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

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.


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:

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!!