Archives for category: Louisiana

James Kirylo is a professor of teaching and learning in Louisiana and president of the faculty senate at Southeastern Louisiana University. Since the media lets Governor Jindal say things without challenging him, Professor Kirylo sets the record straight here.

 

 

 

A Response to Governor Jindal’s Appearance on Meet the Press

Governor Jindal recently appeared on Meet the Press. The host Chuck Todd peppered the Governor with a variety of questions, asking why he didn’t expand Medicaid, being that it would be helpful for the 200,000 uninsured people in the state (although the number is likely more toward the 750,000 range).

Todd also reminded the Governor how Louisiana nearly has a billion dollar hole in our budget; how at every midyear review, our deficit has grown; how the big tax cut at the beginning of the governor’s term has not been followed by revenue; and that a majority in Louisiana disapprove of his job as governor.

Governor Jindal predictably deflected much of what Todd said, and stated at the onset that he doesn’t care about the poll numbers and never has. He also proudly mentioned that he’s cut our state budget 26%, cut the number of state employees 34%, and declared how not spending on Medicaid is another dollar we don’t have to borrow from China, and that we shouldn’t waste those federal tax dollars.

Furthermore, the Governor asserted how we’ve actually improved healthcare access and outcomes here in our state. Citing an example—how it used to take ten days to get a prescription filled—now one can get it done in ten minutes. Finally, the Governor also touted his so-called school choice program, and concluded that he has balanced the budget every single year without running deficits, and without raising taxes.

As I watched Meet the Press, listening to the least transparent governor in the nation, I was amazed, though not surprised, by what the Governor did not mention, some of which I will, therefore, do here. First, when the Governor says he does not care that the majority of Louisianans disapprove of his job as governor, it obviously means he doesn’t care what I think, what state workers think, and what the hundreds and thousands of us who have been greatly harmed by his policies think. It is obvious there is only one person the Governor cares about.

Of course, he didn’t mention that when he talks about how he has sliced and diced the state budget, it has resulted in the near decimation of higher education. Indeed, universities have been cut 80% in the last several years, tuition has exponentially risen, and the LA Grad Act is simply a devious scheme that fosters a system that unduly taxes students in order to fund higher education. In a poor state like ours, this is simply a formula that further widens the opportunity gap, and further widens the gap between the proverbial “haves” and “have-nots.”

He also didn’t mention that numerous underpaid university people have endured near poverty wages, have endured furloughs, have had no cost of living allowances now inching toward the ten year mark, that numerous individuals can’t afford health care, that top flight faculty have left the state, that public school teachers have been blamed for everything that ails our state, that Louisiana has the nation’s fourth highest high school dropout rate, that our high school graduation rate ranks 45th in the nation, that we have one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the country, and that we have the highest incarceration rate in the country, if not the world.

Of course, he didn’t mention that Louisiana ranks 50th among the states in overall health, and that we lead the nation in the highest infant mortality rate, the highest diabetes-related death rate, and the highest rate of death from breast cancer, and third-highest rate of cancer deaths overall.

And of course, he wouldn’t mention that according to a Washington Post report a short while back, the state of Louisiana is expecting a $1.2 billion budget shortfall next year, which has now risen to 1.4 billion. And this is despite the Jindal administration hiring a New York-based consulting firm for $7.3 million to find ways to generate and save revenue. Finally, he didn’t mention what can be characterized as the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) scandal, where many are asking about the half of the $500 million dollars that was in the OGB reserve fund, but is now gone.

It should be no surprise critics are calling Jindal’s handling of the budget his blind-spot. But that is not his only blind spot. The other one is that he is blind to the fact that he has hurt the lives of so many hard-working Louisianans. And the irony of ironies when the Governor concluded his visit with Meet the Press, he stated that the American Dream was in jeopardy and that should he run for president, he would focus on restoring that dream.

It was then I turned off my television set, had to shake my head, and grabbed my dictionary to double-check the definition of delusional.

 

 

 

James D. Kirylo is an education professor, a former state teacher of the year, and his most recent book is titled A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance. He can be reached at jkirylo@yahoo.com


James D. Kirylo, Ph.D.
Professor
Faculty Senate, President
Southeastern Louisiana University
Department of Teaching and Learning
SLU 10749
Hammond, LA 70402

“To be called an educator is an incredible responsibility and an earned privilege. Not only does teaching require command of subject matter, but it also involves a deep understanding of human behavior. A conscientious educator is always in process striving toward excellence within the complexity of a multi-cultural society. Indeed, teaching is an extraordinary journey that requires one to negotiate through a channel of multiple challenges, dilemmas, and opportunities.”

Jason France, the blogger known as Crazy Crawfish, calls attention to dangerous losses of data and computers when charter schools close. The Recovery School District, which oversees charters, relies on the charters to make sure that computers have been wiped clean of student data.

 

But when the charters close, they have no employees and no longer exist.

 

The risk, he says, is not only the release of student private data, but the state’s lists of people whose children qualify for free or reduced price lunch. A public school has people assigned to protect this data. When charters close, no one protects it.

 

He writes:

 

 

The RSD has been in existence since 2004. It has taken the state 10 years, and a concerned citizen, for the department to realize student data needs to be protected, and that charter schools that have been disbanded and have no employees are not the best custodians of data or the future of our children.

 

The former spokesman for Future Is Now, which was running John McDonogh, when it was shut down by the State, said it best and in a way so obvious it makes you wonder how RSD could not have foreseen problems with its approach. Namely, to expect charters that no longer have employees to follow protocol is ludicrous.

 

Former Future Is Now spokesman Gordon Wright said the organization had no response because it no longer exists.

 

Many charters, like Future is Now/John McDonogh, have been shut down for acting irresponsibly. This school is a saga all in and of itself, and was closed before its charter was officially up for review. How ridiculous and irresponsible is it to expect poorly run, or irresponsible organizations to follow proper protocol when they may not have money to pay salaries or any employees to follow said protocol and have not exhibited the best judgment when they were in operation?!?

 

Dozens of charters have closed down and changed hands, and even more RSD direct run schools have come and gone. By their own estimates, RSD has lost control of over 1600 items, including laptops. Those are the items they lost or miscoded in the last 4 years. They have lost so many items over the 10 years they have been in operation there is probably no way to account for them all.”

Mercedes Schneider was rated a “highly effective” teacher. She received a bonus of $427. 76. She gave it to a friend who is raising an autistic child.

A fourth-grade teacher at Pierre Capdeau Charter School in Louisiana got a bonus of $43,000 for raising her students’ test scores by 88%. The bonus is about 75% of her annual salary. A kindergarten teacher got even larger gains but her bonus was only $4,086 because the kindergarten scores don’t count for the state rankings.

The school is rated a D by the state. Last year it was graded D-.

John White has done some heavy-duty boasting since he became State Superintendent of Louisiana in 2012. It seems to be a characteristic of the reformer class that they project dramatic improvement on their watch. Michelle Rhee promised the moon when she was chancellor in DC, and as G.F. Brandenburg has shown on his blog, achieved about 1.5% of what she promised.

As Gary Rubinstein shows in this post, John White made bold claims about AP courses. It is true that participation rates went up but passing rates went down. White had an explanation for that: higher participation caused a drop in pass rates.

But what White could not explain was that only 4.1% of all juniors and seniors in Louisiana earned a 3 or higher on an AP exam. That is next to last in the nation, just above Mississippi.

Really, people should not boast ever, but it is surely a bad idea to boast before the results are in.

Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune reports that Louisiana’s graduation rate is deeply flawed by missing data in several districts.

When students transfer out, are they leaving for private school, home school, another school, or another state?

“Education officials audited 2012-13 transfer records of 34 of the state’s 69 systems and found one third of these exits could not be properly documented.”

“Much is at stake with the record-keeping, for students must be considered dropouts if their transfers are not properly documented. That depresses the school’s graduation rate. But if the transfer papers are in order, the student is not counted in their high school’s graduation rate.

“The graduation rate counts for 25 percent of the school performance score. That score determines whether conventional schools may be taken over by the state and whether charter schools may stay open.

“The worst results in the audit were found in Jefferson and East Baton Rouge parishes, and in the New Orleans schools run directly by the Recovery School District. Only 27 percent of East Baton Rouge transfer records — and none of the Recovery-New Orleans records — had proper documentation. In Jefferson, the verification rate was 31 percent.”

Veteran educator Mike Deshotels believes that school officials might be cooking the books. The state, of course, vigorously denies that claim.

We should have learned from Bernie Madoff and Ken Lay of Enron that data are highly malleable.

Jim Arnold, former superintendent of Pelham City public schools in Georgia, has a message for Governor Nathan Deal, who is running for re-election. Governor Deal thinks Georgia needs a “recovery school district,” like the one in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jim Arnold says Governor Deal is wrong.

Arnold writes that Louisiana is a low-performing state and Néw Orleans is a low-performing district.

“Louisiana, where Advanced Placement exam results for 2013 are ahead of only Mississippi, is known more for LSU football and Duck Dynasty than public education…..

“The vast majority of charters in Louisiana, except for those with a selective admission process, are rated D or F by their own state. The New Orleans Recovery School District that Nathan Deal suggested we emulate was rated as one of the lowest performing districts in the state.
This plan was part of the “bait and switch” campaign in Louisiana to increase the number of charter schools in that state after Hurricane Katrina. Their method was simple: if evidence for the success of charters is required, simply lower test scores, apply charters wherever possible then raise the scores back through whatever test manipulation is needed to “prove” the case.

“The RSD efforts in Louisiana are a miserable failure by any measure. In spite of the promise to return schools to the public after the initial takeover in 2006, not one school in the RSD has been returned to local control after 8 years.

“The governor’s suggestion of studying the implementation of such a model in Georgia speaks more to his lack of a coherent educational policy than to his ideas for educational progress.”

Arnold has some ideas for improving public education in Georgia:

He writes:

“Believe in and support teachers:

1. Poverty is the cause of achievement gaps and the number one obstacle to educational success. Stop the culture of blaming teachers for poverty.

Teachers don’t cause poverty any more than law enforcement causes crime or doctors create disease.

2. Invest in teachers: Restore professional development funds. Professional development should be experienced teachers working with less experienced teachers. Pay great teachers to share their knowledge and ideas in ways that allow them to stay in the classroom. One great teacher working with 3 or 4 others is a powerful tool. Large groups of teachers listening to one “expert” in an auditorium is not.

3. Pay great teachers more to work in high poverty schools: Working in these schools is difficult. Make it worth the effort for teachers that want to increase their salaries and stay in the classroom. Want to attract great teachers to high poverty areas? Pay them to travel and teach there. Want to identify high poverty schools? Simply look at standardized test scores. They don’t tell you anything about teaching and learning but do serve wonderfully to point out the zip code effect of the level of poverty in a given area.

4. Eliminate standardized testing for other than diagnostic purposes: The money saved would be more beneficial invested in teaching and learning than in the autopsy reports generated at the insistence of accountabullies in the name of accountabalism. Allow teachers the opportunity to teach without having to teach to the test.

5. Don’t believe in magic bullets: The answer is not in canned programs guaranteed to produce higher test scores. The answer is in the power of great teachers. Invest in people and not in programs. Success through standardization is a myth. Every student needs and deserves individualized learning at all levels. Educational achievement, like excellence, cannot be legislated.
Technology is a tool for teachers and not an answer unto itself: For every child that learns through technology alone there are more that fail miserably without the intervention and guidance of a teacher. Lower class sizes, eliminate furlough days and give teachers the time and tools to teach.

6. Help prevent legislative meddling in teaching and learning: Unfunded mandates and legislative attempts at applying statewide solutions to local educational issues have done more to hurt public education than to help. Standardization is not a solution unless your goal is to help Bill Gates sell a lot of technology. Georgia teachers can also find a better way than age level to determine educational placement. Children learn at different rates and in different ways. If a child cannot jump a bar 4 feet high, raising the bar to 6 feet does not encourage continued learning and effort. Expecting every child to achieve at the same rate at the same level ignores fundamental differences in human development…sort of like Arnie’s plan to test special education students out of special education through higher expectations.
Top down implementation does not work in education any more than it does in government: Issuing a decree that all children will succeed does not automatically mean that all children will succeed.”

A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives Louisiana high marks on providing choice but low marks for academics. It should be noted that Louisiana has higher levels of child poverty than other states, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not go into that.

“A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report gives Louisiana’s public education system very low marks on academic achievement, international competitiveness, workforce preparation and bang for the buck. It flunked Louisiana in five of 11 categories, with a D+ in the sixth.

“The state’s low academic standing has been widely documented. However, the chamber says its report has a particular focus on the 21st century workforce.

“Louisiana did see some gains. Scores went up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2013, especially for low-income and minority students. But compared to other states, Louisiana was still at the bottom. The state’s 2013 Advanced Placement pass rate was worse than any state except Mississippi.

“Pass rates were even lower in subjects that the chamber considers important for the 21st century economy: only 30 in 10,000 students passed a foreign language AP test, and 4 in 10,000 passed the AP computer science test.

“When measured against an international exam, the Programme for International Student Assessment, fewer than 20 percent of Louisiana students met the global standard in reading and mathematics.

“The chamber gave Louisiana a failing grade on “return on investment.” After controlling for the cost of living, the chamber’s report says, “student achievement in Louisiana is very low relative to state spending,” which is about at the national median.

“The chamber released the report card Thursday. The research was conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“Given Louisiana’s poor national and international standing, the chamber found the state’s internal testing results dubious and lacking in credibility. In 2011, pass rates for Louisiana’s LEAP and iLEAP tests were much higher than the national rates. That gave an inaccurately rosy picture of student performance, said the chamber, which awarded a D-plus for “truth in advertising.”

The state got an A for parental choice. As we have seen in numerous earlier reports, many children use state vouchers to attend schools with no curriculum and uncertified teachers. Maybe all that choice is dragging down academic outcomes. But “even some of the better grades were lower than in the chamber’s previous report. In 2007, chamber researchers gave Louisiana an A for teaching, a C for the credibility of its own test pass rates and an A for data collection. It gave the state a B for the rigor of its academic standards, praising its English benchmarks and graduation exit exam.” Under John White, the state is losing ground.

Hmm, I seem to recall that Louisiana was the state that was #1 on StudentsFirst report card, probably because of vouchers and charters.

State superintendent John White thinks that Common Core and its hard tests is the cure-all for low performance. Rigor. Harder tests. That’ll raise performance. Kind of like an athlete who can’t jump a 4-ft bar. Raise it to 6 feet. That’ll do it.

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia wants a statewide Recovery School District, just like Louisiana. He wants to be like Bobby Jindal. He wants all the low-performing schools turned into charters, just like Néw Orleans.

Won’t someone tell him that most of the charters–excluding those with selective admissions–are rated D or F by the state? Won’t someone tell him that the RSD in Louisiana is one of the lowest performing districts in the state? Perhaps he could invite Charles Hatfield or Dr. Barbara Ferguson of NOLA’s “Research on Reforms” to brief him. Or talk to Professor Kristen Buras of Geirgia State University, who just published a book debunking “the Néw Orleans miracle.” Or read Mercedes Schneider on the Néw Orleans story.

See, Governor Deal has a problem, and his name is Jason Carter. Jason is the grandson of President Jimmy Carter. More than that, his children are enrolled in public schools. His wife taught in a public high school. He wants to improve Georgia’s public schools, not privatize them.

Deal and Carter are tied in the polls. Deal thinks he can win by promising to hand schools over to entrepreneurs.

I’m for Jason.

A district court judge in Baton Rouge ordered State Superintendent John White to release information about setting cut scores.

Veteran educator Mike Deshotels posted this on his blog:

“Breaking News: On Thursday, August 28, Judge Bob Downing of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge ordered State Superintendent John White and the LDOE to produce detailed information about the setting of cut scores for the Mastery level student ratings for the 2014 Spring LEAP test that was designed to be more aligned with the Common Core standards. The LDOE had already released the minimum percentages of correct answers used for the setting of Basic level ratings just before the lawsuit demanding this information was filed. John White was found to be in violation of the public records law for refusing to release the score setting percentages on the 2014 LEAP test and for failing to produce the written communications with the testing company relating to the setting of cut scores. The LDOE was also required to pay all court costs and attorney’s fees necessary to the prosecution of my public records lawsuit filed to extract this vital information from White, the LDOE, and the testing company. This post on The Louisiana Educator Blog had already analyzed the drastic lowering of the minimum percentage of correct answers on some areas of LEAP apparently designed to imply that Louisiana students were doing just fine on the new CCSS aligned tests. Apparently manipulation of test scores to produce predetermined results has now become standard operating procedure in the implementation of Common Core. The video referred to above shows how scores were set in New York to create the perception of failure of the entire New York state system.”

It is striking and sad that judges are now deciding basic education issues or that people have to appeal to judges to get basic information that ought to be available to the public.

Mercedes Schneider, high school teacher, debates Common Core with a state representative and a representative of the pro-voucher group Black Alliance for Educational Options. Mercedes explains who BAEO is, then engages in 6 minutes of debate in which the two men were pro-Common Core and Mercedes was critical. Does 2 vs. 1 sound unbalanced? At least there was some disagreement. A few days ago, there was a well-publicized forum on Common Core that included Merryl Tisch, chair of the Board of Regents; John King, state commissioner; Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers; Carmen Farina, Chancellor of the New York City public schools; and one or two others. Every member of the panel supported Common Core. Some debate.

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