Thursday, February 1, 2018

Worthless High School Diplomas

Here is a report on the scandal uncovered by National Public Radio reporters when they investigated the greatly improved graduation rate of Washington DC schools. It was found that more than one third of the students graduating last year did not really qualify for diplomas. Here is another article pointing out that the same corruption may be occurring in other states. This entire phony "success" of schools in DC was created by radical education reformer Michelle Rhee and her immediate hand-picked successor. Rhee was implicated in causing and covering up massive cheating on required accountability tests in DC schools. Pressure by Rhee and her successor to increase graduation rates in DC schools has also caused this awarding of worthless diplomas. A similar scandal could soon become apparent in Louisiana based on policies of our reformer State Superintendent, John White.

This is what I wrote in my last post about Louisiana's phony rigorous standards:

"State education officials claim to have raised standards for student performance and preparation for college, but the reality is that practically all students are promoted to the next grade even if they fail all of their standardized tests and teacher made tests. Some students can make it to high school without passing a single state test given in grades 3 though 8! High school students are given shortened credit recovery courses if they fail or miss too much school. Students are being handed diplomas mostly for having a pulse. BESE regulations requiring regular school attendance and the achievement of an average of at least 67% on testing are being routinely ignored in the push to raise the graduation rate at all costs. Teachers are often instructed that if students fail tests that it is the teacher’s responsibility to retest or to give students make-up work so they can pass. The highly touted standardized tests given each year have their passing scores set just above 30%. But students are still promoted even if they fail their tests. Only the teachers and schools are punished for low performance."

The real problem is that the poorly designed common Core standards adopted in Louisiana in recent years and the accompanying defective tests are corrupting the entire education process in our state.

One of the state laws in Louisiana that is routinely violated is LRS 17:414.2
"A.  No school board member, school superintendent, assistant superintendent, principal, guidance counselor, other teachers, or other administrative staff members of the school or the central staff of a parish or city school board shall attempt, directly or indirectly, to influence, alter, or otherwise affect the grade received by a student from his teacher except as otherwise specifically permitted by this Section."

Just as in Washington DC, teachers in many Louisiana schools are told by there bosses to find some way to pass do-nothing students at all costs. The current drive to increase graduation rates at all costs destroys teacher authority in assigning grades and passing or failing students. Any teacher who refuses to pass students who have learned almost nothing is sure to be fired or pushed out.

Let me make my position absolutely clear: I do not believe that students should be failed or retained in grade based only on our present highly flawed state tests. 

Before any students are failed or retained in grade based on LEAP tests, there should be a professional evaluation of our present state tests by an unbiased team of testing experts appointed from respected universities. Louisiana should not continue to force students to take invalid tests and to disguise dismal performance using deceptive scoring systems. (A student who gets zero questions right on a LEAP test still gets 650 points on an 850 point scale) There is no validity in a test that students can come close to passing by making random choices on the multiple choice sections.

What I do recommend however, is that students who have excessive unexcused absences and who refuse to do their school work and who fail legitimate tests based on reasonable course expectations should not be given passing grades and promoted automatically. Teachers should be fully supported in assigning grades to students as mandated by state law instead of being bullied to pass do-nothing students. 

BESE has just adopted a new pupil progression policy that makes it almost impossible for non-functioning and uncooperative students to be assigned failing grades. I have collected data using public records requests that verifies that students who fail both their English and math tests are routinely promoted. Teachers in the upper grades are expected to teach such students both the material they failed as well as the advanced material for their new grade level.  Absolutely impossible!

But the most most serious and damaging result of this policy is that students that are promoted and graduated without legitimate accomplishments are learning a lesson that will not serve them well in real life. Employers will not coddle these people when they do not perform satisfactorily on the job.

It is ironic that Louisiana's so called education reforms have produced the very diploma mills that reformers wanted to abolish.