Louisiana Association of Educators members discuss public school policies

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

The Louisiana Association of Educators

met Tuesday at the Lake Charles-Boston Academy of Learning to discuss

changes taking

place in the public school system. A panel of education

stakeholders spoke with community members about issues that have

effected

them and their students in the K through 12 education system.

“We need all stakeholders interested in

public education to understand our plight to know it is a right that

every child gets

a free public education and that they use it wisely so that they

can be productive citizens,” said LAE President Joyce Haynes.

Panelists opened up with public education from their perspective. One of the biggest changes in the Louisiana education system

that stood out was the implementation of the ACT for a school’s score. This year all juniors and any seniors who have not

taken the ACT will now be required to take the test which will then reflect the rating of each school.

“It is impossible to close any

achievement gap with a normalized standardized test,” said Acadia Parish

Dist. Technology Coordinator

Bryan Alleman.

Sulphur High Principal Chuck Hansen

said one of the main issues he has with this is that many of the seniors

who didn’t take

the test opted out because they do not plan to go to college. He

said these new Common Core standards are being forced upon

students who may not be ready for them. Panelists also criticized

the development of other tests such as the PARCC which also

asses student’s readiness for college or careers.

“There is no accountability for a student taking the ACT; the high stakes are for the school and that’s extremely unfair,”

said Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Wayne Savoy.

Vinton Elementary School Teacher Jennifer Spell said she was concerned about the Value Added Model. The VAM uses standardized

tests to measure students growth which is turned rates each teacher’s performance. Value added teachers are placed under a

bell curve that predicts 10 percent will be ineffective—labeling them as failing.

The new evaluation system has received negative feedback for no longer using advanced degrees as part of the rating system

as well as using student scores for a teacher’s effectiveness.

“I have never encountered a teacher

that hasn’t grown professionally because they have gotten an advanced

degree,” said Chief

Technology Officer Sheryl Abshire. “In this state we have now

decided to say that the compensation model is no longer valuing

any professional development beyond a basic degree.”

Abshire said not only the teacher evaluation system but the whole COMPASS system needs to be reexamined at and presented with

a research based approach.

Savoy agreed with Abshire and said there is nothing wrong with holding off on these new changes. He said teachers aren’t afraid

of accountability as long as it is fair.

LeBleu Settlement Elementary School

Teacher Vicky Johnston said another area needing improvement is charter

schools. She and

Jeff Davis Parish Superintendent-Elect Brian LeJeune said the

scores of these schools are not where they need to be. LeJeune

said the problem is that charter schools have three years before a

score is published but they then reconstitute themselves

by another name keeping them in a continuous cycle that doesn’t

move forward.

“Some of the charter schools have not had a score published in their existence although you can’t find out what their existence

is because their name changes every three years,” he said.

Panelists agreed there needs to be more accountability in Louisiana’s education system and that ultimately community members

and those in the education system need to voice their concerns to the LDOE and legislators.

“I still think there’s work that needs

to be done in the state,” said Abshire. “In the 40 years that I’ve been

in public education

the thing that continues to plague me is the lack of our ability

to communicate effectively to policy makers about what the

issues are in our public schools.”