Rick Scott puts his corrupt friend on the state board of educarion

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

Former one-term state Rep. Tom Grady, a Naples Republican and friend of Gov. Rick Scott, has won Scott’s nod to sit on the Florida Board of Education.
During his brief tenure in the House, Grady was notable for billing taxpayers for flying on private planes owned by a campaign donor. He also pushed for tax breaks for some of Florida’s richest residents.
As interim president of Citizens Property Insurance, he also racked up large hotel and travel expenses on the state’s dime. During his short time there, he also created a new job for his former legislative aide.
Grady, whose appointment requires Senate confirmation, would join the State Board at a time when it is under siege over testing and accountability issues. In January, the board is expected to take up controversial school grade and cut score rules.
Grady, a wealthy securities lawyer, was not known for education issues. He did serve as a director of the Collier County Education Foundation in the 1990s.


Unfortunately his lack of experience will find like company on the state board.

I don’t know if this is a travesty or a farce, or whether to laugh or cry.

The NAEP test it’s the best thing, no wait it’s the worst. (rough draft)

Here is what John Padget
of the state board of education said, from the Tampa Times:
Fourth- and eighth-grade scores in the 2015 National
Assessment of Educational Progress slid in Florida, after years of steady
improvement. Yet the state Department of Education declared “Florida
students shine” in its media release, pointing to subsets of positive data
that obscured the overall picture.
Vice chairman John Padget, a
onetime Monroe County superintendent, was unimpressed.
“The present results are not
acceptable to me,” he said, mainly referring to drops in eighth-grade
scores that he deemed a “disaster.”
Now here is what Superintendent
Vitti of Duval County said, from WJXT
“Today’s national assessment results
recognize the hard work principals and teachers do every day in a large urban
district where their performance has only been compared to surrounding, much
smaller, less diverse and more affluent school districts,” Duval County
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said. “These results are a tremendous step toward
in reaching our goal of being the best urban school district in the country.”
I feel like we got two
very different point of views there.
Why is that, because
they are both politicians and both are pushing their agendas. Padget to do as
much damage to the school system from his position as a member of the state
board and Vitti, well frankly to keep his job. His rocky relationship with the
board can’t handle to many more disasters.
The NAEP tests something
like one percent of three (Florida) counties 4th and 8th grades
took it and different politicians think its either the best thing or worst thing since slice bed.

The reality is it is a joke.

Poor kids in Duval you’re $#@^ed

At the community
meeting last night most of the people had complaints about the new math and
language arts/reading curriculum. One set of parents said they desperately
wanted to help their child and had even hired a retired math teacher to tutor
but even they were struggling with the new math. They asked the super what they
could do.
He applauded them for
hiring a tutor and suggested they check out several web-sites too.
The problem is what
about all those families that can’t afford to hire a tutor or don’t have a
computer. What about those kids whose parents aren’t all that involved. Those
children my friends are screwed. We have put them in a position where failure
is almost guaranteed.
When we disenfranchise
parents from helping their children. When we make children hate math, something
many did even before the change over and when we make it so only middle class
children can easily get assistance then we have lost our way.

The common core cure
is worse than the disease.

Did the NAEP call BS on superintendent Vitti?

Once again I will just let his words speak for him.
About what the NAEP, called the nation’s report card, scores
mean for Duval, from the Times Union

With this first report, Duval’s scores are too young to show a
trend over time, but they do place the district near the top of all 21 major
districts measured in NAEP, said Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
And Duval ranks second, behind Miami-Dade, in eighth grade
reading and seventh in eighth grade math. Duval’s eighth-graders scored above
national averages in reading but below average in math.
Vitti said that shows Duval is better than state report cards
reveal — better than many people think when they compare Duval to St. Johns or
other area districts. “It should change the conversation in Jacksonville
regarding the state of public education,” he said.
“We will naturally always be compared to our neighboring
districts but … the neighboring districts are nowhere near a comparable
sample regarding our performance. We are much larger and more diverse. Compared
to similar districts, we are outperforming.”
So the NAEP is better
suited than the state assessments to determine where Duval is. Who wants to bet
that if the results would have been less favorable Vitti would have said, the
NAEP just tests a small sample not all our kids and shouldn’t be taken
Now he is right, it is
unfair to compare Duval to districts like Clay and St. Johns. Those counties are
not nearly as diverse as Duval both with race and socio-economic status. The
thing is there aren’t many serious people comparing us to those two counties
and when he attempts to do so or implies others are he muddies the waters.
It’s the big counties
of Palm Beach, Miami Dade, Hillsborough, Orange and Broward that we should be
compared to and sadly we are routinely near the bottom and the NEAP does not
change that fact.
Here is Vitti on why Florida
and Duval’s math NAAP scores are low, also from the Times Union.
 Except in eighth grade
math. Duval like other big Florida districts fell below national averages.
Vitti attributed that to the fact that many of Florida’s eighth
graders take algebra 1 in eighth grade and the most advanced students take
geometry, but the NAEP tests measure regular eighth-grade math, which he
described as “pre-algebra.”
National assessment officials said Tuesday that the eighth-grade
test does include algebra and geometry, as well as data analysis, measurement
and number properties
Um, did the NAEP just
call bullshit on the superintendent there? I am not a fan of most eight graders
taking algebra but I guess earnest people can disagree.
Now please don’t
confuse my criticism with an indictment of the districts teaching. It’s not. I
think we are having success across the district but I think the lion’s share of
this happens in spite of the administration who often pulls teachers in superfluous
directions and sets teachers and students up to fail. I also sadly think the
district has kneecapped us with a reliance on Teach for America and by driving
many experienced teachers away.  

As for the NAEP, the
problem is if you like it you can find things to praise and if you dislike it
you can find things to criticize. It’s also just a sample of a population and even
they say it shouldn’t be used to craft policy. 

Duval’s license to play, clarity on elementary recess

More on this tomorrow.

Here is the super’s email about play.

Subject: Clarity on Elementary Recess

Elementary Teachers,
As you know, there has been much discussion about the role and use of recess. Please know that I certainly understand the importance that physical education plays in child development. Therefore, I respect your judgment to know when elementary students need to go outside and play. I know there has been well placed concern with ensuring students are exposed to all of the standards in reading, math, and science while balancing the expanded time for music, art, and PE. This, not to mention, media center time.
With all of that said, I trust that you will balance the academic commitment we have to students with the proper time to take students outside to release energy and socialize as you see fit. 
I know that differences of opinion regarding recess time will be discussed professionally with students’ interest (both academic, social, and physical) in mind between you and principals. I also know that our principals will respect your perspective on this matter.
If determined properly and professionally, then students should also benefit academically through recess.
As always, thank you for serving our children and their communities!
Nikolai. P. Vitti, Ed.D.

Superintendent Vitti ushers in the age of 25 year old assistant principals.

I will let Superintendent Vitti’s own words do the talking for him. The following comes form an e-mail he sent the district.

The Jacksonville Summer Principal Academy (SPA) combines rigorous leadership training at Columbia University in New York City and a full-time assistant principal/principal residency with Duval County Public Schools in order to prepare individuals to serve as exceptional school leaders. Selected candidates will be outstanding educators, have three-years teaching experience in urban education, emerging or demonstrated leadership experience, and a commitment to pursuing school leadership within our schools.

First you should know that thus far this program has been an expensive give away for Teach for America members as most of the scholarships have gone to them.


Think about it, the super is saying, hey lets have some 25 year old assistant principals, that’s what the district needs. When I started teaching it was about my third year that I started to figure things out. My first year I didn’t know what I didn’t know. My second I knew most of it but not what to do about it and around my third I started hitting a groove. This isn’t to say I was a bad teacher my first couple years but I don’t know anybody that says, my first year, now there was some teaching.  

This is a terrible idea from a man who became superintendent at the tender age of 35, and we see how well that has worked out.

Leadership has been a problem here in Duval and just because you can pass a test or get a degree does not make you a leader, furthermore there has been way to much patronage going on as who you know rather than what you could do often takes priority. Bringing in 25 year old assistant principals however is just going to make things worse. 

Backward Mapping the Standards, education begins at conception

By Greg Sampson
If there’s one thing we hear over and over about the Common Core, it’s
about the goal of having every child “college and career ready,” and that’s why
they mapped the standards backwards. That’s why they figured out what young
adults need to know when they go off to college and worked out what they needed
to learn at each grade level from 12 to 11 to 10 to … kindergarten.
That’s why we demand that kindergarten and first grade children solve
word problems in math before they have learned to read.
SCREEECH! I’m dragging the needle across the vinyl record to stop the
seductive siren song. (OK, I’m also revealing my age to a generation that only
knows music as one-song downloads to a smartphone. ‘Cause even the iPod is
ancient history to today’s children.)
Nope, the song continues in our heads because like the Muzak on the
elevator, we can’t turn it off.
So why stop at Kindergarten? Let’s backward map those standards into
Pre-K and younger. Let’s go all the way back. Education starts at conception.
What should pregnant women be reading to their wombs so that their children are
born college and career ready?!
Oh, I’m being ridiculous. I’ll accept the criticism in spite of my
satire because that means you admit there is a point where children aren’t able
to learn something beyond their stage of life.
We have to know where that point is.
Which is why educational standards should be built from the beginning
up, not the end down.
The Common Core is something in which to wrap last night’s fish dinner
remains and put into the trash.

Common core math is a cure that is way worse than the disease.

First you should know I am not a math teacher, technically,
I am however being required to teach watered down middle school math to kids many
of who struggle to pick out their own names but this post isn’t about that. It’s
about the horror show being inflicted upon teachers and families here and
across the nation.

The Times Union did a piece about parent’s concerns
about the new math and how basically they were over reacting, according to the district
anyways but let’s look at what apparently the only math teachers in the
district who like the new curriculum had to say about the new curriculum.

From the Times Union, in italics:

…Diane Briars,
president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “We want to
engage students so they’re putting forth an effort in math,” she said. “We want
a productive struggle.”

why do we want them to struggle? These are kids. I am not saying make things
easy for them or give them the answers but let’s put them in positions where
success is achievable, something the new curriculum isn’t doing.

what’s going to happen when kids become discouraged or start to hate math? Has
anybody considered we might be doing more harm than good?

One reason many adults don’t like math, or
feel they can’t do high-level math, is that we learned algorithms but not how
they work or why to use them, Polikoff said. That is also why American students
under-perform many peers around the world in math
That sadly is a lie.
When you factor out poverty our math test scores zoom to or near the top of the
math rankings. How does common core math address poverty? The answer it doesn’t
it just puts kids already behind the eight ball in an even worse position.  
“There’s no question that kids in a lot of
countries have much better understanding of the concepts in math than our kids
do,” he (Polikoff) said. “When you compare algebra exams in the U.S. to ones
from the Shanghai region of China, it’s stunning how much more challenging and
conceptually oriented they are.
So we changed our
entire system to catch up with the kids in the Shanghai region of China? I don’t
know how to put this politely but that is beyond dumb.  
Robert Curran, a math coach at Kings Trail
Elementary, gave this example:
Instead of teaching a child to multiply 25
times 14 by putting one of the numbers below the other and multiplying each
digit of the bottom number by each digit on the top, Curran would allow
students to create a box chart, deconstructing the 25 into 20 and 5, and the 14
into 10 and 4. The students then could add the products of 20 times 10, 5 times
10, 20 times 4 and 5 times 4 together to total 350.
Students also learn visual techniques such as
box or circle charts, tape diagrams and number lines to gain deeper
understanding of number meaning and math functions, he said.
Even word problems will seem less daunting,
Curran said. It may take awhile, even years, for parents to realize it, but
today’s elementary students are being turned into tomorrow’s algebra and
geometry whiz kids, Curran said.
Or Curan hopes so
because even he admits the transfer of knowledge may take years. It seems like
we are making a really big gamble with our children’s futures.
So let me sum up we
changed the system to catch up with certain small enclaves around the world, we
changed it to a system that both ignores poverty (our real problem) and reduces
parents ability to help their children and the system is designed to cause
frustration and stress in what are basically young impressionable children. It’s my bet for every future engineer we create we’re going to create a dozen that hate and want to have as 
little to do with math as possible.
What the %$#^ am I
missing here?

Common core math is a
cure that is way worse than the disease.

Common Core Math Curriculum A Math Teacher Comments, it is time for a change.

By Greg Sampson
recent Times-Union story about elementary math curriculum (http://jacksonville.com/news/2015-10-20/story/parents-stumped-elementary-math-blame-common-core-standards-duval-new)
and the reactions to it have prompted me to put out some thoughts about the
“Common Core” and why its early education standards and curriculum are
problematical. There are three basic issues: Developmental Appropriateness,
Teacher Training, and Communication with Parents.
I go further, let me disclose that I am a public school math teacher with
certification in middle and high school mathematics. I am not a career College
of Ed graduate; I am in a second (or third or fourth) career as a teacher. I have
taught for ten years, during some of which I was an instructional coach, tasked
with helping other teachers. Currently, I am back in the classroom teaching on
the high school level.
teacher ethics require me to disclose that this post is my opinion and mine
alone. It does not in any way represent the beliefs, policies, or positions of
my employer, Duval County Public Schools, or my school, or anyone associated
with either.
being said, I do have experience with the struggles of middle school students
and the mathematics they are asked to learn.
Teacher Training:
I have looked at internet and social media rants about the homework elementary
children are asked to do. What is 43 – 29? What the ranters object to is an
attempt to teach children to think flexibly about numbers in ways that make
sense to them. We can solve this subtraction problem by working backwards and
adding from 29 to 43. 29 + 1 = 30. 30 + 10 = 40. Add 3 more and we have 43. How
much did we add? 14: 1 and 10 and 3.
children are to develop the fluency with arithmetic that they will need to be
successful in high school math, beginning with Algebra 1, they must develop
flexibility with numbers.
that means is that children must be allowed to do arithmetic in ways that make
sense to them. That solution I outlined in the paragraph above? It is not the
only way to solve the problem.
the first problem with the new math (good grief, I am 58 years old and I was
doing ‘new math’ when I was in elementary school) is that the internet and
social media posts reflect teachers not granting students permission to make
sense of numbers any way they can, but in saying to students, “Here’s the new
procedure. Do it exactly this way.”
is not an indictment of teachers, but an indictment of the rushed way the new
standards were put into place. Teachers needed time for their learning and
adjustment. They were not given that time.
of Schools asked for three years of transition. States, in particular the State
of Florida, told them to I will use
‘Go jump in the lake.”
talking Early Elementary education. These teachers are not specialists in
mathematics; they are specialists in the development and learning processes for
young children.
teachers the training they need? Oh, no, this is the era of Arne Duncan, test
and punish policies, and school profiteers. Teacher training is not part of
their plan.
teachers struggle as much as the children in dealing with the ‘new math.’
Parental Communication:
It is uncanny how quickly adults catch on to the ‘Common Core way’ of doing
arithmetic once it is explained to them. Most people need less than a minute.
are parents upset? Like Mary Poppins, when called to account by George Banks
for the chaos she has set loose, schools seem to say, “I never explain anything
to anybody.”
school professionals, we need to make communication a key focus. If we are
changing the ways we are teaching children, we must communicate with parents
multiple times in as many ways as possible.
support teachers once they understand what is going on. They are particularly
thrilled when we enable them to help their children with learning. We have to
take the time to make that communication, which means that school systems need
to make it a priority and stop burdening teachers with meaningless work that
produces little, if any, results.
a teacher, my three priorities are planning effective and engaging lessons,
evaluating student work and providing feedback, and communicating with parents.
Everything else, some of which is important, is secondary in priority.
Developmental Appropriateness:
Without parents, we are nothing. We must listen to them with respect. And when
an overwhelming number of parents report that their children cry, throw temper
tantrums, and say, “I hate school,” we need to admit that something has gone
experts in child development, especially early child development, say that the
Common Core is developmentally inappropriate for early elementary children, we
need to respect their judgment.
it is desirable for children to think flexibly about numbers, if it is done too
early, it is wrong.
have I argued that we should not put students into Algebra 1 before they are
ready.  A 7th grade level 3
FCAT result is not the determining factor. Sometimes children need to go
through 8th grade math before they are ready for algebra. The State
of Florida, with its inflexible policies, used to punish schools for making
that decision.)
appropriateness is crucial. That is why middle school teachers struggle to
reengage students who have given up on school. Those students were forced to
undergo inappropriate curriculums far too early.
a teacher of secondary mathematics, I can explain elementary math. But I have
no expertise in judging the appropriateness of the age in which students are
required to do that math. I must and do rely upon experts and parents who say
the curriculum and standards are terrible.

is time for a change.

Bronzeville and Jacksonville: What We Can Learn

By Greg Sampson

In case you missed it (yes, I will type it out; I’m too old to
keep guessing at texting abbreviations like ICYMI), in August a dozen members
of a community in Chicago went on a hunger strike to save their local high
Enough of the links. The gist of the story is that the mayor of
Chicago and his toadies, known as the School Board of Chicago, disrespected the
wishes of the community about what they wanted for their community school.
These involved, engaged parents and community members were forced
to the extreme of a hunger strike—a willingness to starve themselves to
death—in order to have meaningful input into their school and what it would be.
Thank goodness we don’t need that in Jacksonville …
Or do we?
Our current superintendent has proposed a drastic repurposing of
many schools in our city. While working groups for community input have begun,
the timetable is so short that many suspect that these ‘working groups’ are
merely in place to rubberstamp decisions already made by the school district.
As has happened too often in the past. The current superintendent
might not know this because he tends to disregard anything that happened before
November 12, 2012 as irrelevant.
To our communities, though, it is not.
When Paxon Middle School began its magnet theme, the greatest
concern of the community was that it would cease to be a neighborhood school
despite the guarantees of the district that they would never do that. Because
that is exactly what happened with Paxon High School: the guarantee to the community
that it would never become to dedicated magnet with non-magnet students bused
to other schools was nullified after a few years.
Paxon Middle School no longer exists. It was merged into Butler,
kids bused over, so the campus could be given to James Weldon Johnson Middle
School, a dedicated magnet.
Maybe the superintendent needs to do more study of the history of
DCPS so he understands why he gets so much pushback, or as he expressed it to
the Times-Union Editorial Board, “Reform is hard as hell.”
You cannot find more engaged parents and community members than
those of Bronzeville, who are willing to starve themselves to death for the
sake of their school.
These working groups: they should not meet to consider the ideas
of the district. Their purpose should be to take the ideas of the
superintendent and others as a starting point, but to develop their concepts
for their schools. Should Northwestern be a vocational magnet or a school for
the arts? Let the community decide!
One of the most frustrating things for Jacksonville parents and
citizens is that they feel shut out. Give them the chance to shape their
schools, and you will see engagement increase exponentially. If they shape the
program, they will be invested in it and will make it a success.
That is the lesson of Bronzeville.
Oh, BTW: there is no difference between charter schools and public
schools. They both offer the same programs and techniques. But charter schools
(do the research), do not have local control. Despite state law, charter boards
are mostly out-of-state. The people serve on multiple boards around the
Imagine a traditional public school system that honors that
proviso. Community boards guide the schools.
Our enrollment crisis would disappear.