Archives for category: Louisiana

Mercedes Schneider writes about Louisiana’s fake review of the Common Core standards. State Superintendent John White responded to protests against the CCSS by promising a thorough review by Louisiana teachers. But when the math committee assembled, the Louisiana teachers of math found that they would be joined by two members of the state education department’s Common Core committee. One of the math teachers, Brenda DeFelice, resigned, saying that she could not participate under these circumstances.


DeFelice wrote in her resignation letter:


During our last sub-committee meeting in Monroe, two people were introduced as experts and were invited to be seated at microphones to answer questions and to offer input to the sub-committee as we conducted the review. I have since learned that the two experts who were added to the group, Carolyn Sessions (LDOE standards coordinator and PARCC cadre) and Nancy Beben (LDOE curriculum director), were two of the original writers of the national Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. In my opinion, they had absolutely no place at the table or in front of a microphone as the sub-committee conducted our review. In fact, in the very first Standards Review Meeting in August, the Standards Steering Committee rejected a proposal to form a panel of experts to assist in this review process, saying that the work was to be done by the appointed committee members only.


This morning in Baton Rouge, in an effort to continue the high school discussions prior to the full sub-committee meeting tomorrow, several of the high school sub-committee members met to review the Geometry standards revisions, with the rest of the high school sub-committee members reporting in this afternoon to continue the review. Imagine my surprise to find, seated at the sub-committee table, Scott Baldridge (LSU math professor and author of Eureka Math) and James Madden (LSU Cain Center and another of the original writers of the national Common Core State Standards in Mathematics), both strong proponents of Common Core. We were also joined by Carolyn Sessions (LDOE and PARCC) again. Not surprisingly, all three spoke strongly against the sub-committee members’ proposed changes to the current Louisiana Common Core Geometry Standards, and once again, I feel very strongly that these people had absolutely no place at these discussions.


Why are we conducting a review if the same people who brought us Common Core are invited to a seat at the table and are encouraged to influence the committee in a particular direction in which they benefit?


As I read this account, I wonder why advocates for CCSS are so desperate? Why are they fearful of an independent review by qualified math teachers? Why do they try to control any honest critique? What do they have to gain or lose?

John White is State Superintendent of Schools in Louisiana. He had a meteoric career after his stint in Teach for America. He worked for Joel Klein in New York City, quickly rising to become Deputy Chancellor in charge of closing public schools to make room for charters. As Klein’s tenure ended, White landed the job as superintendent of the New Orleans Recovery School District. After a few months, he was selected as state superintendent. There, he was a champion of Bobby Jindal’s program of privatization: vouchers, charters, tuition grants to private entrepreneurs, virtual charters, Common Core. He is the corporate reformer par excellence, ready and willing to privatize and extinguish public schools.


Things went well until Jindal realized that the Common Core had turned toxic and threatened his presidential ambitions. Jindal abandoned it, White stuck with it. They had a celebrated feud. But the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education backed White, and he survived.


Mercedes Schneider predicts he won’t survive the new Governor-elect, John Bel Edwards, who said during his campaign that White must go. Edwards is a supporter of public education; his wife is a teacher.


How can Edwards get rid of White when he has the support of the BESE? As Mercedes explains, the governor controls the budget. He also has the power to push through an ethics bill that would knock two members off BESE, including the state director of TFA, whose organization receives contracts from BESE.


Edwards spoke to a meeting of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and told them that he would not close charters or end vouchers. But he says he will insist on greater accountability. That is not a great message, but at least the war on teachers will end.

Mercedes Schneider posted a transcription of his remarks and video to clarify what he said. On charters, he said that the decision to open charters should be made by local school boards, not the state board. As he spoke, the BESE is preparing to impose more charters without any local control. Edwards wisely noted that when a state bypasses the community, the voters are less likely to support bond issues for their schools, which are no longer theirs. Edwards also noted that some of the worst schools in the state are voucher schools. In a somewhat contradictory point, he says voucher schools should only serve only kids trapped in failing schools, but why send a child from a low-performing public school to a failing voucher school?

Note to Governor-elect Edwards: Please hire Mercedes Schneider, experienced teacher, dogged researcher, and skilled writer, as your education advisor.

Mercedes Schneider reports the great news from Louisiana: Democrat John Bel Edwards was elected over tarnished Republican David Vitter.

Best of all: the Bobby Jindal era is over.

Now Governor Edwards must clean up the mess Jindal left behind.

“It is expected that Edwards’ first order of business as governor will be to call the Louisiana legislature into special session to confront Louisiana’s budget crisis largely created by Bobby Jindal’s presidential aspirations and his own selfish goal of being viewed as Not Raising Taxes No Matter What– including raising taxes that the Louisiana public supports. Moreover, Jindal would not accept federal funding for health care, and it is expected that Edwards will.

“Edwards is conservative (pro-life; pro-gun), but he is also a Democrat.

“I expect Edwards to also turn his attention to the unhealthy corporate tax breaks that Jindal had provided and protected and that are bleeding revenue out of our already poor state. Also, Edwards has already noted the Jindal-induced, critical need to support Louisiana’s higher education institutions.”

One corporate reformer won a seat on the state board, as did one opponent of corporate reform. Superintendent John White can expect some tough times ahead with a Democrat as governor, someone who does NOT want to destroy public education.

Gary Rubinstein, who teaches mathematics at elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City, is a crack data analyst. Although he was one of the first to join Teach for America, he has become one of the most perceptive critics of “reform.”

In this post, he examines Louisiana’s claims of great success on Advanced Placement exams.

He writes:

To education ‘reformers,’ test scores are the ultimate measure of success. Test scores are the evidence that the country’s education system is broken. Test scores of certain charter schools prove that most teachers in this country have low expectations and don’t try very hard. Schools have been shut down over test scores. Teachers have been fired over test scores.

Contrary to the narrative of common core proponents, there are currently many national tests that can be used to compare test scores of different states. There’s the NAEP, the ACT, the SAT, and, probably the highest quality of all of them, the Advanced Placement exams. Though I’m not a huge fan of a lot that The College Board does, I find the tests that I’m knowledgeable about, AB Calculus, BC Calculus, and Computer Science, to be good tests.

Education ‘reform’ leaders use low test scores as a way to justify their radical policy changes. “Kids can’t wait,” they say. They promise that they know what works and that they just need some time for their changes to take effect.

In Louisiana, the State Education Commissioner John White has boasted for the past three years about increased participation in taking AP exams, but he underplays the continued very low passing rates of students on those exams. Gary has commented on these AP passing rates every year and notes that this year, John White is claiming “big gains.” So Gary takes a closer look.

He finds that Louisiana has passing rates (a score of 3 or higher) that are third from the bottom in the nation.

True, the participation rates have gone up, but even so, Louisiana continues to be one of the lowest performing states in the nation.

Gary writes:

In addition to the state-by-state data released by the College Board, the state of Louisiana, a few months ago, released AP data for their districts and their schools. These numbers are shockingly low and certainly seem to be something that ‘outcome driven reformers’ want to ignore. Sci Academy, which is one of those New Schools For New Orleans schools touted on Oprah, for example, had over 110 students take an AP exam while less than 10 of them passed one. Out of about 500 students who took an AP in the entire Recovery School District, only 27 students, or 5.5% passed one.

‘Reformers’ like to say that they get increased freedom in exchange for increased test score accountability. They are truly running out of time to deliver on their promises.



Jason France, aka Crazy Crawfish, ran for state board of education in Louisiana and lost. As he explains it here, the winning candidates pretended to share the views of the losers and had the advantage of millions of dollars from super-PACs. The losers were outspent by at least 100-1.

The winners’ campaign was promoted by the Louisiana Association and Industry.

Jason says there are still two candidates in the race who need our help so that the corporate people don’t gain total control.

He writes:

“To everyone who supported and believed in me and the other FlipBESE candidates you have my utmost respect, thanks, and gratitude. With your help we terrified our opponents into outspending us in the 100’s to one range, to fabricate and promulgate lies about us, and to actually adopt OUR platforms to defeat us.

“None of the LABI backed candidates ran on platforms claiming Common Core and PARCC were outstanding or that the state should confiscate and run all of our schools, because they knew those claims would cost them the elections. So while LABI and their allies claim education reform got a mandate in Saturday’s election, nothing could be further from the truth. You won’t see LABI’s remaining lapdogs doing anything to promote the agenda they claim they have a mandate for in their runoffs.

“That means it is crystal clear (even to our opponent’s highly paid political consultants) that it was FlipBESE that won Saturday, October 24th, NOT corporate ed reform and Common Core.

“Now that LABI has most of the BESE seats, and has deceived and bribed their way into unseating two of our greatest champions (Carolyn Hill and Lottie Bebee) it is more important than ever to rally around our remaining champions.

“We NEED Mary Harris and Kathy Edmonston to defend our teachers, parents, and students.

“For this reason I am proud to endorse and support Kathy Edmonston for the BESE district 6 runoff race against LABI owned Jason Engen.”

Mercedes Schneider here reports the disappointing news from Louisiana.

More than $3.5 million of out-of-state money swamped the candidates for the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, who among them raised only about $50,000. Only two opponents of corporate reform survived the election, and both are in a run-off.*

Four billionaires put up more than a million dollars.

Democracy lost.

But the good news is that the likely next governor is John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who is not in sympathy with the mean-spirited policies of Governor Bobby Jindal and who has said that he will fire ex-TFA State Commissioner of Education John White, who is known for hiding and spinning data.


On Saturday, the people of Louisiana will vote on many races. Among the most important will be the races for state board of education.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund has endorsed Lotte Beebe, Lee Barrios, and Jason France.

This article describes what is at stake.

Out of state billionaires have put up nearly $1 billion to impose privatization.

The several local candidates have about $50,000 among them.

The question is whether big money can defeat democracy and secure control of Louisiana’s schools and children.

NPE Action Fund endorses Jason France for election to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Network for Public Education is proud to endorse Jason France for Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), District 6. Jason France, also know as the education blogger Crazy Crawfish, is a former Louisiana Department of Education employee, a public education activist, and the parent of two Baton Rouge public school students.

Jason is running for Louisiana BESE to “remove the outside influence of corporations and the federal government (and their phony education surrogates) to allow parents and educators the freedom and final say over the education of their children.”

France is running for the seat currently occupied by BESE President Chas Roemer. Roemer is the son of former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer – he has never attended public school, and his children don’t attend public school. He has been a champion of “charter schools, Common Core, test-based evaluations for schools and teachers and Education Superintendent John White,” according to the Times-Picayune. Roemer is a classic example of the privileged few making decisions for other people’s children.

The next BESE Board will have a crucially important to role to play in the future of public education in Louisiana. The next board will decide to keep or fire controversial reformster State Superintendent John White, who has stated a desire to stay in the position. A flip in District 6 would mean the potential for real change for students and teachers in Louisiana.

NPE is certain Jason France is just the candidate to help bring about the kind of revolutionary change needed in Louisiana. Please visit Jason’s campaign website to learn more about his policy positions on issues such as Charters, Common Core, Testing, VAM, and Student Privacy. You can also read the most recent post on his blog, which is a direct appeal to the voters of Louisiana.

Eli Broad has recruited Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent in Louisiana, to lead his effort to privatize the schools of 50% of the children now in public schools in Los Angeles.

Pastorek oversaw the elimination of public education in Néw Orleans. He was also a member of Jeb Bush’s far-right “Chiefs for Change,” a group dedicated to high-stakes testing and privatization.

In his new post, he will press for the elimination of many public schools.

“Few issues have roiled the LA Unified community more than the foundation’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district. An early report by the foundation said the goal is to serve as many as half the students in the district in 230 newly-created charter schools within the next eight years, an effort that would cost nearly half a billion dollars.

“It’s also a plan that district officials have said would eviscerate public education as it is now delivered by LA Unified. The LA teachers union, UTLA, has also attacked the plan as part of the Broads’ latest effort to “privatize” public education at the cost of union teaching jobs.”

The Network for Public Education Action Fund endorses Lee Barrios for the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In the last election to this board, out-of-state billionaires captured the board for privatization measures. Help Lee (and our other candidates) restore the Board as the guardian of public education.

She is a champion for children and public schools.

Barrios retired from teaching in 2010 and became a full-time advocate, working to protect public education in her home state. Barrios has a long list of qualifications for a seat on BESE. She is a retired National Board Certified Teacher with a Masters Degree in Secondary Education; a founding member of the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education, which represents classroom teachers; the Information Coordinator for Save Our Schools – LA; and she was a founding member of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, which worked to expose inBloom around the country.

Her opponent is James Garvey, who is running for his third term on BESE. He is a part of the board majority that supports charter schools, high stakes testing, vouchers, Common Core, VAM, and controversial Louisiana state superintendent John White. Garvey has well over $200,000 in his campaign coffers. Garvey entered the race with almost $160,000 left over from his previous campaign, and another $40,000 has been donated to his current campaign by four Political Action Committees (PACs) formed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Barrios is well aware that she is up against powerful, moneyed interests, and has a clear sense of how dangerous market-based education reform is to the cause of public education.

Please help elect Lee Barrios to this important post.