Experience in education matters

From an article by Diane Ravitch

When I saw Linda Darling-Hammond last week in California, she gave me charts from the U.S. Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey which show that the modal years of teaching experience in 1987-88 was 15 meaning that there were more teachers with 15 years of experience than any other group); in the latest published survey, 2007-08, the modal years of experience was one. That means that in 2008 there were more teachers in their first year of teaching than any other group. This is frightening. What sane nation would want to lose its experienced teachers and rely increasingly on newcomers?

People also forget that just a couple years ago Florida was recruiting in India and Canada because it could not find enough teachers here. What are we going to do when the economy turns around? People wanted to be teachers before because making a difference in young people’s lives was important to them unfortunately the field has been reduced to drones teaching to the test.

Education deformers beat the experience doesn’t matter drum every chance they get and we wonder why education is in trouble. The truth is the vast majority of education reformers don’t care about what happens to our children; they are just trying to make a buck.

The solutions to Duval’s education problems are in our grasp

I hear it all the time we must hold parents accountable and I agree but that’s not what schools can do. Schools don’t fine or arrest or pass out tickets, we can rightfully blame parents all day long but that doesn’t help solve the problems in our classrooms. We need solutions we can implement and do so quickly. What is so frustrating is the solutions are there too and they don’t involve breaking the back, reinventing the wheel, demonizing teachers and outsourcing our kid’s education. Schools simply need to control what they can, while the kids are there

We have rigorous classes and if a kid doesn’t pass he doesn’t go to the next level. We have disciplined schools, if a kid acts up they get a real consequence for bad behavior and then we get back teacher buy in, we allow them to use creativity, innovation and flexibility instead of making them carbon copy drones drowning in paper work, and we support them, by disciplining kids and putting some of the onus back on the kids and their families if they pass or fail or not. Right now teachers have all the responsibility but none of the authority.

We start with those three things, after some initial pain because we are in a pretty deep hole, then we will see some real gains.

Then down the road once we get control if we added things like multiple curriculums that teach the arts, trades and skills (not everybody is going to go to college and that is okay), legitimate summer school, not kids thrown in front of a computer, busses so we can keep kids after school for remediation and discipline and social workers and counselors because so often why a kid acts up or doesn’t try in school has nothing to do with school, there is no reason we couldn’t be a first class school district.

The Florida legislature snubs parents again and again

It used to be the Florida legislature would just ignore teachers. Since teachers unions usually vote with democrats they reasoned they didn’t really represent them anyways. Now however the legislature feels that can ignore parents too.

Parent group after parent group has come out against, the parent trigger. It would be one thing if those lazy selfish teachers were against it right, after all the legislature reasons they are only looking out for their self interests not what’s best for their students, but aren’t parents supposed to be better? Isn’t their concern just their kids?
Apparently not, as the Florida legislature is disregarding them too! The party that says they are for parent choice (re: privatization) is now ignoring what the parents want.

Parents groups have also come out against the siphoning away of additional public money to charter schools, many of which are for profit, too and the legislature has snubbed their nose at them again.

These two bills are quickly making their way through the legislature without the backing of teachers, school boards, the people locally elected to handle education, and parents too. The legislature doesn’t care what they think.

Read that again parents, they don’t care what you think.

More parent’s groups ignored by the Florida legislature

From Tampa Bay.coms Gradebook

by Jeff Solochek

As we reported back in December, Florida lawmakers have proposed several new ways to expand charter schools, including a bill that would force school districts to share their capital outlay tax revenue with charters.

A coalition of parent groups that recently came out against a “parent empowerment” bill moving through the Legislature today blasted the charter school effort.

“These are funds from the taxpayer/voter supported millage levy specifically meant to keep publicly-owned school facilities safe and modern. Voters never intended to use this revenue to improve, maintain, rent, build, or buy facilities for private people,” they said in a joint statement.

The Senate is scheduled to have its first committee review of this bill today. The House version has been scheduled but not yet heard.

The groups in the coalition include Citizens for Strong Schools, Fund Education Now, Save Duval Schools, 50th No More, Support Dade Schools and Marions United for Public Education.


The Parent Trigger shoots education in the foot

From the Sun Sentinel’s editorial board

It’s understandable that parents who have seen little improvement in their children’s poor-performing Florida schools would have itchy trigger fingers.

So what does the Legislature propose? Putting a powerful weapon in the hands of untrained parents. Last week, state House and Senate committees endorsed so-called “parent trigger” bills that would empower 51-percent parent majorities to select a “turnaround plan” for schools with a three-year streak of poor results.

Florida’s take on a California law that’s getting national attention has, among its cures, converting to a charter school or calling in a private-management company.

Nothing wrong with that. Unless you believe in representative government. That’s just one problem with the parental trigger, a simplistic, legislative overreach that assaults home rule, woos privatization, and leaves complex decisions in novice hands.

Under the bills (HB 1191 and SB 1718), a majority of parental petition-signers could pick an improvement plan. If the school board decides a different plan would work better, the state Board of Education gets to pick a winner — possibly trumping the local school board.

We know this sounds appealing in places like Broward County, where the School Board that is supposed to govern academics has been a mess.

But with a parental trigger, private education companies could chum the waters in beleaguered districts with political campaigns to tilt parents toward privatization. And why not? “For-profit entities,” notes Kathleen Oropeza, a founder of Fund Education Now, could gobble up schools “built and wholly owned by the taxpayers of Orange County” — or any other district.

We’re also troubled that parents — often too busy even for PTA meetings — would face a steep and brief learning curve in making such a game-changing call.

As Mark Phillips, professor of secondary education at San Francisco State University, observed in a Washington Post blog post, “In a society in which prominent politicians dismiss science and mess up their historical facts, it makes perfect sense to turn school decision-making over to parent groups who know little about education.”

Parents should be more involved in education matters. And high-performing charter schools can be a good ingredient in the school-choice stew.

But reforming schools through a parental trigger seems likely to backfire.


Pratt Dannals disingenuous response to devastating school rankings

Below is his response to the school rankings that came out today. In case you haven’t seen them 8 of our high schools are in the bottom 25 (out of 404) of the state.

We recognize that the results of our lower performing high schools needed to improve and have implemented strategies to improve both the FCAT scores as well as the newer grading criteria and are seeing positive progress. Having two of our high schools in the top 12 is impressive. Our expansion of the acceleration programs and career academies is designed to replicate the successes we are seeing at Stanton and Paxon, requiring rigorous coursework, high graduation requirements and post-secondary readiness. Duval County has the most rigorous graduation requirements in the state. The percentage of graduates completing a college prep curriculum in Duval County in 2010 was 82.9% compared to the state at 60.2%. *

The two high schools in the top 12 are Paxon and Stanton, magnet schools for our top kids and remember when Stanton and Paxon were number five and twelve in the nation? Now they are that way in just the sate.

There is also a difference between rigorous and advanced. Rigor has been destroyed by grade recovery and the districts gentlemen’s C policy, where we pass kids along whether they have the skills they need or not.

Finally ask Florida State College at Jacksonville where 70% of our graduates have to take remedial classes how well our college prep curriculum is doing.

How does this guy still have a job?

8 of Jacksonville’s high schools in the bottom 25 (out of 404)

8 of Jacksonville’s high schools in the bottom 25 (out of 404)

I don’t think it is fair to compare Duval to St. Johns or Cay or other neighboring districts. Quite frankly our district is both a lot bigger and a lot poorer.

But what about comparing our district to Miami Dade. They have three times as many kids and an even higher percentage of students receiving fee and reduced lunch. In last weeks rankings of districts they were 37th and we were 50th! We have eight high schools in the bottom 25 and they have five and nearly three times as many high schools too.

Look I am sure Miami Dade has issues, but many of them are the same as ours and they are doing a much better job handling them.

The problem here is our leadership. Since Pratt-Dannals became superintendent, rigor has been gutted, discipline has been gutter and he has greatly contributed to teacher morale being gutted. His constant all is well message is both wrong and does the city a disservice by giving it a false sense of security.

It’s time we thanked him for his service, gave him a gold plated watch and had him hit the road.

Jacksonville’s high schools rank at the bottom of the state

There are 404 high schools on the list

Andrew Jackson- 404



Englewood and Ribault tied for -391

Ed White tied for -386

Wolfson -385

First Coast -381

Terry Parker -325

To see the complete list click on this blog’s title or cut and paste below into your browser.


Russel Skiba of the equity project doesn’t get it about suspensions

“Schools that use out-of-school suspensions a lot tend to have higher dropout rates … have lower test scores on state accountability tests and get lower ratings from parents and teachers,” said Russell Skiba, director of the Equity Project, in a Times Union article about discipline.

Where the first three reasons might be valid statistics I would greatly dispute teachers have a problem with suspending misbehaving kids. Teachers all over the nation pray little Johnnies don’t show up so they can teach and their other kids can learn.

The big problem however with Skiba’s argument is causality. Do suspensions cause lower test scores and drop outs or would many of these kids drop out and do poorly on tests anyways?

I contend that kids that are frequently suspended probably aren’t in school because they want to be and likewise wouldn’t do well on standardized tests if forced to be there.

Courts charge kids younger and younger as adults, it’s time schools followed suit. If a sixteen year old doesn’t want to be in school it’s time we showed them the door. The benefits of doing so may just outweigh the benefits if any of keeping them. Check out the post below for reasons we should permanently suspend some kids.


Duval County doesn’t understand what suspensions are for

It used to be you suspended a kid when they got home they could expect the back of a hand from their parent and a room with maybe a book. It meant something. Now that many parents are abdicating their responsibilities suspension is little more than vacation to some kids but that doesn’t mean they are any less important.

It was a punishment and it gave parents and opportunity to be parents.

Now often when kids are suspended it’s not so they can learn a lesson, it so the other kids in their class can just learn in general. So many teachers and students have to endure toxic leaning environments because the district refuses to do something about discipline.

You want test grades and college readiness to improve? Tackle that problem first.

Suspensions aren’t for the kid being suspended, they are so the other kids can feel safe and learn. Those are the kids the system should be concerned about, not the thugs and malcontents that roam the halls of our schools.