Tag Archives: PARCC

What do Businesses and Billionaires Sometimes Have in Common?

Flip BESE 2

Recently I read an article from Barry Erwin about will Louisiana be honest when PARCC scores comes out. Almost immediately afterwards, a friend linked me to a Washington Post article about billionaires from outside the state pouring money into our local Board of Elementary and Secondary Education elections.

I guess thirty pieces of silver is no longer the going rate for demonizing the teaching profession and abusing students as young as kindergartners with more and more tests.

Business and Billionaires, I thought, are trying to continue their strangle-hold on the present BESE Board, where they possess—some say bought—a solid majority of votes in favor of endless testing and attempting to quantify student results in a way that compares us to other states.

The Post article factually reported that Eli Broad, California-based billionaire, and Alice and Jim Walton, heirs to Sam Walton’s fortune, have poured some $650,000 into Empower Louisiana, a PAC founded and funded by Baton Rouge millionaire Lane Grigsby. The PAC, in turn, funnels money for flyers and ad space for the BESE candidates who favor continuing the test-till-you-drop method of student and teacher accountability, and increasing the flow of public money to private, charter institutions.

I guess thirty pieces of silver is no longer the going rate for demonizing the teaching profession and abusing students as young as kindergartners with more and more tests.

I think I donated $25 once to a campaign. I wonder how much bang I might get for my buck.

I also didn’t realize that our BESE Board elections were so interesting to outsiders that they felt compelled to pour that much money to get certain candidates elected. How about the simple merits of their positions and the strength of their arguments?

Naïve me. Those things don’t win anymore in this modern age.

Or do they?

I sincerely hope that the public realizes that groups like Council for a Better Louisiana, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Stand for Children, Teach for America, and numerous others have been bought and paid for with Bill Gates’ money. He’s the ultimate billionaire who funded the price tag to create the behemoth called Common Core.

I sincerely hope that the public views the video “2011: When the Billionaires Bought BESE.” It’s an eye-opener about the election some four years ago that set us on this disastrous path.

Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Alice & Jim Walton, John Arnold, Paul Tudor Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, just a few of the billionaires out there trying to drown out educators’ and parents’ voices with their hefty pile of dollar bills.

People of Louisiana, don’t be fooled by this glittering display of money that would have been better served helping children get out of poverty. Avoid the slick words of the snake oil salesmen who think so little of Louisiana parents and teachers. Make an informed choice, devoid of the spectre of the loudest, bawdiest people who try to outshine integrity with their vulgar display of wealth.

And then I realized, in this fateful moment, what business and billionaires have in common: they’re bullies, trying to buy their way to what they want because of the paucity of their ideas.

It’s time to stand up to the bullies.

Business, Billionaires, and Bullies: what a devastating combination for Louisiana’s children, educators, and parents.

 

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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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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.

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Lots of Opinions, Not Many Facts: Judy’s Vail’s Letter to the Editor

Cartoon by Randy Bish in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Cartoon by Randy Bish in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Senator Patrick Moynihan once famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Judy Vail, Common Core Specialist in Calcasieu Parish, wrote a recent letter to the editor. It was riddled with opinions but lacking in facts. Here is my response.

Common Core will never solve the true stumbling block called poverty; anyone who thinks so is simply not looking at the facts.

She claims to know why people oppose Common Core. Considering that she is one of the core group of teacher leaders chosen by John White to promote Common Core, she most likely possesses only the side of the story with which she is comfortable. To claim that people oppose it only due to national infringement of local control only displays the lack of understanding on supporters’ part. Parents are complicated, loving people, and to reduce their valid concerns to only one category is another sign of one-size-fits-all approach CC supporters employ.

As for her statement that Common Core started with the states, that is wrong. The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are NOT the states. The individual states did NOT appoint the people or send any members to be a part of the core group who wrote Common Core Standards. With vast donations of Bill Gates’ money, the NGA and the CCSSO appointed the people who designed the standards that some 45 states would originally adopt.

“Common Core standards actually spell out what math and reading skills students should have in each grade…” That’s exactly what the Louisiana Grade Level Expectations (GLE) also did, and they were ranked as some of the better ones in the nation. Poverty, however, dramatically affects our performance on state rankings, but instead of addressing poverty, CC supporters claimed the GLEs were deficient. It’s a perfect example of addressing the symptom while ignoring the disease.

Vail also uses faulty logic. She claims that since less than 20 states have signed up for the PARCC assessments, how can this be a national test? She failed to mention that PARCC is only one of two groups designing such tests; the other is called Smarter Balance that has some 21 participating states. Combined, those two groups represent almost seventy percent of the nation taking tests based on the same standards.

“If Louisiana were to delay the use of PARCC, costs could rise to the millions of dollars.” Actually, the Pre-PARCC tests cost between $8-11 dollars per test, while the PARCC tests conservatively were estimated to cost $29 per test—almost triple the cost—and that’s not including the exorbitant amount of computer upgrades each district must absorb as the tests only run on the latest computers.

How did 45 states somehow think it a good idea to hand over their educational future to a group of people who were not teachers, had never written standards before, and had no grasp of cognitive development in children? What could possibly go wrong?

As for my mathematical experience, I trust the words of Dr. James Milgram, who served on the Verification Committee for CC and refused to sign off on it, and Dr. Ze’ev Wurman who has written extensively on the notable omissions in the math standards: removing Algebra I from the 8th grade, replacing traditional foundations of Euclidean geometry with an experimental approach, removing topics in Algebra II and Geometry that make a college-ready student really only ready for a two year college; failure to teach prime factorization and least common denominators or greatest common factors; failure to address mathematical induction; barely touches on logarithms; incompletely addresses conic sections; and the list goes on.

Vail lastly states that Louisiana is ready for CC because the state has worked tirelessly to implement these standards. I certainly don’t have Vail’s 40 years as an educator, but in my 24 years, I have never seen such a haphazard rollout of such a poorly-conceived plan. I’ve had five different curriculum maps in the last five years, all significantly different and all implying that we apparently had no clue what we were doing from year to year.

She closes with the usual argument that the state’s 48th place ranking means we must keep Common Core. As long as poverty remains the real problem, we will always rank near the bottom. Common Core will never solve the true stumbling block called poverty; anyone who thinks so is simply not looking at the facts.

 

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Common Core Was Never Right for Louisiana or the Nation

Copied from an article by Mona Charen published January 9, 2015 (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/charen010915.php3)

Copied from an article by Mona Charen published January 9, 2015 (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/charen010915.php3)

Recently, an educator wrote a letter to the editor about not turning back the clock on educational reforms. Here is my response.

The author wrote, “Just like a doctor, when we learn more-effective practices, we replace old, outdated ones.” Actually one of the best medical practices is to first do no harm. New medicines are usually tested on a small sample to see if they work. Rarely would a new drug be subjected to the whole population and then, keeping fingers crossed, watch the results. That’s exactly what Common Core is: a mass trial experiment using students as guinea pigs. It’s unethical.

She also wrote, “Over the past four years, teachers around our state have worked tirelessly to transition our instructional practices to better meet the needs of our students.” My experience has been quite the opposite. I have taught the same math subject for eight years now, but have received five different curriculum maps, each more bizarre than the last. They are all based on a set of standards written by individuals with no experience writing standards. (No matter how many times that is pointed out, reformers blindly ignore this.)

Bobby Jindal’s plan is to return to the GLE program of 2004-05. Those GLEs were evaluated as one of the best in the nation, but that evaluation clashed with Louisiana’s low ranking in the NAEP test results. What no reformer ever seems to understand is that poverty is the crippling factor in the state’s ranking, not the GLEs themselves. It’s the equivalent of saying that when a Louisiana automobile breaks down more frequently, it must be the car’s fault, totally ignoring that the wretched Louisiana roads can wear down even the best car. Address the real issue: poverty, not the standards.

Another statement she made was “This plan reeks of politics….” Anyone who believes the world exists without politics is hopelessly naïve. All education plans go before an elected BESE board. All important BESE proposals go through the elected Louisiana legislature. All legislative bills go before the elected governor. That’s politics. Looking at the real world might adjust people’s perspectives.

“Shouldn’t we allow the actual teachers to evaluate our progress thus far and improve the standards to make them Louisiana’s very own?” What a novel idea, except she misses the whole point. Actual teachers should have been involved in creating the Common Core Standards in the first place. It has been well-documented that the two dozen or so souls who created this albatross were not educators, possessed no experience writing standards, and lacked any knowledge of cognitive development in children. They were mostly test makers, period.

She claims that Jindal’s plan is “a slap in the face to all of the educators and students who have worked so hard to prove that Louisiana can compete academically.” Actually Common Core and its PARCC tests are the real slap in the face: the passing rates for minorities is below 15%. Failing 85% of African Americans on a test is somehow making us more competitive? It’s demoralizing our students, the future of America, in a cold and brutal fashion.

The author should also use logic more rigorously. She combines the graduation rate of 2004 (60%) with the GLEs of 2004, but correlation does not mean causation. GLEs were started in 2004, so they can’t possibly be the cause of a 60% graduation rate that year. Every year since 2004, the graduation rate has increased while the GLEs were in effect, so it must have done some good. And if Common Core is so wonderful, why did Louisiana’s graduation rate DROP in this past year? We have been transitioning to Common Core for four years, so some of that drop must be attributable to that program.

On this quote she and I agree: “To the powers that be, I am asking you to make the right decision to put students first.” Restore Louisiana educational decisions back in our own hands. Only in rare cases does a one-size-fits-all approach ever work, and trying to make every state follow the same set of standards is exactly the opposite of what educators are often told, to individualize the learning for the needs of the learner.

When a state adopts an ill-designed program and needs to pay thousands of teachers to become cheerleaders—teacher leaders—I say scrap the whole thing if it is unsalvageable. When it comes to Common Core, Louisiana and the nation would have benefited from the old saying, you can save yourself a peck of trouble if you do things right the first time.

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Supporters of Common Core & PARCC, like John White, Have a Logic All Their Own

News-Star File Photo

News-Star File Photo of Louisiana State Superintendent John White

More than ever, I am convinced that supporters of Common Core and PARCC assessments live in their own little world, a world devoid of logic.

Many of these supporters make terrible debaters. I witnessed a prominent officer of the Council for a Better Louisiana say that no one should believe what the opponents are saying. That’s always a good way to win an argument.

Last week, I pointed out the lack of logical thought in a letter to the editor by Mallory Wall. My response was published alongside the latest salvo from Superintendent of Education John White.

Tackling the problem of poverty, combined with those excellent pre-Common Core standards, is precisely the common sense approach we need. Oh, a competent, well-qualified Superintendent of Education certainly couldn’t hurt.

I have already written extensively about White’s lack of credentials: two years in the classroom and six weekend seminars at the uncredited Broad Academy do not a competent Superintendent make. White’s underwhelming performance has caused a credibility gap reminiscent of the Nixon years, and internet memes of “White Lies” crop up everywhere.

Adding to his insignificance was this letter claiming Louisiana should embrace Common Core. Too bad his logic was just as bad as Ms. Wall’s.

From the very beginning, White proves he’s a novice at debating. He starts with “In 2009, Louisiana education officials recognized that our state’s academic expectations were not as advanced as were the expectations in many other states.”

The Pinocchio meter yells “False!” In 2010, the Fordham Institute evaluated the Louisiana Grade Level Expectations and ranked the English GLEs with a B+. They wrote, “Louisiana’s standards treat both literary and non-literary texts in more systematic detail than the Common Core…”

Even more inconvenient for White was the publication in Education Week in 2005 that stated “Louisiana ranked number one for its standards and accountability for the second time in three years…” We were using those same standards in 2009, so what happened? How did they get so low?

They didn’t. Louisiana had good standards. John White is, as usual, missing the point.

The argument John White could have made—but didn’t—was that despite having top-notch standards, Louisiana students consistently scored near the bottom of the fifty states on the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) tests. That is undeniably true.

With a logic known only to himself, White then links Louisiana’s low performance with the standards. Translation: it’s the standards’ fault.

Elementary logic 101: correlation does not imply causation. Just because Louisiana students perform badly on NAEP tests while we were using GLEs does mean it’s the GLEs’ fault.

White ignores what nearly all of his ilk do: poverty is at fault. Louisiana could have the world’s most outstanding standards, and it won’t do much good against the crushing poverty that Louisiana students face.

If students lack technology, solid home structures, even the basics of food and warmth—all things caused by poverty—then they will not perform well on these tests.

But according to White, the problem is not poverty. It’s the standards.

Now firmly entrenched in his tangent, White goes for broke. He says Louisiana participated in creating Common Core Standards—a dubious claim at best—and gives the usual statement that 100+ educators formed committees to review the standards. With so much misinformation from White, unless he names some people, no one will believe these 100 souls exist.

I do find it interesting that White actually makes the statement that “politics found its way into the mix.”

I agree. Politics DID enter the mix. It’s how White got elected as Superintendent of Education.

Numerous authors besides myself have documented the tortuous path that White took to becoming the State Superintendent. Of the eleven BESE board members, seven were in favor of White, but four were staunchly opposed. Needing eight votes, Governor Bobby Jindal, White’s one-time friend, poured tons of money into the elections which were conveniently near, and secured the removal of two of those opponents, thus guaranteeing White’s selection. We’ve been paying for that political move ever since.

White’s logic again fails when he argues that Louisiana will be able to show a “fair comparison of elementary and middle school student performance in Louisiana with that of states across the country.”

The Pinocchio meter yells “False!” Louisiana can compare its students to NO OTHER STATE. Pearson made the PARCC tests for ten states, and those ten states can compare themselves to each other. Louisiana has no contract with Pearson so students did NOT take a PARCC test. Instead we contracted with Data Recognition Corps, which does provide some questions to Pearson, but how many and who knows are anyone’s guess. Louisiana students took a PARCC-like test, and it would behoove the media to stop reporting it as the PARCC test when it is not. No matter how much White says it, we can compare ourselves to no one.

In closing, I will point out that White said that Louisiana should “embrace a pragmatic approach to the future.” I completely agree. Common Core has become an albatross around Louisiana’s neck, and a sensible approach would be to return to the standards that were once ranked the highest in the nation. Tackling the problem of poverty, combined with those excellent pre-Common Core standards, is precisely the common sense approach we need. Oh, a competent, well-qualified Superintendent of Education certainly couldn’t hurt.

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Opt-In Supporter Mallory Wall’s Letter Substitutes Emotion for Logic

No PARCC ing

Teacher Mallory Wall wrote a highly emotional letter that was printed in the March 8th Lake Charles paper. It was a loosely-organized indictment of the teaching profession, which seems odd coming from a teacher. (A link to the letter is below.)

It’s not just the letter’s poor logic that irritates; it’s the absence of logic entirely that offends.

Wall relayed an emotional story about a bright potential college student “full of hope and determination” from a rural parish. Somehow this female valedictorian could only score a 13 on her ACT, so she was appealing to still earn TOPS.

According to Wall, the student’s words were “full of emotion.” So were Wall’s. Too bad she substituted emotion for logic, for her words lacked a coherent train of thought.

Wall took this anecdotal story and then linked it with gossamer threads to blame the entire Louisiana public education system. Somehow this student’s situation gave Wall the right to accuse all teachers—nay, the entire state—of mass negligence: “Her teachers have failed her. Her state has failed her. We have failed her.”

Here is prudent advice for Wall: do not use tales to blame all teachers or this state. If Wall wants to accept blame for this student, she is certainly free to do so, but she has no right to spread her scapegoating blanket on others in the teaching profession.

Her irrational letter defames the character of thousands of hard-working teachers with an insupportable argument: students with low-ACT scores are PROOF that EVERYONE has failed them.

In twenty-four years of teaching, I have known brilliant students who were poor test takers. One valedictorian I taught never obtained the ACT score necessary for scholarships, but today is a successful doctor. Unlike Wall, I will not blame the entire profession because of his performance on one test.

Here’s an inconvenient fact: a low ACT score indicates that a student on a particular day did not do well, that is all. It is not concrete evidence that the teaching profession and/or the state neglected to do its duty.

ACT is merely one tool to gauge if a student is ready for college. It is NOT a tool that easily identifies if a student is ready for life. And here’s another shocking fact for Wall to absorb: not everyone is cut out for college, but they can be highly successful human beings.

Wall claims to know her students’ data, which is interesting considering that this is the first year of the new PARCC-like tests. Exactly what can she compare: last year, Louisiana field-tested a PARCC test designed by Pearson; this year we’re giving a PARCC-like test designed by Data Recognition Corp. Such an apples-to-oranges comparison is potentially fruitless.

Is this kind of thinking the best that Common Core supporters have to offer? No wonder there is a rising tide of outraged parents and educators against a set of standards designed by people with no experience in writing standards.

I have taught over 3,500 students in almost a quarter of a century. Many have been successes; some have not. To judge me by their results is akin to rating a dentist by the cavities in their patients’ mouths. It makes no sense.

I teach my students to never stereotype or scapegoat a group of people based on a single story. I will, however, call out any person who claims I’m a failure because of one story. For me, that’s personal.

Ms Wall's letter to editor

 

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