Plan B: One-Step for Addressing PARCC and Common Core

Plan B: One-Step for Addressing PARCC and Common Core

Today was an interesting day at the Claiborne building in downtown Baton Rouge. Today was the much anticipated climax of significant back and forth politicking between Governor Jindal and his mail ordered State Superintendent of Education, John White. Today was the day Louisiana got a front row seat to the attempted abortion of the illegitimate Education Love Child known as Common Core and the testing consortium known as PARCC, conceived in back room deals and between these two star-crossed (and now double-crossing) education reformers.

Of course John White insisted on boring and dubious analysis of the situation that everyone who was there already knew all too well. Usually this is simply annoying and infuriating, but today was a little different since he didn’t have a trusty and redundant PowerPoint to stall over and guide him through the highlights. It appeared White was talking somewhat off the cuff. When you talk for hours on end you eventually make some mistakes. When you lie about everything to everyone, it is inevitable that you will contradict yourself and your previous statements.

Let’s discuss some of them.

John White confirmed that the test questions for next year will be different than this year and that test questions always change every year, regardless of who cast the testing contract and regardless of the test containing PARCC questions or not. This contradicts John White’s earlier testimony and assertions to the legislature related to disclosing previously administered tests to parents to review. White claimed this would cause a lot of unnecessary expense and force the department to create new questions. When White testified before the legislature this spring he claimed if test questions were released the tests would need to be reworked because those questions could never be used again. However today, before BESE, John White confessed these questions are changed every year. They are not used every year anyways so releasing these tests should not be a problem, right? Inadvertently he defeated his own argument against allowing parents to review the exams being administered to their children.

Today John White made an assertion that the current environment is very confusing and clarity was needed for teachers, parents and students. (Who wouldn’t agree with that?) He claimed this clarity could only be achieved by seeking a legal expert, seeking a legal opinion and filing a lawsuit to resolve the legal conflicts between BESE, LDOE and the Governor’s office. He was partially correct. What is going on is very confusing. Bobby Jindal and BESE conceived this chaos 4 years ago today when they adopted Common Core without it being finalized. John White midwifed Common Core for Jindal and BESE, but then snuck around on the state and cheated on us, conceiving a PARCC contract during his philandering with other reform organizations. White tried to pass off PARCC as the governor’s offspring by adopting it through an old non-bid contract. White thought he could force Louisiana and Jindal to adopt PARCC and pay to support this progeny of his relationship with CCSSO and the PARCC board – both organizations he holds leadership positions with. White obviously wants to hold onto these relationships, while also courting Louisiana and Jindal as the sugar daddy that will pay for him and them. Where John White was incorrect was in his proposal for resolving this conflict in time to bring clarity to our teachers. I have never heard of a situation where bringing lawyers and lawsuits into a dispute resolves that situation quickly. White also claimed lawyers and lawsuits will bring clarity. . . Maybe in a few years. . . but school starts up next month. Can anyone say with any confidence getting lawyers involved with resolve this situation swiftly or with clarity in the next few weeks? This is a recipe for complete disaster; one which John White could mitigate by simply putting everything on hold while these questions are resolved to the clarity level he feels comfortable with.

John White previously made the statement that there was no Plan B, because there was no legal option no Plan B was conceivable. Today however White backtracked and not only admitted that he had a Plan B, but that the situation is beyond his legal expertise and does not look like it will be resolved before the start of the school year. That’s why he and BESE President Chas Roemer are seeking legal experts. . . because they recognize this is a complex situation that will need to be decided in the courts based on the decision made by Jindal, John White and Chas Roemer. That was the ultimate decision of today’s meeting; to acquire the services of legal experts to council and perhaps file a lawsuit. This decision to make this issue complex is entirely John White’s and Chas Roemer’s, but they will not be the ones that have to bear the brunt of their decision. Teachers will be impacted. Students and parents will be impacted. Just about everyone but the ones creating this chaos will be harmed by the confusion they have chosen to sew into this situation. They are content to consult a lawyer and point their finger’s a Jindal while this slow moving train plods towards the August cliff of the imminent school year.

When you find yourself in a hole, and decide you need to get out, you stop digging. Before implementing new changes that may harm one of the parties, judges initiate injunctions to prevent either party from proceeding while the courts resolve the differences. As was brought up multiple times during today’s BESE session by BESE members Lottie Bebee, Jane Smith and distinguished educator and blogger Michael Deshotels, Louisiana had some of the highest regarded, nationally recognized standards in the nation. They were defined as one of the top 2 sets of standards in the United States. We used them for the most part last year and all the years before. We have those standards to rely upon while we await the rulings John White and Chas Roemer feel we need to bring clarity to this situation. We have our tests from last year that were aligned with the current curriculum. We spent quite a bit of time and money developing them. They contain some questions based on the national standards White and Roemer claim we are obligated to benchmark our tests against. We can stay the course while the courts resolve these questions Roemer and White claimed multiple times they are unqualified to clarify for themselves without involving lawyers and filing lawsuits. We adopted these standards 4 years ago blindly and without any input from parents – because they weren’t finalized and there was nothing to comment upon. Now that we have seen these standards implemented parents see they are worse than what we had. Education Reform has put our state in hole and riled up parents across the state to reject this corporately driven and funded agenda of which PARCC and Common Core are a significant part. The hole we find ourselves in is just getting deeper and less stable. Even our political leaders can’t decide among themselves what to do without resorting to lawyers. This was a mistake born of too much inexperienced enthusiasm without enough thought towards consequences or protection. It’s time for plan B. It’s time to stop digging. After 4 years, it’s time to stop screwing around with education and start being responsible.

The False Equivalence between Common Core Detractors and Defenders

The False Equivalence between Common Core Detractors and Defenders

Something has been bothering me lately about the way defenders and detractors are afforded equal time in an attempt to artificially provide some sort of “balance” between these two groups. This is a disingenuous attempt by some in the mainstream media to force parity into an issue where there really is none. Common Core was portrayed as a perfect solution to a [manufactured] education crises. Defenders have tried multiple strategies to defend Common Core, switching fluidly between completely contradictory defenses not based in reality – without being called out for their fickle and fictitious fluctuations. (say that 5 times fast.)

For example. . .Common Core was first portrayed at an internationally benchmarked set of standards that would surpass anything in the world in terms of “rigor”. When challenged on this point, to show even the existence of any international standards, let alone that these standards would surpass them, defenders of Common Core switched arguments without many in the media recognizing this as complete bullshit. When someone makes up a complete lie, and you call them on it, their credibility should be called into question and their other arguments should be considered suspect. That did not happen on this issue or any of these other points I will mention.

The next argument was that the existing standards in every state were complete crap and while not internationally benchmarked (because there are no international benchmarks, and because these standards do not surpass those of even modest countries like Sweden and Finland, or even small US state’s like Massachusetts, let alone the entire international community) these standards were better than all existing standards in all places. To defend this claim, defenders of Common Core selected individual standards from individual grades and compared them to another grade and standard and made the gigantic false equivalency argument. They claimed that because of this small case (which in many cases were actually completely backwards as in the case of the example provided by a Common Core Lobbyist named Blogger Ryan Booth – political director of the Republican Party – that appeared on a recent LPB Common Core advertisement paid for by Exxon masquerading as a real debate – that our existing standards did not have children learning their multiplication tables in grade 3, and Common Core did, and don’t we think kids should and could be learning their multiplication table sin grade 3? (check out the 32.28 mark) Yes, and we had children learning multiplication tables in grade 3 before Common Core. Hey Ryan, Common Core actually removed that as a standard you complete mile-wide-inch-deep-talking-point stuffed parrot. It was changed back to start including rote memorization so kids could actually function in 4th grade without enormous remediation.) But let me go further to explain when someone makes and argument that they have the best burger in the world, I don’t have to have the best burger the world to disprove your claim. I can find any burger better than yours and your claim is disproven. To expand the analogy to what the Common Core proponents are claiming (their restaurant is better in all respects to every other restaurant out there) all I have to do is find one quality or one menu item that is superior in any restaurant that is better than any one of yours and your claim is proven. . . bogus. You can’t prove your claim by choosing to compare just your choice steak to my moldy bologna sandwich and support your claim. It’s true you have a harder task, to defend every aspect of your Common Core curriculum. I don’t dispute that. That’s how it should be. You are claiming you are better than everyone everywhere in all respects and you are replacing all restaurants with your Bill Gates burger joint claiming this will somehow make us better off. (While Bill Gates sends his own kids to Morton’s Steakhouse)

Another argument I’ve enjoyed seeing picked apart is that we need to adopt Common Core so we can compare our students to every other student in the United States. Two things. Why? Like . . . really? We are restructuring our entire education system and what almost every child in the United States is learning because you want some numbers to line up better on a chart? Seriously? That’s your argument for creating vast turmoil and endangering our entire public education system. So a report is easier to run? Someone needs to take your data away you stupid, stupid people. What genius decided making a report easier to run is worth billions and trillions of dollars to implement (when we already have reports that do this like NAEP) is a good reason to endanger the future of our country and sanity of our children, parents and teachers? (Oh, billionaires and education companies that stand to make billions of dollars implementing Common Core, you say? If you did say that it would at least make sense.(At least if you sold it as an economic model to drive billions of dollars of useless spending as a form of federal stimulus package your argument would have made sense. ) Second thing. No states are coordinating in where they are setting cut scores or category determinations. Giving the same test to a dozen states (not all the states like you portray to the ignorant)s not creating national comparative model that you stressed as one of the primary reasons to do all this. Second, second thing. Just because you give everyone the same test, if every state scores them differently they are not comparable. Are you idiots . . . or do you take us for them? Obviously the legislators that preach this false gospel are either idiots or bought off minions, but we are not. We have concrete, indisputable data to refute this argument. It’s perplexing to me that you still even try to make this argument from time to time. This is not something that is open to debate, or subject to interpretation. Claiming a test given to maybe a dozen states (we have between 50 and 59 states depending on who you ask, but that’s still a small percentage either way) ensures national comparability but without even any centralized mechanism to ensure those few scores are comparable is beyond untrue. . . it’s absurd. We have state superintendents of education in each state determining cut scores and proficiency levels independently. If 2 kids in two states are given the same test but one state grades 90% and above an A, and another state grades 50% and above as an A, you can compare them, but those two numbers are only equivalent using Common Core Math.

Anyways. . . just thought I’d get that out there. It’s been bothering me. See some of you tomorrow at the Rally. I’m tired now, but I’m still eating away at my elephant.

 

Here’s a Sesame Street video that summarizes my post.

 

 

John White’s Journey: Why he decided to ask his Louisiana Department of Education to alter student test scores

John White’s Journey: Why he decided to ask his Louisiana Department of Education to alter student test scores

Believe it or not, John White did not start off with the intent of trying to delude Louisiana into believing his education reforms worked simply by altering a few scores. At first I think White believed much of his own rhetoric. Namely:

  • that teachers were lazy and holding kids back with their incompetence
  • that State workers were lazy union wannabe’s, and essentially worthless
  • that IT folks were unnecessary
  • that data would almost magically flow in the department’s coffers with little effort on anyone’s part
  • that most corporations in the education business had kids best interests at heart
  • that charter schools are inherently better than all public schools
  • that simply improving reading and math test scores is the keystone to unlocking all other student learning and overcoming the challenges of poverty
  • that Common Core will improve student outcomes and level the playing field across the nation
  • and that the data will eventually prove that all of his education “reforms” were a success.

John White always wanted to be “the Decider”, a difference maker, a leader of a Nationwide Education Reform movement destined to change the entire landscape of education, schools and teaching, for the better – or so he thought. But there were a lot entrenched interests in his way, ready to pounce on any misstep, any nuance, any faltering. John White knew this, was told this, and had done this himself. Reformers used this approach to make inroads across the nation and even the world, by harping on data often taken out of context or interpreted in self-serving ways. This is what his team, the Reformers, specialized in. White knew exactly how to defeat this move and buy enough time for his vision to work its magic. To defeat people who use data to criticize the status quo, which he had now become, he needed to starve them for data. Like the propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, John White knew he needed to be the sole provider and purveyor of data and messaging to achieve a history making goal that would be thwarted otherwise. Without any real data, just summarized and sanitized data delivered without any historical or comparative context, White knew he could define his program as successful until it had time to grow into the success he envisioned; that he “Believed” it would be. His first official major act as head of LDOE was to cut off communications with the schools districts, media, researchers and legislature – except through carefully monitored channels and calculated messaging.

At first, I really think John White believed he would change the nation and the world with his ideas, and sacrificing a little honesty was not that great a price for the glorious prize (in his mind) he was working for. Then reality started to creep in. Governor Jindal started to exert his control by inserting a voucher program White disagreed with, but White knuckled under and by all appearances seemed to back it under the frequently bandied guise of “Choice.” John White wanted to develop a new revolutionary system to grade and evaluate teachers and so COMPASS was created, but VAM (Value Added Modeling) was already in place and approved by the legislature. Over time White began to realize VAM was a sham, that there were many flaws in his VAM system for teachers as the extremes (teaching very advanced or severely disabled students) and students with significant emotional problems that might not have been diagnosed. At first he believed these were simply small factors, and would by and large the vast majority of teachers were being graded accurately, and his ally Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal really wanted this system to work. It also had the added bonus of eliminating and demoralizing many experienced teachers to make room for TFA to supply and offload their growing surplus of teachers in more agreeable geographies. However as the Seabaugh Solution showed, White was not opposed to rejiggering the entire formula and outcomes for the entire state to appease a single legislator, Alan Seabaugh from Shreveport, to fix the outcomes to ensure three teachers of gifted students were defined as effective by definition. This redefined numerous other teachers as ineffective as a result. This change was not done as a result of mathematics, but political expediency. When his entire staff that designed the VAM system quit in protest and word came to light of how White had simply altered the entire outcome for the entire state for a political reason, which no doubt caused the firing of many teachers and financially impacted numerous others through raises or no raises, and no significant personal cost came of this John White realized he could do anything he wanted to scores and formulae and as long as he stayed in the graces of the status quo, nothing and no one could touch him. After this fiasco John White simply created a bonus point scheme for teachers evaluated under VAM that he could dispense as needed. A few folks picked up on this, but no major media cared because they were controlled by many of the same forces that protected John White. Additionally, John White learned that anything to do with math immediately causes the public and reporters to lose interest and fall asleep. You can do anything with a formula, add any points for any reason, just as long as you name it and come up with a rationale, however flimsy. Most people who take tests are not able to add bonus points themselves to the results after they get those results. John White has been enabled to operate differently by a lack of sustained interest, outrage, or understanding by the general public.

The thought process that resulted in John White asking to have student test scores directly inflated was a gradual one, and not altogether as insane as you might first think considering the wide latitude he had been given in his brief tenure as Louisiana Superintendent. I say “insane” because I really thought the idea was crazy when I first heard it. It wasn’t until I connected the historical dots that show a directly linear path that I realized doing so would not only be absolutely in character but completely reasonable to an “ends justifies the means” operator, like White.

John White has also been altering SPS (School Performance Scores) to suit his agenda. He has done this by selectively including and excluding data and students, changing the impacts and penalties for disabled students and students performing below grade level, and adding bonus points based on formulae that cannot be verified and have room to be reconfigured and calculated multiple ways until he achieves the outcome he wants. Most people don’t realize the formula for calculating scores has changed every year since Katrina in 2005, and probably before that. They also don’t realize that John White has a say over where the “cut-off” score is set every year. By changing the cut-off score after you get all the results in, you can achieve almost any result you want. Set the cut-off score lower, more kids score basic or above, fewer kids are defined as below basic or “failing”. If you want people to tell you that you are doing a great job and that your reforms are working, simply set a lower cut-off score every year. Eventually though, this tactic will catch up with you.

For Example: Let’s say you set the cut-off score at 5 out of 10 for basic one year, 7 as Mastery and 9 as Advanced, 3 as Approaching Basic and 1 as Unsatisfactory. The next year you could set the cutoff score as 4 for basic, making a score of 6 Mastery, 8 Advanced, 2 as Approaching Basic and 0 as Unsatisfactory. If performance actually stayed the same, it would look like you had improved outcomes by simply changing the “cut” score.

I’m told this this has been going on for a while to show progress where there was none. If you were to lower the score again you might actually have an unusually low number of “Unsatisfactories” and large number of Approaching Basics. This is one of the reasons John White probably released category summary counts this year, removed the summaries by district and embargoed the scores until after the legislative session. He lowered the cut score too low to where the manipulation would be obvious. If what I’ve been told is correct, students did much, much, worse this year to where the cut-scores can’t be lowered enough to where the overall numbers won’t look fishy. Results are down statewide, even with the much lower cut-score. There are too few students at the upper ends and most of the student lumped into the approaching basic after the cut score determinations.

Apparently John White had his vendor recalculate the designations (Mastery, Advanced, Basic, Approaching Basic, Unsatisfactory) several times with several different cut scores before realizing the only way to get the numbers he wanted was to actually alter the scores or designations directly. This approach was actually ideal, because he could raise the scores of charters and RSD to where they look better than traditional public schools, making the case for them stronger. If the scores were reported as too low across the state while the legislative session was ongoing, it would call into question the Common Core initiative and breathe life into the resistance movement. If Common Core had been tested against PARCC this year, a completely new test that has already been responsible for lower test scores across the nation, poor performance could easily have been explained away and comparing it to previous test results would have impossible. PARCC allows White to “reset” the cut-score scale and gradually lower the cut score to show “improvement” if students don’t improve on their own. My guess is he gave up on altering the test scores after word of this plan came to light, thus the reason for the delayed results, merged categories, lies about deadlines, and embargoing.

John White wanted to make a difference in education. It turns out he got his wish. The data is in, and it turns out he made a big difference in Louisiana. Unfortunately the difference he made was all bad, but nothing a low cut-score and ambiguous reporting can’t fix. Atter all, this is Math we’re talking about, and with Common Core mathematics the deception will only get easier.

 

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.)

 

The Fallacies of Quick Fixes in School Reform . . . and Life

The Fallacies of Quick Fixes in School Reform . . . and Life

Recently I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I knew my blood sugars were trending higher for years, and I had resolved to lose 50 pounds this year to prevent this outcome from occurring. 3 months into this year I had lost 25 pounds . . . and I learned I had uncontrolled fasting blood sugars in the 400s. 3 months ago I had my blood sugar levels checked and they were creeping up into the pre-diabetic range, but I was fine. I had a lot of warning signs that something was wrong, including blurring vision I attributed to getting old, a dramatic increase in being thirsty I attributed to giving up sodas and exercising more, and a dramatic increase in confusion and forgetfulness I chalked up to just being busy. If readers recall, I travelled to Austin in March but managed to leave my suitcase with all my belongings at home in my front yard. I also was supposed to appear on Frances and Friends a few weeks later but lost my phone, directions and mind. I’ve also managed to forget my daughter’s soccer ball and every practice I took her too, although thankfully I usually remember the kids. I’ve also been having trouble sitting down and composing blog entries and night from fatigue and an inability to focus. (To, those of you who have submitted information to me to create stories or research, I am moving slower but still making progress now.) Now that I am getting a handle on my condition things are starting to firm up and my confusion seems more obvious now in retrospect. I’ve been running labs, seeing doctors, dietitians and specialists and what seems to be the consensus is that taking steroid shots back to back to address my Pneumonia and Bronchitis in February and March overwhelmed my pancreas and triggered my condition. I went from just entering the warning zone to a serious case of uncontrolled diabetes over a few months. Fortunately, I was working with my doctor while I was trying to lose so much weight and get in shape and we caught it right away.  If  my condition had remained untreated until an annual physical I would have ended up in the hospital, if I was lucky.

So where am I going with this do you ask?

I did what many of us probably do without thinking. I went to the after-hours clinic, told them I was sick and needed to get well fast, and asked them to load me up with shots and whatever they could give me to get me back on my feet as fast as possible.  “I don’t have time to be sick,” I told them.  Getting an appointment with my primary care physician is always harder, but he has all my medical history and is more qualified, has more experience, and is more familiar with my case history and medications. I was trying to save up as much time as I can to go to meetings, to get blog posts done, to meet with parents, to attend and present at conferences and to still have time for my job and my family so I couldn’t afford to take time for more mundane matters like a common cold. Without considering the consequences, I chose the easiest path. As a result I made myself much sicker with what might be a permanently debilitating condition. (I do have a slim chance of reversing it if I take extra special care of myself over the next 6 months and lose some more weight. Things I should have done before so I would not have been put in the position I am now.) I did not know that getting steroid shots and oral steroids could trigger diabetes and I thought I was being proactive and taking care of myself.  As I’ve learned since, those treatments dramatically raise blood sugars and for those of us in Louisiana already a little overweight, this can rapidly accelerate a process that would normally take years. I’m writing this in part to warn folks about steroids and diabetes. Sometimes steroids may be necessary, when you have Pneumonia like I did for the first round, but maybe not if you just have a cold or Bronchitis and you’ve recently received them. It’s great that you want to do something quickly, but quick or unresearched actions can cause much more harm than good.

In case you were wondering, this is where the School Reform critique comes in. A lot of times we try to apply quick fixes that are nothing more than ineffective Band-Aids to our problems in our daily lives and in public policy.

That’ll fix it!

This type of fix gives us the satisfaction of saying we’ve quickly addressed a problem and a visible verification of the fix. However simple Band-Aids may not be ideal solutions for brown recluse spider bites, or structurally damaged vehicles in previous picture. The Band-Aid solution does not make the car pictured safer, doesn’t permit the doors to open, and applying that Band-Aid means the passenger side window has to remain open. . . but we can say we fixed it!  It didn’t cost us as much a door replacement, paint job and body repair, but it was quick and required little effort or long-term commitment on our part.

This is the way much of modern-day school reform works in the US.

Allow me to show you some examples.

Charter Schools

Charter schools were first marketed as a way to provide quality educations, to help underserved populations like the disabled or Limited English Proficient, and to differentiate emphasis on instruction (say charter schools for Engineering, Math, the Arts or Foreign Language immersion.) When it was discovered that these schools often performed worse, failed to provide certified teachers or staff for special education students, and that serving high needs populations was expensive and reflected poorly on charter school’s rankings compared to schools with average populations many charter schools opted instead to appeal to the wealthiest and least cumbersome students. What started as an easy fix, if the local school system is not working, slap a charter school or three on it, turned into a serious threat, a disease on public education. Charter school mania is a disease that now threatens to devour the host.

Larvae devouring host caterpillar

What started out as a quick fix to apply to ailing public education systems to provide a quality education for some of the students is actually making education worse for most of them by siphoning off financial resources, teachers, and students and leaving the hardest to educate students behind.

[I urge you all to support HB 703 currently pending a vote in the House Education committee. This bill restricts the spread of charter schools into A, B and C districts, like has recently happened to Iberville and Lafayette, by requiring these schools get approval of the local school boards. If you believe in local education, I urge you to contact the members of the House Education committee to support this Bill.]

Common Core

  • Colleges are claiming they face a problem of too many children requiring remediation.
  • Businesses are claiming High School graduates are not career ready when they graduate.
  • Testing and textbook companies are complaining about all the different version of textbooks and tests they have to prepare every year.

To them, the obvious solution was to create a universal standardized curriculum that everyone would have to take and pass to graduate. This, simple enough seeming solution, created many problems.

Not all education is testable. You cannot test the arts with bubbles. You cannot test a student’s drive or thirst for additional learning. You cannot test a child’s creativity (which Common Core stifles) on a standardized test.  These aspects of education are whittled away to nothing under Common Core. This will create a generation of education hating test bubble makers, not the creative class that is responsible for our place as the greatest inventors and artists with the greatest per capita renewable economy on the planet.

The Common Core curriculum that was created is not rigorous, just tedious. Tedium does not equate to rigor except of the “mortis” variety. Advanced Math and Calculus was not included in Common Core. Students will not be STEM ready without that exposure. Colleges will have to provide that instruction and remediation, just as they have been. However fewer students will want to pursue those types of careers because of how obnoxious the math has become.

Companies will not have more employees ready to complete upon graduation. This curriculum was never tested, it is being piloted on a massive scale without any supporting research that it works. Early indications are that Common Core math is producing lower test scores in all states that adopted compared to those state’s previous math scores, and compared to other states that did not implement the Common Core math.  Common Core does not work and will and will make our children worse off.

Now there is so much chaos as a result of pushing Common Core, sight unseen and untested, that states are having problems pulling out of it. Students and parents are getting frustrated and pulling their kids out of school to homeschool them, or enrolling them in non-public schools that have rejected Common Core. Experienced teachers are fleeing the profession in record numbers, and newer teachers are leaving in droves as well. The rushed and unresearched manner is which a universal curriculum was pushed upon the Nation through trickery, bribery and deception is ruining public education for millions of children and families.

 Closing “Failing” Schools

One of the favorite tactics of school reformers is closing the schools they have defined as “failing”.  Whether the school is actually “failing” the students is beside the point.  All a school has to do to be defined as failing is have a concentration of poor students, students with disabilities or English Language learners.  Schools are not judged based on whether they serve children well, simply based on demographics.  To become a successful school all one needs to do is attract wealthier students and dissuade poorer students from enrolling as was the disabled or students from recently emigrated families.  Reformers trot out the occasional High performing High poverty school to “show” us that poverty doesn’t matter, but when you look at these cases a little closer you find numerous mitigating factors including dramatically increased funding, a poorly defined “poverty” measure, cheating or high concentration of wraparound services and highly qualified teachers that reformers claim are unnecessary.  The believe simply moving these children to “successful” school will magically make them become overachievers, and negate the impacts of poverty, abuse, neglect and apathy. This is not true.  All this does is mask the problem while the schools poor children are evicted from are turned over to privatizers who often perform worse than the schools they replace and are successively shut down and rebranded year after year to disguise the massive, systemic failures of the charter movement.

Rather than recognizing how often charters fail, States like Louisiana point to the numerous closures and claim success!  This is the free market in action, and we are holding these schools “accountable”.  Meanwhile no one seems to actually care what happens to the children and communities.  They take and claim for granted that these children have been “helped” by this displacement, but they are careful not to track them or allow anyone to report on their outcomes.

They know the truth, and they fear it.

Poverty matters

It is true that poverty can be overcome.  It’s not the sole determinate in whether a student is successful, but it is a major component and not one that can be overcome by simply opening up Rocketship Academies staffed with teachers trained for 5 weeks and implementing Common Core. Overcoming the reductive impacts of poverty on educational outcomes requires hard work, money, determination and a significant time commitment.  This is not something most education reformers want you to hear.  They want to inject the education system with magic steroid shots in the form of High Stakes Testing, VAM teacher evaluations, charter schools, virtual schools, Common Core, and a parade of poorly trained fresh-faced can do chanting recruits from TFA and the New Teacher Project.  They want to reduce funding to students and channel it educational entrepreneurs and data harvesters who will claim to have the latest and greatest data potions to improve educational outcomes without the hard work such endeavours have traditionally taken in the past.

Reformers want to be in charge.  They want to “believe” that their reforms will improve the outcomes of children, while they make a tidy profit on the side.  Louisiana’s John White is a typical reformer.  He is so invested in this philosophy that he even renamed the official Louisiana Department of Education website “Louisiana Believes”.  He has formed Louisiana Believes committees and recruits to support his message and preach his gospel of reform.  What he has also done is prevent anyone impartial form getting access to any data that unequivocally disproves his “beliefs”.  John White “believes” his reforms are working, or at least that is what he is trying to brainwash the state of Louisiana and the nation into believing.

The reality is much different.

If John White had any faith in his beliefs he wouldn’t need to hide his data, and contract with shill organizations like CREDO, Stand For Children, and the Cowen institute to produce poorly research propaganda to support his “beliefs”.

If reforms were working they could show us the proof and that would shut people like me up once and for all.

The truth is, there are no quick fixes for what ails Education and our society.

We are the wealthiest Nation on earth and yet have perhaps the largest income and wealth gap as well. Reformers have correctly identified that this poverty is impacting our children, and our nation’s competitiveness.  This poverty does pose a threat to our global position as a world leader and a lack of a proper education does impact future earnings for children as they become adults and makes it more likely these children and their families will end up on public assistance or perhaps incarcerated.  Those negative outcomes have a significant cost to our society and changing those to positive outcomes could result in a substantial net benefit.  The answer is not reducing our educational funding, closing schools with at-risk students, forcing children and teachers to Race To The Top or be the Children Left Behind.  The answer is not a quick shot in the butt, or crossing our fingers and “hoping” Common Core works (in a generation).

The answer is the same as it has always been. Hard work.  Focus.  Determination. Dedication.  Adequate Funding.  Squarely addressing our problems, not hiding from them or disguising them or saying “Screw it, if I can’t fix it at least we can make some money off this problem” as I see many of the latest education entrants doing.   Our public education system was not perfect, but now it is sick with all the quick-fix reform “treatments” we’ve heaped upon it.  We can reverse this illness before it becomes fatal.  But to do so, it will require we abandon the harmful quick-fix approaches and buckle down for some slow-going old-fashioned hard work.

I ask that you help me do this.

I will do the same.

Let’s check back in six months and see where we are.

Bio of a Crawfish – Part I

A wise man once asked me (like a few hours ago) what is my story and why am I running for an elective position on BESE. To paraphrase his point, it’s one thing to criticize someone else (especially an easy target like Chas Roemer) but quite another to be worthy of support in your own right, on your own merits, and for reasons people will identify with.

Things have been moving swiftly since I announced and I have gotten a lot of volunteers, positive feedback and even some decent donations that will help me move my campaign forward, but what I have not done as well a job of doing is explaining who I am and what I stand for. (People who read my blog regularly should already have a decent idea based on my hudnreds of posts, but I did not write those in the context of seeking support for an elective office.)

Over the coming months I will do a better job of introducing myself to you as Jason France, the BESE candidate, not simply Crazy Crawfish, the satirical blogger and critic of the status quo of education reform. We have a long journey together, about 16 or 17 months, so I know there will be time for you to come to know me a little better, chat with me if you desire, and see me in action going forward and review what I’ve done in the past.

This is a long story, and very personal, but I think if you read this you will understand why I hold the education beliefs I do, who I am as a person, and why I think I can help improve public education for your family and mine.

For starters let me just say this is all completely new to me. For most of my life I sat around grumbling from the shadows about things are, and how I wished they were different. I come from a the stereotypical humble background all pols probably say they do although in my case it’s actually true.  My dad was a professional Boy Scout (they actually have those) and my mom was a homemaker and occasionally worked as a secretary and administrative assistant when she wasn’t keeping me and my brother out of trouble. I was actually born just outside a Boy Scout camp my dad was running in the state of New York (although I won’t say exactly where for online security question reasons) and the first 10 years of my life I lived in Levittown Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.

My family moved to Baton Rouge when I was about 11, and boy was that a culture shock! We moved to Shenandoah just as it was being built in the early to mid-eighties. Back then empty roads stretched in every direction and I would ride my bike exploring the crazy misshapen mud piles (seeking my elusive namesake) and barely avoiding the giant snakes that would sometimes curl up in the middle of the road to bask in the midday sun. (And just for the record, snow forts are much better than fire ant mounds.)

In my early years in Pennsylvania I had trouble in school. I was held back in second grade, and my school evaluated me as needing special education services. I spent many hours in what I now know as “pull-out” classes with kids in wheelchairs, arm and leg braces, and with obvious mental incapacities. At the time I just thought my job was to help the kids hitting their heads against the wall and rocking back and forth with their socializing skills, and to make them feel better about themselves (the teachers that worked with me told me as much) not realizing I there for my own reasons.

By fourth grade I was still barely reading at a 1st grade level and could only do simple addition and subtraction. That was the year we moved from Bucks County Levittown to Westchester in Exton Pennsylvania and I met a teacher that literally changed my life forever. The public school was Mary C. Howes, and my teacher’s name was Mrs. Yoder. She was an older teacher than I had had till that point, with eyes that seemed to have a liquidy glow that shared warmth and energy with me and her other students, and she always seemed to be studying me closely. One of the first things she did when she saw my stupid, old, “See Spot Run” text books (they actually had them) my old school had sent with me was to throw them out and find me some books with colorful dragons, daring knights, and mysterious wizards and books about kids my age doing things I could relate to.

When Mrs. Yoder talked to me, (secretly we all caller her Mrs. Yoda – Star Wars was popular and she was a tad on the short side) I could tell she was obviously very disappointed, but not at me. She told me what had happened to me was ridiculous and that she would not allow a remedial student in her class to simply be passed along.

We were going to fix this together.

Every day, for months, she worked with me on her lunch hours to help me with my reading and to improve my math skills. In her class, math became fun with competitive math games the class would play. The more math you knew, the faster you knew it, the longer you could play and the more applause you would get when you finally succumbed to an opponent. I finally learned my multiplication tables (a little bit). By then end of fourth grade I had read every Hardy Boys novel in the school library, had acquired some of my own for my personal collection, and voraciously read everything Hardy Boys novel I could get my hands on (there are well over 100). I might as well have been fixing up my own jalopy, fighting bad guys like a wildcat, and have been friends with Chet in my own right, and for quite a while I wanted to be a “sleuth”.

Years later I would learn that the notes teachers passed on from year to year, the grades and performance passed down from year to year at my first school probably set me up for what could have been a lifetime of failure based on data and reports, not my actual abilities or unique challenges that that someone interacting with me on a human level would be able to recognize, tap into and inspire. Because of what teachers read about me, they pegged as an underachiever and they treated me as such. I recall at the beginning of each year my teachers would invariably pull me aside and tell me how they would give me “special” work assignments.

When I finally got to start over with a new teacher and a new school I flourished. This is one of the many reasons I believe using metrics, longitudinal data and predicative formulae is so very wrong for children and wrong for education. A good, involved and experienced teacher can never be replaced by an algorithm, database or report.

I’ve witnessed the overreliance and misapplication of data over experience first- hand as a public student and secondly as a Louisiana Department of Education employee in the Planning Analysis and Reporting division, and finally as a public school parent and education blogger. I also realized that class size and personal attention was very important. I had transferred from a poor school to a relatively much wealthier district with what I believe were much smaller class sizes and more resources. In my previous elementary school there were always about 5 Jason’s in my classes. At Mary C Howes there was just 2; me and the other Jason. Smaller Class sizes, experienced teachers, and resources do matter. I am living proof.

We moved to Louisiana towards then end of my 5th grade year and I attended Magnolia Woods Magnet school.  By this time I was able to keep up and even do better than most of the class. I loved that school and loved learning. However because we moved so late in the year and didn’t know how schools worked in Baton Rouge, we didn’t know the difference between Magnet schools and non-magnet schools although we were hearing things. . .

My mom took me to get evaluated for Gifted and Talented programs (which seemed ridiculous to me since I was called a “retard” most of the earlier elementary years.) and I did pretty well, but fell a few points shy of being “Gifted.” Therefore I could not get into the GT program at McKinley Middle Magnet (which at the time was considered the best public middle school in EBR) and instead went to South East middle school. My 6th grade year I got straight A’s and I could not have been more proud. I don’t think I ever smiled more in my life!

Instead of being called a “retard” I was being called a brain or a “nerd.”

By the end of 5th grade I was already reading on the 11th or 12th grade level reading books like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy. The difference was not the quality of schools but my actual quantum leap from See Spot Run at the beginning of 4th grade to The Hobbit at the end of 5th. (I kept a dictionary by my bed and read every single night for hours once I learned how awesome books were.) Education needs to be fun and tailored to each child’s interests and fictional writing is a powerful way to engage and inspire children and adults. When you really connect with children and inspire them to enjoy learning and to learn on their own miracles can happen.
I do not believe the Common Core emphasis more non-fictional texts will create anything more than yawns and apathy.

In 7th grade I learned what is was like to be bullied for doing too well. I had no idea this happened! I was used to kids throwing stones at me for being the class “retard” but I thought the bright kids had it so easy. I loved school and I was so happy at the beginning of 7th grade. . .until kids started kicking me and tripping me in the halls, stealing my books, spitting on me, pulling my gym shorts down, and playing punching games in the locker room. Kids that I thought were my friends started doing this too, because they learned if they bullied others, they were less likely to get bullied themselves. My teachers were the only people that protected me, when they could. If the lights went out in class (as they did a few times) kids would take that opportunity to run across the room and box my ears, throw pencils at me, or kick me while I was sitting in my chair. This taught me to play dumb, my grades dropped and I started bragging about my C’s and D’s because that was more acceptable to my classmates and they would pick on other kids then. Sometimes I would pile on other kids myself, throwing an insult I didn’t mean but had heard used at me before to save myself from becoming the focus.

Toward the end of 7th grade my parents filed for bankruptcy, got divorced and we lost our house, our mini-van and most of our possessions. It was the mid-eighties in Louisiana, the economy was legendarily bad, and my dad’s company went under. I was used to being dirt poor so it didn’t bother me too much at first, until the bullying started anew for being poor. In the eighties at South East middle if you didn’t have the newest shoes, the fanciest shoelaces, the best jeans rolled up, and more polo shirts than days of the week you were routinely singled out and targeted for being poor.

I had overcome being bullied for being a “retard”, finally mastered being dumb, and now I had to deal with distraught parents and daily harassment for being poor, and for actually being poor. We never went on food stamps or applied for free lunches, but we more than qualified since my dad wasn’t working at first and my mom was working part time as a secretary.

I know this time had to suck for her, she was always crying, but she always scrounged up enough nickels and pennies for us to get hot school lunches and I loved her for trying so hard to provide the bare necessities. I knew I had to do better in school to make her proud, but I didn’t want to get bullied, so I would study and not turn in all my work so I would get lower grades. I didn’t really tell her about my days at school or the extent of the bullying because I didn’t want her to cry. My teachers listened to me though, but there were limits to what they could do.

One day my mom did have to take me to the hospital for a head injury I had sustained. I was waiting patiently to hit a volleyball back over the net during PE when a kid who usually harassed me every day on the bus jumped me from behind and threw me to the concrete for refusing to answer his taunts about being a “fag” or a “homo.” (Those were very popular taunts in the eighties even though homosexuals were not something popular culture had a lot of exposure to. It was still the ultimate insult you could hit someone with, but I refused to bite and that had to have pissed him off. He rammed my head against the ground and gave me a mild concussion and a giant knot on the side of my head.) That bully got a few days of suspension and the principal made him apologize to me when he returned to school, but eventually he harassed me again, because i was still poor or too nerdy for his liking. I learned from other kids that he came from an abusive home and his father beat him regularly, then I started noticing the bruises, broken arms, busted lips and I forgave him – and even let him get a rise out of me occasionally so he would feel better. School uniforms are a great idea for leveling the playing field related to poverty, and I just wish they had those universally ugly things in my day. I’ve since learned that a lot of times bullies act out for a reason and that this can be learned behavior.

As you might imagine my grades suffered some more, this time for real. I was getting depressed, disengaging, and contemplating suicide occasionally – or least not wanting to be alive because every day was just so miserable. Education reformers believe student test scores and student performance should be tied to teachers as if teachers are the chief factor in a child’s life that determines their success, and should be punished when children fail to succeed.  They are a very significant part of the school experience, but not the most determinant factor in a child’s life by far.

I speak from experience, there was very little my teachers could have done to prevent my decline or to improve my performance and they were not responsible for my decline. However VAM or the Value Added Modeling many states, including Louisiana, use determines which teachers get fired or compensated based on what kids performances were for a given year. My meteoric rise in performance really happened after the year Mrs. Yoder put me on the right track and taught me the most valuable and untestable lessons I ever learned, to believe in myself and to enjoy learning for its own sake. The teachers that had me during the bullying, divorce, family bankruptcy and poverty had no responsibility for that, but the VAM tests we use now in Louisiana and plan to use in the future would have punished them for my parent’s divorce, for my depression. VAM is crap and I will never support it to evaluate teachers. Never.
Without my teachers I would have had no one, and I might have actually died.

The least I can do is protect our teachers and children like me with a part of my life.

I have more story and reasons to share but I don’t want to bore you too much on what may be our first introduction.

 

I feel it’s important you understand who you are entrusting your kids to. Do you feel like you understand your current BESE members this well?

I am not running for office to make money (it’s a part time position with no salary.) I am not running because it will look good on my resume, or because billionaires and testing companies put me up to it or because I can secure cushy contracts for my organization. I am not running because I come from politically connected Louisiana family. I am running for office because I believe I am the best candidate to understand the issues our children are going through. If you can honestly think of a more qualified or caring candidate than me, I urge you to vote for them. I understand the what its like to be a public school student in Louisiana and the challenges our students face more than just about anyone I know.  I believe those experiences will help me define, address and solve our problems in a way Ivy League education reformers could never even begin to comprehend.  If you want to learn more about how to support me, please go here:

www.jasonfrance4la.com

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jason France

 

 

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

On March 19th the Louisiana House and Senate Education Committee’s both heard testimony at the same time on the same types of legislation. This legislation was about student privacy. Holding meetings on the same subject at the same time required folks to split up their resources. Since most of us do not have ready doppelgangers, or clones, this meant parents went unrepresented on either the Senate side or the House side. This was pointed out as a little fishy by passionate privacy advocate, Sara Wood, in testimony delivered to the Senate during the hearing on Senator Conrad Appel’s “privacy” bill 449. She points that out as her first point in this YouTube video. Sara Wood’s testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFEjudTEDSk#t=30

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

If you would like to get a look at my actual testimony you can see that here. My testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoHK3TqeksE (I rock – although my “rocking” is certainly of a lower intensity variety than Sara’s.)

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

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

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

LOUISIANA EDUCATION DATA REPOSITORY SYSTEM (LEDRS)

Project Start Date: 3/1/2009

Project End Date: 2/28/2012

Amount Awarded: $4,056,510

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

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

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

project will consist of three main tasks:

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

isolated silos.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIS User Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You don’t need what they’ve become.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would one do this might you ask?

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

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/the-campaign-to-save-our-children/

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

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/contact-us

Contact Us

Email Us: Ask LDOE

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much fun could we have with this?

I think I found new names for my children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

13920599-standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2

http://theadvocate.com/home/8504480-125/mckinley-high-teen-accused-of

Police: Student said loaded pistol was for protection

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

February 25th

http://www.wbrz.com/news/student-accused-of-repeatedly-kicking-teacher/

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

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

February 22

http://theadvocate.com/home/8440545-125/baton-rouge-police-and-fire

  • Sisters accused of disrupting school

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

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

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

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

February 22 (report from source)

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

February 19th (report from source)

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

February 18th (report from source)

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

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

February 7th

Letter from a teacher

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

February 6th

Letter from a teacher

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

An interview with another teacher:

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

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

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

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

Are student discipline matters handled fairly in your opinion?

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

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

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

Is Common Core an issue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope this helps

Letter to me from another EBR teacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A rallying cry story and call to action for the Common Core destroyers among us

A rallying cry story and call to action for the Common Core destroyers among us

Parents are getting creative about how they are showing their displeasure towards the Common Core, and the would-be supporters of it. Those of us who oppose the Core realize these corporation and organizations have very little grasp of what is contained in the Core. They are supporting the “idea” of the Core. I can actually understand and relate to that. At first the idea sounded reasonable enough to me and I required a lot of proof from folks I already trusted and worked with on many other educational projects. I spent many months listening, really listening; to both sides and trying to see if there was a middle ground. It wasn’t until I researched what was actually in it, saw how it was actually implemented (or not), learned about the lack of qualifications of the creators, learned that the international benchmarking was a myth made up to sound impressive, saw the tragically negative impact on children and their families, and heard the debunking of numerous myths and misrepresentations from the mouths of experienced and qualified educators not paid to spout unsupported platitudes, that I realized just how wrong and hostile Common Core has transformed the education landscape. Many companies supporting the Core were assured by other companies, educational leaders and politicians, donors, and wealthy stockholders like the Walton Family and Bill Gates (who created the Core) that the Core is the greatest thing for education since the pencil and chalkboard and computer. These companies have accepted on blind faith and trust that this will prepare students to run their cash registers, work in their factories, run their printing presses, and engineer their products and make a stronger country for us all. It’s a laudable goal (for the most part and from their perspective.)

The problem is . . . it’s all a lie.

First of all, claiming the Core can do all this is a ginormous unproven assertion. (You might as well throw in that it can cure Cancer and bring World Peace too.) These “standards” or jumbled and comma spliced “skills” as the only English Language Arts evaluator of Common Core, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, recently explained at a local Common Core Summit held in Baton Rouge on the 20th of February, were never field tested, never tried out on anyone, ever, before they were forced upon all children everywhere in every setting (public and private schools) Frankly, I can’t imagine any successful company banking an entire generation of their workers on an untested decades long retraining program.

This leads me to my second point. Most companies that did not invest time and money in Common Core, or who are not hoping to make fists full of cash off the Common Core in the form of textbooks, tests, and training and tutoring programs, or educational software, have no idea what’s actually in these national “standards.”

I understand.

I really do.

But ignorance is not a defense (legal or moral) once you have been informed.

To that end I encourage all of you to inform these companies of what Common Core means to you, and what it will come to mean to their business (or lack thereof) if they keep blindly supporting what is essentially a corporately driven confiscation and retooling of our taxpayer funded educational system, of our children’s educations, for their own Human Capital needs and profit driven agendas. Below is an example of how one mom informed a company on the list of supporters I will provide to you and update as we pick them off or stubbornly dig their feet in. (Those will face a more coordinated boycott and negative publicity campaign at a later date.)

Without further ado, here is one of what I hope will be many success stories in the near future. Well done, Debbie. You have made many of us proud with this act.

Hi All,

Oh – I am laughing!!  I had the best time today!  I walked into Chase Bank armed with information on Common Core (list of all the businesses sponsoring CC, the Parent’s Beware Flier, a picture of the Stop Common Core Billboard on my phone( less than 6 blocks from the bank).

I asked to meet with an officer of the bank.  I told her how satisfied I was with Chase [bank], but that I could not support a bank that is supporting/promoting CC.  I explained to her how they are gathering all the health information, etc. on the children and how they could potentially profile children for future job interviews, etc. She had no idea.  I also explained to her how damaging the curriculum is.

When I told her that this information on companies promoting /supporting Common Core was given to me yesterday at a forum with @ 400 people in Baton Rouge and that this information was being put on Face Book – she immediately walked back with the papers and showed it to the manager who then wanted to know which Face Book this was posted too!

I then told her that I would be happy to come back and bank at Chase when they send me a letter that they are no longer supporting/promoting Common Core.  I also told her that the rest of my family will be pulling their money out of Chase as well.  She thanked me and told me that she had a son in the 4th grade and that she was going to look into this.

The irony is that I do not have a Face Book, so those of you who do, please post and if you (or your spouse) do not feel comfortable posting a particular company on your Face Book – just delete that one company and post the rest.   I know of at least one person who is alerting his company to this bad press.  Many companies want to shut this type of bad press down before it gets out of hand.  Politicians are pushing this on our kids because corporations are pushing this on them.  Remember – who are big donors to political campaigns?  Who are referring to our children as human capital to be used( cheap labor) in their work force?

Resource Bank and Parish National Bank both have teachers connected to presidents and past presidents of these local banks.  I know Resource has recently expanded from St. Tammany to the South Shore.  Be sure and tell these institutions why you are transferring your money there.  I resent the attachment with an updated list of all the businesses to boycott. 🙂

Have A Great Week End!

Debbie Sachs

To learn more please refer to Dr. Mercedes Schneider’s post: http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/nga-corporate-fellowsproviding-governors-ideas-that-work/

Link to pdf with details on Boycott and list of companies to target for their support of Common Core: tuna fish and common core2

My kids belong themselves and  to me; not to you, or your community, or company.
My kids belong themselves and to me; not to you, or your community, or any company.