By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The state of education in the United States today is troublesome.  One report after another comes across the wires:  stressed out teachers are disengaged with their work, teachers are overworked and burned out, and apparently we have ineffective teachers in our low-performing schools.  Go figure.

Is any of this news to anyone?

Sometimes we can read all this data and all these reports and draw false conclusions.  Let’s consider some alternative conclusions to the ones most commonly drawn.

Consider the report that stressed out teachers are disengaged with their work.  This is a conclusion drawn from a new Gallup report, The State of America’s Schools which contends that  7 in 10 teachers are “do not feel engaged” in their work which is having a negative effect on students.  Certainly if a teacher is stressed out and under pressure this will have a negative impact on the teacher over time.  We all want our kids to have teachers who are exciting and make them feel the hunger for learning, so this report is obviously troublesome.

But why are teachers disengaged?  Gallup:

On two points, teachers were the least likely of any profession surveyed on workforce engagement to respond positively: whether they feel their opinions at work count, and whether their supervisor creates an “open and trusting environment.”

“That’s a really big eye-opener,” says Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “So there’s something about the open, trusting environment that isn’t working in schools and that they don’t believe their opinions count. That is definitely weighing down the potential of making them more engaged in their workplace.”

Well, that’s an interesting conclusion but I don’t think it’s fair to put so much blame on the supervisor or administrator.  True, that’s an important role:  you need a supportive administrator who will back your decisions in the classroom, but the administrator is also just a gateway in a sense.  Walk it all the way back.  Principal, supervisor, local superintendent, state level superintendents, and now (thank you Common Core…) the federal government.  So, to put all the blame on the immediate supervisor is misguided.

A simplified example:  A teacher wants to teach a novel that has relevance to her students; it meets and challenges their reading level. (The teacher knows this reading level because she has done a diagnostic test and has determined the reading level of each student).  The teacher knows this novel will engage her students and has a passion for bringing that novel and level of engagement to her students.

But wait!  She can’t teach that novel.  Common Core says all her students must read an obscure work with a Lexile level much higher than her students are functioning on, a novel for which the teacher has no engagement or passion.

How well is that going to work?  The teacher isn’t going to be excited about the lesson, the students are going to be struggling to relate to the work, and the students are going to struggle to even make sense of the words because said novel is so far above their reading level.

Now granted, that’s a simplified example; a really good teacher will figure out a way to bring passion to whatever novel the idgits that made the reading list make her teach.  But it wears you down.  The teacher has been stripped of her professional ability and decision making.  The teacher no longer can decide what’s best for her individual students.

Thus, burnout.  Frustration.

Is this all Common Core’s fault?  Of course not.  Teachers have been fighting bureaucracy and burnout for years.  The suits sit around conference tables and figure out what new save-the-state-of-education fad will be imposed this year and then they do endless professional development sessions to implement the plan.  Veteran teachers have seen them all before; they come in cycles.

With regard to burnout and frustration, consider that one of the requirements of Common Core is that states must also implement a rigorous teacher evaluation system.  Professional evaluation is important and I don’t know of a single profession that doesn’t have an evaluation system, but common sense must prevail.  Some of these evaluation tools are profoundly subjective and unfair.  When a teacher is marked off on an evaluation because a student put a dab of lotion on her knees during the observation, which obviously means classroom expectations haven’t been taught and the teacher has poor classroom management, frustration will result.

When those observations and evaluations are tied to teacher pay and that annual incentive check comes out, the teacher that has Honors and AP kids will get the big incentive check while the teacher with the low-performing, struggling kids who have not been taught social skills at home gets the very small check.  Frustration results.

In reality, teachers aren’t frustrated with their work or with their job.  They are frustrated with the system that prevents them from doing their job and that persecutes them for things beyond their control.  I don’t know one single teacher who went into the profession to get rich.  Every teacher I know does it because of a love for kids and for the opportunity to make a difference in just one kid’s life.  When that passion is squelched by a system that ties their hands, strips their decision making, persecutes them, and makes them feel like failures, then there is something wrong with the system, not the teachers.

Consider these words from a frustrated first-year teacher:

The truth is that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that is required of me. There is always something, whether it’s a training requirement or writing tests or preparing my lessons or grading papers or counseling struggling students. Some things get finished. Most things do not.

My working life is an uneasy calculation between the most pressing need and the requirements that I hope can remain unfinished. Sometimes I feel like I am always on the verge of failure, one tiny slip or miscalculation away from either being fired or failing my students.

She resigned shortly after her letter was published.

The sad thing is, her situation is all too common.

We need to support our young teachers, trust our veteran teachers, and restore local autonomy to our school systems and classrooms.  If we fail to do this, public education will be an antiquated idea from a society that has failed its most vulnerable members: the children.

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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Olimometer 2.52

The time has come to ditch the weekly goal to focus on the monthly figure, that’s where the real action is at.

In order for this to be a viable full-time business this blog has to take in enough to make the mortgage/tax payment for the house (Currently $1210 monthly) and cover the costs of the writers writing here (another $255)

As of now we need $1278 to meet this goal by April 30th.

That comes out 51 people kicking in $25 over the rest of the month or basically three people a day.

I think the site and the work done here is worth it, if you do too then please consider hitting DaTipJar below .

Naturally once our monthly goal is made these solicitations will disappear till the next month but once we get 61 more subscribers  at $20 a month the goal will be covered for a full year and this pitch will disappear until 2015.

Consider the lineup you get for this price, in addition to my own work seven days a week you get John Ruberry (Marathon Pundit) and Pat Austin (And so it goes in Shreveport)  on Sunday  Linda Szugyi (No one of any import) on Monday  Tim Imholt on Tuesday,  AP Dillon (Lady Liberty1885) Thursdays, Pastor George Kelly fridays,   Steve Eggleston on Saturdays with  Baldilocks (Tue & Sat)  and   Fausta  (Wed & Fri) of (Fausta Blog) twice a week.

If that’s not worth $20 a month I’d like to know what is?

 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – When Pete invited me to join his writing team he said, “You can write about whatever you want to…” within reason, of course, and most of the time I write about politics because that’s just what I do.  But something else has been on my mind this week so I hope you’ll indulge me this brief deviation from politics.

April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month so I want to take a moment to acquaint you with a local case that has captured the hearts of my local community.  Meet Braveheart (there is a happy ending, so keep reading):

September 11, 2013 a dog was found in an abandoned storage locker in Shreveport, chained to a car and likely moments away from death.  The hottest day of the year in September in Shreveport was on September 3 with 103 degrees; typically we have many days over 100 degrees around that time of year.  Can you braveimagine what the temperature must have been in that storage locker?  There was no ventilation, no food, and no water for the dog;  he was just waiting to die.

The owner of the storage property went into the unit because the renter had lapsed on his payments.  When he went in he saw what he thought was a dead dog.  It was only when he went to remove the body that he realized this dog was alive.

The following narrative of what happened next is from A Voice for Braveheart:

“He was only hours if not minutes from death as he could only move his eyes. He was rushed to the vet and somehow survived. Someone that played a critical role in his recovery stated ‘human hands did this, human hands should fix it’. He was given life saving medical care immediately and a miracle happened, he began healing. He was named…….Braveheart.

After a 2 week stay at the ER clinic he came to stay with our family. He only weighed 8 pounds when he was found.”

A number of local organizations and people worked hard to save Braveheart’s life, among them Bo and Ronda Spataro who agreed to foster Brave during his recovery.  Ronda works as a vet tech at the clinic where Brave was ultimately treated and she fell in love with him, as did her husband.  Ronda was able to take Brave to work with her and he was given aggressive, around the clock care.  But the story did not end there.

Braveheart’s condition when he was found was thoroughly documented through medical records and photographs.  The photographs are very difficult to look at.  Even with all that evidence, however, the city decided they needed to take Braveheart from his foster family and place him in the animal shelter as evidence.  The Spataros were devastated.  Braveheart had already become a part of their family.  Local news station KTAL was there when Braveheart was seized and captured incredibly emotional video as the puppy is taken from the Spataros and placed in the back of an animal control truck.  Through her sobs, Ronda gave Braveheart a kiss and told him, “I promise I’ll get you back…I promise.”   It was a promise she was later able to keep.

ronda

It was all one step too much for the community who reacted in outrage and planned a protest at the shelter.  Bo Spataro writes:

“There was an unnecessary custody battle with animal control when they were asked to start an investigation into the abuse/neglect of Braveheart by public outcry. It was quickly won, again by public outcry. [Brave’s abuser was identified and] charged with felony cruelty to an animal. We formally adopted Braveheart from Caddo Parish Animal Shelter after his abuser surrendered ownership. He has been assigned legal counsel and we have been attending his court dates. He has plead not guilty and the ADA has informed both the judge and defense there will be NO plea deals. The judge has also agreed to a sentencing hearing if he pleads guilty. This type of abuse to any animal with no meaningful penalty needs to be stopped.”

The picture taken at that joyful reunion between Braveheart and his new family still brings a tear to my eye when I look at it.

brave1

Bo tells me that the original ADA has been transferred and there will be someone else prosecuting the case; we can only hope the new prosecutor is also tough against animal abuse.  We may find out this week.

For Braveheart, there is a happy ending; Bo again:

“Braveheart is now doing great and has made nearly a full recovery. He still has some emotional scars that may never go away, but overall, he knows he is safe now. He knows he is loved now. You can see his whole story at A Voice For Braveheart. He is still supported by TSR La Baby Mommas rescue in Shreveport, La and attends events to promote “Adopt, don’t shop”, spay/neuter programs, pet education and animal abuse awareness. Although Brave was originally intended to be a foster, we knew differently after he was suddenly taken from us during the custody battle. We knew immediately when we got him back, we would never let him leave our home. He is a part of our family and he has found his forever home.”

As I said, there is a happy ending.

Look at Brave now:

brave4

The next court date for Brave’s abuser comes up this week and the community will be supporting Braveheart and the Spataro family in a quiet, respectful presence in the courtroom.   A while back someone asked Bo if it wouldn’t be an important statement if he took Brave into the courtroom with him and Bo had a wonderful answer that could not have been more perfect.  He said he would never consider doing such a thing because he does not ever want Brave to have to look into the eyes or ever see his abuser again.  All he should know from now on is love and security.

Again, as April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month, I ask you to take a moment and read Brave’s story.  This isn’t just a local news story; there are stories like Brave’s all over the country.  Please donate to your local animal rescue organizations and always adopt, don’t shop, when you’re ready for a pet.  Work in your communities to strengthen laws against animal abuse.

To me, the story of Braveheart shows the best and the worst of human nature.  I can’t imagine leaving a puppy chained to a car in a hot storage building in over 100 degree heat with no water just to die.  That is an abominable act.  But I also think that there are more of us on the other side – on the side of love and compassion.  Thank goodness for people like the Spataros who will not only fight to save a dog from a situation like that and then go on to share their story and work as ambassadors for good.  Braveheart now attends many adoption events in the community and goes to local schools to help educate kids about caring for pets.

Thanks for indulging me on this non-political post, but I really wanted to share this story with you.  If we don’t give a voice to abused and mistreated animals, who will?

You can follow Braveheart’s continuing journey here.

 

(Note:  I redacted the name of Braveheart’s alleged abuser in the post above because although he is formally charged he is not yet convicted.)

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and has three rescue dogs.

By Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — A couple of weeks ago I posted that it had been “a tough week to be Mary Landrieu.”  I probably should have waited until this week to use that title.  There seems to be very little good news for the embattled Senator in the news this week.

Early in the week Clare Foran at The National Journal wrote about the abandonment of Senator Landrieu by the environmentalists.  “They just can’t stand her stance on global warming,” Foran says.

In the past year, only one environmental organization has donated to her campaign. The Baton Rouge-based Center for Coastal Conservation gave Landrieu a $2,500 nod, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense Fund have handed over a combined contribution of exactly nothing. All three groups declined to comment on the record when asked whether they would endorse Landrieu.

Louisiana is peppered with oil and gas wells; we have just under two dozen petroleum refineries.  And Landrieu is savvy enough to know that these are important jobs votes in her pocket.  She has to walk a fine line.

Which brings us to what is really going on with Mary Landrieu’s campaign.

Louisiana attorney, and occasional fill-in host for local conservative talk show host Moon Griffon, Paul Hurd has a post at The Dead Pelican which makes very clear the challenges Senator Landrieu faces and what her campaign staff is attempting to do about it:

The Landrieu machine’s new snake oil is the assertion that Senator Landrieu is too valuable to Louisiana and the Oil and Gas Industry as the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee to let her get beat and have the Energy Committee controlled by pro-energy independent Republicans. This is the new political Hadicol being sold to the masses in Louisiana.

As we all know, Landrieu has a new plum position as head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  The Washington Post sang the same tune about the angry environmentalists back in February:

Landrieu favors building the Keystone XL pipeline, protecting tax breaks or incentives for oil drilling, and placing limits on the power of federal agencies to set mercury or carbon dioxide guidelines for coal-fired power plants. Wyden takes the opposite position on all those issues.

Landrieu supports giving oil companies the right to export crude oil as well as natural gas, while Wyden supports giving natural gas export permits on a case by case basis and does not have a public position on crude oil exports.

The Louisiana Democrat helps maintain the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, but she is closer to the oil and gas industry than most other members of her party.

Au contraire, says Paul Hurd (emphasis mine):

Let’s look at voting record of Senator Landrieu and the members of the Senate Energy Committee, grouped by Democrats in control now, compared to the Republican members who would gain control of energy policy with the defeat of Senator Landrieu. One way to compare voting records is to use scorecards of business and the radical conservationists to see who supports energy growth and who does not. The League of Conservation Voters is a typical, extreme environmental advocacy group that takes every stand possible to prevent America from producing clean, abundant and American energy. Its Action Plans includes “Speaking out against the XL Keystone Pipeline,” “Protecting Us from Toxic Coal Ash” and “Support for Climate Change Action.” Their position is unrepentant destruction of the hydro-carbon based energy industry in America, and that means the destruction of Louisiana’s economy.

In contract, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a middle of the road, pro-business lobbying group that recognizes the need for clean and affordable production of energy in America to support our own economic growth and avoid shipping energy dollars to China and the Middle East to fund our global adversaries. And for Louisiana, royalty checks spend just fine in Louisiana.

Each of these groups provide a scorecard for the votes taken by our federal Congressmen and Senators. What these scorecards show is clear and remarkable. The average rating by the League of Conservation for 2013 for the twelve Democratic members of the Energy Committee is an astounding 91%, while the ten Republican members average a Conservation Voter rating of only 16%. In contrast, the Chamber of Commerce provides an average rating of the Democratic members of the Committee of 50%, while the Republican members of the Committee score an average of 91%. In short, these ratings by business and environmental groups show that continued Democratic control of the Senate Energy Committee promises Louisiana and America continuing government suppression of independent energy production in Louisiana and in America.

What all this means is that Mary Landrieu knows that she is in trouble.  She is scrambling to do whatever it takes to deflect discussion of her Obamacare vote even to the point of now trying to act like she wants to amend it.  She’s spent the better part of 18 months trying to distance herself from the Obama circus.  It’s not working for me.

Remember in April 2010?  She was “a vociferous defender” of Obamacare and even told one Morgan City businessman who was worried about having to lay off employees to “live with it.”  But now we’re supposed to believe she isn’t happy with it.

Quite honestly, I wish she’d read the Obamacare bill before she took that $300 million kickback for it.  Vote for it now and fix it later?  Nah.  I don’t think so.  That’s just transparent politicking and I’ve no respect for that.

And now we’re supposed to believe she is a vociferous defender of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry.

Riiiight.

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.