Saturday, January 28, 2017

Will the Adults Please Shut Up and Sit Down

Saturday, January 28, 2017 was the last and culminating event in the new series of meetings that the Jacksonville Public Education Fund initiated this school year: Student Voice.

There are many voices competing to be heard in the Education Arena, but one voice that is often missing or overlooked is that of our students. JPEF sought to change that.

It created a forum at which Duval County students could express their ideas and opinions about their education.

Based on what I experienced this morning, it was a good idea. And Jacksonville, you need to pay attention.

After the obligatory introductory speeches, recognition of VIPs, etc. etc. we got underway. Three high school students spoke to us. Because I didn't take notes but gave my full attention to each speaker, what you are going to get is my gleaning of what the students were saying. If you want to hear it for yourself, go to JPEF on Facebook or check their website for the recordings.

First up, Ron Osorio, Paxon School for Advanced Studies. What do students need? He mentioned group work/projects, resources like replacing the old textbooks that are literally falling apart, and support services for students experiencing the stress of academic pressure and undergoing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Second, Jessica Swint, Terry Parker High School. She spoke of the difficulties of African-American students, especially females, in setting high goals and unapologetically working toward those goals. Of a culture that did not expect or maybe not want successful African-Americans. She spoke of how students like her needed encouragement.She mentioned how programs like AVID and TRIO have helped her during her years in high school.

Third, Devon Singletary, Peterson Academies of Technology. He talked about the motivation students need and how important his family was to his motivation to be excellent, not someone expecting a millionaire's salary for a minimum wage effort.

Afterward, we talked at our tables about our take-aways from the student speeches, what student success looked like, We talked about how the community could support success in our schools. Most of all, we did our best (adults) to keep our mouths shut and listen to what the students had to tell us.

JPEF will compile a summary of the table conversations and put it on their website so I won't try to recapture it here. Check them out:

I did talk about how I would do more group projects in my room if I could kick FSA to the curb (my fellow teacher and Duval TOY--how I hate the acronym, teachers are nobody's toys!--agreed). Later I injected into the conversation as it proceeded about how some teachers didn't want to but succumbed to the pressure to overburden students with academic work because of the test.

Yes, I did it. I told my table that my job was to produce test scores. After a dramatic pause, I added that it shouldn't be. My job should be to teach and educate.

The chair of JPEF's governing board was at my table. She didn't argue. She didn't say it at that point, but it was obvious she agreed. She had already denounced the idea of technology replacing teachers. Although her children attend a private school, she fully supported public education in Jacksonville. Not the charter schools are public schools nonsense, she supported our traditional public school system.

This post is probably reading more like writing down thoughts after the event than an actual coherent essay. Maybe that's okay.

I want to direct your attention to what the students said: group work, alleviate stress and provide support, give our schools the resources they need, understand us and help us on our journey, do not stereotype us, have a heart for our disabled peers (two students spoke passionately toward the end about how an autistic child was treated by peers in the school who did not realize said child was the smartest kid in the room and could help them if only they would change their attitude), our schools need more and better resources (when the books are held together by duct tape, for all that's good and holy, buy us new books!)

You should have been there.

At the end, I was filling out my evaluation form. I was looking at the middle section about whether the superintendent, school board, and JPEF were effective or ineffective in giving students a voice. There was no middle ground, the other choices were very's. I wanted to say I thought the superintendent was somewhat effective, but I couldn't mark that. Full disclosure: I went with ineffective as well as the school board because I simply do not know of any efforts any of those people make to listen to students.

Others jumped up for a group picture so I missed the chance to say to the students what I wanted to say. Therefore, I'll do it here:

Your voices are important. Raise them. Raise your voices. Not only in forums like a JPEF event. Write, email, text your legislators. Tell them what you think about how you are receiving your education. Contact the governor. Call Senators Rubio and Nelson. Write letters to the Times-Union and Folio Weekly. I will not tell you what to say; only to tell you to say it. Your voice will carry more weight than mine. As a teacher, I am often dismissed as pursuing my self-interests in job protection and salary. They cannot say that about you.

Raise your voice ... and be HEARD.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Comparison of Algebra 2 textbooks

A look at Algebra 2 textbooks (as promised a month ago):

Dolciani (1977)
Heath (1998)
Pearson (2012)
Chapter 1
Vocabulary and the Operations of Algebra (Expressions, operations, solving 1 variable equations)
Review of Basic Algebra (Operations, Solving 1 variable equations, inequalities, absolute value equations and inequalities)
Expressions, Equations, & Inequalities (including absolute value)
Chapter 2
Properties of Real Numbers (including compound inequalities)
Linear Equations (Graphing, slope, 2 variable inequalities, absolute value graphs)
Functions, Equations, and Graphs (linear and absolute value)
Chapter 3
Linear Open Sentences (Graphs, slope, linear equations, systems of equations & inequalities)
Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
Systems of Equations and Inequalities (linear only)
Chapter 4
Functions & Polynomials (linear functions, direct variation, multiplying and dividing polynomials, synthetic division—optional)
Matrices and Determinants
Quadratic Functions and Equations
Chapter 5
Factoring Polynomials (GCF, quadratics—factoring and solving)
Quadratic Equations and Parabolas (Solving, graphing, quadratic formula, completing the square, complex numbers, quadratic inequalities)
Polynomials and Polynomial Functions (including the fundamental theorem of algebra, remainder theorem, rational root theorem)
Chapter 6
Rational Expressions
Functions (Operations, inverse functions, transformations of function graphs, recursive functions)
Radical Exponents and Rational Functions
Chapter 7
Radicals and Irrational Numbers
Powers, Roots, and Radicals
Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
Chapter 8
Quadratic Equations and Functions (Solving, complex numbers, quadratic formula)
Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
Rational Functions
Chapter 9
Quadratic Relations and Systems (Distance formula—yes, I know! Perpendicular slope, conics, solving quadratic systems)
Polynomials and Polynomial Functions (operations, division, synthetic division, fundamental theorem of algebra, remainder theorem, rational root theorem)
Sequences and Series
Chapter 10
Exponential Functions and Logarithms
Rational Functions
Conic Sections
Chapter 11
Sequences and series
Quadratic Relations (conics)
Probability and Statistics
Chapter 12
Permutations, Combinations, and Probability
Sequences and Series
Chapter 13
Trigonometric Relations and Functions
Periodic Functions and Trigonometry
Chapter 14
Trigonometric Graphs, Equations, and Identities
Trigonometric Identities and Equations
Chapter 15
Trigonometric Identities and Formulas
Probability and Statistics

Chapter 16
Circular Functions and their Inverses (Radians, inverse trig functions)

The largest takeaway is how today’s textbooks rush ahead into more difficult concepts. Quadratic Functions waits for a later time in the old texts while the current textbook pushes them early and moves ahead. It is also noteworthy that in years past, classes rarely reached the last two or three chapters in the book, which were an advance look at the next course. It was no problem back then as there was no standardized test to contend with and the following year, the new teacher picked up where the old teacher had ended.

It is hard to understand the demand of Common Core mathematics looking at these textbooks. They cover all the topics under the Algebra 2 umbrella. You will only really understand what has taken place when we take a look at Algebra 1 (which I will have to do some work to report as I don’t have access to a current textbook.) But here’s the gist: so much of Algebra 2 has been moved to Algebra 1 that most of the year (in Florida) the students are reviewing what they were supposed to learn earlier.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

School Accountability

This was a guest post in another blog in October 2015. I repost it here as we need a closer look at school accountability.

School Accountability (Exposing the Lie)
One of the biggest arguments made for the regime of standardized assessment by the States, for the State, of the State’s people, is that we must have school accountability. Without the BS test (Big Standardized test, credit to Peter Greene, Curmudgucation, for coining the term), how will we know whether schools are any good?

We must have school accountability.

Without the test, there is no accountability.

Which must come as a great surprise to the accreditation agencies that have been reviewing schools since the mid-20th century and longer. Even the federal government keeps track and gives its “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” to the agencies that meet its demands. (

Unlike the school grading process inaugurated in Florida under then-Governor Jeb Bush, which relies mostly upon one standardized test result and a few other criteria constantly under revision, the purpose of which is to maintain whatever narrative the Florida Department of Education wants to trumpet to the media, the accreditation process takes place over months. At its culmination, a team of professional educators (unlike the amateurs consisting of politicians, do-gooder philanthropist businesspersons, and anyone else who thinks that having gone to school as a student makes them more of an expert than people who have actual experience teaching) visits each school to observe classes, meet with the administration, talk to teachers and students, review work, and assess the learning environment. Afterward, they review the evidence they acquired and determine whether to continue to give the school accreditation.

It is a serious process. Teams of stakeholders (admins, teachers, parents, and more) meet for months in advance of the visit to make sure everything is up to scratch. If not, corrections are made.

Accreditation is not automatic. In a decision that is still remembered today, Duval County Public Schools lost its accreditation in the 1960s:

It was a galvanizing action. City leaders reacted, the loss was a major motivation behind the city/county consolidation, and after that became a reality, the schools received the necessary support and gained back the accreditation they needed.

Accreditation is a rigorous process.

We have school accountability through the accreditation process. We do not need a flawed, invalid, unreliable test manipulated by bureaucrats, politicians, and profiteers. We do not need a school report card like the one Florida inflicted upon the nation.