Education Related Projects – Status Report and Log

Current Education Related Projects – Intro

I just realized I’ve been working on a number of different projects to expose education abuses and to improve education for the children in my state with a passion I usually reserve for online gaming and good food and drink.  Admittedly I was motivated by spite as well as a sense of duty and justice.  I’ve found the spiteful aspect to be less sustainable since my “voluntary” separation from my DOE.  What has replaced it is a sense of hope as I’ve talked to numerous groups and organizations on children’s issues and education data and how my knowledge of Louisiana’s data might be leveraged for positive outcomes for the children in my state – my own children included.  As I get documents published or outcomes achieved I will update my readers here.  Whenever possible, I am taking a low profile and using third parties to request data and pursue shared goals.  I plan to use this page to update my goals and record some statistics on my progress.

Corporal Punishment

Louisiana is one of the few states that still authorizes and vigorously employs the use of large wooden paddles to smack children who are deemed to be misbehaving.  There are no state guild lines on when it is appropriate to use corporal punishment.  While I was at the DOE I saw stats that showed more than half the children in a given district were disciplined this way in just last half of the year.  (We only collected data for the last semester which has never to my knowledge been published yet.  I was one of the few people who actually saw it since I was the one responsible for gathering and reporting it.) Some children were paddled more than 30 times over the course of just a few months.  Children as young 3 and 4 and as old as 17 were disciplined this way.  It appeared that boys and minorities were more often the recipients of corporal punishment but I was unable to determine (due to lack of time and quality of data) if the ethnic bias was more closely related to poverty.  Districts with some of the lowest education outcomes as measured by School Accountability Scores appeared to have the highest rates of corporal punishment (such as the parish that used CP on more than half of their students in half a school year.)  It would probably take a researcher some time to tease out that correlation though.  At least one parish allows any adult in a supervisory capacity the authority to discipline their students using a 18-24 inch wooden paddle without any training or oversight.  One of the most alarming findings was that many if not all school districts discipline their disabled (Special Education) students this way.  There is no review process in place to determine If the behavior deemed to warrant the use of physical force may be related to their unique exceptionality (such as a student with Tourette’s Syndrome spontaneously and uncontrollably cursing.)  There does not appear to be any consensus on what behavior warrants corporal punishment.  Some districts use it sparingly for more serious offenses, while a number of districts may employ it for the smallest transgression such as “Willful Disobedience” which is often a uniform violation such as an un-tucked shirt or inappropriate footwear.

As of 7/22/2012

Organizations or Prominent Citizens Contacted Contacts Made   Promising future coordination or currently coordinating Data Requests   filed/filled Reports and articles   produced/published Outcomes
17 5 2/0 0/1 task force list

Blog entries posted:

A Modest Corporal Punishment Proposal for Louisiana

Goal: To eliminate the use of Corporal Punishment in Louisiana.

(It’s already been outlawed for use on animals and inmates, but children have fewer rights here apparently)

Other references to my blog vis a vis corporal punishment:


I have acquired a task force list of prominent Louisiana citizens and organizations that participated in a task force with their preferences listed as for or against corporal punishment.  I am tracking down the “Fors” right now.

I have made a few requests to DOE to provide CP data either in summarized or raw form for me to compile.  I may need outside pressure to get them to release it.  I am looking for allies to help me get that ammo which i can use to interest more mainstream media organizations and legislators in my cause.


Section 504 Children (basically students with learning disabilities)

While I was at LDE I designed a system to capture the 504 status for students in Louisiana.  By now we have 2 or three years of data.  From my discussions with the state liaison and even people within and outside the department of education it is apparent that Non-public Schools, many charters and a number of school districts do everything they can to discourage students from claiming to have 504 disabilities.  This discouragement will take many forms but usually results in the students needing to be withdrawn and enrolled elsewhere, being underserved and discriminated against, or parents having to take on a greater financial burden to ensure their children receive supplementary services, tutors, etc.

Some of you may not really know what “504” means.  I didn’t before i started working on the project to collect data on this situation.  Before I started designing the system for collecting this data I did a little homework on what it is.   504 refers to a section of the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of children’s disabilities if the schools receive federal funding.  (Even though most non-pubic schools don’t receive traditional per-pupil funding, they may receive other types of federal funding for technology and nutrition programs for instance.)  With Louisiana’s new laws allowing any non-public school to receive local, state and federal funding – non-public schools must be held to the same standard as pubic schools in providing services for disabled students covered under 504 or IDEA (Special Education.) or be in violation of federal law.  Many of these schools probably don’t realize this yet, so this issue will need to be made more public and to prevent non-public schools from denying less desirable (more challenging) students from enrolling and remaining enrolled.

Additionally, based on the statistics I viewed, (and backed up by anecdotal accounts relayed to me) that a number of districts refuse to provide the same level of services that most of their peers provide.  When you have most districts identifying around 5%  of their students as having a 504 disability and several large districts reporting rates of less than a tenth of a percent in a like sized district. . . that would seem to warrant further investigation and possible sanctions and corrective actions.  Unfortunately the Louisiana Department of Education has been instructed by the past two Superintendents of Education that they are no longer going to be involved in overseeing compliance issues (even though the federal government provides funding for positions for that purpose that LDE fills).  Therefore outside groups will need to take an interest in this data and pushing for greater oversight and equality for disabled students.

If you are still bewildered by the difference between Special Education(IDEA) children and 504 disabled children this graphic and link may provide some insight.


  • To educate legislators and other stakeholders about 504 status.
  • To improve consistency in reporting and defining 504 status in LEAs.
  • To encourage Louisiana to include 504 status as a component of the teacher evaluation system (currently students may develop a 504 condition such as a learning disability or vision issue that can impact performance.  The Value Added model does not currently include 504 status as factor in a students sudden declination in test scores.)
  • To encourage legislators to include funding for LEAs to address 504 conditions just as they do for at-risk students, LEP students, and Special Education students.
  • To educate charter schools of their obligations under section 504 of the disability act in regards to addressing student needs.

Shadow Schools (Non-Reported Schools)

Shadows schools is a term I invented so don’t go looking for in anywhere else.  I discovered “shadow schools” while working at the Louisiana Department of Education but I have reason to believe what i discovered is just the tip of a very large and growing iceberg.  A shadow school is a schools which operates from the shadows, off the official books reported to the state, federal government and judicial agencies.  That’s not to say the school districts don’t know what’s going on at these shadow schools.  Like the Mafia, they have two sets of books (or possibly more.)   This allows the school district to manage personnel and students at a building level, but report those same students and teachers from other schools that are defined.  Some people have been confused as to why someone would want to do this.  Is this really a big deal, if the student and teachers all get reported?  Louisiana’s former superintendent of Accountability actual made this argument in a meeting I was in, in front of a political appointee that appeared to want to sweep this situation under the rug.  He knew full well what this meant/means but he also knew if he made a big deal about it he would  be gone.   He’s still gone (that was going to happen anyways) but by ignoring issues like this he was able to avoid making waves and stayed a bit longer than most.

Here is what most anyone who deals with data and accountability ought to have been able to explain off the top of his head.

(sorry i left it hanging here folks but i really need more hours in the day)  These will all be filled out eventually.

Homeless Students


Bullied Students


Violence Against Teachers (or anyone in Education setting)


Miscellaneous Special Education Issues


Slaying Value Added Model (and Replacing with a Collaborative System)


Charter School Oversight Issues (lack of)


Eliminating Creationism and ID from School Science Curriculum


Louisiana’s Lacking Accountability System

Louisiana’s Lacking Accountability System
I think I've got a score in your price range right here. Isn't it a 'bute?

Most people probably haven’t heard about Louisiana’s School Accountability System, but many Louisianian natives with children of or near school age have probably heard about schools being assigned letter grades or stars “*” to represent the overall quality of a school.  What most of those people don’t know is that the state and appointed officials play a game with the numbers every year, before the general public gets to see them, so that some people walk away with a little more star power, or a little less, depending on whether they know the pit boss.  Even so, the game is rigged by the House, and in the end, no one ultimately walks away a winner — well except charter schools and voucher program providers.

It would actually take many pages in a decent sized book to describe all the problems with the accountability system, the base points change, the tests change, the labels change, the goal posts get moved, the weighting gets changed, the included adjustment factors get altered, but since I don’t have the time to document that, and you don’t likely have time or inclination to tackle such a dreary and dry topic I’ll stick to a few of the highlights not readily available from other sources. . .  at least until I start to bore myself.

Lack of Transparency

Does anyone outside of the accountability group at DOE know the exact formula for calculating the ultimate scores?  Sure, DOE publishes the basics, but did you know the weighting formula has changed over the years, probably every year?  I say “probably” because no one really knows what they do in their secret score sorcery shop — but I have been given run downs of some of the things that go on and what I’ve heard isn’t all the pretty a picture.  Since no one can independently verify their results, or evaluate the even-handedness of their “adjustments” we are left to rely on this one group’s work for whether we take over a school or not.  It seems like such a situation could easily lend itself to some abuse, especially if someone had a goal to destroy traditional public schools and replace them with a private school voucher system and charters.

Lack of Independence

DOE’s accountability shop takes their orders from unclassified (politically appointed) staff members (actually multiple levels of them.)  These unclassified staff are appointed by politicians to lord over classified state workers, usually at inflated salaries. They need not meet any specific job requirements and in some cases they may not actually meet the requirements of the job for the lowest level person they supervise.  Nevertheless, they are empowered to dictate whatever policies or rules they see fit or that are given to them by their handlers.  Additionally, as we saw in numerous recent examples, political appointees that don’t tow the company line get canned in short order. Every year there are massive and lengthy “cleanups” (furious behind the scenes manual data changing) in the Accountability section.  When this clean-up period finally closes, if you have the right connections (and what you feel is the wrong data) you can get Accountability to “update” (alter) your data for you.  This happens every year, regardless of how “firm” Accountability claims their deadline is, nor how “final” their numbers are.  The way Accountability is structured, its not their fault.  There is always someone who knows a political figure who can pulls some strings.  Those strings are attached to other political appointees who will then overlook some deadlines, or data quality issues, or even some data absence issues if you pull hard enough!

Lack Consequences for Incomplete Data

If you are a charter school or RSD school and don’t feel like sending your data for attendance or dropouts, no problem!  We’ll make up some favorable data for you, and use that.  Quite frequently new charters start up without any system for capturing or reporting data to the state.  DOE does not really audit attendance or dropout related data except in the form of limited desk audits, and usually only for districts asking to make changes to their data after the various collections have closed.  Most of the LDE staff that used to do that were laid off; or they quit and were not replaced.  I never got the whole story but that appears to be the gist of it.  But I bet the lack of vigilant oversight or negative repercussions for failing to send accurate or complete data might be something the rest of the public schools would like to know, and benefit from!  Did you know that LDE was actually in charge of the RSD school district in 2006-2007 (and basically still is today) so that means it couldn’t even get its own people to provide dropout data or attendance data on a massive scale.  To illustrate my point I downloaded this from LDE’s site for easy reference. DCR_RSD (I’ve heard uncomfortable data has a way of disappearing there of late, must be gremlins, so I figured I’d be all helpful and premeditative and provide a copy here, just in case that happens.)

Hmm, starting to bore myself so I guess I’ll wrap this up.

Most people would agree accountability is important in most endeavors.  I hold companies I do business with accountable when they mess up.  If a dry cleaners screws up my shirts I complain and try to get my money back and if I’m unsatisfied with the service I move to another dry cleaners.  When my cable company kept screwing up my bill every month, I made sure to look at my bill more more closely to try and prevent future mistakes from getting past me and hitting my bottom line.   I would never keep going back to a a terrible dry cleaner if the owner just told me to buzz off. If he insisted I continue to bring my shirts to him so he could ruin more of them, I would think he was crazy!  I would never consider just allowing my cable company to auto draft whatever amount they felt was appropriate, just because they assured me they would never screw me over again.

Why then do we allow the allies of charter schools to tell us to ignore their crappy or incomplete data?

Why do we keep allowing more to open up, making the same mistakes and never holding them accountable for them?

You would think it would just be a no-brainer to ensure that new charter operators have a credible data system in place to keep track of our children before we send them there!

Why do we not get the politicians out of the Accountability business and let those folks do their own thing without people with a vested interest telling them what to do?

Is it because our politicians and charter operators don’t really want an Accountability system, just a faceless entity that can do their dirty work while they hide in the shadows, unaccountable to parents and teachers?

We’ve now firmly embraced a profit motive for non-public and charter school operators.  By placing political appointees that have to answer to these profit privateers what we’ve actually managed to create is an unAccountabilty department.

But aren’t our kids are more important than a few wrinkled shirts!?!  Don’t you think we should demand a system that was at least as rigorous and impartial as how we would treat a random bad dry cleaning experience?

Are we really satisfied with an Accountability system that has to answer to private and political interests before the interests of parents and the public?  Well, for the time being, I guess we are. . .