Could House Speaker Will Weatherford be more disingenuous?

It’s all about helping poor people this legislative
session Will Weatherford said. No longer will he be there just to help the
rich. What republicans were only in Tallahassee to help the rich????
From the Tampa Times:  “I
kind of woke up about eight or nine months ago, like last summer. And I just
realized that — I was trying to think: Has my party and have I done enough to
advocate for the people are in the greatest need? And I kind of came to the
conclusion I hadn’t. And I was kind of a little bit frustrated by that and kind
of convicted by that so I just decided every speech I give I’m going to start
talking about people that are stuck in generational poverty. And I’m going to
start digging in and finding out what’s causing it, what helps people get out
of it and what’s the state’s role. Not that we can flip a switch and pull
people out. But I’ve really spent a lot of time on that and a lot of focus on
that, and that’s probably a little outside the norm of maybe what people would
have expected me to do. I’ll talk about it in the opening day of session next
Weatherford said that in recent months he has ventured outside
the “country club Republican circles” where he has spent a lot of time in the
past and “tried to go into neighborhoods and environments that are folks who
historically haven’t voted for me or are people who are living in a different
economy from everybody else.”
How does he plan to help poor people, you know the ones he has
callously ignored for so long? By kneecapping public education and funneling
poor kids into the substandard options of charters and vouchers that is how.
He plans to dramatically expand vouchers including letting the
less than poor use them and to make it easier to open charter schools despite
the fact as a group they have been disastrous. I am reminded of the old saying
with friends like these the poor really don’t need enemies.
Did you see what he did there? He basically admitted his entire
tenure has been about helping the rich so you will forgive me if I am not
completely buying his epiphany especially since it helps some rich people get
richer and kneecaps public schools at the same time.
Also where is the plan to expand medicare allowing 700,000 poor Floridians to get health care? Oh I know that doesn’t make his friends rich at the same time.
This man is repugnant and I ashamed that both of us call each
other Floridians.

The real reason the FLDOE fought the release of VAM data.

Something seems really fishy with the Florida Department of Education
or why did they fight to release the VAM data.
The FLDOE fought against the release of teacher VAM scores. They
said they wouldn’t be fair and would only give part of the picture, well
friends when has that stopped them before? It’s not like the FLDOE has held
teachers in high esteem. When Pam Stewart talked about the increase in AP
scores she said Florida’s policies were responsible and didn’t mention Florida’s
teachers once. It is more likely they fought against the release because they realized
the system they created was  a disaster and
were afraid the citizens of Florida would learn that they were too.
Albert Carvalho the superintendent in Miami said: “At no point should anybody
interpret that score as a true global reflection of a teacher or school’s
effective performance, it’s just a small and in my opinion somewhat flawed
reflection of an overall performance examination.”
Carvalho is the national
superintendent of the year and where some might think he has a reason to be
critical to protect his districts low numbers, Joseph Joyner of St. Johns
county, the county with the highest scores in the state has no such reason and
he said:
I cannot express enough, my disappointment in the decision to
publish VAM data, in any form. The push to create simplicity (test scores) out
of an inherently complex process (teaching) is rooted, in my opinion, in the
desire of media and policy makers to create lists with the ultimate goal of
allowing for judgment In the end, we continue to treat teachers like sheep,
being herded into a gate to have a number pinned to their ear. I question this
treatment of professionals as we owe the success of our state and nation to
great teachers, and the lack of respect and loss of dignity is appalling.
This criticism is not new, former undersecretary of education and
champion of public schools Diane Ravitch has called VAM scores junk science and
Valerie Strauss wrote, These formulas can’t determine a teacher’s value with
any constant validity or reliability, and testing experts have urged policy
makers not to use it for any high-stakes decisions about students, teachers,
principals or anybody else. Unfortunately, Florida and many other states,
encouraged by the Obama administration, have ignored this advice and now use
this “value-added method” (VAM) of evaluation.
In fact responsible education policy makers and even mathematicians
have been questioning the use of VAM since the day it was proposed but that didn’t
deter the FLDOE one bit.  
Finally how could any reasonable education body think it was good
policy to score teachers on subjects and or students they did not teach? It is unexplainable
and indefensible but Florida’s depart of education did it anyway.  I believe that, not because they were
concerned about the public only getting half the picture and not because they
were concerned about destroying teachers morale is why they fought to keep VAM
scores from the public.
When the scores were released at first I was outraged. I believe the
FLDOE who is an operative of the privatization agenda wants people only to get half
the picture and them to take things out of context and for some sadly they
will be that case. But after a few days of reflection I am glad they released the
scores because now it will show those paying attention how incompetent the
FLDOE, the commissioner and the State Board of Education are.

Owner of five Jacksonville charter schools won’t send his children to one of his schools

Jonathon Hage owner of Charter Schools USA who operates five
Charter Schools in Jacksonville and 58 overall does not send his school age
children to one of his schools. This is just another example of how these
edu-mercenaries have different ideas when it comes to educating other people’s
From Coral
Schools USA operates 58 schools in several states, including Florida, for a
combined 48,000 students, however, Charter Schools USA Founder Jonathan Hage
along with his wife Sherry, Chief Academic Officer, send all four of their
children to Pine Crest Schools – a private school
 Tuition for four children at Pine
Crest Schools costs over $100,000 a year. In addition to the annual tuition,
the Hage
s are big donors to the school and last year donated over $10,000
to their annual fund.
County has “school choice” which means parents can choose to send their
children to any public or charter schools they want as long as it has space and
so long as the parents can provide the transportation. And the Hage’s certainly
have the right. But what does that say about their own schools if they’re not
good enough for their own children?
driving is an issue from their $1.8 million home in Coral Ridge Country Club,
rest assured. There are parents all over Broward County driving their children
to schools, including theirs, that are even further.
Schools USA runs seven schools in Broward County including: Coral Springs
Charter School, Hollywood Academy of Arts & Science, North Broward Academy
of Excellence and Renaissance Charter Schools in Coral Springs, Cooper City,
Plantation and Tamarac.
Schools USA receive $5,705 per student from the state of Florida. This doesn’t
even include additional millions in facilities funding as well as advanced
placement (AP) fees.
Let’s just do
the math: With 8,600 students attending their seven schools in Broward County,
this brings in over $49 million dollars annually for Charters Schools USA.
His schools not
being good enough for his own kids coupled with the opulent lifestyle he has
created off educating people’s children, you can bet our superintendent who
oversees three times as many schools doesn’t live in a 1.8 million dollar home,
should tell you all you need to know.

The other half of the story in Florida’s education scheme

When talking about the distress they knew the release of VAM
scores (dubious test metrics) would have on teachers, the commissioner of
education Pam Stewart and the chair of the state board of education Gary
Chartrand both mentioned that VAM scores only show half the story. First what
chutzpah on their part, these two helped manufacture the crisis by picking a
measurement which is known to be wildly inaccurate and then used it in many
cases to evaluate teachers on students they never taught or in some instances
never even met.  Welcome to Florida.
They are right though in Florida you never get the entire
Let’s look at the FCAT which has been used to grade our
schools. Some people point to the low scores at schools and say look at them
they are failing.  They don’t acknowledge
all the teachers working in nearly impossible situations and they ignore
poverty calling it an excuse; they want you to ignore all the hard work and
dedication, all the love and sacrifice and instead look at one day to sum up a
school.  They want you just to see the
FCAT scores and make your entire judgment based upon them.  Talk about only getting part of the picture.
Then they use the FCAT scores to sell their school choice narrative,
though if you have been paying attention you know school choice is just a
gentler way of saying privatization. The swear charters and vouchers will
elevate education while at the same time they want you to ignore the fact
charter have basically been a disaster here in Florida, a third of all that
have opened have failed, and that despite being able to pick who they take and
keep private schools that take vouchers aren’t doing a better than their public
school counterparts.  They don’t want you
to have the entire picture about the school choice movement because if you did
you would be outraged by the waste and subterfuge that has and is occurring.     
I suspect Chartrand and Stewart aren’t even all that concerned
about the consternation they have inflicted on teachers already a pretty
downtrodden group in Florida. This is just them trying to have their cake and
eat it too. They can say they stood up for teachers,  from a system they helped create, but at the same
time they are counting on people to take just half the story and run with it, after
all that already worked with the FCAT and the school choice movement.   
It is time we got the entire story; unfortunately we won’t
get it from either Stewart or Chartrand.
Chris Guerrieri, 
School teacher, 

Florida’s VAM scores become the laughingstock of the nation

the Washington Post by Valerie Strauss
If  ever there were a meaningless exercise in the annals of
evaluation, it would be this one.

The Florida Times-Union newspaper sued the state Education
Department to get access to what are called “value-added” scores of teachers
that are used to make high-stakes decisions about their jobs. These scores come
from student standardized test scores, which are then plugged into a
complicated formula that supposedly can calculate the “value” a teacher adds to
a student’s achievement. In Florida, half of a teacher’s evaluation comes from
these scores and the other half from administrative observation; the ratios are
different in different states.

The First District Court of Appeals granted the newspaper’s
request, forcing the department to turn over the scores.

Here’s the thing: These formulas can’t determine a teacher’s
value with any constant validity or reliability, and testing experts have urged
policy makers not to use it for any high-stakes decisions about students,
teachers, principals or anybody else. Unfortunately, Florida and many other
states, encouraged by the Obama 
administration, have ignored this advice and
now use this “value-added method” (VAM) of evaluation.

There are numerous problems with using VAM scores for
high-stakes decisions, but in this particular release of data, the most obvious
and perhaps the most egregious one is this: Some 70 percent of the Florida
teachers received VAM scores based on test results from students they didn’t
teach and/or in subjects they don’t teach.

Yes, you read that right: Teachers are being evaluated on
students they didn’t teach and/or subjects they don’t teach. How can that be?

In subjects for which there are no standardized test — which is
most of them — teachers are evaluated on school-wide averages. Andy Ford,
president of the Florida Education Association, said that only about 30 percent
of Florida public school teachers teach both students and subjects for which
there are Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams.

Last April, seven teachers, along with the National Education
Association and the Florida Education Association, filed a lawsuit challenging
that evaluation system, arguing that it was unfair and violated the Equal
Protection and Due Process Clause of the Constitution. One of the seven
was Kim Cook of Alachua, Fla., who, as this post
, was evaluated at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school where
she works and was named Teacher of the Year last December. Forty percent of her
evaluation was based on test scores of students at another elementary school
whom she never taught.

Then in the summer, the state legislature passed a bill making
it illegal to evaluate teachers on standardized test scores of students they
never taught. But, Ford said, the bill still allows teachers to be evaluated on
students they may have in one class, but in a different subject. That means a
social studies teacher can be graded on the reading test scores of his/her
students. If you are trying to find the sense in that, quit trying.
That, Ford said in an interview, makes all of the scores
“meaningless.” He’s got that right.

The real problem here is not the release of the scores — which
unfortunately will be viewed by many as reflective of a teacher’s effectiveness
when they really aren’t — but rather that the Florida Education Department
actually calculates these scores and uses them in evaluations under the
mistaken notion that they are useful assessment tools.

If this kind of meaningless exercise doesn’t prove the meaning
of meaningless, tell me what does.

Florida is attempting to systematically disable the teaching profession.

Joseph G. Joyner
Superintendent of Schools
St Johns County, FL
Dear Editor and Teachers:
As many of you are aware, The Florida Times-Union filed suit against the Florida Department of Education requesting the release of individual teacher’s Value-Added Model (VAM) scores. The school district views VAM data as part of a teacher’s performance evaluation, and thus, not public information for a year. Unfortunately, the First District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida has ruled in favor of the Times-Union and the data has been released today.
I feel compelled to express my personal feelings regarding this issue. These are my views and my views alone. My support for the work of teachers is unwavering and it is important that you know how I feel.
I cannot express enough, my disappointment in the decision to publish VAM data, in any form. The push to create simplicity (test scores) out of an inherently complex process (teaching) is rooted, in my opinion, in the desire of media and policy makers to create lists with the ultimate goal of allowing for judgment In the end, we continue to treat teachers like sheep, being herded into a gate to have a number pinned to their ear. I question this treatment of professionals as we owe the success of our state and nation to great teachers, and the lack of respect and loss of dignity is appalling.
It is important to understand that the problem is not the VAM data itself, but rather the inappropriate use of it. The VAM growth measurement is the best attempt to fairly and accurately measure the growth of a child I have seen in my career. It is, however, in the beginning stages of use. While the practice holds much promise, it is wrong to assume VAM alone is the single determinant in a teacher’s performance. However, I disagree with those who call the data “deeply flawed.” We have worked closely with teachers for three years to create a climate of trust during this transformational change. Sadly, partial and inappropriate use of a single element erodes that trust
The creation of lists/judgments of teachers by VAM data is inherently wrong in several areas. VAM was never created as the sole tool for evaluating the quality of a classroom teacher, and names or lists of teachers will, without question, lead to inaccurate assumptions. The confusion created by these natural assumptions made by parents and the general public will create chaos in scheduling and teacher assignments. Students are assigned to teachers based on what the principal believes will be the best chance of success for that child…not VAM scores.
The identification of a teacher’s VAM score comes dangerously close to identifying individual children and their scores, particularly in small classes. During the debate over Common Core curriculum, I recall the public concern over the potential release of individually identifiable data and the need to protect that data. However, there seems to be no such concern in protecting this data regarding teachers. It is a very small step to identifying the children based on their teacher.
Identifying a teacher, and judging the quality of that teacher based solely on a single piece of data is not only inappropriate, it is inherently unfair. In my opinion, publicly judging teachers on this number alone strips the individual dignity of a teacher and is no better than judging them on their race, hair color, income or religion.
I am concerned that only 56% of teachers in St. Johns County have FCAT VAM data released by the state. This means that 44% of our teachers are not included in this state provided data, so any conclusions are at best incomplete.
Almost everyone has a friend or family member in the teaching profession. How will they feel when they see their loved one at the bottom of the list? How many good teachers will quit when they see their name at the bottom of the list? This practice violates the very nature of respect and dignity. Also, is the bottom of the list in St. Johns comparable to the bottom of the list in other counties?
The desire for simplicity in the face of complexity is born out of an unwillingness to truly understand what great teaching entails, and an unquenchable desire to judge. In my 36 years of watching the work of teachers, I am convinced that successful teaching is grounded in love. No evaluation system will ever be able to quantify this most vital component. I am fortunate in that I see it every day, and yes, I know what good teaching looks like.
While it is painful for me to watch the systematic dismantling of a teachers worth, in the end it will not matter how the public chooses to judge us. The children will remember us…not for the number pinned on them, but for how we made them feel, how we encouraged them to grow, and how we loved them. Our search for that elusive test score will never fulfill our duty to our children, and I pray that adults realize this before it’s too late.
My respect for your work is immense, and I ask you to continue to trust in our support of your work in the classroom during this difficult time in our profession. You continue to have my greatest admiration, and I will continue to speak out on behalf of the monumental work that you are doing.

How bad is Teach for America and why does Vitti want to spend 600 thousands dollars to bring more to town?

From WJXT News: Duval County Public Schools has been recruiting
teachers from TFA yearly since 2008. It currently employs just over 200 TFA
Just over 200! Friends the district has been bringing in TFA
since 2008, first fifty a year but that number ballooned to a hundred a year
over the last few years. That means if every teacher from last year and this
year is still serving their two-year commitment then just a handful from the
first 200 remain.
We need to be putting professional educators and people that
might develop into life long teachers into our classrooms not these hobbyists
and any justification that we could do it because it was free before has come
to an end as the district will be on the hook for at least 600 thousand dollars
(not counting professional development) a year if we keep bringing them in.  
This is a vanity play by Gary Chartrand, Vitti’s svengali who
initially bought them to town because he has an irrational hatred of teacher
unions, Jon Peyton’s paraphrased words, and has nothing to do with what’s best
for our kids.

It’s time we followed the lead of Pittsburgh, Tampa
and Minnesota and said no to Teach for America. 

Is the Times Union trying to make money off VAM scores?

For you conspiracy theorists out there, though in this day
and age I think anything is possible.
The short of it is the Times Union sued to have teacher’s VAM
scores released and controversy ensued. The FLDOE has decided not to put
teacher’s VAM scores up on their web-sites though people can request them, the
TU had no such compulsion and put up a data base where you could enter, district
school and teacher to check on VAM scores.  
Here is the thing, unless you are a member of the TUs site, something
you have to pay for and a rate that just went up recently you can’t access the
data base.  Hmmm, I wonder how many subscriptions
they will sell to people who just want to access the VAM data, my guess is more
than a few.
Despite Frank Denton’s pleas that they were just doing their
civic duty and informing the public, I have no doubt in my mind that this was all
about them making money.