Friday, November 22, 2013

White Proposes Major Changes to CCSS Phase in, Teacher Evaluations, and School Grading

Responding to a rising Tsunami of parent and teacher protest of the radical changes imposed on Louisiana education by Jindal and White, the Superintendent is now proposing a major slowdown of the Common Core roll-out and teacher VAM evaluations connected to the new standards. Superintendent White released a list of proposed changes to be presented to BESE at their December meeting. See also the story.

Superintendent White announced Thursday that he has been listening to many of the concerns of teachers, parents and administrators about the rapid implementation of the new Common Core standards on top of the recent value added teacher evaluation system. As a result, he is now proposing to slow down greatly the high stakes implications for students, teachers, and schools, resulting from the implementation of the Common Core. The Superintendent is now proposing to provide local educators and school systems a comprehensive state produced curriculum guide for the Common Core standards. Teachers are to be exempted from VAM ratings while new baselines are established for the ratings. Students will be allowed to be promoted to 5th and 9th grades even if they have not fully met the minimum standards contemplated by the new Common Core tests. According to White, schools will be graded on a curve to prevent school grades from changing drastically as a result of the new standards.

Some observers are already speculating that White's rather drastic proposed changes may be a preemptive move to avoid a legislative reversal of his and Jindal's major changes to the Louisiana education system. The recent legislative hearing on Common Core revealed much push back from legislators who have received major negative feedback from parents and educators. The parents have major unresolved concerns about Common Core methods, data collection, and federal interference in our schools. Teachers and many administrators feel overburdened and unfairly threatened by some of the changes they feel are not really productive.

During the recent legislative hearing on Common Core, one legislator said that he had visited almost all the schools in his district and that the most prevalent feeling from teachers was an extreme inclination to just leave the teaching profession out of frustration with the perceived flaws in the “reforms”. Another legislator said that many teachers in his district were complaining about having to work until 10 o'clock at night and on weekends to satisfy both the requirements of Common Core and the new evaluation system. Teachers were pointing their fingers at their legislators and asking: “Why did you vote for this to happen to us and our students?” Needless to say, most legislators don't want the entire teaching profession holding a grudge against them when they come up for reelection. Remember this: Teachers are the profession that has more members living in every legislative district than any other profession.

Of course, White's proposals still leave many unresolved issues. Here are some of them:
  • What will be done to calm parent fears that their child's data may be shared with private companies and individuals that have no business seeing it? Some of the federal requirements of Common Core require extensive data collection, and there have been promises made to several big companies and organizations.
  • What can be done to prevent Pearson and other major conglomerates that may have legal ownership of Common Core elements from profiteering and cornering the market on vital education materials?
  • What if Common Core standards cause a significant number of children to suffer major grade declines or even failure in school? What assurances do parents have that their children will benefit from CCSS if they have learning disabilities or somehow do not fit the Common Core mold? Remember these standards were drawn up by academic elites who expect every child to become college ready regardless of his/her unique talents and interests. (The descriptor used for the standards is “College and Career ready”. Can all our children succeed in a one-size-fits all system? Do we remember what happened to the requirement of “No Child Left Behind” that all children be proficient in math and ELA by the year 2014. Why do we want to repeat the same mistake?
  • What will be done to correct some of the Common Core standards that are obviously not age appropriate for very young students?
  • Where was it demonstrated that the new techniques in Common Core for teaching elementary math are superior to our traditional methods? Did our K-12 math teachers have a say in this?
  • Concerning the VAM portion of the teacher evaluation system in Louisiana, why must a certain percentage of teachers always be found to be “ineffective” no matter how our students improve from year to year? How was it predetermined that 10% of our teachers were ineffective even before the evaluation system was implemented?
  • If VAM is not used for the transition years, would teachers be evaluated on SLTs that are based on Common Core standards?
  • Concerning the grading system for schools, how will the new curve system correct the inequities that always doom high poverty schools to be rated lower than all others. How can it be that schools with low poverty are always rated A or B? Has anyone ever tried switching the faculties of high poverty and low poverty schools to find out where the real problem is? Why do Jindal and White assume that students attending C, D or F schools as measured by our system will do better if they transfer to a B or an A school. (Data from this past year's scores actually indicate that low performing sub groups of students do better in D and F schools than such students do in highly rated schools.)
What can educators and parents do to insure that the remaining problems with CCSS and evaluation are addressed? You know my answer to this.

If you have not done it yet, please send me your email and your home zip code so that you can participate in our Defenders of Public Education email system. Just email me at . The reason I need your zip code is so that I can place you in your correct legislative districts. When important education issues come up at the capitol, you will receive an email giving you the facts so you can write an email or make a phone call to your own legislators and ask them to support public education and public school educators. Our efforts are beginning ot make a difference. That's why Superintendent White is proposing the changes described above.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Important Announcement!

The Louisiana Association of Educators is sponsoring a forum on the Common Core State Standards in Lake Charles, LA

Title: Our Community Our Schools

Who? Interested parents of K-12 students and teachers and school administrators from the Southwest Louisiana area

When? 6:30 P.M., December 9, 2013

Where? The auditorium of Lake Charles Boston Academy, 1509  Enterprise Blvd., Lake Charles, LA

Purpose? To answer questions and hear comments from parents and educators about the Common Core State Standards

Monday, November 18, 2013

As Usual, Classroom Teachers Left Out on CCSS

Veteran Lafayette Parish educator Vincent Barras has written three important pieces about the new Common Core State Standards. All educators and parents should read both Mr Barras' blog by clicking here and also here, and his letter to the Baton Rouge Advocate titled Look Who Designed the Common Core, by clicking here.

Mr Barras is just the kind of classroom teacher we would all like to have teaching our child math. He understands how children learn math because he has taught it all his professional life and was himself inspired by a great math teacher. He is just the type of educator that should have been consulted on the elements of the Common Core. He is the kind of teacher who has a true love for his craft and who should have participated in the actual writing of the new standards.

The problem is that developers of the Common Core had apparently no interest in consulting real classroom educators. Mr Barras in his letter to the editor reveals the fact that the developers of CCSS were mostly far removed from the actual classroom. He also pointed out in an email to me that two distinguished members of the CCSS validation committee who have solid credentials in education practice have refused to sign on and have instead opposed the standards.

But the most insulting part of this for Louisiana classroom teachers is that our State Superintendent and BESE adopted the standards sight unseen (See the Crazy Crawfish blog) without consulting a single Louisiana classroom teacher. If parents wonder why such an impractical system could be used by Louisiana teachers to teach children in both public and many parochial schools, the answer is that teachers were never consulted and teachers were never given a choice!

As far as Superintendent John White, Governor Jindal and 9 of 11 members of BESE are concerned, teachers are just small cogs in the massive machinery of education reform. To paraphrase a famous quote, the teachers' job is not to question why, their job is to do or die! If that sounds a little too dramatic, just talk to any classroom teacher you know who is actually teaching the subjects that will be tested by the PARCC test (That is the test that is supposed to determine how well teachers have taught the Common Core). Ask also some of the many teachers who have retired early in the last two years because of strong disagreement with the Common Core and the new demands of teaching to the test. They correctly resent that their profession is being destroyed by non-educators like Jindal and White who have decided to "empower" teachers by letting them devise their own methods for teaching the test. There is no more real teaching (of basic skills) in Louisiana, there is only test teaching. That is how our leaders have honored and "empowered" the teaching profession in Louisiana. It also shows their lack of knowledge about and interest in how children really learn.

What teachers resent the most is that it is their students who will suffer most. They will definitely not get the education they deserve as they are experimented upon with the Common Core.  All I can ask of parents who read this blog, Mr Barras' blog and the Crazy Crawfish blog, is please support your child's teacher and all the educators who will have to struggle to fix this monstrosity! Please tell your legislator what you as a parent want and need for your child. The legislature is our only hope for truly correcting this problem.