Archives for category: Louisiana

John White has done some heavy-duty boasting since he became State Superintendent of Louisiana in 2012. It seems to be a characteristic of the reformer class that they project dramatic improvement on their watch. Michelle Rhee promised the moon when she was chancellor in DC, and as G.F. Brandenburg has shown on his blog, achieved about 1.5% of what she promised.

As Gary Rubinstein shows in this post, John White made bold claims about AP courses. It is true that participation rates went up but passing rates went down. White had an explanation for that: higher participation caused a drop in pass rates.

But what White could not explain was that only 4.1% of all juniors and seniors in Louisiana earned a 3 or higher on an AP exam. That is next to last in the nation, just above Mississippi.

Really, people should not boast ever, but it is surely a bad idea to boast before the results are in.

Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune reports that Louisiana’s graduation rate is deeply flawed by missing data in several districts.

When students transfer out, are they leaving for private school, home school, another school, or another state?

“Education officials audited 2012-13 transfer records of 34 of the state’s 69 systems and found one third of these exits could not be properly documented.”

“Much is at stake with the record-keeping, for students must be considered dropouts if their transfers are not properly documented. That depresses the school’s graduation rate. But if the transfer papers are in order, the student is not counted in their high school’s graduation rate.

“The graduation rate counts for 25 percent of the school performance score. That score determines whether conventional schools may be taken over by the state and whether charter schools may stay open.

“The worst results in the audit were found in Jefferson and East Baton Rouge parishes, and in the New Orleans schools run directly by the Recovery School District. Only 27 percent of East Baton Rouge transfer records — and none of the Recovery-New Orleans records — had proper documentation. In Jefferson, the verification rate was 31 percent.”

Veteran educator Mike Deshotels believes that school officials might be cooking the books. The state, of course, vigorously denies that claim.

We should have learned from Bernie Madoff and Ken Lay of Enron that data are highly malleable.

Jim Arnold, former superintendent of Pelham City public schools in Georgia, has a message for Governor Nathan Deal, who is running for re-election. Governor Deal thinks Georgia needs a “recovery school district,” like the one in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jim Arnold says Governor Deal is wrong.

Arnold writes that Louisiana is a low-performing state and Néw Orleans is a low-performing district.

“Louisiana, where Advanced Placement exam results for 2013 are ahead of only Mississippi, is known more for LSU football and Duck Dynasty than public education…..

“The vast majority of charters in Louisiana, except for those with a selective admission process, are rated D or F by their own state. The New Orleans Recovery School District that Nathan Deal suggested we emulate was rated as one of the lowest performing districts in the state.
This plan was part of the “bait and switch” campaign in Louisiana to increase the number of charter schools in that state after Hurricane Katrina. Their method was simple: if evidence for the success of charters is required, simply lower test scores, apply charters wherever possible then raise the scores back through whatever test manipulation is needed to “prove” the case.

“The RSD efforts in Louisiana are a miserable failure by any measure. In spite of the promise to return schools to the public after the initial takeover in 2006, not one school in the RSD has been returned to local control after 8 years.

“The governor’s suggestion of studying the implementation of such a model in Georgia speaks more to his lack of a coherent educational policy than to his ideas for educational progress.”

Arnold has some ideas for improving public education in Georgia:

He writes:

“Believe in and support teachers:

1. Poverty is the cause of achievement gaps and the number one obstacle to educational success. Stop the culture of blaming teachers for poverty.

Teachers don’t cause poverty any more than law enforcement causes crime or doctors create disease.

2. Invest in teachers: Restore professional development funds. Professional development should be experienced teachers working with less experienced teachers. Pay great teachers to share their knowledge and ideas in ways that allow them to stay in the classroom. One great teacher working with 3 or 4 others is a powerful tool. Large groups of teachers listening to one “expert” in an auditorium is not.

3. Pay great teachers more to work in high poverty schools: Working in these schools is difficult. Make it worth the effort for teachers that want to increase their salaries and stay in the classroom. Want to attract great teachers to high poverty areas? Pay them to travel and teach there. Want to identify high poverty schools? Simply look at standardized test scores. They don’t tell you anything about teaching and learning but do serve wonderfully to point out the zip code effect of the level of poverty in a given area.

4. Eliminate standardized testing for other than diagnostic purposes: The money saved would be more beneficial invested in teaching and learning than in the autopsy reports generated at the insistence of accountabullies in the name of accountabalism. Allow teachers the opportunity to teach without having to teach to the test.

5. Don’t believe in magic bullets: The answer is not in canned programs guaranteed to produce higher test scores. The answer is in the power of great teachers. Invest in people and not in programs. Success through standardization is a myth. Every student needs and deserves individualized learning at all levels. Educational achievement, like excellence, cannot be legislated.
Technology is a tool for teachers and not an answer unto itself: For every child that learns through technology alone there are more that fail miserably without the intervention and guidance of a teacher. Lower class sizes, eliminate furlough days and give teachers the time and tools to teach.

6. Help prevent legislative meddling in teaching and learning: Unfunded mandates and legislative attempts at applying statewide solutions to local educational issues have done more to hurt public education than to help. Standardization is not a solution unless your goal is to help Bill Gates sell a lot of technology. Georgia teachers can also find a better way than age level to determine educational placement. Children learn at different rates and in different ways. If a child cannot jump a bar 4 feet high, raising the bar to 6 feet does not encourage continued learning and effort. Expecting every child to achieve at the same rate at the same level ignores fundamental differences in human development…sort of like Arnie’s plan to test special education students out of special education through higher expectations.
Top down implementation does not work in education any more than it does in government: Issuing a decree that all children will succeed does not automatically mean that all children will succeed.”

A new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives Louisiana high marks on providing choice but low marks for academics. It should be noted that Louisiana has higher levels of child poverty than other states, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not go into that.

“A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report gives Louisiana’s public education system very low marks on academic achievement, international competitiveness, workforce preparation and bang for the buck. It flunked Louisiana in five of 11 categories, with a D+ in the sixth.

“The state’s low academic standing has been widely documented. However, the chamber says its report has a particular focus on the 21st century workforce.

“Louisiana did see some gains. Scores went up on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2013, especially for low-income and minority students. But compared to other states, Louisiana was still at the bottom. The state’s 2013 Advanced Placement pass rate was worse than any state except Mississippi.

“Pass rates were even lower in subjects that the chamber considers important for the 21st century economy: only 30 in 10,000 students passed a foreign language AP test, and 4 in 10,000 passed the AP computer science test.

“When measured against an international exam, the Programme for International Student Assessment, fewer than 20 percent of Louisiana students met the global standard in reading and mathematics.

“The chamber gave Louisiana a failing grade on “return on investment.” After controlling for the cost of living, the chamber’s report says, “student achievement in Louisiana is very low relative to state spending,” which is about at the national median.

“The chamber released the report card Thursday. The research was conducted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“Given Louisiana’s poor national and international standing, the chamber found the state’s internal testing results dubious and lacking in credibility. In 2011, pass rates for Louisiana’s LEAP and iLEAP tests were much higher than the national rates. That gave an inaccurately rosy picture of student performance, said the chamber, which awarded a D-plus for “truth in advertising.”

The state got an A for parental choice. As we have seen in numerous earlier reports, many children use state vouchers to attend schools with no curriculum and uncertified teachers. Maybe all that choice is dragging down academic outcomes. But “even some of the better grades were lower than in the chamber’s previous report. In 2007, chamber researchers gave Louisiana an A for teaching, a C for the credibility of its own test pass rates and an A for data collection. It gave the state a B for the rigor of its academic standards, praising its English benchmarks and graduation exit exam.” Under John White, the state is losing ground.

Hmm, I seem to recall that Louisiana was the state that was #1 on StudentsFirst report card, probably because of vouchers and charters.

State superintendent John White thinks that Common Core and its hard tests is the cure-all for low performance. Rigor. Harder tests. That’ll raise performance. Kind of like an athlete who can’t jump a 4-ft bar. Raise it to 6 feet. That’ll do it.

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia wants a statewide Recovery School District, just like Louisiana. He wants to be like Bobby Jindal. He wants all the low-performing schools turned into charters, just like Néw Orleans.

Won’t someone tell him that most of the charters–excluding those with selective admissions–are rated D or F by the state? Won’t someone tell him that the RSD in Louisiana is one of the lowest performing districts in the state? Perhaps he could invite Charles Hatfield or Dr. Barbara Ferguson of NOLA’s “Research on Reforms” to brief him. Or talk to Professor Kristen Buras of Geirgia State University, who just published a book debunking “the Néw Orleans miracle.” Or read Mercedes Schneider on the Néw Orleans story.

See, Governor Deal has a problem, and his name is Jason Carter. Jason is the grandson of President Jimmy Carter. More than that, his children are enrolled in public schools. His wife taught in a public high school. He wants to improve Georgia’s public schools, not privatize them.

Deal and Carter are tied in the polls. Deal thinks he can win by promising to hand schools over to entrepreneurs.

I’m for Jason.

A district court judge in Baton Rouge ordered State Superintendent John White to release information about setting cut scores.

Veteran educator Mike Deshotels posted this on his blog:

“Breaking News: On Thursday, August 28, Judge Bob Downing of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge ordered State Superintendent John White and the LDOE to produce detailed information about the setting of cut scores for the Mastery level student ratings for the 2014 Spring LEAP test that was designed to be more aligned with the Common Core standards. The LDOE had already released the minimum percentages of correct answers used for the setting of Basic level ratings just before the lawsuit demanding this information was filed. John White was found to be in violation of the public records law for refusing to release the score setting percentages on the 2014 LEAP test and for failing to produce the written communications with the testing company relating to the setting of cut scores. The LDOE was also required to pay all court costs and attorney’s fees necessary to the prosecution of my public records lawsuit filed to extract this vital information from White, the LDOE, and the testing company. This post on The Louisiana Educator Blog had already analyzed the drastic lowering of the minimum percentage of correct answers on some areas of LEAP apparently designed to imply that Louisiana students were doing just fine on the new CCSS aligned tests. Apparently manipulation of test scores to produce predetermined results has now become standard operating procedure in the implementation of Common Core. The video referred to above shows how scores were set in New York to create the perception of failure of the entire New York state system.”

It is striking and sad that judges are now deciding basic education issues or that people have to appeal to judges to get basic information that ought to be available to the public.

Mercedes Schneider, high school teacher, debates Common Core with a state representative and a representative of the pro-voucher group Black Alliance for Educational Options. Mercedes explains who BAEO is, then engages in 6 minutes of debate in which the two men were pro-Common Core and Mercedes was critical. Does 2 vs. 1 sound unbalanced? At least there was some disagreement. A few days ago, there was a well-publicized forum on Common Core that included Merryl Tisch, chair of the Board of Regents; John King, state commissioner; Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers; Carmen Farina, Chancellor of the New York City public schools; and one or two others. Every member of the panel supported Common Core. Some debate.

Veteran educator Michael Deshotels filed a public records request last June to find out how the state tests were scored. The state claimed that the tests were harder but the scores held steady. Deshotels got the records and concluded that the state had manipulated the scoring of the tests.

He writes:

“It turns out that the number of correct answers required for a passing score (or a level of basic) was significantly reduced for three out of four categories of the LEAP high stakes testing. Once one knows how the passing scores are routinely manipulated it’s no surprise that the percentage of students scoring basic or above remained steady. The test grading scale for LEAP was adjusted or “equated” (to use the lingo of testing experts), apparently to make certain that the perceived performance of students on the new Common Core aligned tests remained steady.”

Crazy Crawfish (aka Jason France, who was a data analyst for the Louisiana Department of Education) wrote a post about the same scores called “Standardized Lying.”

He writes:

“Student performance in Louisiana is dropping rapidly. The decline started just about the time John White became superintendent of Education and has accelerated rapidly with the introduction of Common Core in Louisiana schools. Based on a sample analysis of the very meager data LDOE finally released under threat of lawsuit it is clear that not only is student performance not increasing or staying steady, it Is in fact declining, and being masked by a lowering of the number of correct answers required to pass LEAP and iLEAP tests….

“I don’t have magical powers, but I can confidently predict this is something you will find and see happening across the nation, especially in education Reformer infested territories. There is nothing standardized about the testing of Common Core, the only standardization comes in in the form of lying about it.

“Proponents of Common Core, and the High Stakes testing required by it, have claimed the comparability of test scores across states will make for meaningful comparisons. To have this meaningful comparison, all states must teach the same curriculum and all must administer identical tests from one of the two federally funded consortiums (Smarter Balanced and PARCC). However neither consortium controls the cut scores; those are entirely in the control of the states. These scores can go up or down as local politics require.

“Let me spell this out for you. If you want to show progress in your state you can artificially inflate the scores to show improvement. If you need to make a case for more charter schools and school closures simply lower the scores and take them over and then raise the score back to show that reform worked. That is exactly what Louisiana has done and no doubt other reform markets as well. The actual data shows the Reforms, including Common Core, have had the exact opposite effect, and a very dramatic one.
Even though the proposed tests are identical, even though the curriculum is identical, the actual scores and their meanings are left up to individual states to determine. That fact nullifies the argument for identical standardized tests and even the need for a standardized curriculum. Our scores, our levels of achievement, will not be and are not comparable to scores in other states. These tests are actually the opposite of comparable. NAEP and DEIBELS are national tests that are comparable, and neither of them requires a standardized curriculum nor extensive, expensive, technology intensive, obsessive testing, like Common Core does.”

Crazy Crawfish (aka Jason France, who was a data analyst at the Louisiana Department of Education) offers a fascinating insight into the political machinations behind Governor Bobby Jindal’s effort to ditch the Common Core.

Jindal was an enthusiastic supporter of CC until last June, when he suddenly became an opponent. The state commissioner of education, John White, a steadfast ally of Jindal, announced that he would fight the governor. The state board of education joined White, including two of Jindal’s appointees.

In Louisiana, Jindal is known as a governor who does not tolerate disloyalty. He swiftly punishes dissidents in his ranks. Yet no one of Jindal’s former allies faced retribution for opposing him. Something smelled fishy.

Then came the trial of Jindal vs. White on the Common Core, and Jindal’s lawyer didn’t call any witnesses. Jason France thinks he threw the fight. He thinks the fix is in. Jindal doesn’t want to get rid of the Common Core, he wants to appear to be trying because Common Core is a liability among the conservative voters that Jindal needs for his presidential aspirations.

France concludes:

“The chaos we are experiencing was intentionally fomented by John White, Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal to distract people and wear them out. This betrayal was planned.

“Sadly, this is just another ruse perpetrated by those in power to avoid listening to parents’ real problems, and another reason parents are right to fear and fight Common Core. I expect this distraction to last until Jindal leaves office. John White and Chas Roemer were correct when they stated Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was politically motivated. The irony is that they were quite likely complicit in the deception from the get-go; to increase all of their profiles. That ploy has worked. Now we get to decide if their profiles are ultimately positively or negatively impacted by this fiasco.”

A Louisiana judge ruled against Governor Jindal in his efforts to dump Common Core and PARCC.

Mercedes Schneider read the court decision and concludes that Jindal lost in court against proponents of Common Core because his lawyer didn’t make a good case. She says he better get a better legal team or be prepared to lose again.

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