Senator Landrieu vs. Public Education?

"Mary Landrieu walks tightrope on Bobby Jindal's education plans"

My comment to the article linked above on

Senator Landrieu does NOT represent, dare I say a majority, of Democrats on education issues. Her support of U.S.Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's destructive and intrusive education initiatives are just another example of POLITICS over PRINCIPLE that is so pervasive and destructive now. It is hoped that Obama will CAN Duncan when he realizes that the privatization of public schools that is the aim of his reform agenda is dissolving a HUGE base of support that he previously enjoyed.

When I last visited Senator Landrieu's offices in Washington in August of 2011, she was, of course, not available to the thousands of educators who descended on Washington for the express purpose of interjecting their professional expertise in this REFORM ruckus.

Thousands of educators attended two conferences taking place at the same time - the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards  annual conference, of which I am a member and for whom I have lobbied for ongoing congressional support, and the first gathering of the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action coalition of education professionals, parents and other public education stakeholders. Instead, we had the ear, but not the heart, of her chief education assistant - one of FOUR Teach For America grads she employs. When you surround yourself with propaganda you will absorb it.

When I had the opportunity to speak with Sen. Landrieu here in Louisiana a few months ago I offered that she possibly didn't realize the push back against Governor Jindal's "reforms" that highly qualified education professionals [like those represented by the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education (on Facebook)] presented. Her response was "Oh, yeah I really SHOULD get down here more and involved in that." Instead she has put herself in a position that makes her out to be a hypocrite. At that luncheon meeting sponsored by Louisiana Progress , she bashed Governor Jindal for his rejection of a federal pre-K grant. Ironically (or NOT) the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools was holding their conference in the same hotel at the same time.

Landrieu is an outspoken champion of charters and yet she was given a "Friend of Education Award" by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards during that 2010 national conference I referenced. That organization is nationally recognized for identifying effective teachers - far from the standards offered by Teach for America personnel. I understand that NBPTS is a champion of teacher quality and not politically aligned, but as teachers continued to be maligned and the importance of authentic professional certification and experience is discounted by "reformists," it becomes more and more incongruous that a strong association with charter supporters can continue to exist. Charters are notorious for hiring Teach for America college grads who are insufficiently trained, lack any experience, and are generally seen as temporary hires as they pad their resumes and reduce their student debt.

Now Governor Jindal's proposed teacher evaluation system (Act 54) discounts national board certification even though the program has been supported by the LDOE through its quality educator development program for years. Former Superintendent Pastorek removed supplemental pay for NBCTs a few years ago while purporting that his new teacher evaluation program should identify the highest performing teachers and REWARD them with pay increases.

Control seems to be part of the problem here. And Bobby Jindal is a control freak.

It is believed that Governor Jindal has his eyes on Senator Landrieu's job in 2016 as he bides his time on the way to the White House. If Senator Landrieu loses a large part of her voting constituency (educators are both Democratic and Republican) on account of her wishy washy stance on public education, she won't have a prayer up against his millions in campaign funds.

Public Education is a Louisiana Constitutional mandate. It should not be a political issue. Leave it to politicians to make it one.

It's never too late, Mary, open your eyes. At least give us your ear!!!


WWLTV reported this evening that Governor Jindal claims his research proves that New Orleans voucher students have outperformed their peers in the New Orleans RSD schools from whence they came:
Can Jindal take school vouchers statewide?

"Jindal dismisses such complaints.

He cites a lengthy list of 2010-2011 statistics showing voucher students outperform their peers in New Orleans RSD schools that are academically unacceptable. Some examples: 45 percent of third-graders in the voucher (or "opportunity scholarship") program were on grade level in 2010-11 in English, while only 39 percent of third-graders in failing RSD public schools were on grade level; 26 percent of third-graders in the scholarship program were on grade level in 2010-11 in science, while 25 percent of their counterparts in failing RSD schools were on grade level."

However, his former BESE favorite and charter proponent Leslie Jacobs says her research show very different results:

RSD Schools Significantly Outperform Voucher Program


"As a district of choice, Orleans families have multiple education options, including the voucher program. There has been great focus on the reforms inside the Recovery School District (RSD) and the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). With the recent test score release, we now have data to begin evaluating the performance of voucher students.

In the 2009-10 school year, 1113 children in grades K-4 received vouchers to attend one of the 32 participating non-public schools. Unfortunately, looking at the spring 2010 test scores, voucher students performed much worse than students in the New Orleans RSD – both its traditionally run public schools and public charter schools.

Of the 1113 voucher students, 240 were tested in 2010: 135 3rd graders took the iLEAP test, and 105 4th graders took the LEAP test. (There are no state tests for students in grades K, 1 and 2.)

Below are the results for the 3rd and 4th grade English Language Arts (ELA) tests.

Percent of Students Scoring Basic or Above in English

View the results for all tests.

The performance of students enrolled in the voucher program raises serious concerns. While Louisiana’s proficiency goal is for all students to be Basic and above, in the voucher schools, only 35% of 3rd graders and 29% of 4th graders earned scores indicating they are grade level proficient in reading. Compare that to the RSD charters, where 54% of 3rd graders and 58% of 4th graders scored Basic and above. In fact, in English 4th grade students enrolled in the RSD charter schools outperformed students attending voucher schools by 2 to 1."

Somebody is pulling our leg on vouchers!


Jindal's Plan - VOUCHERS: • Expand the existing Scholarship Program statewide for low-income students at C, D and F schools.

A St. Tammany Parish School Board member asked a question last night after hearing presentations on the Common Core Standards and the new high stakes tests that will be rolled out in 2014 that will be aligned with those standards and will replace our current iLEAP/LEAP tests - and will be the new basis for the Teacher Evaluation System 50% student progress component.

Q: If private schools don't have to use the Common Core Standards or the tests, where does state accountability come in for those public school students who receive vouchers to attend them?

My Answer: SHORT - there is no accountability to the system attached to vouchers. Parents are now EMPOWERED and the accountability, by virtue of CHOICE, belongs to them. LONG - No accountability is needed by the system because vouchers do not serve the purpose of ensuring a high quality or even a better education for the recipients.

They are a feel-good, have it your way, CHOICE, "discount coupon" of sorts that will get you into the store where you will spend MORE money but feel like you got a good deal. Like the wife who reports to her husband that she bought $1,000 worth of clothing at a 10% discount and saved a lot of money!!!

Instead of spending the money to IMPROVE public schools, it will deplete the pool of money even more than Jindal's cuts, thus making it virtually impossible to succeed. That's the plan though, isn't it? Another way to prove Jindal's mantra that our public schools are failing, our teachers are failing, our parents are failing and our children are failing.

In the first couple rounds of vouchers that were passed by the legislature with relatively little notice by the public, these so-called "scholarships" were funded by EXTRA TAX DOLLARS appropriated by YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. To be clear, I'm not saying your taxes were "increased." That means the money had to come from SOMEWHERE else. Jindal is fond of saying that public education funding continues to increase. To be clear, the MFP (dollars per student) has not increased. The NUMBER OF STUDENTS has increased. Costs have increased for many reasons (another subject). But the funds sent to districts who administer public education has DECREASED by eliminating state funding for various mandates and local dollars have to make up the difference in those districts that can afford to do that.

This legislative session promises to be different where vouchers are concerned. First of all, it is expected that the total dollars allocated for vouchers will increase because that opportunity will be extended beyond students in the Recovery School District. The scenario is that any student attending a "failing" school will be offered the CHOICE of attending a private or parochial school. Still sounds good?

Lets look at the CHOICE part first. Private and parochial schools aren't required to accept every student who applies. In fact, they will presumably be able to pick and choose which students they enroll. In reality, the CHOICE given to parents is now transferred to the receiving end. Many parents will be left with only the CHOICE to apply to a private/parochial school. That sounds much like the CHOICE parents in the Recovery School District have now - you can apply to the school of your CHOICE (the application actually gives you the opportunity to choose about ten in rank order) and your child theoretically be placed in one of those schools of YOUR CHOICE. And by the way, that CHOICE rarely includes the opportunity to attend a school in the child's neighborhood.

How about the money? This go around, funding for charters will be taken out of the Department of Education budget (which probably will not, for the third year in a row, include the typical 2.75% increase that covers those increased costs I mentioned) and not a separate allocation. That aligns with the much touted "school based budgeting" initiative which fits right in to the scheme to de-fund public education. School based budgeting is also referred to as "the money follows the child." It is touted as giving more control to principals/schools who will receive the MFP funds and determine how to best spend them. They will be EMPOWERED! The burden and additional costs that theory places on school administrators is another subject. As for vouchers, MFP funds for each child that is displaced will obviously affect the budgets of the schools from which the child is displaced. The building will still be there, the costs to maintain the building and the programs will still be there. . . but suddenly and without adequate notice to make sensible adjustments in the number of teachers, materials, supplies. . . the funds will not be there. This is called CHAOS, and if you study the theory and modus operandi of charter-based reform, you will see that CHAOS is promoted as a strategy to bring about beneficial change. It is believe to bring about innovation and considered a form of creative upheaval that the "status quo" of traditional school systems don't allow for.

If your pants are too long, throw them away and buy a new pair rather than shortening them. It's a distorted and destructive application of a market-based, free enterprise system on steroids. Those who are on the receiving end will benefit but the vast majority will PAY and NEITHER will be contributing to a better society.

The distractions created by the lure (and myths) of CHOICE, SCHOOL BASED BUDGETING, INNOVATION, EMPOWERMENT, etc. serve to keep the focus away from IMPROVING LEARNING OUTCOMES for the children. In Jindal's "blueprint" for education reform there is NO mention of a specific strategy or solution that affects the quality of learning in the classroom. The Department of Education offers NO specific strategy or solution that affects the quality of learning in the classroom. In fact, representatives for both clearly stated to both legislative education committees that their "plan" to improve public education was to "Continue to hold the threat of takeover by the Recovery School District over the heads of public schools."

The tool for that takeover is based on one narrow, flawed, invalid, and unreliable instrument called the high stakes standardized test. Now Jindal wants to use that same tool to evaluate teachers. You can't determine how high the water has risen by measuring the sky above it!!!!! You can determine how much weight a person has gained or lost by measuring the amount of food that person ate!!! These are the kinds of false measures of measurement used when the people in charge of measuring don't understand the product they are measuring - in this case learning and children.

There is so much more to the issue of VOUCHERS that defies common sense. I hope the public will engage themselves in the debate and ask questions like the one posed by our school board member.

VOUCHERS are no answer to improving public schools and are not in the best interests of all children. They advance the agenda of privatization.



"Jindal calls for changes"

Governor Jindal finally "revealed" his agenda for the demise of true public education today. The full article can be found at the URL above and a concise FACT SHEET as distributed to the press is below. I'll try to address each point in separate blogs - I guess you could call it a translation or transliteration - because the language and syntax Jindal uses is deceptive.
Jindal will need the legislature to pass laws to institute most of this policy. It is up to educators, parents, and concerned taxpayers to contact your legislators to let them know you will hold them accountable for intended and unintended consequences. I will post contact and legislative tracking information in another blog.

Please add your comments and questions. If I can provide more detail or research I will be glad to do that. If I misstate anything, I will correct it.

FACT SHEET by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Office:
Plan to Empower Parents, Teachers & School LeadersGov. Jindal’s Plan: Empower districts to use compensation to keep good teachers by stopping forced pay increases to ineffective teachers, allowing them to pay effective teachers more, and by allowing them more flexibility in how they structure salaries.• Ban the practice of using seniority to make personnel decisions of any kind, including ending the practice of “last in, first out” in reductions in force, prioritizing effectiveness instead.• Empower superintendents and principals and get school boards out of the hiring and firing business.• Stop blanket job protection in the form of tenure to teachers who are ineffective after one year. They will simply return to probationary status. Under Louisiana’s value-added law, districts start dismissal proceedings after two years, and teachers lose certification after three years, of ineffectiveness ratings.• Give superintendents, not school boards, the lead role in the public hearing process when he or she decides that a poor performing teacher should be removed.• Tie teacher certification to effectiveness, removing the red tape of meaningless federal “highly qualified teacher” requirements, and emphasize effectiveness when selecting Teachers and Principals of the Year. 
Gov. Jindal’s Reform Plan Will Empower & Reward New Teachers:• Give school districts the flexibility to create their own salary scales based on the elements they believe matter to them, such as effectiveness, hard to staff subjects, high poverty schools, and core subjects.• Reserve tenure status for teachers that have been rated highly effective for five years in a row.• Make granting of tenure an active process rather than an automatic one so that tenure becomes a recognition given teachers who have demonstrated excellence, rather than merely survived for three years. 
Gov. Jindal’s Reform Plan Will Empower Parents By Providing More Choices:• Expand the existing Scholarship Program statewide for low-income students at C, D and F schools.• Expand course choices for students by allowing a variety of providers, including school districts, virtual schools, colleges and universities, and businesses with training programs, to offer students additional options.• Plan the state’s Career and Technical Education regionally to better meet the needs of businesses and address individual student interests, while ensuring students have access to full Industry Based Certification programs.• Encourage students who want to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math by making it easier to take high level coursework, recognizing when they are successful with that coursework, and helping districts make those courses available.• Make it easier for high quality charter operators to expand by fast tracking operators with proven track records, streamlining the application process, and giving charter schools the same rights to facilities.Allow charter operators who want to open schools in districts with grades of D and F the opportunity to apply directly to the state.• Create a rebate for donations made to nonprofit organizations that offer scholarships to low-income students to attend private school.• Give a scholarship to students who graduate early from high school equal to one-half of the dollars the state would have spent had they prolonged their time in high school. Students will be able to use these dollars as a scholarship—above and beyond any other scholarships—at the postsecondary school of their choice. 
Gov. Jindal’s Reform Plan Will Give Parents More Levers To Effect Change:• Allow community organizations, nonprofits, universities, and other local entities to apply directly to the state to become charter authorizers to maintain local control of charter schools in their communities.• Give parents whose children are at a failing school a parent trigger to effect change more quickly. Rather than waiting until a school has been failing for four years, parents can vote to have their school eligible to be a Recovery School District charter after three years.• Hold school boards in failing school districts accountable for the performance of their superintendents by requiring state review of their superintendent contracts to make sure there are performance targets for improvement.Call on the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to change how the state funds students so that dollars follow the child to whatever educational option meets their needs. 
Gov. Jindal’s Reform Plan Will Get Parents More Engaged In Their Child’s Education:• Let superintendents and principals reward teachers for engaging parents.• Give districts more ways to engage parents with federal dollars for tutoring and after school programs and be rewarded for it, which also saves parents money for after school care. 
Gov. Jindal’s Reform Plan Will Empower School Leaders By Giving Them More Flexibility To Innovate:• Allow districts to recruit the best and brightest personnel, retain them by rewarding them, and make smart decisions about who to employ so as to maximize their investment in human capital.• Give districts more flexibility over their federal dollars through applying to waive burdensome federal regulations and let schools spend their federal dollars in the ways that work for them.• Reduce federal reporting requirements and more strategically align interventions in failing schools, including those required by federal law, to meet the unique needs of students. 
Gov. Jindal’s Reform Plan Will Empower Early Childhood Service Providers & Preschools:• Reduce red tape, align conflicting standards, and streamline data to reduce the administrative burden for early childhood providers and better leverage dollars.• Create an accountability system for early childhood programs focused on outcomes and based on Kindergarten Readiness that gives parents clear actionable information in a letter grade on which to base their decisions about where to send their child.• Protect taxpayers by cutting off public funding to low performing early childhood programs, even pulling licensing from low-performing programs, and aligning incentive structure through the School Readiness Tax Credits to reward Kindergarten Readiness.
My first response is to the Tenure point which necessarily addresses the teacher evaluation/effectiveness plan: 

FACT SHEET provided by Gov. Jindal's Office says: "Reserve tenure status for teachers that have been rated highly effective for five years in a row."

MORE FACTS: Act 54 passed by the legislature in 2010 gave provisional status to a proposed teacher evaluation system that:

  1) had not been fully formulated yet, so our legislature signed on to something on behalf of their constituency that they knew little about

  2) was required to be piloted voluntarily by a few school districts which pilot has not been properly completed as per stated provisions

  3) was promised to be "optional" for school districts who chose to use it but has morphed into a statewide initiative

  4) was to be revisited upon completion and review of the pilot before determining if the evaluation system would be enacted into law hence it will be on the agenda for this legislative session

  5) was hastily presented to the legislature in 2010 because it was a requirement for application to the Federal Race to the Top grant competition which Louisiana failed to receive after two attempts

  6) by admission of LDOE to the Joint Senate and House Education Committees last month it is still not complete yet the committee (ACEE) charged with completing and studying the system has been virtually disbanded

  7) was included again in the latest application for Race to the Top which Louisiana did win this time and which application had not been publicly revealed until it was deemed successful

  8) requires that 50% of a teacher's evaluation be predicated on student standardized test scores after being manipulated and distorted by a complex mathematical value added equation

  9) in reality the 50% weight is actually 100% based on the student test score component because the current iteration of the law states that the score for student performance (50%/quantitative component) and the score for teacher performance (50%/qualitative component) will be combined and divided by 2 for a final score BUT with the caveat that regardless of how high the teacher scores on the qualitative measure, he/she will fail if the score on the quantitative component falls below a specified threshold. On the other hand, the teacher could score high enough on the quantitative measure and bottom out on the qualitative measure and still be deemed "effective."

  10) There are only three rating levels - "highly effective" RESERVED FOR THE TOP 10% of evaluated teachers, "not effective" RESERVED FOR THE BOTTOM 10% of evaluated teachers, and "effective" assigned to all teachers in between.
Simply given the fact that a teacher's quantitative score is based on a different set of students every year and the elements over which she has no control outside the classroom and the 100 days she has to prepare them for the standardized test, it is statistically impossible for a teacher to attain a "highly effective" rating five years, four years, or even three years in a row.

Bobby Jindal is misleading the public into believing that he has any intention whatsoever of maintaining tenure in any form.

Gov. Jindal has no intention of engaging in "debate" or meaningful discussion whatsoever with highly qualified educators on this or any other "reform" issue.

The Louisiana Coalition for Public Education will continue to offer to engage in discussion with Gov. Jindal and our legislators to show both the flaws in the reform being offered and to present truly innovative and meaningful reform initiatives that can actually bring improvement in true learning and not limited to raising the ubiquitous and singular standardized test score.

Gov. Jindal and his cronies on the BESE board along with his self-anointed new Superintendent continue to develop the culture of failure presented as a "model to the nation" - a failing model rather than using the highly successful schools and school districts and teachers as successful models to build on. LDOE should be discussing ways to support and improve our public schools as they are constitutionally mandated to do but instead are pursuing every avenue to close schools and fire teachers to be replaced with start-up unproven charters and inexperienced unqualified college grads.

How much of this will the public continue to believe is in the best interests of our children?