Monday, April 11, 2011

Coalition For Louisiana Public Education

Click here to see the full press release announcing the formation and priorities of the Coalition For Louisiana Public Education. This coalition now includes many of the major organizations involved with public education in Louisiana. The coalition intends to advocate for positive changes in education that will preserve and enhance traditional public education in Louisiana. The group has adopted seven priorities including proper education funding by the Legislature, the ending of unfunded mandates, and a halt to the takeover and privatization of public schools. This group is encouraging all educators to speak with a unified voice to legislators and BESE members. This blog will inform educators each week on actions by the Coalition, and encourage contacts with legislators on specific issues.

Appointment of Recovery District Superintendent Ignores the need for Professional Qualifications
State Superintendent Pastorek's appointment of John White, a charter school and Teach For America advocate with minimal education qualifications as Superintendent of the Recovery District continues the trend of lowering professional standards in the hiring of administrators by our Department of Eduction. Mr White had just left the collapsing administration of New York Chancellor Cathleen Black, another non-educator. Ms Black served as chief administrator for the nation's largest school system for only three months before finding she could not cope with the job. See the article about this fiasco at this link. Dianne Ravitch has pointed out the serious flaws in the so called education reforms recently inflicted on New York and Chicago. These are the two systems where White got his administrative experience. White has a BA degree in English, three years as a Teach For America teacher, and a couple of years practice as a vice Chancellor in charge of dismantling and converting public schools to charters in New York. The salary has not yet been determined for this new appointee, but apparently BESE has given Pastorek carte blanche on the salary issue. This appointment continues the attack on the teaching profession in Louisiana.

Reform based on myths
Ben Wildavsky writes in Foreign Policy Magazine that much of the criticism of U. S. public schools is unfounded. He points out as I did in an earlier blog that our schools are working just fine for Asian origin and Caucasian kids. The problem we have is in closing the achievement gap for high poverty Hispanic and Black students. I emphasize high poverty here because there are plenty of more advantaged minority kids who are doing just fine in our public schools. This article shows that it makes no sense to label a school as “failing” just because it happens to be serving the most difficult population to educate. I believe you will find Wildavsky's article very much on target.

My concern is that some of the reforms being implemented in Louisiana to deal with so called “failing schools” that somehow just happen to be serving high poverty minority students, is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. Grading the schools using primarily student scores will automatically stigmatize and demoralize the educators serving high needs students while ignoring real progress made by these educators in reaching the most challenging students. The introduction of value-added teacher and administrator evaluations will also do the opposite of what is desired by driving the strongest teachers away from the most challenging schools. We should be providing real incentives (financial and otherwise) for solid experienced teachers to do the extra work needed for moving these students up instead of running the teachers out! Finally, the continued threat of school takeover or the new waiver options that may require the principal and at least half the faculty to be fired from a school sends the message that members of the teaching profession are expendable as experimental schemes are tested on children.