Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Real Reform That Provides Career Opportunities for Our Students

I hope all my readers will go to the following link to read about The School Standards Rebellion.

According to the article in Politico, this is what is now happening in Texas:

"Parents furious about the state’s heavy focus on standardized testing teamed up with educators irate at the one-size-fits-all curriculum. Then an even more powerful ally stepped aboard: The Jobs for Texas Coalition, representing trade groups and businesses that collectively employ 6 million Texans, a third of the state’s workforce.

The coalition argued that the college prep curriculum eats up so many hours — especially when kids fail a required class and must retake it — that students have no time for vocational courses that introduce them to skilled trades. That’s led to fewer students seeking out jobs in construction and manufacturing. Those who do apply lack the technical training and the soft skills — such as on-the-fly problem solving — such classes nurture.

“For 20 years, we’ve been ratcheting up the rigor required to get out of high school, and we started to see unintended consequences,” said Mike Meroney, a spokesman for the coalition.

"Letting kids opt out of college prep doesn’t mean they’ll spend a lifetime flipping burgers, Meroney said. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists two dozen fast-growing occupations that don’t require higher education and pay $35,000 to $55,000 a year, including heavy equipment operator and car mechanic. “What is the real purpose of education if not to prepare your students for jobs?” Meroney said. “Seriously. That’s what we keep asking.”

We tried to do the same thing they are talking about in this story in Louisiana four years ago with the adoption of a law providing for a career diploma. The problem is that the powers that were in charge of Louisiana education at the time, namely State Superintendent Paul Pastorek did not like the career diploma. He wanted instead to push college prep for all and later the move to the Common Core. So Pastorek used the regulations of the DOE and BESE to suppress the career diploma in every way possible. His main weapon was the use of school performance scores and the letter grading system for high schools that rewarded mostly college prep efforts. The result is that only about 2% of our students currently graduate with a career diploma. At the same time, only about 20% of our students are successful in our 4 year colleges.

So now we find that one of the biggest industrial expansions in history in Louisiana is catching us flat footed. I happen to agree with this position paper from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. This is a direct quote from the LABI position paper:
"LABI will support efforts to enhance the Career Diploma, increase the use of TOPS Tech, bring more relevant course offerings into middle and high schools, and partner with community colleges and industry to get the credentials and training right."
I think its really ironic that LABI has been supporting the LDOE sabotage of the career diploma for the last 4 years. Now they are shocked that our students are not being prepared to do the skilled jobs coming to Louisiana. Our high school graduates are coming out of school with almost no skills to compete for the thousands of high paying jobs that are being created in everything from construction projects, to plant operations and even to a boom in health care services. This means that if we do not move quickly, our expanding industries will be importing thousands of skilled workers from other states and even other countries. Many of our high school graduates who graduated in the vaunted Core 4 curriculum but who are still not equipped to succeed in 4 year colleges may be relegated to serving fast food to the imported workers.

I am asking my readers and our legislators to please consider supporting the necessary revisions of the career diploma and changes in DOE regulations to reward schools that make these important opportunities available to their students. The job of boosting the career diploma to provide meaningful skills training to thousands of students will be especially difficult because Louisiana's "college prep for all" policies have decimated the ranks of CTE teachers at the high school level.

Watch for more information that will appear on this blog soon about efforts to revive the career diploma. It's time we give our students true career choices for the great jobs coming to Louisiana.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jindal Loses Again

Please Help Make Sure He Continues to Lose

When Governor Jindal rammed through his brutal attack on teachers and public schools in the 2012 legislative session he was warned that his new laws violated the constitution, violated basic due process rights of teachers, and improperly usurped the authority of our elected school boards. But he decided to use the immense power of the governor's office to bully the legislature into taking away the tenure and seniority rights of teachers and much of the authority of our school boards to oversee the employment and dismissal of teachers.

This recent article  in the Monroe News Star explains how a district judge once again returned a verdict striking down one of Jindal's attacks on teachers. The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) initiated this lawsuit challenging the weakening of due process rights of teachers in Act 1 of 2012 for one of its members in Monroe. LAE president Debbie Meaux has pledged to continue the defense of LAE members who are being deprived of their rights by Jindals “deforms”. Judge Jones' ruling now prohibits the use of this method for dismissing teachers in the Monroe City system.  The Louisiana Federation of Teachers also won another lawsuit finding Act 1 unconstitutional because it violated the requirement that legislative bills contain only one basic object. Jindal is using our tax dollars to appeal.

In just two years the Jindal laws have done almost irreparable damage to the teaching profession in Louisiana. The morale of teachers is at an all time low and many excellent teachers have resigned or retired early in protest of Jindal's attacks on teachers and public schools.

One of Jindal's biggest allies in the attacks on teacher due process rights is the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). This organization which represents primarily big businesses including those who have participated in the ALEC “deforms” nationwide, has fully supported Jindal in all his attacks on our public schools. LABI continues to support efforts to privatize public education with charters and vouchers even though there is now overwhelming evidence that such programs are mismanaged and allow con artists and “entrepreneurs” to siphon off public tax dollars while providing a substandard education to our children. LABI cheered Jindal on when he passed laws designed to destroy tenure, teacher seniority and the requirements that educators possess real education credentials to teach in and administer schools. LABI has even given support to a fake teacher “professional organization” called A+Pel in an effort to siphon off teacher membership in true advocacy organizations such as LAE and LFT.

As part of its continuing efforts to weaken teacher organizations, LABI announced over a year ago that it will be supporting efforts to ban the use of payroll deduction for teacher union dues. The big business group works hard for any law that will help cut into teacher union membership. This could make it easier to change the teaching profession into an easily manipulated group. To put it simply, LABI basically wants to reduce the status of teachers to that equivalent to teenage grocery store clerks. Teaching would then require minimal professional training and individual teachers could be fired at will for any reason. You see LABI leaders believe that almost anyone can be trained to teach standardized testing skills to our students because they think that's all there is to education.

In addition, LABI thinks that Louisiana could save a lot of education money by doing away with the teacher retirement system, group insurance, and extra pay for experience and added degrees. (Many of the charter and voucher schools do not provide such teacher benefits) They think that merit pay based on student scores (VAM) could be the salvation of K-12 education. If LABI has its way, results of teaching every subject in every classroom will be measured with a standardized test and the teacher will be paid, promoted, or fired based on the results. That's the brave new world of teaching they are promoting by doing everything possible to discourage teachers from banding together within their unions for the good of the profession. That's why they want to do away with payroll deduction for Association or union dues.

Many teachers in Louisiana are not members of a strong union or professional organization. Some have chosen to be members of the fake professional organization I mentioned above. I just have this to say to such educators: You guys are sitting ducks! Be prepared to reap the rewards of your apathy and your faith that our new non-educator bosses will take care of you if you will just work hard and be “professional”. If you just shut up and fall into line, Jindal, LABI, and John White will be sure to complement your professionalism and will remind you once again how much VAM and the new Common Core are designed to “empower” you as teachers as they replace you with TFA and worse.

My advice to teachers is that it is not too late to assert your professionalism and insist on being truly empowered. Please consider joining either the LAE or the LFT and become active in the upcoming lobbying effort at the legislature. In addition, I am encouraging all teachers and administrators to participate in my Defenders of Public Education email system. There are many supportive parents and school board members who also are part of our “defenders” group who are joining us in this effort. If you send me your email address and your zip code (so I can determine what legislative districts to place you in) to louisianaeducator@gmail.com I will keep you informed of the important bills affecting your profession and public schools. You can then in turn email your legislator with your recommendations.

It makes a huge difference when legislators hear from a significant number of educators on a particular issue. I and many other participants in the legislative process have seen a definite change in the attitudes of many of our legislators in the last two years because so many of our teachers have taken the time to contact them and give them the facts about Jindal's so called “education reform”. Let's make sure Jindal continues to lose his war against public education.