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.

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

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.

My Review of Proposed Privacy Legislation for Louisiana

My apologies for not getting to this topic (and many others I’ve neglected) sooner. I may have finally bitten off more than I can effectively chew in things I’ve agreed to do. I have the best of intentions, I promise you, but sometimes my eagerness to help everyone runs smack into the limiting reality of my available free time.

While I haven’t been writing as much I have been working with different groups and gathering their input, and researching various stories, laws, and debunking other’s false research and statements. Consider that statement the segue into today’s post.

The Louisiana House Education Committee will be hearing statements and reviewing bills on student privacy, Wednesday March 19th starting at 9am. From what I’ve been hearing this should be a packed house in House, with many parents and parent’s groups eager to attend and be heard.

My good friend and fellow education blogger, Michael Deshotels, has been keeping track of the various education bills and posting them to his website. His last update was on March 10th. A link to that posting follows:

A number of parent’s groups and bloggers I work with have been very supportive of Schroeder’s privacy bill, HB 946. To my eye the first 5 bills Mike lists are very similar in intent and some of the verbiage. . .

HB 555 by Henry, HB 560 by Ivey, HB 946 by Schroeder, HB 384 by Cromer, and SB 455 by G. Smith prohibits certain student data collection and sharing

. . . with a few caveats. The bill proposed by Representative Schroeder defines penalties for violating the statute and is more emphatic about not collecting, storing, or using Social Security Numbers and prohibits anyone but local school districts from possessing student level data. Schroeder’s bill also more clearly defines what should not be collected. Some or all of the other bills lack these details.

HB 946 is appealing for its relative simplicity and clarity. However there are definitely some tweaks that I would make that I think most privacy advocates would endorse:

  • I did not see an exception for certain groups that may require data that will benefit children and parents (i.e. sports/athletic organizations that may require grades, enrollment, grade level and so forth for participation in football or other competitive sports or sharing of data with local medical institutions for care of the student.)
  • Many parents transfer to non-public schools and out of state, so public schools will need to have the defined ability to transfer records on those instances.
  • I did not see a provision for retention or destruction of certain types of records. (I.e. Grades and enrollment records should be maintained indefinitely. Discipline records are supposed to be destroyed according to current law but by virtue of being transmitted to the state they are permanent.)
  • I did not see a provision for students who have graduated being allowed to access or request their own records. I would think once children reach 18, graduate, or become emancipated they should have access to their own records.

I would recommend these legislators work with Representative Schroeder, although based on the strikingly similiar intro’s I suspect they are already.

I highly recommend that Senator Appel’s bill (SB 449 ) meet an untimely death as soon as possible (unless significant modifications are made.) It appears this bill borrows a lot from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill called the Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act and clearly has passages submitted by the Louisiana State Department of Education (such as the section related to calculating the 4 year cohort rate).

The ALEC bill does nothing to protect student privacy or parental rights. A more simple and accurate name for this bill would be the Student Data Accessibility to Corporations Act. That makes sense as ALEC’s clients are many of the corporations that want to have unfettered access to student information. Appel’s bill is actually even worse than the ALEC bill (to parents and students, not corporations) in many respects in that it enshrines all the data sharing adventures that LDOE, the Workforce Commission, inBloom and anyone else under the sun might want to embark upon.

The highlighted passages are the deal breakers in my opinion.

Proposed law requires BESE and the postsecondary management boards to develop, publish, and make publicly available policies and procedures to comply with the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and any other applicable state and federal laws and policies. Further provides that such policies provide as follows:

(1) Access to student and de-identified data in the student data system shall be restricted to: (a) authorized staff of the state board, the state department, a postsecondary management board, the governing authority of a public elementary and secondary school, or a public postsecondary educational institution, and third-party private contractors working on behalf of these entities who require such access to perform their assigned duties; (b) school administrators, teachers, and school personnel who require such access to perform their assigned duties; (c) students and their parents; and (d) authorized staff of other state agencies as required by law or defined by interagency data-sharing agreements or memorandums of understanding.

You will also note from the above passage that Appel legitimizes all the data collections, sharing and exploitation that LDOE has recently done that has upset so many people in the first place! I can’t see this law appeasing anyone (including yours truly) who was upset by those actions.

This proposed law expressly permits any educational institution to designate anyone they please to have access to student data. This law also allows any non-educational agency to have access to this data (like Workforce Commission) as long as they have an agreement to share this data. That was already the case. However this passage is much weaker than FERPA in that iIt allows for all sharing if a state law requires it, for any reason. SB 449 also allows agencies to access student level data if they simply agree to share the data, for any reason. FERPA at least alludes to the need for an educational purpose be involved. This law makes no such pretext necessary. The LDOE’s sharing of student data with the Workforce Commission, a project being managed by Governor Jindal’s mother, is very troubling to me. This project will potentially allow employers to discriminate on who they hire based on any number of factors unrelated to the acquisition of the necessary technical certifications or graduation requirement or endorsements.

I initially thought Appel’s law defers to FERPA (which was weakened through US ED policy reinterpretations to be nearly useless), throughout his law. However upon rereading I see where it includes FERPA, and does not defer to it as many other laws I’ve seen do. If this law simply refers to FERPA as an additional law to comply with, and not an exception to the law, then I do not see a problem with it. FERPA is currently written to expressly permit State’s to make stricter laws governing privacy. Any law proposed must not allow for an exception for FERPA or the entire bill could be rendered useless, so be on the watch for that wording change.

The proposed “Privacy Officers” are quite simply a waste of taxpayer money. These positions are designed to deflect criticism from BESE, John White and LDOE, and other educational agencies and they report directly to the heads of these agencies which to me is a direct conflict of interest. These positions need to be independently elected and need to report to an entity outside the offices they are charged with overseeing. If Privacy Officers were independently elected or appointed (but not appointed by the Governor) and all data sharing agreements had to flow through these entities to be considered legal, well that could be a whole different story. . .

H.(1) The state board and each postsecondary management board shall

14 designate a chief privacy officer who shall be responsible for ensuring that all

15 student data policies and procedures are followed and every precaution is taken

16 to ensure the privacy and protection of student data.

For those of us critical of LDOE and their often touted (though equally often disproved) successes, or those wishing to conduct research in general, this bill is designed to shield LDOE explicitly from ever providing data to independent researchers or auditors to verify their claims on voucher, charter schools, VAM, SPS scores, etc.

Only aggregate data shall be used in public reports or in response to record requests.

(3) Requires the state board and each postsecondary management board to develop

criteria for the approval of research and data requests from state and local agencies,

the legislature, researchers, and the public. Provides that unless otherwise approved

by the state board or appropriate postsecondary management board, student data

maintained by these boards and institutions under their supervision shall remain

confidential. Further provides that unless otherwise approved by the state board or

appropriate postsecondary management board, only aggregate data may be used in

the release of data in response to research and data requests.

In truth, the other proposed bills would eliminate data sharing as well, but this bill emphatically shields LDOE from ever providing data to anyone except those who will give them glowing reviews about their programs and policies.

This next passage is quite perplexing to me:

Provides that student data does not include, unless included in a

student’s educational record, juvenile delinquency records; criminal records; medical

and health records; student Social Security number; or student biometric information.

So . . . data is not student data . . . unless it is student data? Wow. This passage seems like it was thrown in there to make it seem like the bill addresses the retention and collection of criminal records, juvenile justice records, medical records, SSN’s and biometric data, when it does absolutely nothing about those issues.

Despite the name, Appel’s SB 449 is not a student data privacy bill, it’s whatever the opposite of that is; a student data sharing bill perhaps? SB 449 is a student data sharing bill with a few more rules for folks to jump through in exchange for more opportunities to share data. This bill is clearly designed to please corporations and corporate donors, to okay everything LDOE has done to date, and to facilitate the expansion of data sharing in our state under the guise of protecting the privacy and rights of children. Passage of this bill means inBloom, and anyone and everyone like them, can open up shop immediately and with the State’s blessing.

For those of you wishing to put a stop data sharing, SB 449 is not for you. With some tweaks that bill might be able to better define the conditions under which data sharing can take place, and how such sharing and data collections are conducted and documented in the future. However the clear intent of this law is to enable data sharing and facilitate data harvesting through a more methodical process. This bill does not have an enforcement mechanism, or penalties defined for violations and violators. I see nothing in this proposed law that will restrict the uses of student data or whom can have access to said data. If anything this law expands the possible list of data recipients and data uses beyond what FERPA allows. (Of course it would take years of court battles to resolve that difference and in the meantime the data would already have been released into the wild and essentially irrecoverable.)

I also see SB 449 as removing any feeble barricades that might remain to put the brakes on data sharing. In exchange what you might get out of it is more transparency as to where this data is going and what the initial uses are for this data. It will not prevent unlimited redisclosures of data by vendors and I see no enforcement mechanism to ensure agencies are documenting their disclosures in a timely and complete manner. I also see no mechanism by which parents can opt out of disclosures, and no mechanism by which parents can report possible violations of this law or seek redress, remediation or compensation. This law also does not address whether parents or students can access their data or correct data that is inaccurate. I see nothing about destruction of certain types of sensitive data after specific time (such as discipline or medical records).

I would rather nothing pass than Appel’s bill, SB 449, as written. This bill will quite likely make things worse for the children of Louisiana. If this law passes, or nothing passes, parents need to hold the legislators who stood in the way of protecting their children responsible.

East Baton Rouge Parish Teachers are under siege and need our help

East Baton Rouge Parish Teachers are under siege and need our help


For the past month I’ve been interviewing and receiving testimonials from East Baton Rouge Teachers in most of the area’s non-magnet high schools. This investigation started as a conversation with a teacher (who had recently become a follower.) This teacher explained no one speaks for them, no one sees their stories.  They relayed teachers in EBR are terrified to speak out about the travesties and indignities being heaped upon them in the name of “improving outcomes.” These outcomes are determined by some easily manipulated statistics that comprise School Performance (SPS) scores. I listened and I was honestly shocked and infuriated by what I heard.

Our teachers are under siege, from all quarters, and only a few on the breaking edge (and perhaps breaking point) are able to speak out – even anonymously.

As part of my investigation I spoke to and corresponded with numerous teachers from many different schools, teaching a wide variety of subjects. The teachers I spoke to have diverse experience levels , comprise both genders, and the stories all sound sadly similar. The basic story goes like this:

In the past few years EBR’s discipline policies and promotion policies have been weakened substantially. This is a result of  two absurd policies coming from Superintendent Bernard Taylor’s office.

I phoned the EBR central office to speak to someone in charge of discipline hearings for EBR. (Taylor has never returned any of my calls or e-mails to date (even on positive stories I’ve tried to pitch to him) so I didn’t bother with trying to get a response from him.) I introduced myself as a concerned parent and education blogger and I was assured the director over discipline hearings would be calling me back. That was 10 days ago, so I’m pretty sure I will be getting no call or explanation.

I also reached out and contacted the EBR school board to discuss this matter. I do not have any statements on record, but those I talked to seemed surprised and outraged by what I was describing in the school system. Let me just say, I was surprised by what was described to me as well, but not in a good way.

The first misguided policy in play seems to be one where only murderers, kids who bring explosives, discharge guns or bring illegal drugs to school can be expelled.  All other violations, even those that result in hospitalization of the victims, must be tolerated, and tolerated repeatedly.

The second destructive policy EBR has implemented is that children have no responsibility for making their grades or passing their classes. Teachers must do everything they can push, pull or drag kids to pass their classes. In practical terms this means tests are given over and over until a student “passes” and “extra credit” must be created and awarded to whatever extent is possible to ensure students pass their classes.

As a result of the first policy it appears violent thugs run many of our high schools, free to beat, steal, and threaten the lives of any who oppose them. Student’s that assault teachers multiple times do not get expelled, they get returned to the same teacher’s classrooms. Students who threaten to kill their teachers and classmates are sometimes just given a warning and sent right back to class.

Here are some recent stories that have appeared in our newspapers about our students and their assaults on each other of our teachers in the past month. This is by no means a complete list, just a representative one that I find disappointing no reporters in any of our local mainstream media are covering:

March 2

Police: Student said loaded pistol was for protection

Authorities with the multiagency School Drug Task Force on Friday arrested a ninth-grade McKinley High School
student accused of taking a loaded handgun to school.

February 25th

BATON ROUGE – Authorities arrested a 17-year-old Baton Rouge student after school officials said she repeatedly kicked a teacher who tried to break up a fight.

Deputies arrested Raven Davis after the fight at Tara High School
Tuesday and booked her into the parish jail on charges of battery and disturbing the peace.

February 22

  • Sisters accused of disrupting school

    • Two sisters were arrested Thursday afternoon on accusations they showed up to McKinley High School
      and tried to back up a younger sister allegedly involved in a fight earlier in the day.
    • The school was put on lockdown during the ordeal.
  • Teen shot in robbery Thursday in Gardere (outside of school)

    • A planned robbery disguised as a drug deal didn’t go as scheduled Thursday night in the Gardere area.
    • One of the teenagers involved in the planned robbery, a 14-year-old boy, was shot and seriously injured, while an 18-year-old was arrested on accusations he had the gun that another person used to shoot the boy, an affidavit of probable cause says.
  • Students accused of threatening educators

    • East Baton Rouge Parish school system employees contacted authorities in at least two cases this week in which students threatened educators, leading to the arrest of two 17-year-old students.
    • Dominic Demontay Powell, 17, 9870 Scotland Ave., was booked into Parish Prison on Friday accused of shoving a Scotlandville High School administrator while being questioned about suspected marijuana use, an affidavit of probable cause says.Inside the school official’s office at the high school, the administrator told Powell to empty his pockets. Powell took out a cigarette, a lighter and some money, the affidavit says. When the administrator moved to grab the money, Powell shoved him and said, “Don’t touch my money,” the affidavit says.
    • In a second incident on Friday, Demarcus Devonte Kimble, 17, 5656 Autumn Blossom Ave., is accused of walking into a teacher’s lounge at Belaire High School and cursing at a teacher, an affidavit of probable cause says. When told by the teacher to leave the room, Kimble is accused of threatening the teacher, saying he would get someone to come to school and hurt her, the affidavit says. Powell was booked into Parish Prison on a count of assault on a school teacher.

I have received numerous tips from sources about violence in schools that is not making its way into our local media at all:

February 22 (report from source)

“Good…by the way, three Brm [Broadmoor High school] students arrested and recommended for expulsion for bring BB guns to school this week. On-campus cop caught them. No news coverage. School system wants it BURIED”

February 19th (report from source)

. . .at Belaire HS
early this year a student was beating the shit out of a teacher while students watched, some cheered. A coach at nearby La Belaire Elementary happened to be on campus and saved the teacher…all reliable sources…Brdmr [Broadmoor High School] student caught with drugs and knife on bus today. We’ll see how school system reacts.

February 18th (report from source)

Big fight after Scotlandville [HS] basketball game last night at Brdmr. [Broadmoor HS] involving about one dozen boys, two expelled from earlier in the year…Someone was seriously injured. Investigation continues. Keep you posted.

I have received numerous e-mails, conducted interviews, received letters describing what teachers are seeing and feeling in our area schools.  Here are a few for you to review. (Note: Many more have come in since I originally published this story.)

February 7th

Letter from a teacher

One additional interesting note this week. One of our new, young teachers was shocked when a junior student refused to work and told her in front of the class she would not fail him no matter how low his grade was (36%). “You can’t fail me,” he assured her. “You’ll get in trouble. Not me. I’ll pass.” He then laughed at her. She assured him he would fail, but he refused to believe it. One hour later we were reminded in a meeting with our so-called instructional specialist (another non-teaching, out-of-state joke) that we needed to allow students to make up all work or retake tests regardless of any and all circumstances. Later in the same day, one of my sophomores asked me it were true teachers got into trouble if they had too many students with grades of D or F. I lied to cover my ass and sell the bluff, the only protection I have. Which is sad. It is becoming increasingly clear students are aware of how weak and vulnerable teachers really are. This is a really bad sign. Life before Bernard Taylor, Orlando Ramos [Associate Superintendent of EBR schools] and Michael Haggen [Deputy Superintendent of Innovation and Reform for EBR] would have NEVER allowed this to happen. It would not even be allowed to give birth! So many teachers are plotting their retirement/exit it is shocking.

February 6th

Letter from a teacher

Yesterday, a teacher tossed a student into the hallway because he was a constant disruption. This student regularly causes grief to all teachers and we cannot expel him. While in the hallway, he bangs on the wooden door with his fists and screams at her to let him back in class. She refuses as a male instructor walks up, as his next door class was being disturbed, and twice asks the student to calm down. He curses the teacher and tells him to mind his own business. The male prods him away from the door and the student lands a swinging elbow on the teacher’s chest. He was taken to the office, but the school system will not allow anything to be done. The student repeated the exact same behavior today, but the male teacher did not respond to calm the situation. Why get involved? …Prior to Christmas, three teachers in one day had their body, life or property threatened. One student threatened “to fucking kill” a teacher for making him leave a class. Another teacher broke up a fight in class and broke a finger doing it. Another teacher was told his parents and brothers were going to “find you, break the windows in your house and fuck you up!” In all three incidents, students were either recommended for suspension or expulsion. The school system returned them all to school. No communication with or apologies to teachers were offered. In one of those cases, a student taunted his teacher with, “told y’all you can’t do shit to us no more”….This week a teacher tried to discipline a student disturbing class, he refused to leave class when asked and then blurted out, “I’m gonna bring a gun to school and kill all you mutha fuckers”. He went to the office and dropped out before “discipline” (joke) could reach him…NOTE: DO NOT MENTION ME OR THE SCHOOL…I’LL KEEP INFO COMING. THESE INCIDENTS ARE A RESULT OF DR. MICHAEL HAGGEN’S [Deputy Superintendent of Innovation and Reform] EDICT THAT ALL STUDENTS SHOULD BE IN SCHOOL REGARDLESS.

An interview with another teacher:

I have been with EBR for 27 years and taught in [redacted] for 6.5 yrs before coming here because a spouse was moved here by [redacted]

I LOVE what I do and most days it is rewarding and fulfilling.  Lately, not so much.

I really do not know what to tell you.  Ask me some specific questions.

What grades and subjects do you teach
I am an elective teacher in the [redacted]

Are student discipline matters handled fairly in your opinion?

Most of the time they are handled at the school level.  It’s when serious matters go to the school board that there is some strange stuff happening.  We had a boy that was starting fires in the restroom at my school.  He was caught and expelled.  Until the school board hearing process happened and he was sent right back to us.

Do you feel more safe or less safe at school around students and what has changed, if anything?

I do not feel as safe as I used to.  A kid once made a fake bomb out of cell phone and warned all the kids that at a certain time it would go off and not to be near my desk.  This was handled and the kid was expelled.  he did try to get into prom and a seven foot police officer escorted him off the property.

Is Common Core an issue?

It is an issue in that the fun and creativity of planning lessons and activities has been sucked right out of teaching.  In my elective class I am required to teach reading and writing skills THEIR way.  I am not trained to do this.  Even the PE teachers MUST do it!

Do teachers bear more of the burden in ensuring kids make the grades and pass than students because of policies and counseling directed to ensure no students fail subjects or have you seen no difference lately in how your administrators monitor the grades you assign your students

KIDS MUST PASS!!!!!  Tons of paperwork goes with this and a core teacher could explain it better than me.

Have you been a victim of violence or verbal death threats from students that you feel were not addressed seriously enough or have you seen/witnessed other teachers suffer physical or psychological abuse from students and if so, is this a more recent escalation?

See above.  I do know of other teachers that had threats made to them and nothing was done to the student.  The offenders remained in the same class with the same teacher.

How is that for starters?  I have follow ups depending on your answers

I hope some of this helps.  I am NOT a writer.

Letter to me from a retired EBR teacher who retired early to escape the abuse, Taylor and the reformers

After 25 years of service I walked away from the public school system in Baton Rouge fed up with being treated like a second class citizen. I had no interest in writing this until I saw that WBRZ news clip about Taylor’s bullying and I figured I might as well do this. I am retired. They cannot hurt me now.

This once was a noble profession of motivated teachers. Now I see us (them)as down-trodden. Their morale destroyed by students who can seemingly do as they please with little to no consequence. Last year I was slapped by a female high schooler and called a “bitch” after I told her to leave my class because she was disrupting it. This girl had done this before to me and other teachers but nothing was ever done. This time was no different either. She returned to my class the next day with a warning and a smirk on her face. The school administration said the school system wanted to modify her behavior and give her more chances. I was livid. I wanted to walk out of the door and never return. That was the day I decided to consider retirement.

Teachers once could control what they taught, how they taught it and when. Our testing was good enough. Our decisions were valued. Since Taylor and his ilk have taken charge of the school system we teachers are mere robots. We have no control of our professional lives. I just could not take it anymore.

I am only in my mid-50s and planned to teach for 30 years, but I knew I would probably have a heart attack, get beaten up by a 16 year old trying to break up a fight, or have my self-esteem chewed up by a system of overpaid jackasses who clearly have no idea what the teaching climate is like in a public school system. Sometimes I miss teaching, but I also understand to go back means dealing with this “reform” and the corruption behind it.

Since leaving, my blood pressure has dropped and I sleep better.

Hope this helps

Letter to me from another EBR teacher

I was talking with a group of students in my class last year when suddenly one of the girls started crying and ran out of the room!! When I looked to see what happened a young man had gone behind my back while my back was turned and switched the video we were watching to a fight on YouTube. I realized the girl who ran out of the room was getting beat up on the screen. She was humiliated.

I ran to the door and yelled for the girl to come back. At the same time I told the young man (who was 16 years old and 6’2″ and about 175 lbs) to “get out of my room and go to the office.” He responded by telling me we would kill me. As he moved out in to the hall he started screaming at me, “I want to kill your fucking ass!”

Two other teachers heard the commotion and came into the hall. As one of them escorted the student to the office, he repeatedly turned back and screamed.,” I will hunt you down and kill you!”

This student was given a five day suspension and sent right back to our school. He has been in and out of jail on a least one occasion this school year, and gives me an evil look every time I see him on campus. He should have faced legal repercussions. Instead he was given a slap on the wrist and sent out to terrorize others.

East Baton Rouge Parish public school teachers are being bullied by students and the school system on a scale most people would only think occurred in far-fetched fictional films. I’ve spoken with many more teachers than the one’s directly quoted here. I heard stories of many teachers ending up in emergency rooms and hospitals with very severe injuries, and the students involved are not expelled, simply sent back to the same schools and classes. I’ve had these stories multiply corroborated. EBR teachers don’t know who to complain to, dislike their thankless jobs more each day, and many are looking for an exit from a school system that does not support them in these matters.

As you can see from some of the letters I’ve reproduced here teachers are fleeing the profession to escape the violence and absurdity of Common Core, the reform movement, the lack of support, and the dramatic shift of responsibility from students to teachers for completion of student work and graduation. This is what happens when non-educator statisticians and number crunchers get put in charge.  (Note: I used to be one working at LDOE.) They worry more about raw numbers like improving graduation rates that John White, the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education has incorporated into SPS scores. These scores determine which schools and school districts get taken over by the state. To improve these scores EBR has taken the absurd stance that students can only be expelled for guns and illegal drugs.

The terrorizing of teachers is gut-wrenching to hear, but even worse is the underlying terrorizing and bullying of our students. Students are being beaten outside of school, having these fights recorded, and then played back on school grounds. Students are killing each other over things that happen at basketball games. Students are setting fires in schools, creating bombs and threatening classmates, and setting up drug deals and robberies and then shooting each other outside of school.

On February 12th the head of APEL, Keith Courville was interviewed by Baton Rouge’s WBRZ-TV, where not one invited teacher met with him for an on-air interview to discuss their abuse by EBR public school superintendent Bernard Taylor. The teachers were upset enough to complain to APEL, but as one teacher told me, “not ready to commit career suicide over the matter.” The irony in that teacher’s remark was that Taylor was exposed by WBRZ phoning teachers and threatening their jobs if they did not keep quiet regarding his so-called reform tactics. However, that does not make teachers any safer from Taylor, his deputy superintendents, or the teenage students that  terrorize teachers daily and are rarely punished.

Teachers at six Baton Rouge public high schools (Broadmoor, Belaire, Scotlandville, Tara, McKinley and Woodlawn) have stories of abuse by students and the school system that are common and disturbing. just as was in the case of the WBRZ story, not one was willing to be quoted directly out of fear of Taylor. The abuses ranged from students stealing from them, slapping their faces, pushing them down, beating them unconscious, threatening to destroy their property, cursing them in their classrooms, and multiple cases of teachers being threatened with death. None of these cases resulted in expulsions or permanent removals from the schools or teachers classrooms.

Misguided school reform might have driven Superintendent Taylor to these dangerous and deluded policies, but we concerned citizens and parents must never allow our public schools to become worse than the charter schools, voucher schools, virtual schools and Recovery School District we are trying to fight back against or we have already lost.

When we allow our students to be tormented by hoodlums because we fear our system will be taken over by the state if we kick them out, we have already lost the fight.

When we allow our standards and education to be watered down so everyone can graduate without even trying, just to improve our graduation rate we are not doing our children any favors, we are ruining them for the rest of their lives and we are validating everything the reformers say about how inferior our public schools are.

When we allow our teachers to be beaten and abused, we are guaranteeing they will flee for their health and lives, faster than Common Core and wildly inaccurate teacher evaluations and VAM scores would have accomplished on their own.

When we allow students to threaten their teachers with death on a routine basis, and slap them across the face without facing any repercussions for their assaults we are abusing all our children as well as our teachers. We are teaching our kids that this behavior is ok, which is exactly the wrong lesson.

I am not a John White style reformer. I am a reformer of the reformers. I know not everything our kids learn in school is attributable to a test score and our kids will by no means be college, career, or life ready witnessing and conducting themselves as these teachers are reporting our school system is permitting and enabling.

An investigation needs to be launched over these ridiculous and harmful policies and changes need to be made. I believe Superintendent Taylor is directly responsible for these outrageous situations and policies. I gave Taylor’s cronies a chance to explain themselves and they declined. Now it’s time for us take back our school system from someone who is intent on destroying our schools, destroying our teachers and destroying our students.

Just as many teachers ended their letters to me with “I hope this helps.” I have the same wish. I don’t see anyone else speaking up for these teachers and our students, but I hope this helps.

(edited for grammar and typos on 3/13/14)

A Schneider Debriefing on Weingarten

Excellent analysis if the NPE CCSS forum and AFT president Randi Weingarten’s often perplexing supporting arguments for CCSS.

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

On Sunday, March 2, 2014, I participated in a much-publicized Common Core (CCSS) panel with four other individuals as part of the Network for Public Education (NPE) first annual conference in Austin, Texas. (A 40-minute video of the CCSS panel can be found here; a five-minute video excerpt of my seven-minute opener can be found here.)

One of the panel members was American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten was the only panel member in favor of CCSS. The rest of us, including moderator Anthony Cody, were against CCSS.

In this post, I would like to reflect upon my involvement on the CCSS panel, especially in connection with Weingarten. Much of what I have written is not available on video because the events and/or reflections occurred outside of the CCSS panel itself. Some of what I have written involves responding to Weingarten’s words here since there…

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