In this most recent article by Andrew Vanacore in the Sunday Advocate, the writer suggests that even though the rules for determining school performance scores are constantly changing, there is still “a steady bar to indicate progress over a number of years”. He quotes John White as claiming that the raw scores that go into determining the state performance scores remain a steady gauge going back to the 1990s. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this post, and this post, I demonstrated how the LEAP and iLEAP scores are manipulated by the LDOE each year to produce pretty much whatever results they want and thereby raise of lower the school performance scores without regard to actual student learning. White claims in the Advocate article that the LEAP test scores are adjusted to be equally difficult each year, but a comparison with NAEP scores over an 8 year period shows that our LEAP/iLEAP scores have been significantly inflated. From 2005 to 2013, the average performance of our students as measured by LEAP/iLEAP went up by 11%, but the NAEP test which has been accurately comparing Louisiana with other states for years (long before the PARCC test was ever dreamed up) finds that student performance only went up by 3.25%.
Next, Vanacore touts the brilliant idea White had of requiring that all students in Louisiana public schools take the ACT so that they could be better prepared for college. Many experienced educators have pointed out that this is a terrible idea because it forces our high schools to focus almost exclusively on college prep when the experts in workforce development tell us that most of the really good jobs in Louisiana will be in highly skilled technical fields. At least 60% of our students do not want and do not need high school preparation for 4 year bachelor’s degrees which is what the ACT was designed to measure. But by making school performance scores so dependent on ACT scores, we end up neglecting the development in our high schools of pathways to promising technical and career fields. Belatedly White has been convinced by business leaders to start training students for technical careers because they were having to search for skilled workers in other states. So now White has initiated the Jump Start program for vocational-technical prep, but there is little incentive for high schools to develop those programs, since the all-important school grade is really determined by their college prep programs. Many are saying that White’s reforms have us training students for non-existent futures.
Meanwhile, real student achievement has barely improved even though we are sacrificing valuable programs in music and the arts, physical education, (even though our children are obese and out of shape), and our schools are crumbling from lack of maintenance and renovation because huge amounts of money are going to testing and test prep products sold by Pearson, Microsoft, and Apple.