Thursday, February 15, 2018

The School Reform We Really Need


The terrible mass murder of children and teachers yesterday in a Florida school may be a warning sign that our schools are lacking in vital instruction that many children need most. It is ironic that the Federal law titled “No Child Left Behind” and its successor law; “Every Student Succeeds” may actually be leaving large numbers of students behind and preventing thousands from succeeding. Maybe nothing could have helped prevent a deranged expelled student from committing this latest atrocity. But is it possible that education policy makers have ignored some of the most needed reforms that could actually save and redirect some of our misguided students?

Louisiana schools and the schools in most other states have been in a constant state of reform since the 90’s.  The Nation at Risk Report of 1983 told us that our schools were failures in educating our children to compete with other countries.  So our policy makers have set about adopting school reforms that are based mostly on wishful thinking rather than real education principles.

Governors, legislators, Congresspersons, and various self-appointed high profile education reformers have focused mostly on an attempt to push all students through a poorly designed college prep curriculum.  Contrary to all evidence indicating that students vary greatly in their interests, talents and abilities, our reforms assume that all students can and should be taught the exact same academic concepts in English, math, science and social studies in lock step. The prescribed academic material in those subjects is measured by standardized testing. Those test scores of students are used to rate schools and teachers but not so much for determining the progress and needs of students from one grade level to the next.

Social science and even DNA data tells us that children enter school with a wonderful variety of abilities and interests other than just academics. Yet almost nothing is done in grades K though 8 to identify each student’s unique talents and interests. The regimentation of our new curriculum does not allow for real individualization of instruction.

Many of our students of today lack a secure and productive home environment. In Louisiana, a large portion (about 40%) of our students are growing up in an extremely deprived environment, often lacking proper nutrition, health care, and most importantly lacking a secure nurturing home life. A huge proportion of students have only one parent and lack positive role models in their lives. Our current school reform efforts have purposely ignored these challenges and assumed that a standardized college prep curriculum would cure all ills. This was a serious miscalculation. Our current reforms are failing the students that need the most help.

In Louisiana, our official accountability policy requires teachers to teach the exact same material to all students at each grade level, regardless of their real progress level. Our plan recently adopted by BESE allows and encourages almost all students to be passed to the next grade each year even if they fail all their tests. That plan instructs teachers to teach remediation and new material all at the same time. It is assumed that formal education alone can close the gaps in student performance and somehow produce college prep for all. This plan is a failure and neglects many thousands of students.

When dozens of schools in the New Orleans school system were taken over by the state as part of education reform, thousands of experienced teachers were fired and cast aside. They were replaced by well meaning, young untrained college graduates who had no real preparation as teachers. These young people were mostly white and came from wealthy backgrounds. These replacements for the experienced teachers could not be role models because they came from a different world. In two or three years most of them returned to their privileged worlds and never made a real difference in student’s lives.

So contrary to the current reform trends, much more needs to be done to train and hire teachers of color particularly for schools serving mostly African American students. Also, it would help to encourage highly respected black men to serve as teachers for the many black male students who have no positive role models. All children need great role models.

There also need to be real efforts to identify the special abilities and interests of our students. They are not all destined to succeed in college no matter how much our leaders wish it. We have already proven that the majority of our students will not attend college just based on wishful thinking.  As my previous post explains, it is a cruel hoax to continue graduating students who are functionally illiterate. Worthless diplomas are one of the results of the current school reform. Thousands of kids are not qualifying for TOPS and their parents, who could not provide them proper food and shelter, certainly cannot afford college tuition!

The common core based curriculum that has been forced on all children is not relevant for even half of our students. Students who regularly average just above 40% correct answers on their state tests are certainly not mastering anything. Many of these kids would be much better off learning practical math and vocational subjects than the highly irrelevant math and English being pushed upon all students.

Finally, instead of constantly drilling students for irrelevant tests, why can’t we allow dedicated teachers and guidance counselors time to talk to students about setting a course for a rewarding future. The coursework for those futures should include intensive training in the use of modern tools used in modern highly paid trades. Germany does this, and has the most advanced manufacturing economy in the world while American manufacturing is dying. Every kid who really wants to take college prep courses should be allowed to do so, but no course should be watered down (as we do now) to pretend that all students are college prep.

Oh, and what can we expect our elected “leaders” to do about school shootings?
Instead of banning assault weapons, my guess is that the gun lobby is going to propose that the way to stop school shootings is to train and arm all children in the use of assault weapons as soon as they can walk. Every kid and teacher could then be handed a gun each day as they enter school so that they could be ready to shoot it out with any school invader.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Conversion tables for the 2017 LEAP tests

The following table should be useful for principals, teachers and parents in preparing for the Spring 2018 LEAP tests. Scale scores and conversion factors change very little from year to year, so we can expect similar results for this Spring. (Take particular note of the average scores for all tested students)

In addition, a public records request I made to the Louisiana Department of Education produced records confirming that approximately 25% of all test takers in 2016 failed both their ELA and math tests. The all test taker average produced slightly lower scale scores in 2017 compared to 2016 for 3 out of 4 ELA and math tests. This report also includes cut score conversions for Social Studies and Science.
Michael Deshotels

2017 Cut Score Conversions for LEAP

English scale scores range from 650 to 850, with zero correct answers producing 650 points and 100 % correct answers producing 850 points. The min. passing score is known as the cut score.

ELA Grade 3: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 31% correct answers
The av. Gr. 3 ELA score for all tested students in 2017 was 743 = 41% correct ans.

ELA Grade 4: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 25% correct answers
The av. Gr. 4 ELA score for all tested students in 2017 was 744 = 35% correct ans.

ELA Grade 5: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 25.5% correct answers
The av. Gr. 5 ELA score for tested students in 2017 was 742 = 35% correct ans.

ELA Grade 6: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 29% correct answers
The av. Gr. 6 ELA score for all tested students in 2017 was 738 = 37.5% cor. ans.

ELA Grade 7: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 32% correct answers
The av. Gr. 7 ELA score for all tested students in 2017 was 741 = 42% cor. ans.

ELA Grade 8: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 34% correct answers
The av. Gr. 8 ELA score for all tested students in 2017 was 744 = 45% cor. ans.

The average minimum passing score (cut score) for all 2017 ELA tests = 29%

Math scale scores range from 650 to 850, with zero correct answers producing 650 points and 100% correct answers producing 850 points. The min. passing score is known as the cut score.

Math Grade 3: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 39% correct answers
The av. Gr. 3 Math score for all tested students in 2017 was 743 = 50% cor. ans.

Math Grade 4: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 39% correct answers
The av. Gr. 4 Math score for all tested students in 2017 was 740 = 50% cor. ans.

Math Grade 5: min passing score = 725 scale score = 33% correct answers
The av. Gr. 5 Math score for all tested students in 2017 was 736 = 41% cor. ans.

Math Grade 6: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 33% correct answers
The av. Gr. 6 Math score for all tested students in 2017 was 732 = 36% cor. ans.

Math Grade 7: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 26% correct answers
The av. Gr. 7 Math score for all tested students in 2017 was 732 = 32% cor. ans.

Math Grade 8: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 26% correct answers
The av. Gr. 8 Math score for all tested students in 2017 was 728 = 28% cor. ans.

The average minimum passing score (cut score) for 2017 Math tests = 33%

 Social studies scale scores range from 650 to 850, with zero correct answers producing 650 points and 100% correct answers producing 850 points. The min. passing score = cut score.

Soc. Studies Gr 3: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 46% correct answers
The av. Gr. 3 Soc. Studies score for all tested students in 2017 was 721 = 44%

Soc. Studies Gr. 4: min passing score = 725 scale score = 44% correct answers
The av. Gr. 4 Soc. Studies score for all tested students in 2017 was 721 = 42%

Soc. Studies Gr. 5: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 35% correct answers
The av. Gr. 5 Soc. Studies score for all tested students in 2017 was 716 = 31%

Soc. Studies Gr. 6: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 41% correct answers
The av. Gr. 6 Soc. Studies score for all tested students in 2017 was 720 = 39%

Soc. Studies Gr. 7: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 32% correct answers
The av. Gr. 7 Soc. Studies score for all tested students in 2017 was 726 = 33%

Soc. Studies Gr. 8: min. passing score = 725 scale score = 44% correct answers
The av. Gr. 8 Soc. Studies score for all tested students in 2017 was 732 = 48.5%

The average min. passing score (cut score) for 2017 Soc. Studies tests = 40%

Science scale scores range from 100 to 500, with zero correct answers producing 100 points and 100% correct answers producing 500 points. The min. passing score is known as the cut score.

Science Gr. 3: min. passing score = 293 scale score = 57% correct answers
The av. Gr. 3 Science score for all tested students in 2017 was 308 = 64%

Science Gr. 4: min. passing score = 308 scale score = 59% correct answers
The av. Gr. 4 Science score for all tested students in 2017 was 322 = 65%

Science Gr. 5: min. passing score =292 scale score = 52% correct answers
The av. Gr. 5 Science score for all tested students in 2017 was 302 = 56%

Science Gr. 6: min. passing score = 295 scale score = 48% correct answers
The av. Gr. 6 Science score for all tested students in 2017 was 308 = 54%

Science Gr. 7: min. passing score = 304 scale score = 50% correct answers
The av. Gr. 7 Science score for all tested students in 2017 was 318 = 57%

Science Gr. 8: min. passing score = 305 scale score = 59% correct answers
The av. Gr. 8 Science score for all tested students in 2017 was 313 = 63%
The average minimum passing score (cut score) for 2017science tests = 54%

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Worthless High School Diplomas


Here is a report on the scandal uncovered by National Public Radio reporters when they investigated the greatly improved graduation rate of Washington DC schools. It was found that more than one third of the students graduating last year did not really qualify for diplomas. Here is another article pointing out that the same corruption may be occurring in other states. This entire phony "success" of schools in DC was created by radical education reformer Michelle Rhee and her immediate hand-picked successor. Rhee was implicated in causing and covering up massive cheating on required accountability tests in DC schools. Pressure by Rhee and her successor to increase graduation rates in DC schools has also caused this awarding of worthless diplomas. A similar scandal could soon become apparent in Louisiana based on policies of our reformer State Superintendent, John White.

This is what I wrote in my last post about Louisiana's phony rigorous standards:

"State education officials claim to have raised standards for student performance and preparation for college, but the reality is that practically all students are promoted to the next grade even if they fail all of their standardized tests and teacher made tests. Some students can make it to high school without passing a single state test given in grades 3 though 8! High school students are given shortened credit recovery courses if they fail or miss too much school. Students are being handed diplomas mostly for having a pulse. BESE regulations requiring regular school attendance and the achievement of an average of at least 67% on testing are being routinely ignored in the push to raise the graduation rate at all costs. Teachers are often instructed that if students fail tests that it is the teacher’s responsibility to retest or to give students make-up work so they can pass. The highly touted standardized tests given each year have their passing scores set just above 30%. But students are still promoted even if they fail their tests. Only the teachers and schools are punished for low performance."

The real problem is that the poorly designed common Core standards adopted in Louisiana in recent years and the accompanying defective tests are corrupting the entire education process in our state.


One of the state laws in Louisiana that is routinely violated is LRS 17:414.2
"A.  No school board member, school superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal, guidance counselor, other teachers, or other administrative staff members of the school or the central staff of a parish or city school board shall attempt, directly or indirectly, to influence, alter, or otherwise affect the grade received by a student from his teacher except as otherwise specifically permitted by this Section."

Just as in Washington DC, teachers in many Louisiana schools are told by there bosses to find some way to pass do-nothing students at all costs. The current drive to increase graduation rates at all costs destroys teacher authority in assigning grades and passing or failing students. Any teacher who refuses to pass students who have learned almost nothing is sure to be fired or pushed out.

Let me make my position absolutely clear: I do not believe that students should be failed or retained in grade based only on our present highly flawed state tests. 

Before any students are failed or retained in grade based on LEAP tests, there should be a professional evaluation of our present state tests by an unbiased team of testing experts appointed from respected universities. Louisiana should not continue to force students to take invalid tests and to disguise dismal performance using deceptive scoring systems. (A student who gets zero questions right on a LEAP test still gets 650 points on an 850 point scale) There is no validity in a test that students can come close to passing by making random choices on the multiple choice sections.

What I do recommend however, is that students who have excessive unexcused absences and who refuse to do their school work and who fail legitimate tests based on reasonable course expectations should not be given passing grades and promoted automatically. Teachers should be fully supported in assigning grades to students as mandated by state law instead of being bullied to pass do-nothing students. 

BESE has just adopted a new pupil progression policy that makes it almost impossible for non-functioning and uncooperative students to be assigned failing grades. I have collected data using public records requests that verifies that students who fail both their English and math tests are routinely promoted. Teachers in the upper grades are expected to teach such students both the material they failed as well as the advanced material for their new grade level.  Absolutely impossible!

But the most most serious and damaging result of this policy is that students that are promoted and graduated without legitimate accomplishments are learning a lesson that will not serve them well in real life. Employers will not coddle these people when they do not perform satisfactorily on the job.

It is ironic that Louisiana's so called education reforms have produced the very diploma mills that reformers wanted to abolish.