Some of you may have read by my recent expose on the issues facing Mary D. Coghill elementary school (an RSD school which was turned into a Park View charter school this year without any internal records or discussion of why this was done.)

I asked why this was done, and some basic info about what the accountability plans were for Mary D. Coghill as part of my investigation, but was told no such discussion or record existed. I was told no sitecode existed for this new site. (or at least this site was never discussed in e-mail or interoffice mail or memorandum.) I can assume LDOE is telling me the truth (or lying and violating state law. )

Incidentally when I re-read my notes I realized I had the number of students pulled out incorrect. It was not 70, but 90 students pulled out for special reading aloud accommodations or 26% of all students taking tests.

(I will amend my previous post with this correction.)

But while I think this is likely a serious and intentional abuse of testing accommodations that took place over multiple years for the purpose of improving RSD test scores, if this was the only case I can understand why you might think my recommendation, to have all reports of cheating investigated by an external auditor, overkill. However this is not the only case of reported cheating or abuse of testing accommodations or policies. This is but the tip of a very large iceberg, and we have no idea how much is lurking below the surface. We have evidence of at least 38 schools involved in testing irregularities or outright cheating in New Orleans (most in RSD.) How many more cases exist that we have not found out about, or which were completely concealed from any public inquiry or record? How many have not been reported by teachers for fear of being fired as coach Frank was when he tried to the right thing?

In addition to Mary D. Coghill, I believe there is a serious case to be made for cheating taking place at John Mcdonogh High School under RSD’s direction before it was turned over to a charter school with Future is Now Schools under Steve Barr. A former accountability source detailed the reason I believe John McDongh’s scores were being influenced by RSD cheating. . .

Actually, a sharp drop in school performance is a common flag that indicates a “cheater” has been replaced, or monitored to prevent cheating The perfect example of this was in West Baton Rouge Parish. A former superintendent whose wife ran the IT department had all kids who dropped out at Brusly High School transfer to Port Allen High and be recorded as Port Allen dropouts. After the couple ‘moved on,’ Port Allen High’s results shot up, while Brusly’s dropped. The current IT director (Tammy Seneca) can confirm this.

Prior to the handover of John Mac to a private charter organization, the school posted less than stellar School Performance Scores (SPS). But the latest score, a 9.3 out of 150 is absurd and represents a 78% drop in a single year. To get back to where they were before the handover from RSD, John Mac would have to improve their score more than 400%.

Operator Year SPS Score out of 150
RSD

2008

20.9

RSD

2009

21.6

RSD

2010

32.2

RSD

2011

41.8

FIN

2012

9.3

So with Mary D. Cogwell we have a reported case of cheating that involved a teacher coming forward, subsequently being fired under suspicious circumstances, no investigation taking place, a whistleblower lawsuit being filed, and the secretive closure of the RSD school.

We have another RSD school, John Mcdonogh, posting steady gains from 2008 through 2011, when it was handed over to a charter operator who discovered what may be the true performance of RSD schools, a 9.3 out of 150.

We have three charter schools that RSD oversees with reported cheating. They have allowed the school boards to investigate themselves and decide that no cheating has occurred. These schools are

Lafayette Academy:

Lafayette Academy, which is governed by the Choice Foundation, has received acclaim in recent years for its high academic performance. At the end of its first year in 2007, its school performance score was a failing score of 38.6 out of 200. That jumped by 20 points in 2008, another 5 points the next year, and at least 10 points each year after that. Its 2012 score is a 93.4, a C under the state’s letter grade system.

The scope of the cheating investigation remains unclear. Jim Huger, president of the Choice Foundation board, would only say that the board concluded that no wrongdoing occurred. The board hired a private attorney, local media lawyer Loretta Mince, to look into the claims. She referred questions to Huger.

“This is a matter that is very murky, and very sort of a ‘he-said, she-said,’ and we investigated it,” Huger said Monday. “Cheating is a very ugly word.”

Miller-McCoy Academy:

This is the third time in recent years that such allegations have surfaced at a New Orleans charter school. In 2010, teachers at Miller-McCoy Academy reported to the Recovery School District, which oversees the school, that someone had opened the state’s standardized test in advance to give test-takers extra prep on the questions.

RSD intervened, conducting its own investigation – in addition to the school’s board – that ultimately concluded that some kind of cheating did occur.

The Miller-McCoy board investigation, however, found no evidence of cheating. School officials refused to void their scores but required teachers to undergo training on proper administration of tests.

Robert Moton Charter Elementary

In August [2012], an Orleans Parish School Board investigation found evidence of cheating at Robert Moton Charter Elementary School. Moton’s board, like Lafayette and McCoy’s, concluded otherwise.

Moton was required to present preventative measures against cheating to the Orleans Parish School Board, which oversees Moton. The faculty member accused of the cheating no longer works at the school.

So now we are up to 5 schools, but the cheating doesn’t stop there. According to investigations conducted by the Lens reporter Jessica Williams, and records reported by the Louisiana Department of Education, as many as 33 additional schools have been involved in cheating or testing irregularities in the past 3 years without serious repercussions or reports to the general media.

In three recent years, 33 New Orleans public schools have been flagged for problems and possible cheating on standardized tests, including an excessive number of changed answers, plagiarism and improper test proctoring, according to records provided by the Louisiana Department of Education.

To my counting that brings the cases of reported or suspected cheating up to 38 schools.

12 of these 33 schools have repeat problems, and most of them are RSD schools.

Over the three-year period, 12 schools had repeated problems. Most of them are RSD schools:

Dwight Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies, an RSD charter

Dr. King Charter School, an RSD charter

Edna Karr High School, an OPSB charter

Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School of Literature and Technology, an OPSB direct-run school

Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary, an RSD direct-run school

O. Perry Walker College and Career Preparatory High School and Community Center, an RSD charter

Thurgood Marshall Early College High School, an RSD charter

F.W. Gregory Elementary School, an RSD direct-run school

International School of Louisiana, a BESE charter

George Washington Carver Senior High School, an RSD direct-run school

Langston Hughes Academy, an RSD charter

John Dibert Community School, an RSD charter

This is the same RSD that Reformers like Leslie Jacobs have been touting as models that should be replicated in other struggling school districts.

This is despite the fact the state did not check for a high rate of changed answers in 2009 and 2010 because of “budget reasons.”

There were problems at about 22 percent of the city’s schools in 2011, twice as many as the year before. A likely reason: In 2010, the state didn’t check tests for high rates of changed answers, citing budget cuts.

The state didn’t check for high rates of changed answers in 2009 for the same reason, department officials told The Lens.

How many more “irregualarities might be have discovered and largely ignored? Hard to say, but despite this lax and irresponsible oversight, and the failure of many of these entities to investigate or report instances of cheating, RSD and reformers want you to believe the New Orleans turnaround model.

RSD and LDOE has only turned over data touting their success of charters and RSD to the charter friendly CREDO institute, a Hoover institute spinoff run by charter champions Margaret Raymond and Eric Hanushek, a husband and wife team and Hoover institute fellows. (Eric has also famously promoted the idea that class size doesn’t matter and that class sizes of 50 or more are appropriate if only a “good” teacher is present.) LDOE have in fact used FERPA to rebuff other researchers from obtaining the same data that might disprove the claims RSD and LDOE makes about their success. Incidentally, did you know these brainiacs compared Ben Franklin and Luscher (charter schools that only accepts kids who meet strong academic standards, against regular RSD schools which must take everyone, and based upon this comparison determined charter marginally better than traditional public schools, represented by RSD? (Special Note: When asked to comment on how and why they did this and how they don’t believe this is a complete misrepresentation, Margaret and her chief researcher, Devora Davis, declined to comment.)

However I digress. The point here, is LDOE and RSD, and charter schools, cannot be trusted to investigate their own cheating. What happens when cheating is reported is those reporting the cheating like Coach Frank are conveniently disappeared, schools are secretly closed and rechartered, and Boards conveniently lose the reports and bury the investigations. While RSD and New Orleans is being used as a model for the Nation, people are not being given a true picture. All they are seeing is the result of cheating that is being hidden, stats that are being massaged and produced by puppet organizations like CREDO, and publicity that is being bought by hedge fund managers that want everyone to jump onboard the charter train so they can rack up.

Education is big business in the United States, and worldwide.

What would you do for 809 billion dollars, annually in the US or several trillion wordwide? Would you fudge a few stats, fund a few friendly researchers to show your product is safe (like tobacco did in the 70s and now charters schools do today), or take out some full page ads in papers? For those who mock folks that try to expose this corruption by calling us conspiracy theorists, wouldn’t you be more surprised if folks weren’t doing this, and much, much, more?

That is why we need proper controls and oversight. We are not just putting our own children, or children from New Orleans, at risk by failing to investigate the fairy tale that is the New Orleans miracle, we are endangering the rest of Louisiana, the US and the world.

So in that context, these recommendations from my previous article are not all that onerous, are they?

  • I recommend that the legislative auditor’s office heretofore investigate all reported instances of cheating and that the legislature encode this into law. (for charters, RSD, vouchers schools and traditional public schools)
  • I encourage a formal investigation into whether federal laws relating to fraud were violated if any federal funds were disbursed as a result of these fraudulently obtained test scores, and reporting the findings to relevant authorities.
  • I recommend an expansion of the whistleblower law for greater protections of teachers reporting cheating.
  • I recommend an audit of all direct run RSD schools and test scores from 2007 to present with particular care paid to accommodations and relevant IEP and IAP paperwork.
  • I recommend tapes be made of tests being read for review.
  • I recommend new guidelines be published for when and which accommodations are appropriate and the accommodations being provided are not solely used for high stakes testing. If these kids are really struggling with a disability, it is much more important that children get these accommodations throughout the year to facilitate their actual learning of the material. It is much more important to the children, and the furtherance of their education, that these accommodations be made while they are learning this material rather than just when they are being tested on it once for a school grade.

If RSD is legit, and not the product of cheating, misrepresented stats, and subterfuge, don’t you think it’s time they proved it, and all the fancy claims they make? They tell us they can fly, but they won’t show us any wind beneath their wings. It’s time to put up or shut up.


I suspect when we look closer, under the full light of day, RSD will not fly for very long. . .

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8 thoughts on “The RSD and New Orleans miracle (of cheating)

  1. Thank you for this report. I recently sent my BESE rep, Jim Garvey, a note about King Charter schools spending $69,000 for a 4 day retreat at a Biloxi casino. I thought this a complete abuse of tax payer money. Mr. Garvey justified this expense as King Charter has moved from an F to a C school. So, obviously BESE is quite ok with this type of outrageous expenditure and now I see them in your list above. I think it may be more to do with cheating than a fantastic retreat at tax payer expense. I really don’t think any type of public school would be so frivolous with tax payer money.

    1. They are ok with anything Jindal and White tell them to be ok with. If a TPS school did that there would be outrage from Jindal and cronies spewing from every media outlet in the state.

  2. Not that I am defending the poor management of FINS at John McDonogh, but you have your facts incorrect on the “78% drop in SPS in a single year.”

    If you will remember, the SPS score calculation changed this year – the RSD’s 41.8 SPS in 2011 was based on the old formula, which was out of a possible 200 pts., not 150 pts. as you claim. LDOE released two sets of scores this year per school – one using the new formula and one using the old formula; while John Mac’s score under the new formula was a 9.3, under the old formula, it was (still an admittedly dismal) 29.9. Regardless, that is not evidence of cheating under RSD’s management, it’s evidence of mismanagement by FINS. More information on the SPS changes and a comparison are available here: http://pcook.me/pVo4

    Finally, if you actually look closely at the reports of the 33 “testing irregularities” cited by Jessica Williams in The Lens, you’ll see they actually vary widely in terms of their possible implications. Although there are a few that may raise serious questions, most others appear to be little more than errors in administration procedure, the latter being a far cry from anything like altering bubble sheets or feeding students answers. In addition, it should be noted that “flags” for testing irregularities are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing – they are simply *possible* signs of a problem, not proof that cheating has occurred.

    Finally, I do agree that something highly suspect occurred at Miller-McCoy and Moton, circumstances which need to be investigated further and fully accounted for. I also believe that Lagniappe Academy’s abnormal 40.6 jump in SPS this year is about as close to miraculous as it gets and needs to investigated or explained. However, these singular instances of possible malfeasance are not evidence of a concerted scam or widespread cheating problem in RSD.

    1. RSD and LDOE does not investigate RSD and LDOE, voucher schools or charter schools. They fire teachers who report cheating. The confusion with scoring is unnecessary and entirely their own doing. They change formula, tests and total points every year and they hide data and refuse to provide historical data to compare. You are a pawn who benefits from games they play. We both know this is but tip of very large cheating iceburg. You asked for proof. Here is proof. Stop making excuses. Many of my colleagues quit because of coverups of cheating and using audits to punish districts who do not fall in line. I am tired of your games, Peter.

  3. Jason,
    The depth and scope of your investigations into the corruption of a giant source of Educational redistributed funding is impressive. Your professional insight into the real facts of the RSD scores, the documented cheating that is hidden from the public, and the enlightenment as to who is responsible for this corruption, is beyond my ability to comprehend.

    It is obvious to all who care about the Children, and to all who are more concerned with the Children of Education, that you are morally and ethically far and above the likes of White Lie White.

    Oh, but what dreams we could achieve in Education if only people such as you were put on the BESE, instead of paid “Yes” men who are only interested in financial gain and political agendas. We could truly soar.

    Meanwhile, our Children fail in School, and even the ones that do not fail are taught that to get ahead, one must Cheat, thereby learning to Fail in Life.

    Shame on the BESE for not doing everything possible for our Children.

    And Thank YOU for your efforts FOR our Children.

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