Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Louisiana Math Standards in Our Middle Schools Are a Disaster!

Louisiana is attempting to teach Common Core math. The recent legislatively mandated revision resulted in a change of only 5% of the standards. But the middle school math standards are poorly designed and are failing our students in every way possible. Students in the middle school grades are performing dismally on the new Common Core math tests. In my opinion, the middle school math standards are not age appropriate. We are trying to teach high school algebra and geometry to students who are not mature enough and who have not learned enough basic math to prepare them to succeed.

Let’s make one thing clear. The new tests that were implemented over the last two years are the curriculum! Nothing else matters in teaching math in Louisiana but attempting to prepare students for the annual spring LEAP tests. Everything the math teacher does now is geared toward preparing students for the math tests. And most of this effort is failing!

Here are the results of the new math LEAP tests now being given to our students:
  • The tests are so difficult and impractical that the LDOE and their testing company have lowered the passing grade for the 8th grade test to only 27% for the school year 2015-16. A student needs to only get 27% of the questions right on the math test right to get a passing grade.
  • In the 2014-15 school year, the first year the new Common Core aligned tests were given, the cut score for passing was set at only 22%.
  • But even with these ridiculously low passing scores, 45% of our students failed the 8th grade math test in 2015 and 43% failed in 2016.
  • In 2016, my best estimate is that the average 8th grade math score statewide was only 33%. Considering that large portions of the tests are multiple choice, many students can do almost as well on these tests by just making random guesses.

The test results are telling us that at least half of our 8th grade students know almost nothing about the math we are attempting to teach. Yet the BESE policy which Superintendent White recommended allows such students to be promoted to high school.

Find out for yourself about the 8th grade math test by taking the practice test by clicking on this link to the LDOE testing website.

So how are our 8th graders doing on the NAEP math test which compares Louisiana to all other states? Unfortunately, on the 2015 NAEP (which was the most recent NAEP) our 8th grade math scores dropped in overall points and in the rankings of the states. Louisiana's 8th grade math NAEP scores now rank only above Alabama and the District of Columbia.

During my teaching career, I taught physics to 11th and 12th grade students. Physics was probably the most difficult course at our school because of the difficult concepts and the math used in Physics. But if I gave a test where half of my students scored below 33% (that never happened), I would have immediately questioned either my teaching or the structure of the test or both. I certainly would not have continued doing the same thing, hoping that my students would do better.

In the case of our middle school math, I have concluded that both the curriculum and the math tests are not age appropriate, nor are they going to prepare most of our students for future careers. But in this brave new world of our state-dictated, test driven curriculum, the powers that be refuse to be questioned. And they hide the hideous results of the state testing by using an obscure scale score system. This is a system where if a student gets zero questions right, he/she still gets a scale score of 650 out of a possible 850 points. A scale score of 725 is considered a passing score even if is equivalent to only 27% correct answers. This does not represent higher standards. These are insane standards. Such standards are driving education into the ditch.

Someone told me recently that the debate about Common Core in Louisiana is over with and that the Common Core advocates have won. If this is winning, I just don’t know how we can explain to parents that their children are learning almost nothing in their middle school math classes.

Parents need to demand that this failed curriculum be junked before it does too much more damage to our students.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lawsuit Aims to Vacate the Position of State Superintendent of Education

Ganey Arsement is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to be filed today to have the courts declare the position of Superintendent of Education vacant subject to appointment by BESE and the Louisiana Senate.

The legal counsel for this lawsuit is State Senator John Milkovitch. Thank you Senator!

Here is the Educate Louisiana post about this lawsuit. Arsement deserves great credit for researching the Louisiana Constitution and state law that govern the appointment of various state offices including the Superintendent of Education.

The following is my fact sheet based upon research of the actual results of White's administration and leadership of K-12 education in Louisiana. In addition to his failure to produce real results, White has engineered a demolition of the healthy teaching and learning environment in our classrooms and converted it into a mind-numbing exercise in constant testing and test-prep. Many of our most dedicated and effective teachers have been driven from the profession, and many others have lost their love of teaching as this testing mania grows each year!

Louisiana School Superintendent John White’s
Performance Record

Should John White be reappointed as State Superintendent of Education?

Qualifications? John White was appointed state superintendent of schools in January 2012 with the backing of Governor Jindal requiring a special waiver of the credentials required by state law.  Some have suggested that only results matter. White was appointed with the understanding that he would lead Louisiana education to produce greatly improved results. The following are measures of White’s effectiveness in improving K-12 student performance in Louisiana.

Louisiana K-12 education performance compared to other states: In the most recent ranking of Louisiana students by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) tests, Louisiana tied with Alabama and California for 48th compared to the 50 states and D.C.

The Quality Counts ranking by Education Week is a more comprehensive ranking of the states on major elements of K-12 educational achievement.  In the December 2016 ranking, Louisiana placed 49th among the states and the District of Columbia in K-12 achievement. This is the lowest ranking Louisiana has ever registered on this report.

Education Standards: State law and BESE policy require that students demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of state standards in order to be promoted to the next grade. Under the direction of White, the actual standards for English and math performance have been lowered to an average of 32% correct answers on state math and English tests for grades 3 though 8. The present passing scores for high school end of course tests for Geometry, Algebra, and English II have been reduced to 32%, 36%, and 36% respectively.

ACT and Graduation Rate: Average ACT scores for Louisiana students are presently only 19.5 for a carefully manipulated cohort that includes the best score of only graduating students. Even so, Louisiana ranks in the bottom third of states that mandate the ACT for all students. The Louisiana graduation rate has been artificially inflated by the lowering of end of course cut scores and by credit recovery courses that allow students to be taught minimum test material while ignoring attendance requirements and all other BESE passing standards.

State Recovery District: State law requires that the State Department of Education take over failing schools for the purpose of upgrading their performance to satisfactory levels. Of the local schools taken over by the state, only a small fraction have received a satisfactory rating after up to 12 years of state operation. Almost all schools taken over in East Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, St Helena and Caddo are still considered failing. Several have been returned to local school systems after crippling losses of student enrollment and almost total collapse of school operations. Many RSD schools have been cited for corruption and other violations such as cheating on state tests. Other schools operated permanently by the state Department of Education, such as the School for the Deaf and the School for visually impaired are repeatedly rated F.

Transparency of Education Records: John White, as custodian of public records has been successfully sued numerous times for unlawfully withholding public records. This unlawful behavior has cost the state many thousands of dollars in court costs, legal fees and penalties. At present, the superintendent is using state attorneys to appeal more than $29,000 in personal penalties assessed to him because of public records violations.

You be the judge. Does Louisiana need more of John White?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Accountability Gone Berserk

Penalties for public schools failing to prepare students for college!
Berserk Accountability. That's the only way I can describe what happened in the Senate Education committee on May 11th. The committee meeting began with the defeat of two bills by Senator Morrish (SB 13 and SB 87) that would have removed favored treatment of voucher schools and profit-making non-profit charter schools. I want to thank Senator Morrish for attempting to reduce the abuses of vouchers and charter funding. The big business lobbyists representing LABI and CABL want the favored treatment to continue. But then the committee turned to blaming public schools for students who fail to prepare for college!

New legislation would allow school boards to be assessed the cost of college level remediation courses. The school accountability movement is being driven to absurd levels as some senators seek to assess damages to public schools when some of their students need remedial courses to attend college. Those senators are apparently forgetting that education requires the cooperation of parents and students in the education process. They are attempting to hold teachers and schools totally responsible for preparing students for college, even when parents and students refuse to do their part. Society does not hold doctors responsible if patients refuse to take their prescribed medicine or if diabetes and cardiac patients refuse to correct unhealthy lifestyles, but some policy makers want the public school systems to be responsible for forcing knowledge upon uncooperative students or pay for remediation at the college level.

Most Louisiana colleges have abandoned funding remediation courses because they don't work for most students. Students who failed to be responsible in high school usually fail to be responsible in college. But that's not stopping some legislators finding an innovative way of funding these remedial courses.

SB 82 by Appel: Senate Bill 82 began as a seemingly routine bill to specify testing requirements, but then amendments were made by the author to do something totally different. As amended in the Senate Education committee, this bill would require public school boards to pay some college remediation costs for certain students who scored below college readiness levels on the ACT for English and mathematics. LAE representatives and school board representatives testified in committee that such a requirement sets up an unbalanced application of accountability to hold the schools totally responsible for the negligence of some parents who don’t send their children regularly to school and some students who don’t apply themselves to their studies. 

Important Update: SB 82 was killed in the Senate Finance Committee! This time reason has prevailed.

The bill ignores the fact that any student regardless of ability can enroll in college prep programs and then fail to study, or find that he/she is not able to master the material. The school should not be held responsible for students' lack of ability or motivation.  I will be asking my readers to help in defeating this bill when it comes to a vote on the Senate floor. We cannot allow fanatic and unfair application of skewed accountability to be put into Louisiana law.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Join the Less Testing, More Learning Campaign

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. You can do your part to support both teachers and students by joining the Less Testing, More Teaching Campaign sponsored this week at the State Capitol by the Louisiana Association of Educators. If you can get to the Capitol Tuesday, May 9th you can help lobby for more emphasis on learning in the classroom rather than just boring test prep.

Click on this link to the LAE Campaign. You can sign up to help lobby Tuesday or send your State Representative a message on Less Testing More Teaching, or do both. If you click on the "Take Action" button, you can send a letter of support for HB 572 (Which would reduce testing) to your state representative.

Mike Deshotels

Friday, April 21, 2017

Parents and Teachers Deserve Better Reporting of Student Test Results

House Bill 203 was introduced in this legislative session to require that more helpful information be provided to teachers on the results of LEAP testing.

Important Notice: This link is to a survey on state testing being conducted by Ganey Arsement of the blog Educate Louisiana.  Please take just a few minutes to respond to this excellent survey!

This link to a petition concerning the reappointment of Superintendent John White is also being made available by Arsement.

The following is taken from a sample report provided on the LDOE website to teachers and parents on the English/language arts LEAP test taken last Spring:
"Your student scored 714 on a scale of 650 to 850, and performed at the Approaching Basic level. Students performing at this level will need significant support to be prepared for further studies in this content area."

The above statement is the first part of a sample report to parents on their child's performance on the English/language arts portion of last year's state testing. The reports provided to teachers on the performance of each student provides just a general rating on major components of the ELA test. A major problem with this report is that it was received at least two months into the new school year, which made it difficult for the child's teacher to address the significant support the student would need in order to improve his/her performance.

What does a score of 714 on a scale of 650 to 850 tell the parent or the teacher about the student's actual performance on the state test? Answer: Almost nothing!  Nothing in this one page report tells the parent that a score of 714 is considered a failing score! Instead the information on the report may  lead the parent to believe that the student is doing OK on most of the test, since a score of 714 out of 850 looks pretty good to most people. (714 is 84% of 850, but that's not the percentage of the questions the student got right)

Do you think the parent would be surprised to learn that a score of 714 on the state ELA test means that the student answered correctly on only 24% of the possible points on the test? This is a fact, revealed by a public records request I made last year. If you were the parent or the teacher, which score would be more useful to you in determining how much of the tested material the student got wrong on the test? The nebulous scale score of 714 out of a possible 850, or the raw score indicating that the student answered only 24% of the questions correctly? Right now the only way that a parent can find out the child's actual (raw) score on a state test is to make an appointment with the Department of Education and travel to Baton Rouge to view the student's test performance. Why is this information top secret? Why are parents being shielded from finding out their child's actual performance?

Later in the one-page report on the student's test performance, the parents and the teachers are told that the student scored three stars on literary text, two stars on informational text, and one star on vocabulary. The report tells us that three stars represents "strong performance", two stars represents "moderate performance", and one star represents "weak performance". We can infer from this report that the student needs to work on vocabulary or his/her recognition and knowledge of a larger number of words in the English language. But we still don't know which of the state standards for ELA the student answered incorrectly.

So what the the teacher is being told is that the student has a weak vocabulary, and needs more exposure to informational reading material. But the report tells us nothing about the student's reading comprehension, his/her writing skills, grammar, spelling, phonics skills, syntax, and understanding of many other state standards in the English/language arts curriculum.

What about providing a report to teachers identifying the standards that were actually tested on the Spring ELA test? What about informing teachers about how students across the state performed on the tested standards? Which standards may require more instruction and practice to improve our student scores for next year?

Out of a total of 32 anchor standards in ELA and several component standards under each anchor, the report to teachers and parents only references a few broad categories. How can such a report delivered late in the school year actually be of value to teachers? Why can't the LDOE and their testing company tell us exactly which standards the students missed and what percentage was that of the total possible points and what areas of ELA are presenting the most challenge to teachers and students? All of the above issues are important also concerning the math test results. Why does the state spend millions of dollars on state testing and still not inform the teachers any better than this about each student's strengths and weaknesses?

That's why we need to urge the legislature to vote "yes" on HB 203 by Representative Bagley. This bill would require that teachers receive a much more informative report on each child's performance on state Spring tests at the beginning of the next school year. Teachers would receive an item analysis on each test given to his/her students and a report on the student's raw score, or percentage of correct answers. The teacher would be able to see exactly which state standards the student missed on the state test and how students statewide performed on each standard tested. The teacher could see immediately which standards require extra attention in their teaching for the current school year.

Please ask your State Representative to vote "yes" on HB 203.

Friday, April 7, 2017

White's New School Accountability Plan . . . Guaranteed to Fail

The new Federal Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) which is replacing the failed No Child Left Behind law requires that each state submit an accountability plan to implement the new federal law.

Last week, BESE ignored the requests of most local superintendents and about 96% of the school principals and tentatively approved an accountability plan submitted by John White with some adjustments on a motion by BESE member Holly Boffy.

Only in Lake Wobegon are all students above average
I pointed out in my 3 minute presentation to BESE that the plan, even as amended, is seriously flawed. It will fail because it is based on the false premise that all students, no matter what their poverty level. no matter their cognitive and other disabilities can all achieve mastery on the state tests. Sure, there are fudge factors in the plan that are supposed to make allowances for low performing students, by allowing extra points for students who improve above their predicted VAM score. But in the end they are all supposed to end up performing above average. Not Possible!

This blog has provided readers with much evidence that demonstrates that the state test results are subject to manipulation to produce whatever results White and his testing company want. But that does not fool the outside observers who don't give credibility to Louisiana's inflated LEAP tests and end of course tests.

The proposed ESSA plan is in violation of state law which requires our state tests to be comparable in rigor to NAEP.
State law requires that our Louisiana state tests must be equivalent in rigor to national tests including the NAEP tests. John White has repeatedly claimed that our state tests are designed to be equivalent to NAEP, but the data shows something quite different. White claims that the performance of our students on LEAP at the Mastery level (level 4) or above is set by our testing company to be equivalent to the proficient level or above on NAEP. Here are the latest comparisons of Louisiana LEAP results to NAEP: (Click on the chart to enlarge it)

In all cases, Louisiana's LEAP results are highly inflated compared to the latest NAEP results.
But to make things worse, the LEAP results have been increasingly inflated in recent years.

Inflation of our state test results will not fool anyone in the long run, because NAEP is the real standard for state comparisons.
In 2003 our students were rated as preforming better on NAEP than on the LEAP test. By 2016, the results for LEAP had zoomed to a level much higher than the Louisiana results on the most recent NAEP test.

It is true that Louisiana students have improved on all parts of the NAEP since 2003, but this improvement is not dramatic considering all the resources and emphasis Louisiana has put into the incessant testing of students. Meanwhile, our school curriculum has been deformed, reducing the emphasis on other non-high stakes subjects. Vital instruction in health/physical education, social studies, the arts, music, and vocational education have been sacrificed so that students can spend more time in rehearsal for math and English tests. Our students are now less active, less healthy, and more obese than students a generation ago, yet our schools are doing nothing to address their real needs. Vocational education in high school has been decimated just at the time Louisiana industry is facing a  severe shortage of skilled workers for many high paying jobs. Louisiana is in the process of importing workers for the construction industry, for high paying plant jobs, and even the health care industry. Many of our current graduates seem to be prepared mostly for working at McDonald's and Popeye's.

I'll be honest and admit that I don't really understand the complex system White is proposing for calculating the school performance scores under the new ESSA plan. I rely on my friend and technical expert, Herb Bassett, to explain it to me. But since the plan is in flux based on the most recent actions of BESE, and may change more, no one really knows where this is heading.

LABI is apparently determined to trash our public school system
I do know one thing for sure. If Louisiana students are expected to perform at the mastery level on NAEP, many more of our schools will receive unreasonably low grades. John White is the fair haired boy of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). White and LABI are pushing hard for further ratcheting up the highly punitive system of grading our schools and our educators. What is the purpose of such harsh ratings for our schools? Will these ratings encourage business and industry to come to Louisiana?

We don't blame our doctors and hospitals if obese patients with diabetes refuse to diet and exercise, but we blame our teachers and schools if our underprivileged students don't excel in school.
We don't blame our doctors and hospitals because Louisiana has one of the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease in the nation. If an obese patient refuses to lose weight and exercise, we don't blame his doctor, but we do insist on blaming teachers who teach our most at-risk students because those students don't perform at an above average level.

California does no better than Louisiana on national tests.
Just to demonstrate how unimportant these score comparisons really are for success of a state economy,  consider the fact that probably the most successful state economy is that of  California, whose students score at about the same level as Louisiana on national testing. That's not because their schools are bad. It's because they have just about the same proportion of high poverty and at-risk students as Louisiana. Their ranking on national tests has apparently no effect on the success of their economy.

California has a great economy for many reasons including the development of high tech companies and because the state has great natural resources which they know how to utilize. Louisiana has great natural resources because of the oil and chemical industries, yet our educational system fails to take advantage of this by preparing our students for jobs in the industries that are expanding in our state.  Our educational system has shifted emphasis away from career and vocational education just at the time that our industries have the greatest need for skilled workers. So why is LABI so determined to trash our educational system and blame it for the problems of our state? Their entire campaign is based on the false assumption that our teachers are lazy and incompetent. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Louisiana education system could become a winner if we focused on our strengths instead of our weaknesses.
Louisiana will continue to be seen as a loser if we insist on comparing ourselves with other states that have more favorable demographics. We will always be seen as failures if our educational system continues to be skewed too much towards college prep and not enough toward practical education and high tech job training. What we are doing under the rule of John White and LABI is insanity! When will Louisiana take back its public education system from the clutches of non-educator reformers.

One thing you can and should do: Ask your State Senator to vote against the renewal of John White's contract, and insist that a real local educator be appointed.

Friday, March 24, 2017

John White's Plan for the Implementation of the New ESSA law should be rejected

Notice: Special BESE meeting for consideration of the Louisiana plan for the implementation of ESSA, Wednesday, March 29, 1:00 P. M.

John White is a one trick pony. He still believes that the only reason our students don't perform at a level of average or above on state tests is that the teachers are not teaching properly. He apparently never heard the Mark Twain quote: "Tis sad but true that half the members of the american public are below average." White's education reform for Louisiana is based on somehow forcing most children to produce above average scores on state tests. Education has been reduced to test rehearsal and testing. And if our students don't produce the impossible, then it must be the teacher's fault, and the failing teachers and failing schools must be punished.

White has proposed that Louisiana must educate students to a level of "proficient" as measured by the National Assessment of Educational progress (NAEP). NAEP has been used for many years to measure the performance of students in all states in the subjects of reading and math. The problem is that experts such as Diane Ravitch who served on the board of directors for NAEP, have made it clear that the level of "proficient" was intentionally set at a level well above average performance. Only about a third of students nationwide score proficient or above on NAEP. Barring some type of brain transplant for american students, most students will not achieve the level of "proficient".  But White like Donald Trump operates in his own version of reality. He has announced that if BESE sets a high standard, our teachers will magically teach to that standard and the students will produce the expected test results. That's the standard that White's plan for implementation of the new ESSA law which he wants BESE to adopt next week.

In his ESSA plan White and his staff have devised complex point awarding systems based primarily on student test scores in each school. There is also a set of points awarded to schools that improve their student test scores from year to year. But what happens if a school has a major improvement one year and then a slight drop or leveling off the next year? These complex formulas could cause wacky results in the grading of schools from year to year just like what happened when the LDOE used a value added system to rate the performance of teachers.

There is a much more direct and accurate way of grading schools relative to student performance than the complex formulas developed by White. Simply rate the schools using a combination of average student poverty and the percentage of students with cognitive disabilities. The schools with a high proportion of economically advantaged students with fewer disabilities would get A's and B's and schools with high poverty and more disabilities would get D's and F's depending on how unlucky or underprivileged its students are. Just like the present system assigns an Fs to the school for the Deaf and the School for the Visually impaired (Both run by John White's staff) and to all the alternative schools that serve the most at risk students.

If we used the method above (percentage of at-risk students) to rate schools we would not even need to test students to find the lowest ranked schools. We could save millions by not hiring expensive testing companies and we could do without some of the LDOE's highly paid staff that do almost nothing but rate schools using test data. Maybe we could use that money to actually help educate the students that need the most help. Now that would be true education reform!

But that would also show that we don't even need John White. In order to keep his job White knows that he must keep on blaming and punishing teachers and stigmatizing schools that don't measure up to his impossible goal.

The following is the testimony I plan to give to BESE next week opposing this ill conceived plan. The testimony is brief because BESE is expected to limit individual input to three minutes:

My name is Michael Deshotels, and I live in Zachary

I appear before you today to ask that BESE reject or at least delay action for the ESSA implementation in Louisiana.

The plan proposed by the Superintendent should be rejected because it is unrealistic, misleading, and represents a false promise very similar to the original promise made to the american public by the No Child Left Behind law. No Child Left Behind was a failure because the premise upon which it was based was wildly unrealistic. The exact same is true of this proposed ESSA plan.

No Child Left Behind promised the American people that within a ten year period every public school would educate each child to a standard that was known by any educator to be unattainable. As a result almost every public school in the the country was designated a failure.

We cannot educate children by decree from on high that ignores the major principles of learning theory and statistics. BESE can solemnly decree that by 2025, we will educate children to perform at a level which is above the statistical average for normal children, but that will not make it happen. Instead such a decree will end up labeling many educators and many schools as failures because of factors over which they have no control. Either that or it will cause educators to cheat to avoid being labeled as failures.

In my opinion, cheating is already occurring at the state level, I must point out that the very design of the state testing program is a form of cheating and manipulation of results to create the illusion of success in achieving unachievable goals. 

About three weeks ago I mailed each of you my analysis demonstrating that the test score results in Louisiana have been inflated so that many students can achieve close to passing results by simply guessing on the multiple choice portion of state tests.

We have been assured that level 4 performance on our state test is equivalent to the level of "proficient" on the NAEP test. This assertion is entirely inaccurate.  I believe this amounts to a violation of the state law upon which our testing program is based. Our level 4 grading standard on the LEAP test is claimed by the LDOE to be comparable to the proficient level on the NAEP, yet the chart you were given by the Department shows that there is a great disparity between the two and that the gap is widening rapidly with each year of testing. In one case, our testing is claiming that over twice as many students are proficient as measured by NAEP. All the other test results are also significantly inflated.

This entire scheme for the implementation of ESSA is an exercise in false advertising. We should not saddle our students and teachers with this bogus system.

Thank you

Please call or email your BESE member and ask that he/she vote to reject the ESSA plan and take the extra time suggested by the governor to develop a plan that provides a well rounded education to children with less emphasis on test prep.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wealthy Louisiana Taxpayers May Actually Make a Profit by Funding Private Schools

Are you worried that the new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos may divert public school taxes to private schools that are not accountable to the taxpayers? You should be, because that's been the sum total of her involvement with education before being appointed to the top federal job in education. But Louisiana has already found a way to divert public tax dollars to private schools, and such contributors can actually make a profit doing so.

This well researched article in The Advocate by Will Sentell shows how wealthy taxpayers can actually make a profit by supporting private schools. And the rest of our Louisiana taxpayers get stuck with the bill! The rapidly growing tuition donation rebate program (A law passed during the Jindal administration) is really a school voucher program on steroids. That's because for every dollar a doner gives to the program, he can save 95 cents off his state taxes. Then he can claim a full federal tax credit on the entire donation. So if he/she is in any federal tax bracket over 5%, he/she actually makes a profit on the deal! This is a shocking misuse of our state and federal tax dollars! But we shouldn't be surprised since Louisiana has been the leader in the entire country in ripping off public schools to support private schools which are actually underperforming compared to public schools. The latest analysis of our voucher program shows that student test scores on average drop when they transfer to a voucher school.

But to make the ripoff even more offensive, the rebate program has no accountability. There is no provision in the rebate law to stop funding unsuccessful rebate programs. So even if all the rebate students in a particular private school fail all their state tests, there is no way to stop the payments to that school. This is just one more shameful piece of the Jindal legacy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why are Teachers Leaving the Profession in Louisiana?

As usual, the biased Advocate reporter, Will Sentell misses the point about the real causes of teacher attrition in recent years following the so called Jindal education reforms. His story about a report on the increase in teachers leaving the profession in recent years, suggests that the main reason for the growing teacher losses is the tougher tenure law rammed through by Jindal in 2012. Sentell fails to point out that the real problem is the attempt by the state to blame teachers for societal problems over which they (teachers) have no control.

Since the passage of the Jindal "reforms", teachers have been forced to spend inordinate amounts of classroom time mostly prepping their students for state tests. Then the results of these tests are used to evaluate teachers and to assign letter grades to their schools. The assumption has been that student test scores are determined primarily by the quality of their teachers in each school. Yet, the American Statistical Association has determined that the quality of the teacher influences at most 14% of a student's test performance. So when the state uses student test scores to determine half of a teacher's evaluation, the result will be a huge loss of teacher morale. Most teachers are very dedicated and fair-minded. They really resent being evaluated by such a flawed process.

The real problem is the defective evaluation system based on student test scores which arbitrarily labels a certain percentage of teachers as failures each year. Professional educators resent being forced to spend most of their classroom time doing little more than rehearsing students for state tests. Tests that are poorly designed, and whose scores from year to year are so erratic that no teacher is guaranteed a fair shake when these results are used to evaluate the teacher.

I just completed an analysis of the student performance on the state LEAP tests given in the spring of 2016. The raw scores on these tests average about 40% statewide. The passing raw scores on these tests are set at a ridiculous average of 32%. The tests are so poorly designed that even with months of practice and test rehearsal, kids miss most of the questions. Then those test scores are used to assign letter grades to schools. All the magnet schools that select their students based on academic ability get rated "A" and all schools that serve the most disadvantaged students and the greatest percentage of students with disabilities get rated "D" or "F". The teachers have no control over these factors, yet they are also labeled as failures no matter how hard they work and how dedicated they are to their students. The study on teacher attrition by Tulane University points out that such a system is driving teachers away from the very schools that are most in need of highly qualified teachers.

So simply blaming the changes in the tenure law for increased teacher attrition misses the point. The problem is that amateurs have taken over the operation of our education accountability system and have reduced teaching and learning into a boring and thankless job! That's why so many teachers are quitting their profession!