Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Common Core ELA

Today our curriculum coordinator shared the LDOE English Language Arts List of Text Sets 2014-2015.

I began to go through my classroom library to see how many of the books I already had.  I wanted to pull them, read them, and think about things I could do with them next year. I didn't understand why, out of the 60 titles, I only possessed five.  Just five!  I have A LOT of books in my classroom library.

So I sat down at my computer and began typing titles into  Accelerated Reader.
These are the books I have and they are very rarely picked up by one of my second grade students.

Title                         Reading Level
Cinderella                       5.1
The Ox Cart Man           4.5
Amazing Grace              3.5
The Little House            4.2
Charlotte's Web             4.5

The other books on the list ranged from 2.7 to 7.4. Only one book in the list was on  a second grade level, Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting.

There are 17 books that are listed as 'student copies'.  I assume that means there will be a copy for each second grader to hold in their hands.  The levels for those books are 2.7 (only one) -5.1.

I understand that the CCSS level books by Lexile, so I looked up the Lexile levels. Those range from 500L-1000L.  If I am reading this chart correctly https://www.lexile.com/about-lexile/grade-equivalent/grade-equivalent-chart/ , second graders should be reading 420L to 650L.

Using this chart, the 17 student copies range as follows:

  • None fall below 420L, five fall between, six are above 650L.

  • One selection is a poem (no Lexile available),  four stories have no Lexile level, and one is a wordless picture book.

  • The books listed as "Read Alouds" ranged from  The Kamishibai Man (600L) to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1000L).

  • Most of the "Read Alouds" are found online at Core Knowledge. I haven't had time to download them and read them.

  • There are ten selections that are listed as "Group (choice for independent reading)".  The levels for these are from 600L to 925L.

My concern.... I teach inclusion kids.  My class reading level is around a 2.4.  I have some reading on a first grade level and some reading on a third grade level.

What am I going to do?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

NBC's Education Nation Teacher Town Hall

I attended the Education Nation Teacher Town Hall last night in New Orleans.  I am so glad I had the opportunity to speak.  It was a very well produced forum, allowing all sides to speak.

I'm at about 16:00 and 81:55.  So many well spoken teachers were in the audience and on the panels.

It's worth watching.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Taking "Education" Out of the Louisiana Department of Education

Tomorrow the Louisiana House Committee on Education will meet to "discuss" Representative  Carter's HB 650.

Carter wants to retain the office of the state superintendent, the office of management and finance, the Special School District, the office of district support, and "such other offices as created by law".

Carter wants to get rid of

  • the office of literacy
  • the office of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • the office of career and college readiness
  • the office of department support
  • the office of innovation

The superintendent will have the authority to

  • employ, appoint, remove, assign, and promote personnel as is necessary for the efficient administration of the executive office of the superintendent
The bill seems to give increased control and power to the superintendent.

Sounds like it will be a business now.  If you read the bill, it takes out supports and offices for the very thing the department is there for.  Education. I think I know why.  Since John White has become the superintendent, he has gradually filled positions in the department with Teach For America alumni or Broad Superintendent alumni.  When one looks at their backgrounds, most have degrees in public policy or business. Not education.  Their teaching experience rarely goes past the two years required by TFA.

I'd list them, but the staff list has disappeared from the department's "website".

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Am a Teacher

I am a teacher.  I have always wanted to be a teacher.  I have taught all grades, from 1st-8th. Talk to any teacher and I'm pretty sure we all feel the same about educating children.  It's our profession, our vocation, our calling, our love.

There were few job openings in the public school system when I began, so in 1984 I began teaching in parochial school.  I stayed until 1995, when I made the switch to public.  I was very impressed with the quality of instruction in the middle school I was assigned to.  I was evaluated twice that year and the administration was very supportive.  Every year since, I have been evaluated formally at least once and have had numerous "walk throughs".

Around 2003, under Cecil Picard's leadership, Louisiana began the development of Grade Level Expectations (GLEs).  Professional development opportunities were provided for us to work together to ensure the successful transition.  Teachers worked by grade level throughout the state to create lesson plans which addressed each of the GLEs.  They were uploaded into a database at the LDOE called Making Connections.  We had access to every lesson plan. We could download and use them, make changes when appropriate for our students.  The LEAP and iLEAP tests were based on what we taught.  We did not "teach to the test". We used the data from the tests to improve instruction, which is what standardized tests should be used for.

When we heard the Common Core State Standards were being adopted in Louisiana, teachers accepted the change.  We researched the CCSS online and found Utah and North Carolina had been working on the CCSS for some time.  They had developed timelines and lessons, provided resources, and had made those available for teachers from around the country to access. The Louisiana Department of Education had only provided the standards themselves which were very vague. We knew it would take time to adapt to the CCSS.   We were told that 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 would be transition years.  We expected that the LDOE would provide guidance, professional development opportunities, and resources as they had when we transitioned to GLEs. It was time for textbook adoptions which meant any new textbooks would have to been aligned to the new CCSS.  When new standards and textbooks are involved, it takes at least a year to make and gather resources for instruction, especially in an elementary classroom. We had time, two years of transition were given to us. No problem.

But then......

Early 2012, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) made changes to Bulletin 130. Teachers would be evaluated by a new system, COMPASS.  Our evaluation would be 50% evaluation by an administrator and 50% on student achievement based on value added model (VAM) scores or Student Learning Targets (SLTs).
  • If a teacher was rated effective by an administrator  and students showed growth, the teacher was effective. 
  •  If a teacher was rated effective by an administrator and students did not show the expected growth, the teacher was still effective.  Every educator knows there are differences in classes from year to year.  We know if the class coming up is high in ELA or low in Math for example.
  • If a teacher was rated ineffective by an administrator, but the students showed growth, the teacher was still effective.  The evaluator might not have seen what they wanted during the two evaluations, but the teacher achieved results.
Still, no problem until Act 1 was introduced and changes were made to Bulletin 130.  Teachers now had to be effective in BOTH their evaluations and student growth.


  • We hadn't been trained in COMPASS, we didn't receive training until mid summer of 2012. Evaluators were still being trained.  
  • The rubric used was the same for EVERY teacher.  A special ed teacher of nonverbal three year old students would be evaluated using the SAME rubric as an AP teacher in a high school.  Some school districts really stepped up to help educators understand the new rubric, others just provided the rubric.
  • Act 1 took away tenure, so if you and your principal did not get along, it was a possibility your evaluation could affect your ability to continue as an educator.
  • The LDOE was still making changes to COMPASS in March of 2013, which meant it wasn't ready to be implemented.
  • Charlotte Danielson, the author of the evaluation instrument, said the LDOE was using the rubric incorrectly.
  • Teachers have been told that only 10% of us can be found "Highly Effective" before the first evaluation was conducted, before the first standardized test was administered.  That's like telling students "Only 3 out of the 30 in this class can make an A."
  • We were transitioning to CCSS, but the tests were still aligned to the GLEs.
Now at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, we are told 2013-2014 is NOT a transition year for CCSS. We are to implement them fully. We have no textbooks, no resources provided by LDOE, but we should have resources. Look at page 4 of this document, which is an amendment to a contract given to a New York organization to develop resources for Louisiana teachers.


Apparently $2.1M has been spent and now another $1.3M? The contract started July 1, 2011. The LDOE announce the "Classroom Support Toolbox" on February 26, 2013.


After 19 months, it seems like this would be the best resource available, but it's not. It could be if Louisiana teachers had been given the task, not a New York organization.

We did it before.  We could have done it again.  After all, aren't WE stakeholders ?

Teachers are leaving the profession. Retiring or resigning.  It's hard to do what you love, when every time you turn around the rules change.

I am lucky.  I teach in a district which took a proactive approach. We were told early on about changes.  I teach in a school that has an administrator and a  curriculum coordinator that has made it their mission to help us understand the CCSS and COMPASS. Other teachers in Louisiana aren't so lucky and that's a shame.

Act 1 was found unconstitutional by the District Court Judge Michael Caldwell because there were too many items included in one act. Governor Jindal has vowed to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, but just in case he loses, he has had legislators introduce new bills which address Act 1 items individually.  That doesn't make them right.

Louisiana Believes is still not an appropriate name for the Louisiana Department of Education.  It's not being lead by people who believe in Louisiana anymore.  It's being lead by people who are public policy graduates, who believe in business models, who only care about "reform", not what works for Louisiana children.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Louisiana Believes

Sorry, John White. 
Louisiana does not believe. 
At least the vast majority of Louisiana teachers. 

Here are a few reasons:

  1. Whoever decided to rename the Louisiana Department of Education website "Louisiana Believes", probably wasn't from Louisiana.
  2. The majority of people in administrative positions at the Louisiana Department of Education are not from Louisiana. Also the majority of deputy superintendents don't have substantial classroom experience. In fact, now that you've changed the website, we have NO idea who's in charge of anything anymore or what their qualifications are.
  3. The "redesign" of the Department website is  awful.  It's very difficult to navigate.
  4. Teachers in Louisiana spent years contributing to Making Connections.  It was a library of lessons that had been developed and tested.  The lessons went with the Grade Level Expectations (GLEs). They could easily be aligned to CCSS, but they have disappeared from the website.
  5. Visit any other state's website and you can find great resources for CCSS implementation.  It's sad when Louisiana teachers have to look to Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina, as well as other states for guidance.
  6. The superintendent of the department believes anyone with a degree can be a teacher. We believe  those who choose to be  classroom teachers, because they love children and love teaching, are the people who can be  teachers.
  7. In a webinar addressing COMPASS challenges, your answer to questions from teachers was most frequently "greater guidance is needed".  We are still waiting.
  8. Perhaps the biggest reason we don't " believe" is the fact that you, John White, said the teachers retiring this year were "most likely ineffective".  So insulting.

So much for daily postings....

December was my last post.  With all I am responsible for, it really doesn't surprise me that it's been three months!

Several things have happened since my last post.

  • I attended a leadership conference in Orlando.  Met teachers who could not believe what was going on with education in Louisiana.  They really became interested when I asked if they had a republican governor. Taught them about ALEC, Stand.org, Broad Foundation, American Federation for Children, Bloomberg...... At first they looked at me like I was a nutcase, but I saw them Googling......
  • Had my second COMPASS evaluation. Rubric still doesn't fit all teachers. LDOE has promised "greater guidance". Still waiting.  They launched a "Teacher's Toolkit" with no new information, no promised videos of what a "Highly Effective" teacher looks like.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook

I hope with my whole heart that those babies felt no pain. I hope they immediately felt God's peace.

I look at each face and see so much promise, so much joy, so much innocence.

I can only imagine the terror of the teachers on that day.  I hope I would show as much courage as they did.

I know the pain will never go away for the families, but I hope with each pang of sorrow they have a happy memory as well.