I was recently contacted to investigate some the selection process used by LDOE to select their textbook vendors for the upcoming school year. I was informed that LDOE had chosen only a single vendor for Tier 1 status for ELA and Math, and that districts were being told if they did not choose one of these two vendors they would face sanctions and punitive actions from the Department. The vendors selected were Eureka, for Math, and Core Knowledge for ELA (English Language Arts).

Eureka Math

Eureka is the bastard love child of Engage New York, (sometimes referred to as EnRage New York) and the Common Core creators themselves and sometimes referred to as merely an Engage NY that you pay for. Engage NY is a “free” Common Core aligned curriculum resource created with funding from a multi-million dollar grant (around 12 or 13 million if I recall) provided by the New York department of Education. (Theoretically LSU had a hand in the development of this curriculum as well. I met with Dr. James Madden from LSU about a few months ago and he confirmed he was personally involved.) Several districts in Louisiana, including EBR where my kids attend, had the misfortune of adopting Engage NY this past year. Engage NY was widely acknowledged in much of the media as confusing and plagued with errors on most of their instructional materials. I created a post this year on my first graders homework that went viral and still gets a lot of attention (including just yesterday when comic Louis C.K. went on a Twitter rant against his third grader’s Common Core homework and someone posted my article as an example of the absurdity of Common Core Math.) Despite numerous available products, Louisiana is the only state to define Eureka as their sole Math aligned provider solution.


Could this really be the only aligned product on the market, or is there more going on here?

Why is Louisiana the only State in the nation that figured this out?

Amazing.

Core Knowledge

Core Knowledge is “free” online curriculum provider.
The Core Knowledge Foundation was founded in 1986 by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. However recently the foundation sold the rights to reproduce and sell material to Amplify, a Rupert Murdoch NewsCorp company headed by Louisiana Superintendent of Education’s last bosses from New York, Joel Klein, and Kristen Kane. While marketed as “free” these products are unusable by most school districts in their “free” state, and the Amplify versions are far from free:

Amplify and Newscorp looks to make a killing here, on free material that they sell for anything but free. They are leveraging this into getting folks to buy expensive supplemental materials, or subscription services to digital tablets for 200 dollars year, before you even get any customized software!

Nice Score, Rupert and Joel. Louisiana looks to be taking Mississippi’s place as the poorest state in the Union after you are through with us.

 

So what else did I find?

I did not hear any specific reports from school districts that confirmed schools and districts would be penalized directly for choosing to go with another product. What I did see was a lot of overt pushing from the department to adopt these vendors and their materials. (If you have a story that confirms this allegation please send it to me at crazycrawfish@yahoo.com .) LDOE is only providing professional development and support to teachers of schools and districts that adopt one of these two products.

Both of these products have free online only versions of their material. However if your school district does not provide a laptop and internet connection to every single student in your district, this won’t help very much. School districts will have to spend a lot of time and resources printing out the materials of these vendors in districts that don’t provide tablets or laptops to every student. So either districts will have to spend hundreds of dollars per student to provide tablets and or more for laptops as well as the infrastructure to support such an investment (laptops don’t fix themselves and they break quite often in the hands of even well intentioned kids) or they will have to print out entire textbooks for each student every year. Those printed versions will have to be replaced every year since you can’t expect unbound copies of printout to me reusable. Printing out this material also negates any value of online interaction and will yield a substandard product devoid of color pictures (unless districts want to spend more annually on temporary printouts than they would on real textbooks once every 5 to 10 years or so.)

Here is one of the many messages that the Department has sent out pimping Eureka and Core Knowledge. John White states curriculum is a local choice, meanwhile he only provides one choice for school districts to choose from, and helpfully provides pricing information and offers to give support only to districts that select this one vendor.

February 11, 2014

Superintendent’s Message

Dear Colleagues:

 Thanks to District Planning Teams across the state, Louisiana’s plan for increased, intensive support of curriculum, assessment, and technology plans has launched successfully. Already, guided by the District Planning Guide, districts are reviewing their technology assessments and examining 2015 sample test questions. This week the Department will begin to share the results of its instructional review process, designed to provide districts information on curricula that are aligned to new academic expectations. In weeks to follow, the Department will produce curriculum guidebooks that help teachers to plan for the school year.

 It is important to note that curriculum will remain an issue for local schools and school systems to select and create. Curriculum is a local choice in Louisiana. [You may choose among any of the following one choices. Take your time. Oh, and here are some curriculum guidebooks the State has created for you to use as your local choice.]

In order to assist local schools and districts in making those choices, over the last four months the Department has solicited math textbooks from publishers for review to determine their level of alignment with the Common Core State Standards. Teachers and state staff together reviewed the submissions, carefully scrutinizing each for full alignment and the in-depth demonstration of skills expected of students on new assessments, and listing each with a “tier” representing its level of alignment. “Tier three” textbooks demonstrate minimal alignment; “tier two” textbooks demonstrate moderate alignment; “tier one” textbooks demonstrate full alignment. Schools and districts can then use this information as they see fit in planning for next year.

While the Department will continue to release textbook reviews over the coming weeks, in order to allow you and your teams access to early information, we are announcing that at this time Eureka Math was the lone submitted math curriculum demonstrating full alignment with the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. As a result, the Department will be launching a set of increased supports for those districts and schools choosing to adopt this curriculum, and your district will be able to get a head start on planning for next year: [Increased supports, means only supporting this choice. The State department of Education is only endorsing one vendor, and endorsing them hard up to advertising their products on their website and in e-mails to them. Does anyone know if that’s legal? Not that it matters, John White ignores the law with impunity, I was just wondering.]

 Access Eureka Math materials:

  • Eureka Math is currently and will remain free for download and district/school printing.
  • Eureka Math is now also available for purchase. Student workbooks and printed teacher editions are both available. 
  • The state is working to finalize a state-wide contract with locked in Louisiana prices for these printed materials and will be available March 1st.  
  • Eureka Math professional development: The Department will provide over 1,000 Eureka Math professional development seats beginning in June through the summer and fall.  In addition, the Department is securing lower purchase costs for Eureka PD. Click here to see an overview of the Eureka Math PD offerings available for purchase.  Lower prices along with a state contract and free training details will be available by March 1st. 
  • Additional math support:  In addition, the department will begin releasing math guidebooks on March 1st. These guide books will include rigorous instructional tasks, practice assessment items, and guidance on standard by standard remediation. The items included here are samples of the materials soon to be available in the math guidebooks.  

 We will share information regarding English language arts next week.

Our state’s choice [My choice, John White, and mine alone. Even the Governor is speaking out against it. The majority of the State is rejecting Common Core by about 70%. Those for it do not have children being subjected to it or are profiting from it as a general rule.] to adopt higher expectations for student work will pay great dividends for our state and its children. But our teachers must have the tools and training needed to make the shift. Provided tools, support, and time to learn the new expectations, they will thrive. As so will kids. [<==is this Common Core English? These are the folks evaluating out textbooks? Lord, help us all.]

 As always, thank you for all you do for our children,

 John  

 John White

Louisiana Department of Education

Sounds more like a sales pitch than a simple endorsement. All of the districts I spoke to had already selected vendors on their own. It makes sense though. If you are a district, why would you wait for a year after implementation to select a vendor? Only new districts should really be in this boat . . . like new charter schools or like RSD, which is state run. Could this be a creative way to support only charter schools, RSD and select allies with a heads up about these selections beforehand?

Apparently the review of materials was mostly cursory. Some might suggest LDOE already had the exact vendors it intended to go with in mind before the review even began. I received reports of vendors reported hearing back their materials were placed in a lower tier almost immediately. This did not stop LDOE from breaking with tradition and charging each vendor 500 dollars per textbook to review.

I wondered how they managed this feat so I looked at the actual reviews. Here is an example of one. If they answered a “No” to any of the first 4 “non-negotiable” questions, the reviewers skipped the rest of the review process. Sort of a like a get out of reviewing free card, but thanks for the 500 bucks.

 

As you will see from the link below. Only Core Knowledge and Eureka fit the approved profile. Interesting enough, we’re nearing the need of the school year and the beginning of the special professional development John White has advertised, and he still has no supported vendor for grades 4-12 for ELA. Wow. I wonder when districts will be notified which vendor they should be jump into purchasing in May to attend these workshops which I was told are starting in June before the School year starting in August?

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/academics/2013-2014-math-and-english-language-arts-instructional-materials-review/curricular-resources-annotated-reviews

 

So to recap:

  • John White has only selected a single vendor that is complaint with his rigorous standards. One is the patent holder of Common Core, which shares the patent with CCSSO, an organization John White and Holly Boffy work for when they are not being Superintendent and BESE members for Louisiana. The other is Core Knowledge which was bought by Rupert Murdoch and is run by two folks he used to work for in New York City.
  • John White has pimped these products on department letterhead and on the Department website, complete with links to these products.
  • John White has decided only districts that adopt these products will get oodles of professional support and development.
  • Most districts have already selected materials before his announcements.
  • Training on these products begins next month, and he has not defined all the products for all the grade levels in May.
  • Districts will not get textbooks if they use the free products, they will have to either print them out at a cost comparable to buying textbooks, but which are not reusable every year and of substandard quality, or districts will have to buy laptops and home internet connectivity for all students. (This will be a great deal only for virtual charter schools which already do this.)

Maybe students and teachers should simply employ John White’s trademark motto,” Louisiana Believes” can just “Believe”?

Maybe if they believe real hard they can imagine themselves up some textbooks for next year?

In the meantime, you better believe that John White will be making sure Rupert Murdoch and Common Core make a killing off of the only two vendors that are good enough for John White (and his future career opportunities.)

 

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24 thoughts on “Louisiana’s Texbook Selection Shenanigans

  1. Hi Crazy Crawfish,

    I think Common Core is the next act after no child left behind. It seems to me the goal of NCLB was to grade schools with the goal of offering an alternative to “failing schools.” The alternative being private schools or charter schools funded by public money.

    I looked over the Common Core and one can not complain about the standards it wants to adopt but the bottom line is these standards are nothing new. The standards are the ones currently being taught in every school across the country. My understanding is that each teacher was left to implement Common Core as they saw fit. Now I see that the real goal is to peddle supporting materials to the schools. I wonder if Neil Bush (of Silverado Fame) is lurking somewhere in the background. His mother bragged some years back that Neil was doing good works in educational software. I never understood Bill Gate’s role in this. I think his foundation minions have been sold a bill of goods. Maybe I don’t really understand Bill Gates intentions.

    The one standard that is poorly implemented in today’s schools is the one that teaches critical thinking. That is a dangerous one and I doubt the Tea Party even knows what critical thinking means and if they did they would oppose it — after all evolution and all would rear its ugly head. Also they might figure out quickly that our President was born in Hawaii.

    I looked over the homework math homework assignments you showed that you struggled with. You would have to see the whole course to know the full story but they look beside the point and not well designed. I have a bit of experience with mathematics and even I was a bit confused at first about what was being asked. When I saw the idea my reaction was “what’s the point.” The idea of doubles or doubles plus one doesn’t seem to have any point to it. But worse than that that the instructions are not clear. Also they use formal language that is confusing like “number sentence.” They should just say fill in the blank so the equation is true. That is what most ordinary folks would say, even mathematicians. I appreciate that they are trying to point out that an equation is a sentence but that is a stilted way to teach it to a youngster, not to mention that they don’t care at that point plus in the mathematics literature they might read at a later date they will never see a stupid phrase like “number sentence.” I am not sure which grade your child is in but appears to be one of the early elementary grades.

    For arithmetic for the younger grades there are great texts and materials published a hundred years ago that are far superior to the texts of today. Do a search in Google Books for them and you will see what I mean.

    The Common Core is nothing new and seems to be the Governor’s Conference vehicle to funnel money to their supporters. Still the one indicator that predicts how well a child will do in school and life in general is the income of the child’s father and to a lesser extent the family’s income. It would seem an anti-poverty program would be a better education reform than the Common Core.

    I could go on but you get the idea and I will stop here.

    George Butler Ruston

  2. Jason, I smell kickbacks. The question is, how do we prove it? There was a scheme just like this with voting machines several years ago in Louisiana and Elections Commissioner Jerry Fowler (his wife was Marianne Fowler who worked for DOE and who disappeared and was never found). He eventually went to prison for his kickbacks and his office was abolished by a woman (Suzanne Haik Terrell) who ran on the platform, “Elect me and I’ll abolish the office.” We did and she did.

    1. It doesn’t make any sense and shows a degree of incompetence as well. They can’t even scam well. I’m a bit offended by their lack of preparation to rip us off. It’s like they aren’t even trying anymore.

    2. At the very least quid pro quo’s. If LDOE disclosed who works for them and who left we could track where they go a little easier and connect the dots. They still have an employee listing from 2 years ago that doesn’t even correctly idetify roles ir numbers of existing employees, let alone these shadow ones

  3. Yes-everything about education in Louisiana is becoming about money. Like the last sentence says the kickbacks are mainly in future job opportunities. Just like the TFA gig-just put in a little time and when you finish a corporatized school district or state education department or charter group will let you go right into a top position. They certainly don’t go in intending to remain teachers.

    There are quite a few at the LDOE now with salaries that while high are suspiciously low. One of the deputy chiefs of staff (yes there are more than 1) has a Harvard law degree but makes only about $100000. Harvard, Gates, Broad Foundation are some of the big money groups whose names keep popping up. Hard to know if there are kickbacks going on now or to come later after the stuff has hit the fan and this bunch has flown the coop to work for these corporations especially since all are out of state.

    1. They are putting in their time and routing cobtracts to vendors they will hop over to and rake in the dough. That’s what you should expect by out-of-state recruits with no ties to the state or community.

  4. The LDOE is offering tons of professional development this summer!! Or maybe it would be more accurate to say the LDOE has gotten numerous vendors to provide professional development. Now what sorts of materials do you think the vendors will use?

  5. Kinder kiddos just took AIMSWEB for math today (counting to 100 in less than a minute, quantity discrimination, missing #, more/less).

    Did EnRageLA prepare them for it?

    NADA: THIS TEACHER DID.

    Seriously, EngageNY is heavy-iconic, uses too small of text and answer spaces for kinder-fingers, and is WAY TOO WORDY!!!

    Math/Numeracy is taught in a sequence of methods: 1) Enactive (hands-on), 2) Iconic (pictures), then 3) Symbolic (numerals or what we commonly call “numbers”). Sequence of lessons should be intro of concept 1st day, formatively assess, then DI for 2-3 days (providing for high, ave, low learners for concept), then reassess. This COULD be done with CCSS iff there were “1/2 steps” if you will incorporated into model. BUT, thanks to copywrite law, that’s a no-go. Also, teachers in subsequent grades are counting on students having mastered all the standards the previous year.

    Thanks, CrawDaddy, for the informative piece… Perhaps we can have a bonfire???

    1. A virtual bonfire perhaps? These books don’t exist in the physical world. 🙂 I have someone for you to explain this too. Check your email when you get to your coffee shop. 🙂

  6. Good work here. I’m a high school English teacher and mild CC supporter. One BIG problem with the State of Louisiana’s rubric for assessing K-5 ELA textbooks: textbooks had to have 50% non-fiction/informational texts, “and instructional time is divided evenly between literary and informational text.” This is a gross but (unfortunately) widespread misunderstanding of the CCSS. The 50/50 split for K-5 refers to the entire grade, not to the ELA classroom. The standards make this clear: “Because the ELA classroom must focus on literature (stories, drama, and poetry) as well as literary nonfiction, a great deal of informational reading in grades 6-12 must take place in other classes if the NAEP assessment framework is to be matched instructionally.” It breaks my heart to see Louisiana perpetuate this misunderstanding. It is contrary to the standards, it reduces the role of imaginative literature, and it plays into the hands of CC opponents.

    1. So even our evaluators got it wrong? One of the problems with implementing this so fast has been misunderstandings that have led to very harmful practices. In the rush to implement, if mistakes are made in implementation that result in the exact problems people are claiming, does it really matter what the standards say?

      1. You are absolutely right. If the evaluators don’t understand the standards, then it doesn’t really matter what standards we use. This topic was much written about last year. Even Diane Ravitch had a blog posting about this called “Yes, It is OK to Teach Literature in English Class!” [punctuation hers] I can only hope that folks at the district and school level will ignore this uninformed directive to divide ELA instructional time. Sandra Stotsky has been called out on this often, but she’s developed her own story about CC and the Death of Literature, and that resonates much better with folks who don’t take the time to read the standards. Even state bureaucrats appear to believe it.

        1. I read them but the PARCC exam and textbook publishers and state and local education authorities are deciding what they mean. In practice they suck more often than not. They could be improved but copyright prohibits. This is one of the reason folks object to them. They are not uninformed in many cases, they are objecting to what they and their children experience. This is the fault of the agency that approves them and rushes to implement them without proper foundations and without understanding them, themselves.

          1. I agree with you on where fault lies. I’m confident that standards will be revised, though the English standards are fine with me. I’m also fine with copyright. States can revise, but if they change more than 15%, they can’t call them “Common Core” any more, because they won’t be shared standards. I’m also fine with states developing their own college and career ready standards, as Virginia has done. But as we agree, it don’t make a bit of difference what standards you have if the people in the middle screw it up. I don’t use textbooks, so not an issue to me, but still. Yes, especially in math, parents encounter something very different than what they were taught, probably with teachers who aren’t versed in the standards. Glad I’m an English teacher! Nice chatting. . .

    2. Steve – This was all designed to play into the hands of CC opponents but try to convince your school board members and legislators that this CC initiative is SIMPLY a hoax. It is all so ludicrous as to be believable. LDE told the legislature in 2010 that their “plan” to improve education was to “hold the threat of the RSD over districts’ heads.” In other words fear and intimidation. And it works. Age-old strategy. I try til blue in the face to convince people CC stds are mostly the same as La. Stds just thrown up in the air and placed on paper where they fell and that the crazy math and ELA texts were dangled out there to capitalize on the fear of PARCC. The standards do NOT support the crazy curriculums being marketed by White et al but the fear of not complying has made teachers and admins abdicate responsibility in hopes that failing grades cannot be attributed to them. It is truly sad that many of those educating our children appear to be brain dead or paralyzed with fear.

    3. John White intended it to be misunderstood and the evaluators are hand selected Louisiana “teachers” who were paid to use his rubric provided by Amplify. White creates confusion then points the finger.

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