Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!

May this year in education be devoted to educating all children for a productive and happy life, and that education be centered on the welfare of children instead of the misguided goals of corporate reform. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Louisiana PARCC Results Highly Inflated

We now have the conversion tables converting raw scores to scale scores on the PARCC tests for Louisiana, Ohio, and Colorado. That raw data and student test results demonstrate that John White and his testing company greatly inflated the Louisiana PARCC test results. Louisiana students' performance in math and English on the PARCC-like tests are being reported as much better than our student results on the NAEP testing. How could this be? Superintendent White has repeatedly assured us that the new tests given in Louisiana this last Spring are comparable to both the NAEP tests and to the PARCC tests given in other states. I believe that this issue should be reviewed by the Louisiana Accountability Commission which is supposed to be consulted by the LDOE on testing matters. Not one word of explanation has been given to the Accountability Commission about the setting of raw cut scores and no explanation has been made for the lack of compatibility of the PARCC with NAEP.

Here is what we have learned so far partially by resorting to public records requests. Ohio had published their raw test results some time ago, revealing the actual percentage of correct answers that equated to the ratings of level 3 and level 4 on the PARCC test. In Louisiana, it took a public records request signed by 33 citizens including 5 legislators and 4 BESE members to extract the closely guarded conversion tables which convert the raw scores to the new scale scores. In the case of Colorado, I owe a special "thank you" to an education activist there who at my suggestion, submitted a public records request similar to what we did in Louisiana to get the raw results and conversion tables. It is notable that neither of the state departments of education in Ohio or Colorado objected to revealing the percentage of correct answers equating to the various levels of achievement on the PARCC test. In Louisiana, John White has resisted revealing the percentage correct cut scores and tried to claim that the percentage results were not meaningful and should be disregarded.

Louisiana was originally part of the PARCC consortium of 15 states that had contracted with the Pearson Education Services Company to give a test that was designed to measure the Common Core standards. The PARCC tests were supposed to allow everyone to compare the performance of students across state lines. But when Governor Jindal decided to oppose the Common Core standards the contract with Pearson for Louisiana was nullified and Superintendent John White and BESE chose to adopt a similar contract for testing the Common Core standards with Data Recognition Corp. which had administered LEAP tests for Louisiana in recent years. John White originally assurred BESE that the Louisiana test would be the same as the PARCC test. In a LENS NOLA article, White is quoted as claiming that the Louisiana test would have the same questions and same standards as other PARCC states.

In a quote to the LENS here, White stated the following:

Students across Louisiana “took the exact same form as did kids across the country,” White said. “Same questions. Same order. Nothing different.”

But the truth that has been revealed by comparing raw scores and conversion tables in Louisiana with Ohio and Corlorado is that the number of correct answers equating to each level of performance is quite different in Louisiana compared to the real PARCC states. But even more importantly, the mix of questions on the Louisiana PARCC-like tests are apparently significantly easier compared to the real PARCC states. This means that the reported achievement level performance of Louisiana students is significantly inflated compared to the NAEP tests and to other PARCC states.

In an email to district superintendents in October 2015 White said the following:

"Attached please find charts for converting raw scores to scale scores for 2015 grade 3-8 English and math state assessments.
These are the same conversion tables as will be used in other states where these forms are active. Scale scores and cut scores derived from these conversions will be comparable with those in other states, provided that BESE approves comparable cut scores.

It turns out that the conversion tables for converting raw scores to scale scores on the PARCC-like test given in Louisiana are extremely important because they reveal serious distortions of results by Louisiana. It is very obvious that John White and his testing company have drastically manipulated the results of the PARCC-like test which makes Louisiana student performance seem higher than it really is.

John White has repeatedly claimed that the new PARCC-like test will be compatible to the NAEP, which now is seen as the gold standard for comparing student performance from state to state. But an analysis of the most recent PARCC-like test results show that there are huge differences in comparison to NAEP. Those distortions really get obvious when we compare the Louisiana PARCC-like results with the real PARCC states of Ohio and Colorado.

Ohio, like Louisiana, uses level 3 performance as proficient while Colorado uses the PARCC consortium recommended level 4 as their standard for proficient. So to compare apples to apples we will ignore these arbitrary decisions on proficient and simply compare level 3 performance for each of the three states and compare also "basic" performance on NAEP which has been equated to level 3 on PARCC. So here are the key comparisons: (The + used here means performance above the Basic or level 3 standard) (ELA stands for English language arts)

  • Grade 4 NAEP Reading: LA- 63% Basic or +  CO- 71% Basic or +  OH- 72% Basic or +
  • Grade 4 PARCC ELA:   LA- 74% level 3 or +  CO- 70% level 3 or + OH- 69% level 3 or +
 Notice that a smaller percentage of Louisiana students scored Basic on NAEP than both Colorado and Ohio, but then a higher percentage of Louisiana students scored at level 3 on the 4th grade ELA for PARCC!

  • Grade 8 NAEP Reading: LA- 66% Basic or +   CO- 78% Basic or +  OH- 76% Basic or +
  • Grade 8 PARCC ELA   LA- 70% level 3 or +   CO- 66% level 3 or +  OH- 68% level 3 or +
Again, Louisiana scores much lower on NAEP than the other two states,  yet Louisiana scores higher than both Colorado and Ohio on PARCC.
  • Grade 4 NAEP math:  LA- 78% Basic or +   CO- 82% Basic or +   OH- 85% Basic or +
  • Grade 4 PARCC math:LA- 67% level 3 or +    CO- 60% level 3 or +  OH- 64% level 3 or +
Louisiana scores significantly lower on NAEP for 4th grade math but scores higher than both other states on PARCC level 3 for 4th grade math.
  • Grade 8 NAEP math: LA- 57% Basic or +  CO- 73% Basic or +   OH- 75% Basic or + 
  • Grade 8 PARCC math: LA- 55% level 3 or +  CO- 44% level 3 or +  OH- 51% level 3 or +
This is the biggest discrepancy of all! Much fewer Louisiana 8th grade students scored at the the Basic level than the other two states on NAEP, but a much larger percentage of Louisiana students scored at level 3 in math on the PARCC. The Louisiana 8th grade math score is the most inflated result of all.  This result was demonstrated graphically in this previous post on this blog by Herb Bassett. The 8th grade PARCC-like test for 8th grade math was much easier in Louisiana than for the real PARCC states.

Maybe there are other PARCC states that gave the same PARCC test form as Louisiana and used the same raw score to scale score conversion tables as were used here, but that would greatly distort and inflate their results also. This would be highly unlikely in my opinion and would surely be challenged by testing experts.

I leave it to my readers to speculate why the Louisiana Department of Education and its testing company would choose to inflate the apparent performance of Louisiana students, but by approving baseline data that is skewed and inflated, Louisiana will be assured the loss of national credibility in its student testing. That's why the Louisiana Accountability Commission deserves an explanation of the math and ELA results for the Spring 2015 testing.

It would also be helpful to have an impartial evaluation of the Louisiana PARCC-like tests by independent testing experts that are not connected or beholding to the Louisiana Department of Education or to the current regime of reformists now dictating education policy in Louisiana. If the 2015 Spring tests are allowed to stand as a baseline for measuring our future student performance, there will continue to be great disparities with other more objective testing systems.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Some Educators Claim Standard's Review Rigged to Rebrand Common Core

This post on the blog Block the Agenda blog contains a letter of resignation by Brenda DeFelice. She is the third member of the Standards Review Committee to resign recently in protest of the management of this committee which was created by an act of the Legislature last legislative session. The Standards Review Committee was set up to revise the controversal Common Core standards. There was also a piece of legislation that greatly modified and limited the PARCC-like testing that is to be done in math and English Language arts to no more than 49.9% of the weight of each such test. The teacher who most recently resigned is from Calcasieu and particularly objected to the heavy handed tactics of the Louisiana Department of Education in providing so called experts to "guide" the work of the Review Committee.

I am not an expert in curriculum standards for math and ELA, but I sure have received numerous emails and complaints from parents and educators who object to the developmental inappropriateness of both the math and ELA standards and the convoluted and nonproductive instruction methods required by these standards.  I learned my reading the old fashoned way without being forced to read boring instructional manuels and without being straightjacketed into "close reading", so I don't get the value of some of these top-down mandates to reading teachers. My wife who was a 4th grade teacher got a lot of kids hooked on the love of reading by reading Charlott's Web to her classes in sort of a serial schedule that teachers have no time to do in today's classrooms.

But I do know a little about tests and measurments, and I can tell you that there was a lot of screwy and highly questionable stuff that happened with our math and ELA testing last Spring.

I wonder how many of the parents of our students know that the average passing score on the PARCC -like tests were set at approximately 30%? Would they think that these passing scores represent a high bar?

One of my concerns is that Louisiana obviously gave a different test than was given by the other PARCC states. At first J.W. said that the test was exactly the same as other states, with the same questions and the same everything, but later he said our questions were really Louisiana designed questions. So how can we compare ourselves to other states if our questions are Louisiana specific? The official statements describing our state tests keep changing to fit the particular situation.

If you read this excellent analysis of our recent PARCC-like tests by Herb Bassett, you will see that the tests we gave did not meet any of the stated design objectives. Our tests are not comparable to NAEP and cannot be compared to other states. Bassett's analysis shows that the Louisiana  PARCC-like test for 8th grade ELA produces almost twice the proficiency rate as does the NAEP test which was given at approximately the same time. Our cut scores are totally different from Ohio and other PARCC states. No one other than the LDOE testing staff and the testing company executives know how our passing scores were set. John White just takes the position that we are supposed to trust his decisions on testing and rating our students and of course on rating our schools and educators based on these tests. No other industry I know allows it's business decisions to be made by a person with no experience or expertise in the enterprise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

White Still Pushing the Same Old Failed Reforms

I have previously characterized Superintendent John White as a one trick pony. I was referring to his efforts to base all education reform on a system of test and punish with all accountability falling on the shoulders of professional educators. But White is actually a two trick pony. He apparently also believes that the right "high performance" charter schools, run by TFA types or non-educator entrepreneurs with high expectations can educate students better than a traditional public school run by real educators. He has stuck with those two tricks even in the face of overwhelming evidence that his simplistic education reforms are not working.

At this last meeting of our present super PAC controlled BESE, White was once again able to ram through approval of two more type two charters that had been previously rejected by the East Baton Rouge school board. Speaking against the override were parents, local school board members, and White's former employee, EBR superintendent Warren Drake. It does not matter that as Drake pointed out, there is nothing innovative in the design of these charters, just more of the same type of blind faith and inexperience that has caused all but one of the 11 takeover schools in the EBR area to fail in recent years.

The image of John White, as the miracle worker from New York with no education credentials is wearing thin in Louisiana.  The problem is that instead of supporting the difficult work of bringing incremental improvement to schools that serve a high proportion of at-risk students, White has continued to push phony ideological solutions that are supposed to produce immediate dramatic improvements in schools.

White has not learned yet that there are no miracle solutions to basic socio-economic obstacles to student performance. Just like another fallen TFA miracle worker for Washington D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee, White has continued to over-promise based on flawed ideology that had no scientific basis. Take a look at the just released PARCC results to Washington D.C. schools. This was also another model of test and punish and portfolio charter schools. The article points out that the only component of data for D.C. that keeps the overall scores from going down the toilet are the scores from two highly selective magnet schools in the district.

White and the reformers have one more trick up their sleeve planned for the new Super Duper PAC controlled BESE sometime early next year. Now they want to ram through the approval of two new charter authorizers that will be able to approve new charters without going to BESE or the local school boards. The idea is to skip the democratic process altogether. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and New Schools for Baton Rouge have supported all the failed school takeovers in recent years, but now they think they have a real winner. The new high performing charter they plan to push through without any input from the voting public is a darling of charter schools movement. The BASIC charter schools group has announced that it is ready to expand to Baton Rouge as soon as the charter advocates can cut through the bureaucratic red tape. That will be especially easy once New Schools for Baton Rouge is approved as a charter school authorizer. Then there will be no need for messy public appeals to BESE with all those pesky local taxpayers complaining that they never asked for another predatory charter school. Please see this letter in The Lafayette Advertiser by Kathleen Espinoza.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Educators and Parents Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Many educators and parents I have spoken to recently are very thankful that we have a chance to restore sanity, dignity, professionalism, and a positive balanced curriculum in our public schools. 

The election of John Bel Edwards as our governor gives us a great opportunity to truly improve Louisiana public education

Edwards won't be able to do it alone. He will be faced with a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that is mostly occupied by persons elected by a fanatic group of privatizers and public education haters. Many legislators have also received their bribe contributions from the out-of-state billionaires and LABI bosses who want to take over education. Our new governor will need the help of the real educators and the many parents who support public education to change the course and to put the emphasis on positive change instead of falsely claiming to be fixing "a broken system".

Public education is not broken, but it has been severely damaged by the attempt by misguided billionaires, greedy privatizers, and big business to blindly test and punish our students and our educators. Amazingly the schools and educators and students who needed the most support have been the most victimized by these so called education reforms and our true public schools have been bilked of needed school tax dollars.  After all this abuse, it is amazing that we still have so many educators and parents who have not ever given up on public education.

Governor elect Edwards has already demonstrated by his previous work in the legislature and by his very practical positions on key education issues that he will be just the kind of leader we need to help us put education back on the right path.

We should be thankful for this type of leadership, but we should also be willing to do our part to move education forward!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Public Education Haters Churn Out Lies and Attack Ads

The Broads and the Gates; they are using their immense wealth to appoint themselves as the dictators of public education. On a whim, they have decided to choose Louisiana public education as a laboratory in which to demonstrate their theories of privatization and their new test oriented curriculum. To accomplish this they  are determined to do whatever it takes to buy Louisiana's State Board of Education. Somehow they think they know better how to run education than the real educators. See this excellent expose' by the blog Block the Agenda.

Michael Bloombeg, former New York mayor and owner of a media empire capitalizing on privatization and online courses who would never bother to set foot in Louisiana, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase candidates for BESE. Bloomberg, LABI and the Walton family heirs are financing candidates that have never even spoken to a real public school teacher about how to improve education.

One of the PACs they support: "Empower Louisiana" is running an ad telling us that 6th district BESE Candidate, Jason Engen is opposed to Common Core and believes that teachers should be listened to. That is impossible to believe since the founder of the PAC, Lane Grigsby, is one of the most committed Common Core supporters in the state and his out-of-state funders described above are also Common Core boosters.  These power brokers believe that teachers should be just small cogs in their education reform machine. To them teacher concerns mean absolutely nothing. The strategy seems to be to say whatever the voters want to hear to get their candidate elected, then have him serve the real puppet masters who want to privatize public education and turn teaching into a mechanical exercise in test prepping.

A Department of Education controlled committee is now in the process of renaming the Common Core as the Louisiana Standards. Jason Engen has stated he supports Louisiana standards instead of Common Core. So just by making minor changes and then changing the name of the Common Core, Engen, if elected, can go to work doing his puppet master's bidding.

Common Core is an untested experiment that was financed and sold to us by Gates, Bloomberg and the Broads before it was even written, because the assumption was that the testing company executives must know so much better than parents and teachers about what is best for our students. The CCSS were written by these elitists who never bothered to test their theories of "close reading" and Eureka Math before they decided that all teachers would be required to teach them to our students. They never worried about the harmful effects of inncessent testing and test prep on our children.  (None of their children attend schools operating according to the CCSS.) Students being forced to learn worthless techniques that they will never use again in real life. That is the prescription that will be implemented by Jason Engen and other candidates bought by the Broads, the Waltons, and the Blumbergs. Probably none of these super rich reformers have ever set foot in Louisiana.

In BESE District 4, it has gotten particularly out of hand. Mostly because the public’s favorite is incumbent, Mary Johnson Harris, who was appointed by Gov. Jindal to fill a vacated seat. Here is where it gets pretty wild. The ad agency has no problem putting their photoshop skills to use and produced two separate mailers with false information. One is designed to push Democrats to vote for Harris’ opponent; the other, designed to push Republicans toward her opponent. Unpopular Bobby Jindal was photoshopped in alongside Harris to take the place of a Congressman. Of course some of the favorite attack ads link any pro public education candidate as allies of president Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton even though the candidate has never taken any such positions.

So when you vote Saturday, November 21, please vote for the true supporters of public education.  Help us to properly educate other voters about the candidates that will be truly best for our children.

 Here they are:

Governor: John Bel Edwards
BESE 4th District: Mary Harris
BESE 6th District: Kathy Edmonston

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Forum On Student Discipline Announced

Leaders With Vision
"Student Discipline at a Crossroads: 
Maintaining Safe schools and a positive school climate"

Nationally, the newspapers are filled with stories about the breakdown of discipline in our schools.  Student Discipline & Effective Intervention are the topic of the Leaders With Vision public forum.  

The need to re-establish a positive school climate is essential for both learning and for developing sound social skills in our children.  

On Thursday, Nov.19, Leaders With Vision will host a public policy forum offering different views within our schools and our society i.e. Principal, Teacher, Social Worker, School Resource Officer and a Legislative Resource. 

The panelists are:
Senator Sharon Weston Broome, President Pro Tem of La. Senate;   
Debbie Meaux, LAE President; 
Debra Schum, LA Principals Association:  
Bob Wertz, La. Commission on Law Enforcement; 
Carey Yazeed, LCSW & Author.

Where:  Drusilla Place, 3482 Drusilla Lane, in the Bayou Room.
When:   Thursday, November 19, 2015.
Doors open to press and audience at 11:15 a.m. 
lunch will be served at 11:45 with the forum beginning promptly at noon.
Come hear the experts' views on the issues, to 
broaden your understanding of this community challenge.

Reservations can be made on-line at WWW.LWVISION.ORG or send a request 
for reservations by e-mail  to or call 927-2255.

Reservations are recommended. 
Reservations are honored before walk-ins. 
Tickets are: $25.00 General Admission.  $20.00 For Members in Good Standing
Payment Options are:  ON-LINE  PAYMENT OPTION:
Registration:  Checks or cash.
Net proceeds support the Leaders With Vision projects and education/voter
service programs in Louisiana. If you have any questions, 

please call  225/927-2255 or send an email

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Online Charters. .. . One of the Worst Ways to Spend our School Taxes!

A new study by CREDO, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes based at Stanford University, finds that students attending online charter schools across the nation perform at significantly lower levels than comparable students in traditional public schools.

The study found that the online charter schools in Louisiana perform on average at the lowest level of all 17 states operating online charter schools. Louisiana now has two online charter schools supported by our tax dollars. They are Louisiana Connections Academy and Louisiana Virtual Charter School. These schools are allowed to recruit public school students from anywhere in the state and they then receive the MFP money dedicated to each such student.

I was shocked to find that the study concludes (see pages 26 and 27 of the CREDO report) that on average students attending online charter schools in Louisiana lost over a year of instruction compared to students attending traditional public schools for each year they attended the online charter! 

Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post summarizes the findings in this way: "It is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year!"

The study shows that students in Louisiana's online charter schools scored .28 of a standard deviation lower in reading than comparable students in traditional public schools. That equated to 200 fewer days of instruction. Louisiana online students scored .34 of a standard deviation lower than comparable students in math. That equated to 240 fewer days of instruction in math.

Most of the for-profit online charter schools in other states also had negative results!

In Louisiana, online charter schools receive 90% of the per pupil MFP allocation that would have been allocated to their home district schools. But Louisiana's online charter schools save thousands of dollars on each student based on a business model that does not require school buildings, school and classroom upkeep, utilities, transportation to schools, the need to provide clerical services, and other support services. The charter school operators do not participate in the teacher retirement system saving approximately 25 percent of payroll. With no restrictions on spending imposed by our legislature, they can convert some of these savings to advertising to constantly recruit students and the rest goes to profit.

As I was writing this, a commercial just came over my radio advertising the Louisiana Connections Academy with this message. "Connections Academy, providing online education to k-12 students for students needing 'extra attention'".

So with this "extra attention" students get less education in a school year than they would have gotten by just skipping school for a full year! To my knowledge parents of these students have no way of knowing that their child got a "worse than nothing" education. We are a consumer oriented society and our decisions are often driven more by advertising than by facts and data. Meanwhile our Louisiana taxpayers are contributing in the neighborhood of $10,000 per child for absolutely nothing! Under the leadership of our absentee Governor Jindal, our legislators voted for this use of our school tax money several years ago. In addition, our State Board of Education (BESE) and our State Department of Education under the leadership of Superintendent John White have allowed these private companies to take our money for zero progress (on average).

I met with John White over two years ago and asked him how he planned to insure that the new Course Choice providers and the virtual school providers would comply with Louisiana's mandatory school attendance law? That law requires local schools to take attendance of students every day and to track down and educate any students not attending regularly. In traditional schools, students cannot get credit for courses if they have more than 10 unexcused absences in one semester. He responded that the new approach he favored would be to simply focus on results rather than the statistics of school attendance. So my question now is, "If the result of this approach produces less than nothing, how does the LDOE justify continued payment of my tax dollars to these operators?"

I have felt from the very beginning that this model of delivery of K-12 education was a bad one and that for most students it would not be effective. On the other hand many local school districts provide their students with online courses which are carefully monitored by local teachers. Depending on the type of student enrolled, online instruction can be successful. My own grandson took a couple of online courses in the Zachary school system and tested very well at the end of the course and got full credits. But he happened to be an exceptionally well motivated student and he received close supervision. The for-profit model of online schooling simply does not work for many less motivated students partly because it is very difficult to insure proper student engagement. In fact the CREDO study cites a survey of principals of online schools which lists the lack of engagement of students and parents as the most serious concern of the school administrators. Yet they can't seem to correct the problem.

I have had email conversations with one teacher who works for one of the Louisiana online charters and believe her to be sincere and dedicated to providing good service to her assigned students. The problem is not necessarily with the teachers.

This is a scenario of what I believe often happens: The student signs on at 8:00 am from a charter supplied computer at his home and begins his lessons. At 8:30 he takes an open ended break for breakfast. So at 9:30 he signs back on. At 10:00 the phone rings and he stops to talk with a friend for 45 minutes. Then he switches to an online game site and plays for a couple of hours. Now its time for lunch. He finally gets back to the computer by 2:00 pm and works for about 45 minutes. Then he decides that it is just about time for school to let out and he goes on to other things. His mother gets home from work and asks how did the classes go? He responds that he did just fine. But the real fact is that he spent only about an hour and 45 minutes when he should have attended school for a minimum of 5 hours.

The problem with this for-profit model is that it considers profit as the top priority. So if it becomes apparent that a student is not completing his/her lessons, and is not devoting the necessary online time to school, the online company sees to it that the maximum profit is milked from the government before any actions are taken to correct the problem. Usually the student finally drops out and registers back into the real public schools while the online charter recruits a replacement. I believe such practices should be ruled as violations of Louisiana's mandatory attendance law and the school should not be allowed to operate if it cannot verify that students are in attendance. In this case, attendance would be solid participation for the same amount of time the student would be in a traditional school. We don't allow students in traditional school to skip classes. Why do we allow it for online schools? There should be a way of monitoring time on task and work produced each day. Otherwise no funding of such operations can be justified.

But the real issue is how do we stop the campaign contributions from online charter operators which are using some of our tax dollars to buy the support of our legislators and other elected officials? This is a major flaw in this system that I believe amounts to corruption. When public school advocates ask legislators why such schools continue to get funding, the most common answer is this: "Look it's the parents' tax dollars. Why can't the child take his MFP allocation with him to a "choice" school just like he takes his backpack to the school of his/her parents choice? I believe parents deserve a choice. Why not let the parent choose what is best for her/his child?"

Let me tell you what is wrong with the above example. First of all it is not the parent's tax dollars. On average, at least two thirds of school tax dollars for each MFP unit come from taxpayers who do not have a child in school. We pay these taxes for the public good, to make sure that we have an educated population capable of becoming productive citizens. Those MFP dollars do not belong to the parent. They belong to all of us. All of us as taxpayers have a right to demand accountability from the online charter operators. Better yet, we should have a right to insist that they stop receiving our taxes!

But that's not about to happen as long as regular taxpayers and professional educator voices are overpowered by the big business lobby with their huge campaign contributions. Right now the main opposition to school takeover by the privatizers are our professional teacher unions. Yet their political action arms can only afford to spend less than one-tenth what the big business pacs are spending to elect anti-pulic education candidates!

Regular voters are certainly not being heard by BESE.  This blog pointed out that 6 out of 8 BESE members had their positions bought recently with 3.5 million dollars from out-of-state contributors as directed by businessman Lane Grigsby and LABI. The big business lobby has no clue about how education should be run, but they are still determined to buy control of it. They certainly know how to convert those millions of out-of-state contributions into television ads and massive mailings and hit pieces against good people running for BESE. One particularly vicious ad created a fake TV news story slandering BESE member Carolyn Hill so badly that the stations pulled it off the air, but not until after the damage had been done.

Here is what is really ironic and insulting to teachers about the attack on our public schools by the big business community. The leaders of LABI have succeeded to some extent in demonizing the teacher unions by claiming that they only exist to defend incompetent teachers, and work for pay raises when the real truth is that the teaching profession probably contains much fewer slackers than any other profession. You just can't survive as a teacher in today's schools unless you put every bit of energy possible into your job. This big business propaganda is actually believed by some teachers at the very time that these super rich corporate leaders are privatizing our schools and attacking teacher job security, and retirement benefits as overly generous and changing laws so that teachers are denied step increases!

Much of the money for this purchase of the control of education comes from the likes of the Walton family heirs. They are the children of the Wal Mart genius Sam Walton. They are not entrepreneurs and never ran a business. They just inherited a huge fortune and now they fancy themselves as education reformers whose goal is to privatize as much of public education as they possibly can. You probably have heard their commercials about how the Walton foundation wants to insure that all families have access to quality school choices. All of this without a shred of evidence that it works. So the online charters managers are getting a assistance in buying BESE and legislative votes from the misguided philanthropists.

Readers, I feel I must ask you this question: When are we going to put a stop to this power grab of the super rich over our public schools? Most public educators I know have been silent and basically unwilling to confront this attack on our public schools. The majority don't join their teacher unions which often represent the only real challenge to this privatization of schools and destruction of the teaching profession. Some actually join the A+PEL  group (because it is cheap and markets itself as professional) while it is firmly allied with LABI and supports every attack on public schools and the teaching profession. As long as we insist on burying our heads in the sand, we are giving up our democratic rights as citizens. As things are headed now, the education profession will be dismantled so that anyone with a degree of any kind who is willing to teach test-prep will be hired at the lowest salary possible without benefits, and the privatizers will get rich. Our children will pay the price.

If you are an educator or a concerned parent, one small thing you can do to fight back is to join my Defenders of Public Education email group. Just send me an email to and say "sign me up". Include your zip code so that I can put you on the correct email list to receive information on key legislative and BESE actions. Then when I send you notices of upcoming votes, you can do your part in expressing your concerns to your elected officials. 

But the most effective thing you can do, if you consider yourself a professional educator, is to join and become active in your teacher union!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Louisiana's PARCC-like Tests Not Compatible

The following is a guest post by math teacher and band director, Herb Bassett. Herb asked me to include this special note to our readers:

I have concerns that Louisiana's PARCC ELA and Math test results are suspiciously high. In this blog entry I compare PARCC results across five states to those states' performances on the PARCC and the NAEP, the gold-standard of cross-state education comparisons, to build the case that our PARCC scores are not compatible with other states and internally inconsistent as an indicator of being on track for college or careers. The main selling points of the PARCC tests was that the results could be compared across states and that there would be a universal measure or readiness for college or careers.

The PARCC is a new test. All of the other PARCC states administered a version of the test developed by the test company Pearson. Louisiana, however, created is own version of the test through the test company DRC, and Louisiana was ultimately responsible for guaranteeing that the grading would be consistent with the other states.

The discrepancies with scores in other states, and the internal inconsistency of our own results raise important questions about whether or not the results are believable and meaningful.

Herb Bassett 

State Superintendent John White's October 27, 2015 Superintendent's message  linked to this quote: 

"NAEP’s definition of readiness for the next level of education is “Proficient,” the second highest level on the test. Louisiana has aligned its definition of readiness with NAEP’s by designating “Mastery,” also the second highest level as indicative of readiness. "

White's rhetoric does not bear up under scrutiny: Louisiana's "PARCC" ELA Mastery (level four proficiency) rate is actually not at all in line with its NAEP Reading proficiency rate:

This year, fourth and eighth grade students took both the PARCC tests and the NAEP. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) ELA and Math tests have been administered nationally to a sampling of fourth, eighth and twelfth grade students every other year since at least the early 1970's. The NAEP is used to track long-term trends in the states and the nation. 

The relative comparison between the Louisiana's NAEP and "PARCC" results when referenced to the performance of other states raises questions about the accuracy of Louisiana's "PARCC" tests 

Louisiana's "PARCC" ELA level four proficiency rates are shown by the solid red line above. The endpoints of the dotted red line below it are Louisiana's NAEP Reading proficiency rates. Louisiana's  "PARCC"-to-NAEP gaps are the widest, eleven and seventeen points. New Jersey has the next widest gaps, but its higher scores are not directly comparable to Louisiana's.

Ohio's, Illinois', and New Mexico's PARCC ELA and NAEP Reading proficiency rates all align within four points. Louisiana's fourth and eighth grade PARCC proficiency rates equal or exceed those of Ohio and Illinois, so why is Louisiana so far below those states on the NAEP? 

In other states, a PARCC ELA score of proficient means that a child is very likely to score proficient on the NAEP Reading test. In Louisiana, a "PARCC" ELA score of proficient means that a child has at best a two-out-of-three chance of scoring proficient on the NAEP Reading test.

So, proficient on Louisiana's "PARCC" does not mean the same thing as proficient on the PARCC in Ohio, Illinois, and New Mexico and it does not align with proficient on the NAEP.

This misalignment renders the first two promises for our new "PARCC" tests empty:

1. The "PARCC" test will let us compare our results with other states. 
2. We will raise the bar to "level four" instead of "level three" for the students. 
3. The "PARCC" test will show if students are on track for college or careers. 

Louisiana's "PARCC" fails a common sense test on the last promise as well.

If PARCC reliably indicates being on track for college and careers, grade-to-grade movement would be small; if thirty-six percent of fourth graders are indicated to be on track for college or careers, it makes sense that about the same percentage of fifth graders would be on track and so on. 

Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico, and New Jersey (grade four and after) show gradual movement across grades on the PARCC. Proficiency rates are stable within four points per grade. 

Louisiana's grade-to-grade up-and-down swings are wider and mostly go against-the-grain compared to Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey. Louisiana's instability raises yet more questions about its "PARCC" tests and how its scores were computed. 

The other PARCC states administered tests prepared by the testing company Pearson. Louisiana's test was acquired through a different testing company, DRC.

According to LDOE, Louisiana's tests included items developed through the PARCC process, but the test form was developed by the Louisiana Educator Leader Cadre and Department staff. This also left either LDOE or DRC to equate Louisiana's form to others administered in other PARCC states. (This is why I have distinguished Louisiana's test with the use of quotation marks.)

The PARCC Consortium set the cut scores for the five achievement levels and Louisiana adopted those cut scores; they are points in the scaled scores (which range from 650 to 850) that divide the scores into the five performance categories. However, there is another important step in shaping the final results.

Raw scores - the number of items a student answered correctly - must be converted to scaled scores through test equating. Even with the same cut scores, the "man behind the curtain" is the test equating process whereby the difficulty of the questions is taken into account and the numbers of correct answers required to achieve the different cut scores are set into a transformation table. Different transformation tables are made for different forms of the test.

The transformation tables could significantly affect the final results without altering the cut scores.

LDOE and/or DRC had considerable control over the test equating process. Louisiana likely had greater control over the final results than the states that administered the Pearson-created PARCC test. 

Louisiana's test making and equating process has yielded "PARCC" results higher than would be expected when referenced to the NAEP and compared to other PARCC states

In Math, Louisiana's seventh-to-eighth-grade "PARCC" proficiency rate spike is puzzling. It is inconsistent with its own NAEP trend and the PARCC results of Ohio, New Mexico and New Jersey. (New Jersey DOE says the low eighth grade PARCC proficiency is due to high performing students being allowed to take the Algebra PARCC test instead of the eighth grade test.):  

All of the other states proficiency rates in Math are lower on the PARCC than the NAEP; Louisiana's rates are the opposite. We could conclude that the PARCC Math test was harder than the NAEP in the other states, but the "PARCC" was easier than the NAEP in Louisiana. Why would this be?

Are we to believe that only 22 percent of Louisiana's seventh graders on track for college or careers then suddenly 32 percent of its eighth graders are? Do we really believe "PARCC" results that say that Louisiana sends more eighth graders to high school on track for college and careers than Ohio and Illinois, even though Louisiana's NAEP proficiency rate is barely half theirs? Does Louisiana really have three times as many eighth graders on track for college or careers as New Mexico even though New Mexico has a higher eighth grade NAEP Math proficiency rate?

In the above charts, the other states very credibly compare to each other in relative performance on the PARCC and NAEP. Louisiana's comparative results are completely inconsistent with theirs. 

Louisiana's "PARCC" results simply do not compare to other states. Louisiana's "PARCC" scores are unbelievably high when referenced to the NAEP both in the ELA/Reading and Math comparisons.

How then does Louisiana's "PARCC" compare to its previous LEAP and iLEAP?

Louisiana's "PARCC" level four is a lower bar than the previous LEAP/iLEAP level four (Mastery).

Below are the 2015 "PARCC" ELA results by grade compared to the 2014 LEAP/iLEAP. The charts show the percent of students attaining each achievement level. The bottom of green (M) indicates the minimum percentile rank of students achieving the new definition of proficiency, level four. 

At every grade level in ELA, more students achieved Mastery or above on the "PARCC" (2015) than previously did on the LEAP/iLEAP (2014) (examine the bottom of green (M)). The shorter blue bands (A), however, show that the "PARCC" is more selective than the LEAP/iLEAP for level 5. 

We should assume that actual student performance was stable between the two years and that the dramatic shift is a result of the tests not aligning rather than a sudden jolt of improvement in student performance. No attempt was made to statistically equate the "PARCC" to the LEAP/iLEAP.

John White stated that the bar would be raised from level three (Basic) to level four (Mastery) as the definition of proficiency by 2025.  He did not mention lowering the bar for level four. 

In eighth grade Math, the requirement for level 4 (Mastery) has also been lowered, greatly increasing the percentage of students scoring Mastery or higher. Meanwhile the requirement for level 3 (Basic) has been raised in each grade: 

To summarize, Louisiana created its own form of the PARCC test and was responsible for the test equating. The promises made for the new tests have all been broken somehow in that process:

1. The results are out of line with other states when using the NAEP as a reference point. 

2. Level 4 on the "PARCC" has been set to be less selective than Mastery on the former LEAP and iLEAP tests, and it is less selective than NAEP proficiency, resulting in a lower-than-implied bar for the new 2025 proficiency standard.

3. "PARCC" grade-to-grade fluctuations yield an inconsistent measure of college or career readiness. 

The comparisons raise serious questions about how Louisiana's tests were made and how Louisiana's raw scores were converted into scaled scores. Results which are unreasonable and are not corroborated by other measures do not yield confidence.

The process of test equating needs close scrutiny; due to the legislative requirement that the 2015-16 test be less than fifty percent PARCC items, we can expect LDOE to go through the equating process again and it may once more create results that bear little relation to either our testing history or the results in other states. 

Herb Bassett, Grayson, LA


Data for the charts came from the Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Louisiana Departments of Education websites. New Jersey data is from Ohio and Illinois results are preliminary and include only the online version which was taken by about two-thirds of their students. However, Ohio DOE has stated that it expects the pencil and paper versions to yield comparable results. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How Does Louisiana Rank in the NAEP Rat Race?

Superintendent John White loves his job of lording it over Louisiana education and he wants to keep doing it.  In a major effort to help him keep his job, his out-of-state privatizer friends just spent approximately 3.5 million dollars to elect 6 BESE members who are committed to keeping him in that job. But White has to show progress in Louisiana student test performance so that everyone can see that we need him to run education and to keep cracking the whip on our "lazy" Louisiana educators. He wants to remind us that we just can't run education effectually without him. So when the most recent NAEP test results came out this week, White's crack team of number crunchers and spin masters went to work and cranked out a press release pointing to rising scores for Louisiana students.

This Advocate story  picked up the press release and focused on Louisiana's comparison with the 50 other states and the District of Columba. The article compares the just released 2015 NAEP test scores with those of 2013 and 2009. Sure enough it looks like White's leadership is producing positive results. The latest statistics show that 4th graders did a little better than in 2013, moving up from a ranking of 47th to 43rd in reading. The ranking for 4th grade math improved from 49th to 45th.

Louisiana students in 8th grade showed no progress however, over 2013. 8th grade reading stayed at 48th place and 8th grade math students dropped from 48th to 49th. So even though there seems to be greater improvement than backsliding, The Advocate headline writers did not do White any favors when they  titled the Article: Louisiana again ranks near bottom in reading and math . . .

That's surprising because The Advocate usually bends over backwards to try to make White and his TFAers look as good as possible. But maybe for once the Advocate editors could not ignore the fact that two year improvements in test performance are unstable and often cannot be attributed to recent policies. There is a natural time lag when you are dealing with such slow moving changes. It would probably be more legitimate to attribute any changes in this year's NAEP scores to White's predecessor, Paul Pastorek.

Another interesting fact about the latest NAEP test shows a small drop nationwide in both reading and math. This does not look good for the Common Core initiative, but I don't think this slight drop is significant. Scores on NAEP may have gone down a little because most students were so exhausted after taking the Common Core tests this Spring that took up to 8 hours each. That could have caused them to sort of burn out on the NAEP and be a little more careless than usual.

My theory about NAEP performance is a little different from those who think that the latest education policy causes the slight changes in NAEP results we see every two years. I just don't think you can attribute slight improvement in rankings to anyone in particular. That's because the Louisiana NAEP rankings compared to other states are somewhat fluid from year to year. We can't really blame anyone or give credit to anyone or to any policy. The major trends have to be studied over a period of 5 to 10 years. Let me give you some additional statistics to make my point.

How Louisiana Students Compare on NAEP Over a 10 Year Period

Louisiana had already started putting more emphasis on teaching reading and math skills even before Pastorek and White entered the scene. Accountability testing was in place in 2005, and the NAEP testing in Spring of 2005, a few months before Katrina hit, showed that Louisiana was doing a little better on NAEP compared to other states than we are doing now. But there is almost no meaning to the slight jockeying for a position just a little better than the bottom because it amounts to nothing more than a rat race. The same states with the same disadvantaged students just trade places from year to year. Lets compare 2015 results to 2005, which was just before Katrina wiped away the New Orleans school system and according to Arne Duncan, Louisiana was supposedly given a chance to finally become a leader in school reform. Here is how Louisiana stood in comparison to the other states near the bottom of the rankings.

4th grade math: In 2005, Louisiana ranked just above Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico Hawaii, and Washington D.C. in 4th grade math. Now, in 2015 Louisiana ranks above Alabama, California, New Mexico, and District of Columbia in 4th grade math. Over the ten year period, Louisiana has dropped 2 places in the rankings between 2005 and 2015.

4th grade reading: In 2005, Louisiana ranked  just above Alabama, Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, and District of Columbia in 4th grade reading. Now, in 2015, Louisiana ranks just above Alaska, Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington D. C. in 4th grade reading. Over the 10 year period, Louisiana is still at exactly the same level in the rankings.

8th grade Math: In 2005, Louisiana ranked just above Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, and New Mexico and District of Columbia. Now in 2015, Louisiana ranks just above Alabama and District of Columbia. Over the 10 year period,  Louisiana dropped three places in the rankings.

8th grade Reading: In 2005 Louisiana ranked just above Alabama, California, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington D. C. Now, in 2015 Louisiana ranks just above Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington D. C. Over the 10 year period, Louisiana dropped 3 places in the most recent rankings.

My point in giving this comparison, is that it makes no sense at all for our education officials to brag about moving up a few places in the rankings because the whole thing just amounts to a rat race with the low performers jockeying back and forth in the bottom ten or so places. We just trade places with the same states over and over! The only real factor that influences the rankings is the level of poverty of our students compared to other states.

A sociologist would have a great time explaining why the same ten states stay at the bottom of the rankings year after year. Look at the huge low wage Hispanic population in California, the dirt poor First American populations in New Mexico and Arizona and the low income African American populations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the District of Columbia. It is just so clear to anyone with a brain that poverty rules the day when educational systems are ranked. But the reformers keep telling us that poverty is just an excuse for ineffective educators.

Here is another important issue. Since all educational systems have been forced to participate in the Test/Retest and Test Prep cycle caused by No Child Left Behind and then Race to the Top, there has been a modest rise in NAEP scores across the board in all states in the last ten years. But the problem is that with stack ranking, you can never achieve the Lake Wobegon phenomenon of getting all states above average! The same 10 states will be at the bottom of the rankings no matter how much you punish and reward teachers and school administrators! To paraphrase James Carville,"It's the poverty stupid!"

If John White is so smart, why can't he figure that out that as long as Louisiana continues to be in the top ten in poverty, we will remain in the bottom ten in school performance? Actually I believe White figured this out some time ago. That's why he and his testing company quietly lowered the raw cut scores for LEAP, iLEAP, and end-of-course tests in recent years. Then presto our grade level performance seems to have improved, our graduation rate has improved, and it really looks like Louisiana is heading up.  Recently he got his rubber stamp BESE to adopt the lowest raw cut scores in the history of our state for the new PARCC-like test. To be fair, there is some apparent improvement in actual testing performance, but I attribute that to this all-out fanatic focus on mostly the few tested subjects at the expense of all other worthwhile parts of the curriculum. We have just about killed vocational/technical education just at the time Louisiana needed to ramp up such opportunities for our students in the skilled and service areas. Now we are belatedly trying to push Jump Start, but our accountability system mostly rewards college prep measures instead of the broad curriculum needed.

Do you know what would take real educational courage and leadership? Just convince the legislature and the public that we need to quit the testing rat race and let our educators start addressing the broad needs and interests of all students. Let's all work harder to get real and positive parental involvement and accountability, and develop good positive discipline at every school built around a development of a love for learning. Then let's build a strong curriculum of all important subjects, and let our students and their parents choose the best pathway for each child. Finally we need to find a way to reward and encourage those educators who work in the most challenging schools with the most at-risk students instead of branding them all as failures. 

Pease listen to this interview with principal Carol Burus of The Network for Public Education if you really want to know what a real professional educator thinks needs to be done to improve education.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Louisiana Purchase of BESE Continues

It was a huge waste of billionaire money, and it could have been much better used if it had simply been donated to better fund schools that serve the most at-risk students. But instead it was used to perpetrate the strangle hold of the privatizers on the Louisiana State Board of Education. What a shame!

We now know that some of the best and most sincere supporters of public education have been removed from BESE and some extremely good educators have been barred from service for the benefit of our children. The billionaires now own BESE, but do they have any idea what to do with it?

I want to express my sincere appreciation to Dr Lottie Beebe and to Carolyn Hill for their support of our public schools and for fighting so passionately for democratic control of our public schools. Your efforts will never be forgotten. I only hope that you will continue the fight for our public schools in whatever capacity in which you choose to participate.

Thank you also to Lee Barrios, Kara Washington, Glynis Johnston, Johnny Fatheree, Jason France, and Mike Kreamer who all fought a good fight against the takeover of our public education system.

Lets all join together in supporting Mary Harris who is in a runoff in District 4 and Kathy Edmonson who is in a runoff in District 6. They will need our wholehearted support to succeed in maintaining a force for reason and democracy on BESE.

John Bel Edwards in his quest for governor is also a bright hope for the continued support of our public schools. Please support John Bel.
Michael Deshotels

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Please Help Carolyn Hill Fight Viscious Attacks

This ad was so viscious that the television stations had it pulled off the air. I personally know Carolyn Hill and I can assure the voters in her district that she is an excellent BESE member who fights for the truth on BESE in opposition to corporate forces that will resort to any tactics to take over our schools. These people think they know better what is good for our children than our local parents do. They want to subject Louisiana children to a mindless cycle of test and punish with the end result leading to privatization. Please vote for Carolyn Hill if you live in her district.

If you live in the eastern and southern part of Baton Rouge or Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, or Washington Parishes, you live in District 6. In that district, the school takeover forces are supporting Jason Engen and Laree Taylor. Don't believe the fancy TV ads. These candidates are bought and paid for with hundreds of thousands of dollars of out-of-state money. It would be practically impossible for them to listen to the parents and voters of Louisiana. You have other good choices in this race. See Flip BESE here. Any of them are excellent choices as opposed to the ones with the big money campaigns.

Please vote to Support our Pro-Public school candidates Saturday!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Please Vote for the Pro-Public Education BESE Candidates

Saturday, October 24 is election day for BESE as well as for Governor and the legislature. A good guide for the BESE elections is Flip BESE. In addition, the LAE and LFT have guides for BESE, Governor and legislative races.  Click here for the LAE election guide. Please, if you are public school educator or parent, don't make the mistake of voting for BESE candidates that are accepting out-of-state and LABI money. That money is poisonous to public education. Fight the big money and vote for candidates that believe in managing public education through our democratically elected school boards rather than self appointed boards that allow crooked education entrepreneurs to profit from our tax dollars that were intended for the education of our children. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Unbelievable! Billionaires Making Dramatic Moves Aimed at Taking Over All Control of Public Education in Louisiana!

Please read this article, just published in The New Orleans Tribune. This is probably the most dramatic public school takeover effort ever in the history of our state!

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and owner of a billion dollar media empire had contributed $800,000 this month alone to Louisiana elections. California Billionaire Eli Broad has contributed $250,00 and the Walton family heirs have contributed over $850,000!

If you vote for the highly financed candidates owned by these billionaires, this Saturday, you are signing over our public education system. Our children will pay the price.

Let me put it more bluntly. If you are a public school educator, and if you and your relatives and friends vote for those candidates for BESE with the slick TV ads talking about letter grades for schools and pay raises for the "good" teachers, here's what you can really expect if they get elected: More crazy merit pay schemes based on student test scores, further elimination of step increases for years of experience, attacks on the teacher retirement system as an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers, and more and more charter and voucher schools that will employ anyone with a college degree as a teacher because all children will need to prepare them for college are test rehearsers who get no retirement benefits. But there will be no restrictions on how much the managers of these "choice" schools can be paid for their services with our tax dollars. This is where education is headed. 

The amounts of money committed to the takeover of public education in Louisiana are breathtaking! Notice that the big focus is on BESE, but there are major contributions to legislators, both Republican and Democrat. This is an all out effort by certain billionaires to simply take over every aspect of public education in Louisiana. Is this some sort of a perverted hobby; a creepy pet project of the super rich?

Why Louisiana? What do they expect to accomplish here? Is Louisiana going to become some kind of demonstration project for the most extreme education reforms in the history of our nation?

Someday historians will write books about this unbelievable experiment in education and social engineering!