Thursday, January 2, 2014

School Vouchers Are a Hoax!

Happy New Year!

We need to work very hard to insure that 2014 will be a better year for our public schools.

I just came across this article about the Walton Family Foundation beefing up their efforts to promote vouchers. It made me wonder: "What business do the Walton heirs have in trying to dictate that we should spend public tax money on private schools?" This story and other reports like it caused me to reassess my shopping habits at Wal Mart.

We keep hearing about how vouchers help low income kids to escape failing schools. This article in the Advocate shows that such an assumption is highly questionable.

Almost everything we know about the Jindal/White voucher program in Louisiana demonstrates that it is basically a hoax perpetrated on Louisiana taxpayers and parents of some of our most at risk students.  The New Living Word voucher school was so blatantly fraudulent that even John White was forced to admit that it should not continue. But that did not prevent dozens of other highly questionable schools, as indicated by the recent state audit from continuing to pad their budgets using voucher money. New Living Word and others like it, demonstrate clearly that just giving parents a "choice" of what to do with our tax money is not anything close to school reform!

We need once more to address this bogus term "failing school" used by the reformers to condemn many of our good public schools. Jindal has expanded the definition to include all public schools that are rated F, D, and C by the John White school rating system. As was brilliantly demonstrated by Noel Hammatt, in the excellent article, Why Schools Fail or What if Failing Schools Aren't, such schools are usually far from failing in their services to students. There is no evidence whatsoever in White's rating system that students in F, D, and C schools are not receiving excellent instruction in such schools. In fact, the most recent analysis by Herb Bassett of accountability and school grading for the 2012-13 school year, provides remarkable evidence that such schools are demonstrating better results with at risk students than are the A and B schools. The state audit finds that there is no evidence that the voucher students are performing any better than they were at their old schools.

The problem is that the school grading system which was sold to Louisiana by former Florida governor turned "reformer expert", Jeb Bush, is totally misleading and unfair to our public schools. As demonstrated by Hammatt, all the grading system does is tell us which schools are serving our most challenged student populations.  There is no better example of this phenomenon than the grades assigned to the Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired. (These schools are run directly by John White's DOE)  It was pointed out recently at a BESE meeting that these two schools are always rated F by the John White grading system. Yet it is completely obvious that this is because of the high proportion of students with severe disabilities served by these two schools. This is also true of all of our alternative schools across the state. It is just wrong and unfair to the dedicated professionals serving these students to label their schools as F schools.

But some people in other parts of the country are finally coming to their senses. I think it is great news that Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York City has announced the elimination of this grading system for the public schools in his city. Why can't Louisiana for once follow an example of positive school reform?

But my most important point here is that it is wrong to  use this flawed grading system as an excuse for sending our public school students to many substandard private schools. This whole scheme makes a mockery of the concept of school choice.


Anonymous said...

Louisiana still needs to decide, as a state, if we are going to create a "public school" system with Christian only, creationist science, conservative perspective curriculum or true public schools to educate a diverse population for a complex future as citizens of what could be a forward thinking state!?!?!?!
The Next Generation Science Standards are out and Louisiana still isn't even talking about them. Sure, not every science teacher agrees with them but much of that is due to the fact the NGSS require strong science backgrounds-degrees in science. We have some excellent science teachers in this state but sooooo many have been teaching the same science the same way for years and years and years. Science changes and those of us who teach it must change too. Fear keeps many of us from teaching science, Some of us have felt the hatred of Christian parents if the word evolution is even mentioned in their child's class and the administrators will NOT back you up. They just say not to teach the"controversial" stuff!

"Research from two Penn State professors reveals American students may be lagging behind in their knowledge of evolution because teachers are unprepared or unwilling to teach it. Some teachers advocate creationism, while others are afraid to address the topic for fear of controversy."

The Waltons/Gates want to create schools in their image...err interests...!
Look at the demographic characteristics of those trying to take public schools away from the public!
There is NO reason Louisiana shouldn't fulfill the potential it has; and our population has as much potential as any other to educate our students to be intelligent, prepared and proactive citizens able to make informed decisions as they cast their votes.

Michael Deshotels said...

Anonymous, now you've got me going on one of my pet peeves. Science! I and many other science teachers in Louisiana were dedicated to teaching critical thinking skills many years ago before the state mandated GLEs and now the Common Core. In those days teachers enjoyed respect and academic freedom. You bet we taught evolution, and we did not hear a single complaint from administrators or parents. Thank God we did not have to teach to the almighty state tests. Everyone trusted teachers to design their own tests, sort of like what they do in Finland even today. And guess what? Most of our college prep kids did not need remedial courses. Of course in those days we actually distinguished between college prep and career prep. So we did not have to water down our college prep courses like Physics and Chemistry to try to make them easier for all kids.

You are so right when you imply that we now have fewer true professional science educators. That's because few college students are not willing to pursue the rigors of a science education curriculum so that they can then be tortured by the so called accountability system in our schools today.

Here is just one example of how little science literacy we have in even the science reporting by the news media. We still hear journalists talk about "weightlessness" for the astronauts in earth orbit. Even the science reporters never even bother to explain that the astronauts are not really weightless, they are simply in free fall around the earth at a lateral speed that allows them to remain in orbit. The earth's gravity is still pulling on them with a force of at least 98% of the normal earth surface gravity. Now that's what we should be teaching in real science courses. Many of us taught that 40 years ago.

You are so right. The U.S. is way overdue in revamping the teaching of science, and I don't just mean evolution!

Anonymous said...

Michael thank you for validating my thoughts! I am sitting here thinking of what I would LOVE to teach when school starts this week but depressed but trying to figure out how to teach what I HAVE to! I HAVE to start preparing kids to pass the LEAP; who in their right mind thinks an 8th grader remembers what they learning in science in 6th and 7th grade?!?! So while having to complete my own curriculum I am supposed to review the previous two years???? The 8th grade LEAP is ridiculous, a cumulative test only 33% of which I teach! Social studies is in the same boat and ALL the emphasis is on Math and ELA. Don't misunderstand me; those are both critical core courses. MY frustration is the splitting of emphasis; all resources are focused, have been focused on those areas for years and I do not see the reading levels or the math scores rising and yet we keep doing the same thing over and over by focusing on 50% of a middle school students core courses! I have never had kids who just do not understand the importance of school and they ridicule science and social studies as even needed but I know they are just parroting the stuff they hear from their parents. Many teachers are just not prepared, do not realize they are not prepared, do not want to be prepared or don't care about teach real true science. Administration thinks if the parents are happy, the kids are given good grades and Jan through Mar is spent "getting ready for the LEAP" that is supposed to be science. If you are the teacher in the minority who really wants to teach science everyone thinks your perspective is way off, you are too serious, you teach material that is too hard and you just don't understand middle school students. In a court of law, a judge could find our schools innocent from ever "making" teachers teach to the test, however in reality they are. So now I sit here with a choice: teach to the test and play the game or teach real earth science and risk my job(and my sanity)-even if VAM is supposedly "on hold"!! Those of us who actually wrote real SLTs, instead of writing ones that are guaranteed to make us look good, are scrambling!
There are so many "Elephants in the classrooms" of Louisiana public schools no one wants to talk about that teachers are getting trampled!
At least on your blog we can talk about them! Ha!

Anonymous said...

When it comes to history, I am so tired of teaching up to the Reconstruction period. Does anyone realize that if a child drops out of high school, they will have little to no contemporary history offered to them? By contemporary, I mean anything after the 1890's....

Anonymous said...

My next door teacher struggles to make La History relevant and she is awesome when she teaches! I can hear her during my planning period and her depth of knowledge is amazing. However she struggles like I do to make kids who think I am ancient-over 30!-relevant to kids who as soon as school ends plug into Ipods and cellphones. I have often talked with her about teaching history from a more current and future perspective, something she would love to do! She and I talk about connecting the future of Louisiana, with the science behind it to look back and see what decisions were made in the past and how we can make better ones in the future especially about our environment, the Mississippi and our coastline. Our math teacher wants to graph the meanders as they change over time due to water speed and force, ELA wants to read a related article written by a woman who lived through the terrible floods and compare them to documents published by an engineer tasked with "correcting" the river to prevent flooding. We get all excited, then the bell rings and we go back to reality...a reality that could be soooooooo exciting!