My visit with, and award from, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers

My visit with, and award from, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers

Yesterday the Louisiana Federation of Teachers tried to “off” me.

Not intentionally of course. They were actually being quite thoughtful, presenting me with a journalism award for my blog. There was one catch though. I would have to drive a few hundred miles to Alexandria and back though a freezing rain storm to retrieve it. (I think it would have been hard to find a more miserable day to hold a conference in Louisiana, nevertheless quite a few folks from all over the state made it a point to be there.)

I’ve only received one other award before, a Big Buddy Promise Award for a second/third grade child I was mentoring back in 2004/2005 who is soon going to graduate from high school. (My little buddy is now bigger than me so now I just call him whatever he tells me to call him.) I highly recommend getting involved in the Big Buddy Program , which is affiliated with United Way, as a mentor or in some other capacity if you live in Baton Rouge and have the time and spirit to donate to a child. (If you do decide to call them up tell Mrs. Gay I said “Hi!” She’s awesome.)

So this was a big deal to me, until I saw who my other co-nominee was, Tom Aswell of Louisiana Voice. (I heard Newman’s voice from Seinfeld in my head when I wrote that.) I had wondered who the other nominees for the School Bell award would be, but I didn’t ask, figuring it could be a surprise. I don’t mean to say I was disappointed it was Tom, per se, or that him being nominated took anything away from the prestige of the award (if anything it added to it in my mind) just that I was prepared for a more mainstream media type who I could play off of like I had at the last conference I recently attended in Atlanta. This meant trouble for me personally. Tom was a blogger too, but a better one, more widely known, and one with a big personality. I’d planned on using my speech as a guideline for what I would say or adlib, but most of the contrasts in my head were between what I do and what traditional media tries to do – with varying degrees of success.

Still, I had a few slim hopes left. . . that I would go first and stake out my own territory, or that Tom would come off as dry, nervous, or preachy so I could play up my humor schtick. Unfortunately, for me, Tom went first and had the room rolling with laughter at his stories from the word go. . . but I could have sworn I’d heard before. Tom’s stories sounded like some of the more humorous e-mail forwards that people send around, and no one there seemed to have heard or read those pieces before. Tom delivered his tongue-twisting vignettes like a well-practiced pro and my stomach sank to somewhere around my ankles. . . which were just starting to dry out from the swimming I had to do to get into the Conference center from the parking lot.

When Tom sat down LFT president Steve Monaghan, who was sitting on my left, locked knowing eyes with me and whispered “good luck, tough act to follow. Eh?” I nodded, “uh, yeah.” A few minutes earlier I noticed John Bel Edwards, our Democratic candidate for Governor sneak in the back of the room a few moments earlier, so no pressure, right?

So my last acceptance speech for my Big Buddy award resulted in me rambling on aimlessly for an indeterminate amount of time, saying nothing in particular, turning bright red (and I think I might have had a stroke because the rest of the luncheon was a blur.) That experience is painfully scorched in my memory along with the pitying look from local newscaster Jay Grimes as I was waiting in the hallway afterwards. While I was waiting for my future wife to stop talking to other people in the room so I could slink behind a rock in the parking lot, Jodi Carson from the Murphy Sam and Jodi in the morning show came up to give me some “helpful” advice. She told me to just picture everyone as being naked next time. That’s what she does, she confided to me. (A little clichéd I thought . . . and not at all comforting. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t like conversing with naked people. If you come up to me in a locker room after just getting out of the shower, please put a towel on before you start vigorously discussing and gesticulating about international trade agreements or anything of global geopolitical significance if you want me to look in your direction or acknowledge you. More pointing is going on than you realize. Later I wondered how that naked thing would work for a radio show exactly . . . .?)

Anyways, at that moment I decided to redefine success. (John White does it all the time with his SPS scores, but no one was going to be giving me bonus points.) My objective was now to not completely embarrass myself or to get advice on how to give speeches from random audience members. This was a mark I felt I could hit. J

So this is the speech I delivered, after LFT media director Les Landon introduced me and also got in a jibe about Tom being a tough act to follow:

First I would like to thank the Louisiana Federation of Teachers for honoring me today and recognizing my meager contributions to the education conversation we are having as a state. These are conversations we’ve needed to have for a long time, and I’m glad to do my part to bring ideas and folks to the table to discuss how we educate our children and craft our future.

I would also like to thank my elementary and secondary teachers which prepared me both for my current career in the tech industry first as a programmer and then as a technical writer, and also for my blogging avocation I’m enjoying so much.  While my college degree from LSU is in accounting, the skills I use today to put food on the table are primarily the ones I mastered as one Louisiana’s public High School students.

I also want to thank all of my sources and contributors that have risked their careers, livelihoods and sanity to provide me the details and crude artwork I use in my blog.  While I chose to leave the Louisiana Department of Education to expose the corporate and politically chained beast that LDOE and BESE has largely become, many of my colleagues chose to stay behind to work as best they could from the inside to protect the rights of disabled children, poor children, all of our children and teachers, for as long as they could.  Their stories and sacrifices are largely unsung and unseen by all but a few like me, but we all owe them a debt of gratitude for the risks they take to bring these political scandals and abuses of power and to light.

I would also like to thank all the people that read my blog, refer my blog, comment on my blog and use what I write to inform their fellow parents, teachers and citizens.  A blog is only as good as the people who follow, endorse and contribute to it.  If I’ve done well, it’s only because we’ve done well together.

However I would be remiss if I did not also thank the two of the most inspiration figures in my blogging life. . .  John White, and Bobby Jindal.  I can honestly say if it were not for them promoting their profit driven, destructive and asinine education policies and agendas I would not be standing before you here today.  So I owe my thanks to them, for providing me with a never-ending supply of ridiculous and tragic material to blog about.

Now for those of you who have no idea who I am, allow me to take this time to introduce myself and my work.  My name is Jason France and I run a Louisiana education and politics blog called Crazycrawfish.  If you type that silly sounding name in Google you will locate me.  I’ve become quite prolific in the 18 or so months since I left the Louisiana Department of Education and started blogging about my take on what I saw, and what I see happening to education in our state, and across the nation.

Blogging has been a learning process for me, and not one I came to naturally.  Before I started my blog I used to think bloggers were egotistic, self-important pontificators driven by internal forces to share their “vast wisdom” with the world.

Now that I am one, I understand that this is more or less true . . . but not as easy a task as you might think.  Most bloggers have day jobs and families but the news cycle never sleeps and very often neither do we.  Now that I am more or less established, I find that I always have more stories to tell than I will probably ever be able tell, and this weighs heavy on my head and heart.  But what weighs me down is also, paradoxically, what keeps me going.  I may not be able to tell every story as quickly or completely as I’d like, but I know that quite likely without me these are stories and articles that would never get told at all.

Thank you all for sharing your stories with me, and for reading the stories I have to tell.

During the ceremony I learned there were two other recipients that were unable to be there, Bob Mann and Kari Harden, so I think it’s safe to say I was a bit humbled by and appreciative of my selection.

After the award ceremony I chatted with Tom and complimented him on his delivery. He then confided in me that he had done stand-up comedy for 10 years. Bastard! J It was then that I knew where I had heard some of his material, at the Funny Bone in Baton Rouge! Tom confirmed that he used to MC there, and I recalled the slideshow he used to do and his stories about Livingston Parish. Lol. So no chance I’ll be beating Tom in the delivery department, but I have pictures on my blog, and you don’t Tom, so there!

At the luncheon I had the interesting experience of sitting with a freshly minted US Congressman. Vance McAllister stopped by to give his first speech/introduction as the Representative of Louisiana’s 5th district. I chatted with him briefly and he seemed very nice and down to earth, although even more obsessed with his smartphone than me. J When he walked in he was greeted by the sound of duck calls. (Apparently these were “coincidentally?” part of a gift box given to numerous LFT friendly legislators in attendance.) McAllister relayed, somewhat sheepishly, that being heralded by duck calls wherever he goes is now a common phenomenon since he was endorsed by the Duck Dynasty family and defeated the Jindal anointed Neil Riser by 20 percentage point.

One other thing many of my readers will find interesting is that McAllister volunteered, without any prompting, his stance on Common Core. He stated he and many parents he’d talked to didn’t understand the rollout, he didn’t understand how we could suddenly spring this on so many kids we’d been educating one way, then telling them everything they learned was now wrong and they needed to learn this whole new curriculum. He stated he didn’t like Common Core, didn’t like the federal government getting involved, but if this was the way we were going it should have been introduced in the early grades first, not all at once on all kids.

I am totally in agreement and I’m sure many of you are too. When Vance sat back down I told him so and gave him my card. He asked me if I was one of his constituents and I told him no, but I serve some of them since I address statewide issues. I mentioned if he wanted to talk about it, or to be put in contact with other groups opposed to Common Core I could arrange it. However, if you are one of those groups and have your own ways of reaching out to congressman McAllister. . . well I think he’s already in your court on this battle.

High School Students in New Orleans Walk Out in Protest

I have been getting folks telling we how wonderful charter schools are, and how beloved they are by the communities they serve. When a charter school doesn’t perform well the kids and parents can simply choose another one, like ones chooses a carton of milk at the store so no oversight is needed. What does one do when all the charter schools are selective or bad like in New Orleans? Many children are kicked out secretly to roam the streets as these children are doing publicly. The charter school movement is a farce, and even they allies of this movement know it. Now they are claiming school isn’t for everyone, some children are just thugs and should be abandoned. While reformer claim poverty is an excuse, its an excuse Leslie Jacobs and many reformers are only too happy to use when they tell people to consider their overall performance against the backdrop of poverty and when they promote their high performing/high poverty schools. Sadly, what New Orleans is doing is not improving the plight of poor children, they getting better at weeding out the poorest and hardest to reach, while disguising this fact with unaudited impossible data and bonus points assigned to their school performance scores. Soon, every district will have their public schools replaced with charter schools. Will Arne Duncan tell us that the only reason people hate charter schools is because some white suburban moms have had their children evicted from the public schools their tax dollars paid for, so wealthy hedge fund managers can get even richer taking in tax dollars meant to educate our children to pad their portfolios?

Diane Ravitch's blog

I received this letter from a teacher who taught in Louisiana until recently. I am posting anonymously for her sake:

Dear friends,

I am not writing you from New Orleans, and I do not know these students, but I taught in this area for 9 years, and after 3 schools that I worked in were taken over by charters with no relationship to the community, I left my state and moved to Atlanta to go to graduate school. Thus, it is so encouraging that students from two high schools have protested fake school reform and the “No Excuses Model.” Both schools have staged walk-outs over the past week. If you have not watched the below videos, please take a minute to do so.

Firstline schools is the Charter Management Organization (CMO) that took over Joseph S. Clark High School three years ago. The principal is a TFA graduate and his…

View original post 93 more words

Arne Duncan has lost his mind

Arne Duncan has lost his mind

Arne Duncan (after hanging out with the Mayor of Toronto smoking from a mysterious pipe)

Unless you live under rock, if you follow education issues at all you no doubt heard this latest pearl of wisdom from the head of the US Department of Education.

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said, according to an account from Politico. “You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, `My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”

My first thought when I heard this was that Arne Duncan was trying to make sure the US Department of Education gets eliminated. I certainly expect this comment, combined with his other policies and epic overreach into local matters, will land eliminating the US department of Education front and center in the 2016 Presidential election.

In response to this a petition was launched on the Official White House website to call for Duncan’s removal: “This clearly demonstrates the complete lack of understanding he has and his utter contempt for the American people. He is both unqualified and unfit to lead the Department of Education and should be removed immediately.”

A group Facebook group called MAD, or Mother’s Against Duncan, also immediately formed. As of 11/19/13 at 10:30, a little more than 24 hours after the comments this site had over 3000 members . . . and growing.

When I had a little time to contemplate what Duncan said a few things occurred to me. He really, honestly thinks this is all about test scores. In his twisted world, kids and parents don’t exist as consierations, and learning is little more than a number of trend-line on a chart. The only learning and education that matters to him is one that can be measured, and he actually thinks everyone else thinks this way too. He has surrounded himself with people that think this, and insulated himself form the public, from parents, children and from learning. He can’t even comprehend that anyone might not give a damn about his ridiculous tests (that really do a better job identifying poor or mentally disabled students than they do “good” or “bad” schools or teachers.)

Perhaps it is time to show them how little we think about their tests and that our chief concern is not whether some highly paid educrat awards my school an “A” or “B” (while 40% of the students may be performing below grade level), but whether my child is learning and enjoying his school experience. I’m not sure about you, but my chief concern for my first grader and preschooler is not whether they score well enough on a color naming or counting test to get into a good ivy league school or rewarding career as a proctologist. I’m more concerned if my daughter’s friends like her or bully her, that she is safe and healthy, that she behaves well for her teacher and shows a good example for other kids, enjoys her recess and some fresh air, and has fun learning and growing not just math and reading (which she loves) but art, science, history and foreign languages. I want her education to be one of a wealth of opportunities and joy without the pressure of a career peering over her shoulder and monkeying around on her back. There will be time enough for that in second grade and the rest of her life, I’m sure.

The second thing that occurred to me is that this truly shows just how much Duncan has pushed and owned Common Core. Despite what your local school board or legislature has told you about how the federal government has little to do with Common Core, we have this racist, arrogant and dismissive comment from Duncan that reveals the truth. Let there be no mistake. Duncan was THE driving force behind Common Core. Gates put up hundreds of millions of dollars to promote it, but Arne Duncan put up billions, and he’ll be damned if you white suburban moms think you can derail his master plan with your pitiful concerns about your children and their learning.

Duncan has since tried to do some damage control.

In an interview with Politico, Duncan later acknowledged he “didn’t say it perfectly.”

I agree.

What he really meant to say was “No stupid ditzy stay-at-home soccer moms (regardless of their color or nationality) are going to derail one of my signature education masterpieces, Common Core. I spent billions dollars on this shiznat, and had to listen to Bill Gates tell me 100s of stories about how he cured malaria in Africa and how he should have destroyed Apple when he had the chance to get his support so it wouldn’t look like the federal government was illegally pushing a national curriculum. Melinda wouldn’t stop showing me that stupid paperclip assistant “Clippy” she invented. They even have bedspreads with that guy on it! I even had to change the meaning of the fricken word curriculum and get everyone to call these standards! Let’s see you change the meaning of word and break federal laws . . . stupid moms, of many races, creeds, colors and religions whom I despise and hold contempt for equally!”

Thank you for clearing that up for us, Arne.

I’m sure you will enjoy the private sector (working for your true masters Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates) much more anyways.

Say “Hi” to Clippy for me!

My attempt at completing my first grader’s Common Core math homework – and a little historical CCSS context

My attempt at completing my first grader’s Common Core math homework – and a little historical CCSS context

I know that many people are thinking the commotion over Common Core, CCSS, is much ado about nothing.  I’ve heard some folks liken this change to the Affordable Care Act (AKA) Obamacare.  There are some similarities to how these things were implemented and rolled out nationwide, but while the ACA was voted on by national elected officials, held to be constitutional in a Supreme Court ruling, and a referendum item of the last national general election and Presidential contest. Common Core has undergone no such tests or review process.  When Obamacare was passed, thousands of pages of legislation were created and reviewed by corporate stakeholders, media organizations, political groups, and private citizens, and one of the common complaints was Obamacare contained too much info to review in a short amount of time, CCSS contained no documentation when many states, including Louisiana signed up to promote and endorse it after receiving millions in grants from the Gates foundation to do so.  Louisiana agreed to implement Common Core in its first Race to the Top application submitted January 19 of 2010 during the depths of the recession to pursue some of the 5 billion dollars in grants the US Department of Education was dangling in front of so many money starving states.  One of the requirements of Race to the Top was signing onto a Common set of standards.  While US ED claims they did not specify Common Core directly, there was only set of Common Standards under construction, and in order to be common across states many states other than your own had to adopt them.  It’s completely disingenuous of USDOE to say they did not require them. Every state that applied to this grant knew included adopting Common Core as part of their proposal was their only chance to alleviate their budget woes and no state that declined to adopt them was awarded a RTT grant.

From page 10 of Louisiana’s first round RTT application.  Louisiana vowed to adopt CCSS sight unseen, almost 6 months before they were even defined.

C. Adopt Common Standards including those for Pre-K and Science and Social Studies; Take a Lead Role in Consortium to Design Common AssessmentsLouisiana will utilize R2T funding to implement a high-quality plan for the adoption and rollout of 100 percent of the common core standards, of which we have been an active participant with CCSSO on the design and adoption. Louisiana will also take a lead role in ensuring that the design and implementation of the common assessment fulfills our core goals of supporting student achievement and focusing on teacher effectiveness. To support our strategy, summative assessment results will be available within two weeks of test administration so they can be used to inform decisions about students and also to aid in the effective evaluation of teachers and schools. The test will be vertically scaled to provide a clear picture of annual student growth. We will extend the blueprint of the K-12 common assessment quickly to science and social studies so that we can ensure a rich view of student progress and the effectiveness of teachers can be measured more reliably. We will also evaluate and implement developmentally appropriate measures of progress for Pre-K aligned to the common core standards to ensure students are on track at the earliest ages. 

A draft of the Common Core State Standards was not even released until March of 2010.  When the final proposed standards were produced in June of 2010, BESE has already decided to approve them and quickly voted to adopt them in our state, despite the fact Louisiana lost out on the first round of Race to the Top grant funds.

(For trivia buffs, Louisiana also lost out on the second round after TFA alums Chris Meyer, head of New Schools for Baton Rogue, and Jacob Landry, currently the Chief strategy officer in the Jefferson Parish school system submitted an almost exact copy of the original grant for Phase II of RTTT, but nevertheless Louisiana went all in on adopting Common Core, despite the fact most people knew nothing about it, and the fact Common Core had never been tried in any setting ever and received zero endorsements from the only 2 k-12 representatives that worked on the design committee.  Corporate interests drafted Common Core on behalf of the NGA, National Governor’s Association, and CCSSO, Council of Chief State Education Officers for which BESE member Holly Boffy is a highly paid “consultant” paid to endorse Common Core as her full time job and “to pay for her mortgage” – as she recently told her constituents at a town hall meeting organized to discuss Common Core.)

This may seem like an overly long lead-in, but I believe the context is important and I don’t think many people that support Common Core and our current education agenda were aware of these details.  The Common Core adoption was snuck in under the radar, and its way was paved and greased with Gates gold and Federal grants. (Louisiana eventually landed a Phase III grant.)  So I want you to understand this is not like what happened with Obamacare on  many levels.  This was a backroom deal that was adopted sight unseen, and almost every organization supporting Common Core got tons of money and grants from either from the Federal government and/or Bill Gates and his foundation, or has a financial stake in the outcome (such as text book publishers and test makers like Pearson.)

Now if some of you were like me, you may have been alienated by all the false negative coverage of Obamacare like the overhyped Death Panels myth perpetuated by Sarah Palin, some tea party groups and Fox News.  When I saw that coverage and compared what was being said to the specific passage cited in the Affordable Care Act that only defined a benefit for doctors counseling patients, upon a patient’s request, on their end of life options, I was disgusted and turned off by much of the rest of the negative things that were being said about Obamacare.  Once you lie to me, I don’t trust you.  But that was perhaps an overly simplistic way to look at the situation and he idea of insuring uninsured people and saving money was appealing.  What we are seeing now is that there were significant issues with this plan that were not anticipated and which have not been addressed and legislators on both sides of the aisle are very worried about the implementation of the AFA.  Everyone has heard about the horrible website. . . .now.  But most of the coverage of the opening days of Obamacare was devoted to the government shutdown, and who was at fault for it.  When the smoke cleared from that disaster what we were left with was a smoldering pile of dysfunctional website and a complete breakdown of communication and planning at the Department of Health and Human Services under Kathleen Sebelius.  A month  an half later, most of the few hundred thousand enrollees in the system signed up through state sites and exchanges or directly with providers, not with the Federal website at all.  The Federal government was not prepared for most states to decline setting up their own exchanges. They had not considered what would happen if half the states declined the Federal dollars to expand their Medicaid rolls.  Obama falsely promised folks they could keep their policies if they wanted to, and would not be forced to buy new policies if they liked the ones they had. . . period.  Now we are seeing that only the unhealthiest people are signing up for the insurance, and many of the healthier folks that would ideally contribute to health plans to counterbalance and partially subsidize the unhealthy, pre-existing folks are not showing up.  This could turn out to be an enormous catastrophe for the health care industry if they are forced to pick up the tab.  What we may be in for is another government bailout, to save insurers because of a hastily implemented plan and that was with millions of eyes watching it and thousands of pages of documentation.  What we have in Common Core is something like the opposite.

So what’s my point?  I know some of you may have heard things about how Common Core is a Communist plot, or that Common Core forces schools to teach sex education to preschoolers.  I’m sure you’ve seen a few dubious Facebook posts with people ranting about this topic and perhaps not getting all the facts straight, and your tendency or habit might be to ignore this whole issue as more grandstanding, overreacting and a political ploy, but I ask you to not do what I did, rejecting this issue out of hand because of a few folks that may not have their facts straight or an inability to express themselves constructively.  I see folks blaming both liberals and conservatives for Common Core, but I ask you to take a step back and take a new look from a new perspective.  I will show you some of the homework I and other parents have been getting.  Over the course of several articles I will show you the shaky and scary reality behind the polished veneer and propaganda you are being doused with in support of Common Core.  One of the observations I see in most newspapers these days is that the opponents of Common Core are all conservative nut jobs and Tea Party folks, and while some of them may be. . .  🙂  there are still plenty of liberal nut jobs like me shouting the same tune.

More important than being liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, is that I am a parent.  The folks opposing this are all largely comprised of parents and parent groups.  We did not get Gate grants, nor do we want them. We want outstanding educations for our children. We do not fight “rigor” or change.  In fact, I/we would embrace some actual rigor, which Common Core is not.  We parents fight busywork, insane and abusive teaching methods and profiteers that see out kids as opportunities to exploit rather than the precious, beloved vessels we nurture and protect every day with every breath in our bodies and prayer on our lips.  We fight for them, for us, and for Louisiana.  So when you look at those of us who oppose Common Core and judge us, see us as we are, as concerned parents, as your neighbors and as Louisiana.  Before you insult or ignore us hold up a mirror to yourself next time.  We have nothing to gain by opposing something “good” for our own children and our children’s educations.  We have their lives to lose if we fail to fight for them.

Common Core supporters claim all they are supporting is “standards” not curriculum.  That is semantics. The Core defines what every kid is supposed to learn at every grade level.  They have built a car, gassed it up and told us where we have to drive it, but are letting us pick our route.  However right now there are only one or two roads we can travel on.  One of the those roads is EngageNY, a curriculum provider that worked with Louisiana to produce break down the weekly and daily work behind the “standards” and which John White and LDOE endorsed and encouraged Louisiana School districts to use.

While John White and Chas Roemer claim CCSS give teacher more flexibility to design their own “curriculum” (which is really just the specific lesson plans, not a curriculum at all) this flexibility and freedom is an illusion. We are all free to fly to the moon, but that doesn’t mean we can do it.  If it was easy to design a daily curriculum then textbook companies that were poised to make enormous profits on this endeavor would have already produced them, but in most, if not all schools, no new text books supporting Common Core have been issued.  Louisiana implemented Common Core before we even had textbooks and have to rely on license free worksheets like the ones produced by EngageNY to teach our children.  But my first grade child in East Baton Rouge parish is not learning anything from these worksheets.  I am telling her what to fill in, after brainstorming with Facebook friends and family (some of whom are elementary teachers and mathematicians) to try and figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do.  I and my daughter’s grandmothers have no idea what this “math” is, how to help my daughter, or what it’s supposed to be teaching her except to listen to us tell her what to fill in a box.  There are many children that don’t have as many committed adults at home.  How do you think they are faring?

This first sheet is a little blurry, so I apologize. (My completed version of it is clearer.)

The first worksheet question states “Draw the 5-group card to show a double.  Write the number sentence to match the cards.”  Despite the fact that I still have no idea what a 5-group card is, I count a set of three boxes that equals six total boxes, not 5, I also have no idea why a “double” is significant and do not recall ever needing to write a “number sentence.”  This first problem was missing instructions which my daughter’s teacher thoughtfully provided and the third problem appears to have been incorrect and needed to be corrected by the teacher. I wonder how many kids tried working this worksheet out with incorrect examples?

The second example has the term 5-group cards scratched out.  There are 5 sets of these “cards” which look like boxes to me.  Is a box a 5-group card?  Who knows?  My instructions are to “Fill in the cards from least to greatest.  Double the number and write the number sentences.”  I looked at the examples and thought, “ok cool, I can do this.”  So 1+1 = 2.  2+2 = 4.  I figured the next was going to be 4+4 = 8 and thought, “hey maybe this is a cool way to introduce the idea of square numbers to first graders.  Awesome!”  So I had my daughter write 4+4 = 8.  Then I saw the 4 in the next box.

Damn it!  Apparently least to greatest means numbering them from 1 to 5?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Maybe they could have said number the boxes in order and double them, but how do you number something from least to greatest when the numbers don’t even exist?  WTF kind of instructions are these?!?!?  Alright, keep you cool.  Just erase the 4 and put in 3 + 3, 4+4 and 5+5.  I guess this is what “Fill in the cards from least to greatest.  Double the number and write the number sentences.” means.  Great.  And why the obsession with doubles?  That seems weird but they were just getting started.  You can see my completed sheet below.  I would say my daughter’s but she had no idea what to do so I figure I earned the rights to claim this work as my own.  I hope my first grade teacher likes it!

The next item says simply “Solve the number sentences.”  This looked a little like algebra so I thought it was ok and seemed easy enough to do.  I simply told my daughter to put in the number that was missing and she breezed through that section, so I was relieved. . . but my relief was short lived.  The most harrowing part of my homework was yet to come!

Now I get “Match the top cards to the bottom cards to doubles +1.” 

WTF kind of shit is this, I thought to myself. (I usually keep my swearing to a minimum or avoid it, but in the spirit of honesty I thought it was more important to keep it real and I swear about stupid stuff in my head. . . a lot more since dealing with Common Core.)  I really have no idea why they love “doubles” so much.  I decided I would look this up in the Common Core State Standards afterwards to see what these are all about.  My initial guesses were this was part of the college and career real world examples part, and the CCSSO folks consulted with a Monopoly expert instead of business expert about what kind of math skills were important in the real world.  (Just like in real life, rolling doubles is important because it lets you go again, but if you roll three in a row you go to jail.)   I asked my daughter for guidance on this one, figuring she was probably the math expert at this point by being exposed to all this “rigor”, but mostly I just learned she liked that 3 on the bottom row a whole lot. . . If this was designed to prepare her to be an electrical engineer, I think she just made a short circuit.

The final part of this page says “Solve the number sentences.  Write the double fact that helped you solve the double +1.”  [Insert gratuitous internal cursing]  Despite more than 40 comments on Facebook, we were not able to figure out what this means, but it’s nice to know doubles are now “facts” and adding 1 to them is apparently a skill I’ve lacked.  Somehow I’ve taken half a dozen calculus classes (maybe I could have taken half as many if I knew the secret of the “double”) 6 classes in statistics, Honors Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology, earned an a degree in Accounting and have worked as a programmer of accounting, ERP, claims processing systems and database administrator for 15 years and never learned the magical secrets of the “Double.”  Shucks.  I bet Einstein knew about doubles. . . .

Finally I’ve gotten to page 3 of my Common Core Mathematics curriculum worksheet!  Surely all the worst is behind me, I told myself.  But then. . .

“Solve the problems without counting all.  Color the boxes using the key.

Step 1: Color problems with +1 or 1+blue.

Step 2: Color remaining problems with +2 or 2 + green.

Step 3: Color remaining problems with+3 or 3 + yellow.”

Say what?  This one stressed me out.  I had my daughter get out her blue, green and yellow pastels and red through it a few times more. What am I not supposed to be counting? I color using a key where I add colors?  After some searching some of my Facebook posse thought maybe numbers with a 1, 2 or 3 had to be colored, but why?  How do I color all “remaining” colors twice?

After much soul searching we took a stab at it, and what we got is below.  After the first few boxes were completely obliterated by the coloring we decided to just put some token color in the boxes.  Perhaps the lesson we were supposed to learn here was improvising?  This “math” looked just like crap to me, or as several folks told me “a hot mess.”  One mathematician said this was obviously designed by folks who hate math to make others hate math too. I know I hate it, and I’m just in first grade. . .again.

I’ve heard stories from other parents and children that this ridiculousness is in all grades in many parishes and gets much worse.  How many years of made up terms like “doubles plus 1”, “doubles facts”, and “5-group cards”, “number bonds” (another term from previous assignments) did the 6th graders miss out on, the 8th graders, the high schoolers?

So I decided to do some research.  What is  the deal with these doubles plus 1s for instance? I found I am not the only once searching for answers, and this math is driving parents crazy and kids to tears nationwide.  What I didn’t find any reasoning behind why this is an important lesson.

So my next stop was the Common Core website.  What were the “math standards” for first graders and why do they love doubles and number bonds so much?

My next stop was here:

I won’t copy the full set of “standards” here, which would fill many pages.  Quite a substantial amount of material for “standards” but the only significant grouping I found involved making groupings of 10. (I didn’t see anything about the metric system though which one would think would be introduced if we’re gonna’ start making tens so important.) I did not find anything about “Doubles” or their ilk there.  So where did all this bizarre terminology come from?

It came from a New York based non-profit named EngageNY.   (Although based on what my New York relatives and contacts are relaying it would be more accurate to name it EnrageNY.


New York was the first state to test their students on these new standards, so they had the first glimpse of what the test would look like.  EngageNY is a non-profit group that is promoting a “free” version of Common Core curriculum designed to teach what students will be expected to do on high stakes tests like PARCC.   The whole point of having “Common Standards” is for the testing component.  Proponents of this idea emphasize the comparability of test scores, as if that was the only purpose of education.

He [John White] said the state is “struggling with the idea that measuring our kids on a common bar with those across the country is somehow commensurate with an outside takeover of public education.”

You’re damn right I have a problem with this.  I’m not concerned with a common bar.  I want a high quality education that teaches my children to think and to prepare them for a life of learning, not simply a low paying career at Wal-Mart (one of the biggest supporters of Common Core.)  John White’s “bar” is total bullshit.  He changes it every year and adds bonus points in for schools he wants to promote and to tear down schools he wants to take over and hand off to privatizers.  I am seriously considering pulling my kids out of school on testing days from now on.  The Race to the Top application stated the results would be available weeks after the kids take the tests for teachers to use, but that has never happened.  This year’s results weren’t released until October of the following school year.  These results and tests are all about using promoting the education reform agenda, about selling tests and test preparation  materials, and nothing, not one whit, about the kids.  I’d like to see him compare a big pile of nothing.  I see parents staging walk out days to protest Common Core, but if parents really want to make a statement I suggest everyone take their kids out on testing days instead.  No learning is taking place on those days anyway, and the results are not used to help children one bit.  The results are used to punish and reward teachers, they are used to punish and reward schools and for White to tout his successes.  These tests are used to stress out children and to force schools to direct much of the instructional time towards passing tests that John White will tweak every year to tell the story he wants, all the while White personally looks the other way when large cases of cheating are reported directly to him for charter and RSD schools he does nothing except terminate the ones reporting the cheating.  Our children are pawns in his twisted game.  Will they still be able to play if we turn over the chess board?  I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to find out. . .

Common Core has never been about introducing “rigor” its been about creating commonality and student standardization, standard products for industry to absorb into their ranks.

Roemer said the new standards will equip students for a wave of jobs that require increased technical and literacy training.

“We need to make sure our citizens are prepared for those jobs,” Roemer said.

I’m not exactly sure what jobs BESE president, Chas Roemer, is referring to.   Under Jindal’s tenure our unemployment rate has doubled and is on a definite upswing in contrast to the rest of the country, State subsidized chicken plucking plants notwithstanding.

Our children are being prepared to be barked at and respond on command.  This is not a rigorous or “engaging” curriculum.  Take a look at this video EngageNY posted as an example of their teaching methods and curriculum at work.

Look at the fidgeting, yawning children, the harsh slaps of the hands demanding their attention to count to 11.  11, 12.  11, 12, 13.  This is not rigor, this is not preparing children to increase their critical thinking skills.  It teaches them about doubles, and double 10 frames that they will never, ever, ever use or need to know unless they end up in what will one day be a dead end job if this insanity continues; teaching.  EnrageNY teaches them to yawn and hate school, but this is the mass delusion and perversion that Federal education mandates are becoming.  This video and these worksheets are the houses that High Stakes testing built.  But don’t take my word for it.  If you don’t have children or grandchildren in public schools ask your neighbors with children in public schools learning this Common Core math.

I agree we needed to ramp up our curriculum.  I don’t believe Common Core does this.  I believe this junk is being mislabeled, and the people opposing it are also being mislabeled. You have a responsibility to look beyond the label.  It’s easy to call something rigorous and it’s easy to make something rigorous.  Cleaning your kitchen tiles with a toothbrush is more rigorous than using a mop, but rigor alone doesn’t make something better.  It’s easy to call parents knuckle draggers, Tea Party cooks, and lazy cry babies with their heads in the sand, but the media needs to take a more “rigorous” approach to examining this issue and reporting on it, and if you have written folks off because of politics, you need to take a more rigorous look as well.  Most of the people supporting Common Core the most vociferously, like John White, do not have children or children of public school age, and many of them have profited directly or indirectly from this initiative.  Motivations matter, and who’s do you think are purer, a paid puppet, or a public school parent?

We speak for our children, they speak for their patrons and their pocketbooks.

We will be speaking loudly at the voting booths from now on.

Quick update on some of my current projects

Quick update on some of my current projects

I know it’s been a little while since I produced anything particularly original on my blog other than a few insights into other people’s work, but that’s not because I’m not doing anything. I’ve been asked by numerous folks to produce some specific pieces that can be used to forward to legislators and other elected officials, as well as some investigative pieces that are requiring research and documentation. Here is a brief listing of some of my current projects for the curious.

CCSS and specific examples

I am working on producing some Common Core pieces documenting actual examples from parents illustrating specific issues with curriculum being used in schools across the state and comparing them to the stated standards they are supposed to address. I am still gathering examples from different districts, grade levels and subjects. I’m not getting as many as I expected so I plan to post my own work as an example and show I’m just as clueless as many of you may be, and that that’s ok. I will encourage supports to chime in, but I will insist people keep a civil tone and keep the insults directed at each other to a minimum or they will get the boot, or is that the flipper?

FERPA, Data, and Privacy

Pieces documenting Data Sharing/FERPA explanation and privacy concerns legislators should be aware of with exposition and examples. I will show how FERPA was tragically flawed and is outdated even before the recent changes made in 2008 and 2011 and my proposal for some privacy laws.

RSD Cheating Scandal and Cover-up L

An investigative story about large cheating scandal and cover-up by LDOE and RSD that appears to have been perpetrated by most of the top current education officials. I have issued freedom of information requests and will be issuing more, but I expect they will shortchange me, stall and deceive. I have numerous documents and witness statements already and will be comparing what gets sent to what I already have or will get from agencies outside of RSD and LDOE control. Lawsuits have already been filed, dismissed, remanded, and I anticipate more to be forthcoming. I will reveal some of what I have to date but will keep some in reserve on the off chance they decide to pretend they have nothing meeting my requests. If LDOE claims they have nothing after claiming to have launched and completed an investigation then they will be complicit in a cover-up regardless.

NSNO and me?

I have been invited to visit schools in New Orleans by a New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) official on Twitter, and I accepted believing it to be a bluff. However early indications are that it is not and visit may take place in January. We will be working out the details which may be a condition I don’t blog or document what I see. Negotiations are ongoing but if you have specific schools to see or questions you want me to ask feel free to send them to me at I have agreed not to blog about specific meetings in the past (and kept those promises to date), and I do keep my informant’s identities confidential even if it makes my stories less convincing. It is important for someone to learn the information and perhaps use it for guidance in other investigations than it is to make a slam dunk on any specific topic. That being said, if you tell me where Jimmy Hoffa, is buried or anyone else, I will be informing the FBI if only to get my own special on TV with Geraldo.

Defies Measurement is funded and coming here!

Shannon Puckett, a documentarian I helped get funding for through my blog and from proselytizing and panhandling at a recent Atlanta education conference, will be visiting us in January to film spots for her film, Defies Measurement. I will be contacting some of you directly to help contribute spots and insights, but if you have some privatization stories you’d like to tell please contact me with a synopsis and I will forward promising ones to Shannon, unless I like them too much and decide to keep them for myself. J


I will be traveling to Alexandria on the 25th of November to receive an educational journalism award from the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. I’ve been telling people I’m awesome for years, apparently I finally convinced someone. My apologies to anyone else also getting an award with me. . .mine probably speaks more for my lobbying ability and persistence than my expertise.

And finally, and most important, I am teaching my daughter how to ride a bike without training wheels – in the evenings after work. She is doing awesome but I had to get some new running shoes to keep up with her . . . and learn to let go. . .

This Tennessee Student Makes More Sense Than Our Educational Leaders

This speach is simply awesome. If you havent heard it yet, you need to. I have my doubts our CCSS/high stakes testing generation will produce leaders like this student will no doubt be.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Please take five minutes and watch this wonderful student in Tennessee give an impassioned speech about how current “reform” policies are ruining education.

He blasts the Common Core because of its emphasis on standardization.

He expresses his respect for teachers. He says “Standards-based education Is ruining the way we teach and learn.”

He says bluntly “Why don’t we just manufacture robots instead of students?”

He says, “The task of teaching is never quantifiable.”

He says twice, for emphasis: “If everything I have learned in high school is a measurable objective, I haven’t learned anything.”

I am once again convinced that this younger generation, raised under the harsh. soulless NCLB regime, rejects standardization. They refuse to be mechanized. They are rebels against the federal effort to stamp out their individuality. They will save us from the adults who hope to shape and silence them. They may well be our greatest generation.

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Louisiana School Letter Grades: The Games Reformers Play

My favorite result of the latest tweeking is how D and F schools are now the best places to theoretically send students behind grade level, but those are also ones we are supposed to close. Up is down now! F is the new A!

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

Let me begin this post by stating that I am against the use of letter grades as a measure of school performance. Assigning a single letter grade to a school in order to determine school worth bespeaks the disguised agenda of privatization– nothing more.

Nevertheless, the grading of public schools abounds. Reformers insist that letter grades offer the public a quality identifier that is “intuitively understood” (straight from Jeb Bush’s Florida and officially introduced into the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC] playbook of so-called model legislation in 2010).

School Letter Grades: “Intuitively” Fooling the Public

For privatizers, the beauty of letter grades rests in the fact that no matter how the calculations behind the grades change– and no matter how the instruments used to measure “achievement change– and no matter how the numeric scaling of the letters change– the letters themselves remain the same. A, B, C. D. F. And…

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The Data Quality Campaign: Encouraging States to Ramp Up Data Collection

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

In April 2013, I wrote a post about the inBloom database and Louisiana Superintendent John White’s secret arrangement with inBloom. White’s inBloom arrangement is not the only student data sharing agreement into which White has entered.  It is one of many arrangements White has made and about which the public has been kept in the dark.

So much for transparency.

Corporate education reform is designed to turn profits for privatizers. That said, in corporate reform, there are two huge money makers that will “outprofit” all other profiteering: standardized testing, and data sales and storage.

The two are inextricable. Consider the mandates for state participation in Race to the Top (RTTT). In order to compete for RTTT funding, states were required to demonstrate both a standardized testing dependence and establishment of a “statewide longitudinal data system.”

While the federal government insists that reform is being driven “by the states,” it is clear that…

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St.Tammany Parish in Louisiana Drops Out of CCSS

St Tammany has gained some national attention for their bold move, to thwart the state, and close to half a dozen parishes look to be not far behind. From the grilling John White and BESE president Chas Roemer got by the legislature this week it looks like our legislature may act to delay or withdraw from CCSS as well. If Governor Bobby Jindal’s behavior is anything like his abandonment of his sales tax increase plan, he will meekly follow along with the legislature and claim credit for rejecting Washington interference in local education, except this time he will be right, even if he is just boldly leading from the rear, as usual.

Diane Ravitch's blog

St. Tammany Parish is one of the state of Louisiana’s high-performing districts. Its board passed a far-reaching resolution declaring that it was dropping out of the Common Core standards and would not administer the PARCC assessments. Its resolution explained why it was not willing to participate in this disruption to its schools:

It objects to federal control of its curriculum;

The CCSS were written and implemented too quickly, without due deliberation;

Compliance with CCSS and PARCC involves huge expenses, in relation to equipment, upgrades, time, and effort;

It objects to the data-sharing agreements that are associated with CCSS;

It sees CCSS and PARCC as an unfunded mandate.

For these and other reasons, the school board said “no thanks.”




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The New Orleans Imperative rebroadcast link of me talking about 2013 SPS scores and links to quoted stories

Listen in from the following link:



Here are the recent SPS score reviews published by myself and others.

Here is the predictive blog post by Herb Bassett I referred to during the show.

And here is Herb’s prediction of what would happen to SPS scores. If anything the results seem to be less stellar than predicted based solely on the formulaic change. This most likely indicates student achievement is actually declining under John White and the education reform agenda.

You can read Herb’s entire report here: 2013_School_Letter_Grade_Manipulations_release


Figure 1 Predicted results based on formula change


Figure 2 Actual results

Here is the reclassification SPED students before test time to improve test scores post that shows guidance from LDOE directing school districts to do this:

From: Gary Jones [mailto:Gary.Jones@LA.GOV]

Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 8:50 AM
To: (redacted)
Subject: ACT testing for LAA1/LAA2 students
Importance: High

Dear Superintendents,

In his conference call today, Superintendent White talked about ACT testing and LAA1 versus LAA2. Superintendents are encouraged to make realistic decisions about who should be taking the ACT. We realize the likelihood that some students who are currently assessed as LAA2 (and thus required to take the ACT) might be better placed as LAA1. In the past, the impression was that among the criteria for students to be eligible for LAA1, students had to be at 3 standard deviations below the mean in both cognitive and adaptive skills. However, that is not the case. They can meet that requirement by scoring 3 standard deviations below the mean in cognitive skills only.

Please note that the deadline for placing students in LAA1 has been extended from January 25th to February 25th. Students who are placed in LAA1 will be tested by mid-March.

The last two newsletters have contained a link to FAQ’s on this issue, but I have included it again below for your use. Please encourage your special education administrators and high school principals to join the webinars that will be hosted on Thursday of this week and Wednesday of next week (will be in newsletter today).

FAQ Link:

Dr. Gary L. Jones

Assistant Superintendent

LA Department of Education


Office: 318.767.3018

Cell: 318.308.2306


Shadow Schools information: Iberville and St James.

T “Turn around” Schools information:

My last John McDonogh story.

We were both wrong on SPS score. J (Not 30 or 50) I think the 50 was based on a 200 point scale but it was 41.8 before Future Is Now charter took over the school.



SPS Score out of 150

















83% below grade level or failing state tests:

65% below grade level

RSD successfully argued the below is successful school to the desegregation judge overseeing St Helena’s consent decree when refusing to allow St Helena to expand grade levels in their existing schools to give parents of middle school students a non-RSD option with 70% of students performing below grade level.