New Orleans Recovery School District *Choice*

To paraphrase slightly, I think Ashana Bigard explained it best when she said it’s not about informing new parents how to choose the best school for their kids, but rather choosing the least worst school. This is the model coming to every corner of Louisiana if we don’t fight tooth and nail for our own schools and our own children. The people that claim New Orleans is a success are by and large the ones who don’t send their kids to these schools, and who make money off of the privatization of our schools. The next time you hear someone telling you about how great the schools in New Orleans are, ask them how many of their kids are attending public school there. Chances are they have their kids in a private school, their kids already graduated, or they have no kids and are just here to make a buck and name for themselves before they pack up and ransack another already impoverished city.


The state-run Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans is about appearance, not truth. It is about control, not choice.

I have written extensively on the “RSD success” illusion. It is an illusion that has come to the New Orleans community at great cost.

Below is a firsthand account of life in the RSD written by New Orleans parent advocate Ashana Bigard and originally posted on Edushyster’s blog.

Bigard’s account provides a sobering reminder that the state-run RSD exploits New Orleans families.

Big Easy, Little Choice

Is New Orleans-style school choice a model or a cautionary tale?

New Orleans parent advocate Ashana Bigard.

By Ashana Bigard
When I talk about *choice* in New Orleans I use quotations with both fingers and I wink too. Supposedly we have what’s called a *choice model for excellent education* but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of…

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Why are TFA and “reformers” perhaps the least interested in reform?

Why are TFA and “reformers” perhaps the least interested in reform?

Another good critique of TFA. A “reform” group that rejects reform of itself even after 20 years and attaining status quo status in their own right. A TFA alum speaks out about how she would like to see TFA reform themselves, if they are really interested in making children’s educational lives better…

Cloaking Inequity

Why are TFA and, more generally, “reformers” perhaps the least interested in reform? Why do they get defensive when faced with critiques based on empiricism (data and research) and efficacy (is their reform working)? See for example Jonathan Alter get defensive when I discuss charter school data and research on the Melissa Harris-Perry show. He went Jerry Springer. Is it because their reform is driven by ideology rather than the best interests of children and society? During the past week, TFA alumni have joined members of the public in the #resistTFA movement and put forth a variety of suggestions for #reformTFA. Some Twitter users responded to the critique and framed it as “hate” and “attacks.”

TFA has gone about their usual approach of engaging the critique with their strategy of “let’s agree” and “we are all on the same side” and “we care about the same things.” so they…

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A rallying cry story and call to action for the Common Core destroyers among us

A rallying cry story and call to action for the Common Core destroyers among us

Parents are getting creative about how they are showing their displeasure towards the Common Core, and the would-be supporters of it. Those of us who oppose the Core realize these corporation and organizations have very little grasp of what is contained in the Core. They are supporting the “idea” of the Core. I can actually understand and relate to that. At first the idea sounded reasonable enough to me and I required a lot of proof from folks I already trusted and worked with on many other educational projects. I spent many months listening, really listening; to both sides and trying to see if there was a middle ground. It wasn’t until I researched what was actually in it, saw how it was actually implemented (or not), learned about the lack of qualifications of the creators, learned that the international benchmarking was a myth made up to sound impressive, saw the tragically negative impact on children and their families, and heard the debunking of numerous myths and misrepresentations from the mouths of experienced and qualified educators not paid to spout unsupported platitudes, that I realized just how wrong and hostile Common Core has transformed the education landscape. Many companies supporting the Core were assured by other companies, educational leaders and politicians, donors, and wealthy stockholders like the Walton Family and Bill Gates (who created the Core) that the Core is the greatest thing for education since the pencil and chalkboard and computer. These companies have accepted on blind faith and trust that this will prepare students to run their cash registers, work in their factories, run their printing presses, and engineer their products and make a stronger country for us all. It’s a laudable goal (for the most part and from their perspective.)

The problem is . . . it’s all a lie.

First of all, claiming the Core can do all this is a ginormous unproven assertion. (You might as well throw in that it can cure Cancer and bring World Peace too.) These “standards” or jumbled and comma spliced “skills” as the only English Language Arts evaluator of Common Core, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, recently explained at a local Common Core Summit held in Baton Rouge on the 20th of February, were never field tested, never tried out on anyone, ever, before they were forced upon all children everywhere in every setting (public and private schools) Frankly, I can’t imagine any successful company banking an entire generation of their workers on an untested decades long retraining program.

This leads me to my second point. Most companies that did not invest time and money in Common Core, or who are not hoping to make fists full of cash off the Common Core in the form of textbooks, tests, and training and tutoring programs, or educational software, have no idea what’s actually in these national “standards.”

I understand.

I really do.

But ignorance is not a defense (legal or moral) once you have been informed.

To that end I encourage all of you to inform these companies of what Common Core means to you, and what it will come to mean to their business (or lack thereof) if they keep blindly supporting what is essentially a corporately driven confiscation and retooling of our taxpayer funded educational system, of our children’s educations, for their own Human Capital needs and profit driven agendas. Below is an example of how one mom informed a company on the list of supporters I will provide to you and update as we pick them off or stubbornly dig their feet in. (Those will face a more coordinated boycott and negative publicity campaign at a later date.)

Without further ado, here is one of what I hope will be many success stories in the near future. Well done, Debbie. You have made many of us proud with this act.

Hi All,

Oh – I am laughing!!  I had the best time today!  I walked into Chase Bank armed with information on Common Core (list of all the businesses sponsoring CC, the Parent’s Beware Flier, a picture of the Stop Common Core Billboard on my phone( less than 6 blocks from the bank).

I asked to meet with an officer of the bank.  I told her how satisfied I was with Chase [bank], but that I could not support a bank that is supporting/promoting CC.  I explained to her how they are gathering all the health information, etc. on the children and how they could potentially profile children for future job interviews, etc. She had no idea.  I also explained to her how damaging the curriculum is.

When I told her that this information on companies promoting /supporting Common Core was given to me yesterday at a forum with @ 400 people in Baton Rouge and that this information was being put on Face Book – she immediately walked back with the papers and showed it to the manager who then wanted to know which Face Book this was posted too!

I then told her that I would be happy to come back and bank at Chase when they send me a letter that they are no longer supporting/promoting Common Core.  I also told her that the rest of my family will be pulling their money out of Chase as well.  She thanked me and told me that she had a son in the 4th grade and that she was going to look into this.

The irony is that I do not have a Face Book, so those of you who do, please post and if you (or your spouse) do not feel comfortable posting a particular company on your Face Book – just delete that one company and post the rest.   I know of at least one person who is alerting his company to this bad press.  Many companies want to shut this type of bad press down before it gets out of hand.  Politicians are pushing this on our kids because corporations are pushing this on them.  Remember – who are big donors to political campaigns?  Who are referring to our children as human capital to be used( cheap labor) in their work force?

Resource Bank and Parish National Bank both have teachers connected to presidents and past presidents of these local banks.  I know Resource has recently expanded from St. Tammany to the South Shore.  Be sure and tell these institutions why you are transferring your money there.  I resent the attachment with an updated list of all the businesses to boycott. 🙂

Have A Great Week End!

Debbie Sachs

To learn more please refer to Dr. Mercedes Schneider’s post:

Link to pdf with details on Boycott and list of companies to target for their support of Common Core: tuna fish and common core2

My kids belong themselves and  to me; not to you, or your community, or company.
My kids belong themselves and to me; not to you, or your community, or any company.

Teachers Speaking out Against Common Core – (What was promised, was not what was delivered)

Teachers Speaking out Against Common Core – (What was promised, was not what was delivered)

This information comes from our friends at LAPACC, Louisiana Parents Against Common Core.

In this post, you will find the testimony of a Louisiana teacher. The identity of this teacher will not be revealed, you will just have to trust that we have verified this to be from an actual teacher.

We hope that this brave teacher’s testimony will open the flood gates. We invite each and every Louisiana teacher to send us their up close and personal look at what Common Core is doing to education. All you have to do is email

Thank you, brave teacher. We thank you and support you!!!

Teacher Testimony:

“Common Core.” I first heard those words uttered only a few years back. I still remember going to a fellow classroom teacher’s room during my planning period to watch a state education webinar that gave some very “basic” information about it. After viewing it, we all had mixed emotions. We weren’t sure exactly what it meant. It didn’t sound too terribly bad. From what we were told, it was a curriculum that got rid of unnecessary grade level expectations that we were already struggling to fit into our jam packed curriculum back then. It would supposedly focus on the basics and concentrate on them longer until they were mastered by the students. Another proposed positive of the coming national curriculum was that it would ease the transition of students that moved from one school to another or moved from one state to another. As you can see, none of this sounded like anything scary. As a matter of fact, it sounding like a positive change was coming. And one thing was told to us in certainty, “This IS coming.”

Fast forward to this year (2013-14), and I can tell you that I am a very frustrated teacher that is now being forced to teach this nationalized curriculum that is everything that I never expected it would be. Proponents of this say that teachers have more autonomy than ever in the classroom. This just isn’t so. In fact, it is the complete opposite. You see, as the curriculum was falsely advertised to us in the beginning, it was also blindly accepted by our governor and state department of education. They accepted money from “Race to the Top” initiative and adopted the standards before they were even written. The standards have been written now, but as we delve deeper into what these standards truly are, they are not standards that are a part of a positive education movement but a political movement fueled by agendas and money. We have been coerced into teaching THEIR curriculum and THEIR ways after accepting THEIR money.

As a quick example of how we no longer have autonomy, all I have to do is mention several things that have been forced into my classroom this year. In a scramble at the district level to align to the new Common Core curriculum, our district selected and spent a ton of money on a Common Core aligned textbook series for Language Arts. We were told that we “must” use the series since so much money was spent. Additionally, the school board has formed teams that perform “walk throughs” that go into the schools and classrooms to monitor and make certain there is evidence that Common Core is being taught, along with certain strategies for teaching these new standards. The visit from this team ultimately results in each principal’s evaluation. Do some quick research, and these “walk throughs” and observation processes come from training by companies, such as “Teachscape,” to our districts which are funded by the Bill and Melynda Gates Foundation. They want to make sure their funded initiative is being followed through within the schools and its classrooms.

Today, there was a show that aired on TV, “Frances and Friends,” where a panel of experts was chosen to discuss and expose what Common Core really is. This panel had recently spoken at an “anti” Common Core forum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They uncovered how this curriculum’s agenda aims to eradicate literature, rewrite history, and take away logic and geometric proof. They talked about how this curriculum does not truly promote rigor or critical thinking. As the panelist Jane Robbins stated, “This is not an education model, this is a workforce development model. We have an alliance of government and big businesses, and then we have the private foundations who are benefitting from all of this (Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, etc.). We are going towards a two tiered society, which is the ruling class (the elite and ultra rich) and the workforce (poverty level class).” As I watched, I found myself nodding in agreement, becoming enraged, and wanting to do something about all this. To quote another of the panelists, Emmett McGroarty warned, “Every check and balance in the American system has failed with respect to this issue. We are down to the last check and balance, which is the American people. That’s the issue on the table. Will the people reach out, pick up their telephone, call their state representative, call their state senator, and call their governor and demand to get us out? Get us out [of Common Core] now!” We have a narrow window to act. Are we okay with this educational mush and political propaganda taking over our education system? What will we as teachers, parents, and the American people do? That is the question. We must stop these personal agendas that will take over our culture and our children’s minds before it is too late!

Crazy Crawfish Says. . .

The next time you see a poll or survey of teachers that were in favor of Common Core, remember that what is promised and what people say yes to is not always what is delivered. The Promise of Common Core did not live up to the reality. Sometimes in life salesmen will sell you the lemon, trying to make a fast buck. As responsible consumer, it’s your job to return it when they do, to tell others about your bad experience, and to shop somewhere else next time. The free market does not work when government simply tells you to make lemonade out of your lemons, and like it. Do your job, folks. Here’s the testimony of someone doing their job. There is no dishonor in making a mistake, but there is in just accepting the damage without trying to mitigate it after you become aware, and allowing others to be harmed by your decision and your silence.

Quick update to crawfish events

I will not be on theChalkface radio today at 5 -6.  I came down with pneumonia after the Common Core conference and speaking is not one of the things in am doing well at the moment. (Coughing and wheezing is even less pleasant to listen to over the radio than in person, I assure you.)

I will be at the NPE Event in Austin next week (1st of March) but will only be on a panel on the first on student #BRCCforum in the early morning.   (Assuming I’m cured of course)

This means more time to compare notes and organize next weekend and to perhaps blog and live-tweet other panels and speakers.  (Let me know if you want to meet to discuss a particular topic or strategize at a particular time. )

Common Core Information Forum February 20th, 6PM

Common Core Information Forum February 20th, 6PM

Epic Common Core Forum tomorrow night! It’s not too late to get your ticket online and reserve your seat.

Crazy Crawfish

Please consider attending this event if you are curious about the reasons many folks are opposed to the Common Core State Standards initiative. Common Core is not just something that impacts public schools; most private schools have already adopted Common Core, have plans to, or will be forced to in the coming years. Many of the claims made by Common Core supporters will be addressed by this Forum. If you are on the fence or unaware of What Common core is, this event is for you. For a few hours of your time and for about the price of a movie ticket you can inform yourself about how Common Core was conceptualized, who are the true creators and supporters of this, and the lack of educator input and endorsement of these “standards”. You will also learn about the expensive, intrusive and testing and data collections tied to PARCC and Pearson…

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Defies Measurement Update

Defies Measurement Update

About a month ago I was lucky to receive a visit from the blog’s favorite videographer, Shannon Puckett.

Here’s one of my last posts about her documentary project:

In addition to the interview she did with me about my time at LDOE I got to chat with her about other cool issues while she was getting her tire replaced. She managed to make it to the Albertson’s on Airline Hwy Hammond before her tire gave out from a log she hit on I 10. She was lucky to make it that far with an inch long tear in the sidewall (personally I think she has magic powers or a guardian angel.) That was only a few miles from my house so I dropped by the check on her and then I escorted her the rest of the way to my house.

Update from Kickstarter project
Hi all –

I am very excited to report that I’m wrapping up filming and will head into post-production soon. I have interviewed some amazing individuals across the country and can hardly wait to begin piecing the footage together.

The interviews exceeded expectations. Everyone was magnificent: passionate, eloquent, thoughtful and concise. I am grateful.

Interviewing and reconnecting with former colleagues and students from Chipman has filled my heart. When I feel overwhelmed by all of the issues I’d like to include in the film and when I feel an urgency to speed up production, I think of Chipman and it centers me. I am thankful.

I still plan on having a Final Cut completed by Fall of 2014. I will keep you posted.

Continued thanks to all of you. You’ve been with me throughout it all. You were there when I shared a pot of tea and talked for an hour and a half after interviewing a fierce child advocate in Pennsylvania. You were there when I listened to a mother and parent activist speak so thoughtfully and passionately about how the reform efforts in New Orleans schools have been failing their children. You were even with me when I got a flat tire in Baton Rouge after running over a log on hwy 10. It has been an adventure.

As always, thanks so much for your support.


ps – Another way to keep updated is by visiting and “liking” the Defies Measurement Facebook page.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the issues that will be addressed in the film, check out

I’ve never been interviewed for a documentary before, but I had a good time, and Shannon’s questions had me thinking more about what it is I’m doing and what I’m hoping to accomplish.  (I’m not sure I was in a position to do much before, but now…?) Her questions made me recall the good times I had at LDOE, and all the good people I worked with at the department and in the LEAs (School Districts) before the education reformers came her to discard us all like so much used toilet paper. Now that I am out, looking in, I see a lot of opportunities we missed, a lot more collaboration we could have done, and lack of focus and public engagement. I think it’s true many of us accepted a certain level of corruption, squabbling, and failure of and within out public school system and the various stakeholders that made us vulnerable to the faux school reform being offered by John White and his ilk. From talking to parents, kids, educators and superintendents I can see that what is going on is very disruptive, very harmful in many cases and aimed to destroy public education and drive out experienced educators. But what we had in the past had its share of problems as well.

Reform is designed to make education profitable, but it is not meant to actually improve the lots of the majority of our children, to improve our schools or to make education less expensive for tax payers. I think LDOE could have taken a more active roll working directly with our school districts and communities to improve our education systems. By not doing more, we allowed Reformers the room to write a narrative where the status quo was to blame for the lack of success in our school systems. In their narrative, by sweeping us out, great gains could be make and children would prosper. We became the enemy, the uncaring adults standing in the way of poor children getting a proper education, caring to much about our pensions and job titles and too little about those in our charge. However once we were gone, no one was left to watch the candy store, and success could be written however Reformers pleased, and they have. Having used our data and the media against us, Reformers learned all too well the value and danger of data and clamped down on the free flow of information that was our downfall.

You see, what we reported was not pretty, it was real. The roll poverty plays in impacting children’s education levels and opportunities is also very real. We knew this before we knew reform and reformers. We talked about it as an indisputable given, and it is. Just as it was true then, it is true now. Even knowing this we did too little to address this issue because it was not polite, it was not politically savvy, it was not pretty considering how very poor our state is, and the solution was not going to be cheap. By not addressing this problem ourselves, by not facing this harsh reality and actually trying to do something significant about it, we made ourselves and our state vulnerable to the snake oil salesmen of reform with their soothing lies that poverty is just an excuse made by lazy people or people that have low expectations. This is an appealing story in a country founded by hard working immigrants, tenacious inventors and shrewd entrepreneurs. Unfortunately it’s just that, a story, a fairytale, a ruse. Poverty does matter. And this is where data, and understanding data comes in.

Poverty is not an absolute, and our measure for this is crude and flawed.


Today we have laser guided missiles that can pinpoint targets accurately within inches from many miles away, from planes traveling at supersonic speeds. This allows us to discriminate among friendly targets and use more precise ordinance to accomplish a goal of eliminating an enemy combatant. Thousands of engineers and scientists running millions of simulations and expending millions or rounds went into that precise calculation. Many calculations are factored into how that missile flies and how accurate it can be, from wind speed, to precipitation and visibility.

The way we determine poverty is, for the most part, is just free and reduced lunch eligibility based on whether they applied and qualified for food stamps at some point in the last year. We don’t know how long children have qualified; we don’t know which kids were “poor” last year and no longer “poor” by this single metric. We don’t know which kids are “poor” but their parents refuse to allow school districts to label their kids this way, refuse the free lunches. Many parents do. This metric is very sloppy. We do not have relative poverty, there are no levels. Every student is classified as either “rich” or “poor”, and that difference may be only a few dollars a year in income or whether your parents applied for free lunches. Many high school students prefer to refuse lunch than be classified as free lunch, but doing so makes them “rich” to data folks even if they have no place to sleep on a regular basis and no regular meals, no stable parental influence at home. Reformers understand this, but most of you don’t.

Within this very flawed metric is where reformers, like Leslie Jacobs, work their magic. They tout high performing, high poverty schools.

New Orleans Gains Continue!

I am amazed and awed by the continued academic improvement of our schools and students. In 8 years:

We have more high performing, high poverty schools than anywhere else in Louisiana.

This is a grand achievement! (Even though they simultaneously refuse to recognize poverty is a factor in performance.)

School Performance Scores would factor in poverty if they really believed it was a factor. As things stand now, wealthier districts have very little chance of being taken over by the state while virtually every poor district in the state will be taken over as things are progressing now.

What is actually happening in New Orleans, where 90-95% of the children in the public school system are classified as “poor” by Louisiana’s definition, is that an additional “sorting” is taking place. Charter schools like KIPP are placing additional burdens on families to weed out those families with fewer hours to dedicate to service (because they are working two jobs to get by or because the kids are being raised by their grandparents, or a single parent who can’t afford child care.) Charter schools are weeding out children with discipline problems (student’s with numerous discipline problems usually have less stable lives and are often even poorer, than the one size fits all definition of “poor” kids the state recognizes.)

Data can be a valuable tool, for good and for ill. Sometimes it’s what we don’t measure, or can’t measure, that really matters.

Reformers have learned what metrics work best for their narrative and they have shrewdly learned not to measure or explain things that they can exploit because the measure is so crude. Just as we knew poverty was an issue that needed to be addressed, reformers know they are not really addressing the issue of educating poor kids. They are allowing charter schools to strategically filter out the poorest children to traditional schools, so they can claim success. To people just looking at the data they provide, those children are all the same, rich and poor. However reformers know and charter schools know there are poor kids, and then there are the poorest kids which they can shuttle off to traditional public schools. These organizations have invested heavily in R&D, and they have their own laser targeting systems they use behind the scenes to cherry pick the students they want and to eliminate the students they don’t want.