An analysis of the latest happenings in the area of Elementary/Secondary education with emphasis on state level policies as they affect teachers and school administrators. Send any comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Michael Deshotels
This letter to the editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate by Dr Mercedes Schneider, copied here verbatim, exposes the fraud perpetrated on the state and nation by the Louisiana Recovery School District. I have included also the comments by readers of The Advocate which I believe has been complicit in supporting the RSD propaganda machine.
Letter: Publicize school letter grades RSD
December 19, 2012
I have been reading about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s promoting the Recovery School District (RSD) as an example of the success of his educational reform package. I am not sure how Jindal qualifies “success” since a disproportionate number of RSD-run schools earned a D or F as a 2012 school performance score. So, I went to the RSD website to see how this issue of “success” might be treated.
Here’s is the RSD tactic: Ignore the school letter grade situation completely.
You read it right. The RSD makes no mention of school letter grades on its website. It does offer links to “school performance” and even uses the term “school performance scores.” The RSD site offers charts and graphs with the numeric school performance scores. Why, then, does the site not include the letter grades?
In 2010, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Penny Dastugue defended the then-new school letter grade system by saying, “People can relate to grades.”
According to the information posted on the Louisiana Department of Education website for 2012, 60 schools are designated as being RSD schools. Out of 60 schools, 51 received a D or F letter grade. None received an A.
Being “transparent” with such information would reveal the truth, and the truth is bad for business.
If the RSD website publicizes its letter grades, then the world will clearly see that the state-run RSD does not live up to what LDOE also continues to promote on its website: “…The Recovery School District (RSD) is a leading reform model for educators around the country and even around the globe as they search for solutions to transform low-performing schools.”
According to LDOE’s own letter grade standard, state-run RSD schools are not “transformed.” The state with its self-proclaimed reformer rhetoric may control these schools, but the state, by its own standard, is failing.
RSD success is a lie.
In order to truly understand what exactly occurs in RSD, state and national media need to travel to New Orleans and other RSD locations and talk to RSD students and parents. The state and national media need to investigate the effects of revolving-door charters on student well being and community stability. The state and national media need to expose the disconnect between what so-called “reformers” are showcasing as success on one hand and hiding via information-twisting and omission on the other.
Mercedes K. Schneider, Ph.D.
applied statistics and research methods
The following are the comments submitted to this letter by readers of The Advocate. Note that they are listed in the reverse order in which they were received.
1) Comment by Bouncer - 12/20/2012
2) Comment by deutsch29 - 12/20/2012
3) Comment by conglo - 12/19/2012
4) Comment by Bouncer - 12/19/2012
5) Comment by Scrooge - 12/19/2012
6) Comment by bourbon-soda - 12/19/2012
7) Comment by Noel Hammatt - 12/19/2012
8) Comment by NearBarbarian - 12/18/2012
9) Comment by tradewinns - 12/18/2012
10) Comment by teacherguy - 12/18/2012
One more note: If my readers would like to see a thorough analysis of the New Orleans Recovery District, just click on this link to an analysis by Research On Reforms which is an independent research group based in New Orleans led by Dr Barbara Ferguson and Charles Hatfield.
Congratulations to the Louisiana Federation of Teachers for winning a partial victory against some of the anti-teacher legislation passed by the Jindal administration. The ruling by Judge Caldwell removes the provision of Act 1 that would have denied teacher seniority rights based upon a negative rating on the new Act 54 evaluation system. Another part of this court ruling also returns the right of school boards to make employment decisions. The judge also denied John White the right to tamper with local superintendent contracts.
Unfortunately the teacher tenure law remains mostly gutted, in that the new tenure procedure left in tact by the ruling no longer guarantees a fair hearing process to teachers recommended for dismissal. But by retaining the rights of school boards to make the final decision on dismissals, the ruling does give teachers some opportunity to appeal an unfair dismissal. This was the whole reason for tenure in the first place; not to protect incompetent teachers.
Judge Caldwell's ruling also allows to stand a provision of Act 1 that immediately does away with a teacher's tenure as soon as she/he receives one unsatisfactory rating from the new evaluation system. Such teachers then become "at will" employees and can be dismissed without a hearing of any kind. Considering the possibility of errors, particularly in the VAM, many good teachers could still have their careers wreaked unfairly.
This ruling may still be appealed by either the LFT or the Jindal administration. In the meantime, just as in the case of the ruling on Act 2 denying Jindal the right to raid the MFP to fund vouchers, the legislature is sure to be asked by Jindal to continue his attacks on public education.
That's why I strongly recommend that educators and school board members begin now to discuss these critical issues with their legislators. The final decision on much of Jindal's education "deform" still rests with the legislature.
On theSandy Hook Tragedy:
I would like to refer my readers to the
recent posts by Diane Ravitch concerning the horrible shootings at
Sandy Hook Elementary school. Dr Ravitch provides us with
an excellent perspective from an educator's point of view on this
senseless tragedy. Most educators I know are not surprised by the
spontaneous acts of heroism by the principal and faculty of this
typically good public school.
On the Issues of School and Teacher Performance: Barbara Leader of the Monroe News Star recently reported on some of the nonsensical
results of Louisiana's school rating and teacher evaluation systems.
The reporter has discovered a remarkable disagreement between the
accountability rating scores of several of the school systems in Northeast Louisiana and
the teacher value added evaluations. That is, in some school systems rated
as poor by the Louisiana school performance scores, the
value added scores of the teachers are disproportionately high and in
some top rated school systems the value added scores are disproportionately
low! There are even some school systems with both disproportionate
numbers of high value added teachers and low value added
teachers. In my opinion, such results reflect poorly on both the letter grades for schools and the
new value added teacher evaluation system.
The media and the public have
been seriously misled by our amateur education leaders in Louisiana
about what constitutes a good school and what makes a good teacher.
These strange results are occurring because our school rating system
is based purely on student performance, instead of teacher
performance and our value added system is based on pseudo science
which inaccurately predicts the performance of many classrooms.
Representative Hoffman who authored the
new teacher evaluation system is now admitting that the system is
flawed. Yet apparently he and the other legislators are still willing
to let the program go forward and possibly damage or end the careers
of good teachers. Would those same legislators be willing to pass
laws that end the careers of doctors, lawyers or accountants based on
the mortality rates of patients, the conviction rates of suspects,
and the poor money management of businesses? Or would they admit that
possibly doctors are not responsible for the smoking habits and unhealthy lifestyles of
patients and lawyers can't help it if some of their clients break the
law, and accountants cannot always get their client business leaders
to follow good money management advice
But in Jindal's war on public education,
taxpayers are being led to believe that all schools should be
producing great results regardless of parent cooperation and the
handicaps faced by students. The public is encouraged to assume that
if a school in a poor neighborhood scores a D on the school rating
system then the teachers and the principal must not be doing their
jobs. Yet the value added system may very well rate the teachers and
principal at that school to be above average of even excellent. At
the same time newspapers have reported examples of highly rated
magnet schools where the teachers are judged by the VAM as below
average or poor.
If the legislature really wants to do
the right thing, they will junk both the school rating system and the
VAM and insist that professional educators take the place of the
amateurs at the State Department of Education and that the real educators
be allowed to do their job of improving our public schools.
I am a retired Louisiana educator who taught science at the secondary level. I also served in various positions with the Louisiana Association of Educators culminating in the position of Executive Director prior to my retirement. More recently I have done research on the dropout problem in Louisiana and as a result helped to draft and pass legislation providing for a career diploma designed primarily for non-college bound students. With this blog I am attempting to inform educators, parents and school board members on the current issues in education from the point of view of an experienced educator