Month: March 2015

Common Core: It’s Cheaper to Keep Her

Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA) has proven himself to be an ambitious politician who is persistently faithful to a conservative political agenda at all costs, even to the tune of $25.2 million according to the Louisiana Department of Education.

Picture it: Wednesday, March 18th, 2015. The eyes of about 99% of Louisiana’s public school students are skimming white pages pages with black writing. Their brows slightly wrinkled as they navigate through the language of a new test, the first of its kind they’ve been told. In the weeks leading up to this moment, their teachers have made hundreds of copies of sample questions and writing prompts, emphasized test vocabulary and question comprehension, evidenced based selected response questions, and covered the walls of the class and the school with motivational quips: “Rock the Test!” “It’s a Walk In the PARCC” and “We Are PARCC Ready!” Now, after all the bells and whistles, rallies, and cheers have quieted down, these students are finally putting pencil to paper to test their understanding of the fully implemented Common Core standards on the infamous PARCC assessment while teachers and administrators pray that their students performance reflects the time and work they have invested in this venture.

Elsewhere, Gov. Jindal is unveiling his plan to rid Louisiana of the Common Core and the accompanying PARCC assessment that students and teachers have been brainwashed to accept. When Common Core finally trickled its way down the pipeline, teachers were told that Common Core was here to stay. In other words, protests are futile and this is the irrefutable future of education. Now, just one year after the full implementation of Common Core in all of its muddy glory, educators are now discovering that Common Core may not have a permanent place at the table of education. Its like a step parent that educators have begrudgingly accepted, only to find out that its not going to work out after all.

In the interim of deciding which course of action Louisiana will take to redevelop its educational assessment program, the state will return to the grade level expectations from in 2004-05, along with the LEAP and iLEAP assessments. Furthermore, to ensure that Louisiana is never plagued with another Common Core situation, Jindal proposed new restrictions to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (BESE) ability to enter contracts and other agreements with third parties. According to Jindal, his plan will help ensure that “Louisiana parents and teachers create Louisiana standards and curriculum.”

This “plan” as Jindal calls it, amounts to nothing more than dusting out an old play book from years past. The only difference now is that he plans to cut the referees out of the game to ensure that he can lead restructure Louisiana’s public education system without a sure strategy. Jindal’s rash decision to toss out the same Common Core standards that he fervently supported in 2012 is an obvious long shot ploy for the White House in 2016. Jindal began expressing doubts about the Common Core standards after an overwhelming tide of criticism of the standards flooded the educational conversation.

His former political ally, Superintendent John White, disagrees with Jindal’s plan. White proposes that the state should adjust the standards over time rather than scrapping them all together. One thing is for sure, amid the projected budget cuts to school districts and higher education in Louisiana, an additional $25.2 million price tag on a change of heart is one thing we can do without.

Parents, Get In Their Business!

Children: happy,disgruntled, enlightened, ignorant, joyful, frustrated, despaired, hopeful, excited, depressed young human beings who have not reached the legal age of adulthood as defined by the state. I’ve often pondered about what truly qualifies a person to be classified as an adult. Does true adulthood begin when a person takes on adult responsibilities, such as working, living independently, or raising their own children? Or for some, does a secondary childhood continue after the age of 18 due to his or hers lack of mental maturity?

Eighteen is the age at which is person attains the right to vote, which in essence means that he or she should be literate and able to cast an independent vote based on their interpretation of the candidates’ platforms. In other words, our nation is practically saying to the fresh-out-of-childhood adults that we trust you to have a direct hand in the future of our democracy, which is a pretty big deal if you think about it. This is also the age when the individual is held liable for their own actions; they can choose to risk their lives for their country and be a representative of the United States abroad through military service without requiring parental consent. An eighteen-year-old can even walk into a convenience store with thorough knowledge of the adverse effects carcinogenics have on the human body and still buy a pack of cigarettes of his or her own free will.

Once a person turns eighteen, it is no longer the parent’s legal responsibility to support or be held responsible for his or her actions. So you’re on your own now, kid!

But before we jump that far in the future, let’s focus on the development of the child and the social skills they learn at school from professionals and peers. Which, depending on the student population, you may not want them to mimic the social behavior of the children with whom they spend at least third of their day most days of the week.

For some working parents, especially single parents, the schoolhouse itself is the equivalent a magic curtain that changes the well-behaved child that they know into the severely disrespectful wild child that teachers call home about. Children demonstrate the values he learns at home around his or her parents because the consequences are more swift and personal. On the other hand, while they are at school in a completely different environment they will more than likely adjust to match the behavior of their closest friends. In some instances, this is not a direct reflection of the parents’ parenting skills. It is a reflection, however, of what the child deems most important at the time: integrity or acceptance.

One way that parents can intercept the adaptation of negative behavior by association, is to monitor the company they keep. Make a point to not only be aware of what their child is doing on a daily basis, but what their friends do one a daily basis. Get to know where their friends live, who their parents are and what they do for a living, what other family members live in the household and who or what influences them. When children see their parents place importance on the company they keep in their youth, they will have a model to follow in choosing their associates when they are older.

Obviously kids may find themselves a bit perturbed with an increase in parental involvement, but if a bout of adolescence annoyance saves them from a potentially toxic relationship or friendship, they will look back on this learning experience with gratitude.

Anything a child does and anyone they spend a considerable amount of time around is the parents business. Until these young ones turn eighteen the government, and society for that matter, will hold the parents responsible for their actions.

Stay safe, informed, and wise.

CCSS and PARCC Make Horrible Bed Fellows

Although the voice of dissent seems to be the most outspoken when it comes to the Common Core State Standards, not all of us (teachers) despise the CCSS. In fact, some of us ELA teachers are really big fans of the new standards; they are more straightforward and allow room for expansion depending on how you approach the standards, and the standards also call for more independent higher order thinking skills which our students need to practice on a consistent basis. So by themselves, CCSS appears to be an Athena worthy solution to our ongoing debate of the fundamental purpose of public education and attempts to give remedy to the question: What kind of citizens do we want our public schools to produce? Since the induction of the CCSS, parents and educators alike have put up a united front proclaiming that the standards are everything from too difficult to not detailed enough, or that the standards are a part of systematic plan to mold the minds of subsequent generations. But what if Common Core by itself isn’t the true enemy of educational progress? What if the true enemy stands in the shadow of Common Core disguised as a logical and suitable companion?

Just like the spontaneous bouts of winter weather we’ve had here in Louisiana this season, behind every warm, sunny day are freezing temperatures, ice, and snow waiting to happen. Likewise, with every curriculum reform that graces our educational system drags with it our arch nemesis commonly known as “standardized testing.”  Standardized testing reared its ugly head in the shadows beginning with the guise of “evaluating” the progression of students. This by itself seemed reasonable, after all it benefits us to know at critical points of a child’s development if their skills are aligned with those of their classmates. Back then, standardized testing wasn’t a creature that threatened to devour our entire system, it had a purpose and a place. Then, right under our noses the role of standardized testing morphed into the full monster that “evaluates” everyone involved in public education except the student.

Hence the title of my blog, Educationship. A wise professor and retired school district supervisor once told me that “Education reform is not like turning a car, it doesn’t happen quickly. It is like turning a ship. It takes time going in the same direction to see a change.” Hitherto, many of the problems that we face on the district and state level is that reforms aren’t given the time required to see real change. It is as if we want a gourmet meal in fast food time, and with something as massive as an entire educational system in which we attempt to restructure the way that teachers have taught and students have learned for years, change doesn’t happen overnight.

One of the most empowering things about being an educator is that we have rare opportunities through which we can teach our passion. Not just a typical lesson that we’ve planned to fill in the time between bells, but every now and then we choose to read a particular book because the theme is so powerful and influential that we want to share it with a younger generation, or we choose to do a certain science experiment because it is so fascinating and eyeopening that we are sure that it will attract students into our field. Good teachers do not need the state or an administrator to hold their hands and walk them down the path of career booby traps to the happy grove of cookie cutter educators and say,

“Now to teach this topic from this book. You should do it in this manner because this worked for a group of students in Timbuktu (or some other far away place). Therefore, you should do the same thing and get the same results. If you choose not to teach this way, you will not receive optimal results. On the other hand, if this method doesn’t work for you where it has worked for others, you must be doing something wrong. Eventually, we may have to reevaluate your ability to teach.”

I know the above scenario seems absurd, but somewhere along the line the myth that teachers in general must not be that good at their jobs because all our students aren’t producing awe inspiring test scores. Believe it or not, a very large majority of teachers who have remained in the classroom after the consistent over-testing of No Child Left Behind, the Rat Race to the Top, the Stress and Value Added Model/Measurement (VAM) scores, the dog and pony show induced Compass evaluations, and now the Are-You-Smarter-Than- the-Riddler(?) PARCC assessment, are qualified to work in our current system. Teachers are not the opportunistic villains scamming the state out of $35,000 a year. Perhaps critics who has assumed this in the past should look to the test makers: Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing (a Houghton Mifflin company), and NCS Pearson who are more than willing take advantage of a system gone wrong and get paid megabucks doing it.

More details to coming soon!