Archives for category: Louisiana

Mercedes Schneider reports here on the absurd class sizes assigned to teachers in Louisiana in virtual classes. The teachers are not “teachers,” they are in charge of case loads. They are using a canned curriculum called “Edgenuity,” and she says that it can easily be gamed by students to get higher marks. Education? Not really.

She writes:

Unlimited enrollment is particulary obvious in the virtual high school numbers.

First-semester biology, 282 students; first-semester environmental science, 461 students– both belonging to the same teacher of record (who has an additional 91 students in two other classes).

Yowsa.

First-semester US History, 306 students; first-semester World History, 129 students, AP US History, 48 students– all assigned to one teacher.

First-semester English I, 381 students; first-semester English I Honors, 55 students– both courses, one teacher.

First-semester Algebra I, 394 students assigned to one teacher, who also has another 125 students in 3 additional courses.

First-semester Government, 567 students. One teacher.

First-semester English II, 299 students; first-semester English II Honors, 68 students– same teacher.

Alg II, 220 students; Spanish II, 208 students; Spanish I, 193 students; Computer Science, 93 students; Pre-calculus, 81 students; Algebra III, 72 students; Algebra II Honors, 57 students; Pre-calculus Honors, 29 students; Spanish III, 3 students; Business Math, 49 students. All. Overseen. By. One. Teacher.

How thin can you spread your peanut butter and still call it a sandwich?

When a single teacher is responsible for tutoring and regularly communicating with 400, 500, 600, 700 students on a pre-fab curriculum that students are expected to primarily complete independently, you tell me how much quality education is transpiring here.

Louisiana has been firmly in the grip of “reformers” (i.e., believers in privatization, Teach for America, and high-stakes testing) for many years. The “reformers'” biggest coup was the complete demolition of public schools in New Orleans, in the years following the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Buoyed by funding from out-of-state billionaires, the proponents of disruption took control of the state board of education (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education). Apologists for privatization still point to New Orleans as their proof point of success, but the state has recently assigned grades of D or F to about half of its schools.

In January 2012, John White, one of the stars of the privatization industry, was selected by the state board as superintendent of the state. He served for eight years. During that time, Louisiana dropped to near the bottom of the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

After White resigned, the state board chose Cade Brumley, an experienced Louisiana educator who had held district superintendencies in the state

After reformers hyped the “success” of reform in the state for 15 years, Brumley recently revealed that reading scores had declined in the early grades.

A new report shows reading scores for Louisiana’s youngest students have plunged for three consecutive years, raising red flags over arguably the state’s top challenge for improving achievement in the classroom.

The issue is getting new attention after state leaders learned last week that reading levels for students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades have all steadily dropped.

More than half of students in all four grades are performing below grade level, a potential harbinger of major learning problems.

“Clearly what we are doing is not getting the results that our kids deserve,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Former state board member Leslie Jacobs, who was one of the most outspoken cheerleaders for the demolition of public schools in New Orleans, said that Louisiana needed to follow the Florida model. Florida gets high fourth-grade reading scores by gaming the system; it holds back third-graders who are not up to grade level. This artificially inflates the state’s scores on fourth-grade NAEP. By eighth grade, however, the Florida readings scores are mediocre; you can’t hold back the low-scoring readers forever.

Mercedes Schneider teaches English to high school students in Louisiana.

In this post, she describes her triumphs of recent months: one hurricane after another has swept across her state. COVID threatens. DeVos expresses her contempt for public schools and their teachers, like Mercedes.

Yet she feels triumphant!

Well, Betsy, my public school is a good school, and I am a good public school teacher.

In the last several weeks, seven new students have enrolled in my Eng IV classes. Six arrived from other schools. That would not happen in a private school. There is no obligation to enroll whoever shows up on the private school doorstep. But we enroll students as they arrive, and each one enters my classroom with a circumstance that I must figure out how to navigate so that the student can become part of my class as successfully and seamlessly as is possible.

It is quite a challenge, but we do not turn students away. We. Do. Not. Turn. Students. Away. That is profound, and the likes of Betsy DeVos, steeped in her ideological bias, completely misses it. 

Then there are the numerous specialized situations in which students and their families find themselves, circumstances that necessitate individualized, often instantaneous and creative, solutions. Longterm illness and disease. Comprehension issues. Physical limitations. Psychological challenges. Homelife instabilities...

The bottom line: My students and I are moving forward, despite COVID, despite hurricanes, despite DeVos.

And that, my friends, is success.

For the past thirty years, school choice advocates have claimed that the best way to improve education was to give families public money to send their child to a private or religious school. The very fact of “privateness,” they said, meant better quality. This turns out not to be the case. Students never receive a voucher that is enough to pay for elite private schools. Typically, the voucher schools are lesser quality than the public school the cHold leaves, because voucher schools are not required to have certified teachers. In recent years, numerous studies show that children who leave a public school and go to a voucher school lose ground academically.

This study was published in 2018. Its findings are consistent with studies of voucher effects in the District of Columbia, Ohio, Indiana, and other states. Voucher schools are free to teach scientific nonsense and fake history. In Florida and elsewhere, they are free to discriminate against groups of people they don’t like.

Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, Parag A. Pathak, and Christopher R. Walters write in the Journal of the American Economic Association that participation in Louisiana’s voucher program “lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and also reduces achievement in reading, science, and social studies. These effects may be due in part to selection of low-quality private schools into the program.”

Despite the negative effects of vouchers, Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, and a host of school choice advocacy groups have continued to demand more and more funding for low-quality, unaccountable voucher schools. This funding is subtracted from public school funding, through a variety of schemes. Whether it’s a tax creditor a “scholarship,” individuals and corporations are diverting money to private schools that belongs in the state coffers to support public schools.

Mercedes Schneider is back to work teaching high school English in Louisiana. She is doing her best to keep her students socially distanced, though she hasn’t figured out how that will be possible when her class size reaches 24.

But the silver lining is that her students are wearing masks! They are not acting stupid and refusing to protect themselves and others! That’s good news for them and for her.

Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the Supreme Court’s four liberal justices to strike down a Louisiana law that would have severely restricted access to abortion.

The Washington Post reports:

The Supreme Court on Monday provided a victory for abortion rights activists, striking down a restrictive Louisiana law that would have left the state with only one abortion clinic.


Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court’s liberals in the 5 to 4 decision. It was a blow to conservatives who had hoped for a dramatic change in the court’s abortion jurisprudence in the first case heard by a court reinforced by President Trump’s two conservative appointees.


Instead, Roberts said the Louisiana law could not stand given the court’s 2016 decision to to overturn a similar Texas law in 2016.
“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” Roberts wrote in concurring with the decision. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”


Roberts ‘s vote was all the more striking because he dissented in the Texas case. He said he continues “believe that the [Texas] case was wrongly decided.” But he said the question was whether to “adhere to it in the present case.”


It was perhaps the most dramatic example of Roberts’s new role as the pivotal member of the court, and indicated that while he supports restrictions on abortion, he is unready at this point to overhaul the court’s jurisprudence supporting the right of a woman to choose the procedure.

A side note: in states where protestors have refused to wear face masks, some have chanted, “My body, my choice!”

Ironic. Do the anti-maskers support abortion rights?

Thanks to the reporting of Mercedes Schneider, we have followed the travails of that state over several years of “reform” leadership: Republican Governor Jindal pushed charters and vouchers. Out-of-State money elected a pro-Jindal Board. That board selected John White as state superintendent. White was TFA and Broadies. He had worked for Joel Klein, then briefly ran the New Orleans Recovery School District. As Jindal’s chief school officer, he enthusiastically promoted charters and vouchers and made outlandish promises about what he would achieve. When Democrat John Bel Edwards was elected, he wanted to dump White, but didn’t have the votes on the board. White resigned earlier this year. The state board appointed Cade Brumley, a veteran Louisiana educator (surprise!).

As Schneider describes here, White’s team of inexperienced but well paid assistants, mostly TFA alums, headed for the exits.

She writes:

Brumley’s leadership hires tend to have both classroom and administrative experience related to a traditional ed career path; they tend to have roots in Louisiana, and they include women and people of color.

Furthermore, even though some of his admin hires represent ed reform, Brumley favors individuals with grounding in traditional teacher/admin training. And, keep in mind that all who accept a position in Brumley’s LDOE must be willing to work under a state superintendent to whom John White’s TFA-heavy, ed-reform leadership is submitting their resignations.

I find all of this very encouraging, indeed.

Mike Deshotels reviews the past several years of “reform,” funded by the Walton Family and Michael Bloomberg, and declares that every part of it has failed.

Deshotels writes that the suspension of recess so that students could have more time for test prep led to lower test scores!

He writes:

Why isn’t constant drilling on test taking skills at the expense of recess, PE, art, music, vocational education, and other “less important” instruction producing higher test scores? Maybe because the current trend to ignore fundamental child development principle’s is harmful in every way, including killing the joy of schooling for both children and teachers! Teachers in Finland, whose students perform at the top of the rankings on international achievement tests, routinely take young children outdoors where they can play, investigate nature and develop normally as they are programmed by their genes to do. Why do American reformers insist on counteracting nature and instead have transformed our education system to motivation killing test drudgery?

It was equally stupid to remove teachers from the decision-making process and leave it to legislators and the state education department. What a bad idea!

This outrageous trampling on the rights and critical input of the teaching profession in education decisions has actually resulted in the opposite of what our non-educator reformers said they wanted to do. Do you think our government can stop the Corona virus by ignoring the recommendations of the highly trained experts in disease prevention? The same is true of refusing to listen to real teachers about education reform. Do you believe, as the reformers would have you believe, that education reform in Louisiana is really working in preparing students for college and careers? Are you willing to ignore the most recent devastating revelation by our own Board of Regents that after all the reforms imposed on K-12 education in Louisiana, only 18 out of one hundred of our students will attain a college degree of any kind. Not even a two year associate’s degree! These are the worst results I have ever seen! Don’t blame the teachers. Teacher attended the legislative committee proposing these changes by the thousands to protest these untested ideas, only to be scolded for having the nerve to come to Baton Rouge on a school day (but that was the only time the Education committee was meeting!). Now the chickens are coming home to roost and thousands of our most dedicated teachers have left the profession.

Who has been making decisions? The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, exactly the worst people to decide how to educate the state’s children.

The stranglehold over control of public education by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry promises even more failure with the upcoming appointment of John White’s replacement.
Make no mistake about it, LABI has had almost total control over K-12 education for over 4 years since they used Michael Bloomburg’s and Walton family contributions to totally purchase all the BESE elected positions. They have made nothing but bad decisions with all this power. The school privatization they pushed has been almost a total failure with data showing that students who stay in their public schools do significantly better than they do when they move to a voucher or charter school.

Now LABI is preparing to pick the state’s next superintendent to succeed the failed John White, who mastered the art of spinning data to make it look good when it wasn’t. Of course, they are pushing White’s loyal assistant.

Let’s look at some of the real results of LABI supported reforms. On their web site, LABI claims that Louisiana is closing the achievement gap between privileged and underprivileged students. Data demonstrates instead that the exact opposite is true. They are also dead wrong claiming that ACT scores are improving. LABI is now down to apparently basing its education policies on wishful thinking rather than evidence.

The same is true of teacher evaluations based on student test scores using our defective state tests. LABI has insisted that Louisiana evaluate its teachers partially on student test scores. But all the data proves that the VAM system used is unstable and inaccurate. So a couple of years ago I got thrown off of a state committee studying changes to VAM because I had the nerve to state on my blog that LABI was like the dog that caught the truck with this whole VAM fiasco. They don’t have any idea what to do with VAM but they will never admit they were wrong. Meanwhile some very competent and dedicated teachers have had their careers ruined by VAM and thousands of great teachers have left the profession.

Louisiana has been fully in the grips of the Disruption Machine. It has fallen to the bottom of NAEP, which John White hailed as “proof” that the state had enacted higher standards. More failure like that and Louisiana will fall below Alabama and New Mexico, the lowest performing states.

Louisiana has bought into all the favorite remedies of “reform” (aka disruption), and there is nothing to show for it but failure, propaganda, and lies.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced a budget proposal that earmarked new spending on education, but no raises for teachers, whose pay is below the average for southern states.

For Louisiana public school teachers, a group that includes some of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ earliest and most avid supporters, the governor’s first post-reelection budget proposal has good news and bad news.

The good news is a request that the Legislature spend significantly more on education. The $32 billion spending package includes an additional $65 million to support K-12 schools, $25 million for early childhood learning programs and $35 million for colleges.

The bad news is that a certain line item is conspicuously missing: money specifically dedicated to raise teacher pay.

No raises has been the status quo for a long time now, with the notable exception of last year, when Edwards backed the first increase in a decade. Until Friday, every indication, both from Edwards’ campaign-year rhetoric and from the new reality of a budget surplus, was that it wouldn’t be the last.

It could be, at least for now. Rather than propose a specific raise and signal that Edwards would once again fight for it in the Legislature, his administration is now saying that any raises this year would have to come from the overall allocations the state makes to school districts. So while some teachers may benefit, there would be nothing across the board.

The governor’s top priority is early childhood education.

Low education spending and low teacher pay help to maintain Louisiana’s place as one of the lowest-performing states in the nation on NAEP.

 

Uber-reformer John White announced that he is resigning as superintendent of Louisiana.

He has sterling disrupter credentials.

Teach for America. Broad Academy. Joel Klein’s inner circle. Briefly leader of New Orleans’ charter district.

Mercedes Schneider has the story here. She thinks the next state superintendent might actually be an experienced educator.

Under White’s leadership, Louisiana dropped to nearly the very bottom of NAEP.

Watch to see which disruption group or leader picks him up next: the Waltons? The City Fund? John Arnold? Charles Koch? Bill Gates? Jeb Bush?