Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome Back, Louisiana Public School Teachers

Louisiana teachers beginning the 2012-13 school year will face the greatest challenges in the history of our public education system. Teachers this year will be expected to do much more with much less and to do their jobs under the constant threat of humiliation and dismissal by a blatantly unfair evaluation system. This new system guarantees that at least 10% of the teachers who are rated by the new value-added system must be found to be “ineffective” and immediately be placed at the top of the list for layoffs and placed on track to dismissal and decertification. At the same time teachers will begin the process of preparing kids to take new high stakes tests based on the common core standards. (Our entire education system is now primarily about preparing kids for state tests)

Wow! Given these challenges and threats, only public school teachers could be expected to greet their students this year with a smile and a firm determination to continue giving their students the best education possible.

In my many years of dealing with public education I have never seen anything like the present threats to our teaching profession, nor have I ever seen the level of misinformation and scapegoating of teachers as I have seen this year. This blog has pointed out the blatant inaccuracy and unfairness of Louisiana's school grading system and its destructive effects on teacher morale. My analysis of all available data shows that Louisiana teachers today are educating students better than ever before, yet they have been labeled by our Governor as individuals who get paid for just breathing. This was a major insult to both teachers and their principals. When they pointed out the flaws of the so called reforms teachers' professional organizations/unions have been labeled as defenders of the status quo.

If you want to know the facts about the high level of performance of our teachers nationwide, read this linked article by education professor Linda Darling-Hammond. In this article Hammond points out that our public school students in schools that are not affected by poverty outperform even the highest performing school system in the world! My analysis all 1400 Louisiana public schools also demonstrates that the only significant causes of low achievement in our schools are the debilitating effects of poverty related factors. It is wrong and counterproductive to blame teachers for this condition. Yet none of Louisiana's efforts at reform are focused on the real problems and almost all reforms result in the threatening and punishing of teachers and principals. But the icing on the cake is Governor Jindal giving parents taxpayer funded “scholarships” to transfer their children to private schools that have inadequate facilities, teachers and a substandard curriculum.

It's as though Louisiana were to declare war on lung cancer and our war strategy would include the firing of a certain percentage of doctors while ignoring smoking, obesity and other environmental factors. What do you think would be the effect on lung cancer if we rated oncologists according to patient mortality and fired the bottom 10% and replaced them with “bright young” college graduates with 6 weeks of “intensive summer training” in curing cancer? By the way, those new “doctors” would only work as doctors for two years, then many of them would be promoted to run the hospitals. That's like what we are doing when we replace experienced teachers with TFA corps members and then promote some of them to run the State Department of Education!

Also this year, Louisiana will begin the process of creating a whole new type of charter school (type 1-B) that will be allowed to flood the airways, billboards and newspapers using part of their MFP dollars with misleading ads in an effort to lure the best students away from public schools. (Please read this commentary by a charter school teacher). And this year for the first time, charter schools in Louisiana will be allowed to staff entire schools without hiring a single certified teacher. What a reform! Shame on those who would defend the status quo!

So welcome back public school teachers of Louisiana! You have my sincere admiration for the miracles you will accomplish this year despite the challenges you face. All I ask is that all of you resolve to use a small part of your boundless energy to fight back against these horrible attacks on your profession. I and many other old retired teachers promise to stand and fight with you!


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