Education Reform: Building Houses of Sand in Swamps

Education Reform: Building Houses of Sand in Swamps

One of first sermons I heard when I was younger that really “sunk in”, came from the book of Matthew. The Sermon was based on Matthew 7:26 from a section known as the House on the Rock.

26“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand

27“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell– and great was its fall.”

Growing up it always seemed like I was seeing people build houses upon sand that would easily be washed away with the first serious flood; people making plans that would be ruined or abandoned at the first sign of trouble. If you think back I’m sure you will think of some situations where you took the quickest, easiest and most available path and found yourself regretting it. I think I ended up with quite a few skinned knees this way myself, both literally and figuratively.

As we grow older we learn to spot these sandy spots for what they are, and avoid them . . . sometimes. Those beaches are really attractive . . . all covered in sun and sand and begging to be built upon. We tell ourselves that this time will be different. We seduce ourselves into thinking we are better, than everyone who has tried to build a castle in the sand before us. In the end, our failure is almost as inevitable as the fact some people will always be waiting and willing to take those chances, those risks, telling ourselves we are the smartest guys in the room.

Enron was a castle in the sand. An empire built by people who thought they were the smartest, most able bodied and courageous people in the room. In the end, their castle collapsed and wiped out the lives of everyone who bought into their fantasy. You see, sometimes you can build such an elaborate and enormous castle, you can draw others in. . . This influx of searching souls often allows you to keep your own dreamy sand castle alive a little longer. But just like all pyramid schemes (or sand-castle schemes?) that are built on the backs of others efforts, they will eventually come crashing down, and the splash and harm is bigger and badder the longer and larger you go before the fall.

Louisiana’s Education Reform movement is Louisiana’s Sand Castle in the Swamp.

  • Common Core festoons the castle walls and flourishes in the gardens ringing the castle. They grew up quick and wild like weeds and are just a swiftly sinking back to the depths from whence it came. (We will need to be ready with the weed-killer next time.)
  • Charter schools and voucher schools make up the anterooms and hallways; empty space that make up most of the castle, filling up with gold and jewels brought by the children of the land.
  • VAM and COMPASS are the parapets, shining arrogantly for all to see the tempestuous failure of Education Reform, taunting the helpless serfs bound to the land by their dreams and ideals.


Supporters of Common Core and many of these other undemocratic takeovers will claim that they despite the problems, despite the fraudulent voucher, Course Choice providers, and virtual schools, and the abysmal performance of these schools and programs, they are still a great idea. Reformers will tell you that despite all the problems with charter schools selectively admitting and selectively excluding students, despite the shady way these schools are ripped away from the public and handed over to for profit entities for a little as a penny, despite the vast sums being made by CEOs and hedge fund managers to the detriment of the students they are supposed to be educating and despite the high failure rates of these schools, they still harbor great potential to transform public education. Reformers, corporations, and faux parent’s groups like Stand For Children will claim that despite the great false mythology built up around Common Core, despite the weak foundation that did not include educators, a foundation built on shaky Pearson prepared ground, that Common Core has great potential to fix. . . .everything. If you listen to these folks they will tell you Common Core will eliminate poverty, close the gap between races and all other subgroups and demographics, and educate our populace to where every country on the planet will be clamoring for our students to run their businesses.

Does that sound believable to you?

CCSS supporters will tell us this despite all the massive failings we’ve already seen with the Common Core design, implementation, and parental education that we’re just working out a few “kinks”. Common Core is a lie. Everything about it is a lie. The “rigor” that that makes it “challenging” for students is nothing more than terrible, confusing, mangled material. Making something more complicated and virtually indecipherable does make it harder and more frustrating, but it does not make it more valuable, useful or “rigorous” in a good way.

In addition to the absurd rigor claim almost every initial statement made by Common Core creators and supporters was false.

  • These were not internationally benchmarked standards. There are no international benchmarks, but that sure did sound good, right?
  • These standards were not state led. These are federal standards that Arne Duncan bribed and bullied states into adopting.
  • Educators were not involved in designing, building and reviewing these standards. (Note: Inviting one Math professor James Milgram and one Language arts and literature professor Sanrda Stotsky to review the standards and then ignoring all their input and the fact that they rejected the CCSS standards does not count.)
  • Common Core will not ensure students are STEM ready by excluding Calculus. (Believe me, I did not take Calculus in High School and dropped out of my Chemical Engineering track. Working knowledge of Calculus was required for numerous engineering classes.)
  • Most of the high profile “supporters” of Common Core have been bribed, coerced and fluffed into promoting them or stand to profit from them directly. For instance, Stand for Children in Louisiana is headed by Rayne Martin, a highly compensated reformer, brought o Louisiana by Paul Vallas (a master-fleecer of public funds and trust), heading an organization that receives much of its funding from Bill Gates, the creator and backer of Common Core. Conveniently, Martin has no children so she also doesn’t have to deal with the absurd homework assignments and tantrums, but she has been dressing much snazzier since leaving her 6 figure job at LDOE to run Stand For Children in Louisiana. Common Core pays well for its supporters, while it destroys people that actually have to deal with it.

As we go forward into this legislative session debating the pros and cons of Common Core, I want to you remember that castle in the sand. Common Core and much of the corporate led reform movement, is composed of sandcastles build on disappearing sand banks. Maybe we can build enough castles in the sand and one will finally stand, but if we experiment on our children year after year on these failed policies and curriculum we are not “standing” for them, we are sacrificing them for corporate profits and reformer egos who are only standing for themselves.

And with that, I leave you with this strangely relevant YouTube Monty Python clip.

Guest Essay: Why Common Core Should Bother All Republicans




“Our current system of top-heavy, bureaucratic, centrally planned education is failing to ensure the quality of education our children need and deserve. Therefore, we support measures that maintain the independence of Louisiana schools from the federal government. We support keeping all Louisiana education dollars in Louisiana without going to maintain unneeded bureaucrats at the national level.

Real education reform means local control of curriculum, budget, textbook selection, and personnel in the public schools. We believe parents must have complete access to all information concerning curriculum and activities used in educating their children, and we believe parents must have access to all materials used for teacher development in the public school system.”

Considering the push to promote the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the state of Louisiana by many of our Republican legislators, it is surprising to note that the above quotes are from the platform of the Republican Party of Louisiana.


Since the implementation of these standards has begun in our state, citizens are educating themselves about the full agenda associated with Common Core. There are several Republican legislators in Louisiana who are aware of this and are working hard to rid Common Core from our state. Fortunately, this number is growing.


Many Republicans, like me, are wondering how other legislators, particularly Republicans, can support something which is in complete opposition to the platform which they are supposed to uphold. Have some of our elected Republicans failed to realize that when they run as a Republican and are elected as a Republican, their constituents expect them to vote and make decisions as a Republican as well as remain true to their party?


Common Core does not align with what Republicans represent. It does not align with our country represents. Both the Republican National Committee and the National Federation of Republican Women have been able to see this and both organizations passed resolutions opposing the Common Core State Standards.


Recently, US Representative Jeff Duncan (R-SC) sponsored a bill to retain state authority over education and denounce Obama’s coercion of states to adopt Common Core. Forty-two Republican representatives co-sponsored this resolution, including Louisiana’s John Fleming. There was also a similar Senate Resolution 345 drafted by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and co-sponsored by nine other Republicans.


The driving force behind creation of these resolutions is due to the amount of authority that these national standards and their associated assessments take from the local districts and states and gives to the federal government. This action is in violation of the United States Constitution which does not give a role to the federal government in dictating what is taught and how it is tested in our children’s classrooms. During a 2010 speech to UNESCO, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated,


“Traditionally, the federal government has had a limited role in education policy. The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more.”


It seems that Mr. Duncan forgot that it is the Constitution that has limited the role of the federal government in education, not tradition.


The federal government’s role in this initiative is undeniable. After the Bill Gates-funded standards were developed, the federal government worked hard to coerce the states to adopt them through the Race to the Top competitive grant, NCLB waivers, and Title I funds. In Obama’s Blueprint for Reform, it states:


“Beginning in 2015, formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states.”


This report failed to mention that college-ready is defined by Common Core standards creator Dr. Jason Zimba as meaning ready for a non-selective community college, not a four-year college.


The federal government is also exerting its control through its agreement with participating states in the testing consortia (PARCC and SBAC), which are funded exclusively by the federal government. The purpose of these groups is to create the Common Core-aligned assessment tests and provide individual student data to the US Dept. of Education – which can share it with whomever they choose due to recent changes to the FERPA law. They will also provide curriculum frameworks to assist teachers. This is in direct violation of the General Education Provisions Act. In the cooperative agreements between the US Dept. of Education and the member states, it mandates that these participating states report fully and often to the US Dept. of Education, produce:


“all student-level data in a manner consistent with an industry-recognized open-licensed interoperability standard” that is approved by the Department and must “working with the Department to develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies; subject to applicable privacy laws.”


It is obvious that the largest overreach of the federal government occurs within its role in SBAC and PARCC. Since high-stakes assessment tests ultimately result in teachers feeling pressured to “teach to the test,” the curriculum will inevitably be developed based upon these federally-funded tests. By default, the control of curriculum will not remain in the hands of our local school districts. It will be our federal government who is in charge of what and how our children learn.


Critics of the Common Core initiative, including myself, are not misinformed but rather quite educated on what is behind this particular attempt at education reform.


  • We reject what our state officials are trying to force on us.


  • We are aware that this is an attempt to improve our workforce, not an attempt to improve education.


Common Core is a political movement that is being driven by money and an agenda.


Now, we are just waiting to see the next step of our Republican legislators.


  • Will they give in to the big businesses who are promoting Common Core because of their potential future profits or their belief that these unproven, untested standards will provide them with a better workforce?


  • Will they continue to arrogantly assume they know what is best and blame the criticism on “hysteria”?


  • Will they act as elitists, or will they listen to their constituents who are loudly rejecting the initiative of Common Core?


Big businesses might be able to provide funds and support campaigns, but the common citizens are the ones who can provide votes. We are watching to see if our Republican legislators will remain true to the platform of their party and true to the beliefs of their constituents. We will remember what they decide when we next cast our votes.






Let me just start by saying I am not a Republican do it would probably be inappropriate for me to write this piece. I’m also not a Democrat, Tea party member, Greenie, Reform Party member, or Libertarian. I share some of the same beliefs and goals as each of these parties, but I am not beholden to any of them. Throughout my life I’ve thought I belonged to one or another of these groups, but over time I realized I didn’t want to belong to anyone but myself and my own ideals. That’s not to say any of these groups are inherently “bad” or wrong or that belonging to a political party is bad or wrong, just that doing so does not work for me personally. Every day I see more and more dysfunction in Washington and in our own Capital, and every day I feel a little better about my own personal decision. There are advantages to belonging to a party such as money, organization, and in some cases matching animal symbols. (If Democrats had cooler symbols than elephants and donkeys, like Griffin’s and Dragons I might change my mind, but I am in no hurry to commit myself to such an uncool symbols. . . and besides, doing so would clash with my whole Crawfish angle.)

Political Parties have platforms. These are the ideals ideas and stances that drive their agenda, or at least they are supposed to. Many people are drawn to these ideals and principles and commit themselves to upholding supporting them through a collective effort, through their party. What I have seen too often is parties that fail uphold their own ideals, or allow outside money and influence to dictate how actively they pursue their goals. In some cases I’ve seen parties take the exact opposite of their proclaimed stance. I would understand that approach if it was done openly, but all too often it is not. I sometimes switch my longer held beliefs when presented with new information, circumstances or realizations. For instance; when I was in my teens and twenties I prized personal freedom above safety, now that I have kids to protect I am much more appreciative of sobriety checkpoints, metal detectors, and ID checks at cash registers and movie theatres. I think that is a natural progression and I will be the first to admit it and I see nothing dishonest about that type of personal evolution. What I have a problem with is what one of my readers, Anna Arthurs, describes. When a group forsakes and abandons its own ideals and values it betrays all of the members who had committed to that group and those beliefs it loses all credibility in the eyes of its members.

Obama’s education policies that widen the divide between the haves and have nots and promote a corporate takeover of Curriculum and schools, for the purpose of raising campaign funds and enriching wealthy donors will drive a lot of folks from the Democrat party. I wonder if the Republican embracement of nearly identical policies will drive a similar flight from their party as well? I see that happening if they continue to lie to their constituents about promoting local control over Big Government, corporate rights to educate and control children over parent’s rights to determine what is right for their own children. Frankly, I don’t see that as a winning stance for any Party, but I have no doubt it could be a very profitable one as there will be plenty of money available to those willing to sell out their constituents. Which way will Republicans take on this issue? According to their “Platform” they took the right way, but according to their actions . . . ?


Senate Education Chairman Appel purchases Discovery stock week before company enters into state Techbook agreement

I’m not sure that Sissy West is the originator of this information, but I have seen this information floating around and have talked to a few of the folks who I think discovered it originally or perhaps additionally. Nevertheless, it does raise a few eyebrows and questions. While the amount may not seem like a lot, Martha Stewart went to jail over insider trading over a comparatively very small sum compared to her billions of net worth. And just because something may be “legal”, it does not make it ethical. The motivations of people that profit from their decisions in state matters will always be called into question, as well they should.

Louisiana Voice

On Dec. 7, 2010, Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, announced that Louisiana and Indiana had joined Oregon in adopting the Discovery Education Science Techbook as a digital core instructional resource for elementary and middle school science instruction.

Thanks to a sharp-eyed researcher, Sissy West, who writes a blog opposing the Common Core curriculum, we have learned that seven days before the deal between the state and Discovery Education was made public, on Nov. 30, State Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) purchased Discovery Communications stock, according to financial disclosure records filed with the State Ethics Board.

Appel is a major proponent of education reform in Louisiana, including the controversial Common Core curriculum.

He also is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and was in a unique position to know not only of the pending deal between Discovery Education and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) as well…

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What Common Core Looks Like In Desperation

Don’t stop at being grains of sand. Be the gum, pebbles and wrenches as well.


It seems that the protests of the American citizen against the so-called Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has become proverbial grains of sand in the works of the mammoth corporate reform machine.

Die-hard supporters of CCSS are becoming desperate, and such is showing in their words and actions.

Consider Jeb Bush’s declaration, “In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem….”

This hard-nosed attitude is supposed to appeal to the American public and advance CCSS?

Jeb is definitely pushing CCSS whether America likes it or not– but he is becoming sloppy in his rhetoric.

He is not alone in his desperate, Save CCSS efforts.

Founder and director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools Caroline Roemer-Shirley (sister to our state board of education president) wrote this op/ed for the Baton Rouge Advocate on March 24, 2014.

Not surprisingly, she is pro-CCSS.

Notice the authoritarian desperation in her…

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Louisiana’s Privacy Legislation and Testimony – Setting the Record Straight

On March 19th the Louisiana House and Senate Education Committee’s both heard testimony at the same time on the same types of legislation. This legislation was about student privacy. Holding meetings on the same subject at the same time required folks to split up their resources. Since most of us do not have ready doppelgangers, or clones, this meant parents went unrepresented on either the Senate side or the House side. This was pointed out as a little fishy by passionate privacy advocate, Sara Wood, in testimony delivered to the Senate during the hearing on Senator Conrad Appel’s “privacy” bill 449. She points that out as her first point in this YouTube video. Sara Wood’s testimony:

Prior to Sara Wood, I said my piece on SB 449. All of the points I covered, with the exception of the Amendments that were introduced that day, were included in my earlier analysis of the various privacy bills.

If you would like to get a look at my actual testimony you can see that here. My testimony: (I rock – although my “rocking” is certainly of a lower intensity variety than Sara’s.)

Meanwhile at virtually the same time Superintendent of Louisiana Schools, John White, was giving some of his own testimony at the House Education Committee. His testimony and the amendments he offered came after all the parents spoke, and I was told there would not be a chance for anyone else there to weigh in on what he was saying. Nevertheless, I feel it’s important that someone does. You see, when I gave my testimony I had to sign a card stating the testimony I was prepared to give would be accurate and truthful. I assume John White was required to make a similar statement when he gave his testimony. However upon reviewing the testimony he gave I have my doubts about the truthfulness of it. That’s probably putting it too tactfully. I think it would be more accurate to say he perjured himself on at least one point and omitted several details and context about numerous others. I won’t dissect every statement he said, but I’d like to pull out some relevant ones I feel are important. I’m guessing he made these statements to cover his . . . back. To protect himself from angry parents and lawsuits, but he boldly lied about these issues at least.

John White claimed the department only had Social Security numbers for State IDs and that the department had applied for a 700,000 grant to try and switch over to another system that did not rely on SSN’s. This is a lie many times over. I know this because I was in charge of the Student Information System for almost 9 years before leaving the department to tell folks about John White and his reformers. Our first ID was first used for the 1996 data collection, about 18 years ago. This ID was called the “Generated ID” and lasted until about 2008. This ID was used to calculate dropouts, and was generally held to be more accurate than SSN, although SSN was used to help define whether a new Generated ID needed to be created for a new student. John White also did not share that SSN’s are not required. Parents have the option to “opt out” of sharing their child’s SSN and asking their school district to create and report a Temporary ID. Both of my children have temporary IDs in the EBR parish school district. I switched them over after John White sent millions of children’s SSN’s (including my daughter’s) to an unregulated third party vendor, inBloom, despite my refusal to allow her information to be included or shared sent right to him and the head of his legal department. Obviously the Department feels FERPA does not apply to them, and the rights of parents and children are non-existent. (They are right which is why we need our own State privacy law.) That’s why I find John White’s statements that he is concerned about student privacy a lie. Had he been concerned he should and could have been concerned when letters, calls and e-mails form other parents flowed into the department once I published my letter. (I heard John White’s actual reaction was cursing me quite soundly as other letters rolled in. Interesting reaction for someone concerned with protecting the rights of parents and students, no?)

But I’ve digressed. As I reported, Generated ID was created 18 years ago, by the department, without a grant of any size. It lasted quite well. Louisiana then applied for a new grant from the IES (Institute of Education Sciences), a division of US ED. Louisiana received this 4 million dollar grant. The data system created was called LEDRS.


Project Start Date: 3/1/2009

Project End Date: 2/28/2012

Amount Awarded: $4,056,510

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) proposes to use the US Department of Education

longitudinal data systems grant to build the Louisiana Education Data Repository System (LEDRS). The

LEDRS will allow the LDOE to organize and link all of its data into a centralized repository. The LEDRS

project will consist of three main tasks:

The creation of a data repository that will centralize and link the data that currently reside in

isolated silos.

The creation of a data reporting system that will enable the LDOE to automate its EdFacts

reporting and provide tools for routine and rapid ad hoc reporting.


I was one of the key members of the LEDRS team. The objective of the LEDRS grant was to pool data strewn about the department, to eliminate redundant data collections, and to merge disparate data systems using a new Generated Universal ID. This ID was called a GUID. LDOE had a fully functional GUID when I left in February of 2012 and was using this GUID to fulfill the data request to CREDO, to the Governor’s office for the BP lawsuit, and to calculate dropouts and graduate cohort reports and rates. The department still uses the GUID to perform these functions. The objective of the LEDRS grant was to make us more internally self-sufficient, so we could save the State money by eliminate redundant data collections and numerous third part contractors that built and maintained those data collection systems. John White essentially fired or drove off all the full time state employees that ran the LEDRS system and turned it over to full time contractors being paid 2 to three times as much as state workers, that rotate out frequently, and owe no allegiance to Louisiana or our children or citizens, just to their out-of-state CEOs. This is the mockery of privacy and efficiency that John White has created with His department of education, and our children and their information.

So let me reiterate restate the lies given to the House Education Committee on April 19th, 2014, in case anyone would like to go review the tapes for themselves. (Just Sayin’)

  • John White stated SSN’s are required: This has never been true. It is illegal under federal law to require an SSN to enroll in a school. Louisiana allows “Temporary IDs” for this reason, as well as if a parent is uncomfortable providing an SSN because they believe the State Superintendent of Education is an incompetent buffoon and liar.
  • John White stated LDOE was applying for a 700,000 grant to create an ID that was not a SSN to address the concerns of parents over SSN’s: While the department may have applied for this grant, it was unnecessary. The Department has employed at least 3 IDs that are not SSN. Two of these IDs are currently in use, Temporary ID, and GUID. I’m not sure what this third ID would be, but it’s not necessary to protect students. John White is just using this as a dodge because he thinks the legislators are too lazy to verify his statements, or too stupid to understand that the Department already has these IDs. (Quite a ballsy approach actually. I’m curious to see if it pays off for him.) I will be happy to speak to any legislator that wishes to chat about this. My folks will be at the House hearing tomorrow – any of them know how to reach me one way or another.

Oh, one more thing. I wonder if John White knows that detailed data is not required to receive Federal funding, certainly not the vast sum he quoted of 900 million. I would like to see him break down that 900 million by the exact data the Feds required. I bet that would be pretty interesting (and likely inaccurate, sadly) Many states did not have student level systems just a few years ago, just aggregate systems. Before LDOE stopped sending me DOE’s national data conferences in DC, I went to a number of presentations from states that did not have a decent student level system at the state level. Alaska only had details on about a third of their children (American Eskimos and Indians do not have to submit data to get federal funding and often choose not too.) I recall California has had a very difficult time pulling in all their data from all their school districts although they are doing better now. However I think it’s worth mentioning that the data states (including Louisiana) report to the Federal government to the EdFacts or EDEN data collection system is aggregated data.

In the House hearing, John White claimed Louisiana had to collect student level data to report to the Federal government and satisfy existing legislated tasks. I’m not sure that’s entirely correct. For instance, just because the state requires LDOE to develop and implement a state accountability system, that doesn’t mean that student level data needs to be used to that end nor that LDOE needs to collect or possess it. After all, the data released is highly summarized and aggregated data. . .

John White also claimed LDOE had to collect student level data to perform audits, but that is also an overstatement. You see, I’ve taken a few auditing classes enroute to getting my Accounting degree from LSU. I’ve never heard of any big accounting firms collecting all data from their clients to perform an audit. Much of what the department uses the detailed info for is to determine which students to audit, by selecting a randomized sample, and then asking the school districts to provide detailed records in an electronic/scanned or hardcopy form; proving they have those students. You don’t need a lot of sate to do that. Do you think you need all of this?

SIS User Guide

I see no reason the state could not do something similar with school districts more directly. Most auditing is not done by collecting all the data from a client year after year. That’s a bit of overkill, actually. Moreover, current law actually requires school districts to have their own audits of just about everything already! Perhaps you’d like to ask your school district’s business office manager about those? Those audits include finances, student counts, classes enrolled, etc. I see no reason the state could not participate in those processes, or review those reports that are required annually already. So that reasoning holds as much water as a colander.

But hey, what do I know? I just collected this data for 9 years in the Finance Department, working closely with the auditors, and have a degree in accounting. I didn’t go to the Broad Superintendent Academy for a few weeks and TFA for a few more to get all my experience like our State Superintendent of Education, who ironically seems to have obtained very little of the necessary education to be holding his current post. I’ll give him this though. What John White lacks in knowledge, he more than makes up in telling convincing lies. If I didn’t know much, much better, why I might almost believe him myself. . .

Enjoy that House Hearing tomorrow, John. I’ll be thinking of you.

Colonizing the Black Natives: Reflections from a former NOLA Charter School Dean of Students

Colonizing the Black Natives: Reflections from a former NOLA Charter School Dean of Students

More insight and examples of the TFA and chart school mentality that will be coming to a public school near you, if we don’t put a stop to it.
Can you share which charter school(s) you worked for in NOLA?

Cloaking Inequity

Are some charters’ practices new forms of colonial hegemony? When examining current discipline policies and aligned behavioral norms within charter school spaces, postcolonial theory is useful because of the striking similarities between problematic socialization practices and the educational regimes of the uncivilized masses in colonized nations. A number of postcolonial theorists focus on multiple ways that oppressors dominate their subjects and maintain power over them. For example, while working as the Dean of Students for a charter school in New Orleans, it took me some time to realize that I had been enforcing rules and policies that stymied creativity, culture and student voice. Though some of my main duties involved ensuring the safety and security of all students and adults at the school, investigating student behavioral incidents and establishing a calm and positive school culture, I felt as if I was doing the opposite.

My daily routine consisted of running around chasing…

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Privacy Legislation: How to protect your children and negotiate from a position of strength (Data opt-out)

Privacy Legislation: How to protect your children and negotiate from a position of strength (Data opt-out)

Tomorrow the Louisiana House Education Committee is poised to hear testimony on several bills related to protecting the rights of parents and students in regards to privacy. (I plan to stop by around lunchtime to meet with folks and compare notes, msg me if you want to try to meet up. . .) From what I have been hearing there are forces and plans already set in motion to confound any attempts at producing meaningful legislation. I’ve learned that LDOE will be calling in supporters of Big Data to scare legislators with the implications of scaling back our data collections. This is strategy that has been working well in other States and of course this should be entirely expected.

The Louisiana Department of Education needs your children’s data to justify its existence.

They need your data to have something to sell to inBloom and Big Data aggregators and merchants like them.

They need your data to produce their SPS scores which enable them to take over your local schools and turn them into shadowy RSD and charter schools that operate beyond any meaningful oversight.

They need your detailed data to calculate their VAM scores to make a case for firing experienced teachers. LDOE needs your data to make it easy for Course Choice providers to peddle their pseudo-educational wares to our children and stick us tax-payers with the bill.

LDOE needs data to identify students that are eligible for their “voucher” program which they refuse to allow anyone to impartially examine (even the US Department of Justice in relation to numerous consent decrees across the state.)

LDOE needs your data to make a case that they are successful, needed and relevant. They need your data to ensure you are implementing the Federal Common Core Curriculum to their liking.

They need your data, but you don’t need them.

You don’t need to buy what they’re selling.

You don’t need what they’ve become.

The politicians and LDOE think they have you over a barrel here. They plan to let you have your day at the Capital, to have your grievances heard. They plan to pretend to listen patiently, and then many of them will pat you on the head and send you home believing you accomplished something. But the fix is already in. Your bills will either get tied up to where nothing emerges, or killed in the Education Committee, or the Senate will tie it up, kill it, or refuse to bring it to the floor. If all else fails Jindal will veto it and like every other veto Jindal has issued, the legislature won’t get called back into session and the veto will stand. The worst case scenario I see happening is something labeled a “privacy” bill will get passed, perhaps Senator Appel’s, but it will do exactly the opposite. Just as was done with our ethics laws, which have turned our state into a laughingstock, we might become the fodder for late night television with our newfangled “privacy”.

Yo Eve, do you think we need more leaves or a belt or something?  I’m thinking snakeskin.

Now of course I could be wrong and everything will work out hunky dory. That would be awesome! I hope I’m wrong, because if I am, then I won, but let’s assume for the moment I am correct in my analysis and what I have foretold comes to pass. That does not mean they have won, merely that our victory will need to take another shape, will take a little longer, and perhaps take a little more work.

Now to go ultra-tangential on you: As the recent Russian invasion of the Crimean Peninsula by Putin shows, it’s a lot easier to negotiate from a position of strength. While of course I don’t endorse his aggression , his move does illustrate a crucial strategic and philosophic point – ownership is nine/tenths the law or something like that. We own our children’s data, and it does not get to schools or the state without our permission or release of it. I will get back to this in a bit.

Now that the Ukraine bases in Crimea are surrounded by Russian forces, the harbor has been blockaded with sunken ships so their fleet can’t sail out, and the Crimean’s have voted for Independence, the Ukrainians have few attractive options left. The Russians have systematically applied pressure and used their superior numbers and position to win a conflict without ever firing a shot. I think Sun Tzu, a military philosopher who posited one should never wage a war that they had not already won, would be impressed.

If we hope to achieve victory here, we can’t rely on the good graces of our opponents. To gratuitously use even more cliché’s than I have already, we can’t put all our eggs in one basket on this one. We need to apply pressure to this situation to ensure we achieve the outcome we want, and we need the opponents of privacy and parents to see our moves and know we mean business.

We will need to make it clear to the opponents of privacy and public education that we are watching them, and we will exact a political price on them at the polls. The NRA posts a list of friendly legislators (snd not so friendly) to their causes, as do many other liberal and conservative groups for various causes. We will need to start making a list, and posting it, of friends and enemies of students and parents and public education. This will become another pressure point.

For another we need to offer a credible (non-violent) threat of civil disobedience. I have watched many groups create Common Core pull-out days, and test opt-out movements, but has anyone considered a data opt-out or data corruption movement?

How would one do this might you ask?

For starters SSN’s are not required in Louisiana for enrollment. According to federal law they cannot be required. LDOE knows this, but likes to keep this information secret and hidden. I have already asked my district to replace my children’s SSN’s with State Temporary IDs. For those of you not wishing for the state to have your child’s SSN you can contact your school or SIS coordinator in your school district and ask that they replace your SSN’s with temp IDs. I’ve covered this detail a number of times in a number of posts. . .

. . .but I still think a lot of people are skeptical or haven’t seen that advice. Feel free to contact LDOE and ask them if you don’t believe me.

Contact Us

Email Us: Ask LDOE

Call Us: 877-453-2721 (toll-free)

Another fun thing to do will be to update your records with your “correct” information. A lot of reports and stats are broken down by race/ethnicity. For some reason LDOE thinks most citizens of Louisiana are either Black or White. Numerous state and federal reports based on “subgroups” are dependent upon that information being correct. Whatever a parent puts down for Race and or Ethnicity cannot be questioned by school or district staff. If, as a result of some recent genealogy research you may or may not have done, you tracked one of each ethnicity in your background, you can report belonging to every ethnicity. You might suddenly realize, perhaps from a peyote fueled vision, that your roots are all of one of the least reported groups like American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander or Eskimo. Maybe you registered your child with the wrong info initially? It happens.

Except for enrollment in pre-k or Kindergarten, does date of birth have to be all that accurate or consistent from year to year? That’s an important piece of info for an identity thief. . . Should we really be trusting an accurate DOB with folks who have such little regard for our children’s credit ratings and futures that they would choose to share SSN’s for millions of Louisiana citizens when an alternative ID was already available and was created for the express purpose of never sharing SSNs?

We used to have Esperanto, Volapuk and a number of other made up or university created languages as a possible Language codes that could be selected for a student’s primary language. I had our school districts do a clean-up on those codes a while back. A number of kids/parents picked those languages, perhaps just for kicks. There are still quite a number of very interesting a rare languages available to choose from. . .

Some of you may remember when the musician, Prince, had his name legally changed to:

I once had a student/parent submit their name as the letter X.

How much fun could we have with this?

I think I found new names for my children.

What these folks who have been so brazenly careless about sharing our data need to understand is, besides the fact that they work for us, is that we control some of the most important pieces of data. If our legislators, LDOE and governor are not willing to protect our data better than they have been. . . well we can easily take matters into our own hands (or claws.)

If you guys think I’m bluffing, just try me. I put that “crazy” in my name for a reason.

I kinda hope the legislature does the wrong thing just so I can see how far we can take this. . .

And that, my friends, is how you pull a Putin.