Saturday, February 6, 2016

White Washing Louisiana Education Statistics

This is a funny spoof on what I call predatory charter schools. When you consider just the most recent open meeting violations, cheating incidents, and bullying of young teachers in Louisiana charter schools you see that the creators of this little two minute video are right on target.

Schneider Exposes White's Muddying the Narrative on ACT Scores

Mercedes Schneider blogged about how the statistics on ACT scores for the RSD schools are constantly being delayed and manipulated by the LDOE. This is typical of constant attempts to cover up embarrassing facts about Louisiana's charters. 

How is Louisiana Doing with the Achievement Gap?

Here's another example of data suppression by the LDOE: Federal law requires that each state report each year on relative performance of certain subgroups of students as part of an effort to close the achievement gap between advantaged and at-risk students. In the past when White and his predecessor wanted to emphasize the lack of progress of African American and free/reduced lunch students, the LDOE published test score averages of each such group compared to all students. Now it's like pulling teeth to get these comparisons. 

One of the original selling points of the Common Core Standards was a claim by the developers that the new standards would produce a narrowing of the achievement gap. The data from New York state which started Common Core testing a year before Louisiana, demonstrates instead a huge widening of the achievement gap.

I wondered how Louisiana was doing in narrowing the achievement gap based on the PARCC-like test administered in the Spring of 2015, so I sent a public records request to White requesting the required data for the comparisons. That request was sent on January 20, and receipt was acknowledged by LDOE attorney, Millet on January 21. State public records law requires that public records be produced immediately, but at least within 5 days. So the response to my request is already overdue. Any violation of this timeline provides that the custodian of public records (that's John White) be penalized for any legal expenses when a citizen of Louisiana files a lawsuit seeking such overdue records. In addition the law allows for penalties of $100 per day for any delays in producing records.

I have been forced to file four lawsuits against White and the LDOE in the past for failure to comply with the public records law. The first three suits produced rulings against White for failure to comply with the public records law. Penalties are still being assessed for each business day of delay on one of those three suits. White seems not to be concerned because so far, the Louisiana taxpayers have paid the penalties for his violations of the law. 

Schneider is eventually going to get to the truth about the ACT scores in the RSD and eventually we will find out how the achievement gap is faring since the implementation of the Common Core and the PARCC-like testing. White cannot choose what information he will release to the public. He can only delay the inevitable!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Where is the accountability for Pearson and John White?

Pearson, the same multi-national company that profits by millions based on the incessant testing of our students, has basically destroyed the futures of thousands of adult education students by revamping their GED test to make it just as tricky and difficult as the PARCC.

So you don't think the PARCC is tricky and difficult? If PARCC is not tricky and difficult, then why did Pearson secretly set the level three (basic) cut score on the PARCC 7th grade math test at only 18% and level 4 (proficient) at 32%. What teacher would ever rate a student proficient if the student knew only 32% of the material being tested? It that ever happened wouldn't the competency of that teacher be questioned?

Most states plan to soon make the PARCC into a high stakes for students, teachers and administrators. That means students could be retained, and teachers and administrators could be given an "ineffective" VAM rating and fired. All based on a test that was so poorly designed that the passing score had to be lowered to only 32%. This could destroy lives! Why is there no accountability for Pearson?

The terrible high stakes consequences are already happening to thousands of GED tested students who cannot get a high school diploma and cannot qualify for many jobs, where just a year ago other students could have passed and been allowed to graduate. Approximately 90% of the adult education students in New York state are failing the GED because of Pearson. Where is the accountability for Pearson?

Just under 50% of the 2016 Louisiana 3-8 math and ELA tests will be based on Pearson questions. Children's academic futures and teachers' careers could be ruined very soon by Pearson here in Louisiana. Where is the accountability for Pearson? Where is the accountability for John White who still insists on using the flawed Pearson tests?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Our School Rating and Grading System Is a Failure!

Click here to view a new white paper produced by Superintendent Kelli Joseph of the St. Helena Parish public school system. It describes how the present school performance score system and the school and district letter grades derived from it are unfair and unproductive for rating public schools in Louisiana. This Advocate story summarizes the reports' findings.  It emphasizes the unfairness of the system in rating small, rural and highly impoverished school districts relative to larger, richer districts. The white paper also suggests basic changes that should improve the school rating system.

My opinion is that while the changes proposed by St. Helena are helpful, the entire premise behind the school rating system is inherently flawed.  BESE policy requires that the school ratings must be based primarily on student test results. If its purpose was to inform the public about the level of educational services provided to students in schools and school districts, then the rating system fails miserably. The rating system does not tell parents or taxpayers anything about the quality of educational services provided to students. As Bruce Baker, Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, and researcher Gerald Bracey have argued often, educational rankings tend to reveal more about conditions outside of the school’s control than about the quality of education. Overwhelmingly in all types of educational rankings the greatest predictor of high or low rankings is wealth or poverty.

Here is a letter to The Advocate by a school activist in East Baton Rouge Parish that describes the unfairness and ultimate futility of the state school rating system from the point of view of a citizen that simply wants to tackle the real problems affecting our schools.

The following is the most concise and accurate summary I can make of the present school rating and grading system used in Louisiana:
The rating of school systems and schools based solely on a ranking of student outcomes as measured by standardized tests focused on narrow subject areas, guarantees that school systems serving the most disadvantaged students will always be rated at the bottom of the ranking. When that ranking is expressed using a letter grading system, the schools and school systems serving the most disadvantaged students will always be rated as D’s and F’s.

When schools are ranked based totally on standardized testing focused on narrow academic achievement, the guaranteed result is that half the schools will be rated above average and half the schools will be rated below average.  That is a statistical fact, not a fair judgment of performance of the educators of the various districts. Even if all educators in all school systems are functioning at a maximum level of efficiency and dedication, the rating of the schools will be directly proportional to the average wealth and privilege of the students attending each district. Louisiana has over fifteen years of data that proves this relationship. Considering this established fact, what is the purpose of stigmatizing and demoralizing the educators serving the most disadvantaged students?