Just what direction is the system moving in?

The system is moving in the right direction, Professor James Crooks wrote in the Folio Weekly about our school system because of reports that our graduation rates were improving and that the district has reported a decrease in discipline problems. The good professor however left out a couple of important things.

First there is the fact that the formula for graduation rates was dramatically changed recently, which led to our bump. It gets worse than that however. I have six kids in my classes who I have never met and despite me reporting them to the attendance team several times they have yet to be withdrawn, extrapolate that county wide and that could be thousands of kids who have effectively dropped out but have stayed on our rolls. Nor does he mention the loophole that prevents kids who enter adult education classes (GED, etc.) from being withdrawn, which probably counts for about a five percent improvement in out rates.

His claim that discipline has improved is also laughable. He failed to mention how the average teacher (probably because he doesn’t know any) would completely disagree with the statement that discipline has greatly improved. However what has improved is teachers ignoring bad behavior and enduring toxic learning environments. It’s common for administrators to “with quote marks” say, if a teacher writes to many referrals, his or her evaluation, performance pay and even job can be in jeopardy.

Professor Crooks with all due respect in the future when you write about Jacksonville why don’t you stick with the climate, the golf courses or special neighborhoods like Fernandina Beach or Avondale because you obviously have no idea what is happening in our schools and when you regurgitate statistics issued by self serving parties you do our city and it’s children a disservice.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

NAACP grows a pair, school board should follow

The local NAACP fired a shot across the bow of the school board today when they said they would sue if they allowed an out side agency to take over the four predominantly black schools that are in danger of being taken over by the state and I say good for them. It’s about time we had somebody stand up to the state. I however don’t think we should stop there.

We need a leader to stand up and say, we remember how for decades the state didn’t think Jacksonville kids were as important as those in South Florida, we believed your promise abut the lottery only to see funds originally intended for education diverted, we are tired of the f-cat which has turned our schools from a place where kids got a well rounded education to a place where all they know how to do is pass a test, we want an end to unfunded mandates and your data driven education policies have turned our teachers into stat taking drones and we’re not going to put up with it any more. Try and take our schools and we’ll expose you for the uniformed hacks that you are. Not that it is much of a secret.

We need our superintendent and our school board to follow the NAACP’s lead and after years of just going along start fighting for what is best for our children.

Isn’t that what they should have been doing all along?

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Mayor Peyton calls Duval County school district colossal failure

In a Times Union editorial Mayor John Peyton referred to the Duval County Public School District as a colossal failure. Wow right, not just a failure but a colossal failure. Why didn’t he just say a failure of biblical proportions?

The Times Union said they wouldn’t go that far, after all the district has received a B grade from the state. Sorry to disappoint the Times Union but it is a gentlemen’s B as the district has become an expert at massaging certain numbers like more kids taking A.P. classes, giving fewer suspensions and making it nearly impossible to withdraw kids to inflate our grade. Though to be honest I wouldn’t go as far as “colossal failure” either.

The truth is there are incredible things going on at all our schools; even our supposed worse schools and for the most part they are the interactions between our teachers and our students. The thing is the district cannot continue to put our students and teachers in no win situations and then scratch their heads when they don’t succeed to the level that they wanted. It’s a wonder and a credit to our fine teachers dedication and professionalism that we are doing as well as we are.

We can’t continue to push kids through with out the skills they need, ignore discipline and over load and dump on teachers. We must try to address our most struggling kids problems most of which aren’t school related and also have more than the one size fits all, everybody is going to go to college curriculum which serves fewer and fewer children that we have now. If we want to be successful that is. If we don’t do those things then it probably won’t be long before the Times Union as most of the city already does, agrees with the mayor.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Opportunity Lost

Ribault, Raines and Jackson provide the city an opportunity.

The Times Union called the situation our most struggling schools find themselves in an opportunity. In case you haven’t been following the story, if Ribault, Raines and Jackson high schools and North Shore Junior High fail to improve they could be in store for some drastic changes, which could include shutting the schools down. The state rewriting the school grade rules and the district forcing advanced academic programs into their halls thus far has not been enough.

In a way the Times Union is right but it’s not just the schools that have an opportunity, it’s the district and the city itself. That’s right we the citizens of Jacksonville have an opportunity to examine how the district is run and demand changes be made. The district has an opportunity to finally start doing things the right way. It’s no wonder kids at the three high schools struggle as many have been pushed there without the skills they need to succeed. Most can’t read a grade level and less than half can do math yet some how they find themselves in high school, where after ninth grade there is nowhere left for them to be pushed to.

Is that the responsibility of the teachers at the fore mentioned schools who are asked to make years worth of gains in a few months or is it the fault of the district who has all but ordered teachers to pass kids whether they have the skills to or not. The answer is neither; it’s the citizens of Jacksonville through electing casual observers and politicians on their way up or way down to the school board. It’s the citizens of Jacksonville who have either tuned a blind eye to the problem or have just accepted the skewed reality being sold by those at 1701 Prudential Drive who are more concerned with protecting their niche than doing what is right for our children, that are ultimately responsible.

Kids should not be passed along without the skills they need and if they need extra help it should be provided, with legitimate and mandatory after school and summer school opportunities. Isn’t that the bare minimum of what our schools should be doing?

We find ourselves as a city and as a school district in a very precarious situation but the Times Union is right. The district has an opportunity to start doing things the right way the way they should have been doing things all along, or we the citizens of Jacksonville have the opportunity to say enough is enough, if you are not going to do it we will find somebody who will. All other opportunities are nearly too terrible to contemplate.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

Education and crime, what’s the difference

When the crime rate in Jacksonville was up and we were the murder capital of the state and had been for years nobody said lets take funds away from the police department and have several different ones take care of our protection. Where there were critics of the police for the most part nobody was saying the police were only in it for a paycheck and that the police union was protecting bad police officers. There was also no suggestion of merit pay for officers who made more arrests. No, we said lets come up with ways to fix the problem. And we did, we put more police on the street, we engaged the citizens to get them involved and we got proactive with our young people. It took awhile, things did not improve over night but our crime rate has steadily gone down.

Yet with schools it seems like there is a significant amount of people and powerful people at that, who think public schools are beyond saving and the whole system should be dismantled. Teachers and unions have become the scapegoats for all the problems despite the fact they don’t set policy. These powers-that-be want to create and pay for with public money competing schools even though they won’t play by the same rules as public schools and will pick and choose whom they take. They with a wink say they want to give vouchers to all but they have to know only those that are already well off will be able to use them.

It would not take reinventing the wheel, breaking the bank or demonizing our teachers to improve things and do so greatly. Lets bring back discipline and have real consequences for behavior. Lets have rigorous classes and safety nets like after school programs and legitimate summer school for those that need more help. Lets have social workers and counselors to figure out why that ten percent of kids try to ruin it for the rest, so often why kids act up at school has nothing to do with school. Lets make the standardized test a component of education not the end all be all that it has become. Then finally lets have multiple curriculums that teach trades, skills and the arts, that play to our children’s strengths, abilities and desires rather than forcing them into the one size fits all curriculum we have now.

When Jacksonville was riddled with crime we rolled up our sleeves and committed the resources to see things improve, we did not dismantle our police force and start over. Why don’t we try to do the same thing with our public schools, don’t our children, all of our children deserve that.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

High Test Scores, Low Ability

Jacksonville is facing the same problem China seems to be. We have graduates ill prepared for college and the work force, but they some how graduated. It’s too bad there isn’t a job where recent grads could just take the F-Cat. –cpg

By Yong Zhao, he is the University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at Michigan State University. The author of “Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization,” he often blogs about education issues.

There’s a frustrating paradox in Chinese education. On the one hand, millions of college graduates cannot find a job — at least a desirable job that pays substantially more than what a migrant worker makes. On the other hand, businesses that want to pay a lot more can’t seem to find qualified employees.

A McKinsey study found that fewer than 10 percent of Chinese graduates are considered suitable to work at multinational companies based in China.

Multinational companies in China are having a difficult time finding qualified candidates for their positions. According to a recent survey of U.S.-owned enterprises conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, 37 percent of the companies that responded said that finding talent was their biggest operational problem. A separate study by McKinsey Quarterly found that 44 percent of the executives in Chinese companies reported that insufficient talent was the biggest barrier to their global ambitions.

The explanation: a test-oriented educational environment.

China invented the keju system, which used tests to select government officials. It was a great invention because it enabled talents from across the society to join the ruling class regardless of their family backgrounds. Hence, a great meritocracy could be created. But it evolved into a nightmare for China as the system gradually changed into one that tested memorization of Confucian classics.

Keju is dead now but its spirit is very alive in China today, in the form of gaokao, or the College Entrance Exam. It’s the only exam that matters since it determines whether students can attend college and what kind of colleges they can attend. Because of its life-determining nature, gaokao has become the “baton” that conducts the whole education orchestra.
Students, parents, teachers, school leaders and even local government
officials all work together to get good scores. From a very young age, children are relieved of any other burden or deprived of opportunity to do anything else so they can focus on getting good scores.

The result is that Chinese college graduates often have high scores but low ability. Those who are good at taking tests go to college, which also emphasizes book knowledge. But when they graduate, they find out that employers actually want much more than test scores. That is why another study by McKinsey found that fewer than 10 percent of Chinese college graduates would be suitable for work in foreign companies.

Chinese educators are well aware of the problems with the gaokao system and have been trying to move away from the excessive focus on testing. But seeking other valid indicators of strong academic records will take time, especially in a country of 1.3 billion people.

Taken from the NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/02/what-is-a-college-degree-worth-in-china/high-test-scores-low-ability

Enhanced graduation requirements dumb down education

The suits, dumb down education…again

When I read about the increased graduation requirements for all of Florida, I first thought to myself, how the suits, the far off policy makers, the vast majority who had never been teachers or had anything to do with education until by virtue of being elected they somehow became experts on the subjects had once again got it wrong. Then I thought to myself, self how often do you think our legislators use advanced algebra, physics or chemistry in their everyday lives, I thought this even though I already knew the answer.

I think I can safely say they do as often as I and the vast majority of you do which is never. However that fact did not prevent them from passing a law requiring public school students to pass algebra II and one of the two sciences before they graduate.

My mind them meandered back to the mundane as I also wondered where they were going to put these new classes. At my high school and at most “low performing” high schools many of the classrooms are already occupied by reading and remedial math classes. We have 12 reading teachers at my high school. That’s 12 teachers, teaching 72+ classes of reading to over a thousand students. Think about this, most of our kids can’t read at grade level but at the same time we expect them to take and pass algebra II and chemistry. We also have a half dozen intensive math teachers, one of whom told me the other day, he would be happy if his kids learned long division by the end of the year. However once again, we expect these kids to take and pass algebra II and chemistry or physics. Does anybody else see the insanity here?

Once again (if you have read my stuff before) I am not saying advanced math’s and sciences don’t have a place in education. What I am saying is they are not the end all be all, panacea that our legislatures think will solve the ills of education. Look at Duval County for instance. Years ago the powers-that-be at 1701 Prudential drive became caught up in the success of Stanton and Paxon, annually regarded as two of the best schools in the nation and thought, if kids can do it there they can do it at any school and increased the graduation requirements accordingly. This despite the fact the typical kid at the accademic magnet school is greatly different from the typical kid at the neighborhood school. Why am I teaching algebra II to a kid who wants to drive a truck a colleague once lamented.

And Let me tell you Duval County after a temporary drop has been graduating kids with these enhanced graduation requirement too, and like how no good deed goes unpunished, and there is an admitted inherent goodness in wanting kids to do well in advanced subjects, many of these kids however, through a lack of skills have paid the price for it. You see just because these students have been graduating it definitely does not mean they have all been learning. To the contrary many have just been shuffled from one grade to the next, teachers under pressure from administrators to pass them along. How much evidence do you need that this is going on? How about the fact that most of our high school kids don’t read at grade level and barely half can do math. How about the fact that Florida State College at Jacksonville reports seventy percent of our grads have to take remedial classes or businesses report having trouble finding qualified workers from the pool of recent graduates? What is it going to take to convince you? How about walking through the hallways of a neighborhood school or sitting in a few of its classes. Ask a principal if you can sometime as it may be eye opening. Don’t just take my word or it, but likewise don’t just believe that the legislature is getting it right either.

Think about it this way, the economy is terrible right now and many people who want to work can’t find a job but what should also have you and me concerned is the amount of people who are working but are underemployed. They have jobs but aren’t working at the level their education would normally dictate nor as many hours as they normally would. If we were to count them then then our unemployed/underemployed rate would be about 25%. Well like the economy has the underemployed, Duval County and now I fear so too will the rest of the state have great numbers of the under educated. Sure they will have graduated but what will they be prepared for? If you answered college or the workforce, you are probably both a lot more optimistic than me and/or not a public school teacher. If our graduation rate is sixty-six percent, imagine what our percentage of kids prepared for college or the job force is. Where I have no empirical figures as nobody I know studies it, I would bet the true percentage of kids prepared for what comes next to be under fifty.

Friends it’s even worse than that. You hear all the times in the halls and in the teachers’ lounge about the extreme measures that teachers go to, to get kids to pass. 0-20 is an F in my class a former teacher of the year said, 21-40 is a D and a 41 is a C, passing. My study guide is basically the test and I let them use the study guide on the test is another teachers strategy. Some teachers give extra credit for just showing up. If you come and don’t get a referral you will walk out of my class with a C. Another teacher gives points for professional dress, you can literally get a C in my class if all you do is wear a tie daily, I was told. I could go on and on and on. Then there is learning recovery which says, if a kid for any reason fails a class, and that includes bad behavior, lack of effort or failing to attend, they can turn an F into a C if they complete some assignments on the computer.Would any o that lown 20 years ago coincidently when we didn’t have to take algebra at all and the United States education standing was much higher?

Friends we have dumbed down education to the point it is nearly unrecognizable. None of the kids in one of my science classes new their states, in another nobody could identify Australia and in a third I had to explain to the kids that the chemical formula for water was H2O. These are all things I learned in middle school as I was passing through Duval Counties school system, and then the so called education experts’ answer to the problems we are having is to raise the graduation requirements. I feel like education has become a Dilbert cartoon, where the engineer says he doesn’t know anything about nuclear power and the pointy haired boss instructs him to build a nuclear powered whatsit. Can somebody with a straight face who isn’t going to profit from the big business that education has become explain to me how this isn’t madness. By the way look out friends somebody is going to get rich creating end of course exams, just like somebody got rich on the FCAT.

We don’t need to ratchet up the requirements, if anything we need to tone them down and make sure what’s important is both rigorous and legitimate. Kids don’t need a half baked algebra II class they need a legitimate algebra I class. A colleague told me only about half of his algebra II kids could pass a legitimate algebra I class. We need to slow things down and make sure we get the basics right first before we push kids into classes, which quite frankly, like you and me and our legislatures, will never use.

Then don’t believe the hype that these so called experts have come up with. It’s a disingenuous argument that the advanced classes will help children think and figure things out even if they never use what they “supposedly learn” again; that these classes provide critical thinking skills. Well won’t learning a trade or a skill develop the same skills? Furthermore doesn’t leaning about the arts open up a child’s creative side and aren’t these skills and classes ones that children will use again. You think classes teaching skills, trades and the arts are already in short supply now; well just wait until a school needs a dozen more science and math teachers but wasn’t been given any money to pay for them.

Furthermore we are not going to have a society of just engineers and doctors no matter how much the legislature wants it, no matter how high they set the bar. After all we don’t have the children they wish we had, we have the children we do and it’s time we stated acting accordingly. If not more and more children despite the fact they “managed to graduate” won’t manage to do much more.

I get it though, we want kids to meet their potential and we want that potential to be sky high. I just wish the people who worked with the kids who are forced to implement these edicts from far off ivory towers and the kids themselves were sometimes consulted about what was best for them and what they wanted to do with their lives. These far off suits, who look at an idea like enhanced graduation requirements and then don’t apply any of the same critical thinking that they want kids to have, shouldn’t be making these future altering decisions after all they don’t have to take algebra II or chemistry and physics.

Even in failure the St. Johns County school district gets it right

Even in failure the St. Johns County public school system got it right.

The Florida Times Union recently ran a story about St. Johns County’s lone failing school, St. Johns technical high school. This is a big deal for several different reasons. First because St. Johns County is the highest achieving district in the state and any news of failure is big news and second because even in failure the St. Johns County school district has gotten it right.

The vast majority of the kids that go to St. Johns vocational high school are unlike the kids in the rest of the county, they aren’t going to go to college and quite frankly they have struggled throughout their academic carrers. “Most since the first day of kindergarten” the piece mentions, and perhaps the main reason for this is because many of the kids have disabilities. At this school however instead of just struggling as they would at a typical high school, they can also earn a certificate in a variety fields such as cosmetology, landscaping or culinary arts. They learn a skill that prepares them or life that far more than learning the quadratic formula and how to conjugate verbs does. This is how St. Johns County got it right.

Capable disabled students in Duval County have no such option and very little in the way of opportunity. Despite their disabilities we are in the process of shoving them into the same one size fits all, everybody is going to go to college curriculum that the district has deemed is appropriate for everybody. What’s the difference in curriculum between a highly motivated student at Stanton with an IQ of 120 who wants to be an engineer and a learning disabled student at Ed White who has an IQ of 80 and who wants to drive a truck? The answer is, there is none.

Also since we are doing away with special diploma options, I believe partly because kids that earn them will begin to count against a schools grade, we are forcing kids who after ten years of school and who can’t do their times tables into algebra classes where they will either fail or receive the “gentlemen’s C” that dominates so many teachers grade books. Also, you ever wonder why kids act out in class? Well one of the biggest reasons is the material is too much for them and it leads to frustration which leads to bad behavior. Many of our disabled children act out the most. See a correlation?

I get that the powers that be think that some of these students haven’t been given the proper opportunities to test their academic mettle and that they hope when put in these advanced for them academic settings they will be able to be successful. What they don’t get however is that if wishes were real we would all be riding rocket powered unicorns. Instead of blowing the system up, why don’t we here in Duval County do something realistic and put the kids in situations they can not only potentially be successful in but will also give them a tangible benefit like earning a certificate. Why don’t we do something like St. John’s County does? Though I guess there is a reason why they are considered one of the best school districts in Florida and Duval County is considered something different.

I am a special education teacher and it does my heart good to see one of my kids succeed in the regular education setting but likewise it breaks my heart to see kids thrust into those situations who have no real chance at being successful and it frustrates me to know end that we are teaching these kids things they most likely will never get and if by some miracle they did would never use. We should not just be okay with these kids learning a technical skill but we should encourage it and celebrate it when they earn them. However once again we have designed our schools around the kids we wish we had preparing them for the jobs we want them to do and in the process almost assured that the kids we do have won’t be successful post school.

Many of Duval Counties disabled kids will graduate ill prpared to continue their education and unlike their counterparts in St. Johns county without a skill. Well what do you think is going to happen to them? The best and brightest will get menial dead end jobs and the others will continue on the dole of society either recieving public assistance or for some who when faced with few options make bad choices a period of enforced residency at the behest of the state.

Perhaps what’s most frustrating in all this is it wasn’t that long ago that Duval County got it right. We had award winning skill centers that kids would go to half a day where they could learn the trades and skills that they and their parents thought would better suit them and the other half of the day they would be at their home schools where they would learn their academics. The skill centers have now sadly gone away replaced with academic magnets that many of our regular and most of our special education students cannot be successful in. Every year kids trickle away from Frank Peterson because they couldn’t cut the mustard, heading back to their neighborhood schools where they often continue to languish.

We desperately need an option or our disabled kids and our kids that either don’t have the aptitude or interest in going to college. Our one size it’s all curriculum, where we have devalued the teaching of the trades, skills and arts has led directly many of the districts problems. Furthermore I know we want every kid to go to college and that’s a laudable goal, sadly it’s also an unrealistic goal. Instead of having a school system for the kids we wish we had, I think it would do us, them and the district well to have a school system appropriate for the ones we do. Even though they knew it would be hard and extra work in St. Johns County, even though they realized they might not be successful when it was factored into the states cookie cutter system that rarely takes the concerns of the children into consideration, they did it anyways. They made a place for all their students, why can’t we.

In the end, even in “failure” because they made their special needs children a priority St. Johns County got it right.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

School board member speaks out

A school board member responded to my current piece in the Times Union, this is her note and my responce unedited. I’ll let you be the judge.

Dear Mr. Guerrieri:

I am writing to you in response to your letter to the editor regarding the members of the Duval County School Board’s visit to Jean Ribault High School. I found your letter to be not only factually inaccurate but also potentially detrimental to the Jean Ribault High School family. Your letter feed into many stereotypes regarding the Ribault High community and the public perception that there are not diverse high performing students in the school. I must admit that I was surprised when I saw your letter because you had not struck me as someone who would form superficial, snap judgments about any school or its students.

Your letter starts off by saying that we did not meet with a truly representative sample of students at Ribault High. I found that assessment to be particularly odd in light of the fact that we meet with a group of students remarkably similar to the group of students we meet at your school, Ed White, in the spring of last school year. Just as was done at Ed White and Terry Parker High School, we allowed the school based administrator and his faculty to select the students that represented a true cross section of the school and that was the group of students we met with. Your letter would suggest that Ribault High does not have a cross section of diverse high achieving students but rather a monolith of students who all need remediation.

The next point you raise is this view that the visit to Ribault High School is the only visit by board members to schools. As a member of the board for almost eight years, the mother of four children who have all matriculated in the Duval County Public Schools during my tenure on the board, the wife of a teacher at Ribault High School, and the daughter of a former long time Duval County Public School teacher, I have always been engaged and active in our district’s schools and have spent time working in and with them every week of my tenure on the board and prior to. My experience with the schools is remarkably similar to the level of involvement by each member of the Duval County School Board.

Whether I have tutored students one-on-one or in small groups for ACT/SAT test to prepare them to obtain concordant scores or achieve satisfactory admission scores for college, or cooked meals for entire members of the football team, or meet with groups of teachers, parents, and administrators in schools to address concerns, advised parents/guardians of curricular implications for their children, or talked with various faith based and civic organizations, I worked to ensure that my decisions as a board member were truly representative of the community that elected me.

My vision when initially running for office was to help instill the pride and high quality instruction back in my alma mater, Jean Ribault High School, and to prepare young people all over this district to match their infinite potential with steller academic performance. As I leave the board, some of my dreams as a member have been actualized and others have much work yet to be done. Nevertheless, I know that through grace my time was well spent.

As I return back to my private life as a wife, mother, attorney, educator, and servant oriented civic citizen, I will continue to work to ensure that the Duval County Public School District addresses the needs of all of its students. I am hopeful that teachers like you will continue to call attention to the areas where we need to improve; however, I would hope that your message comes from a positive place and is based on factually accurate information.

Brenda Priestly Jackson, Chairman
Member District IV
Duval County School Board

Thanks for your note, though I can’t help but think the long list of ccs was meant to intimidate me some and I’ll let you know it worked, I am duly intimidated and not looking forward to Monday at all. Though I hope you understand that agree with my individual points or not my mission is to make things better for children and teachers.

You are absolutely right though. I was saying you didn’t meet a cross representation of the children at Ribault high school, but if you are as involved as you say, then you know that. I would also say you didn’t meet an accurate representation of students at my school last year and I would bet Terry Parker as well. Furthermore I don’t think visiting three schools in the last year is something to be proud of.

The average students at these schools is marginally interested in their education and many feel over whelmed or are having their joy for learning robbed from them. Unrealistic curriculum requirements (algebra II really) that have seen the skills, trades and arts all but eliminated are a chief cause of this. My school recently lost an award winning art teacher who dedicated 15 years to Ed White all to be replaced by a more than likely out-of-field first year reading teacher. Kids today have been pushed through many without consequences for behavior or mastering the material it takes to be successful. We have destroyed rigor and eroded discipline. We have put them all in a one-size fits all curriculum that every year sees more and more fall through the cracks ill prepared for life.

If you add destroying teacher morale and giving teachers all the responsibility and blame but none of the authority to educate children then this is the legacy that you and many members of the current school board have left behind. In the last ten years we have seen our school system transform from one growing and filled with potential to one that is contracting and serves only some of the districts children; leavening the rest unprepared for either a post secondary education or a job in the workforce.

Also I think it’s unfortunate that you think I was talking negatively about Ribault high school because I wasn’t. I have friends that work there and they think that after years of mismanagement it is finally heading in the right direction, I wish them and the students there nothing but success. I thought that was clear in the piece. Though I readily admit I think one of the biggest problems we have as a district, is we have been mismanaged by politicians, who have looked at the school board as a stepping-stone up or down and casual observers filled with hubris who think to themselves, hey I can fix that. Mrs. Priestly-Jackson I also remind you that you don’t just represent the administration at 1701 Prudential Drive but you represent the cities, teachers, parents, children and stakeholders as well.

Finally I don’t question your heart or that of any members of the school board. I question the school boards depth and think many of them are out of it and I feel it would be better that if school board members weren’t serious about education and three school visits in a year, not meeting with teachers and walking lock step with the superintendent would seem to indicate they weren’t; then they stepped aside. The cities children and teachers can’t handle much more.

Chris Guerrieri

Here is a link to my blog with the original unedited piece.

Even numbered Star Trek movies don’t suck

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, puppies are cute and the combination of chocolate and peanut butter was masterful. These are irrefutable truths. Another irrefutable truth is even numbered Star Trek movies don’t suck.

Star Trek First Contact was the second film with the next generation cast and is no exception to the rule. In fact some people think before the latest film it was the best the series had to offer. It featured a sleek new enterprise traveling in time to fight the, you will be assimilated, Borg.

If you don’t know, the Borg are like locus descending on a lush green field. Then once they leave it’s barren, devoid of anything meaningful. Their goal is to assimilate everything into their collective and to make everything the same.

During one dramatic moment where things looked particularly grim, it was suggested to Captain Piccard that they give up and run away. He however chose not to saying; I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And *I* will make them pay for what they’ve done. It’s an awesome, memorable speech if you haven’t seen the movie and it make me wish we had a Captain Piccard in charge of education.

In education we to have made too have made many compromises. We have allowed behavior to become a secondary concern. We have practically eliminated the teaching of the trades, skills and arts to appease the “everybody most go to college and be an engineer or doctor crowd.” Those that think every child is suited for and wants to go college, that every child should be lumped into that one group are the Borg of this little narrative and they have been just as devastating to educating, as Captain Picard’s adversaries were to his ship and crew. We have retreated into a one size fits all curriculum that sees so many children fall through the cracks and we have made teachers the scapegoats for all that is wrong in education and like Captain Piccard said, a line must be drawn, and why can’t we draw it here in Jacksonville, Florida.

The powers-that-be have long touted how they are on the cutting edge of education, what with their magnet schools, magnet programs and advanced graduation requirements. The thing is despite these innovations the district and the city as a whole have languished in recent years. Our graduation and dropout rates are high and are reading rates are low. Many of our graduates that go to college have to take remedial classes and those that don’t have trouble finding jobs that are appropriate for their skills. We have created a generation of children that is capable of taking one test, the f-cat but not much else. Why doesn’t Jacksonville say enough is enough and become a real leader in education? Why doesn’t Jacksonville say we’re no longer going to do it the way the experts who have led us to the abyss say we need to do it, we’re drawing a line here and we’re going to start with behavior.

Kids need consequences for their behavior and remember or a consequence to be effective it must be meaningful. If we don’t give them consequences at school then how are they going to know how society works, because society will give them consequences for their behavior? Then not everybody is going to win a trophy either and kids must be allowed to fail so they can have a second opportunity to succeed to get the skills they need. Pushing them along hoping they will somehow these lost skills will miraculously appear, only serves to compound the problem and like not disciplining them will, this too will have grave consequences when they enter adult hood.

We also can’t keep putting kids and teachers in impossible situations and then wondering why they don’t succeed. High school is eight classes, many kids have no electives and they are tested nearly into a coma. Students are in classes many aren’t interested in or prepared for too is it any wonder they don’t do well? How would you do? Also teachers are overwhelmed with task after tasks that only have a peripheral relationship with education, and they have had their creativity, initiative and moral all but destroyed. They are also held responsible for how a child does, regardless of the lack of support and resources they receive, or the ability and desire that the kids in their classes have.

Friends we need to draw a line in the sand and go enough is enough? We have to say we will not stand to have education eroded any farther because quite frankly we can’t have education eroded any farther. Ask a long time teacher if they think it has changed for the better and then ask an employer if they think society has changed for the better too. Captain Piccard said he would make the Borg pay, well friends our children and our city are already paying a step price for the lines that we have allowed to be crossed. How much more of a price are we willing to pay?

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, puppies are cute and the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is masterful and even numbered Star Trek movies don’t suck, these are irrefutable truths. Another is we are headed on the road to ruin unless we say enough is enough, unless we draw a line. Why not here Jacksonville? Why not here?