Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is Save Duval Schools worried about whom their pal Gary is inviting over?

Yes, I know what a terrible title. Moving past it, you should all know that the barbarians are at the gate. Gary Chartrand in a Times Union article about raising money said he hopes national philanthropic groups will pitch in, too. He mentioned the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as ideal targets for added monies.

WHAT!!!! These are the people that are behind the public education privatization movement. They aren’t here to help improve public schools they are here to bury public schools. These are the same people Save Duval Schools and everybody who cares about public education has been fighting against.

Yeah we need resources but if Race to the Top has taught us anything, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. The county should either say no thanks or make darn sure there are no strings attached.

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-04-30/story/education-leaders-time-invest-human-capital-duval-public-schools#comment-712274#ixzz2RzgiYbE5

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Gary Chartrand and the JPEF

Color me confused, the JPEF does a study that says Duval County has a hard time keeping teachers and then the next day the Times Union says the JPEF will manage a fund that will spend 11 million dollars to support TFA teachers and we all know 90 percent or so won’t stay past two years. What am I missing here?

Shouldn’t any money we get be used to foster teachers who will spend a lifetime in our classrooms? Not just stay for a cup of coffee and then be off to the next big thing in their lives.

TFA does have a role to play but as a supplement and they should only be called on after other options to staff our classrooms have been exhausted.  Hillsborough County (among others) refuses to use them because they want lifelong teachers in their classrooms.

Is the board asking how high when Chartrand says jump?  

Why the Protestors at UW Madison are Right

This post is from Professor Chad Goldberg.

In his April 29 statement on Palermo's Pizza, Interim Chancellor David Ward wrote: "On November 29, 2012, NLRB Regional Director Irving Gottschalk issued a decision that found the majority of the alleged labor law violations against Palermo’s lacked merit. The NLRB findings were appealed by representatives of the workers. Earlier today [April 29, 2013] the appeal was denied based on insufficient evidence. Throughout this process, we stated that we would weigh findings by the NLRB as we considered additional action…. We are encouraging Palermo’s, the workers and the NLRB to reach an agreement on rehiring the remaining workers who are not covered by today’s appeal decision. While we acknowledge the viewpoints represented by UW-Madison students and the Workers’Rights Consortium, we believe that cutting ties with Palermo’s at this time is not warranted based on the facts." [http://www.news.wisc.edu/21728]

Others on campus have also questioned yesterday's student occupation of the chancellor's office in light of the recent NLRB ruling. 

One would hope that a liberal arts education would militate against this kind of intellectual and moral complacency. Why does the WRC merely express a viewpoint, while the NLRB determines facts? Why should the campus community regard the NLRB as the supreme arbiter or the only valid source of judgment or evidence in this dispute? Why do members of the campus community who in other instances pride themselves on their critical thinking skills hesitate to question the NLRB? Better knowledge of U.S. labor history would serve all of us well. It would remind us that the NLRB is in fact a political body that reflects the presidential appointments made to it--or blocked by the Congress.  Indeed, in recent years it has become politicized to an unprecedented extent by Republican refusal to approve President Obama's appointments. [http://jeffweintraub.blogspot.com/2010/02/republican-obstructionism-watch-why.html

As a result of this politicization, the board is not merely a legal and regulatory framework for struggles between labor and management; it is itself an object and terrain of struggle.

Furthermore, as my colleague Sara Goldrick-Rab has rightly pointed out, the NLRB concerns itself with federal labor laws; it does not define the code of conduct at UW-Madison. The Worker Rights Consortium, an independent worker rights monitoring organization with which the university is affiliated, and the UW-Madison Labor Codes Licensing Compliance Committee, the campus shared governance body designated to make recommendations on these issues, have both investigated Palermo's Pizza and found it guilty of violating UW’s code of conduct. There is no contradiction here with the NLRB ruling: even if Palermo's is not in violation of federal labor laws, it can still be in violation of the university's code of conduct.

Interim Chancellor Ward's dismissal of the recommendations of the Labor Codes Licensing Compliance Committee is another troubling sign of the erosion of shared governance on our campus. Worse yet, it shows a troubling moral complacency which the students who occupied his office rightly reject. They understand that the only thing necessary for the triumph of injustice is for good people to do nothing. Those students are an inspiration to all of us on campus who believe that the university's code of conduct should be taken seriously.

Chad Alan Goldberg
Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Vice President, United Faculty & Academic Staff, AFT Local 223

Stop the presses, Teachers are dissatisfied in Jacksonville?!?

I would say it was the worst kept secret in the city that teachers were dissatisfied except it hasn’t been anything close to be a secret. I mean except to the JPEF and the Times Union who were apparently in the dark.

Here is the recipe for how it happened.

One part incompetent superintendent and a rubber stamp board. The previous superintendent must have had compromising pictures of the long term board members because they rubber stamped everything he brought to them and much of it was to the detriment of the district. Not that things were perfect before him but he gutted student accountability and turned teachers from valued colleagues to easily replaceable and marginalized cogs. I also can’t emphasize enough how he gutted student accountability a huge problem that continues to plague us. Then as a bonus he put people in leadership positions not based on ability but who they knew and sadly now many of our schools are filled with bullies masquerading as administrators. Despite Vitti’s impressive beginning, it will take the district years to recover from Pratt-Dannals, Burney, Barrett and Hazouri.

Throw in Jeb Bush and his debunked Florida miracle and teaching went from a field that prided itself on creativity and flexibility to one that filled in bubbles and taught to the test. Jeb Bush has done more to harm education than most people know or it sometimes seems, want to know.

Add a sprinkle of the Times Union and the rest of the local media giving the previous super and board a pass. I must have read a half dozen editorials in the Times Union that said Pratt was the right man for the job, this as he drove quality teachers to the surrounding counties or out of the field all together. Pass after pass they gave him as our schools, teachers and students languished.

Then throw in low pay, Florida teachers are some of the worst paid in the nation and expensive benefits, that’s right, they aren’t as great as people have been led to believe. As altruistic as many teachers are they still have to feed their families. Then when you couple those with an ever increasing demand to drill and kill kids, rich kids get taught poor kids get tested, and mountains of superfluous paperwork and then a lot of teachers decided to look elsewhere for employment. I mean if they are going to be miserable they might as well be getting paid for it.

John Thrasher and Steve Wise, two local legislatures constant anti-teacher drum beat also played a role as did all the anti-teacher/public education legislation that has come out of Tallahassee over the last few years. Instead of fixing our problems they have exacerbated many as they have sought to privatize our schools.

Finally the well financed campaign to besmirch teachers, portraying them as money grubbing self-indulgers who couldn’t care less about kids, you know the opposite of what is true, hurt.

With all that what really surprises me is it’s just 50%.

The good news is we can turn this around and listening to teachers concerns and suggestions would be a good first step.

Jacksonville really isn’t interested in retaining teachers and I can prove it

The headline read, Group looks to raise $50 million to strengthen Duval teachers, principals, administrators. A laudable goal I guess but when you get to the fine print it loses some of its luster. Over 11 million of the dollars would go to Teach for America. Teach for America’s business model is the exact opposite of what people in education call best practices. They take recent grads without education degrees and put them first through a six week access course and then into the toughest classrooms the city has to offer where they serve a two year commitment; after which 90 percent of them leave.

This is made particularly ironic because another article in the paper talks about the difficulty in retaining teachers. Sadly the district by using TFA to fill openings tells its teachers it really interested in doing so. Instead preferring an ever revolving door of cheap and malleable fodder.

Wouldn’t the money be better spent developing teachers who would be in the classroom for a lifetime? Wouldn’t that strengthen our teachers?

The hypocrisy really is dizzying if you think about it.

Michelle Rhee’s ever growing credibility problem

Michelle Rhee used to talk about what a great teacher she was until people looked into her claims. Now she is silent on the issue though for some reason she does like to tell the story about how she once ate a bee.

This was followed by a disastrous turn as the Chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system. As more and more comes out, the achievement gap increased, scores went down, they lost money by closing schools and the cheating scandal which gets bigger every day, her legacy is quickly unraveling.

Then there is the Students First, her anti-public school teacher group, petition she passed off in Florida that supposedly supports the parent trigger. Filed with duplicate signatures and with people who report not having signed it, it cannot be taken seriously.

I’m starting to wonder what she was ever right about. I long ago wondered why anybody would listen to her.

The irony of Michelle Rhee of using petitions to sell the parent trigger

The Parent Trigger if passed would allow parents to petition to change the school that their children attend. Since this is the case does anybody find it ironic that the petition Kelli Stargel, R-lakeland presented as support for the parent trigger legislation (provided by Michelle Rhee), is so full of problems? We are talking about duplicate signatures, and the signatures of people who say they were either tricked about what they were signing or who say they didn’t sign it.

If the supporters of the parent trigger are willing to lie and use subterfuge now even before the bill is passed, what won’t they do once the bill is passed?

To read more click the link:


3,2,1… Down go Bush and the Parent Trigger

First I would like to thank the handful of republicans that voted against the parent trigger, Senators, Nancy Detert, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Rene Garcia, Jack Latvala, Greg Evers and Charlie Dean. Education should be non-partisan and what’s best for kids is what we should do. It’s nice to see a handful of republicans agree.

Now to Jeb Bush:

First the RNC, Jeb’s own party, came out against the Common Core, his baby.

Then his mother said; there had been enough Bush’s in the white house.

Finally Florida changed the graduation requirements something he fought against and voted against the parent trigger something he fought for.

Bush like the trigger which has failed two years in a row now is hopefully down for the count.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Why all the decption around the Parent Trigger?

From MyEducationNext, by Rita Solonet

Watching the Florida Senate debate the so-called Parent Empowerment bill, is like watching an episode of Truth or Dare.
The bill's sponsor, Senator Kelli Stargel (R)- Lakeland,  clumsily danced around answers to pertinent questions, like,  "Why is a parent trigger even needed in Florida?"  or, "Who supports parent trigger in Florida."

I'm tired of the non answers, the wrong answers, and frankly, the lies presented with gusto such as the fabricated parent group with the slick video that support this bill. The truth about SB 862, aka, the Parent Trigger bill is as follows:

1)    Does the parent trigger bill offer a new option to parents?
No, it does not.  Florida already has a law permitting public school conversion to charter school. That law gives the parents power to initiate a conversion of a school to charter. It was used in Key Biscayne and in Lakeland.

2)     Does this bill truly empower parents as the title suggests?
No, it does not. Parents are actually less empowered when a school is converted to a charter.  Charters frequently select students for admission. Oftentimes, they avoid disabled children, English Language Learners, those dubbed hard-to-teach.  Further, charter schools expel children at any time they desire.  Parents have no appeal process. Oftentimes charter schools don't allow parents to attend board meetings.  Charters change school attendance days (including Saturdays) and hours. Parents have no say.  Many charters now demand volunteer hours from parents dictating that students will be expelled if parents don't volunteer.  This is empowerment?
3)     Do parents have a voice in Florida's public schools now?
Absolutely they do. Whether they are involved in the school or not, parents can seek out a peer parent on a School Advisory Council (SAC).  SACs are mandated by law and their boards must comprise, by law, 51% or more with parents and business leaders.  SACs actually write school improvement plans.  Parents gather input and help to write plans to improve the school. That's empowerment!  Any parent can and should attend SAC meetings with issues or seek out parents to help with issues.  I've been on SACs over a decade and we help every parent who comes before us. 
4)     Do charter schools have the same accountability?

No.  Contrary to Senator Stargell's remarks, charters do not close after two years of F-ratings.  First, by law, they are not graded until after the second year. Then, if they receive F-ratings, and a district wants to close them, charters turn to the State Board of Ed to appeal the closure.  At best, you cannot close a failing charter for three years. Just look at all the failing charters that still exist!

5)     Florida needs to offer parents more Choice

Florida has more choice than any other state in the nation. Florida offers:  McKay Scholarships;  Vouchers;  Florida Virtual;  600+ charter schools;  Magnet schools;  Homeschooling;  Cyber Charters and 100% Virtual schools for parents; along with an existing conversion clause to charter.
6)     Does FL need more avenues to open more charters such as the parent trigger?
Florida has 600 charter schools in operation today. When you consider Florida has more charters than Texas, you need to consider that Texas has 4.8M students to educate vs. Florida's 2.4M.  Perhaps it's time to slam on the brakes and fix the charters in existence vs. opening the floodgates for more that are not needed.
7)     Who opposes parent trigger in Florida?
Senator Stargel shamefully misled the Senate with her answer today. Over 1M citizens oppose parent trigger. Groups such as:

 and many more...

FACT:   There is no entity - no grassroots parents group that has chosen to form support for the concept of parent trigger of their own volition whatsoever.  That lie was exposed in Kathleen McGrory's Miami Herald article on April 26.

8)  Why do parents oppose parent trigger?
Simply - we oppose the conflict it inflicts upon communities pitting parents against principals, teachers against parents, parents against parents and students against students.  You only have to look to California for proof that this law divided communities such that families moved away.  NO AMENDMENT will resolve this conflict you are willfully inflicting upon Florida's citizens.
PLEASE LISTEN TO CONSTITUENTS AND VOTE NO ON PARENT TRIGGER!I am not a teacher - not a union member - and I haven't got a clue what the so-called union talking points are.  I'm a parent, a business woman who spent her own savings to beg you to say no to a very destructive bill.

What raise did teachers get again?

The Governor reverted to form taking a victory lap over the legislature agreeing to give teachers at least a 2,000 dollar raise, which for most is less than the 5% they have lost over the last two years.

However buried in the fine print is the raise isn’t suppose to kick in till the 14-15 school year.  The governor doing his best Last of the Mohicans impression told teachers, to hang on, submit, to somehow survive and then eventually he would throw us a few nickels.

Governor Scott if you are hoping to buy my vote, you are going to have to do a bit better than that.

To read more click the link: http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/open-memo-to-rick-scott-veto-entire-education-budget/2118094

DCPS is a horrible place to work

That was the start of Reader 422's comment on a Times Union piece about why teachers leave the district. This is the rest of it.

DCPS is a horrible place to work. I have decades of experience and am National Board Certified and I just got my evaluation today. My score: 58/100. Retaliation for asking a question of my dictator, I mean principal. Petty comments are on my evaluation such as:
"Put everything in one binder." Really? Do they make 3 ft. binders?
This job involves paperwork!
One child spoke without raising his hand, so I got a Needs Improvement in Managing Student Behavior.
"Some of my notes are handwritten." Can I not jot down a phone #?
Anonymous complaints were made about me. Undoubtedly parents of children who failed. How can I respond to that?
I thought their goal was to recruit and retain great teachers. Every day is a demoralizing experience. I work all day, every evening, every weekend. I spend every Saturday morning going to garage sales looking for books for my students.
The illiterate bimbo who evaluates me gave us a lesson plan form and sent an email acknowledging that it takes 2-3 hrs. to fill out at first, but gets easier. That's my whole planning!
I hate my job. I won't work nearly as hard next year. Why should I? The evaluation is all about who shuts up and sucks up!
My son told me he wants to be a teacher. I told him I wouldn't pay for college if he majored in education and I mean it.

I am at a good school now so I don't feel Reader 422's angst but for the last 3 years I was at Ed White I felt it everyday and its a sentiment I hear frequently from teachers throughout the district. -cpg

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-04-29/story/study-duval-loses-half-its-first-year-teachers-within-five-year

Student Activism Continues at UW-Madison

UW-Madison has a rich history of activism among its students, and that history evolves today as students stand in solidarity with the workers of Palermo's pizza and the good folks of Voces de la Frontera. 

What will outgoing Interim Chancellor David Ward do? Why not act, given widespread public support and his short remaining tenure?

 Here's what you need to know:

(1) UW-Madison's students have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to standing up for the rights of underdogs throughout the world.  It's no surprise they're ahead of the NLRB on this one.

(2) UW-Madison's code of ethics is independent from the rulings of the NLRB or any other entity and is supposed to reflect our values, not those of others.

(3) It is abundantly clear that moral leadership is lacking on both the so-called Left and the Right in Wisconsin, especially when it comes to standing up to corporate interests seeking to keep wages low and profits high.  It is far harder to battle these interests than to cede to them.

I have the great admiration and respect for students who take the time to educate themselves on the political economy of universities and challenge administrators to do the same.  I have no doubt that if Chancellor Ward doesn't soon take action, these students will begin to expose the private interests that appear to inhibit him from doing so.

April 29, 2013

Students Occupy UW-Madison Chancellor’s Office

12 students storm administration building demanding termination of school’s contract with Milwaukee frozen pizza firm

Students will remain in Bascom Hall until Chancellor David Ward agrees cut the contract

Sam Klepfer, soviet.thriller@gmail.com, 608-772-4415
Claire Hintz, clairehintz@gmail.com, 651-955-8370
Maxwell John Love, maxwelllove@gmail.com, 724-557-6269

WHAT: Rally outside the ongoing occupation of UW Chancellor David Ward’s office
WHO: UWMad@Palermo’s, a coalition of student groups; labor and community supporters
WHEN: Monday, April 29th at 4:30pm
WHERE: Outside Chancellor Ward’s office, 161 Bascom Hall, 500 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI

At 2:15pm today, 12 students entered Chancellor Ward’s office to protest his refusal to uphold UW-Madison’s code of conduct for companies that produce goods using UW logos. The students are demanding that the university cut ties with Milwaukee-based frozen pizza manufacturer Palermo Villa Inc over the company’s labor practices.

The sit in comes after a 200-day campaign by a coalition of students, workers, and concerned Wisconsinites. The Labor Licensing Policy Committee, the campus shared governance body designated to make recommendations on these issues, determined in November that Palermo’s was in violation of the university’s code of conduct, and recommended cutting ties with the company.

“We’re occupying the office until Chancellor Ward agrees to cut ties with Palermo’s,” said Claire Hintz, one of the students occupying the office. “It’s outrageous that the Chancellor still refuses to enforce our code of conduct by cutting ties with this irresponsible company.”

In January, the Dane County Board of Supervisors joined the chorus of groups calling for a contract cut, passing a resolution of support. Then in February, the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent worker rights monitoring organization the university is affiliated with, reported that “Palermo has committed serious violations of worker rights and that these violations remain ongoing,” and therefore was in violation of the university’s code of conduct and international labor rights standards.

“Chancellor Ward has abandoned the Palermo’s workers and callously ignored the moral standards that UW claims to uphold,” said Cornell Zbikowski, another of the occupying students. “The Palermo’s workers have been on strike for 11 months as David Ward hides and counts the days until retirement. I’m ashamed to call David Ward my Chancellor.”

At 4:30pm, supporters will rally outside of Bascom Hall. At 6:00pm, the Solidarity Singers will lead the crowd in song.

UWMad@Palermo’s is a coalition of student groups dedicated to ending UW-Madison’s contract with Palermo’s Pizza, including the Student Labor Action Coalition, Working Class Student Union, United Council, ISO, and TAA.


WHY: It has been over 200 days since students first confronted Chancellor Ward to uphold the university's code of conduct and cut the contract with Palermo's and he has yet to take any action on this issue. Students have already utilized University channels including receiving recommendations from shared governance groups such as the Labor Licensing Policy Committee in November, receiving a resolution from County Board to support the UW-Madison cut, and having Palermo’s workers come to campus to meet with the Chancellor, and publicizing findings from the corporate investigation by the WRC (who found 4 separate code violations: health and safety, harassment and abuse, work hours, and freedom of association). Yet Ward has remained unmoved on this issue. Over 10,000 signatures have been gathered supporting UW-Madison cutting their contract with Palermo’s. Students will sit-in until Chancellor Ward agrees to uphold the University’s code of conduct and cut the contract with Palermo’s. Students and community members are joining together to hold Ward accountable for his lack of action in protecting and upholding the rights of workers who are directly connected with our university.

******* UPDATES*********************

This was more than a handful of students today.

Students were arrested. I am awaiting details.

StudyBlue announces annual teacher appreciation program “Thank a Teacher a Latte.”

Mobile and social study platform, StudyBlue today announced the launch of its annual teacher appreciation program “Thank a Teacher a Latte.” As the largest digital library of peer-sourced study materials, StudyBlue is inviting students, parents and industry leaders nationwide to join in building a virtual Wall of Thanks to give back to the educators who have made a difference in their lives.

The 2013 Thank a Teacher a Latte program is open to everyone, including students, former students and parents. In addition, any teacher or school staff member may be recognized. With one click, a digital thank-you card is created and displayed as a keepsake. Once submitted, the esteemed educator will receive a digital “badge of honor” they can display with pride on Pinterest and other social media outlets. 300 lucky teachers will receive $5 coffee cards at the end of May when the contest subsides.

2012’s campaign saw thousands of submissions from cities and school districts across the country. Praise came from parents, students and a CEO or two “Educators are busy, and often don’t hear a simple “Thanks. With this platform we wanted to help students easily extend their gratitude to a teacher who is making, or has made, a difference in their educational goals,” said CEO Becky Splitt.

For more information on the program, to see all current Thank You Cards in real-time, visit http:/thankateacher.studyblue.com/ and www.studyblue.com.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Common Core will provide the bullets for the parent trigger

If you have been following Tallahassee recently you know that the DOE has made a mess of how they grade schools. Constant changes to the formula mean nobody knows exactly where they are or where they will be when the system is finally decided upon. Take last year for instance when they decided schools would only be able to fall two letter grades whether they deserved to fall farther or not.

So when the supporters of the parent trigger bill say it will only affect 25 schools or so, the truth is it will most likely effect a lot more. Then once we add common core to the mix, the system designed to toughen the standards that bring a whole new set of standardized tests with it, who knows how many schools will now be eligible for the parent trigger. Some estimates say the number will be in the hundreds.

Two things, some of you might be thinking, failing schools should be taken over. Well friends as long we ignore poverty any improvement will be slow but at the end of the day who do you want working with the kids a corporation whose bottom line is the bottom line or professional educators.

Then shouldn’t the solution be to fix our problems, to provide the resources that mitigate poverty, rather than giving away the public’s resources to for profit companies. Doesn’t that make more sense?

The common core will undoubtedly cause problems and school grades to drop and the powers-that-be in Tallahassee have acknowledged this. So yes right now the parent trigger might just affect a handful of schools but who knows how many it will in the future.

My bet is a lot more and I think the Florida legislature and their charter school backers are betting on it too.

Kelli Stargel, todays latest greatest worst Florida politician of all time

Kelli Stagel R Polk County told the Miami Herald that she “has no reason to doubt the signatures” on a pro-parent trigger petition she floated.

Um how about all the people who have come forward and said they didn’t sign it? At best she is ignorant, though disingenuous and deceptive also come to mind


Jeb Bush, Kelli Stargel and Michelle Rhee are not above using deception to pass the Parent Trigger Bill

First no parents want it! Read that again. Second no parents want it! Since that is the case why has it passed the house and is the Senate now considering it. Third, NO PARENTS WANT IT!

The astro turf groups Parent Revolution, Michelle Rhee’s Student First and Jeb Bush’s Foundation and their corporate backers are the ones pushing for it, while parents, civil right groups and teachers has been fighting against it. Unfortunately the well-financed corporate shills are not above using deception.

Kelly Stargel the enemy of all things public education and the Florida Legislatures queen of privatization recently began passing off a petition supposedly signed by Floridians who support the parent trigger. The main problem however is that a lot of the signers are crying foul. Not only did they not sign it but they are against the parent trigger all together.   http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/04/more-questions-raised-about-studentsfirst-petition.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

This sadly wasn’t the pro-privatizations first attempt at trickery. They also tried floating a pro trigger video; unfortunately nobody would take credit for it. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/27/a-parent-trigger-mystery-solved-in-florida/

Finally the pro-trigger crowd has taken to bad talking the PTA and all the other groups that are against the trigger saying they are nothing but shills for the teacher’s union. Friends, no matter what you might think about the teachers union, you have to know, they aren’t nearly powerful enough to control the PTA and the NAACP along with other parent and civil rights groups. http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2013/04/representative-carlos-trujillo-doesnt.htmland http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2013/03/who-is-worse-rep-carlos-trujillo-or-rep.html

So what we have is a bill sponsored by corporations whose supporters aren’t against being deceptive that ignores parents and their wishes, which has already passed the house and has a good chance of passing the senate. Welcome to Florida

Bob Sykes at Scathing Purple Musings has done some nice work on the subject. To read more click the links.

No Rich Child Left Behind, NRCLB

From the New York Times, by Sean F. Reardon

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion. 


Poverty is not an excuse and if we really truly want to see improvement in our struggling schools, if we really truly want to break the cycle the answer is not to outsource our children's education to corporations but to put into lace things that mitigate poverty.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bill Gates does it again; this time computer games to meet Common Core Standards; kids lose again

Gee, I have a really good idea. Let’s make school look like a lot of fun, have it all be on a computer. We will let kids play games all the time, while in reality what we will do is make sure students are doing constant test prep and test scores will go up. 

Isn’t that a great idea?

It sounds positively nauseating to me but what do I know? That is what is happening. Here are a few companies that have come to my attention lately

Amazingly every one of these companies primary mission is to help students meet Common Core standards. (For my non-US readers, Common Core is something bad that is coming to your country soon I am sure.)

Let’s put this another way. Bill Gates pushed through common core and now is funding combines to make school into an exercise to meet common core. In the process he encourages companies to build software that looks like fun and games but is, in fact, drill and practice on math and reading all leading to testing to meet common core standards. 

Here are three such “games;”

Tr swer when mistakes are made.
Treefrog Treasure is a platformer game that teaches whole numbers and fractions as players hop around a variety of worlds.

Refraction focuses on teaching fractions and discovering optimal learning pathways for math education.

Creature Capture is a strategy game that teaches relationships between whole and fractional numbers.

Those sure do sound like fun.

Take a look at the sites I listed above. See if you come away with a different conclusion than I did. 

Big business has set its sights on making money on education by insisting on standards and then funding companies that will insure that children meet those standards.

There is lots of money to be made and states will be able able to announce that test scores are up. School will appear to be less miserable experience because kids will be playing games on a computer all day. But, of course, what will really be happening is that we will produce a generation  of children who can pass tests, but who cannot think clearly and who have never been taught to think for themselves, plan, diagnose, determine causality, make good judgements, understand the value of something, communicate clearly, or know how to experiment with ideas. But they will be good consumers of more junk being produced by these very same companies.  

Congratulations Bill Gates. You have done it again.

But why exactly do you hate children?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Florida blames teachers for society’s problems. (rough draft)

And if you want proof just look at what they are doing to Lacoochee Elementary in Pasco County; the state is demanding the district fire the entire staff, rookies and veterans alike. Now the Florida Department of Education admits that Lacoochee elementary is a poor school in a rural and poor part of the state. They admit that the county has had a hard time staffing the school with over half of the staff leaving over the last few years and they admit the vast amount of its students lives in poverty, they however just don’t care and want the entire staff replaced.

Poverty by the way is the number one measurable factor that determines how kids do in school. Students that live in poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t. Poverty is also the number one ignored factor in schools. The powers that be like to dismiss poverty and instead point to this guy or that girl who made it out. You know who they don’t point to? All the people who didn’t!

Pasco County had a plan to mitigate poverty. According to the Tampa Times, The district's original plan for the school was to increase teacher training, add more instructional coaches and bolster other resources for the school, which serves a high-poverty, heavily minority rural community.

Instead the state said fire everyone. Not that a high turnover wasn’t already a problem something many schools mired in poverty face which is exasperated by the introduction of Teach for America into many of our highest need schools. Teach for America recruits, none of whom have an education background, attend a six week access course and then serve a two year commitment. Undoubtedly there are some fine TFA teachers but most just as they are starting to understand what it takes to be a teacher when they are off to the next phase of their lives.

Pascoe County with no other option is going to advertise for “top replacements” offering a 2,500 hundred dollars signing bonus. Let’s see, after taxes that’s about 1,750 dollars, divided by 26 pay checks, that comes out to around 67 bucks every two weeks. If you were a “top replacement” at an “A” school, because the state would have you believe that is where all the top teachers are, there can’t possibly be good teachers at the schools that don't do well on standardized tests, would you leave that school to work at a school where the last thing done to improve the school was fire the entire staff? Would you leave that school to work at a school mired in poverty where you would probably have to supply many of the essentials your kids need? Would you leave that school to go to a school where you were under the thumb of the state and their incessant demands for word walls, posted standards and dozens of other requirements that have nothing to do with education? Would you leave your “A” school and potentially give up thousands of dollars in school recognition money, you know the system put in place that practically guarantees the best teachers at so-called good schools never leave? Probably not for 2,500 dollars anyway, not that teachers often make decisions based on money, if they did most wouldn’t be teachers.

Gone will be all the first year teachers, who aren’t responsible for all that happened before they got there. Gone will be all the veteran teachers who have dedicated years working with kids who nobody else wanted to work with, their only sin they couldn’t overcome poverty. Gone will be the principal who has been there just since 2010 and it doesn’t matter that there have been improvements in reading and writing scores. I just can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen if they somehow turn it around and the school grade goes from a D to a C. Is the state going to say, “oops my bad”?

Where are the social workers and therapists because often why kids act up or do poorly in school has nothing to do with school. Does the school have art, music and PE classes, those subjects that often make school worth going to for many? I couldn’t tell from my research but if they are like many poor schools my bet is either no, or kids get to go to them once every couple weeks. A lot of kids in poverty get it coming and going, there home life is often unfulfilling and they come to school and it is not much better.

Friends as long as we ignore poverty and its debilitating effects, as long as we blame teachers for things they don’t have control of we are never going to improve. The best teacher in the world can’t control if their students have enough to eat, if their parents are involved or not, if they are too worried about where their next meal is coming from or the violence in their neighborhoods to focus on school. They can’t control, if the policy makers have decided to eliminate those classes like art and music that make school enjoyable to kids or if every kid is shoved into a one size fits all curriculum regardless of desire or ability or not. There are so many factors that teachers can’t control it’s not hard to believe that some of the best teachers in the world are at some of our “struggling” schools, even where their kids do poorly on standardized tests. Firing the staff is not fairy dust, a magic wand or a silver bullet, firing a staff is not going to improve any school. All it does is show the ignorance about education and what it takes to be a teacher by those who are unfortunately in charge.

Perhaps 11 year old Ayala can sum up the tragedy better than me. "I don't think it's a good idea, my teacher barely started this year, and she's a good teacher. . . . We don't need them gone, because they make a difference in our lives."

To read the Tampa Times piece click here: http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/teachers/asked-to-leave-many-teachers-at-lacoochee-elementary-just-got-there/2117234

Quick and easy way to add memory to your Chromebook

I've been using a Chromebook since getting a CR-48 from Google a few years ago, and I love it. I am currently using a Samsung Chromebook, and our district is deploying over 5000 of them.

The Chromebooks, and Chrome OS in general, are fast and work great, but every once in a while they can bog down when doing serious multitasking. Many only have 2GB of RAM and do not offer the ability to add more RAM physically. I found out about a great way to increase your memory by using zRam which uses swap space on your hard disk/SSD. Kevin C. Tofel shared this great resource that is very easy to do.

Here are the simple steps:

  1. Open up a terminal tab with the CTRL + ALT + T keys.
  2. Type “swap enable” (without the quotes).
  3. Restart your Chromebook.
It's that easy. I did it and my Chromebook runs much smoother and faster and rarely bogs down, even with 15+ tabs open. 

Disabling it is easy too. Do all of the steps but type "disable" instead of "enable".

Give it a try and see how it improves your Chromebook's performance. 


Google Keep, Google's Note Taking App, get's some improvements and new features.

Google’s Keep, Google's easy to use note taking app, has some new features, improved features and bug fixes. Here is the list of new features from the Google Play Store.

• Create notes, lists, and audio notes
• Add photos to any note
• Hide and show checkboxes to turn notes into checkable lists
• View and create notes from homescreen and lockscreen widgets (lockscreen widgets require Android 4.2+)
• Selectable color for notes
• Safely sync notes to Google Drive and other devices
• Notes can also be used from http://drive.google.com/keep

I use Evernote for most things, but also use Keep for quick notes on the go, along with voice notes, and then I can share the notes to other apps, or just access them as needed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Meanwhile back at Education Headquarters, part III

John Stewart teaches us about the Constitution!

T. Willard Fair trades children’s futures for 30 pieces of silver

Willard T. Fair a former chairman of the Florida State Board of Education, the president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Greater Miami Inc., and a member of the Foundation for Florida’s Future board of directors started an editorial in the Sunshine State News saying Senator David Simmons was talking bad about poor parents.

“Put bluntly, it goes like this: Poor people make poor parents. “

I was initially outraged and ready to take the senator to task but then I read the whole article and I realized it was Mr. Fair that has lost all sense of reason.

This is what the senator said, "Let's face it, the parents are the very people who haven't been involved in their own children’s lives so as to cause the school to improve. What kind of credibility do you give to the parents in those kinds of circumstances?"

I don’t disagree with the senator one bit. By hook or by crook too many parents have abdicated their responsibilities and that has led to many or our school problems especially those in our poorer neighborhoods. This is not to say all poor parents are bad far from it. What Mr. Fair doesn’t realize, probably because he was too busy being outraged is that there are wonderful things going on even at our so called struggling schools. The thing is the vast majority of these successes are occurring with the students of parents that act like parents. Successes are far and few between for the kids of parents who don’t care.

Mr. Fair then goes on to complain about the historic neglect of these schools and insinuates that school districts and unions have used them as out-of-sight, out-of-mind depositories for ineffective personnel. Now I don’t doubt that in the past there was neglect and some districts did staff them with questionable personnel, not that the union has ever staffed anyone anywhere but this is 2013. Title one makes sure our poorer schools get more resources and it is Mr. Fairs own school choice crowd that makes sure those schools are staffed with an ever revolving door of novice teachers. It is Gary Chartrand, Jeb Bush and Fair himself who set up those policies.

Yes parents do deserve some of the blame perhaps even the lions share but don’t discount the role that Tallahassee has played. They have had a devastating effect on the schools in our poorer, predominately minority neighborhoods.

His righteous indignation hits a fevered pitch when he talks sarcastically about how parents can’t be trusted with improving their children’s schools. He suggests “they will get bamboozled into turning their school over to some nefarious profiteer. And during the process, they will squabble amongst themselves and create discord in the community.”

Well the history of the parent trigger says he is right but the bigger point is parents already have tremendous options. They can join the PTA, every school has a SACommittee, they can volunteer in their children’s schools, petition their school boards for change and even get involved in local politics themselves. Their options are legion!

Giving away public assets to for profit companies more concerned with the bottom line who have a terrible track record should not be one of them. Disregarding democracy which is something you don’t get with a corporation should not be one of them. Furthermore public schools whether they are in our personal neighborhood or not, whether we have a child attending one or not belong to all of us.

His final point after some more union bashing is, “the reason there are a growing number of charter schools, the reason for the long waiting lists, the reason why vouchers are so coveted, is because parents want them. And of course the only intellectually honest rebuttal to that demand is that these parents don’t know what is best for their children.

To which I reply, lies, big lies and damn lies. 226 charter schools have closed in Florida alone over the last 12 years, vouchers often take kids to schools without qualified staffs or effective curriculums and the long waiting list argument has been thoroughly debunked. Those are some things the Fair obviously doesn’t want you to know.

Fair has jumped the shark and any pretence that he cares about the poor kids he laments about is just that, pretense. He has thoroughly joined the corporate reform movement taking his 30 pieces of silver all the way to the bank.

For shame Mr. Fair, for shame.

To read his piece, click the link: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/troubling-attitude-about-low-income-parents

Florida Republicans snub their nose at local control or today’s worst Florida legislator ever Lizbeth Benaquisto

Funny I thought local control was a big deal with republicans. I guess Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto missed that memo because she filed an amendment Monday to the parent trigger bill which said the state not the local school board would have final say.

It is so bad here in Florida that poor locals are unable to make decisions about our kids.

So much for local control right?

Want to read more? Click the link: http://bobsidlethoughtsandmusings.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/parent-trigger-hits-local-control-roadblock-in-florida-senate/

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oy Vey, the Florida Legislature wants us to pay more and get less.

From the Orlando Sentinel By Stephen Hersenberg
A pension bill before the Florida Senate asks taxpayers to do something that will leave many of them scratching their heads: pay more for less. That's the conclusion of a study I conducted for the Florida Retirement Security Coalition on the impacts of Senate Bill 1392.
The bill requires taxpayers to pay more to enroll a larger number of teachers, first responders and other public servants into a 401(k)-like retirement plan, in which those workers would receive less in retirement benefits years down the road.
Most public employees still take home a pension based on a percentage of their salary and years of service. Good pensions make up for public-sector salaries that are typically far below private ones, especially for college-educated teachers, professionals and managers.
In 2002, Florida moved cautiously toward shifting more public employees to 401(k)-type plans. The state allows employees either a guaranteed pension or their own individual accounts.
Since 2002, Florida's split retirement-system plan has fared well despite rocky financial markets. The plan remains well above the 80 percent funded level considered healthy and is one of only 11 states to receive Pew Center on the States' top rating of "solid performer."
But now, the Senate is joining a national push aimed at undermining the retirement security of public-sector workers — by shifting toward 401(k)-type plans that provide no guaranteed pension and cost more.
The Senate plan would raise taxpayer contributions to Florida's defined-contribution plan by 1 percent of salary — a $43 million annual taxpayer cost. It also makes the defined-contribution option the default for employees who do not choose a plan.
Paying to get more employees into the defined-contribution plan also raises the costs of the traditional pension by removing young employees who are less costly to taxpayers. With more members in the plan aging, fund managers will invest in less risky, more "liquid" assets, lowering investment returns and raising taxpayer costs.
Taxpayers would shell out more for the defined-contribution plan to push more young workers out of the traditional pension so that it, too, becomes more expensive. Wall Street gets more money to manage individual accounts and Main Street gets a lower retirement income.
Why is this a good idea?
Stephen Herzenberg is executive director of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pa.

The Florida Legislature is consistent on teacher raises — consistently wrong.

Gov. Rick Scott has not been consistent on raises for Florida teachers. He made a $2,500 across-the-board increase one of his two priorities for this legislative session. While that raise would not be tied to a new, mandated evaluation system, he has defended the new evaluations as the proper basis for future raises, even while indicating that the evaluation system will need adjustments to be valid and fair.
The Legislature, on the other hand, is being consistent on teacher raises — consistently wrong.
House and Senate budget negotiators reportedly have agreed to set aside $480 million for school personnel raises. But the raises would not be across-the-board. Instead, legislators would tie it in some fashion to evaluations.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, defended the decision. “This is not new for the districts,” he said. “We’ve been moving toward merit-based pay increases for a while now.”
That’s true. The Legislature tried to mandate a radically new evaluation system in 2010. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. But new Gov. Scott made it a priority for 2011, and the Legislature eagerly complied. The problem is that the state has not been able to invent a fair, valid evaluation system.
Instead, the state has cobbled together a jumble of subjective judgments by school administrators blended with complicated algorithms based on high-stakes tests that in too many cases have no connection to the teacher allegedly being evaluated. As Florida Education Association President Andy Ford noted in blasting the Legislature’s decision on raises,” Two-thirds of Florida teachers are being evaluated on students they do not teach or on subjects they do not teach.”
So, Sen. Galvano is right that the state has been “moving toward” a merit-based system. But it isn’t there yet. Gov. Scott recognized that — and the fact that Florida teachers average $10,000 less than the average teacher salary nationally — when he sought the $2,500 across-the-board raises. Not only should teachers get those raises, implementation of the evaluation system should be postponed until the state comes up with a less absurd system.
Politics might explain some of this mess. Republicans might be challenging Gov. Scott on this issue to get a concession from him on another issue, knowing that he proposed the raises because of his unpopularity among teachers. Or the Legislature could just be acting in a knee-jerk, damagingly ideological way. On education, it’s been moving toward that brand of legislating for years.