Reading teacher laments, Duval is getting it all wrong, students suffering for no reason.

I received the following note today, which is basically the same note I have received a half dozen times or more from ELA/reading teachers throughout the district this year. The gist is the state shifted down it’s reading instruction, second became first, first became kindergarten and so on and many teachers don’t feel this change was appropriate. 

As you read the note below imagine the frustration and angst the teacher must be feeling wanting to what’s best for their students but not being able to, instead stopped by a system that wants  to try out the latest new thing. Here is a hint, there is always a latest new thing.

Hi Chris,
My name is xxxx xxxxx, and my dad told me about your blog and I wanted to reach out.

This is my 10th year teaching. I am at a very high frustration level with Duval county and their i-ready kick. I have seen it frustrate my 1st grade students, my daughter and other teachers, including myself. I know enough about what is developmentally appropriate and what isn’t to know this is not. This is going to come and go, but take a lot of students down in the mean time. I refuse to let this take place any longer.

Not only is it not following the curriculum we are teaching, but our teacher EOY Eval. scores are based on what the students do on this program. It has nothing to do with what we are teaching them, but yet our score will be based on them clicking a button!

We are supposed to be implementing 2nd grade reading in a 1st grade class and 1st grade reading in a kindergarten class…..there’s something wrong with this. My class average went down after just assessing them 2 weeks on the fry words the district is wanting us to use, which of course are not 1st grade level. So, I am going against what the other teachers are doing and what is “required” of me because I REFUSE to see students suffer for no reason and give them words that are not developmentally appropriate. Including my own child.

Why do teachers sit back and not stand up for what is right? I don’t understand? I would love to blog, start a petition, anything to get this madness to stop. Something has to be done. What can I do and who should I go to? Thank you.

They ask a good question at the end. People don’t come to me first. They raise their hand at faculty meetings, they voice their concerns at department ones. Teachers I believe want to work with the system but what are they supposed to do when the system starts hurting the children it is supposed to help?

Is Florida purposely hurting its children?

If Florida weren’t so intent on dismantling and privatizing
our public schools we could really do a lot of good for our children.
Northwestern University just completed a study that said class size helps and
helps a lot. Unfortunately Florida has gutted the class size amendment to the point
it is nearly unrecognizable.
We also know there is a teacher shortage and almost half of
all new teachers leave in five years but the Florida legislature seems to be intent
to do whatever it can to handicap the profession. Not only our Florida’s
teachers some of the worst paid in the nation but we have saddled them with
evaluations, tied to pay based on the junk science of Value Added Measurements which
the Department of Education even admits are wrong more than a third of the time.
Florida has also stifled creativity and put a premium on
teaching to the test. If we paid teachers a competitive wage and allowed them
to be creative and innovative and didn’t saddle them with an evaluation system no
one thinks is valid and a punitive test then immediately we would both attract
and retain more teachers.
Then there is poverty which Florida thinks it can fix by
ignoring it and blaming teachers for not being able to overcome it.  How about we helped instead by putting in
measures that mitigate poverty like smaller classes, a longer school year and
wrap around services for our neediest children.
Finally we need to stop siphoning off precious resources to charters
and vouchers. Despite advantages charters perform worse than public schools and
the system is set up so we have no idea how vouchers are doing.  That should infuriate everyone.

Florida could really do some good for its children unfortunately
almost everything we do does the opposite.

The worst four words in education, It’s for the children!

School choice fans think all they have to say is, “it’s for
the children” or “what if we put the children’s needs first” and people who
have legitimate concerns or questions will slink away. It’s as if those two
phrases give them justification to say or do whatever they want. Here is what
happens when we put those words with some of the byproducts of Florida’s school
choice movement.
Segregation, what charter schools are bringing back, is all
for the children.
Counseling out poor performers, what many charter schools
do, is putting the needs of the children first.
How about, voucher schools don’t need accountability both academically
and financially, because it is what is best for the children.
Starving public schools of resources, that’s both it’s for
the children and putting their needs first.
Not providing services to or excluding disabled children
what most school choice schools do, hey that’s best for them too.  
Let’s put the needs of children first but filtering them into
substandard options, like charters and vouchers, many of which are for profit.
I wonder if Lloyd brown knows how ridiculous he sounds when
he criticizes Wayne Blanton the outgoing head of the School Board Association
who has spent a lifetime serving children and like most educators do putting their
needs first, when he asks what if we put the needs of the children first.
When the School Board association, supported by the PTA, the
NAACP, the League of Women voters and many other organizations took vouchers to
court they didn’t do so because they see children as FTE money they did so because
they are putting the needs of all our children first.
Private schools and charter schools that take public money
are bad for democracy.
Private schools and charter schools that take public money
as a group and despite advantages perform worse than their public school
counter parts.
Private schools that take public money resist both financial
and academic accountability.
Finally many charter schools that take public money are for

Lloyd Brown and other fans of school choice may think all of
that is putting the needs of children first but what it really is, is privatization
and it’s bad for our children.

John Thrasher takes his hypocrisy to Florida State

Full disclosure I am not a Florida State fan, in fact as I
type this I am wearing my favorite Florida tee. This however is not about
football rivalries it’s about the hypocrisy of FSU president, John “golden
rule, he who has the gold makes the rules” Thrasher. That’s a quote from him by
the way.
Example 1, as a republican he preached financial responsibility
for his entire career, but then refused to drop out of his race for senate even
though his appointment at Tallahassee was all but assured. At the same time he
is getting a hundreds of thousands of dollars raise, he is costing the tax
payers of Florida hundreds of thousands of dollars, the cost of his and several
other special elections that him not dropping out has created.
Example 2, despite fighting against tenure for public school
teachers, he accepted tenure from the trustees at Florida State. Apparently
what is good for the golden goose is not good for the ganders.
Example 3, one of his first acts at Florida State is to give
Jimbo Fisher an eight year contract.  I
won’t argue that he deserves job security, I believe everybody does if they do
a good job but I would like to point out that now teachers do not have any.
Since 2011 all new teachers hired and all veteran teachers that want to switch
to the merit pay plan (none that I know of) can now be fired at the end of the
school year for any reason or for no reason because none has to be given. This
is what John Thrasher through his teaching profession kneecapping Senate bill
736 has created. Successful football coach, 8 years, successful teachers, year
to year.
Welcome to Tallahassee where public school teachers are constantly
marginalized and neglected while football and hypocrisy reign supreme.

As I said above I am not a fan of Florida State, and thanks
to Thrasher I have a lot of company. 

Florida districts pushing back against charter schools: it’s still not enough.

The Sun Sentinel, behind a pay wall, when did news just become for the well off, did a piece on how more and more Florida districts are rejecting charter school applications that don’t have air tight financing. Where long over due when you consider that over 260 have open taken public money and failed over the last few years, it’s not nearly enough.

More and more charter schools, usually part of for profit chains have changed their business models. Ditching innovation, they have started opening schools in affluent neighborhoods. In my home town of Jacksonville we have approved charter schools down the street form A schools and this despite our superintendent publicly lamenting the loss of resources. I believe privately he doesn’t care.

The concept of charters is an attractive one, parent/teacher driven laboratories of innovation. The reality is many have become for profit schools that care first about the bottom line, that don’t offer anything approaching innovation and that as a group perform worse.

Opening up a charter school should be more difficult than filling out boxes on an application and having bought off a few politicians. They should at the very least offer something the surrounding schools are not. They should have local teachers and parents collaborating together to develop programs rather than using the regurgitated programs presented by chains and I don’t believe they should be for profit. All the resources available should be put into the schools not into some far off connected business man’s bank account.

The idea of charter schools has a place, a role to play as a supplement to public education where the reality of what they have become should be regulated to the dist bin of bad ideas.

The disastrous consequences school choice, vouchers and charters has for disabled children.

We have long known that charters take fewer disabled
children than their public school counter parts

but what happens to the few that do attend? Well
recent news reports indicate they have a rough time going. By themselves the
examples below show a callousness towards the plight and needs of disabled
children but when taken together they show a disturbing pattern of neglect
towards our most needy children.

New Orleans lauded by Arne Duncan, who inappropriately
said hurricane Katrina was the best thing that could have happened, and other
for their charter schools recently lost a law suit where they admitted they had
not been providing services to disabled children. From the Times Picayune.

The Louisiana Education
Department, Orleans Parish School Board and Southern Poverty Law Center asked
federal Judge Jay Zainey on Friday (Dec. 19) to approve a 
settlement in a landmarkspecial education suit. Plaintiffs
said the Louisiana Department of Education and Orleans Parish School Board
did not adequately educate children with disabilities in the fragmented
network of charter and district schools that sprung up in New Orleans after
Hurricane Katrina.

Next we move to Pennsylvania where Charter Schools USA
is attempting to take over an entire district and in doing so plan massive cuts
to ESE staffs. From the York Dispatch:
example, the staffing matrix included in the proposed contract presented to the
school board showed a plan for 16 special-education teachers district-wide.
Currently, there are 14 special-education teachers at
William Penn Senior High School alone.
Across its eight buildings, the district currently
employs 68 special-education teachers, according to information recently
provided by Superintendent Eric Holmes.
Then there is Florida where some schools were paid extra to provide
services but never did. From State Impact: A StateImpact
/Miami Herald investigation
shows most charter schools in 
Florida are failing to serve students with severe
Statewide, 86 percent of charter
schools do not have any students classified as severely disabled.
That’s despite state and federal
laws that require charter schools to give equal access to these students.

Here is another one from the world of vouchers.
the Sun Sentinel, talking about private schools that receive vouchers: Florida spent $8.5 million in taxpayer money last year to provide vouchers to
learning disabled students in Palm Beach County to
attend private schools – but makes no effort to ensure the schools are
providing the required services.
The law that created the vouchers does not require private schools to have anyone on staff with any
sort of certification in dealing with children with learning disabilities. Nor
are there public controls in place to check whether the schools are helping

Segregation, for profit, exclusion, counseling out,
are all brought to you courtesy of the school choice movement and our most
vulnerable children are paying the biggest price.

School choice is nothing but a red herring for privatization.

in Florida it’s not just the weather that changes every fifteen minutes but the
rationale behind school choice too.
vouchers and charters were about getting kids out of failing public schools but
when it turned out that public schools were doing better than charters, over 260
have failed and nobody has any real idea how voucher schools are doing because
the system was set up so they could avoid both financial and academic accountability,
they changed the narrative to one that emphasized competition. The reasoning
was that competition would make everybody better. Well charters and vouchers as
a group didn’t get that memo as one scandal after another has made the
headlines and neither perform better than the public schools they are seeking to replace. In fact quite often the only thing they made better were the bank
accounts of their operators. 
they have changed the narrative once again calling for a Kumbaya moment saying
charters and private schools that take vouchers and public schools should let
their differences go, hold hands and come together to address what’s best for
children. Gone are the failing public school and competition narratives almost
like they never existed. Why talk about the past?
I and
many others believe this is just another red herring designed to distract us
from the dismal record of charters the lack of accountability with vouchers and
hide their real agenda which is the destruction of teacher unions and the
privatization of our schools.
wonder what their next narrative will be.

Tallahassee needs to focus on public schools, not charters and vouchers.

Our public education
system is designed to benefit us all whether we have a child attending a school
or not. This means when we start to weaken it by diverting funds to mostly for
profit charter schools which have been marred by closure and scandal after
closure and scandal and to vouchers which funnel money into barely regulated
schools lacking both financial and academic oversight we are all harmed.
nine, section one of the Florida Constitution says: The education of children
is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore,
a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of
all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by
law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free
public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for
the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher
learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may
The system has been set
up so that we have no idea how students that attend schools with vouchers paid
for with taxes diverted from the state coffers are doing. Also over 260 charter
schools have opened taken public money and failed leaving families and
communities in a lurch leaving behind mostly for profit charters behind. I am
sure neither of which can be what the framers of our constitution envisioned
when they wrote the article above. The three headed monster Tallahassee has
created over the last few years is neither uniform,
efficient and in the case of vouchers and charters high quality.
In the New Year, Tallahassee
should scale back charters and vouchers and invest in our public schools and
that’s not just my and millions of people’s opinion, it’s what the Florida
constitution demands.

If you don’t support vouchers it doesn’t mean you are heartless.

As a teacher I disagree with fellow teacher Marlene Desdunes op-ed in the Miami Herald on
vouchers and not just because I am heartless. There are many legitimate
concerns people should have about vouchers like how they resist both financial and
academic accountability and until those issues are resolved it’s beyond me why
anybody would support vouchers in the current form but okay earnest people can

My question is since
the vouchers are supposed to be for the neediest of the needy, how is Desdunes
family even eligible. According to public records her salary as a school
teacher is between 44 and 49 thousand dollars.
She writes in her
piece which could have been taken right form the Step up for Students, the
group that administers the vouchers, FAQ page: “
These scholarship children come
from homes where the average income is only 5 percent above poverty.” Since her
salary nearly doubles what qualifies for poverty, how is her daughter who she
says receives a scholarship even eligible?

Therein lies the problem. Vouchers may have been sold as
saving poor kids from failing schools but they are being transformed into a
replacement for public education and I remind you once again about the almost
complete lack of accountability that they have.

I believe as a school teacher Desdunes is way under paid and
I will take her word for it that her daughter’s school is wonderful but at the
end of the day how many voucher schools are wonderful, how many are providing an
adequate education, how many are using the money sent to them properly? The truth
is nobody knows because the system was willfully set up that way and wanting to
know does not make people heartless.