John White is trying very hard to keep data from the general public and researchers. He even passed a number of edicts when he first came to DOE that forbade LDE staff from communicating with school districts via any method other than a vetted weekly or bi-weekly newsletter. I’ve been told by numerous data coordinators that many of them have no ideas when deadlines are coming, when changes made to the system, when they have problems with their data, or even when webinars are scheduled.

Another one of these commandments was that no data of any sort could be released by anyone other than his public relations officials, and those releases were usually of the PR kind, short on facts, context and details and big on puffery. We were actually told in person (so there would be no e-mail record) that we would not be providing data to hostile groups, and that anyone who requested data (even data already available on our website) must be sent to Public Relations, so they could put the requestor in the proper context and mindset to understand the data. (People I sent to PR told me later they were usually pointed to different data than what they were requesting or told the data did not exist – even though is almost always did.)

DOE used to publish more than 10 years of enrollment data, which is used by demographers for budget projections, charities and non-profits for resource allocations, other state agencies for various state and federal reporting needs and programs, but DOE has decided to use FERPA to start concealing as much detailed data as they can. However if you are persistent and knowledgeable enough you can still piece together quite a bit of data from trolling through various publications within and outside of DOE. These figures all come from internal DOE publications, but they show what happens when an organization blinds itself to spite its face and revels in positive numbers without ever questioning their authenticity. I’d like to claim that John White knowingly is concealing the truth here, but he’s not bright enough to figure this out and lacks an inquisitive mind.  Unfortunately the people he brings in from other states are political science majors, not mathematicians and not interested in anything but perpetuating a myth that the various Reforms being undertaken by DOE are working. In regards to graduate and dropout rates – these reforms actually seem to be working in reverse (but you wouldn’t know it form the data DOE lets you see.)

(Note: One of the ways John White is falsely convincing you is by design. JW is rigging SPS scores for high schools, which I will cover later, but I was already working on this piece when that analysis data rolled in.)

To the untrained eye this chart might just look like a bunch of random unrelated numbers. Allow me to tease some interesting bits out.

According to DOE, the dropout event rate has been drastically decreasing over the past 5 years, most noticeably in the last few. If this were accurate, when you have fewer students dropping out, you would expect more students to graduate (or get a GED or Certificate of Achievement which are the only terminal credentials students can get to prevent becoming a dropout.) Please refer to the next two charts (provided by LDE) illustrating this dramatic decline in dropout rate and count.

Very impressive, no? According to my calculations, the average number of students dropping out prior the 2005-2006 (Katrina year and pre-reforms and takeovers) was 17,683 students dropping out each year (over a span of 5 years.) Dropout percentages get factored into School Performance Scores (SPS). The lower your dropout rate, the higher your score. The higher your score the less likely you are to be in Academically Unacceptable Status (AUS). Only schools in AUS are eligible for takeover. You might say there would be a certain motivation for tinkering with scores a bit, no?

But let us see if the rest of this trend plays out as you would expect. If fewer students are dropping out, you would expect your GED’s, Diplomas and Certificate’s of Achievement (COAs for SPED students) would increase to compensate for that fact. In fact, since students drop out in grades 7-12, you would expect a decrease in this dropouts (or exiting schools) to have a cumulative exponential effect on counts of completers. (Imagine an hourglass open at the top.  If dropouts are the sand that blows out, the less sand blowing out, the more sand that should make it to the bottom.) What we see below is the percentages of GEDs and COAs barely budging (maybe by a percent for both of them) while dropout percentage has decreased by almost 4%.

That may not seem like a lot of difference, but consider students should only be leaving this calculation around 12th grade, when they finish, if they are not dropping out in grades 7-12. Those numbers should actually be increasing at a much faster rate than dropout numbers are decreasing 5 years into this trend – assuming they were actually staying in school.

But there is one number left that could make up for this discrepancy – graduates.

Now look at this my green chart again. Over a period when our dropouts decreased by a net 22,239 more (than the average 5 years before) our graduates remained relatively level. The average annual increase is in graduates over this time is about -10 (negative 10 folks).

Where did those twenty two thousand students go? In 5 years you would have expected most of those students to have started graduating and adding significantly to the grad total. In fact, over this same time student enrollment has increased by an average of around 5500, year over year. However during this same time, our cumulative enrollment (all students who set foot in any school in a given year has actually declined!

If those students were actually staying in school, while out overall enrollment was increasing, our enrollment in grades 7-12 would have to be increasing, but it’s not!

In fact the opposite appears to be happening. You will notice that we are graduating more students once they reach grade 12, which is improving out cohort numbers, but our overall 12th grade enrollment hasn’t changed appreciably since 2006 and in several years it declined by almost 5%. If you look at our grads as a percentage of our total enrollment, you will notice that the percent of students actually graduating is actually decreasing every year!

If our cohort graduation rate was actually improving like LDE is claiming, if our dropouts were actually decreasing by the 40-50% LDE is claiming on a nifty powerpoint presentation i saw on their site, these trends would be very large, in all the opposite directions!

Based on these numbers I’d estimate we lost an additional 25 to 45 thousand students to dropouts over the past 5 years. I think I know where they’ve gone, but I’d need access to much more than this condensed and sanitized data to show that. Of course this data is a little older than I’d like, but LDE doesn’t want to release any more recent data. If my calculations are correct, it makes me wonder if this shell game is about to collapse on the weight of its own BS.

Until we remove John White, he will continue lying to us and telling us to just “Believe.” I think BESE would like to know this type of info, even if most of BESEwere given their seats by Bobby Jindal’s largesse, I’d like to think most of them owe allegiance to Louisiana and Louisiana school children first, before Bobby, or party.

However, we’ve all seen what Bobby Jindal does to people who don’t parrot the party line. John White was given this job because of his blind allegiance to Bobby. I didn’t always agree with Pastorek, and he had his share of faults, but at least he was a man of principal, integrity, and cared about our children. John White only cares about his career and portraying a positive image to back Jindal’s 2016 election run.

Members of BESE:
Jindal and White will be gone in a few years. They will be done with this State, but you will be left behind to take the blame for the damage they have done. They can hire PR folks to point the finger back at you when this scheme fails and the true plight of Louisiana’s children comes to light.


5 thoughts on “Oops, John White did it again. (He lost our children.)

  1. John White’s inflation of school performance scores can be seen in the percentages of high schools with score jumps vs elem/middle with score jumps from 2011 to 2012. The info cited below comes from the 2012 SPS data available on the DOE website. Even though the elem/middle schools outnumber high/combination schools 3 to 1, the number of high schools with SPS increases of 10+ baseline points is 190. 163 of those are high/combination schools. The high/combination schools are outnumbering the elem/middle schools 7.5 to 1! If the point jump is increased to 15+, a total of 88 schools meet this criteria, and only 2 are elem/middle schools. If the criteria is raised to a jump of 20+ points, the number of schools is 44, and only 2 (the same 2 in the previous condition) are elem/middle schools. Finally, if the jump is 25+ points, 14 schools meet the condition, and only 1 is an elem/middle school. Clear, undeniable bias.

    Likely the issue of deflated dropout rates figures in. However, there is also a calculation error evident in a column of data not available to the public but available to BESE (I have this data from a BESE member)– this column is called “transitional baseline scores (2010-2011).” What is evident in this mystery column is that instead to bringing high school scores (now based on EOC, not the previous GEE) to meet the metric of the previous baseline scores, WHICH ARE ATTACHED TO THE SCHOOL LETTER GRADE SCALE, the high school 2010-11 baseline scores have been “transitioned” (INFLATED) to “meet” the new metric for high school scores. The result: Inflated high school scores.

    I agree that John White and his overpaid, undercredentialed, underexperienced “staff” are likely ignorant of how to properly handle data. I also believe that he will certainly use this error to advance his own career at the expense of the school systems. I am sure that some systems know the high school scores are inflated but are tempted to keep quiet because their districts appear to be doing very well as a result. However,deceit always ends badly, and school districts should confront John White about this inflation. If the districts choose to keep quiet, White will turn on you and twist the story to save himself. You can count on it.

    –Mercedes K. Schneider, Ph.D.
    Applied Statistics and Research Methods
    St. Tammany Parish Classroom Teacher

    1. Thanks Dr. Schneider. Yup. Yours was some of the research I alluded to actually, 🙂 When i saw the report released by LDE that almost all of the high schools SPS scores had increased by significant amounts (and already knew about the new EOC tests being used and wondered how well they would integrate those two changes) I realized what had happened but didn;t have the data or methematical chops to prove or quantify it. It was even alluded to in the article i saw released that White claimed these were “one time” increases and not likely to be repeated next year (because they would be using the same test years in a row at that point.) What he should have said was these scores were now total BS for comparison purposes because they didn’t have the time, personnel, or wherewithal to balance and scale them even half-way decently. Once i locate that press release I should have the info I need.

      But really, where are those tens of thousands of unaccounted for dropouts? (The deflated dropout figures have been in effect for years, and the rate of decrease might finally be slowing unless they are planning to come out with some new figure like negative dropouts. What you are seeing is probably all EOC.) You can’t halve your dropout rate, increase your enrollment every single year and have no significant impact on your completer count and have no increase in your cumulative enrollment for the grades being measured for dropouts! If anything, our dropout situation is probably getting worse since our enrollment is increasing but that count has leveled off – and that IS what I would expect from all the “reforms” and ill advised and managed school takeovers.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      (I appologize in advance if i dumb your study results down too much, but feel free to correct me if you care to. . . )

      1. You are right that the data are corrupt and cannot be used for further analysis. What led me to the results above was examination of the data in preparation for conducting some analyses. I realize that any data released by LDOE is suspect because it comes piecemeal (and lacking all “pieces” in the end). I appreciate your expose and do not believe you have “dumbed down” any work of mine. Feel free to present it in any manner that eases communication. Thank you for your work.

        –M. Schneider

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s