Open letter from “BESE 4″ in response to recent Common Core events.

I am publishing an open letter from 4 BESE members in response to recent actions of John White and recent editorials from 4 confused legislators that support Common Core, but don’t understand that even if they “review” it, it cannot be changed if the review finds anything lacking.  Common Core supporters have occasionally claimed that up to 15% more content can be supplemented or added to Common Core, but it cannnot be altered in any way. If have seen nothing official from the patent holders of Common Core affirming this claim.  Recent presentations from commoncore.org strongly advise against altering it in any way because it is paced to not permit any time for anything extra.

Jason France (BESE Candidate, district 6)

At the request of LA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) RepresentativeJane Smith and others, I am forwarding this Letter to the Editor,or possible Op-Ed piece, to your publication. It is significant in that it is signed by four BESE members and 28 current state legislators.   

 

This unique group, working as a consensus-building block of state elected officials, has composed this “Open Letter to the citizens of Louisiana.”  They point out the areas of agreement between those opposed to the national Common Core standards and the aligned test PARCC, and those who support the national standards and test, and tend to agree more with the state superintendent.  

 

Following on the heels of this week’s media announcement by the state superintendent, giving his recommendations to address issues of concern with the national standards, this group of BESE members and state legislators focuses on agreeable solutions that will work and be acceptable with both the state and the parents and public school systems across Louisiana.

 

This introduction of a “REAL Louisiana Plan” precedes the opening of the 2015 Spring Legislative Session, and provides a foundation on which all sides can build.

 

–  Mary K. Bellisario

 

_________________________________________________   

 

“A REAL Louisiana Plan”

An open letter to the citizens of Louisiana:

 

 

The past few days have seen some very encouraging developments concerning public education in Louisiana, and we are optimistic that more important work can and will be accomplished over the next few months for the best interests of the children of our state.

 

On Monday, Superintendent John White openly acknowledged some of the problems with Common Core in Louisiana, proposed three new recommendations for consideration of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and agreed that Louisiana should have its own K-12 education standards.

 

Two days earlier, a letter by four Common Core supporters in the Legislature was published statewide making similar recommendations and calling for BESE to “continue the Louisiana plan” for education reforms.  These are positive steps, and we look forward to working together during the upcoming legislative session to make critical adjustments to ensure that a REAL Louisiana plan advances.

 

Superintendent White has suggested that BESE needs to review the state’s academic standards as early as this fall, and we agree. Indeed, his suggestion that BESE should convene a commission of Louisiana educators, parents and university leaders to assist in a comprehensive review is one that we have long advocated.  However, we note there will be no point in engaging such a review if the stakeholders here are limited by the existing Common Core State Standards Initiative that was developed elsewhere. Since no more than 15% of the Common Core Standards can be altered or changed by participating states, it seems obvious that our mutual goal of improving Louisiana standards cannot be reached so long as we remain participants in Common Core.  

 

With regard to student assessment, Superintendent White has suggested that our Department of Education should follow the Administrative Procedures Act and allow a transparent bid process for vendors to propose a test that is “unique to Louisiana while comparable to other states.” We certainly agree and have been advocating this for nearly a year.  However, we note it will be impossible to obtain bids for a new test if its underlying standards are not yet decided.  It would thus be unwise to rush into a new testing contract without having these foundational questions answered first.   

 

We agree with Superintendent White and our colleagues who have now acknowledged that atwo year baseline of testing results is needed before any sanctions are placed on our students, teachers, schools and districts.  Our teachers and districts work extremely hard to comply with every state mandate, and this delay will greatly reduce the stresses related to implementation.  Superintendent White has been very vocal on this point, and we agree that no hardworking teacher, principal, or district should be punished based on decisions made outside their control. 

 

Parents and teachers have voiced their concerns loudly across this state and nation, and we elected officials should be listening.  Indeed, that is our duty.  The people of our state are understandably wary of all tests, textbooks and curriculum that are aligned to national standards, because such an alignment is always accompanied by the dangers of federal intrusion and wasteful spending that brings no benefit to our kids.  

 

Superintendent White also acknowledged this week that we are “over-testing” our students and thus, “We all need to eliminate any tests that are not meaningfully contributing to student learning.”  We certainly agree, and it is our belief that the current test aligned with Common Core and PARCC is one of the problems that should be eliminated here once and for all—as other states have already done.

 

Again, we reiterate our optimism about these critical points on which more and more state leaders now agree.  We look forward to working with all in good faith to ensure that in the very near future we are truly developing a REAL Louisiana Plan for the children of our great state.  They deserve it, and the stakes are too high for us to deliver anything less.  

 

Best regards,

 

Jane Smith, BESE, member at large

Bossier Parish

                                                                  

Mary Harris BESE, District 4                                                  

Dr. Lottie Beebe, BESE, District 3                                                                                                                                                                                              

Carolyn Hill, BESE, District 8     

                                            

Representative James Armes, District 30                                                                               

Representative Terry Brown, District 22                                    

Representative Richard Burford, District 7

Representative Henry Burns, District 9

Representative Greg Cromer, District 90

Representative Brett Geymann, District 35

Representative Lance Harris, District 25

Representative Kenny Havard, District 62

Representative Cameron Henry, District 82

Representative Bob Hensgens, District 47

Representative Valarie Hodges, District 64

Representative Frank Hoffman, District 15

Representative Paul Hollis, District 104

Representative Frank Howard, District 24

Representative Mike Johnson, District 8

Representative Eddie Lambert, District 59

Representative Jim Morris, District 1

Representative Kevin Pearson, District 76

Representative Rogers Pope, District 71

Representative John Schroder,District 77

Representative Alan Seabaugh, District 5

Representative Lenar Whitney, District 53

Senator A.G. Crowe, District 1

Senator Bob Kostelka, District 35

Senator Elbert Guillory, District 24

Senator Fred Mills, District 22

Senator Jonathan Perry, District 26

Senator John Smith, District 30

 

Posted in education, louisiana, politics | Tagged | 3 Comments

The View from Japan: Common Core is a Disaster in the Making

crazycrawfish:

This story from Japan is not what I want education to become in this country. I fight to keep creativity, exploration and true learning in schools and in our culture.

Originally posted on Creative by Nature:

 “What many supporters of Common Core ignore is that the “rigorous” high-stakes testing approach that they wish to impose on our children has been experimented with in many other nations, and has been a complete failure. Once in place it dominates all instruction, turning schools into test prep factories, and students into test-taking machines.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.20.15 AM

I’m a full-time University teacher, living and working in Japan since 1994.  We had our entrance exams a few weeks ago, and part of the job for University teachers here is to mark certain sections of the tests by hand. One of the things I notice each year is that most Japanese students get 30 to 50% of the answers wrong.

Sometimes answers are close but test markers are looking for the “exact” right answer. If the student spells a word wrong they may receive half credit or no points. Why are we so strict with spelling? Because these kinds of high-stakes tests are designed to select and sort…

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An Educational Titanic, A Louisiana Edsel: Stand for Children Defends PARCC

crazycrawfish:

Great explanation from a Lafayette teacher of the absurdity of Stand for Children’s arguments in regards to why all Louisiana children have to take the PARCC test.

If you would like to know more about what Stand really stands for, check this video out.

Watch “The Truth Behind Stand for Children” on YouTube
The Truth Behind Stand for Children: http://youtu.be/4iAjkf99F9c

Originally posted on VPBarras:

Stand for Children Logo Red

A spurious web page is circulating throughout Louisiana from Louisiana branch of the organization Stand For Children. On this page, they warn that some parents are trying to convince other parents to pull their children from the upcoming PARCC tests. They urge parents to ignore these pleas and let the students take the tests because it’s the right thing to do for students.

“Parents with the courage to recognize an educational Titanic when they see one are wisely removing their kids from an untested experiment.”

Stand for Children, you want to do the right thing for students? How’s this for starters?

How about declaring how much money your organization accepted from the Bill Gates Foundation, the financial heart of Common Core and its accompanying tests. Savvy parents don’t accept anything at face value, and parents can’t trust you if they don’t know who paid for you. Transparency is all that they…

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Overprepping and Overtesting in Louisiana

I just received this letter from a parent named Stephanie Riley in Rapides Parish.  This letter echos the sentiments expressed by many parents across the state that I spoken with this year and last year. Education has been replaced with test preparation.  It’s a disgrace, and a reason many parents have abandonded public schools and started homeschooling their children.

If any folks in the traditional media would like to interview a mother that sees her children’s futures being stripped away in pursuit of a meaningless “score”, Stephanie would be a good person to contact.

The results of this test won’t measure what children learned, merely which parish wasted the most time on test preparation. Ironically districts with the highest test scores may have the least “educated” children.

This isn’t just about Common Core anymore, now it’s about Common Sense, and a lack thereof being shown by many of our current educational leaders.

To whom it may concern,

As a parent of 2 children in the Rapides parish school system in Louisiana I have finally reached the end of my rope. This letter is being sent to multiple individuals throughout Louisiana (and outside the state) for a reason. I have had enough and I want a response. Since returning from the Christmas holidays my children have done absolutely nothing but practice and prepare for the PARCC – like test. First, let me make it perfectly clear that both of my children have been opted out of this test. In this situation however, that is irrelevant. They have both been sitting in a classroom all day for the last 6 weeks training to take a test!They, and most every other child in this state grades 3 – 8 are been denied their right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. Did you catch that? Federal law – F.A.P.E – is being broken. Drill and kill for ANY standardized test is NOT an appropriate education, which I pay for with my taxes.  I have questioned both of my children about activities in the classroom. While there is definitely a focus on testing for my third grader, it is even worse for my sixth grader. He has told me that they will no longer be using the textbook or stories from the curriculum this parish chose because neither addresses the ELA items on the PARCC – like test. Instead, they work every single day on practice writings for the PARCC – like exam. Half of an entire school year wasted with no reading!  And my third grader has only used her reading textbook a few times since January. Third graders not reading!! This is NOT a teacher issue. Teachers throughout this entire parish are being instructed to drill and kill. Practice, practice, practice! Test scores are what matter, not children.

Well, I am just a mom, so it has been easy for our school administrators to ignore me. Although I have had many positive interactions with our school board members (they do at least appear concerned) nothing has been accomplished and I feel as if we are all just trying to make it to the end of the school year. But that means that the children of Rapides parish are missing out. They are going to lose a minimum of a half of a year’s worth of instructional time (due to testing practice), and for some an entire year due to classroom instruction that has not been supported through the use of appropriate instructional materials. I am now reaching beyond our local administrators and will continue to reach beyond until someone listens. I am one of MANY parents with these concerns and we are not going away. 

I have already expressed my concerns locally that adequate instructional materials have not been provided for the math curriculum (Eureka), and now we have the same problem with the ELA material currently being taught in the classroom. Louisiana Title 28 Bulletin 1794 states that;        

“§505.   Local Implementation (of instructional materials)

A.            Adequate and Appropriate Instructional Materials

1.            Textbooks and materials of instruction for all curriculum areas at the local level shall be supported with adequate and appropriate instructional materials, equipment, and available community resources that support the stated philosophy and purposes of the school system”

where instructional materials are defined as;

“Instructional Materialslimited to items having intellectual content that by design assist in the instruction of a subject or course.”

Currently, neither of my children is in receipt of instructional materials in either math or ELA. Worksheets, practice pages in a binder, class room activities, etc… do not meet the definition of instructional materials under state law. I want my children to go back to a normal instructional environment in the classroom where emphasis on statewide testing is left where it belongs – on testing days. I want them to be TAUGHT not TRAINED! Let their teachers teach them! At least I know that they actually care about the well-being of my children!

Finally, I want clear, printed instructional materials for both of my children grades 3 and 6 for both the Eureka math curriculum and the Journey’s curriculum. These were the curriculums chosen by Rapides parish for this school year and if they are to be used then they should be supported in the classroom. There are no instructional materials for Eureka other than a “binder” that is filled with copies of computer print outs of classroom and homework practice problems. Textbooks were not purchased or provided by the district for this curriculum.

The ELA Journey’s curriculum has a textbook for each grade level and we received a copy of this at the start of the school year. However, this curriculum has been abandoned since the beginning of January in order to focus on practice for the PARCC – like exam. The provision of public education is not for the purpose of passing a single test (a test which is unproven and is not supported by ANY valid research I might add). Therefore, I also want my children to return to their regular educational and instructional activities in the classroom.

Should you have any questions I can be reached at this email address or at the cell phone number listed below. I look forward to a response as soon as possible.

Respectfully,

Stephanie Riley,

cell# 504-669-0803

Posted in education, louisiana, testing | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Keeping it in Perspective.

crazycrawfish:

This is another fabulous gem from one of my favorite introspective bloggers, TC Weber from Tennessee.. He kinda reminds me of me if I was good. :)

Originally posted on Dad Gone Wild:

kidsThis week Metro Nashville School Board Member Jill Speering wrote a Facebook post that started with the following question:

At last week’s meeting, an MNPS Board member suggested that there are 35,00o seats in Metro Schools that lack “quality” so I’ve been thinking about this language and what this term means. What do we mean by student “success”? What do we mean by “quality” seats?

It’s a question that I wrestle with on a regular basis. As I’ve previously mentioned, I have two small children. My daughter, Avery, is 5 and half, (that half is extremely important to her), and a four-year-old named Peter . Six years ago when my wife was pregnant, we had many conversations about how we wanted to raise our children. We both agreed that we wanted independent, intellectually curious, verbal children who would be equipped to stand up for themselves and navigate the uncertainty that is life. Well, guess…

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Our 2015 BESE Campaign for District 6 Is Really Underway

I’m really doing this folks.

I apologize for not writing more on this sooner, but I have been very busy:

  • meeting with folks
  • raising money
  • doing radio interviews
  • seeking endorsements
  • joining political parties
  • writing magazine articles
  • writing blog posts
  • meeting with campaign strategists and consultants
  • conducting investigations
  • monitoring state and national education policy and events
  • speaking at events
  • recruiting a campaign staff
  • learning with my staff what we need to do to be a successful campaign

In my spare time I also hold down a full time job and raise a few kids. 

We have finally filed our first campaign report (a whole day before the deadline!) 

Go team!  (Thanks Susan!)

If my eyes seem a little glazed over when you meet me, something on that list is probably why.

I have the following events tentatively scheduled over the next month or so although more are popping up every day.

  • Wednesday (Tomorrow), February 18th from 1 to 1:30 I will be an online radio guest on Libertarians Working For You with host Arvin Vohra,  http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2300/libertarians-working-for-you to discuss my campaign, proposals, and previous projects.
  • Tuesday, February 24th, I will be in Houma (approximately 6 – 9pm) presenting on Common Core, my campaign, and the corruption at LDOE during Superintendent John White’s tenure.  Precise Time and location to be determined.
  • Tuesday, March 2nd, I will be visiting the EBR PEC (Parish Executive Committee) to discuss my campaign and take feedback.  If you are interested in checking out the Libertarian Party, come on by.  Precise Time and location to be determined.
  • Saturday, March 7th, I will only be quasi-political.  I was invited to participate at the Hammond Regional Art Center’s Celebration of the Written Word as part of a panel of bloggers from 11 to 11:50 am.  I’m sure I will have a little time before and afterwards to chat if you are in the area.  (I wish I could spend the day here but I have other commitments.)
  • Tuesday, March 10th, I will be visiting the Livingston PEC (Parish Executive Committee) to discuss my campaign and take feedback.  If you are interested in checking out the Libertarian Party, come on by.  From 7 to  9 pm at Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill
  • Monday, April 6th, I will be visiting the Tangipahoa PEC (Parish Executive Committee) to discuss my campaign and take feedback.  If you are interested in checking out the Libertarian Party, come on by.  Precise Time and location to be determined.

My district encompasses the eastern part of East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. 

Check the map out here: http://www.jasonfrance4la.com/bese_map

I probably have over 600,000 folks to contact before October 24.  I need your help, your support, and your money, if you’ve got some to spare. . .

Canvassing is tentatively slated to start in late April or May.  If you’ve already signed up we will be contacting you to verify your continued interest.  We are looking for team leaders in the area if you have some experience (but no experience necessary! Enthusiasm counts for a lot around here.)

Before we can effectively canvass we need to purchase materials for distribution, voter registration rolls, signs, etc.  This takes money, and lots of it. 

If you would like to sign up or donate you can do so here:

$$ Contribute $$:  http://www.jasonfrance4la.com/contribute

Volunteer: http://www.jasonfrance4la.com/volunteer

We can take PayPal, most credit cards and you can even just mail a check. (Please make sure checks include full name and address for reporting purposes.)

We can’t reach most people by blog or Facebook, but we need your help to spread our message there as well!   E-mail lists work great too.  Spam your contacts with our info (and personally pester your rich eccentric uncles for donations) and your Democracy will thank you for it.

And remember, if you don’t live in my district you can’t vote for me, but you can still contribute as often and as much as you want!  (Fine Print: Up to a max of 5000 dollars for the primary and 5000 dollars for any runoff.)

Posted in politics | 6 Comments

The Seabaugh Solution Apology and Explanation

VAM (Valued Added Modeling) is garbage.  It does not work. Louisiana’s system is especially flawed. The underlying premise behind VAM is also flawed, and no VAM assessment (good or bad) should be trusted.  Before I wrote about the Seabaugh Solution I wrote numerous articles about this.

I probably have have dozens of articles where I discuss the fallacies of VAM.  Others around our state have written dozens more.  As a data analyst by trade myself, this misuse and misapplication of data is especially infuriating.

Recently, a series of articles I wrote about an Louisiana Department of Education conspiracy to adjust the entire VAM system to benefit 3 teachers in Caddo was rediscovered, and made popular, but without all the backstory and context.  (I hope those that are promoting that story will also promote this one.)

This conspiracy was actually named the Seabaugh Solution by John White’s staff.  John White, and several of his executive TFA staffers recruited from out of state, carried out this deception after discovering it was flagging our best teachers as our worst teachers.  Please let this sink in.  They understood that VAM was identifying our best teachers as our worst teachers, and they have continued to promote this charade to this day.  Their behavior is well into the loathsome territory here, folks.

A number of native Louisiana citizens working at the department at the time were outraged by this perversion of the VAM system. They could not have disclosed it without jeopardizing their jobs and careers.  Nevertheless, at great personal risk to themselves, they notified me and fellow blogger Tom Aswell, at Louisiana Voice, so we could alert the public to this travesty being perpetrated against our teachers.  Please read Tom’s story for more specific details and background.

My intent was never to involve the specific teachers.  (VAM only has a 25% accuracy rate at best.)  Internally these teachers were sometimes referred to as ineffective by VAM calculations, and by other less flattering terms.  However the truth is in fact the exact opposite.  I was trying to make an ironic point by referring to them as “crappy” when both John White and Alan Seabaugh knew, or claimed to know, the exact opposite was true. The students of these teachers scored consistently at the top – for the entire state.  These teachers initially labels as “ineffective” were in actuality some our best teachers. VAM had classified them as our worst.

Legislators need to understand this and ban VAM from being used in the future for any punitive purpose.  They are knowingly persecuting and hanging innocent teachers in a politically motivated witch hunt that is none of their business in the first place.  LDOE is a state agency and not them employer of these teachers. LDOE should not be making judgments about them from afar; especially based solely on a  few pieces of data that were never meant for the purpose they are being used.

Sadly, these truly outstanding teachers were not alone.  Many teachers across the state are classified as ineffective because their students scored so well it was impossible for them to improve.  Others were classified as horrible because they were teaching some of our most disabled, neglected, homeless, limited English, and poverty stricken kids and learning and improvement is not always linear. VAM assumes all kids will improve at a completely linear rate regardless of teacher or circumstances and teachers are responsible for any and all deviation from that rate.  That’s just ridiculous assumption.  Furthermore, for a child to contribute the maximum points to each teacher ever your would require exponential improvement; which is impossible.  These tests have a finite range.  You can’t improve beyond 100%.  As illustrated by the need for the Seabaugh Solution, for VAM to work for teachers with students performing in the upper ranges, the tests would need to have no upper boundary, they would have to be worth an infinite amount of points.

Teachers have resigned in shame and have even committed suicide  across the nation after being unjustly defined by VAM systems as inferior.

LOS ANGELES — Colleagues of Rigoberto Ruelas were alarmed when he failed to show up for work one day in September. They described him as a devoted teacher who tutored students before school, stayed with them after and, on weekends, took students from his South Los Angeles elementary school to the beach.

When his body was found in a ravine in the Angeles National Forest, and the coroner ruled it a suicide, Mr. Ruelas’s death became a flash point, drawing the city’s largest newspaper into the middle of the debate over reforming the nation’s second-largest school district.

When The Los Angeles Times released a database of “value-added analysis” of every teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in August, Mr. Ruelas was rated “less effective than average.” Colleagues said he became noticeably depressed, and family members have guessed that the rating contributed to his death.

I was actually trying to highlight a real problem for out teachers across the state.  I am trying to prevent more, Rigoberto Ruelas tragedies, in our state.  Great teachers labeled have been and continue to be labeled as terrible by a terribly inaccurate and unjust data system.

Part of the problem is how the state has expanded its reach into places it has no business being in.  The state needs to get out of our local classrooms.  It is not helping.  John White’s department of Education is tearing our teachers and students down while claiming it is building them up.  As your teachers what they think about the LDOE’s involvement in their classrooms.  As the Seabaugh Solution shows, even LDOE can’t trust LDOE’s own data.  John White even said this in his conversation with Alan Seabaugh.

I beg you, please do not refer to these teachers as crappy, inferior, ineffective, or anything other than mistreated by a system I was trying to expose as outrageously unfair, dehumanizing and debasing.  The legislature may not have understood this at the time, but they should understand this now.  Anyone who supports VAM is attacking our teachers and children for political points.  It’s not a coincidence that a psychologist, and not a professor of mathematics, designed and endorses this system.  It’s not just that VAM is “a little off”, it’s actually completely backwards and entirely unreliable.

The outrage here is that John White and his executive staff fully understood the implications of what they were told.  Top teachers were being lambasted and shamed by an unjust data system.   John White knew his staff tried dozens of ways to calculate the VAM numbers and could not find a credible way to prevent some of our greatest teachers from being classified as “crappy” so White gave these teachers “bonus points” as he often does for charter schools he’s trying to save from his accountability system, which is also flawed.

Initial supporters of VAM may have had the best of intentions, but VAM is not the answer and never will be because the underlying premise is flawed.  VAM is victimizing our teachers.

Instead of conceding this, LDOE and John White simply added bonus points to certain teachers and shifted the curve downward to classify a new set of teachers as ineffective.  This new set of teachers might have been outstanding too, but they did not have an Alan Seabaugh willing or able to speak for them.

The State needs to discard VAM once and for all.  Not only is evaluating teachers none of their business, LDOE and John White are knowingly doing a horrible job, and playing favorites in the process.

My deepest apologies to the teachers involved.  My intention was to highlight the flaws in VAM to prevent what happened to you from happening to others.

Posted in education, John White, louisiana | Tagged , , | Leave a comment