Florida’s VAM formula

VAM stands for Value Added Model and it is used to evaluate the state’s teachers. Below is the formula.

y_i=μ+∑_(g=1)^M▒〖δ_g x_g 〗+∑_(j=1)^K▒〖β_j x_j+θ_(k)i+ω_(mk)i+ε_i; 〗

Rut Row!

The use of VAM by the way has been widely panned by both education and statistics experts. No other profession would be treated so shabbily.

To learn more about VAM quick the links: http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/performance-evaluation/



Florida Alternative Assessment scores are up in Duval and that’s a bad thing, Here is why. (rough draft)

Sometimes I feel like if the district said they liked puppies, I would be the guy who said, I don’t, just because they did but the thing is, I love puppies and I love the district too. I just wish they would do things the right way.

News4Jax is reporting that the districts Florida Alternative Assessment (FAA) scores are way up. If you don’t know this is  the test that is administered to severely and profoundly disabled children instead of the Florida Standards or what used to be the FCAT.

There is some controversy surrounding it because last year the state insisted it be given to a profoundly mentally handicapped child on their death bed and no I can’t make that up. Plus a lot of special education teachers of profoundly handicapped children think it is a travesty and unsuited for testing them.

Now you might be thinking because our scores are up we must be doing something right, well no because at least part of the reason is as wrong as it gets.

It used to there were basically three levels of disabled children, ones that could be in the general ed setting, ones that were profoundly disabled and ones in between which were generally put in what were called Varying Exceptionality (VE) classes, which were watered down academic courses, that led to what was called a certificate of completion not a high school diploma. A couple generations ago a lot of these kids would have been our shop kids and would have graduated at least with a trade or some skills training.

The truth is at some point we started to do a lot of these VE kids wrong. I felt many with smaller classes, modified materials, extra time and a little bit of flexibility, many could pass the general education curriculum and I have a pretty good idea about this because I taught VE science for three years.

As usual the state went to far and phased out the VE classes and dumped what were the VE kids into regular education classes were more than a few swam but more than a few sunk too.

This brings us to the FAA. At Ed White High School and I have to believe if it has happened there it is happening elsewhere, instead of putting some of these former VE kids into the regular ed setting where sadly they would flounder and the chances of them passing the Florida Standards was low, they have been putting them into the intellectually disabled classrooms where they are grossly misplaced but there they don’t hurt the stats of the school and actually help the FAA stats because that is the test they have been talking.

The FAA where to high and inappropriate for a lot of the profound kids is to low and just as inappropriate for these kids.

This by the way is not completely the districts fault. Tallahassee as it often does tied the district’s hands by phasing out classes that were more appropriate for some of our kids but here is the thing, right is right and wrong is wrong and we did and continue to do some of these kids wrong. The very least we can do is not celebrate when the stats improve on a test that at least some of then should not be taking.


KIPP says college starts in Kindergarten (rough draft)

State board of education member Gary Chartrand said he would like to see as many as a dozen more KIPP schools in Jacksonville.


The reason might be because to KIPP college starts in Kindergarten. From LINKEDIN:

KIPP VOICE Elementary believes that college begins in Kindergarten. The cornerstones of our school are a caring and disciplined school community, culturally relevant curriculum, rigorous college-prep academics, and giving students the skills necessary to get to and through college. We strongly believe that a college education is vital to gaining opportunities in life, competing in today’s increasingly sophisticated global workforce, and fulfilling one’s potential. KIPP provides its students with a rigorous academic program and a school community built on the follow core values: Vision, Optimism, Imagination, Community, and Empowerment. 


Though the reason might be he is clueless too.

Look I am a big fan and believe in college but in kindergarten my biggest concern was not wetting myself during nap time. Not worrying about where or if your kid goes to college when they are five does not make you a bad parent, though forcing them to go to a school that does might.

The whole ad also plays into many of the concerns people have about KIPP and that’s they counsel out students who might not be interested in college or college material in their eyes and that the whole curriculum is based around kill and drill strategies so their students do well on standardized tests.

So if you want college to begin for your child at 5 maybe KIPP is for you but if you want your child to be a child and as they grow discover what they love and want to do, then it definitely is not. 

First Coast HS boundries

The ever expanding boundaries of First Coast high were a source of contention for the FC community. They felt a lot of students without neighborhood ties were attending the school and that was leading to a lot of friction and discipline problems. Please any member of the FC community correct me if I got that wrong.

At a community meeting to address that and numerous other problems Superintendent Vitti said he was going to tighten the boundaries to reflect the Ocenaway community.

A few days later however the Times Union ran a story which said the exact opposite and that the boundries were going to be expanded to take an influx of students whose neighborhood schools were converted to magnet or specialty schools. as you can imagine this generated a great deal of outrage in the FC community. I also wrote about Vitti’s base betrayal of the FC community.

It turns out I wrote that prematurely as I decided to reach out to the Times Union writer to confirm what Vitti said, I am critical of the super but it doesn’t do me or anybody any good for me to get things wrong and this is an important issue to a lot of people so I felt it deserved to be clarified.

 She replied and said, “Talked with him (Vitti) tonight and he hadn’t noticed I used the word broadened. He says he plans to narrow boundaries for First Coast and Oceanway, sending future students to Ribault High and middle.”

So it appears that the super is keeping his word to the FC community which is a good thing as in my opinion they are a neighborhood that has suffered greatly under his and his subordinates leadership. It is good that he is attempting to repair the damage done.

Now if only he would do something about the principal, then we might be cooking with gas.

Bobby Jindal’s lame thanks to teachers

It’s no secret that Louisiana has been tough on public schools and their teachers over the last few years. There are many teachers who spent their lives educating children in New Orleans who are now living hand to mouth thanks to Bobby Jindal’s anti-public school policies throwing them out of their jobs.

Now two public school teachers from Jeanerette Sr High in Lafayette Louisiana are being hailed as heroes for saving lives during a movie theater shooting, that killed two and injured seven. This is far from the first time public school teachers have been recognized for their heroic efforts. 

Unfortunately teachers have become scapegoats for many of societies ills and ground zero for this has to be Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana. 

Jindal however now that he is running for president was all to willing to give credit to public school teachers, a group he has regularly marginalized and demonized. This is what NPR is reporting he said:“One teacher literally jumping over her friend, potentially saving her life. Second teacher felt like that bullet would have hit her in the head if her friend hadn’t jumped on her. The second teacher was shot anyway, in the leg — had the presence of mind to pull that fire alarm.”

Thank you for acknowledging their efforts but Shame on you Bobby Jindal for only recognizing public school teachers when they get shot in a movie theater saving other people’s lives and perhaps it’s time you recognized the hard work they do and sacrifices they make on a daily basis.

It would be nice if Louisiana stepped up and helped with their medical bills but since that is unlikely here is a link to help.


The hypocrisy of Trey Csar and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

I will just get right  to it, From the Times Union
What’s different are
the teachers, said Trey Csar, president of Jacksonville Public Education Fund,
which directs the Quality Education for All fund expenditures. The fund’s
five-year goal is $50 million but it has raised $38 million for Duval schools,
including the transformation schools.

“What really matters
is high quality teachers and leaders,” Csar said. “How can we make sure these
students get the best teachers and principals?”

He asks how do we make sure these students get the best teachers and principals? Well friends it is surely not by staffing the transformation schools with hundreds of untrained, non education majors which is what Teach for America does and the story doesn’t mention it but 5 of the 38 million is going to put TFA in those schools.
Trey Csar joins the district in saying on one hand we need our best and brightest and on the other hand hey anybody can be a teacher and teach there. 

Is Iranetta Wright heartless or does she just come off that way?

Iranetta Wright is the
admin in charge of the 36 transformation schools and she had an interesting
comment in the Times Union when talking about the children in those schools
“This work is not for
everybody,” Wright said. “Our work is tough. Many of our children come to
school without their basic needs met. We don’t have a lot of time to empathize
and sympathize with them.”
Instead, she said,
teachers need to keep students focused on learning despite hardships.
Here is the thing I
can keep my kids focused on learning while being sympathetic and empathetic, in
fact being those two things make it easier for me to keep them focused because they
allow me to build rapport. Teachers cannot ignore children’s circumstances and
hardships and hope to be successful and it falls between ignorant and heartless
for Mrs. Wright to imply that is what teachers should be doing.
How doesn’t Mrs.
Wright understand that? I hope what she said was just 
in-artful and not indicative of how she really feels.
Having heart is a big
part of being a teacher and to be honest it is something she has struggled with
in the past.

So Mrs. Wright if you
think kids are more than just numbers I would encourage you to encourage your
teachers to get to know their children, to build relationships with them
because doing that almost more than anything will lead to success.   

Subtle will soon be nonexistent in the Transformation schools (rough draft)

Words have power and for Duval County Public Schools which often makes huge deals out of incredibly small improvements to say the changes at the transformation schools have been subtle I can’t help but think the changes they have made have been monumental failures.

A few weeks ago when the FSA scores came out Vitti said standing pat was actually an improvement and then earlier this year they made quite the fanfare over a Gallup poll which said students felt more engaged, the percentage increase was in the two percent range.  


So to call what is happening at the schools SUBTLE!?! Oy vey.

Look I have no doubt things have improved at those schools to a degree and I have long advocated getting our best teachers in front of our neediest students, I just think bribing teachers and using VAM scores to determine who are best teachers were poor decisions. This is all compounded by the district inexplicably saying on one hand we need our best and on the other hand saying anybody can be a teacher and supplementing them with hundreds of Teach for America scabs, teachers.

The truth though is this is a gimmick. what’s going to happen in two years when the money turns off. How many of those teachers are going to stay when they can go to other higher performing schools and get other bonuses? The answer is probably not many. The truth is we can’t keep doing gimmicks that may or may not lead to short term gains and instead we need long term systemic solutions. The paper should have written district spends fifty million dollars to get right back where they started, that is what subtle really means.

To read an article about the transformation schools click the link: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2015-07-22/story/transformation-schools-show-subtle-improvements-after-first-year