While I was working at the Louisiana Department of Education I had a number of sources tell me about what I have decided to call a Shadow School. A Shadow School is just an unreported school that has its own students, teachers, principal, and building but which goes unreported to the State and Federal Government. (I actually investigated the claims and have documentation of two of them which I will release once I put a decent post together. If anyone actually pays attention to me I expect much of the evidence to disappear.) A Shadow School offers many advantages over a regularly reported school. Here are a list of some of the advantages.
A Shadow School can allow a school district to evade federal desegregation orders. Shadow schools can have any ethnic makeup they want.
You can build a brand new school building for wealthier areas of your county or parish and staff it with the most qualified teachers and the most advanced technology while keeping your poorer or darker skinned kids in the older less well staffed schools so you wont have a desegregation order declared for you. No one would have the data to show you are doing this.
Schools with low SPS scores – which are determined by a combination of test scores, attendance and dropout rates – can be taken over by the state. If you have an alternative school with low performers you can “close” your school on paper with the state by reporting all your students to schools that are in no danger of being taken over. School districts have two or more sets of “books” to do this, just like the Mafia. If you have undisclosed academic magnet schools you can send those students to your borderline terrible schools and boost their scores above the takeover mark.
Schools with excessively dangerous events like murders, gun offenses and rapes have to be reported to the Feds as persistently dangerous and students have to be offered enrollment options elsewhere in the parish. By dispersing/reporting your alternative school discipline students across other schools you can escape this reporting requirement and keep your schools as dangerous as you like without anyone the wiser.
Special education students that are suspended out of school for 10 or more days must be reported to the Feds. Schools with high rates of these instances can be investigated and Special Masters can be assigned at School district expense, to oversee, monitor and correct these situations. By spreading SPED students around a Shadow School can have much higher rates of non-compliance without raising any red flags.
One of the statistics the Feds like to keep tabs on for NCLB (no child left behind) is highly qualified teacher percentages through their Edfacts EDEN data collections. They monitor this at the school level. Obviously when you don’t report a school you can’t report a percentage. And when you are reporting teachers and students at schools they never set foot in all your other numbers are questionable as well.
Sometimes Special Education students can require lots of special accommodations to allow them to attend school with qualified teachers in the least restrictive setting determined on their IEP. With a Shadow School arrangement you can report a special education student anywhere you want, while actually keeping them in a broom closet at an undisclosed site. All you have to do is decide that broom closet is a “program” and report the student at a home based school. You could tell the state the student was attending an academic magnet with your most Highly Qualified teachers, have an academic assistance teacher drop off some homework one a month outside the broom closet and no one would be the wiser.
I suppose the possibilities are endless. It’s a shame it got so political that it became clear anyone who tried to investigate or report this would be fired. I was told BESE would take up this issue in December of 2011, but I never saw anything in regards to this. I guess these things just take time. It’s only been 4 years since one of the Shadow schools I found opened up. I mean, it took almost two weeks to completely dismantle most of the public school system in Louisiana and replace it with unaccountable charter schools and non publics. I should probably just give them another day or two. . . I’m sure this issue is on the top of their to-do list.
I do have to wonder though. If this is what BESE, LDOE, and Legislature let public school systems get away with, what cool new things can we expect to see from our hundreds of new virtually unregulated and unmonitored non-public and charter schools?
Yeah. We’ll probably never find out.