Wednesday, November 27, 2019

School Discipline Needs Enforcement!

Here is a youtube video featuring an Ohio teacher placed on Facebook by Lee Barrios, decrying the lack of support for teachers in maintaining discipline in the classroom. We have exactly the same problem in Louisiana! The big difference is that while the Ohio teacher proposes that there needs to be a written policy specifying effective consequences for student misbehavior, Louisiana has exactly such a policy in state law and in the Teacher Bill of Rights. The problem is that the pressure from our Louisiana Department of Education acts to discourage local school systems from enforcing the law and supporting teachers in maintaining classroom discipline.

Teachers in St. Tammany led by longtime teacher advocate Lee Barrios, are speaking out about the need for the school system to enforce the law on discipline. But the problem is that the non-educator administrators in the LDOE have erected obstacles to discipline enforcement, especially if it results in student suspensions. The fact is that most school systems provide more that sufficient alternatives to suspension. The problem is that if a school administrator assigns a disruptive or disrespectful student to after school detention, and the student does not show up, out-of-school suspension often becomes the only remaining option. The school should not be down rated on the LDOE website for taking necessary action to back up teachers in maintaining order.

Let me be clear: I agree with the teacher in the video. If one student is depriving the rest of the class of their instruction time, then that one disruptive student needs to go. In addition, I would suggest that in serious or repeated cases of violation of discipline policy, the parents should be required to take appropriate action to get the student to behave properly if the student is to be readmitted to school. All of that is already provided in state law. But there are serious flaws in enforcement.

The problem is that the Louisiana State Department of Education is so determined to hand out diplomas, earned or not, to greater and greater percentages of students that the rights of the majority of students are being taken away. The present situation is that almost any wrongdoing can be ignored just so a student can be handed a worthless piece of paper (diploma). Excessive absences in violation of the state's mandatory attendance law are routinely excused, worthless credit recovery courses are given to students who fail required courses, and cut scores on required courses are low enough to allow illiterate students to get credit. This is what school "reform" has done to our pubic schools.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

John White, Common Core, Education Reform, and the Widening Learning Gap

Where are we going with Louisiana education for the next 8 years of education reform? How did we get here? The education policy we have been pursuing for the last 10 years was actually created without input from the parents and teachers who are closest to the delivery of education to our children. The present policy of poorly designed, unteachable standards was dreamed up by a bunch of self appointed elites who have never spent a day a the head of a classroom.

Common Core standards that were implemented in Louisiana starting in 2012,  have proved to be a disaster for our students because they were untested in actual classrooms, were not age appropriate for most children, are full of abstract concepts that are dull and boring to most of our students, and that will never be used in a person's lifetime. I am talking about stuff like quadratic equations in math, close reading in English where students are taught no context that connects with real life, and state testing where passing scores have to be secretly set at 12% just to make it look like our students are learning this stuff. We have been experimenting with our kids lives for 10 years and the experiment has failed, but none of the architects of this disaster are willing to admit it.

Here is the most recent fluff piece by the pro-reform education reporter for the Baton Rouge advocate, Will Sentell, fawning over the complete sweep of LABI endorsed candidates in the recent BESE elections. LABI has actually been in full control of Louisiana education since January 2012 when the LABI engineered takeover of BESE first occurred. January 2012 is when their hand picked eduction reformer and privatizer, John White was installed as State Superintendent.  Sentell in his article seems to pronounce the first phase of reform as a big success because there are now fewer schools rated D and F. Only he neglects to mention that these improved ratings are totally rigged by White to portray false progress. Why not evaluate the success or failure of reform by using the very statistics that justified the reform to begin with? In a nutshell, here are the vital statics that show the true lack of success of the Louisiana education reform movement.
  • ACT scores have declined significantly for the last three years in a row and are now just about the lowest in the nation.
  • The NAEP ranking of Louisiana compared to other states is just about the lowest it has ever been.
  • The achievement gap between White and Black students and rich and poor students is significantly greater for math and reading than when White and the reformers took over.
  • Charter schools in New Orleans still rate in the bottom 20% among parish school systems and lead the state in scandals such as grade fixing and phony diplomas.  (see the ranking in my previous post on this blog) They also lead in financial mismanagement with several charter schools going bankrupt and dumping their debts and students to local school boards. I know of no traditional public school ever going bankrupt.
  • The two remaining Recovery Districts rank at the very bottom of the state systems in academic performance. (See my previous post)
These are indications of complete failure, not progress. White has succeeded in muddying the statistics with his rigged school ratings that simulate success, but the reforms have failed totally when measured using the unbiased statistics above that were the justification for the reforms in the first place. (What about the higher graduation rate? Sorry, it was rigged too, by removing almost all standards for graduation).

Let's go back to a conference held in January 2012 that was organized by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry titled "Leadership for Change" Here is my post at that time titled "Have You  Been Invited?" That conference was sponsored by LABI  to launch their new course for public education in Louisiana. Participants were mostly business types, but the organizers forgot to invite any practicing educators. My blog that day points out the following:

"The event is apparently by invitation only. One would assume that it would include local superintendents or at least officers of the Superintendent's Association, school board officials and local school supervisors of curriculum, local accountability supervisors, and even classroom teachers. These are the people who have dedicated their careers to the education of our Louisiana public school students. They are the ones who know the most about what works and what does not work in our schools.  They should be the first ones invited to any education summit where the future of Louisiana education will be discussed and planned."

The keynote speaker at the Leadership for Change conference was Joel Klein, a super rich attorney who had just served as Eduction Chancellor for the New York city system for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg was one of the big out-of-state contributors who financed the takeover of BESE. Klein was introduced as a great reformer who had just finished turning around the New York city public school system by significantly raising student test scores and introducing a real business model for the operation of schools. It was only learned much later that Klein had created the illusion of success by secretly lowering the cut scores for the city tests. Later, Klein's scheme to monetize tracking of student data was abandoned after hundreds of millions spent on no-bid contracts. Does this look familiar? Looks like John White, who worked for Klein before he was brought to Louisiana, was not the first innovator of rigged test scores and privatization.

John White is now assured his continued role as the Tsar of Louisiana education. So what's the next phase of Louisiana education reform? I would expect that White would double down on his failed policies of test and punish for our schools and teachers, with zero accountability for students and parents.

Maybe because he is not a true educator, there is a critical factor that White has overlooked. That is the simple principle well recognized by all educational psychologists and backed up by education research. That is: No real learning takes place without motivation! For the majority of children in our public education system today, there is almost no attention to motivation that will actually cause them to want to learn what we are attempting to teach in school. Our present curriculum is so boring, so irrelevant to real children, and so irrelevant to real jobs in the workforce today that all of White's efforts at reform are doomed to continued failure.

Ask any teacher or any guidance counselor and they will tell you that by the time our average students reach the 6th or 7th grade, school has lost all relevance and motivation for children to learn what we are trying to teach. We need to change our curriculum to make it relevant to real life. Much of the Common Core math we are teaching in middle school will never again be used by 98% of our students. The boring reading assignments produced by Common Core are destroying any love of reading. Real motivation is the secret to boosting learning as explained here and here. We need to encourage children to experience the joy of reading before we can expect them to slave away at close reading exercises.

But most of all, we need to encourage teachers to do what works best. That's allowing teachers to be creative in what they know will interest and motivate children to learn the concepts and skills that are really useful in life. We need to cut back drastically on the state testing and test prep that is poisonous to student motivation. Don't expect John White and the non-educator reformers to adopt any of these ideas.

According to the Sentell article, the next phase of education reform will include tackling the wide gap in academic performance of black and underprivileged students compared to white middle class students. This is sometimes called the equity gap. What will the reformers do about bringing up the performance of the key subgroups addressed in the ESSA plan? Maybe the reformers haven't figured it out yet, but the new Common Core curriculum does not work well with low performing students. Will the LDOE continue to take over schools that have large numbers of minority and free lunch students who underperform? I think not. The Recovery District is a total failure. Look at their ranking in my previous post. John White no longer wants to take responsibility for these difficult problems. His strategy is to continue chastising the administrators of schools that serve such students and keep pretending that poverty should not make any difference. But it does. So it's going to get harder and harder to keep dedicated educators in high poverty schools. What we can expect is more demoralizing test and punish, without state takeover.

What about charter schools and privatization? The voucher schools seem to be stalled because of terrible performance. But the bad news is that the LDOE has finally found a model of charter schools that works, but not for at-risk students. The secret to high performing charter schools is implementation of a system of student selection that attracts the high performing students and shuns the at-risk. This is already happening with the KIPP schools and the BASIS charter schools. Baton Rouge is now experiencing increased segregation of students by race and class as BASIS carefully recruits high performing students while shunning handicapped and black students. The new portfolio model for a school district is heading toward a two tiered system with elite charter schools getting the high performers (both black and white), and leaving the low performers to the real public schools. The federal courts used to frown on intentional segregation. Are they willing to allow the portfolio model to segregate students to greater levels than before court ordered desegregation?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Poverty vs District School Performance

This ranking lists all Louisiana school systems and certain individual schools in order of increasing poverty. The table includes the district performance scores and the letter grade as assigned by the LA Department of Education for 2019. 
(Click on the image to magnify)

It is noteworthy that the districts and schools with the smallest percentage of high poverty students achieved the highest district and/or school performance scores and the highest letter grades. Conversely, the three school districts with the greatest student poverty received the lowest performance scores and the lowest letter grades in the state.

The highest scoring schools in the state are the school for math/science/arts and the LSU lab school. These are selective admissions schools but they also have the lowest percentages of high poverty students in the state.

The Zachary Community school district, which has the highest district performance score, has only 3 percentage points higher poverty than the wealthiest school system . The school systems in Louisiana that rank in the top 10% according to wealth, with the exception of Livingston Parish, all  received "A" grades from the LDOE.

A few good words about the Zachary Community school system
The Zachary school system is celebrating its 15th year in a row as the highest performing school system in the state based on standardized test scores. Zachary administrators and teachers certainly deserve much credit. My wife and I both taught in the Zachary school system many years ago,  long before school systems were ranked by student test scores. It was an excellent school system even then. Like all other school systems, Zachary teachers spend a lot of time preparing students for the almighty annual state tests. But in my opinion, that is not what makes Zachary a great school system. The teachers and administrators in Zachary have always taught the whole student with great attention to each student's talents, strengths, and weaknesses. Teachers are allowed to use great creativity in addition to test prep. My grandson who was a co-valedictorian at Zachary also enjoyed taking great courses in shop, art and athletics.

Very few school systems have managed to perform better than expected
There are four school systems that score significantly above their expected scores according to the level of poverty:  Plaquemines Parish which achieved an "A" performance with a 70% poverty rate and Catahoula, St. Bernard and St Mary Parishes which achieved  "B" grades with 78% poverty rates.

However, with few exceptions, school systems generally perform closely as an inverse proportion to their poverty ranking.

Another exception to the rule above  is represented by the three virtual schools in the state. (look up how they rate on the test rankings) These schools all score lower than would be predicted by their poverty rates.  If test scores are so important, why are these schools provided 90% of the student MFP funding, even though they do not have to pay for buildings, buses, custodians, librarians, school lunch and many other costs that real schools are expected to provide with almost the same funding?
With very little variation, districts' performance scores are inversely proportional to the rate of poverty.

The creation of so called "Recovery Districts" that are supposed to turn around so called "failing schools" have had almost no impact. Just see where the two remaining Recovery districts are performing in the table above. The New Orleans school district has only recently been restored control of its Recovery district.  Their school performance score places Orleans in the bottom 20% of a state that is ranked third to last among all states. his expensive program has done little to improve test scores.

School performance scores and letter grades based on test results and graduation rates have encouraged corruption
The pressure on schools to raise test scores has produced more corruption than actual improvement in student academic achievement. Some school administrators, particularly in takeover charter schools whose continued existence may depend on student test scores, have devised creative ways of cheating to raise their school performance score. Cheating is made more likely by the LDOE policy that allegations of wrongdoing at a school are primarily investigated by the local district or charter operator. That allows for a lot of cover up. But some of the most blatant cases have come to light. These include revelations of answer corrections by computer erasure analysis. But no one goes to jail like the teachers and administrators in Atlanta who had their test corrections investigated by the FBI. In Louisiana, where the school letter grade is determined by several factors, we are getting more creative cheating such as the recent "fix your grade books" scheme or the awarding of diplomas to half a 12th grade class by awarding credits that were not earned.

Why does Louisiana stigmatize and demoralize educators whose only apparent sin is that they serve high poverty students?
Schools are not buildings. Schools are communities of human beings composed of students who are served by dedicated, caring,  teachers and administrators. The data above demonstrates that there is a strong correlation between standardized test scores and the rate of poverty of students who make up the student body of a particular school. The American Statistical Association has determined that the impact of teacher quality in a school accounts for only between one and 14% of student test performance. What is to be gained by spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year on standardized testing when we can already accurately predict the average test scores in a school by the level of poverty of its students. BESE no longer requires students to pass these tests to be promoted, so why give them? Unfortunately, because of the stigma produced by low school grades, it is only that much harder to attract the best and most dedicated teachers to schools that serve the neediest students.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Common Core and Ed Reform; Overwhelming Evidence of Failure

Louisiana adopted Common Core standards sight unseen.
Louisiana adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, before they were even written, partly because the Louisiana power brokers (LABI) and some out-of state billionaires said "the children could not wait". Strong medicine was needed to cure the ills of public education. Our reform oriented leaders thought we could cash in on generous grants offered by the O'Bama administration to implement this scheme without the need for clinical trials.  The only problem was that since there was not enough federal money appropriated to fund all the states that took the plunge on Common Core, only a few states were selected for the grants. Louisiana passed laws, and regulations forcing all our public schools to adopt and implement the standards even though we did not get the grant money. On top of what was done to our students, our teachers were stripped of tenure rights that had been working well for many years, and instead changed to test based evaluations putting teacher’s jobs in constant jeopardy based on error prone VAM formulas.

We would never allow completely untested medicine or drugs to be used on our children; not so with education experiments.
This idea of administering strong untested medicine to cure the ills of education was sort of like how parents used to give their children caster oil and fraudulent patent medicines before they had access to modern medicines tested using clinical trials.  Also, today, for education strategies, we have well established methods of field testing and validation that should be completed before we try new ideas on innocent children. But unfortunately the self appointed education reformers like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, the Waltons and others who would never use untested practices on there own businesses, decided that "the children could not wait" for studies of new reform standards to be validated. Billions of dollars of Gates money were spent on promotion of the untested standards to push fo adoption in all the states before any real opposition could build up. In addition, charter schools were promoted, supposedly so that children could "escape" failing public schools.

 Here is what Diane Ravitch ( a highly respected historian of education practice) thought of this education reform "medicine". That opinion piece in the New York times was written three years ago. It revealed that the new standards were not working. But the reformers responded that the new standards had just not yet been given enough time to demonstrate their real curative effects on children. Just give it more time and work harder at implementation and the success would come. In Louisiana, John White and LABI decided that what we needed was more test prep, more data checks on student progress, and more punishment of teachers and schools based on test scores. That would do it. Stay the course.

The low test scores used to justify reform are now stagnant or lower than they were before the reforms.
Now the latest average scores of the 2019 NAEP  and ACT tests are even more dismal. Louisiana's ACT average scores have been dropping like a rock for the last three years. After all that test prep done at the expense of real teaching! The very test data that was used to justify Louisiana's headlong plunge into reform, privatization and repeal of teacher rights, shows that our reward was lower, not higher, student performance. But now White has rigged it so that we are graduating thousands of functional illiterates using lowered graduation requirements so that our graduation rate can go up. Wasn't it the business community that insisted we needed to hire John White so that he could eliminate diploma mills and make our high school diplomas mean something?

John White's deception revealed by several educator bloggers.
John White's continued deception is verified in this recent blog by math teacher Gary Rubinstein and this blog by Mercedes Schneider both of which debunk John White' propaganda about NAEP results for Louisiana. (This blog exposed the deception first) The Rubinstein blog also reveals that Louisiana's 8th grade math performance is now lower than in 2007, after all that test prepping and all that teacher bashing! It's just not working, and we have now wasted 8 years on this disastrous project. So what's the reformer reaction now? John White repeats that higher student expectations will eventually work. Based on what? Wishful thinking? That's after he quietly lowered all promotion and graduation requirements so our graduation rate would artificially go up.

Most other states adopted the same defective standards.
But Louisiana is not alone in producing stagnant results on all the tests used to measure the success or failure of education reform. This article reveals the nationwide failure of reform. It is my opinion that Common Core, which was adopted in one form or another by most of the states, is dragging down our entire nation's performance. Common Core is not the right curriculum for a large percentage of our students who need career training. The strict, poorly designed college prep stuff in Common Core is lousy for the college bound and disastrous for career bound students. As we spend millions on standardized testing, students nation-wide are being denied vital training that would actually produce rewarding careers that do not require a bachelor's degree. Instead, teachers are forced to drill students in boring "close reading" and quadratic equations that most will never use even once in their lifetimes.

The teachers and schools serving poor children are not to blame.
Teachers never asked for these poorly designed reforms. From the very beginning teachers complained that the standards were not age appropriate, that the reading requirements (close reading and reading dry instruction guides) and the Eureka math, needlessly complex math calculations were killing kids' love of learning. When teacher tenure was repealed without due process and replaced with test based "accountability" John White told teachers this would "empower" the best teachers to personally negotiate better salaries. Ask any good teacher you know if she/he has been empowered. White who once said we did not need real teacher education, is now pushing teacher training and mentoring. Many of our best teachers are retiring early because of these attacks on the profession and now we have a teacher shortage. At one time White proposed placing 1/10 of teachers on a path to dismissal each year until student test scores improved. I think he has given up on that one.

Almost all schools now being rated as D or F simply have a high percentage of high poverty students. The standardized tests scores and therefore the school grades are directly related to the poverty level of a school and almost nothing else. We don't need to close these schools down or turn them into charters. We need to provide smaller classes, lots of age appropriate books that children want to read and make sure poor children have access to pre-school and a release from the Common Core. There is absolutely no incentive for our best teachers to teach in high poverty schools. Instead teachers continue to be demoralized by the unfair teacher and school grading system and the defective merit pay system.

What if the reform billions had actually been spent on at-risk children and pre-school for all?
In pushing this useless education reform, the Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation and others have established what we now call Astroturf local organizations whose sole purpose is to push the exact same failed reform year after year. In Louisiana we have New Schools for New Orleans, New Schools for Baton Rouge, Stand for Children, etc. which are all funded by out-of-state foundations. Why do they insist on throwing away millions of dollars on failed reforms in little old Louisiana?  Couldn't they just have given our schools that serve at-risk students a few million to really help kids? Pre school for at-risk students is one program that has actually been shown to work. Why not fund pre school? I guess they just can't give up this pet project that they would never try on their own children. As long as the carpetbaggers in the Astroturf organizations are paid to "deform" our schools, we will continue to neglect the real needs of our students, while our tax dollars are used to fund charters and more and more tests.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

John White's Pitiful Record as Louisiana's Education Reformer

After over 7 years of John White as Louisiana's education reformer, Louisiana ranks 47th on national reading and math tests, and 49th on the ACT.
John White's propaganda mill had the unmitigated gall to put out this press release Tuesday claiming that Louisiana was "number one in the country in 8th grade math improvement" as measured by The Nations Report Card. This tiny bit of data selection is insignificant compared to overall achievement of our students in reading, math and college readiness. The press release neglected to mention that despite all this "improvement" Louisiana still ranks third to last compared to the 50 states in 8th grade math. There is also no mention that Louisiana ranks 47th out of the 50 states in overall performance on all the latest NAEP tests. No mention was made that the latest ACT tests now rank Louisiana second to last in the country in college readiness! Our ACT test score averages have been declining significantly for the last 3 years. White's press release trying to portray total stagnation in student performance as "nation leading outcomes" is pathetic.

An analysis of White's record as measured by objective NAEP and ACT testing
The example of selective data analysis in the press release above to find just one little nugget of apparent success while ignoring all of the overwhelming data indicating total stagnation in education results is a shameful attempt to mislead the public. Here is an analysis of the overall performance of White as the reformer of Louisiana's public schools:

There are a total of 4 NAEP tests given every two years to a representative sample of students in each state that allows us to compare the performance of our students to other states. Focusing on only one of the four tests over a period of only two years, especially if it is not statistically significant, can be highly misleading. But combining the results of all 4 tests over a period of several years gives a much better measure of progress over a more reliable time frame.  John White has been in charge of Louisiana education for a total of seven and one-half years, so we should look at the total results of both NAEP and ACT over that time period.

I took the average scores on NAEP in 4th grade reading, 4th grade math, 8th grade reading, and 8th grade math and added them together for the year 2011, which was the year of testing just before John White was appointed state superintendent. Then I added together the average test scores on the same 4 tests for the most recent test given in the Spring of 2019. The total scale score of the 4 tests for 2011 was 969 which ranked LA at 49th in the nation. The total scale score on the same 4 tests for Louisiana in 2019 was 970 (an insignificant gain of one point). In 2019 Louisiana outperformed only three states: Alabama scored 964, Alaska scored 962, and New Mexico scored 960.

For ACT scores, there is no press release at all from the LDOE, probably because they have not yet found a way to spin three years in a row of declining ACT scores as some type of success. Average ACT scores in Louisiana was 19.6 in 2017, 19.2 in 2018, and 18.8 in 2019. This is a very significant drop in three years. Don't just take my word for it that Louisiana is performing poorly in college readiness, just take a look at this article by Will Sentell in The Baton Rouge Advocate casually mentioning that Louisiana has now fallen to 49th in the nation on the ACT.
Millions spent by privatization groups to keep John White
Despite the dismal results of the 8 year White administration, he has just been assured at least a 4 year extension of his job. This will be the result of the recent election of a state board of education committed to White, with their campaigns financed by obscene contributions amounting to millions by the business community and out of state billionaires.

White and his supporters are determined to keep the charter school industry in Louisiana growing despite numerous scandals such as the wholesale awarding of bogus diplomas at Kennedy charter school, or the "Fix your grade books" scandal at Sci Academy, that's just in the last few months!

White has totally failed in his stated missions of raising standardized test scores (White's state test results have been found to be inflated compared to the national tests), closing the achievement gap, (The gap between rich and poor is widening), and preparing students for college (The ACT scores are dropping like a rock), but he still has the nerve to provide the following quite in his press release about the non-existant progress on NAEP:

White: "When we raise expectations for students and support our teachers, we will see progress. It is critical that we keep the progress going." 
My public records requests reveal that John White has done the opposite of raising expectations. He has used his almost absolute power over education to insure that almost all students are promoted to the next grade without regard to actual performance. The standards for passing end-of-course tests for graduation are so low that students can pass by random guessing. (17% correct answers for English I, 15% for Algebra, 10% to 12% depending on the test form for Geometry etc.) These are not "raised expectations".

Friday, October 18, 2019

Lane Grigsby, Kingmaker and Education Manipulator

This is an excellent article by Sue Lincoln, veteran reporter, for The Bayou Brief about how Lane Grigsby and a few super rich businessmen decided to take over our public education system as part of an overall plan to become the kingmakers of Louisiana politics. Grigsby and his allies are very close to achieving their goal of controlling virtually all Louisiana governmental functions including possibly the office of Governor.

As we predicted in several recent posts on this blog, with the buying of almost all elected positions on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, LABI has virtually achieved total control of K-12 education. Basically every rule, every directive to school principals and teachers now comes from the state education bureaucracy totally controlled by LABI which is dominated by Grigsby and his rich friends. All the complaints by teachers of excessive standardized testing costing millions that do absolutely nothing to benefit students, inaccurate and unfair test-based teacher ratings, can now be laid at the feet of Grigsby and LABI.

To emphasize the aggressiveness and dishonesty used in the takeover of BESE, here is part of an exact script of one of the radio ads (Paid for by Louisiana Federation for Children which is really financed by an out-of-state group) used against independent BESE candidate Timmie Melancon:  "There are two choices for BESE; Timmie Melancon who has taken thousands from liberal unions like those who spent millions electing O'Bama, Nancy Peloci and Hillary Clinton, . . . who raised money as a member of a radical online group where members promoted socialism, they even referred to our president as a Russian operative . . . The conservative choice is Holly Boffy who voted to give teachers a pay raise, and whose record includes higher test scores." This political ad is almost 100 percent flat out lies. Melancon is a retired school teacher who is a beekeeper who has never before been involved in any liberal causes. She got just a fraction of the donations Boffy got, who was funded mostly from out-of-state billionaires and LABI controlled PACs. Our student test scores on national tests have long been near the bottom, but after the 8 years of Boffy and her fellow reformers, LA is at the absolute bottom of the ranking of the states on national test scores.

In the linked article by Sue Lincoln, we find that Grigsby made the decision to take over public education and redirect much of our school taxes to private schools and charter schools because he became irritated at having to pay the engineers of his construction company based on the number of  school age children that they chose to send to private schools.  What monumental arrogance!

So John White and BESE, as the tools of LABI, are systematically usurping the powers of local school boards in operating public education, by approving more charter and voucher schools and by forcing teachers to spend an extraordinary portion of the school year prepping children for state tests.

Now, Grigsby and LABI, having achieved almost total control of BESE and the legislature, have their sights set on the office of Governor and the few remaining legislative districts they want to control. This would make their control of state government complete. Recent news reports have revealed that Grigsby offered support to one of the candidates for Senate district 16 to drop out of the race in seeking a judgeship as a consolation prize so that Grigsby's choice could win District 16. One Republican candidate actually resigned from the party in protest of Grigsby's attempt to corrupt the elections.

LABI's new goal, now that they have achieved total control of education, is to elect Eddie Rispone (A major Common Core promoter and a promotor of his own tax breaks for supporting private schools) as Governor. He and his rich kingmakers also intend to achieve a veto proof majority of the legislature. The achievement of these political goals would do no less than allow LABI to control basically every function of state government. What could LABI do with all this power?  Here are just a few possibilities:
  • Even more outrageous tax exemptions for super-big businesses in Louisiana along with a much bigger tax burden for the cost of services such as education, police, road repairs, health care, etc. shifted to average tax payers and small buisnesses.
  • An increasing segregation of our schools to allow more wealthy families to send their children to better funded and staffed schools while the neediest students would receive less and less support to reach educational equity.
  • A severe curtailment of the legal rights of citizens and workers who are literally being poisoned by industry (check out one of the many articles about Louisiana's cancer alley) and recovery of damages for job injuries where big businesses are responsible.
  • Reduction of Industry liability for coastal restoration and pollution cleanup.
  • Continued squashing of the rights of labor unions to represent their members.
This is where we are headed with the control of State Government by big business and self appointed king makers.

Monday, October 14, 2019

LABI and out-of-state donors still dominate BESE

It is so painful to me personally to review or recount the results of the BESE election this past weekend that I am grateful to Mercedes Schneider for having done an excellent job of telling the continuing sad story of the LABI victory over education. I urge all of my readers to take the time to read Schnieder's post.

I want to express my sincere appreciation to the excellent and independent candidates who did their very best to present themselves to the public as good alternatives to the insanity that has controlled and will continue to control education in Louisiana. Unfortunately they could not compete with the effect of big money on an election that most voters know little about. Most of the voters in our state continue to assume credibility for those candidates who spend enough to get their signs and ads out in the media. Most people do not take the time to read facebook posts from candidates who do not enjoy funding by the real decision makers in this state.

For my part, I will continue to monitor and report the actions of BESE as well as the legislature for as long is I am able to do so. I am very hopeful that at some time in the not-too-distant future we can restore the creativity of teachers and make effective attempts to better prepare our students for life using our K-12 public education system.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Just 3 Days Left to Break the Grip of Out-of-State Reformers on Our Louisiana Schools

The reformers and privatizers of public education are using hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions to get the voters in Louisiana to vote against their own interests in order to continue their control of our education system.
If you are reading this blog, I am asking you to help counteract the impact of big out-of-state money on the election of our Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). For the last 8 years the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and their out-of-state billionaire donors (The Waltons, the Gates, the Broads, and a bunch of Democratic hedge fund managers) have literally taken over and totally revamped our K-12 public education system. They have pushed school privatization and a system of constant testing and test prep for our students in the place of a real practical curriculum that would prepare our children for life. So now our students are performing in almost last place compared to other states in math and English and our ACT scores are dropping. It is time to break the grip of these education deformers on our public school tax dollars.
The only way we educators and citizens have of stopping the "deformers" of public education in Louisiana, is to spread the word about the good and independent BESE candidates to all our friends and relatives using social media and the good old fashioned telephone and face-to-face contact. A good strategy is to copy the link for this blog with your comments to Facebook and Twitter. We have approximately 3 days left to get the job done before election day October 12.

Please help elect the following independent voices for public education to BESE:
Dist. 1- Lee Barrios; Dist. 2- Ashonta Wyatt; Dist. 3- Janice Perea; Dist. 5- Dr. Stephen Chapman;  Dist. 6Gregory Spiers; Dist. 7- Timmie Melancon; Dist. 8- Vereta Lee.
To find out what BESE district you live in, just click on each Dist. # above to see the maps of BESE districts.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

BESE Takeover Effort Intensifies

We predicted that as it got closer to election day, the out-of-state contributors who support the takeover of BESE would dump in massive amounts of contributions to LABI controlled candidates. 
We are now witnessing a massive advertising campaign financed primarily by out-of-state reformer groups that are acting in cooperation with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) to continue their total control of education in Louisiana. See this blog post by Mercedes Schneider, who I believe is the most effective investigative reporter of educational issues in Louisiana. Schneider describes how a faction of the Louisiana Democratic party called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is backing candidates for BESE using out-of-state money.

Schneider also describes here how other groups including Stand for Children are coordinating their efforts in Republican majority BESE districts. Brigitte Nieland who recently worked for LABI, is now the political action staffer for Stand for Children. Again, the goal is to provide LABI with totally committed candidates in both Republican and Democratic districts to do their bidding on all major education issues. What does this mean for our children and their teachers?

Election of these LABI controlled candidates will insure that John White remains State Superintendent for as long as he cares to do so. It will also mean that teachers and children will continue to spend most of their class time getting drilled and rehearsed in how to take the state standardized tests. Teachers are now being required to teach "scripted" lessons "with fidelity". This means that White and his reformers consider teachers nothing more that robotic test teachers. That's also why almost no teacher's children are choosing education as their profession and we are experiencing a growing teacher shortage. But the worst result of all this "deform" of education is that our children are actually performing at their lowest ranking ever on standardized tests. So the experiment has failed but as Einstein warned: "Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting to see different results."

If you are sick of this "insanity", please vote against all of the LABI endorsed candidates.
Those are: District 1; James Garvey, District 2; Kira Orange Jones, District 3; Sandy Holloway, District 5; Ashley Ellis, District 6; Ronnie Morris, District 7; Holly Boffy, District 8; Preston Castille.

Here are the candidates I believe would be independent of LABI and willing to restore practical and creative education to our schools. Please consider voting for:
Dist. 1; Lee Barrios, Dist. 2; Ashonta Wyatt, Dist. 3; Janice Perea, Dist. 5; Dr. Stephen Chapman,  Dist. 6; Gregory Spiers, Dist. 7; Timmie Melancon, Dist. 8; Vereta Lee.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Help Break the Grip of Special Interest Lobbyists Over BESE!

Should we continue to allow special interest lobbyists to rule over K-12 education, when the evidence proves they have failed?
How is it that we, the citizens of Louisiana, have allowed a non-educator, big business lobbying group to almost totally control our public education system? The answer is big $. For the past two terms, the Louisiana Association of business and Industry and their donors from both Republican and Democratic PACs  have dominated the elections for our board of Elementary and Secondary with huge campaign contributions supplemented by out-of-state mega-donors. As a result, LABI has dictated the operation of our K-12 public schools and diverted our tax dollars to charter and private schools.

Both Republican and Democratic legislators and most BESE members have supported the LABI reforms
 LABI, which usually clashes with the Democratic party, has found a major ally in the group called Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). DFER uses a PAC called Education Reform Now Advocacy Inc. to make contributions to BESE candidates. I just received an expensive brochure in the mail for the LABI endorsed candidate in the 8th BESE district paid for by Education Reform Now Advocacy Inc. Voters all over the state will soon be receiving similar advertisements for candidates who claim to be for teacher pay raises and seemingly support public education. But the real agenda of these LABI endorsed candidates is more testing, more test prep, more privatization of our schools, and more Common Core insanity. These tactics have already done major damage to public education in Louisiana. We certainly do not need to double down on failed programs. So beware of wolves in sheep's clothing!

I do want to emphasize however, that many legislators who have a background in education strongly oppose the LABI and DRER reforms.

LABI helped to pass major legislation during the Jindal administration that stripped teachers of tenure and seniority benefits and provided for unlimited expansion of poorly regulated charter and voucher schools. These so called "reforms" were supposed to greatly improve the performance of our school children in basic skills. The exact opposite has happened.

LABI has no expertise in education. Their main claim to fame is that this big business lobby succeeded in passing the anti-labor, Right to Work law, and engineered huge tax exemptions for some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. Now LABI, with the help of their hand picked non-educator superintendent, John White, has been running roughshod over our K-12 education systems for over 8 years. One of the main sources of their power over education is the majority of BESE members endorsed and elected by LABI. The current members of BESE have approved 100% of the reforms pushed by LABI. BESE has installed a new set of standards (The Common Core Standards) for our students and a school rating system that judges teachers and schools using mostly student test scores. This has resulted in our teachers being forced to abandon effective teaching methods so they could spend most of their time rehearsing students for the state standardized tests.

So after 8 years of control of BESE and the appointment of John White as State Superintendent,
LABI education reforms have resulted in the lowest comparative ratings ever for our schools

Today LABI , on their web site  brags about their accomplishments in school reform with this summary:
“ For years, Louisiana has shown commitment and dedicated resources to education reform and results in improved student achievement are being realized. Graduation rates are improving, along with ACT scores, and the achievement gap continues to lessen. There are more opportunities for school choice than most other states in the nation".

These claims in the above LABI statement are almost totally false except for the part about school choice. The national (NAEP) test reveals that Louisiana has dropped to its lowest ranking ever among the states in student achievement in reading and math. The only reason the graduation rate has improved is because John White has lowered standards for graduation to ridiculously low levels. (See the post below) The ACT average scores were lower this year, and have been stagnating for the last 4 years. But the most atrocious untruth on the LABI website is that "the achievement gap continues to lessen". Instead, the latest NAEP report indicates that Louisiana is one of the four states out of 50 where the achievement gap between white and  minority students has increased. Even Louisiana's latest 2019 LEAP results reveal that the achievement gap between high poverty and non-high poverty students has increased on every single test given. The only thing that is correct in the LABI statement is that Louisiana is providing more opportunities for school choice. But unfortunately, (based on objective data) school choice has resulted in lower performance for the majority of students who have participated.

The real results of the LABI takeover of BESE is lower, not higher student performance and a major demoralization of the teaching profession because of unteachable standards, a badly designed and punitive teacher evaluation system, poor support on discipline, and the pressure to do almost nothing but test prep. Its no wonder we are experiencing a growing teacher shortage and that teachers no longer urge their own children to follow their footsteps into the profession. 

My best recommendation for breaking the grip LABI has over K-12 education is for educators and other supporters of our public schools to use social media and every other means to inform the general public of the candidates for BESE that can make positive changes to our educational system. Please share my voter guide to BESE elections on Facebook and Twitter, and ask your friends and family to elect good alternatives to the LABI controlled candidates!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

BESE Election Guide, Part II; Find Out Which Candidates Deserve Our Votes

An unholy alliance of non-educators now controls BESE
I believe my previous posts on this blog have made it clear that the takeover of BESE by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI)  and out-of-state billionaires, who have chosen to experiment with our school children, has been nothing short of a disaster. These captive BESE members are the ones who appointed John White, a non-educator from New York who implemented a plan stripping our teachers of all autonomy and ability to teach in any creative manner and imposed a system of constant test prep in all our schools. 

Basically all of their so called "reforms" have failed. Almost no practicing teacher today would recommend that her/his own children go into the teaching profession, and many of our best teachers are retiring early. The teaching profession has been demoralized and stripped of all decision making authority. The ability of teachers to maintain discipline in their classrooms has been undermined by pressure to coddle misbehaving students so they can be graduated without regard to performance. Our students are performing at the lowest level ever on the national comparative tests (NAEP: Dead last among all states in  math and just one or two places above last in reading), despite the fact that many of our classrooms have been converted into boring test-prep factories. Our graduation rate has been artificially inflated by promoting all students to the next grade with little or no evidence of learning and by handing out diplomas to functional illiterates. All done to create a phony image of success.

John White and the other reformers "believed" that if we just focused all education on standardized testing designed by college prep elites, that our kids would dramatically improve their performance. But just the opposite has happened. The raw scores on state tests have steadily declined. Then in desperation to show false progress, John White and his expensive testing companies lowered the underlying raw cut scores to produce apparent improvement. That's why the true passing scores on math, and English LEAP tests for grades 3-8 now average about 30%, and the graduation test passing scores are averaging about 20%. That's the real secret to the improvement of our graduation rates.

So if you think that these so called reforms are good for our children, then by all means you should vote for the LABI endorsed and controlled slate of BESE candidates. Unfortunately many voters may unknowingly vote for the LABI controlled candidates because of the huge campaign contributions that these controlled candidates will get. With this lavish funding, slick radio and TV ads will promote their candidates to the unknowing public. It will be very difficult for good solid candidates who recognize the need to change this disastrous course to get elected. But we must do our best to get the message out about these destroyers of public education, and help to elect good positive replacements for the present BESE members.

It is my firm opinion that none of the present BESE members seeking reelection deserve our votes. In addition, none of the candidates endorsed by LABI and their allies to open positions deserve our votes.
So if you agree that education under the control of LABI is on the wrong track, you should consider voting for any reasonable alternative to the LABI controlled BESE. Here are my recommendations by BESE district. You can check my research on candidates by reading this article in The Advocate which lists the candidates endorsed by LABI as well as what I consider good educational choices endorsed by the Louisiana Association of Educators and LFT. I disagree with LAE in only a couple of cases, but their choices are still much better than the incumbents or other LABI endorsed candidates.

Here are my recommendations for BESE by district.

If you are not sure which BESE district you live in, just click on this link to the maps of BESE districts
District 1: (Includes St. Tammany and Jefferson Parishes) I am enthusiastically recommending Lee Barrios, a Republican and a retired teacher, who has attended numerous BESE meetings and legislative committee meetings and recommended much better alternatives to the LABI revisions to education. Ms Barrios has done her homework and deserves your consideration. LAE and LFT are endorsing Marion Bonura, an Independent and also a retired teacher. Either of these candidates are by far preferable to the incumbent, James Garvey, who is endorsed by, and will always do the bidding of LABI and John White without question.

District 2 (Includes much of New Orleans, parts of Jefferson and Assumption parishes and St. John, St. Charles and St. James parishes): I am recommending Dr. Ashonta Wyatt.  Dr Wyatt is a Democrat and an experienced educator who wants to restore sanity to education. She is opposing the LABI endorsed incumbent, Kira Orange Jones, who in my opinion has a serious conflict of interest by being an employee of Teach for America, which gets huge contracts from BESE to supply temporary teachers who have no real training in eduction to our schools. LAE and LFT are making a dual endorsement of both of the challengers to the incumbent. I believe that any vote against Kira Orange Jones is a good choice.

District 3 (Includes parts of Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin and Iberia parishes, and Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes): I am enthusiastically recommending Janice Perea, a Republican, and a practicing teacher in Houma. I had a great telephone conversation with Ms Perea and found that she and I agree on the need to overhaul the highly inefficient teacher evaluation system, greatly reduce standardized testing and test prep, and change the parts of the new curriculum that are not age appropriate for our children. Both LAE and LFT are endorsing Ms Perea. The incumbent, Sandy Holloway, is endorsed and controlled by LABI in my opinion.

District 4: The LABI endorsed incumbent, Tony Davis is unopposed.

District 5 (Includes much of central and northeast Louisiana down to Evangeline parish): This is an open seat with no incumbent. I recommend Dr. Stephen Chapman, a Republican and a dentist who has been serving on the Rapides Parish school board. I believe that Dr. Chapman is well informed on the issues and the problems with our current education policies and he is independent-minded. LAE and LFT are supporting Dr Chapman. LABI is endorsing an educator from the City of Monroe, Ashley Ellis. I am very much afraid that this educator will be totally controlled by LABI just as has happened with former teacher of the year, Holly Boffy, who is still serving in District 7.

District 6 (Includes much of EBR, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes) : This is an open seat with no incumbent. I am recommending Gregory Spiers, a Republican, a former Navy Seal, and a former teacher. I had a great telephone conversation with Mr Spiers and was amazed at how well informed he was about present reform flaws and the takeover of BESE. He is very practical and will try to restore dignity to the teaching profession. He believes it is time for John White to move back to New York. LABI is endorsing Ronnie Morris. I have no information on him but again, I do not trust any LABI candidate. LAE and LFT  are also endorsing Gregory Spiers.

District 7 (Includes most of Southwest Louisiana): I am enthusiastically recommending Ms Timmie Melancon, an Independent and a retired teacher. I have spoken to Timmie on the phone and found that she understands thoroughly the flaws in the present system of "test teaching" a curriculum that is wrong for our children. She also wants to restore the autonomy and dignity the teaching profession. Timmie is also endorsed by the LAE and LFT. The incumbent, Holly Boffy is a former teacher who is endorsed by LABI and who has worked for organizations that helped adopt the new badly designed Common Core standards. In my opinion Ms Boffy is totally controlled by LABI.

District 8 (Includes much of EBR, West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Ascension, the Felecianas and up to Avoyelles Parish): i am enthusiastically recommending Ms Vereta Lee, a Democrat and a long time educator who now lives in Baton Rouge. I have known Ms Lee for almost 40 years and know that she is a practical educator who totally understands the flaws in our current "reformed" system. She was defeated from her recent position on the EBR school board by a massive infusion of contributions from the reformer groups who are in the process of privatizing the entire EBR school system. However, she is still determined to fight for the survival of our public school system. LAE and LFT are also supporting Ms Lee. LABI has endorsed Mr Preston Castille, a Democrat and an attorney. I believe Mr Castille is another captive of LABI who will religiously vote to continue the privatization and the failed reforms implemented by LABI.

Three at-large BESE positions are appointed by the Governor
There are three other, at-large, positions on BESE that are not elected but appointed by the Governor. I believe all of these are solid supporters of our efforts to restore sanity to our public school system, but they can't do it alone unless we elect several good candidates to BESE.

All of the LABI endorsed candidates will probably be very difficult to defeat because of the shear volume of money these "reformers" have available to spend on their "captive" endorsements. I urge all educators, parents, and others who care about our public schools to look up the candidate from your area, to get involved and help them with contributions if you possibly can. If you type in their names with the words BESE candidate into Google you will probably get a web site or Facebook page with information on their platform and how to make donations. Otherwise we will continue to be doomed to these ineffective and harmful reforms. Why not just trust our teachers do do what they have been trained to do and are quite willing to dedicate their careers to? Our children need to be motivated, and thrilled to the joys of learning by creative teachers, not made slaves to these poorly designed tests that prepare our kids for almost nothing of real value.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Guide to BESE Elections, Part I

Why BESE is the most critical, yet least understood body affecting public education in Louisiana 
The average Louisiana voter does not know what the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education does and most do not even know who represents them on BESE. BESE members historically have been low profile persons who were dedicated to public education. The BESE elections used to attract very low political contributions and were not seen as a stepping stone to higher office. BESE members get no pay for their service and very little news coverage. Thats why in the past, most voters were not very well informed about the huge impact BESE can have on our schools.

But now, almost everyone complains about the very bad decisions being made affecting our children's schools. Almost everyone who has a child in public schools complains about the excessive time spent on standardized testing and test-prep each year. Many parents of school children are alarmed when their children, who once looked forward to attending school, come home crying about the frustrating and incomprehensible material their teachers are forced to teach and test. And recently we learned that our school system has fallen to its lowest level ever in the various rankings of the states on education. We are now tied for last place on the national comparative NAEP test. The Quality Counts rating system which was released last week, covering a wide range of measures rated Louisiana 4th from the bottom of the states, below even Mississippi. These frustrating and damaging changes have happened because our BESE elections have been taken over by a coalition of out-of-state billionaires and the dominant business organization in Louisiana.  

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and super wealthy education reformers from out-of-state decided about 14 years ago that with a concerted effort and a huge infusion of contributions to hand picked candidates, the so called "reformers" could literally take over public education in Louisiana. At the same time a group of mega-wealthy individuals and foundations were looking for laboratory states to experiment with implementing a complete overhaul of public education. Massive contributions came from New York tycoon Michael Bloomberg, the Eli Borad family, the Walton family, and even Bill and Melinda Gates. They then spent millions, on political contributions and a new curriculum to guarantee implementation of all the latest fads in education reform. Bill Gates decided to fund the implementation of the Common Core standards nationwide, sight unseen. Louisiana's BESE adopted the Common Core standards before they were even written. None of these had been field tested. Louisiana and Florida became huge laboratories for education reform.

With the help of Governor Jindal, who also was determined to overhaul education, LABI and their billionaires literally took over 7 out of 8 of the elected positions on BESE. They were then able to bring in an out-of-state non-educator (John White) as the new reformer minded State Superintendent. Republicans and some reformer oriented Democrats in the legislature helped Jindal pass major legislation stripping teachers of tenure, seniority, and every bit of decision making about teaching and implementation of educational standards. They gave the new LABI controlled BESE full authority to take over low performing schools and turn them over to minimally regulated charter school operators. The legislation also allowed vouchers using our school taxes to go to private schools, and to implement the new Common Core State Standards with the accompanying standardized testing and the grading of schools based on this testing.

The education reformers won total control of our schools. Have they succeeded in boosting our children's educational achievement?
The reformers got absolutely everything they wanted with this massive overhaul of our Louisiana schools. The promise of these reforms was to produce much improved performance of our students in reading and math, closing of the achievement gap between underprivileged and middle class children, and a major improvement of Louisiana's ranking of education compared to other states. 

Now after 10 years of operating our schools based on this reform agenda, multiple measures of our education system reveal serious declines, not improvement. We are now awarding diplomas to students who are functional illiterates, and our educational ranking among the states is the lowest ever!

Now that the reform is sputtering, can we take back our schools?
It's sad to say, but it would be almost impossible to take back BESE in the coming 2019 elections, because the reformers still have the ability to control most of the money being spent on the BESE elections. And they are not about to admit that they were wrong about any part of their so called "reforms". The best we can do in this election cycle is to begin the process of educating our parents and taxpayers about the damaging results of the current reforms and at least begin the process of taking back the control of our schools and the use of our school tax dollars.

All of the five incumbents running for reelection to BESE are invested in retaining the reforms no matter what. 
These incumbents are James Garvey, District 1; Kira Orange Jones, District 2; Sandy Holloway, District 3; Tony Davis, District 4; and Holly Boffy, District 7. Tony Davis has no opposition and the other incumbents are seen as front runners. If they get only a fraction of the contributions spent on previous elections by the reformer PACs they have a tremendous advantage. In part II on the BESE elections I will attempt to give some guidance on candidates that are willing to challenge the status quo of the present reform movement in Louisiana.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

State Senator Reveals the Rotten Core of Education Reform

One Senator on the Senate Education Committee Tells it Like it is
Please take just a few minutes to view this video (May 23, 2019) of Senator John Milkovich pointing out the serious flaws in education reform instituted under Governor Jindal and Superintendent John White. Here are some of the points made by Senator Milkovich.
  • Lobbyists and bureaucrats have taken over public education
  • Louisiana's education ranking among the states has fallen to its lowest level ever in the 9 years since the appointment of State Superintendent John White.
  • The Common Core Standards are a complete failure, and the materials used to teach Common Core are almost totally ineffective and counter productive.
  • Because of Common Core requirements, important classical literature has been replaced with teaching dry instructional texts. Reading proficiency, as a result, is falling.
  • Discipline in our public schools is out of control in many schools, and teachers are often not backed up by administrators or allowed to use effective discipline in their classrooms.
  • Teachers and students are now being overwhelmed with excessive testing.
  • Superintendent John White may be illegally serving in his position.
Not one other Senator on the committee spoke up to address the problems brought up by Senator Milkovich.
The worthless diploma scandal gets worse
This blog has exposed some of the more serious abuses of our educational system, including the removal of almost all standards for student promotion and graduation. In this article The Lens continues its coverage of the worthless diploma scandal in one of the New Orleans charter schools. John White has now approved several diplomas by waiver in that school without the students having to take the courses they were lacking for graduation. See also this earlier report and my posts below on this scandal and the removal of standards for promotion and graduation implemented by John White. This makes a total mockery of standards.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and out of state billionaires now control education in Louisiana
LABI has been itching to take over education from the educators for many years. This group that was primarily formed to pass anti-union and pro-big business legislation has long believed that the reason our students performed at a lower average level than many other states was because of teacher laziness, incompetence, teacher tenure, and the lack of a merit pay system. LABI felt that all employment decisions on teachers and administrators should be based almost exclusively on student test scores. During the Jindal administration, they finally got all their wishes granted. Tenure and seniority were destroyed, a merit pay system based on student test scores was implemented and to add insult to injury, a non-educator (John White) was given almost complete control of education.

Now, nine years later, the chickens have come home to roost. Louisiana has a growing teacher shortage after the loss of some of our most dedicated teachers, teachers spend a huge part of the school year doing almost nothing but drilling students in test rehearsals, and our test performance on national tests has fallen to its lowest ranking ever! LABI is continuing its efforts to control BESE by electing hand picked candidates to BESE.

But John White was the knight in shining armor who was going to solve all of our educational problems, So he continues to get excellent ratings from the LABI hand picked BESE, even though according to his policies any regular teacher would have been fired for the very result produced under his direction. And not a single legislator makes a comment following Senator Milkovich's important revelations. Who do you think still controls education?

Discipline laws are being ignored and violated in many schools
Twenty years ago I worked with the Senate Education Committee to clarify and strengthen our school discipline laws. The bill defining teacher rights to remove extremely disruptive and/or disrespectful students from the classroom until effective measures were taken to correct the behavior was almost unanimously approved by the entire legislature at that time. That law is still on the books but is often ignored by administrators in their zeal to keep students in school and to avoid taking necessary actions that may upset some parents.

As a result of these violations of state discipline law, many teachers are routinely insulted and sometimes physically abused by a small minority of students. I have heard of numerous cases where teachers have been forced to leave the profession by lack of support on discipline.
Thank you Senator Milkovich for helping to expose these serious problems in our educational system

Monday, August 12, 2019

Louisiana's Flood of Worthless Diplomas

This well researched article in explains very clearly how Louisiana, during the administration of  Superintendent John White has steadily lowered all standards to produce worthless diplomas. The title of the article, Promoted but not Helped, is a good summary of how Louisiana has improved its graduation rate in the past few years while cheating both students and potential employers.

The article focuses on one student, Denesha Gray, who somehow was awarded a high school diploma by one of the New Orleans charter schools even though she could not count change and was reading at the second grade level when she was granted a diploma.

"Y'all gave her a piece of paper" said Mr Lewis, the student's father.
Under rules that were in place until 2014, Gray’s high school exam scores would have barred her from graduating. But by the time she was a senior, state officials had begun to allow students who required special education services to receive diplomas even if they couldn’t pass the test.
Gray got those services only in her final year, and Lewis believes the intervention was mainly aimed at allowing school officials to wash their hands of his daughter and let her graduate.

The reporter describes how the student's father repeatedly asked school officials to address his daughter's learning disabilities as she was socially promoted from one grade to the next without evidence of learning. When the student was in high school, the highly touted Recovery School District was successfully sued by the Southern Poverty Law center because it was not in compliance with the federal law that required students with disabilities to receive an Individual Education Plan and extra help to deal with their disabilities. For years since charter schools took over most of the New Orleans schools, thousands of students had been deprived of the special education services mandated by law while their schools were receiving federal funding for that purpose. Many of the managers of those schools took in huge profits.

The new BESE policy on promotion adopted in 2017, has now condoned social promotion for all students from one grade to the next even though they fail all of their state tests and all of their teacher made tests. How is that possible if Louisiana is now operating under higher standards? The truth is that there are now basically no standards for promotion. BESE now allows the promotion of failing students if local officials simply submit a plan for helping the student overcome their deficiencies. There is no check up whatsoever to see if the student ever improves based on these plans. I recently filed a public records request and found that in 2018 over 20% of students statewide had failed both their state math and ELA tests, yet only 2% of students statewide were retained.

The flood of new diplomas aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if students lack the skills to excel in the workforce, said Nahliah Webber, of the Orleans Public Education Network, a parents advocacy group.
“You are graduating, but into what? Any school can have a high graduation rate,” she said. “When we don’t make sure that a (child’s) special education experience is high-quality, we are handicapping them for life.”

So now changes in state law allow special education students who do not meet graduation requirements to still get a regular diploma as long as they show progress on their IEP. In addition, regular students who achieve extremely low passing scores on End-of-Course tests can also receive a diploma, even if they fail all of their teacher made tests and are absent well beyond the number of days of attendance required by BESE. The new passing scores on EOC tests are now set so low that in some cases, even if a student knows absolutely nothing about the subject matter of a course, he/she can attain a passing grade on an End of Course test by just making random guesses on the multiple choice portion. That's how Louisiana has increased its graduation rate.

What is the average achievement of students who are awarded a diploma in Louisiana?

Note: After this blog was posted I received a call from a reader of the blog who wondered how average graduates did on the High School End-of-Course tests. Her comment was: "OK so we know that some students are getting a diploma with little or no knowledge, but does that mean that a significant portion of our graduates are illiterate, or are most of our students getting a good education?" I thought this was a legitimate concern so I looked up the average raw scores on the EOC tests for 2019. Here they are: English I - 35%; Algebra I - 30%; English II - 47%, and Geometry - 32%. So the average graduate is getting between 30 and 47 percent of the questions right on the state EOC tests. I would not be very confident therefore, that the average graduate would qualify for college or a solid career.

Implementation of the Common Core curriculum has sabataged Louisiana education to the point that state officials now feel the need to create fake standards to cover up the disaster instead of having the courage to admit their mistake and fix it! Here is another great article exposing the fatal flaws of Common Core.

Friday, August 2, 2019

What's Really Wrong With Louisiana Education?

The article posted earlier this week on my blog may lead some readers to believe that I am "down" on Louisiana education. Nothing could be further from the truth. I also sincerely believe that our public school teachers are some of the most dedicated and hardest working teachers we have ever had.  This post by Ganey Arsement of the blog, Educate Louisiana, makes it clear that, Arsement at least, believes that my motives in publishing disappointing test results is to enlighten the public about the invalidity of our present state tests, and not to criticize the hard work of teachers. This blog post is an attempt to further clarify my findings about the current state of Louisiana education and to make suggestions about how we as citizens and educators may truly improve our public education system.

Our public schools are still the best choice by far
Many of the various posts of this blog demonstrate that our public education system is much more successful and reliable than the alternatives. Those alternatives promoted by the very rich supporters of so called "education reform" have included the establishment of charter schools and voucher schools in recent years that are vacuuming up and wasting many of our tax dollars, Those tax dollars should be going to the real public schools. Examples of charter failures in Louisiana are described here and here. There are many more. The voucher schools have failed even more dramatically.

The flawed assumption that has been promoted in recent years by wealthy donors to the cause of education reform, is that public schools would benefit from increased competition from privately run schools that are exempt of many of the oversight rules in exchange for a focus on results. It was believed that those privately run schools would lead the way in improving all schools. Much of the data we have provided in this blog and others demonstrate that these privately run schools have been generally inferior to public schools and have instead produced  numerous incidences of mismanagement, misappropriation of public dollars, and even scandals based on abuse and neglect of children.

It has been stated by reformers and legislators who support reform in the form of school choice, that parents are the best judge of the school  for their child. I respectfully disagree with this assumption as a blanket statement covering all parents. Certainly many parents are a good judge of what type of education would most benefit their children, but many parents don't have a clue about which school is best for their child. There is significant evidence that some parents are not choosing wisely. In my findings published in the previous post show, using official LDOE data, that voucher schools in Louisiana have produced lower average scores than the average for public schools on all state English and math tests. 

School choice is often a bad choice
The fact that some parents do not choose wisely about the education of their children is also borne out by the number of thriving post secondary schools across the country that are ripping off their students and awarding worthless diplomas. The fact that some parents do not choose wisely and make decisions that are not in their child's best interest is why we have the mandatory attendance laws requiring parents to send their children to school every day they are healthy and able to attend. That is because long ago in our history, it was determined that some parents were irresponsible when it came to sending their children to school. Often in the past some rural parents thought it was more important that children helped on the farm than attend school. But our legislators decided in favor of the future of children by passing laws that required parents to send their children to school. Now those laws are being seriously eroded by the education reformers. For example, the monitoring of home schooling is very minimal.

If we want to improve education we must start with the truth
The most important reason why I publish student test results using raw score averages and raw cut scores is to make parents and taxpayers aware of the truth in student performance. I have been particularly persistent in revealing the secret conversion tables used for converting raw test scores to highly obscure "scale scores". Unfortunately, as long as students are tested each year using standardized tests where the test questions change each year, there must be a system for making the test results compatible to other years. But that is no reason why the real raw scores and the percentage of possible points achieved by a student should be kept secret. In my opinion this system can and has been manipulated to falsify the true results.

It is also important for the public to have some idea of how much of the material on a test the students have actually learned. Some of those raw cut scores for a rating of passing on Louisiana tests recently have been so low that some students could almost pass a test by just making random guesses. This is wrong and needs to be exposed. John White and his "reformers" are trying to keep the truth hidden because they have failed miserably in their promise to produce. Their one goal of improving test scores has only made teaching and learning into a dull uninspiring exercise with poor results.

The real problem, in my opinion, with the low test scores our students are achieving on the new Common Core based tests, is that the material teachers are forced to teach is often not age appropriate, and often not really useful in preparing students for life. I think it's a travesty to force students to sit in their desks rehearsing for tests that are not relevant to them and that will not help them in the future. We need to completely revise the curriculum, the standards and the tests being used to teach children in Louisiana. Those revisions need to be based on student readiness and on the real needs of our children, not some untested theories about what will result in higher SAT scores.