Tag Archives: Louisiana Educational System

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Rep. Ivey’s HB 505 Returns From the Grave

Stop Common Core

When it comes to politics, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck said it best. “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

I hope that the concerned citizens return armed with facts, and treat this kind of legislative slight-of-hand with the contempt it deserves. 

In the last two years, I have watched with incredulity at the antics of the Louisiana legislature, whose leaders appear to specialize in somewhat spiteful behavior toward each other, the governor, and the Louisiana people.

During the 2013 legislative session, this behavior was grossly on display. Finding all sorts of problems with the Teacher Evaluation System (TES, my acronym), the House unanimously passed a bill delaying the punitive measures of the TES. In other words, for one year, teachers who received a negative evaluation would not have it count against them while teachers who earned a positive evaluation could keep it. As the system proved to be wildly ineffective, it seemed a remarkably common-sense solution.

Not so, thought the Senate Education committee, chaired by pro-Common Core Senator Conrad Appel. With a vote of 4-3, that seven-member committee killed the bill passed by a unanimous House. Those four members outweighed the concerns of the 100+ members of the House, and the bill died.

Democracy at its finest.

This year, House members have reached different targets: parents and educators.

Representative Barry Ivey proposed HB 505, which would effectively remove any teacher hired after July 2015 from ever earning due process. Any principal could now come into a school and theoretically fire any and all new teachers he or she wished. That might be the way businesses work, but schools do not operate on a business model, nor should they.

Representative Austin J. Badon, Jr. proposed HB 330, which would allow the Department of Education to expand the number of voucher students in some schools if those schools had been in operation for less than two years.

Both Ivey’s and Badon’s bills were scheduled for April 29th before the House Education Committee, the same day as a planned rally by a contingent of parents and educators aligned against Common Core, voucher expansion, and erosion of teachers rights. These concerned citizens had done research and prepared speeches, only to watch the two representatives suddenly pull their bills.

One week later, with no parents or educators on his horizon, Ivey has resurrected HB 505, essentially exposing all new teachers to discriminatory termination. Did he defer his bill in a craven attempt to avoid any pushback from groups which had meticulously organized to defend Louisiana citizens against a pervasive, pernicious belief that the business model is perfect for the educational system? Probably, though we may never know.

I hope that the parents return armed with facts, and treat this kind of legislative slight-of-hand with the contempt it deserves.

 

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Why does Louisiana always follow everyone else’s lead?

The current state of educational affairs in Louisiana, as well as the country, saddens me. This rigid emphasis on testing, testing, testing, has transformed the formative years of our youth from learning life skills to parroting test-taking skills. Even worse, most states, but especially Louisiana, have implemented teacher evaluations that attempt the near impossible: how to assign a number or letter-grade to a teacher? While no evaluation system is without its flaws, the effect teachers have on students is extremely difficult to quantify. I have had students contact me years later, tell me what an incredible effect I’ve had on them, and I never thought I had affected them in any way. When planted, the seed of learning takes a long time to nourish, and those future results as shown by contacts from former students can’t ever be measured or given a letter grade.

Concerning Common Core, I am even more disheartened. Louisiana was one of the first states to develop an accountability system to determine whether students were learning their subjects in their high schools. Sadly, we kept dumping one system for another before we can truly determine if the old ones were working. First we had GEE testing, but then we spent valuable time and money developing the End of Course Tests in Algebra I, Geometry, English II, English II, Biology I, and U.S. History. We did not get it right at first—no one does—but we worked out the kinks and now have data over several years to track our improvement or decline. Each year, more subjects were going to be added, but we are now going to erase all those years of hard work by adopting the Professional Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers tests. These PARCC tests—not designed, naturally, by teachers—just had their first wave of testing in New York State, where math scores plummeted from 55% passing to 31%. Who in their right minds thinks it’s a good thing to make students feel inferior, or worse, to tell them in the 3rd grade that they aren’t college material? No one knows a child’s potential for college in elementary grades! Even more reprehensible was the answer given by people who are Common Core disciples: these tests were just proof that we educators had been lying to our kids for years about how ready they were. No, the new tests are brutally difficult, and no amount of cramming more topics down a kid’s throat is going to make them learn the material faster or better.

Why is education always plagued with the pernicious belief that only non-educators have the solutions to education’s woes? No teachers served on the committees that wrote the Common Core standards, and only one math teacher served on the feedback committee. We wouldn’t ask a group of certified public accountants to write a journal detailing exploratory surgery for doctors? Why must we endure this folly?

Fellow educators keep telling me, “This too shall pass,” and while I hope they are right, it’s a shame that two important groups will suffer during this passage: the students and the teachers. Right now, the teachers are being scapegoated as the cause of all ills in society, when the lion’s share should fall on the disintegration of the nuclear family and the lack of proper upbringing that comes with it. Teachers are justifiable throwing their hands in the air and leaving, but it never helps when the State Superintendent of Education, the highly-underqualified John White, claims that all the teachers who are leaving the profession must be the ones who were ineffective. This exodus—3,000 plus teachers alone in the last year—is producing an epidemic of first-year teachers. In 1987-88, there was an estimated 65,000 first-year teachers; twenty years later, it had grown to over 200,000. Who wants to stay in a profession where your education department officials abuse you and where the rewards will come twenty years after the fact when a student thanks you for everything you did for them. The latter can make up for a lot, but when the abuse from the former is constant, it wears on the soul.

And the students will suffer most. They will be forced to learn material too quickly and then be told they are failures when they can’t master the new PARCC tests. They will miss out on truly great teachers and educators who are leaving in droves rather than cope with rampant stupidity and vacuous leaders. They will sense, quite correctly, that the educational system has lost its way, and they will have even less respect for the system as a whole than they did before. It’s a lose-lose situation all around, and we have only Common Core, John White, and Bobby Jindal to thank, with the blessings of the rubber-stamp BESE board and a docile state legislature. When I stand in front of my students, I am proud to be a teacher. When I witness my state leaders do everything in their power to sabotage this great profession, I am incensed. Who will save us from this mess? No one knows. 

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