Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Compromise, Capitulate, Carry On??

At first blush, Joel Fortner’s piece this week “Will The Underground Surface?  A case study in dealing with online movements,” to urge a reasonable compromise to what seem to be two diametrically opposed camps—administration on the one hand and a pretty representative group of teachers on the other. In paraphrasing Mr. Fortner’s colleague, Matt Lacasse,the answer is rather obvious.  He writes, ”The first thing Superintendent Morton needs to do is to stop insulting the teachers behind the blog. Whether or not he agrees with their methods of airing their grievances, calling them cowards in a roundabout way paints him as unwilling to listen to his employees. I’d recommend assuring Voltaire (who appears ready to reveal his identity) he won’t lose his job due to his beliefs, and encourage an open and honest dialogue in a public forum; perhaps even a debate.”
This is an imminently rational approach to the current impasse (more on Voltaire coming forward, later).  Or at least it would be, if all actors were reasonable people.  There is no shortage of teachers who have made sincere attempts to communicate with the Superintendent using his committee structure, through his working groups and via informal one on one and small group meetings (both realized and not responded to).  As part of this posting, I’m inviting teachers to share the frustrations that they have encountered when making good faith efforts to engage Mort on issues of importance to us educators.  In short, it’s not for lack of trying.
Why, then, have these attempts at reaching out and reaching accord failed?  First, Sherman will not listen.  I was there when the now infamous “Let me give you a quarter to go to Fairfax County” dripped from his lips.  I have been in several meetings where those voicing dissenting views are derided or ignored.   Second, and more importantly, Sherman’s actions demonstrate contempt for teacher input.  This is evidenced by the rapid fire imposition of policies, personnel and initiatives without a whit of consideration for what those of us “in the trenches” think.  The experience, the vision and the practical know how of ACPS teachers is routinely ignored. 
After reading Mr. Fortner’s piece, we went back and forth a bit…a smart guy.  One part of the conversation was, at once, disturbing and reassuring.  Here it is…first my comment, in purple, then his response in red.

In response to Voltaire on March 8, 2011 at 10:00 am:
This is an excellent case study and the contributor’s comments are both articulate and germane. What is missing in their heartfelt advice is the recognition that we did attempt an open and honest dialogue with Sherman. His direct response was, “If you don’t like it here, here’s a quarter for a bus ride to Fairfax [...]
It’s good to know that was attempted. Sounds like it didn’t go so well to say the least. As outsiders, Matt, Lisa and I are limited in knowledge on what’s happened to date. That said, I chose to do this post to primarily highlight Sherman’s response in the Alexandria Times and get my fellow PR pros’ thoughts about how they would advice him, again, based on what we know. I think it’s safe to say we’d all advice him differently than how he’s doing things. Best of luck in trying to improve ACPS. And thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Again, here’s an opportunity to show the readers of this post just how reasonable we, as teachers, have been.  Take time to think of the ways in which you’ve tried to work with this administration.  It’s always more instructive (and interesting) to hear your voice.

"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do."


  1. In Thursday's Washinton Post Superintendent Sherman is quoted as saying, "This innovation mentality has to start from the first day of school next year, that we help all kids achieve at the highest level." He implies that people now do not exhibit a mentality to help all students achieve, once again trivializing and denigrating vast numbers of people deeply committed to exactly that ideal. That criticism does not even address his evidence of "innovation mentality," IAPs and ILPs, essentially meaningless pieces of paper.

    Many of your readers assume that the waiver will not be granted by the State Board. That result will be made more likely if they make detailed analyses known to the Board and meet personally with Rob Krupicka, who is a member of that body and whose position matters.

  2. A PR Consultant? Hmmmm, thought consultant was a 4 letter word.

  3. Folks are getting wise.

  4. @ first anonymous commenter - what is the link for the article? I've looked but can't seem to find it.

  5. Here is the link. Same rubbish under a different title.

    Note the idea of "satellite schools." This man is making a concerted effort to break the bank and drive education into the ground in Alexandria. It must stop.

  6. ^^
    Sherman Proposes $370 Million For ACPS Capital Improvement Program For Next Ten Years

    "...Deputy Superintendent Margaret Byess explained how the CIP budget was prepared. “This budget request contains three primary drivers: investment in additional facility capacity to accommodate anticipated enrollment growth; regular maintenance on school buildings; and a new category, SHARED PROGRAM PRIORITIES,” she said. “These three areas account for 83% of the ACPS resource-constrained CIP request". (emphasis added).

    "As to the new category, Shared Program Priorities: “These are projects that we believe will benefit the entire community,” Byess said".


    "....He (Sherman) said he would like to add more rigorous academics, such as more International Baccalaureate programs, and SATELLITE SCHOOLS in the community TO TARGET STUDENTS WHO ARE REGULARLY ABSENT (emphasis added) in the coming year".

    above from:

    "...On the capital side, Sherman proposed a ten-year 'constrained resources” budget of $372.6 million, an increase of 136% or $214.5 million over last year's approved CIP of $158.1 million. “We are proposing exactly the same amount as was approved last year or $158.1 million,” Johnson said. “The schools are asking for five significant projects and that would mean we would see a very different city than we have today. I'M NOT SURE THE DEMOGRAPHICS are going to be what is projected." (emphasis added)

    above from:

    Comment: City Budget Assistant Manager Johnson, teachers and Alexandrians need to understand this year's ACPS 10 year CIP request better. I hope I have shined some light on it above. It's about demographics all right, but not just as in "an increase of students" but city demographics which also consists of a rather blatant proposal for "satellite schools" which will "hold" the regularly truant. That's one way to get scores up, isn't it? Just cordon off the failing in a different building. I wonder what the NAACP, Hispanic, Asia and White (plus all our other nationalities) community members will make of this? How about Alexandria taxpayers (only 18% of which have school age children)? Do we want higher real estates taxes for what appears to amount to further segregation in Alexandria? We already have that too heavy in the Parker Gray community. When you push away all the niceties, that's what it really amounts too. I think NOT.

  7. Just a few questions for the readers...

    1. If you are a persistently failing school now, how does adding rigor boost student achievment?

    2. If students aren't going to school where a fleet of buses picks them up and takes them to and from school, are they really going to attened if a satelite school is set up in the same neighborhood as their neighborhood schools?

    2.5 Does anyone driving down King St. notice the large number of kids that are seen walking away from the school. Are they going back to their neighborhoods? The mall? Work? Home?

    3. There is a direct correlation between student success and class attendance. Does adding more in-class time help the students who aren't attending class?

    4. Does adding two additional days of prep time for instruction really help students pass AP exams? Does anyone think test results would improve if students weren't being forced to take classes that they aren't prepared for?

    5. How can students pass AP Exams if they can't pass basic SOL exams? Isn't this where the PLA designation came from?

    6. Why are teachers-counselors-support staff being held accountable for everything, but those in charge of them who provide direction aren't?

    7. What do you do when you are charged with doing something that doesn't make sense, and half way through it you get asked to do something else that contradicts what you where initally told to do? Does this make you incompetent, not a team player, not on board with reform, or confused?

    PLEASE RESPOND........

  8. Great questions. Here's a true story in answer. I have a student who is in tenth grade for the second time. He now has over 120 absences and tardies for class. His social worker recommended strongly that he be placed in Stonewall for the remainder of the year, since he admitted to smoking marijuana on campus and coming to class too stoned to think straight. Stonewall is full, so student will be back soon from his most recent suspension. Guess who will be taking, and faiiling several SOL tests come June? And how does a longer school year, longer school day, more staff development for teachers improve his scores? Not a whit. Not one bit. But that isn't Mort's real agenda, is it?

  9. Clearly you have to raise your expectations. That will fix everything.

  10. Answers to Anonymous:
    1. You have to use the new math to see the percentage increase of success on previous poor performing students in a more rigorous.

    2. & 2.4 Yes they will attend schools in their neighborhood because there may not be a McDonald's close by as there is at T.C. where you see them going in the morning

    3. Yes because with more opportunities to attend class that makes their current absentee rate look good, and even if they attend only 2 or 3 more classes their attendance ratio has improved.

    4. (OK being serious now..)The AP passing rate isn't what made us PLA, those students are the ones who made our graduation rate acceptable. Most of the students who take AP classes are prepared for the exams and take them very seriously.

    5. The students who take AP exams pass the SOL tests and usually with very high scores.

    6. Good question and one that is asked almost daily in the teacher workrooms. Counselors are busy doing IAP's on every student (3.00 and above) instead of monitoring the lower performing students academic progress.

    7. Another good question. Teachers are given a task i.e. IAP's then there's a workshop on it. You start to do it then the rules change, then they change again. You're always playing catch up because the rules change. It makes you confused, defeated and depressed. Sometimes the frustration makes you want to scream.

  11. @ Mitzi, great feedback. It's obvious the true Ap students pass the SOLs. The point I was trying to make was, ACPS students aren't passing SOLs which led to the PLA designation. How in the world are they going to pass more AP exams if the can't pass basic SOLs? RIGOR me this RIGOR me that!!