Tag Archives: Holly Boffy

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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My Opinion of Common Core, Straight from Disney’s Frozen: Let It Go!

I heartily welcome this Louisiana legislative session with its record number of bills concerning educational reform in Louisiana. I have also noticed that some are unhappy with that. My response, inspired by the Disney movie Frozen: Let It Go!

Louisiana made a dreadful mistake four years ago by listening to Governor Bobby Jindal and the BESE Board. The legislature adopted Common Core without exploring it: developed mostly by test-makers and funded by billionaires (Bill Gates) who want to apply market-economy, business-model solutions to the education world. Teachers, the REAL educators, were not invited for the creation, though supporters repeatedly parrot that “thousands” of teachers gave their input but conveniently never mention specific names.

That beautifully-orchestrated, stealth campaign used all the right phrases: it would improve our children’s lives; it would make them competitive in a global economy. Backed by a governor with presidential ambitions and later implemented by a Superintendent with one-seventh the teaching experience I have, the pliant BESE board and the Legislature blindly agreed to adopt a system never tested nor statistically proven to do the things it said it would.

Four years later, parents are in an uproar over data-mining, confusingly-written homework problems, the age-inappropriateness of the questions, and a Superintendent who decided on his own to push up the implementation date of Common Core, leaving 69 school districts to scramble and develop their own curricula. This disaster should fall squarely on the Superintendent, and the Legislature has wisely stepped in.

BESE board President Chas Roemer has expressed concerns that Jindal has “crawfished” on his support of Common Core. The Advocate quoted Roemer that the BESE Board “reaffirmed our position (on Common Core) in our January meeting. We think this is the best plan for children.”

How would he know? Has he ever been a teacher? The goal of Common Core is to create a “workforce” rather than educate children, so how is that the “best plan” for our children?

BESE Board member Holly Boffy, former Louisiana Teacher of the Year, is distraught that the Legislature is threatening to pull out of Common Core and develop its own standards. She was quoted in the aforementioned article that “something should have been done four years ago.”

She’s right. Four years ago, we never should have adopted this piece of junk. She claims that it is frustrating to teachers that the Legislature is meddling now, but it is even more frustrating to a great many more teachers that the Legislature and BESE saddled us with this albatross in the first place. It is refreshing to see a Legislature grapple with serious issues and listen to their constituents, to admit belatedly that this grand experiment should be stopped.

Better late than never.

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My Response to Sycophantic Letter by BESE Board Member

Back on September 11, 2013, the Advocate printed a letter (“COMPASS: Pointing the Way”) from BESE Board Member Holly Boffy, former Louisiana Teacher of the Year and present cheerleader for anything from John White/Bobby Jindal in terms of education reform. Trying to escape the coincidence that she wrote the letter on the anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, I wrote a response to her letter I never realized that I had not included it on my blog, so here it is.

The state needs more conscientious leaders willing to question whether COMPASS and Common Core–I call it the Triple C–will really lead to better teaching and higher-scoring students. Such leaders are sorely lacking in the present BESE Board, the vast majority of which accepts the Triple C without ever questioning anything.

Some background is required. I must disclose that I have never been a fan of Ms. Boffy. Anyone who could sing the praises of Louisiana Education Superintendent John White after only one meeting makes me question her skills for analysis and evaluation. While it is certainly possible to be impressed with someone’s speaking ability, I prefer to judge people on their actions more than their words, and based on his actions, John White has been an unqualified disaster at his post. I have already written extensively on Mr. White’s paltry resumé and how the BESE Board chose him only after an election where tons of money from Jindal supporters flooded out the remaining BESE Board members who refused to vote for White as superintendent. It indeed was a Katrina-worthy wave that has done damage to the whole state, not just one region.

Here is the link to her letter. (http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/6966017-123/letter-compass-pointing-the-way). Here is my response.

Teachers and school leaders across Louisiana have much to be dismayed about today. With the release of the Compass scores, it is clear Louisiana is saddled with an overwhelming albatross. This evaluation system dishonors the complexity of teaching by demanding educators teach in only one way: group learning. Few students will face this Utopian world once they reach college, and this method of imparting knowledge has great potential to set these future learners up for failure.

Compass relies on quasi-science and a three-page-long, inexplicable formula to arrive at the Value-Added Measurement, something no professional from the Louisiana Department of Education has been able to explain. It requires student behaviors of self-policing and self-motivation that only exist in an ideal world completely divorced from reality.

I agree with Ms. Boffy that “Teachers have the power to support a child in learning and lay the foundation for a successful life.” My fundamental disagreement is that Compass does not in any way promote a teacher’s ability to do that. For years, we educators have been differentiating our teaching styles to address the myriad learners we face, and yet Compass rates us only on group learning. What expert ruled this the only effective way to teach?

I also agree with Ms. Boffy that no tool is perfect, but Compass is riddled with so many flaws. That fact that the State Education Superintendent John White invalidated the scores of some teachers speaks volumes to the erratic nature of Compass. If any teacher scores a “1” in any of the five categories, that teacher is ruled ineffective on that half of the teacher evaluation. All other high scores are wiped out by that single digit. I personally know teachers where 75% of their students scored mastery on the End of Course Tests, and yet are rated ineffective because they don’t indulge the harmful fallacy that the bells and whistles of group learning are always more important than good, old-fashioned teaching.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) is simply approving in lock-step everything John White and the LDOE creates to enforce this uniformity system upon its educators. It’s ineffective, harmful, and is resulting in larger numbers of excellent teachers vacating a system that continues to decline.

In closing, I quote John White. He stated in his Advocate article that “we have stopped treating teachers like one-size-fits-all widget.” No sir, you have reinforced that idea. By forcing every teacher to pantomime one approach to earn an effective rating, you have indeed transformed us into group-learning lemmings. No amount of white-washing or sycophantic letters will erase the stark reality that people with little classroom experience are mutilating this noble profession of teaching.

Vincent P. Barras

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Sentell’s Latest Advocate Article Is Not Exactly Journalism But Propaganda

On Monday, November 11, 2013, the Advocate‘s Will Sentell composed his latest article on Common Core and the controversy surrounding it. As usual, what began as a thought-provoking article morphed into pro-Common Core rhetoric with little representation of the real concerns by parents. Pro-Common Core advocates were overwhelmingly represented and dismissed the public outcry as inaccurate Tea-party-inspired nonsense, obstinate teachers who oppose change for its own sake, and backwards parents who resist having their children brought out of the Dark Ages. Here is the link for the article (http://theadvocate.com/home/7521725-125/common-core-sparks-delayed-uproar) and here is my response to many of the generalities and quotes supplied by Mr. Sentell.

“ ‘The Internet can get the false information out faster than we can get the proper information out,’ said Jim Garvey….”

No, actually, Mr. Garvey, the Internet is usefully spreading real parental concerns that the majority of the BESE Board, yourself included, do not take seriously.

“Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, blamed the uproar on “Tea party people and some other right-wing Republicans,” whose views he said are often fueled by bad information.”

No, actually, Mr. Appel, the uproar is from caring parents who are witnessing this wholesale kidnapping of public education by non-educators as completely unacceptable. Thankfully, there are other legislators like Representative Cameron Henry who genuinely listen to the public and will file legislation to remove Louisiana from Common Core.

“The principal of John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Lake Charles, Dinah Robinson, … said the calculation of division, for instance, is not taught as it used to be.”

She’s right. It’s incredibly longer than the traditional method and is being taught not as an alternative method but as THE acceptable method. That’s just plain stupid.

“Common Core will take full effect in the 2014-15 school year, including national assessments in the spring of 2015.”

Now, Now, Mr. Sentell. Please attempt a veneer of journalistic accuracy. It was fully implemented THIS year. The PARCC tests will start next year.

“ ‘The biggest thing I have heard from constituents is just a desire to help their kids,’ said Boffy, a former state teacher of the year who represents nine school districts.”

Well, of course, no one is sending real concerns to Holly Boffy. She has demonstrated over and over her unwavering dedication to Common Core, not to the teachers and students of Louisiana. Considering the consistent 9-2 BESE Board votes supporting the recent overhaul of education, every sentient being should instead send their concerns to legislators who have the power to overrule and undo this travesty.

And the definition of rigor is not necessarily aligned with educational goals. The definitions include severity or strictness, demanding difficult or extreme conditions, and the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate. Strictness, extreme, and exhaustive are more the signs of obsessive compulsiveness and should not be the setting of every course taught in schools.

Lastly, it is becoming a source of constant consternation in Louisiana about the reporting of Will Sentell on educational matters. All the people quoted in this article were supportive of the recent phase of Common Core. BESE Board member Dr. Lottie Polozola Beebe, a fierce defender of public education, was not quoted, and the only anti-Common Core voice was almost an afterthought at the end of the article following a barrage of pro-Common Core tripe. Balance in reporting is a hallmark of journalism, but it is sorely lacking in Mr. Sentell’s reporting.

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The Love Fest for Common Core: A One-Sided Panel Indeed

“Common Core’s here, it’s a done deal, and we might as well get used to it” appears to be the stock reply.

I read the Lafayette Advertiser‘s article ” Common Core Needed in Louisiana to Improve College, Job Performance” by Amanda McElfresh. I noted the speakers present: United Way of Acadiana CEO Margaret Trahan, University of Louisiana at Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie, Lafayette High School Instructional Strategist Amy Deslattes, Lafayette Parish Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper, BESE Board Member Holly Boffy, and Parents Empowered Founder Heather Blanchard. (Full disclosure: I taught Joe Savoie’s son twice in math and I work at Lafayette High School alongside Amy Deslattes.) These are all good, hard-working people, and any meeting that discusses Common Core is a good thing. This meeting, however, was TOTALLY one-sided with a group of panelists all in support of Common Core. Whoever held this meeting did a disservice to parents, teachers, and any adults who have legitimate concerns about how Common Core was created, how it has produced age-inappropriate materials, and how it minimized the input of teachers, parents, and educational psychologists from the very inception of Common Core.

I am most baffled at how most supporters of Common Core, and I am not implying the people mentioned above, hardly blink an eye when people raise concerns about how Common Core was developed in the first place. When opponents point out that no teachers in grades K-12 served on the Standards Work Group that wrote the standards, the only answer given is that thousands of educators gave their input, though exactly what that input was and how it was handled is never explained. The undeniable fact is that no teachers served on that group, and inviting people to give suggestions after the fact is not truly involvement, it’s window-dressing. When opponents point out that a growing number of prominent professors, notably Dr. James Milgram, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, and Dr. Ze’ev Wurman, decry its deficiencies, the circle-the-wagons answer is we must do something to fix education for our students. When opponents point out justifiably that simply moving harder material down a grade level or two ignores the chemistry of the brain and its ability to absorb some age-inappropriate material, the answer … is usually not to answer. Supporters appear apoplectic that we don’t just bow down in prostration at their incredible program funded largely by Bill Gates. Supporters seem unfazed by the legitimate concerns of parents and the very teachers who have to carry out these so-called reforms. Supporters don’t really listen to our concerns, and instead launch pro-Common Core rallies like the panel above, who, interestingly enough, never addressed the concern about how Common Core was developed in the first place. “Common Core’s here, it’s a done deal, and we might as well get used to it” appears to be the stock reply.

In the future, there should be meetings that involves ALL the stakeholders woefully absent from the panel: parents, teachers, principals, and educational psychologists. Having only business leaders, university professors, and pro-Common Core educators does not present the whole picture, and while their input is valuable, those persons do not work in the classroom day after day working on the ever-changing quicksands of Common Core and its haphazard implementation in Louisiana. Anything worth doing is worth doing correctly, and Common Core was developed in a way to ostracize certain groups (parents, teachers, principals, educational psychologists) and promote a selective agenda. Please stop thinking a louder chorus of pro-Common Core propaganda is going to assuage the voices of the anti-Common Core crowd. Not inviting us to the discussion is a sign of disrespect and will not persuade us that you actually listen to us or take our concerns seriously.

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