About a month ago I was lucky to receive a visit from the blog’s favorite videographer, Shannon Puckett.

Here’s one of my last posts about her documentary project: https://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/defies-measurement-is-almost-funded/

In addition to the interview she did with me about my time at LDOE I got to chat with her about other cool issues while she was getting her tire replaced. She managed to make it to the Albertson’s on Airline Hwy Hammond before her tire gave out from a log she hit on I 10. She was lucky to make it that far with an inch long tear in the sidewall (personally I think she has magic powers or a guardian angel.) That was only a few miles from my house so I dropped by the check on her and then I escorted her the rest of the way to my house.

Update from Kickstarter project
Hi all –

I am very excited to report that I’m wrapping up filming and will head into post-production soon. I have interviewed some amazing individuals across the country and can hardly wait to begin piecing the footage together.

The interviews exceeded expectations. Everyone was magnificent: passionate, eloquent, thoughtful and concise. I am grateful.

Interviewing and reconnecting with former colleagues and students from Chipman has filled my heart. When I feel overwhelmed by all of the issues I’d like to include in the film and when I feel an urgency to speed up production, I think of Chipman and it centers me. I am thankful.

I still plan on having a Final Cut completed by Fall of 2014. I will keep you posted.

Continued thanks to all of you. You’ve been with me throughout it all. You were there when I shared a pot of tea and talked for an hour and a half after interviewing a fierce child advocate in Pennsylvania. You were there when I listened to a mother and parent activist speak so thoughtfully and passionately about how the reform efforts in New Orleans schools have been failing their children. You were even with me when I got a flat tire in Baton Rouge after running over a log on hwy 10. It has been an adventure.

As always, thanks so much for your support.

Best
Shannon

ps – Another way to keep updated is by visiting and “liking” the Defies Measurement Facebook page.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the issues that will be addressed in the film, check out www.shineonpro.com

I’ve never been interviewed for a documentary before, but I had a good time, and Shannon’s questions had me thinking more about what it is I’m doing and what I’m hoping to accomplish.  (I’m not sure I was in a position to do much before, but now…?) Her questions made me recall the good times I had at LDOE, and all the good people I worked with at the department and in the LEAs (School Districts) before the education reformers came her to discard us all like so much used toilet paper. Now that I am out, looking in, I see a lot of opportunities we missed, a lot more collaboration we could have done, and lack of focus and public engagement. I think it’s true many of us accepted a certain level of corruption, squabbling, and failure of and within out public school system and the various stakeholders that made us vulnerable to the faux school reform being offered by John White and his ilk. From talking to parents, kids, educators and superintendents I can see that what is going on is very disruptive, very harmful in many cases and aimed to destroy public education and drive out experienced educators. But what we had in the past had its share of problems as well.

Reform is designed to make education profitable, but it is not meant to actually improve the lots of the majority of our children, to improve our schools or to make education less expensive for tax payers. I think LDOE could have taken a more active roll working directly with our school districts and communities to improve our education systems. By not doing more, we allowed Reformers the room to write a narrative where the status quo was to blame for the lack of success in our school systems. In their narrative, by sweeping us out, great gains could be make and children would prosper. We became the enemy, the uncaring adults standing in the way of poor children getting a proper education, caring to much about our pensions and job titles and too little about those in our charge. However once we were gone, no one was left to watch the candy store, and success could be written however Reformers pleased, and they have. Having used our data and the media against us, Reformers learned all too well the value and danger of data and clamped down on the free flow of information that was our downfall.

You see, what we reported was not pretty, it was real. The roll poverty plays in impacting children’s education levels and opportunities is also very real. We knew this before we knew reform and reformers. We talked about it as an indisputable given, and it is. Just as it was true then, it is true now. Even knowing this we did too little to address this issue because it was not polite, it was not politically savvy, it was not pretty considering how very poor our state is, and the solution was not going to be cheap. By not addressing this problem ourselves, by not facing this harsh reality and actually trying to do something significant about it, we made ourselves and our state vulnerable to the snake oil salesmen of reform with their soothing lies that poverty is just an excuse made by lazy people or people that have low expectations. This is an appealing story in a country founded by hard working immigrants, tenacious inventors and shrewd entrepreneurs. Unfortunately it’s just that, a story, a fairytale, a ruse. Poverty does matter. And this is where data, and understanding data comes in.

Poverty is not an absolute, and our measure for this is crude and flawed.

targeting

Today we have laser guided missiles that can pinpoint targets accurately within inches from many miles away, from planes traveling at supersonic speeds. This allows us to discriminate among friendly targets and use more precise ordinance to accomplish a goal of eliminating an enemy combatant. Thousands of engineers and scientists running millions of simulations and expending millions or rounds went into that precise calculation. Many calculations are factored into how that missile flies and how accurate it can be, from wind speed, to precipitation and visibility.

The way we determine poverty is, for the most part, is just free and reduced lunch eligibility based on whether they applied and qualified for food stamps at some point in the last year. We don’t know how long children have qualified; we don’t know which kids were “poor” last year and no longer “poor” by this single metric. We don’t know which kids are “poor” but their parents refuse to allow school districts to label their kids this way, refuse the free lunches. Many parents do. This metric is very sloppy. We do not have relative poverty, there are no levels. Every student is classified as either “rich” or “poor”, and that difference may be only a few dollars a year in income or whether your parents applied for free lunches. Many high school students prefer to refuse lunch than be classified as free lunch, but doing so makes them “rich” to data folks even if they have no place to sleep on a regular basis and no regular meals, no stable parental influence at home. Reformers understand this, but most of you don’t.

Within this very flawed metric is where reformers, like Leslie Jacobs, work their magic. They tout high performing, high poverty schools.

New Orleans Gains Continue!

I am amazed and awed by the continued academic improvement of our schools and students. In 8 years:

We have more high performing, high poverty schools than anywhere else in Louisiana.

This is a grand achievement! (Even though they simultaneously refuse to recognize poverty is a factor in performance.)

School Performance Scores would factor in poverty if they really believed it was a factor. As things stand now, wealthier districts have very little chance of being taken over by the state while virtually every poor district in the state will be taken over as things are progressing now.

What is actually happening in New Orleans, where 90-95% of the children in the public school system are classified as “poor” by Louisiana’s definition, is that an additional “sorting” is taking place. Charter schools like KIPP are placing additional burdens on families to weed out those families with fewer hours to dedicate to service (because they are working two jobs to get by or because the kids are being raised by their grandparents, or a single parent who can’t afford child care.) Charter schools are weeding out children with discipline problems (student’s with numerous discipline problems usually have less stable lives and are often even poorer, than the one size fits all definition of “poor” kids the state recognizes.)

Data can be a valuable tool, for good and for ill. Sometimes it’s what we don’t measure, or can’t measure, that really matters.

Reformers have learned what metrics work best for their narrative and they have shrewdly learned not to measure or explain things that they can exploit because the measure is so crude. Just as we knew poverty was an issue that needed to be addressed, reformers know they are not really addressing the issue of educating poor kids. They are allowing charter schools to strategically filter out the poorest children to traditional schools, so they can claim success. To people just looking at the data they provide, those children are all the same, rich and poor. However reformers know and charter schools know there are poor kids, and then there are the poorest kids which they can shuttle off to traditional public schools. These organizations have invested heavily in R&D, and they have their own laser targeting systems they use behind the scenes to cherry pick the students they want and to eliminate the students they don’t want.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Defies Measurement Update

  1. Good points on importance of engaging communities, working with local schools and districts, and increasing collaboration! I think there are good ways to do this.

    What are your thoughts on how as citizens, parents, or community members to address these areas and improve collaboration, relationships, and coming to solutions at the local level?

    1. We must join our PTA/PTO organizations, go to our school board meetings, talk to our teachers (not just ones teaching our children) When we find things wrong we must contact our school board members and school officials. We need to work to ensure we have safe schools for both teachers and students and we need to see education as an I investment in not just our kid’s futures but the futures of our communities. Its a lot cheaper to invest tax dollars in schools over prisons, and the kids we empower with a solid education will be the parents, customers and entrepreneurs of our future, or the hoodlums we complain about. Providing a solid, well rounded, education is everyone’s responsibility. When we provide substandard educations, when we fail to instill a sense of pride and responsibility in our children, we have only ourselves to blame for the cyclic poverty, soaring crime and lack of economic opportunities and prosperity.

      1. Great thoughts! Being active and involved is very important. I also like the idea of working with local districts, communities, schools, educators, parents, & students to develop solutions to specific challenges at the local level. Forming those teams to listen & understand all perspectives; identify challenges (and more importantly, possible solutions to those challenges); and everyone taking ownership of some part of the effort to implement solutions–absolutely do-able and critical. Builds good local teams; weight is distributed more evenly; less blame; and more focus on what we are going to do and what is “my” individual role in my home, school, and/or community to make that happen.

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