But this is all part of the Modus Operandi of what I call the public education haters. One of the basic assumptions of the public education haters is the idea that most of the low performance of some of our public school students can be attributed to incompetent, or ineffective or just plain lazy teachers. So it makes sense to set a quota for teacher firings each year until you “clean up” the profession. White made this clear in his application for the ESEA No Child Left Behind waiver application when he compared the 98% satisfactory rating of teachers in Louisiana a couple of years ago to the large number of students that are performing below grade level in Louisiana. His conclusion is that there must be a lot of incompetent teachers in Louisiana if we have lots of kids performing below grade level. I suppose he would be surprised to find out that grade level performance is just the normal distribution of achievement you get when you test a representative group of students. No matter how hard teachers teach there will always a certain number of students who perform below what the statisticians decide is grade level or better. It's just like when the big computer at the DOE graphs a distribution of teachers evaluated by the VAM. There will always be 10 percent of the teachers who fall in the bottom ten percentile, each year no matter how well the students perform. To set quotas for teacher firings is viscous and illogical!
Take a look at my paraphrasing of one of nutty memos to principals from our own DOE earlier this year. One of the advisories sent to principals pointed out that there seemed to be too large a proportion of teachers being rated as effective by the observation portion of the COMPASS. The reason given for this assumption is that only 50% of the teachers were being rated over the 50 percentile level by the VAM. Of course stupid! That's the definition of a percentile ranking system. 50 % will always be below the median! So the DOE was saying to the principals: “We want you to rate at least 50% of the teachers as “not very good” no matter what your lying eyes tell you when you observe them!”
Another part of the Modus Operandi of the public education haters is the conviction that any school must be better than a public school. That's why White and BESE have no real accountability system for the Voucher schools or for the Course Choice Providers. The teachers in the voucher schools are not evaluated by VAM, and the Course Choice providers get to decide when a student has completed a course even if he/she has attended the virtual course very infrequently. The students' home public school however, will be rated by the LEAP and end of course scores of these course choice students, not the choice provider. Lefty Lefkowith who runs the program and who has never taught a day in his life, says that course choice is outcome based instead of the outmoded attendance based system we are required to use in public schools. So again we have zero standards for the non-public providers because they are automatically assumed to be superior. This assumption is also why charter schools are allowed to use discipline rules to cull out the low performers and the more disruptive students while public schools are not allowed to put out any of their students, some of which may be rejects from charters!
Much of the strategy for the privatization of our schools was developed by a small group of very rich national power brokers who decided, without the benefit of any legitimate education research, that opening up our public schools to the free enterprise system would be the cure for all the alleged problems of public education. The key players in this strategy are junk bond king Michael Milkin, New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, News Corps owner Rupert Murdock, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee. The rallying cry they used was "Let's break up the monopoly!" That phrase was actually used at the LABI sponsored Leadership for Change Conference held just over a year ago as part of the launch of Jindal's education reform effort. One of the key speakers at that conference was Joel Klein, a non-educator lawyer who served as the education chancellor for Mayor Bloomberg. Klein had run the New York city public school system through much of its transformation period where his assistant, John White, was trained in setting up charter schools . Only after he left was it found that the dramatic gains claimed for the students were bogus and caused by a lowering of the testing stanards instead of real achievement. It's just like the major gains claimed by Michelle Rhee in Washington DC which are now suspected to be largely because of cheating on the test.
The super rich promoters of the education privatization movement are willing to use huge infusions of cash to actually purchase the loyalty of education decision makers. That's how we got our new "rubber stamp" BESE and that's why we have seen fake grass roots organizations spring up such as BAEO (Black Alliance of Educational Options) and Stand for Children. These groups are financed by interests outside of Louisiana and are set up to create political pressure groups in places that would normally not support privatization. BAEO is paid to recruit black parents for vouchers and create a pressure group aimed at black legislators. Stand for Children attempts to form a parent and teacher group that will lobby for test based teacher evaluation. Money flows freely to such groups and there is a good living to be made running what some of us call the "astro turf" organizations that promote corporate education reform.
But there is a basic flaw in using the so called "free enterprise" or "free market" system to run public schools. The primary driving factor for free enterprise is the profit motive. This means that in most cases, profit by the entrepreneur takes precedence over the welfare of the students. It means that the state must put in place a very complex regulatory system over any such free market schools if we want to insure that the children's needs are the priority. But the public school haters/reformers have done just the opposite. They have implemented systems that minimize regulation over charters and vouchers and now course choice programs in the belief that these entrepreneurs will always do the right thing. So what we see are charters dumping out low performers (see this story on Sci Academy), voucher schools telling some parents that the entering student will be held back in the previous grade as a way of discouraging low performers from registering, and now course choice providers registering hundreds of students whose parents have not given permission.