Forum on The School Performance Score: how does it affect our children?

Forum on The School Performance Score: how does it affect our children?


PPEL (Power of Public Education Lafayette) held a public forum on the Louisiana School Performance Score on September 15 at 6:00 pm in the Clifton Chenier Community Center in North Lafayette. The free forum focused on how the Louisiana School Performance Scores, School Letter Grades, and standardized testing effect our children. It provided up-to-date information from people with different positions within the world of public education. Questions were taken from the audience and folks stayed after the event to talk with other interested members of the public and the speakers. It was an interesting and invigorating night.

Featuring speakers included: Tom Spencer, LPSS Director of Accountability; Noel Hammatt, education researcher; Dr. Frank Del Favero, Education professor at UL Lafayette, and Dr. Patrice Pujol, Ascension Parish Superintendent and member of the State Accountability Commission.

The forum was broadcast on AOC and clips of each presentation have been made available on AOC’s YouTube channel. Each speaker’s presentation is embedded below.

Tom Spencer
The LPSS Director of Accountability


Noel Hammatt
Educational Researcher, Former East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member, and past President of the Louisiana School Boards Association


Frank Del Favero
Professor of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette


Patric Pujol
Ascension Parish Superintendent and member of the State Accountability Commission

PPEL Fundraiser and Friday Happy Hour

Hey it’s Friday. And it’s beer. And it’s local music. Aaand it’s our 1st fundraiser as an official non-profit. We’ve got plans and we need your help. (That $10 admission.)
The live music includes Adam Doucet’s Coup de Main and Rodolfo Espinoza’s jazz and stuff combo. Mark your calendars and bring your friends.
Please share!
Event page on this website (with map).   Event page on Facebook (let us know you’re coming!)
PPEL Fundraiser 8:2014



Concerns with the selection of new members of The Advertiser’s Editorial Board


Guest Blogger Debbie Hargrave examines the background of the new appointees to the Advertiser editorial board:

The June 1st Sunday Advertiser’s introduction of the 3 new members as well as 2 returning members of its editorial board impressed me. All of the members are highly accomplished and obviously committed to the community. Cindy McCurry-Ross stated that the newspaper sees its role as “sparking, stimulating, provoking and encouraging community dialogue.” Obviously this has been accomplished. My concern, however, is the lack of diversity, especially in terms of public education in Lafayette Parish. Ms. McCurry-Ross further wrote “And we are always open to disparate voices.” I don’t think she has accomplished this goal of diversity in dissimilar and contrasting opinion in terms of public education.

After having taught in a Lafayette Parish public school for 40 years and being a product of that same system, I despair that the public education system not only in Lafayette but throughout the US is under attack, especially by those who say they want reform, but what they mean by reform is privatization i.e. charter schools. Privatization is NOT reform.

Chip Jackson is an active member of 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette and the chair of their education committee, Anne Falgout is the president-elect of 705, and Jay Jackson is Chair of the education committees of both the Chamber and United Way.

Each of these groups, 100 Black Men, 705, The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, and The United Way are strong members and supporters of LaPESC – Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council. Its primary goal is “Working to achieve academic improvement for all children in the Lafayette Parish Public School System.” That sounds great, but their calls to action and listed goals and priorities are a great deal more specific, and that’s what frightens me.

From the LaPESC website (the underlining is mine) : “Call to Action: LaPESC supports charter schools and advocates LPSS School Board approval of high-quality applications that meet standards of third party reviewers recognized by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. LaPESC also advocates continued support of the 100% in/100% out turnaround plan [Dr. Cooper] so that all LPSS schools are high performing by the year 2018.”

What’s more, although LaPESC set up 10 specific governance goals for the Lafayette Parish School Board in May 2011, the group is now asking community members to evaluate the Board members after every meeting. The proximity of this new initiative to the upcoming elections is, in my mind, far from coincidence though Margaret Trahan, one of LaPESC’s founders, told the Board at its May 21st meeting that the group is not political.

Whether political are not, LaPESC seems very focused and like-minded – the antithesis of the “disparate voices” called for.

I hope that my concerns are unfounded and that the newspaper has not already decided its position in the continuing public school system debates as well as the upcoming School Board elections, but I think there is reason to worry.

Capitol Update – A second hurdle for HB 703 on Wednesday April 30!


Things move fast at the Capitol during the legislative session. HB 703 was set for a floor vote today — and now it’s up in the air – probably to settle back down for a rescheduled floor vote on Wednesday April 30th.

This is a must-win bill.  It’s going to be close. Representative John Bel Edwards’ HB 703 barely passed out of the House Education Committee by a vote of eight to seven.  It must make it through step two: a vote of the full House.

Promoters of national for-profit charter school chains see as essential the state-level override authority to push budget-breaking charter schools onto A, B and C school districts. High-performing districts know the score and do not want these schools. They do not want BESE to have the authority to override taxpayer consent.

We must work for every single vote on this bill.  Each vote of the Acadiana delegation and the New Orleans democrats is a must have.  Please use to locate the Representatives by parish. Call early! Call often! Email, snail-mail, and fax.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

You can be assured that the for-profit charter school lobby and the business lobby will be out in force to oppose this bill.  CABL, LABI, and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools tout their 100% record of defeating any real reform that threatens the roll-out of the corporate business model of education. They will fight to preserve that record and to ensure the unchecked spread of the for-profit corporate charter school chains.

Those who value an integrated, effective, and equitable public school system that welcomes all students – regardless of parental support, economic condition, disability, or English-language status, need to fight as hard as those who want to divide our public system into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.  The lobbyists are well-paid.  But we have cell phones and heart.

Talking points:

  • Stop BESE from redirecting local tax dollars without the consent of voters
  • HB 703 does not stop, close, or harm existing or authorized charters schools, or stop new schools from going to willing districts.
  • HB 703 impacts only Type 1 applications to A, B, or C districts that reject the applicants because the charter model does not fit into the district plan for success.
  • HB 703 rewards high-performing districts and protects their ability to retain and improve their high rating.
  • If a district slips to a C, D or F rating, BESE can authorize Type 2 charters directly into the parish, since C, D, and F is defined as failing. This supports the original intent of the charter school movement: to deliver innovation for at-risk students in failing schools.
  • State law requires that local school boards determine the number and location of schoolhouses. HB 703 guarantees this legal provision for A, B and C districts.

We can’t take HB 703’s success on the House floor for granted. The time is now, and together we can win that vote!

Four reasons that Common Core advocates should reconsider their support


By Ann Burruss, parent and educator

Are the Common Core State Standards and accompanying PARCC tests the vanguard for the corporate takeover of public education? Joshua Bleiberg in “Four reasons that critics of Common Core should reconsider their opposition” confirms connections exist between multiple aspects of today’s failed corporate education reforms and support for Common Core. The following are four reasons to reject Bleiberg’s argument and to consider opposing Common Core and PARCC testing.

1) Big data is coming. “Standards will improve how big data works” is suggested by Bleiberg as a reason to support Common Core. Parents don’t want big data to work on or anywhere near their children. Promoting ‘”big data” as a Common Core feature not a bug, shows a stunning lack of awareness or respect for parents’ concerns. Bleiberg writes, “National standards also make it easier to link databases from separate states and districts together, which enables larger data sets.” Large data sets are not necessarily better-used or more valid data sets. States are awash in data today, to little good effect. Accountability and evaluation systems based on a single high-stakes test such as PARCC are invalid indicators of student learning or teacher effectiveness.

2) Market efficiencies enrich corporations. Bleiberg states “Standards also lower the barriers for new companies to develop programs.” In practice the exact opposite is unfolding. CCSS is consolidating curriculum and testing materials. Vast profits will be made by the Common Core curriculum dealers and PARCC testing companies who got in on the ground floor. Benefits to “new companies”? Doubtful.

3) Market efficiencies grow for-profit charter schools. Bleiberg writes “Developers can create a single tool for a national market rather then many tools for every set of standards.” Bleiberg obliquely acknowledges that states have existing standards – but 50 sets of state standards do not provide adequate business opportunities to corporate profit-seekers. CCSS allows charter schools to experience huge efficiencies, allowing them to purchase just one curricula for their multi-state business enterprises, enhancing their business model, which is simply making profits from taxpayer money – money that should got to educating children.

4) New ‘governance’ gets rid of school boards and direct accountability. Bleiberg uses a new buzzword promoted by Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix and Rocketship charter schools: governance. The word ‘governance’ is used by the corporate reformers to promote the removal of local elected school boards. Local governments know their constituents’ needs and are nimble enough to act. Corporatizers prefer appointed boards and unaccountable not-for-profit charter school boards. Hastings has set a national goal of 90% of students enrolled in charter schools by 2030. Elected school boards are seen as a hindrance to the speedy implementation of corporate takeover.

Elected local school boards listen to parents, educators and citizens who are becoming increasingly alarmed by the convergence of corporate interests to ‘create efficiencies’ to capture profit from public education. High education standards are essential to equitable and effective education, but must it be Common Core standards? Bleiberg’s article serves as a warning that the alarm bells ringing over CCSS and PARCC are justified on all fronts: big data, corporate enrichment, for-profit charter schools and governance.

Representative Nancy Landry’s hidden agenda?


Debbie Hargrave is a retired Lafayette Parish teacher.


Debbie Hargrave

Does Nancy Landry have a rather frightening hidden agenda in 2 of her 18 education bills before the legislature this term? PPEL supporters committed to Public Education need to be aware of the long term goals that may back up these bills which are explained as innocuous measures to possibly change the governance of our school system.

The 2 bills are as follows: House Bill 593 – This bill calls for a Constitutional Amendment that would exempt Lafayette Parish from following the Louisiana Constitution that requires the legislature to create parish school boards and provide for elections of its members. This will diminish or deny the right of the citizens of Lafayette to elect our school board members. House Bill 980 – This bill creates a commission to reorganize the governance of the Lafayette Parish School Board. The commission will be selected by the Chamber of Commerce (1), the Greater Southwest Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce (1), Lafayette City President (3), Lafayette City Council (1), area Mayors (1), ULL President (1), South Louisiana Community College Chancellor (1), House Representatives from Lafayette(1), Senators from Lafayette (1), Lafayette Parish Association of Educators and Louisiana Federation of Teachers (1) and Lafayette Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (1). This will be a total of 13 members with none representing the Lafayette Parish School Board.

Of great interest is an article posted on Nancy Landry’s Facebook page with a question as to whether “traditional school boards are becoming dysfunctional and obsolete.” The article is from Education Next – It is titled “Lost at Sea: Time to jettison one of the chief obstacles to reform: the local school board” and was written by Lisa Graham Keegan and Chester E. Finn, Jr.

To me, the most troubling paragraph in the article is as follows: “Once every school is essentially a charter school, there will be no need for a centralized municipal-level body that makes decisions for an entire school system. Individual schools will respond to the needs of their families and employees while the state sets standards and monitor academic results.”

Representative Landry was quoted in The Independent as saying “I know we’re all looking forward to the next elections, but in case it doesn’t work out how WE want, I think we need to have this insurance policy on the shelf.” I heard her explain to the Youngsville City Council that the work of the Commission established by HB 980 would be something to “put on the shelf” just in case. She did not explain the “just in case” as the opportunity to deny the rights of Lafayette Parish voters as would be established by HB 593.

Privatization is not reform.

The Truth about Charters


Kerii Landry-Thomas, a graduate of Northside High School, is a Baton Rouge attorney. She began researching charter schools while investigating education options for her own child.


Kerii Landry-Thomas

I have received numerous advertisements for the new schools opening up in the Baton Rouge area. If you listen to Pandora radio, then you too would have been bombarded with the commercials. I’ve heard of the small class sizes, great teachers, culture of academic achievement and the new computer labs that will be made available. Conversely, the commercials don’t state historically high teacher turn-over rate, the lack of books and other resources, and the lack of oversight for these charters. Moreover, most people don’t know that charters can do absolutely nothing during their 3-5 year contract and still get their public funding. In addition, they can pack up and leave if they don’t want to stay in the “local market” or set up under a new name and a new concept and get another contract from the local or state government. All while taking public funds from public schools. I discovered this information by reading and asking questions of both former teachers who worked at charter schools and former parents whose children attended. Charters are a sneaky way of privatizing education and financially enriching a few off the backs of the many.

Too often, “the many” are low income minority students whose parents or guardians may not ask a lot of questions because they have full faith that the charter schools will do what is advertised. In addition, it is easy to persuade someone to come to the shiny, new building with no track record if that person is searching for a better option than they believe is available now.  At issue for me is the fact that charters have limited accountability compared to their public counterparts. Charters are not under the same obligation that public schools are to have policies that foster diverse school settings. Charters are not constitutionally mandated to provide an education to all students and charters have no obligation or loyalty to a community. The profit motive is the driving force and is paramount in their decision-making process. In addition, recent trends in Louisiana indicate that charters tend to pick the students who require the least maintenance possible and expel those that might not be able to meet academic test standards or those who have learning disabilities. After “cherry-picking” which students they wish to service, students with the most needs are sent back to public schools absent the state funding needed to provide services for them. (i.e. kids with behavior issues likely need extra tutoring, counseling and other additional support).

The purging process begins, usually after October, which is the time that schools receive funding from the State. Trend analysis of enrollment data for school systems with a significant charter presence clearly demonstrates that the enrollment numbers of public schools in the area go up after October. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I believe that the confluence of Common Core standards, high stakes testing and SPS (school performance scores) are clearly being used to demolish public schools and foster an environment primed for private charter school.

I implore my community to please pay attention and look beyond the used car salesman pitch from the private charter companies that promise “achievement”, “rigor”, and “an assurance that all kids achieve”. Here’s a question, observe if any of the folks promoting charters actually send their kids to charter schools. Heck, the folks making decisions about public schools don’t send their kids to public schools (e.g. Chas Roemer, president of BESE). Public schools are not perfect, but what they provide is a guaranteed opportunity for education for all kids, a mechanism for communities to participate in the direction that education will take and accountability. We don’t want power, especially the power of education to be in the hands of a few and that is where the private charter road leads if we don’t take a stand now.

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!


VP Barras is a veteran teacher at Lafayette High School.


VP Barras

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

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

On March 27th, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce listed its priorities for the legislative session, and among them is its support for Common Core.

I then thought, “Oh great. Another organization is trumpeting 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 thinks 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 themselves.

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 twenty-three years, as well as numerous history and English classes.  I am an expert on education, not these various groups.

To every organization that announces their support of Common Core, I have a right to explore your qualifications and biases. Have you received money from Bill Gates or any of his organizations? Are you teachers who have implemented the Engage New York curricula that was designed to match Common Core? Have you actually read the poorly-written modules we teachers have received or taken one of their confusing tests? Are you 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 twenty-seven 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 new organization wish to herald the need for Common Core, I have these words of advice: unless you’re qualified to speak on the subject, mind your own business. Otherwise, I will accord your opinion the weight it deserves: little.

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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