Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Almost Everything Recently Done in the Name of Education Reform Has Backfired

Here is an article informing us that the reduction of recess time so that children could spend more time being drilled for the almighty standardized tests has actually resulted in lower test performance! How can that be? Why isn't constant drilling on test taking skills at the expense of recess, PE, art, music, vocational education, and other "less important" instruction producing higher test scores? Maybe because the current trend to ignore fundamental child development principle's is harmful in every way, including killing the joy of schooling for both children and teachers! Teachers in Finland, whose students perform at the top of the rankings on international achievement tests, routinely take young children outdoors where they can play, investigate nature and develop normally as they are programmed by their genes to do. Why do American reformers insist on counteracting nature and instead have transformed our education system to motivation killing test drudgery?

Here is another new article challenging the removal of teachers from the decision making process of what kids really need in school. This outrageous trampling on the rights and critical input of the teaching profession in education decisions has actually resulted in the opposite of what our non-educator reformers said they wanted to do. Do you think our government can stop the Corona virus by ignoring the recommendations of the highly trained experts in disease prevention? The same is true of refusing to listen to real teachers about education reform. Do you believe, as the reformers would have you believe, that education reform in Louisiana is really working in preparing students for college and careers? Are you willing to ignore the most recent devastating revelation by our own Board of Regents that after all the reforms imposed on K-12 education in Louisiana, only 18 out of one hundred of our students will attain a college degree of any kind. Not even a two year associate's degree! These are the worst results I have ever seen! Don't blame the teachers. Teachers attended the legislative committee proposing these changes by the thousands to protest these untested ideas, only to be scolded for having the nerve to come to Baton Rouge on a school day (but that was the only time the Education committee was meeting!). Now the chickens are coming home to roost and thousands of our most dedicated teachers have left the profession.

The stranglehold over control of public education by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry promises even more failure with the upcoming appointment of John White's replacement.
Make no mistake about it, LABI has had almost total control over K-12 education for over 4 years since they used Michael Bloomburg's  and Walton family contributions to totally purchase all the BESE elected positions. They have made nothing but bad decisions with all this power. The school privatization they pushed has been almost a total failure with data showing that students who stay in their public schools do significantly better than they do when they move to a voucher or charter school.

Now LABI intends to hand pick John White's replacement.  If they select Jessica Baghian as the next Superintendent, Lousiana education will continue to be crippled by uninformed and ineffective leadership. Bagahian has been the right hand assistant to White in putting over the hoax of progress of our current reforms.

Let's look at some of the real results of LABI supported reforms. On their web site, LABI claims that Louisiana is closing the achievement gap between privileged and underprivileged students.  Data demonstrates instead that the exact opposite is true. They are also dead wrong claiming that ACT scores are improving. LABI is now down to apparently basing its education policies on wishful thinking rather than evidence.

The same is true of teacher evaluations based on student test scores using our defective state tests. LABI  has insisted that Louisiana evaluate its teachers partially on student test scores. But all the data proves that the VAM system used is unstable and inaccurate. So a couple of years ago I got thrown off of a state committee studying changes to VAM because I had the nerve to state on my blog that LABI was like the dog that caught the truck with this whole VAM fiasco. They don't have any idea what to do with VAM but they will never admit they were wrong. Meanwhile some very competent and dedicated teachers have had their careers ruined by VAM and thousands of great teachers have left the profession.

My most recent public records requests for actual data are showing a totally different picture from the propaganda-type announcements of great strides in producing better results for our students. Here are just a few revelations that have so far been kept hidden from the voters and parents of our students.
  • Louisiana's ranking in comparison to all other states has only gotten worse for both ACT performance and NAEP averages if you compare the results for 2019 to our results in 2011 (Before John White took over). The recent blip highlighted here by White's spin-masters indicating improvement in 8th grade math is extremely misleading. There was actually a decline in 8th grade math over the term of office of John White. My most recent research  reveals that about 50% of our students on free lunch which make up almost 70% of our students, flunked the 8th grade NAEP test in 2019! The parents of our students deserve to get the facts, not propaganda!
  • The achievement gap between economically underprivileged and other students has widened on every NAEP test given. We are definitely not closing the achievement gap. In fact my public records findings indicate that free lunch students are mostly failing all their state tests in math and ELA year after year and BESE policy is now allowing the promotion and graduation of students who are functional illiterates.
  • Analysis of our state LEAP tests reveal that the secret lowering of cut scores have made it appear that our students are achieving a much higher proficiency than that indicated by NAEP. This artificial inflation of our proficiency rate is in violation of state law.
  • My most recent public records requests reveal that some of our End-of-Course tests have had cut scores secretly manipulated by the LDOE and the testing companies to allow many students to get a passing score by just making random guesses on multiple choice questions instead of demonstrating any knowledge whatsoever!
  • It is clear that the boring test and retest culture forced on our schools by the LDOE has caused a huge proportion of our students to simply turn off to what they are being forced to do in our reformed classrooms and are not learning any academic material at all. I mean zero learning! That's what the raw data is showing. Don't believe anything you see relative to so called "scale scores". My public records findings show that the reported scores for our students are pure propaganda, not fact.
  • Teachers who have really studied the results of our state tests will tell you that the state LEAP tests and the standards upon which they are based are not age appropriate, are discriminatory against underprivileged students because they assume a vocabulary and academic sophistication totally unfamiliar to many of our students. Our state tests demonstrate the epitome of socio-economic bias! We have kids who miss many of the math questions simply because the questions are poorly designed.
  • Because of the VAM component of teacher evaluation, some teachers are losing their tenure and even the latest pay raise passed last year based upon invalid tests. This is an atrocity!
Look, I've been studying K-12 education in Louisiana for my entire professional career, and my best judgement tells me that the methods teachers are being forced to use with our children are just about the worst approach I could have ever have imagined. Our kids could learn so much more if teachers would be freed of mandated test prep and allowed to use their creativity to inspire children to love reading, to love science, to look forward to going to school every day. Most teachers instinctively know what works in the classroom and it's not what they are being forced to do. We need to have the courage to take back our schools for the sake of our children and for the future of our state.