Louisiana Supt. White In The HOTseat!

A re-post from Dr. Mercedes Schneider's blog.


Jindal to Dump PARCC?

April 14, 2014
An April 14, 2014, nola.com article has Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal publicly saying he is “willing” to leave the Partnership for Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC)– and even the Common Core State Standards (CCSS):
Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he is willing to withdraw Louisiana from a consortium of states developing the assessment associated with the Common Core academic standards if the Louisiana Legislature doesn’t choose to do so on its own.
Eight legislators sent a letter to Jindal Monday afternoon asking him to nix a years-old agreement that has Louisiana residents and policy makers helping craft the  Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. The governor, who once supported PARCC, said he was in favor of the state’s withdrawal from the assessment group and indicated that he hopes the anti-Common Core efforts currently brewing in some corners of the Legislature succeed.
“We share the concerns of these [anti-Common Core] legislators and also of parents across Louisiana. We’re hopeful that legislation will move through the process this session that will address the concerns of parents or delay implementation until these concerns can be addressed. We think this course of action outlined in the legislators’ letter remains a very viable option if the Legislature does not act,” said Jindal in a statement. [Emphasis added.]
Anyone familiar with Jindal should know that any decision to move against PARCC or CCSS is prompted by Jindal’s own political ambitions.
It is highly likely that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will vie for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, and Bush is over-the-top CCSS.
Jindal appears to be positioning himself as the “anti-CCSS Republican 2016 presidential contender.”
If Jindal is serious about dumping CCSS (and by extension, the CCSS appendage, PARCC), he is able to act alone. Only two signatures signed Louisiana onto CCSS:that of Jindal and former State Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek.
Pastorek is gone. Only Jindal remains. He need only send formal word to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Louisiana could be rid of both CCSS and PARCC.
As the nola.com article notes, this is “a developing story.”
We’ll see what Jindal does. He might be hoping to unload responsibility for PARCC (and perhaps CCSS) onto the legislature. That way, he can take credit when it serves his purposes and distance himself from the decision when it serves his purposes.
On April 2, 2014, a bill to delay and investigate CCSS in Louisiana was voted down in the House Education Committee. The vote was 12 to 7, with the Black Caucus levying the final blow. However, I learned today that the chair of the Black Caucus, Rep. Katrina Jackson, is seeking input regarding CCSS.
Individuals in Rep. Jackson’s district should contact her and let her know her constituency’s thoughts on CCSS.
And then there is the question of State Education Superintendent John White’s future.
Bobby Jindal appears to be purposely (and publicly) distancing himself from both White and Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer. As nola.com notes:
Jindal’s willingness to scratch PARCC is another blow for those who have championed Common Core, including Department of Education Superintendent John White, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education president Chas Roemer and several state lawmakers.  [Emphasis added.]
On April 8, 2014, White told the House Appropriations Committee (comprised of some of the same individuals who want to delay/end CCSS, including Pope and Schroder) that the education budget was short $55 million, with $20 million involved in a “cash flow issue.”
A colleague who attended the House Appropriations meeting with White in the hot seat, Lee Barrios, said that when asked about the cost of PARCC, White provided told the committee that the cost of PARCC would carry “a net cost of zero” compared to the cost of the Louisiana Education Assessment Program (LEAP) test.
From Barrios’ partial transcript of White’s House Appropriations meeting:
[Rep.] Geymann asked why there was no fiscal note associated with PARCC. 
White:”I would assume because there will  be savings associated with PARCC.  ” 
Wrong answer.
I estimated that one year of PARCC for only half of Louisiana’s students would cost $10.7 million.
And White has gone over 2014 budget $55 million without having the added expense of a standardized test to be annually administered to all grades K-12.
Of course, the fine irony here is that White just told the House Appropriations Committee that the Louisiana Department of Education is over its annual budget by $55 million at the same time that he is trying to peddle the multi-million-dollar PARCC as having “savings associated” with it.
Geymann closed the meeting with a request for a legal statement as to whether Jindal would be able to remove Louisiana from the PARCC contract.
Uh, oh, Johnny. You’re embarrassing Jindal, who is already shaking off his shoes from playing in your CCSS/PARCC sandbox.
The question is what will Jindal dump first– PARCC– CCSS– or John White?

Legislators Ask Jindal to Opt Out of PARCC

Louisiana legislators get serious about getting out of PARCC testing.  Will Governor Jindal take a stand that aligns with his own disdain for one-size/fits-all standards and undue (illegal) intrusion and coercion by Arne Duncan?

Memorandum of Understanding Allows Opt-Out, No Penalty or Enforcement.
From Rep Brett Geymann....
Eight State Representatives and others are calling on Governor Jindal to opt-out of the controversial
PARCC testing program on behalf of the State of Louisiana. In a letter dated Monday, the legislators note that
they have reviewed the PARCC Memorandum of Understanding and find it vague, incomplete and
unenforceable. They note that the Governor can opt out on behalf of the state and they urge him to do so.
(See full text of the letter below)
April 14, 2014
Governor Bobby Jindal
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
RE: Louisiana Opt Out of PARCC Testing.
Dear Governor Jindal,
We want to thank you for publicly expressing your concerns with Common Core and PARCC testing, in your statement on March 17th.
We too, support high academic standards that help ensure Louisiana students are able to compete with every state and every country in the world. We also do not support federal, one-size-fits-all testing that potentially breaches student privacy.
We share your concerns with Common Core and PARCC, and that’s why we are working to address these issues in this year’s legislative session and in conversations with BESE.
That’s why your stated position is so important. We have reviewed the MOU carefully and sought the advice of counsel, including the Attorney General’s office staff and House staff. We believe you have the authority, as Governor, under the 2010 PARCC Memorandum of Understanding, to opt out of the Consortium.
What we have discovered is that, in short, the MOU is fatally defective. It is incomplete, vague and missing key elements of a legally binding agreement. It likely conflicts with Louisiana’s procurement laws. It also appears to be completely unenforceable by virtue of having no enforcement section and no penalties for non-compliance other than withdrawal.
If nothing else, participation is explicitly subject to availability of funding. We are facing a projected $940 million deficit for 2015-16. There have been no public hearings and discussion on the costs of CCSS and PARCC. Since we believe they may be significant, we have all the reasons we need to stop PARCC implementation now.
The consensus is that a simple announcement by the Governor that Louisiana will not comply with the ongoing commitments required to remain a “Governing State” under the Consortium, is sufficient.
Please let us know when you’d like to take this action so that we can be on hand to support you and stand with you in support of what’s best for our people and our children.
State Representative Brett Geymann
State Representative Cameron Henry
State Representative Jim Morris
State Representative Bob Hensgens
State Representative "Dee" Richard
State Representative Rogers Pope
State Representative Barry Ivey
State Representative Kenny Havard

Over schooled but Undereducated

A very good article by Luba Vangelova.  Children have a greater capacity for imagination than adults because their minds haven't been dulled by rote "education."  What if we capitalized on those imaginations?


RSA Animate
RSA Animate/Ken Robinson
Why haven’t education reform efforts amounted to much? Because they start with the wrong problem, says John Abbott, director of the 21st Century Learning Initiative.
Because disaffection with the education system reflects a much deeper societal malaise, it’s imperative that we first figure out what kind of world we really want: a world populated by responsible adults who thrive on interdependence and community, or a world of “customers” who feel dependent on products, services, and authority figures, and don’t take full responsibility for their actions? The answer, he says, will point to the changes needed in all three pillars of education — schools, families, and communities.
This is one of Abbott’s primary takeaways from a career spanning more than two decades of teaching in England, followed by three decades at the helm of an international nonprofit (begun in the U.S. but now headquartered in England), whose mission is to promote fresh thinking based on the existing body of research about how children learn. Its findings have been synthesized into policy briefings, reports, and a book, “Overschooled but Undereducated: How the crisis in education is jeopardizing our adolescents.” It has also just published a distillation of its work, called “Battling for the Soul of Education.”
As Abbott sees it, the need for reflection has never been greater. Spurred by technological advances, “civilization is on the cusp of a metamorphosis,” he says, that will lead either to societal collapse and chaos, or to a resurgence of liberty, community, and ethics. Either way, schools are stuck in the past: The emphasis has been on feeding children static information and rewarding them for doing only what they’re told, instead of helping them develop the transferable, higher-order skills they need to become life-long learners and thrive in an uncertain future.
Overhauling the educational paradigm means replacing the metaphor — the concept of the world and its inhabitants as machine-like entities — that has shaped the education system, as well as many other aspects of our culture.
This approach — a product of the 

Industrial Age, which relied on compliant factory workers and mass consumption — promotes weakness rather than strength. It has become even more regimented (and thus more disempowering) in recent years due to a lack of trust. Adults who feel hard-pressed to predict or control their own destinies, and who feel confused about the “big issues of life,” Abbott notes, are less willing to give children the time and space they need to shape their own futures.
Unfortunately, he adds, this approach to education goes against the grain of how young people learn. Research has confirmed what most parents of young children can already see for themselves — that children are born to learn, rather than to be taught, as Abbott puts it. Driven by an inborn desire to make sense of the world and find purpose in life, they naturally observe, deconstruct, piece together and create their own knowledge. They learn best when this intrinsic motivation is harnessed in what he calls “highly challenging but low-threat environments.”

Re-Imagining Society First, Education Second

The bottom line, Abbott notes, is that the current system excels at preparing children to be dependent “customers,” so if we hope to instead create a world of responsible, community-minded adults, we need to overhaul the educational paradigm. That means replacing the metaphor — the concept of the world and its inhabitants as machine-like entities — that has shaped the education system, as well as many other aspects of our culture. Because humans are not machines, a reliance on this metaphor has created a large disconnect between people’s actual lives and their inherited expectations and predispositions, which lies at the root of many inter-related modern challenges, says Abbott. 

overschooled-but-undereducatedHis recommendation: Start by re-examining our collective values and envision a society where individuals once again matter. Clues to a more suitable paradigm can be found in the metaphors that characterize the dynamic, networked Information Age. These share some key characteristics with the pre-industrial past, when people learned in the community, from a variety of adults with whom they built relationships. Learning continued over the course of a lifetime filled with meaningful work (in contrast to today’s high unemployment rates and low workplace engagement levels), and success was judged by whether a person carried out his or her fair share of responsibilities within the community.
All of these elements have a direct bearing on education. “Such a vision is as essential to motivate whole generations of young people to delight in the development of their intellectual powers, as it is to create an adult society that is able — and willing — to devote quite enormous amounts of its energy to the slow, fascinating, if sometimes frustrating but totally essential, task of inducting all its young people into adulthood,” Abbott has written on the Initiative’s web site.
“Children learn most from what they see going on around them,” he explains. “We become who we are based on things around us that we admire or not. Children don’t just turn their brains on when 
they go to school.”
Therefore a young child is dealt “a shattering blow to its sense of order and purpose when a parent it loves and admires is made redundant …. Too much of that, and the web of life is shattered, and life becomes a crap game where the lasting lesson is take all you can, and put nothing back.”

Creating “Collaborative Learning Communities”

“It is essential to view learning as a total community responsibility,” he says, and to expect no short cuts. Children need to be integrated, fully contributing members of the broader community, so they can feel useful and valued. (It is not just the children who need this, he adds; healthy communities also need children.)
On a practical level, the most powerful lever for change, Abbott says, is people coming together to “rethink the role of community in the learning process,” agreeing how to divide up responsibilities among professional teachers and other community members, and then launching small pilot projects that are true to their new vision. These efforts will build on each other, he says, and large-scale change will follow.
He cautions against simply copying a specific model that worked elsewhere — each community must figure out what’s best, given its unique circumstances. But he is convinced of one thing: The formal school system needs to be “turned upside down and inside out.” It should be based on the biological system of weaning — i.e., gradually reducing children’s dependence on teachers. Teacher-student ratios should be high in the early years, then decrease 
dramatically in adolescence, when “the whole community has to become a place of learning,” with 
mentorships, apprenticeships and other hands-on learning experiences complementing highly self-directed classroom learning.

Teachers as Guides

In general, schools should move away from “an overemphasis on teaching,” Abbott says, and instead view teachers as imaginative, knowledgeable guides. “Any kid can read a textbook — they don’t need a teacher standing over them telling them to do so,” he points out. “They need teachers to inspire them to think about things in a much bigger way than they’ve done before.”
John Abbott
John Abbott
He cites an example from his time as a substitute teacher, when he found himself assigned to teach history to a class of 15-year-olds one afternoon. Casting about for inspiration, he expressed an interest in a student’s book about prisoners of war. When the boy asked him why wars get started, Abbott used the question as a launching pad for a discussion on the topic. He urged the students to consider not only what they’d been taught in school, but also what they’d gleaned from relatives. “It went so well,” he recalls, “that no one heard the bell ring.”
Twenty years later, while waiting for a train during the time of the Falklands War, he was approached by a porter who said he recognized him as the teacher of that class. It had opened his eyes, the man added, to how wars can serve politicians’ careers, and he had referenced it in a discussion with friends the previous evening. 
“At the end of my history lesson, something had stuck,” Abbott notes, “so that 20 years later, he remembered how between us we 
had constructed an explanation for the Second World War.”
Simply following a lesson plan wouldn’t have had the same result. “I don’t think teachers should be over prepared for any particular lesson,” he says, “because if they are, they lack flexibility to adapt to where the children are in their understanding.”
Lastly, in this vision of the world, our expectations of children would also be recalibrated. Rather than being considered the age at which people start to become independent learners, 18 (and even younger in some cases) should be viewed as the age when young people “demonstrate that they have already perfected that art, and know how to exercise this responsibly,” says Abbott.

Colorado Teacher Resigns

From KKTV in Colorado:  


A local teacher is making waves after posting her resignation letter online.
Pauline Hawkins is leaving Liberty High School in Colorado Springs after more than a decade. She tells 11 News she believes the education system in Colorado is on a downward spiral and she's ready to get out, citing low pay and standardized testing as two major reasons for her departure.
But it's her resignation letter that has grabbed the attention of people across the country.
An excerpt:
I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths. I have spent so much time trying to reverse those thoughts, trying to help them see that education is not punitive; education is the only way they can improve their lives. But the truth is, the current educational system is punishing them for their inadequacies, rather than helping them discover their unique talents; our educational system is failing our children because it is not meeting their needs.

I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher–I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed are a proper education.
As unique as my personal situation might be, I know I am not the only teacher feeling this way. Instead of weeding out the “bad” teachers, this evaluation system will continue to frustrate the teachers who are doing everything they can to ensure their students are graduating with the skills necessary to become civic minded individuals. We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system.For the full letter click here.
Hawkins says standardized testing hurts the students she has taught during her years as an English and Journalism teacher, and it also funnels away funding that could be used to improve schools and increase teacher salaries.
Hawkins says in her own experience, if she wanted to stay and teach she would have to get a second job just to provide for her family.
Though she's leaving the education field, she says she will continue to be an advocate for her students and fight for their rights "as individuals."
"They aren't just a number or data. They are people with a name," she says.
Hawkins is moving to New Hampshire, where she will be closer to family. She plans to focus on her writing.

Is a Resolution at Hand?

The political posturing surrounding the Common Core controversy is garnering all the attention while the real work continues of exposing the vast and complex collaboration of corporate elites and their political beneficiaries in this effort to bring about the transformation of our system of public education from one that serves every child every day to one that lines their pockets.

 Louisiana will soon be a poster child that will show the determination and dedication of parents and educators along with others who truly do understand and cherish this cornerstone of democracy and the benefits it brings to our children, our communities and our nation - possibly our only real hope to bring our most vulnerable population out of poverty as contributing members of society. 

John White and those members of BESE who have catered to special interests and ignored the warnings of so many parents and educators will soon be gone and our Department of Education and its policy making body can begin to serve rather than scathe once again. I plan to be in the front row when the story is exposed and the rats 
begin deserting the sinking ship.

Louisiana Legislators Present Standards Bills April 2

This is a re-post of retired teacher Mike Deshotel's blog, Louisiana Educator.  I totally agree and include my comment supporting Rep. Richard's bill in principle.

The Common Core Bills; Tell Your Legislator What You Want!

Attention educators and Parents! The anti-Common Core and anti-PARCC bills are going to be debated in the House Education Committee this Wednesday. This may be your best opportunity to make your concerns known to your legislator about Common Core and PARCC.

In January, this blog encouraged all my readers to respond to a survey on the Common Core State Standards and PARCC. The results were as follows: A total of 2,724 readers responded to the survey. Only 61 respondents, or 2% said that Louisiana should continue implementing CCSS as has been prescribed by Superintendent John White with the approval of BESE. 709 respondents, or 26% said they would prefer that CCSS and PARCC be phased in over a longer period of time starting with lower elementary grades and progressing one or two grades each year until it covers all grades. 1,954 respondents stated that they would prefer to do away with CCSS and PARCC and substitute an improved version of GLEs as the standards for our basic core subjects. Louisiana would implement its own testing as has been done in the past.

Partly based on these results and my own opinion, I have written the following email to my State Representative. He is not on the Education Committee so I am writing to him about general issues involved instead of specific bills.

Dear Representative __________,
I am a retired educator who lives in your district.
It is my understanding that various bills relative to the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC testing will be debated in the House Education Committee this week. We do not know yet what bills on these matters will be sent to the full House for your vote. Based on a survey I conducted about CCSS and PARCC in January I would like to recommend the following for your consideration: Please support any bills that will put a stop to the PARCC testing which is scheduled to start in Louisiana next school year. These tests have proven to be unreliable and have failed 70% of the students who took them last year in New York state. Our students do not deserve to be subjected to these unfair tests. In addition, I would like to ask you to vote for any legislation that will remove Louisiana from participation in the Common Core State Standards. Again, these standards are untested and may not be appropriate for our students. I and my colleagues would prefer that Louisiana continue to use and perfect its own standards unique to the needs and preferences of our educators and parents.

Michael Deshotels

That email represents my opinion and that of the great majority of the educators and parents who responded to my survey. If you feel that Common Core and PARCC are good for Louisiana, by all means please feel free to write to or call your legislator to express your opinion. Let's all participate in the democratic process.

Now here are more details on this matter that my blog readers will find useful in making their final decision on this matter:

As a last ditch effort to save their cherished program, our State Department of Education has produced a financial analysis claiming that it will cost us millions if we back out of Common Core 

now. They know that our cash strapped legislature is looking for any way to avoid increasing costs to the state budget so this is now the best argument for keeping the Common Core.

Common Core and PARCC. It was a real bargain to get into it but now its going to cost us a fortune to get out of it! That's the conclusion by our Department of Education. Don't believe a word of it. All we have gotten from our LDOE in the last two years since John White took over as Superintendent in our state is pure propaganda. Why should we believe this latest joke of a financial analysis? State Treasurer, John Kennedy has repeatedly pointed out that our Department of Education has numerous expensive contracts with consultants and companies that could be canceled saving us millions of tax dollars. That would be more than enough to pay for a return to Louisiana standards.

It totally amazes me that it should cost Louisiana one penny to simply drop this boondoggle of a program that only promises to cost us hundreds of millions to implement over the next few years!

Why do I say hundreds of millions? That's because if we continue this foolish rat race that is called the Common Core State Standards we will soon reaffirm what we already know. That is that Louisiana will rank near the bottom of the PARCC performance ranking compared to other states. (but wait: we already knew that based on the NAEP test. We know that we will rank second to last, just ahead of Mississippi because we rank just ahead of Mississippi in student poverty.)

But the plan is this: Once our students fail the PARCC test, we will have to rush to purchase more test prep services and allow more charter schools and approve more vouchers to allow more students to escape our “failing schools”. And then even when the students don't perform any better (or perform worse!) in the charters and voucher schools, our Superintendent will still find that it is OK because it is soooo important to give parents choice!

Look at how many were choosing the New Living Word voucher school even though it was not 
providing an education and the minister who had appointed himself principal was charging taxpayers an arm and a leg.

Pearson, the Great Briton based educational services company which helped control the development of the PARCC test and designs all sorts of software, and test prep materials designed for the PARCC will be extorting millions from Louisiana for both the testing and the test prep materials. Microsoft, boss Bill Gates who spent two billion dollars funding the development and selling of the Common Core stands to reap billions from services related to the Common Core. Apple will be selling us thousands of Ipads preloaded with test prep materials. Some companies will be selling us virtual courses that will take our MFP dollars so that some students can pretend to study common core at home using virtual courses with our tax dollars. Meanwhile our public schools will be laying off teachers and cutting salaries and benefits so they can afford to keep up with all the other states in buying more Common Core prep materials. This is all about the corporate takeover of public education! None of this will make our students better citizens, nor will it prepare them better for the workforce or make them better “human capitol”.

I just want to remind my readers that none of this Common Core material was tested in the classroom by real teachers. None of it is known to make students smarter or better because it is just a theory that has barely been tried with real students. None of the executives of the big companies like Exxon-Mobil who have endorsed Common Core have any idea what the standards are. (See this Advocate story) They have never even read the standards. I have read the standards and find them confusing, ambiguous, non-specific and not at all appropriate for many of our students. But what do I know? I've just devoted my whole life to the teaching profession! The leaders of big business support them because they were told by Bill Gates that these standards were more “rigorous” and that they would 
make their potential employees better and more efficient workers. But no one has the slightest idea whether that will happen because this system is just now being tested on our kids where students are 
simply being treated as guinea pigs and the teachers will be blamed if this latest hair brained program does not work.

Readers, this may be your best chance to have your voice heard by our legislators. Send an email now to the members of the House Education Committee (Just click on this link) to get the Representative who represents your Parish giving him/her your recommendations on Common Core and PARCC. (If you click on an individual's name you can get his email and office phone #)

Here are the bills that are scheduled for the House Education Committee this Wednesday, April 3:

HB 163 by Burns, HB 558 by Henry, and HB 996 by Schroeder would prohibit the use of the PARCC test and continues LEAP instead.

HB 988 by Schroder allows the State DOE and BESE to continue setting statewide content standards but permits local school boards to develop and implement their own curriculum content and methodology instead of that which is recommended by the LDOE.

HB 381 by Geymann creates a Louisiana Standards Commission to replace CCSS with state standards.

HB 1054 by Richard requires the teachers in all public schools and voucher schools to take the CCSS tests (this is really the PARCC test for Louisiana) prior to administering these tests to students.

Here's the deal:

  • If you want to stop using Common Core standards and PARCC testing in our schools and if you 
  • want the state to use a special commission made up of state educators and parents to set standards, to be implemented only after approval by both Houses of the Legislature, you should ask your State Representative to vote for HB 381 by Geymann. This bill would provide for assessments based on the new standards which would no longer need to be based on national standards. Special education students would be allowed to take an alternate assessments.
  • If you want to stop Louisiana from using the PARCC test, and to remove the language in the law that now requires us to use national standards in our K-12 schools, you should ask your State Representative to vote for either HB 163 or HB 558 or HB 996. These bills however as they are presently written would not necessarily prevent our LDOE and BESE from adopting changes to our GLEs that would possibly mirror the CCSS.
  • If you are willing to let the State DOE and BESE to continue setting standards including the implementation of the Common Core but you want your local school system to have more flexibility on curriculum and methodology you should ask your State Representative to vote for HB 988 by Schroeder.
  • I honestly don't know what to tell you about the Richard bill (HB 1054) which would require teachers to take the PARCC before the students do and then would inform the legislature of teacher opinions about the test. I think the bill might accomplish more if it required the legislature and BESE members to take the PARCC before we even consider giving it to our students. Look what happened in New York where 70% of the students failed PARCC!
No matter what you believe in about the Common Core standards and the PARCC test, if you don't express your opinion and ask your legislator to vote your way, then you probably deserve what will happen to you as Louisiana continues on the path to full implementation and testing of CCSS. Don't 
complain if you don't exercise your democratic rights!

lbarrios said...

The Richard bill is a good one in lieu of ending HIGH STAKES standardized testing, which is optimal. These tests should only be used as diagnostic indicators for teachers and schools to base instructional decisions on, not as punitive weapons to flunk students, fire teachers and close schools. The purpose of having teachers take and analyze their own grade/subject tests is to help them in aligning their curriculum and in class lesson plans to make sure they cover standards required and to provide expert analyses of these tests so that are a fair and equitable reflection f student learning. We have gone too many years now, since NCLB introduced consequential accountability, administering these mysterious tests that teachers and parents never get to see before if after administration and grading. Education is not a mystery. Teachers need the proper resources to guide them. Students need to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Parents need assurances that their children are being prepared for these tests and that the tests are accurately measuring what they claim to be designed to measure. If these high stakes tests continue, the issue will be moved to the courthouse and yet more taxpayer funding will be expended to prove that high stakes national testing is unreliable and invalid for these punitive purposes.

Two Louisiana Student Privacy Bills Compete

This is a re-post of a blog by Stephanie Beard comparing two bills introduced in the Louisiana legislative session relative to parental concerns about student data privacy.  It is very thorough and useful for others in presenting testimony or communicating with these committee members.

Rep. John Schroder from St. Tammany Parish is the man of the moment for parents having introduced a student privacy bill that is responsive to every concern including the lies and misrepresentations of State Supt. John White - which have been well documented to the committee. His bill was introduced to a House Ed.

Senator Appel from Southeast Louisiana parishes including Orleans and Jefferson, is the Senate Ed Chairman (My Way or the Highway, Jindal bud, ALEC member, reformee. . .)  who introduced a totally unacceptable faux privacy bill.

The two committees will meet again this Wednesday with amendments for hearing.

Sen. Appel’s SB449 and ALEC Model Legislation

We will not remain silent.
“If education is beaten by training, civilization dies…” C.S. Lewis
I’ve never gotten involved in trying to affect legislation or anything that involves the workings of our legislative process.  For far too long I could have been described astrusting:  Trusting that the people and groups who call themselves “conservative” have my best interests in mind as they fight for and against legislation that would affect my small world.  Trusting that they – as sworn defenders of the Constitution – would do just that: defend the Constitution.  Defend my rights and yours, and those of our families.
No more.  NoLongerSilent.net addresses my growing disillusionment over the last year since beginning research on the Common Core Initiative and all its trappings.  My previously held beliefs about the major political parties have been challenged, and the one I’ve always belonged to has, unfortunately, come up lacking.
Wednesday held a first for me.  I went to the Capital building in Baton Rouge to speak up in favor of a bill that a St. Tammany Parish legislator filed in an attempt to get a handle on student data privacy.
Rep. John Schroder of Madisonville, Louisiana filed HB946 this session, which came for its first consideration on Wednesday morning before the House Education Committee.  This bill contains strong provisions for student data privacy and parents’ rights in protecting that privacy.  It’s a very restrictive bill, enumerating a lot of the rights for which parents should never have to ask the legislature in the first place because they areGod-given rights – not something that government (federal, state, or local) gives or takes away at will:  the right to protect our own children’s privacy.
Superintendent John White threw monkey wrenches in the way in his attempt to jettison this bill, and meanwhile – down a couple of corridors and downstairs – Senator Conrad Appel of Metairie 
engaged in his own monkeying and wrenching.  Several of us felt compelled to attend his hearing, thus leaving the House Education Committee meeting after speaking there.
Senator Appel’s bill, SB449, pretty much follows ALEC model legislation, only his version happens to be even worse than ALEC’s.  I know – I didn’t think that was possible, either.  Apparently, it is entirely possible.
Here you can read ALEC’s version; and here you can read Senators Appel and LaFleur’s.  These are the Amendments that came in on SB449 on Wednesday:  SB449-AMENDMENTS
Notice that ALEC names its model bill, “Student Data Accessibility, Transparency, and Accountability Act.”  I know – hard for me not to snort every time I read it, too.  Sen. Appel named his, “Privacy and Protection of Student Data.”  More snickers, I know.
Sen. Appel’s bill compares almost directly to ALEC’s, only his leaves out certain things ALEC’s includes that could – under different circumstances – almost be palatable.  (And, no, Senator – we won’t be appeased by substituting the ALEC version at the last minute to suit your purposes.)
SB449 contains numerous less-than-reassuring references to FERPA, renames a few terms used by ALEC, adopts ALEC’s suggested appointment of a state Student Privacy Czar, and changes virtually every possible accountability measure into something that, well, — isn’t.
Senator Appel riddles his bill with exceptions and “unless” clauses that weaken every measure one might get excited about reading but for them.  Here’s an example.  The ALEC model includes this provision (emphasis added is mine):
Districts shall not report to the state the following individual student data: 
(1) juvenile delinquency records; 
(2) criminal records;
(3) medical and health records; and
(4) student biometric information.
Schools shall not collect the following individual student data:
(1) political affiliation; and
(2) religion.
Here’s Sen. Appel’s (emphasis added is mine):
Unless included in a student’s educational record, student data shall not include:  
(i)            Juvenile delinquency records,
(ii)          Criminal records, 
(iii)         Medical and health records,
(iv)         Student Social Security number,
(v)          Student biometric information.
Sen. Appel’s fails to mention any prohibition of collecting political or religious information.  Did he think we wouldn’t notice?
Sen. Appel adds a provision, §4053. A., mandating that BESE develop and oversee implementing a privacy and protection policy for student data.  Then, part B of this section sets up the supposed transparency part of the Act, namely, that BESE will make some kind of index of data elements publicly available.  The index supposedly will let us know what types of individual student data are kept in the database, along with the purpose for collecting it, as well as what data they have for no “current purpose or reason.”  Not exactly comforting.  But let’s keep dissecting.
SB449 §4053 C. (1)(d) includes another ALEC subpoint that looks to retroactively sanction the state’s data sharing agreements with the state’s workforce commissions (in this case, Superintendent John White’s agreement with the Louisiana Workforce Commission), and the 
language in this bill even adds “memorandums of understanding” to ALEC’s version that limits the verbiage to “interagency data-sharing agreements.”

From there, Sen. Appel’s bill goes into a series of “unlesses” that scream, “This allows BESE to completely undo everything that looks good in this paragraph!”  We know, of course, that they will do so.  BESE has a history.
§4053 D. (3) glares out at us as one of the most obviously egregious provisions of Sen. Appel’s bill.  I’ll paraphrase this one as: Student data deemed confidential in this Chapter may absolutely be transferred toany federal, state, or local agency or “other entity outside” Louisiana if a “student registers for or takes a national or multistate assessment.”  This is not even limited to a stated educational purpose, folks – not that that would be any better, as we know we couldn’t trust our kids’ laundry with these people, much less their personal confidential information.
I cannot emphasize enough the dangers inherent in this one sentence alone! 
Realize that Governor Jindal and John White, through BESE and the LDOE, pushed through their agenda to make taking the ACT a requirement for every Louisiana student who wants a high school diploma.  Consider all the other tests they are now requiring kids to take.  (And Governor Jindal said last week that he doesn’t like one-size-fits-all testing?)
Then, think about these four points.  (1) If a student follows the rules (because he wants a high school diploma – and who doesn’t), and registers for the ACT, his confidential data will most likely be transferred to anyone Baton Rouge wants to give it to – by law!  All it takes is for BESE or LDOE to interpret this provision as allowing it because the ACT is a “national” assessment, and it’s administered in every state.  (2) If a student sits for those PARCC multi-state, CCSS-
aligned tests mandated for Louisiana students next school year, his confidential data will be 
transferred to anyone Baton Rouge wishes to give it to – by law!  (3) Consider all the other 
“assessments” that BESE has mandated every student take (such as the expanding “ACT series”) by tying them to School Performance Scores (SPS), teacher evaluations, district scores, and student promotion. Could these be construed as “national” or “multistate” assessments? (4) Consider all the other “multistate” or “national” assessments/tests of which you can think.  Has your child taken the NAEP, for instance?
If your child takes, or even registers for without taking, one of those tests, this bill gives authority to the state to “transfer” “student data” to whomever they wish.  We already know that some students were signed up for the Course Choice program without requesting to do so last year.  
Next, the bill provides for this same transfer of confidential information if a student participates in any program “for which such a data transfer is a condition or requirement of participation.” So, all BESE needs to do is add — by policy — a data transfer requirement for, say, the Jump Start “career” education program John White introduced recently.
Would our LDOE sign kids up (register) for tests without parental requests or consent?  Who could put it past them?
Make no mistake.  This bill gives to the least trusted people in our state government — carte blanche — the right to give or sell our children’s confidential information without our consent.
The next paragraph would have BESE make guidelines for authorizing access to “individual student data.”  Then the bill omits the ALEC suggested provision for data encryption and 
safeguards.  Guess he thought we wouldn’t see that, either.
Then there’s this about “complaints” regarding enforcement or violations:  complaints must be 
made and remedied in accordance with FERPA.  As we all well know, FERPA is now toothless.
The next two major provisions in the bill can only be described as insidious.  The first one says that any newdata items that BESE or the LDOE would like to collect and share would be routed through the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) – not through the legislature.  After the fact, BESE would give an annual report to the legislature.
In case you don’t know, the APA allows arms of government to do what they want, write it all up, put it on the state’s website for 90 days for public comment, hold a hearing between 35-45 days after posting notice, then it becomes the rule that we all must follow.  Oftentimes, they later go to the legislature to get them to codify what they’ve already done or are doing.  (It’s very much the way things happen in D.C., as well.)  They do this so that — in order for the public to be engaged, informed, and involved — we must watch every single action of every single state agency through the Louisiana Register, rather than the single elected entity, the legislature.  That way, they get to claim that public notice was given, nobody should have been surprised, nobody filed any complaints, nobody spoke out against what they said “publicly” they were going to do.  It is a way to bypass elected bodies and implement whatever policies they wish.
Please understand that this is how BESE and LDOE have gotten away with most of the recent crafty changes that they’ve made in Louisiana education.  This is precisely how we got all those “accountability” rules, too.  Very quietly.  By design. 
If they don’t have to have legislative approval – as would have been required under the original 
version of Sen. Appel’s bill, before Wednesday’s amendments – then they once again get to bypass voters.  This is just one more example of the legislature’s giving away their authority to 
BESE (of which not every member is an elected position) and LDOE.  These folks don’t want any opposition.  Very slick to make this change by amendment that was distributed at the time the bill 
was taken up in committee on Wednesday, so that there would be very little time for those of us who were there to absorb and react to it.  Very slick indeed.
That second major provision I mentioned creates a new BESE-appointed position called a “chief privacy officer.”  The Privacy Czar in SB449 would have the job of monitoring “emerging and evolving technology” and then recommending “policy changes” to ensure “privacy and protection of student data.”  The Czar would also ensure legal compliance.  Want to venture a guess as to how these “policy changes” would become rules?  Yes —  the APA.
The ALEC version adds several additional duties for the Czar that one might expect a public servant to have.  Sen. Appel’s bill omits these duties.  I guess he thought them unimportant.
The last paragraph in §4053 is one not contained in ALEC’s.  Sen. Appel’s says that any data elements/itemscurrently being collected by the data system would not have to be vetted to the legislature. The APA would be sufficient for those.  Note also that BESE could grant exceptions regarding release of student data, and not have to explain any of those for an entire year.  Outrageous.
Finally, §4054 prohibits the use of Social Security numbers as student identifiers – after the 2014-15 academic year – and qualifies even that by saying that “a postsecondary education management board” canabsolutely use SSNs for, among other things, “workforce training activities” and “accountability measures.” So, yes, they apparently are using SSNs as student 
identifiers currently, and some arms of the state can continue to do so.

This horrendous bill also omits the last sections that ALEC’s provides that would have included the right for parents to inspect their child’s educational records at the school, to request data from their child’s records, to receive an electronic copy of their child’s educational record, and the like, 
and to receive annual notice of these rights.  (I admit that, arguably, this portion could have been omitted because it could be addressed elsewhere under another legislative topic.  But I doubt it.)
Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!  Please read this bill (or for those in other states, your own ALEC-modeled bill) and you’ll see for yourself the truth about what Senator Appel — a consummate education reformer — would do with our children’s confidential information.
An op-ed in The Advocate on Saturday gives Senator Appel’s response to Wednesday’s Senate Education Committee hearing as
. . . he was exasperated that inflammatory rhetoric had so swamped efforts to rationally improve Common Core.
He was incensed?
And did you notice that the distinguished senator himself — not parents — linked parental concerns over their children’s data privacy to Common Core?
video of mom Sara Wood’s pointed statement to the Senate Education Committee against SB449 has circulated widely since Wednesday.  That video disappeared from YouTube for a few hours when the mom who posted it had her YouTube account wiped out for her.  That someone 

would do this speaks volumes.
And here’s the volume that I hear:  The elitist reformers fear us.  They fear that they have been found out, and that we are on to their schemes.  They fear that they still do not have all the hearts and minds of America.  They fear our voices.  They fear that we will get our message out before 
they can completely silence us by removing all elected forms of government, and replacing them with their form of “governance.”  (Oh, yes, Elitist Reformers, we do know that term.  I wasn’t kidding – we are on to you.)
But why?  Why fear us?  Because they will lose being looked up to and respected by those who respect theoffices or positions they hold. They may not be elected to the next taxpayer-funded office, or get that coveted position among the board of a taxpayer-funded so-called “public-private partnership.”
They currently disbelieve that we mere mortals would dare question them.
It boils down to this:  they fear us because it means a loss of power.  A loss of control.  And so they react nastily by marginalizing us and attempting to “Delphi” us.
Here is my message to the elitist reformers of our country.  We won’t stop.  We will continue finding all the things that you do and have done to eliminate your accountability to the public by putting layers of unelected bureaucracies between yourselves and voters.  And we will continue to expose you and your plans, because we will no longer be silent.

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