Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Great Monroe News Star Editorial

Voucher Program: 
“Details to come”

11:59 PM, Aug. 13, 2012 |

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While no one is certain — because the state Department of Education will not release its records — it would appear to the most casual observer that the state's voucher program was approved "DTC."
That's "Details To Come."
And those details are so vague that even some members the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, who have rubber stamped approval of most every decision this year (after, we've learned, meeting in advance via phone to come to a consensus), may be starting to have questions.
All we can say at this point is a hearty "Hallelujah." It's about time to shine some light on this program.
In the most recent turn of events, after it became apparent last week that voucher athletes would not be allowed to play sports and some dude in South Louisiana who calls himself a “prophet” managed to garner himself a financial bonanza in vouchers, there's now the question of the Common Core Curriculum.
Students enrolled in Louisiana public schools this year will have a tougher curriculum and have to meet higher standards to make the grades they need to advance to the next level. That's the Common Core, which is used in 46 states.
But students who have transferred to private and parochial schools through the new statewide voucher program won't have to comply with the tougher standards.
The biggest differences from what's being taught now, said Nick Bolt, Department of Education deputy chief of staff, are "higher standards, higher expectations" for student performance. "The standards themselves are more rigorous. The Common Core will be better than what we have now."
But it's only in public schools because "private schools have not bought into the Common Core," Bolt said, and "we cannot require that private schools adopt the Common Core. They develop their own curriculum."
This new, tougher curriculum is practically guaranteed to plunge more students — and more schools — into "failing" status. Any educator who understands the testing process will tell you that when the rules change, as they will with the Common Core Curriculum, the baseline year shows more failures with improvements in future years as teachers understand what is required for their students to pass.
And that low scoring will then create opportunities for more vouchers and virtual online academies that don't face the same requirements of the Common Core.
If private and parochial schools are willing to accept taxpayer dollars, they should be held to the same standards as public schools. We are, after all, in this to improve the overall quality of education in Louisiana, are we not?
Questions are being raised about the quality of teaching and the academic quality of what's being taught at some of the new schools that are to receive state funding for the first time.
Even Penny Dastugue, president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, says "we need a deeper discussion of the approval process." She said she will ask the board Tuesday to postpone action on final approval of the first-time schools seeking approval so they can receive voucher funds.
"They're not just getting non-public approval status," which makes schools eligible for state textbooks and transportation, Dastugue said. "They're using it for a statewide voucher program" that brings thousands of dollars of state funding.”
There may be a constitutional question about this inequity related to the curriculum.
Article 8, Section 4 of the Louisiana Constitution states, "Upon application by a private elementary, secondary, or proprietary school with a sustained curriculum or specialized course of study of quality at least equal to that prescribed for similar public schools, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education shall approve the private school. A certificate issued by an approved private school shall carry the same privileges as one issued by a state public school."
Our best hope is that the elected and appointed BESE members will start asking questions — in public — about the voucher process.
It's obvious they too have been kept in the dark about the "DTC."
The editorials in this column represent the opinions of The News-Star's editorial board, composed of President and Publisher David B. Petty, Executive Editor Kathy Spurlock and community representatives Lyle Miller, Tom Nicholson and Kelly Shambro
Brad Allen Thompson · Top commenter
The goal of Jindal's program was to promote Republican Party ideology, not to protect students' interests or to improve academic standards. That is clear. When you try to improve something, you invest yourself, your time and your money into that thing, and make changes that bring demonstrable results. The Republican plan is and has always been nothing but washing their hands of the public education system, and disintegrating it so that private enterprise could step in and take over, with the benefit of subsidies from our public tax dollars.
, standards are higher at public schools with fewer resources and an out-flux of students, while private schools don't have to follow the same academic standards, don't have to follow clearly nondiscriminatory admissions standards, and as is reported nationally, can "teach" just...
See more   [Click on the link to the article above to read more.]
Better late than never.
But BESE is hardly the only culprit, how bout the rubber stampers of the Louisiana Legislature?
Or the Vice Pres, oops, I mean the governor who privatized Louisiana's public education system in the first place?
Remember this past spring, just a few months ago when all we heard from supporters of this debacle of an education 'reform' plan, how bad teacher and their unions were?
Funny how now that it’s happened all those cheerleaders have faded away... you know, if I didn't know any better I'd say it’s almost like they're ashamed of this Republican accomplishment.
Bilbo Jenkins · Top commenter
Agreed. Jindal performed a masterful dance, pirouetting from an open, honest discussion of vouchers and subsequent ramifications to a smokescreen of questioning teachers' benefits and their dedication to education. The chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak, with even the News Star having to reverse their prior lavish praise of "the boy wonder". Now, would all of you Jindal enthusiasts please admit you were flimflammed by this con artist and do something about it? If you can't own up to your misguided mistake of electing this man, then we are going to perpetually remain off course. As the old saying goes, "lead, follow, or get out of the way".

Time for you to step aside; those of us who warned you about him will get to work and clean up your mess.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome Back, Louisiana Public School Teachers

Louisiana teachers beginning the 2012-13 school year will face the greatest challenges in the history of our public education system. Teachers this year will be expected to do much more with much less and to do their jobs under the constant threat of humiliation and dismissal by a blatantly unfair evaluation system. This new system guarantees that at least 10% of the teachers who are rated by the new value-added system must be found to be “ineffective” and immediately be placed at the top of the list for layoffs and placed on track to dismissal and decertification. At the same time teachers will begin the process of preparing kids to take new high stakes tests based on the common core standards. (Our entire education system is now primarily about preparing kids for state tests)

Wow! Given these challenges and threats, only public school teachers could be expected to greet their students this year with a smile and a firm determination to continue giving their students the best education possible.

In my many years of dealing with public education I have never seen anything like the present threats to our teaching profession, nor have I ever seen the level of misinformation and scapegoating of teachers as I have seen this year. This blog has pointed out the blatant inaccuracy and unfairness of Louisiana's school grading system and its destructive effects on teacher morale. My analysis of all available data shows that Louisiana teachers today are educating students better than ever before, yet they have been labeled by our Governor as individuals who get paid for just breathing. This was a major insult to both teachers and their principals. When they pointed out the flaws of the so called reforms teachers' professional organizations/unions have been labeled as defenders of the status quo.

If you want to know the facts about the high level of performance of our teachers nationwide, read this linked article by education professor Linda Darling-Hammond. In this article Hammond points out that our public school students in schools that are not affected by poverty outperform even the highest performing school system in the world! My analysis all 1400 Louisiana public schools also demonstrates that the only significant causes of low achievement in our schools are the debilitating effects of poverty related factors. It is wrong and counterproductive to blame teachers for this condition. Yet none of Louisiana's efforts at reform are focused on the real problems and almost all reforms result in the threatening and punishing of teachers and principals. But the icing on the cake is Governor Jindal giving parents taxpayer funded “scholarships” to transfer their children to private schools that have inadequate facilities, teachers and a substandard curriculum.

It's as though Louisiana were to declare war on lung cancer and our war strategy would include the firing of a certain percentage of doctors while ignoring smoking, obesity and other environmental factors. What do you think would be the effect on lung cancer if we rated oncologists according to patient mortality and fired the bottom 10% and replaced them with “bright young” college graduates with 6 weeks of “intensive summer training” in curing cancer? By the way, those new “doctors” would only work as doctors for two years, then many of them would be promoted to run the hospitals. That's like what we are doing when we replace experienced teachers with TFA corps members and then promote some of them to run the State Department of Education!

Also this year, Louisiana will begin the process of creating a whole new type of charter school (type 1-B) that will be allowed to flood the airways, billboards and newspapers using part of their MFP dollars with misleading ads in an effort to lure the best students away from public schools. (Please read this commentary by a charter school teacher). And this year for the first time, charter schools in Louisiana will be allowed to staff entire schools without hiring a single certified teacher. What a reform! Shame on those who would defend the status quo!

So welcome back public school teachers of Louisiana! You have my sincere admiration for the miracles you will accomplish this year despite the challenges you face. All I ask is that all of you resolve to use a small part of your boundless energy to fight back against these horrible attacks on your profession. I and many other old retired teachers promise to stand and fight with you!