LETTER:

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, known as BESE, creates and enforces the policies that govern the state education system. Its policies and regulatory rules have the force and effect of law. It’s like the legislature for schools.

BESE establishes regulations and creates policies that schools under its jurisdiction must follow. It also exercises budgetary oversight of educational programs and services. It has the power to cut off their allowances. It tells state schools what to do, how to do it, and how much and what to spend.

Representatives from various districts around the state are elected, but unexpired terms—like the Fourth District’s last year—can be filled by appointment. District Four’s representative was appointed with Governor Jindal’s blessing. When she took office, she did so as a defender of Common Core. Her school website hosted a section on the facts and myths about Common Core. Since entering the race for election to the post, the Common Core section of the website has been taken down. Apparently, the post had become a political liability.

As a working classroom teacher, I have not and cannot support Common Core for several reasons.

Common Core standardizes all children, first training, and then testing to certify a standard of achievement. It collects, stores, and even shares student information, including social security numbers, parent’s income, etc., in the name of educational research. (In most other cases, it would be called data mining.) Yet, some end users are not associated with educational institutions nor bound by student privacy regulations. What this data will be used for is open to speculation.

Common Core also takes the job of teaching your children out of the local schools’ hands, turning it over to the 62 individuals who created the “curriculum,” elected representatives whose support is immediately suspect as political expediency, and to administrators who enforce the “standards” without having to teach your children one on one. Not surprisingly, most classroom teachers like me think the system is hopelessly optimistic and mistakenly targeted toward standards that homogenize our children.

The justification of this standardization seems to be to turn out identically educated students. But, turning out identical copies is the purpose of manufacturing. It is totally unsuited for the development of the wonderfully complex and diversely unique people who are our children. No matter how well intentioned are goals to give all students an equal outcome, it is unrealistic, unfair, and, at its soul, un-American.

Our schools were created to assist students in becoming the best possible version of themselves, not a standard “unit” in some hypothetical Matrix. Every child deserves a chance to capitalize on his or her God-given talent and unique genius. That cannot happen if they are deemed one of many instead of one of a kind.

In travelling around the Fourth district’s ten parishes, I have heard your concerns. In my own classroom, I have seen your child’s classroom struggle. I have shared their school day lessons and standardized test day anxiety. I am not a handpicked and appointed political operative. I am you: a parent, a grandparent, a taxpayer, and a front-line teacher.

On October 24, you have the opportunity to elect to put someone on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education who believes in your child as you do. Who will help put the education back in education. A veteran who will lead by example, showing the politicians that improving education begins, not with reinventing the wheel, but by working with one mind at a time.

I am Glynis Johnston your best choice for Fourth district Representative of BESE. I am passionate about education and about tailoring it to fit the needs of each individual student, not some mathematical ideal.

The curricula in our schools needs to be in the hands of teachers who are teaching, not divorced from day-to-day education in administrative offices. The people who create and enforce classroom policy must be educators working with the children, unencumbered by political connections, bureaucratic concerns, or favoritism.

Put a front-line teacher on the Board. It’s time to teach our children how the state’s educational system should be run, by, for, and about teaching and not politics.

Glynis Johnston
Shreveport, Louisiana