LDOE is So Corrupted By Vendors Like Eureka Math, Employees Have Trouble Telling Right From Wrong Anymore

I have too many small stories that need to be stitched together before I can show you the big picture.  I could write a single gigantic post of everything I’ve been learning over the last few months, but no one would read it I fear.  The problem is, I want to write a few concise summary pieces, but I also want to provide the backup documents to support what I’m saying.  This is the first of a number of small disclosures that I will stitch together in later pieces.

Many folks don’t understand or realize that LDOE has been taken over by outside interests.  Everything from curriculum choice, to policies, to tests, training sites and employees are influenced by vendors and organizations seeking to use Louisiana and our children as test tube for their agenda.  Here’s a description of what it’s like to work at LDOE now:

Oh, and I’m so jaded I don’t know what’s a big deal anymore, esp. since corporate media show little interest in bad government, and the few stories that make it don’t stick for long, but this big Teacher leader conference in June currently has over 50–a majority–of sessions provided by vendors incl. of course Eureka math. strikes me as interesting that the taxpayers are paying a fortune to get several thousand teachers and admins to a conference that the vendors aren’t paying for but get to heavily push their products and agenda. So far roughly half are actually to be conducted by public ed staff-dept of ed, teachers etc.

One of the vendors I will focus on for this piece is Eureka Math.  Many outsiders were perplexed by LDOE’s decision to select Eureka Math as the only Tier One math product for Louisiana.  (Louisiana is not known for being a leader in education so it’s not surprising no one else has chosen Eureka as something special except a study paid for by the Gates foundation.)  It turns out that LDOE made a deal last year to do this in return for free professional development and other unknown  perks and promises.  Eureka Math is being heavily promoted again this year on the state’s dime.  It goes by many names.  Sometimes Eureka Math is referred to as EngageNY.  It was sometimes referred to as just Common Core, after the website it created for itself.  To make things even more confusing it has recently changed its name again, to Great Minds.

This change happened on January 8th, 2105

Common Core, Inc. changes its name to Great Minds.

January 8, 2015

On January 8th, 2015, Common Core, Inc. changed its name to Great Minds.

Magically – Great Minds/Eureka/EngageNY/Common Core managed to go back in time and rewrite their press releases and news articles to say things that are impossible.

Louisiana State Superintendent of Education recommends Common Core Math Curriculum

WASHINGTON, DC (June 24, 2013) — The State of Louisiana and its Office of the State Superintendent of Education recently announced that the P-12 mathematics curriculum developed by the nonprofit Great Minds is a recommended resource for Louisiana math teachers. The state praised the curriculum for its rigor and alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The CCSS-based math curriculum was developed by Great Minds, a Washington, D.C. based organization that creates curriculum tools and promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels. Great Minds developed the math curriculum in partnership with the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

“Great Minds is proud to provide Louisiana educators with a curriculum that supports their efforts to implement the CCSS,” said Lynne Munson, Great Minds president and executive director. “It is imperative that educators are given the curriculum and tools necessary to get every student college and career ready. Great Minds’s educator-developed curriculum helps offer teachers the instructional paths they need for success.”

Last week, Louisiana’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education announced new math curriculum guidance for all of the state’s public schools. The guidance recommended the Great Minds-developed math curriculum to guide unit and lesson instruction, noting “These materials are rigorous, include formative assessments and are aligned to Great Minds [State Standards]. All materials are free and available for students as well. Teachers can pull and then adjust sets of lessons to fit the bundling in Louisiana’s year-long scope and sequence.”

This is probably the 5th rewrite of this press release.   It looks like they even replaced “Common Core” with “Great Minds” State Standards.  What’s even more cool is they rewrote a press release quote from the state of Louisiana to align with their new name.  Compare the highlighted section from 2014 above, with the nearly identical press release from 2013 below.

Louisiana State Superintendent of Education recommends the Common Core, Inc. Math Curriculum

June 24, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC (June 24, 2013) — The State of Louisiana and its Office of the State Superintendent of Education recently announced that the P-12 mathematics curriculum developed by the nonprofit Common Core, Inc. is a recommended resource for Louisiana math teachers. The state praised the curriculum for its rigor and alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The CCSS-based math curriculum was developed by Common Core, Inc., a Washington, D.C. based organization that creates curriculum tools and promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels. Common Core, Inc. developed the math curriculum in partnership with the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

“Common Core, Inc. is proud to provide Louisiana educators with a curriculum that supports their efforts to implement the CCSS,” said Lynne Munson, Common Core, Inc. president and executive director. “It is imperative that educators are given the curriculum and tools necessary to get every student college and career ready. Common Core, Inc.’s educator-developed curriculum helps offer teachers the instructional paths they need for success.”

Last week, Louisiana’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education announced new math curriculum guidance for all of the state’s public schools. The guidance recommended the Common Core, Inc.-developed math curriculum to guide unit and lesson instruction, noting “These materials are rigorous, include formative assessments and are aligned to Common Core [State Standards]. All materials are free and available for students as well. Teachers can pull and then adjust sets of lessons to fit the bundling in Louisiana’s year-long scope and sequence.”

The formal announcement from the Office of the State Superintendent did not approve any specific textbooks because “none were sufficiently aligned to the Common Core State Standards.”

Common Core, Inc. has been working with master teachers and math scholars for more than two years to craft a comprehensive pre-kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics curriculum. The design for the curriculum is based on work pioneered by Louisiana State University mathematician Scott Baldridge, who holds that mathematics is most effectively taught as a logical, engaging story.

Common Core, Inc.’s mathematics curriculum is available at Common Core, Inc.’s website (commoncore.org) and at NYSED’s website (engageny.org). Additionally, the Common Core, Inc. mathematics curriculum will be available in a print version for teachers and school districts through publisher Jossey-Bass starting in August 2013.

Eureka/EngageNY/CommonCore/Great Minds (which I shall now call EECG to keep track of all their names) is just as careless and sloppy with their press releases and subterfuge as they are will their actual worksheets and materials.  This behavior is typical of the Common Core initiative.  Key participants provide misleading information, and back up their claims with Gate’s sponsored biased research.  They then rely on newspaper articles and opinion columns requested by local Chamber’s of Commerce or in return for Gates foundation “donations” and endowments.

In the EECG case, these entities are all related, but much of the press around their products, except from Louisiana, has been bad.  Rather than try and improve their products they simply keep changing their name. . . just about every year.  They are trying to outrun the bad news while dragging along the positive and smacking their new label on old news. They want it both ways, all of the good (which there is amusingly very little of) and none of the bad.

It’s not a coincidence that Louisiana is the only state to select EECG as the only tier one math curriculum product from among all the states.  LDOE, John White and EECG have a financial relationship and part of that relationship involves Louisiana pushing EECG to all the parishes in the state.  These are the ways LDOE has promoted and coerced EECG adoption:

  • Providing professional development to districts only if they adopt EECG.
  • Holding Conferences in New Orleans centered around EECG
  • Privately threatening parishes with sanctions if they choose another curriculum
  • Promoting EECG in numerous Press Releases
  • Promoting EECG in News Letters
  • Promoting EECG and links to EECG products on their official (LouisianaBelieves) department website
  • Sending LDOE teacher leaders and LDOE department staff to local school board meetings to promote and defend EECG.

John White has turned the Louisiana Department of Education into little more than the shill in a Home Shopping Network ad that is amazed and impressed by every claim made by the hawker.  Is this being done for some future promised benefit to John White and his staff?  John White has no roots here and can’t stay here forever.  After the Governor and BESE elections this fall John White and much of his staff may find themselves out of jobs. . .in Louisiana.  With all the vendor deals and relationships White and his staff strike, while on our dime, they will have plenty of places to go. . . and we will be left holding whatever EECG names itself in the future, while they reap the rewards of their cozy vendor relationships.

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Study: New Orleans Principals Admit to Manipulating Student Selection


Despite what you may have heard, most charter schools are not incentivized to take the hardest to educate students. Charter schools live or die by their scores and how they are perceived by the public. Perception can be changed with misleading advertising rather than inproved performance. Improved performance can be achieved by simply improving how you select or selectively exclude students. Louisiana and LDOE via RSD are in the charter business now. This creates a direct conflict of interest. To show how effective the department’s current strategies are, it is important to show charter schools (which they are backing and sometimes running) in a positive light ( to bask in the reflective glow themselves). Conversely, LDOE has an interest in seeing traditional public schools do poorly. These factors explain the many gyrations and permutations of school performance scores, cut scores, grading scales, and subterfuge surrounding the release of data. LDOE’s goals are not aligned with supporting students or school districts. Their goals are aligned with supporting charter schools and disparaging traditional public schools and they support these goals well. Independant charter school goals are also not aligned with improving student performance or supporting the districts they reside in. Their goals are aligned with convincing (the right) parents that they are a better choice, and traditional public schools are garbage. Until we align the goals of the gatekeepers with students parents and school districts, we should expect glitzy advertizing, confusing meaningless metrics, and an LDOE backed drive to put traditional public schools out of business (to expand their charter budiness). Far too often this misalignment of values and goals is overlooked in the big picture of biased studies from charter backed research outlets like CREDO and the Cowen Institute, in their pursuit of finding miniscule statistical differences in performance to support a total charterization agenda.
The study Mercedes describes cleary illustrates how this misalignment translates into poor results and dubious actions. I question whether the goals can ever be properly aligned -especially when you have a very partial LDOE and BESE board providing cover and covering up all the charter misdeeds.

Originally posted on deutsch29:

I have written several posts to date on the Educational Research Alliance of New Orleans (ERA) and its founder, Doug Harris.

ERA is conducting a number of studies on the privatization of most of New Orleans’ schools following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and which has culminated in a 100-percent-charter Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans by 2014.

In 2014-15, the remaining Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) consists of six direct-run schools and 14 charter schools, with with four of the 14 charters being “selective admission” schools— which means these school are (by definition) not open to the public.

Thus, the term “school choice” could well mean that it is the school that exercises greater leverage when it comes to choosing, not the parents.

ERA is studying this “choice”– with results that sometimes are not pretty for the “choice” advocates.

On January 15, 2015, Harris released his first report…

View original 795 more words

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Defies Measurement is Finally Complete

Defies Measurement is a documentary about what our nation’s test obsession has done to our public schools and students over the last 20 years.  Shannon Puckett is a great film maker and former teacher at Chipman Middle school, around which the story centers as the school is impacted by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and eventually ends up as a charter school with an entirely different name.

Crawfish Nation, some of you may remember that I helped promote and fund this masterpiece – and I also do my best to spoil the magic with a cameo appearance of myself.  (Thankfully it is only one.  There is a reason I am a blogger and not a movie star. )  Also appearing are Diane Ravitch, and Louisiana locals Mercedes Schneider and Karran Harper Royal. 

This tackles the issues of NCLB, over testing and opting out, charter schools, Race to the Top, Common Core, poverty, Gates, TFA, Broad, the Walton Foundation, International Test scores, Eugenics,  the New Orleans “Miracle”,the School Reform Movement in general and number of other interesting connections.  If you are interested in presidential candidate Jeb Bush, you will also want to hear what he has to say in this film.

You can go the www.defiesmeasurement.com

or directly to the film here:


There is an opportunity to download of organize a viewing around this film if you have a community event coming up or would like to sponsor to screen this film.  It is an hour long, and I knew most of the material, but I still found it very engaging and presented in a way that really sticks with you and brings everything together.  You can tell there is a real synergy between being a teacher and a documentary maker.

Congratulations Shannon!

For those of you going to the second annual NPE conference in Chicago April 25th and 26th, this film will be screened there as well.  Many of the guests in this film will also be at the conference for you to get their autographs.  Smile

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At a time of deep budget cuts, it is time to cut the Recovery School District (RSD)

Latest John White lie

Bobby Jindal recently released his budget for the 2015 fiscal year.  This budget has some pretty steep cuts for the Louisiana Department of Education.

State Superintendent John White recently claimed Bobby Jindal’s 2015 budget would force him to lay off as many as 100 of his 300 workers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget would force layoffs of about 100 of the state Department of Education’s roughly 300 workers, state Superintendent of Education John White said Monday morning.

White said he was originally told that the governor’s budget plan could result in 45 agency employees losing their jobs.


Of course this a statement from a John White, a well documented liar, and an article from Will Sentell, who is rumored to be White’s pal outside of working hours, so it doesn’t surprise me that these figures are dishonest and not fact checked – not even a little.

Fortunately I had recently asked for the lists of LDOE and Recovery School District (RSD) employees. RSD is a branch of LDOE and directly overseen by LDOE. The true number of employees I came up with was 447 “DOE State Activities” employees, 117 Special School District Employees, and 108 RSD employees. That comes to 675 employees scattered across several divisions that report to John White, or more than twice the number White quoted to the Advocate – and Will Sentell dutifully reported.

From payroll file 1/23/2015


But what is one more lie?

LDOE employees with multiple offices

RSD no longer directly manages any schools, it just recruits them and “oversees” them. (New Schools for New Orleans is a non-profit that already does that.)  RSD’s employees are actually extensions of the LDOE. Many LDOE employees live in New Orleans and have offices in Baton Rouge and luxury offices in New Orleans. Many of LDOE’s executive employees live in New Orleans and do all their work from the RSD offices across from the Superdome, or from the privacy of their homes – as their exorbitant conference call bills will attest to.

Sources have relayed that a non-exhaustive list of employees operating this way are:

  • · Katherine Westerhold
  • · Hannah Dietsch
  • · Alicja Witkowski
  • · Taina Knox
  • · Rebecca Kockler
  • · Kunjan Narechania

The truth behind LDOE state employee RIF’s (Reductions In Force)

Everyone knows that John White and Bobby Jindal have claimed they have cut back employees in state service, so I decided to verify that claim myself. I asked Civil Service for the payroll of LDOE as of 1/1/2012 and 1/31/2015. A direct comparison would lead one to believe that John White had reduced his employees. John White filed dozens of RIFs, or Reeducations In Force, during his tenure.  However what you can’t tell from these files is that John White simply reclassified all of his IT positions as belonging to DOA instead of LDOE. Many of these folks still work at the Claiborne building where LDOE is housed in their same roles, they just are paid from the DOA budget although they still work for John White and LDOE on LDOE systems.

I asked for listing of these employees, but Civil Service has no way of identifying them. Therefore I excluded all the people from the IT area from my 12/31/2011 file so we could have an apples to apples comparison.  These are the numbers I came up with as of 12/31/2011 excluding IT.


However this was when RSD actually staffed schools with teachers!  Now almost all the RSD employees are unclassified operatives of John White.  Many freely move back and forth between these agencies at will as I will show you later.

What this means is employees John White controls for day to day operations is down to 675 from around 697 – excluding IT and RSD employees.  RSD actually had to run schools three years ago and most of those employees were teachers. Now RSD skims money from grants these schools receive and skims MFP funds to support their lavish lifestyle  – as I will also get into later.

Next I wanted to find out what types of employees are left and how the workforce changed. Instead of support personnel for things like Special Education, most of LDOE was turned into a charter school recruiting office and assessment section. At first blush it would appear the number of unclassified positions decreased, however when you add in RSD unclassified positions you can see a dramatic increase in this type of unrestricted worker.  Below are some distinctions between classified and unclassified employees.  Please refer to this definition from Civil Service.  I have summarized some of the differences below:

Unclassified state employees have no restrictions on salary or raises, can lobby legislators and donate to candidates, do not have need to have any specific qualifications, and are generally supposed to be restricted to just the heads of departments.

Classified state employees cannot engage in any political activity, or even the appearance of political activity. They cannot donate or endorse candidates and cannot even discuss these topics publicly without suffering sanctions or being fired. Raises for classified workers are tightly controlled and limited. Classified positions have specific sets of duties, education requirements, and experience requirements they must meet to qualify for positions.  Classified workers cannot be promoted if they do not meet the requirements of their new position. The vast majority of state workers used to be considered “classified.”

Below are the basic positions defined in Civil Service that are supposed to be classified as unclassified.

  1. Elected officials and person appointed to fill vacancies in elective offices.
  2. The head of each principal executive department appointed by the Governor.
  3. Registrars of voters.
  4. Members of State boards, authorities, and commissions.
  5. One private Secretary to the president of each college or university.
  6. One person holding a confidential position and one principal assistant or deputy to any officer, board, commission or authority mentioned in (1), (2), (3), or (4), above, except the State Department of Civil Service.
  7. Members of the military or naval forces; including those employees in the Military Department of the State of Louisiana who are members of the Louisiana National Guard or Louisiana State Guard, either active or retired.
  8. The teaching and professional staffs, and administrative officers of schools, colleges, and universities of the State, and bona fide students of those institutions employed by any State agency.
  9. Employees, deputies, and officers of the legislature and of the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General; and of police juries, school boards, and assessors; and of all offices provided for in Constitutional Article V.
  10. Commissioners of elections, watchers, and custodians and deputy custodians of voting machines.
  11. Railroad employees whose working conditions and retirement benefits are regulated by federal agencies in accordance with federal law.
  12. Notaries Public.
  13. All employees of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Obviously unclassified employees are supposed to be restricted in number and held to a pretty high standard.  Unclassified positions are supposed to be rare.  The vast majority of state employees in Civil Service are supposed to be “classified” to prevent a return to the “spoils” system of governance in Louisiana; when most of the positions in state government we doled out based on who folks supported in elections.  A classified state worker is loyal to the state, not a specific political party, candidate, or appointee.  From information I’ve been given, John White reportedly did not like that arrangement and exploited Civil Service rules to simply drive off hundreds of classified state workers loyal to Louisiana and replace them with unclassified employees (mostly from out of state) loyal to him.

Of 108 positions at RSD today, 107 are unclassified.

What possible harm can come from converting our workforce from classified to unclassified?  (Hint: New taxes!)

In case you were wondering how this arrangement works out in the real world consider this.  RSD and its staff, in conjunction with the charter lobby, successfully PR’d the public in New Orleans last year to pass a tax that contributes 90% of the proceeds to RSD until 2025 (in additional to their state and federal funding and fees they charge charters.)

Shall the Orleans Parish School board (the “School Board”) levy a tax of four and ninety-seven hundredths mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of property within the City of New Orleans assessed for City Taxation, (an estimated $15,540,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning in 2015, for the purpose of preservation, improvement and capital repairs of all existing public school facilities, to be levied and collected in the same manner as is set forth in Article VIII, Section 13(C)(Second) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974; provided that said tax is to be levied each calendar year at a millage rate not in excess of the difference between 4.97 mills and any millage levied in such calendar year for any outstanding general obligation bonds of the School Board?”

How will property taxes be extended and/or redirected to fund RSD?
OPSB is expected to pay off school facility debt by 2021 using 4.97 mills of property tax previously approved by voters. The tax is expected to end in 2021, and the amount collected from voters will begin to decrease as the debt service decreases. If voters approve the proposition, the mills will be renewed and extended through 2025. The difference that is not applied to the debt service will be set aside for facility preservation, and RSD can begin to access the funds as early as 2016. The mills currently collect approximately $15.5 million each year. (Source: OPSB FAQ on Tax Proposition. )

In full effect and after OPSB has fulfilled its debt obligations, the non-elected RSD would receive 90% of the funding ($13,986,000) of property tax revenue. OPSB would receive the remaining portion of approximately $1,554,000.

What does RSD do with all their money?

What does RSD do with all its money you ask?  Well for one thing, they like to rent luxury office space in downtown New Orleans across from the Superdome.

RSD takes up the entire 14th floor at 1615 Poydras street. Here is the floor plan of the suite right above them


Here are some of the images of the building and the amenities:

Encompassing 508,741 rentable square feet, the Class A Property is 85% leased and serves as the corporate headquarters for McMoRan Oil & Gas.


The property’s rent rolls are dominated by high profile, local, national and international corporations including Freeport-McMoRan, ANKOR Energy, U.S. Coast Guard, Gillis Ellis & Baker, Kuchler Polk Schell Weiner & Richeson, Usry Weeks & Matthews, Duplantier Hrapmann Hogan & Maher, First NBC Bank and Regus.


1615 Poydras accommodates an on-site restaurant, a barbershop and dry cleaning pick-up & delivery services.  Our location in the Central Business District (CBD) directly across from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, provides easy access to City Hall, hotels, Canal Street shopping and the historic French Quarter.  Tenants enjoy easy walking distance to the NFL Saints Champion Square and the world-class Mercedes-Benz Superdome directly across the street.


Man, who wouldn’t want a drycleaners with pickup and delivery service and a barbershop in their office building?

Check out the gorgeous marble and mahogany floors and enormous meeting rooms overlooking the city.

Who knew being a state worker could be such a sweet deal, especially amidst a 1.6 billion dollar deficit?

But maybe there was a logistical reason for locating so close to the superdome in a luxury office building?

RSD claims this move makes them more accessible to families and parents.

Recovery School District


The Recovery School District is a special district of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) charged with transforming chronically underperforming schools in Louisiana. The organization’s mission is to ensure that all students graduate high school on-time and be college and career ready.  Their move to 1615 Poydras provides a more centrally-located site in the Central Business District – closer to business and community partners [true] and more accessible for families and parents [not true].  Recovery School District also maintains three Parent Centers at various locations throughout the city.

But let’s be honest. This is move to put them closer to the Saints, not students. Right across the street in fact!  RSD used to be located in a warehouse before John White came to town, where many of the parents actually lived.

Let’s compare.

RSD Pre-John White at 1641 Poland Avenue.  Note the graffiti on neighboring buildings and less than august surroundings. . . but I bet the rent wasn’t too steep.


RSD – Post John White at 1616 Poydras street on the 14th floor across from the Mercedes Superdome.  Who knew School Reforming could be so good?


So what if RSD is ripping us off. . . at least I get choices!?!?

Now when parents have problems they can’t actually reach anyone at RSD. RSD makes thousands of parents with enrollment problems line up all day in the hot sun every year while they try to fix the choices the One AP enrollment system selected for them.


Last year some parents waited in line all day only to be turned away and told to come back tomorrow.




RSD Choice. We choose for you.

In my district, East Baton Rouge Parish, I actually have choices and can apply to numerous schools and programs.  I can choose to send my kids from among the schools I get into. In public schools I have the choice to send my kids to a Montessori program, magnet school, language immersion school, Arts integrated or Math Sciences and Arts school, a trade focused school, a charter school or just send my kids to the school down the street. I can apply to all of those choices and select the one I want based on the ones I can get approved for. In New Orleans you put your top 3 choices in, and maybe the computer selects one for you. If you don’t like the selection, or the selection scatters your kids all across town, you and thousands of other parents must queue in line all day to try and find a new school for your kids to attend.

That type of “choice” is more like Communism, than Capitalism folks. You know, where the state assigns you to a school and you line up for days to make simple changes to anything (and that’s on a good day.)

The free enterprise system charter supporters often tout as the cure-all for the ails of the public education system can’t work because bad or undesirable charters can stay in business when the few desirable schools run out of spots.

RSD and New Schools for New Orleans claim that RSD and the New Orleans Experiment has solved the problem of kids being limited by their Zip code. In actuality, they have just made it worse.

These groups claim to provide choice, but the choice belongs to RSD, to the state, not to the parents.

This is the future that awaits us as this “public/private” partnership proceeds.

Wow. Can RSD do anything right?  Uh. . .

But that’s not the only form of waste at RSD.

RSD’s 100+ strong workforce loses more property and equipment each year than the rest of the state put together.  About a million dollars a year at last tally. Here is a statement from the legislative auditor:

Statement: The Recovery School District reported more than 28 percent of its movable property missing in its 2014 inventory. Because of the large volume of missing inventory, [the Louisiana Property Assistance Agency] disapproved the agency’s property certification and completed an internal investigation on the losses. We have since reported our findings on the issue to the Attorney General and Legislative Auditor for further review

The full report is here: http://app.lla.state.la.us/LLApress.nsf/10fbc08e4e1f685a86257c3f005437d5/dcf94ca15acaf57986257dab00780aa9/$FILE/RSD%202014%20Release.pdf

You can also see how RSD’s losses compare to the rest of the state in Lee Zurik’s report:


RSD and LDOE employees switch jobs fluidly because they are really the same agency now.

To see this in action let’s look at the curious case of Kunjan Narechania, who came to Louisiana and RSD with John White as his chief of staff. Then she went with John White to LDOE, and now is back at RSD but is paid from LDOE’s budget.



From payroll file as of 1/23/15


From Nola.com article as of 2/2/15.

Recovery chief of staff Kunjan Narechania said the department has held off on finalizing the Dunbar agreement pending the John Mac and Livingston decisions; if Believe moves into John Mac, it would be moot. She added that the Recovery system does not typically have written agreements with charter programs about which buildings they will get, though “the process has been fairly inconsistent.”

Gotta’ love that freedom.

As you can see, RSD and LDOE employees are fluid and all report to John White.  They certainly don’t oversee any schools, and I sure hope they aren’t trying very hard to look after property that is disappearing at a burn rate of a million dollars per year.  So do we really need them to recruit charter schools in a 100% charter district?

Is RSD the future we want for Louisiana: a giant, unaccountable, exceptionally wasteful, state level agency who’s employees can lobby and donate to local and state officials for increases to its budget and power and which oversees all the schools in the state – instead of local school boards?

Is there a conclusion in here somewhere?

It is clear that RSD is not working. . . for parents or students. At a time of great financial crisis in our state, RSD is providing multiple luxury offices to its staff members so they don’t have the inconvenience of driving into Baton Rouge – where they really are supposed to work.

Louisiana is facing a 1.6 billion dollar shortfall this year, while some state DOE employees are assigned multiple offices (luxury offices).  Based on my calculations, Bobby Jindal is probably right to recommend 100 employees be reduced at the department of education. John White has actually maintained his staffing level at LDOE via RSD over the last 3 years (while increasing his overall payroll by eliminating classified positions and replacing them with unclassified positions.) The payroll at RSD alone is 1/4th of the entire payroll at LDOE for 1/5th of the employees. Many of John White’s employees swap back and forth for budgeting reasons but, they all ultimately report to White.

RSD is the past, and it needs to be left in the past, and now is the time to do it.

John White claims he needs to start discussions and meetings to determine where to make layoffs. I actually have 108 employees to recommend eliminating right now (or maybe 109 depending on where Kunjan actually works).  It’s time to eliminate the RSD.

That is a real choice that would be good for just about everybody.

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Opt-Out parents and children being harassed and terrorized across Louisiana

For the past several weeks I’ve been getting reports from parents in different parishes across the state of Louisiana describing how their school systems are handling parents choosing to opt their children out of the PARCC test.  The opt-out movement started in part because parents have gotten fed up with all the testing parishes are doing in place of teaching, and have chosen to have their voices heard by taking a stand against this abusive practice by refusing to have their children tested in the secret and unknown test that Superintendent John White secretly procured, or produced with in-house staff.  (For simplicity’s stake I will refer to it as the PARCC test, although Louisiana is not currently a PARCC participant and has no direct contract with the vendor that produces and grades the PARCC exam. )

Testing has gotten out of control in public education in our country.  Some parishes may given dozens of different standardized tests to students throughout the year.  Some of these tests help teachers identify weak areas to focus on for particular students.  Some tests, like NAEP, are assigned to students randomly, in small groups, and districts do not spend time “prepping” students for them.  Most parents are not as concerned with those tests.  The test category that has gained much in popularity, complexity, and overuse is the High Stakes test.  These tests are not used to help individual students that take them, they are designed to grade and evaluate teachers, schools and school districts.  Principals can be fired, teachers can be fired, schools can be taken over or closed, and entire school districts can be chopped apart and sold to the highest bidder.  Conversely, principals, teachers and schools can be recognized and even rewarded for top performances on this test.  This arrangement drives the actual curriculum being taught.  This arrangement has resulted in some horrible situations in our schools.

I have had multiple reports from parents in Central School district, Rapides Parish and Terrebonne describing how the school year basically ends after the Winter break and constant test prep begins.  A large portion, or entire portion, of class days are spent taking practice PARCC tests and reviewing sample PARCC questions.  Sometimes children are sent home with tests to practice at home.  Sometimes children are send home with all of their other subject material they could not cover in class because of all the time spent on test prep.  This obsession with pursuing higher and higher scores has crowded out Social Studies, Reading, PE, Art, Music, Computer Lab, Foreign Language and Science.  Those are subjects which are not used in High Stakes testing and not valued as highly, so they have been dispensed with in many schools, or relegated to homework assignments sent home and not reviewed in class.

Regardless of whether we have Common Core or not, the testing craze has got to stop.  Education is more than just a math and ELA score, at least to most parents.  John White actually told LDOE in his first address to the department that in his opinion education is only about Math and ELA scores.  It appears he has gotten his wish.

BESE and LDOE have refused to weigh in on this subject publicly.  However privately I’ve learned that LDOE is sending sending out e-mails and making phone calls to districts to suggest ways to bully or bribe parents into not opting out or changing their minds.  This has led to some crazy and irresponsible messages from schools across the state being sent to parents and children.  Because there is no authoritative guidelines or ruling on this issue, some districts are behaving badly.

When I go to speak with folks about my campaign I spend a lot of the time trying to dispel myths and reassure parents:

  • that their children will not be haunted with zeros for the rest of their lives
  • that they will not be held back next year, that they will not be kept out of advanced work or honors programs
  • that they will not be kept out of extracurricular activities.

I also get contacted through my Facebook page, blog and e-mail with questions and concerns.  I don’t mind doing this of course, but it seems pretty obvious that LDOE and BESE are shirking their duties here.

Some parishes and principals are being downright spiteful.  Take this note from Principal Carol Shelton in Calcasieu Parish.

DES Testing Incentives

In the past, we have given a 30 minute recess to the entire school when we were 100% tested.  Due to the few “opt outs” that I have received, we will no longer be able to do that.  So. . . . we will give a 30 minute recess to all the classes that are 100% tested.

In the past we have given a “free dress” for all students that scored basic and above, we can’t do that this year because test results will not be available until the fall.  So…. . every student that is ‘on time,’completes each day of testing, and tries their best will receive a “free dress” sticker.

She appears to be taunting the parents who are opting their kids out by sending a letter home that it will be the fault of the kids who opted out if the rest of their class doesn’t get a 30 minute recess.  I’m pretty sure this will make the kids opting out the least liked kids in the school and the subject of taunting and bullying.   Carol also makes a claim that they give free dress passes for top scorers, so you can identify the dummies from the smart kids I guess?  Way to be Carol.  Humiliating the struggling kids in your school is what good principals do.   Obviously you take your school slogan to heart “Developing and nurturing the greatness within each of us!” (I wonder if there is a second part to this slogan that involves crapping on everyone else?)

One last thing Carol; ellipses. . .  you’re doing them wrong.  I hope those aren’t on the PARCC exam because you’d fail…. …… .

(I’m probably doing lots of stuff wrong but I ain’t no principal of a school neither.)



In West Baton Rouge Parish the system Superintendent is demanding parents meet with him during working hours on the test days, then take their kids home during the testing, and then bring them back after the testing.   It’s not clear why this policy is defined this way.  It appears to be little more than an extra hurdle designed to intimidate and inconvenience parents instead of just having the kids attend a study hall or get in some time at the library.






Some other reports I’ve received involved drawings for free iPads and other prizes for students taking these tests, a teacher telling a student who opted out that his mother thinks he’s too dumb to pass the PARCC exam and that that if students like him don’t shape up the Chinese will overrun us , threats of sending truancy officers after parents who keep their kids home, and PR pieces that warn parents if their school’s scores drop their property values will go down.

BESE and LDOE need to put a stop to this nonsense by issuing clear guidance to districts on how to handle these situations.  They are the ones imposing these tests on the children and parents in our state, they should be the ones to clean up the mess.  It’s kinda’ in their job description.   They also need to place a ban on test prep.  How meaningful can these tests be if some districts are gaming the system by force feeding PARCC down children’s throats while other districts are trying to educate their kids?  If this strategy works even a little bit will the takeaway be that all districts should eliminate all subjects but ELA and Math test prep and start on the first day of “school”?  Maybe we could swap out summer reading lists for summer test prep instead?  That will show the Chinese!

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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 commoncore.org 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


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The View from Japan: Common Core is a Disaster in the Making


This story from Japan is not what I want education to become in this country. I fight to keep creativity, exploration and true learning in schools and in our culture.

Originally posted on Creative by Nature:

 “What many supporters of Common Core ignore is that the “rigorous” high-stakes testing approach that they wish to impose on our children has been experimented with in many other nations, and has been a complete failure. Once in place it dominates all instruction, turning schools into test prep factories, and students into test-taking machines.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.20.15 AM

I’m a full-time University teacher, living and working in Japan since 1994.  We had our entrance exams a few weeks ago, and part of the job for University teachers here is to mark certain sections of the tests by hand. One of the things I notice each year is that most Japanese students get 30 to 50% of the answers wrong.

Sometimes answers are close but test markers are looking for the “exact” right answer. If the student spells a word wrong they may receive half credit or no points. Why are we so strict with spelling? Because these kinds of high-stakes tests are designed to select and sort…

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