Friday, October 2, 2015

White's Team Trying to Muddy up the Narrative Again

Beaking News!

I just got an email from one of the state newspapers questioning why our citizen group was asking for information that was pre-mature. The reporter questioned why we were asking for PARCC data when BESE had not yet approved the PARCC cut scores? Wouldn't it be better to wait until BESE sets the cut scores on October 13?

Here is my response that I sent by email:

"The group is making three basic requests. None of them are impacted in any way by the setting of cut scores.

The first request is for an item analysis of each test question to tell the public and the Standards Review Committee exactly what percentage of our students got each Common Core standard correct. This helps the Review Committee determine which of the Common Core Standards need to be looked at more closely and either be removed or modified.

The second item asks for a conversion table to convert raw scores to scale scores. For example, we want to know that if a student got 70% of the questions right on the PARCC test, what scale score does that equate to? (Remember that the scale scores run from 650 to 850 on all PARCC tests) We also want to know the reverse of the example given above. Suppose a student gets a scale score of 725, we want to know using the conversion table exactly what percentage of the questions the student got right.

Finally we want parents to have access to both the raw scores and the scale scores and to be told exactly which of the common core standards their child missed.

The only reason the reporter was confused about all this in my opinion is that John White's "crack" PR staff is busily trying to distract the news media away from the real issue which is John White is desperately trying to keep the public from finding out just how bad these tests really are. 

Remember, its not the teachers fault and its not the kids fault if the highly unqualified Superintendent and his neophyte staff ran this reckless experiment on our students and teachers with poorly designed standards measured by a horrible inappropriate test!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Public Records Request for PARCC data

          Today a group of legislators, BESE members, school board members, educators, and citizens filed a formal public records request for the purpose of securing the release of vital data from the Common Core tests that were given to Louisiana students almost six months ago.
            These public officials and citizens believe that the results of the Spring 2015 PARCC testing are in the possession of the Louisiana Department of Education and therefore constitute public records under Louisiana law.
            The law provides that any Louisiana citizen over the age of 18 may request any public record and that the custodian of public records must provide such public records immediately, but at least within a period of five business days.
            These citizens believe that this formal public records request is necessary because numerous similar informal requests by various citizens have either been denied or ignored by the State Superintendent.
            Representative Brett Geymann, the lead author of Common Core related legislation this last session expressed frustration that the data from the tests has not been provided to the educator and parent committee that was formed to revamp the standards. He said, “This last legislative session we attempted to remove the Common Core Standards from our curriculum because it was not appropriate for our school children. However in the course of the legislative process we worked out a compromise agreement that required a thorough review of the present Common Core Standards for the purpose of developing new standards that would benefit our students. Unfortunately, now we find that the Standards Review Committee is being denied access to the test results that could help to inform their work in revising the standards. This is in violation of the spirit of the agreement. The taxpayers paid millions of dollars for these tests and we should have the results in a form that can help the revisions committee.”
Representative Schroder echoed those sentiments, “We kept our end of the bargain. Time is running out for the committee. They need the information now. We are not asking that the test itself be released. We just want the standard each question tests and what percentage of students got it right.”
BESE member, Jane Smith, a former superintendent and state legislator, pointed out that she had helped negotiate the compromise, “I have said from the beginning that I want to see a successful review of the standards. I believe we can achieve that if the review panel is given all the tools necessary to have a pure and transparent process. The chairman of the review panel asked for an item-by-item analysis and I believe that should be honored.
            According to attorney, J. Arthur Smith III representing the group of public officials and citizens: “The purpose of the public records law is to provide Louisiana citizens and parents of Louisiana Public school students full and free access to information gathered on their behalf and with their tax dollars. We cannot let a government bureaucrat control the information and decide what he will dole out to us and what he will hide from us.”
“These test results are public information as long as the data is produced without violating the privacy of the students and their parents. Our public records request complies perfectly with the provisions of the law. We expect the State Superintendent to produce the information immediately, but no later than in 5 business days.”
            “These citizens and public officials intend to release this information to the public as soon as it is provided to them,” he said.
            The parents and public officials announced that they intend to also recommend to BESE that as soon as feasible, the State Superintendent be directed to provide individual student results to the parents or guardians of all students who took the 2015 PARCC test, with the opportunity for parents to view both the raw scores and scale scores for each of their children participating in the testing and their relationship to the Common Core standards.  At all times the privacy rights of these parents and their children should be protected. Also at the option of the parents, such information may be shared with the child’s current teacher so that this information may assist the teacher in better instructing the student during the current school year.
The following are the participants in this public records request:
1.     Representative Brett Geymann, Calcasieu
2.     Representative John Schroder, St Tammany
3.     Representative Rogers Pope, Livingston
4.     Representative Lance Harris, Rapides
5.     Representative Bob Hensgens, Vermilion
6.     Representative Kenny Havard, East and West Feliciana and Zachary
7.     BESE  member, District 3, Dr. Lottie Beebe
8.     BESE member, District 4,  Mary Harris
9.     BESE member, District 8, Carolyn Hill
10. BESE member at large, Jane Smith, Bossier
11. School Board member, St Tammany Parish, Jack Loup
12. School Board member, East Baton Rouge, Vereta Lee
13.  Educator and Stan. Review Committee member, Suzette Riddle, Vermilion
14. Educator, Lee Barrios, Abita Springs
15. Retired educator, Michael Deshotels, Zachary
16.  Educator, Dr. Barbara Ferguson, Research on Reforms, New Orleans
17. Citizen, Tom Aswell, Denham Springs
18. Educators and parents, Dr. Jessica and Dr. Mitch Stubbs, Pearl River
19. Parent, Jason France, Baton Rouge
20. Educator, Michael Kreamer, Lafayette
21. Citizen, Johnny Fatheree, Downsville
22. Parent, Tania Nyman, Baton Rouge
23. Parent, Karran Harper Royal, New Orleans
24.  Educator, Dr Raynard Sanders, New Orleans
25. Educator, Dr. James Finney, Baton Rouge
26. Educator, Noel Hammatt, Baton Rouge
27. Educator, Bonnie Stokes, Covington
28. Parent, Mirza Marin, Slidell
29. Parent and educator, Stacy Lovitt, Slidell
30. Educator, Charles J. Hatfield, Research on Reforms, Gonzales
31. Citizen, Ashley Reeb, Chalmette
32. Citizen, Jessica Janneck, Chalmette
33. Educator, Dr John St. Julian, Lafayette

The Governance of Louisiana Education: What it Now Is and What it Should be

Here's a good analogy for Louisiana Education

Louisiana now operates under the mushroom theory of education..

In this setup, the educators and the students are treated as though they were growing on a mushroom farm.

On that farm,  the boss and his overseers keep em in the dark and feed em manure.

But educators and students are more like sunflowers than mushrooms.  They deserve to be growing on a sunflower farm. On a sunflower farm the crop is given lots of sunlight, water and plant food.

In this environment the sunflowers both large and small, thrive and follow the movement of the life-giving sun every day, until they produce a wonderful crop that can feed humanity in so many ways..

That's what we need in Louisiana. . .  to be treated as though we are living on bright sunny sunflower farm.

Instead we have a Superintendent that withholds vital testing data for the better part of a year but then expects the educators to somehow find a way to prepare students for the next set of tests. That's the mushroom farm treatment.

He tells everyone that the student raw scores are not suitable for showing to the parents and not even to the teachers, and that the scale scores are so much better. Yet a student who makes a raw score of zero on the PARCC test still gets a scale score of 650 out of 850, even though he/she got absolutely nothing right, and that score is supposed to be so much more helpful to parents and teachers. It's kind of like sugarcoating a terrible bitter pill, but that's the mushroom farm treatment.

The district superintendents are told that they must come, hat in hand, and beg for their raw scores so that schools can prepare kids for the next tests. But the raw scores they get come without the critically important report of what questions and what standards the students got wrong. That's the mushroom farm treatment.

The superintendents have an advisory council meeting that is designed to give the governing board real feedback from the field. But when they have serious concerns they want to express they are told that they can't discuss or ask about anything that is not on the prepared agenda. That's the mushroom farm treatment.

Principals are told that from this year on, they must improve their school performance score every year, or they will get a bad evaluation, but they have absolutely no knowledge of how the scores are going to be manipulated by the boss every year. Will the manipulation go against them this year or next year? That's the mushroom farm treatment.

Teachers are told that experience in teaching no longer matters and most teacher step increases are canceled so that the districts can implement a state mandated merit pay system for which the state will provide not one penny. That's the mushroom farm treatment.

I could go on and on, but you out there in the field could tell it much better than I could.

I bet you could also describe how to change the setting to a sunflower farm, but that would take new management wouldn't it?
Please do your part to flip BESE!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Playing Politics with Children's Futures

This article this morning only partially explains why district superintendents are not satisfied with the foot dragging by State Superintendent White in producing vital PARCC test data. The issue is about much more than just determining the best format for reporting test results to the schools and to the parents.

Over the weekend, White sent district superintendents an email memo attempting to justify the long delays in producing data.  Also in apparent exasperation White pointed out that for the first time, local superintendents asked that he produce the raw student scores. Well here is the back-story to all this secrecy and intrigue at the LDOE and why the raw scores have never before been reported.

This blog in several posts based on public records requests has exposed mounting evidence that White and his staff and the testing companies have systematically been lowering the passing scores on almost all of the state accountability tests. Here are some examples: 39% on the 7th grade math test and 41% on the 8th grade math test is considered passing according to the cut score. Geometry is down to only 32% for passing.

The cut score setting process is made to look like its only about making small adjustments that are needed to make sure that various test forms are compatible based on test difficulty. But the changes can add up to huge differences in the number of students being rated as performing on grade level and even in passing the end-of-course tests in recent years. The same could very well be true of the new PARCC test. That’s why the raw scores are important. You can’t tamper with the actual percentage of correct answers the students got on the tests unless you want to go to jail like the educators in Atlanta are doing. But you can easily manipulate the scale test scores and accomplish the same results.

Our superintendents, principals and teachers have been busting their butts the last few years to raise test scores even though they know in their hearts that it is killing all the joy of teaching and learning. You would think that they would be happy to quietly go along with getting a little help from the cut score setting process. It turns out that they have too much integrity to go along with this sleazy process. They feel that if we are going to test our students into the ground we at least owe them and their parents an honest analysis of how they really did on the tests. That’s what the raw score tells us. It is simply the old fashioned way of reporting the actual percentage of correct answers the student got on the test. What could be simpler than that? Now later if the LDOE comes up with different forms of the test that have different difficulty they can use scale scores to level the playing field.

There is another big reason the test scores are being delayed. From all indications so far in other states, this PARCC test is a very, very bad test. It will produce very, very low raw scores. It is also a major indication that some of the Common Core standards are not well thought out, are not age appropriate, and are simply too impractical to test. White and his groupies in the business community, who are being totally duped, don’t want anything negative to come out about the PARCC and the CCSS especially before the BESE elections. But how can so called educators such as White and his bunch be against finding out the truth about this whole new untested rushed out program. Why can’t we fix what’s wrong for the benefit of our students?