Louisiana’s Texbook Selection Shenanigans

Louisiana’s Texbook Selection Shenanigans

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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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3YiPC91QUk

The Louisiana Department of Education rushed and ruined the implementation of Common Core, on purpose and for quick cash

I’ve been researching this story for close to 4 months now talking to local superintendents, teachers, parents, teacher leaders, and both pro and con Common Core folks. I’ve been following tips and reviewing internal documents that were sent out to school districts as well as listening to accounts of what local educational leaders were told in person.

What I was surprised to discover is that LDOE, despite their protestations to the contrary and despite a lot of supporting evidence, is not entirely incompetent. This is the line of reasoning John White wants you to believe, that the Common Core rollout was just handled poorly, and now he is using a 10 year phased in approach. (This makes everything alright, right?) This gradual, phased-in approach was recommended hundreds of times to John White from teachers unions, BESE members and education leaders across the state and discarded out of hand.

White would like you to “believe” it was simply a lack of experience on his part and an overactive hubris that led to this cataclysmic implementation fail. A fail that has spawned dozens of parents groups across the state clamoring to their legislators to “kill Common Core.” The implementation was so bad, Governor Bobby Jindal had to distance himself from the issue by vaguely stating he is opposed to a “national curriculum,” without actually answering publicly whether is in favor of Common Core which is handpicked State Superintendent of Education and handpicked and financially sponsored BESE board committed Louisiana to sight unseen. There is no question that Bobby Jindal supports Common Core, and a national curriculum these standards impose, he’s just being cagey for the cameras and to keep his presidential chances alive no matter how this issue is finally resolved. True Leadership in Crisis Monday morning quarterback leading from Bobby Jindal, as usual.

I do wonder if Jindal would be as supportive of his Superintendent putting him in this position on purpose? The truth is, John White intended for the CCSS rollout to be a failure, for some school districts; probably for most districts. He and his network leaders and TFA cadre and regional network leaders intentionally disseminated incorrect information to mislead school districts. This was occurring at the same time White quietly slipped documentation into LDOE newsletters and ESEA waiver requests, he was well aware no one read, to try and discredit critics after this planned failure. White intended for some districts like Lincoln and Jefferson to implement Common Core well (as well as such a substandard set of standards could be implemented) while using the poor implementations in other districts as leverage to make charters, Course Choice, virtual schools, and the state’s voucher programs more palatable to the public.  There is also the question of where did all the money for Common Core implementing actually go?  At least 25 million was given to the state by Gates and US DOE in the form of Race to the Top grant.  I can think of 25 million reasons to find reasons to skimp on the Common Core implementation.

Common Core has some educational material. Some individual components, taken by themselves in a vacuum might even be better than some of our current standards. That does not explain why we just didn’t remedy our existing standards. The folks who gave us the previous standards have been in charge for more than decade. If our existing standards were so poor, they were poor because the people we put in charge made them so, or allowed them to be that way. These same folks are now telling us Common Core is better, but are they in any position to judge?

Proponents of CCSS like to pull out individual pieces and ask critics questions like:

“So you don’t believe kids should be able to multiply in third grade?”

Or

“So you don’t believe kids should understand motivations of the narrator?”

They don’t like anyone to view these standards as a whole or to actually look at the credentials (or lack thereof) of the creators of Common Core. Common Core is not about raising standards or helping children, or improving college and career readiness. Many proponents of Common Core have the same mission as Superintendent White, to destroy the teaching profession and replace public schools with private and unaccountable charters, voucher and virtual school alternatives.

Common Core is about control. The purpose of Common Core is to wrest control of local curriculum and local schools from communities and to eliminate experienced teachers. Those who support Common Core, and most specifically a hyper-fast track for it, did so not because the wanted children and teachers to succeed, but because they knew they would fail. From this failure charter schools could reap more opportunities for expansion. Voucher schools, which to date have performed abysmally even compared to our already abysmal education outcomes would be seen as a more favorable option. As schools are forced to narrow their curriculum to simply focus on improving Math and English scores, private Course Choice providers are lining up to fill in the void. Their contribution is substandard but highly profitable and easy to churn out material. Inexperienced teachers who drill and kill students to prepare them for the new material and high stakes testing will “seem” to be as good or better than experienced teachers who build a strong foundation for learning throughout a lifetime. Drill and kill teachers are easier to train and recruit, cost a lot less to hire, and can be easily replaced. This keeps expenses down in charter schools, which are often run for profit. Charter schools are good for politicians because many wealthy sponsors donate to candidates who favor them, and because charter schools can donate to political candidates themselves.

As I covered in a previous articles, John White and BESE approved Common Core before it was even finalized. It was approved in our state before the final draft was even released! They did this without any input from a majority of parents and stakeholders. One of the reasons most parents and stakeholders did not weigh-in was because there was not much in the way of user-friendly documentation on it, and it wasn’t even finalized. Many parents, myself included, expected these standards were properly reviewed by the folks employed by LDOE with grand 6 figure salaries, and by the elected educators running BESE, our state school board. It was not known that some of the members like Holly Boffy, are paid to promote Common Core by the folks that sponsored it, namely the CCSSO.

What follows is a timeline and additional proof that shows how John White created two paths for implementation of Common Core simultaneously. My comments/discussion is displayed in [green brackets].

Original Timeline provided by White and LDOE (released in 2011)

1. TRANSITION TO PARCC

Development Year – 2011-2012

Transition year #1 – 2012-2013

Transition year #2 – 2013-2014

Full Implementation of – 2014-2015

2. TRANSITION TO COMMON CORE CURRICULUM (CCSS)

Development Year – 2011-2012

Transition year #1 – 2012-2013

Transition year #2 – 2013-2014

Full Implementation of – 2014-2015

2/17/2011

BESE Meeting ESEA Reauthorization:

White relayed: 2013-2014 considered transition year for PARCC and CCSS

5/2011 – 9 /2011

Webinars confirmed schedule, promised crosswalk, phased in approach and grade level content comparison documents. [The crosswalk by Weststat cost 1.6 million dollars but was never released to any district superintends I spoke to.]

5/2011 – 2/2012

LDOE confirmed timeline in communiqués and messaging

2/28/2012

ESEA flexibility request featured these promises:

  • A new state-developed curriculum aligned with CCSS, meaning that no districts will have to undertake this work themselves.(ESEA Waiver – 2/28/12 – pg. 94-95)
  • “Crosswalks and content comparison documents clearly outlining the changes from current grade-level expectations to CCSS” to be utilized in the 2012-2013 and the 2013-2014 [emphasis added]
    school years.” (ESEA Waiver – 2/28/12 – pg. 94-95)

3/9/2012

BESE – Official Board Minutes – message from Superintendent White

  • “. . . Implementation of CCSS in grades K and 1 begins . . .” ” (BESE Official Board minutes 3/9/12 – pg. 2)
  • Transitional curriculum for most grades over the next two years for smoother transition to CCSS. (BESE Official Board minutes 3/9/12 – pg. 2)
  • “. . . the LDE submitted an application for flexibility waivers from federal NCLB regulations . . .” (BESE Official Board minutes 3/9/12 – pg. 2)

3/29/12

“The timeline outlined in the flexibility request and addendum shows a transition period for grades 3-12 that raises concerns about full implementation within the timeline . . .” ” (ESEA Flexibility Peer Panel Notes – 3/29/12 – pg. 1) [US DOE doubts LDOE can implement in time with proposed timeline, LDOE does nothing to address concerns.]

4/17/2012

Letter [from USDOE] Regarding Peer Review Feedback:


“A timeline for implementing college- career-ready standards that does not meet the requirement for full implementation of the standards by the 2013-2014 school Year”

5/1/2012

LDOE Bi-Weekly Newsletter:
Within the Superintendent’s Message, John White states:

“Moreover, once we fully transition from the current Louisiana GLE’s to the Common Core State Standards – to be complete in 2014-2015 – the state will no longer produce a Louisiana-specific comprehensive curriculum.” [This statement actually implies the transition to take place in 2014-2015, actually adding a year to timeline.]

5/29/2012

Approved ESEA Flexibility Request –

MAJOR CHANGES IN TIMELINE

“The plan utilizes a phased in approach to ensure maximum preparation and continuity as educators also begin to undergo more rigorous evaluations.”

2011-2012 – TRANSITONAL YEAR


. . . One year of preparation while current GLEs are in place.

2012-2013 – TRANSITIONAL YEAR


. . .implementation of transitional curriculum and assessments, which use both the current GLEs and the CCSS.

2013-2014 – FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF CCSS


. . .with the professional development and curriculum resources provided, districts should be able to fully implement the CCSS as early as possible. [US DOE approved the “plan” without LDOE telling districts at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. If this was LDOE’s intent why was this not communicated to all stakeholders instead of implying the transition might actually take place over an extra year? The Feds have approved LDOEs change to eliminate 2013-2014 as at transition year changing it to a full implementation year. This is quietly approved at the end of the 12-13 school year after most teachers and administrators are about to be sent home for the summer. However not all districts are caught flat-footed, some favored districts like Jefferson and Lincoln had advance warning this would take place. Their preparedness is used against other districts as proof LEAs were informed and had plenty of time to implement CCSS. The story promulgated by LDOE and their allies like Stand for Children is that school districts were simply dragging their feet, hoping CCSS would disappear if they kept their heads in the sand long enough. I even thought this might be the case to some extent, but contrary to that narrative and belief, most LEAs were simply actively misled – by design.]

6/19/2012

BESE Meeting – ESEA Notice of Intent:

“On a motion of Ms. Bradford, seconded by Mr. Garvey, the Board approved, as a Notice of Intent, revisions to the following Sections of Bulletin 111, The Louisiana School, District, and State Accountability System, as a result of the ESEA Flexibility Request that was approved for implementation by the United States Department of Education, as amended and presented by the LDE: 68 policy changes to Bulletin 111 were made in one motion . . . [This is what we call thoughtful debate and transparency in Louisiana. Any questions? And I bet you thought Obamacare was the fastest, largest and most complex rollout to avoid dissent. Welcome to Louisiana!]


8/7 and 8/21/2012

LDOE Weekly Newsletters: [some other gems LDOE released but then subsequently downplayed in person as you will see shortly.]

A document containing a fundamental shift in the way we plan and teach our children is buried within a LDOE Weekly Newsletter Hyperlink about a memorandum. [How many hyperlinks have you clicked on in this document so far?]

“. . . Louisiana is replacing the academic mandates of the comprehensive curriculum and textbook adoption process with academic tools such as rubrics, assessments and video modules. . .”(Academic Strategy Memorandum – 8/7&21/12 – page 1) [Par for the course; John White eliminated direct communications with districts as his first move when he came to LDOE to destroy communication between LDOE and school districts.]

“Required comprehensive curriculum is replaced with optional transitional comprehensive curriculum” that aligns to some elements of the Common Core State Standards. The state also publishes assessment items aligned to Common Core in Eagle. Teachers and principals work together to determine how best to incorporate these into their work with students.”

Comprehensive curriculum is eliminated altogether and school districts have the freedom to choose any content or text. To support decision-making at the district level, the state recommends content aligned to Common Core and continues to publish sample assessments and tasks that are aligned to Common Core in EAGLE.”

[Quite an important shift to be delivered by vague hyperlink within massive Newsletter nobody reads. This was by design to show notice had been given, while knowing full well no one reads those newsletters, no one has the time to plumb them extensively or the expectation that such major changes will be released with a newsletter and not sent to superintendents directly and coordinated with emails and reminders to impacted staff as we used to do for such initiatives prior to John White’s installation as head of LDOE.]

[My favorite ironic line from this memo]

“Louisiana Believes our state’s comprehensive plan for continued improvement starts with a simple idea: if you believe that all students can achieve a career or a college degree – and thus master the Common Core standards – you must believe in the adults who know and care for them. A true plan for change is not based on the dictates of governmental agencies; it is based on the idea that, given high standards, the people closest to students should have the power to choose what is right for the child.” [The response to this could be an entire post. Parents are the closest to the children, not John White and the corporations that produced these standards. We do not trust or believe John White, he is an inveterate liar. Common Core is pushed by LDOE and US DOE, hence the entire need for a ESEA waiver request from US DOE to include Common Core. Despite propaganda to the contrary, Louisiana has had some of the highest standards in the nation for over a decade, and we have remained mired in 47th through 49th place out of 50 in academic achievement. High Standards are important, but all alone do not promote achievement one iota. In our case because we provided no support or funding to districts. This is despite LDOE receiving million in grants from Bill Gates and US DOE hat they spent on 6 figure staff and unused vendor products. No help was forthcoming for most districts despite the promises they made in the ESEA waiver to US DOE. The way Louisiana “implemented” CCSS actually harmed student achievement by draining resources and attention from helping all students master the basics and build on a foundation for a lifetime of learning. ]

1/8/2013

Superintendent Advisory Council – SAC

NO MENTION OF FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF CCSS IN 2013-2014

[. . . .because districts White wanted to know about this were informed directly. Wouldn’t you think a monumental shift to the entire curriculum, something that hadn’t been attempted on this scale in decades or perhaps ever , for all students and to all standardized tests would be worthy of a even a brief mention?]

1/14/2013

Conference call with State Superintendents

NO MENTION OF FULL IMPLEMENTATION OFCCSS IN 2013-2014

[. . . .because districts White wanted to know about this were informed directly. Wouldn’t you think a monumental shift to the entire curriculum, something that hadn’t been attempted on this scale in decades or perhaps ever , for all students and to all standardized tests would be worthy of a even a brief mention?]

1/29/2013

How easy is it to find out independently that there is no transitional curriculum?

[Just two easy clicks to an obscure line in an enormous document with a vague phrase filled with lines crossed through old passages. That’s how White’s LDOE keeps folks in the know.]

2/5/2013

State Superintendent Conference Call/webinar

Superintendent White:

White: “We are keeping with that transition schedule for next year, and at the same time I think it is fair to say that, frankly that the guidance that the teachers have been given, from a curriculum perspective, and from a assessment perspective, has not always kept faithful to that transition plan.” [This is clearly and without question, intentionally misleading. LDOE filed for and received approval for elimination of transition from the Feds in May of the previous year and has produced numerous documents from White that are hard for most LEAs to find but indicate the opposite. White’s actual word, the head honcho, declares the opposite! To be this incompetent is unrealistic, even for him, for anyone really. This shows intentional doublespeak on his part. This shows he was misleading districts on purpose to ensure Common Core is implemented poorly in most districts.]

White: “The goal of the transition plan was that to . . . was that next year we would be teaching standards that are only representative of the Common Core that was planned and published in 2011, and that is the plan going forward.”

[In other words, teaching only the Common Core material that was indicated in the 2011 timeline, which shows 2013-2014 as a transition year. Please refer to this timeline shown above.]

White: “What I am suggesting is that feedback from the teachers is that the further that we get into a transitional phase, the more important it is that we be very clear on aligning the assessment guide with the curriculum guidance . . .”

[At this point White knows there is no transitional phase for the following year, but he is trying very hard not to give that info away to the superintendents on the general call. I have no doubt he made private calls to some districts and charter schools to inform them of the real plan.]

2/19/2013

LDOE Weekly Newsletter

White: “As we continue our transition to the Common Core State Standards, the LDOE will be providing resources to support teachers as they begin planning for the 2013-2014 school year.”

[Still maintaining the ruse that there will be a transition next year (2013-1014; which was in fact a full implementation as many unhappy parents and teachers will tell you.) This is one of the final months of the single year he allocated for Transition. If the State Superintendent didn’t understand that, how could he have expected any districts to know? But some did. Those districts were told in no uncertain terms what the true deadlines were. Everyone else was intentionally misled time after time, conferences after conference, meeting after meeting, newsletter after newsletter.]

2/20/2013

Superintendent Collaboration – Network 3

In discussions concerning CCSS content the following exchange occurred:

Jerome Puyau (Superintendent of Vermilion Parish Schools): “Will there be a transitional curriculum next year?”

Michael Rounds (Deputy State Superintendent): “There is not a transitional curriculum.”

Jerome Puyau: “So what does that mean?”

Michael Rounds: “It primarily, um, means that we are going to provide for you, we will show you, a tool box that is, that the curriculum is going to be Common Core aligned, and what is tested will also be aligned to the Common Core . . . that doesn’t mean we will implement all of Common Core next year because we are not prepared to do that, and the state nor the country is prepared to do that.”

[Even under direct questioning by local superintendents to their network leaders, the message being delivered to some districts like Vermillion was that Common Core would not be implemented next year because no one in the nation was prepared to do that! That was perhaps the only true statement I’ve seen from LDOE. Louisiana was not prepared – intentionally. New York was not prepared. North Carolina was not prepared, butLDOE attempted to rush the implementation anyway, knowing full well this would be a foolhardy endeavor and that many folks would not be prepared. This was an intentionally screwed up rollout designed to blame and destroy some districts while promoting friendly, allied ones.]

This is part of pattern of keeping districts in the dark that John White initiated as his first act as Superintendent. His first agency-wide memo to LDOE staff was to forbid us from communicating directly with all LEAs. His first communication was not an introduction, not a “good to be here” note, not a “bear with us while we organize” missive. His first communiqué was that any employee found violating that edict would be fired. Instead of working to improve communication (despite the many highly paid communication folks he hired with salaries that exceeded hundreds of thousands of dollars on an annual basis) White created a bi-weekly memo that is filled with too much information. This memo contains everything going on in the state and is too large for people to read or explore adequately.

Prior to White we communicated directly with program personnel in the school districts from our own personnel. After White a single letter combining info they wanted to discuss was sent out by communications only to the superintendent. It was the superintendent’s responsibility to read and disseminate the memo to their entire school district. If superintendents chose to send it to everyone, then their entire districts would have to read the entire memo to find out if anything impacted them (several times a week.) To avoid this enormous waste of time, superintendents would have to read the entire memo themselves, and send it to each person directly with a note about what to pay attention to.

This intentional muddying of the waters added a lot of time and busywork to LDOE staff, and a lot of time to superintendent’s workloads, without improving communication, it actually all but destroyed it. Just as John White destroyed the department website to remove links and contact info of people in charge of programs and to remove historical data, he destroyed internal communication as well. White did this so he could deceive superintendents directly with webinars and conference calls while vague nearly inaccessible memos could be produced to show just how informed everyone should be.

It’s not even possible for district personnel to find LDOE folks in charge of program areas for questions anymore. The LDOE Contact list has not updated since John White arrived in 2012 although most of the information is completely incorrect. Most of the employees listed no longer work there or work in different areas. As far as I can tell the only change they made was to remove me (after I wrote an earlier post making fun of them for still listing me as an employee years later.)

John White also paid for a 1.6 million dollar state GLE (Grade Level Expectations) to CCSS (Common Core State Standards) crosswalk from Weststat for the transition years of 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

weststat

This crosswalk was not distributed to any superintendent I spoke with. I doubt it could have been of much use since the phase in defined was over two years. That amount of money from the LDOE budget could have been used to give pay raises for a decade (which is has claimed he wished he could do but could not for lack of funds) or keep most of the staff he laid off employed including some he terminated months or years away from retirement. That amount of money could have paid for most of his Course Choice program for a year. Instead this is just one of many contracts White spent on vendors he had no intention of using. Despite the fact that the 2012 ESEA waiver request indicated this crosswalk would be used and available to districts:

“Crosswalks and content comparison documents clearly outlining the changes from current grade-level expectations to CCSS” to be utilized in the 2012-2013 and the 2013-2014 [emphasis added]
school years.” (ESEA Waiver – 2/28/12 – pg. 94-95)

White had his network staff trained as trainers to help districts learn and understand the Common Core standards. He was sending these folks out to specific districts with multiple sets of lesson plans with the intent of using a train the trainer model. The Math curriculum was reported and well known within LDOE to be a serious problem for many districts. Without explanation, White ceased sending out his trainers to LEAs in the 2012-2013 school year. This was despite the fact that his trainers we reporting back that there was a lot of confusion in the districts, and that their trainings were sorely needed. Nevertheless, these staffers were told to cease helping school districts, some even were recalled before giving all of their training sessions they had been scheduled to give LEAs they were already working with. This was despite the fact White had promised to help districts in his 2012 ESEA waiver request so no districts would have to undertake this task by themselves.

A new state-developed curriculum aligned with CCSS, meaning that no districts will have to undertake this work themselves.(ESEA Waiver – 2/28/12 – pg. 94-95)

This promise gave way to the LEA empowerment argument that John White, Chas Roemer and Holly Boffy started proselytizing. Instead of the state helping districts develop their curriculum, LEAs and teachers were now “empowered” to create their own without, state interference. This would probably have been nice to hear before LDOE promised to help school districts.

This was not an argument or promise that was made in any of the ESEA waiver requests sent to LDOE, but something White and his allies manufactured after seeing how poorly the CCSS was unfolding, even worse that they had planned.

One nice benefit of bailing on the Common Core implementation is that this did allow LDOE to spend the many millions of dollars it received from Gates and US DOE to skimp on helping school districts and divert that cash to funding voucher schools and Course Choice. This was done from LDOE’s budget that White “found”. This money was not spent on the implementation. This was 10s of millions of dollars. I do not see how the state spent millions helping school districts prepare for CCSS. As far as I’ve seen all they’ve produced is a pathetic “toolbox“with a few videos? Are you going to tell me Louisiana spent 25 million in Gates grants and Race to the top funds creating a few YouTube videos I could do in a week from my spare bedroom with a webcam?

Louisiana Department of Education (Gates Grant)

Date: June 2011

Purpose: to provide organizational support to the Louisiana Department of Education related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems
Amount: $7,351,708

This comes from the 25 million dollar toolbox CCCS implementation.  I must say I’m impressed.  What a plan!

Just master those CCSS standards that have never been used anywhere before, ever, are children are magically college ready. 25 Million dollars please!

The Race to the Top grant Louisiana received was 17.3 million dollars to implement their plan for CCSS, as well as everything they were already doing that didn’t cost any money, like promoting charter schools.

“Louisiana’s Phase Three application, the Louisiana Education Reform Plan, addresses standards and assessments, the collection and use of data, school turnaround strategies, and effective support for teachers and school leaders. The four-year plan also outlines strategies to enhance the state’s current STEM program. Reform activities already underway and detailed in the state’s R2T application include the implementation of Act 54 and the state’s adoption and transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and CCSS-Aligned Assessments.”

Do you think LDOE spent 25 million dollars implementing CCSS, or do you think it’s more likely all that money went to vouchers, fat-cat 6 figure LDOE salaries, voucher “scholarships” and Course Choice programs while our children were sacrificed to the intentional mess that was our 2013-2014 CCSS implementation?

LEAs did not get money from the State to implement Common Core; they did not get training from the state in most cases either.

Just where did all that relatively fungible money go I wonder?

Not really, I think we all know where John White found his pot-o-gold to save Jindal’s pet programs. . . And all it cost was a year of our children’s education.

(My profound thanks to all those who contributed to this article.)

attachments:

Adobe of PowerPoint with documents behind dates for timeline: ESEA Presentation to VPSB Final.5

Teacher Toolbox worth at least 12.5 million: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/classroom-support-toolbox/teacher-support-toolbox ? (Note: 12.5 mil not true figure, I think they bummed off a food truck street vendor for free and made off with the cash.)

District toolbox worth another 12.5 million dollars: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/classroom-support-toolbox/district-support-toolbox ? (or perhaps two food trucks were involved?)

Arne Duncan has lost his mind

Arne Duncan has lost his mind

Arne Duncan (after hanging out with the Mayor of Toronto smoking from a mysterious pipe)

Unless you live under rock, if you follow education issues at all you no doubt heard this latest pearl of wisdom from the head of the US Department of Education.

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said, according to an account from Politico. “You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, `My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”

My first thought when I heard this was that Arne Duncan was trying to make sure the US Department of Education gets eliminated. I certainly expect this comment, combined with his other policies and epic overreach into local matters, will land eliminating the US department of Education front and center in the 2016 Presidential election.

In response to this a petition was launched on the Official White House website to call for Duncan’s removal: “This clearly demonstrates the complete lack of understanding he has and his utter contempt for the American people. He is both unqualified and unfit to lead the Department of Education and should be removed immediately.”

A group Facebook group called MAD, or Mother’s Against Duncan, also immediately formed. As of 11/19/13 at 10:30, a little more than 24 hours after the comments this site had over 3000 members . . . and growing.


When I had a little time to contemplate what Duncan said a few things occurred to me. He really, honestly thinks this is all about test scores. In his twisted world, kids and parents don’t exist as consierations, and learning is little more than a number of trend-line on a chart. The only learning and education that matters to him is one that can be measured, and he actually thinks everyone else thinks this way too. He has surrounded himself with people that think this, and insulated himself form the public, from parents, children and from learning. He can’t even comprehend that anyone might not give a damn about his ridiculous tests (that really do a better job identifying poor or mentally disabled students than they do “good” or “bad” schools or teachers.)

Perhaps it is time to show them how little we think about their tests and that our chief concern is not whether some highly paid educrat awards my school an “A” or “B” (while 40% of the students may be performing below grade level), but whether my child is learning and enjoying his school experience. I’m not sure about you, but my chief concern for my first grader and preschooler is not whether they score well enough on a color naming or counting test to get into a good ivy league school or rewarding career as a proctologist. I’m more concerned if my daughter’s friends like her or bully her, that she is safe and healthy, that she behaves well for her teacher and shows a good example for other kids, enjoys her recess and some fresh air, and has fun learning and growing not just math and reading (which she loves) but art, science, history and foreign languages. I want her education to be one of a wealth of opportunities and joy without the pressure of a career peering over her shoulder and monkeying around on her back. There will be time enough for that in second grade and the rest of her life, I’m sure.

The second thing that occurred to me is that this truly shows just how much Duncan has pushed and owned Common Core. Despite what your local school board or legislature has told you about how the federal government has little to do with Common Core, we have this racist, arrogant and dismissive comment from Duncan that reveals the truth. Let there be no mistake. Duncan was THE driving force behind Common Core. Gates put up hundreds of millions of dollars to promote it, but Arne Duncan put up billions, and he’ll be damned if you white suburban moms think you can derail his master plan with your pitiful concerns about your children and their learning.

Duncan has since tried to do some damage control.

In an interview with Politico, Duncan later acknowledged he “didn’t say it perfectly.”

I agree.

What he really meant to say was “No stupid ditzy stay-at-home soccer moms (regardless of their color or nationality) are going to derail one of my signature education masterpieces, Common Core. I spent billions dollars on this shiznat, and had to listen to Bill Gates tell me 100s of stories about how he cured malaria in Africa and how he should have destroyed Apple when he had the chance to get his support so it wouldn’t look like the federal government was illegally pushing a national curriculum. Melinda wouldn’t stop showing me that stupid paperclip assistant “Clippy” she invented. They even have bedspreads with that guy on it! I even had to change the meaning of the fricken word curriculum and get everyone to call these standards! Let’s see you change the meaning of word and break federal laws . . . stupid moms, of many races, creeds, colors and religions whom I despise and hold contempt for equally!”

Thank you for clearing that up for us, Arne.

I’m sure you will enjoy the private sector (working for your true masters Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates) much more anyways.

Say “Hi” to Clippy for me!


My attempt at completing my first grader’s Common Core math homework – and a little historical CCSS context

My attempt at completing my first grader’s Common Core math homework – and a little historical CCSS context

I know that many people are thinking the commotion over Common Core, CCSS, is much ado about nothing.  I’ve heard some folks liken this change to the Affordable Care Act (AKA) Obamacare.  There are some similarities to how these things were implemented and rolled out nationwide, but while the ACA was voted on by national elected officials, held to be constitutional in a Supreme Court ruling, and a referendum item of the last national general election and Presidential contest. Common Core has undergone no such tests or review process.  When Obamacare was passed, thousands of pages of legislation were created and reviewed by corporate stakeholders, media organizations, political groups, and private citizens, and one of the common complaints was Obamacare contained too much info to review in a short amount of time, CCSS contained no documentation when many states, including Louisiana signed up to promote and endorse it after receiving millions in grants from the Gates foundation to do so.  Louisiana agreed to implement Common Core in its first Race to the Top application submitted January 19 of 2010 during the depths of the recession to pursue some of the 5 billion dollars in grants the US Department of Education was dangling in front of so many money starving states.  One of the requirements of Race to the Top was signing onto a Common set of standards.  While US ED claims they did not specify Common Core directly, there was only set of Common Standards under construction, and in order to be common across states many states other than your own had to adopt them.  It’s completely disingenuous of USDOE to say they did not require them. Every state that applied to this grant knew included adopting Common Core as part of their proposal was their only chance to alleviate their budget woes and no state that declined to adopt them was awarded a RTT grant.

From page 10 of Louisiana’s first round RTT application.  Louisiana vowed to adopt CCSS sight unseen, almost 6 months before they were even defined.

C. Adopt Common Standards including those for Pre-K and Science and Social Studies; Take a Lead Role in Consortium to Design Common AssessmentsLouisiana will utilize R2T funding to implement a high-quality plan for the adoption and rollout of 100 percent of the common core standards, of which we have been an active participant with CCSSO on the design and adoption. Louisiana will also take a lead role in ensuring that the design and implementation of the common assessment fulfills our core goals of supporting student achievement and focusing on teacher effectiveness. To support our strategy, summative assessment results will be available within two weeks of test administration so they can be used to inform decisions about students and also to aid in the effective evaluation of teachers and schools. The test will be vertically scaled to provide a clear picture of annual student growth. We will extend the blueprint of the K-12 common assessment quickly to science and social studies so that we can ensure a rich view of student progress and the effectiveness of teachers can be measured more reliably. We will also evaluate and implement developmentally appropriate measures of progress for Pre-K aligned to the common core standards to ensure students are on track at the earliest ages. 

A draft of the Common Core State Standards was not even released until March of 2010.  When the final proposed standards were produced in June of 2010, BESE has already decided to approve them and quickly voted to adopt them in our state, despite the fact Louisiana lost out on the first round of Race to the Top grant funds.

(For trivia buffs, Louisiana also lost out on the second round after TFA alums Chris Meyer, head of New Schools for Baton Rogue, and Jacob Landry, currently the Chief strategy officer in the Jefferson Parish school system submitted an almost exact copy of the original grant for Phase II of RTTT, but nevertheless Louisiana went all in on adopting Common Core, despite the fact most people knew nothing about it, and the fact Common Core had never been tried in any setting ever and received zero endorsements from the only 2 k-12 representatives that worked on the design committee.  Corporate interests drafted Common Core on behalf of the NGA, National Governor’s Association, and CCSSO, Council of Chief State Education Officers for which BESE member Holly Boffy is a highly paid “consultant” paid to endorse Common Core as her full time job and “to pay for her mortgage” – as she recently told her constituents at a town hall meeting organized to discuss Common Core.)

This may seem like an overly long lead-in, but I believe the context is important and I don’t think many people that support Common Core and our current education agenda were aware of these details.  The Common Core adoption was snuck in under the radar, and its way was paved and greased with Gates gold and Federal grants. (Louisiana eventually landed a Phase III grant.)  So I want you to understand this is not like what happened with Obamacare on  many levels.  This was a backroom deal that was adopted sight unseen, and almost every organization supporting Common Core got tons of money and grants from either from the Federal government and/or Bill Gates and his foundation, or has a financial stake in the outcome (such as text book publishers and test makers like Pearson.)

Now if some of you were like me, you may have been alienated by all the false negative coverage of Obamacare like the overhyped Death Panels myth perpetuated by Sarah Palin, some tea party groups and Fox News.  When I saw that coverage and compared what was being said to the specific passage cited in the Affordable Care Act that only defined a benefit for doctors counseling patients, upon a patient’s request, on their end of life options, I was disgusted and turned off by much of the rest of the negative things that were being said about Obamacare.  Once you lie to me, I don’t trust you.  But that was perhaps an overly simplistic way to look at the situation and he idea of insuring uninsured people and saving money was appealing.  What we are seeing now is that there were significant issues with this plan that were not anticipated and which have not been addressed and legislators on both sides of the aisle are very worried about the implementation of the AFA.  Everyone has heard about the horrible website. . . .now.  But most of the coverage of the opening days of Obamacare was devoted to the government shutdown, and who was at fault for it.  When the smoke cleared from that disaster what we were left with was a smoldering pile of dysfunctional website and a complete breakdown of communication and planning at the Department of Health and Human Services under Kathleen Sebelius.  A month  an half later, most of the few hundred thousand enrollees in the system signed up through state sites and exchanges or directly with providers, not with the Federal website at all.  The Federal government was not prepared for most states to decline setting up their own exchanges. They had not considered what would happen if half the states declined the Federal dollars to expand their Medicaid rolls.  Obama falsely promised folks they could keep their policies if they wanted to, and would not be forced to buy new policies if they liked the ones they had. . . period.  Now we are seeing that only the unhealthiest people are signing up for the insurance, and many of the healthier folks that would ideally contribute to health plans to counterbalance and partially subsidize the unhealthy, pre-existing folks are not showing up.  This could turn out to be an enormous catastrophe for the health care industry if they are forced to pick up the tab.  What we may be in for is another government bailout, to save insurers because of a hastily implemented plan and that was with millions of eyes watching it and thousands of pages of documentation.  What we have in Common Core is something like the opposite.

So what’s my point?  I know some of you may have heard things about how Common Core is a Communist plot, or that Common Core forces schools to teach sex education to preschoolers.  I’m sure you’ve seen a few dubious Facebook posts with people ranting about this topic and perhaps not getting all the facts straight, and your tendency or habit might be to ignore this whole issue as more grandstanding, overreacting and a political ploy, but I ask you to not do what I did, rejecting this issue out of hand because of a few folks that may not have their facts straight or an inability to express themselves constructively.  I see folks blaming both liberals and conservatives for Common Core, but I ask you to take a step back and take a new look from a new perspective.  I will show you some of the homework I and other parents have been getting.  Over the course of several articles I will show you the shaky and scary reality behind the polished veneer and propaganda you are being doused with in support of Common Core.  One of the observations I see in most newspapers these days is that the opponents of Common Core are all conservative nut jobs and Tea Party folks, and while some of them may be. . .  🙂  there are still plenty of liberal nut jobs like me shouting the same tune.

More important than being liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, is that I am a parent.  The folks opposing this are all largely comprised of parents and parent groups.  We did not get Gate grants, nor do we want them. We want outstanding educations for our children. We do not fight “rigor” or change.  In fact, I/we would embrace some actual rigor, which Common Core is not.  We parents fight busywork, insane and abusive teaching methods and profiteers that see out kids as opportunities to exploit rather than the precious, beloved vessels we nurture and protect every day with every breath in our bodies and prayer on our lips.  We fight for them, for us, and for Louisiana.  So when you look at those of us who oppose Common Core and judge us, see us as we are, as concerned parents, as your neighbors and as Louisiana.  Before you insult or ignore us hold up a mirror to yourself next time.  We have nothing to gain by opposing something “good” for our own children and our children’s educations.  We have their lives to lose if we fail to fight for them.

Common Core supporters claim all they are supporting is “standards” not curriculum.  That is semantics. The Core defines what every kid is supposed to learn at every grade level.  They have built a car, gassed it up and told us where we have to drive it, but are letting us pick our route.  However right now there are only one or two roads we can travel on.  One of the those roads is EngageNY, a curriculum provider that worked with Louisiana to produce break down the weekly and daily work behind the “standards” and which John White and LDOE endorsed and encouraged Louisiana School districts to use.

While John White and Chas Roemer claim CCSS give teacher more flexibility to design their own “curriculum” (which is really just the specific lesson plans, not a curriculum at all) this flexibility and freedom is an illusion. We are all free to fly to the moon, but that doesn’t mean we can do it.  If it was easy to design a daily curriculum then textbook companies that were poised to make enormous profits on this endeavor would have already produced them, but in most, if not all schools, no new text books supporting Common Core have been issued.  Louisiana implemented Common Core before we even had textbooks and have to rely on license free worksheets like the ones produced by EngageNY to teach our children.  But my first grade child in East Baton Rouge parish is not learning anything from these worksheets.  I am telling her what to fill in, after brainstorming with Facebook friends and family (some of whom are elementary teachers and mathematicians) to try and figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do.  I and my daughter’s grandmothers have no idea what this “math” is, how to help my daughter, or what it’s supposed to be teaching her except to listen to us tell her what to fill in a box.  There are many children that don’t have as many committed adults at home.  How do you think they are faring?

This first sheet is a little blurry, so I apologize. (My completed version of it is clearer.)

The first worksheet question states “Draw the 5-group card to show a double.  Write the number sentence to match the cards.”  Despite the fact that I still have no idea what a 5-group card is, I count a set of three boxes that equals six total boxes, not 5, I also have no idea why a “double” is significant and do not recall ever needing to write a “number sentence.”  This first problem was missing instructions which my daughter’s teacher thoughtfully provided and the third problem appears to have been incorrect and needed to be corrected by the teacher. I wonder how many kids tried working this worksheet out with incorrect examples?

The second example has the term 5-group cards scratched out.  There are 5 sets of these “cards” which look like boxes to me.  Is a box a 5-group card?  Who knows?  My instructions are to “Fill in the cards from least to greatest.  Double the number and write the number sentences.”  I looked at the examples and thought, “ok cool, I can do this.”  So 1+1 = 2.  2+2 = 4.  I figured the next was going to be 4+4 = 8 and thought, “hey maybe this is a cool way to introduce the idea of square numbers to first graders.  Awesome!”  So I had my daughter write 4+4 = 8.  Then I saw the 4 in the next box.

Damn it!  Apparently least to greatest means numbering them from 1 to 5?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Maybe they could have said number the boxes in order and double them, but how do you number something from least to greatest when the numbers don’t even exist?  WTF kind of instructions are these?!?!?  Alright, keep you cool.  Just erase the 4 and put in 3 + 3, 4+4 and 5+5.  I guess this is what “Fill in the cards from least to greatest.  Double the number and write the number sentences.” means.  Great.  And why the obsession with doubles?  That seems weird but they were just getting started.  You can see my completed sheet below.  I would say my daughter’s but she had no idea what to do so I figure I earned the rights to claim this work as my own.  I hope my first grade teacher likes it!

The next item says simply “Solve the number sentences.”  This looked a little like algebra so I thought it was ok and seemed easy enough to do.  I simply told my daughter to put in the number that was missing and she breezed through that section, so I was relieved. . . but my relief was short lived.  The most harrowing part of my homework was yet to come!

Now I get “Match the top cards to the bottom cards to doubles +1.” 

WTF kind of shit is this, I thought to myself. (I usually keep my swearing to a minimum or avoid it, but in the spirit of honesty I thought it was more important to keep it real and I swear about stupid stuff in my head. . . a lot more since dealing with Common Core.)  I really have no idea why they love “doubles” so much.  I decided I would look this up in the Common Core State Standards afterwards to see what these are all about.  My initial guesses were this was part of the college and career real world examples part, and the CCSSO folks consulted with a Monopoly expert instead of business expert about what kind of math skills were important in the real world.  (Just like in real life, rolling doubles is important because it lets you go again, but if you roll three in a row you go to jail.)   I asked my daughter for guidance on this one, figuring she was probably the math expert at this point by being exposed to all this “rigor”, but mostly I just learned she liked that 3 on the bottom row a whole lot. . . If this was designed to prepare her to be an electrical engineer, I think she just made a short circuit.

The final part of this page says “Solve the number sentences.  Write the double fact that helped you solve the double +1.”  [Insert gratuitous internal cursing]  Despite more than 40 comments on Facebook, we were not able to figure out what this means, but it’s nice to know doubles are now “facts” and adding 1 to them is apparently a skill I’ve lacked.  Somehow I’ve taken half a dozen calculus classes (maybe I could have taken half as many if I knew the secret of the “double”) 6 classes in statistics, Honors Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology, earned an a degree in Accounting and have worked as a programmer of accounting, ERP, claims processing systems and database administrator for 15 years and never learned the magical secrets of the “Double.”  Shucks.  I bet Einstein knew about doubles. . . .

Finally I’ve gotten to page 3 of my Common Core Mathematics curriculum worksheet!  Surely all the worst is behind me, I told myself.  But then. . .

“Solve the problems without counting all.  Color the boxes using the key.

Step 1: Color problems with +1 or 1+blue.

Step 2: Color remaining problems with +2 or 2 + green.

Step 3: Color remaining problems with+3 or 3 + yellow.”

Say what?  This one stressed me out.  I had my daughter get out her blue, green and yellow pastels and red through it a few times more. What am I not supposed to be counting? I color using a key where I add colors?  After some searching some of my Facebook posse thought maybe numbers with a 1, 2 or 3 had to be colored, but why?  How do I color all “remaining” colors twice?

After much soul searching we took a stab at it, and what we got is below.  After the first few boxes were completely obliterated by the coloring we decided to just put some token color in the boxes.  Perhaps the lesson we were supposed to learn here was improvising?  This “math” looked just like crap to me, or as several folks told me “a hot mess.”  One mathematician said this was obviously designed by folks who hate math to make others hate math too. I know I hate it, and I’m just in first grade. . .again.

I’ve heard stories from other parents and children that this ridiculousness is in all grades in many parishes and gets much worse.  How many years of made up terms like “doubles plus 1”, “doubles facts”, and “5-group cards”, “number bonds” (another term from previous assignments) did the 6th graders miss out on, the 8th graders, the high schoolers?

So I decided to do some research.  What is  the deal with these doubles plus 1s for instance? I found I am not the only once searching for answers, and this math is driving parents crazy and kids to tears nationwide.  What I didn’t find any reasoning behind why this is an important lesson.

http://www.education.com/question/adding-doubles/

So my next stop was the Common Core website.  What were the “math standards” for first graders and why do they love doubles and number bonds so much?

My next stop was here: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/1/introduction

I won’t copy the full set of “standards” here, which would fill many pages.  Quite a substantial amount of material for “standards” but the only significant grouping I found involved making groupings of 10. (I didn’t see anything about the metric system though which one would think would be introduced if we’re gonna’ start making tens so important.) I did not find anything about “Doubles” or their ilk there.  So where did all this bizarre terminology come from?

It came from a New York based non-profit named EngageNY.   (Although based on what my New York relatives and contacts are relaying it would be more accurate to name it EnrageNY.

enrageNY

New York was the first state to test their students on these new standards, so they had the first glimpse of what the test would look like.  EngageNY is a non-profit group that is promoting a “free” version of Common Core curriculum designed to teach what students will be expected to do on high stakes tests like PARCC.   The whole point of having “Common Standards” is for the testing component.  Proponents of this idea emphasize the comparability of test scores, as if that was the only purpose of education.

http://theadvocate.com/home/7207133-125/white-to-repeat-support-for

He [John White] said the state is “struggling with the idea that measuring our kids on a common bar with those across the country is somehow commensurate with an outside takeover of public education.”

You’re damn right I have a problem with this.  I’m not concerned with a common bar.  I want a high quality education that teaches my children to think and to prepare them for a life of learning, not simply a low paying career at Wal-Mart (one of the biggest supporters of Common Core.)  John White’s “bar” is total bullshit.  He changes it every year and adds bonus points in for schools he wants to promote and to tear down schools he wants to take over and hand off to privatizers.  I am seriously considering pulling my kids out of school on testing days from now on.  The Race to the Top application stated the results would be available weeks after the kids take the tests for teachers to use, but that has never happened.  This year’s results weren’t released until October of the following school year.  These results and tests are all about using promoting the education reform agenda, about selling tests and test preparation  materials, and nothing, not one whit, about the kids.  I’d like to see him compare a big pile of nothing.  I see parents staging walk out days to protest Common Core, but if parents really want to make a statement I suggest everyone take their kids out on testing days instead.  No learning is taking place on those days anyway, and the results are not used to help children one bit.  The results are used to punish and reward teachers, they are used to punish and reward schools and for White to tout his successes.  These tests are used to stress out children and to force schools to direct much of the instructional time towards passing tests that John White will tweak every year to tell the story he wants, all the while White personally looks the other way when large cases of cheating are reported directly to him for charter and RSD schools he does nothing except terminate the ones reporting the cheating.  Our children are pawns in his twisted game.  Will they still be able to play if we turn over the chess board?  I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to find out. . .

Common Core has never been about introducing “rigor” its been about creating commonality and student standardization, standard products for industry to absorb into their ranks.

Roemer said the new standards will equip students for a wave of jobs that require increased technical and literacy training.

“We need to make sure our citizens are prepared for those jobs,” Roemer said.

I’m not exactly sure what jobs BESE president, Chas Roemer, is referring to.   Under Jindal’s tenure our unemployment rate has doubled and is on a definite upswing in contrast to the rest of the country, State subsidized chicken plucking plants notwithstanding.

Our children are being prepared to be barked at and respond on command.  This is not a rigorous or “engaging” curriculum.  Take a look at this video EngageNY posted as an example of their teaching methods and curriculum at work.

http://www.engageny.org/resource/common-core-video-series-kindergarten-mathematics-double-10-frames

Look at the fidgeting, yawning children, the harsh slaps of the hands demanding their attention to count to 11.  11, 12.  11, 12, 13.  This is not rigor, this is not preparing children to increase their critical thinking skills.  It teaches them about doubles, and double 10 frames that they will never, ever, ever use or need to know unless they end up in what will one day be a dead end job if this insanity continues; teaching.  EnrageNY teaches them to yawn and hate school, but this is the mass delusion and perversion that Federal education mandates are becoming.  This video and these worksheets are the houses that High Stakes testing built.  But don’t take my word for it.  If you don’t have children or grandchildren in public schools ask your neighbors with children in public schools learning this Common Core math.

I agree we needed to ramp up our curriculum.  I don’t believe Common Core does this.  I believe this junk is being mislabeled, and the people opposing it are also being mislabeled. You have a responsibility to look beyond the label.  It’s easy to call something rigorous and it’s easy to make something rigorous.  Cleaning your kitchen tiles with a toothbrush is more rigorous than using a mop, but rigor alone doesn’t make something better.  It’s easy to call parents knuckle draggers, Tea Party cooks, and lazy cry babies with their heads in the sand, but the media needs to take a more “rigorous” approach to examining this issue and reporting on it, and if you have written folks off because of politics, you need to take a more rigorous look as well.  Most of the people supporting Common Core the most vociferously, like John White, do not have children or children of public school age, and many of them have profited directly or indirectly from this initiative.  Motivations matter, and who’s do you think are purer, a paid puppet, or a public school parent?

We speak for our children, they speak for their patrons and their pocketbooks.

We will be speaking loudly at the voting booths from now on.

Common Core Rally – BESE update for Oct 15 2013

Common Core Rally – BESE update for Oct 15 2013

That did not go as well as I’d hoped, but I suppose as well as I expected. The BESE meeting was a hot mess with CCSS not being started till almost 8 at night, after John White sprung on the audience that had been waiting for 12 hours that he had a 10 minute presentation to deliver (that took 10 minutes to even load) and an additional 45 minutes to cover what seemed like 20 or 30 slides. That was a mockery of the democratic process. I had learned that John White was summoning companies like Exxon, and faux parents groups funded by Bill Gates, not local parents, like Stand for Children, Louisiana to testify. It must be nice for people like Rayne Martin (a former RSD and LDOE employee) to be able to do that as part of your very high paid job. Perhaps as good as Holly Boffy’s job as a paid CCSSO consultant promoting Common Core on the state’s Board of Education. Apparently Boffy confessed at a recent meeting with local constituents that she pays her mortgage with the money she gets from CCSSO. But this is apparently no more of an ethics issue than Kira Orange Jones working as the Louisiana TFA (Teach for America) recruitment director, and on BESE, where they are passing large funding allotments to recruit TFA teachers, either.

White presented his presentation as “facts.” He led off with misrepresenting a recent study about adult preparedness compared to other nations as proof of our incompetence as a State and a Nation. He repeated frequently we were the third from the bottom in education standards in the 3rd from the bottom development nation evaluated.

As usual White completely misrepresented the report, declaring that our poverty and social inequities have nothing to do with the disparities between the nations. Actually the exact opposite is true.

Interestingly, the data show no relationship between a country’s average literacy skills and the impact of social background on those skills, suggesting that high average proficiency does not need to come at the expense of social inequities. Japan, and to a lesser extent Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, combine above-average performance with a high level of equity. France, Germany, Poland and the United States all show both below-average performance and large social disparities.

As usual, White is entitled to his own “facts” in his own backyard.

One of the most charming comments came from one of the two Lincoln Parish curriculum experts. When asked about teacher attrition in his parish by James Garvey, the rep from Lincoln reported that his parish was gifted with the blessing of a significant a teacher attrition problem, driving out scores of bad teachers who don’t want to achieve for their students. Are there any Lincoln Parish teachers that would like to concur with this assessment?

One of the most embarrassing moments was also made by James Garvey to this same teacher I believe. He asked if he found parents complaining a lot about the Socialism and Communism and anti-capitalist subject matter. To which the math teacher replied, uh, I teach math so that doesn’t come up a lot. Garvey then asked if this pro CCSS teacher had heard a lot of parents complaining about inappropriate sexual curriculum, to which the teacher responded basically, still a math teacher, that doesn’t come up much.

Garvey asked numerous questions throughout the meeting to various Common Core supporters, as if from a list of questions he’d been asked to bring up so his Common Core allies could nail them home and score. That might have been a more effective tactic if he hadn’t asked a representative from Board of Regents to comment on the remark that the standards were developmentally inappropriate as defined by child psychologists. He said to this Board of Regents Rep, you’re a doctor, aren’t you? [not of child psychology] What do you think? This struck the woman as strange but, I give her credit for trying to answer the question, which seems to imply anyone with a doctorate in anything is an expert on all things. She mentioned a number of different doctors and people who had reviewed the standards in our state [none of whom were child psychologists] to which Garvey replied, those are Doctors? Good, he said nodded approvingly. She said, well, Dr James Madden, and uh. . . she mentioned a few more random names. It just so happens I had Dr. Madden in college at LSU, and have seen him around the department of education numerous times and chatted with him several times when he was hanging around at LDOE. Dr. Madden was my calculus teacher, and he is a math professor, about as far away from a child psychologist as you can get.

So what this was a farce. When I finally got a chance to speak I’ll admit I was a bit fatigued by waiting all day after getting up with my daughter at 6 am in the morning. When I was interrupted during my 2 minutes to justify how my comment was Common Core related I was a bit thrown, because I had been speaking to a topic that was already covered by three previous speakers. This forced me to juggle a bit and I was sloppy trying to bring my thoughts back together. I had reports that John White was getting his network leaders to bring 5 teachers or reps from each of their regions. They did this, but all that did is drown out the voices of parents trying to finally be heard over the din of the corporate machine arraigned against them. I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I think everyone who attended that meeting on behalf of their children and without the urging of LDOE and related organizations felt the oppression in real and personal terms.

Parents and teachers we can’t do this alone. Hundreds of you confirming you are going to the meeting, but not showing up is not going to do it. If this is something you feel strongly about, if you care about your children, your neighbors children and grandchildren and believe what is going on is wrong, now is the not the time to leave the heavy lifting to someone else. You need to contact your legislators. I am now more convinced than ever that BESE is a pointless mission except to make a public statement. Those folks are largely bought and paid for and powerless to reverse the Corporate Common Core Curriculum. No parents there were against high standards. Standards that are not age appropriate are not rigorous, they are ridiculous. Standards that are 2 years behind the math we teach now do not raise the bar, they lower it to the least common denominator (a math term CCSS proponents must have never learned.)

Chaos is not necessary, but it is desired by John White. While we were there BESE approved by a 9/2 margin a charter operator in a B+ district the local board and superintendent rejected, and which had significant financial questions and a dubious track record in other states. The ultimate objective of John White and reformers is destroying all public schools and converting them into profit centers for corporations and they are only too happy to tell any lie, and endanger any children they need to, to do it.

I heard a lot of bashing on school districts that did not adopt Common Core before the standards were mandated by the state. Those districts and superintends, in their dysfunctional; “fiefdoms” as John White as said at conference in DC recently, are at fault. The parents, teacher and children who are suffering by the hurried implementation be damned. If we accept this as the status quo for our children and our state, then so are we all.

082613_1143_Everythingb4.png
Some children are steak, some have to be the hamburger

 

My thanks to BESE member Lottie Beebe for putting this on the agenda (I hear she’s a doctor so I wonder why Garvey doesn’t ask her opinion more about everything. . .  he sits right next to her) and to all the stalwart parents and champions who did show and support the speakers or speak their peace.  I am proud to know you and humbled by your actions.

The Holly Boffy – John White, CCSSO, CCSS conflicts of interest that will make your head spin

The Holly Boffy – John White, CCSSO, CCSS conflicts of interest that will make your head spin

BESE member, Holly Boffy, taught thru the 2010-2011 school year for Lafayette Parish; before getting elected to BESE.

Boffy’s May 15, 2012 a financial disclosure shows she was hired at some point by A+PEL full time (another organization advocating for CCSS in our state); after getting elected to BESE.

Her May 9, 2013 financial shows Boffy was paid between $25,000-100,000 for vague “education consulting.”

addressredacted

http://ethics.la.gov/PFDisclosure/PFD13003580/EthicsDisclosureDownload.pdf

While seeming to operate as an independent contractor in the education market it seems she also has an official role with a group that may very well be her major client, or even sole client.

Holly Boffy is an Educator in Residence for CCSSO serving the central and southeastern states participating in SCEE. Holly also serves as an elected member of the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. While teaching 8th grade social studies to gifted students, Holly was selected as the 2010 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. She taught middle school for ten years and also served as an adjunct instructor for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Holly is National Board Certified.

http://scee.groupsite.com/page/summit-12-bios

Someone is paying her up to 100,000 dollars for “consulting” as her full time job.


For those who don’t know, CCSSO, (the council of State School Officers, of which current Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White is a member), was instrumental in writing Common Core Standards.


CCSSO also influences federal law and advocates in state legislatures. Holly is now working for John White who technically works for and is answerable to her.  It’s hard to imagine a greater conflict of interest than this. If you can come up with one let me know.

Should Holly be participating in any conversation relative to Common Core, or for that matter anything that CCSSO “advocates” for?  Should Boffy even be on BESE if she is working for or being paid by a group that that is influencing state education policy, directly, through her? While operating as an independent contractor may shield one from the Ethics board identifying glaring conflicts of interest, that does not mean she should get away with being unanswerable to her constituents. If this is what’s going on, if CCSSO is paying Boffy to advocate for them and their initiatives full-time, while she is also serving on the very State board that can vote on policies and initiatives it is trying to promote, that is a sweet deal for them but it would leave me, as a constituent, with a lot of questions and concerns.

Perhaps someone can ask Boffy and John White to clarify this relationship at the next BESE meeting?

On a final note, someone sent these pictures from their last private CCSSO meeting.


I have no idea if they are authentic but I have my suspicions they may be doctored. For instance, look at John White’s sleeves. They are not rolled up . . . even a little.