Why NOT School Performance Scores?

This blog by Gary Rubinstein at "TEACHFORUS" is a great example and explanation of the "inaccurate statistically meaningless scoring process" in New York City (that's where our unqualified candidate for State Superintendent previously worked his magic). Surprisingly, this system shows how the process hurts GOOD schools as well as "BAD." Louisiana's School Performance Score metric is no better!

http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2011/10/21/when-bad-progress-reports-happen-to-good-schools-change-em/


When Bad Progress Reports Happen To Good Schools — Change ‘em!
by Gary Rubinstein

New York City’s Department of Education recently released their ‘progress reports’ for all the middle and elementary schools for the 2010-2011 school year.

For each school they have a complicated formula that assigns up to 60 points for ‘progress’, up to 25 points for ‘achievement’, and up to 15 points for ‘school environment’. The scores are tallied and out of the 1100 schools, the bottom 3%, which is around 33 are labeled as an ‘F.’ When a school gets an F, they are on probation and could get shut down and turned into a charter school or other sanctions. Even if it doesn’t get shut down, it is pretty embarrassing when schools get this grade, particularly when they know that they don’t deserve this label.

Well, I’ve finally waded through all the instructions about how the grade is calculated. I always figured that the stat was not statistically meaningful, but what I learned about the system surprised even me. Things are so much worse than I figured, and I plan to write in extreme detail in the coming weeks about this rating system and reveal all of the many flaws. For this post, though, I will concentrate on one.

What would the Department of Ed think if out of the 33 schools that got an F were several of the best performing schools in the city? That would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn’t it? It would make one question whether the scoring process was very accurate. Fortunately for them, when I looked at the list of Fs there were no schools with English and Math scores exceeding most of the school in the city — or were there?

So I did a little experiment. Instead of sorting the schools by their letter grades, I sorted them by their final score, which was a number from 0 to 100. The schools with Fs, the bottom 3%, were schools with a final score of 18.2 or less. But what I found was that among the schools with scores of 18.2 or less, there were some schools that did not have Fs. There were three Cs! How could this be, I wondered.

So I downloaded the progress report for one of these schools, P.S. 56 The Louis Desario School. And, as the top of the progress report shows, this school clearly got a C, even though their overall score was 14.9, which put them at the bottom 1 percentile of all schools.

Well, something was up. Then I figured out why. Looking more closely at the ‘fine print’ at the bottom right:



Mystery solved. Schools with average English and Math performance in the top third citywide cannot receive a grade lower than a C. How’s that for a self-fulfilling prophecy?

The message is that this inaccurate statistically meaningless scoring process is good enough for low performing kids, but not good enough for high performing (and low 9% Black and Hispanic percentage in this case, I might add) kids.

I find this loophole offensive. It is just a way to hide the fact that they have developed a horrible grading system. Stay tuned for more posts about the details behind the progress report grading system. When I am through exposing all the flaws, the only appropriate thing for the DOE to do would be to fire whoever came up with the system, have him/her apologize to all the teachers, administrators, and students he/she slandered with this failing label, and to re-open all the schools that were closed based on this phony metric.

Whose "Showdown" is it Mr. Dubos?

My response to Gambit endorsements in BESE District 1 election



Let me clarify the real source of the divide among this year's important race for BESE characterized by Clancy Dubos in his October 18 edition of Gambit as a "showdown."

Classroom teachers - not school board members, school superintendents or unions - are the largest and most significant group of education professionals in the state and a cohort member of the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education. I represent that important group as a National Board Certified Teacher and founding member of the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education.

Classroom teachers
statewide and nationally are leading the opposition to the still miserably failing premise that a "world class public education" can be crafted through community school closures, takeover by quasi-public charter schools with their autonomy from rules and regulations designed to protect our children, expansion of high stakes standardized testing, and replacement of state certified teachers by unqualified college graduates.

Classroom teachers want a qualified education professional to replace incumbent James Garvey precisely because of his unreliable but consistent vote for the failed reforms of the Recovery School District and former Supt. Pastorek's unfettered and poorly regulated issuance of charter contracts.

Reforms were initially sold to the education community as "choice" and "optional," like the new teacher evaluation formula with 50% of the evaluation being based on student standardized test scores and further distorted by a complex value-added metric. After getting the proverbial "foot in the door," Mr. Garvey and his anti-public education promoters are no longer hiding their original intent to force this failing experiment down the throats of every teacher and school in the state.

Classroom teachers are against the privatization and sell-out of our public school system. They proudly service all the challenges public school systems, by law, must address that many charters seek to circumvent because the economies of scale don't exist that would allow them to maintain their autonomous business models: services to special education students, Louisiana's high poverty rate, absenteeism, language barriers, child abuse, nutritional deficiencies, community crime and the simple fact that not all children learn at the same rate or have the same intellectual capabilities.

Teachers aren't vested in the political capital Mr. Garvey and his partners in reform represent. They are committed to the well researched, proven education principles that can bring about true learning for all children that will also contribute to healthy communities and economic opportunities for everyone. I am a highly qualified, award-winning, classroom teacher, and my candidacy for District 1 BESE offers an opportunity for real educators and the tax-paying public to have a voice on BESE, the state's highest education policy-making body in the state.

The election is Saturday, October 22nd. TEACHERS - You can make your collective voice heard!!!!!

Jefferson Parish School Board Superintendent Search

Tonight I attended the Jefferson Parish School Board meeting at Bonnabel High. I didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling!!

The board is in the process of determining a process to select a new permanent superintendent. I made these comments regarding their search when public comment was allowed:

As a long time advocate for children and their opportunities to receive a quality public education - as I, my children and my grandchildren have - it is my hope that this Board will search out a Superintendent whose experience and credentials will qualify him or her to lead this system out of the morass of politics and the culture of failure that the latest iteration of so-called REFORM has brought to some parts of our state.

The new Jefferson Parish Schools Superintendent should only support a system that is held fully accountable to the taxpayers of the community. Should hold ALL schools accountable to the taxpayers of the community. Should hold ALL schools, both traditional and charters fully accountable and required to follow all the rules and regulations designed by BESE to protect our children and support successful education outcomes.

The new Superintendent should honor and support his teachers and provide them with the tools needed to grow their craft the same as any other profession.

Teachers are the vehicle by which our children will attain their individual potentialities - potentials that often belie the mind numbing test and drill mania of high stakes standardized testing that all reputable research shows does nothing to improve learning nor is it able to identify the quantity or quality of learning.

I ask that you search for a candidate who will not throw the baby out with the bath water by simply closing our schools and virtually selling them to the highest bidder or charter management company while firing the teachers and disrupting the communities and children who need stability and community.

I hope he/she will know how to stop the flow of taxpayer money into the bottomless pit of unresearched, unproven and TRULY status quo measures that continue to purportedly "close the education gap" simply by standardizing expectations and outcomes for our lowest AND highest performing students.

Let's do what's right for our children and our communities by appointing a superintendent who is responsive to THEIR needs.

Honoring a Teacher!

I received a donation and this request to publish a note about Donna Driskill's favorite teacher.

"Lee, please accept my donation to honor the memory of the best teacher I ever had Her name is Helen Regas Hibbets and she was from Brooklyn, New York. Ms. Hibbits passed away on January 16, 2010.

She taught me for two years (mathematics) on the southshore in the Jefferson Parish Public School System. Ms. Hibbets was never a Teacher of the Year and was highly suspicious of such title. Her influence on her students is incalculable, both personally and academically."


If you would like to honor a teacher - or if you have been honored - and want to publish it on my blog, let me know.

Which Path to Excellence in Education? by David Cohen

This blog was created by David B. Cohen and posted on InterACT. It was so good that I am posting it in full here rather than try to say the same thing in another way. Thanks David for this great post. Sounds like Louisiana to me!!

October 13, 2011



by David B. Cohen
.

This blog post was co-authored with Rachel Norton, a school board member for San Francisco Unified School District. Earlier this year she also contributed to this site by sharing her thoughts about school turnaround models. A slightly shorter revision of this blog post was also posted at Beyond Chron, a progressive alternative media site. [Note: on that version, we stated that the Foundation for Excellence in Education had only three board members, a statement based on the contents of their website at the time we wrote that draft. Their website has since been updated to reflect a board of eight members].

It’s not often San Francisco hosts Jeb Bush and Rupert Murdoch, let alone on the same day, but it’s happening this week. Bush is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. The Foundation brings its National Summit for Education Reform to San Francisco on October 13-14, with Bush and Murdoch among the keynote speakers (agenda here).

We hope they enjoy their stay, but reject their approach to education reform. Will their speeches include disclosures of their personal and family financial stakes in charter schools, educational publishing, and testing and data systems they champion in the name of education reform? As a San Francisco school board member and as a California teacher leader, we believe the Foundation misidentifies the most pressing problems in education, and offers solutions that are not in the best interests of Californians.

Their agenda asks, “How do you turn around a school or school district that has fundamentally institutionalized failure?” Those of us working daily at the school and district level reject that over-generalization, and suggest failure begins higher up. California has slashed funding necessary for adequate staffing and a well-rounded curriculum. Nationally, we rank at or near the bottom in staffing for high school teachers, counselors, administrators, nurses and librarians – but we have not reduced our testing budget. The conference contains no hint of support for distressed public school systems, but celebrates charter schools. Instead of relentlessly promoting privately-managed charter schools, reformers should acknowledge that charters are not a magic bullet; research on their effectiveness mixed at best, as is their commitment to educating all students.

Another speaker, Chester Finn, Jr., advocates eliminating local school boards. We think local control enhances innovation and support for schools. In 2004, San Francisco voters approved the Public Education Enrichment Fund to support preschool, sports, libraries, and the arts. In 2008, voters passed The Quality Teachers and Education Act, focusing on retaining teachers and improving teacher evaluation. Teachers in hard-to-staff subjects and schools receive additional compensation.

We also disagree with supposedly pro-parent reform strategies like the “parent trigger” – another conference agenda item. In California, the parent trigger has meant outside organizers making choices in private, then using questionable tactics to gather signatures for charter conversions. This approach has been used in the Los Angeles Unified School District, though recent analysis showed LAUSD’s privately-managed schools performed worse than those under district management. We prefer authentic parent engagement. San Francisco Unified recently passed a parent engagement policy that calls for the district to move parents away from a “dependency” model and towards an “empowerment” model. Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento has a “Parent University” to educate parents about expectations for their children in high school and college.

The conference addresses the need to improve teaching, but not in ways that will help California teachers. Conference speakers include officials from Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois – states that have put aggressive anti-teacher and anti-union “reforms” in place, though strongly unionized states and nations come out on top in comparisons of student learning. Instead of attacking unions, reformers should look at California’s Quality Education Investment Act, spearheaded by the California Teachers Association, and the National Education Association’s Priority Schools Campaign. These efforts show that union-management partnerships can reform schools without creating labor conflicts.

Conference speakers will tout the use student test scores and “value-added” measurement for teacher evaluation and pay, but all three leading educational research organizations reject that evaluation approach, and test-based performance-pay has a consistently dismal record of waste and failure. Still, evaluations do need improvement. Accomplished California Teachers has published teacher evaluation reform proposals that have the backing of teachers and researchers, and shared this report with lawmakers and school districts. In coming months we will publish recommendations for additional reforms to the profession.

Jeb Bush and Rupert Murdoch’s brand of “reform” is about weakening unions, shifting money from public education to private companies, and increasing standardized testing to the detriment of non-tested curriculum. We reject their vision, in favor of an educational program that empowers local communities with the authority and funding to provide quality schools and a well-rounded education for all students.

REAL REFORM for Holding Teachers Accountable

This is my response to the Times-Picayune editorial of September 17 - "Holding Louisiana teachers accountable: An editorial" I have asked for guest editorial space in the newspaper. . .

Every classroom should have well-educated, professional teachers, and school systems should recruit, prepare and retain teachers who are qualified to do the job. These are three sorely lacking practices in Louisiana's current "reform" design for K-12 education.

American public schools generally do a poor job of systematically developing their teachers after placement. On the contrary, our state policymakers hang on to the erroneous belief that teachers will be more motivated to improve student learning if they are evaluated or monetarily rewarded for student test score gains.

According to the highly esteemed 2010 Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #278 , there is broad agreement among statisticians, psychometricians, and economists that student test scores alone are not sufficiently reliable and valid indicators of teacher effectiveness to be used in high-stakes personnel decisions even when the most sophisticated statistical applications such as value-added modeling are employed.

The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences stated, ". . . VAM (Value Added Measures) estimates of teacher effectiveness should not be used to make operational decisions because such estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair or reliable."

RAND Corporation researchers reported that, "The research base is currently insufficient to support the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers or schools."

Educational Testing Service's Policy Information Center concluded, "VAM results should not serve as the principal basis for making consequential decisions about teachers."

Research shows that the use of these high stakes standardized tests to measure student learning creates an excessive focus on basic math and reading scores and leads to narrowing and over simplication of the curriculum to only the subjects and formats that are tested, reducing the attention to science, history, the arts, civics, and foreign language as well as to writing, research and more complex problem-solving tasks. There is a self-perpetuating downward spiral of performance by our students.

Other approaches have been found to not only identify differences in teachers' effectiveness but to actually improve teachers' practice. They include observation protocols that include videotapes of classroom practice, teacher interviews, and artifacts such as lesson plans, assignments, and samples of student work. We must analyze student learning over time in relation to a teacher's instruction rather than a single standardized test score.

The Economic Policy Institute warns that: "Adopting an invalid teacher evaluation system and tying it to rewards and sanctions is likely to lead to inaccurate personnel decisions and to demoralize teachers, causing talented teachers to avoid high-needs students and schools, or to leave the profession entirely. Legislatures should not mandate a test-based approach to teacher evaluation that is unproven and likely to harm not only teachers, but also the children they instruct."

Until the Department of Education moves its focus from the data mania it created with the use of costly high stakes testing to creating policy that will ensure effective teaching and improved learning in the classroom, the "miraculous" gains the RSD claims will continue to stagnate and our children, schools and teachers will continue to be labeled failures. The Louisiana Association of Educators' proposal for reworking the Act No. 54 teacher evaluation process has merit because the LAE represents the collective minds of highly qualified, certified Louisiana teachers who would otherwise have no voice.

The state policy making body (BESE) that oversees recommendations by the Department of Education needs to be heavily weighted with qualified education leaders and members who are not timid about questioning the validity of the so-called innovative practices presented to them.

The new superintendent BESE will select should certainly be held to high standards and qualifications.

That new superintendent will be appointed by BESE. Cast your vote on October 22 for a highly qualified educator to serve in District 1. Vote for Lee Barrios

Quality Education Requires Quality Leadership




Maps of BESE Districts with Precincts

http://www.legis.state.la.us/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=749599

Let's get out the VOTE!! Contact me for pushcards - and later for signs. Pass them out in your neighborhood, to your friends, on the street, at festivals and gatherings, Saints games.

This is a grass roots efforts and we can win!!! If all educators and parents will get out and vote we will have a leg up. If everyone would get 10 more votes, there is no way we can lose.

Public education is on the chopping block. BESE and politics are failing our children.

GEAUXTEACHER!

http://www.legis.state.la.us/billdata/streamdocument.asp?did=749599

Lane Grigsby's Reform Rhetoric

Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby has chosen his weapon to use in the battle between a public education that offers an opportunity for all children to receive an excellent education with the hope for a bright future and an education model that would privatize and corporatize education that best serves the profit motive of its investors and would have the public believe that the concept of a democracy is the antithesis and enemy of free enterprise.

This article by Will Sentell appeared in the Baton Rouge Advocate Aug. 31:

http://theadvocate.com/news/education/722915-64/pac-aiming-to-reform-top.html

The anti-reform label that has been placed on educators and groups representing them, like the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education, flies in the fact of the reality of the education model promoted by privatization supporters like Mr. Grigsby and friends.

The test and drill, march in a straight line, narrowing of the curriculum, diminution of creativity and critical thinking, dissolution of community voice and support by bussing students away from neighborhood schools, authoritarianism and lack of accountability that "autonomy" has brought that disregards the democratic rights of parents and taxpayers to elect their school boards, monitor administration and collaborate with teachers to best serve the needs of their children and grow the social and economic base of their communities, hiring of unqualified non-certified instructional personnel while putting experienced teachers back into the unemployment lines and preventing new education graduates from serving the schools and children they understand best. . . phew!

These are beyond the "status quo" practices that public schools are accused of perpetuating - they are HISTORY. They are history because the years of public education development, research, and experience that have brought about so much improvement and progress in the psychology of education and child development have replaced them with valuable practices like individualized curriculum, critical thinking skills development and assessments, integration of technology for teaching NOT JUST TESTING AND DATA COLLECTION. . .

CHOICE for the so-called reform advocates is artificial. Students are not only NOT allowed to attend the schools of their choice, but they are placed in schools that were CHOSEN for them via methods like limited and selective enrollment, "counseling" out, illegal suspensions and expulsions, refusal to provide needed special education services. . .

AUTONOMY of the kind many charters are enjoying are resulting in charter contracts being revoked, allegations of child endangerment, poor instruction by non-certified personnel and total loss of transparency in the financial and administrative responsibilities of schools. . .

Where are the public servants elected by the public to safeguard their children and their tax dollars? Why are the taxpayers allowing millions of dollars to go to out of state contractors, consultants, charter corporations, Teach for AmericiCORP, charter school personnel, outrageous salaries for unqualified and inexperienced administrators like RSD's John White. . .

The public should look beyond the slick rhetoric, empty promises, and false claims of miracles to see that the takeover of our public schools by BUSINESS is not the panacea it may appear to be. Businesses are created to MAKE MONEY for the owners - not to grow our country's next crop of entrepreneurs, productive workforce, creative artists, talented scientists. . .

Now is the time to elect educators who can provide the expertise to address the component that has been ignored - the quality of instruction and curriculum, the process of learning in the classroom, and the methodology for accurately and meaningfully assessing the individual progress of our students and the effectiveness of our teachers. We have to "turnaround" the culture of failure and start measuring success.

The product of Mr. Grigsby's "investment" of money promises only to beget money. The investment that educators make every day through the public education system is PRICELESS!!


BESE District 1 Map - Get Out The Vote!

I am posting here the newly reapportioned BESE Districts Map link which includes street maps and voting precincts. PLEASE NOTE: The districts have changed since the last election. Also note that you have to scroll down near the bottom of the above linked document to see the maps.

District 1, for which I am a candidate, includes the entire Parish of St. Tammany, a substantial portion of Jefferson Parish and a newly included section of Orleans Parish. Please study these maps to determine the district IN WHICH YOU LIVE so that you can learn as much as possible about the candidates before the election OCTOBER 22. If you are unsure of your voting precinct, you can call the Registrar of Voters for your parish.

It is so important for all taxpayers to get out and vote in this election. Whether your interest is as a parent, an educator, a student (register to vote if you're 18), a taxpayer, or a business owner, the success of our children, the maintenance of our public school system, the quality of the educational experience we offer, and the effective and efficient use of our tax dollars are vital to the welfare of our communities and our economy.

I suggest you ask these questions when trying to determine the candidate for whom you will vote:

1. Is he/she qualified?

BESE is the highest education policy making body and authority in the state. Don't you want someone with considerable experience and expertise as an educator making that policy?

2. Has that candidate been a long time participant in promoting the growth and improvement of public education and equitable opportunities for all children at the local, state and national levels?

There is no "silver bullet" or quick fix for the most difficult obstacles that face our public schools and communities. There are tested and proven successful education principles along with innovative practices being demonstrated in schools throughout Louisiana and the United States. But you have to "know one when you see one" and be able to recognize those that will best serve the needs of each individual community.

3. Does the candidate have a record of seeking input from the communities and educators he/she serves and then satisfactorily responding?

Education is NOT a business that can be operated exclusively through a top-down hierarchy. Education happens in the classroom, not the Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge where the LDOE and BESE too often isolate themselves. A quality education system requires collaboration with all stakeholders in order to serve a diverse citizenry.

4. As in all political campaigns, what is the source of support for each of the candidates? By whom are the candidates endorsed?










Where Are The Teachers?

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is navigating the process of selecting a new superintendent.

According to recent reports by the Advocate, a "strategic subcommittee" has been formed which conspicuously includes: Michael Tipton, a TFA executive director; Chris Meyer, former TFAer and DOE special adviser to former state Superintendent Paul Pastorek; and Kimberly Williams, legal director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (the exec. director of LAPC is Caroline Shirley Roemer, sister of BESE member Charles Roemer). Not only is there conflict of interests here, but community input and control of their public schools is, once again, being subverted by these special interests with a very focused agenda to privatize our public schools.

http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/674362-63/letter-school-panels-special-interests.html#comments

I noted that one of the comments following the article made by a writer identified as TRAVELER, suggested that teachers were not interested or concerned enough in the public school "transformation" to pack the chambers of the Capitol or to march in huge numbers to protest. This is my response to his comment:

Comment by lbarrios - Saturday, August 27, 2011

Traveler and others: As a teacher and avid participant in the legislative process for the last two years, your perception that teachers are disinterested in the process is off base.

Teachers are no different from any other "special interest group." In order for their voices to be heard, they have selected representation. Unions, like any other lobbying group, are paid for their expertise, ability to negotiate the complicated legislative system, and the reality of power in numbers. Their ability to inform, influence, and advocate for members and their position that the democratic governance of public schools must be maintained for the benefit of all children, society and the economy has, of course, been undermined by the corporate interests and so-called free enterprise educrats because they are a threat to their privatization efforts and profit motives.

As a teacher, I know firsthand the futility of trying to influence legislators. I have bit my tongue when some have commented openly that they haven't heard from their teacher constituents on issues when I am inundated with copies of forwarded correspondence from teachers to them and I spend full time collaborating with educators at all levels in the state about their concerns regarding the takeover of our public school system.

Teachers are not in the business of politics and most are ill equipped professionally or emotionally to "negotiate" with their representatives in that specialized process. By the same token, legislators (and many of our unqualified education policymakers) lack any conceptual, pedagogical or real life understanding of education and the process of learning. Our attempts to reason with them fall on deaf ears.

School boards represent the democractic process in action and their members and committees should not be lead or unduly influenced by special interest groups with an agenda that is counterproductive to their mission - maintaining a community and culture that promotes and supports equity and excellence in the education of their youth and our future.
The seemingly innocent but pernicious infiltration of and influence on our public education local governance structure by the Teach for America "Corporation," free-enterprise-for-all enthusiasts, and even misguided or misinformed but sincere advocates for much-needed reforms in education threatens to destroy a stable, child-centered, education structure (public education) that has grown and improved so much over the years and is now available to all children regardless of race, socio-economic status, or intellectual/physical ability.

The public needs to understand the importance of maintaining the local elected governance structure of our school system, full and equitable funding, accountability and transparency, meaningful, innovative and effective reform based on proven education principles and teacher, family and community leaders forming public school policy and curriculum.


Standardized Tests and Cheating

The Times-Picayune today published an editorial "Investigate cheating claims" that addressed charges made in the spring of 2010 that Miller-McCoy Academy staff was providing questions from the state's high-stakes test to prepare students.

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2011/08/investigate_cheating_claims_in/3743/comments-newest.html

This is my comment in response to the story and another comment by Oh-Really?

lbarrios August 27, 2011, 12:09AM

Oh-Really? said: "The schools now seem to only be teaching the answers to the test questions without regard for the actual learning process."

Your statement is so masterfully worded that it shows clearly the problem with using standardized tests to measure learning, the dichotomy between teaching and testing, and the hypocrisy of expecting teachers to teach and students to learn answers for questions they are not allowed to see. Makes no sense does it? If you want a student to learn a specific body of material, then tell them what the material is and let them show they have learned it by testing them on that body of material. They material has got to be limited if the test is to be valid. In so doing, we narrow the curriculum and limited the material learned.

I learned as a teacher that without a doubt any child with a normal range of intelligence can memorize as much or as little as he/she decides to memorize given a reasonable amount of time. A teacher has no way to know which 30 of the thousands of relevant facts will be a standardized test, so it's a crapshoot when prepping for a test. So what's fair or reasonable for teacher or student about that? I NEVER gave multiple choice/true-false tests to my students because, as I explained to my students - "Why would I give you a test with all the answers on it?"

On the other hand, a teacher can teach a student to THINK (real learning) and then no matter what questions are asked on a test, the student will have a good chance to come up with the correct answer using critical thinking skills like synthesis and analysis combined with the store of information he/she was able to gather at any given time. That is - if the test questions measure LEARNING and THINKING rather than how many facts the student memorized.

Standardized tests are not about standards - they are about standardizing children. We can't and shouldn't be trying to do that! There is no justification for teachers and/or administrators cheating, but when livelihoods are threatened and teachers and students perceive that they have no control over their fate, human nature's will to survive kicks in.

No reputable research shows that standardized tests are valid or reliable for high stakes purposes. They are only useful as benchmarks for teachers and parents to determine strengths and weaknesses of individual children for which to provide an appropriate curriculum. Why are we labeling our children as FAILURES by virtue of competitive test scores? In every competition there are winners and losers. Education is NOT a competition.

If qualified educators were making policy at the Dept. of Educ. our public schools would be engaged in meaningful, innovative true reform without their hands being tied to the status quo system of test and drill. ELECT an EDUCATOR this fall for the BESE board!


New Watchdog for Charter Schools

The Lens, the first non-profit journalism venture in New Orleans, was launched by co-founders Ariella Cohen and Karen Gadbois in 2009.

Last night, August 25, the on-line newspaper hosted a gathering called the Summer Salon Focus on NOLA Charter Schools at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities building on Lafayette Street to announce their newest investigative venture. They will assign a corps of reporters to cover every Charter School Board meeting in New Orleans.

The Lens admitted that their first hurdle will be obtaining schedules from the schools, which has been a bone of contention for parents and anyone else attempting to lift the "veil of transparency" that hangs over most of these independent charters. Charters are public schools and subject to the Freedom of Information Act, Public Meetings Law and other regulations for public entities. The information should be filed with the Secretary of State's office and The Louisiana Association of Public Charters should have the information regarding their membership, but . . .

The Lens entertained questions from the audience last night. The host commented that some charter board members have told him they are learning how complex it is to run a school. One guest commented: "Some are 'baby' boards, just learning - will they be held to the same standard (by The Lens) as experienced boards?" The response was that if the board has been operating for four years and they aren't doing something they are supposed to - we will say, "Can I show you state law?"

If a charter operator opens a school, they should be thoroughly informed about state law and how to educate children. Unfortunately that expectation is not shared by some of the public and the Department of Education. The children enrolled in these schools don't have four years for the operators, administrators or teachers to get their acts together!!! Perhaps the accountability that BESE claims to have for their charters will include some up close and personal participation after the October elections. They do, after all, have responsibility for overseeing the RSD schools.

READ - TheLensNola.org
GET IN TOUCH - editor@thelensnola.org
FIND - facebook.com/thelensnola twitter.com/thelensnola
SUPPORT - TheLensNola.org/support-us
BECOME A SOURCE - TheLensNola.org/publicinsight
COMING SOON - TheLensNola.org/charterschools

The Lens says they are particularly interested in public input on all issues. You can become a source.


Broken Promises: New Orleans Public School Reform



A new Facebook Page has been posted announcing the following community meeting sponsored by four important local community organizations. You can communicate through the page at Save Our Schools Six Years Later for more information.

PLEASE NETWORK TO ACHIEVE MAXIMUM ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION AT THIS EVENT!

Students, teachers, parents, community members and the press are invited to join
the John McDonogh Alumni Association, Parents Across America NOLA, the Downtown Neighborhood Improvement Association, and the Esplanade Ridge/Treme Civic Association in front of John McDonogh High School, 2426 Esplanade Avenue, at 5:30 PM on August 29, 2011 to commemorate the sixth anniversary of Hur
ricane Katrina, to review the state of public education in New Orleans six years later, and to set a course to save our schools.

Taking the fate of John McDonogh Senior High as an example of the failed policies and broken promises of the Recovery School District, advocates for children, teachers and community schools will gather to pray and to demonstrate our investment in our children and our schools. We will be asking hard questions about the ways charter schools have negatively affected our children and about the scandals and failures of charter schools and RSD-run schools. Together we will assert our right to a democratic voice in how schools are rebuilt, what schools are rebuilt, and who runs the schools in our communities.

We will look at the betrayal of public trust in the past six years as the RSD has held community meetings, promised public engagement and then disregarded the wishes of parents and stake-holders again and again. We will examine the false choices that the school district has offered parents and children and the way school choice has divided schools from their communities and from parental oversight and involvement. We will condemn the political influence, waste and lack of foresight that has characterized the rebuilding and renovations of schools thus far and demand a fair, equitable and transparent process going forward. We will expose RSD’s deliberate and systematic neglect of certain schools to justify takeover and closure. We will stand up to save John McDonogh and all our schools from autocratic decisions made by unelected, out-of-touch and out-of-town administrators.

Please join with us on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 5:30 PM in front of John McDonogh High School to advocate for the right of every New Orleans public school child to real recovery, real reform, real improvement and real choice in their schools.

What Will It Take? RSD Newest New Plan

RSD Superintendent John White and the Dept. of Education just released an announcement introducing the new RSD "Executive Team." The Times-Picayune noted that Mr. White refused to reveal the salaries of his new hires - even though this is public information and taxpayer funded.

The strategic plan will be released September 6 during a public event at Loyola University's Louis J. Roussell Hall at 6:00 p.m. The following is the News Release.

It is important for everyone concerned about the direction that public education policymakers have taken to attend this meeting and to satisfy any questions or concerns you may have. The last thing that the citizens of Louisiana need are MORE EMPTY PROMISES!! One of my major goals as BESE member will be to not only DEVELOP POLICY that will maintain absolute accountability but will GUARANTEE IT.



FOR
IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date:
8/24/2011

Contact: Siona LaFrance, (504) 373-6200 ext. 20084, Fax: (504) 309-3647 Executive Director of Communications, Recovery School District

RSD CONCLUDES 100-DAY STRATEGY; SUPERINTENDENT PRESENTS NEW EXECUTIVE TEAM

NEW ORLEANS, La - Over the past 100 days, Recovery School District (RSD) Superintendent John White has looked inward and outward to develop a set of strategic commitments to ensure the success of
students in the district. This week marks the conclusion of the 100-Day strategy. And today, Superintendent White announced the development and release of a strategic plan, entitled What Will It Take?


The strategic plan, which will be released September 6 during a public event at Loyola University's Louis J.
Roussel Hall, outlines the RSD's goals and commitments for the next three years, focusing on three core principles: Excellence, Equity, and Community. "These goals and commitments are notjust words on paper. We want to be held accountable for what we say we're going to do," Superintendent White said. "We plan to come back to the community periodically to get an assessment of how we're doing."


The 100-Day strategy began May 16,after Superintendent White convened four task force committees, comprised ofrepresentatives of four distinct groups: educators, parents, community members, and students. Eight leaders in the community were selected to serve as co-chairs of the task force groups. Over the last three months, these groups and the RSD have sought input through public meetings, comment cards, online surveys, and posts to the website: www.rsd100days.com.


"This has been an exciting and enlightening process, and I'd like to thank everyone who attended these meetings and took the time to make their voices heard," Superintendent White said.


"During this process, I've attended numerous public meetings, met with community and religious leaders, and talked to parents and students," Superintendent White said. "My staff has also closely examined school data and enrollment systems and developed new systems and processes to ensure our schools are providing every child with the very best chance to succeed."


White Appoints Five Deputies and Executive Team


Additionally, Superintendent White announced a new team, which will be tasked with helping execute the goals and commitments in the strategic plan. As part of the restructuring and to create a more efficient framework for serving students, the number of staff positions in the RSD central office has been reduced by 35 percent.


The team reflects a new organizational structure designed to more effectively manage a portfolio of schools based on their various stages of turnaround and to maximize impact on student achievement. The result of a thorough organizational assessment, the reorganization creates a network-based school-improvement strategy for immediate and long-term work. Five deputy superintendents have been recruited to lead five new divisions:

  • Community and Policy:
    Patrick M. Dobard
  • Services: J. DeLano Ford
  • Operations: Ramsey Green
  • Portfolio: Chris Meyer
  • Achievement: Amy B.
    Westbrook

Superintendent White's executive team includes Kunjan Narechenia, Chief of Staff, and Monica Boudouin, Executive Director of New Orleans Achievement.


"We've assembled an outstanding and energetic leadership team to execute the goals and commitments set forth by the community through our strategic planning process," Superintendent White said. "They are eager to raise the bar for academic achievement, ensure that all children have access to great schools, and ensure that the community's voice is heard in the process. And in fact, they are already hard at work."


Event Details:


Release of What Will It Take?

Loyola University, Louis J. Roussel Hall

(Corner of St. Charles Avenue and Calhoun Street)


September 6, 2011 6 p.m.

I Heard it By the Grapevine . . . not the Picayune

Now, more than ever, the public needs to be fully informed about education policy and the governing body that makes it in Baton Rouge. The Times-Picayune has not been forthcoming with complete coverage of the education reform debacle so here's a story from another source.

A lawsuit filed in Orleans Parish Court by three fired school principals - Annette Hagan, Olga Walters and Sean Goodwin - claims that the Recovery School District, administered by the Louisiana Department of Education and loosely overseen by the Board of Elementary & Secondary Education (BESE), is "arbitrarily and capriciously converting an indefinite number of public schools to charter schools to be controlled by quasi-private boards without protecting the statutory employment rights of public school employees." This isn't the first time this claim has been made, but it may be the first time it is heard as part of a lawsuit.

The plaintiffs point out that RSD Superintendent John White, Deputy Superintendent Patrick Dobard and facilities director Ramsey Green were unqualified to serve as hearing officers. It is interesting to note that although the BESE board and former Supt. Paul Pastorek can make a waiver for the statutory requirement that the Superintendent have a masters degree, that waiver may not hold water when it comes to John White's authority to take this action. Although Mr. White claims to have completed a masters degree several weeks after he was appointed by Supt. Pastorek, plaintiffs dispute that.

It would be good form for Mr. White to produce his diploma - much like the production of a presidential birth certificate - to satisfy the public's curiosity about his qualifications. Or he can wait for the court to require it.

Reform Idol - Truth or Fiction? 

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which claims to be ". . . the nation's leader in advancing educational excellence for every child through quality research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio," has in fact reached an all-time low in its latest Hollywood style production of Reform Idol: The Reformiest State 2011."

The YouTube production of Reform Idol can be viewed at:

The Fordham Institute is one of hundreds of self-proclaimed experts in education excellence exerting undue influence in the corporate education market that is investing heavily in its new education investment opportunity. The impressive names and grand proclamations of expertise don't belie their pernicious participation in the destruction of our nation's democratic system of public education. As a colleague of mine who likes to give the Bible modern-day relevancy says, "It may look like a duck, quack like a duck and walk like a duck, but honey, it's a wolf with tail feathers!"

This production of Reform Idol is an example of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in action. ALEC is an organization that has recently been criticized as writing model legislation that its members introduce in their states. Its model for the privatization of public education continues to become a reality in most states. You need to watch the entire performance, but just to give you an idea of the types of reform that these Idols are touting:
Florida - They really clarified the meaning of Value-Added Assessment - Everybody's effectiveness is based on somebody else's effectiveness." That makes perfect sense doesn't it?
Next great reform, they increased their "scholarship program" (vouchers) for students with disabilities and ADDED 504 students (these are students who do not qualify for special education services but have legitimate obstacles to learning that need to be addressed). This is a flagrant method to get rid of low performing students so as to raise test scores for charters.
The Florida spokesperson said, "There are two things that drive behavior - money and measurement." They brag that ". . . parents will drive the market s they are the consumers and now they are empowered."

Ilinois gained points in the competition bragging that they "passed a bill that took away all accreditation for all principal training programs in the state and every program had to re-apply with tougher standards." Is it possible that those standards were aligned with The Broad Academy for Principals?

Indiana won the competition with points given, even by some of the other competitors, to its leader, Dr. Tony Bennett, on account of his "good looks." Will BESE interpret this as a necessary part of their criterion for a new state superintendent? I'm counting on the voters producing some new members of BESE before the next appointment and that the new board will count education expertise and experience as most important.

New Orleans Charter Testing 101

Times-Picayune journalist Sarah Carr published this story today http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/08/new_orleans_charter_testing_dr.html
My comment posted on NOLA.com as a response to BayouBud follows:
comment will appear.
lbarrios
lbarriosAugust 20, 2011, 11:28AM

BayouBud: Outside, independent auditing of testing administration will not solve the SOURCE of the problem of unreliability and invalidity of the use of high stakes standardized tests. A majority of members of BESE, the former State Superintendent Paul Pastorek and Governor Jindal have made it abundantly clear that their goal is to privatize public education - not a trend but a MISSION that has caused havoc in public schools systems nationwide.

As long as these scores come from LDOE, there are endless opportunities for misrepresentation. Some of these misrepresentations have been identified and published by reputable watchdogs like Research on Reforms (http://www.researchonreforms.org). But the numbers they have available for analysis can only come through Freedom of Information requests to the LDOE. Not an audit, but an investigation, of the LDOE and their handling and oversight of tests scores needs to be conducted.

How prevalent is the practice of suspending, expelling or transferring students after they fail the test but before their 120 day attendance "window of opportunity" expires thus enabling the school to eliminate the test score but retain funding for that student? Where do these students go? How is their departure officially categorized on school records? How do attendance numbers at the beginning of school, day of test and after the test correlate? This is only one of many problems that need to be exhumed from LDOE.

A test score represents nothing more than a number on a piece of paper unless that test is returned for analysis by the student's teacher to determine strengths and weaknesses and to design individualized curriculum to address that student's needs. When will parents STOP ALLOWING this destructive mislabelling of their children as FAILURES? High stakes standardized testing has got to stop. Student learning cannot be measured by a single standardized test.

The next step in destroying our public school system may come next spring if a bill that requires teacher effectiveness to be measured based on these student test scores receives permanent status. The determination that "everybody's effectivenss is based on somebody else's effectiveness" is absurd.

Because the next wave in the tsunami of "reform" will target teacher certification, educators and the public can expect FAILURE to continue to be a mantra to support the "reformers" contention that teachers are bad. The former "highly qualified" designation of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation will be replaced by "highly effective" and the notion that experience, specialized education and expertise are factors in teacher quality will go out the window. Teachers who are deemed "ineffective" based on their student test scores will not only lose their jobs and their certifications but will be lose their ability to practice their profession. With that prospect on the horizon, certified teachers will continue to migrate out of low-performing, high poverty schools in hopes of landing jobs in schools and districts where they have a prayer of a chance. And that's just another part of the scheme to replace teachers in the high needs areas with unqualified, untrained, non-certified and licensed temporary instructors like Teach for America personnel.

In the meantime, teachers will continue to be characterized as cheaters and lazy union thugs with these test scores to back that up. Students will continue to be poorly served or cast out of the very schools that promised them CHOICE. AUTONOMY of charters will continue to build its smokescreen against accountability. Voters needs to identify and support candidates for the Board of Education who understand the process of education. They need to support candidates who will pledge to bring true accountability to all levels of the education system. There needs to be MEANINGFUL reform and an end to the status quo of test and drill. There needs to be full and equitable funding for public education DEVOID of the misappropriation of funds to out-of-state consultants, testing companies and charter providers.

A Real Life Case for . . . Tenure

Revelations continue to surface regarding Pelican Educational Foundation since its charter contract was revoked by the Board of Elementary & Secondary Education (BESE), and governance of Abramson Science & Technology Charter School in New Orleans was turned over to the Recovery School District (RSD). Kenilworth Charter in Baton Rouge also operates under a charter with Pelican.
http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/08/bese_votes_to_rescind_charter.html


Turkish connections to Pelican and other charter consortiums associated with it throughout the United States, along with the employ of Turkish administrators and teachers, have led to numerous questions regarding the operations of these schools.

One such question posed by New Orleans parent Karran Harper-Royal particularly caught my attention. Karran has worked for over 10 years through the Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center for parents of students with disabilities. She is also a founding member of a rapidly growing and hugely influential parent advocacy group called Parents Across America headquartered in New York.

Karran wondered why, in light of evidence of alleged eggregious infractions by the school, so many parents and students showed up at the BESE special called meeting in Baton Rouge recently to voice their support for their school and its chartering organization. This link was found that addresses that and many other questions surrounding the backers of not only this chartering organization, but many others with similar modus operandi. Check it out before you continue.
http://gulencharterschools.weebly.com/american-enablers.html

Being a teacher, my question is why or how an experienced, state certified teacher, if there were any serving in this school, would remain in the employ of a school under the conditions that reportedly existed at Abramson. The following excerpt from the pages cited above, along with my commentary that follows, not only partially answered that question, but also added to my list of reasons why the much-maligned tenure provision offered teachers in Louisiana public schools serves not only to protect teachers, but to provide a safe and secure learning environment for their students.

* * * *
9) Unhirables
These are teachers and subordinate administrators who absolutely could not be hired in any other network or normal school, either because of incompetence, or lack of psychological fitness to teach, or because of some past infraction that would prevent their hiring in a normal school. They support the school administration unconditionally, remain silent regarding any questionable practices of the administration, and in return are allowed to retain their positions. Parents at Gulen charter schools are often baffled at the unresponsiveness of the administration when they complain about these teachers. They do not understand that the administration carefully cultivates such teachers as part of their support network.

(10) Desperately needing job security
These are employees who for various reasons place a very high premium on job security, and are willing to keep silent and tolerate the working conditions in Gulen charter schools in exchange for it. They are not necessarily unhirables; some may even be excellent teachers. Their great need for job security may stem from understandable factors such as, for example, severe financial pressures, illness in the family or other personal stressors. The current dismal job market for teachers is another contributing factor. These employees will never speak up about the administration as they know that remaining silent is the only way to retain their positions.


* * * *
On the surface, this may not seem to support/justify tenure, but read between the lines and put yourself in the place of any employee whose job has no such due process provision in place, a provision that also creates a certain amount of "psychological job security."

Now consider the very "fragile" position that teachers are inherently placed in under the microscope of literally hundreds of parents every school year who understandably "want the best for their children." The reality is that teachers can be perceived as easy targets when anything goes wrong that the parent perceives as injurious or unfair to his/her child - offenses as simple as poor grades, consequences for unacceptable behavior, or failure to qualify in an extracurricular activity such as cheerleader, team sports or even academic competitions.

Tenure requires employers/administrators to know their teachers intimately through observation and accountability, gives them the responsibility of providing appropriate professional development as needed, and through documentation of these and other activities, provides evidence for teacher, administrator and a parent so that the teacher can be confident she/he will receive the appropriate support in working with the parent to resolve problems and provide for an appropriate and quality educational experience for all children. When teachers feel they can question or report questionable activity or shortcomings, schools are most likely to provide safe and secure refuges for the children who attend them. When job security is an issue, it is human nature to withdraw or to ignore even glaring offenses.

Just as tenure serves to protect children, it also provides a measure of protection from demotion or loss of position for teachers if they complain about or report questionable activities of any nature that might arise in an educational setting.

The Terrible Trio?. . Choice, Vouchers & Tenure

This is a response to a comment posted by Anonymous on my blog Stepping on Up!!

Dear Anonymous:

Thanks for finding my blog, and kudos for being the first to comment. I'll respond for clarification even though you chose to post anonymously. As I learned in Journalism 101, there's obviously a loss of credibility for your part, but that's your CHOICE. . .

The blame game is easy to play. If there is any agreement between us, it may be that all players share "blame" in some way, shape or form. Now the requisite blame card has been played. . . let's get on with the discussion about improving educational opportunities for children.

Choice is a nice concept in its purest form - a form that doesn't exist except in your mind - for you, or my mind - for me. In the RSD mind, choice means you can choose which school you want to APPLY to. Few parents are happy with the application process that is part of the choice maze. The reality is that many students are not accepted to their school of first, second or even third choice.

I just returned from the RSD100Days Parent Task Force Meeting at Langston Hughes Academy Charter School. Out of the 30 or so attendees, maybe two were parents. Most were Teach For America instructors. Most were white. I'm guessing that all, except me, were twenty-something. If you've ever been to Langston Hughes you know it's a new state-of-the-art facility near the City Park area. After the meeting, RSD Superintendent John White shared with me his dismay that there weren't more parents representative of the student population in attendance. His further comment that he expects there to be more parental representation at the next meeting Saturday at the Dryades YMCA (are you familiar with the demographics?) was telling. I predict the make-up and tenor of the group will be a contrast also.

In spite of the idyllic surroundings of the school and accolades by parents and staff, you will find that the 2010-11 school performance scores rated a "D" by the LDOE. Last year an office employee was convicted of stealing over $600,000 in CASH from the school coffers. http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/2010/05/langston-hughes-academy-charter-school.html Now ask yourself - what's wrong with this picture? Now don't count me in that number who might say that the school is "failing" or that the students and teachers are "failing." I would say that this is a pretty clear example of the chartering company failing, the governing body - RSD/BESE - failing, and the system of accountability that labels the majority of its students and schools as "D" or "F" as failing the students and the community.

The voucher system may, on its surface, seem "eminently equitable and fair to all concerned." Consider that it's only "fair" to the parent that can afford the balance of the tuition and the attendant additional costs of a private school, can provide transportation to and from the school, and can satisfy any personal commitments or academic requirements for the child to attend. Again, you can see how "choice" is limited. Former BESE member Leslie Jacobs, a promoter and supporter of the state takeover of low-performing schools, recently completed a study that showed voucher students generally scored below their peers still attending RSD direct run schools. http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2010/06/low-test-scores.html So the CHOICE is there, but what about the results?

Tenure is a another weapon of education privatization advocates that is so easily used because it plays on the disdain by many of unions. One of many examples of the misuse of statistics is your claim that "in 10 years, only about 47 out of 100,000 teachers were actually terminated from New Jersey's schools." Even if one accepts those figures as being accurate, they bear no direct correlation to the value or failure of tenure. Tenure is a subject I'll address individually in a separate blog, but here are a few arguments. The attrition rate is high for teachers, many of whom leave the profession either before they reach tenure or after for a variety of reasons: relocation, childbirth, change professions, fired before reaching tenure, laid off, and sadly just not cut out for the rigors of teaching. Those numbers are aside from the number of those you cite who are "terminated" after reaching tenure.

One might expect that the "100,000" left were pretty seasoned and had been mentored, trained, and held accountable as they should be prior to reaching tenure. It makes sense to me that there would not be mass terminations of teachers because of incompetence. Tenure not only provides DUE PROCESS, something I'm sure every private and public employee would like to enjoy, but it is a system that makes it incumbent upon administrators and supervisors to provide new teachers with mentors, quality professional development, supervision and support during the years leading to tenure. It would be a rare teacher who would survive high expectations and rigors of the first few years of teaching and then turn rogue. Accountability is an issue that needs to be addressed for all levels in the field of education, but surely you can imagine that no one is held more accountable than a teacher who answers to a minimum of one parent per child (130 average) every single day. If a bridge collapses, is the CEO of a construction company the only one to be held accountable?

We may disagree on a few specific issues regarding public education, but I feel your pain and the need to design and enforce accountability systems that work for educators at all levels, equitability in the distribution of resources, accessibility to quality schools for all children, reduction of waste in the expenditure of taxpayer money, and an elected local/community governance system for public schools that addresses the needs and hears the voice of the local community that has some responsibility and power to hold it accountable. It is my hope that before there is a voucher system that can GUARANTEE all recipients receive a better education in their private school of choice, that the public school system will be a viable choice.

Since vouchers alone will not replace or correct the public system of education, I hope you'll reconsider your vote and choose a candidate who is capable of providing innovative, meaningful and effective reforms that will provide a CHOICE for ALL CHILDREN who are the future of our economy and our democracy.

By the way - why did you refer to the Tea Party as "meanie terrorists"? I made no reference to them in my blog.

GEAUX TEACHER!

Stepping on Up!!

Independent journalist, John Maginnis, has initiated the dialogue leading up to the BESE elections in October. His OP-ED piece, Education leaders need to step up, was posted in the Times-Picayune 08/10/2011:

http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2011/08/louisiana_education_leaders_ne.html

Here is the comment I posted in response - this reader is answering the call to Step Up!!

Governor Jindal's effort, through BESE, to privatize public education through charter schools, vouchers and tax credits will derail sooner or later because the business model that has worked so well lately in banking and the corporate world is not a viable model for education.

Students are not human capital; they are human beings. Anyone who has invested in one knows they are as unpredictable as the stock market. Parents are not customers looking for the best bargain when making their choices for school enrollment. Hence the need for full and equitable funding and redirecting many of the tax dollars now squandered on out-of-state contracts for testing, consulting, charter management companies, supplements for unqualified Teach for America personnel, inflated salaries for Superintendent and administrative staff, and ineffective programs that don't address the educational needs of our local communities.

Teachers know that pay for performance based on someone else's performance - their students' - is not an incentive because too many factors are beyond their control. Teachers don't teach because of the potential to make an extraordinary salary if their students churn out the state-prescribed answers on a standardized test.

Principals and administrators know that while the maintenance and control of hundreds of children in the confines of one building may appear to the public to be like herding cats, there is method to the madness. It takes not only a hefty dose of child psychology but a good bit of experience and expertise that comes along with a few bruises and, most importantly, a love for children and a desire to educate them. Hiring unqualified college grads who come and go while labeling state certified, highly qualified teachers as failures on the public dole and playing on public sentiment against unions just could be the straw that breaks the back of charter schools who are allowed to engage in that practice.

I would submit that few public-spirited citizens are willing to run for a seat on the Board of Education because they understand that the state's chief education policy-making body and its superintendent must be qualified, knowledgeable and experienced in the field of education. They should be made aware that several BESE members along with their overpaid appointed superintendent are not in any way qualified. Where is the accountability and responsibility at the highest level of public education in our state?

Additionally there appears to be conflict of interest for several who are personally associated with or have relatives who are associated with charters, charter boards and private schools - all of which benefit from policy and proposed legislation supported by BESE. Former Ascension Parish School Superintendent Donald Songy should be a shoe-in to replace Charles Roemer, whose sister, Caroline, is Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. The ethics board previously ruled that she could not appear before BESE on behalf of charter school matters pending before the board. She also was prohibited from interacting with the staff and Department of Education on matters under BESE jurisdiction. I supposed she and her brother are estranged?

On the other hand, current BESE member Dale Bayard of Sulphur has a proven record of support for public schools and has resisted the political pressure to advance the Governor Jindal's design for schools because he has seen the failure of the administration's so-called "innovation." Although his opponent, Holly Boffy, has taught for a few years and understands the argument for protecting tenure, she says she is no longer teaching and is evidently pinning her hopes on public sentiment against that tenure to garner votes, a position that may come back to bite her.

Education leaders have stepped up on a number of fronts. The Coalition for Louisiana Public Education is vying for a voice for educators at all levels from highly qualified, certified teachers to local school board members to district superintendents. Community grass roots efforts to hold back the rising tide of privatization and its attendant reduction of services for special education students, gifted and talented students and the low income population are gaining ground.

We have all had long enough to be convinced that the culture of failure produced by this iteration of reform needs to be replaced with researched, tested, and proven effective education policy that can bring along with it meaningful innovation and progress to our system of public education to meet the needs of all children. The chances for our economy to flourish are much greater with a diverse and educated citizenry.

In Light of Recent Events. . .

Revelations surrounding Abramson Science and Technology Charter School and Kenilworth Parkway in Baton Rouge, both run by Pelican Education Foundation and under the governance of the BESE led Recovery School District (RSD), should serve as a wake up call to the public that the escalating attempts the last few years to dissolve our nation's incubator for democracy - public schools - is a powerful tool for destroying our nation and its economy.

That tool is being used to remove public schools from any connection to or influence by their communities. Charters do that by:

* Eliminating the democratically elected local school board governance structure

* Hiring officials and administrators from out of state/country

* Firing highly qualified/certified Louisiana teachers based on unreliable
measures of effectiveness

* Hiring young/unqualified/elitist college grads from out of state

* Usurping property owned by local entities then having no vested financial or
personal interest in or responsibility for facilities

* Allowing virtually unbounded autonomy without accountability

* Dismissing rules and regulations created over years of experience that
contribute to an effective education/social structure

* Using unreliable and invalid testing measures to create a culture of failure

* Manipulating, hiding, and misrepresenting indicators of failure/success to
promote the charter miracle myth

* Threats of takeover by the State/RSD

* Bribery and threats by charter owners and administrators

* Bussing students out of their communities to eliminate the ability of parents
and community members to interact with the schools

* Restricting/limiting enrollment under the guise of CHOICE

* Using illegal and ineffective discipline measures

* Suspending and expelling students rather than addressing their needs

* Failure to fulfill their legal responsibility to serve special needs students

* Destroying the ability of teachers to collectively bargain for their/students'
workplace safety and security. . .Did I leave anything out?

The number one goal for supporters of a public education available to all citizens should be to preserve local governance and oversight because local governance means control by the citizens of the communities for which they ELECT representatives whom they have the ability to influence.


All Louisianians need to understand that what is happening in New Orleans is a leading indicator of what is planned to happen statewide regardless of a school's or district's or community's economic viability if the public allows our schools and their district structure overseen by locally elected school boards to be removed and their control of the schools taken away.

It is evident that the Department of Education is NOT looking out for the best interests of our students. It is easy to understand why some of the top administrators at the DOE are paid such high salaries. They are obviously willing to do whatever it takes to protect them.

The Coalition for Louisiana Public Education, a group of dedicated, qualified, experienced education professionals , is carefully considering which candidates it will endorse for the October BESE elections. Check out their FACEBOOK page and watch for their press releases in the coming months.