Category Archives: Education

An Honest Editorial, or a Shiller for PARCC and Common Core?

Stop Common Core

From the Advertiser came fluffy propaganda on Sunday, declaring that the PARCC tests were a “step toward progress.”

I have the courage of my convictions and am willing to put my name to my words. It’s a shame certain members of the editorial board lack that courage.

Whether intended or not, unnamed editorials tend to be seen more as a sign of cowardice than a statement of conviction. Instead of resembling a measured statement of rational minds, the editorial had more in common with pro-Common Core press releases.

A step toward progress? Really? It has been well documented that twenty-five authors, none of them teachers and lacking expertise in writing standards, wrote the Common Core Standards. In the validation process, the actual educators refused to sign it.

That’s progress?

This program was never tested or piloted, but it was presented as the cure for all ills. Forty-five states adopted it—Louisiana included—and federal bribes in the form of Race to the Top grants reinforced that adoption.

That’s progress?

Louisiana students will take PARCC-like questions in a few weeks. Other states like New York have been giving these tests for almost two years, and the results have been disheartening at best. They have produced increased anxiety in students, some to the point of crying, giving up, and even losing control of bladder and bowel functions.

That’s progress?

The authors of this editorial say that “PARCC fails to frighten us.” How brave of them; they’re not taking the test.

The authors say the test is “not intended to boost students’ self-esteem.” Really? What does a passing grade do, but bolster self-esteem, a vitally-crucial component to becoming a well-rounded contributor to society. New York presented some of the first PARCC tests, resulting in 70% of the students being labeled failures. The second year showed a slight increase with only 64% failing. I fail to see how labeling vast majorities of children as failures is somehow going to make them better human beings. These tests in their present form have incredible potential to crush an entire generation; that frightens me.

The authors claim the PARCC test will measure progress. Exactly how? Originally more than 20 states signed up to give these test, but that number has dwindled to ten, and Louisiana is NOT one of them. Mercedes Schneider has documented that Louisiana has NO CONTRACT with Pearson, the ONLY company giving the PARCC test. Data Recognition Corps is providing questions to Louisiana, not Pearson, so we can compare our students to what exactly?

That’s progress?

The authors contend that the governor’s bad behavior is creating anxiety among parents. The only bad behavior I’ve noticed is the authors’ blind acceptance of Common Core as some improvement for the educational system.

The authors state that the governor’s executive order was “nothing more than cheap grandstanding.” Standing up for our students or children is not cheap, and parents have the right to protect their children through an opt-out process. The authors denigrate these parents with the damning phrase “Are they teaching our children to quit?”

According to that train of thought, the Founding Fathers were merely trouble-makers who should have accepted British rule without question. Henry David Thoreau, author of Civil Disobedience, merely caused trouble for trouble’s sake, and Rosa Parks should have taken her seat in the back of the bus and shut up. Perhaps those individuals should just “buck up,” as the authors suggest safely from their anonymity.

Unlike these authors, I prefer to think of these parents as dealing with a difficult situation as best as they possibly can. I cannot walk in their shoes—I have no children of my own—but I will at least try to understand their issues and see their point of view, not dismiss them with arrogant words.

I have the courage of my convictions and am willing to put my name to my words. It’s a shame certain members of the editorial board lack that courage.

Vincent P. Barras

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From a Teacher in the Trenches

LPAE

Thank goodness I live in a country that values individual liberty and freedom of speech. I can now see, however, that some entities believe their opinion is and always will be worth more than others.

I don’t tell doctors how to operate or lawyers how to practice law. I find the Chamber’s activities insulting and demeaning to my profession.

I have watched with growing trepidation how the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce thinks it has all the answers and is willing to use its considerable clout and money to impose their solutions on Lafayette. As such, they have raised thousands of dollars and have scoured the city for candidates to run in this school board election.

I have already written how organizations with little or no expertise in educational matters have tried to influence public policy on education. Such organizations are legion these days. I have also firmly expressed that as an educator in the trenches, I will give such organizations the attention they deserve: very little.

I don’t tell doctors how to operate or lawyers how to practice law. I find the Chamber’s activities insulting and demeaning to my profession.

When has the Chamber asked us, the teachers, for our input into possible solutions to improve Lafayette? What has it done to address the growing number of retirees and resignations plaguing the state and our parish?

Instead, the Chamber has bypassed educators and backed seven candidates, all of whom may be decent individuals who care earnestly about our children, and the Advertiser has joined the bandwagon and endorsed all of the Chamber’s nominees.

The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce reminds me of the Federalist Party during the early days of the United States republic. The Federalists steadfastly believed that since they represented the most educated souls in the fledgling republic, they should be obeyed. The mere fact that they existed should have been reason enough to lead. No wonder they died off as a political party.

There are times I wish these present-day organizations would follow the same path.

I am an educator. I work in a noble profession under attack by charter schools, a State Superintendent who yearly manipulates passing scores on standardized tests, and a BESE Board that until only recently appointed Charter Schools in the same manner some parents dole out candy for Halloween. The opinion of educators should be just as important at the voice of the Chamber.

The Lafayette Parish Association of Educators has endorsed a list of candidates. Since it is the largest organization representing souls like myself, I stand by their recommendations way more than the Chamber.

Those recommendations are Redell Comeaux Miller, Tommy Angelle, Elroy Broussard, Tehmi Chassion, Britt Latiolais, Kathleen Schott Espinoza, Dawn Morris, Hunter Beasley, and Brian West.

I’ll be curious to see if anyone attempts to deny me my constitutional right to freedom of speech.

 

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A Letter from a Teacher to Governor Bobby Jindal

Dear Governor Jindal,

I choose to write to you publicly because I want you to understand the paradigm shift you have inflicted upon Louisiana, a disturbing trend simultaneously embroiling the entire country.

You have made teachers both the superheroes, solely responsible for solving all the myriad problems in a child’s life, and the villains, when we can’t achieve those superhuman victories expected of superheroes.

Gov. Jindal has vilified teachers repeatedly. He has said, “Short of selling drugs in the workplace or beating up one of the business’s clients, they can never be fired.” He has also said that Louisiana needs to pay “teachers for doing a good job instead of for the length of time they have been breathing.” I have a hard time seeing Louisiana education improve when their leader thinks teachers are all lazy, worthless blobs who’ve been breathing too long.

I have long since lost faith in a politician whose sole ambition is higher office, not the welfare of the children in Louisiana.

If I had advice to future teachers, it would have been the same advice I received from a wise lady named Frankie Mae Patout. She once told me, “For your sake, get out of education. For the sake of my grandchildren, stay in.” I chose to stick around, but this recent trend in Louisiana has me profoundly worried.

I have a very difficult time telling college students to go into education, even though overall I have found it an extremely rewarding vocation. In today’s climate, I would honestly advise considering something else.

Why would a sane human enter a profession whose superiors harp on you constantly about improving test scores versus creating a stable, well-rounded human being?

Why would a sane human enter an environment that is spending millions of dollars on new computer equipment for supposedly-valid tests than on fixing a crumbling infrastructure of schools buildings several decades old?

Why would a sane human select a profession where job security can only be earned after five years of constant judgment based on arbitrary test patterns with no evidence of validity?

Why would a sane human pick a job where you can be terminated instantly and the only due process involves a three-person panel, two members of which are appointed by the group that wants to terminate you (the principal and the superintendent)?

Why would a sane human choose to lose valuable teaching time yearly to prepare for the all-important test that not only determines your job security but also your pay raise, if any?

And yet, people who love children, who love watching the discovery process unfold in a child’s mind, who love getting personal notes from their students twenty or thirty years later, they will continue to teach. Perhaps we’re insane, but whoever said love was rational.

Sincerely,

Vincent P. Barras

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