For those who missed the live WBOK show on 8/26/13: here is the link and summary

For those who missed the live WBOK show on 8/26/13: here is the link and summary

Summary and links to articles you might find relevant to topics discussed.

Once you load the Imperative page you will have to click on the circled portion to listen to the audio portion from the 8/26/13 show. <======


My Anti-Ed Reform in Louisiana, part 2 of???

But before I get into some of the nitty-gritty details of where I am today as a small part of a grassroots rebellion, it’s important to note that none of this happened in a vacuum. I suppose I was a little like every little state worker bee for the first few years. I believed I was a simple civil servant, but that was ok. I had a job to do, just like everyone else, and we all wanted to work toward a common goal, and help our fellow citizens and our state. At the Louisiana Department of Education I enjoyed my job, and I despite some political jockeying in the upper echelons of management and the occasional slacker (every agency has one or two, but that’s not something confined to the public sector), I believed most people were bound by the same general common goal: To serve our state, to help our school districts, and to improve the lot of children in whatever role we served.

At first I didn’t really pay attention the difference between classified and unclassified personnel. To me, unclassified personnel were simply folks that had specialized skills, temps with specific projects, or agency heads that needed to be reportable directly to our elected officials so they couldn’t hide behind the Civil Service rules that theoretically protected classified folks. I was a classified worker. This mean I had to meet and document my qualifications for a given job level (or grade) that my salary and promotional opportunities would largely be handled by a strict schedule, but I wouldn’t be subject whimsical or politically driven termination. I wouldn’t get rich, there would be no bonuses or raises in good times, but I would be able to support a family, plan for a stable retirement, buy a house and invest in the community, and serve my stat and the people of my state, my friends, neighbors, teachers and their children. That seemed like a pretty good deal to me and I was content.

My primary role was collecting data used for funding school districts and reporting and evaluating school districts. As I stayed on I realized I was learning some pretty specialized and skills and developing a lot of institutional knowledge that allowed me to streamline processes in the department. I discovered that due to a process misunderstanding, school districts were missing out on as much as 20 million dollars in state and federal funds, annually – which I was able to correct because of my knowledge of all the relevant parties and their roles. Part of my job was data auditor, so I became pretty adept at reading and recognizing education data, and realizing the significance of small changes and trends which allowed me recognize when one of school districts was probably having a system issue before they did. I rewrote a 34 page dropout calculation down to about 3 pages, which in addition to saving loads of processing time actually fixed a problem that was accidentally marking additional students as dropouts. I successfully championed allowing students that have completed 12th grade, but failed to graduate due to lack of credits or passing the GEE, to remain in school to work on these requirements until meeting the necessary requirements. Not bad for just a little data collector and data reporting guy – I thought. After Katrina and Rita hit I built some extraction and importer tools to automate the process of retrieving school records from multiple databases that could be shared with the 48 other states our children ended up enrolling in. This enabled them to quickly restart the education part of their lives that was so significantly disrupted by mother nature by allowing other school districts to place our children in appropriate educational settings . (Most of the states we worked with were impressed with our organizational and response abilities in the face of a once in a century catastrophe but I could not have done it without a great team of dedicated civil servants and friends to back me up.) I also created terms that were used to describe students the very transient and migratory nature of our multiply displaced students (some students were evacuated as many as 4 or more times due to Katrina, Rita, and overcrowding) – nomadic. I first had to lobby for this internally once I learned all the expenses districts were incurring even for temporarily enrolling students before they were often mysteriously whisked away in the night. I also helped to successfully lobby the federal government to fund these types of students and their situations and developed a system to keep track of these students without requiring any coding changes for our vendors, state systems or school districts.

I thought I’d done good. But then Paul Pastorek, RSD and death by a 1000 charters came to town.

Early on I was a bit overwhelmed by my job and the situation, and probably like a lot of New Orleanians, grateful for anyone offering to help rebuild the city and not put off by the enormous task. I don’t think enough of us questioned the motivations of people coming in. Since Katrina I’ve been through and observed several other local disasters like Gustav, BP, and the earthquake in Haiti. Now I see that for all the good folks, there are at least as many bad apples, spoiling to get a crack at any recovery dollars and to take advantage of the unwary, the infirm, and the desperate. This is something I’ve learned that education “reformers” are very good at – taking advantage of the poor and downtrodden. As US secretary of Education Arne Duncan confirmed on a visit to New Orleans, Katrina was a godsend, to them.

Noel Hammatt has produced a very terrific article on poverty in Louisiana and the perfect correlation between poverty and SPS (School Performance Scores) produced by the Louisiana department of education to rank our public schools. I strongly encourage anyone who thinks our school and student performance is based on anything other than poverty to read his analysis. Be aware, there will always be anomalies, we all know someone from a wealthy family that was dumb as rocks, or the poor kid from the tragic background that made good, but those stories are overwhelmingly outweighed by the preponderance of evidence we have, evidence that reformers use every trick in the book to disguise, deny, hide, falsify or even destroy as has been the case in of LDOE under John White reformer rule and to a lesser extent his predecessor Paul Pastorek. These are some of the actions that convinced me that not only do reformers not believe their own platitude strewn “Louisiana Believes” garbage; they consciously and methodically seek to mislead the public with both forethought and malice.

For years data rolled in from RSD (The state run Recovery School District) that was absurdly incomplete. Paul Vallas was brought to RSD town in New Orleans after ruining the education system in my hometown of Philadelphia with his charter school obsessed budget busting and bankrupting shenanigans.

(In case you’re wondering, reformers have never been successful in any city they’ve invaded and sacked like barbaric education Visigoths and Vandals conquering Rome. They usually leave the cities and states they lead in much worse situations than they found them, in many cases with irreparable damage so they become cyclically victimized by successive waves of “reformers.” You can look at the who’s who of reform cities, like DC, Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, St Louis, Atlanta, and you will see story after story of cheating, scandal, outrage, school closings, mass educator firings, fiscal mismanagement and blatant disregard for civil rights of minorities and disabled children. What you won’t see is real improvement that stands up to any scrutiny, and this is after decades of “reform” in many cases. None of the children few of the original teachers and principals are left in these “reform” havens, so why we not amazed and blown away by all the progress of these unfettered policies? Let me reiterate this point, education reform is decades old, but constantly changing its stripes and flavors to evade responsibility and accountability. Reform is a used and infectious band aid passed from one city (or market as they see it) to another, ushered in by snake oil salesmen like Paul Vallas, John White, Michelle Rhee, Tony Bennet, and Joel Klein, who sell their tainted products with fancy labels and move on just before the locals drive them out with pitchforks or their frauds can be revealed and definitively tied to them.)

And Paul Vallas was brought to us by Paul Pastorek, a lawyer playing superintendent with a salary twice the southern average for such salaries in the second poorest state (Thanks Mississippi!) (Incidentally Paul Vallas is like like 6’5″ and Paul Pastorek is like five feet nothing, so you just know we had to call them Big P and little pp or Dr Evil and Mini p.)

Apparently legislators were swayed by Pastorek’s argument that he needed nearly half a million dollar annual salary (including both base salary and allowances) to support his family (which at last check did not exceed 100 members and probably none living at home. . .) Of course Paul Pastorek is an unclassified appointee who had the qualifications for state superintendent waived. This argument rarely is a consideration for rank and file employees who have been denied raises for as many as the past 5 years in some cases but 3 to 4 in most. Of course most state workers earn less than 30k per year, and many at earn less than the poverty level, in one of the poorest states, so they are already used to making do with less than their family can afford.

This salary fiasco was our first introduction, lawyer/lobbyist turned education reformer Paul Pastorek but a pretty good indication of where his priorities resided. Some of his first actions were to commence laying off employees left and right so he could afford reform fellow and TFA alums like Jacob Landry and Chris Meyer to direct our first runs at Race to the Top funds. Despite the fact Louisiana was considered early favorites for these hundreds of millions in potential funding, we lost out in every application process. We were told our initial application was flawed and was missing some components. However we chose to ignore these comments and submitted virtually the exact same proposal and lost out again. Despite these failures and lack of funding to support the radical changes outlined in Louisiana’s proposal, Paul Pastorek vowed to pursue the changes anyways, and proceeded to lay off more classified workers and replace them with more unclassified TFA fellows who roamed our halls playing games with balled up pieces of paper and looking for things to keep them busy (There was a corral of them right outside my office.) After Bobby Jindal was elected, he appointed Erin Bendilly to run a newly created department called Parental Options, a department tasked with expanding charter schools, virtual schools, and vouchers and suppressing all oversight and regulations of the same. Whenever the legislature passed a law or requested information about charters and their ilk, her job was to confound that request, scale back the response, muddy the narrative, and to interpret the law as not applicable to charters despite what our own lawyers said. Since many of our lawyers refused to agree with her interpretations they were encouraged to retire or were fired and replaced with more pliable ones. (After all, everyone knows lawyers’ jobs are to creatively interpret the law to suit your agenda, not uphold the law or interpret it as intended, right?) It was also widely known that Erin was to be the Governor’s ears and eyes at the department.

My only real direct interaction with Erin was over the Shadow School situation, (usually her messages and missives were delivered by word of mouth by traitorous sycophantic toadies – we assumed to avoid an e-mail trail.) Shadow Schools are a phenomenon born out of the need to evade accountability sanctions. These are high performing magnet schools/academies that either don’t get reported to the state or federal government, such as has happened in Iberville with the MSA East and West Academies, or schools that have every single student routed to another low performing school to raise that schools scores. When Erin first learned of this situation she seemed alarmed that parents were being misled by this policy, but a few well connected phone calls later she changed her tune and decided to cover for Edward Cancienne and his ploys. Until then I’d had hope that maybe some of the appointed folks that Jindal appointed (or his appointees) had a soul, but money, power and influence peddling had sadly corrupted them all, probably before the got to DOE. When the legislature passed laws that were designed to document and reveal the extent of bullying and corporal punishment prevalent in our public schools, Erin’s only concerns and communications revolved around making sure charters schools were held exempt from these laws. This was despite clear and unequivocal communications from our chief legal counsel, Joan Hunt, that charter schools were explicitly not exempt from following these laws, at least at first. You see, after a string of bullying related suicides a few years ago the legislature amended Louisiana’s laws on bullying. They named the revised law after Tesa Middlebrook, a teen who attended a High school assigned to the Recovery School District and handed over to a charter operator that Pointe Coupee lobbied fiercely to keep out, but to no avail.

(Pointe Coupee is one of our poorest parishes, so they kids fair poorly on our tests that are inherently biased against the poor. They do not measure progress, if you are a parent without the means to send your kids to private pre-k your kids will fall behind those that do. If you are a poor parish like Pointe Coupee or St Helena you have no rights in this state, you are merely your chattel, your children are property waiting to be sold to their new owners.  Look at this graphic below if you have any doubts about who is being targeted.  In Louisiana these numbers are even more stark.)

This revised Tesa Middlebrook anti-bullying act was championed by Gene Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum because it allowed teens to be bullied if they were gay, so long as the students doing the bullying claimed there were doing so for religious reasons, and it officially excluded charter schools, like the one Tesa Middlebrook attended, from having to report or address bullying incidents. Tesa Middlebrook’s family was not consulted about the naming of this legislation after her, and I can’t imagine they were as pleased with tragic irony at play here. This was a revision supported by Superintendent White. To date John White’s DOE has not released any numbers on bullying or corporal punishment. If he did, he might have to do something about it. What he has done is lay off most of the folks in charge of keeping track of discipline issues or who ran our positive behavior support system. Personally I don’t think our kids can only be reasoned with wooden boards, but John White knows otherwise. Our children are just things to him, so I suppose that attitude is at least internally consistent with his world view.

I once thought Paul Pastorek and Patrick Dobard (the current head of RSD) were misguided, but their hearts were in the right place when I learned about their interest in ramming through some collections on Corporal Punishment and Bullying. I met with Patrick several times, and he seemed pretty sincere about wanting to collect this information, and that Paul wanted to collect the corporal punishment data in particular to provide evidence about how widespread this practice was. They seemed to think we could turn on a “switch” and immediately collect all this data, like it existed in a magic data fairytale land. It took a few meetings before I understood just how they thought data collections worked and then a few more to explain we would have to define what we wanted LEAs to start collecting before they could send it to us to report on. I tried to encourage them to wait for the next school year, so their vendors could have a chance to prepare their systems for the new elements, and their school staff would have a chance to be trained on how to collect and report this data but I was overruled. I was a bit miffed by this and initially refused to have any part in the initial haphazard collection designed, but then a colleague named Kim Nesmith approached me and told me about “the pictures.” Dozens of pictures turned over to the legal department related to lawsuits. Pictures of tiny bruised, and bloodied butts and genitals of children who’d been hospitalized for state sanctioned abuse. I believed Kim, that she felt this was something important to address so I took over the compiling of the initial data which was way beyond her abilities despite what she promised to Dobard and Pastorek. What I saw in the data truly sickened me. I couldn’t believe the numbers I was getting and had to call some of the districts up to confirm them. There were four year olds and 18 year olds being paddled indiscriminately. Some kids were being beaten for uniform violations.

I was told this was something done for the children’s own good, since the alternative was suspension from school, and loss of valuable instructional time. I’m not sure why the children were being beaten and not the parents for having enough clean uniforms? Perhaps some people fell this is a reasonable response to poor families unable to afford enough uniforms or their own washer and dryer but to me this seemed like a gross civil rights abuse, heavy on the gross.

Some of the children were beaten several dozen times over the few months we collected data, sometimes several times the same day. I would like the people to consider the implications of doing that the next time they blithely quote Einstein as saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This is perhaps one of favorite catch phrases of reformers, but it never applies to taking over the schools of poor children and turning them into charters, or irrationally expanding substandard virtual schools such as is happening in Pennsylvania, despite all the evidence that indicates these schools are worse for almost all students, and sap valuable resources from more appropriate and productive education venues. It also never seems to apply to Corporal abuse.

However once John White came to town this initiative was squelched. I couldn’t quite understand why. John White claimed to care about our children, but this was just one of many examples that showed me just how wrong that claim was. After I left the agency I tried multiple times to get DOE to release this data to me. Eventually I even contacted Kim, who by this time had managed to bluff her way into a director position over data collections. When I asked this person, who had initially plead with me help her with this data collection she mocked me. “What are you going to do? Who are you going to tell, the media,” she laughed (I think it might have actually been an LOL) “Are you an activist now? Why do you care?”

I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been. Of course it always appeared she was just kissing up to whatever ass was nearby, but for some reason I thought maybe this time was different. Crocodiles have tears for a reason I suppose. . .

Since then I’ve asked for all manner of data and over a year later I am still waiting. At this point I’m relatively sure I will never get any of the data I’ve asked for, but I will explain what I’ve asked for and why so you will see what they are hiding. For instance, did you know that many of the charters in New Orleans claiming graduation rates of 80-90% are actually only graduating around 50% of the students who initially enroll? They are using flawed numbers, semantics and percentages without numerators or denominators to disguise what is really going on. . . When I show you their tricks, maybe you’ll understand why they disgust me, and why I claim they are using our children as mutton more than sheep for the sheering.

Link to part I:

Louisiana Believes Course Choice Providers Should Defraud the State

Louisiana Believes Course Choice Providers Should Defraud the State

It’s become increasingly clear that Louisiana believes that a certain amount of fraud, waste, and graft is a good thing, and a lot of any of these things is a whole lot better!

From the outset, Course Choice (ala carte online courses children can take to supplement their educational diets paid for by tax payers) has been fraught with what most states would consider scandalous and irresponsible – at best. Providers of Course Choice do not require certifications to teach or offer classes, and the rigorous approval John White has alluded to in various interviews is simply copying the names of the courses (from adobe .pdf files provided by vendors) into a spreadsheet, and then verifying that the names are entered correctly into the Course Choice database. A former DOE staffer related this story about verifying Course Choice providers and their credentials.

I was at one meeting last fall. Ken Bradford, Dave Lefkowith, and others from the “content team” were in the room. Bradford’s concern was how to claim that all of the Course Choice teachers were licensed in Louisiana. Lefkowith wanted to put them all on Louisiana out of state certificates, then got mad when they discovered the certificates were only good for three years. Someone suggested simply having the vendors sign an assurance that their instructors were certified in their appropriate states. (How would you check on that if you were DOE?) I don’t know what they eventually went with, since I asked too many questions and was not invited to any more meetings. It’s the John White way.

And now you understand why he is a former staffer.

John White refused to vet any of the applicants and has ceded approval of these Course Choice providers and their classes to the school districts. Children are recruited into classes by folks recruited from Craigslist ads.

Help change the landscape of public education in Louisiana!
On your own time!
With the potential to make $75k+ in 6 months or less!
Company Description: SmartStart Virtual Academy (“SVA”) (a division of SmartStart Education) is a state-approved Course Choice provider. This means that SVA has been authorized to offer FREE courses to high-school students in the state of Louisiana for graduation credit. SVA is offering 22 approved courses — both core-classes (such as reading, math and science) and career-ready courses (such as web-design and publishing).”

Actual FastPath recruit
Actual FastPath recruit

They’ll change the landscape alright, but not for the better. These folks have no experience in education or the courses they are recruiting students for. Course Choice providers claim these folks are simply paid an hourly rate, while claiming they can earn up to 75,000 dollars in 6 months. I’m not sure how many hours or what the rate is, but working a 40 hour week that mean these recruiters are being paid more than 72 dollars an hour regardless of whether they sign up a single student for a single class?

In his response, Callaway said, “We have a strict protocol that all of our representatives follow, and they are paid a flat hourly rate for their work ($16 per hour, according to FastPath’s ad).

For those of you not wishing to do the math, to earn 75,000 dollars in 6 months at 16 dollars an hour you would have to work 180 hours a week. However based on the most state of the art calculations to date most 7 day weeks only contain 168 hours. At the very least, this would require significant regular time travel. However, let’s assume these Craigslist recruited employees have developed reliable time travel and rather than use it to kill Hitler or win all the lottery’s under assumed names, they’ve chosen to go door to door at all hours of the day and night recruiting kids into online courses. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where someone can earn a rate of 150,000 dollars a year without showing any results – unless you are a John White appointed LDOE employee. So it doesn’t take a great math wiz to figure out these guys have to enroll great quantities of students to remain employed and justify the absurd amounts they are getting paid. Also keep in mind that many of the courses these guys offer are in math.

Some of the courses for students allegedly signed up for in Webster included math courses entitled Single Variable Equations, Two Variable Equations, Number Line Inequalities, Applied Linear Equations 1 and 2, Quadratic Formula, Quadratic X-Intercepts, Trinomial Factoring and Graphs to Linear Inequalities.

They expect us to “trust” them with our children and to be respectful of their privacy and their data when they recruit their own employees with lies from Craigslist, a website used by prostitutes and pimps to recruit Johns and for serial murders and rapists to recruit victims. That actually sounds just about right for John White, but we should expect better for our children. Is it any wonder this happened?

One of those registering for courses in Webster Parish was a parent and “at least one was a Severe Profound child,” said a spokesperson for the Webster School Board. “The recruiters went down the street knocking on doors,” he said.

In response to the claims that over 1100 students are enrolled in classes without their knowledge in just three northern parishes (Webster, Caddo and Bossier) alone, the legislature and LDOE has been strangely silent, except to continue to defend the program. In response to criticism that he failed to properly monitor or vet the program, Superintendent John White responded thusly:

However, state Superintendent of Education John White strongly denies that any fraudulent students have been enrolled for courses. Checks and balances — designed to catch errors or suspect enrollments — in the Course Choice program are working, White said.

In other words, John White is claiming the rejection of fraudulent enrollments by local school district personnel is proof his genius plan is working. John White is putting the responsibility for whether a student gets enrolled illegally or not all in the local school districts laps. If a student gets enrolled for the wrong class, or Mickey Mouse or Clint Eastwood gets enrolled, that’s Bossier’s fault. John White does not believe the state DOE bears any burden for filtering fraudulent providers, or investigating fraudulent enrollments, nor that there should be any sanctions for providers turning in enrollments that are inappropriate or fraudulent 100% of the time – as happened in this case!

I suppose he does make a good point, though.  Given John White’s record on supervising data collections its much safer to have the school districts do this.  However, we’re only a few months in and with only 3 of 69 city/parishes reporting.  Do any of you feel comfortable calling this election to use fraud and trickery to enroll unqualified student’s over?  Personally, I’d find it pretty hard to believe this bogus enrollment story stops here. Fortunately for the Course Choice providers this legislative session will end in June 6th or sooner, and John White will be long gone to DC by the end of June, leaving this hefty check with us. But John White wasn’t content to leave the situation there, he is insisting that the School districts are up to no good, by doing their job and verifying data.

“When you see school systems like Bossier where 100 percent of the kids are not approved for the program, and in Caddo where it’s 95 percent and so on, it seems odd to have numbers that high and leads me to believe the school system is using the oversight they have to keep students out of the program,” White said.

To be fair, verifying data is something Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera recently expressed the opinion that John White knows nothing about. John White later confirmed complying with state law on charter schools was not something he felt he should commit any resources to do.

But to get back to White’s point, sure, I suppose what he is suggesting is one possibility.  Here are some more likely possibilities though:

  • Paying thugs you recruit off the street to enroll as many people, pets, and cartoon characters is as unsound as it sounds.
  • Perhaps hiring Course Choice pimps to push courses and free iPads for enrolling gets a lot of kids interested in signing up for as many courses as they can, regardless of what they are, is unwise and wasteful?
  • Perhaps using people without education backgrounds to discuss enrolling course work with kids of all ages, without any educational background or history is just plain stupid?
  • Perhaps allowing LDOE to approve every single vendor and course without any formal evaluation process in place, and zero certification requirements is the stuff dumb people’s dreams are made of?
  • Perhaps a meteor struck the earth and created  a focused electrical surge that scrambled the vendor’s good data with the bad data they turned in?

All more likely scenario’s than John White’s.

But what really happened? This is one of the reports of how this “recruitment drive” worked.

As in Caddo and Webster parishes, representatives of FastPath Learning reportedly drove into certain neighborhoods in Homer and Haynesville, disembarked from a “green van” and began handing out fliers to children offering a free laptop for signing up for Course Choice programs.

“They are not talking to the parents,” said [Claiborne schools Superintendent Janice] Williams, who personally contacted some of them to learn how their children were enrolled. “It’s malicious and deceptive on their behalf, the Course Choice providers, working in this area. It’s upsetting to me as a superintendent. They are going behind my back and gathering students and not letting me know they are in the district.”

So just what kinds of problems are being found by the folks that are actually reviewing these applications? (John White, since this is not you, you don’t have a right to answer.)

Jody Kaiser, who oversees Course Choice for Bossier, said the school system saw a recent influx of students signed up for the statewide program whose parents were unaware their child was enrolled for Course Choice. The district also saw students signed up for the program who were not enrolled in Bossier Parish schools, Kaiser said.

“We’ve tried in many cases and have seen the students are listed in Bossier but actually attend a school in Caddo or we can’t find any record of them at all,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser said he is personally investigating each Course Choice application that comes to the district to determine whether the classes are the right fit for students. He has yet to find one offered by an outside vendor that would be appropriate for the student in question, Kaiser said.

There really is no point trying to make a case for what Course Choice could be in the “Ideal World” John White and LDOE tries to paint in the media. My previous link points to an article at the Pelican Post, which is total BS and has been debunked from top to bottom by me, other local bloggers like Tom Aswell at Louisiana Voice, Mike Deshotels at Louisiana Educator, and Dr. Mercedes Schneider at Deutsch29 as well as even more mainstream publications like the ShrevePort Times. Let me be blunt here. The real world of Course Choice recruiters is in all likelihood sexual predators who have eluded detection to date, drug addicts, and felons without a conviction in the last 5 years roaming your streets while you’re at work, offering iPads to your kids if they open the door and chat a while, perhaps provide a little personal information.

“Don’t worry,” they’ll say, “we work for the Louisiana Department of Education, and we’re legit. . . just let us in. . . that’s some nice jewelry your mom’s wearing in that picture. . . is that your bedroom?”

You may think this is alarmist, but with a 100% rejection rate, they guys can’t be discussing education that much, now can they?

'nuff said
’nuff said

To end this on a more amusing note I will debunk a new claim I saw made by the Pelican Post. (I couldn’t resist)

In order to assist schools with the process of enrollment, the Louisiana Department Of Education has set up a robust assistance center on the Course Choice website.

Welcome below to what greets you at the robust assistance center. You’d think it would be a little more “robust” what with all the confusion out there about Course Choice, wouldn’t you?

I actually kind of reminds me of the Louisiana Department of Education website. It’s just as functional but more direct. I recommend John White consider replacing his louisianabelieves website with a “robust” one like this one.

Can these guys be for real? Am I on one giant, overly elaborate and really unfunny Punk’d episode, or is John White’s PR team really this inept?

Lefty's first time using Craigslist
Lefty’s first time using Craigslist

John White Explains It All. . .

John White Explains It All. . .

I decided to have a sit down with John White and ask him a few questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s mind with all the recent scandals swirling around his DOE. Much to my surprise he agreed to my request. Here is my interview and his responses. I have a feeling many of you don’t believe I really interviewed John White, so I included the responses he made in audio form. Apparently WordPress requires 20 dollars to make this kind of magic possible, so I hope you all appreciate the trouble I go through for you. 🙂

Me: John White, I’ve also heard that you’ve allowed some favored legislators, like Alan Seabaugh from Shreveport, undue influence in the outcome of VAM – a fully data driven system used to evaluate teachers and schools. The outcome of VAM has direct consequences of school and district funding, salary outcomes for teachers and whether teacher gain or lose teacher or even lose their job. Why are you allowing these situations to take place instead of relying on data and system you’ve claimed repeatedly is both accurate and reliable.

White: “Sometimes its just not smart to use the data.”

Me: Wow, that’s quite an admission. Did you try to explain that to BESE or the public before you pushed headlong with this VAM sham. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun. So I assume you will explain that to BESE now and cancel VAM in light of your previous statement.

White: “People have a helluva lot harder time believing me.”

Me: Well, that’s true. But you understand why right? You lie about everything, all the time. I’m not even sure John White is your real name. It sounds like an evil villain’s ironic alias. But let’s move on shall we? It’s been said that you don’t have the proper qualifications for being a State Superintendent of Education. When people visit you, what complaint do you find they make the most about what you are doing?

White: “. . .a little concerned I’m playing ping-pong.”

Me:  Uh, well.  I imagine that would concern a taxpayer.  I was wondering what that noise and cheering was all about when I stopped by, but just assumed you’d finishing closing down another school for poor black children.

White: “Just doing the Governor’s bidding.”

Me: Of course, of course.  Jindal has a long track record of hurting the poor, so that’s one of the most honest things you’ve probably ever said actually.  What would you like to say to all the people who have believed you before, only to find out time and again that you were lying?  You’ve lied about having a contract with inBloom, then about cancelling it.  You’ve lied about VAM being fair, or data driven.  You’ve lied about destroying the old department of education website in favor of a useless one that makes debunking your claims nigh impossible.  You’ve lied about the reasons for layoffs.  You’ve lied about the reasons behind the MFP changes that take money away from districts, special education programs and increases charter school payouts.  You’ve lied about reorganizing the department of education before getting the reorg approved by the legislature, and even moved people you didn’t like into positions you were planning to eliminate based on the the new reorg.  You are laying off people based on a new reorg that hasn’t been approved, giving the reasons for the layoff as their position has been eliminated under the reorg, that in theory hasn’t happened.  That is an impressive one actually.  You’ve lied about your qualifications for this job, you’ve lied about all the secret agreements you’ve made with vendors, you’ve lied about providing information to BESE after testifying weeks ago you would get it right away, I could go on for pages, but you’ve lied as much I think its possible to lie.  So what do you have to say to people who question whether it’s even possible for you to tell the truth?

White: “Trust me.  Trust me.  Trust me.


Trust me. Trust me. Trust me.

Trust me. Trust me. Trust me.

If I was John White I would be more than a little concerned right about now.  I’ve gotten word that people are asking for his resignation.  He’s lied so many times, to so many people, I doubt he even knows what the truth is anymore but I know he never cared.

The one thing you can really trust about John White
The one thing you can really trust about John White

This was posted on BESE member Lottie Bebee’s Facebook page:

Is it time to go yet?
Is it time to go yet?

The inBloom situation is not going away.  Eventually we’ll get the MOU and the response, or lack thereof, that he sent  to inBloom to theoretically cancel the contract, or “pause” as inBloom CEO Iwan Streichberger calls it.  My understanding is Georgia and many of inBloom’s other “partners” are now pulling out too.  I would suggest White resign and rake the job at inBloom he probably had lined up, but for some reason I have a feeling that’s not going to happen now.  🙂


VAM has been postponed but in light of recent events needs to be cancelled and a new evaluation built under the supervision of a new, qualified superintendent with local roots to prevent the kinds of abusive and destructive practices White has employed from the minute he set foot in our state.

The MET study explained in diagram form
The MET study explained in diagram form

Here is one of the 19 layoff plans I’m told John White submitted to eliminate Louisiana citizens from his office in favor “fellows” making 99,999.90 like Jennifer Conway.

LDOE Layoff Plan 4-2013

Whew.  I bet that salary was totally random and had nothing to do with the fact any salary of 100,000 or more has to be approved by the legislature.  Way to go, Jennifer!  It’s nice to know White was considerate enough to practically create an individualized layoff plan for every employee he didn’t like at DOE because they were classified longtime residents.  As a Louisiana resident and taxpayer I demand those classified employees with their 6 figure or 99999.90 salaries and 2 years of experience go first.


Proposed DOE Org Chart
Proposed DOE Org Chart


I implore Shannon Templet to reject the layoff plan.  If you have any humanity, or cajun seasoning in your blood, you can’t let this travesty take place! White already has intentions of bringing new unclassified kids in at obscene salaries.  He’s done that after every single layoff he’s had.  This is just another way to evade any oversight and to bilk taxpayers out of millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars. . . from our children no less. 

Don't sell us out. . .
Don’t sell us out. . .

As for White, I want you to consider this.  I had that tape quite a while ago.  Tom Aswell did not share it with me, so I don’t want people thinking he went back on his word.  Something that might have occurred to an enterprising soul such as myself was to sit on this and suggest to people to make more of those tapes. . .  you know, just for fond memories of their fearless leader in action.  Anyone has the capability with a simple app on their phone.  Wouldn’t that just be awesome?!?!?


You know, I kind of hope he sticks it out longer.  White is like a brilliant, enormous, stinky, albatross hanging around Bobby Jindal’s neck.  The longer he stays, the more I can tie him to Bobby, and the more Bobby will have to turn a blind eye to his bumbling boorish behaviour,  or defend his little “ping-pong ball.”  He’s like the Energizer Screw-up and without him I might have to talk about taxes or potholes or something. . .

Trust me.  I just keep lying, and lying and lying, and lying. . .
Trust me. I just keep lying, and lying and lying, and lying. . .

Come drop by my website at (I crafted it as an homage to White’s site. Just like White’s it’s mostly useless and filled with shrines to myself, but at least I have a little data and more accurate press releases.)


I’ll admit beforehand, that I haven’t updated it lately, well except for a few . . . mp3 files.  I was thinking they might make for some very entertaining ringtones.  They should load when you click on each page listed on the toolbar but if not they are located at the bottom of each page.  I strongly recommend you download one today.  Then you can have your friend’s call you when you’re near White.  I’m sure he would be comforted by the sound of his voice, voicing things he “believes.”

white and bombed_school-classroom

Hey “dude.” Enjoy the weekend.  🙂


Each feather represents a shattered dream for a child, but a dream come true for me!  Keep on Believing Louisiana!
Each feather represents a shattered dream for a child, but a dream come true for me! Keep on Believing Louisiana!

Louisiana Believes in Completely Denying Reality

Louisiana Believes in Completely Denying Reality


May 07, 2013

BATON ROUGE, La. – State Superintendent of Education John White issued a statement today concerning the Louisiana Supreme Court ruling on Act 2:

“On the most important aspect of the law, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of families. The Scholarship Program will continue, and thousands of Louisiana families will continue to have the final say in where to send their children to school. Nearly 93 percent of Scholarship families report that they love their school, and we will work with the Legislature to find another funding source to keep parents and kids in these schools.”

While those of you who are still able to read (after my concerted effort to systematically destroy Louisiana’s education system by replacing certified teachers with “certified chipmunks” and Japanese “dolls” we purchased with an E-rate technology grant for our international bachelorette program) might infer from the passage below that the State Supreme Court did not rule in my favor, just because they explicitly and repeatedly state they are “not deciding on the merits of the challenged programs,”

As noted earlier, the discretion of BESE and the legislature is vast. However, we hasten to reiterate, we are not deciding the merits of the challenged programs. It is only at the stage in which BESE has invoked the MFP process for funding these programs and the legislature has nominally given its approval that this court is concerned. Pursuant to Article VIII | 13(B), whatever discretion existed prior to the funds being dedicated to MFP is no more; the state funds approved through th unique MFP process cannot be diverted to nonpublic schools or other nonpublic course providers according to the clear, specific, and unambiguous language of the constitution. Link – refer to page 33 of 66

I have nevertheless chosen to ignore those “word” things you limited box-thinking people rely upon. I use my imagination, my gut, and my feelings to define my reality, and my guts feel like I won! I am John White and your weak-ass Louisiana laws do not apply to me. To date I’ve never had to follow a single one of them and I can lie to everyone I meet, about everything, and still retain the full confidence of the BESE board purchased by out-of-state special interests and those annointed by Der Jindal, who likes to refer to me as his little “mini-me.” (I know what you’re thinking, little and mini are a bit redundant but I learned long ago not to argue with the “big BJ” – my super-secret name for Bobby Jindal.)

And I just want the three (3) Louisiana citizens that still support me (because they are in comas and unable to deny they still support me) to know rather than admit defeat, in the face of “reiterated” and virtually unanimous (6-1) and “unambiguous” defeat that I shall instead declare a victory! I have even quoted more unrelated statistics like 93% that make no sense in the current context because everyone knows high percentages and exclamations points are good! This is the same way I manipulate you by simply raising SPS scores to show I am better! Bigger is better and context is irrelevant: Broad Superintendent Institute prayer. (The Broad Institute is like a Course Choice program, but only 5 weekends, no tests, and requires 3 cereal box tops for a genuine Superintendent Certification good for any state that doesn’t believe their superintendent requires any actual qualifications.)

And just so you know, I will never give up on myself and MY agenda. I have terminated virtually all Louisiana classified workers and citizens and replaced them with expensive out-of-state “talent” as part of the “repay TFA” clause of my contract I created and signed for myself. (BESE president, and Garnier spokesperson, Chas Roemer gave me a stamp with his name on it for me to approve everything I do.) Now that BESE is a mere formality and everyone at DOE owes allegiance to me, rather than Louisiana, they will act in “MY” self-interest. Exclusively.

The first task I set my “fellows” (a name I give TFA kids I can’t find anything specific for them to do but still want to pay 65 – 90 thousand dollars a year) is to find a new “court” in which to get my agenda approved. Top potential “Court Choice providers”, as we’re calling them, are The Hague, the basketball court I had installed for with Special Education dollars in the offices formerly occupied by “theoretically required” federally funded Special Education personnel, and the Court of Public Opinion (which is what I call my secret potty place.) It appears Louisiana Supreme court justices are going to be a stickler for their real Constitution, rather than the toilet paper scrawled version Jindal and I made in our secret thinking place (yup, the potty) that I tried to substitute in its place.

Our first thought was to appeal to the US Supreme Court of course; to plead Louisianian’s are too stupid to have been entrusted with writing their own constitution, and that the Federal government should intervene and tell us what to do. I mean, that thing is like a hundred years old or something. Everyone knows old things are bad, which is why I fire anyone over 30 and replace them with Brownies and Tiger Cubs whenever possible.

It’s time to repeal and replace, or perhaps just repeal? Without a state Constitution Bobby Jindal would finally be unable to propose an unconstitutional law. Now wouldn’t that be something? Of course that would ruin his perfect record. . .at failure. Who says big BJ ain’t ready for DC?

Like the mysterious phoenix, I rise from the ashes of my defeat. . .so many ashes. . .
Like the mysterious phoenix, I rise from the ashes of my defeat. . .so. . . many. . . ashes. . .

The Grand Accountability Scam – Kill the RSD

The Grand Accountability Scam – Kill the RSD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John White’s crumbling house of cards – From VAM to worse

John White’s crumbling house of cards – From VAM to worse

These days John White might be needing a hug. It appears all the ill-will and poor decisions making he has sown over the past year is coming home to roost on his doorstep, all at the same time.

Support the Louisiana Student Privacy Act

Recently we called out White for lying to everyone in the state of Louisiana over carelessly and needlessly exposing all of our school children to unnecessary risks by handing over their some of their most private data to companies hoping to make a profit off the information by direct marketing products to children, charging the state millions of dollars for the privilege of using their storage services, and by marketing and providing this information to unlimited third party vendors. I encourage the legislature to craft and pass the Louisiana Student Privacy Act, which will go further than FERPA (the Federal Student Privacy Act) and actually protect our children’s privacy instead of selling it out to anyone who asks.

Reject House Bill 650 – DOE reorg

White is trying to push through a bill that supporting the reorganization of the Louisiana Department of Education, about a year too late according to this DOE employee: (Link to testimony from April 11th)

Last week Beth Scioneaux indicated in House Education that the LDOE is going to lose another 34 positions. She didn’t say how many actual bodies were going to be lost but the numbers are getting pretty low with the exception of the TFA types. Erin Bendily lied through her teeth when she said that the department wasn’t working under the proposed reorg. White starting putting everything in place the moment he came in and had pretty much finished by early fall. He even had a draft of the org chart that he handed out to some staff around September early October. He also wants to make the Deputy Supt. position optional because his hand-picked second in command (Kunjan) couldn’t possibly be confirmed. He changed the title to Chief of Staff to get around it…

While Representative Chris Broadwater stated he has questions about how the reorg would work before he approves it (which already seems a little redundant since it doesn’t appear he cares what the answers are) well he might as well ask John White how the reorganization is already working out. White just needs rubber stamps, as BESE has learned. Unless you think White should be able to thumb his nose at the legislature and oversight, you should probably vote down House bill 650.

This information jives with everything I saw before I left. Erin actually sent an e-mail to us long before John White was confirmed, when he was still the Superintendent of RSD, instructing us not to make any decisions until Superintendent White was “officially” confirmed. I’m told he was making personnel decisions long before BESE voted to confirm him so it makes sense he would reorganize the department illegally and then ask for permission afterwards. White even drafts and then approves BESE agendas before BESE meets or reviews them.

Reject 2013 MFP

(don’t defund Special Education Programs, don’t use a DOE

known flawed VAM for funding calculations (SCR 23) )

John White has earned the ire of many advocates for Special Education Students of the disabled, gifted and talented varieties. Despite what he has claimed, this formula is not neutral, and actually reduces funding for some school districts even by DOE’s own reports they produced to try to dispute this fact based on the rosiest forecasts I’m sure they could come up with. The new MFP takes money away from talented programs, reduces gifted program funding, and reduces funding for disabled students who can’t exceed their value added scores by larger and larger amounts every year (which is statistically impossible).


Pass House Bill 160 – VAM delay and oversight

Because VAM or Value Added Modeling has been introduced into funding for school districts I would be remiss if I did not spend a little time explaining some of the flaws with this system that have come to my attention recently. If you don’t know what VAM is offhand, you are not alone. Even the Louisiana Department of Education, which uses VAM for everything from teacher evaluations, to school grades, to funding, to soybean substitute, has no idea how this system works according to this former employee.

Most of all, he [White] knows the Value Added Model, the all-important VAM, is broken. And he knows this because he broke it.

What was most interesting to read, however, was Johnny’s opposition to the ‘legislative oversight’ aspect to HB 160. He’s already allowing legislators (well, at least one northwestern one in particular) to dictate what the model does; why not let an entire committee or two have input? Is it because he knows that what he’s doing is wrong, if not illegal? Does he not want our elected BESE members to know that he bypassed them once again, by skipping policy and instead screwing with the math? Would he prefer that our esteemed, elected, representatives not be aware that he is playing around with citizens’ lives and careers because the governor tells him to ‘trust me, you gotta do this’? Perhaps he would not like the courts to know that he continues to flaunt the law by ignoring specific mandates that don’t suit him? He may be afraid that the public will learn that ‘Louisiana Make Believes’ data is being used to determine teachers’ futures, school takeovers and charters, voucher eligibility and the Course Choice crap, along with the future privatization of education. Or, maybe, it’s just that he’s concerned that everyone will finally discover that he’s nothing but White Lies.”

VAM was a flawed metric to use for all the things DOE tried to apply it to, but made more so by all the frenetic gyrations John White put the system through trying to please a select few. I strongly urge our legislators to reject the MFP formula put forth by BESE and ask that BESE restore the previous year’s formula that does not contain a tragically flawed VAM component. The folks that crafted the original VAM formula are gone, and John White almost exclusively hires TFA (Teach for America) folks that lack expertise in the areas he assigns them. Just this past week or so I learned that as many as 60 DOE personnel were given walking papers as part of a RIF, Reduction in Force plan. However I’ve also learned that John White already has new TFA recruits waiting in the wings to fill these spots he is “temporarily” eliminating – at much higher salaries and much fewer years of experience than much of the current staff he is releasing.

I’ve heard from several sources that John White is worried (freaked out) by some Freedom of Information requests that were made about VAM. Well there is a lot to be frightened of apparently:

It’s interesting to read that John White appears willing to hold off implementing Compass (that new teacher evaluation system) for one year…just about exactly one year after educators around the state begged him to do exactly that. He knows the entire program is, in a nutshell, a clusterf**k. He knows the two data systems involved may not work together; one of them is not even completed. He knows his district support office (the one that was just approved…months after being created…. and after the guy running it for five months left. provides little to no support, while ‘toolboxing’ around the state in rental cars, collecting mileage and per diems. He knows that schools have been given precious few resources and little guidance, and no definite answers. He knows the ‘new and improved’ LouisianaBelieves website leads teachers on an endless loop of 404-file not found error messages, dead links, outdated or “coming soon” information.

In case some of you were not keeping up, John White scrapped the former department of education website in favor of what has been called a childish, useless crayon inspired endeavor that contains nothing useful except pictures of John White handing out big checks to school districts with his sleeves rolled up. As impressive as that sight is to the John White fan club, most of us are not members, and what he has done offends us.

When I was at DOE we used to website as an archive of useful information and reports which we could direct internal staff, school district personnel, parents and other stakeholders to.  Now the site is universally understood to be a useless mess.  I suppose in a way that makes sense. John White has a god complex and he’s crafted the new department website in his own image.

John White doesn’t want people keeping track of what’s going on, so he scrapped the old site but “we in the know” are doing our level best to keep you informed. White can’t continue to lie to us, sell our children, humiliate our teachers, defund our Special Education students, dazzle us with VAM BS, and ignore both the legislature and BESE. . .  unless you let him. I and my brave colleagues have done their part, now it’s time for some of you to do yours.

No matter what John White names his website, Louisiana doesn’t have to believe anymore.  Reject John White and his bankrupt policies and send him packing.  We deserve better.  Our children deserve better than having to put up with this.

Send me your stories and I will share them

Send me your stories and I will share them

From time to time I get stories from folks who have had the unpleasant experience of working with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) under John White, or Paul Pastorek.  If you feel you have a story that needs to be told please contact me and I will do my best to explain your side of the story, and I will keep your identity anonymous to the extent possible.  If you are the only person that possesses the information you share, bear in mind that complete anonymity from White and his band of brigands is probably unrealistic (for instance they know who I am even if you don’t), but I still may be able to use what you tell me to back into your information from other sources.

Before I publish anything I will be happy to run my piece by you for your approval.  This call goes out to past and present employees of the Louisiana Department of Education, RSD (The Recovery School District) our LEAs (Local Education Authorities) charter operators, vendors who worked with or tried to work with LDE, teachers, students, parents, child welfare and activist groups, non-profits, etc.

I am working, or have worked,with numerous folks already.  If you have a story to tell that you feel the local media is not covering, let me know.  I was in the same boat, which I why I started this blog.  Occasionally folks in the national mainstream media contact me about stories I’ve written and will use parts in their own pieces or conduct their own research.



You can send me an e-mail to:

website: (use the “contact me” form)

or on twitter: @crazycrawfish


VAMtastic – what bicycles and teachers have in common

VAMtastic – what bicycles and teachers have in common

To start off this discussion about VAM (value added modeling).  The idea that teacher effectiveness can be accurately predicted based mostly on student test scores (or entirely in Louisiana.) and that teacher’s fortunes should be tied to those test scores.

That sounds boring so I’ll start off with a really exciting topic, like global warming. 🙂  It appears that manmade activities are causing the earth to warm.  Even people the Koch brothers hired to say otherwise were unable to deny this.  Recently a “creative” state Republican legislator named Ted Orcutt proposed an extra tax on bicyclists claiming that bicyclists exude carbon dioxide at higher rates and are harming the environment.

“Also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike. But if I am not mistaken, a cyclist has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider.  Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.” Ted Orcutt

Early Global Warming Device - from Ted Orcutt's history book
Early Global Warming Device – from Ted Orcutt’s history book

He wanted to discourage bicycle use with his tax claiming this was in the interest of climate control. A helpful, knowledgable reader of the blog I pulled this from did the calculation for us to show the absurdity of this remark most of you probably already realized intuitively was inane and insane.

“I did a back-of-envelope calculation:
CO2 per mile for car getting 20 mph = 446 gram
CO2 per mile for average person riding bike 15 mph = 17gram
But carbon source is different.  The gasoline carbon is newly introduced to the atmosphere while the carbohydrate carbon the cyclist burned came from plants which obtained it from the atmosphere (of course the plants had to be farmed and the food transported both of which take fuel).” Gary

While it is true carbon dioxide does impact the warming of the climate, it is not the sole contributor,  His argument also does not take into account in the example given, cars. (Or the fact these people biking to work would otherwise have to use cars which produce CO2 at  more than 25 times the rate of a bicyclist and that by his logic we should also tax people in gyms and people for just breathing sitting on their sofas)  It does not take into account factories, gas-powered appliances and heating, deforestation, nuclear reactor meltdowns, warfare, airplanes, launching satellites into orbit, and freon and refrigerants just to name a few of some of the more common man-made contributors.

Terrance Shuman a fellow blogger and commenter identified a similar problem with something VAMvateers take for granted on Dr Mercedes Schneider’s blog this morning.

“The planted axiom in all of this, of course, is that the test scores we’re using actually convey something meaningful and important. This has not, in my opinion, been definitively established. And if we don’t know that, the rest of the house of cards comes tumbling down, doesn’t it?”

I pointed out this:

“As a corollary to your axiom, while I think it’s fair to say they convey something, and something that may even prove to meaningful in a limited context, what is not proven is whether the “something” that might be conveyed is meaningful to the context is being applied.  These are student test scores, not teacher test scores.  Sure, teachers have an impact on test scores, the absence of a teacher would probably yield a much lower one – for instance.  That does not take into account all factors influencing a test score.  In fact, what the study results do prove is that teachers are not the sole determining factor, and possibly not even the most important one.  Scores remain consistent only about roughly 20-30% of the time year over year with no change in composition of students or teaching methods.  That implies other factors not accounted for in the “model” impact 70-80% of the score.”

The logic of VAM, if you can call it that, is as inane as Ted Orcutt’s reasoning that if we would discourage people from bicycling we would reduce global warming.  VAMvateers point out that test scores increase over time as kids age, which is hard to argue with.  They claim a “good” teacher is better than a bad teacher for increasing a test score.  This is probably true, also hard to argue with that logic at face value and quantification is not a given.  However at that point they jump the data tracks.  They explain that teachers are the primary influence on student test scores therefore one can use test scores to sort out “good” and “bad” teachers.  However none of the studies, even their own studies, bear this out.  Even by the most benevolent interpretations I’ve seen, changes in test scores can’t be attributed to even half of a student’s change or test score outcome.  Factors that are much harder to measure like environment, curriculum, school facilities, parental involvement, learning disabilities (known or unknown), illness, psychological trauma, poverty, safety, and probably astrological sign (to name a few factors) add up to more that what bankers and billionaires would have you believe.

That’s not to say teachers are unimportant.  That’s also not to say bad teaching or bad teachers are not a problem, merely not “the” problem.  Teachers are a part of the equation we can control, but the measurement mechanism we are using is fallacious.  Just because people like Ted Orcutt are only able to apply what they learned in a first grade science class, doesn’t mean you need to.  Global warming is not adversely impacted by bicyclists simply because they exhale carbon dioxide, anymore than some of our sketchy educational outcomes are solely responsibility of our teachers.  There is no amount of “good” teaching that can singlehandedly overcome the stacked deck of generational poverty, health and safety issues and emotional trauma.  However claiming this to be the case has its advantages for the ones claiming it.

Swelling a class size from 20 to 40 or 60 or as many as 500 for virtual schools will not address those issues, and without looking at any data, I can guarantee it will make things worse.  You will have politicians in the pockets of billionaires and bankers trying to sell you on this idea with cryptic data you won’t understand, designed to dazzle you, just like they did with the dotcoms, the Enrons, the subprime mortgaged backed securities that brought down the housing market, the derivatives trading that almost wiped out AIG and then recently almost wiped out JP Morgan Chase in weeks (having failed to learn the lesson of AIG.)

Don’t be fooled by their “data.”  Look at their motivations, and use your brain, your heart and your experience.  Think back to your own classes (which I assume didn’t have 60+ children in them like Reformers are pushing for now.)

Bicyclists are not causing global warming anymore than teachers are causing our population with the highest childhood poverty rate in the industrialized world to do worse on  standardized tests.  Look in the mirror the next time you vote down a millage tax for school improvements, or you let your children watch TV before doing their homework, or elect a governor that tells you the teachers are at fault, not you, not poverty, not schools with roach infested halls and leaking walls and faulty air conditioning.  When you elect a meglamaniacal governor  like Bobby Jindal (who never saw an illegal contribution he felt he needed to return) and allow him to hire a Superintendent like John White that empties music rooms, art studios, libraries, guidance counselors, school psychologists, GT programs and cuts funding for special education programs. . . well look in the mirror and you will have your answer.

After all these Bankers and billionaires have done to fool you with their “data” in the past, you would really have to be a fool to “Believe” them now.  They even use this concept to mock you, you know. . .  The “Louisiana Believes” slogan John White and his sadistic cronies dreamed up is an inside joke at among the top brass at LDE, but if you don’t see it for what it is, well then the joke really is on you.

Actually I really hope you are being fooled by their numbers and no matter how many times they come to you with ridiculous claims backed by infantile reasoning of the Ted Orcutt kind.  Because if not, well, then you are just allowing your kid’s teachers to take the fall for your laziness, greed and sloth – glad that they are taking the fall so you can continue to watch your reality TV while your kids play their video games and 25% of other people’s kids struggle to complete their homework – with empty stomachs and gunshots in the background, or even the foreground in schools like Sandy Hook.

I wonder how their teachers VAM scores will look this year.  I’m pretty sure the VAMvateers haven’t added mass murder adjustment to their equation, but if when all the students at that school do worse than expected, at least we can can find someone other than the shooter, or the gun, or us for allowing those guns to be so accessible.

We can blame the teachers.

Problem solved.

Jersey Shore anyone?