The Crazycrawfish Blog would like to recognize Peter C. Cook as the newest member of the Crazycrawfish fanclub

The Crazycrawfish Blog would like to recognize Peter C. Cook as the newest member of the Crazycrawfish fanclub

It’s been a while since we in Crazycrawfish land have had a chance to welcome a new member. As some of you may know, to become a member you must write up a dedicated blog post to “yours truly” that attacks me personally but does so in such an inept way that readers will instantly know the attack is meant to be comical. Usually this is done by making absurd claims, hurling a few unnecessary insults, and demonstrating a flair for the ironic by attacking my knowledge and expertise with especially faulty and delusional reasoning of their own.

For these reasons, I induct thee, Peter C. Cook, of TFA stardom, into the Crazycrawfish fanclub for this posting. Since the club already has a president, we will make you the mascot for the time being, but with a little hard work and energy on Peter’s part I have no doubt he will be knocking at the door of a promotion to club groundskeeper.

First let us address this comment:

France’s broadside against Sci Academy is filled with the half-truths and logical fallacies that would be expected from someone with zero experience working in public schools, and thus, lacks the context needed to draw informed conclusions.

This assertion would seem to exclude most of the researchers that extol the virtue of charter schools and TFA, as well as many of the reformer’s biggest billionaire proponents like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, Bloomberg, Michael and Susan Dell, etc. Who while never working in a school district, use data to tell us how everyone else should run theirs. To some extent I agree. We should not rely solely on data to draw conclusions. Data can be manipulated, people can misinterpret it, or interpret it in a way that supports their agenda, but denies reality. This is what Reformers like Peter Cook does, as you will see in his attack on me. When the facts don’t align with your narrative, make up some new facts or rules to suit the situation. In this case Peter is saying I should not have an opinion, no one should have an opinion, that has not worked at ground zero. As I said, this is a very interesting line of attack, but one that wildly misses the mark.

For the past 8 or so years (well not so much this last year )I’ve volunteered as an adult mentor with the Big Buddy Program in Baton Rouge. The only reason I stopped was my little buddy (who’s father was incarcerated when I started working with him in second grade) ,and his sister are about to graduate from high school. I was amazed that my little buddy had never participated in trick-or-treating with a Halloween costume, and had only done so once until I took him until he felt he was too old. I was sad that living in Louisiana, in Baton Rouge, that he had never been to a Mardi Gras Parade until took him and his sister. Now that I have my own young children it’s hard to volunteer with others for now.

Speaking of children, my children are also both in public schools in EBR, at one of the poorest schools in EBR. My wife was a former TFA teacher and I worked with her and her children who had never actually seen white people before they met her. (When I visited her a school the first time the kids crowded around us and declared we should get married because we were the only two people “like us” [white] they had ever seen.) I also accompanied her on trips to bring food to the shadiest hotels in town for families that had been evicted, while their mothers were either missing or dressed up to walk to the streets to put food on the table for all the times we couldn’t be there. My wife was the PTA president for our kids’ school, probably one of the highest poverty ones in East Baton Rouge, and we volunteered for many field trips with the kids and other school activities.

As for understanding the data, I can honestly say no one in this state, perhaps on this planet, understands Louisiana’s education data more than me. (John White fired or drove off all of the knowledgeable data folks so he could honestly say no one could provide data anymore.) I also happened to work with school data and data coordinators in every parish and school district in the state for 9 years, and was intimately familiar with many of them and their specific data, and the issues with their data. My wife and I also volunteer to host TFA students for dinners, and after Katrina we had about 8 TFA teachers staying with us at different times while they worked and looked for housing. We got to hear many of their stories at ground zero, and some of them we remain friends with to this day.

Currently I volunteer my time to work with numerous current educators, retired educators, superintendents, BESE members, non-profit children’s organizations, etc. Unlike Peter, I do not get paid to help children. I do this for free, in my free time. I am not defending teachers or specific policies because I am paid to, like Peter C. Cook. I do so because I believe in our teachers, our Louisiana citizens and I want all of our children, not just the ones charter schools like Sci Academy keep around, to have a prosperous future and a worthwhile education. I believe TFA and John White’s LDOE are stealing this dream from many of the kids I work with, and from my own children.

So let’s see what else ya got Pete. . .

France claims that unnamed “sources” asked him to investigate Sci Academy’s graduation rate, which he claims the school has manipulated in order to make it appear that they are outperforming “traditional” public schools.

Uh? This is true. That’s how I got the data and why I chose Sci Academy. Frankly I’d never heard of them before, probably because they seem to change their name every few years. I also never claimed the graduation rate was manipulated, although I did have a commenter from Louisiana’s accountability section at LDOE that claims it very likely was. My beef was they are reporting a graduation rate of around 90% or so when recruiting new students. Most parents would not know what a cohort graduation rate, and those rates are easy to manipulate at a site level, especially for an independent charter school within a larger district. It’s just a bad stat to use, without any malevolent intent necessary. Schools that drive off students are way misrepresented by that statistic. It’s like saying I’ve graduated 100% of the students I graduated. It’s meaningless. . . except when used to delude parents and the public.

The Sci Academy model might work well for advanced and committed students, the fact is, unless you want a DISTRICT or STATE graduation cohort rate of 55%, or less, (probably much less) this model will not work if a significant number of schools try to replicate it. It is dangerous for the public to believe that this is an ideal model and will doom many kids literally to death on the streets to guns, drugs and violence. The fact is, if those students are not dropping out, they are enrolling in another school, bringing down traditional schools test scores, and graduation rates. Sure, maybe Sci Academy takes everyone, but they only keep the best and discard the rest. Are you really advocating for a 55% statewide graduation rate and screw the rest of the kids who can’t keep up?

That post is why I made the distinction been a “cohort graduation rate” and a “percent graduating that start in ninth grade”, which is more precise and makes it harder to for schools to manipulate, and levels the playing field for charters that employ creative “unenrollment opportunities” for half their student populations. It might help if you actually read my report and the notations before attacking and dismissing it.

But pray tell, go on.

First of all, although I have no basis with which to assess the validity of the data used to arrive at these conclusions, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of his grasp of the facts. For example, at another point in his post, he claims Sci Academy is “also known as New Orleans Charter and Science Academy,” which is most certainly incorrect.

Ok, because this is the name they gave LDOE as you will see below. How am I supposed to know what name they are using this week? But it’s nice to see you admit you have no basis upon which to assess the validity of my data, and if this is their sitecode, you would be the one who is most certainly incorrect, no?

Furthermore, his claim that only 46 students graduated in 2012 is in direct conflict with figures noted elsewhere.

I never claimed this was my claim, as you so studiously pointed out earlier. I was told only 46 students actually graduated. I asked LDOE to provide a count for Sci and everyone else. Why would they hide this number? Blame them if I have to rely on other data, but hiding the data does not mean they are free to claim whatever they want without people using next best available data to question it. If you have a problem with that, and charter schools have nothing to hide, I recommend you take this up with LDOE and your buddy John White. If charters are as glorious as you believe them to be, surely the data will prove that out? How could I hope to argue with such an eloquent and knowledgeable advocate as yourself? I will confer with my source and unless they provide a supporting statement or explanation I will happily amend my numbers. However, while your point does not make my point invalid, it does show that LDOE needs to be forthcoming with actual data to either, verify their claims so we can all rejoice, or to dispel these destructive myths you and your ilk seem determined to perpetuate by embracing darkness, ignorance and lies.

The second and most obvious problem here is that France is confusing Sci Academy’s graduation rate with its cohort graduation rate which are two totally different measures. It is already well-established that graduation rate is an imperfect measure of school performance. In any event, at no point has Sci Academy maintained that 92% of the students that entered

As I pointed out before, a cohort rate is actually not a valid rate for an individual site especially one contained within a much larger district. That data can be falsified very easily or collected very lazily as you point out has happened with this remark.

We’re trying to distill why it is that kids are leaving…We’re going to start valuing retention the way we value academics.”

Why are they trying to “distill” anything? We have reason codes, exit forms, and contact info. They didn’t lose 1000 kids. Call them up and ask them or collect accurate data up front for Peter Cook’s sake.

Questions of accuracy aside, a more relevant point of contention is that France is making these claims without placing them within the greater context of the challenges common to RSD schools.

Because LDOE won’t provide data??? You think that could be it? I could compile a report one school at a time of our 1500, but with weeks and months of looking for leads we will all be dead by the time I finish. Did you miss the entire point of my post? You know, the part where LDOE does not provide data but likes to make lots of claims?

While he casts aspersions from behind the “firewall” of his middle-class life in Baton Rouge, those of us who have actually worked in New Orleans’ public schools know that a high rate of student mobility is unfortunately a fact-of-life for both charters and traditional schools alike

You’re right, how could someone as coddled and isolated as me even remotely begin to understand your challenges.

Incidentally, here is Bill Gate’s house, where he is totally understanding your plight from Xanadu, an anchient Mongolian city known for its splendor (and for keepin’ it real. Word.)

Bill Gates’ house is a large mansion in the side of a hill which overlooks Lake Washington in Medina, Washington, United States of America. The 66,000-square-foot (6,100 m2) mansion is noted for its design and the technology it incorporates. It is nicknamed Xanadu 2.0[1] after the title character’s estate in Citizen Kane. It took 7 years to build and cost $63 million.

In 2009, property taxes were reported to be US $1.063 million on a total assessed value of US $147.5 million

Xanadu is the fictional estate of Charles Foster Kane, the title character of the film Citizen Kane. The estate derives its name from the real ancient Mongolian city Xanadu, known for its splendor

Eli Broad’s down to earth Brentwood estate – where he mingles with common folk.

Some of Michael Dell’s modest little cottages

I guess I am only entitled to an opinion on education policy when I can live as modestly as these folks, and Peter C. Cook. I guess I’ll have to concede that point to you. I do live in a middleclass enclave of prosperity in Baton Rouge, where my kids attend school with their peers and their 85% poverty rate. I’m such an out of touch aristocrat and should never be allowed to give opinion on schools I never attended, or had my children attend. Hmm, although I did attend Magnolia Woods, South East Middle, and Scotlandville High School (public schools in EBR) and my kids attend public school here too. Where did you attend school, Peter, and if you have kids, do they attend public schools there too?

What else ya got?

Given the tenuous economic circumstances of the families that schools like Sci Academy serve, students frequently find it necessary to switch schools, often several times over the course of their academic careers. Nevertheless, at no point does France concede that the changes in Sci Academy’s enrollment, at least in part, could be explained by this overall trend.

True. Why do we never see more kids transferring in, only out in such a dynamic environment? Of course, I learned everything I know about pimping statistics from people who promote destructive evaluation systems like VAM, that punish teachers for things that might well be beyond their control like economic circumstances, abuse, deaths in families, drug or emotional problems, etc. No excuses, right? Or does the “no excuses” mantra only apply to traditional schools and teachers, and anyone who opposes you?

MFP data from the SY 2012-2013 school year provides a good illustration of the widespread and often unpredictable nature of student mobility in the RSD. Official enrollment numbers are reported to LDOE twice a year, in October and again in February. As the data below demonstrates, enrollment in RSD schools can change – sometimes dramatically – even within the short timespan of five months. [N.B.: Ironically, enrollment at Sci Academy actually increased 9.26% over this period.]

Dude, I collected that data for 9 years. Now you are just plain annoying me with you ignorance and you lack of ability to form a cohesive argument. Please stop quoting random numbers at me. You lack any context with how to interpret them. I don’t come down you your classroom and claim to know how to teach your kids, don’t be all busting up in my data business, thinking you have a clue you know what you’re talking about.

It’s disgraceful that critics like Jason France, who have never gotten up from behind their computer screens to actually do something about the inequities in our public schools, would have the audacity to denigrate those engaged in this important work.

Perhaps that’s the lesson in all of this: before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. France and other education reform critics like him have only a superficial understanding of the facts, issues, and questions involved in the effort to improve our public schools. Until Crazy Crawfish & Co. are ready to roll up their sleeves and grapple with the challenges faced by real-life heroes like those at Sci Academy, they should do the rest of us a favor and quietly crawl back into their mud holes.

Oww, that almost hurt. (Although I do appreciate a good mudhole now and again. )

I think my man Pete needs to heed some of his own advice about criticizing someone you don’t know: Doing that can make you look like a complete tool, and reveal tragic flaws in your own character.

Unfortunately for Peter and his band of brigands, I venture out of my mudhole more and more these days.

Expect to see more of me Petey. Much more.

Thanks again for joining the fanclub!

See you soon!