Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dumpster diving for compliments

So State Superintendent of Education John White went dumpster diving for compliments, and emerged from the pile waving this affidavit from former Washington, DC school superintendent Michelle Rhee. It certifies that Louisiana is the best state in the nation at punishing public school teachers for all the faults of a society that ranks last in nearly every indicator of a decent quality of life.

Not in so many words, of course. Rhee’s press release actually ranks Louisiana first in the nation for what she calls “policies that prioritize the interests of children.” Those happen to include the punitive new rules that link nearly every aspect of a teacher’s professional life to the results of standardized tests.

Louisiana and Florida rank the highest in the nation, according to Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst. States that rank beneath Louisiana include every state with higher student achievement and standards of living.

That prompted education curmudgeon Diane Ravitch to tweet, “Does anyone move to Louisiana or Florida for their schools?”

As Ravitch put it, “Rhee wants teachers to be evaluated and fired by test scores; she wants schools to be closed by test scores. But when she ranked the states, she didn’t look at test scores. If she had, her number-one state—Louisiana—would have been at the bottom of her rankings.”

No state in the StudentsFirst survey received a grade of A – Louisiana earned a B+. Among the 11 states to be graded F was California. That state’s chief deputy education superintendent, Richard Zeiger, called Rhee’s rating a “badge of honor.”

Zeiger told the New York Times that StudentsFirst “is an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing. I would have been surprised if we had got anything else.”

He is on to something. One Web site pointed out that among the states rated by Rhee’s organization, “the higher the StudentsFirst grade the lower the students’ performance.”

As it turns out, StudentsFirst is not so much an education organization as a right-wing, anti-tax group dedicated to privatizing public education.

Which explains Gov. Jindal’s glowing response to the big wet kiss from Michelle Rhee. “This report confirms that Louisiana is now leading the nation in education reform,” Jindal wrote in the prepared statement that he provided instead of talking to reporters, “because of our commitment to put a great teacher in every classroom and give every child the opportunity to get a great education.”

That’s the same Gov. Jindal who loves children so much that he is slashing a mental health program for children with behavioral health problems. In the same state whose commitment to children earned us a D from the Pew Center on the States because we don’t “provide crucial dental care to low-income children,” according to this story by reporter Laura Maggi.

For lots more on Michelle Rhee and her faux-grassroots organization, check out Tom Aswell’s Louisiana Voice post on the subject: “The report confirms nothing and it validates nothing and it’s highly doubtful if the people of this state are truly excited at what this administration passes off as reform. The courts certainly are not as three separate courts have knocked down various aspects of the education reform measures.”

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