“Groups supporting Common Core out of their element”

“Groups supporting Common Core out of their element”


Vincent Barrass, a PPEL member, has a guest column in today’s Advertiser. He staunchly defends respecting educators’ special competence in their own field and questions the qualifications of many who pretend to understand the task of educators.

The essay, in its entirety:

Groups supporting Common Core out of their element

In the movie “Network” Peter Finch said a line that has now become immortal: “I’m as mad as hell, and not going to take this anymore.”

Vincent Barras

Vincent Barras

Frankly, that’s me, right now — and here’s why.

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce recently listed its priorities for the legislative session, and among them is its support for Common Core.

If I were to write a manual telling doctors how to operate, people would laugh and doctors would rightfully ignore me. I have not attended medical school, nor received the training a doctor needs.

Yet, organization after organization with little or no educational background think they are experts on education. The Council for a Better Louisiana, Stand for Children Louisiana and the Louisiana Association for Business and Industry, just to name a few, have all published their support for Common Core.

Apparently, merely having attended school or college — or simply having a child — affords everyone a seat at the table to determine the future of education. Worse, everyone listens to these organizations and not the teachers.

I am a highly-qualified teacher with two bachelor’s degrees and a masters in history. I was chosen the Outstanding Sophomore, Junior, and Senior in UL’s College of Education, not to mention the Outstanding Graduate of its 1992 Spring Commencement. I have experience writing curricula and have taught Algebra I and II for 23 years, as well as numerous history and English classes. I am an expert on education — not these various groups.

I have a right to explore the qualifications and biases of every organization that supports Common Core. Have they received money from Bill Gates or any of his organizations? Have they teachers who have implemented the Engage New York curricula that was designed to match Common Core? Have they actually read the poorly-written modules we teachers have received or taken one of their confusing tests? Are they experts in the cognitive abilities of young children and adolescents? I suspect the answers to these questions are a resounding “no.”

And I have upsetting news for these organizations who don’t even bother to explore what is in Common Core: The people who wrote it weren’t experts, either. The 27 authors were mostly test-makers, and none were teachers. Why should I give their handiwork any credibility, when they lack the credentials to even be classroom teachers?

So, should any additional organization wish to herald the need for Common Core, I have these words of advice: Unless they are qualified to speak on the subject, it would be best if they were to stick to their own areas of expertise.

— Vincent P. Barras is a Lafayette educator.

“Film screening focuses on schools, reform efforts”


20140414-104527.jpgThe Advertiser runs a  story covering the public screening of “Rise Above the Mark”  being co-sponsored by the Louisiana Writing Project and PPEL. In addition to offering basic info as to the time and place the article reports on the discussion and response period scheduled after the event. From the article:

Toby Daspit, co-director of the Acadiana chapter of the National Writing Project, said he hopes the screening spurs conversation about the role of teachers in education, as well as efforts like charter schools and voucher programs.

“We definitely look at this as a conversation starter,” Daspit said. “The film uses Indiana as kind of the focus, but Indiana parallels Louisiana in terms of the impact of corporate reforms, privatization, the sort of cumbersome rules and regulations that are placed on teachers. It also touches on standardized testing and the sort of impact that has on student creativity and then teacher evaluations.”

Following the film, there will be moderated discussions about the issues addressed in the film. Audience members also will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on video.

“We hope to have a discussion of people’s reaction, if there are parallels to Indiana or not, and what next steps might be needed to align the community goals for public education, and address some of the challenges that exist,” Burruss said.

Get the details and a nifty map at the PPEL event page.

Mounce Editorial Defends Public Education


lafayette municipalities

Hats off to Nancy Mounce whose essay in today’s Lafayette Advertiser on education does a great job of both focusing on the core problem and of pointing out the arrogance of some factions of the local business community. Privatization of public education is indeed the issue and “Education by corporation is not a solution.” The local chamber (not all of the business community) seems to believe that they have the expertise to micromanage the Lafayette school system when they’d be most unhappy if teachers made parallel criticisms of their performance without a realistic assessment of the problems they face. (Ex: Just where does the chamber get off telling other people how to do their job. After all, for just how long has Louisiana been the slowest growing state in the union? Go-to Experts? Nah, not even in their own field of growing the economy.)

A place where I might differ with Ms. Mounce is on her use of the “Nation at Risk”study to kick off her criticism with the current “reform” when she says that “rising tide threatens the future of public education.” The Nation at Risk study was arguably the opening salvo in a long series of  biased attacks on public education based on false information and statistical misinterpretation. As a study it has long been debunked—in fact almost immediately—but the evidence was suppressed for years as it did not fit with the administration’s emerging political agenda. For a thorough discussion of this affair see: The Myth Behind Public School Failure.

A Resignation in the Works?


Off the AP Wire—

WASHINGTON (AP) – Louisiana Superintendent John White issued a terse press release from his family home in Washington, DC. In it he claims to have taken a leave of absence from his position in Louisiana. The release reads, in its entirety: “I have taken a leave of absence to rethink my priorities away from the tumult of Louisiana.”

Associates in the Louisiana Department of Education who asked not to be quoted directly said Mr. White was asked by his mother why he wasn’t correcting the errors about his qualifications in his Wikipedia biography. Reviewing the entry was said to provoke a crisis of conscience and confidence. The article reads, in part:

 “Washington, D.C., the son of a lawyer-father and a television journalist-mother. He has one younger brother and only sibling, an officer in the United States Navy. In his youth White had also considered becoming a Navy officer.[3] He graduated in 1994 from the exclusive private St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.[4][5]

“White then received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1998 from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. He later received a master’s degree in public administration from New York University.[6] He attended Eli Broad’s Superintendent’s Academy, based in Oakland, California, which produces “wunderkind” school leaders who gain their credentials after ten weekends of instruction over a one-year period. White completed the program in 2010.[7]

“White is not certified as a teacher, principal, or superintendent in Louisiana. [8]”

Kyle Plotkin, Communications Director for Governor Bobby Jindal, responded to an AP query by refusing comment saying “We don’t comment on ridiculous rumors that people in our administration have developed a conscience. Especially not on April 1st.”

It’s Not Your Father’s Chamber


It’s a sad day for the Lafayette Chamber—and for Lafayette. Today’s Advocate posts a short article outlining the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce’s legislative agenda. For those of us who’ve followed the changes at the chamber with some discomfort, today is the day our worst fears are realized. It used to be that the local chambers of commerce were support groups for regional business and rabid boosters of their local communities. The community could count on

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Corporate Education Isn’t Education, Part 1


It is popular to make the claim that Education should be more like Business. A lot of the way we have come to talk about education comes out of a corporate way of thinking about the world. It is common to hear that education should be “more efficient,” that it should be “about choice,” and that education is all about “getting jobs.” It is even assumed by some that schools that people “freely choose” shouldn’t

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Grassroots group pushes for education reforms


Feb. 27, 2014 6:50 PM
Written by Amanda McElfresh

 A grassroots group of parents, teachers and stakeholders is pushing Louisiana legislators to address several education-related issues during the upcoming regular session.

Three legislators who attended a Thursday breakfast hosted by Power of Public Education Lafayette made no promises when it comes to enacting laws, but vowed to continue to listen to constituents. Lawmakers also urged PPEL members to head to Baton Rouge this spring to make their positions known to the full legislature.

The group is suggesting laws that charter schools approved by the state be completely funded by the state. Those schools also should undergo performance audits, with their renewals directly tied to those results, the group said. They are also seeking to enact legislation to prevent the state from approving charter applications denied by local districts.

Read more at the Advertiser online story


Lafayette group seeks changes in new education policies


Advocates push for legislation to give taxpayers more control

February 27, 2014

LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette Parish education advocacy group pushed Thursday for legislation that would give local taxpayers control over whether new charter schools can open in a parish and for tweaks to education matters approved by the Legislature in 2012.
The advocacy group Power of Public Education Lafayette held the legislative breakfast to outline specific legislative issues the group hopes to find support for in the session that begins March 10.

The breakfast, opened to the public, was attended by about 60 people and three legislators: Reps. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia; Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette; and Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette.

The group requested legislation that addresses issues with the Common Core State Standards, changes to the state’s school accountability or letter grade system, tougher charter school oversight and local control of charter school application approvals, and changes to teacher evaluations in order to improve teacher retention…

For more see the full Advocate online story.