountability. Their conclusion, we need more school choice.

Then look what they just said about testing.

From the Times Union: The Senate bill caps testing at a level that doesn’t do a whole lot,” Csar said.
Data compiled by the Education Fund, shows Duval County students in K-fifth grade dedicate approximately 1 percent of their school year to statewide standardized tests and just over half a percent to district-level exams. Meanwhile, Duval middle-school students spend about 1.5 percent of their year taking statewide exams and just under 1 percent on district-level exams.

Duval County high-school students dedicate the greatest chunk of their year to testing. The data shows students spend nearly 2 percent of the academic year in statewide exams and just under 1 percent on district-level exams.

Two things, please don’t take my word for how wrong they are ask any teacher and you have got to be $%^*ING kidding me, that they actualy thought they could say that and the Times Union printed it without any analysis.

I asked the reporter Rhema Thompson who usually isn't this bad, Let me ask you a question. Was the only time you spent on the story about testing the time you were actually typing? Or did you spend a lot more time on the piece before you actually started writing. I bet it is the latter. I have yet to hear back from her.

First how long kids are testing is just one of the issues. The stress they put on kids is another. I just wrote recently about a tear fest at a local elementary school had, a scene repeated all throughout the district. Then it is what they are used for too. Testing experts say high stakes tests shouldn’t be used to make policy decisions nor should they be used to judge the quality of educating going on.

How much time we spend on them however cannot be discounted or lied away. JPEF says kids spend just 2.5% of the time on state and district tests, or 4 and a half days. Maybe kids do just spend nearly 32 hours bubbling in scan trons but that’s just part of the picture and to leave out everything else that goes on when talking about testing is at best ignorant but I believe it is agenda driven. I believe since they know people are becoming more and more aware and outraged by the high stakes testing agenda they in effect said, what those little tests don't worry about them. I believe they think if they tell the big lie often enough people will come to believe it.

A few other more knowledgeable sources think we are testing a lot more than the JPEF says/

A study cited by the Washington Post says it is anywhere between 19 days and six weeks.

The Florida Education Association says some students spend 60-80 days a year on testing or testing related activities.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said last year, "It is outrageous that schools in some states are spending up to 100 days a year doing test-prep or actual testing."

Does JPEF think testing happens in a bubble and nothing related to the test happens ever? If hey do they are ignorant which should concern us all as the line between them and the district is becoming increasingly blurred. If they said it and don't believe, because how could anybody then that is even more troubling.

Superintendent blasts state for wanting to give tax payer money to for profit charter schools.

The following is a letter that Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browing sent to prominent legislators in Tallahassee.

Richard...I just read that the House adopted an amendment by Rep Fresen that will require school districts to share part of the 1.5 mills with charter schools.  This is VERY problematic.  School districts are already strapped for capital dollars.  The millage was 2 mills but the Legislature cut it to 1.5 all the time our school facilities are in disrepair.  The Legislature will not even consider giving local district the option of increasing the millage to 2 mills by a supermajority vote. With the vote of the House, school district(s) will be in a position of having difficulties in meeting debt service payments.  A great deal of the 1.5 mills goes to debt service.  Additionally, this may very well cause school districts to have their bond ratings reduced making it even more difficult to borrow if they have the capacity.  I am not opposed to charter schools but I have a very hard time when public dollars are diverted to for profit charter schools that knew what they were getting into when they established their charter.  Public schools continue to suffer while for profit charters benefit.  I am very disappointed in the actions of the House.

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/pasco-superintendent-chastises-local-house-members-over-charter-school/2223391

There is no longer any pretense, the legislature is looking to dismantle our public schools to fill the coffers of their charter school supporters.  

Superintendent Vitti takes credit for sun rising

Oy vey, okay I am willing to admit, I may have lost sight of things, that I may be cynical or jaded when it comes to the superintendent but I will let you be the judge. The following is a letter he sent to district employees.

Good Morning Teachers,
 
On the heels of announcing our historic salary increases last week, we would like to provide you with courtesy tickets to the Jacksonville Armanda game this Saturday, April 4th.  We have 1,000 tickets available to teachers for the game against Edmonton. The game will take place at 7:30 p.m. at EverBank Field. You can request up to 4 tickets each - first come, first served.
 
If you would like tickets, they can be picked up on Thursday, April 2nd from the security desk at the Duval County School Board (1701 Prudential Dr., 32207) office between 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. or, at the Teacher Supply Depot – Supply Give-A-Way (3108 Lenox Avenue, 32254) from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
  
Thank you for what you do for our students every day!
 
Nikolai P. Vitti, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

I don't know about you but I don't feel so great about a 3.8 percent raise when I have been living on three percent less since 2011. I don't know about you but I am still bitter about losing a step when the district declared financial urgency while simultaneously siting over a hundred million in reserves. I don't know about you but most teachers I know would have rather had a greater base pay rather than the opportunity to make bonuses. I don't know about you but where appreciative of the raise I still know Duval is one of the worst paying districts in one of the worst paying states when it comes to teacher salary.

So yes the raise may be historic but that's like me saying we will have a historic amount of sun rises tomorrow or me saying if I go ten days without shaving I have a historic beard. Quite frankly it doesn't mean that much. 

Why didn't he just go, hey guys we have these tickets we would like to give you, thank you so much for all that you do? Why does he feel the need to try and spin everything? Spoiler alert he does not walk on water and we have a long way to go and if Vitti is taking us there we are on a road with lots of twists and turns.  

So thank you for the offer of tickets, I may take you up on it but keep your historic talk to yourself until it actually means something.

SHEESH!!!   

Everything that is wrong with VAM and testing in Florida in four minutes. A must watch!

Class size versus charter schools, one works one doesn't. Hint, it's charter schools that doesn't.

At the same time the state is voting to further limit the class size amendment, something the people of Florida have voted for three times, because Tallahassee does not want to pay for it, they have voted to force local school districts to share local tax revenue with charter schools, many of which are run by for profit management companies.

Smaller classes are one of the few reforms that has actual evidence that says it works, charter schools of which over 270 have opened and taken public money in Florida leaving families and communities in a lurch cannot say that. The Stanford Credo charter schools study, the definitive study on charters says, they as a group under perform in Florida, when compared to public schools.

Why is Tallahassee forcing districts to invest in an arguably failed reform while ignoring the will of the people and gutting one that has evidence saying it works? The answer as usual is follow the money as charter school operators are some of the biggest supporters of the republican legislators in Tallahassee. It's crony capitalism with our children paying the price.

We should demand our representatives do what is right for the children of Florida instead of doing what is best for the profit margin of their supporters.   

Wait what, Duval County schools done lost their mind!

I am just going to let them do the talking for me.

From the Times Union in an article about opting students out of standardized tests: 

There are other drawbacks to opting out, parents say.
Amy Hynes-Johnson, a Mandarin parent whose fourth-grader and two fifth-graders opted out of tests this week, said they sat in the testing room for 80 minutes at a time. But because they didn’t test, when their classmates had an after-test party at school, her children were sent to another room.
Oy vey, so the school can't find a place to send kids who opt out of testing so they don't have to sit there and do nothing but we can find a place to send them when they are to be excluded from a party? What the $%#@!!!!
I talked to an elementary school vice principal two days ago and she told me about all the children who were crying before having to take the tests. They said they did their best to calm them down but the stress we are putting on children is incredible. 
Stress, children, all over a test that most teachers can tell how their students are going to do without them even having to take it. 
We have gone to far if this is what is happening. 

Local Jacksonville education leaders who never taught or haven't taught much

The Huffington Post did a piece on all the education leaders who never taught including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Why Obama, why, why, why.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/education-leaders-never-teachers_n_4235177.html

And it got me thinking about local education leaders who never taught or didn't teach that much.

First there is our Superintendent Vitti who taught for just two years at two different schools in North Carolina and New York.

There is Trey Csar the president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund who spent two years as a teacher for America teacher in Louisiana.

Chair of the State Board of Education Gary Chartrand, a grocer by trade, says thirty years ago he substituted some but to be honest I can neither confirm or deny that.

School Board members Scott Shine, Jason Fischer, and Cheryl Grymes, nope, nope and nope.

Then there is Ashley Smith Juarez who I believe taught at Bolles for a couple years, it says in the SB biography she taught for public schools too but I can't find any record of that, she's so young the timeline would be really tight

So there you have it there is a woeful lack of teaching experience, especially local and public among our leaders. I can't help but think that has contributed to our schools spinning their wheels.

Why doesn't Vitti understand the importance of libraries?

A reader pointed out something I missed: “Do we really promote and teach the joy of reading,” School Board member Connie Hall asked.

Answer: NO. You don't fund media specialist positions, close school libraries, & then you you ask about promoting the joys of reading? Might as well be a rhetorical question.

The Mike the Teacher blog has covered the cutting of librarians extensively.


65% of existing Duval County Middle School libraries in 2012-13, were eliminated in 2013-14 (Vitti’s first full year as Superintendent).
79% of existing Duval County High School libraries in 2012-13, were eliminated in 2013-14.
90% of Duval County high schools (26/29) had no full-time librarian in 2013-14.
86% of Duval County high schools (25/29) had no librarian at all in 2013-14.
74% of Duval County middle schools had no librarian at all.
58% of Duval County elementary schools did not have a full-time librarian, but all had at least a part-time librarian.
In 2013-14, Vitti’s funding decisions eliminated library positions from 15 middle schools and 15 high schools (one other high school librarian was reduced from full-to part time).
While 90% of high schools didn’t have a single full-time librarian, Paxon (the college prep school) got TWO librarians.
Vitti cut the equivalent of 28 full-time positions at these middle and high schools where librarians were eliminated.


Having talked to some of the few librarians left they tell me more cuts are on the way as libraries across the city will be turned into testing centers and for a district with a reading problem how does this make any type of rational sense.

Vitti has a problem that many people in government have and that's unless it benefits them or it has worked for them they have no use for it. Take for instance Senator Rob Portman from Ohio who changed his tunes about gays when his son revealed he was one, Andy Gardiner here in Florida who has pushed for personal learning scholarships for disabled children because he has one and then there is Vitti too who has a child with dyslexia, he  starting the grasp academy to service children with it.

Vitti battled dyslexia too and the super should be applauded for overcoming his disability but at the same time this may have led to his lack of appreciation and understanding about the importance of libraries and librarians. Not everybody can learn from being thrown in front of a computer.  

Mike the Teacher pointed out it would take about 2 million to fully fund our libraries or about the cost of one of Vitti's computer programs that I am sure we will chuck in a year or too.

Librarys' and librarians are important despite what Vitti thinks and it's a shame he doesn't understand that even if he personally didn't have much use for them growing up.

Do you ever just get tired of the ridiculous stuff that comes out of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund?

Point one, their school choice report said charter schools do worse, we have no idea how voucher schools are doing, school choice drains much needed resources from public schools and the coup-de-grace, we need more school choice.

Point two a couple years ago Tommy Hazouri during his stay on the board said, who the hell is the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, when they tried to elbow their way into local education. fast forward and the creator of JPEF Gary Chartrad has his hand picked superintendent appointed and its hard to tell where the district ends and JPEF begins.

Point three, the director of JPEF has two years teaching experience, in Louisiana as a Teach for America teacher. I am siting on my couch with my wife and between us we have more teaching experience than the entire JPEF organization, she has none by the way (except for teaching me how to put the toilet seat down she wanted me to mention).

Point four is the wacky shit trey Csar, of the two years experience, says, take for example what he said in the Times Union the other day. When talking about the slow progress at The Transformation schools, funded by money manged by JPEF he said“What the district needs to do is to focus on closing the achievement gap,” said Trey Csar, head of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
“I have no doubt that the achievement gap is closable. The question is, are you closing it fast enough?”
Oh, we just have to close the achievement gap, its as easy as that. Tomorrow I just have to breath and the day will be great.
The real problem is Vitti, JPEF, Csar and the donors to the QEA, have no idea how to do that and reason one is none were educators, reason two is they don't respect or appreciate them.

Representative Eric Fresen votes to give his charter school owning brother tax payer money.

Oy vey, just when you think there is the worst of the worst another pops up. How Eric Fresen, who has had multiple conflicts of interest isn't in jail is beyond me. Welcome to Florida.

From the Miami Herald: The bill found little opposition at first — until House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, R-Miami, added the contentious provision about construction funding.
Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed, have long sought a stable revenue stream for construction and maintenance. Unlike traditional public schools, they cannot levy property taxes for that purpose. But school districts oppose sharing their tax dollars because most of the money is earmarked for debt service. What’s more, they point out that many charter schools are housed in privately owned facilities that do not revert to the public if the school closes.
The bill that passed Friday would ensure charter schools receive about 40 percent of the amount traditional public schools can raise for construction and maintenance, Fresen said.
If the state does not provide enough money in the budget, as it has done in recent years, the school districts would have to make up the difference with their tax revenue.
That Fresen sponsored the amendment was controversial. His firm has helped build several charter schools, and his brother-in-law runs Academica, the state’s largest charter school management company, .
Fresen said he did not consider the amendment to be a conflict of interest because it would not increase funding for charter schools.
“There’s already money for capital outlay,” he told the Herald/Times. “All this does is create a predictable framework for this capital outlay money to be expended.”
Democrats also raised problems with the measure itself. Several voiced their concerns during a caucus meeting earlier Friday.
“The deal with charter schools was supposed to be that they operate on a shoestring budget,” said state Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston. “They didn’t need the capital outlay funding.”
Just so everybody understands, this means we are going to be giving for profit charter schools, like the one his brother runs, more tax payer money.
What the fuck beep!!!

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article16483178.html#storylink=cpy

Saying Jason Fischer represents district 7 is a bit of a stretch

Saying Jason Fischer represents District 7 is a liberal interpretation of the facts, yes he was elected but rather than the people in District 7 he represents Jeb Bush and the privatization movement and make no mistake when he talks about school choice, privatization is what he is really talking about.

First let’s talk about charter schools. Over 270 in Florida have taken public money and closed leaving families and communities in a lurch, including a half dozen in Jacksonville.. Also according to the Stanford Credo and a Jacksonville Public Education Fund study, Jacksonville’s charter schools as a group under perform when compared to the public schools. In fact the only ones that are doing well are either in neighborhoods that have traditionally done well or spend about a third more per child (KIPP) to educate them

Then there are vouchers, the same JPEF study lamented that we have no idea how they are doing. Furthermore not only does most of the money go to religious schools and they don’t have to take the same standardized tests that public schools do but the system is set up so they don’t even have to report how the money they receive is spent. Accountability it seems is a necessity for public schools but less than an after though for voucher schools.

These which drain resources out of the schools, again from the JPEF study, are two of the choice options that Fischer praises.

Jacksonville also recently voted overwhelmingly that employees should live within the city limits, well Fischer is advocating with HB 1145, that Duval educate children who not only don’t live in the district but whose parents don’t pay taxes here either.

Manny Diaz r-Hialeah when shilling for the bill said, “There should be no hesitation in allowing a student who has not been provided the right opportunity in whatever arbitrary, designated county they live in to be able to cross that line and get a better opportunity,” he said. “I will tell you that if that school district and that school that that student is supposed to be zoned for is doing their job and providing them the best opportunity, the parent’s not going to be looking for another one.

Yes no hesitation and if schools weren’t crappy then parents wouldn’t have their kids leave. Or maybe there are just too many back kids, or poor kids, or some other petty reason that people sometimes use to make decisions.

Also how isn’t this going to further segregate our schools? What poor or middle class parent can drive their child across the county line day in and day out? That would be none. All this is going to do is further drain resources from schools that can’t afford to lose them and Diaz and Fischer think that is a winning proposal.

Fischer is also for fiscal accountability, except for voucher schools which don’t have to report how the money is spent and for Charter schools many of which are for profit. It’s also interesting to see an elected official advocating for the end of democracy. Charter and Private school boards are not elected.  

I have long said public schools need more choice options and I applaud the district for creating dozens and dozens more but charter schools and vouchers schools aren’t here to add choices they are here to replace public schools and since charters do worse and voucher schools are without accountability it’s a bad deal for all of us. Just like Jason Fischer has been for district 7.

Finally, I am not sure how many of you know this but before Jason Fischer loved education, he loved soil and water; he just wasn’t elected to the soil and water board. Then just a little after the two year mark of his term he announced he was going to run for the state house. His biggest supporters have been charter school and voucher interests, one of who he works for.

Sometimes it is the little things about Vitti that bother you the most.

At the Jacksonville Public Education one on one conference Vitti went on about the transnational schools quite a bit. He said for the first time ever every position had been filled.

Well today in the Times Union he sang a different tune. Transformation schools have in the past suffered from high teacher turnover. Even now, not all of their teaching positions are filled. Vitti said the district is trying to hire for nine openings, and 27 more are unfilled for a variety of reasons, including that some teachers are on leave, that is out of more than 1,100 teaching positions.
“My concern is, do we have quality teachers in front of those students every day,” said Paula Wright, a board member, “A quality teacher can override … poverty, attitudes and all those negative things.”

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2015-03-26/story/duvals-transformation-schools-face-long-road-improvement

Okay, just 36 out of 1100 is a drop in the bucket, just let it go Chris who cares. the thing is the conference was just six weeks ago, did we lose 36 teachers since then, or did he know that there were openings and just went with the pep rally vibe he was selling. I don't know about you but I want a super who doesn't run from or spin problems no matter how small they might be. Deep breaths, who cares, I get it we have big problems and this probably isn't one.

A big one however is who was Wright referring to, she is obviously not convinced all the classes are staffed by quality teachers. I don't think for a second she is talking about the transfers, which makes me believe she is talking about the 200 or so Teach for America teachers. I am not saying they don't work hard or they aren't trying, I am saying those kids, our neediest of the needy, deserve better.

If we want them to improve anyways that is.

No information on how high and middle schools are doing with the QEA. Not even any spin.

The Times Union did a pretty big piece about the Duval Transformation schools. Thirty-six traditionally low performing schools that have seen unprecedented community support in the form of additional money.

The article went on and on how the elementary schools were doing, giving some pretty impressive spin from the district but do you know what the article doesn't mention once? How the middle and high schools are doing.

A couple years ago the department of education did a similar study offering unprecedented bonuses to high performing teachers to go to traditionally low performing schools.

http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/02/superintendent-vitti-reads-slate.html

The study reveled solid gains at the elementary level but zero gains in middle school and they didn't even try it in high school. So why no information about how the high and middle schools are doing? What's the big secret?

School board member concerned about discipline at the transformation schools

From the Times Union: But some School Board members say they wish there were more signs that transformation schools were catching up to the rest of the district.
“I’m still very concerned. ... We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Constance Hall, adding that when she visits transformation schools she sees teachers and students working hard.
It will take time, she said, for high-performing teachers to have an impact. National research shows it can take four or five years to turn around a persistently low-performing school, she said.
She added that she wants more improvement in children’s behavior, especially more respect for teachers and principals. But mostly she is concerned about reading progress.
“Do we really promote and teach the joy of reading,” she asked.
Okay, there is a lot of yada, yada, yada there but notice when Hall said,   She added that she wants more improvement in children’s behavior, especially more respect for teachers and principals.
Who wants to bet referrals are way down at those schools? If a sitting school board member mentions that discipline isn't where it should be shouldn't we stand up and take notice? Shouldn't we say, what about all of Vitti's reports that it has improved?
Discipline is hard but necessary and I am not saying to drop the hammer or be cruel but it is something we have to address and its something that is holding back the learning of many children. If a teacher spends just ten percent of their time disciplining, usually just a couple kids too, then the entire class has lost out on 18 days of instruction.
The teachers that transferred to those schools deserve every dollar they get and then some but if we wanted to make real gains, we should have had smaller classes, behavioral supports and wrap around services. You know things that have proven to work.