Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Teachers Have Strong Support and Respect by the General Public

Teachers who took the extreme action of temporarily shutting down schools in several states to push for better teacher salaries and funding for materials of instruction have been pleasantly surprised by almost unanimous public support! Teachers who have been demoralized by low pay and a lack of respect from governors, and legislators have found out that the general public supports them and wants them well paid and respected. What a surprise for teachers who for the past twenty years have been told by politicians to just shut up and teach better! Now several state legislators and governors have responded by approving teacher raises and more funding for instruction. As teachers wrap up the school year, exhausted and burned out by the latest round of standardized testing abuse, they can at least hold up their heads with the knowledge that most parents really like them and respect them.

In addition, in response to the teacher job actions, most news stories and commentators have also been firmly on the side of teachers. There has been almost no condemnation of the teacher strikes by opinion makers in the media. I think that most people respect teachers for standing up for themselves and their students.

This is a welcome relief from the years of teacher bashing by politicians and self appointed education reformers. Teachers have been the targets of education reformers since the passage of "no child left behind" federal law in 2001. Teachers have been and still are blamed for the lack of academic performance of many of their students even though many other public school students are doing quite well. It has been assumed by most non-educator education reformers that if some students have low scores on standardized tests that it must be because of bad teachers. Our state even tried to tie teacher pay to student performance Reformers have classified schools as failing based on student test scores.

It has been considered politically incorrect to ever utter the term "failing students". Students who score poorly on the latest standardized tests are referred to as "struggling students". The implication is that such students are somehow being held back by inferior schools and teachers.

Legislators claim to have implemented higher standards, but most recently in Louisiana, our State Board of Education has effectively removed all standards for promotion of students from one grade to the next. This blog has pointed out the lack of student standards in recent posts.

Only teachers and schools can now fail according to our latest regulations. Students who score poorly are assumed by reformers to be the victims of our failing schools and teachers. None of this makes any sense at all.

The fact is that many students who perform poorly in school are not struggling with school. Some are not making even the tiniest effort to learn the required material in school. There are many factors that cause students to lack motivation to perform in school. The real culprits are usually poverty, hunger, illness, lack of sleep, insecurity, physical and mental abuse, and terrible role models. Many children start school knowing only half the words that are understood by typical middle class students and  often have no books in their homes. Some have no permanent homes and have no assurance of their next meal, much less  time for homework.

Many of the reformers who formed "no excuses" charter schools claiming to be able to overcome the effects of poverty on student performance, are often looking for ways to dump their low performing students either to the real public schools or even the streets. Does anyone remember "Advance Baton Rouge".

Our LDOE is no longer interested in taking over failing schools because takeover schools have often done worse under state control.

I can only hope that teachers everywhere will insist on being treated as professionals who should be given proper control over their profession just as other professions. Teachers who are teaching in challenging schools need to be supported and rewarded not bashed for conditions over which they have no control.

My advice to teachers today: Join and get active in your teacher union, which is your mechanism for improving your lot and that of your students. Vote out the enemies of public education and continue insisting on being treated as professionals even if you have to go on strike!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Schneider Tallies up the cost LEAP testing

This is the link to the latest post on the Mercedes Schneider blog where she totals up the cost of LEAP testing over a five year period.

As Schneider points out, the cost of ACT related testing is not included in her analysis.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Louisiana Recovery District's Performance

In my most recent post below, I provided statistics obtained by public records requests that showed that an extremely small percentage  of Louisiana public school students who fail both their math and English-Language-Arts LEAP tests each year are denied promotion to the next grade.

The precise statistics for the 2015-16 school year revealed that a total of 66,209 students in grades 3 though 8 failed both their math and ELA LEAP tests. That's approximately 21% of students enrolled in grades 3-8 statewide.

The purpose of this post is to compare the performance and promotion rate of students in the Louisiana Recovery District (the RSD) with the average for all other public school students.

Starting in the fall of 2005, the state took over approximately 70 schools from local school boards and created a new school system called the Louisiana Recovery District. The purpose was to upgrade the performance of these so called failing schools and to convert them into successful schools. Most of these takeover schools were chartered to a mix of non-profit and for-profit charter management organizations that were expected to boost performance of students to acceptable levels.

For the first few years after the state takeover and conversion of the RSD schools to charter schools we saw press releases from the state department of education proclaiming that student performance on state LEAP tests were improving at a much faster rate than that of other public schools. I wanted to know how these schools compared more recently to other public schools after all these years of greater growth. So I requested the most recent statistics on student performance and also on grade retention rates.

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, the Louisiana Recovery District was operated under the BESE as the charter authorizer. Public records obtained from the LDOE reveal that the failure rate of RSD students in both ELA and math for the 2015-16 school year totaled 49% of all students enrolled in grades 3 though 8.

After 11 years of state control of the RSD and operation of its schools by charter managers, approximately half of the students in such schools failed both their math and English-Language-arts tests. Statistics also obtained from the LDOE indicate that only 2.9% of students in grades 3 though 8 in the RSD were denied promotion to the next grade. That's almost the same rate as the students that were retained in grade by all other public schools under the administration of local school boards even though their failure rate on state LEAP tests was much lower.

So what was the result of transferring control of all these so called failing schools to BESE and to charter management organizations? Approximately half the students in such schools failed to score even 30% correct answers on their math and ELA state tests. Yet almost all of these students were promoted to the next grade. And each year these takeover schools continued graduating more and more uneducated students.

A general analysis of all state "recovery districts" or so called "achievement zones" patterned after the Louisiana Recovery District finds that such takeovers have had pretty much the same phony results as our model reform district.