Friday, January 11, 2013

Miracle Results of School Takeovers . . . .Not in Louisiana!

The education reformers in Michigan and Ohio were told that Louisiana had achieved almost a miracle in student achievement by taking over low achieving schools using a State Recovery School District (RSD) and converting these schools into semi-autonomous charter schools. The news out of Louisiana was so good according to reform activists, that other states should hurry to copy this plan and also produce stunning results for their students. So I understand that Ohio and Michigan have now formed Recovery Districts patterned after the Louisiana model.

There is only one problem with the Louisiana Recovery District model. It does not work! In fact when Louisiana tried to expand its own Recovery District beyond the New Orleans school system, the result can only be described as a clear failure.
After 4 years, out of the twelve schools taken over by the state RSD and converted to charters outside of New Orleans, all of them are still rated “F”, and on average have declined slightly instead of improving. But not only have the schools declined academically, enrollment has dropped by an average of 39%. See the linked spreadsheet. So when Governor Jindal touts the success of parental choice, it must be recognized that many parents are “choosing” to pull their children out of the State sponsored choice charter schools!

So how could the news out of Louisiana have been so wrong? How could an entire nationwide model for school reform be based on a failing program? How could Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst organization have rated Louisiana as number one in the nation in providing the best education reforms for the benefit of children? How could the highly touted “Chiefs for Change” have chosen the Louisiana Recovery School District as a model for reform across the nation? How could former State Superintendent Pastorek under whose watch the RSD was developed be headlined around the country along with Rhee as one of the heroes of successful school reform?

It's actually hard to believe that in a country that prides itself in having a news media that provides for fact checking of bogus claims by both government and private business that so much misinformation could continue to influence public policy. The fact is that the corporate reform advocates have put out a story about Louisiana's Recovery District that is 100% spin and and most of the media have swallowed it. I guess everyone is hoping so much for a miracle solution to low achievement by our at-risk schools that we are willing to believe a totally bogus story of success. It is the classic rainmaker scam, where the people wish so hard for a miracle that we can be easily taken in by the charlatans.

Maybe the scam of the privatizers worked because the New Orleans Recovery District experienced such great success with its charters. Actually based on the facts, I don't see how the New Orleans charters can be portrayed as a success of any kind. See this recent analysis of the New Orleans Recovery District by Charles Hatfield of Research on Reforms. 

When the New Orleans Recovery District was formed by a special law right before Hurricane Katrina, it was allowed to take over any school in New Orleans that was rated as below the state average. This means that from the beginning the RSD already contained a fair number of "non-failing" schools. Following Katrina, there was a mad scramble by the various charter operators to attract the best students. Also some of the better connected charter operators such as KIPP were able to get huge grants from both government and private foundations and therefore were able to pick the most motivated students and supportive parents by offering an enriched program. As a result, out of 70 charters (mostly charters) now operating in the N. O. RSD, 5 are rated as “B” schools, 5 are rated as “C” schools and all the rest are D's and F's. Some of the well connected spin doctors supporting this movement were able to tout the accomplishments of the few successful schools and ignore all the unsuccessful ones. The fact is that the New Orleans RSD is rated above only the poverty stricken St Helena district which is mostly run by the RSD anyway. Taken as a whole, the RSD is dead last in the state! The New Orleans Recovery District is one of the lowest performing large school systems in the country. Ranking better than only Washington DC which was “reformed” by none other than Michelle Rhee. I am simply amazed at the ignorance of our policy makers and news media when it comes to analyzing the performance of Louisiana's RSD!
Note to my Readers: I and many other educators in Louisiana believe that the school rating system used here to compare schools is seriously flawed and should not be used to rate schools. I only use it here because the school ratings and letter grades are used to justify school takeover and conversion to charters by the state. The takeover advocates deserve to be judged by their own system.

I keep expecting the truth to come out. The miracle results of school reform have not happened in Louisiana!


Noel Hammatt said...

Michael, as always a wonderfully researched and delivered expose' on the lies and mythology of the "reformers" here in Louisiana! I will be tweeting this around the country, and hope that others do the same!

Noel Hammatt said...

And thank you so much for the comments at the bottom in red... so important! Thanks for all you do!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried e-mailing this to Bill O'Reilly or Hannity at Fox News and others at CNN?

Is it true that John White has suggested that public schools do away with the requirement of having at least one school counselor for every 450 students?

Michael Deshotels said...

Good suggestions. On the proposals by John White to reduce "unnessary regulations" at the upcoming BESE meeting I would offer these observations: I met with White a couple of months ago to alert him to my concern that choice course providers have every incentive to give students passing grades in their courses without the students doing any significant work. That's because choice providers do not have to take roll or even require that students attend a certain number of hours of instruction. The providers can get paid as soon as they notify the Dept. that a student has completed a course. He listended politely to my concerns and instead of trying to prevent abuse, he is now wanting to extend the same exemption to local school systems. So our schools will no longer have to guarantee that students have done work or attended class. This is a total dismantling of standards in favor of creating diploma mills. That's what you get when you appoint an amateur to the position of State Superintendent!

Anonymous said...

The East Baton Rouge Parish schools' SPS data in your spreadsheet linked in paragraph 2 does not line up with the SPS data as reported by the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System website. For example, Glen Oaks Middle School's SPS before the takeover was 47.2, not 101.9 as you reported. The actual before/after scores are posted here:

Michael Deshotels said...

Thank you to Anonymous above who noticed that the "before" SPS for Glen Oaks Middle was incorrect. I had inadverdently picked up the SPS for Glasgow Middle for that year. I have corrected the spreadsheet linked to this post and reworded the post to state that the scores have declined slightly instead of improving. Thanks for the correction.

Bob Calder said...

Michael - Why does Louisiana's state spreadsheet display "closed" for some schools that are apparently still open? Are they in the process of takeover?
It looks like population is being churned from old schools to new schools, where results aren't improved.

I'm on G+ and have mentioned you in a post. Can you answer there?

Michael Deshotels said...

Thanks Bob. I will answer here and on G+. It seems that the LDOE has a creative method of hiding low scores for the RSD takeover schools. Quite a few of the RSD charters are considered failures and are being reorganized. The school now either receives a T instead of an SPS score because they are in transition. So the original school may show up as closed even if it is still operating as a transition school. This just helps to cover up the lowest scores in the RSD.

Bob Calder said...

Seems to me that the "portfolio" system gives school systems permission to blame the other guy for failure. The theory (if you can call it that) explicitly describes this scenario and encourages it by stating that the next contractor will be better. How or why, it doesn't really say except that it is basic conservative market theory. The "market" drives out those that fail to serve the public. Unfortunately for them, there are no different business models to choose from. About the only thing you can do is skim the cream.

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