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.
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.