Duval County put’s it’s teachers V.A.M. scores out there for all to see.

Somethings you should know about VAM scores, the Department of Education admits they are wrong more than a third of the time. The score also does not factor in important things like absences, behavior or poverty. I could go on and on and point you to experts who say the use of VAM scores is both dangerous and irresponsible too.

I also thought that last year it was reprehensible that the Times Union put out every teacher’s VAM scores and did so as their site transitioned from free to pay. The bottom line I believe influenced their decision not informing the public and I warned them about all the inconsistencies before hand.

So now the district has done it too and broken it down by both school and evaluation and student growth score points and left it up, not password protected for every one to see.

I looked over several schools VAM pages including my own and now know who is effective, needs improvement and everything in between and it made me feel a little dirty as if I was looking at somebody’s secret.

Our district doesn’t seem to respect its teachers that much and that’s a real problem that we are going to have to overcome if we want to meet our potential.

I have decided not to include a link because I have to live with myself and I feel like my colleagues business is their own.

Is the solution to guns in schools more guns?

Sarasota Republican
Greg Steube thinks so and has introduced legislation to make it

When John Oliver posted
his internet meme which said, one failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all have
to take our shoes off at the airport, while at the same time there have been 31
school shootings since Columbine and no changes in the regulation of guns, I am
not sure more guns was what he had in mind.

Florida’s response to
the FSU shooting and the other tragedies around the nation should not to be to
put more guns in our schools or armed guards at the doors. If Florida is not
willing to put in reasonable restrictions like extending waiting limits,
reducing the size of clips and magazines, and requiring back ground checks for
everyone purchasing a gun, then can we please address
mental illnesses? 

Some state legislators
have talked about returning the state surplus which I remind you was
built with a three percent income tax applied to teachers and
other state workers to the citizens of Florida. Instead of putting
a couple bucks through automotive fees or
the ending of home phone taxes back in our pockets let me suggest we
invest that money in creating a mental health infrastructure that
would help prevent future tragedies. It would also have the added benefit of
improving school performance because often why a kid acts up
or does poorly in school has nothing to do with school.

Could we all use
fifteen to twenty extra dollars? Sure but who among us wouldn’t spend that money
to help keep our loved ones safe? 

Arne Duncan and the D.O.E don’t give teachers anything to be thankful for.

The worst education secretary of all time made headlines again this week. After threatening to gut special education throughout the country implying teachers don’t really care about disabled children he has now gone after teacher colleges.

Diane Ravitch put it better than I ever could.

According to Politico.com, the U.S. Department of Education will cut federal funding to education schools whose graduates have students who get low scores. This could incentivize education schools to direct their students away from urban districts with high poverty, or from teaching children with disabilities and English-language learners. Researchers have repeatedly warned about the danger of over reliance on test scores for high-stakes decisions. It is always wise to think about unintended consequences.


I want to add that this is the same department of education that drools over Teach for America and policies like this result when we have non eductors carrying out education policies.

I wish Duncan would resign because then we would all truly have something to be thankful for.

The Duval County School Board only takes care of their own

A comment from hopefully a new reader:

I don’t generally read your blog but a friend of mine sent it to me. I am a district administrator and I am sickened by this information. 

I have worked at the DCPS office for almost 10 years and have gotten nothing but about a 1% raise last year. Why in the world can the board members give their personal auditor (who is known more for taking long lunches and preparing cookies and parties) over $20,000?

 If they are giving her what other districts pay (and I agree that teachers here should get what other districts pay) then I want the board to approve raises for all district employees to make what other districts pay. they are only taking care of her because she is theirs. 

They don’t work or care about the rest of us.

Duval’s all about fair market value, unless you are a teacher, then you get sh*ted on.

I  received the following message about a huge raise the
board plans to give to their auditor.

I follow your blog regularly and
feel that you need to address an issue I was just made aware of.  I have
been told by contacts in the budget and HR office downtown that the Board
Members have just approved a $30,000 raise for their PERSONAL auditor. 
This is insane.  Nobody in the district should get a RAISE that is almost
equal to the starting teacher salary.  Not only that but I am told the
auditor is also getting an assistant—  so she gets more money and less
work—  i don’t know a single teacher who gets that hookup.  Also,
the board members have recommended hiring a personal assistant for each of them
– for what I don’t know.
I just find it interesting that they
are handing out raises and building an army of staff when teachers do not even
have an approved raise this year.  This is crazy.
I decided to ask the district if it was true and contacted the director
of communications. First let me tell you she has always been professional, polite
and helpful and I know it can’t be the easiest thing either as I am sure some
in the district consider me the enemy.  It’s
not her fault her answer blew me away!
The Board recently approved an adjustment to the Board Auditor’s
salary.  This is a district position that reports to the Board.  The
increase of $23,000 was made after a market analysis comparing Duval’s salary
for this position to other similar sized districts in the state of
Florida.  The analysis also compared the scope of work and personnel
managed by this position.  The adjusted salary and organizational changes
align the salary and work of the Duval County Board auditor with these
Okay, sounds reasonable right, the board plans to give its
auditor a 23 thousand dollar raise, they said they did an analysis and that’s
fair market, okay fair enough.
But then I decided to look at the fair market for teachers. Duval
often compares itself to the other six big districts, Broward, Orange, Hillsborough,
Dade and Palm Beach, so that’s where I went
In Hillsborough county teachers start at 38k, are making 42
by year 4 and if I taught there, year 13, I would be making 54 thousand dollars.
In Dade County they start at 40,500, something it takes ten
years to get to in Duval County and if I taught in Dade I would now be making
about three grand more.
Let’s check Broward County
They start at 39 and by year 4 they are at 41, again making
Duval’s pay scale look shameful.
I also have no doubt if I would have continued to check I
would have continued to find how ridiculously bad our pay scale is compared to comparably
sized districts but I don’t think my blood pressure could have taken it.
Here is the districts pay scale so you can see how embarrassing
it is.
Then the city and district wonder why we have a teacher
morale problem and why we can’t keep teachers, here is an idea pay them fair
market value or is that just for district staff and not for teachers!
Absolutely shameful.

School choice advocates are really thumping thier chests now!

School choice is a hot issue and some people have even attributed
the results of the recent election to it. I disagree thinking it was more a
flawed candidate, not running against Rick Scott but instead running against a
very unpopular president in a mid-term election where turn out is generally low.
I think there was a fair amount of apathy and ignorance going on too. I believe
if people really cared about the future of education and took the time to be
informed very few would support school choice advocates.
Feeling emboldened and using misleading talking points “school
choice” backers are now coming out of the wood work attacking organizations
like the state’s School Board association.
First it is both reprehensible and disingenuous to say the
school board association is attempting to handicap and hold back poor and
mostly minority students. The school board association has been a leader in
fighting for more and equitable resources, against the high stakes testing
culture which is sucking the oxygen out of education and against the accountability
system which tells just one thing a schools zip code, as those schools in the
poorer zip codes invariably perform worse on standardized tests which to
Tallahassee is the only metric that matters.
Here is the thing that most school choice advocates, many
who have sold the failing public school narrative and supported policies that
handicap public schools won’t tell you and that’s their true aim is to privatize
and replace our public schools and the options they are selling perform much
Let’s look at private schools that take vouchers. They resist
accountability like that rather than educating children was their jobs.
Accountability is a buzz word when it comes to public schools but it is practically
non-existent with voucher schools. They don’t have to have certified teachers,
recognized curriculums, and the vast majority don’t even have to report how the
money they get is spent. Why is accountability paramount for public schools but
gets a collective shrug when talking about private schools that take vouchers.
Then there are charter schools of which over 260 have taken
public money and closed leaving families and communities in a lurch. Many are
also for profit and that not what is best for their students drive their policies
and finally they are bringing back segregation driving a wedge between communities.
This attractive concept has been co-opted by privatizers and modern day pirates
looking to make a buck and our children are paying the price for it.
Then despite for the most part being able to pick and choose
who these choice options take and keep and being able to put requirements on parents
neither charter schools nor private schools that take vouchers are performing
better. With those tremendous advantages they should be killing public schools
but they are not.
Also where is the concern for poor and mostly minority
children when it comes to going to college? The huge cuts to bright futures
which have basically coincided with the rise of vouchers. These cuts will stop
tens of thousands of poor and mostly minority children form going to college
and reaching their full potential but like how accountability gets a shrug that
too gets a shrug from school choice advocates.
School choice is a complicated issue and the people looking
to privatize our schools or profit off of them or who have an irrational fear
of gov’ment schools and unions shouldn’t be the ones we are listening to or be
allowed to drive policy. Choice simply for the sake of choice is a bad choice
and if the people pushing for more really cared about our children they would push
for high quality, not for profit, accountable options, but they aren’t and that
should really tell you all you need to know.
Finally I think the answer should be to improve our public
schools, to give them adequate resources and not to saddle them with stifling,
untested and often unreasonable policies. Then use high quality choice schools whose
main goal is not to make a profit and who don’t resist accountability to supplement
them. Or you know the exact opposite of what we are doing now.   

If superintendent Vitti and the school board were teachers they would be on success plans right now. (rough draft)

I guess it would be possible to spin last week into good news but the way I see it, it was a pretty big fail for the school board and super.

First the district applied for grants it was no longer eligible for, from WJCT:  

Vitti told board members this week that the district learned some of the schools slated to receive upgrades no longer qualify for the bond. That’s due to a change in Jacksonville’s status as a so-called “Empowerment Zone” site, a federally-recognized high-needs area.

“Our bond counsel went through the specifications of the QZAB II in our application, and it became clear that our Empowerment Zone designation expired at the end of the ‘12-13 year as a city,” Vitti said.
As a result, 16 schools, including Loretto Elementary, Fletcher High and Jacksonville Beach Elementary do not meet the socio-economic threshhold to receive QZAB dollars. That amounts to about $6.1 million in upgrades and resources, according to the district.
Vitti said he was unsure who was responsible for allowing the city’s designation to expire.
Now this may be cleared up and it’s unclear how much responsibility the district bears for the snafu but it seems to me this was a box that the district should have made sure was checked. The district however was able to brush this off as a bump in the road off because it somehow managed to find sixteen million dollars in the couch cushions of the Ivory Tower. From the Times Union:
Vitti had good news on that front: School officials scrutinizing the district’s capital fund accounts discovered that about $18 million from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years went unspent.
The money can only be used on capital projects — such as building construction, major repairs, technology purchases, and some transportation costs. It can’t be used on personnel or scholarship programs, for instance.
Vitti told the board he wants to spend $6.1 million of it on technology upgrades at the 16 schools that no longer can use bond money.
So it seems at the end of the day we will only be out six million dollars, just a six followed by six zeroes. Not anywhere close to being as bad but who the heck is doing our accounting down there. We just had 18 millions dollars lying around in a bank account marked, open in case of bond fiasco! Not to be to demanding but shouldn’t the district at all times no how much money it has?
The district treated this discovery like a victory where I look upon it in horror wondering what else is going missed.
Being the super is most definitely a complicated and difficult job but you know what else is? Being a teacher is and have you seen all the paper work and data teachers are required to keep? It’s mind numbing and never enough for the district’s data police. The district isn’t giving teachers a break as it piles more and more on their plates and has higher and often unrealistic expectations.
Losing out on six million dollars and then miraculously finding 18 million more are big and alarming deals and the city should treat them as such. 

We should and have to do better.

The randomness of VAM and how it punishes teachers

From a reader

My VAM counts the AP scores of 34 students who were in my AP class. I am punished because one parent refused to have her child take the test (the child is in college and doing just fine), and because one student walked out of the test after 30 minutes because his ADD medication ran out two days before and concentration was out of the question.  There was no punishment for the proctor who let him leave. 

The worst part is the other 124 students had no effect on my evaluation – they were not important to the state of Florida. I could have showed them movies all year, not graded one essay, and given them all A’s for occasionally coming to class – or I could have failed them all VAM says they don’t matter. They matter to me, they matter to their parents, they matter to my peers, but they don’t matter to the politicians, law makers, and corporations.

Duval overlooks the simplest answer when tackling middle school reform.

Sometimes I really just want to go down to the school board building and knock some heads together. I mean seriously people this doesn’t need to be treated like brain surgery, I mean unless we are going to start doing transplants.

When talking about middle school reforms the board suggested adding accelerated programs, turn them all into magnets, push academic competitions, link middle and high school colors, putting a chess club in every school, and blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada.

Look I love the idea of having a chess club in every middle school but the problem is the schedule. 8 ninety minute classes every two days is just way to much. Heck a full time load in college is 4 classes and I an adult who loves going to the movies start to fidget in movies well before the ninety minute mark so I can imagine what horror middle school classes must be.

If they are serious about improvement we need to go to a six period/fifty minute classes that meets everyday. Kids will have less time to get bored and thus aggressive, the material will be covered every day rather than every other and as a teacher I can tell you it’s easy to go from zero to fifty, where zero to 90 is a lot harder.

Throw in smaller class sizes and mental health and wrap around services then we would really be cooking with gas.

The school board is looking at every solution but the best and most obvious but then again if they weren’t it wouldn’t be Jacksonville.

To read more click the link: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2014-11-21/story/duval-middle-school-reform-plan-may-go-board-vote