Defies Measurement is Finally Complete

Defies Measurement is a documentary about what our nation’s test obsession has done to our public schools and students over the last 20 years.  Shannon Puckett is a great film maker and former teacher at Chipman Middle school, around which the story centers as the school is impacted by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and eventually ends up as a charter school with an entirely different name.

Crawfish Nation, some of you may remember that I helped promote and fund this masterpiece – and I also do my best to spoil the magic with a cameo appearance of myself.  (Thankfully it is only one.  There is a reason I am a blogger and not a movie star. )  Also appearing are Diane Ravitch, and Louisiana locals Mercedes Schneider and Karran Harper Royal. 

This tackles the issues of NCLB, over testing and opting out, charter schools, Race to the Top, Common Core, poverty, Gates, TFA, Broad, the Walton Foundation, International Test scores, Eugenics,  the New Orleans “Miracle”,the School Reform Movement in general and number of other interesting connections.  If you are interested in presidential candidate Jeb Bush, you will also want to hear what he has to say in this film.

You can go the

or directly to the film here:

There is an opportunity to download of organize a viewing around this film if you have a community event coming up or would like to sponsor to screen this film.  It is an hour long, and I knew most of the material, but I still found it very engaging and presented in a way that really sticks with you and brings everything together.  You can tell there is a real synergy between being a teacher and a documentary maker.

Congratulations Shannon!

For those of you going to the second annual NPE conference in Chicago April 25th and 26th, this film will be screened there as well.  Many of the guests in this film will also be at the conference for you to get their autographs.  Smile

Background On the High Stakes Testing Opt Out Movement in Louisiana

Unless you are already opting your kids out of testing this spring, most folks have probably only heard about this movement to “opt out” (parents refusing to permit children to take) of high stakes tests in Louisiana in the past couple weeks.  Here are some recent stories:

The opt out movement has been building momentum in this state and throughout the country for the past few years.  I have been consulted numerous times by various organizers of this movement to promote it or provide information about possible consequences and implications.  I actually don’t have a firm stand one way or the other on the “opt out issue” but I have been linking people up with individuals that do for the past year or so.  A few of the opt out information providers in our state are Ann Burruss from Lafayette and Lee Barrios from St Tammany.  You can generally find them on Facebook if you have any questions and want to keep up with the latest developments.  This post is not going to delve too deeply into whether parents should or should not do this.  I will leave this for them to decide. What I did want to do is provide some background on this issue.  I found the background on this situation to be lacking in most mainstream outlets.

First let’s define what High Stakes Testing means.  This is a term that has come to mean annual tests that are tied to consequences for teachers, students, schools and districts.  Low scores on these tests can mean teachers are fired, students are retained, schools are closed, districts are seized by the state.  For a pro side you can review this edreform site that describes what education Reformers are hoping to accomplish.  For the argument against High Stakes testing you might try looking through and this link:

High Stakes testing became all the vogue in 2001 with the passage of NCLB (No Child Left Behind act).  NCLB is actually being debated and right now in Congress and even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is telling Congress that standardized testing has gone too far and needs to be scaled back.  (The original was co-authored by John Boehner and Edward Kennedy so you know it has to be good, right?)

Today some school systems may spend a third of their class time taking standardized tests or preparing for them.  I’ve spoken with parents in districts in Louisiana that claim test prep booklets sample tests start getting sent home in January for the high stakes tests we give in April each year.  Parents are outraged about how much time is consumed in taking and preparing for tests, and I don’t blame them.  I send my kids to school to learn, not to take or prepare for tests endlessly.

A new wrinkle for this year is that no one outside of Louisiana State Superintendent John White and his close circle know what test kids will be taking.  White has claimed at different times our children will be taking a PARCC or PARCC-like test.  (PARCC is one of two major testing Consortiums tapped and funded by US DOE to develop Common Core tests for the States.)  However Governor Bobby Jindal and his DOA intervened in a contract dispute and declared the way it was approved invalid and have asserted they will not pay for PARCC with State funds.  This has led to several lawsuits brought by education Reform proponents and parents groups as well as the Governor’s office and BESE.  I honestly have no idea where any of that stands right now.  One judge has ruled the state can’t block White from procuring the tests.  Jindal has vowed to seek repayment of any funds spent that way.  Lawsuits are still pending. I’m not sure anyone else can tell you how this will ultimately play out with any degree of certainty either.

Still, John White has made it clear Louisiana will be giving the PARCC exam this Spring and districts need to be prepared for it.  According to previous statements and decisions by White and BESE, no students will be held back based on this exam, whatever it is.  No teachers should be penalized based on the scores their students get for this year either.  However (SPS) School Performance Scores will still be based on these test results.  Schools and districts that do poorly on these mystery exams could be subject to seizure by the State Recovery School District (RSD) and handed over to charter operators.  Students that “opt out” will be assigned a zero on the exam.  If schools end up with a lot of zeros it could severely impact their SPS score and make takeover very likely if the school is already in a borderline achievement category and has been for several years.

Louisiana has not defined a formal way to “opt out” of testing.  Currently tests are mandatory.  Some parents are writing letters to their principals that they wish to opt out of testing.  It’s unclear whether any principals will honor these requests. My guess is students that get sent to school will be given tests regardless of any letters.  To prevent this from happening parents are considering keeping their kids home on testing days and makeup test days or bringing them to school late.  These would be considered unexcused absences.  I would caution parents that do this that they could run afoul of LRS 17:221 and LRS 14:92.2 that outlines possible fines and jail time for parents of kids who are habitually absent or tardy (truant). Enforcing those laws would probably be worse case scenarios but some districts might play hardball with parents trying to keep their kids home during testing. Some parents have taken a third route.  They have instructed their kids to bubble in all the same answer or to make “pretty pictures” on their scantron answer sheets if they have given tests against their parent’s permission.

I’m not very clear on what the value of these tests could possibly be.  Unless John White made a secret deal with PARCC to get the assessments for free (he is still a PARCC Governing board member so I wouldn’t rule that out) or PARCC has accepted the risk of contentious legal battles over any payments made, they are not true PARCC assessments.  They will not be comparable to last year.  They will not be comparable to next year. They may be rigged to be similar to PARCC using combinations of last year’s test and new items the state may have used micro contracts to generate.

What I can tell you is this.  These test booklets have already been printed or are in the process of being printed by DRC, the State’s longtime testing vendor.  When I worked at LDOE 3 years ago it took months to print the hundreds of thousands of test booklets they have to prepare each year.  DRC needed enrollment data from us in November or December to “precode” (pre-fill site code, name, DOB, grade level, etc) the majority of the test booklets give to students.  Someone should be able to require John White turn over a sample test booklet to see how they are portraying the test they will be giving in a few months.  Will they be calling it PARCC, iLeap, iPARCC, ParccLEAP?  Who knows?  What I am sure of is I’m glad I don’t have to make a decision on this till at least next year.

Would you like to see a sample/practice PARCC test?

I was recently told by a parent that they tried the 7th grade math portion with their child and failed miserably.  Common Core, which these tests are based on, was not phased in.  That means many kids in higher grades will not be able to pass these tests because they were never taught the material.  Because these tests are designed for kids to fail initially in the higher, unprepared grades as has happened in States like New York that gave these exams last year, parents are concerned this will lead to school takeovers anyways, as well as some mental anguish for their children.  In some schools these tests are emphasized a great deal and a lot of stress is put on kids to perform.  Some kids can shrug it off, and others can take this type of failure pretty hard and it can damage their self-esteem.

I know from experience I hate this type of situation.  I’ve had teachers that tested us on subject material we were not taught or even assigned and it did impact my attitude towards school and my teachers in very negative ways.  I lost respect for those teachers, lost respect for the subject material, and tuned out.  It did not inspire me to “try harder”.  It just made me think tests and schools were stupid.  Perhaps now I would handle that differently?  It’s hard to say, but children are not little adults.  Scholastic achievement might be tied to their self-esteem and identity, and they may not have other experience or achievements to anchor themselves.  If I had this concern, if I thought my children would be impacted like I was, I can guarantee I would consider opting my children out.

Why do I think Bobby Jindal is scamming us with faux Common Core lawsuits?

Why do I think Bobby Jindal is scamming us with faux Common Core lawsuits?

To be quite frank, I did not develop this idea on my own. I was asked whether I thought Jindal’s opposition to Common Core was sincere, and my response at first was “I don’t know, but does it matter?” My thinking being: whether or not Bobby Jindal opposed Common Core for the “right” reasons or for political reasons, was irrelevant. What mattered is that we had a former staunch supporter of the standards publicly recanting his position. I actually think this encouraged a lot of folks in the Anti-Common Core camp, and added to the nationwide movement and impetus to roll back or remove the standards across the nation. Which is great for folks outside of Louisiana, but most public school parents know we are still in a bind. At the end of the day, talk is cheap and therapy and tutoring for 700,000 Louisiana school children won’t be.

Jindal made some moves that seemed to indicate he had genuinely thought deeply about this situation (that he had put us in) and had a thoughtful plan for extricating us from it.

  • Jindal held press conferences denouncing Common Core as a Federal takeover of education
  • Jindal took numerous photo ops surrounded by opponents of Common Core
  • Jindal appointed Jane Smith, a staunch Common Core opponent (one of his three appointees)
  • Jindal (though his surrogates at DOA) declared the contract for the PARCC test invalid for not following proper laws and procedures (although DOA had previously reviewed and okayed this same contract.)
  • Jindal sent a letter to PARCC telling them he was pulling Louisiana out of the testing consortium (something he apparently didn’t have the legal standing to do.)
  • Jindal reduced John White’s purchasing power from 20k to 2 k without prior approval. (Meanwhile John White explained he’d actually been functioning under a 50k limit.)
  • Jindal originally refused to allow BESE to hire a lawyer/law firm to being suit against him (but did allow a law firm connected to LDOE, TFA, and Reformers to bring suit against him on constitutional grounds and allowed BESE to sign on as a party to this suit without repercussions for his other two appointed BESE members.)
  • Jindal appointed Jimmy Faircloth (a chief campaign donor who has never won a constitutional education case for the administration) to “defend” him from the lawsuit brought by Common Core supporters to allow Louisiana to purchase the PARCC test.
  • Jindal brought forth a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over the constitutionality of Race to the Top funding tied to Common Core and PARCC testing in relation to a 17 million dollar grant Louisiana eventually one in the third round of RTTT


All of these things sound positive, but the net effect to date has been nothing but jawing on national television, more photo ops and newspaper stories, more lawsuits, and chaos in the classrooms and homes. Common Core is more entrenched in Louisiana than ever.


Sadly I have detected a waning in interest in Common Core forums among opponents. I’d diagnose this as a blend of fatigue, resignation, and perhaps a yearning for eventual victory that has sapped the life from folks and the movement locally. Many are waiting to see how this develops. I don’t blame them. I was watching too. I fear this that is exactly what Jindal’s opposition was intended to do. Jindal inserted himself at the head of the angry mob of parents and teachers opposed to Common Core. He took up our banner (but with what appears to be a rubber pitchfork) and has led us in direction after direction; telling us he has a plan; urging us to follow his lead.


He is leading us through blind alleys and into dead ends, folks.


I was warned something like this was going to happen numerous times by insiders. Here’s an excerpt from one person I received in April.

I’ve watched with interest this whole story about Common Core tests the last few days.  I have been on the inside of the political circle.  I would bet my life on this.  Bobby Jindal, John White, and Chas Roemer came up with this strategy months ago.  Saying Jindal wants out — but White and Roemer have to sign withdrawal allows Jindal to be perceived as far right — less federal oversight, etc. — poising him for his presidential campaign.   But it also keeps Common Core testing alive in Louisiana.

I’ve had numerous other conversations with different folks on the inside, but this one sums the situation up very nicely. Every day I fear more and more that they were right.

This isn’t just some random guy like me speculating . . . this is someone that works with these characters and knows how they work. So let’s examine some of the signals and moves that don’t make sense if you were really trying to eliminate Common Core, and not simply trying to make a lot of noise about eliminating it.

  • If Jindal really wanted out way back in April, when he first started making noise, why didn’t he talk to any of his handpicked and appointed legislators?
  • Why did Jindal wait until after the legislative session was completely over in June to hold his press conference about getting Louisiana out of Common Core?
  • Jindal has folks all over the legislature keeping an eye on bills and people, but anyone with a half hour and a black and white TV set could have seen the hundreds of parents being marginalized day after day while bill after bill to put the brakes on Common Core was shot down. The only indication that he was for any of these bills to remove Common Core were a few random support cards, but no one from his administration chose to speak or make a statement. In fact, even though those opportunities were offered to them they declined.
  • Unless I am mistaken (admittedly it’s been a while since I looked), every BESE member that is for Common Core (except maybe Walter Lee) received maximum contributions from the Jindal campaign in the last BESE election. 2 of Jindal’s 3 BESE appointees are adamantly for it. Why has Jindal not asked them to resign (and appoint two folks that would shift the tide 6 v 5 if swing voter Walter Lee could be brought on board); if he really believes Common Core is an unconstitutional federal takeover of education as he has asserted in his recent lawsuit against the federal government?
  • I think that last point should get two bullets, because. . . Seriously? Is he really keeping his appointees, Judith Muranti and Connie Bradford, onboard to represent his interests when he believes they are actively violating the Constitution of the United States and depriving Louisiana citizens of their Constitutional rights? And he wants to be President or even just a national figure??? You would think removing folks Jindal himself appointed on his state board of education, or even just calling for their resignation, would be a much more efficient and effective move than literally making a federal case out of this. It’s not like that would even be a new thing. Jindal did that before, with former Jindal appointee Tammie McDaniel, when she voted a way he didn’t like on a simple funding issue. But Jindal has said nothing and done nothing to his appointees violating the US Constitution and voting to sue him directly for violating Louisiana’s Constitution stating he has been disruptive and destructive. (He has of course, but his own appointees should not be saying that and retaining their positions if he is at all serious about his opposition to Common Core.) You would also think Jindal would have some influence over all the other members he donated to and brought to power.


But the truth is, even the federal lawsuit he is bringing is weak and destined to fail for three reasons:

  1. His case is weak
  2. His lawyer is weak
  3. His time is short

Plenty has been written about number 2, Jindal’s representation, Jimmy Faircloth. The fact that he produced not expert witnesses and rolled over in his last case on this issue should be documentation enough. (Not to mention he has never won a Constitution education case he’s represented Jindal on – not that that is ordinarily bad thing except here. . .) While Faircloth might not be the best lawyer if you want to actually win a case, no one can say he isn’t generous when it comes to kicking back [legally of course] some of his “earnings” to his favorite employer in the form of campaign contributions. (This is legal in Louisiana as long as no one calls it a “kickback” or demands a kickback and – and it just “happens” organically. . . I guess. . . of their own volition/common sense.)

So instead I will explore the other two items.

It’s not that the argument the Jindal administration is making a federal case out of is not firmly grounded for some states, but at this moment Louisiana is not really one of them. US DOE did unconstitutionally grant itself waiver powers to ignore the legally defined sanctions of NCLB in the form of ESEA waivers. These waivers were put in place by US DOE to supplant NCLB (No Child Left Behind) requirements. These were put in place without Congressional approval and Duncan has required the defacto adoption of Common Core (or a nationally recognized curriculum of which only Common Core qualifies) in exchange for relaxation of the NCLB requirements. The NCLB requirements were designed to be unattainable, requiring 100% proficiency of all students in all subgroups (Limited English, poor, disabled) by 2014. Some threats made by US DOE are that all federal funding would be withheld if the states don’t meet the impossible standards of NCLB, or the sanctions of NCLB (which can be financially crippling) and will be vigorously enforced. So states can choose to weather the NCLB sanctions which no states can avoid, or adopt Common Core and tie those tests to teacher retention policies and also adopt a bunch of other Reform friendly destructive crap.

By “waiving” the sanctions imposed by the NCLB law that Congress did authorize, Duncan removed the incentive and urgency for Congress to fix the problem built into NCLB that all states faced because NCLB was designed to be structurally impossible to achieve by anyone. When Congress chose to turn a blind eye to the constitutionally questionable ESEA waivers, what resulted was a ceding of all powers to set rules and guidelines for federal funding to the Executive branch (Arne Duncan), rather than the legislative branch of government.

This is why many informed opponents of Common Core consider it a federal mandate and takeover.

(When the mainstream media chooses to ignore this direct line of influence and control it feeds into the conspiracy theories and theorists. To tell you the truth, media that refuses to acknowledge this direct connection is really stupid (or thinks we are), willfully ignorant, lazy, or is actually a part of a conspiracy to spread Common Core propaganda.)

So what has resulted from the imposition of unattainable standards and the refusal of Congress to act to remedy the situation is a requirement that states adopt Common Core (nationally recognized standards of which there was only one by definition: Common Core State Standards), or else.

However Duncan’s interference did not end there. He also added this requirement to the billions of dollars allocated to RTTT (Race To The Top) grants. Louisiana would be in a much better position to make the case these standards were imposed upon them unconstitutionally if Louisiana rejected them (as Oklahoma has done) and was subsequently sanctioned by Arne Duncan (as has happened to Oklahoma). However because Louisiana’s state Board of Education (BESE) is endorsing them, and not stating they are doing so because of a concern about funding being yanked, Jindal’s case is weak. He could make it stronger by kicking his own appointees and replacing them with anti-Common Core appointees, and then perhaps working out an “understanding” with the swing vote BESE member, Walter Lee, who is facing multiple indictments for various financial improprieties. I can see an easy win there, and then a strong federal case to be made when Duncan slams some sanctions down on us.

The basis of the case for arguing the RTTT grants are unconstitutional will be tied to the determination of whether the Federal government can define national standards and curriculum, or whether those are sovereign rights left to the states. Some states that received very large grants in the first or second round of RTT (during one of the greatest financial downturns in our nation since the Great Depression might have a case they applied for and agreed to these grants under financial duress.) However the 17 million dollars Jindal complains about in his federal lawsuit is chump change compared to the more than 800 million dollars Louisiana receives from LDOE for agreeing to the waiver conditions set in conjunction with Arne Duncan. The ESEA waiver process is where Arne’s chokehold over education comes from. 17 million dollars is what we find in our couches every year trying to fill the billion dollars shortfalls Jindal “balances” our budgets with every year, but it is an issue for some states that won significantly more than 17 million dollars..

Even so, a Federal lawsuit is not the short-term answer and not one Jindal can follow-through on. Jindal’s term is up in a little more than a year and he can’t run for a third term (thank the Lord). Not one candidate for Governor in the 2015 gubernatorial race supports eliminating Common Core. The front-runner and most well-funded (and diapered) candidate, David Vitter, has changed his position from staunchly opposed to rabidly in favor of Common Core. (I’m assuming he changed positions after he found out who had all the money.) That means this lawsuit will not amount to anything except more money for one of Jindal’s best campaign donors (Jimmy Faircloth) more headlines for him, and more wasted money and hopes for Louisiana taxpayers and parents.

The BP oil spill happened in 2010. We know who was responsible and BP has acknowledged their responsibility. We know who was damaged. That tragedy happened at end of Bobby Jindal’s first term; 4 years ago, but we still do not have a final settlement for the State or lawsuit brought to trial for Louisiana. What are the chances this lawsuit concerning our very US Constitution will have any meaningful results in the next year?

Will we wait 4 years for this to be resolved? How many Louisiana Governors will be have to go through before a settlement is reached?

That is what Common Core supporters (whom I must now re-include Bobby Jindal as) want. They want a full generation of our children to experiment on to see if Common Core works (even though the early results show abysmal failure.) But don’t worry, parents. I’m sure the next big education plan will be right around the corner for your kids’ kids. Maybe they will be more successful at taming the Educational Industrial Complex than we were?

Oops, John White did it again. (He lost our children.)

Oops, John White did it again.  (He lost our children.)

John White is trying very hard to keep data from the general public and researchers. He even passed a number of edicts when he first came to DOE that forbade LDE staff from communicating with school districts via any method other than a vetted weekly or bi-weekly newsletter. I’ve been told by numerous data coordinators that many of them have no ideas when deadlines are coming, when changes made to the system, when they have problems with their data, or even when webinars are scheduled.

Another one of these commandments was that no data of any sort could be released by anyone other than his public relations officials, and those releases were usually of the PR kind, short on facts, context and details and big on puffery. We were actually told in person (so there would be no e-mail record) that we would not be providing data to hostile groups, and that anyone who requested data (even data already available on our website) must be sent to Public Relations, so they could put the requestor in the proper context and mindset to understand the data. (People I sent to PR told me later they were usually pointed to different data than what they were requesting or told the data did not exist – even though is almost always did.)

DOE used to publish more than 10 years of enrollment data, which is used by demographers for budget projections, charities and non-profits for resource allocations, other state agencies for various state and federal reporting needs and programs, but DOE has decided to use FERPA to start concealing as much detailed data as they can. However if you are persistent and knowledgeable enough you can still piece together quite a bit of data from trolling through various publications within and outside of DOE. These figures all come from internal DOE publications, but they show what happens when an organization blinds itself to spite its face and revels in positive numbers without ever questioning their authenticity. I’d like to claim that John White knowingly is concealing the truth here, but he’s not bright enough to figure this out and lacks an inquisitive mind.  Unfortunately the people he brings in from other states are political science majors, not mathematicians and not interested in anything but perpetuating a myth that the various Reforms being undertaken by DOE are working. In regards to graduate and dropout rates – these reforms actually seem to be working in reverse (but you wouldn’t know it form the data DOE lets you see.)

(Note: One of the ways John White is falsely convincing you is by design. JW is rigging SPS scores for high schools, which I will cover later, but I was already working on this piece when that analysis data rolled in.)

To the untrained eye this chart might just look like a bunch of random unrelated numbers. Allow me to tease some interesting bits out.

According to DOE, the dropout event rate has been drastically decreasing over the past 5 years, most noticeably in the last few. If this were accurate, when you have fewer students dropping out, you would expect more students to graduate (or get a GED or Certificate of Achievement which are the only terminal credentials students can get to prevent becoming a dropout.) Please refer to the next two charts (provided by LDE) illustrating this dramatic decline in dropout rate and count.

Very impressive, no? According to my calculations, the average number of students dropping out prior the 2005-2006 (Katrina year and pre-reforms and takeovers) was 17,683 students dropping out each year (over a span of 5 years.) Dropout percentages get factored into School Performance Scores (SPS). The lower your dropout rate, the higher your score. The higher your score the less likely you are to be in Academically Unacceptable Status (AUS). Only schools in AUS are eligible for takeover. You might say there would be a certain motivation for tinkering with scores a bit, no?

But let us see if the rest of this trend plays out as you would expect. If fewer students are dropping out, you would expect your GED’s, Diplomas and Certificate’s of Achievement (COAs for SPED students) would increase to compensate for that fact. In fact, since students drop out in grades 7-12, you would expect a decrease in this dropouts (or exiting schools) to have a cumulative exponential effect on counts of completers. (Imagine an hourglass open at the top.  If dropouts are the sand that blows out, the less sand blowing out, the more sand that should make it to the bottom.) What we see below is the percentages of GEDs and COAs barely budging (maybe by a percent for both of them) while dropout percentage has decreased by almost 4%.

That may not seem like a lot of difference, but consider students should only be leaving this calculation around 12th grade, when they finish, if they are not dropping out in grades 7-12. Those numbers should actually be increasing at a much faster rate than dropout numbers are decreasing 5 years into this trend – assuming they were actually staying in school.

But there is one number left that could make up for this discrepancy – graduates.

Now look at this my green chart again. Over a period when our dropouts decreased by a net 22,239 more (than the average 5 years before) our graduates remained relatively level. The average annual increase is in graduates over this time is about -10 (negative 10 folks).

Where did those twenty two thousand students go? In 5 years you would have expected most of those students to have started graduating and adding significantly to the grad total. In fact, over this same time student enrollment has increased by an average of around 5500, year over year. However during this same time, our cumulative enrollment (all students who set foot in any school in a given year has actually declined!

If those students were actually staying in school, while out overall enrollment was increasing, our enrollment in grades 7-12 would have to be increasing, but it’s not!

In fact the opposite appears to be happening. You will notice that we are graduating more students once they reach grade 12, which is improving out cohort numbers, but our overall 12th grade enrollment hasn’t changed appreciably since 2006 and in several years it declined by almost 5%. If you look at our grads as a percentage of our total enrollment, you will notice that the percent of students actually graduating is actually decreasing every year!

If our cohort graduation rate was actually improving like LDE is claiming, if our dropouts were actually decreasing by the 40-50% LDE is claiming on a nifty powerpoint presentation i saw on their site, these trends would be very large, in all the opposite directions!

Based on these numbers I’d estimate we lost an additional 25 to 45 thousand students to dropouts over the past 5 years. I think I know where they’ve gone, but I’d need access to much more than this condensed and sanitized data to show that. Of course this data is a little older than I’d like, but LDE doesn’t want to release any more recent data. If my calculations are correct, it makes me wonder if this shell game is about to collapse on the weight of its own BS.

Until we remove John White, he will continue lying to us and telling us to just “Believe.” I think BESE would like to know this type of info, even if most of BESEwere given their seats by Bobby Jindal’s largesse, I’d like to think most of them owe allegiance to Louisiana and Louisiana school children first, before Bobby, or party.

However, we’ve all seen what Bobby Jindal does to people who don’t parrot the party line. John White was given this job because of his blind allegiance to Bobby. I didn’t always agree with Pastorek, and he had his share of faults, but at least he was a man of principal, integrity, and cared about our children. John White only cares about his career and portraying a positive image to back Jindal’s 2016 election run.

Members of BESE:
Jindal and White will be gone in a few years. They will be done with this State, but you will be left behind to take the blame for the damage they have done. They can hire PR folks to point the finger back at you when this scheme fails and the true plight of Louisiana’s children comes to light.


A listing of some of LDOE’s dirty little secrets

A listing of some of LDOE’s dirty little secrets
Dirty Secrets or White Lies?


St James Science and Math Academy is part of both Lutcher and St James High Schools

St James Science and Match Academy is a shadow school split between two other high schools.  This post includes Maps, addresses, info from website and the summary of why LDOE is probably letting some schools get away with this while preventing the larger “markets” such as Jefferson, EBR and Caddo from doing this. Orleans would have been treated likewise if it hadn’t already been wiped out.  Orleans served as the gateway from Hades, letting all the charter school demons and devils into the state in the first place.

Iberville: MSA West + White Castle = White Castle

MSA West and White Castle are the same school according to the admin folks at Iberville.   Their website had them operating as an independent site since 2008. White Castle would have already been taken over if not for this charade, so to that extent they were successful.

Iberville: MSA Eest + East Iberville = East Iberville

MSA East is the exact same school housed entirely within East Iberville (like a program in Ruston) according to Iberville. However I have the pictures of the school grounds and directions to and from the two separate campuses. (Google maps has the addresses a little messed up, but I found the correct schools by scanning the area.)  This school has also been operating since 2008 according to their own website. East Iberville would also have been taken over by now if left on its own.

I think it’s worth noting that parents of students as East Iberville and White Castle seem confused as to why the test scores are going up, but the schools seem to be terrible.  One parent reported that a teacher told her son he didn’t need to study because he was smart and could get by.  I trolled a few opinion sites related to White Castle and East Iberville so it was interesting reading.  None of the parents posting on the school review sites seemed aware that these magnets were being merged with the schools their kids were attending.

Some of my original expose’ work on MSA East and West.

This post includes charts from LDOE, excerpts from Iberville’s website, as well as some background on what happened at LDOE when i first discovered these schools and how the issue was swept under the rug (again.)  Apparently this is a recurring issue.

Excerpted definition of a shadow school (haven’t finished my log of issues to address yet)

I started a log of various education issues that need a champion in our state.  I haven’t had a chance to document them all, but everyone has to start somewhere.  I have sketched out the topics and started an entry for the shadow school situation.

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

Answer to – why create shadow schools?

Why indeed?  Once word of how this works gets out all our school districts will realize they only need to have one school, and all the current sites can be closed and relisted as programs underneath the single district “school.”  That will prevent the state from taking them over and giving them to charter operators that don’t take care of the properties or the students in their care.

Shadow Schools introduced – excuses DOE would make on their behalf

I bet they might even make an argument that what Iberville is doing doesn’t hurt anyone so why not let them do it?  Please ask them how much crack they have been smoking if they make that argument.


John White is afraid to release this data because then he would be forced to deal with it. He’s hiding this to protect allies in the northern part of the state. Just ask him for it. I’ve prepared a file to do the asking. I think everyone should send it.  Corporal punishment Data Request Spreadsheet all ready to go!

John White wants schools to beat children, especially the disabled ones.  He wouldn’t have to do it if those deaf kids would just listen the first time.

Virtual Schools Truancy Fiasco

Some interesting decisions from everyone’s favorite LDOE group, Parental Options.  This describes how LDOE knows kids are not logging in and producing any work but won’t let the virtual charters drop them.  Take our money please!  Kids can get a free computer and internet connection to surf the internet and never go to school again.  Well, it’s not exactly free.  It will cost taxpayers about 10-15 k  year to pay 90+% of MFP amount, plus the costs of educating or incarcerating these uneducated kids once LDOE finally allows them to drop out and they have no employment options.

Accountability; and the Lack thereof due to political meddling

Loaded with great ideas like using a Special Education test to test “voucher” students to show how well they do and labeling failed/taken over schools as “T” (rather than a nifty letter grade) and perpetually assigning them to new charter operators until one of them succeeds – without ever revealing how poorly they are doing.  This post also describes lying about school sizes so evade reporting responsibilities, manipulating data and terms to circumvent the ESEA/NCLB waiver.

It’s not how well you do, but who you know that leads to real school improvement, at least as far as SPS scores and letter grades are concerned.  Why else do you think they hide the formula that calculates these scores and all the special “adjustments” they make behind the scenes.  If you are a favored LEA, meaning you kiss John White’s. . . well lets just say you can get a “special adjustment” if you know how and who to ask.

The little 504 secret LDOE doesn’t want to address

Namely, that we have lots of data on 504 kids.  From that data we know that a number of districts shirk their responsibilities under section 504 of the American’s with Disabilities Act.  That law’s only been around since 1973 so I’m sure they will get around to enforcing or addressing the inequities sooner or later.  Since we still don’t see any reports on this data I’d wager it will be much, much later.

Our Persistently Dangerous School definition is a joke

 As part of the NCLB act states were supposed to develop a definition of a “persistently dangerous school.”  Students enrolled in such schools are eligible to transferred out upon request.  Many of our alternative schools are very very dangerous by most accounts and statistics.  This definition was crafted so no schools can every meet the definition.  There is no profit to be made in identifying dangerous schools, and there are additional regulatory responsibilities for LDOE to take on in regards to monitoring these schools – so me made sure there will never be any such schools defined.  We almost had a few one year, so the definition was changed retroactively.  I wonder if John White would consider this an adult issue or a children’s issue?

Dropout Number Farce

Louisiana has been reporting a decrease in dropouts year over year, but only because they have decreased their auditing to stop districts from exiting students to undocumented non-dropout reasons like transfers to non-publics or out-of-state.  Our population has been increasing and very little increase in grads, while half as many dropouts year over year is not possible.  LDOE knows this, but doesn’t want to spoil a good thing.  Additionally LDOE adopted a loophole in the dropout definition, over my protestations, to allow student attending adult education centers to be excluded from dropout calculations while they are attending.  LDOE does not verify this is occurring, leaving this up the school districts to report.  Districts are supposed to report when these kids stop attending adult education centers, but they don’t.  I estimated this would lead to about 5000 unreported/accounted for dropouts every year.  Based on the stats I’ve, I may have underestimated that total by quite a bit.

SSN’s cannot be required.  If everyone stops providing them this could cause the Value Added system to collapse

This is something local superintendents and parents can do to fight back.  Value Added is a steaming pile of statistical junk.  It can reveal trends and tendencies when looking at large sample sizes and quantities of data.   Whomever came up with the idea of using VAM to evaluate teachers should have been strangled or at least had their statistical credentials revoked.  Corporations are pushing for this so they can take over school systems and Republicans are pushing this so they can destroy teachers unions.  Value Added does not help children, and actually hurts them by removing and demoralizing really good teachers.

Value Added (what they are using to evaluate teachers) is massively flawed

Value Added is junk math and was only barely suitable for generalizing teaching programs on average, not individual teachers.  It leaves out many variables and mostly punishes good and great teachers along with some bad ones.  It is erratic and unreliable.  It is designed to decimate public schools, so charters can come in and fill the void and so states can ignore the single greatest indicator of student performance – poverty.  This will also lead to a drastic teacher shortage and force school districts to increase class sizes to make use of the available teachers, or to resort to virtual schools which have virtually no limit on class sizes, or profits for their owners.

Anti-Bullying Failures

John White embraced the agenda of Gene Mills to exclude bullying reason codes.  Act 861 removes any obligation for charter schools to report or address bullying.  Even before this legislation passed Erin Bendilly, head of Parental Options and support staff and an early Jindal appointee, repeatedly told the charter schools they did not have to report or comply with the law – over the advice of our chief legal counsel.  I guess she gets her wish, and meanwhile children die at charter schools from bullying and John White makes more false claims about how he cares about children.

What LDOE knows of the charter practices for excluding less desirable students from charter schools

You’d think LDOE would try to address some of these things, but by ignoring them they make it easier to make a case that public schools are failing and charter schools are succeeding – even if the data actually hasn’t backed that assertion up to date.  Instead much of the research they had me do confirmed these accusations and suspicions, but was kept hushed up and confidential while they worked to settle the lawsuits.  Why taxpayers should have to foot that bill rather than the charters who are discriminating against students with disabilities is a good question.  Ask Jindal in a few years when he returns to our state for a hurricane or when Bayou Corne finally blows up.  Once they get a public school entirely composed of disabled and 504 students they may finally have the proof they need that public schools do worse than charter schools.

I have more, but this seems like a good start for anyone interested in how messed up public education is with John White at the helm of LDOE and Jindal in charge of BESE.

Just How Many Murders Does it Take in Louisiana to Be Classified a “Persistently Dangerous School?”

Just How Many Murders Does it Take in Louisiana to Be Classified a “Persistently Dangerous School?”

This is actually a trick question.  According to the Unsafe Schools section 343 of Bulletin  741, a school can have 100% of its student body expelled for  murdering each other and the school will not be classified as dangerous, let alone persistently dangerous.

§343.      Unsafe Schools

[. . .

B.    Students attending a school that has been identified as a persistently dangerous school shall be afforded the opportunity to transfer to different school.

1.     Students attending an elementary, middle, or high school that has been identified as persistently dangerous shall be given the option to transfer to a public school within the school district in which the student’s current school is located, which offers instruction at the students’ grade level and which is not persistently dangerous, if there is such a school within that school district.

2.     A student who is enrolled in an alternative school or a special school which has been identified as persistently dangerous shall be given the option to transfer to another such public school within the school district in which the student’s school is located, which offers instruction at the student’s grade-level, for which the student meets the admission requirements and which is not persistently dangerous, if there is such a school within that school district.

. . .

5.     Schools must meet two of the following criteria for two consecutive school years to be identified as persistently dangerous. For purposes of these criteria, enrolled student body means the year-end cumulative student enrollment count, and firearm means a firearm as defined by the federal Gun-Free Schools Act.

a.     One percent or more of the enrolled student body is expelled for possession of a firearm on school property, on a school bus, or for actual possession of a firearm at a school-sponsored event.

b.     Four percent or more of the enrolled student body has been expelled for a crime of violence as defined by R.S. 14:2 occurring on school property, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored event.

c.     Six percent or more of the enrolled student body has been expelled pursuant to R.S. 17:416 for the following types of misconduct in the aggregate occurring on school property, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored event:

i.       immoral or vicious practices;

ii.       conduct or habits injurious to associates;

iii.       possession of or use of any controlled dangerous substance, in any form, governed by the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law;

iv.       possession of or use of any alcoholic beverage;

v.       cutting, defacing or injuring any part of a school building, any property belonging to the buildings or any school buses owned by, contracted to or jointly owned by any city or parish school board;

vi.       possession of knives or other implements which can be used as weapons, the careless use of which might inflict harm or injury;

vii.       throwing missiles liable to injure others; or

viii.       instigating or participating in fights.

6.     An LEA with one or more schools meeting two of these three criteria during one school year shall identify the problem, submit a corrective action plan to the DOE for approval and implement the corrective action. A school system should generally develop a corrective action plan within 20 school days from the time it is notified of the need for the corrective action plan.

. . .]

This definition was adopted so LDOE would not have to monitor or address dangerous or persistently dangerous schools and so no schools would be able to afford students a chance to transfer to another school because no schools could be classified this way!  The potential for this occurring was already noted by this web resource, National School Safety and Security Services.  This is exactly what happened in Louisiana.  When it was discovered that our definition actually flagged a few schools as dangerous it was tweaked, and by the looks of the latest definition. tweaked again.  (We had a few schools than failed one of the two measures the last year I performed this calculation.  FYI, I was the one at LDOE solely responsible for creating this report before I left.)

Potential ways in which NCLB’s “Persistently Dangerous School” component could create less safe schools: (From NSS&SS)

  1. States create unattainable definition
  2. States create unrealistic definition
  3. Eventual legal challenge to differing definitions across various states
  4. Underreporting/non-reporting of school crime
  5. Schools unable to demonstrate documented need for safety funding due to underreporting
  6. Transfer of funds from safety to academics within districts to meet academic standards of NCLB
  7. “Tunnel vision” focus on academics takes priority focus and funding away from safety
  8. Increased crime, violence, discipline problems, and liability

For starters . . because murders (and rapes and other horrible things) have to apply to 4% of the student population to fail one of the criteria, and according to this changed definition they do not get counted in the other two criteria, every single person in a school could be a murderer (assuming that was possible, I suppose if they murdered non-students?) and not fail either of the other two criteria. . . . presuming they didn’t use a gun or knife.  However because the current system only accepts one primary reason code for a disciplinary action, murder would trump any other reason code. . . you would think.  I think it’s also worth noting that for a school to meeting the 4% criteria (which is just one of the two) a school of 800 students would have to have 32 or more students expelled two consecutive years for committing murders.  I’m not sure any school on earth (except maybe a gladiator school in ancient Sparta) would ever come close to that number. . .  and that’s just one of the 2 criteria Louisiana has self-defined for identifying a “persistently dangerous” school.  Neat huh?  I’m sure I feel safer knowing this. . .  but I don’t think I’ll share this with my kids. . . just make sure they pack their body armor.

Thanks for Reforming our definitions, John White!






Louisiana’s Lacking Accountability System

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

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

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

Lack of Transparency

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

Lack of Independence

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

Lack Consequences for Incomplete Data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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