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04/12 - Education Reform 2012

What will the changes to the state’s education system mean for Louisiana’s public schools?

Much of Governor Jindal’s education reform package has passed this legislative session, including creating America’s largest school voucher program, tying teacher pay to test scores and granting more authority to principals and superintendents. While debate still continues on some proposals, Louisiana Public Square takes time to explore what the changes mean for parents, students, teachers and taxpayers on its April edition, “Education Reform 2012” airing Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. on LPB HD. (Taping Tuesday, April 24th at LPB.)


At the opening of the 2012 Louisiana legislative session, Governor Jindal, said to compete in today’s global economy, “starts with a great education.” While acknowledging “unprecedented academic growth over the last decade,” the Louisiana Department of Education notes that 44% of public schools have grades of ‘D” or “F” which means that up to two-thirds of students at those schools are below grade level. In the state’s three largest cities - Baton Rouge, Shreveport and New Orleans - nearly one-half of students are below grade level. To address these shortcomings, Governor Jindal introduced a very aggressive education reform agenda including major changes to teacher’s tenure and compensation plus an expansion of Louisiana’s school choice program.

Panelists include:

- Penny Dastugue, President of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)
- Dr. Robert Webber, Superintendent of the Ouachita Parish School System
- Barry Erwin, President of the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL)
- Debra Vaughan, Assistant Director of Research for The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives

...Read Full Backgrounder

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Our Panelists:

More Information:
-Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE)
-Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)
-School Report Cards – How do your district schools rate?
-Council for a Better Louisiana Education Reform Information
-Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives Louisiana School Analysis
-LDOE COMPASS Evaluation Program
-Southern Education Desk on LPB
-Southern Education Desk Home Page - Covering education issues in Louisiana and other Southern states
-Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options
-Scholarship Applications

I think we need to talk about the facts instead of letting propaganda rule the conversation.  We obviously need to change how we deliver education, but the arguments are over points that I don’t think the public even debates.  Teachers that want tenure as job protection are simply not the kind of people we want teaching.  We should offer a significant raise to those who stay in the school system ready to be evaluated and helped to achieve better results if needed.  Some circumstances are different, but we should pay teachers more for working in less desirable classrooms.  Everyone should have to do their best with what they have.  Every child deserves better than what we are providing them right now.

Posted by Tricia Sanchez  on  03/16  at  09:49 PM

As an educator I have grave concerns about the reform.  I am participating in the pilot program for the new evaluation system; it is designed so a teacher can’t achieve the highest level.  Since when is a pay raise not warranted for someone who meets their job description outlined in their contract.  That is what this new evaluation system will do.

Posted by Jeanne Voisin  on  03/17  at  07:12 PM

I think that teachers, which have a great influence in everyone’s life, should have a rise of salary, as they study so much in order to teach everybody around a certain domain and they are still seen as paria.

Posted by 5 on demand  on  03/21  at  07:47 AM

People of Louisiana need to pay attention and dig deeper where these issues are concerned.  Our state is in big trouble with the extreme changes being proposed in education for our children’s future.

This plan for a vouchers simply does not guarantee that all students in Louisiana will be have a better choice.  Here’s several reasons why:

Charter and private schools do not have to follow the same curriculum standards (skillwork by grade level) as public schools are held to by law.  Teachers at these charter and private schools are not being required to have full four-year bachelor degrees in education.  Charter and private schools are not being made to measure their teacher or student successes or failures by using the same measurement tool that public schools are measured by.  Charter and private schools are not being made to take every child who applies to these these locations.  Only a small percent of students will even have the opportunity to apply for these charter and private schools, and then there is no quarentee you’ll be allowed to attend.  Charter and private schools can turn away any and all, including special needs students simply by stating that they do not have the necessary resources to help such children.  And for a parent who can not provide transporation to these charter or private schools, they simply will not have the choice to apply at these schools.  Public schools turn away no one and provide transporation to all.

Teacher Tenure/Performance Evaluation:
Many flaws are found in these sweeping changes proposed as well.  Teacher tenure is a protection (people need to remember that) which keeps “political play” from jeopardizing a teacher’s job just because someone higher in the chain might not like them or want to give their teaching position to a new friend of theirs.  It is about that kind of protection that keeps the unethical behavior of some in-line so that others below them on the chain can have the piece of mind of being treated fairly.  Sure, there are some teachers who may need to leave the classroom, so correcting the steps to remove an ineffective teacher are important and a necessary thing to do.  But getting rid of tenure altogether or making it impossible to hold on to is simply too radical a change. 

As for basing a teacher’s salary or ability to continue their teaching employment on the successes or failures of their students on one yearly test score, this is simply ludicrous.  Do we decide if a doctor should be allowed to keep his/her license on his/her ability to cure patients or to keep them totally healthy when checked once a year?  Of course not.  In most jobs, employees are judged on their work effort, ability, and activity by administration that oversees them.  This overseer spends time with the employee and can clearly observe and document success or failure in his/her performance over a period of time which is a much truer picture of this person’s ability. 

Louisianians need to talk to teachers and others they trust within public education to find out the real story about these and others issues within the public schools.  Don’t be fooled by this push that these new educational proposal will fix all problems for parents.  I fear many will be sorry that they simply “bought” into this belief.

Posted by Lisa  on  03/28  at  11:19 AM

As a teacher in Louisiana it is sad to see how this current legislation destroys public schools. Teachers should have had input because they do know the problems. We have over crowded classrooms, little parental involvement and underfunded classrooms. No matter how many ways I try to get parents involved I had had little response from the parents of the children of whom are struggling. I have even gone as far as given them my home number so we can stay in touch. I am required to teach the comprehensive curriculumn but do not have the materials necessary to do so. I spend much money on supplies for my classroom because kids come to school with no supplies. I also spend my own money on supplies for lessons and insentives for my students. I do believe in reform and know there are some bad teachers. The solution should be to get those teachers out but start with lowering my class size to 12 so I can do more with each child individually. I currently have 28 and it is difficult to give individual attention. Support my classroom. Give teachers the materials, supplies and technology they need to teach. This would be a great place to start to improve our public schools!

Posted by Melissa  on  04/14  at  10:49 AM

This panel is paid off.  The charter schools will not hire certified teachers, will cherry pick students, and are not judged like public schools.  This show is sad and the guest are misleading.

Posted by Phyllis Aswell  on  04/25  at  07:45 PM

I was in a meeting this afternoon for math teachers about what to do now and what to expect for next year.  In our discussion about the requirements of the LDOE, our assistant principal stated that as to the questions we asked, there are no answers as of yet from the LDOE.  The major program announced is now becoming more and more vague about how it will be implemented and how it will evaluate education next year.  Bills that are touted to be the largest education reform in our history should not be signed into law without a completed package of implementation.  To do so shows irresponsibility on the part of our legistators.  When do these people expect to have answers to our questions?  It doesn’t make sense for the admininstrators at our schools to not have answers to not only our questions, but those of their own.

Posted by Mark Romero  on  04/25  at  07:45 PM

I am so very disappointed at your panel and the partipants you have involved. An all White panel, an audience where the particpants are not as articulate nor informed on topic. Is LPB pro Jinal reform?  Where are the knowledgable opponents.

Posted by Sandie  on  04/25  at  07:45 PM

I just watched your show and thought your panel of experts was very biased. I would have liked to hear more diverse opinions. The teachers made very good points, however, they were points the panel didn’t want to hear and they could not and did not offer any valid responses. Only the Superintendent seemed to have a realistic opinion about what’s really going on in the schools. I look forward to a program that really discusses the true issues with the education reforms.

Posted by Dawn  on  04/25  at  08:11 PM

Private and parochial schools generally do not accept students who are functioning below grade level. 

Many if not most of the students in the “failing schools” are functioning below grade level.  Some are far below grade level.

So, unless private and parochial schools greatly expand to offer remedial, “catch up” classes for former public school students, (taking these students where ever they are and working with them on an intense, low-teacher to student ratio to make rapid academic progress) I don’t see how the new state voucher/scholarship program will help more than a few of the public school students presently in failing schools.

And, if “catch up” classes are the order of the day, why can’t public schools do them?

Posted by MDavey  on  04/25  at  08:13 PM

As an educator, I have several concerns with the bills that were recently passed.  Two of the concerns that were not addressed in the program were:

1) Some charter schools end up telling their underperforming students to leave prior to the administration of the LEAP/iLEAP.  Then these students arrive at a traditional public school that has to accept them (often on the first day of LEAP testing).  When these students receive an unsatisfactory grade, it lowers the traditional school’s score, while the charter school can point to its results and cite its “successful” practices.

2) The new teacher evaluation system is based on the value-added model, which I agree with in theory.  The problem arises when a student takes the LEAP one year and the iLEAP another because the tests are not correlated at all; they test different skills.  What would be better is if there was a pretest at the start of the school year, and then at the end of the year there was a posttest on the exact same skills.  This would allow everyone to see how much “value” a teacher added, while being a much fairer assessment.

Posted by Anne-Lise  on  04/26  at  12:23 AM

People everywhere are failing to address the real problem here with our schools and that is a lack of Godliness. To make matters worse, the media is making the ungodly things appear fun and enjoying. What ever happened to the morals that this nation use to be set on, doing the will of God to get to Heaven. God is love and if anybody lacks the cousel of God through His word, I don’t care who you are, black, white, asian, hispanic, irish, there will not be order among the people.

Posted by Mrs. Floyd  on  04/26  at  10:09 AM

Your expert panelist tonight were stacked to all be in favor of the reforms. You should have had at least 1 there who was opposed to the changes. The 5th grade teacher toward the end of the show hit on the real problem with our education, the students’ unwillingness to learn, but his comments were not addressed. The discussion went from his comments straight to again accusing & blaming the teachers for all the education woes in our state. More should have been addressed about the students’ unwillingness to learn & their parents’ unwillingness to participate in the education of their children. More needs to be addressed about the absence of vocational education in our public schools. These students are pushed to graduate & attend college but many of them have no ambition to go that far in their education; thus they drop out of school. Train them to be able to work to earn a living. 65% of all available jobs are for skilled workers, 15% require no experience, & only 20% require degrees. Where do you think the education needs to be focused? The skills to fill those skilled worker jobs need to be addressed. Training for them just might

Posted by Tommy Reeves  on  04/26  at  10:11 AM

The program on legislative changes to the public education system was interested but biased. The panel did not represent a wide range of opinions and diverse representatives and did not address important issues with different segments of the recent legislation. LPB should assure that all opinions are presented and that all sides of a topic are presented. That did not happen.

Posted by Dan Carr  on  04/26  at  10:12 AM

I listened to the panelists in the broadcast say parents will have choice over and over again.  This is a lie.  I listened to the senators debate this on the floor.  It only provides choice for 10% of the children in failing schools.  What about the other 90%?  We leave them to continue to fail.  Instead let’s put the money in public education and improve those schools so ALL children can benefit. And let’s not forget that any child with special needs can be denied admission to these schools; that is discrimination.  Shame on you for approving such a plan and then promoting it as choice when so many children will be left out!

Posted by Jeanne Voisin  on  04/26  at  05:16 PM

The value-added system is a flawed system.  This system takes the results that a child had on a test in say 4th grade and then says the child must show X amount of growth.  They take a different test the next year.  If you are looking for growth it needs to be the same test.  When I give a pre and post test and examine growth in my classroom, I give the same test as I learned to do in college.  The only way to really see that improvement is if the test is testing the same skills.  Testing at different grade levels is not testing the same skills. 
The proponents also say that a child’s behavior will be factored into the expectation of growth for the child.  That sounds great, however, our adminstrators hands are tied in regards to discipline.  The adminstrators due to attendance laws can not suspend children as much as sometimes needed.  That child is getting sent to the office, but no “official record” is being made of the behavior so the child’s behavior is not be accounted for when calculating the expectation of growth.
As a 5th grade teacher,  I have children in my class that have not passed the LEAP, but were pushed ahead because they already failed the LEAP twice and they were too old to continue to stay behind.  Now i am expected to get that child to master 5th grade skills even though some are as low as a 2nd grade math level.

Posted by Jeanne Voisin  on  04/26  at  05:38 PM

As already said… the panel of experts you provided were stacked “for” Governor Jindall’s education reform package, noted by all who watched was their affiliation with this reform. Of course they support it.

To point out a few discussions… the first gentleman (a Mr. William I believe) began with the first question to the panel asking if charter schools would supply some sort of contract with parents about providing a better education for their child.  Sounded like a good question to me.  If we’re going to say we are offering school choice to parents, shouldn’t we guarantee this will not be more of the same or a worse situation?  Ms. Dasfugue (BESE member) responded to his question by not answering his question at all. Replay and you will see that there was no direct yes or no given, or even the word “contract” used in her reply sentences. She spoke about how the reform bills passed in Baton Rouge give freedom to principals to hire and fire as they want or need.  Did this really answer his question about a contract or promise to parents?

While I agree with a previous blogger that Dr. Webber (Superintendent) seemed to be the only panelist who could speak in opposition to the problems with this educational reform plan from a reality standpoint, it was also noted that his opportunity to speak was held to a minimum since he needed to share the floor with so many others in the room.  He was simply out numbered 3 to 1. 

As charter schools continued to be promoted on your program as “a wonderful answer” for failing students… it should have been noted that Ms. Vaughn (Cowen Institute) claimed that some Louisiana charter schools are indeed doing better at a better rate than some public schools.  But of course that also means some are not doing better at a better rate than some public schools.  Was the real data shared with us about these charter students’ test scores?  What about accountability grades given to all of these charter schools based on their students’ test scores?  Were these shared?  Again… no data, no proof that charter schools are better yet this troop continued to promote charter schools as the answer and making sure to “highlight” the positive parts of those programs in backing up their claims.  It is amazing what details and information is left unsaid.  This should be speaking volumes to the public.

Charter schools may be a choice we are now going to offer to some parents, but the bottom line is that there is no guarantee any of these choices will be a better choice.  In fact they could even be worse.  Is this plan really thinking about the future of our children when school choice doesn’t guarantee a better opportunity?

I could go on and on about other discussions that took place… but to summarize I feel the governor’s team basically failed to even acknowledge the validity of the concerns and problems raised by parents, teachers others in the already existing school system.  Their only reply was to promote these new reforms as the answer to everything… yet again without providing visual data to back up their claims of promised success. 

While I certainly do not believe that everything in our traditional public schools is perfect, and I do believe that we need to continue to work to improve the quality of many schools… I also believe that this drastic and rushed educational overhaul itself holds much suspicion in how it was forced through.  I believe there is much more going on here that connects to a national movement.  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has some rather interesting goals for our states.  If you’re taking the time to read this blog, then I hope you’ll take the time to investigate this for yourself.

Posted by Lisa  on  04/29  at  03:23 PM

I am a 59 year old mechanical engineer who owns Volunteer Pastilles, a sole proprietorship with manufacturing facilities in Lake Charles as well as Dayton, TN. My suggestions are based on raising two children, now 22 and 24 years old as well as serving 3 years on a county school board in TN in the mid 90’s. My specific comments here reflect observations concerning my son, whose behavior has brought him to jail via drug abuse. 1. Focus on public education. 2. Require 100% parent participation. Volunteering required. 3. Each school to have at least one adult volunteer mentor for every 5 students. Students must receive guidance from multiple adult sources. 4. Provide a vocational and college bound path with good resources for both paths. 5. Group K-3 homogeneously with excellent teachers. When bright stars are removed from the night sky, the dim ones shine forth. So it is true with students who are behind in performance when supported by a good teacher. 6. Provide an extensive summer job program in partnership with local businesses. 7. Encourage a strong partnership between parents, local juvenile court system, and business. Young offenders must be channeled to a work environment, not the streets. Thanks for your excellent programming! Steve Cook

Posted by Steve Cook  on  04/30  at  11:27 AM
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This fall, LSU instituted a “holistic admissions” process for incoming students which relies more on essays and recommendations than on College Board test scores and grade point averages. Proponents of the move say it’s a better way to identify strong students while opening up opportunities for families not financially able to afford prep classes for standardized exams. Opponents say the move will increase student attrition and could endanger LSU’s flagship status. Examine the new standards from several different perspectives.

Louisiana Public Square looks for answers to these questions and more on “An Eye on Admissions” Wednesday, November 21 at 7pm on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE.

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