Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holly Boffy is Wrong

Holly Boffy, a teacher turned politician has now come to the conclusion that the current discontent among teachers is really just a small minority disturbance caused by the "teacher unions". What a ridiculous politically motivated whine! I hope my readers can take the time to read the top story in The Education Week Teacher section this week. It is an account of the evaluation experience that the teachers in Louisiana will soon be subjected to. This Florida teacher likens her experience to Dante's rings of hell. Please read also the blog this week by Dianne Ravitch. She has some pointed remarks about what is now happening in Louisiana.

Ms Boffy is wrong! She has sold her soul to the non-educator "reformers" who would have the public believe that the under performance of many Louisiana students should be totally and permanently placed upon the shoulders of teachers. These reformers like White and Jindal talk about honoring and "empowering" teachers while they systematically dismantle both the profession and the public schools our children depend upon. The unions had nothing to do with these false charges against teachers. The unions had nothing to do with the claim that the present evaluation system does not rate enough teachers is unsatisfactory. The fact that one third of our students in Louisiana are performing below grade level is used as justification by the reformers that the new evaluation system must classify at least 10% of all teachers as "ineffective" each year. This is not an evaluation system, it is a purge designed to rid Louisiana of the imagined incompetent, lazy teachers that are holding our students back.

How will Ms Boffy and the other reformers feel when several years from now after many good teachers' careers have been destroyed, and the student scores will not have changed significantly? How will they feel when the voucher students and the charter students still continue to perform below grade level? How would they feel if a system labeled one of their own children as "below average"?  Surely it must still be the teacher's fault! Just fire this batch and get some new ones. Mark Twain once said "Tis sad but true, that half the American citizens are below average." In the heat of the education reform movement we have created a Lake Wobegon Effect where all of the children are supposed to be above average or by golly the teachers will pay!

I do not believe the average members of the public believe teachers are to blame for all the ills of society. But I also believe that the general public will not respect teachers if the teachers do not respect themselves enough to fight for their profession.

Please for the sake of the teaching profession, do not let this scare tactic about teacher unions or the "good teachers" verses the "bad teachers" distract you from fighting back. Please contact your legislators over and over again if necessary and plan on participating in the protest at the Capitol on April 4.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Please Contact Senators

The phone number for the Senate switchboard is 225-342-2040. Please telephone your senator to ask that he/she oppose the Governor's legislative package. If you cannot get through to your senator leave a message asking him/her to oppose HB 974, HB 976, SB 603, and SB 597. Have you filled out the Senate Protest slip provided for you at the LAE website? It's easy to do. Just go to



Please check this blog regularly for updates on the legislation and for more details on the mass protest planned for April 4.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Senate Slows Jindal Train

Louisiana Educator Poll shows little faith in Governor's reform bills
The most recent poll of readers of this blog indicates almost no confidence that firing teachers using the Act 54 value-added system will result in improved student performance on state tests. The poll shows that only 3% of  the 1200 plus readers who responded believe that student performance will improve significantly. An additional 29% indicated that their may be a small gain in student performance initially which would stall because very little is being done to address the root causes of student under performance. My personal belief (even though this was not addressed in the poll) is that beefing up early childhood education could make a real difference. One part of the governor's legislation, HB 933, proposes to improve early childhood education. But with no adequate funding for early childhood education, (the Governor turned down federal funding for this recently) I believe the Governor's legislation will amount to window dressing.

Reform Package Expected to Allow For More Deliberation in The Senate
Several Senators have insisted that Jindal floor leaders allow time for adequate briefing of Senators on the the Governor's education reform package. Senator Appel has agreed to have the State Superintendent and others provide briefing sessions for senators before they are required to vote on the package.

Well, don't expect that briefing to be "fair and balanced". Educators in the field who really understand how destructive this legislation will be for children and for professional educators need to do their own "briefing" of the legislators. Please use your creativity to set up local meetings with senators in their districts so that educators can engage them in question and answer sessions. I also encourage my readers to go to the LAE website at and fill out one of the Senate slip protest forms for your senator.

A Letter From a Biology Teacher
The following letter was sent to me recently by a young Biology teacher. I believe it expresses the feelings of many teachers on the current education reform efforts:

To Louisiana Educator:
Louis Pasteur is one of the greatest scientists of all time. With his medical breakthroughs, he extended the lives of millions of people at his time and still today. When he was acknowledged for his accomplishments in 1883, he replied:

Oh my father and mother (who were both poor and uneducated), it is to you that I owe everything. Thy enthusiasm, my valiant mother, thou passed it on to me. If I have always associated the greatness of science and the greatness of country, it is because I was filled with the feelings that thou hadst inspired. And thou, my dear father, whose life was hard as thy hard trade, thou last shown me what patience and prolonged effort can do. It is to thee that I owe perseverance in daily work. Not only hadst thou qualities which go to make a useful life, but also admiration for great men and women. To look upward, learn to the utmost, to rise ever higher, such was thy teaching.”

I wonder; did the schools he attended get an A, B, C, D or F on their school performance score?

I have been teaching now for 13 years, in East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes, following in the footsteps of “parents” who were in the profession for a combined 65 years. We (previous Jindal supporters) constantly speak of how rewarding the classroom can be, knowing we have the chance to make a difference. However, the conversation is quickly over shadowed by the new era of education-accountability.

Yes, teachers should be accountable; that goes without saying. But to what end? According to Governor Jindal, teachers are now responsible for high school pregnancies. (Tuesday’s paper) Will there ever come a time when we face reality, dare to be politically incorrect and say that parents are equally or more so responsible for their child’s success? Of course not. That would make sense. In the modern classroom, technology is continually integrated, methods of communication between school and home are at an all time high, and teachers are required to attend days of professional development to further enhance knowledge of various learning strategies. Both weekly and daily lesson plans are created to map what will be covered and how it relates to GLE’s (grade level expectations). And above all, we are instructed to reach all 120+ students on an individual basis based on their unique learning style. To make parents aware of public school’s “expectations”, schools were recently given standard letter grades that reflect their overall performance. The grade is based on how well students perform on tests. I taught at (X) High School which received an A and now I teach at (Y) High which received a D; I must have regressed tremendously as a teacher. The SPS, (school performance score) also takes into account graduation rates. So educators are also responsible for attendance and dropout rates. If I had decided to drop out of high school, I am pretty sure my parents would have had something to say about it; my school would have simply provided the paperwork.

We need reform, but not in the classroom. The first public school was opened in 1635 and the basic premise of school--teach/learn-- hasn’t changed. What have changed are the attitudes and ambitions of those who attend. But, when it comes to action and questioning how we can fix what’s broken, it always comes back on the schools. What’s wrong with education? How does your child’s school measure up? And now that measuring stick--whether or not little Johnny can pass a test--will affect my livelihood as a professional. Has anyone making the rules sat in a public school classroom in the last ten years?

In summary, I got into education hoping to make a difference in a child’s life. In my years of experience, I feel I have reached some, not all and therefore I will always have room to grow. With responsibilities continually stacking up, and salaries now being manipulated in front of our faces, the classroom does not seem to be as rewarding as it once was. Schools are trying everything in the arsenal to improve academically and yet, sub par scores seem to be solely represented as a reflection of the schools’ efforts, or lack thereof. The reality is on any given day a classroom teacher may have an hour of face time with a child within a 24 hour period, and that time is divided among all the students in the class. Are the academic expectations put on schools unrealistic? No. But, they CANNOT and WILL NOT solely be reached in the classroom. Reflect on Pasteur’s homage and let’s ALL be accountable. It’s the promise of education, and our future.