Friday, August 2, 2013

Bennett Resigns; White Continues to Flaunt Authority

The Washington Post reports in this article that Tony Bennett, Commissioner of Education in Florida has resigned as a result of favored treatment given to a charter school owner when he was still Superintendent in Indiana. The Indiana Association of Educators pointed out that what Bennett did for the charter school amounted to cheating and that such actions should never be tolerated.

What about in Louisiana where it has been known for years that various charter schools and some regular schools have repeatedly used cheating on state tests to boost their scores and prevent state takeover? (See this recent LENS story) The former Director of Accountability in Louisiana, Dr Scott Norton, told me over a year ago that the DOE has a policy of not investigating alleged incidents of cheating on state tests even when erasure analysis and whistle blowers indicate that cheating has probably taken place. The state policy is that local authorities are informed when there are allegations of cheating and it is the responsibility of the local superintendent to investigate and take action against cheaters. All the state does is invalidate the school scores in the most blatant cases. This is like the IRS telling a taxpayer that even though your records show you cheated on your income tax, the government is going to leave it up to you to investigate yourself and determine if you should pay a penalty.

In addition recently, BESE members meeting with Recovery District parents in New Orleans were told by a parent that her child had received credit for a course he had never taken. There have been regular reports by teachers in the Recovery District who tried to warn students that they were failing classes necessary for graduation. Some students responded that they were told by administrators  "not to worry, they would get to take credit recovery classes", where students are often given a passing grade after just a few hours of computer review. So apparently in Louisiana, cheating is accepted if it is done for the purpose of helping Recovery District Schools.

Did you notice that even though most Recovery District schools tout their college prep program with banners of Ivy League universities all over the halls, ACT scores continue to average around 16, and the recent report on Advanced Placement courses from our DOE forgot to mention that the Recovery District schools had an average pass rate of only 5.9% compared to the state average of 33%. Also researchers who have been denied vital public record information about dropouts and transfers from the Recovery District still note that the graduating classes in the RSD have suspiciously fewer students compared to freshman classes.

Now we have a situation where White obviously colluded with state Representative Seabaugh to invalidate the VAM scores of some teachers at favored magnet and gifted programs (after the fact) without the approval of BESE. The post just below this one describes how teachers of high achieving students can go from an ineffective rating to a highly effective rating because of White usurping authority that should belong to BESE. Meanwhile teachers of the same type of students who actually perform a bit better on VAM are stuck with a mediocre rating. This will probably be challenged by the same two BESE members who are all alone in demanding accountability of our Superintendent and DOE. But the rest of BESE is willing to look the other way.  At least someone in Florida must have insisted that there be accountability for their new superintendent.


Anonymous said...

Teachers are choosing to retire or taking sabbaticals to survive one more year. If you are gone more then 6 weeks apparently you then get rated by your SLTs. No one can risk being in the 10%.
Teachers I work with ask me if there are any answers to the questions I posted. I told them you acknowledged them and said it was a great deal of information to think about. They said thank you for trying to get us the answers we need. We know how busy you are but since we can't trust anyone but you to find out this information we will wait until you can find something out.
Most administrators and teachers with many years in still think this will all just go away and SOMEONE will do something. Those of us in the classroom just hope we have jobs.

JB back at work said...

Scott Norton was never director of accountability. If he had been, he would have known that Bulletin 111 has had a policy since 2003 (§4105)that requires investigation under certain circumstances. It isn't stated to clearly since the preceding section has been revised and changes the context. Staff was sent several times to schools to investigate reported cheating. Norton was director of assessment and was referring to testing practice, but he participated in at least one investigation in Sabine Parish. His staff went on several others with accountability folks. He's a Jindal/Pastorek/White Flavor-ade imbiber anyway, so he doesn't know what truth is. Your info on Cooper in Lafayette is obviously collected secondhand - probably from Melinda Mangham or one of your LEA pals. It is incorrect. It IS sort of frightening that Holly Boffy is defending him. He is on the right track in Lafayette, but needs to steer clear of the Buy a BESE Member club.

Please get your facts straight

Anonymous said...

um, the following link shows a LA Believes website showing Scott Norton was a director of a few things with Accountability being in the list...

This is the only search I plan to make in the above "JB" post discrediting your "facts" not being straight. Keep up the good work, Mike!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say, Mike, most experienced teachers are giving in to simply waiting it out for retirement. At the same time, fewer and fewer are going into education as a career...the student teacher appointment lists are getting shorter. LA used to THINK it had a certified teacher shortage, but as the old geezers time out and the young bloods churn the attrition rates above the current 50% for 5+ years staying in...teacher shortages are going to begin to grip not just the struggling districts, but it will begin to affect the upper districts, too. While all of this is happening, our current tenured teachers are less inclined to transfer to other parishes where tenure could be earned again in a short three years...currently, earning tenure would be a statistical improbability over a 5-6 year stint. This has basically "locked down" the best teachers in the state to their current school systems despite the need to have them actually sharing their successful "tricks of the trade" throughout other districts (especially in light of VAM). It deeply disturbs me that the intent of all this reform was to improve teacher quality by going to war on experienced teachers...I guess they can at least sleep at night because they think they know what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

I am just going to verify a previous anonymous comment. I will be having a child this school year. I WAS only going to take a 6 week leave, but I was rated Ineffective by VAM this past year after rating Highly Effective in a pilot year. Since I cannot risk being rated Ineffective again by VAM, I am choosing to take a partially unpaid 12 week leave. The law states that a teacher must have 60 excused absences to be exempt from VAM, which is 12 weeks.

Anonymous said...

you aren't alone. Several teachers at my school opted to have surgeries they had been putting off done to take a medical sabbatical this year and thus only be rated on their SLTs.
The surgeries are needed, two of them have been working diligently while having major knee and hip pain.
Just hate to have them gone. The rest of us will be stressed and without good team member support!
No transfers to any other parish because everyone is in the same boat. Our VAM scores are like playing Russian Roulette and an ineffective rating will kill your career and your soul.