Archives for category: Louisiana

In an interview, John White made it clear that he wants to keep his $275,000 job as state superintendent in Louisiana. Bobby Jindal pushed the state board to hire him after his brief stint as superintendent of the Néw Orleans Recovery School Diistrict. White loyally implemented Jindal’s agenda of vouchers, charters, for-profit schools, and attacks on teachers’ due process, as well as test-based evaluation. But then Jindal and White locked horns over Common Core. Jindal wanted out, White didn’t. (White’s only school experience is TFA. Also he attended the unaccredited Broad Superintendents’ Academy.)

Now one of the leading candidates for governor has said White has to go. Open the statement for links.

John Bel Edwards issued the following statement;

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@johnbelforlouisiana.com; 225-435-9808
Edwards: John White Will Never Be Superintendent On My Watch

BATON ROUGE, La. – State Representative and candidate for governor John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) responded to news that State Superintendent John White wishes to remain in his current position under the next governor’s administration.

“I have no intention of allowing John White, who isn’t qualified to be a middle school principal, to remain as Superintendent when I am governor,” Edwards said. “We have so many highly qualified candidates right here in Louisiana that we don’t need to go looking in New York City for our next head of K-12 education.”

White’s tenure as State Superintendent has been frought with controversy and accusations of wrongdoing. In 2012, White was embroiled in scandal after emails revealed political motives behind his fight to ensure that expanded school vouchers were approved by the Louisiana Legislature. Thanks to testimony by Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Louisiana Supreme Court later found the voucher scheme to be unconstitutional, because it did, as White denied, illegally divert funding designated for local city and parish public schools. Later, voucher schools approved under White’s watch were shown to lack a requisite number of teachers, lunch rooms, and other resources common to any proper school. In 2013, he was accused of having purposefully inflated letter grades for certain schools. For at least three years, White knew about inequities in special education funding which violated directives in the La. Constitution, but declined to take action to correct the problem even after the Legislature urged and requested that he do so in 2014. Under White’s watch per pupil funding for public k-12 schools was frozen despite many new unfunded mandates. During the same time period the per pupil amount paid to private schools through the state voucher program increased each year.

Citing these controversies Edwards said,”We need genuine leadership at the helm of the Louisiana Department of Education. We will have that when we elect a genuine leader as governor.”

White’s only formal training in educational administration was earned during six weekend trainings at the Eli Broad Superintendent’s Academy, meant to be an introduction to issues facing Superintendents at the local level.

Adam Hubbard Johnson was trying to verify the claims of a miraculous transformation in Néw Orleans, and he went in search of the pre-Katrina data. Reformers said the graduation rate had grown from 54.4% before Katrina to 77% in 2012. That’s huge. But was it accurate?

He corresponded with a reporter. She used those numbers but didn’t know the source. He kept digging. Eventually he realized that the source was not city or state or federal data, but a charter advocacy group.

He writes:

“A thought experiment:

Imagine, for a moment, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had said five years after 9/11:

“I think the best thing that happened to the defense system in New York and Washington was 9/11. That defense system was a disaster, and it took 9/11 to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better’.”

We would rightfully find this crude and opportunistic. But in 2010 when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said

“I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that ‘we have to do better’.”

the media either shrugged it off or embraced its thesis. The political and moral rot of the New Orleans education system pre-Katrina wasn’t just taken for granted – our political classes saw it as so manifestly depraved and corrupt that it validated the deaths of 1,833 people. Such is the hysteria with which conventional wisdom cements itself.

Like a tale out of an Ayn Rand variation of Genesis, the story of Katrina wasn’t one of nature’s caprice or racism’s legacy, it was instead the fortunate and righteous correction of liberal excess. And though graduation rates are not the only point of comparison used to prop up this perception (I will explore others later), they are the most accessible and finite.”

Why the missing pre-Katrina grad rate?

“The answer to this question illuminates, in a limited but potent way, what a corporate coup looks like up close. When education becomes charity rather than a right, an investment instrument rather than a civic good, the ability to distinguish between substance and marketing becomes by design, overwhelming. Like a refund department with a six hour wait time, the frustration in attempting to navigate this neoliberal maze of “private/public” responsibilities is precisely the point. Even the most basic of acts – hosting a website – turns out to be one of the primary reasons finding data is so difficult. The LDOE has had, inexplicably, five differnt primary domains in the past decade – from doe.louisiana.gov to doe.state.la.us to louisianaschools.net to louisianabelieves.net to its current, full-flown corporate iteration louisianabelieves.com”

He writes about the framing of the reform narrative:

“The story of Katrina and how it justified charter schools can best be summed up by Arthur Miller’s observation that “the structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.”

“So went the Katrina reform school narrative in all its moral clarity. Circa 2005 charter school leaders, largely funded by the Walton, Gates, Koch families and given cover by neoliberal corporatists whose primary purpose appeared to be the act of looking busy, sought a PR coup. Though they were making incremental headway, there was little urgency to their cause. Two weeks after Katrina however, while 96% of corpses still remained unidentified and the Superdome had been reduced to a “toxic biosphere”, the story of how the birds had come home to roost was too good to pass up. Koch-funded and proto-Tea Party outfit FreedomWorks was the first to float this narrative on September 15th, both in the pages of the National Review and on their website, in an op-ed by Chris Kinnan.

[Kinnan wrote:] “There is a second rescue urgently needed in the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and one that is long overdue: saving New Orleans school kids from their broken public-school system. The tragedy of the storm provides America with a golden opportunity”

This idea of a “golden opportunity” to perform a dramatic experiment in New Orleans became conventional wisdom.

Johnson writes:

“All of this is to say nothing of the core fallacy at the heart of the “choice movement”: the presumption of dichotomy. Schools going bad? Poverty’s not the problem, abject racism’s not at fault, underfunding is irrelevant (Louisiana spent $1,636 more in real dollars per pupil in 2012 than it did pre-Katrina). No, it has to be teachers’ unions and local school boards. Get rid of those and let slick PR firms, Ivy League idealists, and hedge fund real estate interest come in and do it right. A third option, or a fourth option or any cost-benefit was never discussed. Within 10 weeks of Katrina, while the state’s largely poor and African American diaspora were scattered throughout the Gulf states simply trying to stay alive – the Louisiana State Legislature called an emergency session, passing ACT 35 which, as even Tulane’s pro-school reform Cowen Institute acknowledged, radically changed the defintion of “failing school” from the flawed but objective criteria of having a state score of less than 60 to include any school that was below the state score median, which, at the time was 86.2. Put another way: the state assured itself that their own Recovery School Board would control, by definition, at least 50% of the state’s schools no matter what.

“Overnight, 102 of the 119 locally control New Orleans schools, all primarily poor, all primarily black, were put under the pro-charter, primarily white state control. Not because they were “failing” – a school cannot “fail” to meet retroactive standards – but rather because they were vulnerable. No study issued. No ballot measure campaigned for. No discussion had.

“The corporate forces were too overwhelming, the liberal class too monied and distracted. The official history of a broken school system that was simply washed to sea, too convenient. And the truth – like the shiny new charter school system that emerged at its expense – was simply torn down and built again from scratch.”

Blogger Louisina Educator writes of the combination of forces fighting for Common Core:

“These heavily promoted standards pushed by an alliance of so called education reformers such as the Gates Foundation, The Broad and Walton Foundations, the Pearson education publishing conglomerate, and the Obama administration are also supported by the Charter School Association, big business interests LABI, CABL, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce and two astro turf groups (phony grassroots organizations funded by the big foundations). All of these groups will also be fighting hard to kill HB 21 and 340 that would only modestly curtail the expansion of New Charter schools in Louisiana.

“The dedicated and informed parents and educators who oppose Common Core and PARCC testing are so outgunned by the privatization and Common Core promoters that the battle this week could be compared to confronting an Abrams tank with a BB gun.”

Robert Mann, professor of journalism at Louisiana State University, describes the effort by Louisiana business leaders and sympathetic legislators to drive “a fatal spear to the heart of the giant,” meaning the teachers’ union.

“Public school teachers, firefighters, state troopers and other law enforcement officials can have their dues deducted from their paychecks and remitted to their respective unions. House Bill 418, sponsored by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, would outlaw that practice. The bill is among the highest priorities in the current legislative session for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). The House Labor Committee approved the legislation last week in a 9-6 vote.”

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is hoping to pass legislation cutting off automatic deductions for union dues, known euphemistically as “paycheck protection.” Ostensibly, the goal is to save money. But Mann obtained a secret video where the business leaders revealed their real goal, which was to starve the union of funds to cripple it.

Mann saw the bigger picture after watching the video:

“Last month, when I first saw that this bill was among LABI’s top priorities for the 2015 session, I wondered how a supposedly minor issue could be so important to the state’s top business organization. Now, thanks to [industrialist Lane] Grigsby’s candid comments behind closed doors, we know. It’s about killing the teachers unions.”

BASIS, an Arizona charter chain known for its intense academic standards, plans to open five charter schools in Louisiana. BASIS expects all students to complete AP courses and work very hard to reach its high standards. It accepts everyone, but loses large numbers of students who can’t keep up with the school’s academic pressure.

 

BASIS is ranked high on lists of “the best schools,” because it gets top test scores after booting most of its students.

 

This is so far from the original conception of charter schools in the late 1980s. They were promoted by Albert Shanker, the president of the AFT, as schools that would recruit the lowest performing, least motivated students and develop innovative ways of reconnecting them with school. They would share whatever they learned with the public schools. They were intended not to compete but to help public schools by discovering better ways to help the reluctant learners.

 

BASIS, by contrast, is an exceptionally competitive school that appeals to high performing students and drops the reluctant learners.

 

Here is what Louisiana will get: This. This. And this.

 

Keep the best, get rid of the rest.

Crazy Crawfish, a blogger also known as Jason France, used to work as a data analyst in the Louisiana Department of Education. He was recently shocked to discover that the department has released confidential student data to the research group CREDO. It even released the data of nonpublic school students.

France realized that the state released personal student data that CREDO didn’t need or use.

He writes:

“It’s only a combination of chance and persistence that I stumbled across the details of this agreement and am able to share my findings with you. How many more agreements like this are out there that are unknown to us? How poorly have they been reviewed? I can’t actually say. Someone outside of LDOE needs to review these types of disclosures (All of them) – before they happen. It is important for the public to have an accounting of both what was promised, but also what was actually delivered. Frankly, if LDOE doesn’t understand their own data, they shouldn’t be providing it to others. I also question whether they should be collecting it all or storing it for decades in the first place.”

This is very puzzling. Standardized tests usually arrive with seals or stickers so that no one can read them without authorization. In the case of the PARCC test administered in Louisiana, there were no seals or stickers. Students could flip ahead to the next day’s tests.

 

That has raised concerns among some critics of the test, and the related Common Core national academic standards, that the partnership test made it easier for students to get a head start the content of the next unit — or even for administrators to get a look and prepare a study guide for students.

 

Those concerns are only the latest to be aired in the most controversial and politicized public school testing period that Louisiana has seen in years. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opposition to Common Core and the national tests, and a vocal but small test-boycott movement, put extra pressure on educators. Low test scores may mean that charter schools close, voucher schools get cut off and conventional schools get taken over by the state.

 

State Education Department officials said the new booklet didn’t cause problems. But at least three New Orleans schools ran into trouble. And some educators expressed fear that the new test format will give their critics, and opponents of Common Core, yet more reason to doubt.

 

If scores unexpectedly go up, will it have something to do with the lack of security?

Politico gives
us the latest crazy update about “education” in Louisiana. Why don’t the politicians just go away and let teachers teach?

“BUDGET CLASH ON THE BAYOU: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal releases his budget proposal today – and teachers and parents are anxious. Louisiana faces big-time fiscal woes [http://politi.co/1zL24uY ] that will require deep cuts. And Jindal has made clear he’s furious with many of Superintendent John White’s policies, including implementing the Common Core and using PARCC questions in the state tests. Put those two dynamics together and you’ve got a sizzling stew of rumors that education will take a big hit. Kristy Nichols, Jindal’s commissioner of administration, wouldn’t divulge budget details, but she told Morning Education that she and the governor “do have concerns with how much the department is spending on standardized tests.” Nichols said “there will be reductions” to education but added that White will have discretion in managing the cuts. “We cannot say it won’t have any impact,” Nichols said. “That will be up to the superintendent.”

– Before he even saw the numbers, White was fighting back. In a press call earlier this week, he scoffed at the idea that he could reduce spending simply by cutting tests aligned to the Common Core. “It is important to know that accountability and standardized testing are the laws of this state,” he said. “You cannot eliminate them by virtue of not putting them in the budget.” White also pointed out that scrapping the annual tests would violate No Child Left Behind and jeopardize $800 million in federal funding for Louisiana schools. “That would be crippling,” he said.

– Jindal’s chief of staff, Stafford Palmieri, shot back with a statement accusing White of threatening calamity if he didn’t get his way with the Common Core. “John White and President Obama want to bully moms and dads into accepting Common Core’s federal control of our children’s education,” she said. “We’re not going to be intimidated by their fear tactics.”

– In related news, a federal judge has ruled that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s case against the federal government over the Common Core has a right to be heard in court. The ruling has nothing to do with the merits of the case, merely allowing the case to move forward. A hearing is set for May 28 in Baton Rouge. The ruling: http://politico.pro/1wtdtny. Jindal also railed against the Common Core at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday: http://politi.co/1Dw25GX.”

For a decade now, we have been told again and again by the national media that New Orleans is a “miracle” district. City after city, state after state, wants to be like New Orleans. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder created the Educational Achievement Authority, which has been plagued with mismanagement and has shown no progress for the students in Detroit. Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager for financially strapped, low-performing Muskegon Heights, and the emergency manager turned the students and schools over to a for-profit charter chain; after two years, the chain decamped when it was clear there would be no profit. Tennessee created the Achievement School District, where the state’s low-performing public schools were gathered, turned over to charter operators, and are supposed to be in the state’s top 20% by performance within five years; the clock is ticking, and there is no reason to believe that the five-year deadline will be met. The public schools of York City, Pennsylvania, have been promised to a for-profit charter chain.

 

And now Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal has an idea. He wants Georgia to have a Recovery School District, just like New Orleans. Here is the formula: wipe out public education and replace it with privately managed charters; eliminate any teachers’ unions; fire veteran teachers and replace them with Teach for America. What could go wrong? Note in the linked article that the enrollment in New Orleans public schools fell from 65,000 before Hurricane Katrina to 25,000 or so today. This makes comparisons pre- and post- tricky to say the least.

 

No matter. The boosters are still claiming dramatic success.

 

But along comes Mercedes Schneider, who managed to get the full set of ACT scores for the state of Louisiana. For some reason, the State Department of Education was not eager to release those scores. You will see why.

 

Mercedes wrote more than one post. They are collected here. The details are in the individual posts.

 

She begins the second post like this:

 

 

It is February, and at my high school, that means scheduling students for the next school year. During two of my classes today, our counselors were in my room explaining to students the Louisiana Board of Regents minimum requirements for first-time college freshmen who wish to attend a four-year college or university in Louisiana. These requirement are the result of legislation passed in 2010 and phased in over four years, the Grad Act.

 

One requirement is a minimum score of 18 on the ACT in English and a minimum score of 19 on the ACT in math.

 

Even though Regents also has an ACT composite requirement, one can readily substitute a high GPA in place of a lacking composite.

 

However, that 18 in English and 19 in math is virtually non-negotiable. An institution might be able to conditionally admit some students in the name of “research”; however, there is not too much of this allowed, for Regents states that the two ACT subscores are the most widely acceptable, readily available evidence that a student would not require remedial college coursework in English or math– a rule effective for all Louisiana four-year institutions of higher education effective Fall 2014.

 

Thus, the first graduating class affected by this Regents rule is the high school graduating class of 2014.

 

Remember those numbers: 18 in English and 19 in math.

 

Schneider continues:

 

Some highlights from this data:

 

Of the 16 active New Orleans RSD high schools, five graduated not one student meeting the Regents 18-English-19-math ACT requirement. That’s no qualifying students out of 215 test takers.

 

Another six RSD high schools each graduated less than one percent meeting the requirement, or 16 students out of 274 (5.8 percent).

 

Out of a total of 1151 RSD New Orleans class of 2014 ACT test takers, only 141 students (12.3 percent) met the Regents requirement. Eighty-nine of these 141 attended a single high school (OP Walker, ACT site code 192113).

 

By far, OP Walker had the highest number of Regents 18-English-19-math-ACT-subscore-qualifying class of 2014 test takers (89 out of 311, or 28.6 percent).

 

If the OP Walker were removed from RSD-NO, then RSD-NO would be left with 52 qualifying students out of 840, or 6.2 percent.

 

Sobering.

 

Notice also that the average ACT composite scores of those meeting the Regents 18-19 requirement (column G) are all above the 18 that LDOE focuses on as a minimum mark of success.

 

Clearly the theory of “raise the bar and achievement will rise” is not playing out in the New Orleans RSD when it comes to meeting the Regents minimum requirement of an 18 in English and 19 in math on the ACT.

 

No miracle here. Only more data that Louisiana Superintendent John White wishes he could hide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Kirylo explains here why his son will opt out of the PARCC test. He reminds his local school board that State Superintendent John White has often defended vouchers by saying that parents know what is best for his child. Kirylo says he knows what is best for his third-grade son: not to be subjected to hours and hours of pre-testing and testing. He wants him to love learning, not to be subjected to a grueling regime of finding the right answer. Kirylo happens to be an expert in early childhood education who has written frequently about developmentally appropriate education. Now, as a father, he is acting in the best interest of his child.
Remarks to Tangipahoa School Board
Amite, Louisiana

Why my Son will Opt Out of PARCC
(Enough: Stand Up, Speak Out, and Opt Out)
By

 

James D. Kirylo

While I am a professor of education, I don’t come here to speak in that official capacity, but, rather, as a parent with two children attending a public school in the state of Louisiana.

The theme of my remarks is related to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) testing, and standardized testing in general, obviously politically charged interrelated topics.
But, then again, education is political at its core, no more exemplified when Governor Jindal was for Common Core before he was against it, and not to be outdone, Senator Vitter was against it, before he was for it, to be back against it. And, now more recently, the Governor and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), headed by Chas Roemer, are in a cat fight regarding PARCC testing, with many others now jumping into the fray.
And so, of course, it should not be any great wonder that so many people around the state are scratching their collective heads regarding Common Core and PARCC, no more tangibly experienced by teachers, felt by the parents, and imposed on our children.
I think it is fair to say Common Core should be taken with a relative grain of salt simply because some of it just makes no doggone sense. For example, it is not uncommon my Antonio, a third grader, will ask me how to do a particular homework math problem, and I will have no earthly idea how to do it. So I respond to him, son, please explain to your teacher that your daddy doesn’t know how to do this one. And, I jokingly suggest to my wife that his teacher probably doesn’t know how to do it either that is why she sends it home to see if the parents can figure this thing out. Because it makes no doggone sense to her either. And so it goes.
To the central point of what I want to share, which is to let this board know that my son will be opting out of PARCC testing. There are many reasons for this decision, some of which I will communicate here.
Wasn’t it Mr. John White, the unqualified Louisiana Superintendent of Education, who said on more than one occasion that parents know what is best for their children? Well, I can unequivocally tell you that opting out my child from PARCC is best for him. I encourage other parents to do the same. And, parents, don’t let anyone coercively tell you different, with a bullying tactic how opting out will negatively impact schools’/teachers’ scores. You have the right to opt out. And opting out of PARCC does not mean one is agreeing to take some other replacement standardized test.
The issue for me here is not only the PARCC assessment tool, which is symptomatic of a warped system, but, rather, the critical concern is also the entire testing industrial complex that is poisoning our schools. There are those who claim these standardized tests as they are currently being used are what strengthen our accountability system. But, I say that is misguided thinking coming from a bully pulpit that is using these tests in an effort to shamelessly control schools, teachers, parents, children, and entire communities.
My son is very conscientious child, and his teacher recently shared with me that he likes to think through things, loves to read, and is doing well. That brings this father much joy that what he is doing at school is the same what does at home. As I have told my two young boys, my other one, Alexander, who is in first grade, I have no interest in them focusing on getting an A. They don’t need that artificial burden.
Rather, what I am interested in is that they try their best, faithfully apply themselves, listen to the teacher, and question the teacher. There are two principal tasks of the teacher. First, a teacher must work diligently to tap into the natural curiosities a child brings to the class. Second, and perhaps most importantly, a central goal of the teacher is to inspire. Why? Because inspiration moves us. Inspiration is the fuel that feeds the learner to fall in love with learning. If and when a teacher does that, the world is a child’s oyster.
As I understand it, part I of PARCC is scheduled to take place March 16-20. During the course of the week, eight year old children will endure over 6 hours of testing. But of course, that is not enough of testing. Enter in Part II of PARCC, which will take place May 4-6 in which students will endure another 3 hours and 30 minutes of testing.
That is not to mention, that between that time ILeap will occur on April 14 and 15, where these same eight year old children will yet endure another 2 hours and 45 minutes of testing. And let’s not forget the Mock Testing that is to occur. Add up all those hours, and that comes to over 11 hours of testing. In a span of three months, an 8 year old will spend more hours subjected to standardized testing, which translates more than what I withstood throughout my entire K-12 schooling experience.
Of course, this does not include the months of testing practice, testing talk, and as we get closer to testing days we will have balloon send offs, pep rallies, and the like. These dog and pony shows are really not for students, but for the adults involved in the system who are under tremendous pressure, running on scared on how they will be judged by this perverted system. Perhaps, as the thinking goes, if we have a pep rally, the child will be “motivated” to do well on the test, and then our school will get a good grade. After all isn’t education all about ratings, scores, and percentages.
But, it doesn’t stop there. We tell children to get enough sleep, eat right, and frighten the daylights out of them on how important these tests are. What I speak is not hyperbole; this is reality.
As a result of this fabricated environment, young children are unnecessarily under great stress, fearful, dealing with bouts of panic, crying spells, apathy, sleeplessness, and depression, playing havoc on their self-worth and motivation, ultimately equating that schooling is simply about passing a test, leading some to even drop out. And the most affected are the poor, the ones without a voice. Make no mistake, these created conditions fall right in the lap of policy makers, many of whom chief among them sit on BESE, and enforced by the school board such as this one, and applauded by many others holding public office.
Evidently, BESE has become so blind to the poison they are injecting into our youth that they don’t even see our children anymore. Peter Sacks is spot on in his brilliant book, Standardized Minds (1999), “The accountability crusade has been dramatic and emotionally wrenching for many, and yet it operates with utter, bureaucratic coldness” (p.68)…. Regarding her son’s achievement on a standardized test, one parent put it this way: “Teachers were mesmerized by the numbers…They were in awe of him. Because he did so well on the test, in a way they didn’t see him. They saw him as his test scores” (p. 65).
For the last approximate 20 years, Education Week, publishes an annual Quality Counts State by State Report Card. What did Louisiana receive this year on K-12 Achievement? D- (49th in the nation). Every year for the past near two decades, the state of Louisiana has been hovering in that score range. And every year, we then predictably respond with more of the same rhetoric that centers around preparing for standardized tests. Except each year it becomes more heightened, more emphasized, more high stakes, and a whole lot sicker.
This is madness. I imagine all of us are familiar with the definition of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. This definition is credited to Albert Einstein, who, by the way, would have been labeled a failure in an era of high stakes testing.
And speaking of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and now moving into Race to the Top Program, which is linked to Common Core and PARCC, Dr. Diane Ravitch, one of the most respected education scholars in the nation, puts it this way, “After 13 years of federally mandated annual testing, how could anyone still believe that testing will improve instruction and close achievement gaps?” (http://dianeravitch.net/2015/01/12/why-did-civil-rights-groups-demand-standardized-testing/)
Well, I don’t, Dr. Ravitch. Excellent teachers, don’t. A plethora of concerned parents, don’t. And, high achieving countries, don’t. But, obviously, Dr. Ravitch, it appears that many policymakers in the state of Louisiana still do.
Let’s be clear, standardized testing has extraordinarily narrowed the curriculum, even has dumbed it down, impelling teachers to simply focus on prescribed areas of certain disciplines that will be tested. As a consequence, the arts in all its forms have greatly been deprived; the same for physical education; social studies and the sciences have received less attention; and, particularly for the very young, the idea of play and recess has been dismissed as frivolous. Clearly, the joy of learning is being systematically sucked out of curious children in a schooling environment that is riddled with fear (Solley, 2007).
Of course, assessment has its place in school. That is not being questioned here. And the ultimate goal of assessment is to improve teaching and learning. But, when it comes to our obsession with standardized tests, they have not only harmed quality teaching and meaningful learning, but also have chased good teachers away.
This is not to mention, the costs of them, so much so that the standardized testing industrial complex is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. We often hear that school systems are short of monies. My response to that is, no; they are short of priorities in which many dollars, much time, and much energy places its trust in the testing industry.
In the final analysis, it is no wonder, therefore, that numerous professional organizations, educators, and researchers from all over the world have admonished such a system. But more importantly, a sleeping giant called parents are waking up to this madness, and proclaiming, “Enough!” And that is why I am here.
Many will say, okay, what is the solution. I understand that. And there is no one solution, no one silver bullet, but collectively there are alternatives. However, before talking solutions, we need to be sure that there is an awareness of a problem.
Particularly among many in policy making positions, it appears that awareness is as dim as a small pen flashlight running on a weak battery. Many don’t see the problem. One can’t work on solutions, until awareness is more forcefully illuminated. And once that happens, the lighted path toward solutions will be guided by what can be.
In the end, our current system fundamentally functions by promoting competition, which inherently fosters a system of winners and losers, a system in which some are in and some are out. This kind of system is perpetual.
However, on the other hand, I don’t view a system of schooling as one that is steered by competition; rather, I view schooling as an endeavor in which learning is the focal point, in which cooperation and collaboration is the anchor, and in which the entire community works in concert to transform its citizenry.
In closing, it is for these reasons and others my son will be opting out of this testing madness. Parents all over the country are opting out, including a growing number in Louisiana. In addition, teachers all over the country are also joining forces, and saying enough and are refusing to administer something they know is developmentally inappropriate.
I strongly urge parents all over this parish to join me, to join the chorus of parents around this state, and proclaim enough, and opt out. I urge my colleagues at Southeastern Louisiana University, Louisiana State University, and other universities to speak out more forcefully, and say enough.
As I see it, we have two choices here: We can either continue to submit to the narrative of an unqualified state superintendent, a power hungry Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and an out of control testing industry, all of which is backed by corporate greed, in an effort that arrogantly promotes a system that is poisoning our youth….or….We can listen to the voices of scholars who have conducted thoughtful research, consider the position statements of numerous educational organizations, listen to the voices of thousands of teachers, and pay attention to the crying out of our youngsters, all of whom are saying enough, urging a different direction…I choose the latter every single time. Thank you.

 
References
Sacks, P. (1999). Standardized minds. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.
Solley, B. A. (2007). On standardized testing: An ACEI position paper. Childhood Education, 84(1), 31-37.

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