Sunday, March 23, 2014

Destroying the Teaching Profession in Louisiana

by Michael Deshotels
Destroying the teaching profession? That's a pretty sensational pronouncement. My background as a science teacher requires me to provide evidence when I make such a dramatic claim. Lets look at the evidence:
  1. Starting with Act 54 of 2010, our State, in an effort to win Race to the Top grants from the US Department of Education, decided to tie half of our teacher evaluations to student performance using a system called the Value Added Model. In the process of adopting regulations for VAM, our new State Superintendent unilaterally (in contradiction to the law) decided to count the VAM for 100% of a teacher's evaluation in cases where a teacher scored in the bottom 10% of the VAM ranking of teachers.   Why do I consider this as part of the destruction of the teaching profession? As the LDOE was in the process of finalizing the VAM system, it was never revealed to the general public that the initial testing of the VAM demonstrated that the stability or reliability of the VAM system was totally erratic and unreliable. Data showed that up to 74% of the teachers rated as ineffective by VAM could have been incorrectly graded. Around that same time the original author of Act 54, Representative Frank Hoffman who is an experienced educator declined to endorse the VAM plan. He was immediately removed from his position on the House Education Committee by Jindal lieutenants. The new VAM system was implemented anyway in the 2012-13 school year with chaotic results. John White changed the rules several times in the middle of the process and even approved exceptions for one group of teachers based on political pressure from a Jindal lieutenant to go easy on teachers in one of his favored schools. On the other hand, some teachers who had reputations as excellent teachers were crushed by the new inaccurate system.
  2. The next huge blow to the teaching profession came in 2012 with the ramming through of Act 1 by the Jindal administration. This was the new law that was intended by Jindal and White to make every employment decision in our K-12 schools dependent in some way on student performance. It is now well known by educational researchers that the classroom teacher has no more than a 20% influence on the academic performance of students. Socioeconomic factors are much more dominant in determining student outcomes, yet Jindal sought to make 100% of a teacher's future totally dependent on student outcomes. (That is of course except for some teachers who were specifically exempted mainly because they were favored by a Jindal ally) Act 1 was introduced at the very beginning of the 2012 legislative session with instructions to Jindal lieutenants to move the legislation through before teachers and their unions could react effectively. Even so, with minimal notice, thousands of teachers showed up at the capitol to oppose Jindal's draconian legislation. At first they were locked out of the capitol while representatives of business and industry and a fake professional organization were let into the committee room to take all the seats. When teachers were finally let in to testify, one of the Jindalistas demanded to know from each teacher before they testified about what type of leave they were taking to visit the capitol. That set the tenor for the entire debate, and the conclusion was well known even before the debate began. In addition to the atrocities of Act 1, Act 2 adopted in the same session dropped the requirement that teachers in charter schools have education degrees. Also our non-educator Superintendent, John White announced that advanced teacher degrees made no difference in effectiveness and that the state would stop funding the National Board Certified Teachers. Step increases which for years had encouraged long careers in education began to be systematically phased out by Act I at the same time that seniority rights were dissolved and merit pay based on the erratic VAM was added.
  3. It turned out that Act 1 was so hastily drawn up that it violated the State Constitution and it also violated the basic principles of due process. Courts have now struck down almost all parts of the new law. Kudos to the much maligned teacher unions (LAE and LFT) for fighting hard and winning legal battles for the teaching profession.
  4. At the same time that teachers were expected to accept their loss of seniority rights, loss of step increases, loss of pay for advanced degrees, loss of support of NBCT, and accept the atrocities of the erratic VAM system, they were also subjected to a new untested COMPASS evaluation system. This new evaluation amounted to little more than a dog and pony show. Administrators were expected to penalize teachers if they could not demonstrate that their students showed initiative and self direction. What about teachers who happened to be assigned students who had very little motivation and self direction? Competent administrators were just as frustrated as experienced teachers by this artificial “play acting” while the new evaluation contained no real measurement for the kinds of reliability and creativity that are so important in the long run for effective teaching.
  5. Another way to destroy teaching as a profession is to humiliate and embarrass teachers at every opportunity and blame them for the ills of society. That is what has been done with the way the accountability system has been implemented in Louisiana. Originally (15 years ago) school accountability was supposed to be equally  applied to schools, teachers, parents and students. Now our education bosses have dropped all pretense of requiring accountability of parents and students. The relentless attempt to shame and blame teachers and schools for factors over which they have no control is resulting in a corruption of the entire accountability system. Read this Crazy Crawfish blog to see how teachers in EBR are being systematically humiliated in an effort to pass and graduate all students without regard to actual academic achievement. Classroom discipline laws are violated every day in a blind effort to baby all students into staying in school. But its not just happening in EBR. The New Orleans Recovery District has been coercing teachers to give passing grades to students who have done nothing in class but disrupt the education of other students. These are examples of Campbell's law which is a well know principle that explains how pressures applied to educators to meet unrealistic goals are corrupting and compromising the intended accountability. That's why some administrators are systematically violating state discipline law and the toothless joke that is called the “teacher bill of rights” initially sponsored but never enforced by Jindal. Look at what happened to the Baker teacher who tried to enforce school rules. How can anyone continue teaching under these conditions?
  6. The final insult to teachers is that they are now being asked to implement a new set of standards for their students that are in many cases age inappropriate, that do not allow for individual differences in students and that have been rushed without field testing of any kind. Only in the field of education are reformers who are not professional educators willing to implement major changes without field testing. The ultimate insult to the teaching profession is that such standards were developed by non-K-12 teachers who will never have to demonstrate any competence as teachers. The director of the Common Core writing committee (David Coleman) is a person that was denied a job as a K-12 teacher because he had no teaching credentials.
  7. It is a demonstration of the lack of respect for the teaching profession in Louisiana that the last two State Superintendents of education in our state have no credentials as educators. John White could not be hired as an assistant principal in most Louisiana schools yet he has been given supreme authority over all teachers and administrators in this state. Our national Secretary of Education is also a non-educator. Is this how our country professionalizes teaching?

So now when an analysis by Lafayette Association of Educators president Rodolfo Espinoza demonstrates (see also the post on Diane Ravitch's blog) that there has been a huge increase in the number of teacher resignations in Lafayette Parish, the State Superintendent calmly assures us that there is no real problem in the teaching profession. Who needs real teachers anyway? All we need are test teachers. Click here to enjoy my favorite test teaor cher song.

Michael Deshotels is the author of the Louisiana Educator blog. He is a retired Louisiana educator who taught science at the secondary level. Mr. Deshotels also served in various positions with the Louisiana Association of Educators culminating in the position of Executive Director prior to his retirement Article reprinted by permission.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bossier City Marshal's race will be a hot one

It’s going to be quite a year for politics in Bossier Parish. We will have a race for State Senate to replace Robert Adley, who is term-limited. Dr. John Fleming will be seeking to retain his seat in congress, with the big question being whether Cedric Glover will offer some real Democratic opposition this year.
Bossier Judgeships will be up for grabs. Judge John Robinson is retiring and there is some interesting conjecture as to who will replace him. Word is that Jeff Thompson is interested, which would leave open his seat in the State Legislature.

Vicky & Jim Whitman
One of the most visible races, and the one I will concentrate on today, is the contest for Bossier City Marshal. Current Marshal Lynn Austin, who ran to fill the term of the late Johnny Wyatt, is not running for re-election. Two main contenders have stepped forward. They are Jim Whitman, a Captain in the Marshal’s office with eleven years experience, and Carl Wayne Richard. Richard, who has served as a Deputy Marshal in both Bossier City and Shreveport, where he is currently employed.
Richard ran for Marshal after the unfortunate death of Johnny Wyatt, in a three way race with Lynn Austin and Sammy Wyatt. Austin, a former police chief and Bossier City CAO, won the race with 53% of the vote. He had the support of the city establishment politicians and enjoyed heavy contributions from the local power brokers.
Richard, despite being outgunned in that race, carried 30% of the vote. He is the most well known and high profile candidate in the race, with all of the pros and cons that go with that.
Carl Wayne Richard
Whitman should enjoy the support of the establishment that supported Lynn Austin, although probably not at the same level. The powers that be pretty much view Richard as the fox who wants to get into the henhouse, and they will work to prevent that. He’s not ‘one of them’.
Marty Carlson had a good article in the Forum about this race in which she addressed the question of remuneration.
  • First, he (Austin) cut the City Marshal’s salary by nearly half. His predecessor’s salary had averaged about $140,000 per year of which the city paid $32,784 – the balance coming from the Marshal’s office contingency fund (pursuant to law). Austin had observed during the election campaign that he didn’t believe the City Marshal should make more than the Bossier City Chief of Police and therefore would reduce the salary if elected.He was and he did. His annual salary is $72,500."

It is a question that will be asked of each candidate and must be answered – ‘will you pay yourself at the current level of $72,500 or will you revert back to the higher amount?’.
Both of the candidates have websites up, and you can view them for more complete information on both.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Good news for Bossier

Great news for Bossier City with the announcement that CSC will locate at the Cyber Research Park. The company anticipates 800 employees over the next four years, and about that many in support positions. With the news released this week about the Shreveport/Bossier being one of the poorest in the country, I would love to see how Bossier stood on its own.
Here is a link to all the details of the move by CSC.
To cap it off, the City has agreed to provide infrastructure so that a Kroger Marketplace can locate just north of WalMart on Airline. Kroger is the second largest retailer in the country, and is making a move on WalMart's market share with the Marketplace stores.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Night before Christmas

By Clement Clarke Moore 1779–1863
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Friday, December 13, 2013

Benton Christmas on the Square

Come on up for Benton Christmas on the Square tomorrow from 10 until 5. Free parking and shuttle service from the Courthouse, first bus runs at 9:30 and last bus from festival site back to Courthouse at 6.
The Parade rolls at 3PM.
Looks like the weather will be okay and a little chilly, so bundle up!

Benton Christmas on the Square

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Conviction in Bullying Case

Jason Thomas yesterday entered a plea of guilty to Cyber Bullying in Bossier District Court. Thomas was charged in the case of Danielle Cox.
For those not familiar with the case, Danielle was diabetic and had severe mood swings. She had threatened suicide, and a friend posted her cell phone number on Facebook asking friends to text Danielle and encourage her. Thomas saw the post and sent over 100 text messages urging Danielle to kill herself. He used a program that allowed each message to show that it came from a different person.
Thomas offered a (short) apology to Danielle's family in open court as a condition of the plea. A family member said that they were satisfied with the plea and that the DA's office had stayed in touch with them throughout the process. The family is not happy that Judge Nerren agreed to consider an Article 894 at a later date. Article 894 allows the conviction to go off the record.
Thomas was originally charged with Cyber Bullying, which was later amended to a charge of Criminal Assistance to Suicide.
This is the entry from the Bossier Parish Clerk of Court's office on the court appearance yesterday:
Jason Patrick Thomas present in open Court with Elton Richey withdrew former plea of not guilty and entered a plea of guilty to the amended charge of MISDEMEANOR CYBER BULLYING (14:40.7). Defendant is sentenced by the Court to pay a fine of $500 and cost pro-rated over the first 6 months of probation or serve 60 days in the parish jail. Additional 6 months parish jail sentence is imposed and suspended. Defendant is placed on 1 year supervised probation with all the standard conditions of probation under Article 895 to apply and the following special conditions: pay a $75 monthly supervision fee; enroll in and remain in counseling on a monthly basis as recommended by Dr. Vigen; agree to release counseling sessions to the Court for review; 24 hours a month of community service and continue until further ordered by the Court; continue to be enrolled in school full time or be employed full time. Case is set for review on June 10, 2014 with proof of community service and written reports from counselor to be provided to the Court at that time. Defense counsel requested the Court consider this sentence pursuant to Article 894. State opposed. Court advised the sentence being pursuant to Article 894 shall be considered at a later date. Victims are present and notified of the review date set in open Court. Matt Altimus is present on behalf of the State. (Nerren)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

'Fire Nichole Bourgeois' group not going away

Our friend and Bossier’s premier political observer Marty Carlson has opined about School Board President Eddy Ray Presley's recent 'moron' remarks. You can read Marty’s column in the Press Tribune.
Meanwhile, Attorney John Settle has released the results of his public information request as to how much has been spent in legal fees.
In the case of Live Oak Coach Musemeche’s lawsuit so far the Board has expended $19,000.
In the Jessica Morton suit, $38,000.
No figures are available yet for the Lori Rayborn suit as it was just filed a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, the coalition behind the ‘Fire Nichole Bourgeois’ Facebook page and the petition it is associated with are not going away.
We will continue to follow up and keep you posted.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This Week in Bossier

Just as Bossier was reeling from the brutal murder of James Harber last week, another tragedy has struck close to home.
The Bond Disappearance
Ann Bond was reported missing when she didn't show up for work. Deputies went to her home on Wemple Road, where they found her car in the garage but no one home. Bossier Detectives saw enough suspicious evidence to get a search warrant for the house.
They contacted her estranged husband Robbie Bond by phone and he promised to come immediately to aid them in the search. He didn't show.
From the evidence at the scene, the Bossier Sheriff obtained a warrant for 2nd degree murder. Bond's truck was spotted at a rest stop in Southern Mississippi Friday morning and when Mississippi law officers knocked on the windows to awaken him, he shot himself.
He was taken into custody and transported to a hospital where he is said to be in fairly stable condition, Bossier Parish Detectives are in Mississippi to question him and try to ascertain the whereabouts of Mrs. Bond.
The Parkway/Nichole Bourgeois saga continues.
School Board President Eddy Ray Presley has apologized for calling some of his constituents 'morons', but barely. It was one of those "I'm sorry but...." type of apologies.
Meanwhile, the Parkway Education Coalition has engaged local attorney John E. Settle, Jr. to represent them in their dealings with the Bossier Parish School Board.
Superintendent D.C. Machen has said, however, that he will give no weight to public opinion on the lawsuits and problems that seem to plague Parkway and Principal Bourgeois.
Attorney Settle has made several public information requests to the Board.
You can read about his efforts on Forward Now.
In the meantime, though hope is waning, let's all pray that Ann Bond is safe.

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Memory of James Harber

I put this on Facebook and got such an overwhelming response that I decided to share it with those who are not on Facebook.

A 21 year old, James Harber, was killed this week while working his night job at the Exxon on Airline & Old Minden Road. This young man had made the choice not to drink, smoke or party according to his friends. He had enlisted in the Army and was to head to basic in January. He was killed by someone who was sentenced to two years in February (for purse snatching), who was on probation and was arrested last month for simple possession, a violation of that probation. He bonded out.
While we can't honor James' service on this day, we can honor his desire to offer it.
What a shame.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day

A Veterans Day wish to My Bossier readers from our friend, Sammy Wyatt.

As we approach Veterans Day, Monday, November 11, 2013 my thoughts a prayers are with all of the veterans, active duty military, and their families who have sacrificed so much serving our country. This is a day of honor, respect, remembrance, and thankfulness. To think of the selflessness that not only the service member makes but the families of the service members. 
In America today, so many Americans take for granted our freedoms, how we obtained those freedoms, and how we keep those freedoms. In the famous words of retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock, “Freedom is not Free!” Each generation thousands upon thousands of Americans voluntarily leave their homes, families, and careers to do their part in protecting this great nation of ours, and our way of life. So many have paid the ultimate sacrifice of giving their life so our great nation can continue to exist as One Nation Under God. Former President Ronald Reagan once quoted ““Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.” America, and the Christian way of life have been under attack here in our home land, and abroad in other nations. It would be inevitable that one day another “Adolf Hitler” would attempt to control the world, and destroy Democracy and Christianity should we ever fail to help, aide, and assist those countries in need.
I, myself, am a former veteran of the U.S. Navy, and I am forever grateful, and honored to have served with men and women from all around the country who volunteered to serve this great nation. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are currently serving, their families, those who have returned home forever changed by the events they have survived, for their families who now have such a weight on their shoulders to comfort, support, and understand what their loved ones have went through, and with those families who their loved ones have given all. As a veteran, and an American, I thank each of you from the bottom of my heart for your service and sacrifice.
On this Veterans Day, I will be remembering each of you from the beautiful LSU Camps in BatonRouge, as I have relocated to Baton Rouge, La. after accepting a position with the LSU System to start a Fraud Investigations Unit. May God bless each of you and keep you and your families safely in his arms.