End the Test-and-Die era, part 3: the prime operational reasons for not arming teachers

End the Test-and-Die era, part 3: the prime operational reasons for not arming teachers

Law enforcement professionals, including Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, generally do not allow detention deputies to carry weapons as they do routine oversight of inmates in their jails. This is sound thinking and policy. A jail is a confined space full of people who live within it involuntarily. Some of them, although probably not as many as you would think, are volatile and violent. A gun is power. In a confined space, with involuntarily confined people, it exerts a constant gravity and the endless possibility of violent disruption. Law enforcement professionals know this. That’s why they don’t carry unless they have to. Here’s what Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilder said when I asked him about it a couple of days ago: “Detention deputies / corrections officers don’t carry firearms inside the facilities because they directly supervise a bunch of criminals, many of them with violent histories. The possibility of them getting together and overwhelming the deputy/officer is an issue. Transportation deputies, bailiffs, etc. do carry.” The obvious concern there is that they would take the gun and wreak havoc in a confined space — because out-of-control guns in confined spaces can kill lots of people. Guns and impulsivity don’t mix well in confined spaces — or anywhere A school is not a jail. Children are not criminals. But some commit criminal acts at times. And schools can be violent places. They were violent, at rare times, when I was a child. They are violent now, at rare times. And like jails, schools are full of children compelled to attend who mass together in confined spaces. 3,000 or more of them in some schools. Like jails, schools are full of human immaturity. These children are developing. Depending on their ages, they can be grabby, impulsive, angry, depressed. Some have disabilities that impair judgement. Some feel suicidal. A gun is power. It will exert the same gravity and endless possibility of violent disruption in a classroom that it will in a jail. It is a deadly, shiny object. And unlike school resource officers, whose jobs don’t involve the intense focus of mass instruction inside a classroom, teachers are likely to forget about the weapon they’re carrying for long periods of time. All of that sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Ignoring data: the flawed assessments of relative threats In all honesty, I do not understand why Sheriff Judd does...

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We must end the Test-and-Die era, part 2: “Why do people think I’m a school shooter? What have I done to deserve this.”

We must end the Test-and-Die era, part 2: “Why do people think I’m a school shooter? What have I done to deserve this.”

The Saturday after the Douglas shooting, I listened to a recording of school resource sheriff’s deputy interrogating a Polk County 11th grader with autism. The interrogation occurred in the child’s own house the previous Thursday night after the shooting. It was accompanied by a search that found nothing. Prior to this year, this child has no hint of a school discipline record. None. Ever. He has no social media trail of threatening videos or postings. He is an active and eager participant in his high school band. He is as “normal”, I think, as it is possible for him to be. In short, his “profile” is essentially the opposite of the young man who attacked Douglas High after leaving a long public record of violent and aggressive posture toward fellow students. But this Polk child does have the bearing — the sweet, aloof, oddish bearing — that many of us who are not intimately familiar with autism generally associate with the word “autistic.” An uncharitable person might call him a little weird. I know this personally because I visited him Saturday and brought him a chocolate milkshake from McDonalds. His mom says he likes chocolate milkshakes from McDonalds. I visited him because I did not know what else to do. At that point, he had been suspended for five days by the School District I oversee in response to a social media campaign against him by various people somehow associated — students, parents etc. — with the school. This campaign happened, apparently, because he asked something like this out loud during a stressful moment: Why do people call me school shooter? What have I done to deserve it? Happily, and much to the credit of our people, cooler heads have prevailed. The formal punishment has been lifted. School leaders, in this instance, have led in a difficult situation driven by forces beyond their control. And there is an important lesson in that, which I’ll come to in a moment. Balancing the horrors of imagination But first, I want to make two general points that relate to each other: 1) I do not need video to imagine the exploding flesh of children as miniature, metal-encased pellets of death slam into their faces and thighs and hearts, exactly the way they are designed to. But my imagination does not stop with exploding flesh. It extends to the feelings of loneliness and terror...

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We must end the Test-and-Die era, part 1: You can’t untangle mass school shootings from school grades and stress-based education

We must end the Test-and-Die era, part 1: You can’t untangle mass school shootings from school grades and stress-based education

This may end up as a five or six part series. Bear with me. I will get to guns and the sheriff — who has not yet made a formal proposal — in part 3 or 4. I will do so calmly and rationally. But I want to start all of this with a history lesson and a correlation that you may not have considered. ——————————– It is a simple fact that the era of mass school shootings and the era of test-and-punish education rose together and have sustained together — on the same timeline. They are inextricably linked in the educational experience and imagination of my children and yours if you are my age. Ask our kids in 20 years to describe their school era in two words, and I wager they say: “testing” and “shooting.” You’ll have to make them talk in complete sentences to remember the joys of good teachers and relationships and projects and discussions and music and sports. To be clear, correlation is not causation. I don’t know of any individual mass school shooting specifically linked to test frustration or stress. But I don’t know any shooting not specifically linked to some form of toxic stress. When you pump enough stress or heat into a dynamic and fragile system, that system will fail and blow at its weak points. As extreme weather is a symptom of climate change, so, I believe, are school shootings a symptom of the stress of test-and-punish. Just like our state and national teacher shortage is. Stress, as opposed to healthy developmental pressure, kills. And for 20-25 years, bipartisan national education “reform” leaders have unapologetically pumped toxic stress into the lives of millions people who participate in public education — as students and employees alike. And they have been utterly indifferent to the human outcomes. Their bipartisan lack of self-criticism, their bipartisan cheap moral vanity has been the enduring hallmark of their failed movement. A bloody era is born This is from the historical overview of the Florida Department of Education’s website. In 1996, the State Board of Education approved the Sunshine State Standards as Florida’s new academic standards, which were then distributed to school districts. The State Board of Education approved a contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill for the development of the FCAT as an assessment tool. In addition, the 1996 Florida Legislature passed laws recognizing the Sunshine State Standards as the academics...

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Remember those 1,800 lost years? It’s time to stop hugging it out with our legislators

Remember those 1,800 lost years? It’s time to stop hugging it out with our legislators

These pictures were taken in Tallahassee on Thursday, February 8. That is literally the same day that the news story at this link about the Kelli Stargel School Kill List ran on the front page of the print edition of The Ledger. If you’ve missed the story, that same smiling Kelli Stargel and Colleen Burton and your state government are forcing Polk County to either close six schools or waste millions of your tax money on hiring useless outside educrat consultants to “run” them — if those schools don’t get to C on the corrupt and fraudulent school grade scale. The story contained this quote from Stargel: “I would hate to be a student who is stuck in (any of those schools).” The mistresses of human sabotage As you consider all that, it’s very important to think back a year, to Stargel/Burton/Tallahassee’s deliberate and cruel sabotage of these schools and the human beings within them. You can read the full account here. Key passage: Quick refresher: late last summer [2016], the state Board of Education seized control of five Polk middle schools. The BoE used Kelli Stargel’s VAM equation, this monstrosity… ..to forcibly transfer dozens of teachers just after the school year started. Neither the Board of Education nor the Polk District had any plan for replacing these certified teachers. After all, there’s a massive teacher shortage. The Polk District did not have the people to replace the people forced to move. So the kids at Boone, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Addair, Westwood, and Dension got a patchwork of subs and administrator fill-ins… …Through the first six months or so of this year [2016-17], Polk’s five [turnaround] middle schools combined had suffered at least 2,617 days of [state-imposed] teacher vacancies. That means an active class for which no permanent certified or provisional teacher was in place. 2,617 days. If you multiply that by the 125 or so kids each teacher touches, you get about 327,000 days. Divide that by the 180 days of a school year, and it gives you more than 1800 years. Almost two millennia of loss. Despite that, three of the schools managed to get off the Stargel’s Kill List. The two that didn’t are Kathleen Middle and Lake Alfred Addair, which is now Lake Alfred Polytech, a brand new magnet school. Kathleen Middle missed the C needed to get off Kelli’s Kill List by a...

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“Bully”: How we bury childhood suffering beneath an impossible act of administration

“Bully”: How we bury childhood suffering beneath an impossible act of administration

This is the latest installment of my “Education and the English Language” series. Previous essays are: Introducing “Education and the English Language,” a periodic series. I explain how George Orwell’s famous “Politics and the English Language” essay anticipates beautifully modern political education’s vapid use and outright abuse of language. I focus on “Failure Factories” as an example. “Union”: the only positive force in Florida education’s human capital management model. This examines the the toxic human capital culture of DoE as an employer. “Twenty years of abusing the word “union” and anyone attached to it has produced nothing but a massive teacher shortage and the complete failure shown again by this map.” Today, we’re looking at “bully.” ————————————————————————————— When I was in 8th grade, all of my best school friends simultaneously — and pretty brutally — turned on me. I do not remember a trigger. I do remember the mechanism. They named me “Cow” and Mooed at me somewhat relentlessly for weeks in encircling mobs within public school common spaces. For the most part, to my regret, I just took it. Adults either didn’t notice or ignored it. And I made no effort to tell any adults about it. I do not remember a single moment of mercy or support from anyone — boy or girl — in my extended friend group once this was set in motion. That is the power of a childhood mob. I was a little doughy, like I have always been. More or less like I am today. But I was also a good athlete. I had just started at quarterback in the All-Star game for a citywide flag football league that all my friends also played in. I was a good basketball player. I stuttered, of course, but no one seemed to seize on that. I was smart and generally popular. Girls liked me to some extent. My school years were generally happy other than this period. So I can’t explain rationally why this happened. And yet it did. Something about me in that moment communicated vulnerability. And other vulnerable people — because all middle schoolers are vulnerable — heard it and acted on it. Indeed, it pains me to say, in at least one case, I had physically humiliated one of the friends who turned on me. I was bigger and stronger than him at the time (that didn’t last); and I embarrassed him...

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A typical week-in-the-life of the Polk School District

A typical week-in-the-life of the Polk School District

We’re all well aware of the many challenges facing public education. And I write about them constantly. But for one moment, I want to share with you an intimate view of the beauty inherent in so much of what happens on the ground, mostly out of the public eye. Within our 14,000 or so employees — and endless volunteers — working with 103,000 or so kids, there are so so many people giving everything for non-existent or substandard pay to develop, serve, and challenge young people. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. And here’s a little list — from just the last week, just from my personal interactions, where I saw the people of the Polk School District community doing things right on the ground. Or working hard to get to right. — A teacher named Rhonda Rice brought to my attention a Kathleen High honor student named Aalayah Jones, who is selling homemade pound cakes to raise money for a dance trip to Washington D.C. So I bought one, and I got to meet Aalayah and her dad. She’s heading off to Bethune Cookman for college and will rule the world benevolently one day. She called Rhonda her “grandma,” with deep affection. Also, the cake is freaking delicious. I asked her, “you made this from scratch?” She looked at me vaguely insulted. “Oh yes, a mix is gross.” — Last Saturday, I shuffled back and forth between the all-day Polk County JV basketball tournament (my son is on the LHS JV team) and the All-County theater performance event at Polk State College. Two very different types of crowds and cultures and events — but with very similar commitment from the teachers and coaches and sponsors of both. I can’t count all the school district adults who sacrificed a Saturday to challenge and celebrate kids in sports or drama. And watching kids from differing backgrounds support each other in pursuit of a common purpose is, to me, the holy grail. Listen to the joy and enthusiasm and support from these kids cheering the success of one of their friends. At the theater event, each winning performance was repeated at the awards ceremony. All the actors and singers introduced their performances with some clever and enthusiastic take on, “We proudly represent our school.” Several of the seniors added the poignant line, “For the last time.” — Tuesday, I met with the...

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