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?
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.
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:
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.
This is my comment in response to the story and another comment by Oh-Really?
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!
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
FIND - facebook.com/thelensnola twitter.com/thelensnola
SUPPORT - TheLensNola.org/support-us
BECOME A SOURCE - TheLensNola.org/publicinsight
The Lens says they are particularly interested in public input on all issues. You can become a source.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.