Is Florida about to start arresting parents or forcing kids to leave school over opting out?

I ask because that seems to be where we are heading.

First look at what education chairman Marlene O’Toole said a couple weeks ago: “You’re not allowed to do that (opt out) and keep your child in a public school,” she said. “So if you want to have your child learn another way or do something different, you always have the option to take them (out). School boards should not be … saying, Well, okay. There is no okay.”

Then throw in what Kurt Browing, superintendent of Pasco county said, As much as Browning says he wants to see the system changed, he has yet to change his stance on opting out. He sent his message to parents in February that “There is no opt-out provision,” and advised all employees in a memo around the same time, “At no time may a school or its staff encourage students to abstain from participating in the statewide tests.”

The article above went on to talk about how students would be forced to sit during the testing time if they refused to take it but the state seems to be getting more and more militant and giving parents fewer options. Though one of the options as O’Toole pointed out is to take your kid and leave, perhaps to take a voucher where there is no test to take.

If it is illegal to opt out then there has to be a consequence for doing so, which is sad because during all the FSA problems districts routinely announced they had better ways to assess children than the test. A test which I remind everybody just prompted sixty-four of sixty-seven district 
superintendents to say they have lost confidence in the system.

It is becoming more and more apparent that the FSA is not being used as a tool to improve education but rather being used as one to bash it into submission. 

Humiliation not improvement is the goal of the commissioner and state board of education.

Sixty-four of sixty-seven of Florida’s school superintendents
said in a letter that they have lost confidence with the pubic school accountability
system, joining millions of teachers and parents and numerous civic organizations
statewide. They have urged education commissioner Pam Stewart and the state
board of education not to give school grades based on the much maligned Florida
Standards Assessment until all the bugs are worked out and confidence can be
restored. The commissioner and boards response thus far has been to say not
only will we go forward but we will make passing scores as high as possible and
we should all ask why.
I believe it is because the commissioner and board, none of
who were elected and were appointed by an administration who is more interested
in privatizing our school system than improving them, want to humiliate the
state’s schools and teachers.
Higher passing scores will lead to more schools being
labeled as failures and more teachers being labeled as ineffective. Then the
states reliance on high stakes testing and insistence in using a flawed test
will also drive more families to take vouchers which have don’t have the same ill-conceived
accountability measures in place. In fact they have practically no
accountability measures in place as voucher schools don’t have to have
certified teachers, recognized curriculums nor take a test that shows any type
of growth, furthermore they don’t even have to account for how they spend the
money given to them unless they take over two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, which is the vast majority of them.

Isn’t it time the Commissioner of Education and the state
board of education supported our schools rather than continuously tried to
injure them? Sadly they might not do so unless we demand it.

The new ELA curriculum off to a slow start. (rough draft)

When the district decided to go away from books and go with hand outs employing an outfit named Engage NY I had my reservations. Engages reputation was less than sterling and I thought the districts plan to provide materials to all of its ELA elementary classrooms was ambitious to say the least especially considering the districts track record.

Not wanting to be that guy who hates puppies just because the district likes them I decided to wait a few weeks before I wrote about it. Such an ambitious plan would undoubtedly have bugs and need some time to work out, especially here in Duval where we can never seem to hit the ground running.

So last week amonth into the school year I started asking elementary school teachers what they thought and most answers started with well let me tell you, and then they would go into talking about how sometimes the lessons were to complex or not complex enough, while other lessons were inappropriate and how the entire curriculum didn’t leave a lot of room for flexibility, reteaching and exploring outside materials. 

They did say however that the district had been fairly good with getting teachers materials, though often there weren’t enough to send home and two separate fourth grade teachers complained they were missing materials, so maybe there is a fourth grade glitch but overall at least that part was working much better than I expected. 

I felt the initial consensus was somewhere between not that great and ugh, we’re working through it.

Then in the last few days I received the following two notes.  

I teach third ela and am on the verge of quitting. The new curriculum is horrible. I have several teachers willing to talk to the media so long as they can be anonymous. The public needs to know that our new curriculum is HURTING our students. They aren’t learning anything. Any idea why this isn’t on the front page of the paper?

We are all at a loss! The new Duval Reads curriculum is horrific, and now we are told that the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments are not aligned to the FSA. In 4th grade we have four Social Studies Lessons and they are at the end of the 9-weeks. We have Social Studies standards to teach, and I can’t quite figure out why the district feels they can overlook that fact. In addition, there is a Florida Statute that states our elementary children are to have 30 minutes of continual exercise per day. Recess is mandated by the state.

I think teachers are willing to try new things, even radical new things but thier ability to teach what they know to be contrary to their students needs is limited. I suspect that many teachers willingness to give the new curriculum a chance is running out. 

I have a feeling as the year goes on I will be getting a lot of notes like above and just for the record, I love puppies.

How many ninety plus kid classes are there in Duval?

It’s just an elective so what does it matter? Well if you are the teacher of the class, a student in it or a parent of one of the students, it might just matter.

Earlier this year I wrote about a PE class that had eighty kids in it. Trying to be as positive as possible the coach said, the administration planned to level the class in the next few weeks, I wondered at the time if that meant they would just have fifty or sixty students.

Fast-forward a month and the teacher now tells me there are over ninety kids in that class and that he has 450 kids on his role. Just PE right, who cares, who cares that it is both dangerous and nothing can get done.

What about foreign languages should we care about them? At another school the foreign language teachers have 250 kids in their classes.

I get it we have limited resources and lots of needs but it seems to me we are setting lots of teachers and students up to fail. I however feel like we are spending a lot of these limited resources on technology, new laser etched computers, and computer programs are over the place when what we really need is teachers teaching.

It’s about priorities and having manageable classes where meaningful instruction can go on sadly is not one of them for to may of our classes.

The state nickles and dimes new teachers, it’s reprehensible.

On Friday I received the teacher lead money to help outfit and supply my room and yeah Friday was the end of week five, why they can’t give us the money during pre-planing is unknown, probably because it would make sense. That being said I am appreciative of this fraction of the money I will end up spending.

I ran into a new teacher last night and he had a frown on his face because he was not eligible for the money. As a new teacher he only had a temporary certificate and the lead money is only for certified teachers.

He also mentioned that he has three tests he has to take at two hundred and fifty dollars a pop, because the state has jacked up the costs of certification tests, to get certified.

That’s a thousand dollars he is losing out on right there and that isn’t even taking into consideration any money he s going to spend on his room and his kids.

Florida is on the verge of having a teacher shortage as the profession is continuously demonized, the pressure becomes more and more unbearable and the economy continues to recover. Already forty-percent of teachers don’t last five years.

Florida cannot continue to marginalize and nickle and dime its teachers if it wants to be successful but maybe that’s the point, maybe we don’t want to be successful.

It’s no secret that Tallahassee would privatize our schools in a minute if they could and part of the plan seems to be kneecapping the teaching profession in any way possible. 

The Sunk Cost Fallacy of Focus (rough draft)

The Sunk Cost Fallacy, is when you know something is bad but you keep spending money on it hoping you can somehow turn things around.

Focus is the districts new computer program and it had me tearing my hair out and cursing under my breath on my planning period today.

I haven’t met a solitary person who has said, you know that Focus, so glad we got rid of oncource our last brand new program.

Lets continue for a minute, outlook, which replaced our old e-mail system about six months ago isn’t so great either. Today it informed me I have eleven days to change my password, the third time it has instructed me to do so in six months.

Then there is SEAS the districts new IEP program, and where I hate Focus, I really hate SEAS. It is stuck in the 2014-15 school year.

Who knows maybe the bugs will be worked out of all of above and either I will come to understand and appreciate them but barring that I will muddle through occasionally tearing out my hair and cursing under my breath. I feel like I am flying a plane while trying to build it have the time.

The thing is how much money have we sunk into these things and what are the benefits? Especially is we can’t get any of them to work right.

Welcome to Duval County.

Florida dumbs down education, politics not science drive science education

From the I can’t make this up file and the Tampa Times

The headline of its blog post: Epic Climate Change Textbook #FAIL. It begins:
“Is our children learning science?
“If those children are being taught about climate from Florida’s 5th grade science textbook from publisher Scott Foresman (Pearson), then those children are learning from a text so riddled with glaring and obvious errors that it’s hard to know how such a book could see the light of day, much less be adopted by Florida public schools.”
The group then parses an 11-sentence excerpt on “How Climates Change,” finding four “blunders” that it then aims to deconstruct. Its identified worst offender? The line that reads, “… it is hard to determine why a climate has changed. Scientists have had debates on these changes and will probably have more in the future.”
Foul, the organization declares:“Fifth grade students reading this section in Scott Foresman’s Science are left with the impression that climate scientists are uncertain about their results, that they have ‘debates’ about the issues, and that climate may just be too hard to understand fully. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Oy vey it’s almost enough to make me encourage a parent to get a voucher to attend a private school except something like a hundred and fifty of them teach creation as science.
Florida can’t get much more ridiculous.

WJCT’s American graduate Champions have a habit of saying terrible things.

I am not a fan of our local public radio station, now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy First Coast Connect and think their latest Ed reporter Lindsey Kilbride is solid but their leadership is decidedly anti-public education and it has gotten to the point that they don’t even really try to hide it anymore.

Take for instance thier last two American Graduate Award winners, an award given supposedly for service to education, Gary Chartrand and Janet Adkins. There are few people in the state who have done more to damage public education than those two but for some reason WJCT decided to give them awards praising them.

This brings me to their controversial remarks. Three years ago Chartrand made what many considered homophobic remarks.

From the I can’t make this up category, today at Florida’s education summit he said: Florida Board Chairman Gary Chartrand suggested that the state look for a curriculum or instructional materials for Common Core that “align with Florida’s values and culture.” He said reading lists could upset people; particularly in they mentioned topics such as socialism or homosexuality.

Then it was reported today, Adkins made remarks many consider racist.

When speaking about redistricting, she allegedly said, “You draw in such a fashion, so perhaps a majority or maybe not a majority but a number of them will live in the prisons, thereby not being able to vote.”
The comments motivated the Florida Democratic Party to respond, saying she needs to apologize to Brown and the African-American community.

Now I am not a fan of Corine Brown at all but that doesn’t stop me from being outraged by Adkins despicable comments.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that WJCT doesn’t care about education and that all they care about is getting the biggest name that supports the anti-public education agenda to come to their little dinners.

Shame on you WJCT, we deserve better from our public radio station.

We have to stop hoping or pretending that the Privatization off our schools is not Tallahassee’s goal.

A lot of people in Tallahassee and not just republican
politicians are calling for increasing FSA scores as high as possible.

From the Tampa Times, Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle, a
long-time advocate for improved math and science education, says in his latest blog post that, like it or not, the Board of
Education might be on to something.
“To summarize the plot: The scoring scales proposed by the
FSA educator and reactor panels would label between 50% and 60% of Florida’s
elementary and middle school students as proficient, while NAEP says that only
41% of Florida’s elementary students and 31% of the state’s middle school
students are proficient or better.
“Florida’s NAEP proficiency rates are at or below the
national averages, so the state has ground to make up to be competitive with
the top tier states. And excusing Florida’s students from the national (and
international) competition, as the educator and reactor panels are proposing,
will not help.”

First we all know when we factor out poverty are NEAP scores
rise to the top of the international rankings, so my question is
do higher passing scores address poverty? They answer is they don’t, they just
make it seem like more kids and schools are failing and more teachers aren’t
doing their job. The whole reason behind wanting to raise scores as high as possible is to further erode confidence in  public schools and hasten privatization.

Furthermore most of the states in front of us really invest in education, maybe we should try that before raising the scores.

Then factor in what incoming speaker of the house Corcorcan
said about wanting universal vouchers and head of the education subcommittee
O’Toole about if you don’t like the tests you can go elsewhere and it seems
pretty apparent, that making public schools look bad and privatization is their true goal.

Cottle needs to go back to the drawing board.

Teacher laments the loss of social studies

Feel my pain! I love teaching Social Studies! I love coming in costumes and the projects my former students have done show such understanding and creativity – that’s learning! I would love to enhance the ELA curriculum in 5th grade through S.S. like I did when I taught middle school the past 20 yrs. 

Now, it’s “embedded” in the elementary ELA curriculum. Um, I hate to inform those with that idea, but a periodic Achieve 3000 article out of context and out of chronological order is no where close to teaching S.S.! 

No wonder we see these people being interviewed and can’t answer anything related to their own country correctly let alone world history. S.S. is not an almighty FSA tested curriculum. Thus, its not important according to the “they” who dictate curriculum. 

Science is suffering at some schools too as some grade levels are to embed it like they embed S.S. – periodically. Oh, but wait, those almighty tests are mostly nonfiction reading in upper elementary and into middle and high school. Things that make you go, “Hummmm?” Recess? Is there such a thing? Oh, and by the way, our students’ resource classes were 5x/week, then they were cut to 4x/week. Now, our students who have to stay until 4:00 every day for extra hour reading, only get the resource classes of art, music, PE, and media 2x/week on an A week/B week rotation. 

Not only are we limiting their ability to learn S.S., the fine arts, and P.E., with only 2 resources per week at 45 mins each, when exactly are teachers to get everything accomplished? I can tell you. Hours at night (3 tonight) and more on the weekend (12 hrs this past one, plus a trip to school on Saturday to attempt to gather a ton of materials for an upcoming lab). The kids are missing out and so are the teachers. Teaching is not fun right now. It’s laborious.