Tag Archives: Louisiana Superintendent of Education

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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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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A Rising Tide Against Common Core

I believe that the tide is rising against Common Core, and I couldn’t be happier.

It certainly did not help when Louisiana Education Superintendent John White inexplicably moved up the date for full implementation of Common Core. When Louisiana adopted the Common Core Standards, 2012-2014 were designated as two transitional years, with full implementation in 2014-2015 school year. Suddenly White moved full implementation to 2013-2014 and then provided no curricula to assist this drastic change. Every Parish was left to their own devices and the leadership from White and the Department of Education was nonexistent.

The reaction has been swift. On October 10, 2013, the School Board of St. Tammany Parish passed a resolution asking that Louisiana remove itself from both Common Core and the PARCC tests accompanying it. On October 22, the Vermilion Parish School Board under Superintendent Jerome Puyau passed a resolution requesting a three-year delay of Common Core and any testing associated with it. Representative Cameron Henry (D-Metarie) has promised to fill legislation in the 2014 session to remove Louisiana from Common Core. As of yesterday, Washington Parish has also requested essentially the same thing as St. Tammany, and parishes are sharing their resolutions with each other.

I believe this is only the beginning. Parents and educators are organizing numerous webpages to educate people as well as spreading the word how to defend our students and teachers. Tireless defenders of teachers like Diane Ravitch and Lee Barrios continue to reflect on the flimsiness of Common Core and the assault on public education from the private sector. The chorus of angry, legitimate voices continues to swell.

As parents and educators rally and organize, the supporters of Common Core are circling the wagons. They have resorted to the weak line of logic that removing Louisiana from Common Core would somehow hurt our students, leaving them behind the rest of the country. My favorite line was that “We can’t be left with nothing and put that on the back of teachers and schools.” Actually, that’s precisely what John White just did to the state of Louisiana by moving up the full implementation date. Exactly how Louisiana students would be hurt by our removal from Common Core, supporters can never say.

I have written repeatedly about the problematic and systematically-flawed creation of Common Core, that its twenty-five authors had little or no classroom experience, and that involving teachers in some nebulous “feed-back” loop after the standards were done is not the same thing as involving teachers from the beginning. Supporters of Common Core never address this critical point, always parroting the answer that “thousands” of teachers were involved—somehow, somewhere—without any explanation of what that means. Let me state forcefully that this “reform” movement purposefully cut teachers out of important contributions because this “reform” movement is fueled by people with no respect for classroom teachers.

I wonder which parish will be next to pass a resolution asking for removal from Common Core?



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