My sit down with superintendent Vitti Part 3: A New Vision for Duval : Empowering Teachers

A New Vision for
Duval : Empowering Teachers
Superintendent Vitti said he wants to set up a system where
teachers can both teach their way, and at the same time be held accountable for
results. He said that, in the past, administrators “confused compliance with
quality instruction,” explaining that word walls and complicated
standards-based boards did not lead to better instruction. He wants teachers to
be able to achieve a deep teaching of the standards through reteaching, having
the students apply what they learn, synthesizing, analyzing and looking for
that teachable moment.
I brought up the fact that he had already warned
administrators once not to threaten teachers about a lack of adherence to the
learning schedule, now called curriculum guides, and that he indicated he
wanted to create a culture of collaboration and support where teachers were
empowered. He threw out the word “autonomy” several times, but often paired it
with accountability. He said, “When I was a teacher, I wanted to teach the way
I felt best, but I also expected to be held accountable.” Now, by contrast,
teachers are often told how to teach and what to teach and then held
accountable—which  is incredibly unfair. 
Vitti also recognized that discipline was a weakness in the
district, another area where he said the district lacked direction, and he
understands it is very important that the district start to address it. Stage
one of his plan was to put deans of discipline and certified ISSP teachers in
every middle and high school. He said principals are currently being trained on
the code of conduct, and when school starts, 
students will likewise be trained. Later he plans to start a task force
that will contain teachers. It’s rare in the education world to have teachers
help revise the code of conduct and to have them help develop a range of
progressive penalties for bad behavior.
I asked him to expand on the role of the ISSP program and he
said kids will no longer be able to treat it as a joke, which, since our
schools have site-based management, happened in some schools. Furthermore, he
said students in ISSP will be required to attend all the days assigned, where
before, an absence would qualify as a day in ISSP. Students in ISSP  must also complete all the work assigned,and
will be visited by counselors, which could lead to more counseling if
needed. 
Discipline is just one component of student
accountability—something the last administration effectively destroyed–and
don’t take my word for it. The changes Vitti is making as speak for themselves.
Another component of student accountability is being successful with course
material, and having a work ethic—something that many teachers complain
students have lost. The superintendent has made it more difficult for students
to skate by, by eliminating the safety net of grade recovery.
There will be some growing pains that accompany the
elimination of grade recovery. The Times Union did a story that said 12,000
kids in one year used it to pass a class. I personally believe the liberal use
of it has at least partly led to our increased graduation rates. Without it
more kids are going to fail classes and this is not me criticizing the
superintendent. I agree with his decision, this is just me pointing out the
obvious.
I asked him if this could potentially lead to administrators
harassing teachers forcing them to promote kids without the skills they need,
and the superintendent said, “…principals should not have a quota of harassing
grade reflection.”  I took this to mean
principals will not be allowed to cajole teachers into passing kids if they
haven’t mastered the material, that they will continue to watch to their Ds and
Fs, how many kids fail their class. The superintendent said teachers will be
held accountable and if to many kids are failing they may have to rethink what
they are doing but he also indicated that is a kid fails a class it will be on
them to make it up and administrators will not force teachers to pass students
who don’t deserve it.

Unfortunately, where all of the above sounds great, none of
it will work unless he enforces it with principals. Many principals are stuck
in Plato’s cave, that is, they only know what they know. What happens when they
start to complain to teachers that they’re falling behind on the curriculum
guides, or that their word walls aren’t standards-based, or that they are
writing too many referrals, or that their class grade point averages dip? To
use his word, administrators can no longer confuse “compliance” with quality
instruction. It’s easy to have all these teacher-friendly, student
accountability ideas, but unless there is leadership in place to carry them
out, all we have is lip service. 

2 Replies to “My sit down with superintendent Vitti Part 3: A New Vision for Duval : Empowering Teachers”

  1. " Later he plans to start a task force that will contain teachers. It’s rare in the education world to have teachers help revise the code of conduct and to have them help develop a range of progressive penalties for bad behavior."

    As long as it is not the same people. When the end of course exams were written, I never received any option to be part of that. The people in charge picked who they wanted.

    "The superintendent said teachers will be held accountable and if to many kids are failing they may have to rethink what they are doing…"

    OK, but students should not be placed in classes where they will not succeed. For example, a person who can barely read should not put into an AP European History course. A person who scored a D in pre-calculus should not be allowed to take AP calculus. These things happen all of the time, and those students are not successful in those courses. It is not just an isolated event where only one student is in the wrong class.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *