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

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

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

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

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

happy Easter

FERPA tidbit:

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

CREDO MOU

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

image

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

image

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

image

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

image

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

image

 

image

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

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

image

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

Advertisements

Unmasking the Charter Chicanery in Louisiana

Unmasking the Charter Chicanery in Louisiana

masks

Recently I was contacted by The Progressive to write an overview of charter schools in Louisiana.  I have been watching this “experiment” unfold from a fairly unique perspective.  My first look was as a State of Louisiana Employee just after charter schools were becoming established haphazardly around the state.  When I started at LDOE I was told of some of the misdeeds of previous operators, and I struggled alongside some of them to get their data reported accurately and in a timely manner.  Our initial operators were mostly standalone outfits and not altogether bad and some with the best of intentions if not the best business sense or relevant experience.  For the most part these early operators were homegrown and unconnected to external forces and influences and my bosses had no strong feelings about them either way.

As my tenure at the department lengthened, and new Education Reformer obsessed State Superintendents came to the fore like Paul Pastorek and John White, charters schools took on a new, more sinister dimension and set of goals.  I finally left the Department in February of 2012 to start my blog.  My naïve plan at the time was to reveal some of the misdeeds and to try and reverse the tide of all the negative trends and policies being enacted by out of state interests and pirogue-loads of out of state money.

What follows is the intro of my original piece I submitted.  My full piece was close to 5000 words and not entirely complete and my allotted space was maxxed at 2000 words.  I worked with the editors at The Progressive to streamline my piece, but I will be publishing parts of my original work in various future blog posts – so my time and research was not wasted.  I enjoyed the opportunity to work with some national media sources and I hope you find the pieces I will write now and in the immediate future informative and useful.  I start off with a brief into on the charter movement as we see it today.

Albert Shanker, a former President of the American Federation of Teachers Union (1974 – 1997) is sometimes credited with founding the modern charter movement in 1988.  His idea was to create an environment focused on serving the neediest students. The basic premise was for charters to work collaboratively with school districts and their most challenging students.  Ideas that proved the most fruitful would be shared and applied throughout the public systems to make them stronger and more responsive.  As originally conceived, Charter schools were to be R&D laboratories, and their research would be used for the benefit of all public school students.

In 1991 Joe Nathan and Ted Kolderie, education reformers from Minnesota, altered Shanker’s idea to one that would appeal to entrepreneurs, and squeeze out educators.

Nathan and Kolderie instead proposed that schools be authorized by statewide agencies that were separate and apart from local district control. That opened charter doors not only to teachers but also to outside entrepreneurs. Competition between charters and districts was to be encouraged.

By 1993 Shanker realized some significant flaws in his ideas and renounced support of his own idea, but by then it was too late.  Private industry and education reformers had spotted an opening, a new market, and would spend the next two decades ramping up resources and propagating propaganda to exploit it.

These resources would go to fund pro-privatization with an eye toward profit margins rather than children:

  • Candidates like Bobby Jindal, Barack Obama, Dannel Malloy and Scott Walker
  • Agendas like American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC) and Democrats For Education Reform (DFER)
  • Organizations like Teach For America (TFA), Stand For Children (Stand) and the Black Alliance For Educational Options (BAEO)
  • Charter Sponsored Media and Movies like NBCs Education Nation, Waiting for Superman, and Won’t Back Down

These groups cover vast swaths of the political spectrum and use a cunning and effective combination of statistical sleight-of-hand, repetitive messaging and empathic emotional pleas to lure people to their banners and crusade.  To the casual observer, which most folks are, these forces offer beacons of hope; hope to the messages of despair they themselves seeded beforehand.  Their messages are wrapped up in pleasingly packaged message so many of us find so compelling and alluring:

Free enterprise and American spirit and ingenuity will come to the rescue of our “failing schools” and flagging nation! 

Research institutions like the Cowen Institute at Tulane and CREDO (a conservative Hoover offshoot based on Stanford’s campus lend it a liberal air) were funded or founded with the express purpose of promoting charter schools.  Publicity campaigns were rolled out to advertise the higher standards and quality of charter schools.  Charter schools were initially advertised as having better academics (although usually with fewer certified teachers and less experienced teachers) and being less expensive (usually they are much more expensive when factoring costs to communities and grants).  Charter schools were marketed in much the same way as margarine, Vioxx, and cigarettes.   As is so often the case with miracle products, as the data is eventually analyzed objectively, and the full ramifications understood the tragic flaws are revealed.

Research now shows that charter schools are most often no better than public schools with the same demographics, and sometimes they are much, much worse.  Rather than admit defeat, pull their products, or actually try to make them live up their previous advertising the campaign was switched to one of “Choice”.

Amazingly, I was just informed today that even the head of the CREDO institute has grudgingly come to this conclusion on her own.

Her reasons for why states need to exert more control raised a few eyebrows. A self-described supporter of free markets, Raymond said a totally free market is not appropriate for schools.

“It’s the only industry/sector where the market doesn’t work,” Raymond said.

But it’s “Choice” with capital  C!  It has to be good, right?

Who doesn’t instinctively favor “choice” and freewill in a free society? It sounds liberating.  It sounds positive. Unfortunately it’s also an illusion.  Good “choices” only exist in clever online marketing ads sent to your Facebook account (with happy children of the same race as your own as determined by Big Data Algorithms) and in the mailers stuffed in your door handles and mailboxes.

Charter schools and their advocates go out of their way to obscure data and bash public schools so parents can’t make an informed choice.  States are run and overseen by officials bought with charter money to ensure this.  You can’t make a good choice with bad data and with only bad choices available.

“Parents can’t be agents of quality assurance,” Raymond said, stressing the need for better information to be available to parents as they pick schools.

When outsiders think of Louisiana and charter schools, they often think of Katrina and New Orleans.  New Orleans is now a 100% charter operated district. Charters are a manmade disaster heaped upon a natural one.  Hurricane Katrina was the once in a 100 year natural disaster that charter school operators and their allies chose to exploit.

I worked at the Louisiana Department of Education during this time.  I would learn later that while many New Orleanians were drowning in their homes, choking on the oily toxic flood waters, expiring from exposure on their rooftops, or furiously evacuating if they had the wherewithal, operatives at the Department and from the New Orleans area and State BESE board were meticulously conspiring to remake the city’s education system to their liking.   Many people perished, and we may never have a full accounting of the deaths.  On Monday, August 29th, 2005 canals were breached across New Orleans.  Public education also died that day.  Louisiana’s loss and the Nation’s shame was to become the Charter Movement’s gain.

The words of US Education Secretary Arne Duncan about Katrina will forever live in infamy for me and many of my friends, family and people.

…let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.

If you would like to see the next part of this story check out this month’s issue in The Progressive you can purchase a digital copy to support work of folks like me or wait until later this month when it is released.

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.

The RSD and New Orleans miracle (of cheating)

The RSD and New Orleans miracle (of cheating)

Some of you may have read by my recent expose on the issues facing Mary D. Coghill elementary school (an RSD school which was turned into a Park View charter school this year without any internal records or discussion of why this was done.)

I asked why this was done, and some basic info about what the accountability plans were for Mary D. Coghill as part of my investigation, but was told no such discussion or record existed. I was told no sitecode existed for this new site. (or at least this site was never discussed in e-mail or interoffice mail or memorandum.) I can assume LDOE is telling me the truth (or lying and violating state law. )

Incidentally when I re-read my notes I realized I had the number of students pulled out incorrect. It was not 70, but 90 students pulled out for special reading aloud accommodations or 26% of all students taking tests.

(I will amend my previous post with this correction.)

But while I think this is likely a serious and intentional abuse of testing accommodations that took place over multiple years for the purpose of improving RSD test scores, if this was the only case I can understand why you might think my recommendation, to have all reports of cheating investigated by an external auditor, overkill. However this is not the only case of reported cheating or abuse of testing accommodations or policies. This is but the tip of a very large iceberg, and we have no idea how much is lurking below the surface. We have evidence of at least 38 schools involved in testing irregularities or outright cheating in New Orleans (most in RSD.) How many more cases exist that we have not found out about, or which were completely concealed from any public inquiry or record? How many have not been reported by teachers for fear of being fired as coach Frank was when he tried to the right thing?

In addition to Mary D. Coghill, I believe there is a serious case to be made for cheating taking place at John Mcdonogh High School under RSD’s direction before it was turned over to a charter school with Future is Now Schools under Steve Barr. A former accountability source detailed the reason I believe John McDongh’s scores were being influenced by RSD cheating. . .

Actually, a sharp drop in school performance is a common flag that indicates a “cheater” has been replaced, or monitored to prevent cheating The perfect example of this was in West Baton Rouge Parish. A former superintendent whose wife ran the IT department had all kids who dropped out at Brusly High School transfer to Port Allen High and be recorded as Port Allen dropouts. After the couple ‘moved on,’ Port Allen High’s results shot up, while Brusly’s dropped. The current IT director (Tammy Seneca) can confirm this.

Prior to the handover of John Mac to a private charter organization, the school posted less than stellar School Performance Scores (SPS). But the latest score, a 9.3 out of 150 is absurd and represents a 78% drop in a single year. To get back to where they were before the handover from RSD, John Mac would have to improve their score more than 400%.

Operator Year SPS Score out of 150
RSD

2008

20.9

RSD

2009

21.6

RSD

2010

32.2

RSD

2011

41.8

FIN

2012

9.3

So with Mary D. Cogwell we have a reported case of cheating that involved a teacher coming forward, subsequently being fired under suspicious circumstances, no investigation taking place, a whistleblower lawsuit being filed, and the secretive closure of the RSD school.

We have another RSD school, John Mcdonogh, posting steady gains from 2008 through 2011, when it was handed over to a charter operator who discovered what may be the true performance of RSD schools, a 9.3 out of 150.

We have three charter schools that RSD oversees with reported cheating. They have allowed the school boards to investigate themselves and decide that no cheating has occurred. These schools are

Lafayette Academy:

Lafayette Academy, which is governed by the Choice Foundation, has received acclaim in recent years for its high academic performance. At the end of its first year in 2007, its school performance score was a failing score of 38.6 out of 200. That jumped by 20 points in 2008, another 5 points the next year, and at least 10 points each year after that. Its 2012 score is a 93.4, a C under the state’s letter grade system.

The scope of the cheating investigation remains unclear. Jim Huger, president of the Choice Foundation board, would only say that the board concluded that no wrongdoing occurred. The board hired a private attorney, local media lawyer Loretta Mince, to look into the claims. She referred questions to Huger.

“This is a matter that is very murky, and very sort of a ‘he-said, she-said,’ and we investigated it,” Huger said Monday. “Cheating is a very ugly word.”

Miller-McCoy Academy:

This is the third time in recent years that such allegations have surfaced at a New Orleans charter school. In 2010, teachers at Miller-McCoy Academy reported to the Recovery School District, which oversees the school, that someone had opened the state’s standardized test in advance to give test-takers extra prep on the questions.

RSD intervened, conducting its own investigation – in addition to the school’s board – that ultimately concluded that some kind of cheating did occur.

The Miller-McCoy board investigation, however, found no evidence of cheating. School officials refused to void their scores but required teachers to undergo training on proper administration of tests.

Robert Moton Charter Elementary

In August [2012], an Orleans Parish School Board investigation found evidence of cheating at Robert Moton Charter Elementary School. Moton’s board, like Lafayette and McCoy’s, concluded otherwise.

Moton was required to present preventative measures against cheating to the Orleans Parish School Board, which oversees Moton. The faculty member accused of the cheating no longer works at the school.

So now we are up to 5 schools, but the cheating doesn’t stop there. According to investigations conducted by the Lens reporter Jessica Williams, and records reported by the Louisiana Department of Education, as many as 33 additional schools have been involved in cheating or testing irregularities in the past 3 years without serious repercussions or reports to the general media.

In three recent years, 33 New Orleans public schools have been flagged for problems and possible cheating on standardized tests, including an excessive number of changed answers, plagiarism and improper test proctoring, according to records provided by the Louisiana Department of Education.

To my counting that brings the cases of reported or suspected cheating up to 38 schools.

12 of these 33 schools have repeat problems, and most of them are RSD schools.

Over the three-year period, 12 schools had repeated problems. Most of them are RSD schools:

Dwight Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies, an RSD charter

Dr. King Charter School, an RSD charter

Edna Karr High School, an OPSB charter

Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School of Literature and Technology, an OPSB direct-run school

Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary, an RSD direct-run school

O. Perry Walker College and Career Preparatory High School and Community Center, an RSD charter

Thurgood Marshall Early College High School, an RSD charter

F.W. Gregory Elementary School, an RSD direct-run school

International School of Louisiana, a BESE charter

George Washington Carver Senior High School, an RSD direct-run school

Langston Hughes Academy, an RSD charter

John Dibert Community School, an RSD charter

This is the same RSD that Reformers like Leslie Jacobs have been touting as models that should be replicated in other struggling school districts.

This is despite the fact the state did not check for a high rate of changed answers in 2009 and 2010 because of “budget reasons.”

There were problems at about 22 percent of the city’s schools in 2011, twice as many as the year before. A likely reason: In 2010, the state didn’t check tests for high rates of changed answers, citing budget cuts.

The state didn’t check for high rates of changed answers in 2009 for the same reason, department officials told The Lens.

How many more “irregualarities might be have discovered and largely ignored? Hard to say, but despite this lax and irresponsible oversight, and the failure of many of these entities to investigate or report instances of cheating, RSD and reformers want you to believe the New Orleans turnaround model.

RSD and LDOE has only turned over data touting their success of charters and RSD to the charter friendly CREDO institute, a Hoover institute spinoff run by charter champions Margaret Raymond and Eric Hanushek, a husband and wife team and Hoover institute fellows. (Eric has also famously promoted the idea that class size doesn’t matter and that class sizes of 50 or more are appropriate if only a “good” teacher is present.) LDOE have in fact used FERPA to rebuff other researchers from obtaining the same data that might disprove the claims RSD and LDOE makes about their success. Incidentally, did you know these brainiacs compared Ben Franklin and Luscher (charter schools that only accepts kids who meet strong academic standards, against regular RSD schools which must take everyone, and based upon this comparison determined charter marginally better than traditional public schools, represented by RSD? (Special Note: When asked to comment on how and why they did this and how they don’t believe this is a complete misrepresentation, Margaret and her chief researcher, Devora Davis, declined to comment.)

However I digress. The point here, is LDOE and RSD, and charter schools, cannot be trusted to investigate their own cheating. What happens when cheating is reported is those reporting the cheating like Coach Frank are conveniently disappeared, schools are secretly closed and rechartered, and Boards conveniently lose the reports and bury the investigations. While RSD and New Orleans is being used as a model for the Nation, people are not being given a true picture. All they are seeing is the result of cheating that is being hidden, stats that are being massaged and produced by puppet organizations like CREDO, and publicity that is being bought by hedge fund managers that want everyone to jump onboard the charter train so they can rack up.

Education is big business in the United States, and worldwide.

What would you do for 809 billion dollars, annually in the US or several trillion wordwide? Would you fudge a few stats, fund a few friendly researchers to show your product is safe (like tobacco did in the 70s and now charters schools do today), or take out some full page ads in papers? For those who mock folks that try to expose this corruption by calling us conspiracy theorists, wouldn’t you be more surprised if folks weren’t doing this, and much, much, more?

That is why we need proper controls and oversight. We are not just putting our own children, or children from New Orleans, at risk by failing to investigate the fairy tale that is the New Orleans miracle, we are endangering the rest of Louisiana, the US and the world.

So in that context, these recommendations from my previous article are not all that onerous, are they?

  • 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.

If RSD is legit, and not the product of cheating, misrepresented stats, and subterfuge, don’t you think it’s time they proved it, and all the fancy claims they make? They tell us they can fly, but they won’t show us any wind beneath their wings. It’s time to put up or shut up.


I suspect when we look closer, under the full light of day, RSD will not fly for very long. . .

Please Join My Anti-CREDO Crusade

After posting my critique of CREDO’s funding sources and shoddy statistical work and unfounded conclusions I was contacted by a few folks who had published critiques of these CREDO frauds earlier. At first I was chagrined that I had not found my fellow bloggers posts and reports earlier – I consider myself relatively up-to-date on most of the shenanigans and reform players, but I’ll admit CREDO snuck by me. My momentary embarrassment quickly turned into a resolution to ensure CREDO becomes synonymous with the Reform movement and fraudulent studies. If I didn’t know about them (as obsessed as some might say I am about fighting reformers), it’s a good bet not very many people in the mainstream have a clue. I tried to analyze why I never questioned them as a possible imposter and I came up with a few possibilities as to why they fit so nicely in my reformer blindspot.

  • CREDO makes a big point of listing their affiliation with Stanford whenever they mention their name or introduce themselves (which conjures up very liberal leaning feelings and images.) However CREDO is actually the bastard offspring of the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank and corporate toady, both of which are funded by Pearson and the Walton [Walmart] Family Foundation – two of the biggest corporate reformers on earth. The Hoover fellows, two of which are affiliated with CREDO are some of the most pro-charter, pro-reform, anti-child folks you will ever find, Margaret E. Raymond, Director and supreme CREDO commander, and her husband, public education guerrilla terrorist
    Eric Alan Hanushek.
  • CREDO attacks virtual schools in their “studies.” Virtual schools are easy sacrificial lambs. No one expects those students to do better. Virtual schools market their services based on flexibility and occasionally lower cost, not quality of instruction, so such findings do little to impede their expansions. Because CREDO appears critical of other reformer initiatives it lends them an air of legitimacy in the eyes of many. I wonder if CREDO would be as critical of virtual charters if they started funding CREDO, as charter schools and charter associations currently do?
  • CREDO is the only entity outside of state DOEs even able to get access to the data. Certainly as much data from as many states as they have. They get vast quantities of data, and I falesly assumed they would use everything they got, and I knew if they did they would discover many significant caveats to charter “success.” It did not occur to me that they would suck up such great quantities of data, but use (or report) such a relatively small portion of it. My own experience working with them and talking to them blinded me to the real possibility that they would take all that data in the hopes of finding any possible ray of charter sunshine, but when failing to find one they would mask the true results by summarizing very broad sets of data and show charters in the most positive light they could manage.
  • CREDO touts their affiliation with a university and professors. Most people would assume (or like to assume) professors and universities are immune to political pressures and the whims and wishes of corporate donors. I realize now that is very naïve, but it was a comforting thought to have while it lasted. CREDO has violated that informal compact between citizens and universities by producing poorly reasoned, fallaciously propagandized, rubbish. They have intentionally ignored mitigating factors, like charters with selective admission standards, differences in degree of poverty, massive funding disparities, differences in degree of disability, and mischaracterized RSD (Recovery School District) schools as TPS (Traditional Public Schools) in order to show a positive separation between charters and TPS schools.

CREDO has intentionally abused our preconceptions about independent researchers, Stanford, and university independence to insert their agenda into a national education narrative. They did not disclose their affiliations, they did not disclose the limitations of their study, they did not disclose very very obvious mitigating factors like charter schools with admission standards based on test scores and past performance in declaring charter school students do better than TPS students. They did not examine the disparity in funding for charter schools versus TPS schools which can be 30% or more in states like New Jersey and New York where those numbers are published in this critique by Bruce Baker on CREDO. In Louisiana They intentionally conflated RSD, collectively the lowest or second lowest performing school district in one of the lowest performing states with TPS schools. They allowed and encouraged their research to be used an endorsement of charter schools which even their scanty and intentionally vague and misleading “research” fails to back up. They translated their results into an intentionally misleading meaningless number, number of extra school days of learning, when placed in the proper context of less than .5% of that impact being attributed to a charter school.

I would ask that you refer to these great posts by mother crusader.

This post details where CREDO gets its money and the affiliations of the key CREDO staff. Bet you didn’t know this about the head researcher on the latest CREDO report, Devora Davis:

Devora Davis, Research Manager 

Devora was at the State Board of Ed Meeting talking about the study, and has been in the press quite a bit too.  Guess what Devora did before she came to CREDO?  She was a research analyst for KIPP.  

You can follow this link to listen to Davis on KALW in San Francisco talking about charters with the KIPP Chief Academic Officer for the Bay Area, and Jill Wynns President of the California School Boards Association.  Wynns does an amazing job defending public ed, and Davis sounds a lot more like a charter cheerleader than a researcher.

This post details how the head of CREDO, Margaret Raymond is one of the key charter pushers and key reformers. Great person to head an “independent” study on charter effectiveness, eh? Here is my favorite section from Darcie’s post but please read the whole thing for a clearer more disturbing picture.

2005 Chartering 2.0 Leadership Summit


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools website still has a report posted about the event.

Last summer, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools gathered some of the nation’s leading charter school advocates and other education experts to plan for the next generation of charter schooling.

The event, “CHARTERING 2.0,” was inspiring and thought-provoking and provided valuable guidance on how to improve charter quality as the movement grows to scale.

This next excerpt is Raymond’s points to her charter school audience on how to wage their coming “war” against traditional schools, back in 2006. Is there any doubt she is using CREDO to wage the PR part of the campaign of attrition and battle plan she is describing?

I have three points.  First, change is the last thing districts will do.  Second, there are predictable indicators of where districts are on the change curve.
Third, the charter movement isn’t yet making a strong case for competitive response from districts. 

I study the emergence of markets in industries dominated by monopolies. Certain lessons can be learned from these instances that can be applied to the charter world.  Monopolies have enormous power and do not change happily or easily; they can expend resources to avoid change.  When threatened, they launch a series of wars.  First is the war of entry: prohibiting new entrants into the market.  They try to set high barriers through law and regulation.  In general, the monopolist is dismissive of potential entrants. 

The second war is of survival—they launch games of irritation.  These include delaying tactics, non-responsiveness, and nonpayment.  They try to limit the discretion of the new entrants.  The public relations strategy is to smear the new opponents, often personally. 

Third is the war of containment.  They will heap on as many costs as possible to wear you down, such as more reporting requirements and cost studies. The public relations battle becomes more aggressive and organized. 

Fourth is the war of elimination; the biggest indicator is the legal challenge. The opposition forms into coalitions designed to destroy the new entrants. 

After all of these wars, you will see change.  But you have to survive first.

A final point: if chartering is to win the political and policy battle, it must demonstrate that it can either produce much better results or much greater efficiency (same results with lower costs).  Charter schools haven’t done either yet.

This last CREDO critique describes how CREDO is advocating a policy that benefits it largest clients, by encouraging large charter chains to replace all public schools, and shutting out smaller, unproven, (and no doubt less generous to CREDO) charter operators. This is the endgame, the plot revealed. Today’s “reform” has never been about providing quality education to children, not about innovation, it’s about profitability and wrestling a public good, the public education system, into the coffers of the larger wealthier charter chains. It’s about holding children and taxpayers upside down and shaking every last penny out of their pockets.

This report’s findings challenge the conventional wisdom that a young underperforming school will improve if given time. Our research shows that if you start wobbly, chances are you’ll stay wobbly,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, CREDO’s director and the study’s lead author. “Similarly, if a school is successful in producing strong academic progress from the start, our analysis shows it will remain a strong and successful school.” 

“We have solid evidence that high quality is possible from the outset,” Dr. Raymond said. “Since the study also shows that the majority of charter management organizations produce consistent quality through their portfolios – regardless of the actual level of quality – policy makers will want to assure that charter schools that replicate have proven models of success.”   

CREDO is the Benedict Arnold of researchers, a traitorous abomination that is waging this secret war on our school systems and students to enrich itself, its donors and its clientele. Now CREDO has even turned on its own, newer charter operators, to solidify a new status quo of corruption and profiteering over even the ephemeral promise of innovation charters once were thought to offer as their primary selling point. In the end, all that we will have accomplished is socializing the loss of our nation’s children, while privatizing the profit of our education centers in the hands of a few.

Who said our politicians learned nothing from the banking crisis? They learned to replicate it, with CREDO leading the way. Well done, CREDO.

I encourage all of my blogger brethren to out this imposter with their own analyses, or to consider leaving their previous CREDO critiques as a comment to reference.

Thank you

CCF

CREDO is not credible, and never has been

Recently the CREDO institute based in Stanford has published national and state by state comparisons of charter schools that indicated charter schools may perform slightly better than traditional public schools in certain circumstances. Despite the lukewarm conclusions, privatizers and education reform advocates immediately touted these findings as proof positive that their draconian agenda was working. Following closely upon the national release was a local release evaluating charter schools in the New Orleans area. After Katrina, most of the city of New Orleans’ schools were turned into charter schools of one flavor or another. Anecdotal success stories have abounded in the wake of this charter subversion an invasion, and the New Orleans model/miracle has been touted far and wide as cure-all that should be adopted by anyone wishing to remake their education system to one that can ignore the systemic and generation impacts of poverty and instead focus pure “education choices.” Despite substantial evidence to the contrary, “school choice” has erroneously become synonymous with “school quality” and advocated as the elixir that has made dramatic improvement in New Orleans possible.

This is where CREDO comes in. Anecdotes make nice stories to tell at workshops, and great fodder for the people sections of newspapers, but Reformers were realizing they needed their own “evidence based research” reports to tout the miraculous claims they were making to lawmakers, legislators and civic organizations not already sold on the privatization movement and the dubious narrative that schools and student performance as declining (especially compared to international standards) and that “bad” teachers, uncaring teachers unions and inflexible traditional education venues were responsible for this decline.

CREDO received its first set of data from Louisiana January of 2012. I was responsible for helping pull all their data together, but I left the Louisiana Department of Education shortly after this data was sent to them. When I left, I took a lot of institutional knowledge with me – specifically much knowledge about flaws in this data, what this data contains, and what it doesn’t, and some of the limitations of using this data to evaluate different aspects of our student populations. I contacted the head of the research team, Devora Davis, not long after leaving DOE to offer my help and insight, but was rebuffed at the time.

From: devdavis@stanford.edu
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 09:26:04 -0700
Subject: Re: Louisiana Education Data
To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com

Hi Jason,

Thank you for reaching out to us. Collaboration isn’t a possibility, since our agreement with the L-DOE does not permit us to share data with other researchers.

Best regards,
Dev


Dev Davis
CREDO at Stanford University

I assumed this was because CREDO was simply trying to observe the letter of the MOU they had signed with the LDOE as they claimed (however despite their assertions at the time, I discovered later that there were no exclusions to consulting with outside sources about the dataset.) When I contacted Devora, or “Dev”, as she told me she preferred to be called, this was not a cold call. Dev and I had discussed the possibility of working out a data sharing project for several years, but the logistics and legal framework was not there. Additionally quite a few resources would have to be committed for some time and at no small expense to satisfy their needs. It came as a quite a surprise then that John White, someone who has become notorious for refusing to release any data to anyone (except where there was money or free positive publicity involved) had agreed to such a large, resource intensive project before even officially signed on as the State Superintendent of Education. Nevertheless “Dev” confidently informed us that “arrangements” had been made and “John” was happy to share the state’s data with them as soon as we could get it. Devora called us weekly to see if we’d made any progress and a task force was set up of 5 or 6 folks to work on pulling all the data CREDO wanted from all of our different databases. I was consulted to link the data all together with a random identifier and to make sure the most sensitive FERPA protected elements like name and SSN were removed from the final dataset.

However what is even more interesting is this blurb I found on Devora’s boss, the director at CREDO and the “project director” of this study, is none other than Margaret E. Raymond:

Margaret E. Raymond is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. At Hoover, Raymond serves as director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which analyzes education reform efforts around the country. CREDO’s mission is to improve the quantity and quality of evidence about the impacts of education innovations on student achievement in public K–12 education. Raymond, who has done extensive work in public policy and education reform, is currently researching the development of competitive markets and the creation of reliable data on program performance.

In partnership with the Walton Family Foundation and Pearson Learning Systems, Raymond is leading a national study of the effectiveness of public charter schools. The public-academic-private partnership helps public charter schools adopt information technologies as a means to both support their operations and generate information required by the study design. More than 250 public charter schools have joined the study to date.”

And moreover Mrs. Raymond is married to another more famous (infamous) senior fellow at the Hoover institution:

Eric Alan Hanushek (born, 1943) is a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He is an expert on educational policy, and the economics of education. His research spans both the economics of school policy and the impact education on individuals and on economies. Major lines of research have focused on controversial areas of education policy including class size reduction, high stakes accountability, and the importance of teacher quality. He is perhaps best known for the controversial assertion that “money doesn’t matter”—that is, he says that the amount of money spent in an American school district is not related to the amount of student learning in that district—and he is often called to testify in court about school funding schemes

Hanushek is famous for his bizarre claims that class size doesn’t matter and money doesn’t matter in terms of educational gains for children that has made him a favorite of the Walton Family Foundation, individual Waltons, and Pearson Learning systems and Michael Bloomberg who have donated funds (usually the maximum allowable by law) to pro-charter state and local school board candidates and organizations like New Schools for New Orleans.

And if that weren’t enough to question the credibility of CREDO on charter school evaluations there’s also the situation that CREDO runs a charter school leadership institute in conjunction with many major charter school associations.

The PMI was initially developed as part of Building Charter School Quality, a three-year National Leadership Activities Project funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program. Under this grant, CREDO, in partnership with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the Colorado League of Charter Schools, identified and developed best practices in the measurement of student and school performance, the management of performance data, and the use of performance measures to increase school and student accountability. The PMI has attracted more than 100 participants to date, and an interactive online version of the Institute was launched in June 2009.

I think this explains why CREDO was able to convince John White to turn over Louisiana’s complete dataset for a secretly pro-charter school organization to do their best to draft a propaganda piece masquerading as a credible study. CREDO is a complete sham. These are the same folks that promote TFA, John White, elimination of public education, for profit charters, and that poverty is irrelevant to academic performance.

Would you like to see how this played out in this pathetic study? The sad part is with all the gerrymandering of the data, the best they could come up with is a modest endorsement of charter schools with a low confidence of reliability.

Even if concerns over the study’s analytic methods are set side, however, Maul and McClelland point out that the study itself shows only a tiny real impact on the part of charter schools: “less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrollment,” they write. Specifically, students in charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.01 standard deviations higher on reading tests and 0.005 standard deviations lower on math tests than their peers in traditional public schools.

“With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant,” the reviewers conclude, “but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.”

CREDO came out with a report that said charter schools do better than traditional schools, but the schools they compared to are RSD schools, state run schools, and taken collectively the worst district in Louisiana filled with all the students charter schools rejected, and even so, many of the charters did no better than the worst schools in the state, and many did even worse than the average of the worst district.

CREDO did not disclose that many of the charter schools that did better have selective admissions processes, specifically related to performance and test scores like Benjamin Franklin or socio-economically favorable geography and an admissions test like Lusher.


Benjamin Franklin High School Admissions Policy

PROCEDURE

1. Complete applications with all required documents must be submitted to the Admissions Office. • You may print it from the website (www.benfranklinhighschool.org and click the Admissions tab), or pick one up from the school. • Applications are accepted during school hours beginning in October. • Applications may be submitted in person, by mail, email, fax, or online (when available). The timely application deadline will be in January and the date specified in the Admissions Calendar. We will continue to accept applications after that date as long as space is available.

2. If the student does not have Iowa test scores, they will be scheduled to test when the application is submitted.

3. Test scores are mailed to the applicant when they are available (approximately a month after testing).

4. Acceptance letters are sent beginning in February of the year of application when we determine that the applicant is qualified to enter Benjamin Franklin High School and will continue on a rolling basis.

5. The final admission letter is sent from the principal when all required documents have been submitted including final report cards and LEAP scores where applicable.

VISITS TO THE SCHOOL

• Our Admissions Open House is held in the fall every year; check the Admissions Calendar and/or the website for the date and time. Our students, teachers, and administrators will be here to provide tours of the school, explain our academic and extracurricular programs and to answer questions.

• Families may schedule tours of the school by calling or emailing the Admissions Office. We are happy to provide guided tours but we do not provide for student “shadow” days.

ADMISSIONS REQUIREMENTS

Applying for 9th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

2. 88 points on the admissions matrix which come from the reading, language, and math portions of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills taken in 7th or 8th grade and the 1st trimester or mid-year report card from 8th grade.

3. Promotion by the current school to 9th grade with no failing grades in academic subjects.

4. Passing score on the LEAP exam if you reside in Louisiana.

Applying for 10th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

2. 88 points on the admissions matrix from the reading, language, and math portions of the Iowa Test of Educational Development taken in 8th or 9th grade and the grades from the 1st trimester or mid-year report card from 9th grade.

3. Promotion by the current school to 10th grade with no failing grades in academic subjects.

4. One credit each in English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language from your 9th grade school.

Applying for 11th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

2. 108 points on our matrix from the reading, language, and math portions of the Iowa Test of Educational Development taken in the 9th or 10th grade and the student’s transcript showing all high school grades.

3. Promotion by the current school to the 11th grade with no failing grades in academic subjects.

4. Two credits each in English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language.

Applying for 12th grade:

Applications are not accepted for senior year.

Lusher Admissions

In-District Admissions
The in-district (neighborhood) process is available for those families who live within the Lusher school district (neighborhood).  To view the In-district address list, please visit our website at http://www.lusherschool.org – forms and downloads page.  In-district applicants must complete the application packet, provide the required documentation, and provide proof of residency.  

The in-district (neighborhood) process runs from February 18th to March 14th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on March 15th from 9 a.m. until noon. Lusher strongly encourages parents living in the neighborhood district to complete a community application as well.

Community Admissions

The Community process is open to all those living in Orleans Parish. All community applicants must complete an application packet, take an admissions test, attend a curriculum meeting (K-1 only), and submit other required documentation.  Community applicants, who also live within the Lusher district, may submit an in-district application in addition to the community application.  

Lusher Middle School (6-8) first admits current 5th grade Lusher students. Remaining seats are filled with candidates who have applied through the community application process.

Lusher is close to 50-60% White while RSD averages 98% poor and African American.

Of course many of the remaining schools that perform better have stricter “unenrollment” criteria which filter out the lower performing students. For instance, charters can decide that any disciplinary problem warrants expulsion, but they can offer the students a chance to leave the school voluntarily to avoid an explusion.


These factors were not considered by CREDO, nor were they even mentioned which is completely absurd. CREDO went into a big spiel about trying to find “matched pairs” of students based on identical demographics to mask this glaring deficiency. It sounds good, but one of the characteristics they did not match on is the fact that many of these students were segregated by test scores and performance. How could there not be a difference in achievement learning when charters are already pre-selecting and de-selecting based on the very metric CREDO is measuring?

Another laughable claim that CREDO makes relates to SPED achievement.

Special education students in New Orleans charter schools progress significantly more than their counterparts in New Orleans TPS in both reading and math. This amounts to 65 additional days of learning in reading and 43 more days in math for special education students in New Orleans charter schools. These results are slightly higher than were found statewide.

I would say that this study finding borders on the criminal and strongly caution parents not to pay attention to this finding. Charter schools do not take on the more significantly impaired students. Even though the CREDO folks has access to the severity of disabilities, the CREDO study relied on the most basic of Special Education indicator for their study. SPED = Y/N. This indicator also included gifted “Special Education” students in many years. Most of the disabled students charter schools do accept are the mild/moderate classification with speech and hearing impairments, not the severe profound students that may even be hospital bed bound that traditional schools must serve.

I sent multiple questions to CREDO for an detailed explanation of how they accounted for these issues, the charter schools that filter students based on high test scores, the SPED indicator, the disparity of severity in SPED enrollment, but they have refused to reply to me to date. Here is a copy of my most recent inquiry that has gone unanswered.

Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2013 01:55:35 -0500
Subject: CREDO and New Orleans Charters
From: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
To: devdavis@stanford.edu

Dev,

From the article I saw posted locally it appears you used a number of selective admission charter schools that select students based on high test scores. Were you aware of this and how did you account for this?

Did you do any studies on differences in severity of SPED diagnosis between charter schools and traditional schools. Our charters tend to turn away the more severe profound and serve more mild moderate disabled students.  Did you examine or account for this difference in student population or simply classify them all as SPED or not SPED?

Did you account for data being wildly inaccurate and incomplete for many charters and RSD schools in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007?

I’ve seen a rebuttal that whether simply being a charter school only accounted for one half of 1 % of differences on Colorado’s NEPC site.  Do you have a response?

The Louisiana Department of Education has likewise refused to release this data to any non-pro-charter front organizations to conduct true independent research (they have been fighting the release of this data in the courts for the last 18 months), but this has not prevented newspapers from pushing this propaganda paid for by the Walton’s as independent research. If I was a journalist I would be ashamed that I allowed myself to be fooled by such an easy thing to research and such a glaring conflict of interests.

CREDO is simply not credible, they are not a research institution, they are pro-charter propaganda churner and should be classified as such by anytime anything they produce is quoted in an newspaper or news program that claims to be unbiased and impartial. If you are a parent, please do not pay CREDO any more attention than you would a miscellaneous propaganda pamphlet handed out at neighborhood grocery store, or stuffed under you front door handle. You can see CREDO as a joke, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a PR firm or a charter school pimp, but an independent research organization they are not.

Proof LDOE does not fill data requests; Sci Academy faux grad rate; and a prism through which to view the CREDO study

John White testified during the last legislative session that he is not aware of people having trouble getting access to LDOE data. This statement is wildly inconsistent with what I, and numerous other researchers have reported. I am a witness in a lawsuit against LDOE where a New Orleans researcher, for almost 2 years now, is just trying to get access to exit and entry reason codes and dates. This researcher just wants this data to track where students are going and to see if some schools are overusing certain exit codes (like exit out of state) and to examine enrollment patterns. These are studies LDOE used to do, back when they tried to verify and audit data, but which has been abandoned under John White and Paul Pastorek. LDOE, or more specifically John White and Bobby Jindal and their charter allies, do not want to know the answers to these questions – or even more likely they already know the answers and do not want you to know.

The “miraculous” success of many charter schools and New Orleans is a result of manipulated data and selective exclusion of many students. I have heard reports of many students being “exited” out-of-state or country, that are actually found wandering the streets. An “exit out-of-state or country” means no one will look for this student and the charter can keep their stats up. I’m not claiming all charter schools do this, but unless we get data to confirm or deny these claims it will be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff – Which is what John White and other reformers want.

Now back to my request. I have heard reports of charter schools making outrageous claims about graduation rates that they were using to recruit parents and children into their programs and to tout their success. The only problem is, there is no official site-level graduation rate that has been endorsed by LDOE, or at least there was not when I worked there. There are a number of problems with applying the formula used to calculate state and school district rates to a site, not the least of which is that if students are booted from a site over the 4 years a student might be enrolled, and those students enter other schools in the district, the “booting” school might look like it has a high graduation rate, but that doesn’t equate to the rate at which students entering in 9th grade actually graduate from that school. Let me give you an example:

If a school takes in 100 students in 9th grade, and graduates only 50 of those students 4 years later, you might think this school is reporting a 50% graduation rate. However, through the magic of exit codes, this school might actually be reporting a graduation rate of 100%!

The example of this situation that was presented to me was Sci Academy. I have been trying to get data from LDOE to see how widespread this issue is in New Orleans, RSD, and among the various charters so I didn’t have to pick on just one charter school, and so I could use official numbers from our department, however based on the e-mail correspondence below, LDOE is playing dumb on my request and stalling. I have no doubt once I’ve exhausted all their stalling tactics they will assert the same claim they have for so many other researchers: that the data is too cumbersome to compile, that it doesn’t exist, or that I am not entitled to it and they don’t have to provide it. Because this is an area I worked in at LDOE, and I routinely compiled similar requests I can easily refute the first two excuses. Mrs. Nesmith knows very well what I am asking for. My sources report she was hired to her position specifically to prevent folks from getting information they needed to dispel LDOE myths. In a related story, the CREDO institute out of Stanford just released a report today based on information Kim and I prepared before I left. CREDO got every last shred of data the department had, thousands if not millions of times more than what I am requesting. Here is the CREDO MOU: credo I worked on with Kim Nesmith (that she was listed as the state contact for on page 6) in case you are curious about whether she should know about the existence of this data, whether it has been given before, and what questions CREDO was charged with answering. (My understanding was CREDO promised to put a positive spin on whatever they produced as a condition for receiving the data.)

Now, back to the Sci Academy issue, which is probably just the tip of the charter iceberg.

Sci Academy opened in the 2008-2009 School year and added one grade per year. By the 2011-2012 school year they finally graduated their first class. Community sources have relayed to me that Sci Academy, also known as New Orleans Charter and Science Academy, has been reporting graduation rates in the 88 – 92% range. However when they examined the enrollment counts the numbers didn’t add up and they asked me to investigate. I have tried for months to get legitimate data from LDOE but they are obviously playing games.

It is easy to hide behind percentages. Never trust a percentage issued by them without a denominator and numerator to back it up. (That’s probably a good rule of thumb for life.)

My investigation showed that while they can claim 92% of their students graduated that they had enrolled in 12th grade, many of their students left over the course of the 4 years. Sci Academy started with a ninth grade enrollment of 83 students. By 12th grade they had 50 of which I’m told 46 graduated. That means that students enrolling in Sci academy in 9th grade in 2008 only had a 55% chance of graduating from this school or a 45% chance of not graduating.  I’m told many of these kids went on to colleges, but you must consider that Sci Academy shed nearly half their students before achieving a near perfect graduation rate – a rate that was based solely on the students that were left in 12th grade.  And of the ones that were left, while many of them may have gone onto college,  however as far as impacting the community, Sci Academy only graduated half their students and only prepared half of less for college.  That’s the thing with numbers, in the wrong hands they can be used to mislead and lie very convincingly.

As you can see from the years 2009, 2010, and 2011, the year 2008 was not a fluke. We see students being shed in similar numbers across the grades and years. A typical result appears to be shedding about 1/3 of the students between grades 9 and 10.

I wonder if this is typical for charter schools and the underlying reason for charter “success” such that it is?

When you can exclude half of your students and send them back to the “traditional” schools or the streets, and only count the kids that finish at your school at the end, how could you not be more successful that traditional schools which must take everyone? And yet, charter schools don’t accept as many disabled students and strongly discourage them from enrolling, quickly evict students with discipline problems, and usually have much lower or zero Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students, and still they barely edge out traditional schools in many cases.

Where will the charter schools send their kids, when all the schools are charter schools, I wonder?

BELOW is my correspondence with DOE requesting data on graduate counts by site and school year.

Jason France (jasonfrance@hotmail.com)

From:
Sent: Mon 6/24/13 4:50 PM To: kim.nesmith@la.gov (kim.nesmith@la.gov) Cc: John White (superintendent@la.gov)

Mrs. Nesmith,

Thank you for your prompt, 6 week, turnaround time to refer me to generic reports that that already existed on your website that do not satisfy my data request.  The AFR reports you referred me to do have some basic info on graduates, but only at the school district and state level, not at the site level, and the latest file i found was from 2009-2010.  As you may or may not be aware, it is currently 2013.  This would make that info more than a little dated.  I specifically asked for years 2008 – 2011 (2011-2012 graduates should have been completed last September or 9 months ago).

As you and I are both aware, LDOE and schools have access to much more accurate data, and this data is being used in raw percentage form by charters to misinform the public about school graduation rates.  I need the graduate counts by site code to dispute these numbers and properly inform parents and stakeholders.  The department has access to this data and can run a simple query to produce the numbers i requested that will take less than 2 minutes to produce.  I can provide this query if you are unable to figure this out yourself, (although as the Data Quality Director and director of data collections, I assume that won’t be necessary.)  In order to have produced the graduation rates for schools and districts you would have had to create a denominator and numerator.  If you provide those numbers I can verify your percentages and clear up any misunderstanding.

That you in advance for what I assume will be more prompt attention to this matter than you have previously shown.

P.S.  i will be posting my requests and my responses, or lack thereof, starting now (along with an explanation of why I feel LDOE is reluctant to provide these numbers and my own rough estimates of what the numbers actually are.)  This will help confirm or refute statements, made by Superintendent White to the legislature, about whether LDOE promptly or accurately responds to data requests.

Thanks

Jason


From: Kim.Nesmith@LA.GOV
To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2013 22:39:22 +0000

Hi Jason,

 The information you requested regarding graduates can be found on the website ….. http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/library/financial-data.

 They are published yearly in the AFSR.

 Thanks!

Kim

 Kim Nesmith, M.Ed.

Data Quality Director

Louisiana Department of Education

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 94064, Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Physical Address:  1201 North Third Street, Baton Rouge, LA  70802

Office:  5-179

www.louisianaschools.net

From: Jasonfrance [mailto:jasonfrance@hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, May 24, 2013 7:26 PM
To: Kim Nesmith
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
Importance: Low

 Where are we on this request? 

Sent from my Samsung smartphone on AT&T

——– Original message ——–
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
From: Kim Nesmith <Kim.Nesmith@LA.GOV>
To: Jason France <jasonfrance@hotmail.com>
CC:

Jason,

 What years would you like and at what level?

 Thanks!

Kim

 Kim Nesmith, M.Ed.

Data Quality Director

Louisiana Department of Education

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 94064, Baton Rouge, LA 70802

Physical Address:  1201 North Third Street, Baton Rouge, LA  70802

Office:  5-179

www.louisianaschools.net

From: Jason France [mailto:jasonfrance@hotmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2013 1:02 PM
To: Kim Nesmith
Subject: RE: LDOE Data

Mrs Nesmith,

Can you send me the data listed below?

 

From: [redacted]

To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
Subject: RE: LDOE Data
Date: Thu, 9 May 2013 17:11:28 +0000

HI Jason,

If you need to request info that you can’t find on the website just email out Data Director Kim Nesmith at kim.nesmith@la.gov.

 Thanks,

[Redacted]

 From: Jason France [mailto:jasonfrance@hotmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2013 12:10 PM
To: [redacted]

Subject: RE: LDOE Data

Hi [redacted],

Thanks for the prompt reply.   Unfortunately i did not find what i was looking for.  Preferably i’d like an excel file that contains raw graduate counts, not rates, by school by year.

Something like this:
dataneeded

From: [redacted]

To: jasonfrance@hotmail.com
Subject: LDOE Data
Date: Thu, 9 May 2013 16:31:33 +0000

Hi Jason,

The data that you’re looking for can be found on our website’s Data Center. Please go to http://www.louisianabelieves.com/resources/library/data-center. You’ll see the graduation links at the top.

Thank you,

[redacted]

Education Specialist

Louisiana Department of Education

1201 North Third Street

Baton Rouge, LA  70802

[redacted]

www.louisianaschools.net