Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Serious Blow to the Teaching Profession

BESE has now formally appointed John White, a man from far away with almost no professional credentials as our State Superintendent of Education. To accomplish this, the Governor and BESE were willing to waive all of the professional requirements in Louisiana Law. The following is my comment on this appointment:

 This appointment of the new State Superintendent by BESE deals a serious blow to teaching and school administration in Louisiana as a profession. Mr White may be a fine person, but his credentials as a professional educator are too minimal for him to be respected as the leader of education by the 50,000 teachers and administrators in the field who have real education credentials. It is permissible to have the Board overseeing education to be composed of lay people but it is bad policy for BESE to waive all the professional requirements for the position of State Superintendent that are in Louisiana law. How can this man be leader of a profession of which he is not a true member? I believe this appointment is bad for the morale of professional educators in Louisiana. The fact that we are all frustrated with the poor performance of many of our Louisiana students does not justify the scapegoating of the entire teaching profession. If we look carefully into this issue we will find that we are punishing the very professionals who are working the hardest to prepare our students for the future. Once we discourage these dedicated teachers, and they leave the profession, they will be almost impossible to replace.
Michael Deshotels, Retired Educator

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Have You Been Invited?

According to the notice linked here, on January 30, Louisiana will conduct an education summit titled LEADERSHIP FOR CHANGE! 2012 Louisiana Education Summit, where presumably proposals for education reform for Louisiana will be discussed. The conference will be led by Governor Jindal and Representative Stephen Carter (Rep. Carter was just appointed chairman of the House Education Committee).

This education summit should be a big deal! The event is apparently by invitation only. One would assume that it would include local superintendents or at least officers of the Superintendent's Association, school board officials and local school supervisors of curriculum, local accountability supervisors, and even classroom teachers. These are the people who have dedicated their careers to the education of our Louisiana public school students. They are the ones who know the most about what works and what does not work in our schools.  They should be the first ones invited to any education summit where the future of Louisiana education will be discussed and planned.

Instead the agenda and presenters for the conference makes it look  more like an indoctrination session for selected persons by a group of education reform carpetbaggers who seem to be selling schemes for education privatization to Louisiana. In this scenario, the Louisiana education system is considered by the new carpetbaggers as backwards, ineffective, wasteful, and dominated by entrenched defenders of the status quo who only want to protect their cushy jobs. The new carpetbaggers want to encourage the Legislature to remove or modify teacher tenure so that a certain percentage of teachers can be fired based on student test performance. EBR is already considering a plan that would fire 25% of their teaching force based on student scores (see my Dec. 23 post). The main thrust of the summit though seems to be to recommend that Louisiana make "bold" changes in the educational system that would expand school choice in the form of more charters and more vouchers. Governor Jindal has already implied that he favors an expansion of the voucher system now operating in New Orleans.  Leslie Jacobs of New Orleans reports however, that the test performance of the voucher students has been even lower than that of the students who stayed in the Recovery District. Take a look at this recent article from the Times-Picayune where the reporter Andrew Vanacore claims to have the scoop from some of the Governor's insider power brokers about his plans for education reform in the coming legislative session.

Representative Carter said he thought Louisiana leaders should hear from leaders in other states who had been successful at education reform. Lets take a look at some of the presenters at this Leadership for Change Summit:
  • The keynote speaker is Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City public education system. His background is that of a very high priced lawyer. As New York schools Chancellor he presided over a reportedly dramatic  improvement of student performance in that system only to find a few years later that it was the standard for student performance that had been lowered. When the standards were restored to their former rigor, it turned out that the system had made almost no progress. Mr Klein is now directing a new "for profit" education software and distance learning venture for NewsCorps tycoon Rupert Murdock.
  • The present Vice Chancellor of the New York school system will also speak, along with soon to be appointed State Superintendent, John White.
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is on the agenda. He is a major promoter of school choice and a virtual schools proposal called Digital Learning Now. We are informed that Jeb Bush is the one who suggested to Jindal the new school letter grading system which has inadvertently labeled 87% of the Louisiana Recovery District schools as "D" or "F".
  • Dr Howard Fuller, the founder of the Black Alliance for Education Choice will be a principal speaker. There may be a pitch here for school vouchers for black children.
  • Ben Austin of The Parent Revolution in California and Scott Shirley of Kipp Charter schools in Arkansas will serve on a panel
It looks like Louisiana is in for another major education reform push. This time the goal seems to be to let the private entrepreneurs with minimal education background have a go at it.