How John White Will Use His Own Failures to Sink Governor Elect John Bel Edwards (If he stays on)

I have been writing for years about the numerous ways John White has been lying about the “progress” his agenda has brought the state of Louisiana.  White has inflated the graduate rate, inflated the matriculation rate, depressed the dropout counts, flipped the LEAP and End of Course test scores to show Louisiana students are doing better,  while they are actually doing much worse, sheltered RSD and charter schools from investigations, wiped out the Special Education department and forced his employees to commit fraud to keep their jobs on a routine basis and violated federal laws and policies in regards to funding allocations, shared data illegally with third party vendors and researchers that only favor his agenda while withholding data from independent researchers (for years) costing the state many thousands of dollars in litigation fees.  These are just a few of the underhanded and unethical practices John White has engaged in on a regular basis.  White even has one of his former lieutenants in place on the State’s board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  All of this bodes ill for John Bel if he is not able to remove John White promptly, and properly audit, recalculate and re-report the previous years’ fraudulently prepared education data.

John White has quietly amassed an enormous power base in Louisiana.  He has legislators, superintendents, super Pacs, LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry run by a Grigsby figurehead), APEL  a pseudo teachers union run by a LABI/Grigsby promoted figurehead, The Times Picayune editorial board, The Advocate editorial board and management, Teach for America (who also has a BESE member, Kira Orange Jones that will support White unquestioningly), Stand for Children (run by a former White/LDOE staffer) ,CABL, BAEO (run by a former White/LDOE staffer), DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), and Lane Grigsby in his back pocket. That’s just to name of few of his instate supporter power players and organizations.

White also has the ability to draw down millions of dollars from out of state ed reform minded billionaires to wage war on John Bel Edwards on his behalf.  Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jim and Alice Walton, that spent millions defaming BESE candidates across the state (for unpaid positions) in the recent elections.  Unless John Bel wants to turn his entire education agenda over to these groups, he will be unendingly assailed by them throughout his term.  He will probably be attacked even then because:

  • LABI would like to find a way to remove him and put someone loyal to them on every issue.
  • John Bel have to renege on his promises to do something about John White, Common Core, and the corruptions and malfeasance at LDOE.

The latter would alienate many of the folks  I rallied to support him based on the belief JBE would have our backs.

LABI and these other groups would still angle to remove John Bel with outrageous lies and misrepresentations, like they did for so many of the BESE candidates in the last elections.

The most diabolical aspect of this is; John White could simply agree to everything John Bel asks him to do, he could cooperate in every way, and he could even release the actual data starting from day one of John Bel’s term.  Unfortunately, this would prove disastrous.

John White has built an enormous and unfounded success data bubble.  If this pops only during John Bel’s term in office, and the scores are not properly recalculated for previous years, it will be an easy claim to make and support, that:

  • John Bel ruined education in Louisiana.

I expect White and his staff, along with Lane Grigsby and Bridgette Nieland with LABI, are working on some plan like this right now at LDOE to propose to John Bel and his leadership team.

This will be a poisoned olive branch, much like the Common Core compromise turned out to be for actual anti-Common Core BESE candidates this fall.  LABI’s candidates also claimed to be against Common Core, and for Louisiana Standards.  They sent out mailers proudly proclaiming their disdain for Common Core, support for high standards, and embracement of the Common Core compromise.  Some BESE candidates, like the re-elected Holly Boffy, even ludicrously claimed to have led the fight against Common Core, while actually getting paid by CCSSO to support and promote it as a paid consultant.

Truth has no meaning to these people.  Lane Grigsby actually met with me and told me he was tired of all the education politics and was going to be sitting out getting heavily involved this year.  Instead he raised millions of dollars to launch misleading, continuous, and deceitful attack ads on his opponents while also donating and having all of his friends and family donate the maximum allowable amount to the candidates he supported.  Based on the similarity of all the produced commercials and mailouts for all 9 candidates he supported it is very likely he had a hand in running both candidates actual campaigns as well as the Super Pac that also promoted them.  This type of coordination is theoretically a no-no, but I have yet to hear of anyone ever sanctioned in any way for doing this.

I would recommend getting knowledgable and outspoken critics of John White and Common Core placed on the board as his appointees – from different political parties.  Fortunately there are quite a few great candidates for these jobs available – still sore from the lies John White and his allies used to assail them.  Motivation for counter-attacking and applying pressure to John White should not be an issue for these folks, as they already have lengthy track records in putting  students, teachers and parents before corporations and firsthand experience at how these shady folks work. I would also recommend putting someone like me in charge of education policy or LDOE’s IT department, which is now a division of DOA and not beholden to John White – thanks to Jindal’s statewide IT reorganization.  The governor has complete authority over DOA.  Once John White is removed, most of his unclassified executive staff should be jettisoned as well.  I would also recommend putting someone in charge of RSD who is not Patrick Dobard or his second in command.  I have had reports that Dobard’s mission is to acquire as many schools from as many districts as quickly as possible so they can be turned over to charter operators.  He has even expressed dismay when traditional public schools run by local school districts improve, because that puts a wrench in his plan to acquire them.  John White’s and Patrick Dobard’s mission is to eventually take over all public schools in Louisiana and run them from a statewide agency as a charter portfolio.

Baton Rouge is actually slated to be their next target for mass charter invasion and takeover.  It has been reported to me that before Edwards assumes office, on the December 2nd 2015 agenda, BESE is expected to vote to approve New Schools for Baton Rouge (run by a former LDOE executive staffer) as a type B1 charter authorizer.  This means the state board will vote to completely bypass local EBR school board authority in charter decisions and hand it over to a private, unelected organization to approve as many charter schools as they want, anywhere in the city, as New Schools for New Orleans does in New Orleans.  Next up will be New Schools for Lafayette, New Schools for Lake Charles, New Schools for Shreveport, and finally New Schools for Louisiana as they finally bypass local school boards entirely.

These folks never sleep.  It is important to get ground game going as soon as possible, because 4 years will go by before you know it.


Kathy Edmonston Needs Your Vote

Tomorrow Louisiana goes to the polls to elect their new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, but also BESE members for districts 6 and 4.

Kathy Edmonston is running to represent the people and children of district 6.

Her opponent, Jason Engen, is running to represent business and industry, as he explained in his own words.

The Hayride first asked Engen why he’s running for BESE. He says he’s in the race because no one represented the business side who he calls the end user of the education system.

And business and industry are supporting Engen to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of which is used to smear his opponent and to mislead the public about his views.  Engine claims he is against Common Core and for local control.  Engen even claims he wants to reject the status quo in his advertisements, but when you ask him what that means. . .

The Hayride asked Engen what are the major issues he was running on in this campaign. “To me the most important one is we’ve seen some reforms kick in over the last few years that I think we need to maintain and to the extent possible we need to maintain.” said Engen.

. . . it means maintain the status quo . A status quo that has seen our NAEP scores plummet for the first time in more than 20 years.  A status quo that doesn’t only promote, but even worships Common Core and embraces all of its glaring flaws as “rigor”.

To Jason Engen, local control means forcing Common Core and PARCC tests upon homeschool parents.

The Hayride asked Engen about homeschooling and whether he supported further regulating them. While he supports homeschooling, he supports subjecting them to high standards similiar to what public and private schools are subjected it.

Jason Engen contacted me via text message last month because he wanted to complain about my blog posts about him.  At that time I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.  Some he answered and vehemently denied, some he chose not to answer.  I will leave you to determine what that means.

Did Grigsby promise to pay for your kids to go to private school if you do his bidding? I know he told you that John White stays, regardless of what he’s done. . . [Me]

Have a good day.  The point was to leave each other’s kids out of it. [Engen]

Will there be magical scholarships from a mysterious benefactor?  You will be ruining public schools so you won’t want to send your kids there under your “leadership” [me]

Just tell me  he didn’t make White’s staying a condition of his support.  When he brags about it to folks later it might make you look bad. . . [me]

Engen’s backers are intent upon taking rights away from parents and destroying public schools.  Based on his ethics report filings Engen does not seem to make enough money to enroll his 3 children in private school by his this wife, and 4th child by an earlier wife, on his lone salary.  (His current wife does not work.)  Engen’s primary benefactor of both his campaign and the SuperPac that supports him is Cajun Industries CEO and LABI chairman, Lane Grigsby, whom I spoke with earlier this year.

Lane explained to me at that time that he was a great champion of  poor kids and that he “personally paid for a number of scholarships for those people that can’t seem to take care of those kids they keep making” to attend private schools.  In his opinion this meant he cared more about education than anyone else and he must be making the right decisions for the right reasons about education.

I figured, what would a few more scholarships be to a guy who pays for so many already?  But Engen refused to respond to this question so I left him with these thoughts and a promise.

I know this is all fun and games and career advancement opportunities to you, but you are not leaving my kids out of it.  Supporting this agenda, driving off their teachers, bankrupting their school district, forcing ridiculous PARCC tests down their throats. That pisses me off.  That pisses a lot of people off.  You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, but I think you may very well find out Saturday night. [Me]

Don’t expect me or other parents to ever stop defending our kids from you and your ignorance and recklessness. [Me]

Kathy Edmonston needs your vote to send a message to all the Engen’s and Grigsby’s out in the world that some of us can’t be bought.

Kathy needs your vote to protect our children and save our schools.

Kathy needs your vote to be one of our lone voices on BESE.

Please do what you can tomorrow to ensure Kathy wins and Engen fades back into obscurity.

Your vote tomorrow is what I expect at the very least. But what we need is for you to make sure all of your friends and relatives vote for Kathy tomorrow too.  Please do your part to help Kathy.  Help us defeat those like Engen, who will trample on our rights and do irreparable harm to our children and communities in the years to come.

We need you.

(P.S.  if you live in district 4, the Caddo/Shreveport area, please do the same to help Mary Harris. Her opponent, Tony Davis, is every bit as deceitful as Engen and we need them both on BESE to replace the great champions for public education and Louisiana children, Carolyn Hill and Lottie Bebee, that we lost in October.)



Please Save and Forward Education Campaign Literature

Please save copies of mailouts, commercials still on your DVR, radio ads, etc. from this last election cycle. In particular I am interested in the literature of the BESE candidates who got elected running on bogus platforms with money from LABI and out of state billionaires.  The reformers are claiming their sweep of our elections is not because they outspent us 100 to 1, but a validation of their work and mandate for them to “stay the course.”  There one problem with that.  Not only did they outspend us 100 to 1, they also ran on our platforms with their campaign materials.

Namely: Local Control, End Common Core, eliminate unnecessary testing, pay raises for teachers (nothing about firing them or evaluating them on test scores),  and being representatives of the people.

Many folks not clued into the education scene already know this is total BS.

Stand For Children actually produced a fake emergency News Broadcast the last week of the election and made claims one sitting member had warrants out for their arrest and was breaking numerous laws, none of which was true. It was impossible to read the line it was paid for Stand for Children unless you slowed the commercial down and forwarded it frame by frame.  Rather than run on any issues they chose to falsly defame someone, the last week of the election, who actually does stand for some of the poorest children in our state.

You can thank Michael Bloomberg, and his enormous check to that organization, for that masterpiece.

That organization is evil, plain and simple and those who facilitate evil are just as culpable.

I will be linking all the billionaires, by name, with their handiwork to show you how they are destroying education across the nation with lies and enormous bribes. They will be using what happened in Louisiana as proof that their agenda is popular. It is important for the rest of the country to understand just what they actually sold to people here. Maybe we can serve as a template for the rest of the nation, like education reformers want?  We are an example of what not to do and an example of the extent ed reformers are corrupt and will lie to get what they want.

So save those mailers and record those commercials (with your smartphones even) and youTube them for me.  You can send high res pictures of your mailers.  I want to keep a record of what was promised. 

The world needs bloggers because the mainstream media can’t or won’t report on outright lies.  Because maonstream media won’t fill this roll, people believe the ads and stories must be true, or have kernals of truth. They don’t. These are not just lies, they run on the complete opposite of what they stand for.  We can’t keep them honest, but at least we can show those who care just how dishonest and cowardly ed reformers are.  They aren’t just dishonest about their data, they are lying about every aspect of their agenda and even what agenda they are for, until after their elections.

LDOE Lays an Egg: Violates FERPA and Their Own MOU Providing Data to CREDO

LDOE Lays an Egg: Violates FERPA and Their Own MOU Providing Data to CREDO

I know its reaching, but I thought I’d give everyone a little Easter reference with this surprise post.  Smile

Before I left LDOE 3 years ago I was asked to help assemble some de-identified data for a research outfit named CREDO.  At the time most of my colleagues didn’t know who CREDO was or what they were all about.  (It turns out they are a pro-charter funded propaganda machine masquerading as legitimate researchers.)   We had a standing policy not to provide this type of data to anyone. . . except a few local research universities like ULL we had established contracts with – to provide analysis services to LODE for specific grants.

Then came John White and CREDO.  We’d been telling CREDO “No” for years because the amount of data they wanted was excessive and the time involved with compiling it was also going to be pretty steep.  John White was not the State Superintendent when he started giving orders through Erin Bendilly, a Jindal appointee.  This request was one of those, and it was coordinated, reviewed, and delivered by Kim Nesmith, the “Data Quality Director” and department’s FERPA enforcer.  (The fact that this request was  being forced through quickly on John White’s behalf was confirmed by both Kim and Devora Davis, head CREDO researcher, in a conference call.)

happy Easter

FERPA tidbit:

US DOE requires State agencies to select a number between 1 and 10 to mask all their student level data to conform to FERPA. Kim actually required the department go one step further.  She insisted we mask by using less than (<) and greater than (>) symbols in the ones digits in most numbers reported.  (We can still derive the specific numbers from the percentages and enrollment numbers but I won’t tell if you won’t)


(You can Download the full report example if you’d like.)

Another provision of FERPA calls for agencies to restrict access to data – keep it private from those that don’t need that access to perform their specific role or function.  While I dealt with the student data of all students, I did not need to have access to their medical records or diagnoses, or their specific Special Education classifications.  This role was handled by the folks that worked directly with this data and these students in our SER system or those folks who produced necessary reports to the Finance department.  For the nine years I worked there, I did not have access to that data.

New Orleans based, Research on Reforms filed a lawsuit to discover just what data LDOE had released to CREDO.  When ROR eventually prevailed I learned what else LDOE had provided to CREDO.  (LDOE first denied the existence of this MOU until I agreed to testify for Research on Reforms.  Then LDOE argued that they could choose whomever they wanted to evaluate their programs and did not need to provide equal access to anyone else to cross examine the claims.  The first judge agreed, but the appeals court overturned this ruling.)

It turns out LDOE violated their own very expansive MOU.  What follows is a description of a few things that should not have been sent.

For instance, it turns out that LDOE sent quite a bit of detailed data on non-public students, their DOB’s, their teachers, their special education conditions, schools, etc.  Non-Public schools were not part of the research project and not part of the MOU.


Here’s a snapshot of some of the NPB (Non-Public School) records.  Hundreds of non-public schools’ data was disclosed – without their knowledge I would imagine.


And here is some of the specific data elements they handed over on nonpublic and public students – some of which is specifically prohibited and some of which should have been because it was outside the scope of the study.  This shows the full Date of birth (not just month and year) as well as any section 504 classifications and also identifies one student as blind and another one as deaf.  (Note: these records are from completely different sections and do not match up to any of the schools shown above.)


Of course if that’s not enough, they also included the specific teacher and the course they took with that teacher for each student. (Note: each snap shot is from different records to prevent identification of students.  Something LDOE might have considered.)


To make sure researchers could identify and use all these codes, LDOE created a decode file with useful tables like this one for Special Education classifications.


You will note in the study, none of this info is necessary, and if you look at the final CREDO reports none of it was used – but it was provided unnecessarily.

LDOE also can’t make the claim they did not know what they were providing or that they were unaware that to provide it was a violation of FERPA.  Most of the files, like the one containing Special Education data, carry a pretty convincing warning.

This report contains personally identifiable information or information that when combined withother reports and/or information a student’s identity might be revealed.  Personally identifiable studentinformation must be kept confidential pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)codified at 20 U.S.C. 1232g.  Information in this report cannot be disclosed to any other person,except for employees of a student’s school or school system who must have access to that information in order to perform their official duties and for those other persons and entitiesspecified in 20 U.S.C. 1232g.


In this case, LDOE provided this information without any masking for every school in the state (including Non-Publics).  They provided a file that contains the school, school year, grade, age, ethnicity, disabilities, gender.  They provided this information for counts as low as one single student.

You would think a Student Privacy Director and Data Quality Director would know better, wouldn’t you?

According to the MOU, here is the scope of the study:




The dubious nature of the decision to provide all the data they agreed to provide aside, I don’t see any reason to provide private school data, let alone disabled student data.  Do you?

This is an example of why LDOE needs to be fully transparent and properly overseen.  There is no telling how many other data sharing agreements LDOE has entered into that most of us are completely unaware of.  LDOE is apparently incapable of even adhering to their own internal privacy decisions and their own MOU’s.  This is not an example of a rogue department providing data accidentally.  This is an example of LDOE’s top privacy guru, the Student Privacy and Data Quality Director reviewing and assembling the data, personally, before handing it over to strangers in California.


It’s only a combination of chance and persistence that I stumbled across the details of this agreement and am able to share my findings with you.  How many more agreements like this are out there that are unknown to us?  How poorly have they been reviewed?  I can’t actually say.  Someone outside of LDOE needs to review these types of disclosures (All of them)  – before they happen.  It is important for the public to have an accounting of both what was promised, but also what was actually delivered.  Frankly, if LDOE doesn’t understand their own data, they shouldn’t be providing it to others.  I also question whether they should be collecting it all or storing it for decades in the first place.

Open letter from “BESE 4” in response to recent Common Core events.

I am publishing an open letter from 4 BESE members in response to recent actions of John White and recent editorials from 4 confused legislators that support Common Core, but don’t understand that even if they “review” it, it cannot be changed if the review finds anything lacking.  Common Core supporters have occasionally claimed that up to 15% more content can be supplemented or added to Common Core, but it cannnot be altered in any way. If have seen nothing official from the patent holders of Common Core affirming this claim.  Recent presentations from strongly advise against altering it in any way because it is paced to not permit any time for anything extra.

Jason France (BESE Candidate, district 6)

At the request of LA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) RepresentativeJane Smith and others, I am forwarding this Letter to the Editor,or possible Op-Ed piece, to your publication. It is significant in that it is signed by four BESE members and 28 current state legislators.   


This unique group, working as a consensus-building block of state elected officials, has composed this “Open Letter to the citizens of Louisiana.”  They point out the areas of agreement between those opposed to the national Common Core standards and the aligned test PARCC, and those who support the national standards and test, and tend to agree more with the state superintendent.  


Following on the heels of this week’s media announcement by the state superintendent, giving his recommendations to address issues of concern with the national standards, this group of BESE members and state legislators focuses on agreeable solutions that will work and be acceptable with both the state and the parents and public school systems across Louisiana.


This introduction of a “REAL Louisiana Plan” precedes the opening of the 2015 Spring Legislative Session, and provides a foundation on which all sides can build.


—  Mary K. Bellisario




“A REAL Louisiana Plan”

An open letter to the citizens of Louisiana:



The past few days have seen some very encouraging developments concerning public education in Louisiana, and we are optimistic that more important work can and will be accomplished over the next few months for the best interests of the children of our state.


On Monday, Superintendent John White openly acknowledged some of the problems with Common Core in Louisiana, proposed three new recommendations for consideration of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and agreed that Louisiana should have its own K-12 education standards.


Two days earlier, a letter by four Common Core supporters in the Legislature was published statewide making similar recommendations and calling for BESE to “continue the Louisiana plan” for education reforms.  These are positive steps, and we look forward to working together during the upcoming legislative session to make critical adjustments to ensure that a REAL Louisiana plan advances.


Superintendent White has suggested that BESE needs to review the state’s academic standards as early as this fall, and we agree. Indeed, his suggestion that BESE should convene a commission of Louisiana educators, parents and university leaders to assist in a comprehensive review is one that we have long advocated.  However, we note there will be no point in engaging such a review if the stakeholders here are limited by the existing Common Core State Standards Initiative that was developed elsewhere. Since no more than 15% of the Common Core Standards can be altered or changed by participating states, it seems obvious that our mutual goal of improving Louisiana standards cannot be reached so long as we remain participants in Common Core.  


With regard to student assessment, Superintendent White has suggested that our Department of Education should follow the Administrative Procedures Act and allow a transparent bid process for vendors to propose a test that is “unique to Louisiana while comparable to other states.” We certainly agree and have been advocating this for nearly a year.  However, we note it will be impossible to obtain bids for a new test if its underlying standards are not yet decided.  It would thus be unwise to rush into a new testing contract without having these foundational questions answered first.   


We agree with Superintendent White and our colleagues who have now acknowledged that atwo year baseline of testing results is needed before any sanctions are placed on our students, teachers, schools and districts.  Our teachers and districts work extremely hard to comply with every state mandate, and this delay will greatly reduce the stresses related to implementation.  Superintendent White has been very vocal on this point, and we agree that no hardworking teacher, principal, or district should be punished based on decisions made outside their control. 


Parents and teachers have voiced their concerns loudly across this state and nation, and we elected officials should be listening.  Indeed, that is our duty.  The people of our state are understandably wary of all tests, textbooks and curriculum that are aligned to national standards, because such an alignment is always accompanied by the dangers of federal intrusion and wasteful spending that brings no benefit to our kids.  


Superintendent White also acknowledged this week that we are “over-testing” our students and thus, “We all need to eliminate any tests that are not meaningfully contributing to student learning.”  We certainly agree, and it is our belief that the current test aligned with Common Core and PARCC is one of the problems that should be eliminated here once and for all—as other states have already done.


Again, we reiterate our optimism about these critical points on which more and more state leaders now agree.  We look forward to working with all in good faith to ensure that in the very near future we are truly developing a REAL Louisiana Plan for the children of our great state.  They deserve it, and the stakes are too high for us to deliver anything less.  


Best regards,


Jane Smith, BESE, member at large

Bossier Parish


Mary Harris BESE, District 4                                                  

Dr. Lottie Beebe, BESE, District 3                                                                                                                                                                                              

Carolyn Hill, BESE, District 8     


Representative James Armes, District 30                                                                               

Representative Terry Brown, District 22                                    

Representative Richard Burford, District 7

Representative Henry Burns, District 9

Representative Greg Cromer, District 90

Representative Brett Geymann, District 35

Representative Lance Harris, District 25

Representative Kenny Havard, District 62

Representative Cameron Henry, District 82

Representative Bob Hensgens, District 47

Representative Valarie Hodges, District 64

Representative Frank Hoffman, District 15

Representative Paul Hollis, District 104

Representative Frank Howard, District 24

Representative Mike Johnson, District 8

Representative Eddie Lambert, District 59

Representative Jim Morris, District 1

Representative Kevin Pearson, District 76

Representative Rogers Pope, District 71

Representative John Schroder,District 77

Representative Alan Seabaugh, District 5

Representative Lenar Whitney, District 53

Senator A.G. Crowe, District 1

Senator Bob Kostelka, District 35

Senator Elbert Guillory, District 24

Senator Fred Mills, District 22

Senator Jonathan Perry, District 26

Senator John Smith, District 30


Overprepping and Overtesting in Louisiana

I just received this letter from a parent named Stephanie Riley in Rapides Parish.  This letter echos the sentiments expressed by many parents across the state that I spoken with this year and last year. Education has been replaced with test preparation.  It’s a disgrace, and a reason many parents have abandonded public schools and started homeschooling their children.

If any folks in the traditional media would like to interview a mother that sees her children’s futures being stripped away in pursuit of a meaningless “score”, Stephanie would be a good person to contact.

The results of this test won’t measure what children learned, merely which parish wasted the most time on test preparation. Ironically districts with the highest test scores may have the least “educated” children.

This isn’t just about Common Core anymore, now it’s about Common Sense, and a lack thereof being shown by many of our current educational leaders.

To whom it may concern,

As a parent of 2 children in the Rapides parish school system in Louisiana I have finally reached the end of my rope. This letter is being sent to multiple individuals throughout Louisiana (and outside the state) for a reason. I have had enough and I want a response. Since returning from the Christmas holidays my children have done absolutely nothing but practice and prepare for the PARCC – like test. First, let me make it perfectly clear that both of my children have been opted out of this test. In this situation however, that is irrelevant. They have both been sitting in a classroom all day for the last 6 weeks training to take a test!They, and most every other child in this state grades 3 – 8 are been denied their right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. Did you catch that? Federal law – F.A.P.E – is being broken. Drill and kill for ANY standardized test is NOT an appropriate education, which I pay for with my taxes.  I have questioned both of my children about activities in the classroom. While there is definitely a focus on testing for my third grader, it is even worse for my sixth grader. He has told me that they will no longer be using the textbook or stories from the curriculum this parish chose because neither addresses the ELA items on the PARCC – like test. Instead, they work every single day on practice writings for the PARCC – like exam. Half of an entire school year wasted with no reading!  And my third grader has only used her reading textbook a few times since January. Third graders not reading!! This is NOT a teacher issue. Teachers throughout this entire parish are being instructed to drill and kill. Practice, practice, practice! Test scores are what matter, not children.

Well, I am just a mom, so it has been easy for our school administrators to ignore me. Although I have had many positive interactions with our school board members (they do at least appear concerned) nothing has been accomplished and I feel as if we are all just trying to make it to the end of the school year. But that means that the children of Rapides parish are missing out. They are going to lose a minimum of a half of a year’s worth of instructional time (due to testing practice), and for some an entire year due to classroom instruction that has not been supported through the use of appropriate instructional materials. I am now reaching beyond our local administrators and will continue to reach beyond until someone listens. I am one of MANY parents with these concerns and we are not going away. 

I have already expressed my concerns locally that adequate instructional materials have not been provided for the math curriculum (Eureka), and now we have the same problem with the ELA material currently being taught in the classroom. Louisiana Title 28 Bulletin 1794 states that;        

“§505.   Local Implementation (of instructional materials)

A.            Adequate and Appropriate Instructional Materials

1.            Textbooks and materials of instruction for all curriculum areas at the local level shall be supported with adequate and appropriate instructional materials, equipment, and available community resources that support the stated philosophy and purposes of the school system”

where instructional materials are defined as;

“Instructional Materialslimited to items having intellectual content that by design assist in the instruction of a subject or course.”

Currently, neither of my children is in receipt of instructional materials in either math or ELA. Worksheets, practice pages in a binder, class room activities, etc… do not meet the definition of instructional materials under state law. I want my children to go back to a normal instructional environment in the classroom where emphasis on statewide testing is left where it belongs – on testing days. I want them to be TAUGHT not TRAINED! Let their teachers teach them! At least I know that they actually care about the well-being of my children!

Finally, I want clear, printed instructional materials for both of my children grades 3 and 6 for both the Eureka math curriculum and the Journey’s curriculum. These were the curriculums chosen by Rapides parish for this school year and if they are to be used then they should be supported in the classroom. There are no instructional materials for Eureka other than a “binder” that is filled with copies of computer print outs of classroom and homework practice problems. Textbooks were not purchased or provided by the district for this curriculum.

The ELA Journey’s curriculum has a textbook for each grade level and we received a copy of this at the start of the school year. However, this curriculum has been abandoned since the beginning of January in order to focus on practice for the PARCC – like exam. The provision of public education is not for the purpose of passing a single test (a test which is unproven and is not supported by ANY valid research I might add). Therefore, I also want my children to return to their regular educational and instructional activities in the classroom.

Should you have any questions I can be reached at this email address or at the cell phone number listed below. I look forward to a response as soon as possible.


Stephanie Riley,

cell# 504-669-0803

The Seabaugh Solution Apology and Explanation

VAM (Valued Added Modeling) is garbage.  It does not work. Louisiana’s system is especially flawed. The underlying premise behind VAM is also flawed, and no VAM assessment (good or bad) should be trusted.  Before I wrote about the Seabaugh Solution I wrote numerous articles about this.

I probably have have dozens of articles where I discuss the fallacies of VAM.  Others around our state have written dozens more.  As a data analyst by trade myself, this misuse and misapplication of data is especially infuriating.

Recently, a series of articles I wrote about an Louisiana Department of Education conspiracy to adjust the entire VAM system to benefit 3 teachers in Caddo was rediscovered, and made popular, but without all the backstory and context.  (I hope those that are promoting that story will also promote this one.)

This conspiracy was actually named the Seabaugh Solution by John White’s staff.  John White, and several of his executive TFA staffers recruited from out of state, carried out this deception after discovering it was flagging our best teachers as our worst teachers.  Please let this sink in.  They understood that VAM was identifying our best teachers as our worst teachers, and they have continued to promote this charade to this day.  Their behavior is well into the loathsome territory here, folks.

A number of native Louisiana citizens working at the department at the time were outraged by this perversion of the VAM system. They could not have disclosed it without jeopardizing their jobs and careers.  Nevertheless, at great personal risk to themselves, they notified me and fellow blogger Tom Aswell, at Louisiana Voice, so we could alert the public to this travesty being perpetrated against our teachers.  Please read Tom’s story for more specific details and background.

My intent was never to involve the specific teachers.  (VAM only has a 25% accuracy rate at best.)  Internally these teachers were sometimes referred to as ineffective by VAM calculations, and by other less flattering terms.  However the truth is in fact the exact opposite.  I was trying to make an ironic point by referring to them as “crappy” when both John White and Alan Seabaugh knew, or claimed to know, the exact opposite was true. The students of these teachers scored consistently at the top – for the entire state.  These teachers initially labels as “ineffective” were in actuality some our best teachers. VAM had classified them as our worst.

Legislators need to understand this and ban VAM from being used in the future for any punitive purpose.  They are knowingly persecuting and hanging innocent teachers in a politically motivated witch hunt that is none of their business in the first place.  LDOE is a state agency and not them employer of these teachers. LDOE should not be making judgments about them from afar; especially based solely on a  few pieces of data that were never meant for the purpose they are being used.

Sadly, these truly outstanding teachers were not alone.  Many teachers across the state are classified as ineffective because their students scored so well it was impossible for them to improve.  Others were classified as horrible because they were teaching some of our most disabled, neglected, homeless, limited English, and poverty stricken kids and learning and improvement is not always linear. VAM assumes all kids will improve at a completely linear rate regardless of teacher or circumstances and teachers are responsible for any and all deviation from that rate.  That’s just ridiculous assumption.  Furthermore, for a child to contribute the maximum points to each teacher ever your would require exponential improvement; which is impossible.  These tests have a finite range.  You can’t improve beyond 100%.  As illustrated by the need for the Seabaugh Solution, for VAM to work for teachers with students performing in the upper ranges, the tests would need to have no upper boundary, they would have to be worth an infinite amount of points.

Teachers have resigned in shame and have even committed suicide  across the nation after being unjustly defined by VAM systems as inferior.

LOS ANGELES — Colleagues of Rigoberto Ruelas were alarmed when he failed to show up for work one day in September. They described him as a devoted teacher who tutored students before school, stayed with them after and, on weekends, took students from his South Los Angeles elementary school to the beach.

When his body was found in a ravine in the Angeles National Forest, and the coroner ruled it a suicide, Mr. Ruelas’s death became a flash point, drawing the city’s largest newspaper into the middle of the debate over reforming the nation’s second-largest school district.

When The Los Angeles Times released a database of “value-added analysis” of every teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in August, Mr. Ruelas was rated “less effective than average.” Colleagues said he became noticeably depressed, and family members have guessed that the rating contributed to his death.

I was actually trying to highlight a real problem for out teachers across the state.  I am trying to prevent more, Rigoberto Ruelas tragedies, in our state.  Great teachers labeled have been and continue to be labeled as terrible by a terribly inaccurate and unjust data system.

Part of the problem is how the state has expanded its reach into places it has no business being in.  The state needs to get out of our local classrooms.  It is not helping.  John White’s department of Education is tearing our teachers and students down while claiming it is building them up.  As your teachers what they think about the LDOE’s involvement in their classrooms.  As the Seabaugh Solution shows, even LDOE can’t trust LDOE’s own data.  John White even said this in his conversation with Alan Seabaugh.

I beg you, please do not refer to these teachers as crappy, inferior, ineffective, or anything other than mistreated by a system I was trying to expose as outrageously unfair, dehumanizing and debasing.  The legislature may not have understood this at the time, but they should understand this now.  Anyone who supports VAM is attacking our teachers and children for political points.  It’s not a coincidence that a psychologist, and not a professor of mathematics, designed and endorses this system.  It’s not just that VAM is “a little off”, it’s actually completely backwards and entirely unreliable.

The outrage here is that John White and his executive staff fully understood the implications of what they were told.  Top teachers were being lambasted and shamed by an unjust data system.   John White knew his staff tried dozens of ways to calculate the VAM numbers and could not find a credible way to prevent some of our greatest teachers from being classified as “crappy” so White gave these teachers “bonus points” as he often does for charter schools he’s trying to save from his accountability system, which is also flawed.

Initial supporters of VAM may have had the best of intentions, but VAM is not the answer and never will be because the underlying premise is flawed.  VAM is victimizing our teachers.

Instead of conceding this, LDOE and John White simply added bonus points to certain teachers and shifted the curve downward to classify a new set of teachers as ineffective.  This new set of teachers might have been outstanding too, but they did not have an Alan Seabaugh willing or able to speak for them.

The State needs to discard VAM once and for all.  Not only is evaluating teachers none of their business, LDOE and John White are knowingly doing a horrible job, and playing favorites in the process.

My deepest apologies to the teachers involved.  My intention was to highlight the flaws in VAM to prevent what happened to you from happening to others.