Mercedes Schneider checks out the origins and development of Campbell Brown, who is now threatening to take Michelle Rhee’s place as the leader of the anti-union, anti-teacher campaign. Mercedes hails from Louisiana, and so did Campbell. Campbell came from a very poor town called Ferriday. But she wasn’t poor. Her father served in the State Senate and as Secretary of State. She didn’t go to public schools. She went to some fine private schools. Off to college, then she marries Dan Senor, and take a look at her beautiful Vera Wang wedding dress. Let’s say it. She’s pretty. She’s privileged. She has had a very good life indeed. But it really troubles her that teachers are protected against vindictive principals or students who make false accusations or parents who object to the books they teach. This is intolerable to Campbell Brown. She is special. To her, teachers are not.
Well, I gave you an update on the latest episode in the Louisiana battle over Common Core. But of course I don’t know as much as Mercedes Schneider, who teaches in the state and stays abreast of the latest news and gossip.
So here is the scoop, from the inside.
Who will sue whom?
What tests will be used?
Will the governor beat the superintendent that he once loved and the board he appointed?
Advocates of the Common Core standards have promoted the myth that only the agitated and uninformed extremists oppose the standards. But this is not true. Michael Deshotels is a respected veteran educator in Louisiana who explains here why he opposes the Common Core and the related high-stakes testing.
This is the heart of his dissent:
“Many educators who have carefully studied the Common Core Standards believe they are not practical for most classrooms, and are not age appropriate for most of our younger students. The standards may actually cause many children to fear school because they will be frustrated by some of the poor teaching practices required to teach the Common Core.
“Many of the math methods required by these standards are impractical. They are simply theories of teaching math that are not useful to most students.
“The types of reading and writing required by the Common Core are often boring to students and do not accomplish practical results. Young children are required to use a technique called “close reading” which includes detailed dissection of reading passages. These required readings may actually discourage the love of reading that is needed for most students to become excellent readers.
“Finally, the Common Core, even though it is claimed to be a system that will prepare students for college and careers, will do neither, compared to other alternatives. The standards are particularly not practical for students who wish to pursue technical or skilled careers.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the agreement to adopt Common Core.
But when Common Core turned toxic among conservative voters, Jindal declared he would pull his state out of Common Core and the federal test.
State Commissioner of Education John White–who supports vouchers, charters, and Common Core– refused to go along. He and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education said they were sticking with Common Core. Jindal appointed most of the BESE members and urged them to appoint White.
BESE and White threatened to sue Jindal. But they need the Governor’s permission to sue the Governor.
Jindal previously announced that he would not permit PARCC to be used as the state test because there was no proper procurement procedure used to contract for the test.
Teachers and schools are caught in the middle. They don’t know what test will be the state test this coming school year.
Guess they will just have to teach whatever they think they should teach. They won’t know what test to teach to.
Jason France (aka blogger Crazy Crawfish) writes here about the warping and destruction of data held by the Louisiana Department of Education.
“There is a data crisis at LDOE. Almost all of the data collection systems are failing. The data, statistics and reports being generated are garbage. Data is being ferried back and forth between the department and school districts using Excel worksheets and through e-mail correspondence. This leaves many students at high risk to data theft and privacy violations. Because the systems impacted are numerous and core to much of the reporting and analysis performed by the Department, it is impossible for LDOE to claim they are reporting accurate or reliable numbers for dropouts, graduates, TOPS scholarship awards, school performance scores, test scores, student counts and breakdowns for MFP funding, program counts. . . the list goes on and on. The situation is really serious and probably just about hopeless at this point.
“I will explain how this situation developed and give specific examples of systems, impacted and correspondence I’ve received from school districts trying to work with the department.
“This crisis was created intentionally by John White and his second in command that he brought with him from New York, Kunjan Narechania. White did not really care what the data said, because he had already determined the outcome for many of his programs. (I don’t think he was also not planning to be here longer than 2 years when all the cut-backs and destruction he’d wrought really started to impact daily operations.) White undertook a slash and burn campaign on the department’s data and analysis folks and immediately implemented policies that guaranteed data would deteriorate immediately. White abandoned a 4 million dollar warehouse named LEDRS we were just finishing. . . as he arrived on the scene, but not before using it to transmit almost all of the data contained in the Warehouse to CREDO to produce reform friendly propaganda masquerading as true data analysis.”
Read on for a remarkable story.
While Governor Bobby Jindal and State Superintendent John White continue to slug it out over Common Core and PARCC testing, a new wrinkle has been added.
Blogger Louisiana Voice reports that John White’s office is being investigated for payroll fraud:
“LouisianaVoice has learned the Legislative Auditor’s office is conducting an investigation of DOE that could involve payroll fraud, according to sources inside the department.
“White, as we have reported several times in the past, has loaded up the department with unclassified appointments at bloated six-figure salaries.
“There are apparently three major problems with that:
“Many of these appointees seldom, if ever, show up for work and apparently are required to perform few, if any, duties to earn their keep;
“The department did not have enough money in its budget to pay their salaries so they are reportedly being paid from federal funds earmarked for specific purposes;
“The appointees are not assigned to areas for which the federal funds are allocated.
“If true, these are serious allegations and even more serious violations that could prompt a federal probe in addition to the investigation already underway by the Legislative Auditor.”
This statement was delivered to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Statement to BESE on CCSS and PARCC
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has scheduled a special meeting On July 1, at 11:30 A.M., to respond to the executive orders by Governor Jindal that would stop the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the related PARCC testing. Assuming that BESE allows the public to comment before taking action, the following is the statement I plan to make before BESE:
My name is Michael Deshotels, and I am a retired Louisiana educator who writes a blog for educators and for parents. I am here to request that BESE consider at least a suspension of Common Core and the related PARCC testing in Louisiana until Louisiana educators can revise and improve our present Louisiana standards. I am talking about the standards that were rated second in the nation by Education Weekly just over 2 years ago. I believe there are several good reasons for a change in policy on CCSS and there is nothing more appropriate than correcting a policy that we have come to understand is wrong and harmful to our students.
There is growing evidence that the CCSS are poorly designed and the implementation of them is a boondoggle. Why would we want to subject our Louisiana students to this unnecessary experiment? Let other states use their children as guinea pigs while we in Louisiana continue and improve our own system.
In January of this year, I asked the readers of my blog to give their opinion on Common Core and PARCC. I have asked that each BESE member be provided with a copy of my post describing the results of the survey, but I will briefly summarize results of that survey here:
2,724 persons responded to the survey which was available on my blog for a 10 day period near the end of January of this year. My estimate is that the majority of persons who answered the survey were educators (because the majority of my readers are educators), but there were a significant number of school board members and parents who found the survey and responded to it also.
A total of 1954 respondents or 72% chose the option that stated the following: “Do away with both CCSS and PARCC and substitute an improved version of GLEs as the standards for all the basic core subjects. Louisiana would implement its own testing as has been done in the past.”
Only 61 respondents, or just 2% chose the option that stated the following: “Implement the CCSS just as has been prescribed by Superintendent John White with the approval of BESE.”
Based on these survey results I believe it is incorrect to say that most educators in our schools are enthusiastic about Common Core and PARCC testing. I believe it would be much more accurate to say that our teachers and school principals, because they are professionals, will do their best to implement the education policy of this state even if they have serious misgivings about the value of such policies. I believe that BESE owes them the respect of coming up with a policy that is more effective and more appropriate for our students than the Common Core and the PARCC testing.
In addition to conducting this survey on CC, I have studied the CC standards in detail and tried to understand how they will actually work in the classroom. It is my best judgment as an educator for over 40 years in this state that the CCSS are not appropriate for the majority of the students in our schools and that continued implementation of these standards and the PARCC testing will do more harm than good to our students. Many of the standards are not age appropriate as has been confirmed by more than 500 early childhood educators, and many of the standards are not practical enough for the majority of our students who pursue technical careers. I believe these standards are a one-size-fits all approach that will not give most Louisiana students the education they need to be successful in their careers and as citizens of Louisiana and the United States.
I have also carefully studied the development of the CCSS and found that no effort whatsoever was made to field test the standards and to modify them to adjust for any deficiencies or weaknesses. We now know that the standards were not developed according to accepted practices for the development and implementation of standards. The Common Core standards were developed mostly by persons who have never set foot in a regular classroom. The standards are not practical. These standards have already failed miserably in New York state where 70% of all students failed the testing related to CCSS.
The creators of Common Core, have claimed that the CCSS will prepare all students (every single one of them) for college and careers, yet there have been no scientific studies whatsoever to determine the truth of this statement. The developers also claim that the CCSS will help reduce the achievement gap between privileged and underprivileged, wealthy and poor, students. But most of the millions of dollars spent on Common Core have been spent promoting the standards and almost nothing to determine if they actually do what is being claimed. On the issue of closing the achievement gap, we now know, based on the first round of testing, that the achievement gap was actually widened instead of narrowed in New York state.
Not one penny of the billions Bill Gates money or the Race to the top money has been spent on finding out if the CCSS actually worked before they were implemented. All of that money has been spent on just selling us and various influential groups on the Common Core . . . . sight unseen. In fact BESE adopted Common Core sight unseen in 2010. Yes BESE adopted the standards before they were even written!
There were no discussions held by BESE for parents and teachers to review the actual CCSS because the specific standards did not exist when they were adopted. So don’t blame the parents who now are complaining about what they have recently seen their children bringing home from school.
I am here as an experienced educator to ask that you do the right thing by listening to the parents and teachers who are telling you that we in Louisiana can do better than the CCSS. We do not need a one-size-fits-all set of standards. We need standards that respect the individual differences among our students and does not attempt to standardize our students. We need standards that respect our teachers and stop dictating every thing they do with a single state test. We need to start reducing the time spent on expensive state testing and endless test prep. Our teachers love to teach and inspire children, not rehearse them for tests!
Education will not come to a halt in Louisiana if this board is willing to take a pause in the rush to these standards and adopt standards that are more appropriate to our state and our students. It was only a few years ago that the LEAP tests did not even exist, and yet our teachers were still educating students even though they were not being forced to prepare students for state tests. Our children are in good hands. They will be better off if we listen to those who have dedicated their careers to educating our children instead of implementing the latest education reform fad promoted by young Bill Gates employees or by persons hired to make standardized tests for the Pearson company.
Mercedes Schneider tells a strange tale about PARCC testing, John White, Bobby Jindal, AIR, and Pearson.
Will AIR’s lawsuit against Pearson in the Arizona courts affect Louisiana’s choice of tests?
Stephanie Simon reports at politico.com that Governor Bobby Jindal’s lawyer advised him he has the right to withdraw Louisiana from the Common Core and the federally-funded PARCC tests.
State Superintendent John White said in an interview that Jindal was wrong. He went even further and accused the governor of breaking the law: “State Superintendent John White has accused the governor of breaking the law, trampling the state constitution and crushing the dreams of low-income minority students by rejecting the Common Core and scrapping plans to give students new exams aligned to the standards.”
“White said his attorneys are reviewing the legal memo. His team is also working to compile reams of documentation about the state’s contacts with PARCC and its plans to administer the PARCC test — including invoices, contracts, meeting minutes, calendar entries, memos and emails.”
Jindal can’t fire White. White works for the state board of education. This is one of the most startling developments in the saga of the Common Core: a governor who signed the memorandum to adopt the Common Core and now wants out vs. the state superintendent, who is fighting to keep the Common Core and tests.
Stephanie Simon interviewed State Superintendent John White, who blasted Governor Bobby Jindal for dropping Common Core and PARCC testing. White said that Jindal was denying children their “civil rights.” Isn’t it weird how these privatizers like to use “civil rights” as a rhetorical weapon without any meaning? It used to refer to the right to attend a desegregated school, the right to vote, the right to be equal before the law, now it is allegedly means the right to take the same standardized test? Since it is a well-demonstrated fact that standardized tests favor those whose family income and family education are high, one could easily argue that a concern for civil rights requires an education in which standardized tests are minimized or completely absent.
Here is the summary of the Simon interview. It links to politico.pro, a website with a big paywall. I inquired about subscribing and was told it costs $3,400. [Breaking: Stephanie Simon informed that the story about the interview is now available free, not behind a paywall. It is here.]
“JINDAL TAKING FIRE: Louisiana State Superintendent John White told POLITICO in an interview that Gov. Bobby Jindal is breaking the law, trampling the state constitution and crushing the dreams of low-income and minority students by trying to scrap the Common Core and PARCC exams. The two state leaders previously worked hand-in-hand on far-reaching education reforms, expanding the state’s school voucher program and standing together during a federal investigation into the program. Jindal and White lambasted the Obama administration for investigating the voucher program, saying the federal government was violating the civil rights of the mostly black, low-income students in the program. But now White is turning that rhetoric on Jindal. “It is high irony,” White said, “that people who support the civil right to choose a school don’t support the civil right to have all students take the same test.” He added pointedly: “Lowering expectations comes in many forms.” Stephanie Simon has the story: http://politico.pro/1wzkUoY”
“- Jindal spokesman Mike Reed dismissed White’s allegations. White’s education department is violating the law, he said. “These accusations are silly,” Reed said. “Under Louisiana law, the Louisiana Department of Education is required to issue a request for a proposal for an assessment, and the department has not done that. The department needs to abide by Louisiana law, do its job and issue an RFP.”