The Time to Act is Now!

It is two months and a week to the election and I am in dire need of volunteers and cash.

The BESE election is scheduled for October 24.

Time is running short to impact an election that will have direct statewide implications for the next four years. If we don’t win the outcome of this election will probably set our public schools and students back a generation or more – assuming we recover at all.

A single person can serve as a catalyst or vehicle for change, but they cannot bring the change alone. I need your help.

The enemies of public education are lying low right now.  They are waiting for the outcome of this election before they add more tests for your kids to take, double down on Common Core, drive off more experienced and qualified teachers, approve more controversial charter schools, expand the voucher program, take over your school districts, and mock you while they are doing it.

If you do not act now, you won’t have another chance for 4 years. You can attend every BESE meeting between now and then but if you have no allies you will be wasting your time and breath.

The time for action is now. There is no more time to waste.  In district 6 Chas Roemer will be declaring his candidacy between September 8-10, a little more than a month before the October 24 primary. His donors are already lined up, his election consultants are waiting in the wings for him to pull the trigger.  That is what he did 4 years ago and promised to do again.

This is not a surprise move. It is a historical pattern we can all see is coming.  Are you ready to concede without a fight?  If you do nothing to help me and our other FlipBESE candidates that is exactly what you are doing.

If you jump in now we still might not win, but if you don’t we almost certainly will lose to the 600k warchest just one of our opposition forces has raised.

If people see us fail without support – will anyone be foolish enough to stand up and put themselves out there next time?

This is your moment. This is a pivotal crossroads for our state, our people and our children.

Will you stand with us, or watch us get cut down where we stand? Everyone, including our enemies, is watching. A tepid response will prove they were right all along.  The opposition (us) is just a handful of troublemakers to be ignored, not a broad multi-spectrum movement that should be feared, respected and listened to.

How we are defined going forward is not up to me, not up to the mainstream media, not up to LABI, or Lane Grigsby, A+PEL, CABL, Bill Gates, or the chamber, it’s up to you.

If you are interested in canvassing please contact me at
With your name and phone number.

I would like to schedule some routes for September 5, 6 and 6 when I will have more time to be directly involved with organizing and canvassing with you and I hope the weather will be much more hospitable to supporting life.

If you would like to contribute please do so.  My page for contributions is

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What’s Wrong with Education in Louisiana and Some Ideas On How to Fix it

Louisiana Voters,


A few months ago I had a meeting with Lane Grigsby about my candidacy for BESE.

For those of you who don’t know, Grigsby is one of the chief funders of the education reform movement in Louisiana. Investigative journalist Lee Zurik did a multi-segment story on corruption in Louisiana politics called Louisiana Purchased, and he discovered that Grigsby, owner of Cajun Industries and one of the chief supporters of LABI (the pro-privatization business lobby) was one of the most prolific funders of political candidates in Louisiana and was able to bypass many of the individual spending limits by having family members, PACs he formed, and as many as 17 companies he owned or controlled donate the maximum allowable amount to candidates he was supporting.


I wasn’t seeking funding. I was seeking some understanding of why he was getting involved in education and why he held the stands and beliefs he did. (Grigsby apparently didn’t know who I was which is why he agreed to meet with me. I knew I was diametrically opposed to him on almost every issue.)


While we disagreed on almost everything in our meeting, Lane brought up a very important point that I was overlooking.

“Besides kicking out John White, what are you actually going to do to improve education in Louisiana?”

My focus had been on fighting the BESE board, LDOE, and returning ownership of the public education system to the people of Louisiana.  I hadn’t really considered what I would do if I was placed in a position where I could actually work to improve things!

For the past two months I have been doing much less talking and writing and much more listening and analyzing.  This is probably not going to win me more votes, but getting elected is not really the most important thing, is it?  Improving our education system and the outcomes of our children and thus the future of our people and our state is a much more important long-term goal.

Win or lose the upcoming election, I believe I’ve already accomplished my short-term mission of showing how ordinary people can get involved with their government to try and make things better.


But let’s get back to the whole improving education part.


Despite all the “reforms” Louisiana has undertaken over the past decade our outcomes really haven’t improved all the much, now have they?

10 years ago Louisiana was in a 5 way tie for 44th place (out of 52 States + DC + territories) on the NAEP exam for 4th grade Mathematics. (NAEP is a long term national test used for comparing states to each other and to themselves longitudinally.


For a snapshot of what this lack of growth looks like over time, refer to the chart below. Notice how the gap between Louisiana and the rest of the country has only widened under the current administration and their misguided policies.


In 2013, Louisiana was just 2 tenths of one point (out of 500), ahead of Mississippi. We’ve actually lost a lot of ground compared to other states, despite the continuous claims of success issued by Lousiana’s state Education Board, Governor Jindal – now finishing up the 8th year of his term consecutive terms and running for President, and the Louisiana Department of Education – which both implemented the reforms and then internally evaluated itself on them. When the 2015 NAEP scores are released I expect Louisiana will have finally accomplished the unthinkable, allowing Mississippi to pass us up and thereby becoming the lowest academically performing state in the nation. That will be quite a first.

All of this lack of progress was achieved despite numerous reformers we were promised would work, and are continuously told are working – based on internal metrics the LDOE manipulates every year internally to collect kudos for their achievement and to buy more time for their allies in the private sector that many top executives at LDOE have previously worked for, or hope to work for someday.

Over the past decade we were told:

  1. Charter schools will solve everything with market driven incentives! 
    1. Charter have some anecdotal success, but many perform much worse than the public schools the replace.
    2. More than 10% of our students are enrolled in charter schools.
    3. Either the presence of charter schools are driving down the performance of traditional schools
    4. Or charter schools are performing so poorly they are offsetting the gains of traditional schools.
    5. The “best” charter schools by test scores, are usually simply the best at keeping the wealthiest students and most involved families engaged.  This is why Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies build new schools in brand new secluded and pricy subdivisions like and refuse to provide busing.
    6. Lafayette illustrates another facet of charter behavior: the bait and switch. Charters are advertised as a way to help out or replace struggling schools. Lafayette Parish, one of the top school districts in the state, had some schools in poorer areas that were not performing well.
      1. “However, the shiny new schools were built about as far away from the poorest communities as they could be. Charter Schools USA opened up two charters in new housing developments named Sugar Pond Mills and Couret Farms, which sell new shotgun-style houses on small lots of land for as much as half a million dollars each.
      2. These schools are theoretically open to the entire state, but do not provide transportation. They also require many hours of “service” from parents. Service time increases per child enrolled. Charter schools offer enrollment to all children on paper, but in the real world they do whatever they can to keep out the riffraff.”
      3. See more at:
    7. This results in less diversity in our public schools, fewer schools with motivated or engaged parents and students.  No doubt this will help some, but help all?  Over the long term this has caused our state’s performance to stagnate or even decline. We already have some elite schools like Benjamin Franklin and Baton Rouge High.  This trend is likely to create a few more of those elite schools, and many, many, more subpar schools that are recycled through new charter operators every few years.
  1. Common Core’s high standards will push kids to try harder! “We’ve been too easy on those pipsqueaks up to now, but with more rigor and higher expectations comes unprecedented success!   If we just “believe” in our children, they will do better.
    1. To drive home this message the Louisiana Department of Education even changed its homepage and signature to this motto, “Louisiana Believes.”
    2. Honestly, does anyone really think the only thing that has been holding us back all these years is simply a lack of believing?
    3. We had the second or third highest standards in the nation prior to Common Core was adopted in 2010, and we ranked second from last in achievement.  Massachusetts had the highest standards and they ranked first in achievement.
      1. There is very little correlation between standards and achievement any more than there is a significant correlation between charter schools, vouchers, choice, and achievement.
      2. There is, however, a strong correlation between achievement and poverty.
        1. Our poorest schools have our lowest School Performance Scores and our schools with the fewest poor children have our highest SPS scores.
        2. This is generally the same situation across the nation and as a result the community schools of the poorest children are the ones inordinately impacted by school takeovers and privatization – with no discernable positive impact in performance for the community as a whole.
  1. Unions and their bloodsucking ways are the monkeys on the backs of our children and impediment to performance because they protect so many bad, lazy teachers. 
    1. Having inordinately powerful unions does not appear to be an important factor in terms of student achievement.
    2. However strong unions are a significant impediment to privatization which is why charter groups and their supporters like Stand for Children, and temp teacher providers like Teach For America advocate for policies that weaken unions and grant them greater market access.)
      1. Louisiana has relatively weak unions; Massachusetts has some of the strongest, if not the strongest, and is also one of the highest achieving states.
      2. You might even make the case that stronger unions build better outcomes for students.
        1. I won’t do that because I think it is not the most significant factor, not something Louisiana would accept culturally, and not an outcome one can influence directly very easily or very quickly.
  1. All Louisiana needs is some real “accountability.”  If we hold lazy teachers and crappy schools accountable they will know we mean business and work harder.  If they don’t we’ll take em over and the next guy will work harder. 
    1. We’ve increased testing and “Accountability” impacts for schools and school districts steadily over the last 15 years.
    2. Whether you believe it or not, every Superintendent of Education manipulates the outcomes of these results (although White is the most egregious) to show they are doing a good job.
      1. The scoring should be handled outside of LDOE by an independent auditor no matter who is in charge to prevent political interference on the outcomes –  if we’re serious about these scores being meaningful.
  1. We live in the technology age but somehow we haven’t inserted data ports directly into children’s brains to upload everything they need to succeed.  Before we do that, let’s give them all laptops and see if that does anything. 
    1. Giving laptops to every child helps Apple and Dell meet their sales quotas, but we aren’t boosting our scores or outcomes dramatically with these devices.
    2. Often these devices become a distraction, toy, or massive headache for IT departments to maintain and replace.
    3. Universal laptops or ipads are not a one-time cost, but a massive permanent cost.
  1. Having more recruits from elite universities become teachers will fundamentally transform the teaching profession into a more professional and respected calling.
    1. All too often these temporary teachers from glorified staffing agencies like Teach For America, City Year, and The New Teacher Project are ill prepared with 5 week training courses on how to teach.
    2. Their presence has had the exact opposite effect. Teaching has become less respected because people are led to believe anyone can become a teacher with a 5 week training course.
    3. The vast majority of these recruits are gone in 5 years, most after the first 2 years. This leads to greater instability and turmoil in districts already experiencing turmoil.
    4. The temporary presence of students from elite universities hasn’t really improved teaching overall, but it has led to a dramatic increase in education startups and new crop of education leaders.
      1. TFA Leaders like John White and Kevin Hoffman primarily hire likeminded TFA recruits and drive off local talent and experienced personnel.
      2. While these folks are usually very smart and committed, they are not better than the experienced teachers they displace or drive off
    5. Even if we wanted to replace every teacher with TFA, The New Teacher Project, or City Year recruits the supply cannot outstrip the demand. This is leading us to become dependent on an outside constant influx of new teachers and leading to shortages of experienced teachers and talent within our state.

Will collecting zillions of points of bio-metric data be the silver bullet we were waiting for? 

Will providing data to third party vendors (and hackers) help our children learn faster?

If these ideas were the panacea we were looking for it certainly would be convenient for a lot of folks; primarily the ones selling these ideas or products.

The truth is, to overcome the impacts of our entrenched generational poverty will require a lot of work from a lot of folks and a lot less “believing” and hoping and standard raising.  If a kid can’t reach the monkey bars, moving them two feet higher won’t help.  If kids can’t read, giving them even harder books and more tests to show they can’t read, won’t make them read more proficiently.  What I found helps my kids is when an adult (or child) lifts them up to where they can reach those monkey bars and feel comfortable hanging from them.

Kids want to achieve, but most don’t want to be overly frustrated or reminded of their failures, or how other kids are far ahead of them, constantly. 

Our schools have been plagued for many years by poverty, apathy, and acceptance.   In many parts of the state we have allowed our schools and systems to fall into disarray.

Our more affluent parents have abandoned the schools and they have taken their resources and parental involvement with them.  Out of these ashes we’ve had some outstanding new school districts form with the backing of their communities, like Central and Zachary. (Obviously Baker is still a problem.)

However the solution is not having the state/RSD come in and take control from the locals or chartering the school to a company based out of New York or Michigan.  Rather than simply punishing low performance or problems, and completely pushing the locals out of the way, we need to work with these folks and help guide support them.  This is what the LDOE used to do when our scores were going up – serving in an advisory and support capacity. This is what we need to do resume our climb from the performance dungeon the education reform movement has commissioned us to – while they drained our coffers dry.

In New Orleans we have many local communities seeking to have their schools returned to them, like the perpetual failure John McDonogh.

Rather than ignore and disregard these folks the state needs to embrace them and their efforts.

We won’t have successful community schools without the community.  We have mobilized communities in many parts of the state. This BESE and LDOE ignores them, mocks them and alienates them.

Many public school parents of means are taking their kids out of public schools to homeschool them.

Those are not victories, but tragic losses we must reverse now, before it’s too late!

Some of you folks on BESE and the House and Senate Education Committees might consider the people showing up to BESE meetings and Education hearings and giving you guys a hard time are the problem, but that is exactly backwards! They are exactly the folks you want on your side.  They have energy and passion and care about their school systems, their children, and their neighbors children.  You won’t be able to fix the schools from the outside if you don’t include the parents and community members on the inside. The few token parents Stand For Children busses in for meetings (and buys lunch for) don’t really count.

BESE members Chas Roemer and Jim Garvey doodle on their cell phones when parents are speaking to them about their troubles and problems.  They ignore criticism and different points of view and evidence that is contrary to their pre-determined stands.  BESE members Holly Boffy and Kira Orange Jones rarely speak and represent the CCSSO and TFA respectively as their full time jobs so they owe their allegiance not to our state or people, but to their employers.

Many of the folks driving education reform have serious conflicts of interest or ulterior motives.

  • Charter schools and technology vendors are going to tell you they are the solution.
  • Test vendors are going to tell you the only thing that you need is more tests with more details.
  • John White is going to tell you he needs more of all these folks because they represent future job opportunities for him.

What we really need doesn’t cost a lot of new money, require fancy new technology, more tests, or more vendors of any type.  We simply need to get back to basics and the three Rs as described two hundred years ago by Sir William Curtis.

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Arithmetic (Reckoning)

Most importantly we need students focusing on improving their reading proficiency and composition abilities. We need to redirect funds from programs we don’t need, that haven’t been proven, or that have been proven not to work, to helping students read more, better, and faster.  This takes practice and finding subjects that interest them.  This takes a time commitment.  This does not require every student to proceed/read at the same pace at the same time.  Student’s should be helped to improve without regard to test scores, without practice tests or test prep which is excessively boring and not conducive to long term learning or retention.

Our children need to learn to read and to be engaged by the material in interesting ways.  We need to eliminate teaching to the test and return to teaching and learning for their own sakes.  This will, as a matter of course, improve test scores.

If children can’t read, can they really understand or learn science, history, economics or civics?  Many of our behavior problems at higher-grade levels are because kids are bored or disengaged because they can’t follow along – because they can’t read or haven’t learned the earlier material.  However when kids have real behavior problems, that are disruptive to the class and school, they need to be removed to allow teachers to teach and other students the opportunity to learn.

Common Core introduced a lot of new “reading” in the math portions, but this is what is giving most children the most trouble.  My daughter was required to read and write for her math homework in first grade when she was still just learning to read and write.  Reading and writing about math problems is not very interesting to a 6 year old.  Common Core (specifically the Tier one Eureka Math LDOE has selected) is trying to address the reading/writing problem in the most frustrating and counter-productive way imaginable to improve children’s reading and writing skills.  Changing an existing standard here and there won’t fix that underlying issue. Revising the entire approach to and eliminating unnecessary frustration is a much greater problem than any individual standard.  The current standards revision process  (that only allows for comment on existing standards) is not likely to address this underlying structural problem.

Common Core does not encourage children to learn on their own, it encourages them to learn only the minimum necessary to pass a test.  The PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and ACT exams do not measure the ability to learn, and thus do not measure potential. As a result of the single-minded approach to improving test scores we are depriving students of the ability and joys of learning for its own sake, and our test scores are not improving.

Louisiana, if you really want to fix education, you need to examine the motivations of folks that are pitching their ideas to you and stay focused on your chief goal – fixing education outcomes and preparing children for a lifetime of learning – rather than being tied down by a single solution, candidate, or ally.

There’s not much money to be made with my solution so I doubt many people will want to buy into it.  However if you would like support me and my vision you will have a chance to vote for me on October 24th.

If you would like to help in a more direct way my campaign website is listed below.

Thank you for you time.

Jason France

2015 Candidate for BESE in district 6


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SPEDGate: How the Louisiana Department of Education is Misappropriating Millions of Dollars a Year from their Federal Special Education Funding for Cronies and Political Favors

What follows is an investigative story about the Special Education program run by the Louisiana Department of Education which reveals how numerous players have profited by funneling Federal IDEA funds to their own pet projects and personnel.

This illegal misappropriation of public money has left many special education students, parents, and district staff without the support those federal funds were mandated to provide.

My story has many twists, turns, and villains, but I will try to lay out the details as clearly as I can.  This story exposes what appears to be criminal behavior and corruption at our highest levels of government.  There is undoubtedly more to the story than I know or will be able to relay here, but I will present what I have and let the public, legislators and law enforcement agencies decide if this matter is worth investigating further using tools beyond my power.

A few months ago I received a letter from a concerned Special Education activist in Louisiana.  This source to whom I have given anonymity provided some internal documents prepared by the Louisiana Department of Education which were distributed to certain Louisiana legislators.  Much of the information provided had been previously relayed to me over several years, but I have been unable to prove those assertions, until now.

The first element that was revealed to me is that LDOE has destroyed the Special Education Department.  Most of the staff who previously dealt with Special Education issues were reassigned or fired,  but LDOE kept the money the federal government was providing specifically to support special education staff.  To justify this, LDOE allocated these funds I to 129 different staff members across the department, many of whom had absolutely nothing to do with Special Education.  I have provided a list of these allocations as attachments labeled “salary” and “salary 2”.  I’m told this documentation was provided to Representative John Schroeder when the department was trying to make a case that they did not have the necessary staff to comply with Act 833. (Act 833 was signed into law in 2014 and requires LDOE to provide alternate graduation requirement guidelines for certain disabled students.)


salary 2

According to guidance documents I have provided, it is acceptable for LDOE to allocate salaries on a pro-rata basis.  However, this basis must be determined by the employee for the amount of time they actually spend solely on Special Education issues.  Employees are required to sign off every week on “Time-and-Effort Certifications” like the one shown below:

Cert schedule




As you can see, employees are supposed to document how much time they spend on actual Special Education focused issues and to then sign this affidavit.  Their supervisors then sign off on this form.  However employees at LDOE do not enter the percentages.  Their supervisors provide documents with these percentages already filled out, or they instruct their employees what numbers they must use based on how they have been allocated for budgeting purposes, not based on any actual work.  Many of the LDOE employees allocated to Special Education couldn’t work on Special Education issues if they tried.  Employees that have tried to refuse committing fraud have been threatened with immediate termination by their supervisors.  One source I interviewed relayed a story I had been told several times before.

“…when one LDOE employee said he/she did not want to sign the verification sheet – because it was untrue – the person was told the alternative was to be fired.”

Some state employees are blackmailed into committing payroll fraud every week.  They cannot reveal this because they cannot prove the supervisor told them they would be fired for not signing the sheet, and if they confess to committing the fraud, the supervisor can claim they were ignorant of the situation and the employee acted on his/her own.  This would result in the employee being fired and then subject to criminal charges.  (This is how many criminal organizations and gangs trap people in cycles of crime.  Once you commit a crime, that crime can be held over you to keep you silent and to blackmail you into additional criminal activity.)  Below is one of the relevant federal directives:

Support for Salaries and Wages of an Employee Working on a Single Cost Objective

The Appendix to 2 C.F.R. Part 225 (formerly OMB Circular A-87, Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian Tribal Governments) requires an employee whose salary and wages are supported, in whole or in part, with Federal funds to document his/her time spent working on Federal programs in order to ensure that charges to each Federal program reflect an accurate account of the employee’s time and effort devoted to that program.  The Appendix addresses two types of documentation:  semiannual certifications and personnel activity reports.

Personnel activity reports

If an employee works on multiple activities or cost objectives, a distribution of the employee’s salary and wages must be supported by a personnel activity report (PAR) or equivalent documentation.  The Appendix lists instances of multiple activities or cost objectives for which a PAR is required — that is, if an employee works on –

  • • More than one Federal award.
  • • A Federal award and a non-Federal award.
  • • An indirect cost activity and a direct cost activity.
  • • Two or more indirect activities that are allocated using different allocation bases.
  • • An unallowable activity and a direct or indirect cost activity.

A PAR must –

  • • Reflect an after-the-fact distribution of the actual activity of the employee.
  • • Account for the total activity for which each employee is compensated.
  • • Be prepared at least monthly and coincide with one or more pay periods.
  • • Be signed by the employee.

Employees are told what to put on their timesheets and if they refuse to do so and sign off on them, they are threatened with termination.  That is clearly not what the USDOE had in mind when they issued their guidance.

LDOE was asked about their special education resources, alignment and composition in a December 17, 2014, Joint House and Senate Education Committee hearing.  They responded on January 5, 2015, describing how they had reorganized internally to better address Special Education classes concerns that could potentially span across the department.  Here is the question they answered and LDOE’s response:

8. Please identify the Department’s Special Education staff and describe their support of local school systems.

Historically the Department has been organized into a fragmented system of divisions in which various elementary and secondary school sectors have been isolated – not only special education, but also career and technical education, curriculum, educator support, assessments, accountability, federal programs, early childhood education, and more.  This structure did not foster planning or collaboration among divisions, nor did it reflect the real-world environments of public schools where all of these needs must be addressed every day in the same schools, even in the same classrooms.  The isolation of special education staff, in particular, ran contrary to the goals of inclusion for students to be able to participate in and benefit from the total educational experience as their non-disabled peers.

Because special education is a service for student who need it, and because all Department of Education staff and local school system staff are obligated to providing that service, not just “special education” staff, the Department began integrating special education supports throughout the agency:

Network Teams: […]

Program Staff: […]


memo 2

Most of this passage is gobbledygook designed to take up space and bore the reader into dozing off and accepting LDOE’s presumed expertise on the subject.  The section I’ve highlighted is the basis under which LDOE is operating. Their reasoning is not supported by federal laws, regulations or policies, but it does describe the philosophy they are providing to legislators.

In plain speak, what LDOE is saying is:

“Because all school systems have or could have disabled students, and all support staff provide information for all students (which include disabled students), all employees support disabled students.”

This is not just wrong but the opposite of what the federal government has provided this funding for.  LDOE knows this is wrong, but they are willfully ignoring the laws and relevant federal guidance because no one is holding them accountable for following state and federal laws and policies.

LDOE is using earmarked Special Education funding as a way to boost employees’ salaries and employ personnel for the programs they deem more important that Special Education.

As a result:

  • Many initiatives such as 833, an alternative pathway for disabled students to earn a diploma, are faltering.
  • Students are being denied services and corporally punished for their conduct related to their disabilities.
  • Parents are being told to fill out invasive surveys and are required to provide information illegally in order for their children to receive services.
  • Charter schools are not only refusing to provide disabled students services but are being paid money for services they never provided.
  • The state and RSD are being sued on a regular basis because of their handling of Special Education.

Here is one of the of the class action settlements related to violations of special education students’ rights (ironically hosted on the LDOE’s website,

Some of the complaints against RSD and LDOE involved students with disabilities being repeatedly locked in closets or disciplined for minor infractions until they could be expelled.

Leskisher Luckett, whose third-grade son was repeatedly locked in a school closet as a means of punishment, described the effect this discrimination has had on her son. “After being treated like a lost cause for years, Darren has come to believe that about himself. My son, my 9-year old son, is too young to give up on his education.”

Robyn Flanery’s daughter began suffering from profound emotional troubles upon entering the seventh grade. But rather than receive any type of services to address her condition, she was repeatedly punished for minor infractions until she was finally expelled from the school she had attended since kindergarten. Ms. Flanery reported that this led to even greater emotional trauma.

These situations are largely attributed to the fact that special education coordinators across the state are lacking in guidance (have lacked it for years), direction and training on special education issues.  The state is provided millions of dollars annually to employ staff to support school district personnel, but they are shirking these duties.  Taxpayers are not getting what they are paying for.  Instead, taxpayers are now also paying for lawsuits and settlements because disabled children and their parents are suffering abuse, neglect and ignorance as a result of the incompetence and lack of expertise of staff employed by the LDOE.

For this story, numerous parents and other sources involved with Special Education in Louisiana were interviewed and asked to provide their thoughts on LDOE and their handling of Special Education for the state.

Liz Gary, a mother of a student receiving special education services in St Tammany,  and a staunch Special Education rights advocate in Louisiana had this to say about LDOE’s recent changes to how they handle (or don’t handle) Special Education training and oversight:

The state department has offered no training, professional development or oversight in years.  They believe their webinars and newsletter is all that is needed.  Unfortunately, as you know, they have let a lot of experienced people go and replaced them with inexperienced people.  It is not good.  If districts are not doing what they are supposed to do there is no one to monitor them because the state department is not doing it.

Districts are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.  I’ve heard this refrain many times for years. This cry has only gotten louder since State Superintendent John White destroyed the Special Education department in the name of improving coordination and efficiency.

White and his staff dismissed, demoted or drove off most of the qualified and experienced staff members and replaced them with politically driven appointments like the current Special Education Policy Director Jamie Wong.  Jamie spent a few years teaching pre-k and kindergarten in DC as a TNTP teacher.  (TNTP is The New Teacher Project, an organization founded by the now discredited Michelle Rhee, a former Teach for America Alum who is widely believed to have rigged test scores and overlooked or even encouraged cheating during her tenure as the Superintendent of DC public schools.)  Jamie now earns $95,000 a year at LDOE with only a few years of teaching experience.  Not so coincidentally, Jamie Wong is married to Michael Thomas Wong, one of the chief campaign strategists for Senator David Vitter who is widely presumed to be Louisiana’s next governor.  It appears that Michael Wong is paid at least $90,000 to serve as Vitter’s Capital Area Director, and  gubernatorial campaign advisor and strategist.  Michael’s salary for just 6 months of last year was $43,318.54.


Sources have claimed that Jamie’s job is a quid pro quo from John White to David Vitter, who is presumed to be John White’s next boss as the Governor of Louisiana.

Perhaps that is true, or perhaps that was just the icing on the cake, but what I want to know is why no one else in Louisiana or at the Department of Education was considered qualified for her position? I’m having trouble understanding why a recent college graduate living in DC (someone with a few years of teaching experience and a degree in political science from Southern Mississippi) is in charge overseeing all Special Education for the State of Louisiana, or why she was appointed when folks with 30 and 40 years of Special Education teaching and experience and PhDs were cast aside.

Dr. Laureen Mayfield, President of the Louisiana Association of Special Education Administrators (LASEA), had this to say about LDOE’s recent attempt at implementing Act 833:

They are not rolling out the training until August, after school has begun for many of us. The Special Education Directors and Supervisors in the state have clearly communicated to LDOE that they needed advanced training on writing IEPs for students pursuing an alternate pathway to graduation under Act 833. In addition, LASEA members have repeatedly expressed that they do not need “IEP Writing 101” for beginning teachers, but instead, higher level training for experienced teachers who just need guidance on developing thoughtful, effective IEPs for Act 833. The drafts modules that have been shown to a stakeholder group, however, appeared to be basic “what is an IEP and how do you write it” information—which is exactly what LASEA clearly communicated they did not need. We will not know until August if LSU listened to feedback from directors, or if the modules will “have Act 833 embedded in them” by including a slide or two quoting from the legislation.

LDOE has as many as a third to one half of their workforce reportedly dedicated to Special Education issues.  According to LDOE’s own report to the legislature in January, these staff members were imbedded across all areas of the department, particularly curriculum, and yet they had to obtain a quarter million dollar contract with Alan Coulter at the LSU Human Development Center to provide guidance and training for Act 833 which is what the preceding comments are referring to.

However, instead of actually providing that training, the Human Development Center produced a basic “IEP 101” course because LDOE, under John White, with 129 special education staffers, had lost the capacity to do even the most basic Special Education task.

One former attendee of previous professional development sessions hosted by LDOE (in the pre-John White days) reminisced about how LDOE used to tend to Special Education issues:

Pre-White [and former state superintendent Paul Pastorek] the Special Ed Directors from the entire state, including those in charters, met for quarterly meetings in BR with the Special Ed State Director and all the SPED staff. It was a whole day meeting and they updated us on everything–changes to laws, innovative practices, etc.

In addition to that, an Ad Hoc group […] met monthly with Susan Batson and all the SPED staff at the LDOE. We went over everything going on of importance, including vetting and discussing any changes they wanted to make to bulletins. We talked and “argued” professionally until we all came to consensus. They also kept us up to date on all changes we needed to know about, listened to our concerns, and actually addressed them.

I also spoke with former staff members from LDOE to get their take on what had happened. Here is one of the descriptions:

You can point out that every student with disabilities in Louisiana has been affected by the greed and political aspirations of our so-called leaders. Districts have no guidance from LDOE because anyone with any knowledge or experience in special Ed has been run off either by layoffs or out of sheer disgust over the way things are being done. They (districts) are left to figure it out for themselves. The districts with stronger special Ed leaders are surviving; those with weaker leadership – not so much.

One parent from Central had this to say.  Her children were denied Special Education services at Tanglewood elementary because she refused to fill out an offensive questionnaire asking about her elementary children’s sexual experiences and drug use and if anyone might have abused them.

Things are much better homeschooling. Two of my kids were finally able to skip a grade, so now they are working at a level that actually challenges them. My two that needed IEPs are getting one on one and are able to work at their own pace. And I’m NOT accountable to BESE :) Maybe they’ll get their act together, and a few of them will get unseated. Maybe John White would be de-throned. Then I would maybe consider public school again. I looked at the website for Tanglewood so I could give you the name of the lady who told me my son could receive “intervention” but no “services” unless I filled out that stupid paper. She’s not on there anymore, so I don’t know what happened with her.

Of course refusing services because a parent refused to complete an illegal questionnaire is illegal, but despite 129 employees being paid at LDOE with Special Education funds, there is literally no one to train these folks, no one to oversee them, no one for parents to complain to and obtain any help.  Parents are forced to either subject themselves to illegal requirements or have their services illegally denied.  Parents are forced to withdraw their kids and homeschool them or simply forced to watch their kids suffer while LDOE and John White doles out SPED funding to vastly unqualified political appointees.

St Tammany and Central are by no means the only school systems suffering from neglect and malfeasance.  Most of our districts are suffering in one way or another but cataloguing all the stories would require several volumes.

This last story clearly illustrates the situation.  I contacted Kathy Edmonston, the Parent Resource Facilitator for the Ascension Parish School System, to get her take on Special Education in Louisiana under LDOE’s guidance. (Kathy is also a District 6 candidate for the upcoming 2015 BESE election.)    She had this to say about how disabled children are faring in her parish school system:

Hey Jason. Thank you for taking time to express concern for our SPED kids.  They are struggling so much with the new standards. My title is Parent Resource Facilitator for Ascension Parish School System.  It looks as if it has been forgotten at DOE as it is difficult for parents to find any one there to talk to when they are experiencing difficulty in their schools. I have not been told so, but it seems that SPED department at state department has been dismantled. We in Ascension have done pretty well moving along with Act 833. It will be more fully implemented this coming school year.  The transition has been difficult as the DOE has given very little guidance.  If there had not been an ACT 833 steering committee established to stay on them, I am not sure if we would have gotten any direction!  Fortunately, we have a very good SPED director in Ascension who didn’t wait, but started digging right away and communicating with other parishes, so at the end of the year, most of our teachers knew what to do.  Since the implementation of the current [Common Core] standards, our SPED students are experiencing lots of stress and difficulty because they are taught and tested on standards that are above their academic functioning level.  It is so sad.  Parents have nowhere to turn, and teachers can’t answer their questions!

When I explained to Kathy many of the things I’d heard from the Ascension Parish leadership and that everything there was peachy keen, she had this to say:

Nothing is going peachy anywhere in the state right now!!!!!!!!!!!!  Ascension is struggling just like all other parishes in the state with the new “transformation” we are experiencing.  Our parents, teachers, but most importantly, our children.

I’d say that about sums things up nicely.

Note: ( Liz Gary was not a member of SEAP.  This piece has been edited to reflect that change.  We apologize for this error.)

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LDOE Data Sharing Agreements that Put inBloom’s Agreement to Shame


In the last Legislative Session of 2014 two types of data protection and privacy laws were being sponsored.  I testified against one of them submitted by Senator Appel that tried to do double duty, but which was overly complex and was straight from an ALEC template.  The two bills that passed that became Acts were 837 submitted by Schroeder, which restricted the ways in which data could be used, collected and distributed (theoretically) and what I would call an equally important bill, Act 677 submitted by Ivy, that required the department to finally document all the places and reasons they do submit data to external entities and vendors. 

Without act 677 we are dependent on rumors (which may be untrue or incomplete), whistleblowers (which once they’ve blown they are expelled and our oversight ability takes a hit), and blind luck.  Freedom of Information requests are routinely ignored, answered months late, require lawsuits that drag on for years, and often contain very little of the information you have requested  – once John White’s executive LDOE staffers pare out the sensitive or useful information.

Act 677 has corroborated a lot of the stories I have been receiving over the years and jogged some memories of what I had overheard we were doing.

I haven’t seen any coverage of this resource yet, (theoretically it should have been available as of January) but I think this post will get the ball rolling.

You can see the department’s timeline and summary of privacy issues here:

There are 23 agreements and instances of student level data being routinely distributed to external vendors, including names and SSNs, listed.  I have not had a chance to review them all, but I believe it is important we do so before the legislative session is over. 


eScholar – February 2015

ACE – December 2014

ACT – February 2015

Agilix – May 2013

Arete – December 2014

Brookes Pub – December 2014

CAI – December 2014

DRC – December 2014

Harland Clarke – March 2015

iSTEEP – December 2014

JAG – December 2014

LOSFA-GEAR UP – December 2014

LOSFA:STS – December 2014

Louisiana Board of Regents – February 2015

Louisiana Office of State Inspector General (OIG)

MERIL – December 2014

MMCS:CATE – December 2014

MMCS:Acc – December 2014

PacMet – December 2014

Red-eSetGrowDSC – December 2014

TeachingStrategies – December 2014

University of Arkansas – December 2014

University of Oregon-DIBELS – December 2014

I will compare this list to my notes to see if I can identify any that might be missing.  However this is quite a bit of disturbing information.  Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to let your legislators know your thoughts as well. 

My thanks to Representative Barry Ivy for helping to shed a little more light on the darkness that inhabits LDOE.

Use this link to identify your legislators and obtain their contact information.

This is the only information you will need to identify your legislators.



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Crawfish are Real and So are the Problems with Common Core

Common Core started out as an idea.  No one knew if it would work or not. To increase the odds of it “working” (measured by being adopted nationwide) an unprecedented but shrewdly calculated media campaign was launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and numerous other testing and textbook companies and education reform groups.

In Louisiana, 6 months before the standards were even written and finalized, our state Board of Education, known as BESE, adopted the standards illegally by not following proper administrative procedures, without reviewing them, and without allowing the public to see them or review them.

Most of BESE, led by BESE President Chas Roemer of District 6, has lied to the public about the standards ever since.

Common Core State Standards were not developed by “the States”, they were developed by textbook and testing vendors led by Jason Zimba for math and David Coleman for ELA.  Most teachers and academics consulted about the standards during the review process refused to sign off on them, because they were too confusing, not developmentally appropriate, not more rigorous, and contained serious gaps.

The standards were thrown together in about a year by a few people with zero prior experience writing standards, and never thoroughly and impartially reviewed before being implemented.

These are facts, look them up.

Rather than address the very real problems with Common Core, these companies and their allies have chosen to mock opponents with tinfoil hats, unicorns, straw man arguments and flat out lies.

They do this because they have no facts to defend their claims.  No studies were done, no international benchmarks were taken, and the few academics they grudging included (and ignored) refused to sign off on the standards.  There is widespread evidence that these standards are actually dumbing down our curriculum and making our students less prepared for colleges and careers.  There is also widespread evidence that these standards are causing fear, anger and frustration among thousands of parents and students across our state, and millions across our county.

Many states, like Texas, have chosen to reject Common Core.  Now other states that adopted it are getting out. Tennessee unanimously repealed common Core yesterday.

Yesterday, in a bipartisan vote, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted unanimously (97:0) to repeal Common Core. Today, the Tennessee State Senate followed with a (27:1) vote in favor of repeal.

“This legislation is a template for all states to begin a much needed journey of separation from federally generated standards and an invitation to embrace each states’ own constitutionally delegated authority to serve its citizens at its own will,” said HB1035 chief sponsor Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg). “As our founders and God surely intended.”


Indiana and Oklahoma have also repealed Common Core in favor of their own local standards.  To be “State standards” they have to be created by, controlled by and owned by the state.  Common Core standards are not.  They are controlled by testing companies and textbook companies and owned by the NGA and CCSSO.

Don’t believe me?  Try to change the standards and see how far you get.

Are all the legislators in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Indiana to be mocked and ridiculed, as you have us, by aligning yourselves with the folks that mock us with stuffed pink unicorns?Some of our legislators may have felt like they needed to jump on Lane Grigsby’s Pink Unicorn drawn clown wagon by refusing to allow Common Core to be brought to the floor for a vote or for debate last week. Don’t think we didn’t notice.

Legislators: We parents and voters are watching what you do, and what you don’t do now.  You won’t be able to turn your backs on us and ignore us and walk away.  We will come to your town halls.  We will come to your offices.  We will come to your fundraisers, ceremonies, dedications and speeches until your listen.  When we see you on the street and in church we will ask you about them and what you intend to do to fix the mess that adopting these hastily defined standards has caused.

If you continue to cater to those who believe in unicorns and fantasy we will hold you accountable. . .  and not just at election time.

If all it takes is stuffed toys to get you to bow to the will of a few special interest groups with too many dollars and not enough sense, prepare to be dazzled with a healthy dose of reality.

Crawfish are Real.

Crawfish are of Louisiana.

Our standards should be real and of Louisiana too.

Common Core is the fantasy ed-deformers can't wake up from

Crawfish Are Real! (And so are the problems with Common Core)

Do you really think the federal government is the real solution for education, but just not anything else?

Now who’s living in fantasy land?

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Responses to the Pink Common Core Unicorn

For those of you who missed it last week, our local education deformers cowering behind their ABC PAC, placed pink unicorns on each of our legislators desks with a message stating some of the things they had heard about Common Core were as mythical as the unicorn.

I’ll be honest, when I saw the tagline:

“Unicorns are not real. And neither are most of the things you’ve heard about Common Core State Standards.”

I really thought this was an effort by my crowd, the anti-Common Core crowd.  It would have made more sense and been much more appropriate.

You see, we’ve been fighting the lies spun by big business and mainstream media about Common Core for years.  Each lie we debunk is quickly replaced by a new ludicrous and/or unproven claim.  Much of the strategy of the Common Core movement has been to accuse the other side of their weaknesses before we could point them out.  This is where vague statements like “a mile wide and an inch deep” come from when describing our GLEs which where ranked second in the the nation prior to Common Core, and include much of the same material, except staged in developmentally appropriate ways (like requiring kindergarteners to solve word problems before they can read) and without all the bizarre and intentionally misleading word problem gibberish, and inefficient and contrived ways of solving what should be simple math problems.

Another recent, popularly repeated lie (so it must be true), involves stating our old GLE’s (which were ranked second in the nation prior to Common Core) are complete crap, and returning to them would be a giant step backwards and a disaster, according to State Superintendent John White and his fluffy headed sidekick, BESE President Chas Roemer.

This is peculiar since most of Louisiana’s GLE’s mapped to Common Core content, but Common Core ditched a lot of our material, like cursive writing, learning multiplication tables, and preparing students to take Algebra before High School so they can take Calculus before college.  85% of the content within Common Core mapped to our GLE’s. However our GLE’s actually contained more material introduced in more developmentally appropriate ways.

A little known fact is that LDOE actually spent 1.6 million dollars with WestEd to compare the two and build a crosswalk table to help with the transition from our GLE’s to Common Core, but then decided to move the adoption schedule up a year and ditched all the information they just spent 1.6 million dollars acquiring. The reality is the exact opposite of what Common Core supporters tell you.  Common Core is taking us backwards and lowering our standards.  Common Core proponents promised us the world with their “internationally benchmarked” standards, but all we got was a lousy unicorn and a hefty recurring bill for disposable worksheets.

So Common Core supporters want to have it both ways.  They want to complain that our old standards were crappier than Common Core (even though they covered more advanced material and more material) and at the same time they want to say they had too much, that they were “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  Which is it?  It doesn’t matter.  No matter what anyone says they simply argue whatever is most advantageous at any given point in time, with any given person or group, and their drones regurgitate their talking points verbatim, without really understanding what they are saying, and without any proof or evidence to back up their statements.

This is actually a good example of what is wrong with Common Core.  It was never proven to be effective, nor to be more advanced in any way.  The available evidence actually indicates the opposite is true.  Rather than actually try to back up their statements or provide evidence for their assertions, they resort to fluffy pink unicorns, because really, that’s all the evidence they have to offer.  It’s about as substantial as everything else they claim, which is to say pure fantasy.

So now these folks are creating more of the same lies and gibberish, but somehow believe prancing around delivering pink unicorns to legislators will win them some allies.  I hope that wasn’t their thinking, because from what I read online, some legislators were none too pleased with this prank.

State Representative Brett Geymann had this to say about the unicorn stunt on his Facebook Page:

Is this what they want to teach our children?

The ruling class elitists placed a unicorn on our desk to mock the parents who want to rid our state of Common Core. This is offensive and disgusting and every person and every group that is listed as a supporter of this PAC should resign immediately. This includes any member of LABI and the Chamber in SWLA. Your money is being used to promote Common Core and to mock the parents who are fighting for their children. I will not sit by and watch these elitists do this. The line in the sand has been crossed. To those of you who are fighting so hard to get Common Core out of our state, please know we are all in and will fight to the last day in this session. Big business has lied to the people about Common Core for their own self-interest. I have never witnessed anything so offensive as this in politics.

A teacher with 37 years of experience named Candyce Watsey had this to say to Community Coffee after reading they were a staunch supporter of Common Core:

Dear Customer Service Representative:

I know that you do the best that you can do; so do I. So I would like to begin by making it clear that I do not hold you responsible for the misguided position on Common Core that Community Coffee has adopted.

My family on my mother’s side is from New Iberia. I remember as a child that my grandmother and great aunt brewed demitasse in an enamel drip coffee pot on the top of the stove, painstakingly adding very hot water by the teaspoon to… the coffee grounds until a beautiful, rich brew was ready, served in demitasse cups with only sugar as an accompaniment. For me, my great aunt heated rich milk and poured it with just a bit of the demitasse into a large mug, sweetening it into a perfect coffee milk. To this day, and I am 60 years old, that is the best coffee of my life.

The coffee? Community.

Why is this venerable company tying its fate to a flawed, federal initiative that will only weaken the Louisiana flavor of our schools?

This is my 37th year as a teacher in Louisiana, and I am staunchly opposed to common core.

So, if I don’t tell you how to make your coffee, could you please refrain from telling me how to teach school?

You know your business; I know mine.


Candyce Watsey
Covington, Louisiana

Note: The website where Mrs. Watsey and other saw Community Coffee listed as a supporter of Common Core has since been taken down.

When I visited the unicorn website I was treated to more lies, fabrications, straw man arguments, and truth twistings that would impress a twizzler addict.  Common Core really is a pink unicorn, but what Louisiana needs is a break from the false promises and fantasy of Common Core was promised to be, but clearly wasn’t for thousands of children and parents across our state.

What we need is a healthy dose of reality.  I hope we can find a way to deliver this message to our legislators before it is too late.

Posted in education, politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

LDOE’s Graduation and College Enrollment Statistics in Context

Fortunately tonight I was sent a blog post from a new anonymous Louisiana education blogger  (at least new to me) named ULYankee.   I will reference some of the material contained in this entity’s blog post, because they seem to know what they are talking about, but I will build off of what they have written.

According to LDOE our grad numbers are going up and up and into the stratosphere.  What’s more, our students enrolling in colleges is going up too!  However, John White is the Prince of Education Deception and these press releases are mostly BS.

First let me explain how this all works.  There are several data systems these numbers come from. 

The Student Information System (SIS) collects basic data on enrollments, and exit codes (including exit code 04 (which gets updated to a “Y” on a statistical aggregation file) which means the student graduated – theoretically.)  The information from SIS gets used to generate the cohort graduation and dropout rates as well as the graduate counts.

Calculations used below were based on the following criteria: 1) Total Graduates were calculated based on LDOE Student Information System (SIS) End-of-Year data where "GraduateFlg" = "Y"; 2) Number enrolled 1st Fall after graduation was based on Enrollment Beginning Date <= 10/31/2014.

The Student Transcript System (STS) collects actual class info, grades, Carnegie Units earned, and can determine if a student has met all the class related requirements to graduate.

In the past, when I worked there, we would check the numbers and differences between these systems.  There should not be a large discrepancy.  STS is probably the more reliable, but SIS is easier to use for calculations and more timely in some cases and easier to update.  In the times when we cared about data accuracy, LDOE would audit the use of codes to determine if they were being used correctly.  In a recent small audit of RSD, LDOE determined that 100% of the codes they used were not used correctly and not documented.  One RSD school in New Orleans reported as much as 50% of their student cohort transferred out of the country. (If those students were really dropouts – which is likely -  by transferring them out of the country on paper they boosted they graduation rate and lowered their dropout rate by removing them from the equation.)  LDOE did nothing with their findings and did not later their figures for the years they audited.  LDOE started incorporating the Graduates in the School Performance Score calculation about 4 years ago.  Immediately after doing this the graduation rate jumped 4%. 


The magic of expectations works here just as it did in Atlanta and DC. 

The increase in 2010 was not real.  It was not real in the sense that 4% more students suddenly decided to graduate because they knew it was important to their school’s performance score. 


This increase was due to better data.  It was largely due to school districts entering data correctly for the first time because it impacted their school performance scores, and we gave them several opportunities to fix their data they did not have in years past.  It was certainly not due to staying the course on Common Core and more rigor – which had not been introduced yet.  (It might also have been related to switching over easier to pass End of Course testing instead of the pervious Graduate Exit Exam.)

Now our grad rate is creeping up every year and we have a large discrepancy between STS and SIS LDOE does nothing about.

So, according to yesterday’s 2014 college going report, 38,785 students graduated from Louisiana’s public schools last year. But according to the Regents’ STS Core 4 report, there are 38,326 public school graduates. Hmm, that’s a difference of 459 students, or a little over 1%. Not a huge number, but they should match. There’s even more of a problem with last year’s data – LDoE reported 37,655, where I only see 36,424 public grads in the Regents’ report, for a difference of 1231 students or a 3.3% difference.

So over the past two years graduate counts may be overstated by over 1600 students.  LDOE did not tie their numbers to the Student Transcript System.  We are showing quite a few more graduates in SIS (which only requires LEA’s to submit a single value of 04 on an exit record to identify a student as a graduate.)  Like the miracle workers before John White in Atlanta and Washington DC, LDOE does not audit or verify numbers they want to see increasing.  They don’t care how schools get those increases, as long as they get them so they have the pleasing numbers to back their Reform initiatives. 

The increase in college enrollments is a function of a new, more complete, matching system LDOE was planning to implement right after I left and right after John White arrived.  In previous years we identified fist time freshman based on students we found at the Board of Regents (our State College Board.)  We called this our First Time Freshman or FTF Report.  The Board of Regents only had data on instate colleges and universities – and not even all of them.  The new method is using  the National Student Clearing House.

College enrollment data is provided by the National Student Clearinghouse which includes more than 3,600 colleges and universities, enrolling 98% of all students in public and private U.S. institutions. For more information, see

The increase in first time college enrolling students is not Common Core.  It is not rigor, or charter schools, or higher expectations, or magic pixie dust.  The increase from years past  is entirely due to including the rest of the students from Louisiana that Board of Regents did not have, using a better source file, and including the out of state student records we never had access to.  These are not apples to apples comparisons. 

This is more smoke and mirrors.  This is John White claiming credit for doing something that is quite likely entirely a factor of using a more expansive and inclusive matching method. 





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