I am not sure if Nickolai Vitti, superintendent applicant, thinks teachers are professionals

I think teachers are professionals and experience definitely matters. I am not sure if Dr. Vitti feels the same. He touts bringing in Teach for America recruits to his turn around schools to give them an added dose of enthusiasm. Um isn’t this the same thing he would have gotten from college of education graduates who unlike TFA members might choose to spend a life time educating our children.

TFA chips away at the notion that teachers are professionals and says, look anybody can do it, training and experience do not matter, and that is just not the case. Their original mission was to be a supplement, to fill districts holes where needed but recently districts have begun having TFA recruits take the place of professional teachers and college of education graduates and the reason is not because they do it better. It is because they are cheaper, are often willing to be yoked and they weaken the power of unions.

Well which is it Dr. Vitti, are teacher’s professionals or can anybody do it.

Hazouri and Couch display some outrageous double standards

The problem with our school board is they don’t have a clue

I found it very interesting that school board members Couch and Hazouri went on and on about a remark that Kriner Cash made to a colleague years ago. Mr. Cash said he jokingly told a colleague of Middle Eastern decent that he better shave his beard before he is confused for a terrorist and shot. Somehow things escalated and a letter was put in his permanent file.

First the joke isn’t that funny and second who cares.

Have our school board members never set foot in one of our middle or high schools where teachers are regularly berated by students who receive zero consequences for their behavior. They are outraged by something Mr. Cash said years ago but they are ho hum at what teachers have had to endure over the last few years as the district gutted discipline in an effort to appear to be doing better. Now they are outraged? Well shame on you Mr. Hazouri and Mrs. Couch for not caring about what teachers have had to endure under your watch.

Mr. Cash is not my favorite out of the finalists but to bring a fairly innocent moment of indiscretion that happened years ago up as a reason for possibly disqualifying him is outrageous.

Fix your house first school board before you cast stones.

Duval County School Board wastes thousands interviewing Kathy LeRoy

You hear different things about Mrs. LeRoy. She is an autocrat with no people skills and she does some nice curriculum work. I don’t know enough about either to judge. But what I do know is the district wasted thousands of dollars interviewing her.

Originally the board had narrowed down their list of finalists to four, Kriner, Vitti, Robbins and Miller but after an impassioned plea from Mrs. Leroy’s friend, Paula Wright they decided to give her an interview as well and this despite the search company had her rated fairly low and reasonable people beleive she isn’t ready yet.

Fast forward a few weeks and after interviewing the five we have cut the list down to three, Kriner, Vitti and Robbins. You can’t think for a second that if they would have brought in the original four that only one would be leaving town out of contention. No, having Mrs. Leroy interview undoubtedly gave one candidate the ability to survive another round of cuts which will cost the district thousands of dollars.

The current school board has a habit of spending our money on its friends while teachers spend their own money to outfit their classrooms with necessities. I think we all hoped for better.

The Republican Party can’t hide their contempt for public education

From the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, By Valerie Strauss

It was obviously too difficult for the authors of the 2012 Republican Party platform to hide their contempt for public education, because it is evident throughout the section on schooling.

What’s more, the education section is used to promote the party’s cultural values, going on at some length about support for abstinence education and its opposition to using federal funds in “mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening program.” The message appears to be that schools should teach kids not to have sex but shouldn’t use federal funds to screen students who may be so mentally ill that they are dangerous in a classroom.

The platform says that school choice is “the most important driving force for renewing our schools,” and proceeds to hail homeschooling, private school vouchers and private higher education.

It insists, incorrectly, that “since 1965, the federal government has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with no substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates (which currently are 59 percent for African-American students and 63 percent for Hispanics).”

Actually, student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the country’s report card, shows substantial progress in closing the achievement gap over the past several decades.

For example, 80 percent of black students in fourth grade scored below basic in 1992, but by last year, it was 49 percent. The percentage of white students scoring below basic in 1992 was 40 percent, and last year it was 16 percent. Reading score improvements have been significant, too.

But why let facts get in the way?

Interestingly, the one program that gets mentioned by name in the education section of the platform is the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides publicly funded “vouchers” worth up to $7,500 for families to use to pay private school tuition.

“The Republican-founded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program should be expanded as a model for the rest of the country,” the platform says, without spelling out whether it believes all public school students should receive vouchers. Some Republican leaders support this notion.

The $14 million program — which has served more than 3,700 students, most of them black or Hispanic — was created in 2004 by a Republican-led Congress but lost favor under the Obama administration, which opposes vouchers, seeing them as a move toward privatization of public education and as an impractical way of giving all students an excellent education.

The administration wanted to end the D.C. voucher program, but House Speaker John Boehner made it a personal crusade to save it, and maneuvered the White House into striking a deal to preserve it.

Vouchers are one area where Republicans and the Obama administration part company when it comes to school reform — and it’s a fundamental difference.

One can accept that Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan believe in public education — even if you think the bulk of their school reform policies are hurting public schools. But there are too many Republicans who call public schools “government schools” and want the public education system entirely privatized.

Here are other questionable items in the GOP platform:

* It says that one thing that works in school to improve student achievement is “periodic rigorous assessments on the fundamentals, especially math, science, reading history and geography.”

Actually, there is nothing in legitimate education research that tells us that is true.

* It says, “We advocate the policies and methods that have proven effective: building on the basics, especially STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) and phonics; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards.”

There is no evidence that shows merit pay or social promotion are effective motivators.

As for strong leadership by principals, superintendents and locally elected school boards, Republican leaders in a number of states are moving to strip power from school boards and tell principals and superintendents how to do their jobs.


Even if Jacksonville wins it loses

Even if Jacksonville wins it loses

I have been following the school board’s now six-month ordeal to find our new superintendent. In six months they have finally narrowed it down to three finalists. This might be all and good if it wasn’t for the fact that four members of this current board will be looking for new work in just a little over two months, replaced by a vastly different board and it dawned on me even if we do win, Jacksonville loses.

The next round of superintendent talks won’t be for two more weeks until the second week of September. At that point they will dig deeper into the candidates backgrounds, plan trips to their home turf and hopefully this time include the public which was basically shut out from meeting the final five. How long is all that going to take? A month, six weeks? It doesn’t seem like the board has any urgency at all to pick the next super, just a self-imposed mandate to pick him (the three finalists are all male) before the second Tuesday in November.

Even if they pick a great candidate and there is considerable debate if a great candidate applied or not, then that person will become superintendent with a shroud of illegitimacy hanging over their head. Whenever they do something the public or the new board doesn’t agree with, the public and the new board can say, “well he wasn’t our pick, he was the pick of the last board, who left him as a parting gift as they turned out the lights.” I imagine the job of superintendent is hard enough without that sword of Damocles waiting to skewer them at every turn

If the board would have shown a since of urgency, Pinellas County took about five months total to hire their new superintendent, and had a new super in place before this school year began then I could have seen this lame duck school board picking the next superintendent but that wasn’t the case. Instead they seem bound and determined to drag it out right up to the eve of four out of seven members departure.

Nobody is saying this board doesn’t technically have the right to pick the next superintendent but just because you can do something doesn’t always make it a wise move to do so. As a casual observer it seems like hubris not a manifest necessity is driving their decision to pick the next superintendent.

Instead of picking the next super, somebody who won’t work for them, somebody who they won’t be able to direct, somebody who they will likely have very little contact with, why don’t they just do the due diligence and let the next board make the final decision.

We need the last few months of this board to be marked with common and good sense not just a desire to leave a mark.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Republicans and Democrats are both bad for teachers

from the Daily Censored, by P.L. Thomas

For about thirty years now, public education as well as its teachers and students have been the focus of an accountability era driven by recurring calls for and the implementation of so-called higher standards and incessant testing. At two points during this era, educators could blame Ronald Reagan’s administration for feeding the media frenzy around the misleading A Nation at Risk and George W. Bush’s administration for federalizing the accountability era with No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—both Republican administrations.

For those who argued that Republicans and Democrats were different sides of the same political coin beholden to corporate interests, education advocates could point to Republicans with an accusatory finger and claim the GOP was anti-public education while also endorsing Democrats as unwavering supporters of public education. To claim Republicans and Democrats were essentially the same was left to extremists and radicals, it seemed.

As we approach the fall of 2012 and the next presidential election, however, educators and advocates for public education have found that the position of the extremists—Republicans and Democrats are the same—has come true under the Barack Obama administration.

Educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators, public education, or teachers unions.

Discourse, Policy, and How Democrats Are Failing Education

Behind the historical mask that Democrats support strongly public education and even teachers specifically and workers broadly, the Obama administration has presented a powerful and misleading education campaign that is driven by Obama as the good cop and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as the bad cop. Obama Good Cop handles the discourse that appeals to educators by denouncing the rising test culture in 2011:

What is true, though, is, is that we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at. Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic.

Yet, simultaneously, Secretary Duncan Bad Cop was endorsing and the USDOE was implementing Race to the Top, creating provisions for states to opt out of NCLB, and endorsing Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—each of which increases both the amount of standardized testing and the high-stakes associated with those tests by expanding the accountability from schools and students to teachers.

Under Obama, Democratic education policy and agendas, embodied by Duncan, have created a consistently inconsistent message. More recently, Obama has shifted into campaign mode and once again offered conflicting claims about education—endorsing a focus on reducing class size (despite huge cuts for years in state budgets that have eliminated teachers and increased class size, which Bill Gates endorses) and making a pitch to suport teachers unions and even increasing spending on education, leading Diane Ravitch to ponder:

Well, it is good to hear the rhetoric. That’s a change. We can always hope that he means it. But that, of course, would mean ditching Race to the Top and all that absurd rightwing rhetoric about how schools can fix poverty, all by themselves.

Throughout Obama’s term, Obama’s discourse has been almost directly contradicted by Duncan’s discourse and the USDOE’s policies. Obama tended to state that teachers were the most important in-school influence on student learning while Duncan tends to continue omitting the “in-school” qualifier, but these nuances of language are of little value since the USDOE under Obama has an agenda nearly indistinguishable from Republican agendas:

• Promoting that all states should adopt CCSS and the necessary increase of testing and textbook support to follow.

• Endorsing market dynamics and school choice by embracing the charter school movement, specifically corporate-style charters such as Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).

• Embracing and promoting “no excuses” ideologies for school reform and school cultures.

• Criticizing directly and indirectly public school teachers and perpetuating the “bad” teacher myth by calling for changes in teacher evaluations and compensation, disproportionately based on student test scores.

• Funding and endorsing the spread of test-based accountability to departments and colleges of education involved in teacher certification.

• Funding and endorsing the de-professionalization of teaching through support for Teach for America.

• Appealing to the populist message about choice by failing to confront the rise of “parent trigger” laws driven by corporate interests posing as concerned parents.

If my claim that Republicans and Democrats are different sides of the same misguided education reform coin still appears to be the claim of an extremist, the last point above should be examined carefully.

Note, for example, the connection between the issues endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the anti-union sentiment joined with endorsing the next misleading Waiting for “Superman”—Won’t Back Down.

The Democratic National Convention will be home to DFER, Parent Revolution, and Students First to promote Won’t Back Down as if this garbled film is a documentary—including a platform for Michelle Rhee.

There is nothing progressive about the education reform agenda under the Obama administration, nothing progressive about the realities behind Obama’s or Duncan’s discourse, nothing progressive about Rhee, Gates, or the growing legions of celebrity education reformers.

If the Democratic Party were committed to a progressive education platform, we would hear and see policy seeking ways to fund fully public schools, rejecting market solutions to social problems, supporting the professionalization of teachers, embracing the power and necessity of collective bargaining and tenure, protecting students from the negative impact of testing and textbook corporations, distancing themselves from Rhee-like conservatives in progressive clothing, and championing above everything else democratic ideals.

Instead, the merging of the education agenda between Democrats and Republicans is Orwellian, but it real, as Ravitch warned early in Obama’s administration:

This rhetoric represented a remarkable turn of events. It showed how the politics of education had been transformed. . . .Slogans long advocated by policy wonks on the right had migrated to and been embraced by policy wonks on the left. When Democrat think tanks say their party should support accountability and school choice, while rebuffing the teachers’ unions, you can bet that something has fundamentally changed in the political scene. (p. 22)

In August of 2012, educators have no political party to support because no political party supports educators—and this is but one symptom of a larger disease killing the hope and promise of democracy in the U.S.

This tragic fact is the inevitable result of the historical call for teachers not to be political. Now that educators have no major party to support, the failure of that call is more palpable than ever.


End of course exams cloud 57,000 Florida students future

From the Orlando Sentinel, by Leslie Postal

Thousands of students — upwards of 66,000 across Florida — failed the state’s new (and required) algebra exam this past school year.

More than 28,000 of them tried again to pass this summer, retaking Florida’s end-of-course algebra 1 exam.

Only 32 percent of them passed on their second try, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

That means that statewide more than 57,000 students still need to pass the exam — some because they didn’t try again this summer and some because they did and failed again.

The next testing opportunity runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 19 (each school district will decide when in that window it will give them algebra test).

The exam is a graduation requirement for teenagers who entered ninth grade last year (this year’s sophomore class) and for those in the classes behind them.

The complicated thing is that many of the students who didn’t pass the algebra test passed their algebra 1 class. So they’ll be taking geometry this school year — but still must study and prepare for the algebra exam.

School administrators said they’ll offer a variety of ways for that to happen, perhaps in a class, after school or on Saturdays.

But they are worried about those students because geometry also comes with a required end-of-course exam, so they’ll be staring at that, too, come spring.


Times Union education editor Jeff Reece said, I’m not trying to be objective or fair.

He said the following on the live blog of the school board interviewing the candidates for superintendent.

I’m not trying to be objective or fair. I will control the conversation, and I don’t want a lot of unproductive back and forth between posters. I post those things that I think contribute to the actual conversation.

The conversation has just become what he makes it, what he decides, just like the education coverage in Jacksonville has become, education coverage that has done this city a disservice.

We wonder why we are in trouble, how things got so bad, well part of the problem is those people charged with informing us have fallen down on the job, they have let their opinions supercede the search for the truth.

Education Matters beats Duval County’s live broadcast of superintendent candidate questioning

The live broadcast averaged about 60 views at a time and had 171 total. Over the same period 242 people visited the Education Matters blog site.

The Times Union’s live blog had about 15 people who commented but it is impossible to know how many people just checked in. Ed Matters may have beaten them both combined.

Maybe it is time the powers-that-be stopped ignoring Education Matters because the public obviously isn’t.