Duval’s use of Teach for America should be a civil rights violation

It’s been all over the news the last few days, that the Department of Education is opening a civil rights investigation into Duval County Public Schools. Their concern is that the city’s minority children are getting shortchanged.


Well one blatant way we are shortchanging our minority students is by placing Teach for America hobbyists recruits in those schools that are mostly minority.

Teach for America takes non education majors who go through a five week access course and puts them in our mostly minority and poorest schools where they are supposed to serve two years (about a fifth don’t make it) to be replaced by a new set, assuring a constant revolving door of teachers. They in affect are doing the exact opposite of what we know is best for our kids, who need experienced teachers and this is a program that Duval has expanded from 50 to 200.

Friends they only go to the schools where their lack of training and experience can do the most damage. You won’t find one TFAer in Mandarin or at the beach.

Why don’t our minority kids deserve experienced or trained educators? This is a question the district should answer and that I hope the Department of Education asks.

To read more, click the link: http://www.news4jax.com/news/duval-county-yet-to-respond-to-civil-rights-investigation/36722480#.VlzQYbcyQWc.facebook

How dumb is Florida’s House education Committee? Very!

Oy vey, want more proof this ill conceived program is nothing more than a giveaway to Teach for America? Well here you have it as the republican members of the committee are proposing keeping to bonus program based on teachers SAT scores.

From the Orlando Sentinel:
A new teacher bonus program that sparked controversy because it offers $10,000 to those with high college admissions scores — even if they took the ACT or SAT decades ago — should be continued, the Florida House‘s education committee thinks.

The committee on Thursday is to take up a proposed bill that would make the new Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program a permanent part of state law.
The controversial program was approved in the spring by the Florida Legislature. It provides $10,000 bonuses this school year to teachers who were rated “highly effective” and scored in the Top 20 percent on either the ACT or the SAT they year they took the exam.
Brand new teachers — those who started teaching in August — can be eligible, too, based solely on their test scores.
The legislature earmarked $44 million for the program, with the aim of providing the $10,000 bonuses to up to 4,402 teachers.
How long are these people going to be allowed to damage public education?

So much for Florida’s historic education budget.

Governor Scott calls his proposed education budget historic.
What he doesn’t mention is that historic here is no higher than 42nd
in per pupil spending nationwide, even behind the states of Alabama and Georgia.
 He also doesn’t mention that most of
the new money is going to come from higher property taxes. Finally I don’t
think it should be lost on anyone that the five hundred million in increased
spending is almost dollar for dollar what is diverted away from the state
coffers to pay for the sates voucher programs.
Most of that money goes to religious schools and the entire
program has barely any over site or accountability. Governor Scott in effect is
saying let’s try and educate our children on the cheap and raise taxes to pay
for vouchers.
So in a way it is historic, it is just historically bad for
the tax payers and families of Florida.

Duval County asks the impossible of its elementary school teachers.

Teachers all across the district are being told to use more IReady the district’s computer program du jour as it hastens the replacement of its teachers with trained chimps who can press pay on a VCR. I kid some but the use of EngageNY has already eliminated a significant amount of creativity and innovation that teachers used to be encouraged to do.

One elementary teacher explained that since the computer lab was often used for the ad naseum testing the district claims to have scaled back that just leaves the four computers in her class and that there just isn’t enough time in the day to carry out the districts new computer plan.

Other teachers lucky enough to have access to computer carts lament the loss of time it takes to get them, unpack them and set children up on them which was already substantial but is bound to increase as the district mandates they use them more.

Then everyone is concerned how this will affect ESE and ESOL learners who often need more individual and small group instruction.

Nobody is against using technology to help their kids learn but at the same time few people think it can be used to replace our teachers. The district also needs to rethink it’s policy of frequently changing course in the middle of the nine weeks and requiring teachers to do more than what is possible, which are both SOP in the district..

Ultimately the district needs to decide what they want, the trained chimps from paragraph one or competent professionals practicing their craft. Unfortunately it seems like they want more of the former.  

Is this Melrose place or a School District?

I am not one to write about rumors or personal lives
but there is one persistent rumor out there that I felt I should talk about and
that’s who followed Connie Hall after the November school board meeting.

In case you don’t remember Connie Hall reported being
followed after the school board meeting and was so unnerved she involved the
police. The rumor on the street is it was Rachel Vitti the super’s wife who
followed her and I don’t know if it was started because Hall reported it was a
dark SUV and she drives one or there are reports that she was at the school
board meeting and visibly upset, but either way it is ridiculous right? Even if
she was annoyed that Hall led the initiative to put a letter of condemnation in
Vitti’s file, she would have to know better than to follow and attempt to intimidate
a school board member.

At first I pretty much ignored the story but then when
the district refused to release the video footage for specious reasons my
curiosity piqued.

My curiosity was furthered flamed when I was told that
Mrs. Vitti couldn’t have followed Mrs. Hall because Wendy Lehockey, Vitti’s chief of staff was with her. Yeah
probably like you, I too at first thought, what that’s ridiculous, the district
must be covering for the super’s wife, but to be honest I don’t know if they
are friends and maybe they often drive around together after school board

All of these rumors
make our school district sound ridiculous and petty and they distract us from
the job of educating our children. We should be debating the curriculum and
discipline, pushing back against for profit charters and testing or worried about
so many other issues instead of this.  The school board should release the tapes or
allow representatives of the media to view them in order to put
 these scurrilous
rumors to bed.

We shouldn’t be distracted
by, to use the super’s words, adult issues.

Republicans say if it is fixed lets break it with the FRS. (rough draft)

Spoiler alert continuing to make the teaching
profession undesirable even if you hate unions is going to have consequences.
You think public teacher salaries are low, check out how much
teachers their
people make.

I get it too, a full forty percent and growing people
that enter the teaching profession don’t last five years but why make things
worse which is what would happen if Florida did away with the Florida
retirement System for new employees.

From Florida Employees.com
Republicans once again are taking aim at the Florida Retirement System, arguing
taxpayers can save billions of dollars by closing the huge public employee
pension program to new members and offering them a 401k-style investment plan.
The proposal,
which is expected to be offered by House members in the coming legislative
session, would preserve line-of-duty death benefits for law enforcement
officers and firefighters, a move designed to appease lawmakers from both sides
of the political aisle who have opposed the idea in the past.
Spokesman Michael Williams said a bill would be created by a committee,
although House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has not decided which panel.
“We’re just
not sure where it will originate,” Williams said.
The state
retirement system serves 621,000 Florida schoolteachers, firefighters,
sheriff’s office workers and employees across the state’s 32 executive
agencies. Another 346,000 are receiving benefits in retirement, according to a
Senate bill analysis performed in June.
The analysis
showed the state system has about $138.6 billion to cover active and retired
employees, and would need another $21.5 billion to be fully funded. Florida’s
pension system is funded at about 86.6 percent, above the 80 percent level
state economists have defined as a healthy fund.

Um, why, why mess with something that is working?

My bet is it because if new employees are taken out of
the FRS its health will suffer and the legislature thinks they can shore that
up by taking even more of public servants salary. People forget that all
teachers and members of the FRS took a three percent pay cut during the great
recession money that has not been made up for in better times. So be sure to
thank a teacher for Florida’s budget surplus.

And for all you haters out there, things might be
different if the FRS was in trouble but it’s not all this is, is the Florida
Legislature trying to break something that is fixed while harming the teaching
profession at the same time.

So much for local control of education

Republicans only believe in local control when there is no money to be made. 

Since ethics in Florida means you weren’t caught with a live boy or a dead girl, representative Manny Diaz out of Miami is trying to strip from local districts the power to authorize charter schools. Oh what’s Diaz’s day job? Managing Charter schools.

From the league of Women Voters:
According to the News Service of Florida, Representative Manny Diaz has filed a constitutional amendment that could change how charter schools are approved in Florida.

HUR 759 would allow the Department of Education to establish a statewide system for approving charter schools.  Currently, school districts authorize charter schools and the State Board of Education can over rule school board decisions.
Diaz, a strong charter school advocate, is chair of the House Choice and Innovation subcommittee.  An earlier report by WFSU stated that Representative Diaz would file a bill to standardize charter school applications and change how they were approved, expanded, or terminated.  Evidently, he decided to change the constitution instead.
The Florida legislature can place an amendment on the ballot through a joint resolution which must receive 3/5 of the vote in the legislature.  The amendment then must be approved by 60% of the voters.
Diaz has been one of the worst offenders when it comes to education and it seems as his bank account grows his chutzpah increases as well.
When will Florida say enough is enough to these con men masquerading as legislators who are only looking to enrich themselves?

To read more click the link:  http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/editorial-district-lawsuit-forces-the-issue-on-cha/npQk8/

Parent and teacher, the district isn’t giving students enough time to learn the material.

From a reader

This is so sad. I can say without a doubt that NBE was and is a truly excellent school. My daughter had the most wonderful teachers in her 6 years there! She’s now with me at the middle school where I teach. (she doesn’t go to the local Oceanway MS) We are experiencing the same insanity on the middle school level. She keeps up with her assignments, studies and understands the material. I’m very involved and hands-on like this mother mentioned, but it’s never enough. 

Here’s just one example from her 8 classes. (Seriously! Last year they were in elementary and in MS there are 8 classes!!!!) She is really great in math and was placed in pre-algebra which is basically the standard for students a grade ahead of her. But…. her teacher has told me they have to move so fast to stay on the pacing guide. (Her math teacher is wonderful, BTW) This means that we can expect minimum of 1 hour of math per night. My daughter doesn’t really mind because she loves math, but the problem is when she takes a test in that class she gets maybe a C. Strange, considering all her other math grades are A’s. As a teacher, I can clearly see that they are moving so fast that they don’t have time to truly MASTER and RETAIN the content before moving to the next concept. This is very frustrating!! 

This is pretty much the way it’s going in all 4 of her core classes. Oh and don’t get me started on the projects they expect an 11 year old to produce on their own. I’m really seeing how many of our students are set up for failure.

All of this crazy DCPS insanity was stressful enough from a teaching standpoint, but having a front row seat to what’s happening with my own child is making me angry. I’m thinking of quitting to home-school her. That might be better for both of us.

So, here’s a thought. What if all the veteran teachers that know how things should be just up and decided they’re going to work one day to teach the material the way it should be taught? Like a non-strike unified effort to take back the system and give these kids the education they need and deserve!! Seriously, think about it.

Teacher says curriculum is way over their kids heads, district looks for quantity not quality of lessons

From a reader

As a first grade teacher, I applaud this parent and other parents who are helping their children the best that they can. It’s frustrating for parents to see that their children are failing simply because the content is WAY OVER THEIR HEADS. 

I am showing my students’ parents the work that they have to do in their math binders, and even sent them electronic files of all the modules we have to do because they want to catch up at home. However, because the district cares about QUANTITY instead of QUALITY, teachers are being forced to move on to the next lesson even if kids are not getting it. 

We’ve had several district visits and that is all that has come out of their mouths: Why aren’t you on THIS lesson? And, what lessons do you need to combine in order to get to where you need to be? 

Is this the same question that our administrators are going to ask when they formally observe us???? Because surely, they cannot say a darn thing about whether students are understanding the lessons or not when our hands are tied regarding pacing and differentiating our lessons.