Sunday, October 26, 2014

Advocate Helps White Promote Education Reform Myths

Education writers for the Baton Rouge Advocate are usually reliable cheerleaders for all the radical reforms now being implemented by State Superintendent John White. The Advocate can always find great value in every reform, no matter how destructive. I have said that if White and BESE decreed that the next “reform” should require the lining up and shooting of 10% of public school teachers based on VAM scores, The Advocate would probably suggest that this would finally be a way to permanently solve the problem of those darned incompetent teachers who are keeping our kids from being successful!

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.

But the biggest myth being perpetrated by this latest fluff piece admiring all the John White adventures into the fantasy land of reform education, is the myth that the constant testing of our students and the grading of our schools and teachers based on these tests are really accomplishing something valuable. The real truth is this: Nationwide the testing and teacher punishing craze is driving thousands of dedicated teachers out of the teaching profession, and out of teacher training. Colleges of Education are reporting huge declines in the enrollment of bright young people who aspire to be teachers. Ask any Louisiana teacher about whether they are encouraging their children or nieces and nephews to go into teaching.

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.
Finally, the manufactured impression of the failure of our public schools has produced a proliferation of charter schools and voucher schools funded with our tax dollars with little accountability and shockingly low test performance. Almost every day we read media reports of fraud, corruption and nepotism in these so called “choice” schools where no amount of cheating and dropout reporting falsification can hide their incompetence in the education of children.

Shame on the Baton Rouge Advocate for helping White to continue to promote and glorify this fraud on the parents and taxpayers of Louisiana.

2 comments:

Candyce Watsey said...

Thank you, Mike, for once again telling the TRUTH. Your work gives me the hope I need to return to my classroom every day and provide my students with the full, rich education they deserve, despite my being labeled as Public Enemy Number One by those who wish to privatize public education in order to monetize children. It is past time for Mr. White to take his talents elsewhere. As far as our local newspaper is concerned, a better name for it is THE ABDICATE.

Candyce Watsey

Kimberly Kunst Domangue said...

We need to be clear regarding "testing": It is the invalid use of "high-stakes" standardized testing as a sole measure of student achievement. When word from Claiborne Avenue is that education professionals, as well as schools, are assigned scores on bell curves, THAT is problematic. THAT is downright discouraging.

Thank you for fighting for Louisiana students and teachers. It is good to know that while we are developing our lesson plans and instructional materials, we have an advocate in you.