Friday, February 22, 2013

Guest Column: Who is Louisiana's Boy Governor?

Jindal is Bizarro World Kingfish

By Davy Brooks, Teacher
February 22, 2013
Guest Column - 475 words

In 1928 Huey Long stood as a gubernatorial candidate under the famed Evangeline Oak, comparing Louisiana’s people to Longfellow’s Acadian heroine, who had waited in vain for her lover Gabriel.

So, too, had Louisianians waited in vain, said the man soon to be the Kingfish, for roads, schools, hospitals and bridges. “Where are the roads? Where are the schools?” he exclaimed.

“Evangeline’s tears lasted a lifetime,” he said; but Louisiana had cried for generations. Long went on to win the election and deliver on his promises. He put food on people’s tables and brought Louisiana into the 20th century.

Unfortunately, the Kingfish’s legacy is mixed. While he was comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, he was establishing a political machine that adopted dictatorial means and displayed ruthless contempt for the democratic process. “I am the Constitution,” he once boasted.

Still, followers of Huey Long were naming their children after their martyred Kingfish. Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton, from Monroe, is one example. Why such loyalty to a “tin pot dictator,” as one historian called him? Because plebeian thought believed that Long gave his life raising the standard of living, and people felt he gave more than he took.

Today’s Louisiana has a Bizarro World Huey Long in Gov. Bobby Jindal. There are the same machinelike tactics, including intimidation, harassment, disrespect and political banishment. Tommy Teague, Richard Sherburne and Jim Champagne are examples of dedicated, efficient state workers who were fired or forced into resigning because they didn’t adhere to the Jindal Corollary to the Long Doctrine, “If you ain’t with me, you’re against me.”

East Baton Rouge Parish teachers got a taste of this manifesto when they took a day off work to address their due process rights and the direction public education is going. For their efforts they were ridiculed by the administration. Standing up collectively and voicing their concerns was in fact one of the greatest lessons they could teach.

Like Long, Jindal politicos say the Louisiana Constitution is what they say it is. In their through-the-looking-glass world, public funds are for private schools; retirement contributions go up for university teachers and state employees, but not for legislators or governors. And in this Bizarro World, 67 is a good age for retirement, regardless of how many years one has worked or what contract was given upon employment.

There are similarities between Jindal and Long, but there is a stark contrast. Long gave them bread and circuses. Jindal is more of a “Let them eat cake” kind of guy.

One can envision in a decade or so a youthful upstart in a Brooks Brothers suit, standing under the Evangeline Oak asking a frenzied crowd, “Where are the schools? Where are the hospitals?”

Davy Brooks is a history teacher living in Hammond, Louisiana.
Reprinted with permission.  
Blogger Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Education Reform Guest Column by Dr. James D. Kirylo

School Reform and Standardized Tests: Parents Have Much Power

By Dr. James D. Kirylo
February 18, 2013
Guest Column - 850 words

Recently an important education forum was held at First United Methodist Church in Hammond.  I had the privilege of sitting on the panel that comprised of other educators, state legislators, and proactive community members, and was particularly impressed with the over 200 plus people that attended the spirited forum.  Naturally a variety of critical issues were discussed relative to school reform, and here I am following up on some further reflections. 

It is worth pointing out that especially by opportunistic politicians the concept of school reform has been proclaimed ad nauseam particularly in the last near 30 years. One would think that we would have nailed it down by now in “fixing” our schools or we would at some point realize that we are actually living out the insanity that is popularly defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  This is no more apparent in our obsession with standardized tests, and to help contextualize the point, a brief peek back in recent history is in order.

The interpretation of how school reform should be filtered has its contemporary foundation dating back to A Nation at Risk (Reagan Administration), which influenced the direction of subsequent reform initiatives such as America 2000 (Bush I), Goals 2000 (Clinton), No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (Bush II), and now the Race to the Top program (Obama).  As one examines each of these reform packages, it becomes apparent that the emphasis on assessment increasingly rises in importance.  And with NCLB and even Race to the Top, the culmination of that importance takes center stage.  

No longer simply labeled as testing, but now referred to as “high-stakes” testing, our present conversations of what is critical in school reform has morphed into what can be characterized as corporate speak.  In other words, we have become so enamored with the convenience of explaining school reform with detached terminology—such as outcomes, results, performance, monetary rewards, takeover, failing schools, competition, A, B, C, D, F labels for schools, and comparing and contrasting—that we have created a system that is analogous to describing a-for-profit corporation, which ultimately results in the creation of “winners” and “losers.”  In the end, this type of system fosters the objectification of school-aged children, possesses an extraordinarily constricted view of what is educationally important, and largely blames teachers for anything that ails education. 

As a consequence, it is now terribly obvious to many that the emphasis on standardized tests, which has cost billions, has harmed children, has chased excellent teachers out of the profession, and has created an overall toxic environment in our schools.  It is, therefore, no surprise that teachers in Seattle, WA have taken a step in boycotting the irrational use of tests, that a Pencils Down Campaign has been launched in Chicago, IL, that a group of high school students in Providence, RI held a protest in order to halt this testing madness, that over 1000 professors in New York alone have publically declared their opposition to standardized tests, citing that these tests have failed to improve schools, and that every credible professional education organization has denounced the extraordinary emphasis on testing.

And so, to shift from doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results with respect to viewing standardized tests as the almighty arbitrator of insidiously judging our school-aged youngsters and teachers, we need to begin by reframing the discussion with concepts that explore schooling as a place where we authentically tap into the multiple intelligences of naturally curious children, where we discuss the meaning of engaged teaching and meaningful learning, and where we consider assessment that is holistic.  

In short, the task of the educator is to inculcate in a developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive way and the task of policy makers, political types, and others is to seek a deep understanding as to what all that means.
And particularly for parents who possess an incredible amount of power to impact change, their task—obviously parenting being the most important—is to pay close attention to the conversations, practices, and policies on how high-stakes testing is having an overall negative impact on our schools, on their children.  As a matter of fact, if Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, or Thomas Edison were especially attending school in the contemporary way we assess, evaluate, and judge our students and schools, those three would have been the poster boys of what is wrong with our public schools because of their lack of “performance.”  

In the final analysis, standardized tests have terribly curbed creativity, critical thinking, the arts, and have disturbingly narrowed the curriculum.  In other words, they have set extraordinary limits as to what is deemed important to learn.  

As a consequence, children have robotically learned that schooling is about passing a test instead of learning to fall in love with learning.

To that end, I strongly encourage parents (and other concerned citizens) to consider some push-back regarding these testing factories we call schools.  I welcome your emails of interest to generate that movement.  Moreover, below I offer a few websites to provide more critical information (;;;

James D. Kirylo is the author of the book PauloFreire: The Man from Recife, and can be reached at

Reprinted with permission.  
Blogger Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of Welcome to the Fallen Paradise: A Novel. His website at

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bobby Jindal's attack on Louisiana children

The Failed RSD and White Lies

February 10, 2013
Revised on February 26, 2013
Column - 550 words

One of the greatest mysteries of Louisiana politics is a recent phenomenon: The Recovery School District

The RSD, created under Governor Kathleen Blanco in 2004, began as a way for the state to wrest control of "failing" schools from local districts. Now it serves as the model for Governor Bobby Jindal’s unwise education “reform” agenda.

Let’s address some key facts about this failed agenda.

According to the latest Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) District Rankings Based on 2011 District Performance Score, the RSD is the second worst district in the State of Louisiana. It is ranked number 61 out of 62 districts listed. Zachary School District is ranked first, and St. Helena Parish is last.

According to the LDOE’s own ranking, the Failed RSD is a district at the very bottom of Louisiana education achievement, and Louisiana as a whole is at the very bottom of the U.S., and this makes Superintendent John White’s model district one of the worst school districts in the developed world. 
Please don’t forget, White was head of the RSD before he was promoted to State Superintendent. This alone is a scandal. 

Sponsored by Louisiana Progress and the Daily Star, an Education Policy Forum was held in Hammond on January 29th. While at that forum, which was well-attended by concerned citizens, I had the misfortune of asking panelist John Ayers, Executive Director of Tulane’s University’s Cowen Institute, about the Failed RSD and the fraud of Bobby Jindal’s education “reform” scheme.

What proceeded from Ayers was a series of arrogant statements with no connection to the real facts. It was Jindal-White education “reform” spin faster than a new Maytag. 

[On February 26, 2013, the video was made available to me, and I have posed it below.]

First, Ayers denied that the RSD was indeed a failed district or even one of the worst in the state. But he never countered the data as stated above using the LDOE’s own District Performance Score. 

Second, his chief argument for showing the vitality of the RSD was that New Orleans has half of the number of failing schools now than they did prior to Hurricane Katrina. 

Nice spin, Mr. Ayers. But New Orleans has about half the student population. It sure makes claiming victory easy. 

Third, Ayers bloviated about the great parent satisfaction of the charter schools. However, that very night, parents from across thecountry and New Orleans appealed to the U.S. Department of Education about the civil rights violations of such education programs.

Fourth, later during the forum Ayers denied that the goal of the charter school movement was to make money for corporations. This, however, is a fairy tale. Just last week, an expose from In the Public Interest was released with thousands of e-mails showing that Jeb Bush’s pro-charter educational foundation was all about benefiting its corporate funders, not the children.

The Failed RSD is not a miracle. It is only magic, a sleight of hand shell game run by corporate profiteers and their well paid lackeys. The taxpayers, parents, and school children of Louisiana deserve better than the Cowen Institute's duplicitous spin. The Failed RSD, the Cowen Institute, John White, and Governor Jindal’s unconstitutional education “reform” package are a disgrace. 

Louisiana would do well to find a better approach to education “reform” and better people to lead our state.

Dayne Sherman lives in Ponchatoula and is the author of “Welcome to the FallenParadise: A Novel.” His website is

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