Disclaimer: What follows are the individual and personal views of Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) and should NOT be mistaken as the position or statement of Duval County Public Schools, the School Board, or anyone else employed by the school system.
Yesterday, led by local reporter A.G. Gancarski and picked up by other media journalists, reports began circulating that Jacksonville’s (Duval County) school board may be considering an early end to Dr. Greene’s run as the Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools (DCPS).
The boiling issue is the erupting scandal over misconduct at the magnet high school dedicated to the arts, theater, music, visual, dance, and literature, which GOT wrote about two days ago.
It is more than that, however. Most serious is the underreporting of crimes committed in the schools that featured prominently in a grand jury report that named DCPS as one of the worst offenders. After the report, DCPS overhauled their reporting procedures and hired an independent firm to audit their results. Although DCPS claimed that all needed corrections had been made, some believe that the problems had lingered as highlighted by a letter from the Department of Education about a failure to report a 2021 incident involving the DA teacher arrested in March.
The School Board has filed notices of a meeting that Chair Kelly Coker has called for Wednesday. Reports and social media speculation about the statement ‘Everything is on the table’ has it that pressure is being put upon the Superintendent to resign or face termination. Reasons abound from the above to the book review process to racism. (Ah, the delights of Twitter! [sarcasm alert])
But that is not the focus of this piece. GOT was saving this for June when his #daystoretirement, now standing at 31, were over and he was a former employee, not a current one, of the school district. However, as the superintendent has repeatedly found out, events have a way of moving ahead of carefully crafted plans.
The termination issue is one GOT has avoided with every superintendent. As an employee, it is well above his pay grade to opine about that and he is not beginning now. The first amendment rights of government employees (a school board is a governmental authority) are complicated, but generally, employees may speak on any issue as long as it is clear they are speaking in an individual capacity as a citizen and taxpayer. Thus, the disclaimer that heads this piece.
GOT has another reason for not talking about termination. It is pointless. The issues teachers have with district leadership are fundamental and involve overtesting, lack of autonomy over curriculum and instruction, accountability for same through test score evaluations, and a lack of respect that GOT has called ‘the DCPS imperial attitude.’ If you are school-based personnel, you are a minion not worthy of notice or conversation, no matter what issue you are trying to communicate.
When one superintendent leaves, the school board hires another one just like him/her and the spirit of Delores Umbridge lives on: things are bad, new edicts to fix them, and ongoing inspections because teachers are not to be trusted. Diana Greene didn’t begin this in Duval County, but she has carried on in the same vein.
The overarching problem is an obsession with data as the sole means of understanding and measuring student achievement and learning. Not only has the district duplicated state testing with their own tests, they often mistime when their tests should be given. This year was an exception, but the district usually forces teachers to give students a progress monitoring assessment in February, an assessment that measures learning for the entire school year.
Teachers are judged by the results. Thus, they routinely face the question of why they did not teach 40 weeks of jam-packed curriculum (Florida has never met a benchmark for learning that they didn’t immediately add to their standards if it wasn’t already there and they never, ever remove anything) in 27 weeks.
Why are we giving such a test halfway through the third quarter? Because the superintendent wants her data before Spring Break. Like a 1960s junkie addicted to smack, she needs her data and she cannot wait.
The solution for the district is to write detailed curriculum that every teacher must follow. Lessons aren’t scripted, but they might as well be. Teachers are told what to teach, when to teach it, and what platform to assign student work on. Even those assignments are often precreated.
We’ve gone paperless and a plus is that these online programs can be paid for with the money we are not spending on textbooks. Thus it is that when GOT walks around the school, glancing through door windows as he goes to his destination, he sees students working on their laptops in every classroom. Children spend most of their instructional time online.
Every online program gathers data including the time spent on the programs. More data to monitor, more data with which to punish if the minutes do not meet requirements.
Teachers cannot make the decisions they need to make in order to meet the needs in their classrooms, but they are measured by the results nonetheless. Although Florida law allows school systems to reduce the data component of the annual evaluation to 33%, DCPS maintains 50%.
And how that 50% is determined! It needs a separate post to explain how teachers are graded on a curve. Each year, students take district end-of-course tests. The district averages the results. Every student who scores above average is counted as meeting the teacher’s data requirement. Those below do not. So it’s not about how good a teacher is, it’s about how well their students test versus all the other students in the district.
If 25% or more of a teacher’s students are not above average, they automatically go into ‘needs improvement’ status. They receive no pay raise. The pressure upon them along with the inspections increase.
It boggles the mind that school district personnel don’t understand why teachers are leaving. Look, they cry, at the annual surveys about employee morale. But those surveys only ask teachers how they feel about their principal’s leadership. Most are okay with that. What the district never dares to do is to ask teachers how they feel about district leadership and policies. It’s as if they already know, but if they don’t ask, they don’t have to respond.
Much of what we know about pedagogical practice, how children learn, the importance of relationships and social connections, the importance of play, is cast aside. It is important to realize that the superintendent did not start this, but she embraces it. If she disclaims that, she is unaware of what takes place daily in the classrooms.
It goes back to the day she arrived in the district. She did a whirlwind tour, meeting with community leaders and power brokers as she also did media interviews. She got around. Meetings were held with administrators and others. Know who was left out? Teachers. She had nothing to say to us. As the weeks went on, it became increasingly embarrassing and obvious that she held teachers in little regard.
Finally, she sent an email, one of three teachers received in her first year. Each one contained an ask, something she wanted teachers to do for her. The only time we were worthy of notice was when she wanted something.
It’s no wonder that in subsequent years her supportive emails were met with skepticism.
All in all, if next Wednesday is the end of her time leading DCPS, teachers will sit back and watch the process. They’ve been through it so many times already. The school board will hire someone like her. Like United Methodist church members dissatisfied with their minister, teachers will sit back and wait. If they don’t like the new one, it won’t be too many years until that one is moved out as well.
The policies, the emphasis on data and testing, will continue. Students will continue to hate what school has become. Nothing changes.
That is why Duval County Public Schools is locked in grinding mediocrity and cannot break out.
One thought on “Dr. Greene: A Reflection”
“But that is not the focus of this piece. GOT was saving this for June when his #daystoretirement, now standing at 31, were over and he was a former employee, not a current one, of the school district. However, as the superintendent has repeatedly found out, events have a way of moving ahead of carefully crafted plans.”
You are one sarcastic mofo.