When I first heard about the “Seabaugh Solution,” a term John White invented to describe a request by legislator Alan Seabaugh to rig the entire teacher evaluation system to favor three teachers that taught at his daughter’s school in Shreveport, something didn’t quite make sense to me. Why would John White risk everything to do something he knew was wrong and probably illegal and unnecessarily complicated?

During the course of his interview with Sentell, White confided “in an off-the-record remark” that the three teachers were ineffective and that Seabaugh was “pushing hard” to fix it

I think John White went to a lot of trouble to set up Alan Seabaugh for the fall on this one. White took the unusual step of openly referring to this “fix” as the “Seabaugh Solution” and even planted evidence for reporters to find.  When he met with reporters about this situation he queried them about it innocently, and set up Seabaugh again. It could be that John White has is completely clueless, but there may be some political intrigue going on here as well.

Apparently, according to the taped conversation between  John White and Alan Seabaugh below,  it seems likely the directions for this scheme came from Governor Jindal’s office in the form of Policy Director Stafford Palmieri, who was Jindal’s Education and Policy advisor prior to that position and is simply referred to as “Stafford” on the tape between Alan Seabaugh and John White.

I suppose it’s possible this is simply a favor called in by the governor to support a fellow conservative legislator.  However this situation could have been handled seamlessly, as DOE has often handled such things in the past.  I asked one of my sources to comment on this situation. I know how these types of “situations” usually work – through manual “adjustments.” These “situations” are often handled in accountability and SPS scores for politically connected individuals. These situations are usually handled quietly, with a manual adjustment to raw scores, and without much fanfare. When done that way they are almost undetectable to anyone on the outside without access to the true “raw” data which DOE never releases.

I’ve never heard of  something like this being discussed and e-mailed about as a”Seabaugh Solution.” That’s almost begging for someone to inquire if they came across that snippet.  However if things ended there I could chock it up to White’s youth and arrogance, but the planting of evidence that was meant to get handed over to reporters?  John White even pushed this carefully crafted narrative by telling advocate reporter Will Sentell that representative Alan Seabaugh was forcing him to change the VAM system,, for the sake of 3 ineffective teachers. This all makes me wonder. . . .was this John White trying secretly to alert us to the undue influence of his boss, Bobby Jindal, and Alan Seabaugh?

Yes, orders came from the governor making him work with Seabaugh to “fix” the problem. Their process was all screwed up. It started as a policy adjustment but Seabaugh didn’t want his name tied to it so they wanted to hide it in the model. I suggested a sound adjustment but because the teachers were so bad they were not helped by my proposed adjustment. I did suggest exactly that, simply adjusting those teachers scores, but that was not acceptable. Apparently the Supt had voiced that there would be a cap put on student predicted scores and we had to do it that way even when we pointed out this was wrong and would negatively impact effective teachers. {emphasis mine}

On May 14, 2013, at 4:31 AM, Crazycrawfish <crazycrawfish@yahoo.com> wrote:

Who the hell put White up to doing this crazy scheme? It seems like he risked an awful lot for something that really shouldn’t have been a big deal for him. Did the Jindal make him do it?

Also, why not just simply tweak those teachers scores with an adjustment and be done with it?

Consider this:

  • If this tape had not come forward, and others had not spoken out, Alan Seabaugh would have been left holding the bag for this.
  • It’s quite obvious John White could have handled this quietly, and this suggestion was even made to him by his own staff and rejected by him.
  • Instead, what happened is John White destroyed the entire VAM system, screwing up the scores for thousands of teachers, just to fix a situation for three.
  • White then went to great pains to refer to this as the “Seabaugh Solution” ensuring Alan Seabaugh and this rigging would be inextricably linked.
  • White then planted evidence with a former DOE staffer named Rayne Martin, to be “found” by Will Sentell with The Advocate.
  • White then feigned ignorance about how this situation transpired, but disclosed more evidence that makes Seabaugh look corrupt to a reporter interviewing him about this exact situation.

Is John White really that inept, was he trying to do the right thing and expose Alan Seabaugh and Bobby Jindal’s meddling, or was this part of a larger plot of the Governor’s to discredit Alan Seabaugh for some reason?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Now showing!  Courtesy of John White's Department of Education
Now showing! Courtesy of John White’s Department of Education

The only thing that is clear is that MFP should be rejected based on this continuing evidence that the formula is based on manipulation and fraud. Did you know that VAM (Value Added) scores are used throughout the MFP formula to distribute funding? This is the same VAM formula that was manipulated for personal and professional gain and has lost all credibility. It won’t be used for teacher evaluations this year, but if the MFP formula is approved as resubmitted by Chas Roemer it will lead to widespread funding inequities and open the state up to countless lawsuits.

I ask the legislature to once again reject the MFP formula resubmitted by Chas Romer and to tell him to restore the previous MFP formula . . . you know, the one without all the controversy, unconstitutional funding mechanisms, and potential fraud.

A. Student Performance

A weight is provided for student performance using the Value Added Model (VAM) and the LAA1 and LAA2 accountability data from the latest available data. The weight is provided under the following circumstances:

i. Category 1 provides a 135% weight times the number of students whose score in English Language Arts (ELA) or Math “exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model or whose LAA1 or LAA2 test results improved one achievement level or more, or

ii. Category 2 provides a 175% weight times the number of students whose performance in English Language Arts or Math “significantly exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model.

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16 thoughts on “Bobby Jindal, the Seabaugh Solution and MFP

  1. I have to keep advocating for these three teachers who are being thrown under the bus. I know these three teachers, and they are fabulous and certainly not ineffective. The fact that the DOE’s stupid VAM formula screwed them does not make them “so bad.” I hope people realize this as this story unfolds.

    1. I have no doubt. However i must advocate for all teachers that don’t have legislators in their back pockets. The entire system is suspect and must be discarded. It was a bad idea to use this to punish teachers, any teachers, in the first place.

      Sent from my Samsung smartphone on AT&T

      1. CC, thank you, thank you, thank you, with all my heart, thank you for the above statement. It often feels like we have no one in our corner. Parents are largely indifferent or ignorant as to whats really happening to their child’s teachers and schools. Sure, the unions exist, but those charged with killing the unions have won the battle of public perception. That is the #1 reason I am not a union member. We need you and people like you. I would love to be able to speak out but fear for my job. I have a family. It’s obvious they can change the VAM to reflect whatever they want. If they can change it to make three teachers look better than they are, they can surely make me look bad. Though it seems inadequate, all I can seem to offer is gratitude. Thank you.

        1. You are very welcome. Your words of support and gratitude are what keep me motivated actually.

          I have no strings to any teacher or special interest group, and while I hate John White, because of his absurd and destructive policies, I love my state and the decent folks at DOE that still cling to the hope they will be able to survive White and restore education.

          I was not fired from DOE, I quit with a glowing review and was urged/invited by folks to return, but I knew I had to help fight off this Reform plague first to save our teachers, our schools and our students from those who would try to harvest them like tobacco or soybeans.

          Unlike many of the folks who serve on BESE or who work for White tell us what parents want from their public schools systems I actually have kids int he public schools systems and I do not agree with their conclusions that are paid for by outside interests.

          White has tried to describe me as a disgrunted ex-employee, but I am a disgruntled taxpayer and Louisiana citizen, and I continue to help folks at my job, and folks in the district a year and a half later. I fight for them every day, 365 days a year, with more passion and commitement than I have ever had for just about anything in my life.

          1. I don’t care if you are a disgruntled former employee or not. If the things you say are factual then they are still facts. It doesn’t matter what the person’s background may be. That’s the beauty of truth, of facts. I constantly see and read where White is certainly less that truthful. I have t seen many instances where you or Tom Aswell were lying. And every time that you guys were incorrect I’ve seen you admit to such. Keep up the good fight. It’s working. I mean look, the employees in LDOE can’t even have printers in their offices anymore. They are running scared.

            1. You may not care, but others that still need to be persuaded might find context and background of the individual matters. John White has a lot of conflicts of interest, and a lot of his future depends on him being perceived as a success. His motivation for lying is pretty obvious. He also has no downside for screwing over Louisiana schools since he has no children, and has not relocated here since his wife still ives in NYC, so no plans of availing himself of this education mess he is creating. Conversely I do live here, my kids do go to the schools, and it would be pretty crazy for me to fight against his “Reforms” if i thought they were good for my kids. Would i really be screwing my kids over for some sort of personal vendetta? That would be pretty messed up, and believe me, i have plenty of other things i could do with my time other than screwing over my kids’ futures. I think context matters, and mine is above reproach, and White’s is anything but.

              1. I understand what you are trying to do when you try to clear up your standing. And I appreciate it. I feel as you do, I have kids too. I’m also a former Catholic school teacher and a current public school teacher. I’ve seen both sides of the public vs. private school debate. Not to brag, but I have the means to do otherwise, but still choose to have my kids attend the public schools. That is the greatest endorsement I can give to the public school system.

  2. The question is why chance a scandal by changing these teacher’s VAM? The answer is, I believe, they really aren’t as ineffective as the VAM would indicate. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/carolyn-abbott-the-worst-_n_1521933.html

    If memory serves me correctly, these LA teachers are gifted teachers, and/or teachers of strong students, whose students’ scores went down from the previous year…but they were still in the high mastery/advanced scales. http://theadvocate.com/news/4058670-123/teachers-claim-new-evaluation-system

    The motivation behind covering for these teachers is VAM is junk! Calling it the Seabaugh Solution was not intended to blame…it was intended to cover this fallacy in the system.

    However, I would like to expose yet another fallacy in the system…in 2010, I figured up my scores vs. my counterpart who taught the kids in my subject that I didn’t teach. I kicked butt, and my principal required that I collaborate with her. She was a smart young lady and basically mirrored me all year. My personal VAM was almost highly effective in 2011 (pilot year) – 88th percentile. The teacher I helped scores were almost a mirror image of mine and she came in at the 87th percentile (up from 50th in 2011). She was given Teacher of the Year accolades because of her dramatic growth, among a couple of other things she did well. My principal saw an opportunity to have me transform my department, so he gave me a lower grade level class and required collaboration, lesson sharing, etc. with the lower grades. The lower grade that I was teaching a class of now, embraced my lessons. The grade level below that resisted. Well, when VAM came out in 2012…I scored 73rd percentile. The lady from the year before scored in the 75th percentile…but the lower grade teacher jumped from 40th percentile in 2011 to 85th percentile (using my lessons with his spin) in 2012. Yes, he took in Teacher of the Year accolades on his performance.

    Here’s my problem…I am now a victim of my success. I got this guy’s kids who have topped out their performance…and I am expected to improve their scores. I have come to the realization that one of the problems with VAM is that as mediocre students reach their maximum performance level…improvement plateaus. It is like dieting…when you are 40 pounds overweight, it melts off pretty easily on the early end…but as you get closer to your target weight, pounds don’t drop like they used to. As a student reaches their peak performance (it is sad, but some students’ peak performance is not very high), gaining another VAM point gets TOUGH!

    1. Correction: The teacher I helped scores were almost a mirror image of mine and she came in at the 87th percentile (up from 50th in 2011 – should be 2010, 50th percentile assumption/guesstimation based on her 2010 scores that mimicked the state average).

    2. You have quantified and confirmed what was obvious to many of the critics of this system from the outset. This system discourages collaboration, because those that help others get screwed later. While you were decent enough to help your fellow teachers, it will only result in crappier outcomes for you because its harder and harder for you outrun the scale.

      Whether these teachers were crappy or not is not the issue, what is the issue is John White believed they were, he told a reporter they were, they had internal discussions about how they were crappy, and yet he changed the whol system anyway to revolved around making what he “believed” to be crappy, the gold standard as part of political favor. This calls his judgement and credibility into question. He allowed hundreds, if not thousands, or teachers he believed were “good” to get bad ratings to mask the ratings of three teachers h e felt were bad. How does his word carry any weight with anyone after that?

      This situation underscores the fact that VAM is a sham. It always has been, but now it’s beyond the pale. When even the people that theoretically “believe” in it, twist to aroudn for their own poltical ends, there can really be no legitimate support for it.

      I am not a teacher. I don;t have any teachers in my family in Louisiana. I don;t even work for any educational entity or interest, but i believe this is total hoax. The problems one has at the upper end of the scale are only part of the problem. They entire premise is garbage.

      However, none of this explains why John White would try to help, then ste-up a theoretical Legislator ally to take the fall. Very strange, or mind bogglingly incompentent.

    1. Nope. There is more going on. White is either mentally incompetent and insane, or someone put him up to those strange decisions for some reason. VAM was always bogus the way they were using it of course, but White’s decisions about how to handle this situation are very bizarre.

  3. Here is my issue with VAM…
    My 8th grade students were upset that they had to answer questions about Leonardo Davinci and the Renaissance Period, ancient Chinese civilization questions, etc. when they haven’t seen this information since 6th grade. They were asked American Revolution information that was taught in 7th grade, only briefly touched in 8th grade just like the war only briefly touched LA history. Should kids know, and recall information, about the American Revolution? Yes! Should my value/career as a teacher be based on how well kids remember what their lower grade teachers may, or may not, have taught? Hmmm…fair is escaping this VAM equation, isn’t it?
    It is becoming clear that student scores are becoming more dependent on how good the last teacher was. Let me explain…if the last teacher was a crack shot, for the most part, the student’s new teacher will have her work cut out to show improvement because of last year’s mountain top experience. Using what Johnny Appleseed pointed out…earning another point will get tough as kids are at peak performance. Boo hiss…fire that girl. Really? Would you rather your child taught by a “worse” teacher that helped your child maintain, or score slightly less, than last year’s stellar performance? Or would you rather a “better” teacher that brought up a bunch of Unsatisfactory kids to Approaching Basic??? This reminds me of the School Performance Score concept. Would you rather send your child to a school that dropped three points scoring a 97 and is called “A School in Decline”, or a school that jumped 13 points from 45 to 58 and is labeled a “A School in Rapid Growth”? Um, based on the numbers…I’ll take the school in decline with the ineffective teacher compared to last year’s crack shot! Fair is escaping the VAM equation, isn’t it?
    One might argue that a great teacher will continue to raise the bar no matter what happened last year, but there comes a point where even the greatest mechanic cannot improve the highest level of efficiency a machine can run. Example: if a kid scores a perfect score (500) in 7th grade, he can do no better than a 500 in 8th grade no matter how hard he tries. It is easy to see this limit when the kid hit the top score available, but what about the kids that hit a 350 and that is all you will get out of them? No reasonable human being would insist that every student can/should make a perfect 36 on the ACT (some kids try 8-10 times and can’t get above a 25)! This doesn’t mean they haven’t learned new things between the first try and the 10th try, it just means they are a 25 on the ACT on their best day. Fair is escaping the VAM equation, isn’t it?
    What if the previous teacher is a crack pot? She shows movies all the time, never can get any meaningful work out of the kids, she can’t get the kids organized to do any sort of activity much less hold a class discussion. The student’s new teacher may look like a genius for doing a mediocre job in comparison to the last teacher! Yay! Give that girl a reward!!! Really??? Is the point to find a really bad teacher to feed you their children so you can look outstanding? Fair is escaping the VAM equation, isn’t it?
    On top of that, the 6th and 7th grade tests were 40 MC questions – based on what they teach, and 8th grade was 60 MC interlaced with 6th and 7th grade material. They are now adding some constructed response questions for the 6th & 7th grade tests, but they did not exist in the past anywhere but the 8th grade tests. The “younger” grade tests are less intense (shorter tests, directly from the subject the teachers teach) than the older grade versions (longer timed tests, evaluating teachers on material students should just know from earlier grades). The point is, these tests are not equivalent! Fair seems to be escaping VAM, huh?
    To top it off with a cherry called test security, teachers are not allowed to look at the test and students are not supposed to discuss it with anyone. If anyone tries to blow the whistle on these things, they are open to a valid investigation to determine how they got their information that is supposed to be secure. Unfair is built into this facet of VAM? It is no wonder teachers are walking away from this occupation in droves.
    The only way John White can keep from having VAM nuked is to cover up its fallacies. Crazy Crawfish…you are right there is a cover up…but I don’t think it is a conspiracy of “whom” as you suggest…I think it is a conspiracy to cover a fallible system hoping to buy time to “fix” it with “solutions”. The more you and people like you expose what is going on here…maybe we can bring fair back to teachers and students in regards to VAM! 

    1. Excellent examples, however the fallacies you mention have always been there, they have been expsosed, and no one cared. Because there is math involved with this issue it does not lend itself well to public discussion or dissection and legislators are happy to allow “experts” tell them how to apply this VAM system and are happy to believe it is fair so long as they have plausible deniablity, that DOE told them so. DOE has been castigating anyone who complains as ineffective teachers, sour grapes, etc. They could have continued doing that forever had not these recent questions arisen from proof of political tampering for satisfy a single legislator or the facilitate the governors agenda, without any concern for the test being “valid.” I have the internal e-mails tht describe the process, that make no mention of fairness or accuracy – the top concern is satsifying Seabaugh – regardless of how many teachers are hurt or whether the test has any vestage of fairness or accuacy.

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