Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why are Teachers Leaving the Profession in Louisiana?

As usual, the biased Advocate reporter, Will Sentell misses the point about the real causes of teacher attrition in recent years following the so called Jindal education reforms. His story about a report on the increase in teachers leaving the profession in recent years, suggests that the main reason for the growing teacher losses is the tougher tenure law rammed through by Jindal in 2012. Sentell fails to point out that the real problem is the attempt by the state to blame teachers for societal problems over which they (teachers) have no control.

Since the passage of the Jindal "reforms", teachers have been forced to spend inordinate amounts of classroom time mostly prepping their students for state tests. Then the results of these tests are used to evaluate teachers and to assign letter grades to their schools. The assumption has been that student test scores are determined primarily by the quality of their teachers in each school. Yet, the American Statistical Association has determined that the quality of the teacher influences at most 14% of a student's test performance. So when the state uses student test scores to determine half of a teacher's evaluation, the result will be a huge loss of teacher morale. Most teachers are very dedicated and fair-minded. They really resent being evaluated by such a flawed process.

The real problem is the defective evaluation system based on student test scores which arbitrarily labels a certain percentage of teachers as failures each year. Professional educators resent being forced to spend most of their classroom time doing little more than rehearsing students for state tests. Tests that are poorly designed, and whose scores from year to year are so erratic that no teacher is guaranteed a fair shake when these results are used to evaluate the teacher.

I just completed an analysis of the student performance on the state LEAP tests given in the spring of 2016. The raw scores on these tests average about 40% statewide. The passing raw scores on these tests are set at a ridiculous average of 32%. The tests are so poorly designed that even with months of practice and test rehearsal, kids miss most of the questions. Then those test scores are used to assign letter grades to schools. All the magnet schools that select their students based on academic ability get rated "A" and all schools that serve the most disadvantaged students and the greatest percentage of students with disabilities get rated "D" or "F". The teachers have no control over these factors, yet they are also labeled as failures no matter how hard they work and how dedicated they are to their students. The study on teacher attrition by Tulane University points out that such a system is driving teachers away from the very schools that are most in need of highly qualified teachers.

So simply blaming the changes in the tenure law for increased teacher attrition misses the point. The problem is that amateurs have taken over the operation of our education accountability system and have reduced teaching and learning into a boring and thankless job! That's why so many teachers are quitting their profession! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

America, the Beacon of Hope Shines On . . .

The federal 9th circuit court of appeals decision handed down yesterday overruling the Trump travel ban from selected countries was nothing short of an affirmation of the greatness of America!

The entire world watches the news coming out of America every day and is obsessed by almost every American action, particularly in politics and foreign policy. Our country is truly the leader of the world because we have somehow stumbled upon the most successful and fairest form of government known to man. That's why the millions or maybe billions of oppressed peoples of the world watch our country so closely, where despite our many flaws, we still represent the best hope for the success of mankind on this fragile planet.

A few years ago the whole world watched as Barrak Obama, a man of mixed ethnicity who had somehow risen to the top leadership position of our nation, eloquently laid out his dream of hope and change. The whole world unrealistically looked to him as the leader who could help America lead the entire world to a new era of peace, prosperity, and harmony. Unfortunately their expectations were much too optimistic as the extreme polarization between the two major political parties here paralyzed our national government. Our country was struggling with a near collapse of our economy at the time Obama took the reins. Somehow, continuing the moves initiated by president Bush to save our banks and prevent an economic collapse, Obama, his economic advisors and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System executed a plan to pull us out of the economic abyss.

So by the end of Obama's 8 years, despite the petty political paralysis, our nation was leading the  world's economic recovery and we seemed to by inching closer to a better life for all.  But our economy and the distribution of wealth were far from perfect. Many people still found themselves struggling to survive while a tiny percentage of the super wealthy ruling class gobbled up all the cream from our recovering economy.

Then came Donald Trump. This phenomenon referred to by conservative columnist George Will as a  "bloviating ignoramus" somehow convinced almost half of our voters and a majority of our Electoral College to install him as president. Trump was seen by many as a supreme ruler that could single handedly right all wrongs and inequities in America caused by our shift to a world economy pitting our American workers against the hordes of cheap labor from all the less developed economies of the world thereby destroying thousands of higher paying manufacturing jobs in our country.  Trump, who ironically came from the greedy economic elite of our society, simply promised to return our economy to an impossible, obsolete structure where the middle class would once again prosper, where miners could return to their dangerous dirty jobs in the ground to once again bring home a bigger paycheck, and where everything would be right again. In addition, Trump promised to bomb our Isis enemies to hell and remove all the threats of terrorism caused by the ugly clash of ideologies in the middle east.

For the past few weeks since the Trump inauguration, the world watched in horror as Trump announced his "America first" policy and banned the most oppressed and most desperate humans from setting foot on our precious soil. The Trump edict was immediately seen by the world and by experts in diplomacy and foreign policy to be the exact opposite of what America needed to do to defuse the clash of cultures of the west and the middle east. But then just yesterday three judicial wise persons stepped up to the plate and hit a home run!

Yesterday the world learned that our government is designed, at least in this one instance, to curtail the actions of a demigod who seemed to be determined to ignorantly plunge the world into greater chaos. Instead the peoples of the world can still see that our great country has a system of government that can curtail some of the most the insane actions of Trumpism. There are many challenges ahead as Trump continues his petty insecure tantrums and incompetent executive orders and the Republicans attempt to further consolidate the rule of the greedy elites. But on this one day, America demonstrated its greatness

I expect that America may also be spared in the coming years, as the Trump administration proves to be so incompetent that it may not be able to successfully implement his most destructive policies!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

More Frightening Revelations About Betsy DeVos. Please Help Stop this Appointment!

This is your last chance to help stop a very dangerous anti-public education individual from being appointed to the highest education position in the nation! Betsy DeVos is not only one of the least qualified persons ever for U. S. Education Secretary (she has not one bit of training or experience in public education), but recent revelations have uncovered her investments in a highly suspicious, possibly fraudulent pseudo-educational scheme to extract high fees from parents of students and citizens with learning disabilities! Why would we appoint someone who stands to profit from highly questionable schemes possibly fleecing parents of children who are most at-risk?

I am talking about the fact that Betsy DeVos, President Trump's nominee for U. S. Secretary of Education, is a major investor in a company called Neurocore, which claims to retrain the brains of persons and children with various learning disabilities. See this article in The New York Times that highlights the fact that DeVos has refused to dispose of her investments in Neurocore. Here is the actual Neurocore web site. Look at their slick promotion and judge for yourself if this may be a scam.

This company charges very high fees to often desperate parents to "retrain the brains" of children with ADHD or autism, who have trouble concentrating in school. The problem is that there is not one shred of real, peer reviewed research showing that this "retraining" works. Yet the Neurocore company has announced plans to expand nationwide and possibly offer their services to schools in many states.The whole thing looks suspiciously like a flat out scam (sort of like Trump University). The DeVos investment company is considered the biggest investor in this "educational" company. In my opinion Trump University (which was required to refund millions in fees to its customers) looks like a much more reputable scheme than this outfit.

So here's the situation that applies to the person nominated to implement the education policies of our nation for the next 4 years:

  • DeVos is possibly the biggest national proponent of privatizing public education. The companies she has helped promote in Michigan using huge political contributions to both state and federal legislators, are mostly for-profit companies who have a very poor record of educating children
  • The DeVos fortune was accumulated mostly by an inheritance from the AmWay founder who has extracted billions from what is considered more of a pyramid scheme than an a legitimate business
  • Betsy DeVos did not attend, and has never been trained for any public education purpose
  • Now we find that she refuses to separate herself from a possibly fake education company that could stand to make millions by using her influence to greatly expand its business.
What can we do? Time is running out. The vote on the DeVos appointment is scheduled in the U.S. Senate on Monday or Tuesday of this coming week. We can all telephone the offices of our two U.S. Senators and leave a message with their staff that we want them to vote "no" on the Betsy DeVos appointment for the position of U. S. Secretary of Education. Here are the office phone for your two Senators. Office hours are 9 to 5 Eastern time:
Senator John Kennedy - Washington DC phone: 202-224-4623. Fax; 202-228-0447
Senator Bill Cassidy- Washington DC phone 202-224-5824. Fax: 202-224-9735

Many Senators have reported a huge volume of phone calls and faxes from parents and educators opposing this appointment. These calls are making a difference! Right now, we are just one Senate vote short of blocking this nomination. This is critical!

Important note: Sometimes the regular phone number for Senators are tied up or busy, so many public education supporters nationwide have resorted to sending a fax. The fax method of messaging may have the advantage that it could be sent outside of regular office hours. So you may start by sending a fax now, and then following up with a phone call during office hours.