Proof LDOE does not fill data requests; Sci Academy faux grad rate; and a prism through which to view the CREDO study

John White testified during the last legislative session that he is not aware of people having trouble getting access to LDOE data. This statement is wildly inconsistent with what I, and numerous other researchers have reported. I am a witness in a lawsuit against LDOE where a New Orleans researcher, for almost 2 years now, is just trying to get access to exit and entry reason codes and dates. This researcher just wants this data to track where students are going and to see if some schools are overusing certain exit codes (like exit out of state) and to examine enrollment patterns. These are studies LDOE used to do, back when they tried to verify and audit data, but which has been abandoned under John White and Paul Pastorek. LDOE, or more specifically John White and Bobby Jindal and their charter allies, do not want to know the answers to these questions – or even more likely they already know the answers and do not want you to know.

The “miraculous” success of many charter schools and New Orleans is a result of manipulated data and selective exclusion of many students. I have heard reports of many students being “exited” out-of-state or country, that are actually found wandering the streets. An “exit out-of-state or country” means no one will look for this student and the charter can keep their stats up. I’m not claiming all charter schools do this, but unless we get data to confirm or deny these claims it will be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff – Which is what John White and other reformers want.

Now back to my request. I have heard reports of charter schools making outrageous claims about graduation rates that they were using to recruit parents and children into their programs and to tout their success. The only problem is, there is no official site-level graduation rate that has been endorsed by LDOE, or at least there was not when I worked there. There are a number of problems with applying the formula used to calculate state and school district rates to a site, not the least of which is that if students are booted from a site over the 4 years a student might be enrolled, and those students enter other schools in the district, the “booting” school might look like it has a high graduation rate, but that doesn’t equate to the rate at which students entering in 9th grade actually graduate from that school. Let me give you an example:

If a school takes in 100 students in 9th grade, and graduates only 50 of those students 4 years later, you might think this school is reporting a 50% graduation rate. However, through the magic of exit codes, this school might actually be reporting a graduation rate of 100%!

The example of this situation that was presented to me was Sci Academy. I have been trying to get data from LDOE to see how widespread this issue is in New Orleans, RSD, and among the various charters so I didn’t have to pick on just one charter school, and so I could use official numbers from our department, however based on the e-mail correspondence below, LDOE is playing dumb on my request and stalling. I have no doubt once I’ve exhausted all their stalling tactics they will assert the same claim they have for so many other researchers: that the data is too cumbersome to compile, that it doesn’t exist, or that I am not entitled to it and they don’t have to provide it. Because this is an area I worked in at LDOE, and I routinely compiled similar requests I can easily refute the first two excuses. Mrs. Nesmith knows very well what I am asking for. My sources report she was hired to her position specifically to prevent folks from getting information they needed to dispel LDOE myths. In a related story, the CREDO institute out of Stanford just released a report today based on information Kim and I prepared before I left. CREDO got every last shred of data the department had, thousands if not millions of times more than what I am requesting. Here is the CREDO MOU: credo I worked on with Kim Nesmith (that she was listed as the state contact for on page 6) in case you are curious about whether she should know about the existence of this data, whether it has been given before, and what questions CREDO was charged with answering. (My understanding was CREDO promised to put a positive spin on whatever they produced as a condition for receiving the data.)

Now, back to the Sci Academy issue, which is probably just the tip of the charter iceberg.

Sci Academy opened in the 2008-2009 School year and added one grade per year. By the 2011-2012 school year they finally graduated their first class. Community sources have relayed to me that Sci Academy, also known as New Orleans Charter and Science Academy, has been reporting graduation rates in the 88 – 92% range. However when they examined the enrollment counts the numbers didn’t add up and they asked me to investigate. I have tried for months to get legitimate data from LDOE but they are obviously playing games.

It is easy to hide behind percentages. Never trust a percentage issued by them without a denominator and numerator to back it up. (That’s probably a good rule of thumb for life.)

My investigation showed that while they can claim 92% of their students graduated that they had enrolled in 12th grade, many of their students left over the course of the 4 years. Sci Academy started with a ninth grade enrollment of 83 students. By 12th grade they had 50 of which I’m told 46 graduated. That means that students enrolling in Sci academy in 9th grade in 2008 only had a 55% chance of graduating from this school or a 45% chance of not graduating.  I’m told many of these kids went on to colleges, but you must consider that Sci Academy shed nearly half their students before achieving a near perfect graduation rate – a rate that was based solely on the students that were left in 12th grade.  And of the ones that were left, while many of them may have gone onto college,  however as far as impacting the community, Sci Academy only graduated half their students and only prepared half of less for college.  That’s the thing with numbers, in the wrong hands they can be used to mislead and lie very convincingly.

As you can see from the years 2009, 2010, and 2011, the year 2008 was not a fluke. We see students being shed in similar numbers across the grades and years. A typical result appears to be shedding about 1/3 of the students between grades 9 and 10.

I wonder if this is typical for charter schools and the underlying reason for charter “success” such that it is?

When you can exclude half of your students and send them back to the “traditional” schools or the streets, and only count the kids that finish at your school at the end, how could you not be more successful that traditional schools which must take everyone? And yet, charter schools don’t accept as many disabled students and strongly discourage them from enrolling, quickly evict students with discipline problems, and usually have much lower or zero Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students, and still they barely edge out traditional schools in many cases.

Where will the charter schools send their kids, when all the schools are charter schools, I wonder?

BELOW is my correspondence with DOE requesting data on graduate counts by site and school year.

Jason France (jasonfrance@hotmail.com)

From:
Sent: Mon 6/24/13 4:50 PM To: kim.nesmith@la.gov (kim.nesmith@la.gov) Cc: John White (superintendent@la.gov)

Mrs. Nesmith,

Thank you for your prompt, 6 week, turnaround time to refer me to generic reports that that already existed on your website that do not satisfy my data request.  The AFR reports you referred me to do have some basic info on graduates, but only at the school district and state level, not at the site level, and the latest file i found was from 2009-2010.  As you may or may not be aware, it is currently 2013.  This would make that info more than a little dated.  I specifically asked for years 2008 – 2011 (2011-2012 graduates should have been completed last September or 9 months ago).

As you and I are both aware, LDOE and schools have access to much more accurate data, and this data is being used in raw percentage form by charters to misinform the public about school graduation rates.  I need the graduate counts by site code to dispute these numbers and properly inform parents and stakeholders.  The department has access to this data and can run a simple query to produce the numbers i requested that will take less than 2 minutes to produce.  I can provide this query if you are unable to figure this out yourself, (although as the Data Quality Director and director of data collections, I assume that won’t be necessary.)  In order to have produced the graduation rates for schools and districts you would have had to create a denominator and numerator.  If you provide those numbers I can verify your percentages and clear up any misunderstanding.

That you in advance for what I assume will be more prompt attention to this matter than you have previously shown.

P.S.  i will be posting my requests and my responses, or lack thereof, starting now (along with an explanation of why I feel LDOE is reluctant to provide these numbers and my own rough estimates of what the numbers actually are.)  This will help confirm or refute statements, made by Superintendent White to the legislature, about whether LDOE promptly or accurately responds to data requests.

Thanks

Jason


From: Kim.Nesmith@LA.GOV
To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2013 22:39:22 +0000

Hi Jason,

 The information you requested regarding graduates can be found on the website ….. http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/library/financial-data.

 They are published yearly in the AFSR.

 Thanks!

Kim

 Kim Nesmith, M.Ed.

Data Quality Director

Louisiana Department of Education

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 94064, Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Physical Address:  1201 North Third Street, Baton Rouge, LA  70802

Office:  5-179

www.louisianaschools.net

From: Jasonfrance [mailto:jasonfrance@hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, May 24, 2013 7:26 PM
To: Kim Nesmith
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
Importance: Low

 Where are we on this request? 

Sent from my Samsung smartphone on AT&T

——– Original message ——–
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
From: Kim Nesmith <Kim.Nesmith@LA.GOV>
To: Jason France <jasonfrance@hotmail.com>
CC:

Jason,

 What years would you like and at what level?

 Thanks!

Kim

 Kim Nesmith, M.Ed.

Data Quality Director

Louisiana Department of Education

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 94064, Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Physical Address:  1201 North Third Street, Baton Rouge, LA  70802

Office:  5-179

www.louisianaschools.net

From: Jason France [mailto:jasonfrance@hotmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2013 1:02 PM
To: Kim Nesmith
Subject: RE: LDOE Data

Mrs Nesmith,

Can you send me the data listed below?

 

From: [redacted]

To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
Date: Thu, 9 May 2013 17:11:28 +0000

HI Jason,

If you need to request info that you can’t find on the website just email out Data Director Kim Nesmith at kim.nesmith@la.gov.

 Thanks,

[Redacted]

 From: Jason France [mailto:jasonfrance@hotmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2013 12:10 PM
To: [redacted]

Subject: RE: LDOE Data

Hi [redacted],

Thanks for the prompt reply.   Unfortunately i did not find what i was looking for.  Preferably i’d like an excel file that contains raw graduate counts, not rates, by school by year.

Something like this:
dataneeded

From: [redacted]

To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
Subject: LDOE Data
Date: Thu, 9 May 2013 16:31:33 +0000

Hi Jason,

The data that you’re looking for can be found on our website’s Data Center. Please go to http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/library/data-center. You’ll see the graduation links at the top.

Thank you,

[redacted]

Education Specialist

Louisiana Department of Education

1201 North Third Street

Baton Rouge, LA  70802

[redacted]

www.louisianaschools.net

 

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11 thoughts on “Proof LDOE does not fill data requests; Sci Academy faux grad rate; and a prism through which to view the CREDO study

  1. The LDOE IS still analyzing the graduation data. There were 2 studies done by the Accountability Section prior to grad data being used. They determined that between 1/4 and 1/3 of the exit codes used by high schools had insufficient (or no) documentation to support their use. In plain English, that means the schools said students moved out of state, or enrolled in private school, or were being home schooled without and evidence that these things really occurred. The ‘network’ in Baton Rouge indicates that certain districts and a high percentage of charter schools are obviously falsifying graduation data. While it is very clear that the LDOE is hiding some data and falsifying other data, it isn’t only the public requests that are ignored. School districts are no longer given their own data with sufficient detail to determine that LDOE school performance score calculations are correct. In 2010-11, accountability folks in various districts found errors of 4 different types that required the LDOE to recalculate scores. There was an additional problem that made the overall aggregate state results inaccurate, but the LDOE denied the fact. In 2011-12, the first use of End-of-Course (EOC) assessments in accountability and the ‘errors’ associated with their use caused one high school in Lafayette to be labelled as failing and they had to offer parents a choice to transfer to other high schools. After they discovered HUNDREDS of problems with how the data was used, and requested and were granted SOME corrections, the high school was not failing. The district invested substantial resources to do mail-outs, transfer, transport, and monitor this process – and the LDOE was wrong. Even though their state representative contacted Erin Bendily and requested that they be sent the corrected data files (to determine any additional errors), and even though Bendily agreed, the LDOE didn’t have time to prepare such a file. The 2011-12 results are still fraught with errors. One district’s elementary and middle schools were not mislabeled, but their scores are off by 1/10 to 8/10 of a point. District professionals are quite confident that the LDOE staff will be unable to provide accurate scores this year, and districts will not have sufficient data to verify accuracy. If that mislabeled high school is 1/10 of a point below 50 (the academically unacceptable ‘cut’), they’ll have to offer school choice again, but the new accountability system with its unwritten data processing rules will likely prevent any challenges to the new calculations. There is insufficient LDOE staff to handle any high quality verification. Bobby has his ‘purchased BESE’ that just follows the lead of Fork-tongued Whitey – except for Beebe and King. Word is occasionally sent to the US Dept of Ed, but they seem unconcerned about most of the details, although they occasionally slap the LDOE on the hand. It’s a bit difficult to understand the lack of cooperation in Washington between the two major parties, and the complete cooperation between our Republican run LDOE and the Democrat administration’s Arne Duncan. There are a handful of individuals around the state who intimidate the LDOE considerably. Keep it up gang. Thanks for this blog and the chance to get in a few slaps on the Jindalites in the LDOE.

  2. We need a cadre of lawyers (or the FBI who are now busy in Ohio and Texas investigating education) to step up pro bono to take LDE to court on what appears to be criminal charges.

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