Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Common Core Now Sabotaging the GED

After wreaking havoc with the futures of possibly thousands of New York high school students, Common Core is now destroying the futures of thousands of students who need to pass the GED in order to get a high school diploma. According to this story on Diane Ravitch's blog, it looks like the number of GED diplomas awarded this year will be down by almost 90%. That's because Great Briton based testing giant Pearson has unilaterally changed the test content of the GED to align it with the Common Core standards.

How does Pearson, a foreign corporation which stands to reap millions if not billions from students and school systems that are now being forced to purchase all their Common Core test prep materials and software, get to decide a passing grade for our U.S. students? 

This is a scandal and an attack on our democratic system. How would our patriots of the Revolutionary War feel about King George's decendents taking over our education system? And to add insult to injury, they are making us pay with our tax dollars for this attack on our students!
Maybe someone needs to research how much Pearson is contributing to our congressional candidates and even our presidential candidates. These folks in both parties are routinely bought and sold like cattle.

Happy New Year, Louisiana Parents! Wake up! The real threat to American democracy is not the terrorists or the North Koreans but our own so called allies in the British Empire!

Happy New Year!

My wish for the new year is that Louisiana education will begin an era of true reform. This would include restoring the trust of our policy makers in real professional educators, reducing he abuses of standardized testing, and a recognition that poverty, not ineffective teachers, is the primary factor adversely affecting the performance of students. Our policy makers need to stop trying to apply one-size-fits all standards that cannot do anything but hurt many students. It is time to stop blaming educators for factors over which they have no control and to instead utilize our energy and resources truly addressing the needs of our at-risk students with the goal of educating each student to her/his greatest potential.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Time to Shelve VAM Permanently!

The Act 240 subcommittee is scheduled to meet again on January 5. This is the special subcommittee of the Accountability Commission that was formed to review and make recommendations for improvements to the Louisiana teacher evaluation system.

Although it is now suspended, the Value Added Model (VAM) was supposed to make up 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. So, for teachers of state tested grades and subjects the complex formula that predicted the composite academic growth of each classroom of students had a huge impact on such teachers’ annual evaluations. The impact of VAM on about a third of the teachers statewide was magnified by the override rule, which was a provision in BESE policy that allowed an ineffective rating on either VAM or the principal’s evaluation to override the other component and declare a teacher “ineffective”. 

The override rule, which was never part of the original Act 54 law, when combined with VAM could be deadly to many good teachers’ careers. The VAM formula it turns out, was so erratic and capricious in its rating of some teachers that it became obvious that it should not be used to override a principal’s evaluation.  

Some members of the Act 240 subcommittee including Representative Hoffman who originally sponsored the Act 54 legislation have indicated that they would like to do away with the override rule.

In addition to removing the override rule, some members of the subcommittee have suggested that the VAM component should be reduced in its impact on the final evaluation from 50% to some lesser percentage. But if the VAM is so inaccurate, so unstable, and so potentially destructive of a good teacher’s career, then it should be done away with altogether!  Several members of the Act 240 subcommittee including teacher union leaders Debbie Meaux and Steve Monaghan have suggested that VAM should be totally removed from the teacher evaluation system.

VAM has been used as part of the evaluation system for only one year (the 2012-13 school year). According to LDOE policy, 20% of the teachers evaluated by VAM received a highly effective rating on that part of their evaluation and some received a highly effective overall because of the VAM. But if you think VAM was unstable when applied using the old LEAP and iLEAP tests, wait until you see the results with the new Common Core/PARCC aligned testing! Just because a teacher got a "highly effective" VAM in the old system is no guarantee that it will happen again under the new system. In fact it is quite possible for a teacher who received a highly effective on VAM in one year to get an ineffective on VAM the next year. That one ineffective punishes the teacher by canceling his/her tenure and placing him/her on a remediation plan. This is harsh treatment and it may be completely inappropriate.

This is no way to run a railroad and no way to make decisions relative to teacher’s careers.

I am suggesting that teachers and principals consider sending an email to Act 240 Committee chair, Mr Bret Duncan at,  and requesting that the subcommittee recommend doing away with the override provision but also with VAM altogether until a formula or system can be found that is fair and reliable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Terrific Video About Privatization

Click here to view an excellent video that exposes how the charter and voucher industry is misusing our tax dollars. I think this will make you smile as well as alert you to the tactics of privatization.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Letter to Editor by Dr Lottie Beebe

Dear Readers: The following is a letter to the editor by Dr. Lottie Beebe, one of our truly pro-teacher members of BESE. If you appreciate what Dr Beebe is saying here please send her a "thank you" note or include a thank you as a comment to this blog. We often forget to thank the brave education leaders who support the teaching profession every single day even though the popular fad recently is to blame teachers for issues over which they have little or no control.

Dear Editor:
At its December meeting, BESE received a report on teacher attrition. The report was issued amid concerns from parents, teachers, and school administrators that the new Common Core standards and flawed teacher evaluation systems are driving effective, experienced teachers from the classroom.  State Superintendent of Education John White was quick to note that the report concludes that teacher attrition has remained steady for the past five years, and that the new standards and evaluation systems have had a minimal impact on teacher attrition.  However, the LDOE’s report proves that the concerns of parents and education leaders are correct – effective teachers are leaving the classroom

Although the LDOE report concludes that overall teacher attrition rates have remained steady over a five-year period, it also notes that, from 2012-2014, 16% of the teachers who left the profession were rated “highly effective”, while 12% of the teachers who left the profession were rated “least effective”.  The report is clear that over the past two years a higher percentage of “highly effective” teachers left the classroom than the percentage of ineffective teachers, which is contrary to the stated goals of education reformers. 

The report examines the reasons teachers have left the profession, but not the challenges of finding excellent teachers to replace them.  School administrators across the state are vocal in expressing how challenging it is to hire excellent, qualified teachers while untested standards are implemented and questionable new teacher evaluations are being used to measure teacher success.

The current trend of Louisiana’s schools losing many of its highly effective teachers is alarming considering the research indicating that quality teachers are crucial to positive student outcomes. After spending millions of taxpayer dollars on new curricula and evaluation systems, there is little evidence that this money was wisely invested, particularly with teacher evaluations yielding similar outcomes to those prior to COMPASS (the current teacher evaluation program). 

It appears many of the 2012 reform initiatives are having the opposite effect, driving a high percentage of quality teachers out of the classroom, and making it very difficult to hire quality teachers to replace them.  

It is time for Louisiana's policy makers to heed the data, stop the policies and practices that cost Louisiana its quality teachers, and support the effective teachers that are educating our children. 

Lottie P. Beebe,  Ed. D., 
            BESE Representative, District 3
            Breaux Bridge, LA
            Phone:  337.316.8579

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Time to Evaluate the Jindal Education Reforms

Governor Jindal wanted to establish a legacy as an education reform governor. There is now no doubt that he has achieved that goal. The real question should be, have those reforms improved education and benefited our children or have they done more harm than good?

Here is a review:
The first major component of the Jindal reform was the passage of Act 54 of 2010. This is the new law that required that all teachers and principals be evaluated each year with 50% of their evaluation based on student academic growth (VAM) as measured by the annual state standardized tests.  Act 54 also tied the certification of new teachers to an effective rating on the new evaluation system.

The new law was supposed to help put the best teachers in every classroom and either retrain or remove the ineffective ones. Amazingly, the law also repealed an extensive mentoring requirement that had been in law for new teachers. It is ironic that the Jindal reform repealed a program that could have served one of the critical needs of new teachers. Just last week the LDOE held a briefing for school leaders, which emphasized the need for more practice teaching, and mentoring.

Also in 2010, the Legislature and BESE put into motion the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (sight unseen) and without public or educator input. It is clear now that the CCSS were developed by an elitist group of non-educators supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and without any basis in research or field-testing. Read here an article by the governor of Mississippi about how we were tricked into adopting the CCSS.  For Louisiana the new standardized PARCC testing is now driving the curriculum based on the CCSS even though it is not clear whether Jindal will actually allow the genuine PARCC or some imitation PARCC test.

In the 2012 session, Jindal got a lot more ambitious. Acts 1 and 2 of 2012 put into law more radical education reforms than any other state in the nation. Most of these were designed by the super conservative ALEC group, a non-educator lobbying group. Louisiana has become the proving ground for most of the corporate and school privatization reforms being imposed on public education. We are now beginning to be able to look at our student test scores and graduation rates to see how well these reforms work.

Act 1 did away with teacher tenure after only one ineffective evaluation, gutted all seniority privileges for teachers, instituted mandatory merit pay based on evaluations, and shifted all authority for hiring and firing teachers from the school board to the local superintendent and local principals.

Act 2 of 2012 greatly expanded the opportunities for adding more charter schools and attempted to use the MFP to fund unlimited voucher schools and private course choice options for almost all public school students.

Teacher unions however have succeeded with legal actions to block the use of MFP for vouchers and course choice, and to obtain rulings that Jindal could not change the tenure law to make a mockery of due process in the dismissal of teachers.

Compromise legislation supported by both Jindal and the teacher unions was adopted this last legislative session to greatly streamline the teacher tenure process and yet retain due process. It is not yet clear how this new due process system will work.

In addition to legislation, State Superintendent John White imposed guidelines for teacher evaluation that allowed teacher VAM scores to overrule the principal’s evaluation in finding teachers “ineffective” as well as setting arbitrary quotas for each evaluation classification for all VAM rated teachers. This introduced a great disparity in the evaluation results of VAM rated teachers compared to teachers rated using Student Learning Targets (SLTs). The new rules resulted in much lower evaluation scores for teachers who teach the basic skills subjects of English language arts and math and much fewer of these teachers qualifying for merit pay.

So how is Louisiana education doing so far under the new reform laws?
  • Many experienced and highly regarded teachers have either retired early or are looking to leave soon because they are disillusioned with much of the reform mandates that they believe make teaching and learning less enjoyable and make education less effective, test driven, and often produce flawed teacher evaluations.
  • Because of the less favorable treatment being applied to basic skills teachers in evaluation, many teachers are opting out of teaching basic skills subjects whenever possible creating a shortage of qualified basic skills teachers.
  • Education college officials are reporting a drop in enrollments in the college of education as well as a loss of practice teaching opportunities for prospective teachers. Many public school teachers considering the possibility of a negative evaluation based on student performance are unwilling to accept practice teachers.
  • Since the merit pay mandated by legislation was not funded, many school boards have cut other teacher pay benefits to fund the merit pay. Many teachers, even those rated highly effective, are reporting lower pay advancement because of loss of step increases and credit for higher degrees, even when receiving the rather paltry merit raises.
  •  Significant flaws in the VAM system have resulted in highly regarded teachers receiving “ineffective” ratings and in disparities in ratings of teachers of gifted and handicapped students.
  • The new COMPASS evaluation system, which was designed by a non-educator and is being administered by a person with no supervisory experience is being seen in the field as a boondoggle and at best a “dog-and-pony” show that has little relation to real teaching.
  • Breaking News: The National principal's organization is in the process of adopting a position in opposition to VAM systems for evaluating teachers.

One of the legislators who sponsored Jindal's education reforms said these changes would "empower" the good teachers to be treated as true professionals. If you are a teacher who has received a highly effective rating, do you feel you have been empowered? 

What about student academic performance? Have students benefited regardless of any dissatisfactions or inconvenience to teachers? Here are a few early reports:
  • Many parents and teachers alike are claiming that the new standards are not age appropriate for younger students and that CCSS aligned math lessons are impractical and confusing for students and parents.
  • Raw scores for the new Common Core aligned tests have dropped in many areas  (38% and 40% for passing 7th and 8th grade math) even though the LDOE has insisted that student performance has remained steady and has actually improved in the mastery area. The fact is that the LDOE and its testing company have artificially lowered cut scores to produce apparent “steady” or improved results.
  • Many teachers are reporting huge losses in actual productive teaching time because of time spent on testing and test prep.
  • In addition to lowering of cut scores for tests, the LDOE has dropped, for at least two years, the minimum standards for promotion of students. Now students are allowed to move to higher grades even if they have not learned the pre-requisite skills needed for the next grade level.
  • What about the voucher students? Most are performing at the lowest levels in the state. The largest voucher school has had its enrollment frozen because of dismal performance.

Are the Jindal education reforms living up to expectations?

You decide. Remember that it is our children that are the subjects of this experiment.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Destroying the Teaching Profession

This extremely biased story in the Baton Rouge Advocate still can't help but reveal that our new Act 54 evaluation system is driving away some of our best teachers. See the comments below the article. Notice that Debbie Meaux, president of LAE, pointed out the important issue that was totally ignored by the reporter. The teachers rated most effective are leaving the classroom in much greater numbers than those rated ineffective!  Even if we exclude the highly effective teachers being promoted, there are one-third more highly effective teachers leaving the profession than those rated ineffective.

It is obvious that many of our highly effective teachers are leaving the profession because they are totally disgusted and disillusioned with what has been done to their chosen profession. The extreme mismanagement by our amateur education "leaders" is having a severe impact in destroying the teaching profession in Louisiana.

If you want to make a real difference in gaining respect for the teaching profession in Louisiana you have an excellent way to do so. Just send me an email at and give me your zip code and preferred email and I will add you to the Defenders of Public Education email list. Together we can make a big difference by being unified and contacting our legislators to pass positive rather than negative legislation relative to public schools and the teaching profession.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Myths, Lies, and the Endless Cycle of Education Reform

An unrelenting attack on the status quo is the major characteristic of current education reform. Reformers know that as one ill conceived radical reform after another fails, the best way to remain in control is to institute successive reforms, often as radical as the ones before. They always insist on: “Anything but the status quo”. Unfortunately the latest iterations of education reform of our public elementary and secondary schools are based mostly on non-scientific myths and wishful thinking. The recurring problem for reformers is that any reform initiative built upon myths rather than on solid scientific theory is bound to collapse eventually. We have seen an example of this with the 10-year No Child Left Behind experiment. This reform became unsustainable when thousands of schools nationwide failed to achieve the goal of 100% proficiency for all children. But unfortunately the myths and lies upon which it was based still persist.

Myth #1: Every Child Can and Should Perform at an Above Average level
During the George W. Bush administration, No Child Left Behind promoters in the Congress and in our US Department of Education believed that if the Federal government threatened all school systems with various remedial and punitive measures, all schools could be forced to produce grade level proficiency by all students within a ten year period. 

It was assumed that relatively low academic performance by some children was due primarily to lazy, inadequate or incompetent instruction by teachers and administrators. All that was needed therefore was to threaten severe punishment of schools that failed to produce above average results in all students, and to mandate remedial after school programs often provided by outside contractors. If those measures did not work, the federal and state governments would mandate school reorganizations, closures or conversion to charter schools. 

The theory was that such no-nonsense measures would within the ten-year time limit produce grade level or better performance by all students even including students with disabilities and students with little or no school support system in their homes and communities. Many skeptical educators sometimes referred to this as the Lake Wobegon Effect. This analogy was based on a fictional Minnesota town named Lake Wobegon, "Where all women are strong, all men are good looking, and all children are above average." The No Child Left Behind law assumed that all children could perform at average or above levels, and if that did not happen within the ten year time limit, the educators would have hell to pay and may even have to forfeit their schools and allow someone else to take over! 

It turned out that either the theory was wrong or maybe the punishment of educators was just not severe enough to produce the mandated results. Almost none of the thousands of schools nationwide were able to reach the student proficiency levels mandated within the ten year period ending in 2014. Unable or unwilling to repeal the law,  the Obama administration decided to replace No Child Left Behind with their own punitive system called Race to the Top. This plan featured more testing and the added component that teachers would be evaluated based on the results of student testing. The Obama administration also allowed a waiver of No Child Left Behind in exchange for a whole new regime of reforms. 

This time, in addition to closing or taking over schools, the reforms would focus on implementing teacher and administrator evaluation systems based on student test scores. These new measures would result in the retraining or firing of teachers and administrators who failed or at least ranked lowest on an arbitrary performance ranking system. The way this theory was applied in Louisiana is that the state education bureaucracy would each year designate the bottom 10% of teachers as "ineffective" based on student value added (VAM) scores and immediately begin efforts to retrain or remove any such teachers. Administrators in low performing schools would also be punished or removed. 

The theory was that at some point such a system would purge enough of the bad teachers and administrators that student performance would magically rise to the Lake Wobegon standards. So the Obama solution was based on the same myth as the George W. Bush solution! As soon as it began, this new reform started to fail, because it became apparent immediately that the system often identified the wrong teachers as “ineffective” and many of the most respected teachers and administrators chose to retire early to avoid the humiliation of the VAM (Value Added Model) and the COMPASS evaluation system. Fortunately for the reformers, they had already put into motion a whole new miracle plan for finally producing above average achievement by all students.

Myth #2: The Quality of the Teacher is the Primary Determinant of a Child's Academic Success
The American Statistical Association has determined that the typical teacher has an influence of between 1 and 14% of a student's academic success. Innate abilities, parental support, health, nutrition, and many other factors are much more influential on a child's success in school than the quality of the teacher. Certainly we want all children to have the benefit of the best, most dedicated teachers possible, but it is foolish to expect teachers to overcome all of the handicaps of children in our neglectful society today.

Myth #3: The Common Core Will Prepare All Children for College
The standards myth developed by elitists David Coleman, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and most of the Governors was that the main thing wrong with our schools was that our standards are not high enough. Peter Greene describes the big picture of Common Core and education reform here. Greene believes that the Common Core and the related reforms create an unholy marriage between the worst aspects of Socialism and Capitalism. The Common Core myth suggests that if we simply mandate college prep standards for all, and insist that student performance in the basic skills are taught earlier and better, soon all students should graduate ready for college. This myth was predicated on a combination of the “all children can be above average” and now the “Raising the Bar Myth”.

Myth #4: The Common Core Standards Are Separate From the Curriculum
Common Core advocates tell us that the Common Core State Standards are not the same as a curriculum and do not dictate what curriculum teachers should use in their day-to-day teaching.  Many legal experts believe that this claim was made mainly to avoid the charge that the federal government is dictating curriculum. Louisiana teachers teaching the basic skills subjects of English-language arts or math, have no doubt however, that the Common Core aligned tests are the curriculum!

Myth #5: All Students Can Be Induced to Perform to Higher Standards by Simply Raising the Standards Bar.
The analogy here is a comparison to high jumping. The theory is that just as student athletes train for the high jump, a steady raising of the bar along with intensive guided practice results in athletes jumping higher. Likewise students can be expected to reach higher levels academically, primarily because of the higher expectations.  The ultimate goal for all students in this analogy is to reach the level that equates to college prep. Again it is assumed that if the teachers do their jobs in the classroom and insist on high expectations, all students will eventually meet those higher expectations. This just in: Readers you have got to read this article in the Huffington Post about how Arne Duncan believes higher expectations cures disabilities.     

Apparently this myth developed as some of the education reformers observed that in most cases our schools were able to produce improved scores on state approved standardized tests over a period of several years. Apparently when state officials raised their expectations for student performance and demanded more focused instruction on the basic skills as measured by annual standardized tests, student achievement on state tests improved. So all that was necessary was for state officials to raise the expected level of achievement and fix that level with a cut score on the state tests. Teachers and students would then produce the desired results. Such commanding from on high brings to mind the Mel Brooks quote, "It’s great to be the king!" This blog has demonstrated that these “gains” were mostly illusionary and were based on teaching to the test.

Other sources of this raising the bar myth were the “no excuses charter schools that have sprung up as replacements for so called failed public schools. Such charter schools are usually staffed with high percentages of Teach For America corps members, whose mantra always includes high expectations for kids that supposedly in the past have been victims of low expectations. Superintendent John White, a TFA corps member himself, loves to say, “Our children deserve higher expectations”. Some of the new charter schools proudly point to high or even 100% college acceptance rates for their graduates. After a few years however, it is becoming apparent that few actually attend and almost none of these students actually graduate from college.

In accordance with the Raising the Bar myth, the new Common Core State Standards are based on raising the bar for high school graduation to insure that all graduates are prepared for entering college without the need to take remedial courses. Students that are rated proficient on the new CCSS aligned tests are predicted to be ready for both college and careers, even though no one has ever defined what was meant by the career prep half of the myth. I believe the only prep ever really considered was college prep.

There is one major problem with the college prep for all Common Core Standards. They are really based on the same myth that No Child Left Behind was based upon. That’s the myth that all children can somehow be educated to perform at above average levels. That’s statistically impossible. It is just as impossible to get all or even most students to score proficient on the Common Core tests as it would be to get all students to jump the high bar at a level equal to well conditioned athletes.  We don’t expect all students taking physical education courses in high school to perform at elite athletic levels in the high jump, so why would we expect all students to perform at elite academic levels on their other course work? It is easy to see visually that many students do not have the body type, are not equally physically fit, many are greatly overweight, and cannot be expected to jump the same level of the high bar, yet this myth expects students with just as much variation academically as students exhibit physically to meet the same academic standard. 

The Texas state education department has been “raising the bar” for a little longer than Louisiana, and recent results seem to indicate that their students are “hitting the wall” on academic performance. More and more leaders in Texas are beginning to call for a pull back of the test based standards. Students in New York State have started their Common Core testing two years ahead of Louisiana and have experienced a 70% failure rate. Education officials there are still predicting that soon many more students will start clearing the higher bar. 

There is a huge variation in the natural physical ability of students and this variation is greatly exaggerated by the neglect our society allows in the physical development of our children.
This problem is mirrored academically by the neglect that many of our high poverty students experience in their environment. The neglect for academics includes not only poor nutrition, but also poor health care and a shockingly low vocabulary for many of these children at the time they enter school. It is further aggravated by the distractions of violence, homelessness, and often-chaotic home life that distracts greatly from their school work. But in addition, many children from all socio-economic backgrounds are born with physical and cognitive handicaps that make it impossible for them to achieve college prep level academic performance even with special education or remedial services.

To put it in the blunt terms expressed by Mark Twain: “Tis sad but true that half the American people are below average”. Four year colleges are not inclined to accept and cope with students who perform below the academic average. We may not like it, but that’s a fact of human nature. Fortunately, our students are blessed with many other natural skills, interests, and talents that could allow them to succeed and be fulfilled by many careers that do not require 4 year degrees. Unfortunately, our insane quest to standardize children into academic elites has resulted in neglect in preparing students for the arts, the skilled trades and high level service occupations that benefit greatly from these other less appreciated talents and interests of our children.

And to make matters worse, Louisiana educators are forced to contend with the demagoguery and patronizing rhetoric coming from our so-called education leaders. I cringe every time I read the statement often repeated by our State Superintendent that: “Our students in Louisiana are just as smart as as any kids in this country”.  Where does this guy freshly arrived from New York get off telling us how smart our kids are? How does he know? What authority is he citing to tell us how smart our kids are? Educators are not impressed or charmed by this tactic because they know the real reason for that statement is to set us up for the next phase of reform by placing the blame again squarely on the shoulders of the teachers and administrators of Louisiana schools when students don’t perform at the arbitrary levels set by elitists far from Louisiana who know and care little about our people.    

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want my readers to know that I am very thankful for having had such a rewarding career in the field of education. It is wonderful to meet some of my former students in stores, on the street or in church and to have them tell me that they enjoyed my classes and that they feel they feel fortunate to have taken science courses under my direction. I must say to all of them, that it is I who is honored to have been part of their lives.

To the many good friends I made while working in service of teachers as a staff member of the Louisiana Association of Educators, I can only say thank you for helping to make my career such a rewarding one!

Now that I am retired, I hope that by writing this blog I can keep educators and parents better informed and can help spread the word that education is a wonderful, noble profession that serves our children in a unique and extremely important way. Educators, you deserve to be very proud of what you do!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Charter School Operators Bilk Taxpayers and Shortchange Students

Predatory charters are being allowed to circumvent or ignore state laws and BESE policies to accomplish their goals of culling and selecting students for the purpose of artificially rigging the performance of charter schools. In other cases charter operators are given specific exemptions from laws that allow them to pocket huge profits. There is actually very little concern by those for-profit charter managers for students that are cast aside. I call these schools predatory because they are preying on our tax dollars, using our children as feedstock for their profit schemes and draining funds and higher performing students from the true public schools.

The Bounty System
How does the predatory scam work? Crazy Crawfish has reported and documented bounty flyers designed to pay parents and friends for getting citizens to fill out applications to send children to charter schools. A greater quantity of feedstock allows more selection and more units of desirable achievers. Since the main source of revenue for the charter operators is our per student MFP allocation, it is clear that some of our tax dollars are being diverted from education to bribe people to get them to apply to send their children to certain charter schools. Why does our legislature allow our tax money to be used for profit and to draw students away from the real public schools? Do you think maybe there is money diverted to their campaign contributions? As Noel Hammatt loves to say: "Follow the Money."

Forced Parent Work Policies
BESE Bulletin 126 which defines charter school guidelines apparently prohibits forced parent work contributions but in the same sentence allows waivers. Read this charter policy now in effect in several Louisiana charter schools managed by out-of-state for-profit management companies. Such a policy allows a way for charter managers to dump students whose parents are not willing to cooperate with the rules requiring this type of parent involvement. Here is the contract parents are required to sign as a prerequisite to their child's acceptance to the charter school.

Lets be clear. Positive parent involvement with their child’s school is a very good thing and may be critical to a child’s success in school. In fact there is a state law that encourages public schools to ask parents to sign contracts with the schools similar to those signed by charter school parents to get a commitment from parents to attend parent conferences, respond to homework assignments etc. The only problem is that the real public schools have no enforcement mechanism for parents who refuse to cooperate. The charters on the other hand can literally throw the student out of school or prohibit him/her from enrolling for the next school year.  The low performers whose parents refuse to cooperate with the forced work requirement will find themselves being sent back to the real public schools. Of course those that are doing well academically and helping to boost the charter’s performance score will never have to worry about being kicked out.

Rejection for Discipline Infractions
The real public schools are severely limited in their right to suspend or expel disruptive and uncooperative students. In fact some school systems have been subjected to mandatory regulation of their suspension practices by outside masters appointed by the LDOE.  State law requires public school systems to continue to provide full educational services even to students expelled for major discipline infractions and for dangerous behavior. The charters however are routinely allowed to dump their disruptive and uncooperative students right back to the real public schools. Most of these extremely disruptive students are the lowest performers on the state accountability tests, so this process allows the predatory charters to shift some of their lowest performers to the real public schools.

Culling Out Students with Severe Academic Disabilities
Many charters don’t bother to hire special education teachers who are qualified to work with severely handicapped children who often have disabilities that greatly lower academic performance as measured by accountability tests.  That way they can counsel parents of severely disabled students to send them somewhere else. Just a two or three percent restriction or exclusion of special education students will have a huge positive impact on charter school performance scores.  This gimmick has not worked so well for the charter schools of the New Orleans Recovery District because there are no longer real public schools in which to dump their rejects. This story in demonstrates how splitting up the New Orleans school system into independent charters has destroyed the economies of scale that would have allowed a larger system to better serve students with disabilities.

Legislative Exemptions Allow Charter Operators to Pocket MFP Dollars
This blog has already described how predatory charters have been allowed by law to avoid participating in the teacher and school employee retirement systems.  This exemption allows predatory charters to save a huge chunk of payroll related costs that are being assessed to the real public schools to pay for the unfunded liability of the retirement systems that were created by bad legislative policies.  Some charters save lots of money by not providing bus service to school. This also helps to cull more undesirable students whose parents cannot afford transportation to school. These huge savings allow the charter managers to convert millions of MFP dollars into rental charges, management fees, and sheer excessive profit to the out of state profiteers. Yet statistics consistently show that students in those charters enjoy no improvement of services or performance compared to the real public schools.

Another huge money saver goes to the two state approved virtual charter schools that are allowed to recruit students statewide. Chas Roemer, the BESE president whose sister runs the Louisiana Charter Association, made the motion that allocates 90% of the regular MFP dollars per student to these charters that avoid transportation costs, building costs, food service costs, library costs, janitorial services etc. and can pocket the huge savings.  Also the students are exempted from the mandatory attendance laws, so no one can monitor how many of the students actually attend classes every day, even though the schools receive funding as though all students are attending.

All of these tactics and special exemptions make running charter schools in Louisiana a highly profitable business..