Sunday, October 14, 2018

Please Help Elect Public Education Advocates

Many of our public schools, particularly those in urban districts in Louisiana, are the targets of privatization efforts funded by out-of-state and local power brokers who continue to believe that school privatization works despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Fortunately there are active citizens here who have studied the facts and are determined to protect local control of our schools and our public education tax dollars. This blog post is encouraging local Baton Rouge voters to support one of those champions of our public schools.

Tania Nyman is a parent activist in Baton Rouge running for the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, District 7, who is dedicated to  local control of our public schools. I am encouraging my readers to study her platform here, and help elect Ms Nyman to the East Baton Rouge Parish school board.

For over ten years now, outside education reform groups have pushed for the takeover of local schools in Baton Rouge by privately operated charter schools in the belief that private operators could "cut through the bureaucracy" and raise the achievement of inner city students. The selling point for charter schools was that removing regulations on charter schools, including the requirement for hiring certified teachers, would allow the private operators to focus on raising test scores. According to state regulations, these schools would be allowed to keep their charters only if they succeeded in raising the achievement levels of their students.

This entire effort has failed miserably, and instead charter operators are allowed to profit from our tax dollars even though almost all such schools have shortchanged students and taxpayers.

The latest student test scores for the great majority of Baton Rouge charter schools are well below the state average even when compared to the similar socio-economic students in our real public schools.

The state has basically reneged on its promise to close down non-performing charter schools and the operators continue to reap ill gotten profits from our tax dollars. This is wrong for the children and unfair to taxpayers who are supposed to be able to hold such operators accountable, but who are excluded from the management of such schools. This is taxation without representation!

Tania Nyman is running for school board against a political machine heavily funded by privatization interests, many of which benefit directly from our school taxes.

Please read Ms Myman's platform information here and encourage Baton Rouge voters in District 7 to return our schools to local control!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

How German Schools Produce a More Relevant Diploma

My recent posts on this blog make the point that John White may have convinced the business community that he has imposed high standards on Louisiana schools, but the actual standards are really laughingly low.

Many school reformers are obsessed with comparing our standards and practices with other advanced countries. So a trip to Germany by a group of teachers described here by Education Week may give us valuable insights about what really works in K-12 education.

The American teachers learned about how a large proportion of students in Germany go through extensive vocational training and actual on-the-job experience while in high school.

Germany has long been recognized for having a superior vocational and technical training program that starts in high school. Many credit that vocational and apprenticeship training with Germany's dominance in many manufacturing areas. German machinists, auto technicians, and tradespersons are considered by many to be the best in the world. In the U. S. politicians often try to blame unfair trade deals for crippling American manufacturing, but industry experts would point to our weak vocational training programs as the main culprit.

For years the education reform movement in the U. S. has been obsessed with attempting to prepare all students for college to the determent of vocational education. In Louisiana, when Paul Pastorek, Bobby Jindal, and John White with the support of LABI set us on a course of Common Core and test prep, they just about killed the vocational programs in Louisiana schools. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, forcing White to lower the Geometry EOC test to only 11.8% correct answers for passing. Algebra and English test scores are also extremely low. Obsessive test prep and college for all has failed, resulting in many students getting empty diplomas.

John White belatedly realized after several years of strict college prep "for all" policy that the Louisiana legislature had passed a career diploma law just a few years before he took over education. I personally had worked with local superintendents and legislators to help pass this law (Act 246) in the 2009 legislative session. Between former Superintendent Pastorek and now White, the career diploma law had been ignored and vocational education had been starved. So White belatedly started the Jump Start program about 8 years too late, after vocational and distributive education had been just about stamped out. Since there are now very few viable vocational programs in our high schools, White has pushed to establish cooperative programs with community colleges throughout the state. One of the big problems in implementing this system is that some high schools are not close enough to a community college or technical college to allow high school students to attend for part of the school day.

All of a sudden, business leaders are complaining that our high schools are not producing the kind of highly trained workers they need most. Schools are producing almost no skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, AC specialists, or even practical nurses and caregivers for our aging population. But by golly we are still trying to teach everybody Geometry with a passing score of only 11.8% on the EOC test! It is ironic, that it was the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) that had teamed up with the "know nothing" reformers to push Common Core and college prep at the expense of Vocational. Those same non-educators are still claiming that John White and his pitiful standards are a success.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

It’s worse than I thought!

Have we ever seen a passing score as low as 11.8%?
My previous post on this blog lamented the erosion of standards for promotion and graduation. But the erosion is worse than I thought.

Herb Bassett, a highly respected math and band teacher,  read the blog post below and sent me an email correcting some critical assumptions in my analysis of standards for graduation. The new passing scores are now even more ridiculously low.

Herb pointed out that the policy for passing our new high school End-of-Course tests is set at Approaching Basic, not Basic, as I had assumed in my previous post. (See question #7 in the FAQs provided by the LDOE on the new testing.) So the new cut score for passing Algebra I is not based on 23.5% of the questions answered correctly.  The true passing score is only 14.7%. The English I passing score is now down to only 17%.

Also, the minimum passing score on the Geometry test is now really only 11.8%! John White had originally told the local superintendents last fall that the cut score for passing would be basic. Somewhere along the way, for high school EOC, the minimum cut score got changed. The elementary passing scores on LEAP are still at Basic. But that doesn't matter much since there are no longer any minimum test scores required for promotion from one grade to the next.

Herb also pointed out another instance where the percentage of our students achieving mastery on LEAP went up when in the same year, the NAEP scores showed a decline.

What if the driver's license test could be passed by getting only 11.8% of the written questions right? Would we trust that this person was capable of operating a vehicle safely on our roads? Who would trust these students who passed a math course with as little as 11.8% correct answers to go to college or get a job that involved math?