Archives for category: Miami

As the Miami-Dade County school board considering awarding a multi-million dollar contract to the for-profit K12 Inc. to supply remote learning to all its students, the virtual learning company made a very very generous contribution to a nonprofit chaired by Miami’s superintendent of schools.

The matter is being investigated.

K12 delivered subpar services, and the board nixed the contract.

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Office of the Inspector General for Miami-Dade County Public Schools has launched an investigation into Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s nonprofit following a donation from K12, the much-maligned online learning platform axed by the district.

A memo from Inspector General Mary Cagle states her office “will begin a review of the transfer of approximately $1.57 million dollars from K12, a virtual instruction provider, to the Foundation for New Education Initiatives, Inc.”

Frankly, it’s hard to understand why Miami public schools chose for-profit K12 Inc. as it’s provider of remote instruction. Ten minutes or less on google would have turned up multiple articles about its terrible track record: high attrition, poor curriculum, low test scores, low graduation rates. NCAA strips accreditation for 24 schools using K12.

Wired tells the story in Miami, which recently severed its contract with K12.

ON THE MORNING of August 31, the first day of school, the 345,000 students in Miami-Dade County’s public schools fired up their computers expecting to see the faces of their teachers and classmates. Instead a scruffy little dog in banana-print pajamas appeared on their screens, alongside an error message. “Oh bananas!” read one message from the district’s online learning platform. “Too many people are online right now.”

A rudimentary cyberattack had crippled the servers of the nation’s fourth-largest school district, preventing its 392 schools from starting the year online. But even once the district had quelled the distributed denial-of-service attack and a local teen had been arrested for the crime, “Banana Dog” didn’t go away. If anything, the security breach merely obscured for a few days the crippling weaknesses in the district’s plan to move every aspect of its schooling—including a revamped curriculum—onto a platform that had only ever supported half as many students (and never all at once).

The platform was built by virtual charter school company K12, backed by one-time junk bond king Michael Milken and US secretary of education Betsy DeVos. Doug Levin, an education tech consultant, calls the decision to use K12 “atypical.” Another ed tech analyst, Phil Hill, calls it “weird.”

The rapid pivot to, and even faster pivot away from, K12 amounts to a case study in how not to deploy a massive new software project. It also illustrates how, in a few intense weeks of summer decisionmaking, a charter-school curriculum written by a for-profit company was chosen and installed, with little scrutiny, across one of the largest districts in the country.

Alberto Carvalho made the decision on his own, without consulting the board. They trusted him.

It was a disaster from the start.

K12’s software promised to replace all the other apps that schools had been using. “It was billed to teachers as the Rolls-Royce of software,” says Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade. The district and the company rushed to implement it. At the end of August, all of Miami-Dade’s educators sat through six days of K12 training—and that’s when they started to panic.

The teachers received demo logins to try out the platform, but they didn’t work, and even the trainers struggled to access it, West says. From 8 am until 3:30 pm each day, teachers took notes without once trying the software themselves. “The training was make-believe, it was so, so complex,” says one teacher. “Even our techie teachers were lost.” On Facebook, teachers shared GIFs of dumpster fires and steaming poop emojis in response to the experience.

“That’s a very complex, aggressive undertaking. And to do it with 345,000 students and in less than a month? There’s a lot of hubris involved.”

PHIL HILL, EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY ANALYST
Once the school year began in earnest, technical challenges persisted. Some students struggled to log in. Uploads could be excruciatingly slow. A particular sore point was the platform’s unreliable built-in video conferencing tool, called NewRow. It had issues with sound and screen-sharing. After about 15 minutes, the video quality started to degrade. It didn’t work on iPads or iPhones.

And then there was the built-in curriculum. K12 provided content, though teachers could change or supplement it. The lessons had been devised for K12’s virtual charter schools: for-profit schools that are entirely online and receive taxpayer money for every student enrolled. When some Miami-Dade teachers examined K12’s materials, they were horrified by what they found. One teacher came across a quiz for second graders with one question: “Did you enjoy this course?” Clicking “yes” allowed the student to ace the test. Several classes relied on K12’s paper workbooks, which the students didn’t receive. “One thing our educators complained about was, the rigor was not there. It was a very watered-down curriculum,” Hernandez-Mats says.

A highly experienced, very successful high school English teacher clung to her favorite literature textbooks.she preferred them to the digital textbooks adopted by the district. One day recently, she arrived in her class to discover that all her textbooks were gone. Her defiance was unacceptable to the state, the district and the principal. The state wants all children using digital material. It is de-emphasizing fiction and literature, replacing them with “informational text.” In short, the Common Core strikes again.

Audrey Silverman arrived at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High last week ready to finish “The Necklace,” the English class staple short story about the deceptiveness of appearances and the dangers of martyrdom with her gifted, honors ninth-grade students.

But when the literature teacher entered her classroom Thursday morning, 50 textbooks, including the teacher’s edition with years of annotations Silverman said she personally purchased, were missing from the baskets beneath the students’ desks. A student told Silverman she saw the books carted away the prior evening.

“They’re gone,” said Silverman. “Nobody knows where they are.

What happened next has culminated into a tussle between teacher autonomy and embracing new, digital curriculum. Silverman filed a pre-grievance with the teachers’ union against her principal, Allison Harley, for breached academic freedom. Harley, Silverman says, launched an internal investigation with Miami-Dade County Public Schools against her for improper use of email.

Silverman, a 30-year veteran teacher whose scores deem her one of the best teachers in the state, has been using a textbook called “McDougal-Littell Literature” for a decade, although students were using an edition from four years ago. It’s got poems, essays, short stories, Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare — a curriculum she says challenges and rivets her students.

But the Florida Department of Education phased out that textbook five years ago and introduced new titles that districts could use. A committee of teachers picked “Collections“ by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a digital textbook that aligns with new Florida standardized tests that heavily emphasize nonfiction and informational texts.

That digital book was adopted by the district in 2015 while rolling out a tablet-based program for high school freshmen, who could bring their own device or check one out from the school.

“It makes the learning a lot more interactive,” than using just a static book, said Lisette Alves, the assistant superintendent over academics.

Silverman had been quietly hanging on to her hardcover books until last week, when a group of district officials stopped by her classroom. District spokeswoman Jackie Calzadilla said an instructional review of all subjects took place at Krop on Sept. 26 and determined that the material Silverman was using “was not aligned with the Florida Standard” and was outdated.

The next morning, the books were gone. Not in the closed cabinets where she kept the spares, not under desks, not in her own desk.

“I felt that this may happen one day,” Silverman said.

Alves and Sylvia Diaz, assistant superintendent over innovation and school choice, say the district does not make the call to remove books. That decision was made by the principal.

“We do occasionally hear about a teacher using older materials,” Diaz said. “We advise the principal.”

“If we see it as we’re doing reviews, then we advise the principal to make sure they’re using [the adopted books],” Alves said.

Harley, the principal at Krop, would not comment and referred a reporter’s questions to the district. The district said Harley repeatedly asked Silverman to use the approved material and she refused.

Spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said books were removed from Silverman’s class two summers ago, “but the teacher retrieved them and brought them back into the classroom.”

“So, they had to be removed again,” Gonzalez-Diego wrote in an email.

Silverman said this incident has been the first and only time books have been removed from her classroom. She said she’s kept these books in her cabinet for three years.

“That is an outright lie,” she said.

The district also said all other language arts teachers at Krop were using the approved material.

Ceresta Smith, a 10th-grade intensive reading teacher who returned to Krop after a decade at John A. Ferguson Senior High, said she doesn’t use any of the approved material. She uses a collection of materials she’s put together over her 30-year teaching career.

“I said to the principal when I … came back to Krop, I said, ‘Don’t expect me to follow the pacing guide. I’m a veteran and I’m a professional and I know what I’m doing.’ ”

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article219197755.html#storylink=cpy

The story goes on with more horrifying detail.

Celesta Smith, be it noted, is a National Board Certified Teacher, a founder of United Opt Out, and a BAT. Nobody dares to tell her what to teach.

No one should tell Audrey Silverman what to teach. She is a professional.

LEAVE HER ALONE.

Ms. Silverman, google the literary selections and forget about the textbook.

 

According to Politico, Alberto Carvalho will be the new Chancellor of the New York City public schools. 

“Alberto Carvalho, who has led Miami’s public schools for the last decade, will be New York City’s next schools chancellor, Mayor Bill de Blasio will officially announce Thursday.

“Carvalho will replace Carmen Fariña, who has spent the last four years at the helm of America’s largest school system after de Blasio coaxed her out of retirement in late 2013. He will officially take over as chancellor sometime in the next month. The announcement was delayed because of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“De Blasio’s requirements for the role of America’s second-most-important educator were largely unspoken, but obvious: a longtime educator with experience running schools for vulnerable children, a Spanish-speaking person of color, and a New York City outsider who is also considered a rising star in the national education world.

“Carvalho checks every box.

“The current Miami-Dade schools chief is a Portuguese immigrant, and came to America illegally as a broke 17-year-old who had saved up $1,000 for the airfare from Lisbon to New York City. After leaving New York for Ft. Lauderdale and later Miami, he worked as a busboy and a day laborer. Carvalho was the first person in his family to finish high school. Fariña, the daughter of immigrants from Spain, was the first person in her’s to earn a college diploma.

“Carvalho started his 20-year career in Miami’s schools as a physics, chemistry and calculus teacher at Miami Jackson Senior High, where he earned the nickname “Mr. Armani” for his sartorial presence. He went on to be an assistant principal and deputy superintendent. Along with his current superintendent duties, he’s the principal of two Miami schools. He helped earn his reputation for being a savvy political operator while serving as a communications officer and a lobbyist for Miami-Dade’s schools.”