Billionaires Won; Our Children Lost

Money Wins Elections

Congratulations to the US billionaires. You’ve proven that nothing is beyond your grasp, not even BESE.

Thanks to over $3.5 million pouring into Louisiana, the select few have chosen our educational board for the next four years. Actually, they are just renewing their lease from 2011.

And let us not forget, we have Governor Bobby Jindal to thank for this travesty.

In 2011, when he wanted to nominate the highly under-qualified John White at State Superintendent, he needed eight votes and could only muster seven. Four were implacably opposed to appointing someone who attended six weekends’ worth of seminars at the unaccredited Broad Academy to earn his Superintendent credentials.

No problem. It was an election year, and Bobby called in the heavy hitters and their cash. They targeted all races, but specifically poured heavy amounts into the races of the four who sat in opposition. Two seats switched, and now Jindal got his Superintendent.

Be careful what you wish for.

Jindal now has buyer’s remorse, but there’s nothing he can do about it. Governors may appoint, but only BESE can hire or fire a Superintendent.

Those millionaires—Lane Grigsby especially—and the billionaires combined for a repeat performance, but this time poured in even more money.

The end result was they pummeled the three elected officials who constantly stood up for students, parents, and teachers. The moneyed elite defeated Dr. Lottie Beebe, the one they couldn’t defeat four years ago. They also defeated Carolyn Hill and forced Mary Johnson Harris into a runoff.

But it doesn’t matter. They won the majority they needed—six seats out of eleven—to reinforce keeping Common Core and resist any changes to the corporate reform model plaguing education.

The only silver lining is that both gubernatorial candidates are opposed to Common Core and get to appoint three members to BESE. I find it hard to believe they would support reappointing John White to another four years.

The new governor can also veto any changes the review committee comes up with for Louisiana standards. Considering how recently, a Review Committee member resigned in disgust over the lack of changes coming through the committee, I don’t foresee any credibility to the process.

Someone told me early in the evening that we have hope.

The only hope I have is that I should live long enough to see this grand experiment of Common Core, PARCC, VAM and corporate reform die a painful death.

Well, there is something else for which I hope.

Ten to fifteen years from now, all the students who were forced to go through this grand experiment will become voters.

These students experienced badly-written tests designed to confuse them and claim they were deficient. Some of them cried and gave up as they read a test that was reportedly written two grade levels above their reading ability. They will now look at BESE and essentially ask why that Board’s members put them through this?

I want to watch those BESE members squirm as they try to explain, with a straight face, what they did.

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Don’t Let Billionaires Buy the Louisiana BESE Board

3rd_Louisiana_Purchase

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson could not believe his good fortune. He sent negotiators over to France to purchase New Orleans from Napoleon Boneparte, and instead was offered the entire Louisiana Territory. It started the United States on the path of becoming a world power.

Beware, another group with its vast reservoir of money is attempting to purchase the Louisiana education system. The millionaires and billionaires are busy at work on a Third Louisiana Purchase.

We, the people, were endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, and we, the citizens of Louisiana, number more than the seven billionaires.

They already bought the Board four years ago in the Second Louisiana Purchase. With the help of Governor Bobby Jindal, outsiders poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into numerous races to get the eight votes he needed to hire wunderkind John White, even though he had barely been the Recovery School District Superintendent for a year. The reform agenda firmly controlled the votes of nine members, and only Dr. Lottie Beebe voted against White becoming Superintendent.

The money won the day, and look at what we got.

ACT score averages down from 20.2 to 19.4. A record number of veteran teacher leaving the profession though many had more good years in them. A drastic drop in the number of people entering college as an education major. A botched implementation of Common Core so wretchedly bad, not even supporters have been able to rally around it.

Even Bobby Jindal has turned against Common Core and the Board that blindly supports it. Slowly the make-up of the board has changed, and now the battle lines are usually drawn seven to four in favor of White and whatever he proclaims is good for Louisiana.

Forces are ruthlessly at work to preserve that seven-seat majority on the BESE Board. The Advocate has an article titled “Big money to BESE elections: $3.5 million to PACs and counting,” where it shows in detail how a handful of the über-rich want to buy the votes on the Board.

Eli & Edythe Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Laura & John Arnold, and Alice & Jim Walton are just a handful of the billionaires who essentially don’t want anybody messing with their elitist reform package synonymous with charter schools, merit pay, and value added models. (Just an interesting side-note, John White attended the Broad Academy, founded by Eli Broad, where for a scant six training weekends, you too can be a Superintendent.)

These rich few essentially want to rob us of our individual voices. Their money can buy TV ads and expensive, glossy handouts to distract voters from the disaster of the last four years.

Well, let’s make a stark contrast.

If you are for the state being in the hands of a Superintendent who lowers scores on tests to 22% for a passing grade, let the billionaires win.

If you are for even more testing that robs students of the valuable classroom time to learn all-important skills, let the billionaires win.

If you are for testing kids as young as eight with a test that none of you will ever see or get any indication of how to improve your child’s understanding of it, let the billionaires win.

If you are for punishing kids with all sorts of poorly-written worksheets bought from out of state companies—Eureka Math and Engage New York—let the billionaires win.

If you are for condescending educators-in-the-know and legislators who openly mock and disrespect parents and teachers when they come to legislative sessions, let the billionaires win.

If you are for a curriculum that teaches to a test instead of learning life lessons and how to joy of living, let the billionaires win.

If you are NOT willing to sell your children’s futures to a bunch of billionaires, then STAND UP AND VOTE!  Restore a sensible group of leaders to BESE who aren’t chained to a reformist model. Vote in leaders whose only constituents should be Louisiana children, parents, and educators. Those are Lee Barrios (Dist. 1), Kara Washington (Dist. 2), Dr. Lottie Beebe (Dist. 3), Mary Johnson Harris (Dist. 4) Johnny Fatheree (Dist. 5), Jason France, (Dist. 6), Mike Kreamer (Dist. 7), and Carolyn Hill (Dist. 8)

We, the people, were endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, and we, the citizens of Louisiana, number more than the seven billionaires. We should be outraged that a group of outsiders want to control this fun-loving state.

Don’t let the Gang of Seven Billionaires buy the BESE Board. Stop the Third Louisiana Purchase!

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A Veteran Educator Supports Mike Kreamer Complètement.

I am aware that many veteran educators in Louisiana have been alarmed at what has transpired in Louisiana for the last four years. It prompted me to start an education blog and become a guest editorial writer for the Advertiser to try to advocate a different voice than the money-soaked, education-reformist agenda that has taken over the state.

Oh, I believe it important to disclose: the LDOE has not paid me a dime. I am beholden only to my students and to the nobility of this profession. C’est aussi simple que ça.

Well, all veterans of a certain age can now relax because Lauren Trahan, a teacher with eight years experience has shown the way for all Louisiana educators. What would we do without those teacher-leaders whom the Louisiana Department of Education has paid as valuable cheerleaders for the education reform system we now have?

According to Ms. Trahan and her extra-sensory insight, we could have no better candidate than Dr. Holly Boffy, who has apparently earned a doctorate from Walden University, an online degree university.

Well, I am in my twenty-fifth year of teaching… does this mean my opinion carries three times the weight of Ms. Trahan’s?

I thought I might peruse a few of those pearls of wisdom from this teacher of vast proficiency.

“Boffy has been a champion of recognizing and rewarding highly effective teachers….”

Last year, I averaged a 3.75 out of 4.0 on the COMPASS system, so I am ranked highly effective. My reward for that ranking was $60, split over twelve monthly checks. (The next level below that gets a whopping $20 annual bonus!)

That’s right. My highly-effective merit pay is $5 a month. Thanks, Mrs. Boffy for promoting a system of “merit pay” that makes me laugh all the way to the bank.

“Since Holly took office, Louisiana has set records in the number of high school graduates….”

Zut alors! But of course! John White has lowered the passing bar on EOC tests to the equivalency of a pulse. Our students are passing EOC tests and graduating in greater numbers because merely showing up is tantamount to graduating. Thanks John White, and oh, thanks Mrs. Boffy for allowing him to set such “rigorous” thresholds for our kids to meet. How else will they be college-ready? How else will they compete globally?

“Our ACT score growth is tops in the nation among all states that require full participation.”

Sacrebleu! Those pesky numbers, score growth indeed! Of the thirteen states that require 100% participation, Louisiana ranked tenth. Only Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina ranked lower in average.

To make things worse, when John White and his band of hapless brothers took over in 2011, the average ACT score for Louisiana was 20.2. In 2012 it rose to 20.4. dropped the following year to 19.4, and dropped further to 19.2. Last year it inched back up to 19.4.

Mon Dieu! Thanks John White and Mrs. Boffy. Where would we be without your valiant efforts?

“To not continue on this path of success would be … a great disservice to our kids.”

Pardonnez-moi while I choke on that one.

The greatest disservice done for our kids was to entrust them to a Department of Education staffed by education reformists, many of whom could not last more than three years in a classroom. Their experience is mostly altruistic, with very little connection to reality. After all, isn’t our state Department of Education site charmingly named  “Louisiana Believes”?

This Department has so disastrously implemented the reform package called Common Core, it gives the word “inept” new meaning. This DOE has repeatedly blocked information—so much for transparency—to the point where lawsuits appear to be the only language the DOE understands. Without these lawsuits, the public would never know the appallingly low results students can make and still be considered a success.

That is not, in Ms. Trahan’s words, a “path to success.” That’s abusive misconduct.

Blague à part, this is the opinion of a veteran in his silver anniversary year of both private and public school experience: BESE would be lucky to have Mike Kreamer guiding the educational policies of Louisiana. He possesses more than three decades educational experience in the public school system at all levels. He comes from a family steeped in the education profession: his father Dr. Larry Kreamer was a professor in UL’s College of Education (back then USL) and his mother Dr. Jean Kreamer was the Director of Media Services also at UL. He asks tough questions and won’t simply abdicate his responsibilities to the Department of Education and their minions. Like many veteran educators, he recognizes a train wreck when he sees it, and he won’t simply say “keep the course” on Louisiana’s Titanic (John White’s helm at BESE.)

Oh, I believe it important to disclose: the LDOE has not paid me a dime. I am beholden only to my students and to the nobility of this profession. C’est aussi simple que ça.

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Absurdity Is the Rule

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice enters a fantasy world, encountering all sorts of unbelievable situations where normality is absent and the absurdity is the rule.

Absurdity is definitely the rule in Louisiana.

It’s time for Alice to return to the real world… where absurdity should be the exception, not the rule.

In April, Louisiana students took new, un-tried, un-tested assessments that took months longer to grade. The scores are ridiculously low, but Louisiana citizens had to file motions to get the raw scores released, scores John White would never have published. Now White is translating them to a scaled score from 650 to 850.

The SAT and the GRE are ranged from 600 to 800, so why did the DOE pick such arbitrary numbers?

Because absurdity is the rule.

A student can score as low as 22% on a test, and the BESE Board majority approved John White setting this score as a cut-off for basic.

Roughly one question right out of five is successful?

Because absurdity is the rule.

The Department of Education has set up an online process so that people can review Louisiana’s standards. The process is arduous and designed to promote acceptance of the standards.

Approving a standard takes one check of a box. Questioning a standard requires excruciating detail and several time-consuming steps.

Why? Because absurdity is the rule.

The legislature created a Standards Review Committee (SRC) to review all standards and must have a meeting in each of the eight BESE districts.

On Thursday in Crowley, responsible parents and educators, after hours of groundwork, made numerous recommendations to SRC. The fourth grade alone has some 28 standards, and Mrs. Shawna Dufrene, an appointee to the review committee, recommended 26 changes.

The meeting lasted over eight hours, but the Shreveport meeting lasted but two hours.

Absurdity is the rule.

The ultimate irony is that Holly Boffy, the BESE Board District 7 representative, came briefly to Crowley to congratulate the hard work the committee was doing to revise the standards.

Wasn’t it the responsibility of the BESE Board, Boffy included, to adopt an appropriate, competent set of standards in the first place?

If the standards are so badly-written that they need a 90% rewrite for one grade, shouldn’t one ask how carefully this BESE Board majority did their job before adopting these standards?

A BESE member thanking an outside group for fixing the mess BESE created? Absurdity is definitely the rule.

The Louisiana public is realizing that four years of John White and this present BESE Board majority have been an unqualified disaster. They have served the needs of billionaire donors, Common Core-aligned book publishers, and charter schools.

It’s time for Alice to return to the real world… where absurdity should be the exception, not the rule.

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What do Businesses and Billionaires Sometimes Have in Common?

Flip BESE 2

Recently I read an article from Barry Erwin about will Louisiana be honest when PARCC scores comes out. Almost immediately afterwards, a friend linked me to a Washington Post article about billionaires from outside the state pouring money into our local Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elections.

I guess thirty pieces of silver is no longer the going rate for demonizing the teaching profession and abusing students as young as kindergartners with more and more tests.

Business and Billionaires, I thought, are trying to continue their strangle-hold on the present BESE Board, where they possess—some say bought—a solid majority of votes in favor of endless testing and attempting to quantify student results in a way that compares us to other states.

The Post article factually reported that Eli Broad, California-based billionaire, and Alice and Jim Walton, heirs to Sam Walton’s fortune, have poured some $650,000 into Empower Louisiana, a PAC founded and funded by Baton Rouge millionaire Lane Grigsby. The PAC, in turn, funnels money for flyers and ad space for the BESE candidates who favor continuing the test-till-you-drop method of student and teacher accountability, and increasing the flow of public money to private, charter institutions.

I guess thirty pieces of silver is no longer the going rate for demonizing the teaching profession and abusing students as young as kindergartners with more and more tests.

I think I donated $25 once to a campaign. I wonder how much bang I might get for my buck.

I also didn’t realize that our BESE Board elections were so interesting to outsiders that they felt compelled to pour that much money to get certain candidates elected. How about the simple merits of their positions and the strength of their arguments?

Naïve me. Those things don’t win anymore in this modern age.

Or do they?

I sincerely hope that the public realizes that groups like Council for a Better Louisiana, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Stand for Children, Teach for America, and numerous others have been bought and paid for with Bill Gates’ money. He’s the ultimate billionaire who funded the price tag to create the behemoth called Common Core.

I sincerely hope that the public views the video “2011: When the Billionaires Bought BESE.” It’s an eye-opener about the election some four years ago that set us on this disastrous path.

Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Alice & Jim Walton, John Arnold, Paul Tudor Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, just a few of the billionaires out there trying to drown out educators’ and parents’ voices with their hefty pile of dollar bills.

People of Louisiana, don’t be fooled by this glittering display of money that would have been better served helping children get out of poverty. Avoid the slick words of the snake oil salesmen who think so little of Louisiana parents and teachers. Make an informed choice, devoid of the spectre of the loudest, bawdiest people who try to outshine integrity with their vulgar display of wealth.

And then I realized, in this fateful moment, what business and billionaires have in common: they’re bullies, trying to buy their way to what they want because of the paucity of their ideas.

It’s time to stand up to the bullies.

Business, Billionaires, and Bullies: what a devastating combination for Louisiana’s children, educators, and parents.

 

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John White: Gross Ineptitude at the Highest Level

News-Star File Photo

News-Star File Photo

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once quipped, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts.”

While White battles to keep his job, we the teachers and students are constantly held hostage to an Education Department that seems to convey the message that ineptitude is “evidence of progress.”

The Lens, a New Orleans publication, posted an article about how students’ scores won’t arrive until November. Students across Louisiana “took the exact same form as did kids across the country,” State Superintendent John White said. “Same questions. Same order. Nothing different.”

No, they did not.

Louisiana contracted with Data Recognition Corporation, while the other PARCC states contracted with PARCC. Unless DRC and PARCC colluded to make the tests the same, this did not happen.

White has stated in the Advocate that the test will show “evidence of progress.”

How? We have never given this test before, so how can we show progress? It is different in makeup and design from all previous tests. Even worse, the public has not been shown a single question on the tests to even gauge if they were written appropriately for the age levels, or answered correctly. There have been numerous errors in past tests.

These tests will supposedly give a better evaluation of our students’ performance.

How? These tests that students took in March won’t be released until November. Students have already been placed in classes this year without any knowledge of their strengths or weaknesses on state tests. Teachers have no clue what skills need more emphasis this year, or what they could have done to help students from last year.

How is this “evidence of progress”?

White and numerous BESE Board members up for re-election have been boasting about the fact that graduation rates are up under White’s leadership.

When you lower the passing score on a Geometry End-of-Course Test to a 32%, that’s not leadership. That’s malpractice.

When asked recently about being able to see exact questions on the test and precisely what skill they were meant to evaluate, White responded that such information was not available because a question can test many skills.

Then what is the point of this expensive test? A test that takes months longer to grade than the previous tests and the questions are not clearly written to evaluate specific skills?

How is this “evidence of progress”?

On Tuesday, October 13th, White will be asking the BESE Board for the authority to set the cut-off scores for the Louisiana categories (advanced, mastery, fair, good, etc.). Based on his track record of lowering EOC scores in the last few years, the public should have little confidence in the results to come.

While White battles to keep his job, we the teachers and students are constantly held hostage to an Education Department that seems to convey the message that ineptitude is “evidence of progress.”

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The Superintendent’s Little White Lies

Mark Twain

Mark Twain once quipped, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

He could have been talking about Louisiana.

With White’s track record for massaging scores, essentially all one needs is a pulse and good guessing skills to pass the PARCC tests.

The Council for a Better Louisiana recently touted the great things that have happened since Louisiana adopted Common Core in 2010 and since the 2011 BESE elections produced a rigid majority in favor of the education reform package.

It’s a shame CABL essentially cherry-picks their facts for their cause.

One “fact” touted is that Louisiana’s graduations rates have increased over the last four years.

Of course they have. When the Louisiana Department of Education consistently lowers the bar on End of Course Tests, it will produce higher graduation rates. The passing grade on the EOC tests now are so alarming low that a student can get as little as 26% correct to earn a grade of “C.”

So getting only slightly better than one question right out of every four equates to a C?

Based on that rate, workers need only show up one out of every four days and receive an average evaluation… and a full salary.

Don’t forget it took lawsuits to get the LDOE to release the raw numbers. So much for transparency and those “rigorous” tests.

Another “fact” pushed by CABL is that more students than ever are earning an 18 on the ACT. On face value, that is true. In the first year that all juniors were required to take the ACT, some 11,000+ more students took the ACT than the previous year. Superintendent John White ballyhooed the fact that some 3,600 of those students made an 18, considered an important ACT benchmark.

There is a flipside to that argument: some 7.400 of those 11,000 did NOT make the score, and that actually dropped Louisiana’s passage rate nearly 10 percentage points.

See what happens when one manipulates numbers?

And speaking of number manipulation, White already has all the raw scores from last year’s PARCC tests. He claims that he needs time to quantify them into a measure that most people can understand.

People in Louisiana deserve credit for seeing through this chicanery. With White’s track record for massaging scores, essentially all one needs is a pulse and good guessing skills to pass the PARCC tests.

Other states have already received and disseminated their scores. Louisiana is also evaluating their present standards and could use this vital information to prioritize important skills students might be lacking. Why must everyone wait until November?

Oh, the BESE Board elections! No one wants the inconvenience of actual scores to influence election results. Nothing could possibly be political about that decision at all.

If he were alive, Mark Twain would be shaking his head. Things haven’t changed all that much.

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Has The Legislature Nothing Better to Do Than Conduct Sex Surveys?

The People LLC

At first, I thought it was a joke when I read it: Representative Wesley Bishop has introduced House Bill 326 and Senator J. P. Morell has introduced Senate Bill 31, both identical and both allowing a sexual survey to be taken by students in Orleans Parish.

The People LLC do not joke. They are extremely serious in their defense of Constitutional liberties, and have written about these identical bills. The link to their Facebook site is https://www.facebook.com/thepeoplellc?fref=ts and to their internet site is http://thepeoplellc.weebly.com/.

What’s important about these bills is that they directly violate Act 837 passed one year ago by the previous legislative assembly. Act 837 is one of the strongest student data protection acts passed in the nation, but hardly one year later, the legislature is seeking to undermine it.

Never mind that this act affects only one parish, for it matters not. Such a supposedly-innocuous survey imposed on one parish could then be imposed state-wide, even though frankly it is none of the legislature’s business to conduct sexual surveys.

The fact that the sexual behavior of teenagers in Orleans parish might be, for all we know, out of control, doesn’t mean parents have relinquished their rights.

The truly frightening thing is how far these bills had advanced. The House version will be debated on May 12th, but the Senate version has already passed the Senate by a vote of 27 to 10, and has been sent to the House.

Please consider contacting your representatives to tell them to vote down SB 31 and HB 326. The solution to a potential sexual epidemic does not exist through the prism of infringing upon parents’ rights in violation of the Constitution.

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LABI’s Fatal Spear to the Heart of the Giant

Ever since 2010 when the Supreme Court declared in Citizens United that corporations were people too, a wave of fear enveloped me. I always knew that corporations with their endless billions had more influence on the nation’s course than regular, everyday Americans like myself. Now those millionaires and billionaires had an even clearer path to drowning me out.

It just got worse. I hoped that state and local politics might have a certain immunity from this national money disease, but not so.

When business leaders take such joy and delight in hurting regular Americans who happen to be union members, it makes one wonder exactly what business leaders are for.

 

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) has strongly backed House Bill 418 by Representative Stuart Bishop (R-Lafayette), essentially removing numerous groups, namely teachers, fire fighters and police, from being able to deduct their union dues from their paychecks, while leaving other groups like United Way alone.

The bill is perniciously nicknamed the “Paycheck Protection” act, though exactly what we are protecting a paycheck from is unclear.

Some claim that union deductions inappropriately feed the unions. How so? The paycheck program allows for deductions for retirement, taxes, insurance, and FICA, none of which are voluntary. Computer geniuses have made the system efficient and capable of hundreds of deductions.

It’s only the union deductions that has the LABI up in arms. Some say that deductions should only be for organizations that are apolitical in nature, like United Way, for instance.

Hogwash. United Way heavily supports Common Core, which is a blatantly political issue. LABI through HB 418 wants only agreeable groups to have donations.

Actually, LABI wants to be the ONLY group with influence. They’ve been trying to manipulate educational policy for years, even though their expertise is both short-sighted and limited.

LABI, though its Education and Workforce Development Council chair Lane Grigsby, has been caught on videotape essentially exposing their barefaced hypocrisy. They don’t want to protect people or paychecks; they want to strangle opposition voices by crushing the flow of money.

At an April LABI meeting, Grigsby stated, “Guys, this is where you grab the aorta and you shut it off. Honest to goodness, it’s the truth. If you control the money flow, you control the success.”

“It’s a fatal spear to the heart of the giant,” he said last September, right after he smiled gleefully. “I can’t talk for the grin on my face.”

When business leaders take such joy and delight in hurting regular Americans who happen to be union members, it makes one wonder exactly what business leaders are for.

LABI is no more qualified to run schools than LAE is designed to run a trucking company. We are all human beings, worthy of dignity and respect, not objects to be speared.

LABI does not want regular everyday humans to have any sway in the world. Teachers educate and inspire the future generations, and fire fighters and police protect everyone in this republic. They have a right to be heard, and legislators would be foolish to dismiss their concerns by listening only to rich millionaires like Grigsby.

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Using Students’ Scores to Evaluate Teachers Is Insane and Reckless

A highly embarrassing photo of me from my elementary days.

A highly embarrassing photo of me from my elementary days.

Mercedes Schneider’s recent post on her standardized tests from her elementary days got me thinking about this recent craze—there really is no other word for it—to evaluate teachers using students’ test scores. How stupid has this country become?

If our students are failing, it MUST be the teachers’ fault. Never mind parental involvement, home environment, socio-economic status, chemical imbalances, or a host of other factors. Teachers MUST be blamed, branded, and banished.

I can still recall the results from my fourth grade standardized test: an impressive 7.2 grade level. Did this mean I was ready for the 7th grade—precocious, wasn’t I?—but a teacher explained that it did not mean I was ready for 7th grade material. What that number meant was an average 7th grader taking this test would have made roughly the same score that I did. I must admit, it still made me feel good.

I do remember, however, that as good as that score was, it was never used to evaluate the incomparable Mrs. Pratt, a wonderful lady who inspired me to follow in her footsteps. In the 1970s, that would have been inconceivable to misuse the scores in that fashion. The test measured MY skills, and while I’m certainly not minimizing Mrs. Pratt’s incredible teaching, those scores were only partially inspired by her. I had two loving parents who insisted that I do homework, take time to share it with them, and study for tests. I had a middle-class upbringing, and though a skinny, awkward kid, I was fed well and never wanted for anything, certainly not French Fries, my favorite food then.

My point is this: Mrs. Pratt was ONE piece of a complicated puzzle. It would be insane and reckless to try to assign the entirety of that test score to her.

But that is PRECISELY what we do today. Not only is it shameful, it’s abusive to these people in this noble profession.

The latest reformer fad is to label teachers with a number, and part of that number MUST come from student scores. If our students are failing, it MUST be the teachers’ fault. Never mind parental involvement, home environment, socio-economic status, chemical imbalances, or a host of other factors. Teachers MUST be blamed, branded, and banished.

We don’t judge dentists based on their patients’ cavities, do we? We don’t evaluate doctors on their patients’ poor food choices, do we? We don’t gauge lawyers based on their clients’s actions, do we? Then why is it okay to threaten teachers based on the performance of their students?

How can we evaluate teachers? That difficult question can’t be tackled easily. Before Superintendent John White arrived, Louisiana’s evaluation system rated 96% of teachers as satisfactory and only 4% as unsatisfactory. That did not sit well with many reformers who claimed unjustly that Louisiana’s state rankings (48th or 49th usually) must mean that bad teachers are producing this situation, so we must weed them out. Reformers then spent millions creating a new, four-level, evaluation system to better identify those bad apples.

Where has that hard work produced? Last year, 4% of teachers were ranked ineffective, same as four years ago.

What a grand waste of our time and money.

We are nowhere any closer to identifying what makes a good teacher. That indescribable quality in good teachers is as elusive as a moonbeam or a ray of sunshine.

When I saw Mrs. Pratt some time ago, I told her how wonderful it was to be a teacher. Today, I don’t know if she or I would dare enter such an abusive relationship, where we would be scapegoated for a host of issues over which we have little control.

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