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".