On Monday, June 6th, I spent the whole day at the State Capitol tying up some loose ends and trying to find someone who knew the APA process well enough to answer some questions. I finally learned that there is no “amending process” for the legislature. Their only task is to approve, or reject; however, if they reject, they can give the reasons why, the standard would go back to BESE for revisions, and then, back to the APA. If either committee rejects, they are rejected. I spoke with a couple of the Senate committee members and drew the conclusion that if I wanted enough votes to reject the standards, I would have to focus on freshman Senator, Beth Mizell.
I got home late from Baton Rouge and stayed up way too late preparing a statement for the Tuesday committee meeting. I decided to watch the archived video from the BESE review meeting on may 27th to see if there were any points made that I needed to counter in my statement. What I found was all of the testimony given in support of the standards was predictable. I knew what each person would say before they sat at the table.
“We’ve worked 9000 hours.” “Teachers want continuity.” “We have REAL Louisiana standards.” “Louisiana doesn’t need to go backwards.”
Watching the video reminded me of a time when I was a teenager. My grandmother tasked me with folding her towels while she went to run errands. I folded the towels and put them away, then went about my business. When she returned, she called me over. When I arrived, I found all of the towels on her bed. Shocked, I asked what happened? I just folded all of those. She replied,”You did them wrong. Do them again.”
I wrote a two page statement. I was fully prepared to show the committee it was, indeed, okay to “go backwards.” ALL of the groups making these statements at every meeting have, on two occasions, acknowledged that it is okay to “go backwards.” They backed, and ultimately passed, going backwards on teacher evaluations moving the quantitative portion of a teacher evaluation from 50% to 35%. They also backed and ultimately passed Sen. Mizell’s bill requiring that cursive writing be taught in school.
As is the norm, the supporters had the opportunity to go first. This is always great if you want to take notes and counter any points when you get your chance to speak. I hope that at least some of the legislators on the committees have the opportunity to read this blog, because I want to say something that doesn’t get said in the committee meetings. Each and every person who spoke in support of the standards has, at one time or another, been compensated to support, promote or implement Common Core Standards. They support the “New Louisiana Standards” for the same reason that we oppose them…they are one and the same.
Thank goodness I am a techie. I use my iPhone for everything. As I listened to the supporter speak, there were some questions asked that peaked my interest. I used my phone to access my Google drive and scroll through the standards, the beautiful detailed analysis that Dr. Beth Meyers did and the CrossWalk that was done when we transitioned from GLEs to Common Core. Bingo!
I suddenly realized that I didn’t need to talk about the standards that were reviewed. What I needed to talk about was the standards that were not reviewed. The standards that were deleted in the transition.
When Sen. Mizell introduced her cursive writing bill, she did it because a constituent who owns a land survey company complained that he couldn’t find help that could read historic title documents written in cursive. In the introduction of her bill, she asked the question, “Why aren’t we teaching cursive?” Well, the answer is very simple. That standard was deleted.
So, now, we have legislated that cursive writing be taught, and all of those organizations who support the new standards also support this legislation. Problem solved, right? Third grade…you learn cursive. No. Not quite. You see, in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade, you don’t learn to print. Why? Because that standard was deleted, as well. Think about it for a minute. There are no standards to teach print writing, which by the way builds motor skills and contributes to cognitive development and understanding of language, and suddenly a student reaches 3rd grade and “BOOM.” Cursive writing.
I made my point. I looked each member of the committee in the eye and they were listening and they were concerned about what I was saying. In addition to my statement, there was strong testimony given by my colleagues Leslie Truax, Tiffany Guidry, Dr. Beth Meyers and Michael Deshotels, and I am proud to acknowledge them as friends, as well.
Informational testimony was provided by the Executive Director of the School Board Association, Scott Richard and president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, Debbie Meaux. Mr. Richard made some very valid points about the costs that school districts would incur if new standards were implemented. What was not clear was if he was referring to the New Louisiana Standards, or if the standards were rejected and we actually created new standards. Very ambiguous.
Debbie Meaux asserted that she was unable to take an official stance because the LAE was split 50/50 on support of the standards, but she wanted to share some of the concerns that she has received from teachers including embedded strategies and age inappropriateness. She also said that she felt strongly that there needs to be a yearly review process to see what problems are occurring and how they can be fixed. This caught Rep. Nancy Landry’s attention, and she asked for clarification. In retrospect, I believe that this part of her testimony was the turning point. You see why in a minute.
It was time to take a vote. You know what happened. Both committees approved the standards, but guess who voted against them…Sen. Mizell! Of course Sen. Milkovich, who has been one of our tireless heroes in this regular session, also voted against. What you don’t know is what happened after the vote, but before I tell you, I want to tell you about a rookie mistake that I made. I mistakenly assumed that every committee member understood what would happen if they rejected the standards. I know now that many of them were under the assumption that rejecting the standards would end the process and we’d be stuck with Common Core.
So what happened when the meeting was over and the cameras were off? Between the four of us…myself, Leslie, Tiffany and Beth…no less than six committee members approached us to tell us how powerful our testimony was and gave their commitment to pass a resolution and legislation that would require BESE to review and revise the standards yearly using the ACTUAL RESULTS of the test. In addition, establishing that they are able to appoint members to the review, particularly four people that they trust.
Would I have preferred that the standards be rejected? Of course! Do I still have hope that Governor Edwards will veto? Of course! Do I think he will? Not likely, but whatever he does won’t be done until the special session is over. I do know this…the feeling I left with after visiting with those committee members was the most satisfying ever in my time at the Capitol, and you can bet that we won’t let them forget what they said.