Louisiana Education Updates – as of 8/14/2013

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything substantial (I hope you all didn’t miss me too much) but that is not because nothing substantial has been taking place. If anything, the activities, news items and scandals have only been increasing far beyond the normal frequency – which has made it difficult to decide exactly which article to pursue and document first. All of the these topics are important, current, pertinent and need to be covered in greater detail than I will address in this update. However I need a place to start and I would really appreciate any help anyone might care to provide. I narrowed the scope of my blog recently to mostly just education issues, and primarily Louisiana specific education issues, but still I find myself having trouble keeping up with everything that needs to be addressed in a complete and timely manner. This is where you can help. I do not make money off the blog and have a separate full time job and family just as all of you. Nevertheless these are stories and issues that are of concern to us all and need to be more fully addressed outside of our local and national media. If you would like to help me explore some of these issues with research or writing please drop me a line at crazycrawfish@yahoo.com so we can work out the particulars. I will of course give you full attribution under your real name or pseudonym – as you prefer. You do not need to be currently running your own blog to apply nor do you have to be an insider in the Louisiana education arena – although some background or vested interest would certainly help. I will be happy to provide editing, polishing and proofreading – if necessary and would be happy to include audio clips, video entries and pictures of your choosing (so long as they pass my relatively lax standards of decency.)

It appears LDOE and the reform movement is trying to swamp us with their superior state funded numbers and front-organizations by rolling out more BS than a single blogger or uncoordinated team of bloggers can handle. For that reason I believe it is time to up our game as well but adopting a more formalized publishing/reporting model. If you have the time and inclination, please contact me to offer your help.

Without further ado, here is a summary of some of the issues I would like to tackle or seen tackled in greater detail.

Judge rules St Helena may not expand grade structures – ceding new powers to RSD (the Recovery School District)

RSD lawyers successfully made the case that St Helena cannot open up new grades and provide students a choice of where to go (RSD or Parish schools) stating this was the “true intent” behind the state law that made takeovers by RSD possible. All parishes should be concerned with this turn of events especially as new CCSS state tests are being planned to be rolled out. As New York recently found out first-hand, these tests are designed to make almost all schools “failures” to their local accountability systems making state takeovers of schools in every district a virtual certainty. Once schools check in to the RSD, they don’t check out – although they do get chartered out to for-profit entities.

 

The Elephant in the Room – despite what Bobby Jindal says, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a mandated Federal Curriculum

Bobby Jindal recently went on record with Red State, a Conservative media site/blog that he does not favor a federally mandated curriculum. However he and every one of this appointees on BESE and all of his BESE allies (many of which her personally bankrolled) and his hand-picked State Superintendent of Education allies are unequivocal supporters of the CCSS Common Core State Standards. These folks are dealing purely in semantics. There is no question the CCSS is both a curriculum, and a federally supported and funded one. Adopting this curriculum is a requirement of many US ED grants, states are being actively coerced and bullied by Arne Duncan into adopting these “State Standards” or face sanctions under NCLB and reduced funding. Most folks understand when you specify specific content that must be learned by specific grades levels, and test students on that very content, that content is a curriculum.

The defense I often hear made is that teachers are free to teach it this content/curriculum however they want, and states can add their own (which won’t be tested by these federal tests) but just because it does not have to be the sole curriculum, does not make it any less of a curriculum. Even the LDOE website points to other websites for CCSS that explicitly define the content as you will see below.

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/academics/common-core-state-standards

http://www.corestandards.org/Math

http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy

 

BESE member Kira Orange Jones has violated her ethics agreement with impunity and continues to serve on BESE (State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education)

In clear violation of the agreement and argument she made to the Ethics board after her election to the statewide BESE board, Kira Orange Jones has publicly taken on a statewide role in TFA, a temp teaching organization with numerous and perpetual million dollar no-bid staffing contracts with both the Recovery School District and the Louisiana Department of Education. She has refused to resign her position on the BESE board and with the resignation of her key supporter on the Ethics board under a cloud of suspicion and an ethics issue of his own it is clear the Ethics board needs to redress this issue. Being cleared of any ethics issues is not a permanent blessing to do whatever future unethical things you want to, and a favorable ethics ruling does not mean your ethics are above reproach. In this case it appears to indicate that our ethics board and reform is very unfunny joke.

 

Kira Orange Jones – the half a million dollar corporate woman

A look at the specific entities that support BESE member Kira Orange Jones is very interesting and calls for greater scrutiny to see just who she truly represents. In theory she represents the people of the areas highlighted in pink. However I have heard numerous reports where parents are unable to get Kira to represent their issues at BESE meetings, while she is more than happy to address any of her donors concerns (which include TFA board members) at the drop of a hat. In the election that made her TFA queen of BESE Kira pulled in close to half a million dollars, garnering what is undoubtedly the unique distinction of raising/spending the most money in the history of BESE elections that usually are historically run on a 5-10k budget. A half a million dollars is quite a bit of money to spend for an unpaid part-time position, but it’s nice to see her completely related profession of TFA statewide director taking off in what we must assume is an entirely unrelated fashion. Jindal ethics reform is truly a thing a wonder.

 

SPS (School Performance Scores) are available, but they are being hidden by LDOE

I’ve gotten numerous reports that SPS scores are now available, but Superintendent White is being cagey on releasing the full details. I’m told all school districts and charter schools have their individual results, but LDOE is refusing to release results for all schools or districts or statewide stats. Some of the reasons I’ve been given for this is that the scores are much lower this year, especially for RSD and many charters, and many high schools are also lower as a result of policy changes that required more of their students to have to take Algebra 1 and other tests they’d been given a free pass on previously. I am still doing research on this.

 

CREDO has produced a new report for Louisiana, but the results are biased and riddled with false conclusions based on data known to be incorrect and incomplete and CREDO did not disclose financial stake in results

Reports are now surfacing that the latest batch of CREDO reports are filled with errors that could easily have been caught or pointed out and that CREDO may have had a financial arrangement with LDOE for producing favorable reports that can be used to justify their pro-privatization movement. If true, this calls into question any report CREDO has done or will ever do. This will take a little time for me to investigate. I offered to help CREDO for free on August 17th, 2012 with any questions they might have but my offer was rebuffed. (I included my offer and the response below which is inaccurate although I chose not to dispute it.) I did however take this as an indication that CREDO was not interested in producing a valid assessment, and that they already had their results in mind. (I have my doubts that they fully understood the data issues with data in 2005, 2006 and 2007 related to Katrina and epic data mishandling and underreporting by RSD.)

On Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM, Jason France <jasonfrance@hotmail.com> wrote:

Hi Dev!
 
This is Jason France, formerly of LDE.  i prepared a number of data requests for you in the past and you might recall me of “JUID” (Jew-id) fame, a Guid named after me, that i built for CREDO’s data requests just about the time before I left [. . .]

 
I am no longer affiliated with DOE but need data for a number of education data projects I’m working on.  DOE will not give me the data when someone as lowley as I request it of course. (especially since i was the one that did most of their requests and designed most of their recent data collection systems)  Would you be interested in any kind of partnership since they seem to have a special place in their heart for your group?  I’m know probably more about the data at LDE than anyone still working there, and I’m a sharing kinda guy. 
 
Let me know

Jason

From: devdavis@stanford.edu
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 09:26:04 -0700
Subject: Re: Louisiana Education Data
To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com

Hi Jason,

Thank you for reaching out to us. Collaboration isn’t a possibility, since our agreement with the L-DOE does not permit us to share data with other researchers.

Best regards,
Dev


Dev Davis
CREDO at Stanford University
devdavis@stanford.edu
T. 650-725-6169
F. 650-723-1687

credo.stanford.edu

LDOE has fought the release of this data (in court for the past 2 years) to private researchers on various grounds including FERPA, but has gladly shared this data with inBloom and CREDO without parental consent. Either sharing this data is a blatant FERPA violation, or it’s public information used to formulate public policy and funding and needs to be available to the public to dispute or verify claims. LDOE has to data successfully had it both ways.

 

LDOE and BESE are creating a new “advisory council” to rig the MFP formula for a fourth time

Yesterday John White and LDOE announced a new plan to legitimize reducing school funding for public schools, especially for disabled students, gifted students, talented students, and poorer districts. He plans to create an “advisory task force” to handle the funding formula. You can read about the taskforce here:

https://www.boarddocs.com/la/bese/Board.nsf/files/98FQTL6ACE72/$file/AF_10-1_Proposed_MFP_Task_Force.pdf

Most of the spots on the taskforce have been defined and the positions have not been named, except for the “parent” advisors (Rana Ottalah and Charles Thomas). Perhaps one of you can research them and get back to me? I am a public-school parent, who worked in the Office of Management and Finance at LDOE gathering all the data used for MFP for 8 years, and I have a degree in accounting from LSU. I wonder why I wasn’t approached? J

Taskforce members: http://www.boarddocs.com/la/bese/Board.nsf/files/9A7M4Q597400/$file/AF_10-1_MFP_Task_Force_Attachment_A.pdf

Meeting Schedule: http://www.boarddocs.com/la/bese/Board.nsf/files/9AHSNM7383F7/$file/AF_10-1_MFP_Task_Force_Attachment_C.pdf

The first meeting of the MFP Task Force will be held September 4. Meetings will continue every month through the end of the calendar year; for a full calendar, please click here. At its first meeting, the task force will hear public testimony to inform policies and topics to be addressed at future meetings. In addition to this testimony, the task force will discuss topics such as:

  • September: Cost of a Minimum Foundation Program of Education
  • October: Local and State Revenue
  • November: Distribution of Minimum Foundation Program Funds
  • December: Final Recommendations for Questions, Comments, and a Vote by Members

All meetings will be open to the public with the goal of using their suggestions and discussion as a guide to strengthening Louisiana’s funding formula. More information about the MFP Task Force will be available on the BESE website, including schedules and agendas.

Public School Parent Representatives:

 

Rana Ottalah; Jefferson Public School Parent

 

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/rana-ottallah/33/61/394

bilingual interpertor

DHH early steps (currently holds this position)

http://www.boarddocs.com/la/bese/Board.nsf/files/98FSDU720B04/$file/AGII_5-1_SEAP_June_Minutes_June13.pdf

 

 

Charles Thomas; East Baton Rouge Public School Parent

 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesthomas3

 

Executive Director

Family Values Resource Institute, Inc.

September 2012 – Present (1 year) Baton Rouge, Louisiana Area

Develop and execute organizational objectives for staff leadership, fund development, fiscal management, and strategic operations to achieve a vision and mission involving educating, encouraging, and empowering families and individuals through challenging barriers.

 

John White finally sends certified letter to inBloom to cancel data sharing contract (but tries to hide this fact)

This letter came about 3 months after John White claimed to have sent it but it was finally sent. A copy was provided to select allies and BESE members and not to any of the folks who testified at the BESE meeting against this blatant and flagrant violation of parental and student rights and privacy. The reason this was done was to try and protect inBloom as much as possible from additional pullouts from their database by leaving the issue intentionally ambiguous so as to allow inBloom to continue claim no one had pulled out, and that the coverage of the issue involved a lot of misreporting. How can any state feel comfortable trusting their student data to an organization like inBloom that has knowingly mislead the public is beyond me, but for the time-being Louisiana is free of this absurd contract. However until the Louisiana legislature passes laws protecting the privacy rights of our citizens, inBloom and others like them will always be waiting in the wings, ready to swoop in and steal our children’s data and exploit it at their earliest opportunity. We have won this battle, but the war is far from over. Just take a look at the next battle. . . a new front was opened through the LWC.


LDOE and Louisiana Workforce Commission (and Governor Jindal’s mother) enter into secret student data sharing agreement

It appears LDOE has already entered into another data sharing agreement with another Louisiana agency as a result of another federal grant to tie students to employment information. This grant (Grant Number: MI-211-74-10-60-A-22 Contact Information: Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), Office of Occupational Information Services) is being run by the Louisiana Workforce commission and Governor Bobby Jindal’s own mother, Raj Jindal, is the grant contact person and principal player.

Will the legislature pass privacy legislation in defiance of Jindal and his own mother? They didn’t even seek to help the sick, elderly, disabled or infirm after Jindal got out his line item veto pen at the end of the last legislative session. You can be sure the Senate will not allow Jindal’s mother to be turned down for any requests she might make of her son in regards to this project. I suppose the lesson here is, when you want to trample of the rights of everyday Louisiana citizens, you can always recruit the Governor’s mother.

Louisiana

Grantee: Louisiana Workforce Commission
Award Amount
: $999,863
Grantee:
Louisiana Workforce Commission
Proposed Activities:

Louisiana will utilize the PY2010 Workforce Data Quality Initiative as a means of improving public services through creation of the states first longitudinal database for workforce data. Grant funding will enhance and improve the states ability to plan, monitor and further research various services within the workforce and educational systems. Data sets will contain information from several programs including: Workforce Investment Act; Wagner-Peyser; Trade Adjustment Assistance; and Louisiana Job Employment Training. In addition to workforce programs, data from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Federal Employee Data Exchange System will also be linked. Merging this information with education data will provide first time access to more comprehensive programmatic data. The Louisiana Workforce Commission will rely on its longstanding partnership with Louisiana State University to create, maintain, and ensure security for this project.
Contact:
Ms. Raj Jindal, Director, IT Division

Louisiana Workforce Commission
1001 North 23rd Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

rjindal@lwc.la.gov
225-342-3222

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor announced $12.2 million to 13 states through the Workforce Data Quality Initiative. These funds will enable states to build or expand longitudinal databases of workforce data that also link to education data. States will use these longitudinal databases to conduct research and analysis aimed at pinpointing the effectiveness of employment and training programs to better inform workforce system customers.

“These grants are an important part of the administration’s efforts to increase the availability and use of high-quality data,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “By developing and improving databases, states will help those seeking training make better informed decisions, all while more clearly demonstrating the link between employment and education in the long-term success of workers.”

States will achieve multiple goals during the three-year grant period. Among these are developing or improving state workforce longitudinal data systems with individual-level information; enabling workforce data to be matched with education data to create longitudinal data systems; improving the quality and breadth of the data in the workforce data systems; using longitudinal data to provide useful information about program operations; analyzing the performance of education and training programs; and providing user-friendly information to consumers to help them select the training and education programs that best suit their needs.

Funding will be used by 11 states to expand and improve linkages between education and employment in existing longitudinal databases. These include Florida, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Two additional states, Louisiana and Minnesota, will develop and implement new systems.

This grant opportunity stems from the administration’s focus on access to high-quality data and is a sister initiative to the U.S. Department of Education’s Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems project that is designed build longitudinal education databases.

 

The Going Rate for TFA is a million or more per year regardless of what they do or how effective they are

Numerous contracts were handed over to me detailing arrangements over the years between TFA and RSD and LDOE. Regardless of the reasoning given, the end result was seems to be at least coming up with a million dollars a year to fund new recruits. LDOE also reported that no similar recruitment mechanism exists for recruiting, training or retaining top Louisiana Education college graduates. These millions of dollars in awards are in addition to the 3000 to 5000 dollars per recruit paid for individual recruitment fees. We are a small state. When you multiply a million dollars by 50 states that would be 50 million are year for funding to this organization that also pulls down funding from the Walton’s (Walmart heirs), US Department of Education and other federal grants and private donations. TFA has a very significant funding stream and the ability to fund elections and officials that give them even more money that can be donated back to political campaigns.

The Louisiana’s latest Course Choice lie

John White is requiring that school districts inform parents they should enroll their kids in an unfunded Course Choice program that has no standards, has not been evaluated, and which does not require teachers or course providers to meet any qualifications or have and certifications. When a former LDOE staffer brought up this fact in a meeting, he was turned into a former LDOE staffer. Course Choice is the antithesis of a good education or proper accountability but it is being actively pimped-out as a valid alternative for a LDOE defined “Failing School.” This is a shameless boondoggle that is designed to target the poorest of our citizens to enrich unaccountable, unscrupulous vendors. If you don’t believe me, ask your BESE members what plans are in place to evaluate these programs, to verify students are achieving results of any kind, or what certifications LDOE has documented on these providers or has required these vendors to make. You will find that if any tests are given to students after taking these courses, those test results go to the already failing schools and are never attributed to the Course Choice vendors, that the vendors get paid regardless of whether a student ever attends a single class, and that credit is awarded to students solely upon the discretion of the vendor (who gets the remaining half of their enrollment fees upon reporting the completion.)

 

Louisiana Department of Education–Public School Choice Policy

There is no objective more critical than providing children access to the best education available. Yet, each year thousands of children are assigned to failing schools and their families are provided no recourse. Through Louisiana’s Public School Choice Policy, children assigned to failing public schools are provided the option to enroll at their community’s highest performing public schools so they too can prosper.
.

.

.

Local school districts should also inform parents of Course Choice as an option for their child. a. Course Choice is a pilot program that provides educational opportunities to students across the state that are currently denied the ability to enroll in the high-quality courses necessary for college or career preparation because they are not available at their local school.

b. For more information, please contact Ernise Singleton (ernise.singleton@la.gov).

 

Form letter that must be sent to parents encouraging them to enroll in Course Choice (by design – most parents will have no other recourse):

 

2012-2013 Parent Notification – Public School Choice

[DATE]

To the Parent(s)/Guardian(s) of [CHILD’S NAME]

Dear Parent/Guardian:

There is no mission more critical than providing children access to the best education possible. In accordance with Louisiana’s Public School Choice Policy, we are required to inform you that your child is enrolled at a public school that is projected to receive a grade of “F,” which is considered failing per our state’s public school accountability system. Because of this designation, your child is eligible to transfer to a higher performing school within the school district. If you elect to take advantage of this school transfer opportunity, transportation will be provided for your child.

You may choose one of the following schools for your child to attend. On the enclosed Choice Request Form, please place a number 1 next to your preferred choice, number 2 next to your second choice, and so forth.

  • [School Name, Letter Grade, School Performance Score (out of 200)]
  • [School Name, Letter Grade, School Performance Score (out of 200)]
  • [School Name, Letter Grade, School Performance Score (out of 200)]

It is possible that your child will not be accepted into your first choice because enrollment is subject to availability. In the event that this occurs, your child will be placed at the highest ranked school where there is capacity.

We recognize that there may not be higher performing schools for your child to attend, or that you may have accessibility issues given what is available. Another option for students attending “F” schools is the Course Choice Pilot Program. Course Choice is a pilot program that provides a broad range of learning options through multiple online and face-to-face providers. Approved course providers offer a full range of academic courses across the state in math, English language arts, science, social studies, foreign languages and Advanced Placement and Career and Technical Education, as well as elective courses and college credit opportunities. For more information on Course Choice, visit www.louisianacoursechoice.net .

If you choose to send your child to a higher performing school, please complete the enclosed Choice Request Form and return it to the ____ Parish School District Enrollment Office by [TIME, DATE]. All request forms must be received at the following address:

[Address]

We will send official notification of your child’s school placement no later than [DATE]. All transfer paperwork must be completed by [TIME, DATE]. If transfer paperwork is completed after [DATE], a transfer will not be granted.

If you have any questions about your options under the state’s Public School Choice Policy, please contact [NAME] at [PHONE NUMBER, EMAIL ADDRESS].

Sincerely,

 

[SUPERINTENDENT NAME]


 

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