More Dumb ideas about evaluating teachers

The United Way joined the bash teachers movement two years ago when it accepted a large grant to study teacher quality, why no grant to study bad policies or a lack of resources I wonder. Two years later they came up with the wonderful idea of having students evaluate teachers and by wonderful I mean wow how absolutely stupefying.

I have had students after receiving referrals announce to the class that nothing would happen to them and that I would be the one who got in trouble. Kids today also use grade recovery to game the system to cut down on attendance and work. Could you imagine how they would be if they could grade their teacher? Their little brains would pop with power

Are you sure Mr. G you don’t won’t to give me an extension on my assignment, you expect me to do homework or I have to do this book report? After all your grade is on the line too. Quid pro quo, scratch my back if I scratch yours and out and out black mail will occur and this is the suggestion the United Way and their blue ribbon panel obviously devoid of professional educators came up with?

This idea is so bad it makes all their other ideas questionable.


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What do some top education reformers have in common?

If someone told you that you lived in a country where no leaders would send their children to the schools they designing for 90 percent of the population, you would say you must be talking about a feudal society or third world dictatorship, but unfortunately, you are talking about the United States in 2012. Whether it’s Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Cuomo, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, the wealthiest and most politically influential supporters of school reform send their children to private schools where none of the tests and evaluations they are deluging public schools with hold sway. If I was a cynical person, I would say they are trying to transform our children into an obedient low wage labor force that will work for the companies their children will run, but that would be unfair, right? -Mark Naison

Ashley Juarez-Smith went to the Bolles school and undoubtedly wants to privatize our public schools too. -cpg

Florida for profit charter school uses public money to lobby for more public money

From Scathing Purple Musings by Bob Sykes

A remarkable story from Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas was published last night which traced the money trail that fuels the candidacies of state republican legislators. Legal under campaign financing laws, the Republican Party of Florida takes in donations and passes it on to PACs belonging to the incoming leaders of both legislative bodies – Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) in the House and Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) in the Senate. Here’s Klas’ summary:

Here’s how the money breaks down:

Leadership money in legislative races:

Sen. Don Gaetz — $3.6 million raised

* $2.6 million — raised by the Republican Party of Florida, $2.6 million transferred to Gaetz’s committee, Florida Conservative Majority

* $3.5 million — raised by the Florida Conservative Majority, $2.2 million transferred to Gaetz’s Liberty Foundation of Florida

* $2.3 million — raised by Liberty Foundation of Florida

Rep. Will Weatherford — $3.8 million raised

* $2.5 million — raised by the Republican Party of Florida and spent on House races or political committees controlled by House members

* $1.3 million — raised by Weatherford’s Committee for a Conservative House

* $30,000 — raised by Weatherford’s committee, Citizens for Conservative Leadership

Source: Florida Division of Elections

This blog’s theme revolves around the intersection between education policy and politics with special attention to what’s happening in Florida. Its not a secret that the republican party has a strangle hold on power in Tallahassee. Its education agenda is no longer a secret. Lets look at two entities who stand out in the money its sent to the RPOF to be filtered to selected candidates.

No more hated figure exists in the minds of democrats and liberal groups than do the Koch brothers. Their legislative arm, ALEC is responsible for driving and writing several divisive pieces of legislation in Florida, including those on prison privatization, parent trigger, union dues and state worker pensions. Koch Industries gave $40,000 to the RPOF in separate $20,000 amounts in January this year money, money which eventually went to the PACs of the house leaders in Tallahassee

Charter Schools USA has 36 schools in Florida and will be opening more. Its CEO Jonathan Hage is well-connected, and was a member of Rick Scott’s education transition team. He’s closely associated to former governor Jeb Bush as former director of one of his foundations. Hage’s Charter Schools USA gave two separate donations to the RPOF on the same day in January totalling $52,700. The for-profit charter school company gets its money from taxpayer dollars.

The realities of who wields the power and why in determining education policy may be of interests to Floridians. Especially now that the test-based accountability system that was set up to benefit guys like Hage and the Koch brothers has become a political hot potato – even for members of the party they want to support.

Does Ashley Juarez-Smith believe in larger class sizes and that teaching experience doesn’t matter?

Her mentor and employer Gary Chartrand is on record saying smaller classes don’t matter, which is strange because it is the one reform that has evidence that says it does work and Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson recently praised smaller classes as one of the reasons that Florida’s school system has improved. How far does Mrs. Smith-Juarez’s apple fall from the tree?

Then on the Chartrand Foundation site (Mrs. Smith-Juarez is the executive director), she uses misleading information to tout teach for America. If you didn’t know it Teach for America takes non-education recent college grads, puts them through a two-week access course and then places them in the districts struggling schools. To be honest I do think TFA does have a role to play but it is as a supplement to fill holes if needed, not the front of the line position that the school board has seen fit to give it over professional teachers and college of ed grads.

These are questions people need to ask.

Ashley Juarez-Smith raises more than three years worth of school board salary

Mrs. Smith-Juarez has raised 113,165 dollars. Three years worth of school board salary is 111,900.

Most of her contributors donated the maximum amount of 500 dollars. I wonder how many of them were the parents of a public school student. I also wonder how many parents of public school students can afford to donate 500 dollars? My guess is not that many.

It’s been said, she doesn’t have donors, she has investors.

Ashley Juarez Smith’s (candidate district 3) credibility problem

There is no question Mrs. Juarez Smith is smart and successful however when it comes to her credibility we can have several questions. A few months back she told Kent Justice on his morning show that she worked at a local independent school. That school turned out to be the Bolles School, a school every resident in Jacksonville has heard of but for some reason she wanted to keep quiet about.

Example number two comes from the Chartrand Foundation home page. If you didn’t know it Mrs. Juarez Smith is the executive director of the Chartrand foundation.

When talking about Teach for America, they write: The most recent Policy Studies Principal Survey found that 83% of Jacksonville principals reported that Teach For America teachers’ impact on student achievement was equal or better than the overall faculty at the school, even when compared with teachers.

What a great statistic justifying the Chartrand Foundation bringing TFA to Jacksonville, the only problem, is it is not quite true or as you are about to learn even close to true.

This is what Gary Rubinstein said about above on his blog, Teach for Us:

The National Education Association recently passed some kind of resolution to oppose TFA sending corps members to cities that are not suffering teacher shortages. This, of course, was the original intention of TFA. We are not supposed to take jobs away from people who are planning to become career teachers — just to go where we are most needed.

Here is the wording of New Business Item #93 from their website: “NEA will publicly oppose Teach for America (TFA) contracts when they are used in Districts where there is no teacher shortage or when Districts use TFA agreements to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.”

In response to this decision, a former corps member named Laura Cunliffe, who now works for the Progressive Policy Institute, wrote a scathing critique. Near the end, she writes:

“Policy Studies Associates, Inc. recently published a report that may explain why the NEA is kicking up such a fuss about Teach for America. “Ninety-five percent of the principals rated corps members as effective as other beginning teachers in terms of overall performance and impact on student achievement; sixty-six percent rated corps members as more effective than other beginning teachers, ninety-one percent of the principals reported that corps members’ training is at least as good as the training of other beginning teachers, sixty-three percent rated corps members’ training as better than that of other beginning teachers, and eighty-seven percent of the principals said they would hire a corps member again.”

I was a struggling first year corps member 20 years ago. Now I’m a veteran teacher and I still feel like I’m struggling many days. Teaching is hard. For a new teacher it’s nearly impossible. So I decided that I’d look at the report and see if there was anything in the report that could help put those fabulous numbers into some kind of context.

So I clicked on the link and it did not get me to the actual report, but to the one page summary by TFA. At the top of the report, it referenced the source as “Teach For America 2009 National Principal Survey,” Policy Studies Associates, July 2009. So I looked up the company and went to their published research reports and the report was nowhere to be found. So I emailed the company and they referred me to TFA to get the report. I emailed the TFA contact, and she was away for a few days. I was starting to fume. Then someone did get back to me. She was actually very helpful in providing what I needed so the tone of this post will not be so angry this time.

I learned that I could not get the actual report for several reasons. The main one is that the purpose of the survey is partly a contractual obligation that TFA has to certain school districts. Also, the data is provided to TFA funders. It is not intended to be used as a way of proving that TFA teachers are miracle workers, as Laura Cunliffe of the Progressive Policy Institute does.

In short, as I suspected, the numbers are misleading. The survey was send out to about 2,200 principals who had a first year CM at their school that year. Already, this is a biased sample since there might be plenty of principals who had bad experiences who don’t hire TFAers anymore, who are not part of the survey. Then, the response rate was just 60%, which may or may not be good. I’m not a statistician to know if that’s a good return rate. I do think that this is a self-selecting group, though. So if a principal is fed up with TFA since they’re not satisfied with their people, maybe they won’t do the survey — or maybe they are more likely to. The TFA researcher offered that even though the principals are instructed to just consider the first year CMs, it is possible that they have second years too (who, I think are generally excellent teachers) which they could have considered which would certainly bump up the numbers. Finally, I learned that this was one of those 5 choice surveys where you disagree strongly through agree strongly. If the principal picked 3, 4, or 5 it counted as ‘agreed.’ Most schools that have new CMs have several. So if a school has five CMs and two of them quit, they may very well pick a 3 on this survey, and they are included in the 95% who are satisfied.

This puts these numbers, I hope, into proper perspective. Remember that only 89% of CMs even finish the 2 year commitment so when you see that 95% of principals say that new CMs are as effective as other beginning teachers, that number seems a bit high.

Being as good as other first year teachers, of course, isn’t saying much. First year teaching is incredibly hard. I struggle when I have to teach a new course. If I had to switch to a new school, that would be another challenge. Being a first year teacher, teaching at a new school, teaching new topics. It’s crazy. The difference though between TFA teachers and non-TFA teachers is that, at least in theory, the non-TFA teachers are planning to have long careers so the tough first year gets averaged out with a bunch of good ones.

Exaggerated claims of success are rampant in this current ed reform debate where there is a lot of money to be made off the backs of poor kids. NEA is a great organization and does not deserve to be attacked by a TFA alum.

Now the question becomes why does Mrs. Juarez-Smith want to keep the public in the dark about her past and why does she feel the need to exaggerate or use dubious information to get her points across.

Florida Ed Commisioner Gerard Robinson, for profit charter schools are okay, public run ones are not

From the Ledger, by Melissa Green

Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said he doesn’t have enough information to make a decision on whether to allow the Polk County School District to open its at-risk charter schools.

Lake Gibson, Haines City, Kathleen, Lake Region, Tenoroc and Winter Haven high schools have been chosen as sites for the at-risk charter schools based on student performance at each. Mulberry High also was selected as a site but the opening is being delayed.

Robinson became involved in the matter after Superintendent of Schools Sherrie Nickell asked him during his Monday visit to Polk County what was causing the delay.

Nickell said the seven proposed schools have not received school identification numbers to start recruiting students and to hire staff, and the district has been waiting since February for the designation. After looking into the issue, Robinson said he has questions of his own.

Among his staff’s concerns is the need to see the level of interest from parents and potential teachers. Charter schools typically are driven by parental choice, he said Thursday during an interview with The Ledger.

Charter schools in Florida receive identification numbers after “seeing if there’s parent interest or educator interest by hosting information sessions,” he said. “While I’m not saying the ID doesn’t help the process, the absence doesn’t stall gathering parent, teacher and student support.”

In addition to understanding the interest, Robinson called the School Board’s approving its own application for the seven charter schools a “unique situation.”

“As a result of that, we want to make sure we understand what they are trying to accomplish and what is their intent,” he said.

After further review of documents associated with the district’s request, Robinson said he hopes to have a resolution.

If the district received an answer from Robinson within the coming days or weeks, it would not be enough time for the charters to open when school starts Aug. 20, Nickell told School Board members at a special meeting Tuesday. District officials would have to wait until January.

The delay has prompted a recommendation from School Board lawyer Wes Bridges to request public records from the Education Department. Some board members proposed suing the state agency.

The Step Up Academies would be the first time the district creates its own charter schools, according to the district.

The purpose of the schools is to help kids catch up on credits, to re-enroll in high school and to find success, according to plans for the school.

Each of the charter schools would be run by newly hired teachers, and each would have about 150 students the first year, beginning with ninth and 10th grades. Students would be in small, personalized learning environments.

While the application was proposed by the School District and was prepared in conjunction with the School Board, the charters will act independently from the School District, said Carolyn Bridges, the district’s senior director of magnet, choice and charter. Bridges said the district has no problem fulfilling the education departments requests because district officials know the interest is there for the charters.

“There is certainly no shortage of children interested in getting back on track towards graduation,” she said.

For instance, Lake Gibson High has 122 applications so far.

But in earlier conversations with board members this week, Carolyn Bridges said giving the Department of Education application information was a challenge because the principals haven’t done any recruiting. She said that is still true for some principals because they didn’t want to make a promise to a potential student if they wouldn’t be able to open the charter school. She only learned about Lake Gibson’s interest level Thursday.

She also responded to criticisms that the charters wouldn’t have accountability and the district didn’t consider other options of serving the at-risk students. In earlier interviews with The Ledger, State. Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said she worried about the district charters having oversight and was concerned that the district saw a charter format as the only option to serve the students.

Stargel, who is a member of the House Education Committee, said the district could serve the population in the form of a career academy, which is a program and not an independent charter school.

While career academies would work for some dropouts, it is not the option to serve all at-risk students, Carolyn Bridges said. As a charter, the district could have flexibility and freedom in the way it hires staff and how it schedules classes, she said.

Because the Step Up Academies would be considered as alternative education schools, the schools would be rated as improving, maintaining or declining rather than be assigned traditional school grades from the state. Changes in charter law address what happens when charter schools fall into either the D or F categories, but do not address what happens if schools fall into alternative-education grading, Bridges said.

To ease the concerns of the Department of Education and others, Carolyn Bridges said she is preparing an “assurances page” that both the School Board and the charter school governing board would sign. It states that if the charter school receives an evaluation of declining, the district would treat that designation the same as it would treat a charter school that earned a grade of F.

[ Merissa Green can be reached at or 863-802-7547. ]

Florida’s accountability system has become a bad joke

From the Daytona Beach News Leader, by Marie Eggert

As we get ready for a new school year, let’s review what we know about Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores:

Initially, when this year’s scores were announced, they were very low and provoked an outcry from both educators and parents. Twenty-four hours later, after a conference call and a vote, a new passing score was announced.

Later, the individual schools’ grades were announced based on the new passing score with the caveat that no school could drop more than one letter grade.

Recently, it was announced that six Volusia County schools earned higher grades than originally reported because of errors in the way their earlier ratings had been calculated.

Now, let us review the impact these scores have on our schools:

These ever-shifting scores are used to determine student placement in classes.

They are used to determine who will graduate high school and who will pass from third to fourth grade.

Schools that have not improved must develop remediation programs both within the school setting and contracted with outside providers.

Starting this school year (2012-2013), 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be determined by students’ test scores.
Now, this raises the following questions:

If the same test-scores are changed so frequently, how can they have any validity?

How can the same test scores be used to judge how much each student has learned and to evaluate a teacher’s performance in the classroom?

How can teachers be expected to know what they must do to receive a good evaluation when scores keep changing even after the test has been taken?

Are you, the taxpayer, satisfied with the way $70 million of your tax dollars are being spent? Do you think you are getting your money’s worth?

Who do you want in control of our local schools?

So the question to you, the voters and the taxpayers, is this: Who do you ultimately trust to make the decisions that impact our public schools? Is it the locally elected boards and superintendents who will meet with you face to face, answer your questions, talk with you in the grocery store, lose sleep over our students and be willingly accountable for student performance — or the corporations, big-money contributors and political appointees who may never have stepped foot in a classroom and don’t answer to you?

Citrus County school board member Pat Deutschman

Does Peter Rummel understand his school board picks?

Businessman Peter Rummell went from hero when he crossed republican party lines to support Alvin Brown over a tea party candidate to zero when he said he was considering running four businessmen in the school board races. It got so ugly that former mayor Jake Godbold even eluded to Rummell being a nazi for thinking such a thought.

Mr. Rummell is right though, our city has been suffering and one of the biggest reasons is our school system, saddled with bad leadership, has not lived up to its potential. Since this is the case it makes his picks for school board that much more head scratching.

He picked Cheryl Grimes over incumbent Martha Barrett in one, which makes sense because they are only two running but in Districts 5 he has decided to support the hand picked successor Burney, Hall. In short he is backing Betty Burney part 2.

Mr. Rummell if poor leadership got us to where we are at, why on earth would you support a continuation of that leadership.

Friends think about this, if following the establishment’s picks has gotten us to where we are at, does it make sense to keep following them?