Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and RSD AP

Sometimes it’s not just what you say, but what you don’t say that tells the true story as one of my contributors from St Tammany recently pointed out. Recently John White and our local media have been proudly crowing from every tower and tree about how well our students have done on AP (Advanced Placement) tests. White downplays the fact that school districts were incentivized to send as many of their students for AP tests as possible to prevent state takeovers. . .

As an incentive to offer AP coursework, high schools now receive points for every student who takes an AP exam, with the most points for students who score 3, 4 or 5. The results are counted in School Performance Scores, which determines whether charters stay open and whether conventional schools are eligible for a state takeover.

. . .or mentioning that a greater percentage of them failed, John White has declared victory of the slice of data he has chosen to present to the public.

That said, the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers. That was OK by state Education Superintendent John White. . .

John White even took to twitter to proclaim on July 30th “. . .We don’t have to be 49th in AP. Our Kids are as smart as any in America.” (I’m not sure who that message was meant for exactly, except that maybe the people he deals with on a regular basis think our kids our dumb?)

Without mentioning quality of the scores (which plummeted) John White paints a rosy picture of more students passing but from a great many more being given the test which deflates his argument somewhat, but what is most striking is the complete lack of coverage of John White’s Achilles’ Heel, the RSD (Recovery School District.) RSD’s performance was abysmal – almost 95% of the students taking those tests did not make a passing score. If these students were taking AP classes, what exactly were they learning when the rest of Orleans parish scored close to 50%? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for allowing the state to continue taking over public schools. . .

 

Let’s look at AP scores, and how the media spins them in Louisiana:

 
 

http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2013/07/louisiana_students_earn_most_a.html  

 
 

The headline does not reveal that only 5.9% of students who took AP tests in RSD schools (which are all RSD charters like KIPP Renaissance and Sci High) made a passing score.

 
 

Compare this to 65.3% in St. Tammany, the 84% at Ben Franklin HS, and even the 33.3% state average.  

So the charters get points just if their students take the AP tests; it appears irrelevant if the charter school actually prepared the students well, and whether or not the students got AP credit. What counts is the points for the charter to stay open—a business decision.

 
 

As a friend of the Coalition says:  “If all children really had ‘school choice’, they could leave their D/F schools in the RSD, and enroll in a public school where it would be likely that they could be better prepared, and might pass the AP test and receive college credit. 

 
 

The real story here is there was an big increase in the number of students taking AP classes, but that the charter schools are apparently not preparing them to succeed. In addition, these statistics point to the fact that the traditional public schools are again outperforming the charter schools.  But the media won’t print that.

 

Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune

July 30, 2013 at 7:09 PM, updated July 30, 2013 at 7:32 PM

       

Louisiana high school students earned college credit on 5,144 Advanced Placement exams in 2013 — the largest number in the state’s history. The state also saw the biggest increase ever in the number of students taking the test: from 6,637 students last year to 10,529, the biggest gain in the nation.

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday credited a state initiative to encourage schools to offer these courses. In 2012, the state had the fifth-lowest AP participation rate in the country, with 16.1 percent of high school graduates taking one of the tests.

“Today’s announcement that a growing number of our state’s high school students are already earning college credit before they even leave for school is more proof that our hard work is paying off,” Jindal said.

To earn college credit, test takers must score at least 3 on a 5-point scale. A passing grade often lets students place out of introductory college coursework.

The average high school student took two AP classes for a total of 23,435 courses.

That said, the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers. That was OK by state Education Superintendent John White, given the alternative.

The state increased the number of tests by nearly 50 percent. That means schools are providing opportunity for kids, even when it’s challenging,” he said in a statement. “It’s better to err on that side and risk a lower pass rate than to do what has been happening and err on the side of easier course work. Kids who haven’t experienced rigor in high school struggle in college; better to struggle now.”

Download in Excel

New Orleans-area AP pass rates, 2011-13, by district and school

All Louisiana AP pass rates, 2011-13, by district and school

White also said that “Advanced Placement is the highest indicator of college success.” And indeed, a 2009 study from the College Board, the AP’s parent company, found that students who take AP exams outperform their peers in college freshman grade-point average and success in moving on to the second year of college — no matter what score they receive.

As an incentive to offer AP coursework, high schools now receive points for every student who takes an AP exam, with the most points for students who score 3, 4 or 5. The results are counted in School Performance Scores, which determines whether charters stay open and whether conventional schools are eligible for a state takeover.

To motivate teens, a new law passed this spring gives more weight to AP courses when calculating eligibility for Louisiana’s TOPS scholarships. The state also covers test fees for low-income students.

Whatever the impetus, efforts clearly paid off at several New Orleans-area high schools that were among the state’s top performers. Benjamin Franklin High in Orleans had the second-highest percentage of test-takers earning college credit: 84 percent, second only to West Monroe High School. Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies in Metairie followed at third with an 82 percent pass rate.

Also in the top 10 were Mandeville High, 79 percent pass rate; Fontainebleau High in Mandeville, 73 percent; and Lusher in New Orleans, 65 percent.

At a district level, five of the New Orleans area’s eight districts beat the state average for percentage of students earning credit: Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Charles and St. Tammany — though the Jefferson pass rate was nine percentage points lower than the previous school year’s results.

Rates were significantly lower in St. John the Baptist Parish, where 12 percent of student test-takers scored 3 or above, and in the Recovery School District, where the rate was only 6 percent.

Table: Change in AP Participation and Pass Rates in Greater New Orleans and Louisiana, 2011-2013

 

2011-2012

2012-2013

 

District

Number of students taking AP exams

Percent of students scoring 3+

Number of students taking AP exams

Percent of students scoring 3+

Percent change in students scoring 3+

Jefferson

496

45.2%

713

36.0%

-9.1%

Orleans

932

54.7%

1,106

49.5%

-5.3%

Plaquemines

31

41.9%

74

40.5%

-1.4%

Recovery

174

<5%

405

5.9%

NA

St. Bernard

34

47.1%

86

26.7%

-20.3%

St. Charles

288

44.4%

310

42.6%

-1.9%

St. John the Baptist

NA

NA

≥40

12.2%

NA

St. Tammany

423

70.4%

487

65.3%

-5.2%

Louisiana total

6,637

41.4%

10,529

33.3%

-8.1%

Data source: Louisiana Department of Education. NA = No data.

 

Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

www.nola.com

4,000 additional students take one of the exams

New report: “family income appears more determinative of educational success than race”

It has long been known in education circles that poverty is the greatest predictor of student achievement. Those who actually look at education data without preconditions (such as we shall ignore poverty so as not to make it an excuse) understand that recognizing poverty and working to mitigate its impact on our children’s education is the only way we can achieve positive outcomes, and paths out of generational poverty, for many children and families. When we ignore poverty, and other serious mental conditions and unstable family situations we are doing our children no favors. Education reformers will hasten to point to an anecdotal success story, while conveniently overlooking or even hiding the preponderance of failures they create with their own malfeasance and destructive policies. If we truly want to move out society and our people forward, we must address the harsh realities of poverty and understand that the costs and impacts of poverty are not isolated to the poor, but shared by us all.

It has long been known in education circles that poverty is the greatest predictor of student achievement. Those who actually look at education data without preconditions (such as we shall ignore poverty so as not to make it an excuse) understand that recognizing poverty and working to mitigate its impact on our children’s education is … Continue reading New report: “family income appears more determinative of educational success than race”

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Common Core/Data Sharing letter from a true Louisiana Patriot, Debbie Sachs, that I would like to share with my readers

Common Core and Data Sharing is an issue that should be a concern for everyone, no matter what political color you bleed (red, blue or green.) I am proud to count Debbie as one of my staunchest and most dedicated allies in the fight to reject the corporate takeover of public education and commercialization of our children and their data. Our children are not products, and their data are not resources for enterprising entrepreneurs to tap into. Debbie is the Thoreau to my Emerson. She is the Doer, and she is doing what she can to protect all of us and to protect all of our children. I joked with Debbie yesterday about how odd it was that Bobby Jindal and Barak Obama have finally found some common ground (unfortunately the ground they found is located on the San Andreas fault) and how weird it was for something like this to finally get conservatives and liberals to work together – but we are united in fighting against an oppressive government and for our children, our future, and the future of our Democracy and Republic. Without further ado. . .

 

To all,

This affects your children, grandchildren in private school, public school, home school, from pre-school thru college.  What this article (please scroll down) does not convey is that this is something that the American people have not seen before – a cartel if you will involving Democrats, Republicans, and Corporate Interests.  Our Republican governor along with his corrupted superintendent of Education (John White)LABI, the Chamber and many of our elected officials are reaping the monetary benefits of this data mining on the backs of our children and their futures. Common Core is nothing but a scam.  Please note that 6 of the 9 states participating in the Common Core/ child data mining have completely stopped student data sharing. Four states (Texas, Nebraska, Alaska, and Virginia) wisely rejected Common Core from the start.  Mike Pence (governor of Indiana) has completely halted Common Core/data sharing in his state ( he obviously cares about Indiana’s children).  Please note that Louisiana has turned RED on the map at Truth in American Education.com which means that our state is ACTIVELY engaged in the Common Core/Child Data Base war.

Don’t know about you, but last time I looked -Louisianans’   tend to cling to their guns and their children. Please demand that Bobby Jindal, BESE stop exploiting our children!  Also please contact your legislators to help get rid of this in our state! You may want to note that Senator AG Crowe, Senator John Fleming, Representative Kevin Pearson, Representative Steve Scalise, and Representative Tim Burns have recently been engaged in drafting and/or vetoing legislation in order to do damage control caused by common core/data mining with respect to our kids. Please thank them and contact other legislators to do same.

From the Conservative Daily:

COMMON CORE – Data Mining Your Kids, Courtesy of Barack Obama

  

 
 

Dear Patriotic Parents and Guardians,

WARNING: Your kids are very valuable to the nationalist, socialist State. They are currently being targeted by the Obama administration. As you read this, a HUGE DATABASE is being compiled on our children and grandchildren as part of the Common Core curriculum, sanctioned by the United Nations and forced onto the States through Obama’s “Race to the Top” program.

DATA IS BEING COMPILED ON YOUR CHILD AND YOU HAVE NO ABILITY TO OPT-OUT.

Are you prepared to STOP IT?

OUR KIDS ARE OFF-LIMITS.

Stop mandatory data collection on our precious little ones! Tell Congress to kill the Common Core program and protect our Constitutional rights!

Get to know the State Longitudinal Database System, or SLDS. “The long-term goal is for States to use the SLDS to follow our children through school and into and through their work life. Information will begin with pre-Kindergarten through post-secondary schooling all the way through entry and sustained participation in the workforce and employment services system.” This information comes straight from the U.S. Department of Labor!

The SLDS or P20 (because it will track our children from preschool through age 20 and beyond) proposes to groom our kids for a course of study that the government deems appropriate for that child.

BARACK OBAMA AND THE GOVERNMENT WANT TO ANALYZE OUR CHILDREN AND TELL THEM WHAT THEY SHOULD BE WHEN THEY GROW UP

Obama’s Race to the Top Tax Redistribution scheme created mandates for student data collection. While we were busy debating Obamacare and illegal immigration, he was pumping stimulus dollars into Common Core and building a framework with which he and the Federal Government can collect data on every American student, regardless of whether they attend public school, private school, or are home-schooled.

State Education officials are already uploading private student information into a new, three month old database called inBloom, funded mostly by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This 100 million dollar data portal was built by a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp! I do not want my kids’ information given to a corporation in the Internet Cloud!

This database will store your student’s name, address, social security number, blood type, hair color, weight, test scores, nicknames, religion, attitudes, family income level, medical history, psychological evaluations, bus stop times and political affiliation. It will collect gender, ethnicity, English proficiency status, disabilities, economic status, test scores and assessment results, demographics and transcript information.

Your child may find themselves strapped into a special chair that measures their posture while a biometric wrap on their wrist records their reactions. There may also be a camera in the classroom recording their facial expressions. The stimulus bill also budgeted for MRI machines! What in the world? Is this part of Obama’s brain-mapping project he spoke of earlier this year?

This information will follow them the rest of their lives. The database has a place for DATE OF BIRTH and DATE OF DEATH.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is supposed to protect the privacy of kids. But last year the regulations were changed. Now, every single bit of information a school collects under the Common Core program can be shared among federal agencies and sold to private companies—with no parental consent and in many cases, NO OPT-OUT.

Even if you don’t care about privacy rights when it comes to you, please, protect our kids from a future of government control and indoctrination. Tell Congress to STOP this unconstitutional intrusion into the lives of our children.

Think I’m off the reservation? In March, a company called Strategies 360/DMA Marketing used private contact information gathered from Seattle Public Schools to conduct a telephone poll. Parents and teachers were shocked to find out that the school district had turned over confidential student records to a marketing firm working on behalf of the teachers union!

What will YOUR STUDENT’S INFORMATION BE USED FOR?

The SLDS is a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights and it will eventually lead to the end of our First Amendment protections, as well. Will you or your children be brave enough to confront government knowing that there is a huge file of data on you, accessible to everyone?

Academic and non-academic data on our kids is being collected by the government and it CAN and WILL be used against them at some point. If this is as unacceptable to you as it is to me, you must Fax Congress at this very moment and tell them to end this appalling program.

 

 
 

EduShyster: The Insidious Mission of TFA: LINK Added!

TFA is becoming big business, providing teachers in urban districts laying off massive numbers of experienced teachers while advocating for policies that result in layoffs nationwide.

The future of test driven charters can be clearly and frighteningly seen in the Rocketship charter academy picture included on Edusyhster’s blog.

I guess its never to soon to prepare the drones for mind-numbing cubicle work.

Diane Ravitch's blog

In an unusual turn, EduShyster writes a serious article about the increasingly insidious role played by Teach for America today.

The organization began with the laudable goal of supplying teachers to schools where there were chronic shortages.

However, it has become a mainstay of the privatization movement, staffing charters that open as public schools close.

She warns:

“By fueling charter expansion, TFA is undermining public schools

“You wouldn’t know it from the heat of the debate but Teach for America has largely abandoned plans to expand into urban districts in any significant way. Instead, TFA increasingly serves as the designated labor force for urban charters. In Chicago, for example, where charter expansion is the real driver of public school closures and teacher layoffs, TFA has functioned as a placement agency for the fast-growing and politically connected UNO charter chain since 2010. In Philadelphia, where 23 schools were closed this spring…

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EduDEformistas are all about data — how to “massage” it until it looks good to their wealthy backers

We have our own share of EduDeformistas in Louisiana. Perhaps you heard of the Seabaugh Solution? Well, that’s not the only one, merely one of the most documented one (with the help of a taped phone conversation between Superintendent John White and Representative Seabaugh, where White famously proclaimed where data was driven solutions were good, “but sometimes it was not a smart idea to use the data.” (Such as when the data doesn’t say what you want it too.) This has happened in St Helena too, where the Recovery School District filed a brief with the Federal Court in regards to their 50 year old desegregation suit stating allowing St Helena to add grades to their schools that were taken over by RSD would lead to resegregation (actually the RSD caused a dramatic decrease in white enrollment, not the other way around) and they also provided statistics backing up their “Reform” from an entirely different school district, not the middle school in St Helena RSD took over which is almost certainly the worst performing school in the state.
Thanks for this summary of two recent data scandals about Tony Bennett and Michelle Rhee.

GFBrandenburg's Blog

Educational Deformers like Tony Bennett, Michelle Rhee, and others proclaim that they are “data-driven“.

They don’t tell you the rest of that slogan, however. It goes like this:

“…unless the data contradict what we keep claiming; in that case, then we  fake or alter the data!

In a secondary-school science project where a student fakes their measurements to get the “right” answer in  their expeiment, it’s not so serious, though it’s not good there, either, because some of those dishonest students end up being dishonest researchers or scientists claiming breakthroughs that don’t exist. Many studies have shown that high-achieving college students admit quite readily to all sorts of cheating while they were students at the university.  We see quite clearly many of them are making a mint continuing to do so as traders or bankers on Wall Street, as businessmen, as politicians, as bankers, and now as…

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Reform Fairytales

The sheer audacity of John White’s Louisiana Department of Education never ceases to impress me. They are more than willing to make any argument that suits their purposes regardless of the facts or previous arguments they have made. They are not afraid to lie to the media, parents, and even judges believing that no one will ever question anything they claim, regardless of how ridiculous or contradictory.

Take this very recent case. St Helena has been under a desegregation order/suit for the past 50 years. The state decided to take over the middle school, the heart of the school district, in the 2010-2011 school year. The previous administration in St Helena allowed this to happen, believing they had little choice but to comply, and that the state and RSD (Recovery School System) might have a chance of improving their school system. St Helena is the poorest parish in the state, and since performance is most strongly correlated with poverty, they also are one of the lowest performing. Drastic, radical, and unproven education laws and policies are geared toward punishing and overwhelming poorer districts. Rather than providing supplemental support to help poor districts overcome the handicap of endemic poverty, the state and Reformers prefer to punish these districts and people for being poor. They use poor people to conduct their Reform experiments upon and make claims that often go unquestioned, but are rarely backed up by anything approaching facts, research or documentation.

The RSD school the state created from St Helena’s middle school is a prime example of the what happens when corporately funded bureaucrats impose their will upon those least able to defend themselves. Reformers prey on the weak, dividing and conquering school districts and dividing wedges between teachers, administrators and communities. They want us to fight among ourselves, while they take over and sell us off.

The RSD was initially sold as a temporary fix, a band aid to be applied and removed. What it has become is the source of infection and a creator of festering sores. It’s no coincidence that RSD, after 7 years, is the lowest performing district in the state. (The state claims they are the second lowest performing district, but they also exclude the lowest 10-20% of their schools from their district average for the first 2 years after they get taken over by RSD which can be perpetuated if they simply change operators every two years.)

In theory once a school is “recovered” it is supposed to be handed back to the school district. (I’m not aware of any schools being handed back to any school district under any circumstance. If any of you know of any, please let me know.) However the policy only assumed eventual success. There is nothing laid out in policy if the state’s policies turn out to be abyssal failures, such as in the case of most RSD schools, but particularly in St Helena Middle RSD, which may be the lowest performing school in one of the lowest performing states. An impressive achievement, but not one you’d expect LDOE and RSD to crow about, and true to form they don’t. Instead, they invent absurd arguments out of thin air, providing numbers and table without any historical context and making claims that turn out to be exactly opposite of reality.

In the latest pleading to federal Judge James Brady on July 17th 2013 in St Helena’s 50 year desegregation case RSD and LDOE make the following unsubstantiated claims.

517 BESE SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEF

DESEGREGATIVE EFFECT

To allow St. Helena to expand their elementary and high schools to serve grades 5-8 would likely result in a further segregative effect. Having two middle school populations will lead to further dilution or even total elimination of the minimal white student population at one or both of the middle schools.

Allowing two middle schools will promote segregation because now there will be two schools with children of the same age and will further dilute the already small white student population in the middle grades. This could result c in one school having very few or no white students. The projected enrollment of St. Helena Middle School for the 2013-14 school year is 312 students. The chart below shows the enrollment breakdown by grade and race at St. Helena Middle School as of January 15, 2013.

The only offered 2012 middle school numbers as proof. I decided to delve a little deeper. As you can see from my charts below the St Helena Middle school is causing not only a decrease in enrollment and public participation in the St Helena School system (a 16% decrease since they took over) but the white population in the middle school has decreased 39% since they took over, or about 2 and a half times faster than the overall population decline.)

St Helena Middle
   
 

St Helena

RSD

 
Year

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

% Decrease
White

25

31

25

23

19

39%

Total

348

374

356

344

313

16%

St Helena Elementary
   
 

St Helena

 
Year

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

% Increase
White

25

31

25

23

30-39

21%

Total

473

460

448

523

518

11%

In case someone tries to argue this may simply be a demographic change of the parish as a whole, take a look at the only feeder school for the middle school over the same period. St Helena Elementary has experienced as much as a 21% increase in white participation and a 11% increase in total population. Or in other words, more children are choosing to come enroll in the elementary school since 2009, and the increase in white enrollments is anywhere from flat to twice the rate of the overall increase.

RSD is creating a new white flight from public schools in St Helena, a direct and diametrically opposite conclusion from what RSD’s lawyers are trying to make. The existence of RSD is actually causing what RSD is claiming allowing St. Helena to expand their grade structures will cause.

It’s not clear to me why RSD would made the argument that more choices will lead to parents and students leaving the school system. Aren’t we told more choices are good for parents? Isn’t the argument for charter school, vouchers, course choice, and virtual schools that choice is imperative to allow parents and students an opportunity to avoid failing schools like RSD’s St Helena Middle School? It’s obvious from the localized decline in enrollment in the middle school that many parents are opting out of the public education system. Shouldn’t more choices allow parents to come back? If the RSD school is as good for St Helena parents and students, won’t the enrollments show that?

Now, onto the next ridiculous hypocritical argument:

MIDDLE SCHOOL POULATION INADEQUATE TO SUPPORT TWO SCHOOLS

A. ECONOMIES OF SCALE

Allowing St. Helena to expand their elementary and high schools to serve 5th through 8th grade students would likely result in doing harm to the education of the students at both middle schools. Having two middle school populations for such a small number of students will result in a lack of economy of scale and wasted resources. Further, making this change so close to the beginning of the school year provides inadequate time to make all of the major, necessary changes to readjust the programs for both systems in time for the beginning of the school year. This will negatively affect the education of these middle school students.

St. Helena has enough students in the elementary and high schools to somewhat achieve a level of economy of scale to make smaller middle school grades work. However, the RSD does not have that advantage. Reducing the student population at the RSD middle school would put the RSD middle school at a severe financial disadvantage, which would hinder the RSD from providing the best education possible for the middle school students.

For 2013-2014, there are a number of fixed costs that will remain at St. Helena Middle School, regardless of the size of the student population. These include costs such as maintenance and custodial ($105,154) utilities ($51,459), and supplies that have already been ordered ($31,200). If the student population decreases, there will be less MFP funds available to cover these fixed costs, which will result in a disproportionate amount of funds to cover instructional costs at the school.

Really? After all the quotes we hear from John White about “adult issues”

but “too often,” says White, “adults let adult issues get in the way of being the safety net around that child.”

“Because of those adult issues,” White said, “we just kicked them out.

In order to achieve this, adults will have to change, and leaders will have to lead that change. – See more at: http://www.broadcenter.org/academy/network/profile/john-white#sthash.5WZuvbHB.dpuf

They are actually using the economies of scale argument after taking over a third of St Helena without any such consideration? Really? The state funds RSD, St Helena is one of the poorest parishes in the state. Do these guys actually read what they write?

B. CHANGES IN GOVERNANCE

Making a change in governance at this point in the school year negatively affects parents and students. St. Helena Middle School begins on August 6th, which is 14 school days away (as of July 17th).

If a change in governance or grade reconfiguration change occurs, both schools will have to implement new, last-minute enrollment procedures. RSD 6th, 7th, and 8th graders have already enrolled at St. Helena Middle School by submitting their “intent to return forms.”

i. The RSD still has not officially enrolled the 5th grade students at St. Helena Middle School, because Superintendent Joseph has refused to turn over the 4th grade roster information to the RSD.

However, it is worth noting that the RSD gave St. Helena 8th grade roster information in early May so that St. Helena could have the necessary information to enroll these students in 9th grade at St. Helena High School.

A change in governance or grade reconfiguration change would also necessitate last minute personnel changes. St. Helena Middle School currently has a staff of twenty-five people. If the middle school is returned to St. Helena or St. Helena is allowed to serve middle school students, the RSD will need to terminate teachers. Teachers are scheduled to start work on August 1, 2013. Given the timeline, the RSD will likely have to pay the staff at least one paycheck before termination, which will result in the RSD losing a substantial amount of money.

A change in governance or grade reconfiguration change would also require the RSD to amend or cancel a number of contracts with vendors and service providers. The RSD has entered into several service contracts for the upcoming school year including maintenance and custodial contract, a food service contract, and pest and waste disposal service agreements. We are also in an agreement with Southeast Community Health Center to provide physical and mental health services for the students at St. Helena Middle School.

Sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities have already been established for the school year, and students are looking forward to participating in these teams and clubs. If St. Helena began serving middle school grades, these teams and clubs would lose members and the school might not have enough enrollment or resources to maintain these programs.

A grade reconfiguration change would also require the RSD to substantially revise its budget based on decreased enrollment.

Also, in order to formalize and fully implement a change in governance or grade reconfiguration change, St. Helena and the RSD would have to complete a number of procedures required by the Louisiana Department of Education’s finance and accountability offices that have already been completed for all other school systems in the state.

Holy crap this is a lot of BS. I think RSD’s lawyers get paid for the pound for producing this garbage. More “adult issues”, clubs might be affected; new budgets would have to be made? Really?

One of my favorite parts is the whole dropping this on them at the last minute assertion. St Helena has been fighting to open these schools since last year. This is not something they just strung on the state a few days ago. And when has timing or legal issues ever stopped RSD or the state from implementing an unconstitutional voucher program, and unconstitutional MFP (for 3 years running) an unconstitutional teacher evaluation system, and unconstitutional Course Choice program, and those are just a few things off the top of my head over the past two years. Incidentally, while St Helena has been fighting to add some grades to their existing schools for the past 2 years, the state simply went ahead and implemented their programs which have since been ruled many times over unconstitutional.

There is more, much more absurdity being argued here. It will take me a while to complete the shoveling but I think it’s an important task to undertake; not just for St Helena but for all of us.

St Helena has fallen into RSDs grasp, and is trying to fight back, and we all need to do what we can to help them escape the state, the RSD. When you see these types of lies, this raging hypocrsiy do any of you feel safe in your higher performing districts? You shouldn’t. Reformers, charter operators, and RSD will be coming for all of your community schools soon enough. The state has control of the data, and the messaging. When they decide it’s time to make new inroads into new parishes for their corporate puppet masters, none of you, none of us and none of our children will be safe.

Teacher: Predatory Uses of Data Endanger Children

Great debunking of the pro-Gates/pro-inBloom propaganda being spewed into the media by folks masquerading as concerned and impressed education stakeholders. If you listen closely to these posterboards you might even hear in the background. . . “Work from the privacy of your own home and earn zillions of dollars with my new X money making program. Listen to this testimonial from. . .” Or “Before the magic mate cutting system I was always cutting off my fingers and toes. Now with magic mate my remaining digits are secure from accidental severing! Thanks magic mate!”

Diane Ravitch's blog

This teacher blogger takes issue with the opinion article written by Kerrie Dallman, the president of the Colorado Education Association, supporting inBloom, a project of Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch.

She writes:

“Aside from your support of inBloom in Colorado and the glaring ethics and privacy issues the system poses, I have some real problems with your argument that teachers need inBloom as a “tool.”

“First, you claim that inBloom fixes the problem that teachers “don’t have enough time to truly personalize learning for every student to meet their individual needs.” Sure: teachers who log into 30 systems with different usernames and passwords each day (this really happens?) waste time. But the solution to that waste of time isn’t to consolidate confidential information about students into one database; it’s to reevaluate the overuse of data that you describe. After all, the best teachers in the world have been successful for…

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The St Helena RSD Saga begins. . .

In this age of tweets, instant messages, headline news and 60 second world news round-ups, it easy to overlook more of the subtle details that lie behind just about any story, for those willing to do a little digging. . . but who has the time? People seem to enjoy getting their little story snippets about the latest death tolls in the latest airline crash or tornado, updates on the whereabouts of Edward Snowden and who the latest country has offered or rejected him asylum, and dreary statistics of how many times Congress voted unsuccessfully to Repeal Obamacare. At least 38 times as of this article, in case you lost count and were worried about keeping track of such important things.

 

Obsession with macroscopic and attention grabbing statistical details is what passes for news these days to many of us (myself included). I read this article recently about St Helena battling RSD (the Recovery School District) and I realized I had some more questions. It was just a tantalizing little bit enough to whet my appetite for the backstory. I thought I’d do my part to change some of that myopic news reporting we all see so much of, and delve a little deeper. If all of us did a little more of this type of investigating, perhaps we could crowdsource some real news? Just a thought. . .

In case you don’t like to click on hyperlinks I will include the relevant text from The Advocate article here:

St. Helena battling state for control of middle school

By Heidi R. Kinchen

Florida Parishes bureau

June 12, 2013

The state Department of Education is urging a federal judge not to allow St. Helena Parish to reconfigure its schools.

The department asserts the Recovery School District’s presence is the only reason St. Helena’s schools have improved, and even that improvement reversed course in this year’s standardized test scores.

Superintendent Kelli Joseph described the department’s position as “arrogant and offensive” and said the RSD continues to stand in the district’s way.

On May 1, St. Helena school officials filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge James J. Brady, who oversees the district’s desegregation case, for approval to regain control of the parish’s only middle school or to reconfigure the elementary and high schools to add fifth- through eighth-grade classes.

Those grades are offered only at St. Helena Central Middle School, which was taken over by the RSD in May 2010.

St. Helena school officials supported their request with evidence of increased test scores in 2011-12 and a return of community confidence leading to the passage of a pair of property taxes supporting the school system in 2012.

A hearing on the district’s motion is scheduled for 2 p.m. June 13.

In a response filed late Thursday, the Education Department said the hiring of a new superintendent, passage of the taxes and increased community involvement occurred only after, and only because, the RSD took over the middle school.

And St. Helena’s increase in test scores in 2011-12, while laudable, reversed course this year with scores dropping in all grades and all subjects, the department said.

The district went from most-improved in the state in 2011-12 to tied with East Carroll Parish for biggest drop in 2012-13, according to Education Department data.

In contrast, RSD schools in New Orleans have shown increasing success year after year, the department said.

“To remove the RSD from St. Helena or to allow St. Helena to add grades 5-8 would remove the very force which caused them to improve in the first place,” the Education Department argued in its pleading.

“It’s amazing that the only defense the RSD can put forward — after three years, $7 million and poor performance — is that their simple presence is the reason we improved,” Joseph said Thursday.

The data included in the Education Department’s response shows test scores in New Orleans, not at St. Helena Central Middle School, Joseph said.

“They talk about parent choice,” Joseph said, “but they won’t give our parents a choice.”

So after reading this piece I realized I had more questions than answers. The State Department of Education has never answered any of my requests for data, explanations, FOIA requests, and almost never even acknowledges my phone calls, e-mails or tweets, (a true sign of someone with nothing to hide, right?) I’ve received some promises for information but have not actually received anything that satisfies my requests so amusingly enough, even when they do respond, they are lying. I figured this would be more of the same thing here so instead I contacted Dr. Kelli Joseph, Superintendent of the St Helena school system for her comments about the situation. I got a very interesting story backed up with legal briefings, test scores and sketchy RSD maneuverings. I actually got so much documentation it took me a while to go through it all.

If a spokesperson from RSD or LDOE would like to contact me with their side of the story and can answer my questions, as Dr. Joseph has, I would be happy to relay it, but I’m not holding my breath, (nor will I simply relay their story verbatim as I see happen far too often.)

First let me explain a little of what’s happening. About a dozen years ago Louisiana passed some laws that allows the state of Louisiana to take over “failing” schools as defined by School Performance Scores and some arbitrary benchmarks set for success or failure that change from year to year. Schools defined as “failing” 4 years in a row can be subject to state takeover unless they are closed, or dramatic plans are put in place such as firing most of the staff, turning the school(s) over to charter operators, etc. The plan has to be approved by DOE and BESE, but they don’t have to approve every plan. Some years ago, I believe as many as 4 or so St Helena was eligible for takeover, but DOE tried to work with districts outside of New Orleans while they tried to rebuild the schools in that city after Katrina, and build up their RSD brand image.

The RSD brand has been touted far and wide by education reform-minded folks in larger metropolitan areas, so it was very important that people believe in RSD. Many people’s future careers and long range privatizing plans and profits rely on the success of RSD. Since there were many schools outside of New Orleans that met the definition of “failing” by LDOE standards, the department had to start rolling out a plan to take over schools in districts outside of Orleans Parish. Some of the first schools they started looking at were in Caddo, Iberville, St Helena, Pointe Coupee, East Baton Rouge.

Iberville, seeing the writing on the wall, quickly passed a tax and created some Shadow School “Academies” in 2008. These Academies were started with the best kids in the parish, almost all of the kids tested at Basic or above according to Iberville’s internal reports and documentation. Because a number of schools across their parish were below the takeover range they started “routing” these students to these failing schools to avoid state sanctions and takeovers. The tax they passed allowed Iberville to build state-of-the-art facilities and attract many top students from private schools and surrounding parishes like West Baton Rouge and Ascension. These students helped keep Iberville’s safe from takeover, not because the original students improved, but because they got better students to average in with their poorer performing ones. All of these schools and “Academies” were defined as k-12 facilities, so any kid could route anywhere else as needed. So long as Iberville attracted better students they could preserve the status quo, and the State could claim Iberville was a turnaround success story. Win-win, right?

Caddo’s approach was a little different. They had lots of extra schools lying around, probably with declining student enrollments and some of them probably needed to be closed anyways. While I was searching for more shadow schools I noticed Caddo, and many other parishes simply closed their lowest performing schools and shipped those students elsewhere to higher performing schools. This is actually one of the desired remedies LDOE encourages. I have not seen any evidence or reports that indicates this is having a positive impact on kids and their education trajectories, nevertheless, this is a desired approach sought by LDOE and USED for some reason. (I think it’s because they like overcrowding and vacant buildings because it makes charters more attractive and feasible. If you make the remaining schools crappy enough parents and students will be forced to try other alternatives.) Another approach may be to simply “reconfigure” the schools, by bringing in new or different grade levels that were previously present or opening magnet programs that attract higher performing students and thus increase schools scores as a natural byproduct.

I believe the first schools taken over outside of Orleans were in Pointe Coupee and East Baton Rouge in 2008 if I recall correctly. These schools were handed over to charter operators, who by all accounts I’ve heard did such horrible jobs with handling their funding, maintaining their property, attracting students and quality educators, or integrating with their communities, that they were abysmal failures. This was before many people had gotten into the charter school game, so some local non-profits with zero school running experience were given these schools. I think they meant well, but they were woefully unprepared and underprepared for the task before them. This was decision based more on hubris and ignorance on the part of the State Department of Education, than for concern of what was best for students, school districts or taxpayer funds.

St Helena does not have the political connections Iberville, St James, Jefferson and Caddo have so they have fallen prey to the depredations of RSD. What has ensued (and continues to unfold as I type) is an almost unbelievable story of deception, greed, arrogance and utter disregard for what is best for the children and people of St Helena Parish. When I first started investigating I thought I would be able to summarize this situation in a few thousand words, but that will just scratch the surface and as I said, this story is still unfolding by the day and minute. I’ve received several legal pleadings just today, and their contents are really quite remarkable for their hypocrisy, deception and divorcement for reality.

For now let me summarize what has been going on and then I will provide the evidence and flesh out the details in subsequent posts.

In 2009, St Helena’s Board of Education signed onto an MOU (Memoranum of Understanding) with the state and RSD under the watchful gaze of the US district judge James Brady who is overseeing St Helena’s 50 year desegregation case. This MOU expired June 30th of 2012. Prior to the expiration and subsequent to it the Recovery School District and the Superintendent of RSD, Patrick Dobard tried, and continues to try to bully St Helena and Superintendent Kelli Joseph into signing onto another agreement with RSD. Some of the threats made were if St Helena didn’t sign on, the state would take over the rest of St Helena’s schools. When that bluff was called Dobard submitted a craftier worded agreement that would allowed RSD to convert all of St Helena’s schools into charter schools, and effectively dissolved the district in favor of private operators. At this point, or perhaps a little before Dr. Joseph went on the offensive. The RSD middle school in St Helena languished and dramatically declined under RSD control. This was a school that was already poorly performing, so the decline was sadly remarkable in that it left no students better off, and many worst off than the situation they came from. Dr. Joseph wanted to do something for these students so proposed expanding the elementary school to K-6 and expanding the High School to 7-12, thus providing parents with an additional option for student in grades 5-8 that RSD was running. This terrified the state and RSD, and for good reason. They knew, and still know, if this is allowed to happen, very few parents will choose to stay in a RSD school plagued with incompetence and as many as 5 different principals over the course of the first 2 years. Patrick Dobard of RSD and his lawyers knew (and still know) they could not compete with parents on equal footing with St Helena Parish, one of the state’s lowest performing districts but also one of the fastest improving, so what they did was redefine the law and provide bogus figures to Judge Brady to prevent St Helena from expanding its grade structure. Rather than provide statistics to Judge Brady about the performance of the Middle School under their control in St Helena, which was probably the worst in the state, they instead provided figures for RSD of New Orleans and explained that RSD in New Orleans and they continue to make this bizarre claim to support their intervention in St Helena.

In contrast, the Recovery School District has established a strong track record of ever-

increasing success in its New Orleans RSD direct-run and charter schools. The RSD will work

to replicate this success in St. Helena Middle School over the next few years. This year, the

RSD in New Orleans had 57% of its students scoring basic and above on the LEAP and iLEAP

tests. This is 19 percentage points higher than St. Helena’s 38 percent. In addition, the

Recovery School District in New Orleans increased the percentage of students scoring basic and

above six percentage points from last year. This is the largest gain in student performance

growth for any school district in the state. Further, since 2008, the percent of students

performing at basic or above on the iLEAP and LEAP tests in RSD New Orleans schools, both

charter and direct-run, has increased by 29 percentage points – the highest among Louisiana’s

school districts, as demonstrated below.

 

Incidentally, as has been documented by Research on Reforms and Dr. Barbara Ferguson the RSD scores exclude the lowest performing schools (as much as 20% of the schools), and many started with much higher scores to begin with, however what is most troubling about this approach is that they are using a logic fallacy called Ignoratio elenchi, also known as an “irrelevant conclusion”: the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid, but fails nonetheless to address the issue in question. One of my favorite examples of this technique is the Chewbacca Defense, which makes fun of the Johnnie Cochran argument presented to the O.J, Simpson jury that “if the glove does not fit you must acquit.” The RSD’s lawyers are distracting you and Judge Brady from looking at the deplorable state of St Helena’s middle school (actually run by RSD) by showing information about completely different RSD schools, hoping no one realizes their argument is nonsensical and unrelated to addressing whether RSD is succeeding or failing in St Helena.

 

Notice the lack of mention of what RSD has done for (or should I say too) the middle school in the previous legal brief by RSD’s lawyers. This is why you won’t see anything about the RSD run St Helena Middle School in their arguments for maintaining control.

 

The Recovery School District Performance in St Helena

The 5th grade students who entered the RSD in 2012 showed a substantial decline in performance from the previous year. The chart below shows the academic progress of the students who entered fourth grade in 2012 who are currently 5th graders and students who entered 5th grade in 2012 who are currently 6th graders.

 

4th Grade to 5th Grade Achievement

Number of Students ELA

Number of Students Math

Students who demonstrated academic progress

1

0

Students who demonstrated no progress

17

17

Students who are in academic decline

45

46

 

 

5th Grade to 6th Grade Achievement

Number of Students

Students who demonstrated academic progress

6

Students who demonstrated no progress

23

Students who are in academic decline

19

 

 

8th Grade Academic Achievement

Number of Students ELA

Number of Students Math

Students who scored Unsatisfactory

38

11

Students who scored Approaching Basic

43

23

Students who scored Basic

8

55

Students who scored Mastery

0

0

Students who scored Advanced

0

0

 

But since RSD likes to compare their schools in other parishes to St Helena, because they labeled them all “RSD” let’s compare RSD to the rest of St Helena, shall we?

Obviously both sets of schools need some improvement, but I do see one set of scores that is noticeably better in all cases than the other. According to LDOE St Helena is the lowest performing district, but I think a very strong case can be made that RSD is actually the lowest performing district, and not by a small margin either. If you had a choice, which option would you choose?

As I will show in subsequent posts, Reformers and the RSD in particular fear the truth and embrace lies and subterfuge. They actually seem to hate children and the poor, and delight in stripping resources from the poorest of our citizens to line the private coffers of their donors. You really won’t believe some of the other argument’s RSD is making. . .

Delmont Elementary Closes: Hired-gun Bernard Taylor to Blame

Interesting account of the self-destruction wrought on an EBR school by the parish superintendent by Dr. Mercedes Schneider. She is keeping very busy this summer keeping us all in the loop. I guess this explains why Bernard Taylor has refused to return my calls or e-mails.

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

A MESSAGE FOR THOSE WHO ARE USING MY WORK TO SUPPORT AN EBR BREAKAWAY DISTRICT: I have learned that this post has been linked to a FB site advocating my stance on Taylor’s poor leadership as reason to break away and form a new district. Let me warn you that if this breakaway is something that John White supports, he has privatization in mind for you. That is what he does– he hands schools over to privatizers. He will lead you to believe that you are in control of your fate, but it is a lie.

Consider this: The only reason that there still exists an Orleans Parish Schools is that a constitutional amendment would have been required to completely obliterate OPSB for full state takeover of New Orleans. Moreover, if enough pro-privatizing individuals had been elected to the Orleans Parish School Board last election, there would have been a…

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John White: “I’ll Just Tell Them Reforms Are Working.”

Spectacular critique of John White and his misguided abysmal reforms by Dr. Mercedes Schneider. I think someone needs to remind White and Jindal its better to remain silent and be thought an idiot, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

I have learned that if John White writes something it must be true.

Gotcha.

Today among the letters to the editor at nola.com is an entry from John White. Despite his history of lying, the readers of nola.com simply must trust what John White has to tell them.

Not.

Let us examine what John wishes for his readers to believe and then discuss the opposite (i.e., the truth), shall we?

White’s letter is entitled, “Reforms are improving student performance, opportunities.”

As to the first part of the title, “reforms are improving student performance”:  “Student performance” could mean the spring test scores; it could mean the school performance scores, which depend heavily on student test scores, or it could mean graduation rates which (you guessed it) also depend upon student test scores (got to pass those End of Course [EOC] tests to graduate).

Let us now turn our attention to the statewide results for the spring LEAP/iLEAP for…

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