The future of public education in America is tied to vouchers. The question is whether that's a positive move or just another hollow promise. The purpose of VoucherSchool.com is to educate and inform. The writing on this site is assuming the ultimate goal of those in favor of a "full voucher" system is to provide one voucher per student to be used however the parents of that child want to use it, thus making it full school choice, as well. A system like this has merits and challenges, winners and losers.
Plenty of people will tell you what they want you to believe, using data to back up their assertions. Keep in mind that data is often skewed and is certainly only used when it benefits those doing the writing. With that in mind, we want to develop a website with as many questions as answers, since those who want vouchers and those who want to fight them should be the ones who have answers for you
After viewing hundreds of Wisconsin school district pages, one fact is apparent: school districts are trying to operate with their heads in the sand, avoiding the inevitable. Websites look disorganized and unprofessional, as if the districts are in the process of throwing every idea at the problem, not knowing which one will work. They're forgetting the key to winning a battle for their existence, which is positive public opinion. With websites designed by Passive Ninja, they might have a chance, but with half-developed sites mostly linking to outsourced material, districts are waving the white flag.
The number of businesses already benefiting from outsourcing education is high, but it will likely only rise. As districts lose clout, funding, and effectiveness, private entities will benefit. Educabana is an example of one of these companies, poised to capture opportunities to fill gaps in an underfunded school system. Teachers and students will have a chance to excel, but it might be up to the individual to figure it all out in the future.
As a teacher, as a parent, or as a student, the age of the voucher school is an age of change. If you're not ready, you either must prepare for the change or fight against it. Voucher School is here to give you an idea what might be changing and what you might be able to do about it.
I was finally "onboarded" into Duval County Public Schools roughly three weeks after being "hired" by the district. It took a week to get an interview at the failing (and closing) school. Then it took another week or more to get officially hired, partly due to the fact that I had a Statement of Eligibility rather than a full Florida license. I received a phone call from the secretary on Wednesday of the second week of school that I was good to go on Thursday. No need to come in early and set things up. Just get there by 8am-ish.
I showed up at 8:05am. I got the quick tour from the principal. Some rules and regulations. Technically, I was asked at some point if I wanted a sub with me for the day, but I was worried that the fact that I was teaching my own lesson might be a problem. This is a strict direct-instruction, follow-the-lesson school, and even though I had received no updates as to where the substitute was in the curriculum, I was still aprehensive about not teaching the lesson plan.
Back ot that lesson plan thing. I not only received no updates, but I also received a lesson plan tht the sub had been using that did not match with the other English 7 teacher, so I had to decide if I was going to abandon what the sub was doing to join the English team or continue with the sub's plans for two more days. I had not more than a short description that had been printed for the sub, while the other English teacher gave me an extensive plan for the Friday, promising to work with me the next week and into the rest of the year with planning. I decided to do my own thing for one day and then follow the other English 7 class for Friday, hoping I could catch on.
The sub had also not been informed about the proper way to set up the classroom, as was required by the system in place. I would need to create learning pods with desks, and I was supposed to seat students based on test scores. Of course, as of Day 1, I can't access any student information, take attendance, get test scores, or know any data that I'm supposed to know in order to create these learning groups. I also learned that, as a fully-inclusive school, I have multiple levels and modifications in each of my classes. It's a lot to get you're head around on the first day, especially when there's a lack of access to the information that could possibly help.
Hour 1 and 2 was a block. I had maybe 15 students, all receiving breakfast. I dropped the ball there and let a student get away with drinking two juices. Lots of naughty stuff already happening in "homeroom" led me to think that it's pretty standard. I felt like a substitute in my own room, even before the day started, partially because I did not grasp how to divy out breakfast.
My lesson went well for a few minutes, but the students got bored and started talking. They wanted to continue their online worksheets and whatnot. They didn't want to learn about me. It wasn't really their first day, when I normally taught my Day 1 lesson, and side conversations were abundant. Also, lots of touching and stealing. Kicking each others' desks. Middle school stuff. I made the mistake of letting the kids out for a break midway through the block. I thought a break might get them back on task to finish their own short assignment, but all it did was let them wander around a bit in the halls and embarrass me. I felt exhausted and sweaty after the class, wondering if I'd gotten through to anyone.
My third hour class was made up of fewer than ten students. These students were all fairly bright and in a tracked class of sorts, so the lesson went well. In fact, it went so well that they did not even have time to work on an assignment for me. Just a good discussion. I was then sent to another teacher's room for my next class. I would be a support teacher there. I learned more about how to teach, but I did not get a chance to support the teacher much. We'll have to see how that one works out. My final class was another fairly small group, but here we had a boy and about five girls who had no interest in abandoning their conversations to be part of the class. Even more asking about the online programs and worksheets.
Wait time, movement, and asking nicely made nor difference in the two classes with students who did not want to listen to me. All my best techniques were debunked. I had seen what works here in the classroom I visited. Yelling and threatening. I am not that teacher, so I tried to make the best of what I am still good at: visuals. I'd luckily uploaded enough photos to my getting-to-know-me activity that I was able to hold some attention for at least part of the last class. Lots of refusal to work until it was time to collect the assignments.
I get it to some degree. I was, in some ways, just another sub. Would I return? I decided I would, and I told the students that, but I also heard and saw the signs that my stint may be shortened. The school would be closing in one year, but it was still fully-staffed, and it would be draining the school district every day it was open. My class sizes were so low that I knew the operation could run with three English teachers rather than three. And the 10th day headcount was set for Day 2 of my tenure, meaning all kinds of changes might be in store. My goal was to stick it out, and maybe I would be placed at some other school if needed. Maybe another failing school or maybe not.
In the end, I didn't feel like a total failure my first day back in the classroom. Close, but not total. I learned a lot of what I should have been told two weeks earlier. I made a few connections with students and some valuable contacts on the staff. Mostly, I got back in there in order to see if I could do it. Yes, I was totally set up to fail. I know plenty of teachers who would have turned the keys in after the first day (and the school is better now than it was last year by far). Most of us aren't trained to deal with classes like the ones I met, even if they are small in size. But there were glimmers of hope that I can grasp for the next day, and that's what I decided to do.