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Education

Duval School Board, Superintendent Deadlocked On Achievement Goals

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Lindsey Kilbride
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WJCT News
Duval County School Board members and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti met in a workshop meeting, Monday.

The Duval County School Board and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti met to work through some of their differences Monday morning.

They haven’t been able to agree on academic-achievement targets for students in areas like reading and math, but they did agree on hiring an outside mediator to help work on communication and trust.

Chair Ashley Smith Juarez and a couple other members don’t think targets Vitti’s recommending are high enough. For instance, half of third graders are passing the Florida State Assessment in reading, and Vitti’s goal is for them to improve by about 1-½ percentage points next year.

Vitti said his targets are realistic, based on stats from other large Florida districts and state averages, he said in a recent phone interview.

“There’s nothing worse than setting targets that seem ambitious, yet when not met, it gives the impression to teachers, principals and administrators that they’ve failed,” he said.

He said targets don’t reflect his expectations and beliefs in what Duval’s students are capable of achieving. He also said Monday, research doesn’t find higher target numbers alone equate to better performance.

But Smith Juarez said, with all Vitti’s new initiatives —including curricula, magnet schools, and code of conduct changes — he should expect higher targets than other districts.

She asked him for “a projection of his expectations for what the systems  — the strategies, those board-approved items — will yield in terms of student success.”

Vitti is supposed to send the information to board members by Friday. Smith Juarez said after that, they’ll revisit targets.

Board member Scott Shine suggested using a third party to help develop targets, but other board members didn’t agree.

Vitti had brought his targets to the board on two separate occasions with no changes. He said after revisiting the targets with his staff members, they felt uncomfortable raising the targets without any data-supported rationale behind it. 

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride