The Baton Rouge Advocate editors should have read these stories before writing their editorial on the same subject. The Advocate editorial is very shallow in its conclusions and is written mostly to defend the insane standardized testing culture that has been forced on public education (but not on private schools). The sad truth of this sequence of events beginning with the impossible demands of the No Child Left Behind law and then Obama's Race to the Top is that when politicians set impossible goals and then blame and shame educators who do not meet those goals, horrible things happen to our educational system. These new laws have caused plenty of other potential scandals in Washington DC schools and in several states including Louisiana that have been covered up to avoid scandals like the one in Atlanta.
But the value of the reporting by the New Yorker and the Huffington Post is that these articles reveal the many complex layers of deception that are still occurring across the U.S. as our school systems are forced by bad laws to attack the wrong problems and blame the educators when these strategies fail. These stories point out that there never was a magic formula for reversing the academic problems caused by the many manifestations of neglect of children in our high poverty neighborhoods. Those who led the charge against schools with the battle cry of "no excuses" are guilty of educational and policy malpractice but they will never pay. Atlanta and the Washington DC systems had been held up as proof that poverty does not matter and that good teachers and high expectations can cure anything. It was a lie, and only these rare pieces of quality reporting reveal the truth.
I responded to The Advocate editorial with a comment including a short list of other forms of educational distortions in Louisiana that could easily be equated to the Atlanta scandal. These serious abuses have been overlooked by a media intent on promoting magic solutions to our education problems. Several investigators have revealed that in Louisiana, in addition to instances of cheating similar to Atlanta which have never been brought to court, our education authorities have found other creative ways of falsifying student progress. Here are a few of the ways the public is deceived:
- Some charter schools have developed effective methods using parent counseling and disciplinary procedures to transfer disruptive and low performing students to the real public schools so that their school scores can be inflated.
- Some schools abuse the use of credit recovery courses in high schools to allow students who have failed courses to get credit by doing only minimal work. I had one person who responded to this comment pointing out that her students had achieved good results on credit recovery courses. This may very well be true but since the LDOE no longer monitors such courses, serious abuses can and have occurred.
- Student dropout statistics have been falsified by some schools by reporting dropouts as transfers to other states where the records cannot be traced. The LDOE has not insisted on transcript requests from the receiving schools to document the transfers allowing this fraud to go on mostly unchecked.
- The LDOE and their testing companies can and have lowered the passing scores on state tests to insure that the public is led to believe that students are succeeding on the new Common Core aligned tests. How could a score of 38% on a 7th grade math test possibly be considered passing when a student can get 25% of multiple choice questions right just by guessing. When I published these scores (that were only obtained as a result of a public records lawsuit), one educator pointed out that he did not see any difference between this manipulation and the Atlanta cheating scheme.
- The state no longer enforces promotion standards for passing to the 5th and 9th grades, again encouraging schools to pass students who may not have minimum knowledge. Yet local educators are blamed if students cannot succeed in college or meet basic standards for employment.
Ironically, Georgia where this cheating scandal occurred, is now in the process of adopting the fraudulent Louisiana RSD model.