Friday, October 16, 2015

Please Help Fight the Tidal Wave of Money Engulfing the BESE Elections

My home is located in a part of Zachary that is in BESE District 8. Carolyn Hill is my BESE member.

Yesterday I opened my mailbox to find two slick, extra large full color cards extolling the virtues of Hill's only opponent, Jada Lewis. I had been getting mailings almost daily telling me what a wonderful BESE member Jada Lewis, who has probably never attended a BESE meeting, would be. I had also gotten one "hit piece" attacking Carolyn Hill because she had claimed travel expenses for traveling between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, without reference to the fact that BESE often meets in New Orleans. Later yesterday, I received a phone call from someone claiming to be pollster for the upcoming elections, only to find during the "poll" that it was really a push poll attempting to get me to vote for Jada Lewis. Based on this brief summary, can you imagine how much money is being spent just to defeat Carolyn Hill, even though she has done an excellent job of representing educators, parents and students on BESE?

I don't know much about Jada Lewis, except that she seems to have been totally bought by the Lane Grigsby PAC that is spending an obscene amount of money to maintain total control of BESE. I was furious that mostly out of state donors including the Walton family and the Broad Foundation would have the nerve to want to call all the shots concerning the governance of education in Louisiana even though they know almost nothing at all about our state and its educational system. See this article about the major funding for LABI and Grigsby candidates. I resolved that later today, my wife and I who are both lifelong educators will write a personal letter to all the homeowners in our subdivision recommending Carolyn Hill for reelection to BESE. We will hand deliver it to each home and answer questions.  Only by making personal contact with our neighbors can we possibly counteract this tidal wave of money from out-of-state attempting to swallow up the BESE election for the benefit of greedy individuals who want to privatize and profit from our tax dollars at the expense of our children!

Another example, of this attempt to totally control BESE is happening in the 6th district. I have made a personal commitment to support Jason France for this open seat on BESE to replace Chas Roemer who has been the greatest enemy of public education on BESE. The Grigsby PAC has chosen to support two candidates for the BESE 6th District that are obviously committed to support their agenda. Two days ago  I watched almost identical, slick television ads back to back for Jason Engen and Larlee Taylor containing the same background music with happy children etc. etc. telling us that both of these candidates want to reward good teachers with pay raises. This is code for merit pay which has already been tried in Louisiana and has been a dismal failure. But the reformers don't care. That along with privatization of schools is just part of their plan for us, and they don't care if it has never worked, they want to jam it down our throats!

What can you do if you are a concerned parent, educator, and taxpayer who does not want your tax money to support out-of-state charter entrepreneurs or crazy unfunded mandates that will drive more dedicated teachers away from the profession? Please do what I am doing, and take it upon yourself to tell the truth to your neighbors. Do it now! Ask your friends, relatives and neighbors to simply vote against all BESE candidates that are receiving out-of-state money. You can know them by the huge amount of money they are spending and their messages extolling the alleged benefits of "school choice" and education reform in general. 

Please see the Flip BESE Facebook site to learn about the BESE candidate that is supporting our values in your district. My personal recommendations to you are as follows:
  1. BESE District 1: Lee Barrios
  2. BESE District 2: Kara Washington
  3. BESE District 3: Dr Lottie Beebe
  4. BESE District 4: Mary Harris
  5. BESE District 5: Johnny Fatheree
  6. BESE District 6: Jason France
  7. BESE District 7: Mike Kreamer
  8. BESE District 8: Carolyn Hill
Early voting is happening now, and the election is October 24. The efforts by the enemies of public education will only intensify and the character attacks on our good candidates will be unleashed at the last minute so that we cannot react in time. Please do your part to save public education now! No one else knows more about this than you do. Please don't wait another minute. Talk to your neighbors now. Most people know nothing about this election, and they will be happy to follow your recommendation!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How the Great PARCC/Common Core Scam Works

A Special Thank You!

I want to take this opportunity on behalf of thousands of dedicated educators in Louisiana to sincerely thank the four members of BESE who have courageously refused to fold to the pressure of our clueless business community to give John White a blank check to further commit educational malpractice with the futures of Louisiana school children. Thank you to:

Dr Lottie Beebe, BESE member, District 3

Mary Harris, BESE member, District 4

Carolyn Hill, BESE member District 8

Jane Smith, BESE member at large 

John White has convinced the business community and seven members of BESE that his phony PARCC scale score system really means something. But only he and his statisticians at the LDOE can interpret for us exactly what it tells us. Unfortunately for White and his Common Core/PARCC "raising the bar" scam, some of us have been using critical thinking skills long before Common Core came along.

I pointed out in this blog exactly what the scale scores for the level of "Basic" performance really means in terms of actual knowledge of the tested material in the previous post on this blog. Now lets talk a little about how the testing bosses of the PARCC consortium use these scores to muddy the water about the real performance of students on these poorly designed tests in all the PARCC states.

It is expected that all states in the PARCC Consortium and even Louisiana, which is no longer officially in the PARCC Consortium, are probably going to adopt the same cut scores using the 650-850 point scale for each of the 5 levels of achievement. But the real cut scores are to be found in the corresponding raw scores based on a set of secret conversion tables such as those we revealed in Louisiana with a public records request and the threat of a lawsuit against John White. Did you know that John White has now lost and been forced to pay court costs and penalties in every case where citizens sued for public information? So far he pays the penalties with our tax dollars, but that could change when the judges finally get tired of having to order White to produce public records material that has heretofore been kept secret from the public.

So each of the 12 states and the District of Columbia will adopt the same scale cut scores for each of the 5 levels of achievement on PARCC. But all they have to do to make the scores come out the way they want for their state is to claim that they are using a different test form than what other states are using. John White had originally told The Lens in New Orleans that Louisiana was using the exact same test as all the other PARCC states; "the same items in the same order", so that our student performance could be easily compared to the 11 other states and D.C. But now he is saying that we are using a different test form in Louisiana made up of questions specifically approved by Louisiana Educators, so we have to use a different conversion table. That's the secret conversion table that was only produced because of the threat of another lawsuit, and the sure wrath of the 5 legislators who were part of that public records request. White never worried about the 4 members of BESE who were part of the public records request because he has them outvoted by the "bought" majority of BESE. But he had better fear the legislature, especially with 4 out of the 5 candidates for Governor vowing to get rid of the Common Core.

But White pulled another fast one on BESE this week that was not publicized by any of the news media. In addition to adopting the cut scores for PARCC he also got BESE to remove about 82 pages of BESE regulations that defined how state accountability tests were to be designed to measure each level of student performance. He not only wiped out all the BESE regulations having to do with the PARCC tests, but he wiped out the regulations having to do with LEAP and iLEAP tests in Social Studies and Science and all the high school end-of-course tests. What does that mean? It means that from now on, White and his testing companies can set all the underlying raw cut scores that equate to the scale cut scores any way that they please. They can also change the ratio of easy to difficult questions on each test to get whatever result they want each year in average student performance. That's why I call all of this testing and setting of student performance levels an out-and-out scam! The parents, and the business community are simply being taken for a ride. John White and his testing companies can produce whatever results they want with our student scores from year to year, and now BESE has given him the full authority to do so. But there are two important things that the scam cannot control, and these will eventually cause the downfall of White's Ponzi scheme.

White cannot continue to violate the public records law, because we have his number. We can always uncover Whites changes to the underlying raw cut scores on all of these state tests. From now on we will always get the new conversion tables. White can make the tests easier or harder each year by changing the ratio of difficult to easy questions, and he can lower or raise the raw cut scores, but he has no control over the NAEP, the only true gold standard of testing that actually does compare the performance of Louisiana students with all other states. About 8 years ago Louisiana ranked 6th from the bottom of the states on the NAEP test. Today after all the "higher expectations", "raising the bar", "greater rigor" "our kids deserve higher standards" etc etc, Louisiana now ranks third to last on NAEP, just ahead of Mississippi and the District of Columbia.

John White, would you please explain to the parents and the business community how you have improved the future of our kids and helped business and industry get a better educated work force with your rigged test and punish policy?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Conversion Tables Reveals White Lowering the Bar. . . . Again!

Release of Secret Conversion Tables for PARCC Forced by Public Records Request. 

Louisiana citizens will be the first ones in the PARCC testing group to see the critical conversion tables, that are used for producing the scale scores.  It only happened because of a formal public records request and the threat of a lawsuit against White for withholding public records.

The 33 member citizens public records request filed on October 1, included a request for a copy of the conversion tables for converting raw PARCC scores to the new PARCC scale scores. Those conversion tables were finally released by White today along with a calculation of the percentage of students scoring Basic, Mastery and Advanced. The newspapers will give you the percentages of students deemed performing satisfactory by the setting of the cut scores but the subject of this post is the lowering of the academic bar once again by Superintendent White.

Those conversion tables reveal absurdly low cut scores for ratings of Basic and Mastery. The percentage of students getting a rating or Basic or above depend upon BESE adopting the lowest passing scores in the history of Accountability testing in Louisiana! (by far)

Would you believe that White's cut scores for Basic performance on the 3rd grade English-Language Arts test would require students to only get 30% of the available raw points on the test correct to get a rating of Basic?

A student can receive a rating of Basic on 7th grade math by getting a grand total of 23% of the raw points. A similar level of absurdity of White's "raising the bar" is reached when the conversion tables reveal a cut score of 22% on the 8th grade math test.

The highest cut score for Basic among the 12 PARCC/Common Core tests is the pitiful standard of 37% on the 8th grade ELA test.

When superintendents and citizens started asking for the old fashioned raw scores on these controversial tests, White protested that only scale scores were useful in describing student performance to parents. So with the adoption of these scale scores by BESE, parents of a child who got only 22% of the math questions right would be awarded 725 points out of a possible total of 850 points and declared to be performing at a level of Basic! How does that make any sense? But the strangest result of all is that students who score zero raw points up to 4 points out of a possible 80 points will all get a scale score of 650 points!

I believe that this highly skewed and misleading point system was developed by the PARCC Consortium after they discovered that students all over the country would have totally flunked these tests by any other rational scoring system. So they dreamed up this phony scale system to pretend that most students had done OK on the tests. They never intended to release the raw scores to anyone, and certainly never intended for any citizen to see the conversion tables for producing the scale scores from the raw scores. Remember what I said some time ago about making sausage.

So I suppose the rubber stamp members of BESE will hold their noses tomorrow and approve White's absurdly low cut scores camouflaged as scale scores. This is how the multi-million dollar testing industry maintains control of our schools and siphons off scarce tax dollars even when they saddle our students with defective tests. Remember how the big banks got a free ride with our tax dollars even when their fraudulent home loans almost crashed the economy of the world? The same is true when the experiments on our children by the testing company fail.

Here are the various forms by which PARCC cut scores can be reported:

  • 3rd grade ELA- Basic = 725 scale score = 29.6/100 = 30% of possible points
  • 3rd grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 27/81 = 33% of possible points
  • 4th grade ELA- Basic = 725 scale score = 32/104 = 31% of possible points
  • 4th grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 30.4/82 = 37% of possible points
  • 5th grade ELA - Basic = 725 scale score = 29/104 = 28% of possible points
  • 5th grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 27.4/82 = 33% of possible points
  • 6th grade ELA - Basic = 725 scale score = 40/137 = 27% of possible points
  • 6th grade Math - Basic = 725 scale score = 22/82 = 27% of possible points
  • 7th grade ELA - Basic = 725 scale score = 39/135 = 29% of possible points
  • 7th grade Math - Basic - 725 scale score = 19/82 = 23% of possible points
  • 8th grade ELA - Basic - 725 scale score = 51/137 = 37% of possible points
  • 8th grade Math - Basic - 725 scale score = 17.3/80 = 22% of possible points

I am convinced that these tests are not valid for measuring our student performance or for rating our schools.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Who Really Failed the Honesty Test about PARCC?

Barry Irwin of the big business lobbying group, Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL), has written an opinion editorial in the Lafayette Advertiser where he assumes that some BESE members and some school groups want to hide the truth about Louisiana student performance from the public. The title of the article is Will We Pass the Honesty Test When Scores are Revealed. Actually, as this blog has demonstrated, it was John White who really wanted to hide the truth from Louisiana parents by withholding the raw scores of the PARCC test.

It was a public records request by a group of parents, 4 BESE members, 5 legislators and other citizens that forced the true test scores to be released. Those are reported on the blog post below. It was never necessary to use the PARCC consortium's confusing point system to know how our students did on the test. The ugly truth is in the raw scores given below. That particular post according to my stat-counter has been read by over 20,000 Louisiana citizens and educators to date. We can handle the truth! even though White and his friends at CABL wanted to keep us in the dark.

The action before BESE next Tuesday is not just the approval of White's phony scale cut scores. The action being recommended to BESE would usurp all the power of BESE to set testing standards and hand over all decision making relative to scores and even test construction to John White  and his testing companies. The action recommended removes all the old safeguards to require tests to meet certain criteria for grading. Once that is approved, White controls all the test construction and the grading and the judgements of what is basic, mastery and advanced.

We have shown on this blog how White already has manipulated state test scores without consulting BESE. If these new rules pass, White will have a free hand to make apparent student performance go up or down depending on his purpose at the moment. Did you notice that he had manipulated an increase in the LEAP, iLEAP and even the end-of-course tests leading up to this election so that his supporters on BESE could get reelected. But now it serves his purposes to give the perception that our scores are down, so that he can orchestrate their revival in the coming years.

Here is my response to the Barry Irwin article included in the "Comments" section of the Advertiser article:

Actually, State Superintendent John White has already failed the honesty test concerning the release of student scores for the PARCC (Common Core) tests. White was desparately trying to hide the real performance of our students on the test by having BESE adopt his new scoring system for the test which runs from 650 points to 850 points. That system would give even a student who made a flat zero on the test a score of 650. All the other student scores would be skewed similarly to make it look like our students did better than they really did on this poorly designed test.

We already know how students did on the test since the state was forced by a public records request to release the raw scores last week. The average score on the twelve tests given in English and Math was 38%. This means that 72% of the test questions were answered incorrectly on average statewide. This is a terrible result that I believe happened because the Common Core Standards and the test itself were so poorly designed.

Louisiana is not alone in this result. Students in Ohio who normally do a lot better on national tests than Louisiana students also had dismal results. Ohio has already decided to stop giving this highly flawed test in the future.

But Barry Irwin and John White are desperately clinging to this test which is now only going to be given in about only 10 states and still trying to claim that it will compare our students with other states. That is false!

Thank goodness there is one test that is going to continue being given to samples of students in each state accross the nation that really does compare our student performance fairly. The NAEP test does show that student performance accross the nation varies inversely with the level of poverty of the families. So Louisiana is near the bottom even though some of the big business supported candidates for election to BESE claim that our test scores have been rising.

So Irwin's real purpose in writing this editorial is to try to save a highly flawed set of standards called the Common Core that are increasingly being rejected by state after state. If Irwin and White succeed, ironically the test may just allow Louisiana to compare with a dwindling number of states foolish enough to continue using defective standards. That is the real honest truth about the issue before BESE this Tuedsay.