Saturday, April 6, 2013

Jindal Reforms Based on Disrespect of Teachers

Please take the time to view this video of part of the House Education Committee that took place almost exactly one year ago. This occurred when part of Governor Jindal's education reform package was being introduced in the House of Representatives. The bill (HB 974) at that time by Rep. Carter on behalf of the Governor was designed to destroy teacher tenure just like the bill now being introduced by Senator Appel described in my previous post. Almost on a moment's notice as reported in this blog last year that the Governor intended to rush this through before teachers had a chance to react, several thousand teachers showed up wanting to testify on legislation that would possibly drastically change their profession forever. Please click on the link above to read last year's description of the legislation and tell me if I was right or not.

But the Governor's allies in the legislature including Rep. Nancy Landry and Simone Champagne representing Lafayette, Vermilion, and Iberia, were upset that teachers would have the nerve to leave their classrooms and object to their professional status being destroyed. I believe I have described the effect of this legislation as changing the employment status of a teacher to no more than that of a teenage grocery store clerk.

So Representative Landry made a motion seconded by Rep Champagne to require testifiers (for the first time in this legislative committee's history) to reveal what kind of leave they had taken to come and testify in this committee. But there were several legislators who spoke up to call this action what it really was: An attempt to intimidate citizens from participating in their government. It is ironic that this would be done to the very persons to whom we entrust the responsibility to teach this civic responsibility and right to our children.

Make no mistake about it. The entire Jindal "education reform" plan was based on disrespect for the teaching profession! If not, why would it strip teachers of seniority rights in layoffs that are enjoyed by many other employees. If not, why would it  immediately remove a teacher's tenure based on the test performance of a group of individuals who may or may not have listened to or cared about what was being presented in the classroom. If not, why would it make that one time performance on one test all the evidence needed to dismiss a teacher with 20 years of successful experience. If not, why would it set up a hearing process where two out of three of the hearing officers are beholding to those recommending a dismissal.

Those voting "yes" on the Landry intimidation motion were: Nancy Landry, Champagne, Broadwater, Henry Burns, Carmody, Cameron Henry, Hollis, Thompson, Shroeder and Carter.

Those voting against the Landry motion were: Wesley Bishop, Edwards, Alfred Williams, Pat Smith, Jefferson, Price, Richard, and Shadoin.

Special thanks should be given to those who spoke up as seen in the video and pointed out the real propose of the motion. This includes Senator Karen Carter Peterson who asked for special permission to speak on the motion even though this was unusual for a Senator to do.

So when these same bills come up in this year's legislative session, or in the special session the governor has said he may call, teachers must remember the humiliation that was attempted in last year's committee and be willing to rise to the challenge of once again defending our profession.

Teachers Fighting for Their Profession (3/15/2012)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tenure Destruction Bill Reintroduced

Senator Conrad Appel has now reintroduced a bill (Senate Bill 89) to drastically reduce the due process needed for teacher dismissals. This bill would nullify a teacher's tenure status based on only one year of negative ratings using the new teacher evaluation system starting with the 2013-14 school year. Three separate independent researchers have published papers pointing out that the VAM portion of the new evaluation system is so inaccurate that it should never be used to dismiss or invalidate tenure based on only one year of data! For the very latest report on the flaws in VAM just click on this link to a report just sent to the legislature by Herb Bassett.

These are the same changes to tenure that were part of Act 1 of 2012 which has been ruled unconstitutional by a district court judge. This ruling is being appealed to the Supreme court by the Jindal administration. Observers see the new Appel bill as an effort to re institute the teacher tenure destruction law in the event the Supreme Court also rules Act 1 unconstitutional. This new law if passed would presumably meet constitutional requirements because it avoids the multiple subjects contained in Act 1.

Let me explain to you why I say this bill is the teacher tenure destruction bill. First, the bill does away with all tenure and all due process based on only one bad evaluation. Three independent researchers and the creator of VAM for Louisiana, Dr George Noell have all agreed that no decision on teacher ineffectiveness should be made based on only one year of VAM data. See this 5 minute video by Herb Bassett. Second, the Appel bill makes it clear that an evaluation of "ineffective" on the new evaluation without corroborative evidence of any kind is sufficient proof that the teacher is incompetent and therefore can be dismissed immediately. So having tenure means nothing if the case is open and shut just based on this one evaluation. Even if a teacher's principal has given a teacher excellent evaluations for many years and still gives a teacher a good evaluation on the observation portion of COMPASS, if the teacher falls in the bottom 10% of VAM, everything else is overruled and the teacher is declared "ineffective"! Third, and the coup de grace to tenure, is the kangaroo court nature of the tenure hearing under the Appel bill. If a teacher is recommended for dismissal, the tenure committee is stacked against the teacher. (You know the same way Jindal stacked the House and Senate Education Committees with his "yes men and gals" to insure that he could control all education legislation). The tenure hearing panel in the Appel bill would be composed of three members; one appointed by the Superintendent, one appointed by the principal and one appointed by the teacher. Need we say more?

My advice is that every educator who cares about fair treatment of teachers should immediately send an email to both their Senators and Representatives and ask them to vote against SB 89. You may want to cite just a little of the information I have given you above in your email.

Two Other Important Matters
Previous posts on this blog have made the point that all the RSD takeover schools in the Baton Rouge area have been total failures and the State is now trying to reorganize them and take over more schools to form an "Achievement Zone". I pointed out in previous posts that the takeover schools were so bad that parents pulled their children out and re enrolled them in the EBR public school system.

Now it turns out that so many students were lost by RSD that one of the schools taken over is now vacant and has been converted into a central office for RSD. Remember that White has always taken the position that a central office is unnecessary since it is better to put all authority for administration with the charter schools and cut out the bureaucracy. Well it turns out that Prescott Middle school in Baton Rouge is now being used as just such a central office by White's highly paid overseers. Well now a parent group in Baton Rouge is running a petition asking that Prescott Middle be returned to EBR since many of the students have returned and the school system needs the building! I have signed that petition and I would like to request that my readers sign it also if you agree that the RSD has no business keeping a building if they have no students to put in it. Just click on the link below and follow the steps for signing.

Please Consider Giving Financial Support to an Independent Voice on the schools in New Orleans

This blog does not take advertising, and I do not make one penny for publishing this blog which is dedicated to providing independent education information to educators and parents. But some causes require financial support.

Dr Raynard Sanders runs a weekly radio program called The New Orleans Imperative in New Orleans that tells the truth to parents and citizens about the RSD and its charters and the Jindal vouchers. It takes funding to keep this program on the air, so I am sending them a small contribution and I hope some of my readers will consider it also. This is how you do it.

Please join me in supporting the critical role of The New Orleans Imperative plays in advancing equity by making a donation to the The New Orleans Imperative. Donations can be made online at or via U.S. and mail (make checks out to Faubourg St. Roch Improvement Association (checks to The New Orleans Imperative, c/o FSRIA, 1830 St. Roch St., New Orleans, LA 70117.

Faubourg St. Roch Improvement Association is a nonprofit 501(C) (3) organization. All financial contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of tax laws.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Parents and Educators Object to LDOE Takeover Policies

Please click on this link to view an open letter written to New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, Steve Barr and the Oprah Winfrey Network by the John McDonogh advisory committee. I believe this advisory committee is made up of dedicated community leaders who would like to see a much better future for the students of John McDonogh High School. Their letter expresses legitimate concerns about the unfair negative depiction of the school by the Mayor, and more recently by the OWN network. The advisory committee members also object to charter operator Steve Barr using incorrect statistics to attempt to show false progress since he took control of the school. My opinion is that this entire incident is just one of many examples of the misuse of at risk students by non educators and con men who wish to profit personally at the expense of the students.

Another Good School Closed As a Result of Misguided Reforms
The following is a letter by the highly qualified principal of Delmont Elem in the EBR school system who is appalled to see her school closed by her local school system because of the threat of a takeover by the State Recovery School District. This is the same RSD that allows non educators like Steve Barr to take over public schools and convert them into charter schools that often exploit the children and our tax dollars.

Our State Department of Education is so anxious to take over schools that they wanted to take over this school after only a year and a half of a federally funded turn-around effort even though a commitment had been made to allow the reorganization of the school to have three years to show progress. All of the other schools taken over by the state and converted to charters in this school system have been total failures.

I had visited Delmont Elem. near the end of its first year of the turnaround project, and can attest to the fact that it was being run in a highly professional manner. Children were learning, and the school was on a pathway to major improvement. This is just one more of the many vital schools serving needy children being closed all over the country by the corporate reformers.

We Taught Them Hope
Last week our school board voted to close our school as a PreK – 5 elementary school and “repurpose” it as a PreK Center. They were convinced that John White and the state would take us over because our test scores didn’t come up fast enough (we’ve only had a year and a half). Okay, so maybe our test scores didn’t hit the mark yet, but we did a lot of teaching:

  1. We taught them HOPE – hope that they could rise to the standard, go above what they thought they could do, and make a better life for themselves.
  2. We taught them RESPECT – for themselves, for each other, and for school faculty and staff. They learned to say “yes sir” and “yes maam” and “May I use the restroom?” They opened doors for adults, and knocked before entering a room.
  3. We taught them LOVE – children who previously had trouble looking us in the eye or talking with us were now giving us hugs and telling us all about their weekends. And they learned to love each other, doing kind things for one another.
  4. We taught them HEALTH – by providing healthy fruit and vegetable snacks, growing a vegetable garden, and embracing the healthy lifestyle approach taught by the staff of the Big Blue Bus.
  5. We taught them how to CELEBRATE – to rejoice in an accomplishment, to applaud for classmates, and to appreciate the talents and skills of every individual.
  6. We taught them to PERSEVERE – when a math problem was complicated, or an answer to a science inquiry wasn’t readily apparent. To stick with a task all the way through, because sometimes the satisfaction is in knowing that you did your very best.
  7. We taught them RESILIENCE – that when things don’t go as planned, the test trips you up, or your friends turn their back – you keep going with your head up. Our students will use this skill as they leave Delmont and encounter new learning environments.
  8. We taught them PRIDE – that we can be proud of who we are and how far we’ve come. We can stand in front of people with our heads held high, because we know we’ve done our very best.
  9. We taught them HUMOR – that we can laugh at ourselves and each other when things get ridiculous. That a good laugh breaks the tension in the room, and that laughing truly is the best medicine.
  10. We taught them COMMUNITY – that all of us need to work together to get better, and that all of us collectively are more than one. That the strength in each of us is only as much as the rest can bear, and that together we are very strong indeed.
As our school is closed at the end of this year, we hope that our students will take these qualities with them into whatever situations they now encounter. We will miss each and every one of them…