If you are a journalist. . . beware trying to cover this story. This may be a story only a blogger can handle because of all the high profile political players involved.  Just asking questions about this subject is liable to get you fired as one reporter unfortunately found out.

Some of my earlier readers of my blog may have heard me talk about a situation I called Shadow Schools. A shadow school looks just like a normal school from the street and to parents and children attending it, but these schools don’t actually exist, at least not in an accountable, reportable way. Imagine if you had children and never applied for Social Security cards for them, and the hospital never issues birth certificates for them. Your children would exist, hopefully you named them and feed them, but to the state and federal government they would be invisible and if you decided to home school them and never file a tax return claiming them as a dependent and never added them to your health insurance policy it would be very hard for anyone who didn’t actually know you and them personally to know they existed.

That’s what shadow schools are. These are brand new schools that have been built, enroll students, hire teachers and principals, pick their mascots, form PTA committees and put up websites advertising they are open for business. However these schools are never reported to the State or the US Department of Education.

I will of course forgive you if you don’t believe this situation could exist. I was a bit incredulous myself when I first found out about them. You see, I just assumed our various state and federal agencies would prevent such a situation from occurring. We have so many levels of bureaucracy in our government, so many folks that would have to collude or turn a blind eye to just ignoring the existence of entire schools (for what is going on 6 years now) I had a little trouble believing it a first. I found out about them while working at the Louisiana Department of Education. I was told about them by other employees, parents, other district coordinators, and software vendors trying to figure out how to send us data and even people who drove by these new construction projects on their way to their work and asked about them.

I have uncovered evidence that two Parishes currently employ Shadow Schools, St James and Iberville, but it’s probably pure folly to believe they are the only ones. In the past Jefferson Parish used them as a way to avoid some accountability sanctions, and at one point East Baton Rouge asked to employ this technique with Baton Rouge High School. Jefferson was told to stop the practice, and I’ve been told they have done so.

East Baton Rouge was told they could not turn Baton Rouge High into a shadow school, publicly. Paul Pastorek, Louisiana’s then State Superintendent of Education even went on TV to reveal this plot and to denounce it, successfully. East Baton Rouge did not create a shadow school, and East Baton Rouge has had numerous schools taken over by the state and turned over to the RSD, the Recovery School District. The reason I draw attention to this fact, is that this is ostensibly the reason to create high performing shadow schools, to avoid accountability sanctions and school takeovers that the state department of education has the power to do, and which the US Department of Education encourages.

Here is a comment from Tom Spencer, former head of Accountability for the Louisiana Department of Education during the time of the shadow schools were created that appeared on the The Lens which attempted to cover this topic most local media organizations were cowed away from reporting.

“I was at the LDOE nearly 10 years. He’s telling it straight. Thing is – Jefferson Parish had several of these shadow schools, but the way they were recorded allowed tracking and Paul Pastorek, former supe of ed, made the LDoE change how scores were calculated. This was because EBR was openly requesting to set up similar situations. PP had the ball rolling to take over schools and didn’t want any magic to prevent his heavy-handed activity. John White is the only individual I know who lies more than Pastorek.” – Tom Spencer

To date, Mark Moseley with The Lens is the only journalist able to get to successfully cover this story to any degree. Sue Lincoln at LPB attempted to cover this story, the story never aired due to interventions by John White, and she was recently fired so LPB could go in “another direction.” I suppose straight to Hell is the direction LPB is aiming for these days.

What is the motivation and was DOE aware of this? A former DOE accountability employee reported this:

It’s probably not just about the magnet schools. Plaquemines and White Castle both have SPS in low 70’s. Without the scores routed back, they will not do well. EBR and Jefferson, however, aren’t afforded the opportunity to do the same thing.

Shadow schools exist and even have their supporters such as Mike Deshotels, a fellow Louisiana Education blogger did a story on them suggesting this was “true reform.” I usually agree with Mike on most things education related, but I find this deception too much, despite the reasoning behind the subterfuge.

The Academy program is not classified as a school. Therefore all student LEAP and iLEAP scores go back to the student’s home school. Everybody benefits from the high performance of the Academy students. Cancienne believes that students in the home schools are motivated to perform better by opportunity to attend the Academy. Link

Everyone most certainly does not benefit equally by this scheme. I will get to some of the victims and how they are victimized in a bit. There is no question that these schools or “academies” exist in an intentionally grey area and that the Louisiana Department of Education is fully aware of them. One of the reasons this was done was shared by one of my commenters, but it mirrors what I heard when I worked at LDOE and inquired about them:

A little bird told me that East Iberville and MSA East are the same school, but the reason for this is because East Iberville’s scores are so low that if the schools were not joined together, East Iberville would be taken over by the state. Since the scores for MSA East are high, they compensate for East Iberville’s low scores.

While the Reform movement is a bankrupt and bankrupting philosophy, I don’t feel the ends justifies the means here. When we abandon the moral high ground and resort to trickery we risk becoming as bad, or worse, than the faux reformers we fight in the name of truth and justice – and the children suffer. It is wrong to sacrifice poor children to improve the lot of others. Despite what Reformers would have you believe poor children are not less valuable than rich kids. They are not disposable batteries like Iberville uses them for. They should not be abandoned because wealthier kids are easier to reach. This is exactly what is happening overtly with Shadow Schools, but covertly nationwide when schools for poor kids are closed and the kids are shipped across the school district to hide the problem, hide the individual struggling students among the masses.

Out of their sites, out of our minds.

That’s the way of the Reformer. It’s the John White way so it’s not surprising he crafted policy to take advantage of this situation on a case by case basis to support his allies.

(6) Alternative Schools

• Background:

○ Alternative schooling and programs vary widely in structure, purpose and quality across the state.

• Issue:

○ Despite the wide variance, the LDOE’s past practice has been to tightly define these learning environments as (a) alternative

schools or (b) alternative programs. This removes decision-making authority from educators closest to kids and, further, fails

to clarify the differences between the sites.

Proposal:

○ Rather than the LDOE, districts will designate alternative programs and/or schools.

Programs = Scores will count at sending school and the site will not have a site code

School = Scores will be assigned based on the new Full Academic Year definition

○ Any students sent to an alternative school for less than 45 days will be considered to be enrolled in an alternative

program within the alternative school, and their scores will be counted at their sending school.

You can even read Erin Bendily’s, Assistant Superintendent, Policy and External Affairs at Louisiana Department of Education, response when I brought Shadow Schools to her attention several years ago.

From: Erin Bendily (DOE)
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 4:05 PM
To: Jason France
Cc: (redacted); (redacted); Joan Hunt; Jennifer Baird
Subject: RE: Unreported Sites

This still doesn’t answer the question of why IPSB is communicating to parents and others externally that these are SCHOOLS, and why they are segregating data for them.

That was an excellent point, Erin. It still is. I wonder what, or who changed your mind? A FOIA request might reveal those answers.

State law is pretty specific on this issue as we all discussed with Chief Legal Counsel, Joan Hunt, and as we can see from Bulletin 111.

Part LXXXIII. Bulletin 111―The Louisiana School,
District, and State Accountability System

§301. School Performance Score Goal

A. A School Performance Score (SPS) shall be calculated for each school. This score shall range from 0.0 to 120.0 and beyond, with a score of 120.0 indicating a school has reached Louisiana’s 2014 goal.

B. Each school shall receive its school performance scores under one site code regardless of its grade structure.

……

§3301. Inclusion of New Schools

A. For a newly formed school, the school district shall register the new school with the Louisiana Department of Education to have a site code assigned to that school. A new school shall not be created nor shall a new site code be issued in order to allow a school to avoid an accountability decision or prevent a school from entering the accountability system. Before a new school is created, the local education agency must work with the Louisiana Department of Education to explore ways the new school can be included in the accountability system.

Shadow Schools exist and they were funded from a 31-mill special property tax parish voters approved in 2008. The tax is expected to generate $10.5 million per year for 20 years in Iberville. I’m not tackling the issue of whether they exist or not in this post. If you are interested in seeing some of my previous discussions on why these schools were created, what they allow you to do, or where some the current ones are 1, 2, 3, (and what the grounds look like from an aerial view) you can refer to these previous posts.

The sad part is this has never been a well-kept secret. Iberville Parish and St James Parish built new schools, called them academies and programs, and that was the extent of the deception!

Without the collusion pliant local and state school boards, a corrupt State Department of Education a useless US Department of Education, and compliant media that dutifully reports anything handed to them without delving any deeper than the press releases that get handed to them on a silver platter, this situation could not exist. A former, wishing to remain anonymous, LDOE staffer writes this:

That superintendent in Iberville was in St. James a few years ago. Seems that’s where the ‘process’ started. EBR tried this and Pastorek wouldn’t allow it. He also stopped Jefferson – who was doing it in several schools. When Tyler was in Caddo, she tried to do it with overage 8th graders (low performing) and the LDE doesn’t allow it. Cancienne also invented the practice of leaving poor performing students in 8th grade while they were working toward a GED, so they wouldn’t enter the high school graduation calculations. As you pointed out – with scores as low as they are in Iberville as a whole – how pitiful must the schools be when considering all the ‘propping up’ that occurs. ERIN BENDILY is the governor’s superintendent of education. Whitey is just the mouthpiece.

I’ve been researching this topic on and off for a few years now so I have pretty rough timeline of what occurred and who the primary players were in this setup, corroborated from multiple independent sources.

Apparently around 2006 or 2007 or so Linda Johnson, a state school board or “BESE” member, found out about some shadow schools that were operating in Jefferson Parish. Rather than worrying about shutting them down, she decided she liked the idea and wanted it to spread to other parishes under her oversight. Edward Cancienne was the Superintendent of St James Parish at the time and had just set up an “Academy” there that was actually split between 3 schools. Cancienne came to Iberville in 2007 and proposed opening up two more shadow school academies and funding them through a tax millage increase, which passed. While the schools were being built, Canicenne opened up the Academies in temporary accommodations.

Now the schools are built and they draw children from miles around, even outside of Iberville Parish as this press release found on Iberville’s website helpfully describes.

IPSBPressReleasePublicAcademiesAttractingStudents

Last school year, 32 such students applied to the academies in a parish with about 4,000 school age children. At the Jan. 15 application deadline, 273 parish students who attend school outside the parish and private school students in the parish were in a pool of 1,000 seeking entry into the academies for next school year, school system officials said. One of those former private school students is Kristin Ellis, a Plaquemine resident who attended school in Ascension Parish her entire life. She was admitted this year into the west side Math, Science and Arts Academy at the E.J. Gay campus in Plaquemine. Ellis, 16, is an achiever with a 4.2 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale due to her enrollment in honors courses. Leaving her Ascension Parish private school for the arts-intensive, technology-rich academy program in Iberville Parish made sense to Ellis, she said, because the academies push students to achieve.

The cumulative totals are even more staggering as Mike Deshotels reported:

In fact parents on both sides of the river are so impressed that in just 3 years a total of 780 students have transferred from private schools back into the public school system. For years the Iberville public school system had been plagued by the flight of serious top students (both black and white) to private schools. Now the kids are back, and the new concept Academies have a waiting list of over 400.

This all sounds fantastic! So what’s the problem do you ask?

For starters, with as many as 1000 high performing students transferring into a parish of only 4300 students as of 2011 the parish has only shown anemic growth. If you read any report about how awesome MSA East and MSA west are, you’d have to believe those are the best schools and kids on earth. It’s very likely, almost certain that the schools left behind are declining; the students are failing and dropping out in the shadows.

LEACode

District

2007 District Performance Score

2008 District Performance Score

2009 District Performance Score

2010 District Performance Score

2011 District Performance Score

Letter Grade

024 Iberville Parish

68.4

72.1

77.8

80.3

86.2

D

At a recent seminar on race I attended I happened to have an Iberville teacher at my table. I mentioned knowing about the Academies but not that I was a blogger that knew “quite a bit” about them. She told me that almost all the good students and teachers were drained from the other schools to support the Academies and that the actual reported “schools” had all the new teachers and lowest performing students. I also asked about the “lottery” system which I was told by a number of parents was a joke, and she confirmed that it was well know that if you were well connected, you got in, if you were a poor local parent there was no waiting list, and you might never get in. Many of the kids going to the Academies are from other parishes that don’t even pay the millage tax actual parishioners passed. I learned that all the schools have finally been remodeled and all students now have laptops, for what that’s worth, but the impacts of those investments is not showing up for local children. In all likelihood they are suffering worse than before the MSA’s came into existence. A parent relates this about the “lottery.”

Thanks for responding. The whole situation is sad and the kids are the ones who suffer. Mr.Cancienne even went to the extreme of contacting neighboring parishes once North Iberville was closed asking them not to accept those students forcing them to attend Plaquemine High or private school. Those parents had to sign temporary guardianship to a family member or friend for their child to attend school in another parish. However, students from WBR parish just have to provide an address in Iberville parish and they are eligible to attend. I know a honor student from North Iberville that has been # 10 on the waiting list for 2 years.

I know they’ve enrolled more than one kid at the MSA’s in the last 2 years. You do the math. A fictitious lottery allows school districts to pick and choose who they admit and who they don’t. People can claim it is “random” and who can prove otherwise? This is probably what’s going on with the State’s voucher “lottery” according to reports I’ve gotten from staffers who no longer work there.

Another teacher wrote in to tell me about how this Shadow School situation looked like from the inside:

I worked for Eskridge last year. Noone even told me about MSA. It took me a month to figure out where the other “half of the school” was.

They even wear different colors!

MSA had lab-tops, East Iberville didn’t. Oops they’re the same school? WHAT A CROCK

two totally different schools. it makes me sick to see that it is even claimed

At one point USED informed us that this was a very bad thing going on. I was not allowed to confirm that we actually had this situation until after I left. When I tried to report this issue to EDEN, the federal data collection agency I never received even the courtesy of an out-of-office response. I sent e-mails to dozens of federal employees letting them know this was going on, and I never received a conformation or response of any kind. When I worked at DOE this was the response we got right away.

From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) [mailto:Kara.Osmonson@ed.gov] On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2011 1:48 PM
To: [Redacted]
Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]
,

PSC asked ED how they would like this situation to be handled and ED sent the following response.

“The situation that is described in the e-mail is inappropriate. If something meets the definition of a school, LA needs to assign it a state site code and report it as a school to EDFacts.

As far as the LEAs go, LA SEA needs to be clear that the LEA are expected to report schools and students accurately and completely. The SEA could consider requiring a certification of some kind from the LEAs, that the data are reporting accurately and completely.

LA SEA could elaborate to the LEAs that while the LEAs might get by with misleading reporting for a while, eventually they will get caught. Then send them copies of the articles about Atlanta Public School District.”

Please let us know if you have any further questions regarding this issue. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center

http://www.ed.gov/edfacts/support.html

Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 5:56 PM
To: EDEN Submission System
Cc: Jason France; [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Jason,

Please answer these questions and send back to Kara.

Thanks,

[Redacted]

From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) [mailto:Kara.Osmonson@ed.gov] On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 4:15 PM
To: [Redacted]

Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]
,

I have a couple of follow up questions for your concerning this.

1) Is this a common practice in Louisiana?

2) How does Louisiana treat/report these types of schools? Is there an established/common practice in Louisiana for these types of situations, or does the state not have a written rule and would like for ED to weigh in?

Once I have these response I will be able to look into this more accurately for you. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center

http://www.ed.gov/edfacts/support.html

Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 12:30 PM
To: [Redacted]

Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]
,

Thank you for sending this to PSC. We will look into this question for you and get back to you with a response. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center

http://www.ed.gov/edfacts/support.html

Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 11:16 AM
To: EDEN Submission System
Cc: Jason France; [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school

Kara,

I found the definition of school in the workbook. Jason has asked a question below that I would like PSC to answer.

Thanks,

[Redacted]

From: Jason France
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 10:14 AM
To: [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school

What if an LEA has a “school” for all intents and purposes, except a site code and send their students as enrolled at another school to improve accountability scores at failing schools or to evade detection as a failing school by sprinkling their students among more successful schools so as not to have to report a failing “school”? Do the feds have an ruling/guide on that?

Apparently USED is not interested in discovering any more Atlanta situations. In the Georgia case the fraud was committed by dozens of teachers and principals by changing a few test items. In Louisiana this fraud is being perpetrated by the State Superintendent of Education, BESE members, and local superintendents and possibly Governor Jindal.  These folks have been hiding entire schools for going on 6 years,(during the entire Jindal Administration.) If you try to cover this you don’t get accolades, unlike the Atlanta scandal, you get fired even for asking questions.

Now it looks like Iberville is looking to expand its Shadow School program. I’ve heard reports that principals and parents of students in the schools for the poor kids have discussed trying to break away from Iberville to form their own school district, much like South East Baton Rouge is doing, except the geography is identical and in this case it’s the poor kids trying to get some decent experienced teachers and attention. Cancienne is using these poor kids like disposable batteries, to strip their funding to supply the MSAs with the best teachers and facilities money can buy.

Hello, I came across your blog on the MSA Academy in Plaquemine and I was shocked at some of the information you posted. I went to my first school board meeting this month for the first time in years and I would describe it as a circus. IPSB wants a Virtual Academy at the old North Iberville High School. They only want to open the library to house 30 students, however all the other schools have access and same advantages to the same courses. The school board hasn’t voted on the approval nor was a presentation of the cost analysis was given. I witnessed a company there last Monday installing wiring for internet. The school will be named MSA North Iberville (wow)! Let me go further to say the gpa requirements has been changed to 2.75 effective 2013-2014 school year. How can this be done when they are not a true magnet school?

Melvin Lodge sold North Iberville High out along with Daigle. East Iberville got to keep their school with a low enrollment plus an academy. Now they want to form their own school district saying they are tired of being treated like the “step child”. How about that for the latest in Iberville Parish news? The parents don’t know because they don’t educate themselves. This school has been given so much praise. The borderline students are being forced out back to their home school to make room for students coming in from private school and OTHER PARISHES; West Baton Rouge in particular. I made a mistake taking my kids out of private school. There is a meeting on the Virtual Academy at North Iberville this Thursday. One of my local board members that is in favor of this school requested Cancienne to come and hasn’t informed the parents. I have taken the initiative to do so and try to expose them. Thanks Again for your blog!

Despite what John White, and Edward Cancienne would have you believe, this is really what Iberville Reform looks like.

And if you don’t believe me, well now there’s a fired reporter to prove it.

If you believe in the Freedom of Press, you will make this go viral. If you value your freedom you must not tolerate this intimidation. Government agencies interfering and punishing the press is a clear cut violation of the First Amendment.

The Free Press Clause protects the freedom to publish. In Lovell v. City of Griffin (1938), Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes defined “press” as “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” This right has been extended to media including newspapers, books, plays, movies, and video games.

A landmark decision for press freedom came in Near v. Minnesota (1931), in which the Supreme Court rejected prior restraint (pre-publication censorship). In this case, the Minnesota legislature passed a statute allowing courts to shut down “malicious, scandalous and defamatory newspapers”, allowing a defense of truth only in cases where the truth had been told “with good motives and for justifiable ends”. In a 5-4 decision, the Court applied the Free Press Clause to the states, rejecting the statute as unconstitutional. Hughes quoted Madison in the majority decision, writing, “The impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press”.

But just like anything else, our “rights” are illusory if we don’t defend them. If you are someone that feels “criminal alliances” and “official neglect” are the American Way, then feel free to ignore this story, while you can. Just don’t complain when your property is expropriated, your children “disappeared” and no one cares.

#BoycottLPB

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15 thoughts on “Shadow Schools, the many victims of their success, and why US ED is useless

    1. I’ve been get more versions/examples of this pactice coming in since I posted by latest story. There could be hundreds of schools with similiar situations but I would imagine its not confined to Louisiana. Erasing test score answers is just one of many possible ways to cheat, especially when you have a duplicitous departments of education wanting to shows gains, regardless of whether thet are genuine.Once public schools are chopped up and handed off to private individuals and companies, we’ll find out more, because by then we won;t be able to undo the damage or hold anyone accountable.

  1. Cheating in Louisiana! That would be a marvelous subject to investigate. There used to be a team with the LDE that looked into such things. Their leader retired and was never replaced. The money was needed for Pastorek’s first wave of TFAers.

    1. It will never be investigated under a Republican administration, perhaps not ever. Cheating is one of the quickest, cheapest and easiest ways to get ahead and the cheaters are usually long gone once you discover it, replaced by even more cheaters.

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