Monday, August 22, 2011

More RSD Cover-up and Effective Education Reform Where the Reformers Least Expect it!

A couple of Times-Picayune reporters are using public records requests to finally bring to light major cover-ups of wrongdoing in the charter schools of the Recovery District. The first, were revelations by reporter Andrew Vancour that forced BESE to terminate the charter of the Abramson charter school based on child protection issues. The latest story came out Saturday and is by reporter Sarah Carr on cover-up of possible LEAP cheating at Miller-McCoy Academy in New Orleans.

The revelation of possible LEAP cheating in the Recovery District is not surprising. Many allegations have been leaking out about teachers having grades changed by administrators to pass failing students in the RSD, special education students being "helped" a little too much on LEAP, and different students having identical test papers. This latest story is based on complaints by up to 20% of the teachers at Miller-McCoy that students were prepped for LEAP with practice materials that could only have come from breaches of test security.

But the real shocker in the story is that State DOE policies for handling alleged breaches of test security almost encourage systematic cover-up of violations. That's because once the Department determines that violations of test policy may have occurred, they turn the investigation over to the local school system, for their recommendations and possible corrective actions including the voiding of test scores. As the testing experts quoted in the story point out, "there is a conflict of interest all the way up the line in investigating such allegations". Such conflict is even more pronounced in the case of charter schools that function as their own local school systems. Such schools often have hand picked boards of directors picked by the charter organizers who often serve as the administrators for the charter who are often the very people implicated in the cheating allegations!

The complaints of possible cheating were made by a group of teachers who said they were given the questionable practice materials by their administrators. The students had alerted the teachers to the claim that the practice questions were almost identical to the actual test. But when the school Directors conducted their investigation of the matter they did not bother to question a single teacher about the allegations. They only questioned the administrators. No wonder they concluded there was no wrongdoing!

One of the experts consulted by the reporter said that this process is like the IRS telling a taxpayer: "We have a problem with your tax return. Would you look it over?"

What's even more disconcerting about the DOE and RSD handling of this matter, is that the Department had the authority to void LEAP scores based on its own investigation. And in the case of a non-charter school accused of the same violation, in the RSD, scores were voided and administrators disciplined. (Yes this has happened before) One parent advocate said that the state wants the charters in New Orleans to succeed so badly that they look the other way!

All this makes us wonder; just how valid are the claims of "dramatic gains" in the Recovery District?

Did you know that effective education reform really is happening in Louisiana?

Later this week The Louisiana Educator will examine A new Education strategy that is attracting hundreds of students back from private schools.

Enrollment is open to all students
It's not a charter school
It's not a magnet school
It's not even a school!

But it is the most effective reform seen in recent years in the Iberville Parish school system. How do we know it's effective? Because students who had left the public schools in Iberville Parish and fled to private schools are returning to the public schools of Iberville in droves to participate in this truly innovative educational setting!

I'm still working on this post so please bookmark the Louisiana Educator and click on this site on Thursday, August 25 for a good description on how the Iberville education reform works. Maybe it could be tried in your school system!

1 comment:

Mary A. Washington said...

Please continue to shed light on these kinds of unfair application of policies, Mike. Real success stories should be replicated. However, when results are arrived at through cheating this cause people who are looking for ways to better educate students to waste a lot of time chasing "false prophets".