Archives for category: Louisiana

When faced with public demands about how Common Core would be implemented, about professional development and student privacy, the state board of education in Louisiana passed the problems off to local district. They ducked.

Fact is, they don’t have a clue what to do, but they do know that Governor Bobby Jindal wants Common Core. He wants more evidence of failure so he can justify more vouchers, charters, and entrepreneurs getting public money.

The blogger Louisiana Educator describes a meeting in Baton Rouge where leaders of the corporate reform movement worried about the progress of their plans to privatize education in the state. Time is running out.

This is a chilling post.

I hope that its author, experienced educator Mike Deshotels, won’t mind if I excerpt this long introduction. You should read it all.

A small private meeting was held in Baton Rouge a couple of weeks ago including representatives of several highly influential power brokers who are dedicated to a major overhaul and privatization of our K-12 education system. These groups were very concerned that much of the Jindal reform legislation has either been declared unconstitutional by the courts or is still tied up in litigation. They are frustrated that the supporters of our public education system are fighting back against their sweeping “reforms”. They figure that they have only the rest of the Jindal administration in which to push through revisions of the law that will keep their reforms intact.

They are concerned that only a relatively small number of teachers are on a pathway to being fired as a result of the sloppy implementation of the new VAM evaluation by Superintendent John White. They believe also that the new laws should be identifying many principals and even local superintendents who should be fired. The firings are not happening quickly enough!

They are concerned that the privatization of our K-12 educational system is not happening fast enough. They are frustrated that many of the new voucher schools have turned out to be run by small time swindlers who knew almost nothing about education and who had no business running schools. They feel their cause has received bad publicity when it was revealed that some voucher schools were teaching about dinosaurs and humans existing at the same time.

This is a mighty hoax being perpetrated on the people of the state. Let them know. Stop the privatization movement now.

When the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Louisiana’s voucher program, on grounds that it threatened to undermine court-ordered desegregation, Jindal went on a well-publicized rant against the DOJ, claiming politics. Suddenly, Jindal presented himself as a leader of he civil rights movement, trying to save poor black kids from failing public schools. His op-eds appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and other media. Shocking that the U.S. Department of Justice was upholding court orders intended to protect the roghts of black children!

Jeb Bush rushed to Jindal’s side, claiming that the voucher program was already showing amazing results. So did GOP leaders in Congress, including John Boehner.

Of course, none of this was true.

The courts in Louisiana said the funding for the voucher program was unconstitutional. So many voucher schools taught creationism and lacked qualified teachers that the voucher program made the state an international laughingstock.

The test scores of the students in the voucher schools were appallingly low, but, hey, there’s always next year.

Here Louisiana blogger CenLamar shows how cynical Jindal was.

He writes: here about Jindal’s claims:

“Unfortunately, that’s just not true. None of it. The truth is, from the very beginning, Bobby Jindal and John White worked with a group of highly-paid political consultants to market the voucher program, almost exclusively, to African-Americans. The Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities (or LA BAEO) was created, seemingly out of thin air, by a national organization of conservative “school choice” activists, and they spent months touring the state and recruiting African-Americans to participate in the program, with very little understanding of the public schools they were attempting to disparage as “failures.” For example, about a year ago, I got into a Twitter exchange with one of LA BAEO’s principal consultants over remarks he had made about Peabody Magnet High School in my hometown of Alexandria. Peabody may not be an academic powerhouse, but it is a damn good school with an amazing campus and a deep connection with its community. But nonetheless, LA BAEO held town hall meetings in Alexandria in an attempt to convince parents to take their kids out of Peabody and, instead, enroll them in voucher schools. It didn’t seem to matter that the voucher schools in Central Louisiana are, with only a few exceptions, fly-by-night church schools with shoddy facilities, questionable finances, and uncertified teachers.

“See, the real issue– and how Bobby Jindal duped John Boehner– is that, on the whole, Louisiana’s voucher schools are significantly worse than the public schools. Jindal and Boehner both argue that Louisiana’s voucher program provides students with the opportunity to seek a “better education.” In reality, however, Louisiana’s voucher program is comprised, in large part, of unaccountable and completely unregulated schools, many of which rely on thoroughly discounted, ahistorical, and anti-scientific curricula.

“Last year, voucher students scored thirty points less on the LEAP test than their peers in public schools. Notably, while Superintendent White and Governor Jindal love to use test results as a way of gauging the performance of public schools, neither of them were willing to make the same argument against the dramatically worse performance of voucher schools.”

CenLamar sums up Jindal’s voucher program: “We’re not sending 91% of Louisiana’s voucher students to the best and most important voucher schools. This is not about integrating African-American students in traditionally and well-established and high-performing private schools; this is nothing to do with integration and almost everything to do with quietly re-codifying segregation.”

Herb Bassett is a teacher in Louisiana. He teaches music, but like Jersey Jazzman, has the ability to understand statistics and how they work in real classrooms.

This is a letter that he wrote about Louisiana’s new teacher evaluation system, which is as incoherent as teacher evaluation systems in other states:

 

State Superintendent John White showed his true colors when he recently praised four FirstLine charter schools that “fell in the top 10 percent of Louisiana schools in terms of improving test scores, yet ranked fewer than 10 percent of their teachers highly effective.
 
‘Amazing results,’ he wrote.”
 
He did not mention that one of the four schools, while ranked in the 99th percentile of improvement, declared 68 percent of its teachers Ineffective. Most of its teachers are now on a fast track to dismissal.
 
In each of the other three schools, at least 69 percent of their Value-added Assessment Model (VAM) teachers ranked Highly Effective, but none received an observation rating of Highly Effective. Not one.
 
If the VAM computer model ranked so many teachers Highly Effective, why could the principals not find at least one example of Highly Effective teaching in an observation?
 
These results clearly do not reflect student achievement or teacher quality. They deserve condemnation, not praise.
 
What does this bode for teachers and students on the coming Common Core assessments? White has predicted that due to the “rigor” of the new standards, achievement scores will go down.
 
As strange as it seems, teachers will not see lower ratings under VAM – even with the dramatic drop predicted for student scores. The VAM computer model simply ranks the teachers from highest to lowest. No matter whether the scores rise or drop dramatically, there will always be a bottom ten percent ranked Ineffective and a top twenty percent ranked Highly Effective. These quotas were set by the Louisiana Department of Education. Yes, the Department arbitrarily decided that ten percent of teachers are Ineffective and twenty percent should be Highly Effective.
 
Then why does the Compass Report show that only four percent of all teachers are Ineffective?
 
The computer model does not rank all teachers. The majority of teachers are not subject to the quotas. The purpose of the Compass Report was to show the discrepancy, and to coerce evaluators of the non-VAM teachers into matching the VAM system quotas.
 
White, however, seems to relish the thought of evaluations that cut short the quota for Highly Effective teachers.
 
Superintendent White now controls the cut-off scores for the achievement levels on the new assessments. Having seen him praise unjustifiably low teacher evaluations, should parents trust him to decide whether their children pass or fail the new assessments?  

When questioned about the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Louisiana’s voucher program, Secretary of Education Duncan said he was “not familiar” with it. DOJ is suing to block vouchers in districts that are under desegregation orders. DOJ recognizes that vouchers will exacerbate racial segregation.

This was reported on politico.com’s morning education edition, a valuable resource for breaking news:

“DUNCAN ‘NOT FAMILIAR’ WITH DOJ VOUCHER LAWSUIT – The Education Secretary made the rounds for back-to-school interviews Wednesday and ducked a question about the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit (http://bit.ly/15cDXFA ) over Louisiana’s voucher program. The department is trying to block vouchers for the 2014-15 school year in districts under desegregation orders, arguing that the vouchers set back desegregation efforts. It’s been the focus of a high-profile campaign by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both Republicans, who accuse the Obama administration of trapping poor, minority students in failing schools. “I’m not familiar with that lawsuit,” Duncan said in response to a question on public radio’s Diane Rehm Show. “That’s between the Department of Justice and the state of Louisiana.” Jindal’s Wednesday op-ed for the Washington Post is here: http://wapo.st/1dHSDFK”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal went into a partisan rant before a far-right audience, complaining that the U.S. Department of Justice had sued to block the state’s voucher program.

The legal action was taken to prevent vouchers from undermining desegregation in counties (parishes) that remain under court order.

In a bizarre twist, Jindal portrayed himself as a champion of the civil rights of poor children, helping them escape the state’s “failing schools” to flee to religious schools, some of which have uncertified teachers and use textbooks that teach creationism and Bible-based interpretations of history. The school that received the most voucher students has already been kicked out of the program for defrauding the state.

Out of 380,000 students eligible to receive vouchers, only 8,000 applied. No stampede there.

The funding for the vouchers was already struck down as unconstitutional by state courts because they took money dedicated in the state constitution to public schools.

We are in bizarro world when a rightwing champion of market-based education claims to be a civil rights champion.

This post by one of Louisiana’s great bloggers reports that the state’s voucher program undermines federal desegregation orders.  Pesky things, the Constitution, the law, and court orders.

Cenlamar writes:

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice asked Judge Ivan Lemelle to issue an injunction preventing the State of Louisiana from providing taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers in 2014 to students residing in any of the thirty-four parishes currently subjected to federal desegregation orders. In simple terms, Governor Bobby Jindal, Superintendent John White, and the Louisiana Department of Education have been completely unable and unwilling to provide the federal government with sufficient evidence that their controversial school voucher program complies with the law. Because Superintendent John White and his team at the Louisiana Department of Education could not or would not provide the federal government with documentation demonstrating their compliance, the Department of Justice was, essentially, forced to go to court. Quoting from the lawsuit (bold mine):

Only after filing multiple motions in this case and receiving an order of this Court (see Record Docs. No. 109-202), did the United States finally receive, in March of 2013, the information and data it requested from the State. After analyzing the data, the United States determined that the State’s voucher awards appeared to impede the desegregation process in 34 schools in 13 districts. On May 17, 2013, the United States sent a letter to the State… requesting that the State cease its practice of awarding vouchers to students attending school districts operating under federal desegregation orders unless and until it receives approval from the presiding federal court. The State has not responded to that letter and, on information and belief of the United States, has already awarded vouchers for the 2013-2014 school year to students attending school districts operating under desegregation orders.

….

To date, the State has awarded vouchers for 2013-2014 to students in 22 of the 34 school districts with pending federal desegregation orders. See supra at notes 3-4 and Exhibit E. Upon information and belief, the State did not seek the approval of the appropriate federal court prior to awarding the vouchers to students in these districts. Further, the State did not contact the parties to the federal desegregation cases prior to awarding vouchers. Upon information and belief of the United States, the State did not evaluate the impact the vouchers would have on the desegregation process in any of the school districts operating under a federal desegregation order.

Which state has the lowest ethics in the nation? Without question, it is Louisiana. This is the state where the “ethics board” ruled that members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education could vote on contracts for campaign contributors, because they did not work for them as employees.

This is the same “ethics board” that saw no conflict when Kira Orange Jones, the director of Teach for America in Néw Orleans, was elected to the state board, which proceeded to award a $1 million contract to her employer.

Now Orange Jones has statewide responsibility for TFA. No doubt the “ethics board” will find no conflict between her employment and her role on the state board.

The state could save money by abolishing this useless agency.

A blogger in Louisiana described the situation as follows:

“One of the defenses for Kira Orange Jones’ elected position on BESE not being a conflict of interest was that her position with Teach for America was only as executive director “of the New Orleans area” – she didn’t hold statewide responsibilities. BESE members vote on and oversee contracts with TFA state wide, over $1 million dollars’ worth.

“Her own attorney convinced the state Ethics Board that her position was not a conflict of interest, because it “wasn’t statewide.” They over-ruled their own staff attorneys’ advice.
Now, Jones is “taking on new responsibilities “coordinating statewide operations” with TFA.

“According to Jones, now it’s not a conflict since she doesn’t sit on the “national” TFA board or is part of TFA’s “national” leadership team.

“When will this ridiculous word play end, and actual ethics rulings –based on their own staff attorneys — be enforced?

“Recently her attorney resigned as vice chairman of the Ethics Board because he himself had a conflict of interest in not revealing that he is aligned with Tulane, which is aligned with TFA. Apparently Orange-Jones’ very questionable position will continue to be protected and likely unchallenged.”

John White of Louisiana and Tony Bennett of Indiana and (briefly) of Florida have much in common, writes Mercedes Schneider. Both are (or were) part of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Both use data to create narratives. Bennett is gone. White is not.

Gary Rubinstein was intrigued to read a tweet by John White of Louisiana boasting about the dramatic improvements in education.

Gary decided to look more closely at the data. Not surprisingly, he found that White was playing games with numbers, which seems to be a habit in Brooklyn schools.

Gary discovered this significant fact; “In the Times-Picayune article they indicated “the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers.” So in 2012, 41% (the article had this number wrong) of students who took at least one AP test passed at least one, while in 2013 this number dropped to 33%. So they are celebrating, basically, that 4,000 new students TOOK the AP. Of those 4,000 students, only 19% passed an AP.”

So White was celebrating the number of students who took the AP, not the proportion who passed.

But wait: the lowest proportion of students who took and passed the exam was in the Recovery School District. Not quite 6% in that much-celebrated state-run district managed to pass. At SCI Academy, and the top charter school in the RSD had only 11% of its students earn a 3 or better on the AP.

So much for the New Orleans “miracle.”

If you want to read the Louisiana take on this shape-shifting scandal, read Crazy Crawfish here.

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