Thursday, April 18, 2013

Education Summit: Just Another Bogus Propaganda Effort

I attended the so called "Education Summit" called Leadership For Change yesterday in Baton Rouge. This was an invitation only conference sponsored mostly by LABI, the big business group, and several astro turf organizations that promote charter schools, vouchers and merit pay schemes all over the country. (Oh yes, a+pel was also a sponsor) There were very few real educators in attendance, and no real educators as speakers or panel members. State Superintendent John White did speak, but after what he tried to do recently with guidance counselors and librarians, special education funding, and what he has done in approving vouchers to religious schools with minimal facilities with weird curricula, I don't count him as a real educator.

But my real problem with this so called education summit is that it spoon fed a lot of decent business people and well meaning civic leaders in attendance a diet of hateful ideas about our public schools and a lot of outright lies about charters, vouchers and other misguided education deforms.

The first speaker was Campbell Brown, the former CNN news anchor and daughter of former Secretary of State Jim Brown. She mostly related horror stories about how the teacher unions in New York protected pedophiles and opposed laws to get rid of teachers who abuse children. She implied that Louisiana may have a similar problem. I have to say I was personally insulted by this, because I was a professional employee of the Louisiana Association of Educators for 20 years and served a term as the Executive Director for the LAE. In all that time I cannot remember one instance where the Association helped keep one pedophile in the classroom. To my knowledge there was never any law designed to protect children in schools that were opposed by the LAE or the LFT. In fact while I was Executive Director of LAE the Association sponsored a discipline law that was designed to create a better learning environment in every classroom.  (That law is now being violated all over the state at the insistence of the non-educators in our own DOE) There were cases where the Association successfully defended teachers who were falsely accused of improper behavior. After the meeting I called the former LAE Director of Legal services and he confirmed for me that the few cases of real misconduct by teachers in the last 30 years in Louisiana were non-members who were never defended by the LAE. I submit that Campbell Brown knows almost nothing about Louisiana public education. She attended all private schools while she was here. Her speech was nothing but an attempt to discredit the teacher unions that have united with the School Boards Association to defeat Jindal's unconstitutional attacks on public schools and public school teachers. But unfortunately the organizers of this "education conference" did not allow any rebuttal of these unfounded charges.

Another speaker, Gloria Romero, was the author of the Parent Trigger legislation that was first passed in California and which was part of the Jindal package adopted in Louisiana in the last session. This law allows parents in schools designated as failing to petition to have the school taken over by the Recovery District. There is no such provision to have any of the numerous failing schools in the Recovery District restored to the local school board, even though our public school systems are demonstrating better results and are now gaining back so many students that the RSD has closed schools and used the buildings for DOE administrators. No one on the panel of Leadership for Change mentioned that fact! In California, since the Parent Trigger was passed only one school has been converted using the Parent Trigger. You may want to read the real story here about how this was handled. No rebuttal was allowed of the bogus claims made by this presenter. As a bright spot, there is one bill (HB 115) offered in this legislative session that would allow parents to petition to have a failing RSD school restored to the local school board.

John White made his usual speech about the great strides made by the education reformers in Louisiana but he forgot to mention that 87% of the RSD takeover schools are graded D and F by his own system and that all but one of the schools taken over in Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, and St Helena had to be "reorganized" and taken back from their charter managers because they have been absolute failures by every measure. His big success story was about an unnamed student from Greensburg who made an appointment to come to the DOE to thank someone for providing her with a voucher to a private school. He also bragged that because of the Jindal reforms, every school system in the state now has pay for performance policies and policies that protect the best teachers during layoffs. He forgot to mention that there has been no money appropriated for these merit pay schemes and that the number two ranked school system in the state is being forced to lay off teachers because of the numerous unfunded mandates pushed by White and Jindal.

Another speaker, John Chavous, talked about the famous Nation at Risk report from 30 years ago which predicted economic catastrophe because of a week education system. Much of the data used in that and subsequent reports has been discredited. No one mentioned that the No Child Left Behind program which was intended to reform public education has been an absolute disaster and can no longer be enforced because it was based on false assumptions and had unrealistic goals. Chavous while serving on the Washington DC Council helped to bring in Michelle Rhee as Chancellor for that school system. Recent revelations show that she was an absolute disaster for DC schools.

At least one presenter (Romero) repeated the falsehood that "teachers are the biggest factor in student achievement". All of the data shows that teacher effectiveness is greatly overshadowed by the socioeconomic baggage students bring with them to school. No one mentioned the fact that not a single teacher merit pay scheme has been shown to work and that a recent comprehensive study by Vanderbilt University in Tennessee discredited a major merit pay system for teachers just this last year.

Condolezza Rice who seems to be a likable person, talked about the need for high expectations for children, the importance of providing choice, and the idea of rewarding good teachers. I just don't know of any education expertize or credentials she has to be talking about Leadership for Change in Louisiana education.

Governor Jindal showed up late and said he would keep trying over and over again until his reform package is resurrected from the court defeats.

Many in the audience were successful business people who know that you always bring in the best experts when you are contemplating major changes in business. Yet they were subjected to presentations by persons who have absolutely no expertize in education who are still pushing programs that have been discredited. No wonder the real educators in Louisiana are disgusted and dismayed with the extremist propaganda promoted by this so called "Education Summit."


Lee Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT said...

As for Campbell Brown, the facts (history) speak for themselves.

Add to that my opinion that she is a hypocrit.

Anonymous said...

I would ask who's running the asylum but we're all too well aware of that. The systems are run about as well as the OPP (Orleans Parish Prison) with similarities in a lack of oversight, checks and balances, accountability, transparency and incredulous dealings occurring behind locked doors! What about being in need of REFORM! Today, I am just so tired of fighting (tired of the lies, the games, discovering the realization that there is no loyalty in return for giving your heart and soul, etc...). Public education should not be a battle. I remember when I thought it was beautiful. Today I am despondent about what has happened to this profession, what has happened to the schools I attended growing up and what is happening now to some of the schools I have taught in. I am concerned about the future, what my place will be in it professionally and how I feel about that. My original desire is still there but damage has been done and there have been depletions in other areas. No longer do I innocently believe what I have taught the kids: that if you apply the golden rule it will be applied to you, that honesty is always the best policy, that as long as you try your best that is what really counts, or that if you follow the rules things will turn out to be fair. The real education is in learning that what we have been "taught" is false. Right now I do not feel very professional. I just want to express and put a voice to the fact/opinion that this bureaucratic educational "crap" sure does STINK! Thank you Mike for supporting teachers in Louisiana, for calling things out as you see them and for what they are, and for continuing the fight (especially on the days when we feel like we're beginning to lose ours). It does not go unnoticed.

Margaret said...

I keep reading your enlightening posts even though I am usually nauseous or in tears afterward. How can we veteran teachers even think about suggesting to innocent young people that they should enter what was once the noble profession? It's all so very sad.

Michael Deshotels said...

Margaret, i am so sorry. I wish there was better news. I would be happy to report it. I am still an optimist. If we are vigilant in standing up for the profession I believe someday we can stop the insanity!

Anonymous said...

I will be switching my membership out of Apel to LAE.
Thank you for another informative and clearly written blog. Since the press doesn't care this is the only way to learn the truth, a painful truth, but how will parents and those business people find out the truth?
We can't tell them without getting in trouble for insubordination!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if the association is covering for pedophiles but I do know that when I was in the eighth grade and reported the behavior of one of my teachers who had a tendency to leer I was given the option of filing papers in the guidance counselor's office. That was the discipline he faced that I had to relocate. When I was in the 6th grade and repeatedly reported a teacher for the way he spoke to students and repeatedly paddled me for no reason again nothing was done. Maybe in order to get a better idea of what is actually going on some type of study should be done. Thankfully most of my school days were very positive and I was fortunate to have been taught by some amazing instructors.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the pedophile protection, "you can't remember" and "you don't recall" instances where this happened, doesn't mean it didn't happen. I appreciate your passion regarding the subject of Louisiana eduacation. But in reading your blog, I see so many of the tricks of loaded questions used in politics such as "when did you stop beating you wife?" of course, the assumption has to be that at one time they did, correctly or not. A few weeks ago, I read re:the principal of the charter school featured on the OWN network and you stated "I don't even know if he has the qualifications to be a principal." Though I wave no banners for charter schools, to raise that question without facts is irresponsible at best. He actually does have great credentials and would qualify to be a principal, charter school or public school.
I support many of your ideas, but I disagree with the manipulation of those who may not be as informed as others. The situation of Louisiana education is dire enough without having to inflate it. Last point, a personal opinion, Condoleeza Rice is a brilliant person and anything she has to say on the subject of education is worth listening to. Yes, Louisiana has special needs, as does every state, but education is education, and her main points were exactly right on.

Sue Prudhomme said...

OK, let me see if I understand this. Not only is the state government using the scores of student to dictate teacher pay, their tenure and keeping their job period. Now, I have just read that the legislature wants to cut funds that are going to the upper part of special education, which is the gifted and talented. The ones that will make a difference in this world and the scores of the school. As a veteran teacher of 34 years, I have seen millions of dollars flow into the school for the opposite end of the spectrum of special education. Never have I ever heard of them even hint at cutting the money for them. The gifted program is about the only part of the public education system that is not broken. In Lafayette Parish the middle school program is located in the Ghetto. (Google Ghetto Lafayette, La.) The high school program is in the oldest facility in the Parish, in spite of the locations of the gifted programs, the children excel. The meager funds that are spent on children that will lead in the future, should be increased, rather than decreased. All children deserve quality education, even the gifted or not so gifted. The legislature needs to allow Teachers to Teach. They also need to be included in policy making that concerns education. Who best knows how to fix a car.......mechanic, who best knows how to build a house.....carpenter, who best knows how to work with pipes......plumber, who best can make a child learn.....a Teacher!!!!!!!!Help them!!!!

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