Further Investigations of LDOE and John White are Warranted and Long Overdue

Further Investigations of LDOE and John White are Warranted and Long Overdue

Now that some investigations are underway by the Jindal Administration into John White and his Department of Education and how they allocated and spent funds on PARCC test and Common Core promotion and training I thought it would be a good idea to advise folks about some ongoing and perpetual financial mismanagement and malfeasance in office on the part of John White and LDOE. I have been gathering tips and reports for months from numerous current and former employees about vast amount of intentional mismanagement (although it was termed fraud and theft by those reporting it to me) of a wide variety of programs and functions maintained and performed by the LDOE. I was even told there are reports available that document part of the story and I was pointed to the Legislative Auditor’s site for some public reports that may not have been fully understood by the public and properly investigated when they were released. I was also given some of the backstory on a few of them – details that did not make it into the published reports but which Daryl Purpera (who heads the Legislative Auditor’s Office) and Steven Street at the OIG should probably consider investigating on their own.

So let’s just get into the nitty gritty. . .

Payroll Fraud – Type 1: Employees, mostly from John White’s executive team at LDOE, are not showing up for work, but are documenting that they are. Some live in New Orleans or outside of Baton Rouge. Some of them have offices at both LDOE and in the New Orleans RSD headquarters and are not at either location, not visiting schools, and claim to be working from home. As you might imagine happens, the real LDOE employees check up on these folks that waltz into the department making outrageous salaries with little experience and produce nothing tangible but padding to apply to their resume’s. These employees are not actually doing any work from home and are unreachable to regular department staff most of the week, most weeks. This has been going on for years, since John White took over at LDOE. John White cycles through employees that produce nothing for Louisiana, but which he then is able to send to other departments of education and charter organizations throughout the country equipped with fancy titles, fat salary histories and glowing recommendations from him and his lackeys. This has been reported by numerous employees and confirmed by numerous time and attendance keepers across the department who are frustrated at covering for these people.

Payroll Fraud – Type 2: John White has been misallocating federal funds dedicated to specific programs for years since he came to power. The federal government provides specific funding allocations for specific programs like IDEA (Special Education.) The funds provided by the Federal government come with strings attached. These funds are required to be spent on employees performing a specific role for a specific federal program. To attempt to circumvent these rules John White and his staff started having staff across the department (code) allocate a portion of their salaries to these federal programs they had nothing to do with. When reporting to the federal government how we are spending their funds we tally up these percentages to equivalent FTE’s, (Full Time Equivalent) employees. I heard this became a widespread practice shortly after I left. To provide some cover for this scheme John White also secretly reorganized the Department of Education, without first getting any legislative approval as is required (by laws he doesn’t follow.) When the legislative auditor’s office went in to audit the department they found 22% of the employees from a random sample were “miscoded” to federal programs. What the auditor’s office did not realize was this was not an accident, this was intentional. Moreover, the auditor’s office found that 100% of recent changes to coding (when they just examined recent changes) were incorrect.

For the second consecutive year, DOE did not properly allocate federal payroll expenditures to the correct federal programs in accordance with the completed employee certifications. This resulted in $96,183 in overcharges to the programs which may have to be returned to the federal government. In a test of payroll certifications for 36 employees, the cost distribution report for eight (22%) did not agree to the federal program and percentage charged per the certifications, resulting in overcharges to the programs totaling $96,183. The Title I Grants to Local

Educational Agencies (CFDA 84.010) and Special Education – Preschool Grants (CFDA 84.173) programs and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Consolidated Administrative Funds (various ESEA programs) were charged $23,436; $227; and $72,520, respectively, for payroll expenditures that did not match the employees’ documented work effort. Also, in a test of 19 employees with system coding changes during the year, DOE did not maintain a properly completed payroll coding change form to support the cost distribution changes made for any of the 19 (100%) employees tested.

That is not a typo. Every single payroll coding “change” they looked at was wrong. The department made the excuse that this was because of a “reorganization” they undertook. (This was done so secretly, illegally, and without permission, but forget all that and don’t hold us accountable for breaking the law. . .  even though it is a direct result of breaking a different law. ) Below is LDOE’s response to these findings:

During the time period of the audit, the Department was undergoing a re-organization in an effort to better align the work of Department staff with the needs of teachers, students, and parents across the state. The reorganization of the Department resulted in some confusion as to how time and effort was going to be coded for individuals whose job location or job function and duties was shifting.

However this was not innocent incompetence. Employees advised their supervisors they had no duties to the programs they were told to code their timesheet with (to draw down federal funds.) This was done intentionally, possibly to free up funding for the voucher program or for Common Core materials and PARCC testing cost defraying. What is more, LDOE is reorganizing the Department . . . again.

Only a small portion of that annual billion dollar piece of federal pie was audited related to certifications (of which 1/5th were incorrectly accounted for). This 5 billion dollar annually baked pie is why so many outside groups invested millions in our BESE races last election cycle.

This decision has led to a vast information vacuum in the districts which relied on State employees to provide guidance on federal laws and programs.  I’ve heard numerous reports of how districts are not following federal law in regards to disabled children. This is not a victimless crime, it is impacted disabled children and their families. I imagine this is impacting other federal programs that have had their funding rerouted to John White’s general funding coffers.

Testing Fraud: One of the changes LDOE is planning to undertake is to have Kim Nesmith’s team (data collections) and Laura Boudreaux’s team (Data Analysis) report to Jessica Baghian who they recently moved over Accountability and Assessment. As some of you may have recently heard, these sections had some whistleblower(s) recently come forward and accuse John White of asking them to directly alter test scores to make RSD and charter schools look better and traditional public schools look worse. What you may not have known is that Jessica was moved down to make sure these sorts of “leaks” don’t happen again. Did you also know almost the entire Assessment team is employed and run by folks who are not US citizens and who are here on work Visas that are conditional they work for the Louisiana Department of Education? If they are terminated or quit, they have to return to their home countries. 2 weeks after the story broke two such employees did leave; one very suddenly and without warning. One employee returned to Canada. One went to China, without any notification or fanfare and came as a surprise to many in the department. This is an interesting development, no? I believe the feds may have lost their chance to discover how John White tried to falsify data to promote his agenda (but then again John White’s agenda seems to mirror that of President Barak Obama so maybe this was not an oversight on their part?)

Grant Manipulation Fraud: I verified this recent story (by Tom Aswell) about grant manipulation within the LDOE with some of my sources and it checked out.

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

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

My sources listed grants by name that they were involved in (Obviously I cannot reveal those without tipping off who these employees were) that recently returned Paul Pastorek and John White (and their affiliates) overruled grant criteria and selected winners based on favoritism or for political reasons. Some grants were posted that the winners had already been selected, but the Department under both John White and Paul Pastorek made their staff go through the motions of reviewing grants and interviewing applicants so individual superintendents and legislators would not be upset when their districts and constituents did not receive these grants.

Voucher Fraud: Whether you agree in using vouchers to send public students to private schools or not, no one (except fraudsters) should approve of public funds being used or paid out fraudulently to private school operators. According to the last audit of how these funds are being handled, 97% of schools are mishandling their funds, with John White’s blessing.

We found that the while the Scholarship Program is expanding, LDOE does not have adequate criteria in place to determine if participating schools are academically acceptable and have the capacity needed to serve the number of Scholarship students they request. In addition, LDOE should develop internal procedures with more specific criteria for removing a participating school from the program based on academic performance. Specifically, we found the following:

Program Expansion and Implementation

• Student participation increased 269% (by 4,937 students) from academic year 2011-12 to 2013-14, while school participation increased 282% (by 93 schools) during the same time frame. Funding for the program increased from $8.9 million in fiscal year 2011-12 to a budget of $44.6 million in fiscal year 2013-14.

• State law requires public schools that participate in the Scholarship Program to have a letter grade of “A” or “B.” However, there are no legal requirements in place to ensure nonpublic schools that participate in the program are academically acceptable.

• LDOE’s review process lacks formal criteria to ensure that schools have both the academic and physical capacity to serve the number of Scholarship students they requested.

• During academic year 2012-13, the number of Scholarship students in participating schools ranged from one to 336. The enrollment percentages at participating schools ranged from 0.1% to 86.8%.

Program Accountability

• A Scholarship Cohort Index will be used to measure academic performance of participating schools. It will be calculated “substantially similar” to the school performance scores.

• Overall, the proficiency rating for schools participating in the Scholarship Program is 41%. This rating is based on the percent of students who scored basic and above on standardized tests during academic year 2012-13.

• The proficiency rating of the 33 schools that participated in the Scholarship Program for at least two years is 41.8%. LDOE restricted admission for new Scholarship students at seven (21%) of these 33 schools for academic year 2013-14 based on poor academic performance.

• LDOE has not set standards or measures in the accountability system for removing a participating school from the program for academic performance.

Program Cost and Funding

• Independent auditors found that LDOE overpaid or underpaid 48 (41%) of the 118 participating schools in academic year 2012-13.

• Independent auditors were unable to perform all procedures related to the use of funding for 115 (97%) of the 118 schools because these schools did not separately account for the Scholarship funds.

• The source of funding for the program changed from MFP to State General Fund because of a May 2013 ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

In a perversely ironic move, John White removed one of the only schools that segregated their funds enough to be audited. Living New Word in Ruston Louisiana was not removed from the program for poor academic performance, for teaching kids on DVD’s, for not having certified teachers or for not even having a building to house the children they requested to “educate”. They were removed for charging the state too much based on the financial information they provided; that 97% of the other schools in the voucher program did not provide and were not chided or sanctioned for by the department. In response to the report that 97% of this voucher schools were unaccountable and that 1/3rd of the audited schools had to be shut down immediately for engaging in egregious mismanagement of state dollars, John White had this to say:

“These findings are evidence that the oversight process is working and that there will be zero tolerance for fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, said State Superintendent John White.”

The findings I am disclosing are evidence that the oversight process of John White and LDOE is not working and that currently there is a high tolerance on BESE and within Governor Jindal’s office for fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars. I hope these disclosures lead to more oversight and investigations before John White leaves for greener pastures. With so much emphasis on district, school and teacher accountability, it would be nice if we finally held some of our education “leaders” accountable for their actions and inactions, and not simply reward them with a fat severance and pat on the head for a job so poorly done.

The Fallacies of Quick Fixes in School Reform . . . and Life

The Fallacies of Quick Fixes in School Reform . . . and Life

Recently I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I knew my blood sugars were trending higher for years, and I had resolved to lose 50 pounds this year to prevent this outcome from occurring. 3 months into this year I had lost 25 pounds . . . and I learned I had uncontrolled fasting blood sugars in the 400s. 3 months ago I had my blood sugar levels checked and they were creeping up into the pre-diabetic range, but I was fine. I had a lot of warning signs that something was wrong, including blurring vision I attributed to getting old, a dramatic increase in being thirsty I attributed to giving up sodas and exercising more, and a dramatic increase in confusion and forgetfulness I chalked up to just being busy. If readers recall, I travelled to Austin in March but managed to leave my suitcase with all my belongings at home in my front yard. I also was supposed to appear on Frances and Friends a few weeks later but lost my phone, directions and mind. I’ve also managed to forget my daughter’s soccer ball and every practice I took her too, although thankfully I usually remember the kids. I’ve also been having trouble sitting down and composing blog entries and night from fatigue and an inability to focus. (To, those of you who have submitted information to me to create stories or research, I am moving slower but still making progress now.) Now that I am getting a handle on my condition things are starting to firm up and my confusion seems more obvious now in retrospect. I’ve been running labs, seeing doctors, dietitians and specialists and what seems to be the consensus is that taking steroid shots back to back to address my Pneumonia and Bronchitis in February and March overwhelmed my pancreas and triggered my condition. I went from just entering the warning zone to a serious case of uncontrolled diabetes over a few months. Fortunately, I was working with my doctor while I was trying to lose so much weight and get in shape and we caught it right away.  If  my condition had remained untreated until an annual physical I would have ended up in the hospital, if I was lucky.

So where am I going with this do you ask?

I did what many of us probably do without thinking. I went to the after-hours clinic, told them I was sick and needed to get well fast, and asked them to load me up with shots and whatever they could give me to get me back on my feet as fast as possible.  “I don’t have time to be sick,” I told them.  Getting an appointment with my primary care physician is always harder, but he has all my medical history and is more qualified, has more experience, and is more familiar with my case history and medications. I was trying to save up as much time as I can to go to meetings, to get blog posts done, to meet with parents, to attend and present at conferences and to still have time for my job and my family so I couldn’t afford to take time for more mundane matters like a common cold. Without considering the consequences, I chose the easiest path. As a result I made myself much sicker with what might be a permanently debilitating condition. (I do have a slim chance of reversing it if I take extra special care of myself over the next 6 months and lose some more weight. Things I should have done before so I would not have been put in the position I am now.) I did not know that getting steroid shots and oral steroids could trigger diabetes and I thought I was being proactive and taking care of myself.  As I’ve learned since, those treatments dramatically raise blood sugars and for those of us in Louisiana already a little overweight, this can rapidly accelerate a process that would normally take years. I’m writing this in part to warn folks about steroids and diabetes. Sometimes steroids may be necessary, when you have Pneumonia like I did for the first round, but maybe not if you just have a cold or Bronchitis and you’ve recently received them. It’s great that you want to do something quickly, but quick or unresearched actions can cause much more harm than good.

In case you were wondering, this is where the School Reform critique comes in. A lot of times we try to apply quick fixes that are nothing more than ineffective Band-Aids to our problems in our daily lives and in public policy.

That’ll fix it!

This type of fix gives us the satisfaction of saying we’ve quickly addressed a problem and a visible verification of the fix. However simple Band-Aids may not be ideal solutions for brown recluse spider bites, or structurally damaged vehicles in previous picture. The Band-Aid solution does not make the car pictured safer, doesn’t permit the doors to open, and applying that Band-Aid means the passenger side window has to remain open. . . but we can say we fixed it!  It didn’t cost us as much a door replacement, paint job and body repair, but it was quick and required little effort or long-term commitment on our part.

This is the way much of modern-day school reform works in the US.

Allow me to show you some examples.

Charter Schools

Charter schools were first marketed as a way to provide quality educations, to help underserved populations like the disabled or Limited English Proficient, and to differentiate emphasis on instruction (say charter schools for Engineering, Math, the Arts or Foreign Language immersion.) When it was discovered that these schools often performed worse, failed to provide certified teachers or staff for special education students, and that serving high needs populations was expensive and reflected poorly on charter school’s rankings compared to schools with average populations many charter schools opted instead to appeal to the wealthiest and least cumbersome students. What started as an easy fix, if the local school system is not working, slap a charter school or three on it, turned into a serious threat, a disease on public education. Charter school mania is a disease that now threatens to devour the host.

Larvae devouring host caterpillar

What started out as a quick fix to apply to ailing public education systems to provide a quality education for some of the students is actually making education worse for most of them by siphoning off financial resources, teachers, and students and leaving the hardest to educate students behind.

[I urge you all to support HB 703 currently pending a vote in the House Education committee. This bill restricts the spread of charter schools into A, B and C districts, like has recently happened to Iberville and Lafayette, by requiring these schools get approval of the local school boards. If you believe in local education, I urge you to contact the members of the House Education committee to support this Bill.]

Common Core

  • Colleges are claiming they face a problem of too many children requiring remediation.
  • Businesses are claiming High School graduates are not career ready when they graduate.
  • Testing and textbook companies are complaining about all the different version of textbooks and tests they have to prepare every year.

To them, the obvious solution was to create a universal standardized curriculum that everyone would have to take and pass to graduate. This, simple enough seeming solution, created many problems.

Not all education is testable. You cannot test the arts with bubbles. You cannot test a student’s drive or thirst for additional learning. You cannot test a child’s creativity (which Common Core stifles) on a standardized test.  These aspects of education are whittled away to nothing under Common Core. This will create a generation of education hating test bubble makers, not the creative class that is responsible for our place as the greatest inventors and artists with the greatest per capita renewable economy on the planet.

The Common Core curriculum that was created is not rigorous, just tedious. Tedium does not equate to rigor except of the “mortis” variety. Advanced Math and Calculus was not included in Common Core. Students will not be STEM ready without that exposure. Colleges will have to provide that instruction and remediation, just as they have been. However fewer students will want to pursue those types of careers because of how obnoxious the math has become.

Companies will not have more employees ready to complete upon graduation. This curriculum was never tested, it is being piloted on a massive scale without any supporting research that it works. Early indications are that Common Core math is producing lower test scores in all states that adopted compared to those state’s previous math scores, and compared to other states that did not implement the Common Core math.  Common Core does not work and will and will make our children worse off.

Now there is so much chaos as a result of pushing Common Core, sight unseen and untested, that states are having problems pulling out of it. Students and parents are getting frustrated and pulling their kids out of school to homeschool them, or enrolling them in non-public schools that have rejected Common Core. Experienced teachers are fleeing the profession in record numbers, and newer teachers are leaving in droves as well. The rushed and unresearched manner is which a universal curriculum was pushed upon the Nation through trickery, bribery and deception is ruining public education for millions of children and families.

 Closing “Failing” Schools

One of the favorite tactics of school reformers is closing the schools they have defined as “failing”.  Whether the school is actually “failing” the students is beside the point.  All a school has to do to be defined as failing is have a concentration of poor students, students with disabilities or English Language learners.  Schools are not judged based on whether they serve children well, simply based on demographics.  To become a successful school all one needs to do is attract wealthier students and dissuade poorer students from enrolling as was the disabled or students from recently emigrated families.  Reformers trot out the occasional High performing High poverty school to “show” us that poverty doesn’t matter, but when you look at these cases a little closer you find numerous mitigating factors including dramatically increased funding, a poorly defined “poverty” measure, cheating or high concentration of wraparound services and highly qualified teachers that reformers claim are unnecessary.  The believe simply moving these children to “successful” school will magically make them become overachievers, and negate the impacts of poverty, abuse, neglect and apathy. This is not true.  All this does is mask the problem while the schools poor children are evicted from are turned over to privatizers who often perform worse than the schools they replace and are successively shut down and rebranded year after year to disguise the massive, systemic failures of the charter movement.

Rather than recognizing how often charters fail, States like Louisiana point to the numerous closures and claim success!  This is the free market in action, and we are holding these schools “accountable”.  Meanwhile no one seems to actually care what happens to the children and communities.  They take and claim for granted that these children have been “helped” by this displacement, but they are careful not to track them or allow anyone to report on their outcomes.

They know the truth, and they fear it.

Poverty matters

It is true that poverty can be overcome.  It’s not the sole determinate in whether a student is successful, but it is a major component and not one that can be overcome by simply opening up Rocketship Academies staffed with teachers trained for 5 weeks and implementing Common Core. Overcoming the reductive impacts of poverty on educational outcomes requires hard work, money, determination and a significant time commitment.  This is not something most education reformers want you to hear.  They want to inject the education system with magic steroid shots in the form of High Stakes Testing, VAM teacher evaluations, charter schools, virtual schools, Common Core, and a parade of poorly trained fresh-faced can do chanting recruits from TFA and the New Teacher Project.  They want to reduce funding to students and channel it educational entrepreneurs and data harvesters who will claim to have the latest and greatest data potions to improve educational outcomes without the hard work such endeavours have traditionally taken in the past.

Reformers want to be in charge.  They want to “believe” that their reforms will improve the outcomes of children, while they make a tidy profit on the side.  Louisiana’s John White is a typical reformer.  He is so invested in this philosophy that he even renamed the official Louisiana Department of Education website “Louisiana Believes”.  He has formed Louisiana Believes committees and recruits to support his message and preach his gospel of reform.  What he has also done is prevent anyone impartial form getting access to any data that unequivocally disproves his “beliefs”.  John White “believes” his reforms are working, or at least that is what he is trying to brainwash the state of Louisiana and the nation into believing.

The reality is much different.

If John White had any faith in his beliefs he wouldn’t need to hide his data, and contract with shill organizations like CREDO, Stand For Children, and the Cowen institute to produce poorly research propaganda to support his “beliefs”.

If reforms were working they could show us the proof and that would shut people like me up once and for all.

The truth is, there are no quick fixes for what ails Education and our society.

We are the wealthiest Nation on earth and yet have perhaps the largest income and wealth gap as well. Reformers have correctly identified that this poverty is impacting our children, and our nation’s competitiveness.  This poverty does pose a threat to our global position as a world leader and a lack of a proper education does impact future earnings for children as they become adults and makes it more likely these children and their families will end up on public assistance or perhaps incarcerated.  Those negative outcomes have a significant cost to our society and changing those to positive outcomes could result in a substantial net benefit.  The answer is not reducing our educational funding, closing schools with at-risk students, forcing children and teachers to Race To The Top or be the Children Left Behind.  The answer is not a quick shot in the butt, or crossing our fingers and “hoping” Common Core works (in a generation).

The answer is the same as it has always been. Hard work.  Focus.  Determination. Dedication.  Adequate Funding.  Squarely addressing our problems, not hiding from them or disguising them or saying “Screw it, if I can’t fix it at least we can make some money off this problem” as I see many of the latest education entrants doing.   Our public education system was not perfect, but now it is sick with all the quick-fix reform “treatments” we’ve heaped upon it.  We can reverse this illness before it becomes fatal.  But to do so, it will require we abandon the harmful quick-fix approaches and buckle down for some slow-going old-fashioned hard work.

I ask that you help me do this.

I will do the same.

Let’s check back in six months and see where we are.

Are the RSD (Recovery School District) and LDOE (Louisiana Department of Education) actively covering up school wide test cheating that bolsters their performance?

Are the RSD (Recovery School District) and LDOE (Louisiana Department of Education) actively covering up school wide test cheating that bolsters their performance?

I have been told the RSD and LDOE are actively covering up cheating on student test scores so I have embarked on a quest to discover the truth. My quest is ongoing but I have learned some things from evidence presented to me and responses I’ve had to my Freedom of Information Requests to the LDOE. I’ve gotten no response from RSD, which has been defined in numerous cases as a non-juridical entity incapable of suing or being sued. They are legally considered a part of LDOE, but they have a separate e-mail system and LDOE does not appear to supply any information on their behalf.  Nifty Catch 22 or a violation of state law, you be the judge.

Case 2:11-cv-01588-SSV-JCW

The court noted that both the Department of Education and the State

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are a “body

corporate” under the Louisiana Revised Statutes. Id.; La. Rev.

Stat. 36:642 (Department of Education); La. Rev. Stat. 17:1

(Board of Elementary and Secondary Education). The court also

noted that while Louisiana Revised Statute 17:51 “makes a parish

school board a ‘body corporate with power to sue[,]’ [t]he

statute authorizing the RSD (La. Rev. Stat. 17:1990) contains no

equivalent language . . . .” Id. at 357-58. For these reasons,

the court held that “the RSD does not function independently of

the DOE and BESE as it is not a body corporate capable of being

sued or suing directly.” Id. at 358.

Moreover, RSD’s organizing statute clearly states that RSD

“shall be administered by the state Department of Education,

subject to the approval of the State Board of Elementary and

Secondary Education.” La. Rev. Stat. § 17:1990(A)(2). This

power structure further contrasts RSD with parish school boards,

which “must comply with State laws . . . [but] are autonomous

political creatures that are separate and distinct entities

providing the framework for education in their respective

parishes.” Hamilton v. City of Natchitoches, 903 So.2d 1247,

1250 (La. App. 2005). Here, however, RSD is by statute an

“intermediate educational unit” that is not capable of selfadministration.

La. Rev. Stat. § 17:1990(B)(1)(a). Accordingly,

the Court finds that the RSD is not a juridical person capable of

suing or being sued under the Roberts analysis. See Adams v.

Orleans Parish Recovery Sch. Dist., No. 11-30751, 2012 WL 612777,

at *1 (5th Cir. Feb. 27, 2012)(noting that “RSD is not an entity

that can sue or be sued”).

(For any lawyers out there seeking to bring a case against RSD, make sure you bring your case against LDOE or your case will be dismissed too.)

To be clear, I do not have conclusive evidence of cheating at this time but I do have evidence that no investigations were made and reprisals were made against the teacher who reported this situation. My case is steadily building and this will be but the first of several articles revealing what I’ve learned and continue to learn.

The case, as it was presented to me, is as follows:

In the Spring of 2011 Mary D. Coghill Elementary, an RSD direct run school headed by principal Aisha Jones and overseen by John White when he was superintendent of RSD, reportedly pulled as many as 70 3rd through 8th graders out of their classes during Spring testing to have teachers read the test aloud to these students in small groups. A partial list of the alleged proctors of the small group read aloud students with student counts was provided to me and is displayed below.

This 70 student figure amounts to about 20% of their total students tested.

Prior to this pullout, teachers were asked to provide lists of their students who could likely pass the LEAP and iLEAP tests if the tests were read to them. Each teacher was reportedly required to supply this list to the main office, and these students were subsequently removed from their classes during test time for the purpose of having tests read to them, rather than reading the test and answers themselves. This is what is called a testing accommodation. A small percentage of students classified as Section 504 (under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973) are defined as handicapped by a mental or physical limitation that does not rise to the level of being defined as disabled or requiring Special Education services. In a typical school around 7% of students will be classified as 504. These are students that are diagnosed with a recognized medical diagnosis such as ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, minor vision impairment not classified as blindness, emotional disturbance, or a broken/injured llimb with a recovery time longer than 6 weeks, etc.. Additionally these students must have been classified as having trouble in school over an extended period of time as a result of their handicap as evidenced by low grades. Students cannot have A’s and B’s and be defined as section 504. They cannot simply be classified as 504 because they have low grades or struggle in school without a specific diagnosis. Typically these are students with below C averages or who have been held back one or more years in school to qualify as 504 students, and these students would have an associated IAP (Individualized Accommodation Plan) [not to be confused with an IEP for SPED students] that would list accommodations needed such as more time on tests for dyslexic students, or larger print for vision impaired students. Of the very small percent of students classified as 504 (which is a subset of students who have a specifically diagnosed disability) only a small percentage of those would require tests to be read aloud to them perhaps dyslexic students but not students with ADHD. If you know anyone with ADHD, which is one of top 504 diagnoses, you understand why that would never work.) Additionally, these accommodations would need to have been defined on a student’s IAP before the test, students would receive these accommodations from their teachers throughout the year on all other tests. These accommodations would have to be notated on the tests booklets that were submitted to our testing company. Those scores and testing accommodations then end up on test files at the Louisiana Department of Education, if they are notated. In this case, and perhaps many other across RSD and the state, these accommodations were not notated, they were not provided to students throughout the year, and these students were never identified as 504.

The insinuation made is that these students who had the test read to them received an unfair advantage over kids who did not. I’ve made numerous inquiries to former accountability, testing, RSD and New Orleans folks and discovered a few interesting things that add some dimensions to this situation.

I have been told that students who do not receive accommodations regularly before the tests do not see improvement according to research:

Accommodations should be routinely applied in the classroom, so that would mean that for all those kids they are reading all of their normal tests aloud as well.  This is probably done poorly in a lot of places.  When they don’t routinely use the accommodation, research shows the kids don’t benefit from it on the state test.

I was even told a New Orleans school tried this strategy before, but ended up with students scoring worse:

An Orleans school – pre Katrina – There were two warring factions in the school – the new principal and her supporters vs the anti-newcomer squadron.  They found out about 504 shortly before testing and during the last week that they could identify a kid as 504, they identified all the boys as having 1 disability and all the girls as having another.  Everyone got the “test read aloud” accommodation.  The school did substantially worse that year than the year before.  Accommodations are supposed to be used in regular classroom assessments.  These kids had never been read to.

I was also told that this is not a recent phenomenon but was a common situation in New Orleans even before charters and RSD, because they had so many kids that couldn’t read they needed all the help they can get:

For the 504 question- yes, if it’s Orleans

When I worked in NOPS before Katrina it was common to get as many on 504 accommodations as they could because many kids could not read

I imagine the charters have followed suit

Despite what many ignorant reformers tout or believe, I do not believe New Orleans was a bed or roses before Katrina, nor do I pardon their transgressions. I merely don’t excuse the same corruption after Katrina because it’s “less” or different folks engaging in it, or because you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet reform approach. (For instance, I do not believe RSD can neglect John McDonogh, simply because Orleans parish did after they were given 34 million dollars by the federal government to fix it up, and after John White promised to start renovations 2 years ago on nationally syndicated television while no hammer has been lifted.)

No matter how many statistics come from the Louisiana Department of Education showing the substantial gains in student achievement in New Orleans schools since 2005, there’s a stubborn knot of naysayers who insist that the stats are the result of a conspiracy by a dishonest government and power-hungry reformers.

They seem to mourn the chaotic, inept, even corrupt system of schools that existed before Katrina finally gave state officials an excuse to seize most of them.

Pro reformers, like Dawn Ruth who styles herself a freelance journalist, believe they can misrepresent the opinions of folks they’ve never met or spoken to, and lie about them willy-nilly, and without the barest notion of research, to discredit their opinions. One example of this from her article was trying to dismiss and characterize me as a vengeful former employee by telling folks mater-of-factly, and entirely falsely, that I was “fired” rather than voluntarily quitting after giving my 2 week notice to start my new job and my blog to speak out about the abuse and corruption under John White. (But I digress, that will be a post for later for my new fanclub member.)  Unlike most pro-reformers I do not get paid for my opinions or endorsements.

This e-mail from a teacher, “Coach” Frank Buckley says it all. Coach reported the testing irregularities to his superiors, testing authorities at LDOE his superintendent (John White) and the de facto head of LDOE Erin Bendily. For his trouble Coach was retroactively fired back to May. He subsequently filed a whistleblower suit which is still being litigated, although not without plenty of legal maneuvering over proper venue and whether RSD is a juridical body capable of suing or being sued.

When I asked LDOE to provide me any correspondence into investigation of this report I was given this e-mail chain along with what appears to be the extent of investigation conducted by LDOE. They decided to let John White handle it, who chose not to investigate.

Coach Buckley was fired shortly thereafter as part of a reduction in force of one. Him. Shortly after his retroactive firing Aisha Jones apparently immediately advertised for the need for a new teacher. This position was never offered to Coach Buckley, who was theoretically terminated simply as a reduction in force.

The below is from Coach Buckley’s legal filings.

It seems pretty clear to me from my reading of e-mails that no investigation took place and that coach was terminated because he was raising uncomfortable questions. It is abundantly clear from the documents released (and lack of documents released) that John White knew about this situation and did nothing to investigate it despite warnings from even LDOE staff that this looked suspicious. From my conversations with Coach it appears many of his math students that were better prepared did poorer on the math portion of the LEAP test than the 16 students that were removed for tests to be read aloud in small groups. There is no question that Coach should have been notified if those students were 504 students prior to the date of the test. It is statistically impossible that every student he identified as struggling, and only the ones he identified as struggling in his class, were secretly 504 students with an exceptionality that required tests to be read aloud in small groups.

If a student cannot read a test they will not do well on a test. If you read a test aloud to students this gives students who cannot read an advantage other students in other comparable situations would not have. This in and of itself might lead to increased test scores and is also not legal if the children were not properly classified as 504. But reading a test aloud also allows teachers and proctors to emphasize correct answers, intentionally or unintentionally, by changing the tone of one’s voice, tone, facial expression etc. When you have schools blatantly and on a systematic and school-wide basis violating state and federal rules and laws in regards to test administration for personal and professional gain, it is that much more likely to have occurred. (When teachers and principals are retained or fired based upon student performance you build personal and professional gain into the system.)

I was not in those classrooms where tests were read and cannot say one way or the other whether this took place, but it is a possibility. Based on research and past experience, these children should have done no better or much worse than their counterparts without this intervention, however the opposite appears to have happened, and happened consistently enough that based on the report provided by LDOE below, it appears this school, Mary D Coghill of RSD, employs this reading accommodation with virtually every flagged 504 student too.

According to a recently released report in response to a FOIA filing I made last month in 2010-2011 Mary D. Coghill reported to the state that they had 51 students in grades 3 -8 identified as qualifying for 504 services, and all but one student required their tests read aloud and all students required small test group administration (where tests were read aloud whether students needed them read aloud or not.) According to my Coach, who was a teacher who reported this as an irregularity and quite likely indicative of intentional cheating by teachers, as many as 70 students were pulled out of classes, 20% or 1 out of every 5 students taking the LEAP or iLEAP test at Mary D. Coghill. According to self-reported data from Mary D. Coghill to the state, virtually every student identified as 504, every year for which data was reported, had their tests read aloud to them. However if Coach is accurate, the totals may be far higher than this, and certainly not restricted to simply students identified as 504, but any student identified as struggling academically. If this is true, and not a phenomenon confined to Mary D. Coghill, we may be seeing one of the secrets to RSD’s recent modest success. As far as schemes go, this is a pretty good one, and unlike the amateurish cheating scandal in Atlanta, shows a more sophisticated take on cheating the High Stakes testing system with a mind toward eluding detection. However, in order for this scheme to succeed, there would have to be tacit buy-in by those in charge. That would mean the principal as well as the head of RSD at the very least.

In 2011 John White was still relatively fresh on the RSD scene. He may not have known what was going on initially, but when this situation was reported to him directly in e-mail, via phone, in person and to his superiors at the LDOE it would be hard to deny he was aware of this situation and allegations. Unlike charter schools, which have their own boards of oversight, Mary D. Coghill was one a dozen or so direct run RSD schools, directly run by none other than then RSD superintendent John White, now the State Superintendent of Education. John White did not have responsibility for the hundreds of schools he has responsibility for now, just a dozen or so, so you would think he would take a keen interest at any allegation of cheating in his first stint as a Superintendent anywhere. The only significant action that I see taken by RSD was the firing of the teacher reporting the testing issue.

When you cover-up for cheating you are encouraging it. When you punish those who report it, you embolden cheaters and discourage whistleblowers. When you reward those who improve their test scores and School Performance Scores through cheating with renewed contracts and financial incentives and rewards you are violating state and federal laws related to fraud as well as a violation of the False Claims Act. When you assist others in covering up their fraud, you are aiding and abetting fraud, which is also a criminally prosecutable crime. The test score erasure scandal in Atlanta landed many teachers, principals and the superintendent in criminal court as may very well be appropriate here. More investigation is certainly needed and long overdue. I will be releasing more information in the coming days and weeks, however I would recommend the following changes be submitted to the legislature and for consideration at the next BESE meeting.

  • I recommend that the legislative auditor’s office heretofore investigate all reported instances of cheating and that the legislature encode this into law. (for charters, RSD, vouchers schools and traditional public schools)
  • I encourage a formal investigation into whether federal laws relating to fraud were violated if any federal funds were disbursed as a result of these fraudulently obtained test scores, and reporting the findings to relevant authorities.
  • I recommend an expansion of the whistleblower law for greater protections of teachers reporting cheating.
  • I recommend an audit of all direct run RSD schools and test scores from 2007 to present with particular care paid to accommodations and relevant IEP and IAP paperwork.
  • I recommend tapes be made of tests being read for review.
  • I recommend new guidelines be published for when and which accommodations are appropriate and the accommodations being provided are not solely used for high stakes testing. If these kids are really struggling with a disability, it is much more important that children get these accommodations throughout the year to facilitate their actual learning of the material. It is much more important to the children, and the furtherance of their education, that these accommodations be made while they are learning this material rather than just when they are being tested on it once for a school grade.

To be continued. . .

Did you miss me?


Introducing Savvy Squash – Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

Introducing Savvy Squash – Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

Ok, now I think people are becoming inspired or starting to make fun of my Crazy Crawfish motif! I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted? No matter, Savvy Squash is here to explain some of the nuances and private backdoor deals of Louisiana’s Accountability system. It appears the system is changing again, but this time entirely secretly, even from a BESE that rubberstamps everything DOE does.  The only reason I can see for doing this is to conceal what they are doing from the public and the US Department of Education.  It also appears they are not turning over the list of AUS schools in a prompt manner and formulating realistic alternatives for students so as to leave children no other “choices” but Course Choice which has no standards, no evaluation methods, no requirements for certified teachers (or requirements for having teachers at all), and actually no money to fund it as many students who tried to apply this year found out the hard way.  Admittedly I was having trouble conveying what I was being told so I asked for some contributions to tell it like it is. Without further ado, allow me to present the latest Crazy Crawfish Blog contributor, Savvy Squash.

Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

The LDOE appears to be by-passing BESE and creating/implementing policy (all on their own.) This is shocking not because it’s occurring but because BESE has rubber-stamped almost everything LDOE has sent there way so one must ponder why there are some policy issues LDOE just doesn’t bother to take to BESE.

Fake Policy: Academic School Choice for AUS schools

LDOE sent out letters which inform school districts that the content of the instructions in the letters are now policy “which took effect July 2012, supersedes all other related policies.”. A summary of the letters in comparison to BESE policy is outlined below: [this is a secret policy LDOE created last year that was never approved by BESE or USED and which has been expanded upon and reiterated this year . Ccf]

  July 2012 letter from LDOE July 2013 Letter from LDOE Bulletin 111 (as of June 2013) ESEA waiver
Who develops the plan? The Louisiana Department of Education developed the following selection criteria for Public School Choice for local school districts.  The Louisiana Department of Education has developed the following process to ensure Public School Choice for any student attending a failing school. §2501.An LEA must develop a school choice policy for schools that are academically unacceptable.


Not mentioned
What is the objective/purpose? In recognition that Louisiana’s children deserve access to a high quality education regardless of family income and zip-code, all children enrolled at F schools must be provided the opportunity to transfer to a higher performing public school within their local school district.  Local school districts must provide students who qualify for NCLB School Choice with the opportunity to attend any school in the district irrespective of geography or zoning. The list of options must include all unfilled seats in all non-failing schools. AUS 1  (Year 1) (notified Aug. 1) – AUS 3 (Year 3) Remedy School Choice For those schools failing to achieve AMOs and meaningfully progress, multiple consequences or interventions will be used. These include:

(b) school choice;

What are the plan requirements? 1.       Local school districts must develop a listing of available enrollment slots at higher performing receiving schools broken down by school by grade level.  Higher performing schools for the purposes of Public School Choice are non-F schools. 

2.       Local school districts must place children attending F-schools at a higher performing school based upon the following criteria:

a.       Develop list of all students attending F-schools.  The list must be broken down by grade level.

b.      Students attending the lowest performing F-schools, as determined by School Performance Scores (SPS), will be given the highest preference.

a.       For each request form, match students with the highest performing school with available enrollment slots.  If parents rank multiple receiving schools, match students to their top request at which there is an open seat.  If no match is made, students will remain at their current school.

                                                   i.      Follow this process in ascending order until all choice request forms from all F-schools are reviewed.

4.       Notify families in writing on the status of their request form within a reasonable time period.


1. Local school districts must develop a list of available enrollment slots at higher-performing receiving-schools arranged by school and grade level. Higher performing schools for the purposes of Public School Choice are non-failing schools (i.e., letter grades of D or higher).

2. Local school districts must notify parents of children attending failing schools, of all higher performing enrollment options within the school district within ten days of receiving notification from LDOE.

3. The local school district must review choice requests from parents of the district’s failing schools in the following order to ensure that Louisiana’s lowest performing students are provided access to higher performing schools:

a.       Begin to review the Choice Request forms of children attending the lowest performing failing school.

b.      For each request form, match the student with the highest performing school with available enrollment slots.

c.       If parents rank multiple receiving schools, match them to their top request for which there is an open seat.

d.       If no match is made, the student will remain at their current school.

e.      Follow this process in ascending order until all Choice Request forms from all failing schools are reviewed.

4. Notify families, in writing, on the status of their request form.

5. Local school districts should also inform parents of Course Choice as an option for their child.

a.       Course Choice is a pilot program that provides educational opportunities to students across the state that are currently denied the ability to enroll in the high-quality courses necessary for college or career preparation because they are not available at their local school.

b.      For more information, please contact Ernise Singleton (ernise.singleton@la.gov).



1. An LEA must offer more than one choice to eligible students, if more than one school is eligible to receive students.

2. The LEA must take into account the parents’ preferences among the choices offered, or the LEA may allow parents to make the final decision.

§2503. Student Eligibility

A. An LEA must offer choice to all students in an eligible school until the school is no longer identified as AUS except:

1.       if an eligible student exercises the option to transfer to another public school, an LEA must permit the student to remain in that school until he or she has completed the highest grade in the school and shall provide transportation to the student.

§2505.Transfer Options

A. An LEA may consider health and safety factors in determining the transfer options. Should the LEA have concerns for health and safety factors, the LEA will need to find ways to provide choice consistent with their obligations to provide a healthy and safe learning environment.

B. An LEA that is subject to a desegregation plan is not exempt from offering students the option to transfer.

1.       An LEA should first determine whether it is able to offer choice within the parameters of its desegregation plan.

2.        If it is not able to do so, or if the desegregation plan forbids the LEA from offering the choice option, the LEA needs to seek court approval for amendments to the plan that permit a transfer option for students.

C. Students may not transfer to any school that is academically unacceptable or that has been identified for school improvement 1 or higher for subgroup component failure.

D. If there are no schools to which students can transfer, parents must be notified that the child is eligible for choice. The notification will further indicate that no choice options are currently available.


Not mentioned
What is the timeline for notification? Eligible families must be contacted and offered Public School Choice by their local school district within ten business days of receiving such notification. Eligible families must be contacted and offered Public School Choice by their local school district within ten business days of receiving notification from the Louisiana Department of Education that one of their schools is at-risk of becoming a failing school. §2501.Beginning with the 2003-04 school year, an LEA shall notify parents of their school choice options not later than the first day of the school year for the schools that must offer choice.


Not mentioned
How is notification to be made? Notify families in writing on the status of their request form within a reasonable time period.


Communication may include a phone call, but must include a formal notification letter. Not mentioned Not Mentioned
What are the Policy References? This policy is in effect for the school year starting on July 1, 2012 and supersedes any other written document you may have received prior to today’s date.  This policy, which took effect July 2012, supersedes all other related policies. Bulletin 111; Chapter 25, Sections 2501, 2503, and 2505  

From January of 2012 to August of 2013 there was only one instance of policy revision to Bulletin 111’s academic school choice policy. The references in the letter to new policy as of July 2012 appear to reference final approval of ESEA. The problem is the ESEA waiver only vaguely mentions choice as a sanction for failing schools and doesn’t even mention a change in the process for how choice is to be carried out. The process change appears to be entirely created and deemed policy by LDOE.

There are 3 major concerns with these letters masquerading around like policy:

1. There does not appear to be any BESE or ESEA-waiver policy which dictates the school choice processes outlined in the letter

2. The “policy” seemingly evolves from year to year

3.  The one-size fits all model doesn’t consider local restraints

So what’s the big deal?

 1.       Policy should be vetted and run through the policy making board, not created and enforced LDOE

Policy is written, understood, it maintains a level of knowledge and stability. What happens when LDOE decides their own policy? Take a look at the letters. From July 2012 to July 2013 somehow policy miraculously changed to require that Districts peddle LDOE’s course choice program. In essence, Districts are being asked to try and sway their students, in a failing public school, to begin taking classes via course choice, which to date has no data to support that it would be a quality program that if measure would not be deemed academically unacceptable. Additionally, why would a District want to promote courses that they have no control over yet are responsible for in accountability? If I’m a district and I want to reform my failing school, the first place I’m not going to consider is an outside provider with no measures of success with no local control yet I would ultimately be responsible for the outcomes.

Now, bottom line, students should NOT have to attend a failing school. The failing of a public school is the failure of a school district to provide an equal and acceptable arena for learning. There should be no need for school choice, however since there are failing schools there should be state policy guidelines which consider that the way to carry out school choice should be left up to districts discretion or, at the very least, the process should be vetted in a public forum where districts could speak to the course of action.

Why do districts need a voice in school choice? I’m sure there are many reasons but I will just vent a bit about two.

2.       Logistics

The fake policy LDOE propagated in their letters is arguably a good option for students. It’s feasibility in a district is logistically challenging, however. Take for example a district with a large geographical spread where a failing school may be located 29.7 miles away from a higher performing school which has 1 open seat in grade K and 1 open seat in grade 4. According to LDOE, policy says the district must let those 2 students transfer and the district must provide transportation. I don’t know what line of thinking LDOE is using but there simply isn’t a plausible logistical way to transport two students across opposite ends of the district – it requires 1 bus, 1 bus driver, and a ride of anywhere between 1-2.5 hours each way for the student. So the student in grade K is conceivable riding a bus with only 1 other student and being picked up at 6am and not returning home until 5:30 pm. Are there compromises? Sure; but since LDOE never bothered to bring this to the policy making board there was no opportunity for districts or board members to propose one.

3.       Desegregation Orders

If a district is operating under a desegregation plan, or if the district has gained unitary status, the decisions about school choice transfer may reach a level when judicial input is necessary to insure compliance with an active or closed plan.  Under LDOE’s fake policy there is no consideration for district to modify the choice process to comply with desegregation orders.

On a related note:

For the second consecutive year, LDOE has not publicly released the list of preliminary AUS schools that are required to offer choice. The release of this information publicly is necessary for

1.       Transparency – parents and the public at large have a right to know which schools in which districts are deemed academically unacceptable. Without this information being public, it is not possible for parents to know, until sometime in October when final SPS scores are officially released, whether they should have been offered a choice transfer. This is not to say that I think districts will ultimately not offer choice to students, however, this is a public process and the public has a right to know and ensure they are being offered what they are entitled to by BESE policy.

2.       Checks and Balances – Without a public preliminary list of AUS schools, it is not possible for the public to measure the growth or decline of failing schools; to make decisions about moving into different attendance zone/districts; to know which RSD schools are F and which are masquerading as T; or to know if any schools identify as F in July are no longer identified as F in October.

Why should we care do you ask?

1. This isn’t policy.

2. If this was policy, it’s not good for districts.

3. Districts under desegregation orders – LDOE should be producing the preliminary list much earlier than the last week of July and they should be sending the information to desegregation districts and CC [carbon copy] the judge so that a proper plan can be worked out for choice.

4. The one-size-fits-all approach by the state doesn’t work in all districts.

If this went to BESE, districts could make a case that if the state wants this policy then perhaps we compromise – perhaps we offer a minimum of two options with transportation and then offer every other available seat across the district without transportation. For car riders and parents who work near other schools that’s feasible.


Savvy Squash

Introducing PegLeg Mickey, the Ed Policy Pundit/Pirate? Accountability Argh!

Introducing PegLeg Mickey, the Ed Policy Pundit/Pirate? Accountability Argh!

Believe it or not, this is not my handiwork. J (I’m working on something I hope will be even more disturbing.) While the opinions of key LDOE personnel are not necessarily mine own, I feel it would be inappropriate to censor this piece or art/outrage. As I’ve said before, there are many folks who had their voices suppressed by this administration, and continue to fear for their jobs. I did send out a plea to ask for help documenting some of the corruption and injustices taken place behind TFA closed doors. Some people are helping me with research and graphics, and some folks are helping me full posts. This is one of the latter. What Mickey seems to be pointing out is a not-so-secret plot to increase scores for RSD schools by manipulating “bonus points” they receive. This is yet another change to the formula, and one that has not been approved by BESE nor by the Feds in our NCLB/ESEA waiver. (RSD schools are almost without exception complete and utter failures, but it is in the interests of Jindal, White, and out of state interests to muddy the narrative so they can portray them as successes.) I continue to encourage folks who don’t have a blog of their own, but want to have a voice to send me their posts or even just their info. I promise if it something I can use, I will use it, or pass it along to someone who will do a better or more timely job that yours truly. If you have any comments post them, if you have any private questions about this piece, send them to pegleg.mickey@aol.com Without further ado. . . . Pegleg. . . .


Louisiana Schools Require Legislative Assistance

Rubber Stamp BESE to Allow 2013 Performance Scores Using Rules Not Yet Passed

Districts Prepare for Second Annual Molestation

The last elected Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) prevented the rape of the majority of schools in Louisiana by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDoE). The current purchased BESE (excluding “Not for Sale” Beebe and “You Ain’t Got Enough Money” Hill), turned a blind eye and deaf ear to last year’s abuse. School districts are now considering their chances of BESE assistance while all signs point to a planned second round of pillage. While efforts to get the word out have started, most districts have begun to “lock up the babies and hide the old ladies.”

In the summer of 2011, word leaked from the LDoE that policy changes that impacted the way School Performance Scores are calculated were in store for the next BESE meeting. Not only were the changes up for approval but the LDoE had already begun applying the changes to the 2011 calculations. A call from a school district office to the appropriate supervisor confirmed that these details were correct. When the district accountability specialist pointed out that the policy changes wouldn’t be applicable until November at the earliest, Dr. Scott Norton said the LDoE had already decided how things would occur and nothing could be done about it. He was even considering waiting until November before releasing scores.

That district employee, Tom Spencer from Lafayette, felt that Norton was ‘throwing down the gauntlet (sorry LDoE Similac staff – that means issuing a challenge).’ Spencer contacted districts around the state, particularly those that held some sway over BESE members (Similac insert – sway = influence). Then he contacted BESE members. Former member Linda Johnson told Spencer that there was no way she would be able get the item on the agenda, since it was controlled by Jindal’s harlots, Bendily and Dastugue, but if Spencer would be at the meeting, she’d find some way to get him to the microphone, and she’d line up enough votes to get it taken care.

The plan worked. The LDoE was caught off-guard, and some of the members they usually controlled supported making the LDoE follow rules. Since it wasn’t an agenda item for that committee meeting, it was placed on the agenda for the full BESE meeting the next day. Bendily assigned staff to redo the calculations THAT NIGHT, according to appropriate policy. She got approval to reduce the public embarrassment by removing it from the agenda.

That was only the first recalculation required that year, although the others were caused by one LDoE accountability staffer who just couldn’t get the assessment data correct (and still can’t). Staff had to ‘fix’ scores 5 times that year. These changes impacted every school in the state. A sixth error that adjusted the STATE scores upward was never corrected. Scott Norton (high roller supervisor) and Jennifer Baird (mid-level supervisor) let that sixth error ‘slide.’

By July 2012, the LDoE had ‘snuck’ some changes into administrative code that fast-tracked the rule promulgation process for the LDoE. They just couldn’t be expected to plan 6 months ahead – a problem peculiar to the Similac bunch. When the preliminary release occurred (in July), although it was only sent to the district offices and not publicly released, the score calculations had used a policy change that would not be submitted to BESE until October and wouldn’t complete the process of becoming ‘rule’ until February 2013.

Unfortunately for the LDoE, the same inept “assessment processor” had incorrectly applied the rules that were prematurely used as ordered by Jessica Baghian and Jennifer Baird, who’d teamed with Bendily to form the trio, “The Hounds from Hell.” Schools that were not failing were labeled as such and forced to offer School Choice and endure other indignities. But the error caused districts to scrutinize the data and discover the premature application of PLANNED policy. Some districts found 20% of their high school data inaccurate, both from the ineptitude and the edict.

Yep, that’s a middle finger

Those districts that were savvy and requested changes to the 20% error, were told that it had been changed, but final scores still clearly were in error. Even though legislators requested from Erin Bendily the final data that comprised the final scores, the LDoE didn’t have time to do so. It appears they were already planning the next raid.

Substantial changes occurred in the LA accountability system as a result of the ESEA waiver. They included a new magical value-added measure to award between 3 and 10 bonus points to deserving schools (primarily RSD schools). Now, after they have discovered a way to manipulate the formula, THEY HAVE CHANGED THE RULES SO FEWER SCHOOL GET BONUS POINTS. Of course, the policy hasn’t even appeared before Whitey’s Rubber Stamp BESE. But the LDoE got away with rape last year, so why not another round.


This is a clip from a document that Jennifer Baird (Female Hound from Hell) the LDoE e-mailed this week. This is the proposal they used to calculate scores, but it hasn’t even gone to BESE and can’t until OCTOBER AT THE EARLIEST.

§301. School Performance Score Goal

D. Bonus Points

1. – 1.a. …

b. A minimum of 35 30% of the students in the non-proficient subgroup meet or exceed their expected growth, as determined by the value-added model for students in grades K-8 and as determined by the ACT series for students in grades 9-12.

c. If 1a and 1b are met, then the number and the percent of students will be multiplied by 0.1, and the higher of the two products will be used to assign bonus points. For students who are identified as special education, the multiplier will be 0.2. For students who earn an Unsatisfactory on LEAP or iLEAP or Needs Improvement on End-of-course tests, the multiplier will be 0.2. For students who earn an Approaching Basic on LEAP or iLEAP or a Fair on End-of-course testes, the multiplier will be 0.1.

This means if you have managed to work with a low performing student and get the child to improve to Basic or Good, you can’t get bonus points. Less improvement does get bonus points.

Below is the LDOE logic contained in an e-mail that went out on Friday, August 23 from Marie Henderson, Chief of Staph (?) although “Jessica” is also included on the signature line (must have a 4th Hound Marie). It includes lies about simulations run last year: I’ve talked to the rats that lurk in the LDoE walls and know the numbers. This logic is counter to the justification for bonus points that exists in the ESEA waiver. It is a change that works to the benefit of the RSD.


“*Key Points*
– Since the new SPS system does not award non-proficient student, the non-proficient super-subgroup provides and opportunity for schools/districts to earn points as student improve towards proficiency.
– We more than doubled the number of schools earning bonus points.  More than ever, our schools helped our lowest performers progress.  This is fantastic.  Letter grades will be up as a result of it.”

Did you know? Jessica Baghian was a Harvard law student



Below are links to various LDoE policy documents.




Shadow Schools, the many victims of their success, and why US ED is useless

Shadow Schools, the many victims of their success, and why US ED is useless

If you are a journalist. . . beware trying to cover this story. This may be a story only a blogger can handle because of all the high profile political players involved.  Just asking questions about this subject is liable to get you fired as one reporter unfortunately found out.

Some of my earlier readers of my blog may have heard me talk about a situation I called Shadow Schools. A shadow school looks just like a normal school from the street and to parents and children attending it, but these schools don’t actually exist, at least not in an accountable, reportable way. Imagine if you had children and never applied for Social Security cards for them, and the hospital never issues birth certificates for them. Your children would exist, hopefully you named them and feed them, but to the state and federal government they would be invisible and if you decided to home school them and never file a tax return claiming them as a dependent and never added them to your health insurance policy it would be very hard for anyone who didn’t actually know you and them personally to know they existed.

That’s what shadow schools are. These are brand new schools that have been built, enroll students, hire teachers and principals, pick their mascots, form PTA committees and put up websites advertising they are open for business. However these schools are never reported to the State or the US Department of Education.

I will of course forgive you if you don’t believe this situation could exist. I was a bit incredulous myself when I first found out about them. You see, I just assumed our various state and federal agencies would prevent such a situation from occurring. We have so many levels of bureaucracy in our government, so many folks that would have to collude or turn a blind eye to just ignoring the existence of entire schools (for what is going on 6 years now) I had a little trouble believing it a first. I found out about them while working at the Louisiana Department of Education. I was told about them by other employees, parents, other district coordinators, and software vendors trying to figure out how to send us data and even people who drove by these new construction projects on their way to their work and asked about them.

I have uncovered evidence that two Parishes currently employ Shadow Schools, St James and Iberville, but it’s probably pure folly to believe they are the only ones. In the past Jefferson Parish used them as a way to avoid some accountability sanctions, and at one point East Baton Rouge asked to employ this technique with Baton Rouge High School. Jefferson was told to stop the practice, and I’ve been told they have done so.

East Baton Rouge was told they could not turn Baton Rouge High into a shadow school, publicly. Paul Pastorek, Louisiana’s then State Superintendent of Education even went on TV to reveal this plot and to denounce it, successfully. East Baton Rouge did not create a shadow school, and East Baton Rouge has had numerous schools taken over by the state and turned over to the RSD, the Recovery School District. The reason I draw attention to this fact, is that this is ostensibly the reason to create high performing shadow schools, to avoid accountability sanctions and school takeovers that the state department of education has the power to do, and which the US Department of Education encourages.

Here is a comment from Tom Spencer, former head of Accountability for the Louisiana Department of Education during the time of the shadow schools were created that appeared on the The Lens which attempted to cover this topic most local media organizations were cowed away from reporting.

“I was at the LDOE nearly 10 years. He’s telling it straight. Thing is – Jefferson Parish had several of these shadow schools, but the way they were recorded allowed tracking and Paul Pastorek, former supe of ed, made the LDoE change how scores were calculated. This was because EBR was openly requesting to set up similar situations. PP had the ball rolling to take over schools and didn’t want any magic to prevent his heavy-handed activity. John White is the only individual I know who lies more than Pastorek.” – Tom Spencer

To date, Mark Moseley with The Lens is the only journalist able to get to successfully cover this story to any degree. Sue Lincoln at LPB attempted to cover this story, the story never aired due to interventions by John White, and she was recently fired so LPB could go in “another direction.” I suppose straight to Hell is the direction LPB is aiming for these days.

What is the motivation and was DOE aware of this? A former DOE accountability employee reported this:

It’s probably not just about the magnet schools. Plaquemines and White Castle both have SPS in low 70’s. Without the scores routed back, they will not do well. EBR and Jefferson, however, aren’t afforded the opportunity to do the same thing.

Shadow schools exist and even have their supporters such as Mike Deshotels, a fellow Louisiana Education blogger did a story on them suggesting this was “true reform.” I usually agree with Mike on most things education related, but I find this deception too much, despite the reasoning behind the subterfuge.

The Academy program is not classified as a school. Therefore all student LEAP and iLEAP scores go back to the student’s home school. Everybody benefits from the high performance of the Academy students. Cancienne believes that students in the home schools are motivated to perform better by opportunity to attend the Academy. Link

Everyone most certainly does not benefit equally by this scheme. I will get to some of the victims and how they are victimized in a bit. There is no question that these schools or “academies” exist in an intentionally grey area and that the Louisiana Department of Education is fully aware of them. One of the reasons this was done was shared by one of my commenters, but it mirrors what I heard when I worked at LDOE and inquired about them:

A little bird told me that East Iberville and MSA East are the same school, but the reason for this is because East Iberville’s scores are so low that if the schools were not joined together, East Iberville would be taken over by the state. Since the scores for MSA East are high, they compensate for East Iberville’s low scores.

While the Reform movement is a bankrupt and bankrupting philosophy, I don’t feel the ends justifies the means here. When we abandon the moral high ground and resort to trickery we risk becoming as bad, or worse, than the faux reformers we fight in the name of truth and justice – and the children suffer. It is wrong to sacrifice poor children to improve the lot of others. Despite what Reformers would have you believe poor children are not less valuable than rich kids. They are not disposable batteries like Iberville uses them for. They should not be abandoned because wealthier kids are easier to reach. This is exactly what is happening overtly with Shadow Schools, but covertly nationwide when schools for poor kids are closed and the kids are shipped across the school district to hide the problem, hide the individual struggling students among the masses.

Out of their sites, out of our minds.

That’s the way of the Reformer. It’s the John White way so it’s not surprising he crafted policy to take advantage of this situation on a case by case basis to support his allies.

(6) Alternative Schools

• Background:

○ Alternative schooling and programs vary widely in structure, purpose and quality across the state.

• Issue:

○ Despite the wide variance, the LDOE’s past practice has been to tightly define these learning environments as (a) alternative

schools or (b) alternative programs. This removes decision-making authority from educators closest to kids and, further, fails

to clarify the differences between the sites.


○ Rather than the LDOE, districts will designate alternative programs and/or schools.

Programs = Scores will count at sending school and the site will not have a site code

School = Scores will be assigned based on the new Full Academic Year definition

○ Any students sent to an alternative school for less than 45 days will be considered to be enrolled in an alternative

program within the alternative school, and their scores will be counted at their sending school.

You can even read Erin Bendily’s, Assistant Superintendent, Policy and External Affairs at Louisiana Department of Education, response when I brought Shadow Schools to her attention several years ago.

From: Erin Bendily (DOE)
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 4:05 PM
To: Jason France
Cc: (redacted); (redacted); Joan Hunt; Jennifer Baird
Subject: RE: Unreported Sites

This still doesn’t answer the question of why IPSB is communicating to parents and others externally that these are SCHOOLS, and why they are segregating data for them.

That was an excellent point, Erin. It still is. I wonder what, or who changed your mind? A FOIA request might reveal those answers.

State law is pretty specific on this issue as we all discussed with Chief Legal Counsel, Joan Hunt, and as we can see from Bulletin 111.

Part LXXXIII. Bulletin 111―The Louisiana School,
District, and State Accountability System

§301. School Performance Score Goal

A. A School Performance Score (SPS) shall be calculated for each school. This score shall range from 0.0 to 120.0 and beyond, with a score of 120.0 indicating a school has reached Louisiana’s 2014 goal.

B. Each school shall receive its school performance scores under one site code regardless of its grade structure.


§3301. Inclusion of New Schools

A. For a newly formed school, the school district shall register the new school with the Louisiana Department of Education to have a site code assigned to that school. A new school shall not be created nor shall a new site code be issued in order to allow a school to avoid an accountability decision or prevent a school from entering the accountability system. Before a new school is created, the local education agency must work with the Louisiana Department of Education to explore ways the new school can be included in the accountability system.

Shadow Schools exist and they were funded from a 31-mill special property tax parish voters approved in 2008. The tax is expected to generate $10.5 million per year for 20 years in Iberville. I’m not tackling the issue of whether they exist or not in this post. If you are interested in seeing some of my previous discussions on why these schools were created, what they allow you to do, or where some the current ones are 1, 2, 3, (and what the grounds look like from an aerial view) you can refer to these previous posts.

The sad part is this has never been a well-kept secret. Iberville Parish and St James Parish built new schools, called them academies and programs, and that was the extent of the deception!

Without the collusion pliant local and state school boards, a corrupt State Department of Education a useless US Department of Education, and compliant media that dutifully reports anything handed to them without delving any deeper than the press releases that get handed to them on a silver platter, this situation could not exist. A former, wishing to remain anonymous, LDOE staffer writes this:

That superintendent in Iberville was in St. James a few years ago. Seems that’s where the ‘process’ started. EBR tried this and Pastorek wouldn’t allow it. He also stopped Jefferson – who was doing it in several schools. When Tyler was in Caddo, she tried to do it with overage 8th graders (low performing) and the LDE doesn’t allow it. Cancienne also invented the practice of leaving poor performing students in 8th grade while they were working toward a GED, so they wouldn’t enter the high school graduation calculations. As you pointed out – with scores as low as they are in Iberville as a whole – how pitiful must the schools be when considering all the ‘propping up’ that occurs. ERIN BENDILY is the governor’s superintendent of education. Whitey is just the mouthpiece.

I’ve been researching this topic on and off for a few years now so I have pretty rough timeline of what occurred and who the primary players were in this setup, corroborated from multiple independent sources.

Apparently around 2006 or 2007 or so Linda Johnson, a state school board or “BESE” member, found out about some shadow schools that were operating in Jefferson Parish. Rather than worrying about shutting them down, she decided she liked the idea and wanted it to spread to other parishes under her oversight. Edward Cancienne was the Superintendent of St James Parish at the time and had just set up an “Academy” there that was actually split between 3 schools. Cancienne came to Iberville in 2007 and proposed opening up two more shadow school academies and funding them through a tax millage increase, which passed. While the schools were being built, Canicenne opened up the Academies in temporary accommodations.

Now the schools are built and they draw children from miles around, even outside of Iberville Parish as this press release found on Iberville’s website helpfully describes.


Last school year, 32 such students applied to the academies in a parish with about 4,000 school age children. At the Jan. 15 application deadline, 273 parish students who attend school outside the parish and private school students in the parish were in a pool of 1,000 seeking entry into the academies for next school year, school system officials said. One of those former private school students is Kristin Ellis, a Plaquemine resident who attended school in Ascension Parish her entire life. She was admitted this year into the west side Math, Science and Arts Academy at the E.J. Gay campus in Plaquemine. Ellis, 16, is an achiever with a 4.2 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale due to her enrollment in honors courses. Leaving her Ascension Parish private school for the arts-intensive, technology-rich academy program in Iberville Parish made sense to Ellis, she said, because the academies push students to achieve.

The cumulative totals are even more staggering as Mike Deshotels reported:

In fact parents on both sides of the river are so impressed that in just 3 years a total of 780 students have transferred from private schools back into the public school system. For years the Iberville public school system had been plagued by the flight of serious top students (both black and white) to private schools. Now the kids are back, and the new concept Academies have a waiting list of over 400.

This all sounds fantastic! So what’s the problem do you ask?

For starters, with as many as 1000 high performing students transferring into a parish of only 4300 students as of 2011 the parish has only shown anemic growth. If you read any report about how awesome MSA East and MSA west are, you’d have to believe those are the best schools and kids on earth. It’s very likely, almost certain that the schools left behind are declining; the students are failing and dropping out in the shadows.



2007 District Performance Score

2008 District Performance Score

2009 District Performance Score

2010 District Performance Score

2011 District Performance Score

Letter Grade

024 Iberville Parish







At a recent seminar on race I attended I happened to have an Iberville teacher at my table. I mentioned knowing about the Academies but not that I was a blogger that knew “quite a bit” about them. She told me that almost all the good students and teachers were drained from the other schools to support the Academies and that the actual reported “schools” had all the new teachers and lowest performing students. I also asked about the “lottery” system which I was told by a number of parents was a joke, and she confirmed that it was well know that if you were well connected, you got in, if you were a poor local parent there was no waiting list, and you might never get in. Many of the kids going to the Academies are from other parishes that don’t even pay the millage tax actual parishioners passed. I learned that all the schools have finally been remodeled and all students now have laptops, for what that’s worth, but the impacts of those investments is not showing up for local children. In all likelihood they are suffering worse than before the MSA’s came into existence. A parent relates this about the “lottery.”

Thanks for responding. The whole situation is sad and the kids are the ones who suffer. Mr.Cancienne even went to the extreme of contacting neighboring parishes once North Iberville was closed asking them not to accept those students forcing them to attend Plaquemine High or private school. Those parents had to sign temporary guardianship to a family member or friend for their child to attend school in another parish. However, students from WBR parish just have to provide an address in Iberville parish and they are eligible to attend. I know a honor student from North Iberville that has been # 10 on the waiting list for 2 years.

I know they’ve enrolled more than one kid at the MSA’s in the last 2 years. You do the math. A fictitious lottery allows school districts to pick and choose who they admit and who they don’t. People can claim it is “random” and who can prove otherwise? This is probably what’s going on with the State’s voucher “lottery” according to reports I’ve gotten from staffers who no longer work there.

Another teacher wrote in to tell me about how this Shadow School situation looked like from the inside:

I worked for Eskridge last year. Noone even told me about MSA. It took me a month to figure out where the other “half of the school” was.

They even wear different colors!

MSA had lab-tops, East Iberville didn’t. Oops they’re the same school? WHAT A CROCK

two totally different schools. it makes me sick to see that it is even claimed

At one point USED informed us that this was a very bad thing going on. I was not allowed to confirm that we actually had this situation until after I left. When I tried to report this issue to EDEN, the federal data collection agency I never received even the courtesy of an out-of-office response. I sent e-mails to dozens of federal employees letting them know this was going on, and I never received a conformation or response of any kind. When I worked at DOE this was the response we got right away.

From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) [mailto:Kara.Osmonson@ed.gov] On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2011 1:48 PM
To: [Redacted]
Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]

PSC asked ED how they would like this situation to be handled and ED sent the following response.

“The situation that is described in the e-mail is inappropriate. If something meets the definition of a school, LA needs to assign it a state site code and report it as a school to EDFacts.

As far as the LEAs go, LA SEA needs to be clear that the LEA are expected to report schools and students accurately and completely. The SEA could consider requiring a certification of some kind from the LEAs, that the data are reporting accurately and completely.

LA SEA could elaborate to the LEAs that while the LEAs might get by with misleading reporting for a while, eventually they will get caught. Then send them copies of the articles about Atlanta Public School District.”

Please let us know if you have any further questions regarding this issue. Thank you.


Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center


Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 5:56 PM
To: EDEN Submission System
Cc: Jason France; [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302


Please answer these questions and send back to Kara.



From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) [mailto:Kara.Osmonson@ed.gov] On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 4:15 PM
To: [Redacted]

Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]

I have a couple of follow up questions for your concerning this.

1) Is this a common practice in Louisiana?

2) How does Louisiana treat/report these types of schools? Is there an established/common practice in Louisiana for these types of situations, or does the state not have a written rule and would like for ED to weigh in?

Once I have these response I will be able to look into this more accurately for you. Thank you.


Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center


Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 12:30 PM
To: [Redacted]

Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]

Thank you for sending this to PSC. We will look into this question for you and get back to you with a response. Thank you.


Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center


Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 11:16 AM
To: EDEN Submission System
Cc: Jason France; [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school


I found the definition of school in the workbook. Jason has asked a question below that I would like PSC to answer.



From: Jason France
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 10:14 AM
To: [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school

What if an LEA has a “school” for all intents and purposes, except a site code and send their students as enrolled at another school to improve accountability scores at failing schools or to evade detection as a failing school by sprinkling their students among more successful schools so as not to have to report a failing “school”? Do the feds have an ruling/guide on that?

Apparently USED is not interested in discovering any more Atlanta situations. In the Georgia case the fraud was committed by dozens of teachers and principals by changing a few test items. In Louisiana this fraud is being perpetrated by the State Superintendent of Education, BESE members, and local superintendents and possibly Governor Jindal.  These folks have been hiding entire schools for going on 6 years,(during the entire Jindal Administration.) If you try to cover this you don’t get accolades, unlike the Atlanta scandal, you get fired even for asking questions.

Now it looks like Iberville is looking to expand its Shadow School program. I’ve heard reports that principals and parents of students in the schools for the poor kids have discussed trying to break away from Iberville to form their own school district, much like South East Baton Rouge is doing, except the geography is identical and in this case it’s the poor kids trying to get some decent experienced teachers and attention. Cancienne is using these poor kids like disposable batteries, to strip their funding to supply the MSAs with the best teachers and facilities money can buy.

Hello, I came across your blog on the MSA Academy in Plaquemine and I was shocked at some of the information you posted. I went to my first school board meeting this month for the first time in years and I would describe it as a circus. IPSB wants a Virtual Academy at the old North Iberville High School. They only want to open the library to house 30 students, however all the other schools have access and same advantages to the same courses. The school board hasn’t voted on the approval nor was a presentation of the cost analysis was given. I witnessed a company there last Monday installing wiring for internet. The school will be named MSA North Iberville (wow)! Let me go further to say the gpa requirements has been changed to 2.75 effective 2013-2014 school year. How can this be done when they are not a true magnet school?

Melvin Lodge sold North Iberville High out along with Daigle. East Iberville got to keep their school with a low enrollment plus an academy. Now they want to form their own school district saying they are tired of being treated like the “step child”. How about that for the latest in Iberville Parish news? The parents don’t know because they don’t educate themselves. This school has been given so much praise. The borderline students are being forced out back to their home school to make room for students coming in from private school and OTHER PARISHES; West Baton Rouge in particular. I made a mistake taking my kids out of private school. There is a meeting on the Virtual Academy at North Iberville this Thursday. One of my local board members that is in favor of this school requested Cancienne to come and hasn’t informed the parents. I have taken the initiative to do so and try to expose them. Thanks Again for your blog!

Despite what John White, and Edward Cancienne would have you believe, this is really what Iberville Reform looks like.

And if you don’t believe me, well now there’s a fired reporter to prove it.

If you believe in the Freedom of Press, you will make this go viral. If you value your freedom you must not tolerate this intimidation. Government agencies interfering and punishing the press is a clear cut violation of the First Amendment.

The Free Press Clause protects the freedom to publish. In Lovell v. City of Griffin (1938), Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes defined “press” as “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” This right has been extended to media including newspapers, books, plays, movies, and video games.

A landmark decision for press freedom came in Near v. Minnesota (1931), in which the Supreme Court rejected prior restraint (pre-publication censorship). In this case, the Minnesota legislature passed a statute allowing courts to shut down “malicious, scandalous and defamatory newspapers”, allowing a defense of truth only in cases where the truth had been told “with good motives and for justifiable ends”. In a 5-4 decision, the Court applied the Free Press Clause to the states, rejecting the statute as unconstitutional. Hughes quoted Madison in the majority decision, writing, “The impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press”.

But just like anything else, our “rights” are illusory if we don’t defend them. If you are someone that feels “criminal alliances” and “official neglect” are the American Way, then feel free to ignore this story, while you can. Just don’t complain when your property is expropriated, your children “disappeared” and no one cares.


The Grand Accountability Scam – Kill the RSD

The Grand Accountability Scam – Kill the RSD

John White and Bobby Jindal have mixed two smart sounding messages in a way designed to punish people for being poor. It sounds good when you say, “poverty is not an excuse for poor performance.” It sounds good when “we refuse to allow poverty to be an excuse for poor performance.” Who could disagree with such uplifting “sounding” messages. You might think these guys are the champions of the poor based on these messages. John White has changed the State Department of Education website to reflect his positive sound message of “Louisiana Believes.” Who doesn’t want to simply “Believe” that belief alone is sufficient to overcome any obstacle? John White puts out SPS (School Performance Scores) that have point totals that go up or down, and “grades” A, B, C, D, F that we can all relate to. We instinctively know than an A is good, and we all want to get one, and an F is bad and none of us want those (although RSD, the state run Recovery School District designed to rescue students from poor performing schools, seems permanently mired in Ds and Fs.) Since RSD does so poorly, could it be that the folks running the RSD don’t “Believe” enough?

When Schools fail to achieve expected gains, without any additional support, John White closes them and declares them failures. He tells us all the teachers didn’t “Believe” in their students and their low expectations led to the low achievement of their students. Could things simply be as simple as that? That would be nice, and if this message and solution was working since we started undertaking this first under Superintendent Picard, then vastly accelerated under Superintendent Pastorek we should see patterns that divorce themselves from the generally accepted, tested and proven theory that poverty has an impact on performance. This does not mean poor people are stupid, or lazy (as some have told when I write on these topics) merely that the very poor lack many of the preparations and support wealthier folks have. Many of our children in Louisiana belong to families that are the working poor; families form one parent homes, families where both parents work multiple jobs. These are not lazy people, but people who often can’t enroll their kids in pre-k programs, take their kids to museums, or buy them all the age appropriate books and toys that would help prepare them for school. These are homes that parents may be working late and unable to help children with homework as often as they should, or at all. This does not make them bad parents, or the children unintelligent underachievers, but it does mean they need help to keep up with their better prepared and opportunitied peers.

When we have communities where poverty is the norm, not the exception, I “believe” performance suffers an add-on impact to lowering performance. Some people have accused me of being socialist for explaining that performance is closely tied to poverty, and not race. Some have suggested I am saying the government should take all the “wealth” from the wealthy and distribute it to the poor. (Technically that would probably make me a totalitarian communist type, but nevertheless, this is not what I am advocating, nor would it work.) If I gave you a test today and you have been poor your entire life, then gave you 50,000 dollars and had you take the test tomorrow, you would not do any better on the test (and possibly worse thinking about all the cool stuff you could spend those 50 gs on. I know I would.) The actual problem is rooted in income inequality over an extended period of time, but that is a complicated problem. This is the second smart sounding message that has been confused. Reformers tout that a good “education” is the first step toward eliminating poverty, so they believe they have to hold everyone “accountable”. . . but themselves. They want the hold the children responsible for getting better without resources, they want teachers to squeeze more performance out of their children as defined by what a standardized test can measure. What they don’t want to do is actually be responsible for addressing or identifying the real needs of children raised in poverty. Rather than focus on addressing the needs of the poor, they would rather tout the benefits of being rich and allow luck and perseverance be the sole determining factors for which kids escape poverty. That’s a pathetic cop-out. Children are not greyhounds, to be raced for our pleasure and rewarded only if they win the race. Children are not horses, some of which will win glory and some of which we be win only a future of Elmer’s fame.

certified 100% horse free (recipe now features poor students.)
certified 100% horse free (recipe now features poor students.)

Children are our responsibility and our future and we owe them more than “Louisiana Believes” slogans and “Accountabilty” for them and their teachers. We owe them a real hand-up, not a lecture about how they should do better, how their parents and teachers have failed them. We owe them a future. We own them resources, not virtual schools, which strip communities of resources, not “Recovery” schools like they are crack addicts in need of a detox or cure. We need to push them, not punish them by removing them from their communities and peers.

But before I go into what the data shows, let’s get back to some of the limitations of this data. First of all our poverty indicator is imprecise. Basically poverty as defined in Louisiana for the Department of Education is student who applied for Free and Reduced lunch or foodstamps. It is imprecise at a student by student level for the following reasons:

  • Not all families that qualify apply for aid
  • Poverty has cumulative impact, students well off most of their formative years and only have a year or two of insecurity may not be as impacted
  • Some students may have other mitigating factors such as a teacher in the home, or grandparents that can help students with homework

But when factored in as a general variable or characteristic of population you can tease out some correlations. Take for example this graph of Louisiana’s main school districts and their wealth index (a factor based on taking the inverse of poverty and multiplying it by 200 to put it on the same scale/ratio as SPS scores which also range up to 200 points.) (Click on the image for a better resolved picture, or refer to the excel insert further below.

This graph is sorted by SPS score, from highest to lowest. The SPS score is charted with the blue line. The Red bouncy line is the wealth index. I have built in two dotted trend lines which show how these two indicators are directly related to each other. Notice also how as wealth decreases (and concentration of poverty increases) SPS scores drop off precipitously. There appears to be an add-on impact to concentrating extreme poverty such as in the case of the RSD and St Helena Parishes. I would argue that parishes that show dramatic red lined dips below the green dotted trend line are actually doing much better for their students’, when factoring in the parish levels of poverty. Of course it’s important to understand that the analysis is only as good as the data we can get, and John White’s LDE (as I shall refer to Louisiana’s DOE until he leaves since his version is a corrupt dysfunctional mockery of the DOE I worked in) does not provide much in the way of data because they don’t want anyone to understand what is going on.

The solution is not to simply to pass out wads of cash to the parents of poor children. That would be like claiming to have cured someone of chicken pox by simply applying makeup to cover up the spots. What is important is that we recognize that poverty is a factor in how well students perform on tests which determines how well schools and districts are scored on SPS scores. Simply closing the low performing schools does not “fix” this problem; that is simply applying makeup to chicken pox. According to this chart some districts like Orleans, Jefferson, St Bernard, West Carroll and Winn are doing very well considering their poverty compositions (although Orleans may be benefitting from having much of their higher needs population in RSD schools.)

Notes: I would caution against using this chart to highlight districts such as Zachary or Cameron as outliers without much more research. I’ve been told that Zachary’s poverty numbers may be under reported and I’ve been told by SIS coordinators from Cameron Parish that people in this parish often refuse to claim food stamps to apply for free and reduced lunch, even though many more qualify for them. This may result in showing Cameron artificially more “wealthy” than it actually is based on available data. Another factor possibly impacting Cameron’s lower than expected scores based on their wealth index is that they were severely impacted by two major hurricanes in the past 7 years causing major displacement and massive loss of housing school days and facilities. It also appears that while extreme poverty seems to exert a nonlinear downward pressure on performance as measured by SPS scores, wealth ratings above 100, or 50% seem to have a diminishing impact on SPS scores in the upper range. This would seem to imply that carving wealthier districts from districts below wealth score or 100, (or a district with 50% free or reduced lunch) will have a disproportionate negative impact on the district left behind, the poorer the district left behind becomes, the more their test scores will be impacted. Conversely, while a wealthier district will post higher than average SPS scores, increasing the wealth of such a district over 50% or less than 50% free and reduced has a diminishing effect on increasing SPS scores.

So what does this mean?

The SPS score is an inherently poverty biased measure. Districts with high poverty concentrations don’t stand a chance as all of their students will tend to score lower without massive intervention the state is not currently providing. Louisiana’s Accountability system will catch-up to them and throw them kicking and screaming into RSD, the Recovery School District.

If RSD is such as great thing why are parents in the school districts with RSDs complaining so bitterly about them and refusing to send their students to these schools, except as a last resort?

School districts are learning that the best way to evade state takeover is to increase the wealth percentage in their district either by splitting off into smaller, wealthier districts, by attracting wealthier students, or by disguising their populations by merging school populations in shadow school arrangements. Giving students more and more tests, punishing their teachers when they don’t do any better on them, and closing their schools, is a horribly dysfunctional idea. It’s like taking the temperature of kids when they go to the doctor for treatment for a fever, the temperature tests confirm they have a fever, and instead of giving them medicine or instructions for treatment, the doctor/nurse just keeps taking their temperature again and again with different instruments, and perhaps sticking those instruments in more invasive places. When the children don’t get better the doctor then blames the parents for doing something wrong and in some cases notifies protective services to take the kids away from their parents. . . putting them a Recovery Housing System. Once these children end up in the “RHS” and all we do is take their temperature again and again, telling them will just better if they really try. Would it surprise if they do worse and some die/dropout? The Recovery School District is a Big Government misguided Big Brother infirmary that is slowly killing our children and our communities. By its very nature of divesting itself of community roots, oversight, and harmony it creates discord with our children and the community into which it is forcibly inserted (without any lube I might add.) It does nothing to ensure children are treated, simply tested and tested some more and when RSD ends up as the worst of the worst among SPS scores( as it has done), who takes RSD over, the RRSD?

What if all these resources we spent taking over school districts, firing teachers, and displacing children were used instead to improve the schools in which they already reside – dozens of these schools now lay shuttered and vacant statewide while the children are bussed to campuses clear across their communities. This is done to disguise how poorly we’ve served these children while we hope taking their temperature over and over and telling them to “get better” will finally work. What if instead of just testing children and holding them “accountable” we held ourselves accountable as a society and worked to improve their plight? All this testing and test prep is not helping our students catch up, and it may actually be bringing everyone else down as well. In Louisiana to disguise this fact John White has changed the “grading scale” and intends to change it yet again next year and every year we continue to employ him. John White will guarantee the scores go up, for what they’re worth, but our students will eventually tire teachers just taking their temperatures when they show up for school, and who could blame them?

Kill the RSD, and hand the schools back over to their communities where they belong. The RSD experiment we’ve forced on our children has failed, and miserably so. Instead of spending all that excess funding on bringing in out of state charters temporary teachers, train the teachers we have, provide funding for universal pre-kindergarten, afterschool programs, restore music and the arts and provide tutors and recruit mentors from the community for children. There are thousands of people just waiting to help, if the state will back off and return to a support role instead of the tyrant it has become under Paul Pastorek and John White. Teachers are trying, but they can’t tackle this task alone.

I suppose it comes down to whether you want a solution or simply someone to blame? Bobby Jindal just wants a talking point for his futile presidential aspirations; John White wants to help out-of-state vendors, so they can hook him up for a lifetime of perks and positions once he leaves Louisiana. If you are a citizen of this state, if you care about the students, the children, the teachers, your fellow citizens, out way of life and our future, then you need to kick these guys out and take back our schools. Kill the RSD and rescue our teachers and students before it’s too late.

It’s about time we held our failing leaders responsible. RSD has been in place for almost 7 years and has mostly all new students, and every year it is vying for worst district in the state with two to three times the resources. In my book that deserves an F- and the creators of it should be held accountable.