Ok, now I think people are becoming inspired or starting to make fun of my Crazy Crawfish motif! I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted? No matter, Savvy Squash is here to explain some of the nuances and private backdoor deals of Louisiana’s Accountability system. It appears the system is changing again, but this time entirely secretly, even from a BESE that rubberstamps everything DOE does.  The only reason I can see for doing this is to conceal what they are doing from the public and the US Department of Education.  It also appears they are not turning over the list of AUS schools in a prompt manner and formulating realistic alternatives for students so as to leave children no other “choices” but Course Choice which has no standards, no evaluation methods, no requirements for certified teachers (or requirements for having teachers at all), and actually no money to fund it as many students who tried to apply this year found out the hard way.  Admittedly I was having trouble conveying what I was being told so I asked for some contributions to tell it like it is. Without further ado, allow me to present the latest Crazy Crawfish Blog contributor, Savvy Squash.

Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

The LDOE appears to be by-passing BESE and creating/implementing policy (all on their own.) This is shocking not because it’s occurring but because BESE has rubber-stamped almost everything LDOE has sent there way so one must ponder why there are some policy issues LDOE just doesn’t bother to take to BESE.

Fake Policy: Academic School Choice for AUS schools

LDOE sent out letters which inform school districts that the content of the instructions in the letters are now policy “which took effect July 2012, supersedes all other related policies.”. A summary of the letters in comparison to BESE policy is outlined below: [this is a secret policy LDOE created last year that was never approved by BESE or USED and which has been expanded upon and reiterated this year . Ccf]

  July 2012 letter from LDOE July 2013 Letter from LDOE Bulletin 111 (as of June 2013) ESEA waiver
Who develops the plan? The Louisiana Department of Education developed the following selection criteria for Public School Choice for local school districts.  The Louisiana Department of Education has developed the following process to ensure Public School Choice for any student attending a failing school. §2501.An LEA must develop a school choice policy for schools that are academically unacceptable.

 

Not mentioned
What is the objective/purpose? In recognition that Louisiana’s children deserve access to a high quality education regardless of family income and zip-code, all children enrolled at F schools must be provided the opportunity to transfer to a higher performing public school within their local school district.  Local school districts must provide students who qualify for NCLB School Choice with the opportunity to attend any school in the district irrespective of geography or zoning. The list of options must include all unfilled seats in all non-failing schools. AUS 1  (Year 1) (notified Aug. 1) – AUS 3 (Year 3) Remedy School Choice For those schools failing to achieve AMOs and meaningfully progress, multiple consequences or interventions will be used. These include:

(b) school choice;

What are the plan requirements? 1.       Local school districts must develop a listing of available enrollment slots at higher performing receiving schools broken down by school by grade level.  Higher performing schools for the purposes of Public School Choice are non-F schools. 

2.       Local school districts must place children attending F-schools at a higher performing school based upon the following criteria:

a.       Develop list of all students attending F-schools.  The list must be broken down by grade level.

b.      Students attending the lowest performing F-schools, as determined by School Performance Scores (SPS), will be given the highest preference.

a.       For each request form, match students with the highest performing school with available enrollment slots.  If parents rank multiple receiving schools, match students to their top request at which there is an open seat.  If no match is made, students will remain at their current school.

                                                   i.      Follow this process in ascending order until all choice request forms from all F-schools are reviewed.

4.       Notify families in writing on the status of their request form within a reasonable time period.

 

1. Local school districts must develop a list of available enrollment slots at higher-performing receiving-schools arranged by school and grade level. Higher performing schools for the purposes of Public School Choice are non-failing schools (i.e., letter grades of D or higher).

2. Local school districts must notify parents of children attending failing schools, of all higher performing enrollment options within the school district within ten days of receiving notification from LDOE.

3. The local school district must review choice requests from parents of the district’s failing schools in the following order to ensure that Louisiana’s lowest performing students are provided access to higher performing schools:

a.       Begin to review the Choice Request forms of children attending the lowest performing failing school.

b.      For each request form, match the student with the highest performing school with available enrollment slots.

c.       If parents rank multiple receiving schools, match them to their top request for which there is an open seat.

d.       If no match is made, the student will remain at their current school.

e.      Follow this process in ascending order until all Choice Request forms from all failing schools are reviewed.

4. Notify families, in writing, on the status of their request form.

5. 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).

 

§2501.

1. An LEA must offer more than one choice to eligible students, if more than one school is eligible to receive students.

2. The LEA must take into account the parents’ preferences among the choices offered, or the LEA may allow parents to make the final decision.

§2503. Student Eligibility

A. An LEA must offer choice to all students in an eligible school until the school is no longer identified as AUS except:

1.       if an eligible student exercises the option to transfer to another public school, an LEA must permit the student to remain in that school until he or she has completed the highest grade in the school and shall provide transportation to the student.

§2505.Transfer Options

A. An LEA may consider health and safety factors in determining the transfer options. Should the LEA have concerns for health and safety factors, the LEA will need to find ways to provide choice consistent with their obligations to provide a healthy and safe learning environment.

B. An LEA that is subject to a desegregation plan is not exempt from offering students the option to transfer.

1.       An LEA should first determine whether it is able to offer choice within the parameters of its desegregation plan.

2.        If it is not able to do so, or if the desegregation plan forbids the LEA from offering the choice option, the LEA needs to seek court approval for amendments to the plan that permit a transfer option for students.

C. Students may not transfer to any school that is academically unacceptable or that has been identified for school improvement 1 or higher for subgroup component failure.

D. If there are no schools to which students can transfer, parents must be notified that the child is eligible for choice. The notification will further indicate that no choice options are currently available.

 

Not mentioned
What is the timeline for notification? Eligible families must be contacted and offered Public School Choice by their local school district within ten business days of receiving such notification. Eligible families must be contacted and offered Public School Choice by their local school district within ten business days of receiving notification from the Louisiana Department of Education that one of their schools is at-risk of becoming a failing school. §2501.Beginning with the 2003-04 school year, an LEA shall notify parents of their school choice options not later than the first day of the school year for the schools that must offer choice.

 

Not mentioned
How is notification to be made? Notify families in writing on the status of their request form within a reasonable time period.

 

Communication may include a phone call, but must include a formal notification letter. Not mentioned Not Mentioned
What are the Policy References? This policy is in effect for the school year starting on July 1, 2012 and supersedes any other written document you may have received prior to today’s date.  This policy, which took effect July 2012, supersedes all other related policies. Bulletin 111; Chapter 25, Sections 2501, 2503, and 2505  

From January of 2012 to August of 2013 there was only one instance of policy revision to Bulletin 111’s academic school choice policy. The references in the letter to new policy as of July 2012 appear to reference final approval of ESEA. The problem is the ESEA waiver only vaguely mentions choice as a sanction for failing schools and doesn’t even mention a change in the process for how choice is to be carried out. The process change appears to be entirely created and deemed policy by LDOE.

There are 3 major concerns with these letters masquerading around like policy:

1. There does not appear to be any BESE or ESEA-waiver policy which dictates the school choice processes outlined in the letter

2. The “policy” seemingly evolves from year to year

3.  The one-size fits all model doesn’t consider local restraints

So what’s the big deal?

 1.       Policy should be vetted and run through the policy making board, not created and enforced LDOE

Policy is written, understood, it maintains a level of knowledge and stability. What happens when LDOE decides their own policy? Take a look at the letters. From July 2012 to July 2013 somehow policy miraculously changed to require that Districts peddle LDOE’s course choice program. In essence, Districts are being asked to try and sway their students, in a failing public school, to begin taking classes via course choice, which to date has no data to support that it would be a quality program that if measure would not be deemed academically unacceptable. Additionally, why would a District want to promote courses that they have no control over yet are responsible for in accountability? If I’m a district and I want to reform my failing school, the first place I’m not going to consider is an outside provider with no measures of success with no local control yet I would ultimately be responsible for the outcomes.

Now, bottom line, students should NOT have to attend a failing school. The failing of a public school is the failure of a school district to provide an equal and acceptable arena for learning. There should be no need for school choice, however since there are failing schools there should be state policy guidelines which consider that the way to carry out school choice should be left up to districts discretion or, at the very least, the process should be vetted in a public forum where districts could speak to the course of action.

Why do districts need a voice in school choice? I’m sure there are many reasons but I will just vent a bit about two.

2.       Logistics

The fake policy LDOE propagated in their letters is arguably a good option for students. It’s feasibility in a district is logistically challenging, however. Take for example a district with a large geographical spread where a failing school may be located 29.7 miles away from a higher performing school which has 1 open seat in grade K and 1 open seat in grade 4. According to LDOE, policy says the district must let those 2 students transfer and the district must provide transportation. I don’t know what line of thinking LDOE is using but there simply isn’t a plausible logistical way to transport two students across opposite ends of the district – it requires 1 bus, 1 bus driver, and a ride of anywhere between 1-2.5 hours each way for the student. So the student in grade K is conceivable riding a bus with only 1 other student and being picked up at 6am and not returning home until 5:30 pm. Are there compromises? Sure; but since LDOE never bothered to bring this to the policy making board there was no opportunity for districts or board members to propose one.

3.       Desegregation Orders

If a district is operating under a desegregation plan, or if the district has gained unitary status, the decisions about school choice transfer may reach a level when judicial input is necessary to insure compliance with an active or closed plan.  Under LDOE’s fake policy there is no consideration for district to modify the choice process to comply with desegregation orders.

On a related note:

For the second consecutive year, LDOE has not publicly released the list of preliminary AUS schools that are required to offer choice. The release of this information publicly is necessary for

1.       Transparency – parents and the public at large have a right to know which schools in which districts are deemed academically unacceptable. Without this information being public, it is not possible for parents to know, until sometime in October when final SPS scores are officially released, whether they should have been offered a choice transfer. This is not to say that I think districts will ultimately not offer choice to students, however, this is a public process and the public has a right to know and ensure they are being offered what they are entitled to by BESE policy.

2.       Checks and Balances – Without a public preliminary list of AUS schools, it is not possible for the public to measure the growth or decline of failing schools; to make decisions about moving into different attendance zone/districts; to know which RSD schools are F and which are masquerading as T; or to know if any schools identify as F in July are no longer identified as F in October.

Why should we care do you ask?

1. This isn’t policy.

2. If this was policy, it’s not good for districts.

3. Districts under desegregation orders – LDOE should be producing the preliminary list much earlier than the last week of July and they should be sending the information to desegregation districts and CC [carbon copy] the judge so that a proper plan can be worked out for choice.

4. The one-size-fits-all approach by the state doesn’t work in all districts.

If this went to BESE, districts could make a case that if the state wants this policy then perhaps we compromise – perhaps we offer a minimum of two options with transportation and then offer every other available seat across the district without transportation. For car riders and parents who work near other schools that’s feasible.

Sincerely,

Savvy Squash

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One thought on “Introducing Savvy Squash – Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

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