St James parish is proudly displaying that the Science and Math Academy is part of both Lutcher and St James High Schools

St James parish is proudly displaying that the Science and Math Academy is part of both Lutcher and St James High Schools

St James parish is proudly displaying that the Science and Math Academy is part of both Lutcher and St James High Schools.  That’s very generous of them, especially considering they are about 20+ miles apart on opposite sides of the Mississippi. Here is the address of their shared non-school.3125 Valcour Aime Street  = Science and Math Academy

http://stjames.sma.schoolfusion.us/?sessionid=70ab494e5cde718cbc26f8ab33b78ce8&t

 

This is not a school. That would mean it would need a sitecode and its own accountability score. It is actually St James High and Lutcher High.

 

But don’t just take my word for it, this information is freely available, in scrolling banner form, from their own website.

 

 

So where are Lutcher and St James High do you ask?

 

1581 Wildcat Street, St James, LA = St James High

Only around 7- 8 miles away for this one

And this is what St James High looks like.

It’s seen better days, at least from this perspective. Lots os outdoor activities and space though.

 

And where is Lutcher High do you ask?  This one is my favorite to-date.

1910 West Main Street, Lutcher

St James Math and Science and Lutcher High School – 15 miles and 30 mins away across the Mississippi river.

And here is a closer look at Lutcher High school.

Quite a commute to class, there.

That seems like an interesting situation to look into since that site doesn’t exist on its own.

 

But does exist on their website.

 

But you know what else I found interesting?  The Career and Technology Center is not listed, but from the website appears to have its own set of students.  And Romeville elementary has disappeared for this year.  St James still has the old website for Romeville  hanging around, but not directly navigable to, and it has a mention of a meeting to discuss the closing of the school and nothing posted for this school year.  I guess we know how that meeting turned out.

http://stjames.res.schoolfusion.us/

This is what “accountability” has done to our state.  Closing of community schools rather than let the state take them over and put horribly disorganized charter operators/profiteers, or hiding of new school buildings so as the spread the scores around.  From what I’ve seen of the these voucher and charter school operators, and the lack of transparency and accountability for those folks, I can’t say I blame them.

My understanding is LDOE knows full well about the existence of these schools (who do you think tipped me off in the first place?) but they are allowing some parishes to do this, and others like Jefferson, EBR and Caddo are being told no.  Those are bigger markets, with more money for charter operators, so I can see why those would be bigger prizes.  LDOE is keeping all the smaller districts quiet by tacitly allowing these schools to operate and avoid most of the sanctions for accountability that then plan to impose on larger districts.  I wish the smaller districts would simply join forces with the larger ones and tell LDOE to shove it, and to tell their local legislators to get some balls and tell Jindal to shove it too.

You smaller guys may have evaded the sanctions for now, but believe me, the time will come when John White and LDOE will yank that rug out from under you, and discredit you in the process.  It would be better to stand united and face them now, than to allow them to divide and conquer you one by one.  Feel free to use my posts as proof that LDOE knows full well what you are doing and is allowing you to do so, in exchange for your silence and cooperation.  Just make sure you do everything they say, as quickly as you can, and never step out of line – or they will punish you.  You’ll be able to live like this for a few more years – perhaps.  When the charters run out of targets and fuel in the cities, rest assured they will come for you, your children and your tax dollars.  But by then, it will be too late to speak up.

 

 

 

 

I found a nine mile long school! Can you believe it?

I found a nine mile long school!  Can you believe it?
I topped my last record. I just found out White Castle and MSA West are the same school! No wonder MSA West doesn’t have its own sitecode.

Here is a school approximately 9 miles wide.  To get a sense of perspective, that little stream above it is the Mississippi river.  It must be hell getting to class with just 5 minutes before bells.

MSA West  57955 St Louis Rd, Plaquemine, LA 70764

Google needs to update its maps. This school has been operating at this facility for the past several years.

 

Dear Parents & Guardians of MSA Students:

Wow! What a wonderful start we have had this school year! With 1,352 students actively engaged in a quality learning atmosphere, we are once again headed toward phenomenal academic benchmarks. Many times I have used the phrase “MSA will become a shining city upon a hill,” and this mantra has truly come to pass.

If only we knew about this shining city on a hill except in rumors and legend?

 

White Castle 32695 Graham Street, White Castle, LA

I know i promised a school a day, but even crazycrawfish get tired now and again.  Tomorrow i pick on a new parish.

 

 

 

 

East Iberville and MSA East are actually the same school – probably connected by an underground metro system. My bad.

East Iberville and MSA East are actually the same school – probably connected by an underground metro system. My bad.
Found the real Iberville High by roaming. Darn Google. Still would be a 3 +mile undergound metro.

A little birdy just told me they asked Iberville about their shadow schools issue, and they were old MSA East is the same school as Iberville East (Elementary and High.)  I guess I’ve just never been to a school more than 4 miles long.  I suppose there could be more underground than is obvious to satellite photos.  If Iberville has a vast underground school complex, I may owe them an apology.

1825 Hwy 30    ●    St. Gabriel, LA 70776  (MSA East)

That is a really nice, new looking school. I bet it would be nice to go there.

3285 Hwy 75, St Gabriel, LA (Iberville East)  (Google maps points to a chemical plant, but i found the real place by pretending I was a plane doing a flyover.)

Nice School, that is definitely a different school, wouldn’t you say?

I suppose its possible they closed that other site, or they have the wrong address, and have had that wrong address for a few years.  It’s not like they update their website every day?

I’m sure that’s just a coincidence! Maybe they forgot to update the address banner?

Hm.  Well, not only do they got chocolate orders due on October 8th they have today’s date, 9/27/2012, on top of this school’s home page.  Well, surely they don’t anything else that would indicate these are two different sites?  Hmm, why would they have a school improvement plan for a brand new site?  I wonder what that could be?

Uhm. Well, that was updated Waaaaaaaaay back in July. That’s like a couple months ago. Maybe martians vaporized the school, or maybe that chemical plant next door covered the school in so much ash no one could find it anymore?

I’ve found a number of new Shadow Schools, and some others I suspect, since last I posted.  I think I will post a school a day until someone decides to do something.  That could take a while, if not forever, but I have a feeling there could be hundreds so I should have plenty of material for a while.  (And I won’t be so picky with my defintion, but these first ones are pretty pathetically obvious.)

This isn’t even my job, folks.  I don’t get paid for this and I have no training for investigative journalism, (which is probably why I posted a chemical plant first 🙂  ) nor am I paid or appointed to look after the children of this state.   I’d really like some help here, but I understand if no one want’s to give me a hand.  Maybe you believe inequality is a good thing and we need to return to segregation.

I suppose as long as people lie to you, and you don’t look too closely, you can pretend it’s not happening and then it can be someone else’s problem.

Is Louisiana worth fighting for?

Is Louisiana worth fighting for?

This is where Louisiana is going.

I suppose I should just accept it. My kids will probably do fine. My wife and I are both college educated with professional careers and while not in the 1% we’re not in the 47% either. I was concerned about everyone else’s kids and the future of my state but I can’t be concerned all by myself and make a difference.

Does anyone else care?

Is Louisiana worth fighting for?

 

Diane Ravitch's blog

In a brilliant column, Bill White of the Lehigh Valley News compares Governor Tom Corbett’s education policies to carpet-bombing of Vietnam. The goal nearly half a century ago was to “bomb Vietnam back into the stone age.” White says that Corbett is doing the same with public education with his program of budget cuts, charter schools, and voucher proposals, which have thus far produced layoffs, program cuts, falling test scores, and soaring class sizes.

It seems that the Governor’s goal is to drive parents out of public education and into charters or to demand vouchers to escape the mess the Governor is creating.

Charter advocates always say that charters are truly accountable because if they fail, they are closed. That is not the case in Pennsylvania. Once charters are opened, it is expensive and difficult to close them:

The state law is a nightmare. To revoke the charter of a…

View original post 123 more words

Romney, the Secret Democrat.

Romney, the Secret Democrat.

Great editorial. There is very little I can add, except this picture representation.  Could Romney be a secret Democrat?

mykeystrokes.com

As often as not, parties nominate candidates for president that pretty much all their own partisans acknowledge are less than inspiring. Democrats were so excited about Barack Obama in 2008 partly because their previous two nominees, John Kerry and Al Gore, rode to the nomination on a stirring sentiment of “Well, OK, I guess.” The same happened to Republicans, who adored the easygoing George W. Bush after the grim candidacies of Bob Dole and Bush’s father. And now that Mitt Romney has suffered through an awful few weeks—a mediocre convention, an embarrassing response to the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi, then the release of the “47 percent” video in which Romney accused almost half of America of refusing to “take responsibility for their own lives”—the knives have come out.

First it was a widely shared Politico story full of intramural Romney campaign sniping, most directed at chief strategist Stuart Stevens…

View original post 990 more words

Louisiana Managing Expectations and Manipulating the Public – for example: “T” isn’t for Terrible Schools, it’s for Turnaround Schools!

Louisiana Managing Expectations and Manipulating the Public –  for example: “T” isn’t for Terrible Schools, it’s for Turnaround Schools!

The Louisiana Department of Education is getting ever more desperate to manipulate the public into believing their voucher program and charter schools are a success.  Just last week LDOE hired a PR consultant that worked on Jeb Bush’s propaganda campaign in Florida to sell their public on what a great deal charter and voucher schools are.  This contractor named, Deirdre Finn, is working under a 4 month contract for 12,000 dollars a month, which can be extended up to 3 years.  This comes staggering 48,000 dollars for 4 months of part-time work (she’s working for Florida as well as Louisiana now) but because only 4 months has been mutually agreed upon, her contract technically falls below the 50,000 threshold for getting contracts approved by BESE. ( If this new gambit works, expect to see 1 week contracts for 49,900 dollars in the near future.  Many of the Teach For America appointees come in at 99,500 to get around the legislative approval process for salaries over 100,000 so this type of salary subterfuge is already a well established pattern for LDOE.)

You may be wondering why the LDOE needs a 432,000 dollar contract to manage expectations for their failing charter and voucher fiasco, (and an unprecedented BESE propagandist is also in the imminent offing) but there is much more going on beyond the DVD schools in Ruston, the felons running unapproved schools, the sketchy Bob Jones curriculum granted free rein by the anti-Educator, John White.  Well the reason is, most of the students enrolled in the New Orleans pilot SSEE program have been doing horribly – even worse than their peers at the horrible schools they left behind.

John White, no stranger to muddying up a narrative or three, is already on the case!  I’ve had numerous confirmations that there are active discussion underway to rig the test scores for these SSEE students so they look much better than they are.  My favorite, of all the horrible ideas, is that of giving these students our LAA2 exam, which is reserved for only our most severely mentally disabled students.  That idea made me wonder if John White and his cronies should have been given the same test before they were hired.  I can’t imagine the person coming up with this idea scoring in the top percentile of intelligence – or ethics for that matter.  Perhaps the intelligence slam was too harsh, of the two exams we give to disabled children, they did jump over the mild moderate test go directly for the one given to the severe profound students.

I thought this was a joke, the first few times and people I heard this from, but it’s really not funny.  I suppose students, attending the non-public schools willing to take students, didn’t fare so well against their peers in the public arena.  However when you compare them against 18 year old students that can’t tie their own shoes, or recite their alphabet, the non-public students make out okay and can even score in the upper percentiles!  Now if we can only figure out a way to give all our students the LAA2 test we can begin to show some real improvement from all of the reforms John White has put in place.  Actually, I’m sure they’re working on a plan for that now.

Even though Louisiana just got our ESEA waiver for NCLB we have already started ignoring what we promised, and are actively trying to circumvent it.  One of the ways we are doing this is with the creation of “Turnaround” Schools.  Instead of just giving schools a score of A-F we will be giving some schools a “T” in a number of different circumstances.  For the first 2 years a school is taken over they will receive a “T” instead of a letter grade and their actual performance will be masked and known only to LDOE.  Schools in “T” status are expected to be immune to any other sanctions or public transparency.  The Feds were informed of this, along with hundreds of other circumventions, but under Arne Duncan rule:

  • all takeovers are good
  • all vouchers are good
  • all charters are good – by definition.

This has caused a mass exodus of LDOE folks with personal ethics, pride in their job, or a desire not to be around when the Reform hits the fan.

2.) T’s for Takeover

a. State policy now says

§1105. Turnaround Schools

A. If a turnaround operator takes over an entire school that was labeled “F” in the previous school year, including all previous grade levels and all former students of the “F” school, then the school’s grade shall be reported as “T” for the first two years of operation..” I have not located mention of letter grade T in the federal waiver.

§1601. Entry into Academically Unacceptable School Status

1. BESE may, during times of transition in the accountability system, waive schools meeting certain conditions from receiving the

AUS label and/or from implementing certain remedies and sanctions.

I am concerned about the impact of T. There is no indication as to what sanctions will be implemented or which list, if any, a school with letter grade T ends up on. An additional concern is that schools will switch operators culminating in a cycle of “takeover” and continuous letter grade Ts, ultimately leaving many of these school unaccountable for significant periods of time.

For example: the attached excel spreadsheet indicates a sample of schools that for 2011 were in the recovery school district and earned a letter grade of F. For 2012, regardless of the data these schools, per new policy, would get letter grade T. In our policy there is no definition of responsibilities for schools with a T, however, an internal email indicates that these schools are to be exempt from all sanctions and lists as long as they remain a T.

The sooner we get rid of  John White and his TFA scum,  the sooner we can really start to help our children.  This travesty doesn’t end here however.  The entire RSD is evading accountability by a variety of measures including the “T”s.  Take a look!

4.) Title 1

a.) Though a bit unrelated, I’ve posed this question to people in LDOE before with no response so I find it, as a matter of conscience, that I s imply relay the information to USDOE. I don’t know how big of a deal this is but for all accountability reporting, all Type 5 charters are part of the Recovery School District, however on all title 1 reports their data is exempt from public disclosure because they are labeled as a district that enrolls less than 1000 students; that label is simply untrue. Even if that is not the case for reporting TITLE I that RSD charters be consider part of the RSD district, there are several Type 5 charter operators that have multiple schools and well exceed the 1000 student cap that are identified as enrolling less than 1000 in the district (ie: 395 Algiers Charter Association). These schools, unlike any other public school, are being reported in Title 1 with a reporting Site that seems to separate them into different LEAS, however, they are all considered as 1 LEA for accountability. As I said, this may not be an issue but several public schools have asked/complained about this issue and I feel I should just pass it along to USDOE.

It really saddens me that so many of my decent and honorable colleagues are being chased out by the charlatans now running LDOE, but what should make you sad and angry is that our children are being used and discarded for profit and political aspirations.  Jindal and John White don’t care about you or your children.  They will be gone for greener pastures in a few years, and all we will be left with will be the smelly by-products of their gluttonous over-grazing – a lot of uneducated children and a savagely depleted educator pool.

You can be sure they will blame it on whomever else comes along to hold the bag, but really, no matter who we elect, ultimately the biggest bag holder will be you and me.

Don't Get anymore on you, Louisiana!
Don’t get anymore on you, Louisiana!

For more entertaining reading try some of these fine posts:

Virtual Schools that are instructed to keep students enrolled even if they never log on.

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/truancy-in-louisiana-has-never-been-easier-than-with-virtual-schools/

Persistently Dangerous Definition that is designed to never be met.

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/just-how-many-murders-does-it-take-in-louisiana-to-be-classified-a-persistently-dangerous-school/

A way to circumvent accountability where school districts stop reporting new schools that they open and send those students data wherever it would make their declared schools look good.

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/atlanta-you-aint-got-nothin-on-cheatin-compared-to-louisiana/

A description of “shadow schools” and how Louisiana is allowing smaller districts to use these to boost their scores and evade takeover and sanctions

https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/shadow-schools-why-they-exist-and-what-they-enable-you-to-do/

Just How Many Murders Does it Take in Louisiana to Be Classified a “Persistently Dangerous School?”

Just How Many Murders Does it Take in Louisiana to Be Classified a “Persistently Dangerous School?”

This is actually a trick question.  According to the Unsafe Schools section 343 of Bulletin  741, a school can have 100% of its student body expelled for  murdering each other and the school will not be classified as dangerous, let alone persistently dangerous.

§343.      Unsafe Schools

[. . .

B.    Students attending a school that has been identified as a persistently dangerous school shall be afforded the opportunity to transfer to different school.

1.     Students attending an elementary, middle, or high school that has been identified as persistently dangerous shall be given the option to transfer to a public school within the school district in which the student’s current school is located, which offers instruction at the students’ grade level and which is not persistently dangerous, if there is such a school within that school district.

2.     A student who is enrolled in an alternative school or a special school which has been identified as persistently dangerous shall be given the option to transfer to another such public school within the school district in which the student’s school is located, which offers instruction at the student’s grade-level, for which the student meets the admission requirements and which is not persistently dangerous, if there is such a school within that school district.

. . .

5.     Schools must meet two of the following criteria for two consecutive school years to be identified as persistently dangerous. For purposes of these criteria, enrolled student body means the year-end cumulative student enrollment count, and firearm means a firearm as defined by the federal Gun-Free Schools Act.

a.     One percent or more of the enrolled student body is expelled for possession of a firearm on school property, on a school bus, or for actual possession of a firearm at a school-sponsored event.

b.     Four percent or more of the enrolled student body has been expelled for a crime of violence as defined by R.S. 14:2 occurring on school property, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored event.

c.     Six percent or more of the enrolled student body has been expelled pursuant to R.S. 17:416 for the following types of misconduct in the aggregate occurring on school property, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored event:

i.       immoral or vicious practices;

ii.       conduct or habits injurious to associates;

iii.       possession of or use of any controlled dangerous substance, in any form, governed by the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law;

iv.       possession of or use of any alcoholic beverage;

v.       cutting, defacing or injuring any part of a school building, any property belonging to the buildings or any school buses owned by, contracted to or jointly owned by any city or parish school board;

vi.       possession of knives or other implements which can be used as weapons, the careless use of which might inflict harm or injury;

vii.       throwing missiles liable to injure others; or

viii.       instigating or participating in fights.

6.     An LEA with one or more schools meeting two of these three criteria during one school year shall identify the problem, submit a corrective action plan to the DOE for approval and implement the corrective action. A school system should generally develop a corrective action plan within 20 school days from the time it is notified of the need for the corrective action plan.

. . .]

This definition was adopted so LDOE would not have to monitor or address dangerous or persistently dangerous schools and so no schools would be able to afford students a chance to transfer to another school because no schools could be classified this way!  The potential for this occurring was already noted by this web resource, National School Safety and Security Services.  This is exactly what happened in Louisiana.  When it was discovered that our definition actually flagged a few schools as dangerous it was tweaked, and by the looks of the latest definition. tweaked again.  (We had a few schools than failed one of the two measures the last year I performed this calculation.  FYI, I was the one at LDOE solely responsible for creating this report before I left.)

Potential ways in which NCLB’s “Persistently Dangerous School” component could create less safe schools: (From NSS&SS)

  1. States create unattainable definition
  2. States create unrealistic definition
  3. Eventual legal challenge to differing definitions across various states
  4. Underreporting/non-reporting of school crime
  5. Schools unable to demonstrate documented need for safety funding due to underreporting
  6. Transfer of funds from safety to academics within districts to meet academic standards of NCLB
  7. “Tunnel vision” focus on academics takes priority focus and funding away from safety
  8. Increased crime, violence, discipline problems, and liability

For starters . . because murders (and rapes and other horrible things) have to apply to 4% of the student population to fail one of the criteria, and according to this changed definition they do not get counted in the other two criteria, every single person in a school could be a murderer (assuming that was possible, I suppose if they murdered non-students?) and not fail either of the other two criteria. . . . presuming they didn’t use a gun or knife.  However because the current system only accepts one primary reason code for a disciplinary action, murder would trump any other reason code. . . you would think.  I think it’s also worth noting that for a school to meeting the 4% criteria (which is just one of the two) a school of 800 students would have to have 32 or more students expelled two consecutive years for committing murders.  I’m not sure any school on earth (except maybe a gladiator school in ancient Sparta) would ever come close to that number. . .  and that’s just one of the 2 criteria Louisiana has self-defined for identifying a “persistently dangerous” school.  Neat huh?  I’m sure I feel safer knowing this. . .  but I don’t think I’ll share this with my kids. . . just make sure they pack their body armor.

Thanks for Reforming our definitions, John White!

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana’s Section 504 Data Collection System – and what they aren’t doing with it

Louisiana’s Section 504 Data Collection System – and what they aren’t doing with it

Section 504 Children (basically students with learning disabilities but without the extra funding SPED students get)

While I was at LDOE I designed a system to capture the 504 status for students in Louisiana.  By now we have 2 or three years of data.  From my discussions with the state liaison and even people within and outside the department of education it is apparent that Non-public Schools, many charters and a number of school districts do everything they can to discourage students from claiming to have 504 disabilities.  This discouragement will take many forms but usually results in the students needing to be withdrawn and enrolled elsewhere, being underserved and discriminated against, or parents having to take on a greater financial burden to ensure their children receive supplementary services, tutors, etc.

Some of you may not really know what “504” means.  I didn’t before i started working on the project to collect data on this situation.  Before I started designing the system for collecting this data I did a little homework on what it is.   504 refers to a section of the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of children’s disabilities if the schools receive federal funding.  (Even though most non-pubic schools don’t receive traditional per-pupil funding, they may receive other types of federal funding for technology and nutrition programs for instance.)

With Louisiana’s new laws allowing any non-public school to receive local, state and federal funding – non-public schools must be held to the same standard as pubic schools in providing services for disabled students covered under 504 or IDEA (Special Education.) or be in violation of federal law.  Many of these schools probably don’t realize this yet, so this issue will need to be made more public and to prevent non-public schools from denying less desirable (more challenging) students from enrolling and remaining enrolled.

Additionally, based on the statistics I viewed, (and backed up by anecdotal accounts relayed to me) that a number of districts refuse to provide the same level of services that most of their peers provide.  When you have most districts identifying around 5%  of their students as having a 504 disability and several large districts reporting rates of less than a tenth of a percent in a like sized district. . . that would seem to warrant further investigation and possible sanctions and corrective actions.  Unfortunately the Louisiana Department of Education has been instructed by the past two Superintendents of Education (Paul Pastorek and John White) that LDOE is no longer going to be involved in overseeing compliance issues (even though the federal government provides funding for positions for that purpose that LDOE fills).  Therefore outside groups will need to take an interest in this data and pushing for greater oversight and equality for disabled students.

If you are still bewildered by the difference between Special Education(IDEA) children and 504 disabled children this graphic and link may provide some insight.

Goals:

  • To educate legislators and other stakeholders about 504 status.
  • To improve consistency in reporting and defining 504 status in LEAs.
  • To encourage Louisiana to include 504 status as a component of the teacher evaluation system (currently students may develop a 504 condition such as a learning disability or vision issue that can impact performance.  The Value Added model does not currently include 504 status as factor in a students sudden declination in test scores.)
  • To encourage legislators to include funding for LEAs to address 504 conditions just as they do for at-risk students, LEP students, and Special Education students.
  • To educate charter schools of their obligations under section 504 of the disability act in regards to addressing student needs.

In order to achieve these goals people need to start writing their legislator and the Louisiana Department of Education to get them to release data on 504 children.  If they can start tracking and reporting this count publicly it will become readily apparent which districts take section 504 of the American’s with Disabilities act seriously, and which ones are dodging their obligations.

It’s also worth noting that Louisiana’s Value Added teacher evaluation system doesn’t factor in students defined as having 504 disabilities.  Teachers are, or soon will be, fired for not improving test scores for faster for students who may have dyslexia and ADHD at the same expected rate as students without those handicaps.  If I was a teacher with a lot of 504 students in my class, I would demand LDOE update the Value added model to accommodate scoring adjustments to take into account students with these types of disabilities.

Louisiana’s Dropout Numbers Don’t Add Up

Louisiana’s Dropout Numbers Don’t Add Up

For the past 5 years Louisiana has been reporting they have steadily decreased their event dropout rate.   In simple terms, an Event Dropout Rate is the percent of students in select grade levels (in this case grades 7-12 or 9-12) that are enrolled at some point during the year but then exit and are determined by other data (or lack of data) to have dropped out of school.  Because dropout calculations rely on future data (or lack thereof) dropout rates lag a few years behind the actual school year.

Currently the most recent data for Louisiana is the 2010 dropout rate from the 2010-2011 school year.  The 2011-2012 dropout rate should become available around November or so.  I can already tell you what it will say.  It will say for the 6th straight year our event dropout rate will have miraculously decreased!

I guess congratulations are in order for the Reform movement and all the school takeovers LDOE has been pushing through for select parishes like EBR and New Orleans.  (Oh, you didn’t notice that most of the rest of the state like Caddo Parish has been spared takeovers even though they have schools just as bad or worse than the ones already taken over?   That’s not accidental, it’s political, but that’s another article entirely.)

Now John White and the Teach for America Reformers will claim this decrease is due to their concerted efforts to keep students in school and to replace failing schools and ineffective teachers with better ones.  Unfortunately no one at the Advocate or Times Picayune are asking the tough questions – or any questions really.  They have deadlines to meet, and made-to-order press releases to publish.  They need to fill their pages with crap the Jindal Administration and LDOE pre-chews and regurgitates into their starving baby bird mouths.  Is it any wonder their economic model is failing?  But I digress.

Let’s look at some of the numbers here.  I hope to be able to present this evidence in a way anyone should be able to see something fishy is going on.  Since I was the one who wrote and designed the programming logic behind calculating dropouts, I can point out the weak points that could be exploited.  Earlier in my career I also worked with auditors (when we had them – we don’t audit these numbers now) to reveal which districts and schools were reporting suspicious looking stuff.  I will then reveal some of their tricks they are probably using now.

Notice in 2005 we had 9-12 dropout count of over 14,000.  This was the year of Katrina, but also the year we started taking over local schools and school districts and turning them over to RSD.  The next year we took over some more schools, but only in New Orleans and our dropouts still stayed relatively high, about 1000 less.   Come 2007-2008 our dropout rate went up a little.  This the first year we started taking over, or talking about taking over schools outside of New Orleans.  The next year our dropouts dropped to 12,000, then 8700 and finally about 8000 in grades 9-12 for 2010-2011.  By now we’ve taken over schools in East Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee and threatened to take over schools in a few handfuls of other parishes.  Schools get taken over in based on SPS (School Performance Scores) of which a component is the Event Dropout Rate which this table shows.

Not coincidentally, 2008 is the year two shadow schools opened in Iberville Parish.  Shadow schools are schools that are not declared to the state as “schools” but operate in every other way as a school.  Having one or more magnet “shadow schools” allows you to send/route you higher performing students to the state through lower performing ones, making them appear better than they are to parents and the state, and making them ineligible for takeover.  In fact, what is going on is the regular schools are getting worse as lucky kids go to the shadow schools and the rejected ones get stuck in crap schools that nonetheless look like they are improving or making AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress.)

So what do shadow schools have to do with the miraculous event dropout rate improvement?  Well, they are both illusions designed by schools districts to avoid accountability sanctions of course!  LDOE is fine with this, so long as it looks like they’re plans are working they reward these ingenious districts.  Districts that don’t get with the dishonesty program are soundly punished and taken over.  If only they knew LDOE doesn’t have any intention of ever auditing them (they let all those guys go years ago.)

Now, you may say, “where’s the proof?  Where’s the smoking gun?  This is just speculation, and maybe all these fancy folks we hire from out of state are really having an impact on our students and state?”

Well, you could be right. . .  But if our students are not dropping out, then what’s the opposite of dropping out. . . graduating, right?   Over the last few years from 2008 – 2010 we had around 13-14 thousand cumulative fewer students dropping out.  So surely by the 2011 graduate count should be averaging around 6 or 7 k more students a year graduating?  The cumulative effect of 6500 more students staying in school every year for 4 years should equal around 24,000 more graduates or so, right? But at least for these first 4 years we should have around 14 or 15 thousand graduates more, if these stats are correct. (the numbers are even more prfound if we use the 7-12 grade dropoout numbers.  The difference there is now at 9 thousand fewer dropouts a year according to state figures.)

If you look take a look at these graduate counts you find we have more graduates in 2005, than we have even today.  While it’s true our student count decreased after 2005, it’s actually increasing at a slower rate than our student population is increasing.  Our student count has increased by 653786/696558*100= 9.3% since 2005.

Our graduate count has still not actually recovered to our 2005 count.  By that measure it would appear we are actually graduating a lower percentage of our students than Pre-Katrina and Pre-Reform, Pre-School Takeover.

Also note that while we have finally recovered to our pre=Katrina graduation count, almost 2000 more students are taking remedial classes.  During this same time frame we lowered our graduation requirements and introduce something called a career diploma (that is lighter on college level course work.  Do you think that could be related?)

So where are all these students going if they are not graduating?  Good question.  Let me tell you a little story:

I was working with one of the auditors, back when we verified school district data, when he showed me something that seemed a bit bizarre.  One of our dropout factories went from having around 30 – 50 dropouts every year to zero the next.  When I called to find out what was going on I was told this school had a new “no nonsense” principal.  He ran a tight ship.  He walked on water and his sh*t smelled like roses, if it smelled at all.  I was impressed, but just to be sure. . . I passed this site off to an auditor to investigate.  A few weeks later my accountability auditor came by and let me in on the secret. 

Apparently some of the rumors were true.  This principal knew his evaluation and job security depended on getting the dropout situation under control.  When he saw his preliminary dropout list he instructed his school secretary to “fix it.”  She did as she was told.   All of the students that exited the school but never showed up anywhere else were fixed.  Every student that said they were dropping out to get a job, or because they hated school or never thought they could meet the graduation requirements, was fixed.  Every student that joined an adult education program, just stopped going to school, or was expelled and never returned, was fixed.  “Fixed” meant changing every student’s exit code to indicate they had transferred out of state.  After every student on the preliminary dropout list was coded as transferring out of state the dropout problem was fixed and the principal looked great!

Some other tricks I saw back when we bothered to audit schools (back before the numbers carried any significant meaning)

  • Changing the grade level of students to grade 6 (or even grade 4 in one instance) so when they “dropped out” they didn’t get tallied in the official 7-12 dropout numbers.
  • After getting the money for the student based on the October collection, schools would delete students that dropped out form their roles for the entire year (this is a charter school favorite)
  • Going back to a year where dropouts were already finalized and publishied and changing student data to show a student had actually dropped out that year, instead of the current year.
  • Exiting students to any Non-dropout reason like out of state that can’t be verified or disproven by data (such as exit to non-public, or out of state)
  • Expelling students for 2 or more years – those cases are beyond the current capabilities of the dropout calculation to verify if a student has promptly enrolled after a 2 or more year expulsion (but they almost never return)

Schools are “fixing” their dropouts again, on a statewide scale.  The Dropout Event Rate is more important than ever now that it is a component of SPS (School Performance Scores.)  When faced with the prospects of having their school taken over by the state and handed over to a charter school operator that will in all likelihood do a job no better than you, and often quite worse, what would you do?  LDOE doesn’t care, as long as their plans and policies are “proved” effective, by data they know better than to scrutinize.

This works out for the politicians, political hacks, and charter school scoundrels running LDOE ( into the ground.)  John White and his cronies claim they are introducing these reforms for the children.  They bitch and moan about how the teachers and their unions and the”coalition of the status quo” is only looking after their adult issues (must be nice no to have to worry about adult issues but as a single guy in louisiana making almost 300k I imagine he doesn;t need to) and concerns, and not the welfare of “the children.”   I guess they just mean the children than manage to stay enrolled though their reforms.  Maybe next time we should ask which children he thinks he’s helping?

According to DOE our cohort graduation rate (the percent of students entering 9th grade that graduate in 4 years) is 70% ask John White next time you see him, “Do you really care about helping those missing 30%, those 20,000 flesh and blood children that drop out every year?  From where I stand it looks like you’re just interested in getting your percentages better, even if they are built on an illusion crafted solely to fuel your personal ambition.”

Maybe John White should worry less about adult issues like blaming teachers for the problems that are a result of poverty and really try to focus on the children?

Maybe if he had some children of his own, he’d give a shit?  Nah, probably not.  He’d put them in non-public school, like EBR’s BESE member Chas Roemer, while using public students to further his political career and agenda.

By the look of our numbers our dropout situation is actually getting worse, not better, but LDOE is encouraging school districts to modify which students we count to make our “numbers” and percents look better.  At our current our current rate of decline our offiicial dropout numbers could reach zero in a few years.  Despite what John White tells you, that’s not a good deal for Louisiana to Believe.

Truancy in Louisiana has never been easier than with Virtual Schools

Truancy in Louisiana has never been easier than with Virtual Schools

Many of you may not realize this, but Louisiana is fast becoming a virtual world.  Don’t let the occasional hurricane or 100 megaton radioactive disaster waiting to happen fool you.  Soon all of our commerce, and commuting will be done online.  This is why we have stopped investing in real highways, bridges, hospitals and universities.  Who needs those passe’ real world objects when there is a virtually untapped infinite virtual world waiting to take our money and our students?  Just hop aboard this virtual pirogue and we’ll be off!

Our first stop on this virtual tour is the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (site code 343002 .)  Boasting a virtual enrollment in excess of 1200 students, this virtual school serves students in grades k-12.

With Louisiana’s revolutionary new virtual school system, class size constraints will be a thing of the distant past.  Students will no longer have to worry about trying to relate to their peers in the real world.  (I wonder if their avatars will have to wear school uniforms?) Without a brick and mortar presence, and significantly fewer teachers and administrators, one would expect Louisiana would be trying to address its budget woes by reducing payments to virtual charter schools.  One would think, but one would be thinking wrong. For these miraculous wonders we  pay about the same amount as we do to traditional schools.  We actually end up paying more when students leave virtual programs when they realize they are not getting the same level of education as their peers in traditional settings.  Fortunately for the charter schools, they get to keep the money when students withdraw early, but the school districts funded, by local tax revenues, get to pick up the tabs.

Now study after study  after study after study has shown that virtual schools are still pale imitations of the real thing for most students, and should only be used for extreme cases such as child actors, students with physical ailments like immune deficiencies, etc.  But in Louisiana we only pay attention to studies that reinforce what our politicians and anointed leaders say, so you won’t see us worrying about those.

Don’t get me wrong, I think charter schools are great. . .  for charter operators and politicians who need campaign contributions from charter operators.  Fortunately we have some conscientious “Parental Options” (a group made up of high paid political lackeys that ensure charter schools follow as little regulation and oversight as possible) folks at the LDOE making sure charter schools live up to all their hype and maximize their profitability.

Yes—this is correct—it was a phone conversation that I had with [name redacted] of Louisiana Connections Academy—I emailed her a copy of Bulletin 741 and referred her to the SIS Guide for Membership definition of active attendance. She verbally expressed concern to me that she had several cases where the students were logging in BUT not producing the work and therefore were circumventing the system and she wanted to drop them and allow other students to enroll. [name redacted] reported to me that the Parental Office folks told her that she could not drop those students.  (quote from former LDOE official)

I’m so glad we have a Parental Options group looking out for our Corporate stakeholders.  They almost made a mistake by reporting honest information about students dropping out from their virtual school which could have cost them around 8 to 10 thousand dollars per student.  They also saved this student from being considered in violation of the state’s truancy laws.

So listen up all you wanna be truant students.  For only 10,000 dollars a year (the state will foot this bill) you can get a free computer at home with unlimited online access, and never have to set foot inside a school again.  If an officer tries to pick you up while you’re hanging out at an arcade or skating in a park just show ’em your get out of jail free card – your virtual school ID.