A Parent's Vision For America's Public Education System

I have had the privilege of getting to know Sara Wood, a Louisiana parent, who today expressed her thoughts about the importance of fighting to preserve our public school system.

Sara says, "We are fighting for the freedom to have our children educated in a manner that nurtures and fosters the formation of an educated mind, capable of INDEPENDENT thinking; not driven to ignorance and standardization by confusing and frustrating curriculum derived from a psychometric test of mediocre standards."

Sara and I are very different from very different backgrounds with what would seem to be ideologically opposite beliefs, but the story she tells here is one we both relate to as beneficiaries of its legacy, and as citizens of the United States of America we are obligated to remember and to respect. 

*******


It seems that a symptom of the fear-mongering approach through PARCC test is compliance with the failing curriculum recommendations of the state regardless of the damage and harm to children.  

Such compliance because of fear greatly affects the reality of the local control bill passed this legislative session in that the reality is that it is rejected or ignored by school districts.  These harmful actions to our children out of fear leave me wondering. 

I really and honestly wonder how our nation’s story would have played out, if at the start of the American Revolution, when Paul Revere took his Midnight Ride to warn that the British were coming.

  I wonder how our nation’s history would have been written if it was fear-filled school boards, fear-filled teachers and complacent parents to whom Paul Revere was shouting.  Or what if the colonists who he was trying to warn, had as a society abandoned their faith in God; not their belief but their faith in his Almighty Power.  What if that night during the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere those to whom he was shouting had let their fears of dreadful consequences rule their decision of whether to act; not just to speak out, but to take real action to fight the tyrannical sufferings imposed by the British; and therefore in letting those fears rule, they had failed to act upon Revere’s warning and had merely followed the British in power, even to their own detriment and that of their children.

I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO WONDER HOW DO YOU THINK OUR NATION’S HISTORY WOULD LOOK, IF IT WERE THESE PEOPLE WHO PAUL REVERE WAS RIDING THROUGH THE NIGHT TO AWAKEN INTO ACTION AGAINST THE BRITISH.  HOW DIFFERENT WOULD EACH OF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES BE TODAY WITHOUT THE REAL ACTIONS AND SACRIFICES OF THOSE BRAVE FEW, WHO DID FACE THE DREADFUL CONSEQUENCES UNKNOWN TO THEM BUT CERTAIN TO HAVE INCLUDED DEATH.  Those brave few who faced those dreadful consequences with only courage because of their FAITH in God’s power to protect them in facing those fears, while doing the right thing.  

This fight over Common Core tests, curriculum and the entire initiative is a very similar situation.  We are fighting for the minds of our children, like those who fought for America’s independence and were awakened to the battle by Paul Revere.  We are fighting for the freedom to have our children educated in a manner that nurtures and fosters the formation of an educated mind, capable of INDEPENDENT thinking; not driven to ignorance and standardization by confusing and frustrating curriculum derived from a psychometric test of mediocre standards. 

I am not polished and many probably view me as nothing more than a loud mouth, Don Quixote whose “windmills” embody a belief and vision for America that can never be anything more than a dream because they are just words on a crusty piece of paper written by “some dead white guys.” Nothing more than a dream because you “silly,” that America was abandoned long ago, like real faith in God, over the course of many years.  

As for me though, I will not stop because when we fall, as has fallen every nation that has historically taken this destructive path, either through deception or by force…when we fall, I so want to be able to look into the eyes of my four children and say that I did all within my power to be like Paul Revere and awaken fellow Americans or to be like George Washington and fight the good fight for a free America with tools God gave and with faith in his Almighty Power to protect me in my actions.  But that my actions were simply not enough or I was born a generation too late to lift the chains of complacency and apathy that had already taken firm root.  I so must be able to face my children and say this at the point they realize that their future was stolen by greedy and powerful people and that it was stolen because of the fear-filled, the blind and the faithless!

And that ladies and gentlemen will be the truth of it when all is said and done, if by large numbers we fail to have real faith in God and take a stand in more than way, to stop all that is destroying America, as the land of the free. I don’t know where we got the notion that our federalist system of representative government was invincible and that it was meant to be easy; an afterthought for all else in our lives; but such is not the case, if it is to be preserved.  It is our responsibility to do something meaningful for us and for our children and out of respect for all those before us that did their part to preserve it for us. 

If we continue to complain without taking consistent and constant, meaningful action, the land of the free will fall.  If we continue to trade freedom for government security, we will live in slavery.  History 
is very clear on this.   In the words of President Eisenhower, “If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.  

Please people, WAKE UP and take a stand and watch great things happen!!  To say we can no longer make a difference, is just a cop out and it is to ignore what a relative small number of Americans have done in this fight against Common Core in just about every state in the Union.  We have forced conversations and action to be had against the elitists and their millions, shoving this down the throat of our nation and that is nothing to ignore.  Freedom is not free but it sure is priceless.  

Do you have that courage?

Thank you for reading my thoughts and for choosing not to be fear-filled, blind or faithless,
Sara Wood

Louisiana Supe Tells Another Whopper to Board of Education



The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting October 14, 2014, Admin and Finance Committee, Agenda Item 6.4 regarding the return of McDonogh High School to OPSB.


At the August 13 BESE meeting, Lottie Beebe  requested an Attorney General's opinion as to whether or not the Recovery School District (RSD) or BESE had the authority to make a decision to allow McDonogh to return to OPSB. That letter was to be discussed at the October 14 BESE meeting. 

At the October 14 BESE meeting (see video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-B9SXEhlSk#t=8401 Lottie asked JW the disposition of that request. He said, "I believe BESE staff has formulated that request and has made that request. I don't believe it has been granted." Committee Chair  Jay Guillot asked, "So it's still in process? JW responded, "Yes."  
 

Later Lottie asked JW, "Can we expedite the process to retrieve the AG opinion?" JW said, "You can seek an expedited opinion." Lottie followed with a motion to asked for an expedited opinion.

JW clearly implied (I believe) that the previous request had been sent to the AG by BESE staff but that no opinion had been rendered at the time of this meeting. That was, in fact a lie. No request had been made. I filed a FOIA on October 14 while at the meeting when I heard his statement. I received a response finally - much later than the time allowed for a public information request. It clearly shows that Chas Roemer did not ask for the AG opinion until after the October 14 meeting. In fact the opinion request was dated October 14.

Supt. White once again misrepresented the status of the AG request which he knew had not been written or sent.   When is this BESE board going to hold Supt. White accountable?!  












John White's Bogus Textbook Evaluations

I posted this blog on 10/15/2014 about the perceived conflicts of interest in Louisiana Superintendent John White's selection of only TWO sets of instructional materials as being what he calls his TIER 1 approval for Common Core alignment. 

Those instructional materials (curricula) were Eureka Math and Core Knowledge (for ELA).

As the Common Core Initiative promises to be an economic boom for all who hope to benefit financially from the public education sector, instructional materials are, of course, no exception.  According to this August, 2014 report from EdWeek's Liana Heitin:

 
 A new group billing itself as a “Consumer Reports for school materials” will soon begin posting free online reviews of major textbooks and curricula that purport to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards—an effort, some say, that has the potential to shake up the market.
 

The report goes on to describe the "review" process:


The nonprofit organization, called EdReports.org, has gathered a team of 19 educators, about half of whom are classroom teachers, to conduct extensive reviews of yearlong instructional series. The team will start with 21 series for K-8 mathematics and eventually move on to secondary math and K-12 English/language arts curricula. For the first round of reviews, likely to be published early next year, the group selected some of the most commonly used materials: print products that had at least 10 percent of the market share and print and digital materials that had been recommended by at least two states’ review processes[this is where John White enters the game with his recommendation of Eureka Math and Core Knowledge both of which had ZERO market share prior to CCSS - do you get my drift?]
 
The 19-member review team for EdReports.org includes educators who have worked for or with Student Achievement Partners, a group co-founded by several lead writers of the common core; the teacher-training organization Math for America; the Illustrative Mathematics Project, led by common-core writer William McCallum; and EQuIP.
 
Each instructional series will be evaluated by at least three reviewers, and the results will be presented to the other 16 team members.
 
Funding for the project comes from [none other than -] the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—which also was a major financial backer for the development of the common core—the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
 
 
What's wrong with this picture?   If the previous excerpts aren't enough evidence to convince you that the reviews are BOGUS, read the entire article - it gets worse!
 
But back to John White:
 
 Lynne Munson, the president and executive director of Common Core, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that publishes the Eureka Math curricula, said she is “extremely excited” to have her materials to be among the first reviewed by EdReports.org. “We’ve been awaiting opportunities like this and are going to do what we can to provide whatever they need” for the reviews, she said. “We’re confident in the quality of our work.” Eureka Math was the only math curriculum to be awarded the highest possible rating by the Louisiana education department.

So let's compare the Louisiana education department's meticulous review process to the one proposed by Edreports.org. 

As fate would have it, when I attended a committee meeting at the Department of Education in Baton Rouge, I sat next to a Curriculum Director from another school district.  Unlike the Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum in my district, this administrator was well informed about all he shenanigans going on at LDE.  She shared this with me and it was the catalyst for my research to write this blog:
 
In answer to the textbook evaluation process – at the Louisiana Association of Parish  Textbook Administrators (LAPTA) in December of 2013, Jackie Bobbett, Marcie Coupel, and Brenda Nevels (all three have handled textbook state adoptions for a number of years) told those present (supervisors and bookmen) at the meeting in answer to the question “Who evaluates the materials in order to determine whether they make Tier 1,2, or 3?”:
For each set of materials, a team of TWO Teacher Leaders selected from a Cadre’ of Teacher leaders decides whether the materials are Tier 1-Are completely aligned to CCSS, Tier 2-Are partially aligned to CCSS or Tier 3-Are not aligned to CCSS.
 
We questioned them about credentials of the two Teachers Leaders as to experience with the subject area or grade level.  We were told they just had to be Teacher Leaders from the Cadre’.
 
The process by which the 2,000 “Teacher Leaders” were selected In the spring and summer of 2013 was lax to say the least.  No vita or resume’ was required, just a registration to the conference (that is, if the school system didn’t take control of the process).  The same process was in place to double the numbers (4,000) in June of 2014.

First of all, what evaluation rubric did John White use in his evaluation of instructional materials which resulted in a TIER 1, 2 or 3 evaluation?

The reviewers, who were chosen from a group of White's Teacher Leader Advisors,  used rubrics that were conveniently provided by the Revised Publishers’ Criteria developed by Student Achievement Partners. If that name doesn't sound familiar, it's the organization co-founded by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel which developed the Common Core State Standards.

Wouldn't you, as a reasonable person, surmise that having the developers of CCSS develop the criteria for evaluation instructional materials to be used to teach CCSS is somewhat of a conflict of interest? 

More Evidence that John White is promoting Eureka Curriculum and it is costing taxpayers money. 



But with everyone claiming to be “CCSS-aligned,” how do we separate the strong from the weak — those that are truly CCSS-based and those that aren’t? Fortunately, because the stakes are so high, a number of well-regarded organizations have begun thoughtful work in this area.
Reliable tools that evaluate CCSS alignment now exist. I recommend consulting the Toolkit for Evaluating Alignment of Instructional and Assessment Materials to the Common Core State Standards, developed by Achieve, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Student Achievement Partners (the authors of the CCSS). Deeply rooted in the standards and the publishers’ criteria (seminally important resources for anyone serious about this work), the toolkit contains different instruments currently being used to evaluate materials and to showcase exemplary curriculum.
The Louisiana Department of Education is using one of these tools to review and rate curricula. Our organization’s Eureka Math curricula is fortunate to have received a Tier I rating by the state agency. And both Achieve and Student Achievement Partners have posted Eureka Math modules as exemplars on their websites, using one of the other tools making up the EQuIP Rubric tool-kit (formerly known as the Tri-State Rubric) as their guide.

But hey, let's not jump to conclusions here.  Let's look first at the rubric.  As you can see, it's so simple that one does not even need a K-12 educator, much less an educator certified in the subject area or grade level,  to use it (improperly).   The rubric stipulates the criteria and then the evaluator simply has to check MEETS or DOES NOT MEET

To be fair, the IMET (Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool) instructions do stipulate the following:
 
Who Uses the IMET?
Evaluating instructional materials requires both subject-matter and pedagogical expertise. Evaluators should be well versed in the Standards (www.corestandards.org/Math) for all grades in which materials are being evaluated. This includes understanding the Major Work of the grade (www.achievethecore/focus), the Supporting and Additional work, how the content fits into the progressions in the Standards (www.achievethecore.org/progressions), and the expectations of the Standards with respect to conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application. Evaluators also should be familiar with the substantial instructional Shifts (http:// www.corestandards.org/other-resources/key-shifts-in-mathematics/) of Focus, Coherence and Rigor that are listed above.

So in the interest of transparency, I filed a public information request with the Louisiana Department of Education (because LDE is NOT transparent) asking for the names of the Teacher Leader Advisor Evaluators and any training materials used along with the fees paid to these teachers.  The response I received from LDE did not include the credentials of the Teacher Leader Advisors, so I determined to ascertain for myself using the TeachLouisiana.net website where one can verify the credentials of all Louisiana certified teachers. 

In the interest of fairness, I used the names as provided by LDE, so it is possible that the two names for which I found no certification records were not accurately provided to me.  I also do not lay blame on any of these evaluators who I will give the benefit of the doubt that they did not understand that they were being used to promote John White's BOGUS evaluation process!  If any of these evaluators have any corrections or would like to make a statement, I will be glad to publish it here.  My purpose here is to show you that these teachers were not qualified to perform these textbook evaluations for ELA and Math.    


I am next going to write about the Louisiana Textbook Adoption process, both the legal one and the one that John White used last year.  A publisher's representative called me recently and has provided me with some insight on that.  I'm also going to write about the Tier 1 ELA instructional materials that John White chose - Core Knowledge - and White's connection with its developer, Amplify, and New York's Joel Kline. 

Please excuse the empty space below.  I cannot figure out how to eliminate it.
 


 















 
 




 
TEACHER LEADER ADVISORS 
INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS REVIEW WORKGROUP
ParishFname  Lname Contract Amount 
LincolnAquanetta Archangel $2,275 MIDDLE SCHOOL: MATHEMATICS 4-8 - 6/10/2009


 
AscensionBryan              Bertucci$1,120
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC (K-12) - 6/13/2006
SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12 - 6/13/2006
VOCAL MUSIC (K-12) - 6/13/2006


 
EBRBrittanyBush$1,000 ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5COMPLETED ALTERNATIVE TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM, NEW TEACHER PROJECT, 2008
 
OrleansWendyDeMers$1,720No Certification Found

 
LafayetteAmyDeslattes$1,720ENGLISH 6-12 - 2/19/1998

 
OrleansKatieDunn$1,720

No Certification Found


 
CalcasieuConnieHarper$1,900

ENGLISH 6-12 - 2/8/1994

 
VernonJeromeHenson $                        


*Not under contract
PROVISIONAL PRINCIPAL - 3/23/2006
SEVERE/PROFOUND (1-12) - 3/5/2001
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 2/16/1996
LOWER ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-4 - 2/16/1996
OuachitaJessicaHunter                               $2,275

SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12 - 3/3/2008
MATHEMATICS 6-12 - 2/21/2008

 
JeffersonChristinaJohnson $1,720
ACADEMICALLY GIFTED - 6/22/2012
ENGLISH 6-12 - 9/11/2008

 
LafayetteLaciManiscalco $1,720 ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 6/27/2005


 
CaddoKristinaMorris$2,275ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5 - 3/22/2012

 
Jefferson DavisRoryMyers$1,900


(ALT2) Completed 240 hours of leadership experiences for certification., 7/29/2014
(557) READING SPECIALIST (1-12), Grade(s):1-12, 6/21/2012
(111) ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8, Grade(s):1-8, 3/23/1995
(107) LOWER ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-4, Grade(s):1-4, 12/29/1994
(165) UPPER ELEMENTARY: MATHEMATICS, Grade(s):5-8, 12/29/1994


 
West FelicianaSharonNecaise$1,120*Contract ended early
ENGLISH 6-12 - 8/28/1997
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 5/22/2000

 
St. CharlesStacyNeighbors$1,720
                   
EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP-LEVEL 1 - 9/16/2009
ENGLISH 6-12 - 1/23/2004
EXTENDED FOR 5 YEARS - 8/27/2014



 
LivingstonKarenParrino$1,120NBCT
TEACHER LEADER - 9/27/2012
KINDERGARTEN - 8/1/2001
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 1/24/1990
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 9/27/2012


 
CalcasieuKaciePugh$1,900
READING SPECIALIST (1-12) - 6/18/2012
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5 - 6/4/2009
LafourcheCherylSoley $1,720




ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 2/19/1992
KINDERGARTEN - 2/19/1992





 
OuachitaIreneTivet $2,275 NBCT 2007
EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY FACILITATOR - 5/11/2010
TEACHER LEADER - 5/11/2010
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 3/20/2000
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 5/11/2010


 
CalcasieuMalloryWall-Padgett $1,720
(392) SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011
(394) SPEECH 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011
(374) ENGLISH 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011


 
TangipahoaTamaraWhittington  $1,720           
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 10/29/2001
VALID FOR LIFE FOR CONTINUOUS SERVICE - 4/8/2005





 
CaddoNancyYoder$2,275               No Certification Found