Recently I was interviewed by WAFB about the latest developments in Louisiana’s Common Core lawsuit saga and the recent court loss. You can see the full story here: http://www.wafb.com/story/26328975/common-core-debate-continues

On a personal note, I was amused that this was a story I’d watched earlier in the day while working out, but without sound. I remember wondering what the folks were saying, but figured it was just a bunch of face saving and sparring . . . and that I’d probably never know. I wasn’t far off of my analysis, but I was wrong about not seeing it again. A few hours later I was weighing in on the situation myself and ended up appended to the same video. Lol. That’s a strange feeling to be sure. Earlier in the week I was contacted by Motoko Rich at the New York Times to provide some background and commentary. I actually didn’t know I would end up being quoted, I’ve been contacted by reporters at various times and outlets to provide background info from a local perspective and I usually try to point reporters to other folks if I can. Tonight I was contacted by a producer from Al Jazeera, America to explain some of the complex issues and nuances in our Common Core battle. I’ve gotten some feedback that this contact makes people a little uneasy, but I try to keep an open mind. Maybe that’s my strength (or my Achilles Heel)? I prefer to think of it as the former.

Ultimately I can’t control what any of these folks do with the info I provide them, but I feel it is important to provide a counterpoint to the corporately funded Reform line on so many issues important to our community. Mainstream coverage is important and my blogging helps me break into that market. For instance, without mainstream media coverage by folks like Stephanie Simon at Reuters, I have little doubt that inBloom would still be in business selling out children’s data to not just the highest bidder, but any bidder.

Once this information gets out there, it’s going to be abused. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Jason France, a father of two in Louisiana.

In case you were wondering, I think the above linked article by Stephanie Simon was perhaps the most important story in terms of raising national awareness of this issue as an issue that we should all be concerned about. We can’t know who our next Stephanie Simon will be ahead of time though.

I’ve provided info and interviews to folks at the Advocate, Reuters, LPB, Monroe News star, NPR, Louisiana Anthology, WBOK, Al Jazeera, Channel 2, Channel 9, and various New York Times folks on numerous occasions, researchers, documentary makers and many, many blogs. Sometimes it’s been flattering coverage, sometimes not so much. (You’d think I’d be better at it by now too, but hey, we can’t all be reality stars.) I’m still (not so secretly) hoping I get a call from the Daily Show or Colbert Report to do a segment or to even just be an audience member. (They had Michele Rhee on, and she’s a fraud who recently resigned her position at Student’s First in disgrace, so why not me, right?)

But wow, that was a digression, wasn’t it?

Let me bring this back in.

What I can control is the content of my blog.

Let me state up front: I did not initially flag Common Core as a problem. I was concerned with charters, virtual schools, data, VAM, privacy, RSD, school based corporal punishment, accountability, dropout rates, shadow schools, massive layoffs, excessive discipline rates, data quality, TFA taking over LDOE, vouchers, MFP funding, Special Education and 504 issues, poor teacher evaluation systems, and so forth. You’d think that would be enough! J

It took some researching, numerous discussions and investigations and real world experiences for me to see the harm it posed and the great corporate specter behind its creation and implementation. When I looked at my daughter’s homework assignments, Math especially, I became very alarmed and disturbed and wrote about my experiences. A lot of people identified with my raw post, which also contained details about how Common Core was secretly (basically since no one really knew what they heck it was) adopted in Louisiana before the Standards were even published or finalized. But the story didn’t end there.

A lot of parents had problems across the spectrum of Common Core assignments and curriculum. Some parents in some settings had minimal issues, or didn’t care. Organizations like LaBAEO and Louisiana Stand For Children came out strongly in support of Common Core. Most folks didn’t realize these organizations are headed by former senior staffers from the Louisiana Department of Education, Kenneth Campbell and Rayne Martin. I’m not sure of Kenneth’s situation, but I know Rayne is not an educator nor a parent. She is highly compensated by out of state funders and supporters of Common Core. She is a “reformer” that was living in Chicago until former RSD superintendent, the nomadic and politically connected Paul Vallas (former Illinois Governor candidate currently running for Illinois Lieutenant Governor after being chased out of his Connecticut superintendent position he was determined by their court system to be illegally placed in) brought Rayne here a half dozen years ago, and now she runs an organization called Louisiana Stand for Children (of which she has none.)

I showed up to BESE meetings where cadres of redshirted Exxon “Common Core cheerleaders” showed up for a few minutes and testified en masse about how awesome high standards were for STEM careers (ahead of all the parents who had been waiting all day to speak) and then filed out immediately after – after cheering each other on.

I attended meetings and heard stories from parents who had tried to meet with officials from the Louisiana Department of Ed, their BESE members, or in some cases their local school boards, where instead of listening to their concerns, they were lectured. . . for hours, and commanded to sit passively and just listen. At the end these folks giving presentations, like BESE members James Garvey, Holly Boffy and regional leaders like Gayle Sloan could not answer questions and did not register, acknowledge or report parents’ concerns, after wasting so much of parents’ time and patience.

This went on for more than a year into the implementation, and goes on today. The implementation of Common Core in Louisiana was also likely sabotaged by John White on purpose, with dueling implementation dates, conflicting messages, and what looked like (to me) as intentionally mixed signals. It is not even a widely disputed fact that the Louisiana implementation and rollout was terrible, uneven and completely bungled in many cases. Rather than acknowledge the failings, address parents’ concerns, and address or acknowledge widely agreed upon shortcomings in the initial rollout and gaps in the standards, LDOE and so many groups inside and outside the state closed ranks and closed their eyes to the chaos swirling around them; that they created. Rather than address the deficiencies head-on and honestly they chose to ignore them, to point to deficiencies in the old curriculum (in a never ending circular he-said/she-said finger pointing contest), or point to their lofty goals which for which they had no evidence their Common Core standards and curriculum could achieve – even if the goal was something everyone wanted to achieve.

Look! It’s magic, and 100% evidence and fact free!

Parents had and have real problems and questions with Common Core, and all they get are fluff PR pieces like this willfully ignorant infographic. Many of those opposed to Common Core are professionals, Engineers, Programmers, Writers, Doctors, Lawyers, PHd’s, Teachers, University Professors, Scientists. We understand what the STEM careers demand, because we work in them, and we are not buying what the Common Core folks are selling.

I understand this was a very ambitious project. I understand the goals on Common Core (I just happen to not agree with them.) I don’t think the sole purpose of public education is preparing students for community colleges and introductory careers they are never able to grow out of. There may be a place for those, but our current education system allows (or allowed) students to acquire educations in a broad range of subjects, to become informed and responsible citizens and to hopefully learn to enjoy learning for its own sake, and not just for test score or accolade. The US has never been leader in test scores that the Reform movement implies we were; or should aspire to be. We got where we are in the world based on our freedom of thought and creativity, neither of which are quantifiable or test well. Some of our greatest minds were not that scholastically adept or persistent. Bill Gates, who is pushing the college and career ready curriculum dropped out of college to found one of the most important tech companies of the last century (Microsoft) and became the wealthiest person on the planet in doing so.

Add to that list these innovative college dropout billionaires:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_college_dropout_billionaires

Many of who are pushing the Reform agenda and urgent need for increasing test scores. I have to wonder if we’d even have computers (at least to the extent we have today) now if these guys:

  • Michael Del (Dell)
  • Steve Jobs (Apple)
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)
  • Larry Ellison (Oracle)
  • Bill Gates (Microsoft)

had been subjected to Common Core instead of being able to experiment in their electronics garage hobbies and electives and exercise their imaginations.

I’m not suggesting college is unimportant or that everyone should dropout and try their hand at creating a tech startup. I am explaining why it is hypocritical for folks like Bill Gates to demand this as the only path for everyone and I am suggesting if we forsake education for the sake of test scores we are doing ourselves a vast disservice. This is the ultimate tail wagging the dog situation. Tests were meant to give us a baseline to judge student performance. Tests were never meant to be the end all be all for education. That move is beyond just foolish, it is destructive and ridiculous. But to understand why these successful and smart folks think they know more than you do, in fields they’ve never experienced success but which their vast fortunes allows them access to alter the landscape in fundamental ways. You must understand these folks think in data points. If something is not measurable it is not valued. Many things in life are important but not measurable. Faith. Love. Spirit. Freedom. Imagination. Creativity. Education is one of those immeasurable things too. We can roughly measure how many words you know, or math problems you can solve, but we can’t measure everything you know or might think. Education is not just about numbers and words, not just about what we know, but what we can create with our minds and what we can learn in the future. Once we leave schools, we no longer take tests, but we must always learn to live, to grow in our relationships with each other, to take care of our children, neighbors, family and country, and to master the skills of the various jobs we will hold throughout our lifetime. After formal schooling I’ve learned numerous computer languages, software applications, reporting tools and even picked up an avocation or two that required a great deal of self-study, motivation and very little in the way of formalized recognition and rewards. The latter is learning and education for its own sake. What I have described will be the majority of life for everyone but eternal academics. Preparing students for endless Common Core testing (so we adults can feel better about providing measurably identical “educations”) is not preparing students for life – quite the opposite.

So when Bobby Jindal seemed to come to our rescue in the anti-Common Core camp, I admit I was overly trusting. I had been assured this move was coming for months ahead of time. Bobby Jindal seemed to speak passionately and say the right things (for the most part.) I tried to explain away the warnings I received from numerous sources claiming this was a carefully orchestrated ruse. I really didn’t give him enough credit to pull that kind of ruse off, but I had been told this was a ploy to take the heat off Jindal from the conservative groups, Tea Party groups, and to give Jindal a stance and platform to differentiate himself from other potential Republican presidential candidates. Victories have been few and far between but I liked to think that wasn’t influencing my hopeful thoughts. . . but the pieces weren’t adding up. Jindal donated and channeled massive amounts of funding to candidates that put John White in place. Surely that would give him some pull with some of those folks? But every one of those folks he helped elect not only refused to consider his demand to end Common Core, they voted to sue him. . . personally. . . claiming he was violating the state’s constitution. Not a light matter. But that wasn’t all. Jindal appoints three members to BESE’s 11 member Board. He recently appointed Jane Smith, knowing she was opposed to Common Core, which seemed like a positive move. But she only had two allies on BESE to give them a 3 to 8 voting bloc. Jane has been a valiant fighter, but she’s not enough to alter the basic power equation. Jindal’s other two appointees also ignored their boss who appointed them and also voted (or allowed the others to vote at times) to sue the Governor who has appointed them as his representative voice. I can understand having minor disagreements, but this is a major, big time, enormous departure! Jindal has never been shy about seeking revenge on those who cross him, including a previous BESE member named Tammie McDaniel who Jindal demanded resign after she voted a way he didn’t like on a single issue. Tammie was replaced by Connie Bradford, who remains untouched for her seeming brazen defiance. That was a head scratcher. For a list of some of the other folks Jindal has sacked for even minor offenses look here. So that doesn’t add up one bit. If they were really defying the governor they could be “Tegued” as the term Tom Aswell from Louisiana Voice has coined to describe the consistent (until now) phenomenon of how Jindal handles anyone who disagrees with him to even the slightest degree in public.

But the final and ridiculous last straw is how Jimmy Faircloth, Jindal’s “defense” attorney chose not to defend Jindal’s executive orders to prevent LDOE from purchasing PARCC tests in a partial ploy to exert pressure on John White and LDOE to reconsider remaining in PARCC and Common Core. For the ruling refer to this and pay attention to page 4. I’ve copied the relevant section below, but here’s the gist. Jindal’s team did not present any witnesses, like Kristy Nichols, to explain how the contract procedures are supposed to work. Kristy was available for media statements afterwards and did testify at BESE, just not under oath. Jindal’s team did not explain or refute the claim that the damage irreparable. It was illusory, certainly not irreparable, and any “perceived” damage could be easily remedied numerous ways. Jindal’s team did not even make the correct argument to judge Hernandez, the one that they explained outside of court. Jindal’s team threw this fight. Their argument and approach wasn’t the strongest to begin with, but this loss is not just inexcusable, it’s ridiculous and intentional. I would much rather have an enemy I know, than an enemy masquerading as a friend, that betrays you at the last minute after you had placed your hopes with them. The chaos we are experiencing was intentionally fomented by John White, Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal to distract people and wear them out. This betrayal was planned.

Sadly, this is just another ruse perpetrated by those in power to avoid listening to parents’ real problems, and another reason parents are right to fear and fight Common Core. I expect this distraction to last until Jindal leaves office. John White and Chas Roemer were correct when they stated Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was politically motivated. The irony is that they were quite likely complicit in the deception from the get-go; to increase all of their profiles. That ploy has worked. Now we get to decide if their profiles are ultimately positively or negatively impacted by this fiasco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Common Core Chaos, Loss and Betrayal

  1. Jason I thought your interview with Chanel 9 was excellent. Maybe we are making some progress. Keep it up!

    1. Thanks Mike! My point wasn’t that it was terrible but incomplete. It’s TV and there’s only so much you can cover, one angle, one snippet. The larger picture is very complex and layered.

  2. Campbell is retired military. Pastorek used to get all misty-eyed around holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day talking about never being a warrior but knowing lots of warriors, so I guess Ken was some convoluted warrior-wanna-be hire. Maybe the Yosemite Sam “Ready, Fire ” folderol was tied to it. Campbell came to the LDoE in good faith, but drank the Flavor-Aid and was blinded by dollar signs. Most of the remaining LDoE staff (remaining from the Picard era) are making big bucks for being toadies.

    I haven’t seen Jindal’s “I’m being serious” look in any of his Common Core/PARCC pictures-a sure sign he’s posturing. You know, the one he had when he was reporting how many bottles of water they passed out during one of the hurricanes to prove he was a miracle worker compared to bumbling Blanco. Chas and John learned well from him though, as far as feigning the look.

    I think local board elections will shed a great deal of light on how the next round of BESE elections will go. The educational community – supes, principals, teachers are notoriously sheeplike as a group. There’s occasionally a rogue, but it will take some local boards saying they won’t fund CCSS and PARCC to start winning the fight in this state. But the money sources will be pushing the miracle curriculum and assessment. I guess Checkbook Grigsby will be funding some local elections.

  3. I thought from the beginning that this pretend fight was simply to advance the political wherewithall of both sides. Why we give these people any time and attention in their little game playing is beyond me.

    You know the saying “What if you gave a party and nobody came”? Well, what if we ignored politicians’ foolishness – maybe they would stop playing. Pretend they are in a bubble or under a dome. You can see their mouths moving but not hear what they are saying. It doesn’t really matter what they say anyway. They only say what they think we want to hear.

    Personally, I don’t want to hear any of it. I will not react the way they want me to, spending countless hours and energy discussing who I think will win the fight du jour.

    The definition of a politician is someone who never had a real job, but thinks they know better than those of us who do.

  4. I have asked this question dozens of times in my head, so someone please disillusion me if I am completely naive. Why don’t we (as parents) just say no? As in, no, my child (our children) will not do this homework. My children will NOT read that pornographic novel. My children will NOT be attending this standardized test or that one or that one. Is it too hard to get an entire class of parents to stand up and say no? One class at a time? Is a grass-roots revolt, one class at a time, possible? Then, could we not simply ignore the posers and their incessant posturing and take control of our children’s education?

    And, Jason, thank you for all of your hard work and research and for getting the word out. I didn’t know much about what was going on until I found you!

    1. Thanks Kyara. We could try but our kids wouldn’t get out of 4th grade if they don’t take the tests their way. Why should we be forced to deprive our kids of a real education? We had inappropriate books before CC and we will have them after. Appropriatness or lack thereof is partly a parents a combination of age, parent’s beliefs and morals. Alternative selections should be provided and some choices should be omitted based on community morals and general consensus especially as it relates to sexual content and perhaps drug and violence as well. I don’t want detailed descriptions of how to make crack or smoke a crack pipe, for instance, in my children’s required reading literature regardless of whether it is written to their grade level. Shades of Gray is probably written to an 8th grade level, that doesn’t mean it is appropriate for 8th graders. That type of consideration seems to have been omitted from the approved reading lists.

  5. Ken Campbell came to the LDOE from working at a school in the Middle East as an administrator- can’t remember which country. He did a terrible job as the LDOE charter school admin., and he and PP were on the outs toward the end of his tenure there. So, instead of waiting to be purged/teagued, he went out and found his cushy BAEO job and has been aligning himself with the reformy crowd ever since because they are the ones with the money.

    1. That was the impression I had when I worked there. Most people rolled their eyes when they said his name or mentioned you should ask him something. He’s done well for doing basically nothing. Reformers attract those folks.

  6. Nicely explained Jason. Bottom line- no surprises even though one helluva dog and pony show. Great example of how the corporate right ALWAYS wins at least in this state, even in the very rare cases when they are at odds with the religious right and tea party. By throwing the fight King Bobby managed to rile up his base (the former) while not pissing off his owners (the latter) while White of course continues to ingratiate himself with his future employers or benefactors.

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