Archives for category: Louisiana

Robert Mann, professor of journalism at Louisiana State University, hopes that Donald Trump will pay attention to the disaster of former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s failed voucher program. Open the article to read the links.


“This is where the disappointment of Jindal’s voucher program enters the picture, as policy makers and the media will inevitably examine its dismal performance. At Jindal’s urging, in 2008 lawmakers created the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), enabling some disadvantaged students to leave public schools graded a C or lower and enroll in a participating private school. By 2014, more than 6,000 public school students attended one of 126 private schools.


“In 2015, Jindal bragged about his program. “For students attending private schools on public dollars, almost all of whom arrived several years behind, their lives are being turned around,” he wrote in a column on CNN’s website.


“If only that were true. In a paper published last year by the National Bureau for Economic Research, three scholars documented “the large negative effects” and the reduced academic achievements of scholarship program students in 2013, the first year after the program’s expansion.


“Our results show that LSP vouchers reduce academic achievement,” the researchers concluded, explaining, “attendance at an LSP-eligible private school is estimated to lower math scores” and “reduce reading, science and social studies scores.”


“Why? “We find evidence,” the researchers wrote, “that the negative effects of the LSP may be linked to selection of low-quality private schools into the program.”


“A comprehensive 2016 study of the program for the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans also concluded “an LSP scholarship user who was performing at roughly the 50th percentile at baseline fell 24 percentile points below their control group counterparts in math after one year. By year 2, they were 13 percentile points below.”


“Imagine that. Pluck kids from troubled public schools, put them into substandard private schools and — voila! — you’ve made their academic condition worse.”



This comment was posted on the blog:

Can you please help us out in Louisiana. Many of our educators have lost everything. Many have been displaced because the schools and classrooms have been flooded and cannot be used at this time. The Louisiana Association of Educators, the NEA affiliate in Louisiana has established on its webpage, the 2016 Louisiana Flood Relief Fund. A small amount of $5 or $10 will help our educators.
Thank you

Please help if you can. I will.


I recently posted a link to a Brookings Brief by Mark Dynarski, which warned that vouchers had not been successful in two states, Louisiana and Indiana. About the same time, the University of Arkansas released a research review that lauded vouchers. Although I did not know Dynarski, I contacted him and asked if he would explain the discrepancy for the readers of the blog. He graciously agreed.

He wrote:

In a recent article for Brookings, I highlighted recent research on vouchers to attend private schools that had found negative effects on student achievement. The same day, May 26, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial pointing to positive effects of school vouchers on student achievement, citing a review of studies published by researchers at the University of Arkansas. You asked if I could help readers understand the discrepancy.

In its reading of the University of Arkansas review, the Wall Street Journal included the review’s findings for voucher programs that operated in the US and programs that operated in Colombia and India. The largest positive effects of vouchers were from the program in Colombia. Education systems are quite different in other countries, however, and findings from Colombia and India have little relevance to debates about vouchers in the US today. If we ask about voucher programs that have operated in the US, the review reports that average effects of those programs is about zero.

The Louisiana and Indiana programs I focused on operated statewide. The negative effects reported for these programs could be a result of private schools being compared to higher-quality public schools in suburban and rural areas. Earlier voucher programs that reported positive results often operated in single cities—Milwaukee, New York City, Dayton, DC—which means studies of them essentially are comparing private schools only to urban public schools.

The Louisiana and Indiana programs also are recent, and my piece notes another possible explanation for their negative effects. Public schools have been under pressure for the last fifteen years to improve student achievement, which may have caused them to up their game. Recent research I cited concluded that public schools have substantially caught up with private schools. The National Assessment of Education Progress reports that private schools still have higher test scores than public schools, but those score differences could arise because of differences between private school students and public school students. The research approaches used in the Louisiana and Indiana studies allow for ‘apples to apples’ comparisons. Essentially the same students are compared in public and private schools and the test-score results favor public schools.

Vouchers will continue to be an important topic for discussion and debate, and we need to be open to new evidence and let our understanding of the world and of education be affected by it. I emphasized in my piece that our historical understanding that private schools perform better than public schools may be flawed. The University of Arkansas review is valuable for synthesizing a large amount of research on vouchers since the nineties into quantitative findings. The recent studies in Louisiana and Indiana are valuable for asking what the effects of vouchers might be today if a state were to begin a program or continue one. That the findings are negative means policymakers should proceed with caution—the relative positions of public and private schools may have changed.

I hope the discussion is useful for your readers, who rightly might feel a sense of whiplash from having different findings about vouchers released on the same day.

Kind regards,


Since former Governor Bobby Jindal took control of the state education department in Louisiana, there have been numerous battles over access to public information.

The state superintendent appointed by Jindal, ex-TFA Broadie John White, has just made plain that public information is not public.

Mercedes Schneider reports that White has sued a citizen who made the mistake of seeking information from the state education department. Apparently John White doesn’t realize that he works for the public and is paid by the public.

As she says, this is a new low.

You may have read that Louisiana’s famous, controversial, ballyhooed Recovery School District has been dissolved. Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina, the district comprised of charter schools is being returned to the districts from which they were drawn. Most are in New Orleans and will be returned to the Orleans Parish School Board.


Can it be true? Are the charter champions really giving up their struggle? John White knows. He is the State Commissioner who regularly boasts about the miracle of the RSD. But he is not telling.


Michael Klonsky has his doubts. So does Karran Harper Royal.



Mercedes Schneider has written two versions.


Here is a brief overview.


Here is her close analysis of the law. 







James Kirylo is a professor of teaching and learning at Southeastern Louisiana University. His son opted out of testing last year. And he will opt out again this year. He went to his local school board to tell them his reasons. He did it twice.


In this post on Mercedes Schneider’s blog, Kirylo explains why.


When No Child Left Behind was passed, we were told that it would raise achievement so high that no child would be left behind. That was not true.


Kirylo writes:


There you have it—fourteen years later since NCLB was introduced—standardized tests, as they are currently administered, interpreted, and used in school communities across the country, do not work, have not worked, and will not work as they were presumably intended. In fact, the adverse effects of them are overwhelming. Nevertheless, we continue to use them like a bad drug to which the desperate addict keeps crawling back.


And like the addict who is in need of dire help, until there is admittance to the problem, school systems will continue down this addictive path of testing until that type of assessment system is recognized as inherently harmful. Until then, therefore, parents have only one option to not enable the addiction to testing: opt-out.


He is also outraged by the school grades that the state slaps on every school. As it happens, his children’s school does not have a high grade. Kirylo knows the letter grade is meaningless:




My two children attend a school that has a state report card grade that has been hovering between a D and C– hardly a glaring narrative. What am I thinking by sending my sons to just a slightly-below-average school– and, by implication, one that is populated by slightly-below average teachers and administrators, only to be surrounded by slightly-below average children? But indeed, that is the warped message corporate reformers want to convey.


In other words, this objectification of children and those who work in public schools—which is particularly heightened when my children’s school is only slightly above the prospect of receiving even more threats to intensify the obsession on everything testing—ultimately works to close those schools. In short, corporate reform operates under the framework of threats, coercion, shaming, and blaming, and it has taken us nowhere.


What does matter is a strong public education system that is intentionally mindful of the common good. This is done through collaboration, cooperation, and the cultivation of meaningful relationships, which is attentive to building up the community, a state, a nation–all of which is filtered through the fostering of developmentally appropriate practices–and through the professionalization of teaching.


To be sure, the assistant principal who every morning greets my two boys with a welcoming smile at carpool drop-off and clearly demonstrates great care is an “A” person; the teachers who work hard, communicate well, and have the best interests of my children’s educational growth are “A” people; the principal who I had the fortune to teach in graduate school is an “A” administrator who is diligently working to push the school forward; and, finally the over 1000 children who attend my sons’ school are “A” human beings, relying on the adults to cultivate a schooling environment that works to maximize their opportunities.


We all should have no patience with so-called school report grades that are misleading and by which the public is being erroneously manipulated. Thus, the only option I see if things don’t change is to opt-out.

Retired educator Mike Deshotels expresses his frustration with the charter industry in Louissiana, which has stymied every effort to regulate them, allow local districts to decide if they want them, or to hold them accountable. The new Governor John Bel Edwards pushed for charter reform, but was repeatedly rebuffed by legislators who were funded by charter advocates.

This must be child’s play for the billionaires, none of whom live in the state.

Deshotels wrote:

This story in The Advocate describes some of the House Education Committee actions yesterday, killing several bills designed to curb abuses by charters. Charter school administrators descended on the Education Committee in force Wednesday while the administrators and teachers in the real public schools were teaching children.

The charter advocates are a highly effective special interest group because they are backed up by big business in Louisiana and nationwide who are determined to privatize education as much as possible. In my opinion these folks have no respect for public schools or professional educators. They just see public education as a way to make money off of children.

As part of their strategy, charter advocates funnel huge amounts of political contributions to legislators and BESE members to insure that no legislation will pass to limit their growth and profits. So when legislators vote against reasonable bills to prevent charter abuses, it is the political contributions they received or expect to receive that are controlling the voting. If you are a supporter of public education, you need to know who voted against you repeatedly this week. I will provide that later.

Here is the testimony I gave to the House Education Committee in favor of HB 98, that would delete a provision in the 2012 Jindal legislation that allows BESE to approve independent charter school authorizers. Those authorizers could approve many new charter schools over the objection of our elected school boards.

Testimony on HB 98

Good morning. My name is Michael Deshotels and I live in Zachary. I do education research and write a blog on education for educators and parents.

I am here in support of HB 98, because we need to correct an error that was made in 2012 when the legislature rushed to try everything that they thought would improve public education in Louisiana. This part of the legislation was a mistake because it can take away our right to run our public schools through our elected school boards.

Most citizens believe in local control of our government services. It is wiser to have our schools run by our local school boards than by unelected groups or even by BESE. In addition, my research shows that it is also more effective to have our schools managed by our local school boards.

At one time it was thought that if low performing schools were taken over by BESE and given to charter school operators, that their student performance would improve over their performance in school board operated schools. That has now been proven to be wrong!

All of my research shows that the schools operated by BESE approved charters generally do a poorer job. All but one of the takeover schools in the Baton Rouge area, have been total failures. They have done so poorly that parents pulled their children out and some schools had to be shut down for lack of support. My research shows that the takeover schools in New Orleans still do not do as good a job of educating low-income students as do our local school boards across the state.

This experiment with our children has failed! It would be mistake therefore to allow new groups that are independent of the taxpayers to approve more charters.

It is a well-known fact that big contributors from outside Louisiana are the ones pushing for these new charters. Those contributors are the Waltons, the Broads from California (not spelled with an x), the Gates foundation from Washington state and Mike Bloomberg from New York. These big donors are the primary financiers of our present BESE elections and they are the primary financiers for New Schools for Baton Rouge, one of the groups that wants to be a charter authorizer. But to add insult to injury, these donors are not contributing money to help our public schools. They are donating millions to get politicians elected to privatize our schools and to use our tax money to do it with.

It is a serious error to say that that MFP money for each child belongs to the parent and that they should be able to take it to any school they choose. Citizens who have no children in public schools pay most of the MFP allocation and we are happy to do it. We deserve the right to choose how our schools will be run through our elected school boards. Please vote for this bill.”

All of the bills to regulate charters failed, despite the governor’s support.


Christopher Lubienski is a professor of educational policy, organization, and leadership at the College of Education at the University of Illinois. He has written extensively about markets and schools. His most recent book is “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools.”


He writes here about the recent studies of vouchers:



For years we’ve heard about how the most rigorous studies of voucher programs consistently show significant gains for students — especially urban minority students — and no evidence of harm.  While that claim was highly questionable, it was nonetheless a central talking point from voucher advocates intent on proving that vouchers boost academic achievement.  The idea that vouchers didn’t hurt, and probably helped, the students trapped in failing urban schools and most in need of options was used to justify calls for the expansion of vouchers from smaller, city-level policies to state-wide programs open to an increasing number of students.


Now, a slew of new studies and reviews — including some conducted by the same voucher advocates that had previously found vouchers “do no harm” — is telling quite a different story.  New reviews of existing voucher studies are pointing out that, overall, the impact on the test scores for students using vouchers are sporadic, inconsistent, and generally have “an effect on achievement that is statistically indistinguishable from zero.”


But some new studies on vouchers in Louisiana raise substantial concerns, finding that students using vouchers were significantly injured by using vouchers to attend private schools.


First, kudos to some of the study authors who have previously identified themselves as voucher advocates, in that they had the integrity to publish their findings.


But, what is particularly interesting here is the apparent confusion on the part of voucher-oriented reformers over these new results.  After all, they have a strong theoretical account of how using vouchers to enroll in private schools will lead to greater gains in student learning.  The fact that the new evidence shows otherwise is disorienting for reformers who had believed that private schools are better, and that moving poor students from public schools to private schools would lead to better outcomes.  After all, according to them, at least, all the previous research supported their theory.


So what happened?  Voucher proponents have wondered if the program was too new, too big, or open to too many private schools that had little experience with poorer children.


Actually, perhaps the past results were not so clear, and the new findings were not so unpredictable.


To understand why, let’s consider a related, even over-arching question before we return to these new voucher studies.  Vouchers are premised on the assumption that private schools are more effective.  It’s not just a matter of students in private schools getting higher scores on standardized tests, since it’s well known that they tend to serve, on average, more affluent students who would likely score higher no matter which type of school they attended.  Indeed, some early studies on the public-private question from the 1980s and 90s indicated that, even when researchers control for student demographics and affluence, private, and especially Catholic schools in particular, appear to boost student performance more than do public schools — the so-called “private school effect.”


However, more recent research, including some I have collaborated on, has been showing the opposite: that public schools are actually performing at a level equal to or above private schools, and are thus often more effective.  Such findings turn the assumptions for vouchers upside-down.  Why would we want to move students from public schools, which the current generation of research demonstrates are actually more effective on average, to a less effective educational experience in private schools?


Voucher advocates thought they had an answer to that.  They argued that their favored reports were “gold standard” studies that showed that private schools are better.  Except those studies didn’t show that.  Even if we accept their findings at face value, what they actually indicated is only that in a relatively few cases the types of students who would use a voucher to leave a failing urban public school for a presumably better private school sometimes scored higher.  That is hardly grounds for scaling up the programs to broader populations.  Those voucher studies are not drawing on representative samples of students, or representative samples of public or private schools, and thus tell us nothing about the question of what types of schools are more effective.  Nevertheless, voucher advocates made this claim in an attempt to show their preferred reform leads to higher scores, and that we should thus expand these programs.


In fact, there is much evidence to suggest that improvements in student learning may have less to do with the type of school, but instead depend largely on the types of students served by a school.  That is, vouchers sort students into more academically inclined groups by sending successful applicants to private schools, where they enjoy a beneficial “peer effect” of more affluent classmates, but not necessarily better teaching.  The problem is that there are only so many affluent or academically inclined peers to go around, and as voucher programs are scaled-up, that beneficial peer effect dissipates.


Now, with the new results being released for a larger program in Louisiana, this may be exactly what we’re seeing.  Students using vouchers in this state-wide program enrolled in poorer private schools with fewer affluent and academically inclined peers available to improve the learning experience.


These new findings are a direct contradiction to the frequent claim that no student has been shown to be harmed by vouchers.  This raises an ethical issue.  If vouchers have been an “experiment,” and randomized trials modeled after medical trials are showing evidence of harm, should policymakers end the experiment, as would be the case in medical research?


Regardless, now that voucher advocates are facing evidence challenging their claim that vouchers for private schools boost student performance, expect to see a further retreat from the test score measures they had been embracing to promote their claim on private school effectiveness.  Instead, voucher proponents will move the goalposts and ask us to pay attention to other measures, such as persistence or parental satisfaction, instead.  The problem is, those alternative measures are also problematic and susceptible to peer effects, as time will tell.

I posted this study a month or so ago. But I continue to get inquiries from school board members in states that are considering the adoption of vouchers. I heard today that this study may have killed vouchers in Tennessee, at least for now (true believers never give up). Make sure that every member of your state school board and every member of your state legislature gets a copy of this study. The study was completed by researchers at MIT.

The study is titled “School Vouchers and Student Achievement: First-Year Evidence from the Louisiana Scholarship Program.” Granted, this is only the first year, but the findings are strong and devastating to the belief that vouchers (most of which go to religious schools) will “save poor kids from failing public schools.” The study compared the test scores of lottery winners and lottery losers, which is supposedly the gold standard for voucher research.

In brief, the students who attended voucher schools lost ground academically. Attendance at a voucher private school lowered math scores by 0.4 standard deviation and increased the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science, and social studies were also “negative and large.” The negative impacts of vouchers were consistent across all income groups. Apparently the voucher schools were the weakest private schools and were not as good as the so-called “failing public schools.”

A summary of the study appeared in The Economist magazine in the issue of February 6, 2016. If your legislator won’t read the study from MIT, maybe they will read the one-page summary in the libertarian magazine.

In the first evaluation of the Louisiana voucher program, the results are negative for the students involved. It is an evaluation of only the first year, so perhaps things will get better in the future. But given the low quality of many of the voucher schools, that doesn’t seem likely. The best private and sectarian schools accept few or no voucher students. Many of those that accept vouchers are struggling to survive.


Here is the take-away:


This comparison reveals that LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement. Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large.




Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag A. Pathak, Christopher R. Walters

NBER Working Paper No. 21839
Issued in December 2015

We evaluate the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a prominent school voucher plan. The LSP provides public funds for disadvantaged students at low-performing Louisiana public schools to attend private schools of their choice. LSP vouchers are allocated by random lottery at schools with more eligible applicants than available seats. We estimate causal effects of voucher receipt by comparing outcomes for lottery winners and losers in the first year after the program expanded statewide. This comparison reveals that LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement. Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children. These effects are not explained by the quality of fallback public schools for LSP applicants: students lotteried out of the program attend public schools with scores below the Louisiana average. Survey data show that LSP-eligible private schools experience rapid enrollment declines prior to entering the program, indicating that the LSP may attract private schools struggling to maintain enrollment. These results suggest caution in the design of voucher systems aimed at expanding school choice for disadvantaged students.