I sold my soul to the company store

Let me start by saying I think education is woefully and embarrassingly under funded. Now are their areas where I think we should tighten up and money is wasted? Yes. Though I also believe that at the same time there are so many needs not being met and one of those areas is teacher’s salary. I know many teachers that are literally paycheck to pay check living in fear of a child’s illness, a car breaking down or some other common occurrence. I think teachers should all receive substantial raises while at the same time society sheepishly says, we’re sorry it took so long. Except for those brave men and women who keep us safe I don’t think there is a more important, vital and special job than teaching. So with all that being said why do I feel so dirty about the huge raise, at least seven thousand and possibly as much as eighteen thousand dollars, that I just received? Why do I feel like I sold my soul to the company store?

My school and several others in the area received what is called a School Improvement Grant (SIG). It’s basically money given to struggling schools and the very first example of just throwing money at education that I have seen. The biggest change is the school day is going to be extended for forty-five minutes so students can have what they are calling a remediation or enrichment period added to their schedule, though if it were called f-cat prep that might be more honest. I asked if the kids would be getting credit for that class and nobody could give me a straight answer. Teachers and rightfully so will be paid for this extra work.

Teachers will also be given a signing bonus if they commit for three years. Teachers will be paid for as many as ninety hours of professional development, teachers will be paid to work one mandatory Saturday a month and teachers will also be eligible for performance pay. Doesn’t sound bad right? We work, we’re pay, that’s how things should be, unfortunately the problem is two fold.

The first is we’re not going to change the way we do things. I get it that reasonable people can look at a problem and have different solutions but at the same time I don’t get how any reasonable person can look at our current education system and think we’re doing it the right way. Like a child refusing to admit they are wrong even when caught with their hand in the cookie jar the powers-that-be seem bound and determined to stay the course, this despite the fact our current system leaves so many kids behind. It also means universal board configurations, word walls, massive data notebooks, that so many teachers make just to appease their administrations, teaching kids that want to drive trucks algebra II, teaching just to the test, the mistreatment or our disabled children and so many other slights, mistreatments and injustices are going to continue to be the way we do things, par for the course.

Then teachers at other schools, even other turn around schools where they will be required to do the same work as the teachers at my school won’t be eligible for all the additional pay. You should have seen it folks we were called into a meeting and I felt like a team of used car salesmen we’re trying to sell me that bright sedan with all the extras while at the same time telling me I wasn’t allowed to look under the hood. We were all given the option to opt out and transfer to another school. There was one caveat however. The school we could transfer to would be another turn around school where we would be required to do all the additional work but there we wouldn’t be paid for it. Talk about a choice not being a choice. So now the DCPS system is making distinction between teachers, some of us will be haves but others will be have-nots.

Like I said above I can use the money and I think teachers all teachers regardless if they are at a turn around school or not deserve more but you know what teachers need even more to do their jobs better? Why it’s the same thing most kids need to learn better too. They need administrations to take discipline seriously. They need then to alter their thoughts on the one size fits all curriculum that we currently have. Teachers need not to over burden teachers with task after task that has at best just a peripheral relationship with education. They need for an end to social promotions and grade scrubbing. They need legislators who have never been in a classroom to stop meddling and finally teachers need to be let teach. It’s really that simple.

A common definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and to expect a different outcome. And that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to do the same thing with just a slight difference, we’re going to throw money at it.

Education Commentary

I thought Marvin Edwards’s commentary on local education was dead on. He is right the problems we are facing aren’t knew but sadly neither is our response to them. We keep electing the same type of leaders over and over. Our school board is still dominated by members of the political machine. All to often it is used as a stepping-stone for politicians on the way up or on the way down.

Tommy Hazouri has a long record of mediocrity, Stan Jordan left to run for state senate before his term was up, W.C. Gentry only ran for the school bard after a failed run at the state senate and Brenda Priestly Jackson recently announced she was running for the city council. What do they all have in common? Well like Eric Smith and Fel Lee two long time politicians who are running for the school board, they have either never been in a classroom or they were in one a very long time ago. If these are the types of leaders we repeatedly put on the school board is it any wonder we have such horrendous results.

Mr. Waters had another point about the money that the city has spent that could have gone to education but my question is what about the money that is dedicated to our school district that could have gone to education. Out superintendent, makes a hundred thousand dollars more than the mayor and as much as the superintendents in both St. Johns and Clay counties. The district spent a million dollars on new cars this year for it’s fleet of 520 cars. Thirty-two other employees most of who are on the superintendents inner circle and don’t work directly with children make over a hundred thousand dollars and we go through licensing agreements like water. Every few years there is some new software, computer program or miraculous education cure that the district uses only to replace when it proves ineffective. Then don’t get me started about the 750-person middle management that the district thinks it needs to perform its functions. These aren’t support or maintenance staff either but the amount of administrators the district has and like the superintendents inner circle they to don’t work directly with children.

I could go on and on adding to Mr. Waters’s points but then again I am the choir he was preaching to. I believe what he is saying and have seen the hopelessness on students, teachers and parents faces alike. Though that brings me to one problem he didn’t mention and that is the sad fact he is preaching to a very small choir. Unfortunately most people either don’t care or just don’t get how important education is. Our city and our children are suffering because of this.

Chris Guerrieri

The Death of Teaching as a Career

When I was in elementary school my third grade teacher was in her mid thirties and that was as young as I got. Back then most of my teachers were considerably older. They all had years if not decades of experience. You won’t find that now. It’s possible today for kids today to go all through school and not have a teacher who hasn’t been on the job for more than five years. Teaching isn’t a profession like it was just a generation ago, it’s a just a job and a job with a fairly high turnover rate at that and that is part of the problem.

Teaching is also a job that has tenure, which means if you do it fairly well it’s a job one can have for life. Teaching is a job that starts at a pretty decent wage and is also a job that has every holiday off. Despite all this, sadly this is a job that fewer and fewer people want to do, a job that fewer and fewer people stick with.

When John Thrasher and his ill-conceived senate bill six made the headlines a few months ago, one of his selling points was that a first year teacher could be as good as a tenth year teacher and where this is true it’s also highly unlikely. It takes years for teachers to hone their craft and I don’t know any teacher that thinks they were a better teacher when they started.

First year teachers even the ones with teaching degrees often don’t know what to expect and they don’t know what questions to ask. This is often compounded by the fact that most first year teachers are sent to the most struggling schools and are often inundated with extra paper work and tasks to do. The first few years of teaching is less about teaching and more about surviving. I have said it and it’s the same thing I heard my first year; “Just get though the first year kid, it will get better.”

In Jacksonville at the start of the 2009 school year 27 percent of teachers had less than four years experience. This matches up well with the fact that forty percent of teachers don’t last five years and this at a job that many say with a smirk gets summers off while they sit in front of their televisions and think to themselves I could do that.

Starting in year five and going through year 22 the amount of teachers in each subsequent year declines, 509 495 419 329 279 264 237 227 226 196 148 129 157 135 130 117 124 115. Over half of our teachers have less than nine years experience. Now nine years is a long time but as I stated above the teaching profession has changed.

Why do teachers leave? Well many feel overwhelmed, they are given more tasks than they can possibly accomplish or do well. If it was just teaching more would make it but sadly teaching today has less and less to do with teaching than many might think possible. Furthermore teachers are put in unattainable positions, every year the pressure on teachers seems to grow, while at the same time, parents, the community, the administration and the government seems to get a pass. Then others quickly grow weary of having to raise other people’s children. Teacher’s sighed up to teach and when they did so they knew some mentoring would go with the job. They didn’t know they would have to teach manners, basic rights from wrongs and how to be respectful as well. Others and I personally think this is the biggest reason that many have left the field is a lack of support.

The first year teacher shows up bright eyed and filled with optimism, ready to change the world, and this is an incredible feeling to have, though it is fleeting as many first year teachers have to go into survival mode. They try all sorts of methods to get the children to take care of their responsibilities, which are simple enough, come to class, listen and learn; First they come in as a strict disciplinarian, as this is the standard advice given to first year teachers. They are told to come in tough and then they can ease up as the year progresses. If this fails with some students, the first year teacher often reverts to being a social worker, trying to figure out why they act the way they do and tries to help solve their problems, then with some students they try to become their friend, figuring if they were friends, the students would treat them better, that’s treat them with some with dignity and respect. They do this because it takes different strategies to get through to different students.

And for the most part with one of these strategies they are successful, as ninety percent of all students want to be there, they want to learn, or at worse are followers, which means if there ring leader isn’t there they fall in line with the children who do want to learn. After a while it’s just that ten percent of students that no matter what they try to do continue to cause them problems.

They talk to their mentors, as every first year teacher is assigned one, and their colleagues and department head as well. They ask what they can do to get these last few students in line. The first year teacher laments when the unruly students are absent, “it’s dreamy, I can actually teach”. They veterans look at the rookies with sympathetic eyes but they also have problems of their own. Just survive the first year; we tell them, it gets easier. But how do I get through to them they ask, we shrug our shoulders and suggest, try and get the parents involved maybe they can help somehow, but in our hearts we know they are fighting an unwinnable battle with some students.

So they call the parents trying to set up parent teacher conferences, to discuss the child’s performance both academically and behaviorally, because often-poor performances in these areas go hand in hand. Some of the parents can’t be bothered figuring it was the teacher’s problem once the child came to school, others report having the same difficulties at home where they to are at a loss. The two parties might get together and try a few interventions and some students might actually turn it around, but just as often many students don’t.

Backed into a corner the first year teacher writes the student up, only to find them back in class before the period is over or at best the next day and angry that they were written up, the problem begins to worsen. You see most likely the child received no meaningful consequences for their behavior, and thus continues it. The teacher writes the child up again and again the child is back in class the next day, except this time the teacher is paid a visit by an administrator or called to the office. Why can’t you control this child, they are asked, they explain all that they have done and how none of it has worked. The first year teacher is then told, that referrals are only to be written for the most extreme circumstances and then only after every alternative has been exhausted. Most likely they aren’t given any new alternatives as they slump their shoulders and heads back to the classrooms. Because of this lack of support many won’t make it.

When school starts up I will meet twenty or so first time teachers. Of those twenty a few won’t last through the first semester. I say this with some assuredly because this has happened every year that I have been a teacher. They just don’t make it, preferring to get a job at the mall or waitressing instead of sticking with the job that many of them spent years preparing themselves for.

Forty percent of teaches won’t last five, over half won’t last ten and probably less than a quarter of all first year teachers make it a career.

School Board, district 6

I think in the past for the most part the outcome of school board elections were determined by name recognition and party affiliation. I hope that is changing because Jacksonville can know longer afford to do “business as usual.”

The economy is rough, crime is up, civility is down; apathy, hopelessness and hypocrisy have replaced motivation, hope and sincerity, well look at education because all those things can find their roots in our schools. If we don’t get serious and make changes our problems will only get worse. We cannot continue to do the same thing over and over and hope things will miraculously improve. That makes as much sense as passing a student to the next grade level that doesn’t have the skills to be there. Oh wait that’s something we already do with regularity.

One of the biggest problems we have had here in Jacksonville when it comes to education, which affects the city like nothing else, is a lack of effective leadership. Traditionally the school board has been either a stepping-stone for politicians on the way up or way down or a place where part time, casual observers, with tenuous ties to education, who are filled with hubris, think to themselves, I can fix that.

Jacksonville and its children can no longer afford this. Fortunately this year we have a real opportunity to make a change and we can start with the School Board district six races which has four main contenders.

First there is Eric Smith a career politician who I am sure is banking on his name recognition and supposed clout to get elected. Though I wonder if he has such tremendous clout why hasn’t he already been down at city hall or using his contacts in Tallahassee to change the culture “where it’s never time for the kids.” If he has this amazing clout, why hasn’t he been using it, instead of sitting back as the Duval County School Board forced every child into a one size fits all curriculum, divided the county up into haves (those that attend magnet schools) and have nots (those that don’t), practically gutted discipline, ignored the plight of many of the counties disabled children and started blaming teachers for not succeeding when put in unattainable positions.

Then there’s businessman Steve Berrey whose wife is a teacher. Though I am glad he’s not running on that alone because that would mean if my brother were a surgeon I could start cutting things out of people. His big idea is more professional development for teachers. Unfortunately he must not have talked to his wife because if he had he might know that most teachers consider the Shultz Center and professional development here in the county somewhat of a joke and in fact there is a pretty good one going around. How many district people does it take to hold a training? The answer is five, one to put it on and four others to look bored and work on their nails. Sure professional development has it’s place but what teachers really need is an administration who backs them up when they are having a hard time with a child in their class. Sending them back with a please don’t do that again, seemingly the districts only discipline plan, isn’t working for many.

Next there is resource office Gary Oliveras. At least he has been working in a local pubic school, something neither Berry nor Smith could say. Though comparing the school he works at, Stanton, to most of the schools in the county is like comparing a vacation in the Hamptons to relief work in Haiti. I think both have roads but the similarities end right about there. He is right though when he says the administration affectively knee capped teachers when they focused on reducing the number of out-of-school suspensions without putting options in place. First that takes a tool out of the discipline tool box, second it stops parents from being parental, third it allows some teachers to teach and some kids to learn as the only time that happens is when so and so is absent. Teachers throughout the district pray some kids will be missing so they can do their jobs and if suspensions help that even just a little maybe we should encourage more.

Finally there is Becky Couch. To be honest what she says is no more or no less impressive than what the other candidates have to say. They all seem to have sincere and good faith ideas. What sets her apart is the fact she has been in a classroom working with children. She has also heard what other teachers have had to say about what is working and what isn’t working and I believe the fact that she is a teacher gives her a better perspective than the husband of a teacher, a lifetime politician and a school resource officer could possibly have.

I like her idea about backing up teachers and principals that discipline, but I also like Berry’s proposal that the JEA start paying their fair share. I have no doubt Eric Smith does have clout, but he doesn’t have Couch’s experience working with present day teachers and students and I think that’s far more important. I don’t believe Oliveras sees the school board as a stepping-stone to other political offices but I don’t think Couch does either.

If you actually take the time hear what they say it’s really hard to say one sounds so much better than and that’s why to me it comes down to, who’s been in with the kids and who has shared the trenches with other teachers. I believe those two things above all else will give somebody the best idea of what works and what does not work. As far as I can tell Becky Couch is the only one who has those very important qualities.

Though regardless of whom people decide to vote for, I hope the citizens of Jacksonville realize we can no longer do “business as usual.” Doing things the way we have has seen us dig a deep hole for our city and many of its children. A hole that sadly many of our children will never be able to get out of. Jacksonville has real problems with education and it’s time we took them and who we decide to lead us through them seriously. I also hope people realize we can no longer make our decision based on whose name we recognize and according to what political party we like best. Our children are far too important for that to be the sole deciding factors.

Gianoulis

It’s nice to see a politician or a prospective politician who gets it and that’s what Deborah Gianoulis seems to do. To paraphrase a famous political quote, it’s education stupid.

The economy is rough, crime is up, civility is down; apathy, hopelessness and hypocrisy have replaced motivation, hope and sincerity, well look at education because all those things can find their roots there.

If we want society to improve, we need to better prepare the next generation and that means we can no longer can we just play lip service to education or allow our leaders to be at the beck and call of special interests unless it’s what should be all of our ultimate special interests and that’s our children.

Though I wonder what good this advocate of education will do, just as I sometimes wonder what would happen if we funded education properly as long as we here in Northeast Florida continue to have a school board that has a one size fits all curriculum, ignores discipline, blames teachers when they are put in impossible situation and don’t succeed to the level they hoped for and seems more interested in protecting their positions than doing what’s right for the children and city of Jacksonville.

However If Mrs. Gianoulis a long time children and education advocate does get elected and then practices what she preaches maybe just maybe that could be step one on the long road of turning this thing around.

A Teachers Lament

I am part of the problem….

It definitely won’t make the news, but Duval County failed another student today, though they are not alone as I failed another student today as well. I am not talking about failed in the sense we gave them a bad grade, and F, I am talking about it in the sense we let them down, we set them back, we have just made the rest of their lives more difficult…..

If you aren’t already fired up by the county failing students (the second version) something they annually do to hundreds if not thousands of them, don’t feel alone because sadly very few people are, and if that’s the case then don’t get fired up about me failing this last one either, as she definitely won’t be the last one I let down. I teach a special education science class at Ed White high school and I am part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, everyday I come to class prepared to teach. I roll up my sleeves and jump right in it’s just as my peers do, unfortunately like many of them I also feel like I am chipping away at a mountain with a plastic spoon. Teachers and students alike are handicapped by the FCAT, unrealistic graduation requirements, a lack of discipline and other policies and procedures mandated by the district or state that don’t make sense, nor do they seem to be in the best interest of us or the children. Everyday so many teachers who want to do well, who want to help the students in their charges do as well as they can go to work feeling like the deck is stacked against them and stacked very high.

My group of students has what we call varying exceptionalities, which means we group, educable mentally handicapped, emotional handicapped and students with specific learning disabilities together. Not only do I have students from all three categories in most of my classes, but I usually also have all four high school grade levels represented as well, and then during a few classes I am expected to teach a few different subjects.

All of my students including those that are capable of doing so much more are on what’s called a special diploma track. When they graduate they won’t receive a high school diploma, instead they will get a certificate of completion, which has more in common with three squares of toilet paper than it does with a diploma.

A lot of my students could achieve so much more if they were in classes with low teacher pupil ratios (two of my classes have more than twenty students in them) and received intensive remediation in reading, writing and math, in fact if those services were provided I may just be able to find a rocket scientist or two, but the powers that be don’t think they those things are important, so instead I am turning out students who at best after many years of dedicated service might make it to lead associate at a box retail store, if they aren’t jailed, living on the streets or on welfare that is.

Instead of giving my students what they need, what would make sense and prove beneficial to them giving their circumstances, I break open my fifteen year old text books that recently talked about an exciting new technology called laser discs, and has used the twin towers in several examples, and try to introduce them to topics they should have learned about years ago, but aren’t nearly as important when considering the fact many can’t read or write or do math on any level approaching their grade level. I have a friend that teaches fifth grade science and I am amazed at how often what the two of us are teaching overlaps.

This year had been amazingly frustrating, instead of teaching them the water downed science that I am, I felt I should be teaching them to read and write properly, or running a G.E.D. prep class as my students who may have aspirations of doing more will have to take it one day, that’s it had been amazingly frustrating, right up to the moment it became down right depressing.

It started when I got a new student right before winter break, she moved here from Michigan. I thought it a bit strange she came on the last day of class, but if you met this girl you might think it fit her. A little quiet and introspective she often writes in her journal when her work is finished deciphering the latest song lyrics or pondering the make up of the world. I asked her why she had come on this day of days (all we were going to do was watch movies) and she replied she didn’t want to have too many absences and since she was here she felt she should.

She has dyscalculia a math learning disorder that makes learning higher maths very difficult if not down right impossible. Except for her math classes and my science class, which I am sure they just threw her into she has all regular education classes.

Despite her above average I.Q. her disability and the absurdity of the situation, one size fits all graduation requirements, has served to seriously set this girl back in life just as it is beginning, and the thing is nobody seems to care, that she is going to earn a special diploma. I was told that for any student not in one of the work programs to graduate with a regular diploma they had to have algebra I and two other higher maths, if they couldn’t pass them regardless of disability they had to be on a special diploma track, though if they renamed it worthless diploma track that would be more accurate.

She’s not the only one, at my school for the most part we don’t even try to put capable, with accommodations, modifications and a differentiated curriculum special education students in regular education classes at my school, students that with help and accommodations could pass most subjects. After all if we don’t think they can pass the advanced math classes required what’s the point.

Here is the thing, when I was in high school, I took general math II as a junior and no math as a senior, if I were in school right now, I would be on a special diploma track, I would be graduating with a piece of paper that wasn’t worth the ink printed on it. In case you were wondering I have two college degrees from the University of North Florida, and my two degrees required a total of 7 credits of math, that’s two classes and a lab. Let me ask you a couple questions, how many of you would have received a special diploma based on our counties present requirements, how many members of the school board would, also how many of you recently used algebra II in your everyday life, and how many members of the school board do you think did.

In our mad rush to catch up with the rest of the world in math and science, despite the fact as far as I can tell we still lead the world in technology and scientific breakthroughs, I wonder how many students we are leaving behind, I don’t know the exact numbers but I know for a fact we are leaving more than a few behind in portable one at Ed White high school.

Why are kids that can barely read and write learning about the Revolutionary War and the cell, again? Why are we forcing students to learn higher maths that many who if they even go to college will not need or use again. Why are we trying to fit every child who is individual and has different needs into a one size fits all curriculum. Why do I get up everyday and go in despite the fact I know I am not giving my students what they need, despite the fact that I know I am part of the problem?.

I don’t have a good answer to any of those questions; maybe you do, because the school board doesn’t seem to have any good answers either

School Board Questions

An editor for the Times Union told me they plan to interview the candidates for the school board next week and asked if I had any questions I would like to see them answer. This is what I came up with and then for fun I answered them.

Do you think principals evaluations should be tied to how many suspensions they give out? Definitely not. It takes a tool out of their toolbox and hurts discipline in general.

Do you think severely disabled students should be taught access points or learn life and employability skills? No access points are watered down academics that they will never get or use. We should be teaching them things that would be beneficial to them.

What do you think about reintroducing the teaching of skills, trades and the arts on a district wide level? I think this should be a priority.

What do you think about school board employees making in excess of a hundred thousand dollars? No school board employee should make more than a hundred thousand dollars. The argument that we have to pay to attract top talent for me doesn’t hold water especially since so many teachers are paycheck to paycheck.

Do you think students who can’t read at grade level or read several grades below grade level should be promoted? After school and summer school should not be optional for these students. If a student is more than a grade level or two behind it is going to greatly diminish the chances of them being legitimately successful.

The district currently has a one size fits all curriculum, a kid that has an I.Q. of 130 who loves school and wants to be an engineer has to take and pass algebra II just like a kid with a ninety I.Q. that doesn’t care for school and who wants to drive trucks. Do you think this one size fits all curriculum benefits all students. No it hurts many of them and leads to many of the problems we are having. We need to develop alternate curriculums.

How would you have teachers evaluated? I would have them evaluated by teams of peers from other schools, they will no what should be happening and have little concern for office politics.

Would you support making grade recovery just for students who had legitimate reasons for missing class or for students who came, participated and tried but still failed, instead of the anybody can take it for any reason system we have now? Only kids that legitimately missed class or tried should be allowed to use grade recovery.

Diploma option 2 conveys none of the same benefits as a regular diploma, kids who graduate with one cannot go to college or join the military do you think having them take GED classes instead would be more or less beneficial? GED classes should be worked into their curriculums.

How do you think enforcement of the code of conduct should be handled? It should be vigorously enforced. Kids need consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Many teachers work dozens of hours of unpaid over time a week to complete all the tasks assigned to them. What do you think about paying them overtime or prioritizing the tasks they need to complete so they don’t have to work so much unpaid over-time? Either works for me but regardless teachers should not be working dozens of hours of unpaid overtime.

Do you think being in a classroom makes one more or less prepared to be a member of the school board? More prepared by far.

Would you be willing to substitute one day a week in the schools you represent? Yes

In order, whom do you think you will represent the most too least: the administration, parents, stakeholders, students, and teachers? Students and teachers would be 1 and 1A, then parents and stakeholders with union and administration concerns coming in last.

Do you think students who are classified a level one, two or three should be allowed to take advanced placement classes as they are now? No, they are not prepared.

Superintendent Pratt-Dannals said, we are a good community away from having a good school system. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why? I vigorously disagree where I think the both play a role on each other, schools have a bare minimum they should be doing, such as instilling discipline and ending social promotions and until we are doing that we are exacerbating societies problems.

What’s your big idea to turn things around? Getting back to the basics. Discipline, multiple curriculums and ending social promotions.

The Education Czar

A recent letter to the editor, I believe with tongue in cheek, suggested I become “Education Czar” for the district. The author sited my common sense approach to education and the fact that I couldn’t do any worse. It got me thinking, where I am not sure about my qualifications, I am definitely sure what my approach would be.

I’ll start by saying I don’t believe it wouldn’t take reinventing the wheel or breaking the bank to dramatically improve education in Jacksonville. What we need is vigorous enforcement of the code of conduct, to stop social promotions, to put legitimate safety nets for kids struggling either with academics and or behavior in place, to develop alternative curriculums, which means we reintroduce trades, skills and the arts across the district and finally we need to start treating teachers as valued assets by giving them autonomy, encouraging creativity and by not overwhelming them with task after task that only had a superfluous relationship to education. Instead I would want them to spend that valuable time with their students. In effect I would want to do everything we should be doing now, some might say it is common sense but aren’t.

I also believe the object of a public school education should not be to prepare every child for a post secondary education so they can compete in a global economy (the districts mantra) but to prepare every child to be a productive and civil citizen in whatever path they choose to take.

Which goes back to the letter writer’s thought, if we did it that way could it be any worse? I certainly don’t think so.

Chris Guerrieri

Whose fault is it?

Superintendent Pratt-Dannals joined with several other superintendents to challenge some of the recent f-cat results. I don’t know how that will work out. I do know that in recent weeks, he blamed the college entrance test that Florida State College at Jacksonville gives for not asking the right questions and that’s what leads to seventy percent of grads having to take remedial classes. I know he said that we are a good community away from having a good school system and he has pointed the finger at parents and teachers alike for many of the woes Jacksonville’s school system is experiencing.

The community, colleges, parents, teachers, the different tests, it seems like everything is to blame for our problems but the districts leadership and it’s policies. I guess it’s good to have one good thing going for us.

Chris Guerrieri

Drop outs, only a small part of the problem

Kids’ dropping out of school is a huge problem and not just for the dropouts themselves and it was rightfully identified as such in a recent Times Union editorial. Dropping out not only handicaps the future of the children that do so but also likewise damages society. However the following isn’t about those kids it’s about the significant amount of students who somehow mange to pass the “minimum standards” and graduate ill prepared for college, the workforce or life.

Florida State College at Jacksonville reports that seventy percent of recent graduates have to take remedial courses. Business owners also report having a hard time finding qualified workers from the pool of recent graduates. If local dropouts are costing Jacksonville millions of dollars how much money are they costing us? In a way school is even more tragic for them. They stayed all the way through and then aren’t ready for anything.

One of the biggest reasons kids drop out is the counties insistence on a one size fits all curriculum that has every child on a “go to college track.” Do you know what the difference in classes between a kid with 130 IQ, who loves school and wants to be a doctor and a kid with an IQ of 90, who hates school who wants to drive trucks, is? The answer is there is none, both children are expected to take and pass the same classes to graduate.

We have serious problems with our education system in Jacksonville, problems that are not going to get better unless the powers-that-be entertain the thought that different children have different desires, needs and abilities. Dropouts sad to say are only a small part of the real problems we have here.

Chris Guerrieri