Tag Archives: John White

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.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Unicorns in the Legislature: Never a Dull Moment in the Common Core Fight

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD

The Political Action Committee (PAC) called Alliance for Better Classrooms (ABC) has sent in the clowns—er, I mean, unicorns. In an opening salvo for the 2015 Legislative Session, the ABC PAC has sent fluffy unicorns to every Louisiana legislator with a statement attached saying, “Unicorns are not real. And neither are most of the things you’ve heard about Common Core State Standards.”

Just when I thought life without Edwin Edwards would be boring.

Apparently, Common Core supporting groups like Alliance for Better Classrooms felt that buying cute unicorns was money better spent than on actual classroom improvements.

What is this PAC called Alliance for Better Classrooms? I had never heard of them and decided to do some digging. The Internet searches were certainly eye-opening.

Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, owner of Cajun Industries, organized this new PAC around 2011 specifically to insert money into the 2011 BESE Board elections. At that time, it was widely known that Governor Bobby Jindal wanted to appoint New Orleans Recovery School District Superintendent John White at the Louisiana Superintendent of Education. White needed eight votes to get the appointment but it was equally known that four of the eleven BESE board members signaled their opposition to the underqualified John White.

Bobby Jindal then went to work for the man he once considered the savior of the state’s education system.

Jindal pulled in the big bucks and supported candidates that would vote for John White. Money flowed, especially from the wealthy New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who wrote a check for $5,000 for Kira Orange Jones, a candidate for the BESE Board, who eventually voted for White as Superintendent.

Even more importantly, Bloomberg contributed $100,000 to the ABC PAC. Cajun Industries, Grigsby’s firm, donated another $90,000, and at one point, he stated to the Advocate that he would spend more than one million if need be.

Lane Grigsby is an impressive entrepreneur, starting a business from scratch in the 70s and building it into a successful one topping $200 million in sales. Grigsby, however, typifies the businessman who thinks he has the answer for the education system. He has served on the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, has been a past Chairman of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, and presently served on the LABI Board. Both the Chamber and LABI are staunchly pro-Common Core, despite the fact that both groups had almost no expertise in educational issues.

And apparently, neither does Grigsby. His background, at least the one listed for his internet biography on Louisiana’s Business Roundtable, shows that his educational background is non-existent.

I have no doubt Grigsby is great at construction, and I would never attempt to tell him how to set up a structural steel building. I, however, know what works in the classroom, and I resent being told by businessmen who wouldn’t last five minutes in a classroom how to succeed as a teacher. What Grigsby doesn’t know about education could fill the Library of Congress, and as a lowly teacher with a single voice, I feel extremely apprehensive at the power and sway a man with that much money can hold over the future of education in this state.

In one newspaper article, Grigsby is quoted as saying, “I am not a kingmaker,” but his PAC, financed with some of his own money, certainly influenced the 2011 BESE Board elections. One particular youtube video, which is still available online, testifies to the kind of ads the ABC PAC was willing to create.

It unabashedly assaults Dale Bayard, the District 7 BESE board member, with caricatures of Bayard with red, beady eyes and the slogan “Dale Bayard. He’s BAD for Our Schools!” There’s even a child’s voice opining sadly, “Dale Bayard. He’s the reason our schools are broken.”

Way to keep it classy.

The 2011 election removed two board members who opposed John White, giving him more than the eight votes he needed to get a swanky promotion.

Louisiana probably has Lane Grigsby to thank, in part, for John White. We can therefore subsequently thank Grigsby for White’s inept and wretched rollout of Common Core.

And now it seems, four years later, the ABC PAC is at it again as the legislature meets and the elections draw near.

Recently, Grigsby voiced his disappointment in Senator David Vitter’s reversal on Common Core. In a Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, he is quoted as saying about Vitter, “Once again, political aspirations trump good judgment.”

So, buying a bunch of stuffed toys displays good judgment? If anything, it belittles an extremely important topic in the 2015 Louisiana Legislature.

It never seems to matter to business groups when they are questioned about Common Core. They scoff at inquiries that question why the twenty-five people who wrote the core of Common Core were mostly test-makers. They belittle any concerns about the lack of educators, parents, or child-development experts on the team that wrote the standards. They rebuke any disparaging remarks about the standard writers having no experience writing standards.

In their minds, it’s a done deal. It’s good for our children, our country, our workforce.

Any proof of that? Perish the thought.

It would be nice if instead of spending money to buy fluffy animals for 140+ legislators, people with influence might actually try to find out what is good for Louisiana students—and it wouldn’t hurt to ask the teachers who are in the trenches with those students.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized