Schneider v. Brooks - A Slam Dunk

This blog could easily become a secondary source for Dr. Mercedes Schneider's blogs because it's close to impossible to out-research her.   Here is what I consider to be her best and most thorough yet.    Schneider's retort to an op-Ed by David Brooks.

Why newspapers hire individuals to regularly offer the public unsubstantiated opinions baffles me. I am a researcher. Unless my posts are grounded in my personal experience, I offer my readers links to document my position on matters about which I write.
David Brooks is an opinion writer. He publishes his opinions regularly in the New York Times (NYT) and has done so since 2003.
Brooks is not a teacher. He has no firsthand experience with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Nevertheless, Brooks has an opinion on the matter, and the NYThas published his opinion because, well, the NYT publishes Brooks’ opinions.
Brooks supports CCSS. That is his opinion.
Allow me to present another opinion: that of the “lead architect” of CCSS, David Coleman. Coleman is quoted here from his presentation, Bringing the Common Core to Life:
Do you know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today?…It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with these two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a **** about what you feel or think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. [Emphasis added.]
How is that for irony? David Brooks writes his opinion on CCSS, and the “lead architect” of CCSS is knocking opinion writing.
Brooks’ opinion is that opponents to CCSS are part of a “circus.”
How sad it is that Brooks does not realize that he is part of the very circus about which he writes. Brooks believes he writes about CCSS from an op/ed perch outside of the Big Top. However, his place is in the ring of the many who support CCSS on the unsubstantiated opinion that CCSS is necessary to American public education; that it was properly and democratically created and chosen by stakeholders; that it is the solution to some supposed failure of American public education, and that opponents of CCSS act only from “hysteria.”
In his op/ed, Brooks presents the “reality” of CCSS as it appears to him in the Fun House mirror.
Brooks refers to a time “about seven years ago.” That would be 2007, the year that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was declared a failure. Brooks notes “it was widely acknowledged that state education standards were a complete mess.” So, in his effort to support CCSS, Brooks blames varied state standards for “huge numbers of students were graduating from high school unprepared either for college work or modern employment.”
Brooks provides no evidence to support his statements. How “non-CCSS” of him.
He even contradicts himself by the end of his article: “The new standards won’t revolutionize education. It’s not enough to set goals; you have to figure out how to meet them.”
Those who actually have careers in the classroom know there is more to the issue than “setting goals” and “meeting them” based upon a set of standards.
In 2007, David Hursh of the University of Rochester published a paper on the failure of NCLB. Hursh does not mention “common standards” as a solution to some widespread failure of public education.  However, he does mention other complex issues that have a bearing on the classroom and which are ignored by the likes of Brooks in promoting the CCSS “solution”:
The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) marks the largest intervention of the federal government into education in the history of the United States. NCLB received and continues to receive support, in part because it promises to improve student learning and to close the achievement gap between White students and students of color. However, NCLB has failed to live up to its promises and may exacerbate inequality. Furthermore, by focusing on education as the solution to social and economic inequality, it diverts the public’s attention away from the issues such as poverty, lack of decent paying jobs and health care, that need to be confronted if inequality is to be reduced. [Emphasis added.]
Notice how the focus has shifted from the NCLB goal of “closing the achievement gap” to the Race to the Top (RTTT) goal of “competitiveness in the global economy.”
Neither NCLB with its “100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2014″ nor RTTT with its “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments, teacher evaluation, data systems, and ‘turning around low performing’ schools” accounts for economic influences upon learning, not the least of which is the relationship between student learning and community economic viability.
I wrote about the fact that based upon employment projections for 20142016 and2020, Louisiana will have far more jobs available for high school dropouts and high school graduates than it will college graduates.
CCSS Fun House writers like Brooks do not address the disconnect between the call for “academic rigor” and the sagging economies that cannot support the Brooks-style finger-wag.
Know what else is funny? In 2007, when NCLB was openly acknowledged to be a failure, some legislators were still crying, “Stay the course.”
Sounds like CCSS “stay the course” opinions here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here….
You get the picture.
Another interesting fact about 2007: It was the year that David Coleman started his national-standards-writing company-gone nonprofit (first 990 on file not until 2011), Student Achievement Partners (SAP). Prior to SAP, Coleman and fellow CCSS “lead writer” Jason Zimba started a company to analyze NCLB test data.
Coleman had his foot in the proverbial NCLB door and “just happened” to start a company completely devoted to CCSS in 2007, the year that the NCLB circus began to show impending collapse.
A truly astounding, “state-led” coincidence.
Brooks also states that “the new standards are more rigorous than the old,” yet he also uses the Fordham Institute “finding” that CCSS is only “better” than standards in 37 states. I wrote about the 2010 Fordham Institute “grading” of state standards here and Fordham CCSS peddler Mike Petrilli here. Petrilli even tried the “stay the course” line in Indiana– a state with standards that Fordham graded as superior to CCSS.
Attempting to convince a state with standards “superior” to CCSS to keep CCSS is part of the CCSS sales job, yet this act somehow escapes Brooks’ notice.
How convenient.
As to another convenient Brooks oversight: The 2010 Fordham “grading” of state standards offers no logic between scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Fordham grade for a state’s standards. Thus, a state could have low NAEP scores and have a high Fordham grade on standards, or vice-versa. No logic. Nevertheless, Brooks assumes Fordham to be standards-grading “experts,” and Fordham Executive Vice President (nice title) Petrilli travels the country (for examples, see here, and here, and here, and here) advising states to “stay the course” with CCSS standards that Fordham admits are not better than all state standards.
As to Brooks’ assertion that CCSS “unpopularity” is “false”: He believes it is enough to cite some survey evidence (no reference provided) for Kentucky and Tennessee, and New York (linked)– three states. More Fun House illusion: that “evidence” of CCSS “popularity” in three states justifies a nationwide CCSS.  Not so.
As to survey “evidence” on CCSS and education perceptions in general: I have written detailed accounts on a number of these surveys, all in 2013: NAESP (principals) surveyStand for Children Louisiana surveyGates Scholastic survey (partial results release); NEA surveyAssociated Press (AP) surveyAP and Gallup surveyAFT survey.
My “overwhelming” conclusion:  CCSS was an imposed education “reform” that administrators, teachers, and the public were forced to deal with. CCSS is not “popular”; it was tolerated at best as indicated by these 2013 survey results. As to the public perception: in 2013, the public was largely unaware of CCSS. Now they know. Now CCSS is in the news; it is in the classrooms, and it is in the statehouses.
CCSS-related legislation abounds.
As to Brooks’ Fun House assertion that CCSS is “state led, let us not forget the infamous CCSS “lead architect” David Coleman, who made the following statement to data analysts in Boston on May 31, 2013:
When I was involved in convincing governors and others around this country to adopt these standards, it was not “Obama likes them.” Do you think that would have gone well with the Republican crowd? [Emphasis added.]

Though it might be difficult for Brooks to admit, Coleman just declared himself “CCSS Ringmaster.”
To Coleman, CCSS was a product to sell to “governors,” and he couldn’t say that “Obama likes” CCSS if he expected to make the sale to “the Republican crowd.”
Coleman must have made an effective sales pitch; in 2009– before CCSS was complete– 46 “states” had already “agreed to be state led.”
And so, our Big Top performance has come full circle in this post that began and ended with the CCSS Ringmaster, David Coleman.
It is one feat to “convince governors” to buy into CCSS; it is quite another to “convince” America.
Brooks is right; the circus in indeed “in town,” and in his opinion-spouting position, Brooks is attempting to sell tickets to The Greatest So-called “Standards” Show on Earth.
Those familiar with the CCSS imposition know better than to buy Brooks’ line that CCSS is “a perfectly sensible yet slightly boring idea.”
From reading Brooks’ unanchored appeal, one issue is certain: This fount of unsolicited CCSS opinion is not a classroom teacher.
Let us leave him now, unsold tickets still in his ungrounded-opinion-writing hands.

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, 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 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 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.