True Leaders are not afraid to admit their mistakes and correct them

True Leaders are not afraid to admit their mistakes and correct them

It’s been a few thousand years since anyone was able to make a credible claim of being perfect. Anyone who expects perfection from our political leaders is setting themselves up for inevitable disappointment. I do not judge leaders based on whether they make mistakes, but whether they can own up to their mistakes and take the necessary steps to correct them. A true leader listens to criticism of their policies from their constituents and evaluates those critiques against their own actions. Factors on the ground can change. A decision that seemed correct at one time can be revealed later to have been flawed, based on incomplete or inaccurate information, or based on assumptions that turned out to be false.

I have seen two different approaches to providing leadership from our political elite lately about the same issue. The issue is Common Core. A few weeks ago, Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel explained why he endorsed Common Core. In his post reported by Lee Barrios on her blog, Appel claimed he would explain in depth why he supports it. What his post boiled down to was, he had already made up his mind about Common Core when it was first introduced, and once he makes up his mind about something he never budges no matter what.

I call this the head in the sand approach or the adult equivalent of covering up ones ears and saying loudly “Na! Na! Na! I can’t hear you I can’t hear you!” This approach is just as juvenile in adults as it is in children, and is not very becoming on a high ranking elected official.

My life has not been that of a politician. I started my own business forty years ago and have been dedicated to family, hard work, and self sacrifice. This personal history taught me one great rule that career politicians often ignore. The difference between my personal philosophy and theirs is that once I evaluate an issue and make a careful decision upon its merits, I will not alter my position to make my political life easier or because it would further my political ambitions. I find that too many of our leaders are far too willing to flip-flop on ideas or principles because such ideas frighten or offend one small segment of the political spectrum, or because such ideas create a politically uncomfortable situation for themselves. This is intellectually dishonest and I will never pander to special interests by abandoning my fundamental beliefs.

Senator Conrad Appel’s governing approach

 

The latest example I saw completely surprised me. Governor Bobby Jindal came out strongly against Common Core.

“We support higher standards and rigor in the classroom, but every day, concern among parents is growing over Common Core. The feds are taking over and rushing this. Let’s face it: centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education. Education is best left to local control,” said Jindal through a written statement.

I kept expecting a retraction or “clarification” that would have mitigated some of the sting of this prepared statement, but none was forthcoming. Instead what I saw was piling on by “former” allies like Chas Roemer, who dismissed and characterized Bobby Jindal as just another desperate politician taking a popular stand to further his national presidential ambitions.

“This is presidential politics,” said Roemer, a Common Core supporter, about the governor’s statement. “This is the politics of our governor, who is running for president.”

Wow.

My how the political winds have changed.

For years and Jindal has taken a wait and see approach to Common Core. I probably accused him of talking out of both sides of his mouth on the issue in previous comments or posts. However, nothing is standing in Bobby Jindal’s way of continuing that tactic. To come out so strongly and decisively against Common Core, which is still more popular than not (at least in statehouses and legislatures across the nation), would be a very strange tactic to pursue at this point. Jindal could have safely sat on the sidelines and allowed the Senate and Conrad “the ostrich” Appel to effectively block any and all Common Core legislation. The session is almost over and every bill proposing any form of modification has been defeated without Jindal having to take a definitive stand one way or the other. To come out so strongly against Common Core, which carries with it bazillions of potential donated dollars from corporations that stand to make a great deal off of it, makes no political sense whatsoever. The battle over Common Core is far from over, but in most states across the nation, Common Core is still the law of the land and many communities and parents are strongly divided over it. Siding with one side is bound to alienate the other side, and the “other side” has most of the money, lobbyists and power.

I have relayed in the past that my opposition to Common Core was a conversion after being exposed to how it was interpreted by the chief stakeholders (textbook and test making companies), deceptively and coercively imposed, and poorly implemented. Could it be that Bobby Jindal took a similar approach, and over time came to the realization that what he had been endorsing had too much wrong about it for him to stand passively by on the sidelines and let the conversation go where it wanted?

A strong leader in my mind is someone who confronts their mistakes and does something to correct them, even at some personal cost. It’s not someone who never makes mistakes in the first place or sticks their head in the sand and refuses to listen to opposing points of view for fear of being swayed. While I still differ with Jindal on a lot of issues, if he does act upon his latest set of words, and rejects PAARCC and removes Louisiana from being obligated to use Common Core, I will have to give him props for taking a politically risky move and perhaps following his conscience.

Could it be a gambit to court ideological conservatives? Perhaps. But there are much easier ways to do that with less potential fallout. Taking this stance now could seriously impact his fundraising potential and alienate folks who feel very strongly about supporting Common Core.

It will be interesting to see if these words blossom into actions. Bobby Jindal donated 5000 dollars to Chas Roemer’s last election campaign for BESE. While it would have been entirely reasonable and appropriate to explain his difference of opinion between the Governor’s stance and his own, to call him out publicly and ridicule him in the media was probably not the wisest course for Chas. I will be surprised if Chas runs for BESE again and receives another maximum contribution from the Governor, who Chas Roemer also unfavorably compared to President Obama.

“I don’t recall that ever happening…where a governor overrode or vetoed [school board] regulations,” Roemer said. “This is a maneuver that’s outside of the Legislative process. It is the same kind of maneuver that he attacked President Obama for doing.”

Chas Roemer has a funny way of supporting his allies. I wonder how that will work out for him next year when he’s looking for endorsements and support from presidential panderers, like he thinks Bobby Jindal is?

This brings me to a third type of leader . . . the really, really, dumb ones.

A Chas Roemer and John White feature presentation

Advertisements

John White’s Journey: Why he decided to ask his Louisiana Department of Education to alter student test scores

John White’s Journey: Why he decided to ask his Louisiana Department of Education to alter student test scores

Believe it or not, John White did not start off with the intent of trying to delude Louisiana into believing his education reforms worked simply by altering a few scores. At first I think White believed much of his own rhetoric. Namely:

  • that teachers were lazy and holding kids back with their incompetence
  • that State workers were lazy union wannabe’s, and essentially worthless
  • that IT folks were unnecessary
  • that data would almost magically flow in the department’s coffers with little effort on anyone’s part
  • that most corporations in the education business had kids best interests at heart
  • that charter schools are inherently better than all public schools
  • that simply improving reading and math test scores is the keystone to unlocking all other student learning and overcoming the challenges of poverty
  • that Common Core will improve student outcomes and level the playing field across the nation
  • and that the data will eventually prove that all of his education “reforms” were a success.

John White always wanted to be “the Decider”, a difference maker, a leader of a Nationwide Education Reform movement destined to change the entire landscape of education, schools and teaching, for the better – or so he thought. But there were a lot entrenched interests in his way, ready to pounce on any misstep, any nuance, any faltering. John White knew this, was told this, and had done this himself. Reformers used this approach to make inroads across the nation and even the world, by harping on data often taken out of context or interpreted in self-serving ways. This is what his team, the Reformers, specialized in. White knew exactly how to defeat this move and buy enough time for his vision to work its magic. To defeat people who use data to criticize the status quo, which he had now become, he needed to starve them for data. Like the propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, John White knew he needed to be the sole provider and purveyor of data and messaging to achieve a history making goal that would be thwarted otherwise. Without any real data, just summarized and sanitized data delivered without any historical or comparative context, White knew he could define his program as successful until it had time to grow into the success he envisioned; that he “Believed” it would be. His first official major act as head of LDOE was to cut off communications with the schools districts, media, researchers and legislature – except through carefully monitored channels and calculated messaging.

At first, I really think John White believed he would change the nation and the world with his ideas, and sacrificing a little honesty was not that great a price for the glorious prize (in his mind) he was working for. Then reality started to creep in. Governor Jindal started to exert his control by inserting a voucher program White disagreed with, but White knuckled under and by all appearances seemed to back it under the frequently bandied guise of “Choice.” John White wanted to develop a new revolutionary system to grade and evaluate teachers and so COMPASS was created, but VAM (Value Added Modeling) was already in place and approved by the legislature. Over time White began to realize VAM was a sham, that there were many flaws in his VAM system for teachers as the extremes (teaching very advanced or severely disabled students) and students with significant emotional problems that might not have been diagnosed. At first he believed these were simply small factors, and would by and large the vast majority of teachers were being graded accurately, and his ally Chas Roemer and Bobby Jindal really wanted this system to work. It also had the added bonus of eliminating and demoralizing many experienced teachers to make room for TFA to supply and offload their growing surplus of teachers in more agreeable geographies. However as the Seabaugh Solution showed, White was not opposed to rejiggering the entire formula and outcomes for the entire state to appease a single legislator, Alan Seabaugh from Shreveport, to fix the outcomes to ensure three teachers of gifted students were defined as effective by definition. This redefined numerous other teachers as ineffective as a result. This change was not done as a result of mathematics, but political expediency. When his entire staff that designed the VAM system quit in protest and word came to light of how White had simply altered the entire outcome for the entire state for a political reason, which no doubt caused the firing of many teachers and financially impacted numerous others through raises or no raises, and no significant personal cost came of this John White realized he could do anything he wanted to scores and formulae and as long as he stayed in the graces of the status quo, nothing and no one could touch him. After this fiasco John White simply created a bonus point scheme for teachers evaluated under VAM that he could dispense as needed. A few folks picked up on this, but no major media cared because they were controlled by many of the same forces that protected John White. Additionally, John White learned that anything to do with math immediately causes the public and reporters to lose interest and fall asleep. You can do anything with a formula, add any points for any reason, just as long as you name it and come up with a rationale, however flimsy. Most people who take tests are not able to add bonus points themselves to the results after they get those results. John White has been enabled to operate differently by a lack of sustained interest, outrage, or understanding by the general public.

The thought process that resulted in John White asking to have student test scores directly inflated was a gradual one, and not altogether as insane as you might first think considering the wide latitude he had been given in his brief tenure as Louisiana Superintendent. I say “insane” because I really thought the idea was crazy when I first heard it. It wasn’t until I connected the historical dots that show a directly linear path that I realized doing so would not only be absolutely in character but completely reasonable to an “ends justifies the means” operator, like White.

John White has also been altering SPS (School Performance Scores) to suit his agenda. He has done this by selectively including and excluding data and students, changing the impacts and penalties for disabled students and students performing below grade level, and adding bonus points based on formulae that cannot be verified and have room to be reconfigured and calculated multiple ways until he achieves the outcome he wants. Most people don’t realize the formula for calculating scores has changed every year since Katrina in 2005, and probably before that. They also don’t realize that John White has a say over where the “cut-off” score is set every year. By changing the cut-off score after you get all the results in, you can achieve almost any result you want. Set the cut-off score lower, more kids score basic or above, fewer kids are defined as below basic or “failing”. If you want people to tell you that you are doing a great job and that your reforms are working, simply set a lower cut-off score every year. Eventually though, this tactic will catch up with you.

For Example: Let’s say you set the cut-off score at 5 out of 10 for basic one year, 7 as Mastery and 9 as Advanced, 3 as Approaching Basic and 1 as Unsatisfactory. The next year you could set the cutoff score as 4 for basic, making a score of 6 Mastery, 8 Advanced, 2 as Approaching Basic and 0 as Unsatisfactory. If performance actually stayed the same, it would look like you had improved outcomes by simply changing the “cut” score.

I’m told this this has been going on for a while to show progress where there was none. If you were to lower the score again you might actually have an unusually low number of “Unsatisfactories” and large number of Approaching Basics. This is one of the reasons John White probably released category summary counts this year, removed the summaries by district and embargoed the scores until after the legislative session. He lowered the cut score too low to where the manipulation would be obvious. If what I’ve been told is correct, students did much, much, worse this year to where the cut-scores can’t be lowered enough to where the overall numbers won’t look fishy. Results are down statewide, even with the much lower cut-score. There are too few students at the upper ends and most of the student lumped into the approaching basic after the cut score determinations.

Apparently John White had his vendor recalculate the designations (Mastery, Advanced, Basic, Approaching Basic, Unsatisfactory) several times with several different cut scores before realizing the only way to get the numbers he wanted was to actually alter the scores or designations directly. This approach was actually ideal, because he could raise the scores of charters and RSD to where they look better than traditional public schools, making the case for them stronger. If the scores were reported as too low across the state while the legislative session was ongoing, it would call into question the Common Core initiative and breathe life into the resistance movement. If Common Core had been tested against PARCC this year, a completely new test that has already been responsible for lower test scores across the nation, poor performance could easily have been explained away and comparing it to previous test results would have impossible. PARCC allows White to “reset” the cut-score scale and gradually lower the cut score to show “improvement” if students don’t improve on their own. My guess is he gave up on altering the test scores after word of this plan came to light, thus the reason for the delayed results, merged categories, lies about deadlines, and embargoing.

John White wanted to make a difference in education. It turns out he got his wish. The data is in, and it turns out he made a big difference in Louisiana. Unfortunately the difference he made was all bad, but nothing a low cut-score and ambiguous reporting can’t fix. Atter all, this is Math we’re talking about, and with Common Core mathematics the deception will only get easier.

 

Test Score Gate – for John White, Failure was not an option

 

I first learned about the Test Score Gate Friday May 16th while I was investigating some LODE payroll fraud, textbook kickback, using grants to reward allies and as bribes, and additional irresponsible data collection stories. I’m still pursuing those leads but this story has leapt to the fore in the collective consciousness in the meantime.

To give some background and context, May 16th was a date LDOE had listed on their calendar as the date they would release how students did on standardized iLEAP and LEAP tests. These days, test performance has become hyped as the end-all-be-all in education. This year I have received numerous reports of school districts neglecting all other coursework and studies, for months prior to testing, to drill and kill students on test questions. These scores are used to determine SPS scores for schools (which determine which schools get closed or handed over to charter operators by the state), which teachers get fired or receive bonuses, and which student get promoted or retained or have to take summer school. Test scores have been made into a big deal and big business in Louisiana thanks to the efforts of John White and Paul Pastorek before him.

At the very first meeting John White had with the Louisiana Department of Education he told us if we were not directly involved with raising student’s math scores or English scores, we would not be working there much longer. Suffice it to say, John White has really made a big deal and placed a great amount of emphasis on testing and test scores. This is his primary focus and the measure of how he wants us to determine the success or failure of our teachers, schools and students. It’s how he wants to be measured as well. To not be prepared to release these scores on time would have been unthinkable with such a mindset.

My investigation confirmed that John White has all the reports and numbers run more than a week before the scheduled release date. However there was one thing he still wanted LDOE staff to do. He wanted them to get more directly involved in improving student test scores – than I thought they had been in the past. He wanted them to manually alter the test scores to make charters and RSD look good and traditional public schools look bad. I had no idea this was what he meant by having us (LDOE staff) directly involved with improving test scores in our state. Apparently, somehow, even I gave John White and his cadre of TFA cohorts too much credit. With so much money, so many businesses, and his future career prospects riding on his reforms being proven successful, failure was not an option.

I have been working behind the scenes to try and bring these accusers and allegations to light – once I verified that this could have been done and appears to have been done in the past. Through intermediaries I have reached out to past and present LDOE employee(s) that might know more or who were asked to alter test scores. I am told he/she/they have clammed up and are not talking to anyone. It was foolish for him/her/them to volunteer this information in the first place if they were not going to follow through with and official complaint. There are only a few employees who could have been asked to alter test scores, and John White knows who he and his cronies asked, so there is no question that this/these leakers have been identified internally. It is irresponsible for them not to come forward now. What they were asked to do was criminal and by refusing to come forward they are endangering the lives of children and families and aiding in the misallocation of state and federal funds. Knowledge of serious crimes and failure to report it to authorities is in and of itself a criminal act. This situation is very, very serious and will not go away now, as much as they might regret speaking out now.

(My guess is John White is biding his time until the legislature adjourns while he works out a way to paint these folks as rogue actors whereupon he will terminate them and show us all how he foiled a plot of misguided employees trying to kiss up to their bosses for a promotion.)

Once you have been terminated and this story is put out there first, it will be a lot harder for you to tell your side(s) of the story, and be believed. You will be written off as disgruntled employees trying to get revenge on your honest employer. The time to come forward is now.

Test scores are enormously important in this State in terms of money and power. The incentive to alter them is significant, and amazingly there are no outside auditors that verify the accuracy of this data or how it is used. These scores determine the allocation of hundreds of millions of federal funds and billions of dollars in state funding. Altering scores to fraudulently dispense funding and to take over schools and to fire teachers are criminal acts but almost undetectable. This request to change test scores to support Common Core, charters and RSD and likely to accelerate school takeovers was made with forethought and malice and knowledge that it would be almost impossible to discover. Thousands of students’ lives have been disrupted. Students promoted prematurely may be unprepared for the next grades – just because a test score that was altered to improve the RSD or charter school they attend, these students could be harmed by this action for life. Students that are retained incorrectly may suffer permanent self-esteem issues and dropout – impacting not just their lives, but the lives of their future children, spouses, and families. To tamper with these scores, upon which John White has staked his entire reputation and the reputation of his reforms on, is a deed beyond dastardly, it’s criminal and it needs to be investigated by the FBI before any more evidence is tampered with or destroyed.

Below are some of the stories and words that set me on my current path.

http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/john-white-requires-districts-to-embargo-leap-summative-public-reports/

http://louisianavoice.com/2014/05/19/ldoe-under-pastorek-and-white-manipulated-data-for-grant-eligibility-for-rsd-charter-schools-former-employee-claims/

http://louisianavoice.com/2014/05/17/learning-is-more-than-a-test-score-but-john-white-still-tries-to-cook-the-test-score-books-at-rsd-but-doe-staffers-refuse/

Now comes word from within the department that LDOE employees have balked at White’s demands to tweak the results for the Recovery School District (RSD) and this little development has thrown a wrinkle into the scheduled release of the test scores.

I will explain in subsequent posts additional information I have discovered and why I believe the LDOE under John White has become a criminal organization and needs to be investigated for racketeering but I wanted to get this story, confirmation, and entreaty out first before anymore grass grows beneath my feet.

 

 

 

 

La. Superintendent John White Requires Districts to Embargo LEAP Summary Public Reports

There is more to these stories than I first suspected. I have confirmed some information through my sources and have a few new interesting tidbits to reveal.

deutsch29

When it comes to the 2014 Louisiana Education Assessment Program (LEAP) scores he was supposed to release on Friday, May 16, 2014, Louisiana State Superintendent John White has apparently found himself in an unfamiliar fix regarding his characteristic “water muddying.”

It seems that in this instance, his Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) underlings have refused to airbrush LEAP scores in order to create a false luster of behalf of the predominately-charter-showcased Recovery School District (RSD).

What to do?

Well, for starters, refuse to honor the deadline. Never mind how much of a selfish, self-serving ripple such an action forces upon all state districts that are trying to wrap up one school year while planning for another– which includes planning for requisite LEAP summer remediation.

Also, be sure to provide districts with a directive on how to report scores, including new, fuzzy score report “groupings” that conceal the precision of the…

View original post 501 more words

LDOE under Pastorek and White manipulated data for grant eligibility for RSD charter schools, former employee claims

People need to familiarize themselves with this article and another one by Mercedes Schneider before I release my findings.

Louisiana Voice

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) for at least three years manipulated qualification requirements for several New Orleans charter schools so that they would qualify for millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a former LDOE employee who now works for a parish school district and who asked that his name not be revealed.

The employee told LouisianaVoice that the practice started under former Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek and continued at least in John White’s first year as superintendent.

He said the recipients were “four or five” schools in the Recovery School District in New Orleans and all were charter schools. “LDOE employees were told to manipulate the data to allow the schools to qualify for the federal grants and each of the schools was subsequently approved.”

He said the data were also skewed in some instances to block grant eligibility for other schools.

One criterion was that the school…

View original post 478 more words

Data Security Fail: John White and LDOE up to their old irresponsible data tricks again

Data Security Fail: John White and LDOE up to their old irresponsible data tricks again

 

John White recently testified multiple times in front of the Louisiana House Education Committee that he has a firm commitment to student privacy and takes his responsibilities toward ensuring the department only collects data that is absolutely necessary and does so responsibly. He made the argument that without detail student level data, the Department would not be able to fulfil their reporting duties lain out by the federal government and auditing duties to ensure data is being accurately reported. When State Representative John Schroeder introduced a bill a few months back that only allowed LDOE to collect aggregated data, John White was adamant that he would not be able to adequately report to the legislature and federal government. Neither assertion is true. White also assured House members he took great pains to safeguard information and that he did not need to document all the data elements he was collecting, or what they were being collected for, but we could be sure they were only collecting exactly what was needed.

All of these claims were complete lies, but they sounded convincing to most folks and I was not asked by any Senator or Representative to debunk them, despite my numerous offers to cut through White’s BS before the session and during it. (If anyone would like to contact me I am still available.) I’ve worked with other state’s privacy advocates and Senators so I’m not sure why ours have not accepted my numerous offers. (I was told more than half a dozen times that I would be called or contacted about the various privacy bills making their ways through the Senate and House, but these promises never materialized into any actual direct correspondence. I find that . . . interesting. Perhaps folks don’t want to know the truth? But I digress.)

Last I checked Louisiana has a privacy bill that has been voted on in the House but which has not been taken up in the Senate. As this legislative session closes it appears less and less likely every day that we will get a privacy bill through the legislature and onto Governor Jindal’s desk to sign. I can only assume Jindal will sign such a bill since he has had his folks publicly support it while it made its way through the House.

This brings me to this week’s latest finding that might be of some interest to parents and legislators pondering data privacy and security issues and the promises John White made just a few weeks ago in front of cameras, parents, legislators, the press, and God. His testimony is still available to review if you care to take the time to listen. . . But back to the latest example of LDOE incompetence under John White.

Introducing the new:

Alternative School/Program Data Collection

Please forward to district alternative school/program staff.
The 2013-14 Annual Report on Alternative Education Schools/Programs is a report submitted to BESE on the effectiveness of alternative education schools and programs. Please complete the school/program overview and student roster layout provided (under Announcements to the right) by May 23, 2014
and email a signed and scanned copy of the overview to Renee Montogmery at
renee.montgomery@la.gov. The alternative program/school roster should be uploaded via your districts’ secured FTP site. For questions regarding data collection, layout/template, or FTP upload instructions, please contact Crystal Wilkinson at crystal.wilkinson@la.gov.

 

LDOE created a new data collection they want LEAs to submit by May 25th of 2014 that they introduced on May 2nd. LDOE is asking school districts to aggregate all their data for them on the first page, which is the data they really want, but they also want LEAs to submit student level data (that they already have and that was obtained more securely) via an unencrypted Excel Spreadsheet. Element H, Student Sate ID, is Social Security number for 97+% of students in Louisiana. They are having schools and districts submit this along with a student’s full name and Date of Birth to ensure if this info was stolen it could be used to obtain credit cards and apply for loans. To ensure student’s privacy rights will be violated they are asking LEAs to define students as dropouts, their discipline records, whether they were expelled, and if they are disabled.

Wow.

They did this while the legislative session is still going on.

They are doing this after they testified they don’t request info unnecessarily. (All of this info is already in their possession except dropouts – which are not final and are official produced by LDOE not school districts, and the program code.)  None of that data is necessary if they just collect the summary page which I have no objection to as long as this was only done this one year and next year the program element was collected in SIS properly.

LDOE attempted to collect this data in a wildly irresponsible way that no one would endorse as a safe or proper way to collect data (Even themselves when questioned about it.) Here is an official response from Barry Landry, official spokesperson for LDOE. I asked who was in charge or this and questioned the wisdom of doing this (in a less civil way to be sure.) The response I got back was mildly reassuring . . . at first.

Jason,

 This original form is not an appropriate way to collect this data,  [emphasis mine] and the Department has taken down this form. No information or data concerning alternative schools or programs was submitted by any district to the Department.  

 Barry

 

It took LDOE a few days to get back to me. (I learned they were scrambling around based on my initial inquiries and trying to get their stories straight.) I did verify they took the information about the collection down from their “Insight” portal, where they communicate with school district personnel indirectly. Per John White, LDOE staff are not permitted to talk directly to school districts on the off chance they would provide helpful information accidentally. That is not made up or even the slightest bit sarcastic. I’d tell you to ask a current LDOE staffer if this was true, but they would not be able to answer you without worrying about being fired. Instead I ask you to ask a recently departed staff member and verify.

Now, back to the data collection. I was briefly encouraged that LDOE was taking my concerns, parent’s concerns seriously for once. I actually figured they would just hold off on collecting this data this way until after the legislative session, so legislators would go home without passing any serious student privacy and data security legislation and go about business as usual. However, even I was surprised that Kim Nesmith, the creator of this data collection, immediately contacted SIS (Student Information System) vendors and denied that they were doing away with this collection, or even that they were doing away with this data collection method. She told them to continue building the reports and files less than 5 hours after I received an e-mail from Barry Landry at LDOE that “this was not an appropriate way to collect data”. The following e-mail was sent by one of the SIS vendors to their client. Apparently they were contacted around noon.

I have been in contact with the state. They have not made that decision yet. They may or may not require the file at this time. They just don’t know.

I will keep you up to date as I get more information. Please forward me the statement from Barry Landry saying they won’t need the report.

It is true they took the form down about this data collection. (at least for a few hours)  It may be true that no data was transmitted this way. What is missing is any confirmation that they are not collecting data this inappropriate way. All Barry reported to me was they took the form down (true) and that no data was transmitted this way. (I have not verified this one way or the other yet.)

When I saw this collection, I knew right away that Kim Nesmith was behind it. I verified this on my own later although, and one of the contacts listed as a contact reports directly to her, but LDOE refused to confirm this officially. However this is not the first time Kim has collected data this way. In 2011 she demanded IT collect data this way for students that were corporally punished or bullied and for identified bullies. I refused to collect this data this way because I believed it was dangerous, inefficient and stupid, however I was overruled by Patrick Dobard (currently the superintendent of RSD, then Superintendent Paul Pastorek, and Kim Nesmith.) What happened was Kim collected this data herself, but was unable to use it to build any reports so I was called in to link the hundreds of excel data files and report from them. Paul, Patrick and I are gone, but Kim remains. Kim no longer has anyone that can summarize the data, hence the summary page.

Kim is also LDOE’s FERPA compliance person in IT, the supervisor in charge of data collections and data collectors (including student data collections), and the self-titled Data Quality Director. Yep. Kim is the person who LDOE put in charge of ensuring your students’ data is treated carefully and securely, that data is reported accurately, and that school districts know what to report.

I will have more information on current issues facing the data collections department, under Kim, in future posts. I have been getting specific complaints about her from school districts for years. I’ve done my best to give LEAs information they can feed back to LDOE to fix the data problems they have been having in the wake of firing or driving off all the experienced and qualified IT staff, but it has gotten so bad that even if I get step by step instructions on what to fix Kim’s staff is unable to address any of the problems they are having. Currently they are unable to properly calculate dropouts. I believe they are also the reason LDOE gave incorrect budget numbers to the legislature at the start of the session that John White tried to vaguely explain away.

White said $35 million of this year’s shortfall is tied to having higher-than-estimated student enrollment for the 2013-14 school year.

This is the 2013-2014 school year. We have those numbers in October 2013 and February 2014. How could they have been surprised if they had the actual numbers 6 months prior to being surprised unless the numbers they originally collected were wrong?

I don’t blame Kim’s staff. With proper training and a competent supervisor I’m sure they would do fine. I blame Kim for claiming she knew what she was doing and for driving off all the people that did know what they were doing. I blame John White for promoting her, putting her in charge of our children’s data, for and keeping her around this long. This is exactly the type of situation you should expect from putting someone with a Home Economics degree in charge of Statewide data collections and data security and privacy. My degree is in Accounting and I specialized on systems accounting and design, but I would make a terrible dress maker.  Just sayin’. . .

Here are the actual files LDOE took down but probably still plans to use once the session is over unless by some miracle enough legislators start taking data privacy and security seriously enough to pass some meaningful legislation.

Copy of 2013-14 Alternative Schools Programs Data Collection Layout

Facilitating the Reporting of Alternative Programs and Schools

 

Louisiana’s Texbook Selection Shenanigans

Louisiana’s Texbook Selection Shenanigans

I was recently contacted to investigate some the selection process used by LDOE to select their textbook vendors for the upcoming school year. I was informed that LDOE had chosen only a single vendor for Tier 1 status for ELA and Math, and that districts were being told if they did not choose one of these two vendors they would face sanctions and punitive actions from the Department. The vendors selected were Eureka, for Math, and Core Knowledge for ELA (English Language Arts).

Eureka Math

Eureka is the bastard love child of Engage New York, (sometimes referred to as EnRage New York) and the Common Core creators themselves and sometimes referred to as merely an Engage NY that you pay for. Engage NY is a “free” Common Core aligned curriculum resource created with funding from a multi-million dollar grant (around 12 or 13 million if I recall) provided by the New York department of Education. (Theoretically LSU had a hand in the development of this curriculum as well. I met with Dr. James Madden from LSU about a few months ago and he confirmed he was personally involved.) Several districts in Louisiana, including EBR where my kids attend, had the misfortune of adopting Engage NY this past year. Engage NY was widely acknowledged in much of the media as confusing and plagued with errors on most of their instructional materials. I created a post this year on my first graders homework that went viral and still gets a lot of attention (including just yesterday when comic Louis C.K. went on a Twitter rant against his third grader’s Common Core homework and someone posted my article as an example of the absurdity of Common Core Math.) Despite numerous available products, Louisiana is the only state to define Eureka as their sole Math aligned provider solution.


Could this really be the only aligned product on the market, or is there more going on here?

Why is Louisiana the only State in the nation that figured this out?

Amazing.

Core Knowledge

Core Knowledge is “free” online curriculum provider.
The Core Knowledge Foundation was founded in 1986 by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. However recently the foundation sold the rights to reproduce and sell material to Amplify, a Rupert Murdoch NewsCorp company headed by Louisiana Superintendent of Education’s last bosses from New York, Joel Klein, and Kristen Kane. While marketed as “free” these products are unusable by most school districts in their “free” state, and the Amplify versions are far from free:

Amplify and Newscorp looks to make a killing here, on free material that they sell for anything but free. They are leveraging this into getting folks to buy expensive supplemental materials, or subscription services to digital tablets for 200 dollars year, before you even get any customized software!

Nice Score, Rupert and Joel. Louisiana looks to be taking Mississippi’s place as the poorest state in the Union after you are through with us.

 

So what else did I find?

I did not hear any specific reports from school districts that confirmed schools and districts would be penalized directly for choosing to go with another product. What I did see was a lot of overt pushing from the department to adopt these vendors and their materials. (If you have a story that confirms this allegation please send it to me at crazycrawfish@yahoo.com .) LDOE is only providing professional development and support to teachers of schools and districts that adopt one of these two products.

Both of these products have free online only versions of their material. However if your school district does not provide a laptop and internet connection to every single student in your district, this won’t help very much. School districts will have to spend a lot of time and resources printing out the materials of these vendors in districts that don’t provide tablets or laptops to every student. So either districts will have to spend hundreds of dollars per student to provide tablets and or more for laptops as well as the infrastructure to support such an investment (laptops don’t fix themselves and they break quite often in the hands of even well intentioned kids) or they will have to print out entire textbooks for each student every year. Those printed versions will have to be replaced every year since you can’t expect unbound copies of printout to me reusable. Printing out this material also negates any value of online interaction and will yield a substandard product devoid of color pictures (unless districts want to spend more annually on temporary printouts than they would on real textbooks once every 5 to 10 years or so.)

Here is one of the many messages that the Department has sent out pimping Eureka and Core Knowledge. John White states curriculum is a local choice, meanwhile he only provides one choice for school districts to choose from, and helpfully provides pricing information and offers to give support only to districts that select this one vendor.

February 11, 2014

Superintendent’s Message

Dear Colleagues:

 Thanks to District Planning Teams across the state, Louisiana’s plan for increased, intensive support of curriculum, assessment, and technology plans has launched successfully. Already, guided by the District Planning Guide, districts are reviewing their technology assessments and examining 2015 sample test questions. This week the Department will begin to share the results of its instructional review process, designed to provide districts information on curricula that are aligned to new academic expectations. In weeks to follow, the Department will produce curriculum guidebooks that help teachers to plan for the school year.

 It is important to note that curriculum will remain an issue for local schools and school systems to select and create. Curriculum is a local choice in Louisiana. [You may choose among any of the following one choices. Take your time. Oh, and here are some curriculum guidebooks the State has created for you to use as your local choice.]

In order to assist local schools and districts in making those choices, over the last four months the Department has solicited math textbooks from publishers for review to determine their level of alignment with the Common Core State Standards. Teachers and state staff together reviewed the submissions, carefully scrutinizing each for full alignment and the in-depth demonstration of skills expected of students on new assessments, and listing each with a “tier” representing its level of alignment. “Tier three” textbooks demonstrate minimal alignment; “tier two” textbooks demonstrate moderate alignment; “tier one” textbooks demonstrate full alignment. Schools and districts can then use this information as they see fit in planning for next year.

While the Department will continue to release textbook reviews over the coming weeks, in order to allow you and your teams access to early information, we are announcing that at this time Eureka Math was the lone submitted math curriculum demonstrating full alignment with the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. As a result, the Department will be launching a set of increased supports for those districts and schools choosing to adopt this curriculum, and your district will be able to get a head start on planning for next year: [Increased supports, means only supporting this choice. The State department of Education is only endorsing one vendor, and endorsing them hard up to advertising their products on their website and in e-mails to them. Does anyone know if that’s legal? Not that it matters, John White ignores the law with impunity, I was just wondering.]

 Access Eureka Math materials:

  • Eureka Math is currently and will remain free for download and district/school printing.
  • Eureka Math is now also available for purchase. Student workbooks and printed teacher editions are both available. 
  • The state is working to finalize a state-wide contract with locked in Louisiana prices for these printed materials and will be available March 1st.  
  • Eureka Math professional development: The Department will provide over 1,000 Eureka Math professional development seats beginning in June through the summer and fall.  In addition, the Department is securing lower purchase costs for Eureka PD. Click here to see an overview of the Eureka Math PD offerings available for purchase.  Lower prices along with a state contract and free training details will be available by March 1st. 
  • Additional math support:  In addition, the department will begin releasing math guidebooks on March 1st. These guide books will include rigorous instructional tasks, practice assessment items, and guidance on standard by standard remediation. The items included here are samples of the materials soon to be available in the math guidebooks.  

 We will share information regarding English language arts next week.

Our state’s choice [My choice, John White, and mine alone. Even the Governor is speaking out against it. The majority of the State is rejecting Common Core by about 70%. Those for it do not have children being subjected to it or are profiting from it as a general rule.] to adopt higher expectations for student work will pay great dividends for our state and its children. But our teachers must have the tools and training needed to make the shift. Provided tools, support, and time to learn the new expectations, they will thrive. As so will kids. [<==is this Common Core English? These are the folks evaluating out textbooks? Lord, help us all.]

 As always, thank you for all you do for our children,

 John  

 John White

Louisiana Department of Education

Sounds more like a sales pitch than a simple endorsement. All of the districts I spoke to had already selected vendors on their own. It makes sense though. If you are a district, why would you wait for a year after implementation to select a vendor? Only new districts should really be in this boat . . . like new charter schools or like RSD, which is state run. Could this be a creative way to support only charter schools, RSD and select allies with a heads up about these selections beforehand?

Apparently the review of materials was mostly cursory. Some might suggest LDOE already had the exact vendors it intended to go with in mind before the review even began. I received reports of vendors reported hearing back their materials were placed in a lower tier almost immediately. This did not stop LDOE from breaking with tradition and charging each vendor 500 dollars per textbook to review.

I wondered how they managed this feat so I looked at the actual reviews. Here is an example of one. If they answered a “No” to any of the first 4 “non-negotiable” questions, the reviewers skipped the rest of the review process. Sort of a like a get out of reviewing free card, but thanks for the 500 bucks.

 

As you will see from the link below. Only Core Knowledge and Eureka fit the approved profile. Interesting enough, we’re nearing the need of the school year and the beginning of the special professional development John White has advertised, and he still has no supported vendor for grades 4-12 for ELA. Wow. I wonder when districts will be notified which vendor they should be jump into purchasing in May to attend these workshops which I was told are starting in June before the School year starting in August?

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/academics/2013-2014-math-and-english-language-arts-instructional-materials-review/curricular-resources-annotated-reviews

 

So to recap:

  • John White has only selected a single vendor that is complaint with his rigorous standards. One is the patent holder of Common Core, which shares the patent with CCSSO, an organization John White and Holly Boffy work for when they are not being Superintendent and BESE members for Louisiana. The other is Core Knowledge which was bought by Rupert Murdoch and is run by two folks he used to work for in New York City.
  • John White has pimped these products on department letterhead and on the Department website, complete with links to these products.
  • John White has decided only districts that adopt these products will get oodles of professional support and development.
  • Most districts have already selected materials before his announcements.
  • Training on these products begins next month, and he has not defined all the products for all the grade levels in May.
  • Districts will not get textbooks if they use the free products, they will have to either print them out at a cost comparable to buying textbooks, but which are not reusable every year and of substandard quality, or districts will have to buy laptops and home internet connectivity for all students. (This will be a great deal only for virtual charter schools which already do this.)

Maybe students and teachers should simply employ John White’s trademark motto,” Louisiana Believes” can just “Believe”?

Maybe if they believe real hard they can imagine themselves up some textbooks for next year?

In the meantime, you better believe that John White will be making sure Rupert Murdoch and Common Core make a killing off of the only two vendors that are good enough for John White (and his future career opportunities.)