Dr. Gary Jones, former Superintendent of Rapides Parish schools and current Assistant Superintendent with the Louisiana Department of Education explains in the letter that follows that districts should carefully consider whether they reclassify their students as disabled but currently classified as able to take the state mandated ACT tests and graduate as suddenly too severely disabled to take state mandated tests and unable to complete graduation requirements. Most true educators would probably agree that placements of SPED students should be made in the best interest of the child and at the sole discretion of the SLBC (School Level Building Committee) trained to make such evaluations and currently in charge of making placement decisions. However a recent e-mail, which also alludes to a conference call from Superintendent White, implies that schools and districts should re-examine all of their students and consider changing their placements from LAA2 tested, to LAA1, untested. It’s easy to understand why this might be a good idea for superintendents and schools to do, but what is less clear is why the State Department of Education would encourage this change, this massive statewide lowering of expectations for disabled students.

I had thought that the idea of the Reform movement and LDOE was raising the bar, raising expectations and children and teachers will strive to meet that higher target?

I thought that was what the “Louisiana Believes” campaign is all about?

This would appear to be a vast philosophical departure from previous guidance given by John White and other reformers – namely to lower expectations for students who are already performing at a very low level. This would appear to be a violation of these students civil rights, encouraging schools and school districts to make placement decisions based on what will be best for a schools performance score, and not what is in the best interest of the students they serve.

From: Gary Jones [mailto:Gary.Jones@LA.GOV]

Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 8:50 AM
To: (redacted)
Subject: ACT testing for LAA1/LAA2 students
Importance: High

Dear Superintendents,

In his conference call today, Superintendent White talked about ACT testing and LAA1 versus LAA2. Superintendents are encouraged to make realistic decisions about who should be taking the ACT. We realize the likelihood that some students who are currently assessed as LAA2 (and thus required to take the ACT) might be better placed as LAA1. In the past, the impression was that among the criteria for students to be eligible for LAA1, students had to be at 3 standard deviations below the mean in both cognitive and adaptive skills. However, that is not the case. They can meet that requirement by scoring 3 standard deviations below the mean in cognitive skills only.

Please note that the deadline for placing students in LAA1 has been extended from January 25th to February 25th. Students who are placed in LAA1 will be tested by mid-March.

The last two newsletters have contained a link to FAQ’s on this issue, but I have included it again below for your use. Please encourage your special education administrators and high school principals to join the webinars that will be hosted on Thursday of this week and Wednesday of next week (will be in newsletter today).

FAQ Link: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/lde/uploads/20915.pdf

Dr. Gary L. Jones

Assistant Superintendent

LA Department of Education


Office: 318.767.3018

Cell: 318.308.2306

Am I wrong thinking this is wrong?

diploma disabled







Coming soon. . .
Coming soon. . .

15 thoughts on “Louisiana Believes – SPED students should be reclassified before test time to optimize test scores

  1. Do they even enroll these types of students in the first place? Not often I’ve heard. I imagine this is old hat to Rapides. DOE should be urging schools to go the other way since districts rates vary from 1% to 4% it would seem more likely schools would already be overclassifying this nicknamed 1% group (thats from their own internal memo included in this email)

  2. I can’t believe this thinking by administratiors. When we place our children in special education and allow them to be on a certificate track they are not challenged, they are not given opportunities and they definitely don’t get the proper education they deserve. The goal of education is to educate, not make it easier for the administration or the teaching staff to get high scores on ACTs. They are many reasons the scores are low and it is not because of special education students on high school diploma tracks. There are many low socially economic students who would also have to be classified special education students and placed on certificate tracks which would be outrageous. As the law states, “we should be providing a free and appropriate education to every child”. This means we should not just teach the children who can make the administration look like they are doing a good job. Maybe we should have the administration and the teaching staff pass a test on how to include all students in education and think outside the box in teaching methods and outcomes.

    1. DOE already knows they are overclassifying students by factors ranging from 100 to 400 times the rate they should be for 3 negative standard deviations, and now they want districts to do that even more.

  3. Well, in the last two years, I have, as a ninth grade English teacer, had four mild/moderate special education students who were place on the regular college diploma track despite their inabilities to read. All of them read on the first or second grade reading level; however, they can not be placed on the certificate of achievement b/c of policies about students having to fail two years before their track can be changed. As a teacher and parent, this breaks my heart. Why should a student have to sit in classes for two years and fail before they can receive an alternate placement? Whose policies are these? Some tell me the state; some say the district; I don’t know. What I do know is that these student’s IDEA rights are being violated by someone, and it would be criminal to force one of them in one or two years to take the ACT. But these things aren’t fully thought out when one forces new laws down the throats of educators at lightening speed. So frown at the directive but know it’s really probably a CYA move on their parts to distance themselves for future litigation when these SPED parents have had enough of their students’ individual needs not being met.

    1. I’ve not heard of the 2 year rule you speak of but SPED was not my area of expertise. My understanding was students were evaluated much more frequently than that, and that placement settings could be changed for a variety of reasons if the SLBC and parents decide its in the best interests of the children. I do have to wonder about what happened that students are reading at the second grade level in 9th grade, although i have heard SPED students are supposed to be placed in an age appropriate grade when possible. You might try contacting Bonnie Boulton at the Louisiana Department of Education to see if she can explain the policies or point you to someone who can.

      I think there are many injustices at play here, but rather than try to address the concerns of the children and their needs, it appears the head of the state department of education is only concerned with showing test score gains and improvements. Giving ACT tests to a large number of cognitively disabled SPED students will bring the state average down without question. It would appear he is trying to encourage districts to make placement decisions not based on what is best for the students, but what will be best for the test scores. It would also appear doing this will have a likely effect of depriving some disabled students of the opportunity and reality of obtaining diplomas.

      I have no doubt there are multiple wrongs going on, but this policy does not seek to address address the wrongs you speak of, and looks to me to be creating additional wrongs against these students.

      This policy also runs counter to the entire narrative John White and the Reformers publicly make, while quietly sweeping these children under the carpet when noone is looking.

  4. There is a specific limit on how many students can be identified as LAA1 (alternative curriculum) and LAA2 (modified curriculum). In general terms the limits are 1% of the testing population that scores ‘proficient’ and 2% of the testing population that scores proficient, respectively – unless that has been changed recently. If too many students are given the alternative and modified tests, the scores are voided. Louisiana has had similar rules in place since before NCLB was passed (that was ’03 in LA). Who knows if we can expect the LDoE to count these kids, void the excesses, and report it to the public – well, we do know if the Jindalites are making the decisions.

    All of this attempt to minimize the impact on accountability of these special needs students originates with White’s handler, Erin Bendily and Jessica Tucker Baghian (sp?), the brains behind the ACT formula that created a scale that ranges from 0 to 150.4. Obviously, arithmetic isn’t a strong suit of these high and mighty policy makers. Several of their attempts to reduce the impact of special ed students in accountability have been thwarted by the US Dept of Ed. Maybe Sue Rigney with the US Dept would be interested in the The Reverend Doctor Colonel Jones e-mail – the same Jones who fought the LDoE over most everything when he was a superintendent. How much money did it take to get him to ‘drink the Flavor Aid?’ And former Supe Sloan (St. Tam., Walter Lee, DeSoto)? Oh, those Jones boys.

    The flies on the wall in the Claiborne building report that some of the policy changes that the Jindalites weren’t going to tell the feds about were actually submitted to Washington after another one of the former LDoE employees from Lafayette made it an issue at a BESE meeting. Of course the board (more appropriate – the splinter) had already been directed how to vote in their illegal (open meetings law) pre-BESE meeting conference call with John White and old Whitey informed them that the LDoE had been in negotiations with the feds on the topics. He added to the work in progress, “White Lies from the Claiborne Building.”

    The policy makers are the same ones who changed the process of how a proposed policy becomes enforceable rule. Trimmed it down to 2 months or so from what used to be 5 or 6 months. They aren’t capable of planning further ahead than a couple of months and judging from the frequency of policy changes, a couple of months is a bit of a stretch.

    But I am rambling. Goodnight, John Boy!

  5. P.S. to the English teacher, “mild/moderate” is not one all-encompassing classification. You can be classified Mild, Moderate, OR Severe/Profound Intellectual Disability. Both Mild and Moderate ID kids can be taught to read, and Mild kids have the capacity to read well above the 1st grade level. I have never heard of a kid classified Moderate ID being a “resource” student enrolled in all regular classes on the diploma track. You are either mistaken and thinking of Mild (usually take at least some regular classes, but still are working for a certificate of achievement), or your district is really off-track. Traditionally, Mild kids are LAA-2 and Moderate are LAA-1. They have to have failed the high stakes assessment to qualify for an alternative form; they don’t have to fail a grade level 2 times. Any SpEd kid who has failed LEAP/iLEAP can qualify for LAA-2; only those w/ cognitive skills 3 SD below the mean (moderate ID or lower) can take LAA-1. Dr. Jones’ removal of adaptive skills 3 SD below the mean as a criteria for LAA-1 is irrelevant b/c Mild kids still couldn’t qualify (or any other higher classification, for that matter) – their cognitive skills fall b/w 2 and 3 SD below the mean.

  6. “Holly Boffy, co-chairwoman of the panel and a member of BESE, said complications associated with any redesign of how the state aids special education students should not keep it from being considered. (Advocate, Feb. 9, 2013)”

    Dear Holly – the same Holly who thinks there should be no ethics question asked of her when she votes to award a contract to one of her campaign contributors and whose sole purpose for being involved at all with BESE is to become State Superintendent of Education (sorry – if Whitey skates they’ll tap Dobard),

    That would depend on the complication and its ultimate impact, and your marching orders from Jindal via Bendily to White should not keep all complications from being considered. There have been many highly paid consultants who have advised BESE and the LDE that unintended consequences can destroy a plan. Maybe the LoDE (it was a typo but somehow seems appropriate along with its homonym load) could hire someone with a memory longer than two weeks and foresight longer than two months to help them.

    Goodnight, John Boy

    P.S. If Bobby stays home long enough, maybe you and the rest of his disciples could suggest he get a 5th or 6th grade math teacher to review the arithmetic in his legislation.

    “A glitch in the Jindal administration’s new “cash balance” pension law …increases the projected employer contribution rate from 22.1 percent to 23.1 percent. (Advocate, Feb. 9, 2013).”

    Glitch – a defect or malfunction in a machine or plan. Example- A conversion scale ranging from 0 to 150.4 in a system that has all other components topping out at 150. (Fifty years from now maybe Jindal’s picture will appear with this definition).

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