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

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

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

So where am I going with this do you ask?

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

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

That’ll fix it!

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

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

Allow me to show you some examples.

Charter Schools

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

Larvae devouring host caterpillar

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

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

Common Core

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Closing “Failing” Schools

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

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

They know the truth, and they fear it.

Poverty matters

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

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

The reality is much different.

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

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

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

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

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

I ask that you help me do this.

I will do the same.

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

East Baton Rouge Parish Teachers are under siege and need our help

East Baton Rouge Parish Teachers are under siege and need our help


For the past month I’ve been interviewing and receiving testimonials from East Baton Rouge Teachers in most of the area’s non-magnet high schools. This investigation started as a conversation with a teacher (who had recently become a follower.) This teacher explained no one speaks for them, no one sees their stories.  They relayed teachers in EBR are terrified to speak out about the travesties and indignities being heaped upon them in the name of “improving outcomes.” These outcomes are determined by some easily manipulated statistics that comprise School Performance (SPS) scores. I listened and I was honestly shocked and infuriated by what I heard.

Our teachers are under siege, from all quarters, and only a few on the breaking edge (and perhaps breaking point) are able to speak out – even anonymously.

As part of my investigation I spoke to and corresponded with numerous teachers from many different schools, teaching a wide variety of subjects. The teachers I spoke to have diverse experience levels , comprise both genders, and the stories all sound sadly similar. The basic story goes like this:

In the past few years EBR’s discipline policies and promotion policies have been weakened substantially. This is a result of  two absurd policies coming from Superintendent Bernard Taylor’s office.

I phoned the EBR central office to speak to someone in charge of discipline hearings for EBR. (Taylor has never returned any of my calls or e-mails to date (even on positive stories I’ve tried to pitch to him) so I didn’t bother with trying to get a response from him.) I introduced myself as a concerned parent and education blogger and I was assured the director over discipline hearings would be calling me back. That was 10 days ago, so I’m pretty sure I will be getting no call or explanation.

I also reached out and contacted the EBR school board to discuss this matter. I do not have any statements on record, but those I talked to seemed surprised and outraged by what I was describing in the school system. Let me just say, I was surprised by what was described to me as well, but not in a good way.

The first misguided policy in play seems to be one where only murderers, kids who bring explosives, discharge guns or bring illegal drugs to school can be expelled.  All other violations, even those that result in hospitalization of the victims, must be tolerated, and tolerated repeatedly.

The second destructive policy EBR has implemented is that children have no responsibility for making their grades or passing their classes. Teachers must do everything they can push, pull or drag kids to pass their classes. In practical terms this means tests are given over and over until a student “passes” and “extra credit” must be created and awarded to whatever extent is possible to ensure students pass their classes.

As a result of the first policy it appears violent thugs run many of our high schools, free to beat, steal, and threaten the lives of any who oppose them. Student’s that assault teachers multiple times do not get expelled, they get returned to the same teacher’s classrooms. Students who threaten to kill their teachers and classmates are sometimes just given a warning and sent right back to class.

Here are some recent stories that have appeared in our newspapers about our students and their assaults on each other of our teachers in the past month. This is by no means a complete list, just a representative one that I find disappointing no reporters in any of our local mainstream media are covering:

March 2

Police: Student said loaded pistol was for protection

Authorities with the multiagency School Drug Task Force on Friday arrested a ninth-grade McKinley High School
student accused of taking a loaded handgun to school.

February 25th

BATON ROUGE – Authorities arrested a 17-year-old Baton Rouge student after school officials said she repeatedly kicked a teacher who tried to break up a fight.

Deputies arrested Raven Davis after the fight at Tara High School
Tuesday and booked her into the parish jail on charges of battery and disturbing the peace.

February 22

  • Sisters accused of disrupting school

    • Two sisters were arrested Thursday afternoon on accusations they showed up to McKinley High School
      and tried to back up a younger sister allegedly involved in a fight earlier in the day.
    • The school was put on lockdown during the ordeal.
  • Teen shot in robbery Thursday in Gardere (outside of school)

    • A planned robbery disguised as a drug deal didn’t go as scheduled Thursday night in the Gardere area.
    • One of the teenagers involved in the planned robbery, a 14-year-old boy, was shot and seriously injured, while an 18-year-old was arrested on accusations he had the gun that another person used to shoot the boy, an affidavit of probable cause says.
  • Students accused of threatening educators

    • East Baton Rouge Parish school system employees contacted authorities in at least two cases this week in which students threatened educators, leading to the arrest of two 17-year-old students.
    • Dominic Demontay Powell, 17, 9870 Scotland Ave., was booked into Parish Prison on Friday accused of shoving a Scotlandville High School administrator while being questioned about suspected marijuana use, an affidavit of probable cause says.Inside the school official’s office at the high school, the administrator told Powell to empty his pockets. Powell took out a cigarette, a lighter and some money, the affidavit says. When the administrator moved to grab the money, Powell shoved him and said, “Don’t touch my money,” the affidavit says.
    • In a second incident on Friday, Demarcus Devonte Kimble, 17, 5656 Autumn Blossom Ave., is accused of walking into a teacher’s lounge at Belaire High School and cursing at a teacher, an affidavit of probable cause says. When told by the teacher to leave the room, Kimble is accused of threatening the teacher, saying he would get someone to come to school and hurt her, the affidavit says. Powell was booked into Parish Prison on a count of assault on a school teacher.

I have received numerous tips from sources about violence in schools that is not making its way into our local media at all:

February 22 (report from source)

“Good…by the way, three Brm [Broadmoor High school] students arrested and recommended for expulsion for bring BB guns to school this week. On-campus cop caught them. No news coverage. School system wants it BURIED”

February 19th (report from source)

. . .at Belaire HS
early this year a student was beating the shit out of a teacher while students watched, some cheered. A coach at nearby La Belaire Elementary happened to be on campus and saved the teacher…all reliable sources…Brdmr [Broadmoor High School] student caught with drugs and knife on bus today. We’ll see how school system reacts.

February 18th (report from source)

Big fight after Scotlandville [HS] basketball game last night at Brdmr. [Broadmoor HS] involving about one dozen boys, two expelled from earlier in the year…Someone was seriously injured. Investigation continues. Keep you posted.

I have received numerous e-mails, conducted interviews, received letters describing what teachers are seeing and feeling in our area schools.  Here are a few for you to review. (Note: Many more have come in since I originally published this story.)

February 7th

Letter from a teacher

One additional interesting note this week. One of our new, young teachers was shocked when a junior student refused to work and told her in front of the class she would not fail him no matter how low his grade was (36%). “You can’t fail me,” he assured her. “You’ll get in trouble. Not me. I’ll pass.” He then laughed at her. She assured him he would fail, but he refused to believe it. One hour later we were reminded in a meeting with our so-called instructional specialist (another non-teaching, out-of-state joke) that we needed to allow students to make up all work or retake tests regardless of any and all circumstances. Later in the same day, one of my sophomores asked me it were true teachers got into trouble if they had too many students with grades of D or F. I lied to cover my ass and sell the bluff, the only protection I have. Which is sad. It is becoming increasingly clear students are aware of how weak and vulnerable teachers really are. This is a really bad sign. Life before Bernard Taylor, Orlando Ramos [Associate Superintendent of EBR schools] and Michael Haggen [Deputy Superintendent of Innovation and Reform for EBR] would have NEVER allowed this to happen. It would not even be allowed to give birth! So many teachers are plotting their retirement/exit it is shocking.

February 6th

Letter from a teacher

Yesterday, a teacher tossed a student into the hallway because he was a constant disruption. This student regularly causes grief to all teachers and we cannot expel him. While in the hallway, he bangs on the wooden door with his fists and screams at her to let him back in class. She refuses as a male instructor walks up, as his next door class was being disturbed, and twice asks the student to calm down. He curses the teacher and tells him to mind his own business. The male prods him away from the door and the student lands a swinging elbow on the teacher’s chest. He was taken to the office, but the school system will not allow anything to be done. The student repeated the exact same behavior today, but the male teacher did not respond to calm the situation. Why get involved? …Prior to Christmas, three teachers in one day had their body, life or property threatened. One student threatened “to fucking kill” a teacher for making him leave a class. Another teacher broke up a fight in class and broke a finger doing it. Another teacher was told his parents and brothers were going to “find you, break the windows in your house and fuck you up!” In all three incidents, students were either recommended for suspension or expulsion. The school system returned them all to school. No communication with or apologies to teachers were offered. In one of those cases, a student taunted his teacher with, “told y’all you can’t do shit to us no more”….This week a teacher tried to discipline a student disturbing class, he refused to leave class when asked and then blurted out, “I’m gonna bring a gun to school and kill all you mutha fuckers”. He went to the office and dropped out before “discipline” (joke) could reach him…NOTE: DO NOT MENTION ME OR THE SCHOOL…I’LL KEEP INFO COMING. THESE INCIDENTS ARE A RESULT OF DR. MICHAEL HAGGEN’S [Deputy Superintendent of Innovation and Reform] EDICT THAT ALL STUDENTS SHOULD BE IN SCHOOL REGARDLESS.

An interview with another teacher:

I have been with EBR for 27 years and taught in [redacted] for 6.5 yrs before coming here because a spouse was moved here by [redacted]

I LOVE what I do and most days it is rewarding and fulfilling.  Lately, not so much.

I really do not know what to tell you.  Ask me some specific questions.

What grades and subjects do you teach
I am an elective teacher in the [redacted]

Are student discipline matters handled fairly in your opinion?

Most of the time they are handled at the school level.  It’s when serious matters go to the school board that there is some strange stuff happening.  We had a boy that was starting fires in the restroom at my school.  He was caught and expelled.  Until the school board hearing process happened and he was sent right back to us.

Do you feel more safe or less safe at school around students and what has changed, if anything?

I do not feel as safe as I used to.  A kid once made a fake bomb out of cell phone and warned all the kids that at a certain time it would go off and not to be near my desk.  This was handled and the kid was expelled.  he did try to get into prom and a seven foot police officer escorted him off the property.

Is Common Core an issue?

It is an issue in that the fun and creativity of planning lessons and activities has been sucked right out of teaching.  In my elective class I am required to teach reading and writing skills THEIR way.  I am not trained to do this.  Even the PE teachers MUST do it!

Do teachers bear more of the burden in ensuring kids make the grades and pass than students because of policies and counseling directed to ensure no students fail subjects or have you seen no difference lately in how your administrators monitor the grades you assign your students

KIDS MUST PASS!!!!!  Tons of paperwork goes with this and a core teacher could explain it better than me.

Have you been a victim of violence or verbal death threats from students that you feel were not addressed seriously enough or have you seen/witnessed other teachers suffer physical or psychological abuse from students and if so, is this a more recent escalation?

See above.  I do know of other teachers that had threats made to them and nothing was done to the student.  The offenders remained in the same class with the same teacher.

How is that for starters?  I have follow ups depending on your answers

I hope some of this helps.  I am NOT a writer.

Letter to me from a retired EBR teacher who retired early to escape the abuse, Taylor and the reformers

After 25 years of service I walked away from the public school system in Baton Rouge fed up with being treated like a second class citizen. I had no interest in writing this until I saw that WBRZ news clip about Taylor’s bullying and I figured I might as well do this. I am retired. They cannot hurt me now.

This once was a noble profession of motivated teachers. Now I see us (them)as down-trodden. Their morale destroyed by students who can seemingly do as they please with little to no consequence. Last year I was slapped by a female high schooler and called a “bitch” after I told her to leave my class because she was disrupting it. This girl had done this before to me and other teachers but nothing was ever done. This time was no different either. She returned to my class the next day with a warning and a smirk on her face. The school administration said the school system wanted to modify her behavior and give her more chances. I was livid. I wanted to walk out of the door and never return. That was the day I decided to consider retirement.

Teachers once could control what they taught, how they taught it and when. Our testing was good enough. Our decisions were valued. Since Taylor and his ilk have taken charge of the school system we teachers are mere robots. We have no control of our professional lives. I just could not take it anymore.

I am only in my mid-50s and planned to teach for 30 years, but I knew I would probably have a heart attack, get beaten up by a 16 year old trying to break up a fight, or have my self-esteem chewed up by a system of overpaid jackasses who clearly have no idea what the teaching climate is like in a public school system. Sometimes I miss teaching, but I also understand to go back means dealing with this “reform” and the corruption behind it.

Since leaving, my blood pressure has dropped and I sleep better.

Hope this helps

Letter to me from another EBR teacher

I was talking with a group of students in my class last year when suddenly one of the girls started crying and ran out of the room!! When I looked to see what happened a young man had gone behind my back while my back was turned and switched the video we were watching to a fight on YouTube. I realized the girl who ran out of the room was getting beat up on the screen. She was humiliated.

I ran to the door and yelled for the girl to come back. At the same time I told the young man (who was 16 years old and 6’2″ and about 175 lbs) to “get out of my room and go to the office.” He responded by telling me we would kill me. As he moved out in to the hall he started screaming at me, “I want to kill your fucking ass!”

Two other teachers heard the commotion and came into the hall. As one of them escorted the student to the office, he repeatedly turned back and screamed.,” I will hunt you down and kill you!”

This student was given a five day suspension and sent right back to our school. He has been in and out of jail on a least one occasion this school year, and gives me an evil look every time I see him on campus. He should have faced legal repercussions. Instead he was given a slap on the wrist and sent out to terrorize others.

East Baton Rouge Parish public school teachers are being bullied by students and the school system on a scale most people would only think occurred in far-fetched fictional films. I’ve spoken with many more teachers than the one’s directly quoted here. I heard stories of many teachers ending up in emergency rooms and hospitals with very severe injuries, and the students involved are not expelled, simply sent back to the same schools and classes. I’ve had these stories multiply corroborated. EBR teachers don’t know who to complain to, dislike their thankless jobs more each day, and many are looking for an exit from a school system that does not support them in these matters.

As you can see from some of the letters I’ve reproduced here teachers are fleeing the profession to escape the violence and absurdity of Common Core, the reform movement, the lack of support, and the dramatic shift of responsibility from students to teachers for completion of student work and graduation. This is what happens when non-educator statisticians and number crunchers get put in charge.  (Note: I used to be one working at LDOE.) They worry more about raw numbers like improving graduation rates that John White, the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education has incorporated into SPS scores. These scores determine which schools and school districts get taken over by the state. To improve these scores EBR has taken the absurd stance that students can only be expelled for guns and illegal drugs.

The terrorizing of teachers is gut-wrenching to hear, but even worse is the underlying terrorizing and bullying of our students. Students are being beaten outside of school, having these fights recorded, and then played back on school grounds. Students are killing each other over things that happen at basketball games. Students are setting fires in schools, creating bombs and threatening classmates, and setting up drug deals and robberies and then shooting each other outside of school.

On February 12th the head of APEL, Keith Courville was interviewed by Baton Rouge’s WBRZ-TV, where not one invited teacher met with him for an on-air interview to discuss their abuse by EBR public school superintendent Bernard Taylor. The teachers were upset enough to complain to APEL, but as one teacher told me, “not ready to commit career suicide over the matter.” The irony in that teacher’s remark was that Taylor was exposed by WBRZ phoning teachers and threatening their jobs if they did not keep quiet regarding his so-called reform tactics. However, that does not make teachers any safer from Taylor, his deputy superintendents, or the teenage students that  terrorize teachers daily and are rarely punished.

Teachers at six Baton Rouge public high schools (Broadmoor, Belaire, Scotlandville, Tara, McKinley and Woodlawn) have stories of abuse by students and the school system that are common and disturbing. just as was in the case of the WBRZ story, not one was willing to be quoted directly out of fear of Taylor. The abuses ranged from students stealing from them, slapping their faces, pushing them down, beating them unconscious, threatening to destroy their property, cursing them in their classrooms, and multiple cases of teachers being threatened with death. None of these cases resulted in expulsions or permanent removals from the schools or teachers classrooms.

Misguided school reform might have driven Superintendent Taylor to these dangerous and deluded policies, but we concerned citizens and parents must never allow our public schools to become worse than the charter schools, voucher schools, virtual schools and Recovery School District we are trying to fight back against or we have already lost.

When we allow our students to be tormented by hoodlums because we fear our system will be taken over by the state if we kick them out, we have already lost the fight.

When we allow our standards and education to be watered down so everyone can graduate without even trying, just to improve our graduation rate we are not doing our children any favors, we are ruining them for the rest of their lives and we are validating everything the reformers say about how inferior our public schools are.

When we allow our teachers to be beaten and abused, we are guaranteeing they will flee for their health and lives, faster than Common Core and wildly inaccurate teacher evaluations and VAM scores would have accomplished on their own.

When we allow students to threaten their teachers with death on a routine basis, and slap them across the face without facing any repercussions for their assaults we are abusing all our children as well as our teachers. We are teaching our kids that this behavior is ok, which is exactly the wrong lesson.

I am not a John White style reformer. I am a reformer of the reformers. I know not everything our kids learn in school is attributable to a test score and our kids will by no means be college, career, or life ready witnessing and conducting themselves as these teachers are reporting our school system is permitting and enabling.

An investigation needs to be launched over these ridiculous and harmful policies and changes need to be made. I believe Superintendent Taylor is directly responsible for these outrageous situations and policies. I gave Taylor’s cronies a chance to explain themselves and they declined. Now it’s time for us take back our school system from someone who is intent on destroying our schools, destroying our teachers and destroying our students.

Just as many teachers ended their letters to me with “I hope this helps.” I have the same wish. I don’t see anyone else speaking up for these teachers and our students, but I hope this helps.

(edited for grammar and typos on 3/13/14)

An Ironic, Delusional, and Libelous attack against me by New Orleans Reform advocate, and latest fanclub inductee, Dawn Ruth

An Ironic, Delusional, and Libelous attack against me by New Orleans Reform advocate, and latest fanclub inductee, Dawn Ruth

Recently a New Orleans publication called New Orleans Magazine published a piece that included a shoutout to me that was less than flattering and arguable libelous. This article was written by someone I had never met or heard of, and someone who never tried to contact me for her story. Nevertheless this “journalist” felt she knew enough about me to write fictitious things she quite likely just made up to fuel her misguided narrative, malign my character and question my motives and knowledge on school reform issues and data. This person is named Dawn Ruth (Wilson), and you can find her article here if you are curious. Perhaps you can send her an e-mail asking her about her expertise in these matters, her connections to Leslie Jacobs (who she writes adoringly about in many of her pieces) and which public schools in New Orleans she sent her kids too. Heretofore this cowardly bully has failed to respond to me to either explain herself or apologize: Typical for the breed. As far as I can tell she has no kids and only a cat and a poodle to educate, yet nevertheless feels qualified to tout the success of New Orleans schools based on what people, that created the reforms, tell her. (Incidentally she calls herself a journalist although from her piece on me and others I reviewed she does not appear to investigate anything, and appears to be nothing more than an ignorant reform propagandist.)

In addition to claiming to be a “journalist” she also claims to be a published writer. To illustrate how one does research, I researched her writing credentials a little bit.

This claim of being a published “author”appears to be accurate insomuch as she has published one book by a publisher named Fleur de Lis Press that has the primary mission of publishing previously unpublished authors.

The primary mission of the Fleur-de-Lis Press is to publish first books of authors who have appeared in The Louisville Review. The press currently has thirteen such books in print, described below

Not exactly a publishing powerhouse, but a step up from self-publishing I suppose. Dawn’s book is called “The Nightwalker’s Song” which was compared rather unfavorably to toilet paper by one of her reviewers on Amazon.

1.0 out of 5 stars Very expensive toilet paper…, November 8, 2013


GeezenstackSee all my reviews

This review is from: The Night Walker’s Song (Paperback)

I would only suggest this to elderly people as a bathroom read. It can also double as toilet paper, which is what I had to use this for. It’s such a dull read that everytime I merely cracked it open I found myself drifting off to sleep.

Of course she had a few more reviews that seemed to read like jacket blurbs, so I thought I’d investigate a few of the other commenters. As of my last check she only had 4 reviews. Of those reviews, one said her work was expensive toilet paper and I thought the other posters might be from relatives or her publisher (as Geezenstack actually accused when writing his review), and I discovered that was not far from the truth. While the negative reviewer had other reviews for a wide variety of products over a period of time, (some positive, some negative) Dawn’s other reviewers had not reviewed anything else but her book. When I looked up the names they left I discovered Barbara Ewell was a New Orleans university professor, like Dawn, and a devoted promoter of local female writers, not a random purchaser. She reviewed the book a few days ago and has gone out of her way to specifically sponsor female issues and authors work in New Orleans as “Feminist Foundation Article” indicates which contains quotes of Barbara references to Dawn Ruth.

The other reviewer with a name is Mary R Arno. Mary is another New Orleanian “author” (she may be living in Cali now) of a single book called “Thanksgiving” (which I was not able to find for sale or reviewed anywhere), feminist, and blogger well known to Mrs. Dawn Ruth, who even comments on her blog from time to time.

Suffice it to say, while it appears Dawn Ruth is an author, in that she wrote a book that was published, it does not appear to be a very popular one except among her feminist friends. (I have nothing against feminists, but a group of New Orleanian feminist writers/professors seems like it would be a small circle of folks.) So writing books may not be Dawn’s forte or primary career (if it was it might explain why she got so much airtime.  Celebs with opinions never seem to run out of places to run their mouths, if only for the circulation they can bring), but what about journalism?

So let’s get back to her latest article that prominently features me. How many errors can you find with this passage?

The DOE’s latest press release, for example, says that in New Orleans “only 5.7 percent of students now attend a failing school – down from 65 percent in 2005.” Everyone in the state should be rejoicing, but soon after the news came out, Jason France, a fired DOE employee, began discrediting it in a blog he calls the Crazy Crawfish.

First of all, the press release that I discredited was not DOE’s (actually LDOE) but Leslie Jacob’s press release. You can see my post here. You can also see Leslie Jacob’s release from her propaganda group “Educate Now” here.

“As soon as the news came out” is debatable. I posted that article on the 27th after analyzing some data and discussing the results with various colleagues with more in the mathematics department that yours truly. What I actually posted first on the 23rd was this post:

You see, I was completely insulted and amused at the same time how the newspaper actually produced a story that said the new scale being used was so much better than the old scale (without providing any explanation other than showing the old scale in grey tones and the new scale as a bright, happy, multicolored image with dashes outlining it to emphasize excitement I suppose.)

Figure 1 Example of how today’s “journalism” sucks

The scale was actually changed to make comparisons by folks like me more difficult and to confuse the public, but it was spun as something parents were clamoring for and would find easier to understand . . . basically just changing SPS scores from a 200 point scale to a 150 point scale (and adding bonus points that primarily aided schools in New Orleans, especially RSD schools). I really could not believe LDOE had the audacity to do this, and that the newspapers printed that, in all its garishly colorful glory. Most folks that follow these things with any level of competence (even ones that disagree with me) found that release to be cringeworthy. What it showed to me was the absurdity of the love affair traditional media has with all things “Education Reform.” Results, accuracy, and details don’t matter to folks like Dawn Ruth, that follow Reform rhetoric with all the skepticism as a starving stray dog following a juicy steak being waved in front of them, luring them into a dog catcher’s carriage. I write my posts to identify folks who are not baffled by bullshit, and who can see the irony and absurdity of today’s “media” and self-styled “journalists” like Dawn Ruth.

When Dawn says everyone in the state should be rejoicing, she might as well say we should all be slipping on our identical blue Nike’s and drinking the Kool-Aid; so we can all be blissfully happy and ignorant as her I suppose?

Dawn also reported I was a “fired” DOE employee. This came as some news to me. I’m pretty sure all my employee reviews were exemplary, including my last one which stated I was more than eligible for rehire (The CIO actually stopped me on the street a month later during the St Patty’s Day parade and before I revealed my identity as the Crazy Crawfish and asked me if I would consider coming back.) I quit to reveal the corruption and lies being spun by John White and his reformer ilk, lies that Dawn Ruth in all her willfully ignorant glory fervently spreads at any opportunity under the guise of journalism. (I posted a comment on the article that refuted this “fact” and other parts but it took about 2 days and numerous phone calls and e-mails to the editor to get them to print a retraction and post my comment.) Let’s take a further look at her journalism, shall we?

In the blog, he [that’s me] questions Jacobs’ published analysis of DOE figures, claims state Superintendent of Education John White is hiding data that would discredit DOE’s statistical results and further clouds the issue with his own clever and but apparently tongue-in-cheek reasoning. Of the three, the latter could prove the most effective way of providing fodder to the doubters, whether he intends it or not.

Apparently a few lines later Dawn finally caught on that Leslie Jacobs (considered the “mother” of the RSD, Louisiana’s Accountability System and the Reform movement in New Orleans) is the author of the report but still doesn’t realize, despite what must have been her careful reading of my post, that many of the numbers Leslie pulls out of thin air and are inventions and interpretations of her own, and not LDOE.

Leslie has been engaged in education reform for more than twenty-five years, including twelve years on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Leslie is considered the architect of Louisiana’s accountability reform, and was instrumental in passing the constitutional amendment that created the Recovery School District.

A helpful tip for “journalist” Ruth, when people that devise, publish or invent something and are evaluated and compensated based on how well that something is perceived, they may not be the most objective people to obtain your figures and interpretations from.

I am not just “claiming” John White is hiding data. I’ve testified (or been subpoenaed to testify) in cases where LDOE and John White is doing just that. They provide data to organizations with a vested interest in their agenda and pay people to provide favorable reports, while denying the same data to independent evaluators, even going to court to prevent the release of the same data to the Department of Justice. But don’t take my word or the Federal Government’s word for it. Just as for the data yourself. If you get it you can give it to me and prove me wrong.

My reasoning was not “tongue in cheek”, although it was a variation of exactly what Leslie Jacobs was doing, and an illustration of how numbers can indeed be used to say anything anyone wants, as Dawn’s intro quote to her piece implies. She clearly missed my larger point that John White, Bobby Jindal and her Reform allies say whatever they want to advance their agenda, even if it is completely contradictory. Since understanding subtlety is not one of her strong suits, let me explain. Leslie Jacobs is claiming her non-failing grades are awesome. I was pointing out that LDOE, White and Jindal still claim grades of C and below are “failing” schools and a reason to offer vouchers. Another embedded irony in this argument is that the voucher schools almost all perform significantly worse than the public schools children are leaving. This is not a cause for alarm to Reformers but a reason to celebrate! Parents are exercising their “Choice” for shitty educations for their children on the taxpayer’s dime! If Reformer toadies like Dawn Ruth ever actually read their own statements and work with any degree of intelligence and circumspection they would surely see the inherent and absurd paradoxes. I can only assume they are blindly repeating what they are told, or so corrupted by money and power that truth and children mean nothing to them.

The heading on one of his [me again] blogs is: “New Orleans SPS [school performance score] reveals 69 percent of students now attend ‘failing schools’ according to Bobby Jindal (compared to 62 percent in 2005).”

A reader must read a long way down to discover that the “69 percent” failing rate is a satirical reference to Gov. Jindal’s signature voucher program, which allows low-income students once attending “C,” “D” and “F” rated public schools to attend non-public schools with public funds. France’s satire points out that if “C” and “D” schools are bad enough to warrant giving students a free ride at taxpayer expense to a private school, then those schools are the same as “F” schools in Jindal’s political world view.

In other words, France uses Jindal’s political definition for a “failing” school, not the DOE’s definition.

Heaven’s to Murgatroid! What kind of unfathomable witchcraft is this! A reader must read past the title to understand a title! (If only people ever spoke or published in 120 character Tweets, right?) What kind of injustice is this, to expect people to actually read?!?! It’s clear that reading is not one of Dawn’s strong suits (along with writing or reasoning.) Dawn. did you know the definition of a “failing school” is not well defined, and constantly changes based on context and need? Leslie Jacobs, in her own fluff piece, clearly explains that she took some liberties in defining a failing school, since the grading scale has changed every year but one it’s kinda hard to make comparisons without taking liberties.

* SPS Assumptions and Calculations  (From Leslie’s press release)

Comparing 2005 to 2013: In 2005, schools were given stars (1 to 5) not letter grades. For the purpose of comparison, Educate Now! equated 4 and 5 stars with an A, 3 stars with a B, 2 stars with a C, 1 star with a D, and the 2005 rating “Academically Unacceptable” with an F.

I’m guessing Dawn didn’t read past Leslie’s title before defending her and didn’t read past mine before deciding to attack me.

Dawn clearly misses an opportunity to investigate something she admits to not understanding.

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

I would not have to be one of a “stubborn knot of naysayers” if folks publishing in traditional media would do their job, and do the questioning themselves, rather than the parroting they currently do. The fact is, I make no money from my work, and I am not defending my legacy as John White, LDOE, and Leslie Jacobs are doing. Because of their conflicts of interest (a term Dawn should probably learn if she ever wants to try being a real journalist) they are not the most reliable sources. I have children in public schools that I believe will be adversely impacted by these “Reforms”. Most Reformers do not, but they do profit directly from their policies in the form of high paying jobs, access to wealthy individuals who profit from their policies, large political donations and donors, etc. In contrast I am more reliable source. I have children who would benefit from these Reforms, if I believed they were as beneficial as Reformers claim (for other people’s children.) If I believed these were good policies and I was so active in opposing them for no reason other than to create a worse education for my children I would be a horrible and illogical person. Unlike Dawn, I have a background in statistics, data analysis and with this particular data as a former (not fired) analyst for the Louisiana Department of Education, with direct responsibility for collecting and reporting on many of these numbers for almost a decade, I have the authority and experience to speak about them. I also have working relationships with numerous education analysts, current and former LDOE employees and many dozens of school district IT folks and personnel. Unlike Dawn and John White, I get zero compensation from anyone for my work (and actually spend thousands of my own dollars, hours and precious vacation time researching issues, publishing articles, and attending events), and actually put myself in some jeopardy speaking out about what I’ve seen and what I believe. Dawn tried to insinuate I was fired and speaking out as a form of revenge, I suppose. I’d still like to know if someone told her I was fired, or if she just made that part up because it sounded better, but I have not gotten a response from her or the editors at the New Orleans Magazine. If you see her on the street, please ask her and get back to me.

Dawn misses another opportunity to address another obvious disconnect she points out herself.

They seem to mourn the chaotic, inept, even corrupt system of schools that existed before Katrina finally gave state officials an excuse to seize most of them. Last spring, for example, Leslie Jacobs, a former local and state school board member, went on WBOK radio to discuss school improvements. She says she spent most of the program defending good news to a disbelieving audience. These same opponents protest school system changes in front of her house from time to time.

“Critics don’t believe the statistics,” she says. But each year the statistics get better and better and “it’s getting harder and harder to deny the improvement.”

When I reread this part I shook my head in disbelief. Dawn completely misses it. She points out I am one of a stubborn knot of naysayers, implying we are few in number and not particularly influential or fact driven. (She’s probably right about fewness and lack of influence. Almost every single media outlet and most politicians in this state buy into the Reform dog and pony show. Many folks have been bribed handsomely in campaign contributions or large grants from Bill Gates and the Waltons to unquestioningly endorse the reform agenda of Common Core, charter schools, and 5 week trained teachers supplanting experienced ones.) She then proceeds to attack random New Orleanians listening to WBOK, parents and citizens who actually have kids in these schools. She says Leslie defends the news to a disbelieving audience, but somehow links that disbelief to me and my stubborn group of naysayers. This is rich in irony. People like me are simply repeating and reporting on what actual folks on the street are telling us. I don’t attend or work in schools in New Orleans, but many of my sources and readers do, and they report things to me that traditional media refuses to print or cover. I am just reporting what the man and mother on the street sees happening to their children and their neighbors children and grandchildren, not the bullshit stats that Leslie Jacobs is telling to a disbelieving audience that sees and lives the reality, not the pretty pictures and graphs Leslie and LDOE portray, and Dawn, The Advocate, LPB, Times Picayune, New Orleans Magazine and others dutifully report from the press releases they are handed (wrapped in fistfuls of advertising dollars and donations I’m guessing.) I am doing what people like Dawn refuse to do, because they prefer to deny the reality and I’ve decided I have an obligation to my community and children to do something about it.

Believe it or not, Dawn, I do not mourn the chaotic, inept, and corrupt system of schools that existed before Katrina. I’m not sure I know anyone who does. I object to the chaotic, inept and corrupt system of schools that has taken its place, the children that are lost, the parents that feel trapped and hopeless, the teachers that are abused and treated like disposable napkins, and the Reformers like you that seem to profit off this disaster and relish the waste you see happening all around you but choose to ignore.

Incidentally, I offered to write a guest piece for the New Orleans Magazine, but I did not get a response from that offer. If any of my readers are readers of that little periodical perhaps you would consider writing their editor and suggesting it?

Haley Adams is their web editor and the only person courteous enough to finally wrote me back and agree to print this correction.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated Jason France was a fired DOE employee. France was not fired. France also worked in data management, not accountability. We apologize for these errors.

Haley Adams

Web Editor
Associate Editor, all publications
Editor, New Orleans Bride

Haley Adams graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism and a minor in French. She grew up in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Missouri, but now calls New Orleans home. She interned at Boston Magazine and the Columbia Daily Tribune, then worked at Inside Columbia Magazine in Columbia, Mo., before joining Renaissance Publishing in August 2012. Haley is a news junkie who loves fashion, social media and rom coms. You can reach her at (504) 830-7259 or

Of course, New Orleans Mag may be more comfortable with someone who invents facts on the fly and supports the status quo. I’m certainly not a “journalist” like Dawn Ruth, so they probably wouldn’t be interested in someone like me. . . and who needs researched stories when it’s so much easier to just print whatever happy, colorful reports LDOE and Leslie Jacob hands you, especially when you can simply make up convenient details to support the story they’d prefer or have been told to tell?

The RSD and New Orleans miracle (of cheating)

The RSD and New Orleans miracle (of cheating)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Operator Year SPS Score out of 150















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

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

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

Lafayette Academy:

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

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

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

Miller-McCoy Academy:

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

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

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

Robert Moton Charter Elementary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dwight Eisenhower Academy of Global Studies, an RSD charter

Dr. King Charter School, an RSD charter

Edna Karr High School, an OPSB charter

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

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

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

Thurgood Marshall Early College High School, an RSD charter

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

International School of Louisiana, a BESE charter

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

Langston Hughes Academy, an RSD charter

John Dibert Community School, an RSD charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Student Privacy Hopeless?

Is Student Privacy Hopeless?

(This will be a long one, and has some ranting folks, so buckle up.)

Is student privacy hopeless?

Sadly, this may be little more than a rhetorical question after the last week of horrible setbacks on the student privacy front. I’ve been gathering information and leads for months now, researching some, and holding onto others. I was hoping some of these issues would become non-issues if EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, was successful in their lawsuit against the US Department of Education’s change to FERPA that allows vendors to use student data and resell it as they see fit, for any reason and without parents or students having any rights or say in the matter. Unfortunately the lawsuit was thrown out because the courts did not believe EPIC had the standing to bring the suit.

But Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court in Washington issued summary judgment for the Education Department, ruling that the plaintiffs have not suffered any real legal injuries stemming from the regulations and thus they lack legal standing to bring their suit.

In order for someone to have “standing”, they must first be victimized. When that happens it won’t be one child affected. The data being transmitted and bartered belongs to every child on any DOE databases, many of which are now adults. We are not talking about just one child, but quite likely millions, if not all of them.  All of our kids data will have to be sent to third party vendors, and then shared or sold based on the policy change, then many years of lawsuits and appeals will have to take place, during which vendors will continue to collect and sell student data for students through cloud based infrastructures, with no liability for the damage they cause. If you went to school after computer records were kept in your state, probably the eighties or nineties, then your data is at risk too. This data can be used, abused and misused by anyone, and because the federal government changed the policy defining what student privacy is, and what vendors can do with this data, even if the lawsuits are successful, this will be of small comfort for the millions of children and adults who have their data permanently dispersed throughout cyberspace, in the hands of criminals, pedophiles, and companies selling information and making employment decisions based on this information. Our students will become adults, and they will never be able to reclaim their data or their identity that other adults like John White and Arne Duncan have stolen from them.

It will be impossible to fix the damage done, to unring the bell and much if this information will be incorrect, and haunt our citizens, our children, ourselves, throughout life. In the very near future, every job interview, every interest rate they or you get, every credit score, every rejection for college or a job, every insurance rate or refusal, every mortgage rate, every failed background check could be directly related to this information, and you will never know, and never, ever, be able to remedy this situation. This will make many people very rich. Many of these soon to rich, or richer, people are those who secretly lobbied the US Ed Department to change this policy to render it worse than worthless. This is not an overstatement. I say worse, because not only does it not actually protect children from the ones their data needs to be protected from most, strangers, thieves, criminals, corporations, hucksters, it outright protects the despicable uses and users. FERPA is now an indemnification clause to allow anyone to harvest and use student data without anyone having any way to stop them.  How can you take any recourse against those who have been told by the federal government to take our data it use it however they see fit?  Are you going to sue the federal government?  Would you sue them for not having a law that does what its supposed to do?  When wouldn’t you sue the government if that was something you could do?  The other harmful thing this law does is It makes average people be deluded into believing there is a federal privacy law that protects them, when FERPA is anything but.  You almost have to admire the corporations that distorted a student privacy law into a legal blanket for themselves to use children’s data however they see fit.

The way the law now works, the less direct contact you have with a student, the less legitimate reason you have for possessing it, the more freedom you have to exploit a child and their data. Schools still have to notify parents if they plan to share student data, but once that data is handed over to a corporation that corporation has no restrictions on use or misuse, no liabilities and the only restrictions they have are ones they place on themselves.  These terms can be modified at any time, as often as Apple modifies your iTunes terms of service, but leaving you with less recourse. If you don’t like the iTunes terms of service, you can throw out your iPhone and discontinue using the ITunes store. You can’t throw out your children or yourself, or disconnect yourself from the data being used against them.

FERPA also protects many of the lying education reformers running US Ed, State departments of education and our local LEAs. FERPA allows dishonest superintendents like John White to share data with whomever they want, with any restrictions they choose to apply or not apply such as was done with CREDO recently. They can also refuse to turn over data anyone for any reason, but the reasons it is being denied right now is to protect people from learning the truth. What is happening in Louisiana and in many states is our state departments of educations are failing in epic ways. All of their reform schemes are colossal utter failures that cost anywhere from 2 to 10 times as much as other solutions, but which gets terrible results, almost without exception. I suppose I should clarify, the results they get are often great for charter schools, contractors, reformers and their bottom lines and salaries. For children and taxpayers the results are nothing short of criminal, but you will never know, thanks to FERPA.

What these DOE thieves and charlatans, like John White, are doing is preparing completely false reports, reports with absurd self-serving conclusions, results that they slice and dice the data to find something remotely positive to report. These results are often reported as percentages without any context, without history, without magnitude, without mitigating factors, without costs either direct or opportunity costs (programs terminated to fund vouchers or teachers fired to pay for Common Core.) These reports in some cases are simply outright false. Our department of education also fails to report anything they can get away with not reporting that shows them in a bad light, even if that same information was used in the past to create a sense of urgency in the public for the need for “education reforms.”

For instance, RSD sucks bad. No pretty phrasing needed for the shithole that RSD, the state takeover of public schools, has become. No RSD schools have ever been returned to their original districts, as was the original intent of the legislation. RSD conquered schools are sold off to unscrupulous charter operators who apply for charter grants they use to pay themselves exorbitant salaries. Many of these charter schools treat students and parents like your butt treats toilet paper, use once and dispose of. Charters falsify exit reasons to hide the fact they exclude disabled students, English language learners, and students with behavior problems. I’ve been told many of them cheat on state tests, remove students that will do poorly after they get funding for them but before they take state exams, or simply don’t administer the exams to many of their students they don’t expect to do well. They report fantastic success, but what they don’t tell you about their high completion rates is that only 5 students were tested. What they don’t tell you is that 90% of the students that could have taken the tests don’t take them so their score look fantastic, for the few students that end up taking them.

Our DOE thinks that if they simply deny access to this data, no one will call them on it, but I am. LDOE is lying to you about graduation rates, dropout rates, class schedules, VAM, COMPASS, test scores, enrollments, student classifications, enrollments and exit reasons and test scores. They are lying outright and through admission and they are using FERPA to do this. I saw the data. I collect the data. I analyzed the data. I knew the data, the data was a friend of mine. And believe me, John White is no data steward . . . but he is a paragon of pure dishonesty and disdain for the people of Louisiana. White has fired, force retired, or driven off everyone who collected or analyzed, audited or evaluated data in LDOE so he can now almost honestly say he has no earthly idea what’s going on. He’s driven off all the programmers that maintained our databases and systems and used their salaries to hire scores of unqualified TFA spawnlings who he gives fancy titles to so they can spread their filthy incompetence and corporate welfare programs throughout the world on the backs of their unearned titles, on the backs of needy children, on the backs of our children. LDOE has no chance of processing accountability scores themselves, collecting data themselves, maintaining data systems themselves and this is entirely a planned situation. This was done so White will have no choice but to contract out data collecting, processing, and analyzing services to vendors who will charge much more, magnitudes more, than it ever cost to do in-house. inBloom was just the tip of the iceberg, which is why White was so cavalier about sharing and selling it our student’s data through them. To him that is nothing, and we are nothing. That data will be given to anyone and everyone if it has not already, through dozens of other contracts we can never hope to keep track of.

Just about everyone who is forced to attend RSD hates it and would rather any other solution which is why in Baton Rouge only 1500 of the more than 6000 RSD seats are filled, and RSD is still seeking to expand until students have not choices, but RSD. (So much for choice, eh parents?) In St Helena RSD made the case that its presence is helping the cause of desegregation. RSD claimed that if the local school board opened up new grade levels, white students would flee and the segregation would be worse. They also claimed they were doing a good job in St Helena. RSD provided data that to a casual observer might back up their case. They removed all the data from their website that might disprove their assertions, but I have folks that archived just enough for me to prove show them as completely deceptive unscrupulous liars that they have always been. St Helena’s white population is increasing since RSD came to town, but only in the non-RSD schools. In RSD the population is declining by about 20-40%, in the elementary school it has increased by that much. The data RSD showed the judge was for a single year, between October and February, which shown as a percentage after students left at mid-year and a few students transferred in looked like a small increase. Over the actual 7 years they have been there the trend is completely opposite. RSD and LDE knew this, they have all the data, but chose to submit a legal document to a federal judge that lied about this. RSD also showed how their schools have been improving. RSD has schools all over the state. Instead of showing the progress at the middle school, which has gotten progressively worse, they showed information about RSD as a whole, including most of the schools in New Orleans. (Incidentally I have evidence of systematic cheating at RSD New Orleans schools to incrementally increase their scores, more on that on part 2 of John McDonogh story .)

Here are a few of the stories detailing St Helena, but replace St Helena with the name of your own school district, because this, or some version of it, will be the story of your district soon enough. The methods and actors might change, but when you have someone without a shred of human decency, honor, or morality determined to destroy you, he will win.

Even now, the voucher case Jindal and White are making much hay about is nothing more than poor theatre to prevent people from learning the truth about the voucher program and the destruction it is quietly wreaking on minority communities. Laws and agreements were already in place that Jindal and John White violated with his voucher program, in much the same way Jindal violated our very state Constitution, repeatedly and viciously throughout his tenure as our tyrannical governor. As part of the agreement consent decrees in many parishes throughout the state, White and Jindal were supposed to notify the Attorney General’s office about programs that might have an impact on desegregation progress, as vouchers have clearly done. Jindal and White knew this, and refused to comply with existing law and legal agreements because they were afraid their plans might be stalled or found to be out of compliance, so they willfully violated those agreements and orders. In response a federal judge asked for data to determine whether the programs had a negative impact on desegregation. White and Jindal refused to comply (knowing full well that their voucher program was removing poor black children from public schools and putting them in substandard schools that teach kids with DVDs, teach kids with uncertified teachers, and teach kids so poorly they score on average 30 points lower on state tests than their public school counterparts) and instead characterized that request, that the Federal government was bound by existing law and orders to uphold, into a power grab. Read the MOU for yourself.

So to reiterate the absurdity and dishonesty of John White and Bobby Jindal: In the span of the same three months John White and Jindal argued allowing parents the choice to attend a public school instead of RSD would jeopardize desegregation. (Knowing full well that not only was this not true, but that in fact RSD was driving white students out of the system and intentionally misleads a federal judge with irrelevant data) They also refused to turn over data that would show their voucher program was having a negative impact on desegregation in numerous other parishes, knowing full well that it did. Their argument was that since most of the recipients of the scholarships statewide were black it would be absurd that the impact could be harmful. This is a ridiculous argument. There could be local issues where every single white student in a majority black district pulled out for instance. The vouchers could make the public schools less financially viable (as was the case RSD also made for rejecting St Helena to add grades to their existing schools). The results could be sporadic since they only reported a majority of students statewide, individual parishes could have been unharmed, and some dramatically harmed. As time goes on, these impacts could get much much worse, but Jindal and John White have successfully fended off the feds, and fooled the majority of the public with their grandstanding. Have children been the losers in this equation? Quite likely, but neither of these phonies cares one whit about other people’s children. They care about images and political careers and their donors, not ordinary people.

Our only hope is if we resist the status quo and momentum Jindal and John White have built around their plans, their multilayered deceptions. Drastic methods are required to confront and prevent this and keep them from succeeding. White knows you are onto him, which is why he is signaling his reformer kin to change their tactics and brand parents the enemy. I knew this was coming. I’ve seen it and said it form months now, but he has branded us the enemy now.

“An aggressive form of populism has asserted itself in the rhetoric of our day,” White is expected to say at the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s headquarters in Washington. “I see it in a tone that is skeptical of reformers in the same populist way our country today is skeptical of authority generally. This is, I believe, greatly damaging for an education reform effort that has done good in America and that needs to be sustained. And it needs to be addressed, lest this generational effort wash out with the tide of the next administration.”

“How we manage our newfound authority in a populist time is a critical and tenuous question,” White will say. “Our most important responsibility as reformers is no longer just to clamor for change but to sustain and expand the positive direction of our nation’s education system. The greatest risk we face in doing this is not the validity of our ideas but the pitfalls of authority itself.”

The aggressive populism White speaks of is you, is parents, is children, is teachers who are tired of being told what is good for our children by folks who don’t have them. Teachers are tired of being told how to educate children by folks who took a 5 week TFA correspondence course, or who never taught a day in their life, like Bill Gates, who says his reforms will take 10 years or more to see if they were effective! These bastards want to literally experiment on a whole generation of our children, on their hunches, that data has heretofore proved not just wrong, but damn wrong. The few reformers, who have children, enroll them in exclusive private schools that do the opposite of everything they preach is great for our kids. Put Bill Gate’s kids and Michele Rhee’s kids in a class of 50+ students, glued to a computer all day, learning Common Core drilled mathematics.

They preach choice, but deny us ours. They choose different than what they choose for us! I choose different than what they would choose for us! Who is with me?!?! Do these cowards who hide behind wealthy donors and speak at secret meetings beyond parents dare subject their own children to these education tortures, these heinous crimes against education that they would subject the rest of us to in the name of choice, in the name of global competitiveness they have never documented? Do they dare face us! They are miserable sniveling cowards picked by even more cowards to lead us like lemmings of the cliff while they parachute down to their pavilions paid for on the backs of our children. If that be an aggressive form of populism, letting the people decide what is best for their own children than wealthy overlords, then sobeit. I am a populist. I am a knuckle dragger. I am for the people. I am for what is best for my children and what is best for yours, not what is best for their wallets. When you see them at your schools, at your town halls, at your school board meetings, at your churches wearing their smug smiles of confidence and control, let them know you are onto them and their little game. Let them know you are for people, for your children, for your neighbor’s children, and not the filthy blood money lining their pockets.

it may be hopeless but we fight

Do I seem angry? Damn straight I’m angry. You should be too. This has gone on long enough. The time for politely making 3 minute statements in a highly staged BESE meeting or before an orchestrated legislature is over. They are told how to vote by Bobby Jindal before they even set foot in those venues. They think they have this and you all wrapped up in a pretty little bundle, and I tell you it’s time to blow that package apart.

John White sees this as just a little game where their only problem is the messaging, not the horribly destructive agenda. White is so arrogant he tells us “reformers” are manipulating us with meaningless semantics and “framing.” In White’s play we are merely actors with parts he has written for us. In this passage he says as much.

To prevent that from happening, White is offering a three-part solution. “First, if we are to sustain our positive impact on the future of American education, reform leaders will shift their mission to national responsibility over self-righteous sympathy,” he will say. Reformers who rely too much “on an easy sympathy for the urban poor” can hurt the cause, he will say.

Second, he will call for the narrative around reform to be “refreshed.” This means taking the fight to enemies beyond teachers unions. While White argues that the media paint reformers as “ideologues,” what he calls the real “establishment bureaucracy” — the management of huge federal programs like Title I and Head Start — takes little flak.

“Without the new fight, what we have is stale story,” White will say. “We are letting the populist story of reformer versus working person tell itself.”

But John White is no Shakespeare either. Those of us that were educated before Common Core supplanted real Shakespeare with “informational texts” recognize the real stuff versus a pathetic imitation.

CCSS Shakespeare courtesy of John White
CCSS Hamlet, courtesy of John White

So in answer to my initial question.  Yes.  As long as we have people like Bobby Jindal and John White calling the shots, student and parent privacy is impossible.


The Crawfish Bump!

The Crawfish Bump!

Congratulations Crawfish patriots!

In the last 48 hours after making this post we helped Shannon Puckett increase her funding for her Kickstarter Documentary Defies Measurement by more than 23% and contributors by almost 40%!

Since this is my first endorsement, and since I can plausibly say I had something to do with it (ok maybe Shannon’s excellent pitch had more to do with it, but still. . .) I’ve decided to call this effect the “Crawfish Bump”.

But we have much more bumping to do. If you haven’t contributed or bugged your dying rich and senile uncle that nobody likes into contributing, now’s your chance! Shannon needs your money and we need her film and story. If you donate, we can both win! If you were listening to NPR last week in Baton Rouge you heard a very extensive pledge drive. If you’re like me it probably drove you crazy! If you procrastinated and missed out, now is your chance to mend your conscience! Donate to this equally good cause and I will forgive you for your tardiness.

Note: You might still get a phone call from Ira Glass for not contributing, I can’t help you there, but at least I can tell Ira your dollars did not go to waste on all those cups of coffee he asks you to do without! I won’t even ask you to do without your morning coffee, espresso, or even your sissy mocha latte cappuccino spritzer with extra whip. That can be our little secret. All you have to do is donate, or cajole someone else into giving. Simple right!?!?!

So what are you waiting for?

Here’s the link to Shannon’s Kickstarter page:

Here’s the link to her youtube video:

Now let’s get that bump growing!


Did I mention the largest crawfish contributor gets an autographed crawfish? To win, just post your amount as a comment. I will notify the winner by the e-mail linked to the comment…


This goes for previous Crazy Crawfish directed contributors.

Everything but the Squeal – A sequel

Everything but the Squeal – A sequel

At the turn of the last Century, Upton Sinclair wrote a novel that horrified the nation with its depiction of the meat packing industry. As part of his research for this novel, The Jungle, Sinclair spent over 6 months working in the industry and documenting their practices. His intent was to reveal how immigrants were treated but what captured the attention of the nation was his matter-of-fact recounting of pigs hoisted into the air by their feet as their throats we slit to spew their lifeblood in assembly line efficiency, tales of employees falling into the rendering vats, dying and not being retrieved, and shovels full meat scraps, rats and feces being methodically swept and shoveled into meat hoppers storing meat scraps to be made into sausages.

There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white–it would be dosed with borax and glycerine, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumption. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together. This is no fairy story and no joke; the meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one– there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit. There was no place for the men to wash their hands before they ate their dinner, and so they made a practice of washing them in the water that was to be ladled into the sausage. There were the butt-ends of smoked meat, and the scraps of corned beef, and all the odds and ends of the waste of the plants, that would be dumped into old barrels in the cellar and left there. Under the system of rigid economy which the packers enforced, there were some jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, and among these was the cleaning out of the waste barrels. Every spring they did it; and in the barrels would be dirt and rust and old nails and stale water–and cartload after cartload of it would be taken up and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat, and sent out to the public’s breakfast. Some of it they would make into “smoked” sausage–but as the smoking took time, and was therefore expensive, they would call upon their chemistry department, and preserve it with borax and color it with gelatine to make it brown. All of their sausage came out of the same bowl, but when they came to wrap it they would stamp some of it “special,” and for this they would charge two cents more a pound.  (from Chapter 14 of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair)

The phase, “Everything but the squeal” was documented in Sinclair’s work as a prominent and prideful boast of meat processors – testament to their ability to extract every last bit of value from the farm animals they had groomed to exploit and process and a favorite claim of one of the chief pioneers of assembly line animal disassembly Gustavus Franklin Swift. Of course as you can see below, not much has changed today for the animals (this is one of the least horrifying pictures of slaughterhouse processing I could find), although conditions for workers improved over the next decades with the creation and ascendency of trade and labor unions in the early 20th century and sanitation was improved with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act (which paved the way for the creation of today’s FDA) in large part due to the success and outrage over Sinclair’s signature debuting muckraker novel.

Pigs begin the process of being liberated from their fleshy confines

Nevertheless, the claim was both impressive and valid. Some of the products produced in addition to meats and sausages were oleomargarine, soap, glue, instrument strings, fertilizer, hairbrushes, buttons, knife handles, and pharmaceutical preparations such as pepsin and insulin. Low-grade meats were canned in products like pork and beans.

Early charter school model

This was capitalism performing at its finest, employing thousands of workers methodically slaughtering and sorting animals and animal pieces and by-products to support millions of people. While even today most of us would turn away and be disgusted by the practices of slaughterhouses, nevertheless the basic model invented at the turn of the 19th century is still employed today in the 21st century. These methods are used to supply billions of people with food and byproducts for countless industries. As a society and people we have come to accept that there are basic differences between the rights of animals, and products, and the rights of people. (Although before labor unions the rights of immigrants and generationally poor people were sometimes indistinguishable from the rights, or lack thereof, we afforded animals.)

Today we are much more civilized. We treat our immigrants that we depend upon for harvesting and producing our food supply well, seldom eating them if they fall into vats of rendering solutions and we almost always retrieve them from the fields if they expire while picking our fruits and vegetables for less than minimum wage. If we had immigrant labor unions, immigrants would have to be paid living wages, sanitary work conditions, time-wasting perks like work breaks and lunches, and they would probably face competition from American born workers who might be inspired to pick up a shovel instead of a welfare check. Obviously the marginalization and elimination of labor unions has been a boon for our illegal immigrants as well as our stomachs.

When capitalism is unshackled, everyone wins. That is why some of our most brilliant and moneyed minds of the 21st century have shrewdly focused in on the opportunities, efficiencies and profits to be made in the education sector.

The public education sector is quaint, but antiquated. For centuries Americans have resisted the impulse to turn schools into production facilities, and to treat children as valuable resources that can be turned into products and traded like commodities. At least 19th Century Americans had an excuse, child labor and prostitution allowed them to extract something of value from children. As so called “civilized” societies passed laws that prevented child slavery a great deal of wealth was left untapped and children became valued as something other than resources. As a result the birth rate in our country dropped off precipitously, as children became resource hogs, rather than resources in their own rights.

Today’s school reformers and entrepreneurs have wisely recognized the nascent value we’ve overlooked for so long – but no longer. Today’s students are both more challenging but potentially rewarding that any we’ve had before. The key is in perfecting and refining the value extraction process. There may be more than one way to skin a cat (although I’m not sure why you’d want to) but there are virtually infinite ways to make money off of children and the public education system. I can’t hope to cover them all in a single piece, but I have jotted down a few.

Charter/child processing school/facility (Many charters have learned how to use the “whole child”)

One of the latest profit extracting innovations is the charter school. (Frankly you have to be pretty incompetent not to make money off of children with a charter school.) Charter schools get their facilities for free, (usually rent free while the home district is still making payments on the bonds issued to build them), insurance free, and with plenty of grant money to fix them up into tip top shape (or pocket if they find the shape they are in is tip top enough for their liking.) Numerous private donors line up to give “grants” and donations to new charter schools. In turn, many of these charter schools are free to contract with their “donors” for professional services paid for by state or federal funds that cannot go directly to a charter. While some may see this as a kickback, these arrangements are perfectly legal in most cases so long as there is no documented quid pro quo. And even if they aren’t, who would be able to look at that kind of thing? Charter schools can partner with IT shops and vendors, or form their own subsidiary companies to take advantage of the millions of dollars in e-rate technology grants and special purpose department of Ed grants. It’s no coincidence that many of the biggest donors to the charter movement are IT companies or heads like Michael and Susan Dell and Bill Gates. (Can you say captive hardware and software clients and increased market share?)

The last time I checked the largest company in terms of market capitalization was Google. Google makes its money by collecting data on everyone, by sending robot cars up and down everyone’s streets endlessly taking pictures and selling and aggregating that data and targeted advertising. What Google gathers over the internet is information that is freely provided by people. It may or may not be complete, but there is no guarantee it is honest, complete and unflattering. Yet, with what they have, they still have been able to produce a very profitable empire! However, what the next generation of information aggregators hopes to gather is so much more impressive. They intend to gather everything about everyone who has ever attended any public school. (Eventually private schools will be enticed to do the same in exchange for free software or hardware perhaps.) This will reach back decades and will eventually include everything from phone numbers, pictures, parents names and addresses, discipline records, health and disability records, performance metrics, subjects taken and every interest or altercation ever recorded. Companies like inBloom, Ed-Fi, Amplify, Wireless Generation, and countless others are lining up at the trough to gorge themselves on student data that can be used to personally enrich themselves by creating new products, much as the airline industry charges ala-cart fees for everything from not sitting next to crying babies, to boarding a few minutes earlier, to picking up your luggage at your destination, sitting with your family or sitting on the wings or in the cargo holds. (Those last two are under discussion.)

But this is just the beginning. Shrewd reformers are only just beginning to tap into the full profit potential of children. A cottage industry of curriculum and test administration has sprung up called Common Core, or CCSS that dramatically expands the data points collected, charges states exorbitant amounts of money to test all children (as much as 4 times as much for a single administration), and opens up an unlimited market for instructional materials, supplemental guides, tutoring services, learning “games”, etc. While most of the biggest information players like Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, and Pearson Education, are already positioned to reap the most rewards and profits, there will be numerous opportunities for information prospectors to pan for education dollars from the scraps they leave behind or let fall from the table (after their grinding.)

John White demonstrates LDOE value extraction methods on excited charter school student screaming about how wonderful it is to be going to a good school.

Now politicians can enjoy school too. With the privatization of what was formally the public sector, anyone can be a political hack as long as they accept money from privatizing forces and agree to do anything they say and ignore any evidence that reveals their schemes. In fact, much as intelligence and curiosity will have little to do with schooling in the charter school of the today and future, intelligence, curiosity and ethics are now a real detriment to a politician. Politicians free of these trappings will be able to accept more money, more readily, and with none of the guilt or reservations someone with a soul, conscience, or sense of decency might experience.

Rocketship Academy – actual photo. You can tell these kids are really going. . . somewhere. . . at least vicariously.
Rocketship Academy – only 3 of the kids had to have their hands bolted to the chairs and neck collars installed to prevent neck swiveling.

Even big-box retailers like Walmart can extract some value from the charter school system of the future. Employees with personalities and extraneous knowledge and experiences can be a real drag, and robots are expensive. This is why the Waltons, have gotten in on the charter chuck wagon. Now rather than train their own employees with minimal skills and interests to perform tedious tasks, Walmart can rely on a ready supply of perfectly prepared recruits to staff its stores and warehouses. These recruits of the future will be force-fed CCSS Miltonian Economic philosophy so as to prepare them for a life of minimum wage (or perhaps no wages if we can lift that productivity killing handicap) zero benefits, repetition injuries, and the planned obsolescence of their positions (eventually the cost of robots will come down if the Japanese have anything to say about it.)

Thankfully schooling is more than about just school, it’s about making your transition from school to a life of silos and cubicles:

” I am a Rocketship Rocketeer at home, at school, and in my community. . .”

As this daily mantra explains, soon we can all be rocketships at home, school and in our communities. And when we’re all rocketships, this will seem normal. Then we will finally have been “Reformed” and ready to accept any new ways we can be used to make money for our charter operators. 

I only wish I had a chance to have my full potential drained and distributed like those lucky pigs, in the first photo and todays charter student pioneers.