Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jindal's plan: Controversial, unjust and insulting

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Special Edition: Your LFT Connection

Jindal's education agenda: Poorly worded, controversial, unjust and insulting

Dear Colleague,

Just before Christmas, Governor Jindal invited the Federation, legislative leaders and other stakeholders to have a conversation about education. During this meeting, the governor listened politely to all comments and repeated his promise to continue meeting and keep listening as he prepared his "bold plan" for education.

On January 17, the governor unveiled his plan in a speech to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Unfortunately, the governor chose his words very poorly as he framed his controversial agenda.

On one hand, Gov. Jindal acknowledged teachers as the backbone of education and urged that teachers be celebrated and appreciated. However, just moments later he inaccurately and unfairly asserted to these influential business leaders that teachers "are given lifetime job protection…and short of selling drugs in the workplace or beating up" their students, teachers couldn't be fired.

Not only is this statement untrue, its evocation of those specific behaviors in reference to educators is unjust and insulting. It would indeed be unfortunate if the tone set in his speech is an indicator of the attitude he and his allies will assume in the upcoming legislative session.

We had hoped that the governor would identify areas where consensus among stakeholders could emerge in the best interests of children and all citizens. There are more than 30 policy initiatives outlined in the governor's press material, a barrage of ideas that will have to be carefully sorted when lawmakers come into session on March 12.

Is a Value Added teacher evaluation good for Louisiana?

Politicians believe the Value Added Model is right for Louisiana teachers. LFT isn't so sure.

Beginning in 2012-13, Louisiana teachers will be evaluated using a new instrument that incorporates what is known as a Value Added Model. The VAM makes judgments about a teacher's performance based on student growth as measured by standardized tests.

From the beginning, LFT opposed passage of the bill that created the Value Added Model for teacher evaluation. But the bill had strong support from leaders as diverse as President Obama, Governor Jindal, Senators Landrieu and Vitter, the State Superintendent of Education, the BESE Board and the House and Senate Education Committees.

Aware of the strength of VAM's support, LFT worked with lawmakers to improve the bill as much as possible, even as we continued to oppose its passage.

Some leaders in Baton Rouge want you to believe their new evaluation scheme is fail-safe. To find out why we disagree, and to learn much more about the Value Added model, please visit this Web page.

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