Archives for category: Louisiana

Mercedes Schneider has been trying to get Louisiana’s ACT scores, but the State Education Department would not release them. Mercedes would not be deterred, and she explains here how she finally got them. She always sssumed State Superintendent John White didn’t want the scores made public. Now she knows why.

“There is a reason Louisiana Superintendent John White has refused to release these scores to the public:

“The Class of 2014 ACT composite scores for RSD do nothing to support the now-ten-year-old sales pitch that The Reforms Are Working in New Orleans.

“The Class of 2013 ACT composite for RSD was 16.3.

“The Class of 2014 ACT composite for all RSD high schools was 15.6. For RSD-New Orleans high schools, it was 15.7.”

It turns out that the Néw Orleans-Recivery School District ranks 66 out of 70 districts in the state.

After a decade of “reform,” this is very sad.

Ever since the state of Louisiana began its voucher program, allowing students to attend religious schools with public funds, the program has gone from one embarrassment to another. The school that won the most vouchers was a small rural church school; it was thrown out if the program for financial errors. Some schools taught creationism. The state court ruled that the state could not fund vouchers by taking money from funding dedicated to public schools.

And now this. Danielle Dreillinger reports in the Néw Orleans Times-Picayune that 1/3 of the state’s voucher students attend low-performing schools.

“One third of Louisiana’s voucher students are enrolled at private schools doing such a poor job of educating them that the schools have been barred from taking new voucher students, according to Education Department data. The schools include four in Jefferson Parish, eight in New Orleans and six in Baton Rouge.

“The Louisiana Scholarship Program lets children from low-income families attend participating private schools at taxpayer expense if they have been at C-, D- or F-graded public schools or are entering kindergarten. Now in its third year, the program has been threatened by local and federal lawsuits, but total enrollment continues growing, from 6,775 in 2013-14 to 7,362 students this year.”

Mercedes Schneider here recounts the sad story of Louisiana’s voucher program.

Vouchers were piloted in Néw Orleans, then made available to students across the state in 2012-13. Governor Bobby Jindal and State Commissioner of Education John White foresaw a revolutionary change with tens of thousands of public school students fleeing their “failing” schools to enroll in private and religious schools, where they would enjoy a first-rate education.

But it didn’t happen. The original plan was to divert funding from the state’s minimum foundation funding for public schools, but the courts said the plan was unconstitutional. Then it turned out that the school offering the largest number of vouchers was a small church school without a curriculum or certified teachers. Within a year, it was disqualified for mishandling public money.

The biggest problems, however, were the lack of demand for vouchers by students and the many private schools that did not want voucher students. Less than 10% of students in schools rated D or F asked for a voucher: Not exactly a stampede for the exits.

Added to that was the lackluster performance of students in voucher schools, which was below the state average.

Now John White is offering additional incentives (money) to induce more private schools to accept vouchers.

Sad. No transformation. No flight from public schools. A bust.

Does Louisiana need more value-added modeling? Douglas Harris says yes; Audrey. Amrein-Beardsley and Mercedes Schneider say no.

In a report to the State Board of Education, Harris proposed VAM for schools to increase accountability.

Beardsley reviews the research on VAM as well as her past exchanges with Harris and her specific critique of this proposal.

Beardsley writes:

“Harris concludes that “With these changes, Louisiana would have one of the best accountability systems in the country. Rather than weakening accountability, these recommendations [would] make accountability smarter and make it more likely to improve students’ academic performance.” Following these recommendations would “make the state a national leader.” While Harris cites 20 years of failed attempts in Louisiana and across all states across the country as the reason America’s public education system has not improved its public school students’ academic performance, I’d argue it’s more like 40 years of failed attempts because Harris’s (and so many others’) accountability-bent logic is seriously flawed.”

Schneider questions the practical value of VAM in her dissent. Schneider writes:

“Point systems for “grading” the teacher-student (and school-teacher-student) dynamic will always fall short because the complex nature of that dynamic defies quantifying. If test-loving reformers insist upon imposing high-stakes quantification onto schools and teachers, it will backfire, a system begging to be corrupted by those fighting to survive it.

“It is not that I cannot be evaluated as a teacher. It’s just that such evaluation is rooted a complex subjectivity that is best understood by those who are familiar with my reality. This should be true of the administrators at one’s school, and I am fortunate to state that it is true in my case.

“There are no numbers that sufficiently capture my work with my students. I know this. Yes, I am caught in a system that wants to impose a numeric values on my teaching. My “value” to my students cannot be quantified, nor can my school’s value to my students, no matter what the Harrises of this world might suggest in commissioned reports.”

Lee Barrios is a retired Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Louisiana.

Open letter to BESE –

Occasionally, albeit rarely, I receive confirmation that I am not only NOT crazy but that I am correct. Because I always base my actions on evidence and am always open to correction, it doesn’t really surprise me and I sleep well at night.

This BESE, on the other hand, ( 8 of you to be exact) have proven that you have personal agendas and are determined to support the lies of Supt. White and his well known cadre of business and political promoters. You are all very intelligent individuals and have ample opportunity to seek out and understand the truth. I give you no benefit of the doubt.

As I have said repeatedly, you are complicit as proven by your actions. However it is never too late to redeem a modicum of respect and honor by standing up and admitting you have been duped. It appears that now is an appropriate time to do that.

You all and John White have created chaos, pain, suffering, loss of excellent teachers, embarrassment for our state, and REAL damage to the education and lives of our children. You must understand that there can be NO test this spring and that the whole high stakes testing accountability must be overhauled and transformed from a purely punitive weapon to some kind of constructive process. Get rid of all the TFA junkies in LDE and replace them with education experts so that can be accomplished! Begin with Supt. White!

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
Secondary English, Journalism, Gifted
178 Abita Oaks Loop
Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420
http://www.geauxteacher.net

“If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a “world class” jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled “jump higher,” or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach.” – – CommonSense

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Myth-of-Average-Todd-Rose-a

“I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”—— Albert Einstein

After Hurricane Katrina, 7,500 public school teachers and other staff were fired by the new Recovery School District. Three-quarters of them were African American. Eventually almost every public school was converted to a privately managed charter, many staffed by Teach for America corps members.

The fired teachers sued for back pay. The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected their appeal, in a 5-2 split decision.

In October, the Supreme Court had overturned decisions favorable to the teachers in lower courts. The teachers said were dismissed en masse, without evaluation or due process.

At that time, the case was described in these terms:

“The case had ramifications beyond the public purse, and beyond the emotional and financial hit experienced by the employees, whose termination letters were in some cases delivered to houses that had been washed away in the storm. It became a symbol for people who felt disenfranchised when the state, saying the Orleans Parish School Board had failed its children, took over four fifths of the city’s public schools in the fall of 2005. Many teachers objected that they were all painted with the same brush as incompetent. And analysts such as former Loyola University professor Andre Perry said the layoffs knee-capped the city’s African American middle class.”

The earlier article explained the Supreme Court’s reasoning:

“That was not why the state Supreme Court dismissed the case, however. The majority invoked the principle of res judicata, which holds that a case cannot be argued if it covers the same people and arguments as a previous case.

“Indeed, most of the individual plaintiffs were members of the United Teachers of New Orleans. That labor union in 2007 settled several similar lawsuits against the School Board for $7 million, about $1,000 per union member. The Supreme Court decided those settlements sufficiently addressed the plaintiffs and questions in the current case.

“But the majority also accepted the defendants’ arguments across the line. Even if the case had not been dismissed, “neither the OPSB nor the State defendants violated plaintiffs’ due process rights,” Justice Jeffrey Victory wrote.

“The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal had found that the School Board should have created a recall list and systematically used it to hire back employees. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, while deciding that an employee hotline set up after the storm did not constitute an official recall list, determined that “imperfect” post-Katrina responses were good enough to satisfy the state Constitution given the circumstances.

“Furthermore, the fact that almost all the jobs disappeared permanently made a difference, Victory wrote: “The Teacher Tenure Laws did not envision, nor provide for, the circumstance where a massive hurricane wipes out an entire school district, resulting in the elimination of the vast majority of teaching positions in that district. It would defy logic to find the OPSB liable for a due process violation where jobs were simply not available.”

“Nor would the state have been liable for not systematically hiring the Orleans Parish employees, Victory wrote, because the Legislature gave the Recovery School District the auth0rity to hire whomever it wanted.”

After the local newspaper printed an article indicating that Louisiana’s teachers support the Common Core, teacher Glynis Johnson wrote a letter saying that the reporter was wrong.

 

What I found interesting about her letter was the cogency of her critique:

 

1. Very few teachers were involved in the writing of the standards.

2. Bill Gates, who did not graduate college, put his millions into the development of the standards.

3. She writes: The Common Core State Standards are a federal intrusion and the “data-mining” involved is a violation of student privacy. Many of the standards are developmentally inappropriate, particularly in the lower grades. This leads to undue stress in our students and parents. We need high standards, but do not need to be part of a 10-year federal experiment on our children.

 

Many people have explained why they do not support the Common Core standards. This is as good a short description as I have seen.

 

 

 

 

Here is Mercedes Schneider with a brilliant post about the Obama U.S. Department of Education. She writes brief sketches of eight key appointees, each of whom is tied to the privatization movement.

 

When the President wonders why his party was so badly beaten at the polls earlier this month, he might think about the millions of educators who work in public schools and the millions of parents whose children attend good public schools; they are disgusted by Race to the Top, non-stop testing, test-based teacher evaluation, the Department’s preference for charter schools over public schools, and the millions of public dollars directed to TFA and charter schools. Educators were at one time a key part of the base of the Democratic party. As states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee lashed out at teachers, no protest was heard from Arne Duncan. As billions were cut from school budgets in Michigan and Pennsylvania, the Obama administration was silent (Duncan wrote a letter to Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania about the defunding of Philadelphia, but it was a faint protest, not like actually showing up). At present, educators and parents feel abandoned by both parties.

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.”

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