Parent Sara Wood sent a questionnaire regarding education issues to both candidates for Louisiana Governor facing a runoff November 12. This is my response to the document provided by David Vitter:
Vitter's responses to parent questions show his intent to privatize public education http://bit.ly/1l6lGJE , his lack of understanding of our current letter grade system and its dependence on high stakes testing, his lack of understanding of the process of teaching and learning, and his strong support for some of the Obama Administration's most egregious policies for public education.
How does Vitter intend NOT to increase taxes to pay for vouchers which are funded outside the constitutionally protected MFP formula for public schools? Oh, well, they aren't called taxes and the idea is perfumed up by tax credits (much like the higher education tax credit scam of Sen. Donahue that was supposed to give the public the false notion that they weren't being conned).Right now taxpayers are contributing $45,000,000 a year to provide vouchers for a limited number of children whose identities are kept secret even from school officials. Additionally, some of your local public education tax dollars are being diverted from their locally dedicated purposes like school construction by withholding it from districts. And I am sure that few if any of you know of the BESE approved grants to 3 Archdiocese which give them money to "build capacity" for more voucher students. In other words, BESE at the recommendation of White gave the Catholic schools money that can be used for building classrooms to accommodate more voucher students when no school district receives any construction funding whatsoever from state education dollars. Vitter would undoubtedly support that diversion of public education dollars to Catholic schools in order to promote his position on vouchers.Voucher children are eligible even if they are "A" students as long as they are enrolled in "C", "D" or "F" schools. While the LDOE would say their privacy is being guarded, the real reason (since we know LDOE cares little about student data privacy after sharing every student's Social Security number with inBloom two years ago) the real reason is to prevent the public from knowing the status of these students and their former schools.The LDOE determination to hide this from the public was evidenced in their fight with the U.S. Justice Dept. who requested this data in keeping with their mandate to ensure civil rights regs. LDOE (with the help of the media) portrayed this as the Justice Dept. trying to prevent vouchers. The actual court documents will show that was not true.Besides which, we know that Vitter's position on privatization (choice sounds better) fully supports the Obama Administration's position. Vitter also supports Obama's teacher accountability scheme using predicted student progress using high stakes tests. Now if you support accountability through testing and you support the teacher accountability system using student standardized test scores then you support HIGH STAKES testing.If you asked Vitter to explain what he calls a simple letter grade system he couldn't do it. Could you? And even if you could, it changes annually. But of course the justification of the letter grades is that parents understand letter grades. Parents you are being hoodwinked!Vitter derides John Bel Edwards claiming that Edwards said, "There is no communist conspiracy (CCSS). This isn't some federal takeover of education." Vitter says, "I completely disagree!" So using my CCSS close reading, I interpret Vitter to mean 1.) He believes it is a communist conspiracy and 2) There is no intent by the federal government (via USeD) to take over our system of public education. (with its democratic foundation and locally elected school boards.)Wake up Sen. Vitter. This is an elitist market based reform movement well funded by the lobbyists with deep pockets and the same philanthropists that bought our BESE elections this month. The same kinds of deep pockets to whom you can attribute your political position. The same who are funding your campaign for governor and the same to whom you must answer if you are elected. The same who are funding the Obama Administration education machine formerly led by Sec. Arne Duncan who also knows nothing about education.Nobody has asked you, Sen. Vitter, your position on Teach for America and the lack of certification requirements for charter teachers in this state. Are you also allied there with the Obama Administration and our own former Senator Mary Landrieu both of whom owe obeisance and campaign donations to that wealthy non-profit? You will most certainly need to if you plan to staff your charter schools expansion as they opt for lower paid instructors not attached to unions and to whom they don't worry about increasing salaries for experience from year to year as the majority are temporaries looking to pay off their high priced college tuitions and some focused on that career path that mostly includes working for nonprofits and other faux education edupreneurial aspirations. That also eliminates the need for retirement benefits. We know how you feel about retirement benefits since you claim you refused yours as U.S. Senator. By the way, will you refuse that as Governor? Well you won't really need it anyway as you don't know what being a member of the working class means. It's messy.And that "Obamacare" thing. Well, you have just misrepresented Edwards' explanation of the destruction to higher Ed that refusing to use our own tax money has caused in this state. Maybe you and Edwards will have an opportunity to clarify that in your next debate and I mean a debate on that specific aspect of Obamacare not on the AHCA itself which this state has not accepted. My interest and expertise is in education anyway, I don't claim to be an expert on all issues like you do. I'm not running for Governor.You didn't answer one of the more important and revealing questions Sara asked and truthfully I did not expect you or Edwards to do that. The question of whom you would appoint as your three BESE representatives. No candidate would answer that before being elected for a number of understandable reasons. But you did answer who you would NOT appoint and even the kind of person you would NOT appoint.There is a lot of expectation out there as to who would be appointed and, full disclosure, I am on one of those proposed lists. I hope the public can see from your answers to these questions and from their knowledge and understanding of the LOUISIANA education battle that has been going on for some years now while you have been up in Washington and your kids have been enrolled in private schools that you won't be appointing any K-12 educator who has participated fully in support of public education in this state for the last 22 years. You won't be appointing a voice for parent and educator concerns because you have a very narrowly defined agenda to promote yourself -privatization.Nobody who has been watching believes for one minute that you or any of the other privatizers envision a collaborative model of charters with their unelected school boards along with the remaining public schools. Nobody who has been watching believes that you will call for a full audit of all charters and the RSD and LDOE because that would run the (proven) risk of exposing the too often (admittedly not wholesale) fraudulent allocation of taxpayer dollars and wasteful drain of Louisiana tax dollars to out of state charter management companies and phony education contracts to favored recipients. Nobody who has been watching believes that you will support the appointment of a state superintendent who will pledge to support our constitutional mandate to provide a system of public schools and to look to real educators to be given the power to institute and support measures to improve public education for every single child who so chooses. Our current BESE has made it clear that they support privatization so you will have an easy time of it when you appoint three more.And there is one thing for darn sure. Your appointment would not include me because I am looking to give a voice to parents and educators and I am looking to expend Louisiana tax dollars on education for our children using researched based best practices. I want every school, whether charter or traditional to be required to and assisted in hiring qualified certified educators in every school and for those educators to be provided with the support and mentorship they need to continually improve. I want to end what amounts to the continued desegregation of our schools by those schools that use phony academic requirements, secret lotteries and refusal to allow neighborhood schools for those who want it. I want to end the use of a single standardized test for high stakes purposes. I want to end the wasteful spending, fraud and malfeasance taking place now through LDOE and RSD and the majority BESE.I'm not voting for you Mr. Vitter because the issue closest to my heart and one of the most important issues facing our nation today is the education of our children. You fail the test on that issue.
This report from the National Education Policy Center sums up what was predicted years ago about so-called reform's punitive accountability system. I added a link to researched policy that has been ignored by promoters of "no excuses" accountability.
How long will money and power continue to suppress the voice of knowledgeable and HONEST educators?
How long will money and power continue to suppress the voice of knowledgeable and HONEST educators?
NAEPscuses: Making Sense of Excuse-Making from the No-Excuses Contingent
A commentary from NEPC Director Kevin Welner
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Welner, (303) 492-8370, email@example.com
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Welner, (303) 492-8370, email@example.com
URL for this press release: http://tinyurl.com/nl6u59b
BOULDER, CO (October 28, 2015) – This morning’s release of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports a dip in scores, according to multiple sources. These lower grades on the Nation’s Report Card are not good news for anyone, but they are particularly bad news for those who have been vigorously advocating for “no excuses” approaches — standards-based testing and accountability policies like No Child Left Behind. Such policies follow a predictable logic: (a) schools are failing; and (b) schools will quickly and somewhat miraculously improve if we implement a high-stakes regime that makes educators responsible for increasing students’ test scores.
To be sure, the sampling approach used by NAEP and the lack of student-level data prohibit direct causal inferences about specific policies. Although such causal claims are made all the time, they are not warranted. It is not legitimate to point to a favored policy in Massachusetts and validly claim that this policy caused that state to do well, or to a disfavored policy in West Virginia and claim that it caused that state to do poorly.
However, as Dr. Bill Mathis and I explained eight months ago in an NEPC Policy Memo, it is possible to validly assert, based in part on NAEP trends, that the promises of education’s test-driven reformers over the past couple decades have been unfulfilled. The potpourri of education “reform” policy has not moved the needle—even though reformers, from Bush to Duncan, repeatedly assured us that it would.
This is the tragedy. It has distracted policymakers’ attention away from the extensive research showing that, in a very meaningful way, achievement is caused by opportunities to learn. It has diverted them from the truth that the achievement gap is caused by the opportunity gap. Those advocating for today’s policies have pushed policymakers to disregard the reality that the opportunity gap arises more from out-of-school factors than inside-of-school factors.
Instead, they assured us that success was a simple matter of adults looking beyond crumbling buildings and looking away from the real-life challenges of living with racism or poverty. As a substitute, we were told to look toward a “no excuses” expectation for all children. This mantra has driven policy for an entire generation of students. The mantra was so powerful that we as a nation were able to ignore the facts and fail to provide our children with opportunities to learn.
So schools with low test scores were labeled “failing” and were shut down or reconstituted or turned over to private operators of charter schools. Voucher and neovoucher policies pulled students out of “failing schools” (again, those with low test scores) and moved them to private schools. Teachers whose students’ test scores didn’t meet targets were publicly shamed or denied pay or even dismissed. Our entire public schooling structure became intensely focused on increasing test scores.
But once we admit that those test scores are driven overwhelmingly by students’ poverty- and racism-related experiences outside of school, then “failing” schools are little more than schools enrolling the children in the communities that we as a society have failed.
In the face of the mounting evidence that “reform” policies have come up short, what are advocates saying now? The first sign came a week ago, when Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, heard rumors about lower NAEP scores and pre-emptively announced that the dip was likely caused by the recession triggered by the 2008 financial crisis. (He neglected to mention that this crisis was due to the same sort of deregulatory policies promoted for education by Fordham and similar advocates.) We must, he tells us, “acknowledge the strong link between students’ socioeconomic status and their academic achievement.” In short, he gave the same “excuse” that “no-excuses” reformers have condemned year after year.
Mr. Petrilli is correct, of course — not about his implicit causal argument for the new NAEP scores — but about the strong link to poverty.
A point comparable to Petrilli’s is made by Matt Barnum in “The Seventy Four,” who tells his readers that “schools have an extremely important impact on student learning, but out-of-school factors have an even greater effect on student test scores.” Indeed, he continues, “The many out-of-school factors driving achievement — the economy, access to healthcare, etc. — mean we can’t even be sure that changes in NAEP scores had anything to do with changes in schools.” The co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Seventy Four is Campbell Brown, whose primary advocacy is for teachers’ tenure protections to be based on students’ test scores. She has very little tolerance for teachers’ excuse-making about how the students’ poverty undermines their ability to drive those scores up.
A similar publication called the “Education Post,” which advocates for standards-based testing and accountability policies, also came out with a pre-release article, reminding people that the general trend on NAEP scores is up. (What they neglected to mention is that the trend was up before the reform era as well; there has been steady growth for 30 years.) That article also suggests that lower NAEP scores may be because Common Core’s focus has shifted teaching away from the sorts of test items included in the NAEP. Chad Aldeman of Bellwether Education Partners, a consultancy think tank that advocates for the same testing and accountability policies, pointed to the changing demographics of NAEP test-takers and to Simpson’s Paradox and the need to focus on subgroups.
Yes, it’s possible that NAEP scores could be impacted by Common-Core-induced changes in what’s taught. And as noted above, those scores certainly are impacted by poverty. But why are “no excuses” reformers suddenly so busy making excuses?
It seems that the only lesson the new excuse-makers are asking us to draw from their nod to the importance of poverty is something like, “Don’t worry. The status-quo reform policies are probably still working.” Even though these advocates are now vocally recognizing the crushing impact of poverty, the policy implication of their epiphany remains beyond their grasp. Can they really be asking policymakers to keep focusing on test-based accountability in hopes that we might detect a small uptick in 15 years (at the cost of broad and engaging learning)? Won’t they acknowledge that our outcomes will continue to be disappointing unless and until we address poverty itself?
In terms of educational policy, this points to continued investment in, and research about, community schools and other wrap-around approaches. But more broadly, it points to the need to think about educational improvement within a broader set of policies addressing housing, employment, wealth inequality and the social safety net.
It’s long past time to recognize that any benefits of test-based accountability policies are at best very small, and any meager benefits teased out are more than counterbalanced by negative unintended consequences. Judging by the rhetoric of this past weekend from the Obama Administration and others, there’s a growing recognition that the American people are ready to move on. But we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for status-quo reformers who have ridden the “no excuses” bandwagon for a generation to accept this reality and start advocating for policies that focus on inputs and close opportunity gaps. We also shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for them to call upon states to undo those voucher and turnaround and charter-conversion policies based on “failing schools.”
But maybe they could at least stop making excuses.
The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on the NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.
"If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a "world class" jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled "jump higher," or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach." - - CommonSense
"I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”—— Albert Einstein
The Times-Picayune editorial board, unsurprisingly, did not even interview BESE candidates this year before making their recommendations. Their endorsement for my opponent and their incorrect description of BESE District 1 show that they not only can't get it right, they have no intention to. They just listen to the big money.
TP posted this incorrect description of BESE District 1 which only includes St.Tammany, Jefferson and parts of Orleans Parishes - "The 1st District covers most of East Jefferson; small parts of West Jefferson, New Orleans and St. Charles Parish; and all of St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa parishes."
I wonder if the TP will have any interest in talking (or listening) to me when I get elected and end the corrupt term of my opponent. Sure he supports charters. He ran one himself and entered into an illegal contract with a previous Jefferson Parish Schools Superintendent to fund it:
In addition to having enjoyed the unfettered support of SEIU (which has much to gain from the Ed. Reform Package), Mr. Garvey was a founding member and chairman of Jefferson Community School --LA’s first Charter School which had been established as an alternative school for students having been expelled from other schools in the system. (Garvey falsely claims in his recent campaign mail out that I am controlled by the "Washington DC UNION BOSSES" ) http://bit.ly/1RMqheW
In ’06, the year prior to his election to BESE, Mr. Garvey signed-off on an agreement with the Jefferson Parish School Board on behalf of JCS. This agreement simply continued the business model under which the Charter School had worked since its inception in 1996: JCS was not paid “per pupil” in attendance; rather, it was paid “per slot allotted” which means that, no matter how many students were actually in attendance, JCS was guaranteed payment for 125 slots.
In 2011, while still under the agreement entered into by Mr. Garvey, JCS brought in nearly $700,000 while serving only 10 students and employing 7 teachers. By Nov. of that same year, enrollment had dropped to only 8 students, but the payments continued to roll in.
When the parish school board finally decided that spending $87,500 per pupil was a tad extravagant, Mr. Garvey (who, even though serving on BESE, was reported to also be serving in an advisory capacity to JCS) believed that the school should continue as usual, because “There are plenty enough (at-risk) students in the system that it should work out."http://bit.ly/1GKbMlk
Thankfully, common sense ruled the day. A new agreement was reached in 2012 which changed the Charter School’s funding to the same “per pupil” basis as the rest of the public schools in the state. Additionally, JCS was “reinvented as a school for all types of at-risk students,” rather than serving only those students that had been expelled. To take the sting out of implementing these changes, the Jefferson Parish School Board gave JCS “a one-time grant of $220,000 to help in the transition process.”http://bit.ly/1G9pNhA
However, even these changes could not help JCS. It closed its doors after the 2012-2013 school year; and, last month, officially filed for dissolution and liquidation in the 24th Judicial District Court. http://bit.ly/1LovULO
By Mercedes Schneider -
Billionaires Eli Broad and Alice and Jim Walton have contributed a combined $650,000 to Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby’s PAC, Empower Louisiana, so that Grigsby might use it to try to retain a corporate-reform-bent majority on the state’s education board, BESE, from 2016-19.
The BESE election is scheduled for October 24, 2015.
According to Empower Louisiana’s campaign finance report (07-17-15 to 09-14-15), Jim and Alice Walton each donated $200,000 on August 20, 2015, and Broad contributed $250,000 on September 10, 2015.
The total on the above report is $763,710, which means that as of September 14, 2015, money from two billionaires from Arkansas and one billionaire from California constitutes the principal funding for Grigsby’s efforts to preserve a BESE majority known for supporting charters and vouchers without equally supporting adequate oversight; supporting high-stakes testing without supporting timely, clear, comprehensive reporting of testing results, and for allying with a state superintendent known for hiding and manipulating data, refusing to honor public records requests, and refusing to consistently audit the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).
Grigsby considers the above to be the desired course for Louisiana’s state board of education. According to the October 01, 2015, Advocate, he plans to spend his PARC’s predominately Walton and Broad money on 3 of the 11 BESE seats:
Grigsby’s group — it is limited to independent expenditures — will rely mostly on television and radio advertisements and direct mail.Races where it will be involved include BESE vice president Jim Garvey, of Metairie, against challenger Lee Barrios, of Abita Springs; incumbent Holly Boffy, of Youngsville, against challenger Mike Kreamer, of Lafayette and incumbent Mary Harris, of Shreveport, against challengers Tony Davis, of Natchitoches, and Glynis Johnston, of Shreveport.The group backs Garvey, Boffy and Davis in those contests.
Even as they are pouring money into the October 2015 Louisiana state board election, Broad and Walton are teaming up to promote more charter schools in DC, and Broad is trying to privatize half of the schools in Los Angeles (see here also).
Grisgby backs those who will deliver the Walton- and Broad-approved, test-score-dependent privatization agenda for Louisiana schools.
Oppose Grigsby, Walton, and Broad.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.
She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.
Today, the Center for Media and Democracy is releasing a complete state-by-state list of the failed charter schools since 2000. Among other things, this data reveals that millions and millions of federal tax dollars went to “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. The exact amount is unknown because the U.S. Department of Education is not required to report its failures, where money went to groups to help them start new charters that never even opened.
This data set also provides reporters and citizens of each state an opportunity to take a closer look at how much taxpayer money has been squandered on the failed charter school experiment in their states. The data set and the interactive map below are based on more than a decade’s worth of official but raw data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
This release comes as the U.S. Department of Education and industry insiders currently deciding which states to award half a billion dollar in grants designed to bolster the school privatization industry under the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP).
As CMD has calculated, nearly 2,500 charter schools have shuttered between 2001 and 2013, affecting 288,000 American children enrolled in primary and secondary schools, and the failure rate for charter schools is much higher than for traditional public schools.
For example, in the 2011-2012 school year, charter school students ran two and half times the risk of having their education disrupted by a school closing and suffering academic setbacks as a result of closure. Dislocated students are less likely to graduate. In 2014 study, Matthew F. Larsen with the Department of Economics at Tulane University looked at high school closures in Milwaukee, almost all of which were charter schools, and he concluded that closures decreased “high school graduation rates by nearly 10%." He found that the effects persist "even if the students attends a better quality school after closure.”
Hidden behind the statistics are the social consequences. According to 2013 paper by Robert Scott and Miguel Saucedo at the University of Illinois, school closures “have exacerbated inter-neighborhood tensions among Chicago youth in recent years” and have been a contributing factor to the high rate of youth incarceration.
Then there are the charter schools that never opened despite tax money from a federal program to help more entities apply to create even more charters. Drilling down into the data of just one state in just one school year, 25 charter schools (or, really, prospective charter schools) awarded grants in 2011-'12 never opened in Michigan. The non-profit groups behind these were granted a total of $3.7 million in federal tax money in implementation and planning grants, and they also received at least $1.7 million in state tax dollars. These charter schools exist only on paper, in this case on grant notification forms and in databases of state expenditures.
As CMD has calculated, the federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion in the past two-plus decades fueling the charter school industry that has taken money away from traditional public schools. And, as the Center for Popular Democracy has demonstrated, more than $200 million of that money resulted in fraud and waste over the past decade.
Click here for the full state-by-state list of charter schools that have closed between 2000 and 2013.
A Map of Failure
Source: NCES Common Core of Data Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey for school years 2000 to 2013. Data are available at https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pubschuniv.asp. For purposes of this analysis, schools coded in the survey as “closed since last report,” and “inactive-temporarily closed” were deemed closed. Schools that changed status from “charter” and “open” to “not applicable” and “closed” in subsequent year were also deemed to be closed charter schools. Additionally, schools coded as open charters in one year that then are missing from the survey for at least the next two subsequent years are also deemed to be closed.