Thursday, August 18, 2011

Report on BESE Actions

The following report was sent to me late last night by LA School Board Association Consultant Don Whittinghill. I thought I would reprint it so my readers could get the very latest information on critical BESE actions. I'm pleased that BESE realized that it did not make sense to hand out contracts for teacher recruiting when we have a surplus of teachers!

Arrogance Put on Hold
BESE Says Hold ON!
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), meeting today in Baton Rouge repelled a move by the State Department of Education to alter the way that BESE advisory councils operate.

BESE member Walter Lee chided the department for initiating an action that would have changed the way that the BESE-appointed Superintendents’ Advisory Council operates. He reminded DOE spokespersons that the council is created by BESE policy and that only the board has the authority to change operation of the councils. BESE also has an 8(g) Advisory Council, Nonpublic school Commission, a Special Education Advisory Council, and a Textbook and Media Advisory Council.

BESE also put on hold a pair of contracts that proposed to pay Teach for America $2,023,197 for recruitment and orientation of teacher candidates; and also $1,275,479 to the Brooklyn, NY, New Teacher Project for the recruitment, selection, training and certification of alternative route teachers.

These large contracts were proposed by DOE in the face of a reported surplus of teachers made by the state education estimating conference just yesterday.

The Department was also taken to task for its calculation of Graduation Cohort Index and Rate, statewide, using a policy that has not been officially promulgated. The policy was adopted by BESE in June, and published in the official state journal. Law requires that the public be provided time to comment on the Notice of Intent proposing the new policy. The rule would become official in November. However, under BESE grilling Erin Bendily, assistant deputy superintendent of the Office of Departmental Support, admitted that the application of the new policy was done because it was deemed to be the latest expression of BESE intent.

BESE member Louella Harding-Givins of New Orleans, protested that the department acted illegally as a Notice of Intent is a warning to the public that something is about to happen, and its intent is to provide the public time to comment and, perhaps, alter the proposal.

Linda Johnson, another BESE member questioned the entire early School Performance Score released this spring by the department.

Testimony was provided by Tom Spenser of the Lafayette Public School District, that the impact on 2011 SPS was significant. A graduation rate of 85% would have produced 9 points under currently established policy, but only 2.3 using the pending policy that was used. An 80% graduation rate earned by a high school would have earned 6.8 points with the current policy, but zero points by applying the pending policy.

The impact of such losses likely would have a significant impact on the number of schools earning an SPS below 65 this year and thus gain the designation of Academically Unacceptable School. The 2010 listing on the DOE web site showed that Stewart Elementary School, in Webster Parish scored 65.1. A 6.5 point reduction if applying the proposed policy would have cast the school in AUS. Potentially 89 additional schools would have been reported as AUS had the proposed policy been used in 2010.

The multi-million Teach for America (TFA) contract would cover the cost of eight TFA employees working an average of 50 hours per week another 1.5 employees would cost $406,314 for an average of 50 hours work per week, and $1,000,000 was proposed to pay for three employees who are expected to work 50 hour weeks, and one part-time consultant working 20 hours per week.

In still another action, BESE approved a Pre-K assessment that the DOE recommended should be deferred until later. A motion to reconsider the approval so as to allow three non-governmental agencies to consider the assessment proposals was not adopted.

In a nine hour committee schedule, BESE once again heard a variety of protests from New Orleans education activists Karen Royal Harper. Her protests about RSD facilities decisions, and how nearly a billion dollars had been spent, with little regard for repopulation patterns in New Orleans, drew some support from BESE members.

Don Whittinghill

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