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.

Time to start covering the many data thieving operations in our state and around the nation. . .

Time to start covering the many data thieving operations in our state and around the nation. . .

I’ve been promising for some time to cover some of the many secret and not-so-secret grants and data operations that will result in your data, and your children’s data being stolen and shared without your permission or knowledge. Now that it is clear the EPIC lawsuit against the US Department of Education has failed, the only solution to fix this problem is a state privacy law to protect the rights of parents, students and teachers. Considering the federal government can’t even agree to fund the federal government for a minute to protect our nation from terrorists or the prevent children from staving or dying from cancer, I have feel pretty confident they will not try to address student privacy concerns anytime soon. I’ve provided details to others on how this privacy law/framework would work and the necessary elements for meaningful legislation, but for now I will provide the documentation in a series of posts that shows why such a law is needed.

I will try to cover at least one scheme a day for the rest of the week. Some of the projects I’m considering covering are Kickboard, WDQI, MSIX, among many others like inBloom and Ed-Fi. Today I will mention a new database I learned about for tracking disabled students in a federal database.

This database grant awarded to Weststat Inc., by the US Department of Ed, is intuitively called the “National Technical Assistance Center to Improve State Capacity to Accurately Collect and Report IDEA Data.” (Or I guess NTACTISCTACARID for short?) This grant is aimed at creating a:

. . .national center aimed at improving the quality of data on educating America’s 7 million children and youth with disabilities.

However this database is not designed to help children. It is designed to guide and produce PR pieces for reform, according to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“More than ever, we need good data to guide reform,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Good data promotes transparency and accountability. It shows the public the value that they’re getting in their investment in education. It gives teachers information they need to change their practices to improve student achievement. And, data shows us when students are making progress and when they’re not.”

Duncan tries to characterize this database as something that will simply “assist states” but that make no sense base don’t he tasks and goals assigned to this project.

Among the areas the center will focus technical assistance to states:

  • Gathering more accurate, reliable data—from all appropriate resources in a state.
  • Providing training to states to help school and district officials submit better data.
  • Improving data infrastructure among the states.

Arne Duncan speaks with a forked tongue, telling us one thing, while clearly meaning another.

This is clearly a data collection, not an “assistance center.” The purpose of this database is to “guide reform” or in other words, define opportunities for advertisers and companies to exploit our most vulnerable children for profit. US Ed clearly plans to intervene if states are not meting multiple measurable and rigorous targets for infants and toddlers.

For infants and toddlers with disabilities, states must provide baseline data, measurable and rigorous targets, and improvement activities for 12 indicators. . .

With the information, the Education Department is required to make determinations on how well each state is meeting its obligations to serve its children and youth with disabilities. The determinations can include: “Meets the requirements of IDEA;” “Needs assistance;” “Needs intervention;” or “Needs substantial intervention.”

Intervention in the past has required school districts to turn their children overt o charter operators that do not need to meet the same rigorous targets or oversight traditional school districts do. That is quite likely the case here as well.

However what I find most disturbing is Arne Duncan is arguably the one most responsible for altering FERPA to make it ineffective for protecting student privacy. Duncan has converted FERPA into a warm blanket of protection for anyone who wants to collect and exploit students and student data for profit. By issuing guidance that it is “ok” for private companies to use data as they see fit, for educational and non-educational purposes alike, Duncan has opened the floodgates for abuse of student data, and abuse of students. By issuing this guidance he has given a blank check to corporations and a “get out of jail free card” all at the same time. Under Federal law, based on Duncan’s guidance, anyone can collect student data, sell it, use it for purposes other than for which it was intended, do a poor job guarding it, and retain it indefinitely and parents and students have no recourse whatsoever.

This data belongs to our most vulnerable children. Identity thieves, scam artists, pedophiles and corporations that obtain this information through legal or illegal means can use it for predatory commercial practices, or any other predatory practice under the sun and the corporations that collect and guard, or fail to sufficiently guard this information can never be held accountable for any damage done. Students and adults that have mental illness or limited mental capacity will be targeted by hucksters for the rest of their lives if this information falls into the wrong hands. Students with missing limbs, poor eyesight or hearing can be targeted by thieves at their homes who will be able to easily prey upon those documented weaknesses. Corporations that learn your child has down syndrome or a weak heart may refuse to employ them, perhaps without even realizing they are discriminating against them. This will be done through complex ranking systems that will evaluate everyone based on suitability for specific jobs or tasks, just like credit reports determine credit worthiness. Employers may never be aware they are using data to discriminate against people illegally, but they will use these systems nevertheless as there are not laws and there is no oversight to prevent this from happening. The only defense we have right now is that of refusing to share or allow our data to be harvested and shared.

John White and Chas Roemer frequently claim national and federal collections are no different than the local vendors and arrangement school districts use. There is video tape of this at various BESE meetings if you are interested in looking for it. However there are major differences between what local vendors use and collect and what a national vendor does.

Local vendors:

  • Are answerable to local districts and local parents.
  • Parents and local districts have financial leverage over their vendors
  • Their contracts are locally controlled and defined.
  • Local vendors collect data for a specific contracted reason, that directly serves students, parents and families in the school district
  • Local vendors are usually excluded from using student data for commercial purposes (and should always be)
  • Superintendents and IT staff that sign contracts with local vendors are answerable to the people in their districts. If they screw it up, they can lose their jobs and be found personally liable in the event of negligence or criminal activity
  • LEAs are required to notify parents and ask for their permission before they provide student data for directory information
  • Parents have a direct line of contact with their schools and their school districts and personnel if they suspect a problem
  • Are smaller target for hackers and thieves. A single breach does not reveal everyone’s data all at once.
  • Are necessary for the day to day operations of a school district
  • Local vendors are selected by school districts and relationships can be terminated at any time

Federal and National data collections and vendors:

  • Are answerable only to themselves
  • Can use their leverage to force districts to comply with their policies
  • Engage in monopolistic practices eliminate rights for parents, states and school districts
  • Parents, students, local districts and sometimes states have no rights to object (in the case of federally mandated collections)
  • Parents have no financial leverage over national players
  • May have hundreds or thousands of partners and contract relationships which exponentially increase the likelihood of intentional or unintentional disclosure
  • Are exponentially more attractive and visible targets for hackers and thieves and the damage done from a breach is irreparable
  • Can ignore parents and students with impunity
  • Can rename themselves, create shell companies, and sell student data and contracts to third parties without consent making tracking of responsible parties impossible (as inBloom as done or created clauses in their contract with Louisiana and other states to allow.)
  • Are not necessary for the day to day operations of a school district
  • Federal collections and vendors are never selected by local districts or parents, and these relationships are not usually terminable under any circumstances controlled by parents or students

So which arrangement are you more comfortable with? Who do you think you will be able to hold more accountable for mistakes, your local superintendent and school board, or Iwan Streichenberged who is likely zooming around on his yacht paid for by the exploitation of your children?

For these reasons we should limit what national collections are permitted to collect. Congress is currently unable to function enough to fund the government for a single minute, even though this game of political chicken makes us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, more vulnerable to foreign invasions, more vulnerable to natural disasters, and makes it very likely we will have children starving or dying from cancer. It is unlikely a Congress as dysfunctional as this will be able to pass legislation to protect our children from the threats they face from data predation and exploitation.

We must push our State governments to pass privacy legislation that truly protects our children. If they refuse, or if they do a poor job, then they will be directly answerable to us, their neighbors, fellow church members and little league coaches.

CREDO is not credible, and never has been

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

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

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

Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 09:26:04 -0700
Subject: Re: Louisiana Education Data

Hi Jason,

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

Best regards,

Dev Davis
CREDO at Stanford University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjamin Franklin High School Admissions Policy


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Applying for 9th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

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

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

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

Applying for 10th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

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

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

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

Applying for 11th grade:

1. Residency in Orleans Parish.

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

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

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

Applying for 12th grade:

Applications are not accepted for senior year.

Lusher Admissions

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

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

Community Admissions

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

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

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

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

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

Another laughable claim that CREDO makes relates to SPED achievement.

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

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

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

Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2013 01:55:35 -0500
Subject: CREDO and New Orleans Charters


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

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

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

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

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

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

Louisiana Believes in Completely Denying Reality

Louisiana Believes in Completely Denying Reality


May 07, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support the Louisiana Student Privacy Act

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

Reject House Bill 650 – DOE reorg

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

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

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

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

Reject 2013 MFP

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

known flawed VAM for funding calculations (SCR 23) )

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


Pass House Bill 160 – VAM delay and oversight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeMythdefying LDOE’s Myth-directions and Myth-information about MFP

DeMythdefying LDOE’s Myth-directions and Myth-information about MFP


MYTH 1: Public education funding has been cut.

FACT: Funding per student will at least remain constant this year. The MFP establishes the total cost of providing an education for a student. Then the formula determines the percentages the state and the local districts will each pay towards that total. When the local share decreases, the state share increases. The state share goes down only if local tax revenue increases.

Mythdirection: The base amount remains the same, but the scaling factors are changed. Simply read LDE’s “Myth 3” below that describes some districts will lose less than 100 dollars per child (the 10% is another mythdirection), and you will see LDE wasn’t even able to complete a document with 4 points internally truthful. 100 Dollars per child for EBR with around 44,000 thousand students would be a loss of 4.4 million dollars. However the actual calculation provided by LDE for EBR shows a loss of 75$ per student, which is only 3.3 million dollars, or about 2-3 % of EBR’s state funding allocation. Of course the assumptions used to generate these estimates could be wildly off, and are probably wildly optimistic in the first place. To find out how much you are losing under this formula John White just claimed you were at least remaining constant go here.

MYTH 2: The state contribution to the MFP has remained flat.

FACT: The state’s overall public education spending will increase by nearly $40 million this year, even as the state faces a $1 billion deficit, because of an increase in students. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) did not increase the per student cost, but the board did vote to maintain the state’s share of the overall cost at 65 percent and the local contribution at 35 percent.

Mythinformation: For starters, the 1 billion dollar deficit is entirely Jindal fabricated and easily solvable by eliminating any 1 billion of the 5 or so billion in tax exemptions provided for soft drink manufacturers, and others that have been on the books for as long as a century. One would assume the parents of the students are taxpayers, so it’s not clear why John White felt this was an important point to make? It is worth noting that BESE did not increase the per-student reimbursement for the 3rd or 4th year, which is nice because inflation has only increased like 11% since 2009. I suppose when you look at it that way, in real dollars funding has been slashed 11% and every year MFP remains unchanged school districts essentially take a 2-3% cut in services and salaries they can provide.

MYTH 3: Funds for special education, gifted, and talented will be cut.

FACT: Funding for special education, gifted, and talented will not be cut. The MFP is a block grant. Rather than receiving a dollar amount to spend on specific programs, such as special education, gifted education, and talented education, districts receive a lump sum. The state is piloting changes in the way it calculates the cost of educating children who require such services. The pilot policy that was passed by BESE has only 10 percent of its true impact, meaning that districts typically gain or lose less than $10 per child. All requirements to provide special education, gifted, and talented services remain.

Mythinformation: John White just started calling MFP a “block grant” this year, while it is nothing of the sort. Per RS 17:7 the money allocated for Special Education and other programs must be spent for those programs.

LA Revised Statues R.S. 17:7(2)(f) (at

(f)(i) In addition to any other requirements of the minimum foundation program formula as most recently adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and approved by the legislature, the state board, beginning with the 2010-2011 school year and continuing thereafter, shall require each city, parish, or other local public school board to expend funds generated by applying the weighted factors contained in such formula for at-risk students, career and technical education course units, special education students other than gifted and talented students, and gifted and talented students on personnel, professional services, instructional materials, equipment, and supplies that serve the unique needs of students who generate such funds and to submit annually a written report to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that details the types of activities on which these funds were expended to serve the needs of the weighted students at all schools that serve such students. The information contained in such annual report shall be published on the state Department of Education website in an easily understandable format.

John White ignores state and federal laws, and even the state constitution, when they are inconvenient. But just putting out a poorly researched and worded memo like this one does not change the actual laws, just makes him look like a fool. Listening to John White is a lawsuit waiting to happen. White really needs to be jailed for misleading folks about our state laws, or at least fired for his gross incompetence.

MYTH 4: Talented programs are being replaced by gifted programs.

FACT: The MFP only calculates the total cost of educating students and provides a block grant to districts. It does not fund or make rules for specific programs, such as talented education. Individual education plans identify what is needed for a child and must be funded. In this case, students classified as talented must continue to receive talented education services.

Mythdirection: Districts must provide the services, but they will have less funding to do so because talented students will not qualify for the same funding gifted students qualify for. Can school districts provide the same services with 30% less money? Could you buy the same quantity and quality of food if I slashed your food budget by 30%?

You can see the original “pants on fire” posting here.

My apologies to Robert Asprin. . .  :)


Bobby Jindal and John White Decide to Experiment on Special Education Students

Bobby Jindal and John White Decide to Experiment on Special Education Students

Louisiana Superintendent of Education and Governor Bobby Jindal are experimenting on Louisiana’s Special Education students. This might seem like a harsh assessment, but as far as I can see the only alternative to this is that these guys are straight up stealing state and federal dollars allocated for special education students to fund pet projects, plug budget holes and provide additional funding to charter and voucher school operators – and that would be a violation of federal law and criminal – so I’m actually giving them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Superintendent John White takes his marching orders directly from Bobby Jindal, who recently had to abandon eliminating the state’s hospice program and an ill-conceived reverse robin hood tax scheme that increased the taxes on the poorest citizens of our state so as to eliminate taxes for the wealthiest citizens and corporations.  This follows on successful Jindal campaigns to eliminate the office of elderly affairs, over the objection of the head of this agency – whom Jindal fired immediately after she voiced her assessment under oath that eliminating this agency would lead to a decrease in support for our state’s aging citizens. Jindal has also closed most of the state’s mental hospitals, eliminated the state’s charity hospital system, rejected a largely free expansion of Medicaid that would have provided life-saving benefits to Louisiana’s poorest citizens, and slashed funding for state university’s by more than half – with more cuts on the way. Jindal, a “theoretical” devout Catholic, also executes inmates as often as possible, refusing even to delay them by one day despite objections from his own Bishops to postpone one until at least after Ash Wednesday. Obviously Jindal is not exactly trying to win any awards for devout Christian, or nicest human (or even for someone with a shred of any humanity) so it should be no surprise that he has decided conduct experiments on Louisiana’s Special Education students in the name of fiscal responsibility and accountability.  What follows are the hypothses Jindal and White are testing:

Hypothesis 1:

Disabled students improve their performance when you take away the money for providing educational services to them.

Hypothesis 2:

Disabled students can exceed expectations year after year until they are no longer disabled so long as you reallocate their funding when they don’t improve. (Less funding means increased performance.)

Hypothesis 3:

Students classified as “Talented” (for instance music, drama, art, or performing arts) can also excel at academics when you stop funding their talented programs.

Hypothesis 4:

Gifted Students can improve infinitely when you reduce their funding for academic programs when they don’t improve any given year.

These ideas may seem obvious to some of you. To me they seem less so. Nevertheless our Governor, and his trusty steed, have set a course to determine if these ideas have merit. The vehicle for conducting this experiment is something called the MFP funding formula. This is the formula through which Louisiana funds public education students each year. In the past the basic formula could fit on an index card and was pretty straight forward.

  • If you have a vanilla student, school districts get funding for one student.
  • If that student is classified as “disabled” districts get a weighted amount equal to 2.5 students.
  • If you have a gifted or talented student districts get funding equivalent to 1.6 students.

Now the formula is 26 pages long. This new formula was either devised to allow John White to conduct experiments on Louisiana children in all sorts of nearly incomprehensible ways, or to secretly steal the funding from Louisiana school children so it can be plugged back into the State general fund. Because Jindal and White have roundly rejected they are stealing money, and that this change is about accountability, I will take their word for this in my analysis of their plan.

Hypothesis 1: Disabled students improve their performance when you take away the money for providing educational services to them.

According to the formula proposed by John White on page 5 of 26

A. Student Performance – A weight is provided for student performance using the Value Added Model (VAM) and the LAA1 and LAA2 accountability data from the latest available data. The weight is provided under the following circumstances:

i. Category 1 provides a 135% weight times the number of students whose score in English Language Arts (ELA) or Math “exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model or whose LAA1 or LAA2 test results improved one achievement level or more, or

ii. Category 2 provides a 175% weight times the number of students whose performance in English Language Arts or Math “significantly exceeded expected achievement” in the Value Added Model.

B. Graduation Rate – A weight is provided for students with disabilities that graduate using the latest available data. The weight is provided at 150% times the number of students who graduated within four or five years of entering high school.

I know what you’re probably thinking. At least John White filled his 26 pages with easily understandable gibberish and jargon. I’m sure most casual readers will understand what this means, but for those who don’t, allow me to translate.

LAA1 and LAA2 are tests for disabled students. Value Added Modeling is based on the idea that every student increases an average amount on a test each year. With a good teacher they will gain more, with a bad teacher they will gain less. The amount expected to be gained by a student is also based on each student’s previous gains. If a student makes an “exceptional gain” one year, they have to make an even larger gain the next year, and so forth. The first year they fail to make an exponential gain, they lose funding. The theory is, this loss in funding will cause the student to try even harder. Eventually students will have to score more points than are possible to keep up with their expected gains, so eventually all students will get less funding. I’m not sure what this is supposed to test.

The graduation metric is weird for a couple of reasons. Apparently hearing-impaired students who graduate in 3 or fewer years are not eligible for the additional funding, so on the one hand John White is setting average expectations for some students and punishing them if they exceed them. White doesn’t want disabled students graduating too soon. On the other hand he is assuming all students in Special Education, even those with severe mental disabilities, should be able to get a diploma. Many Special education students get training in life skills to help them be self-sufficient, or at least less dependent on full time caregivers. Apparently John White believes having high expectations for quadriplegic students with severe brain injuries will push them to both tie their shoes and get their highschool diploma.  If they don’t – he will take the funding that provides for their education.

Hypothesis 2: Disabled students can exceed expectations year after year until they are no longer disabled so long as you reallocate their funding when they don’t improve. (Less funding means increased performance.)

C. Continued Services After Declassification – The formula utilizes this weight in order to recognize the cost to the district associated with students declassified from special education but still requiring academic support services. This weight sustains funding once a student is no longer identified with a disability. The number of students that are no longer identified as a student with a disability from the latest available data is multiplied by 150% to determine the weighted student count. This weight does not include students identified as Developmentally Delayed or Speech Articulation Impairment.

Apparently in order to get the full level of funding for being disabled, disabled students should improve their performance until they are no longer disabled. I personally didn’t even know this was an option, but apparently John White believes disabled kids are really just slackers and just need a good kick in the pants to get over themselves. Just set some high expectations and they will cure themselves!  Limbs will regrow, brain injuries will heal, and eyeballs will regenerate! Get to work you disabled slackers!

Of course once they fix themselves our “no-longer-disabled-students” won’t be needing those Special Education dollars anymore, so Jindal can just plug those back in the general fund. Of course if disabled students don’t improve exponentially every year, or spontaneously cure themselves, we will also plough some of those dollars back into the general fund.  So it’s really a win-win situation for a politician, maybe less so if you happen to be a disabled child. . .

Hypothesis 3: Students classified as “Talented” (for instance music, drama, art, or performing arts) can also excel at academics when you stop funding their talented programs

Gifted and Talented Weight – The formula recognizes the cost of providing educational services to Gifted and Talented students. Students in grades Preschool through 8 identified as Gifted and Talented are provided a 60% weight. Gifted and Talented students in grades 9 through 12 are provided a weight of 30%. To determine the Gifted and Talented weight, the eligible February 1 Gifted and Talented Student Count (1.0) is multiplied by 60% or 30% respectively.

High Standards Weight – This weight is provided to recognize the cost of providing advanced coursework. A 30% weight is provided for students in grades 8 through 11 that meet the certain criteria on exams. To determine the High Standards Weight, the number of eligible students from the latest available data is multiplied by 30%. Students must meet the following criteria in order to be considered eligible:

o Students in 8th grade that score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests

o Students in 9th grade who score excellent on Geometry End Of Course (EOC) tests or score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

White seems to think talented students must either start taking advanced coursework and drop all those mamby pamby, arts, music and drama classes, or they should lose a portion of their funding. Additionally, not only must talented students take advanced courses unrelated to their talents, but now they must excel far and above most of their peers academically to continue qualifying for “talented” funding.  That seems reasonable.  It’s not like Louisiana is known for many musicians or artists anyways.

White also seems to think allowing some students to study single women from foreign countries in 11th grade is also a pretty good use of state funding (or he ironically hires under-educated morons to run his department of education these days. . . )

Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

Hypothesis 4: Gifted Students can improve infinitely when you reduce their funding for academic programs when they don’t improve any given year.

o Students in 8th grade that score excellent on Algebra I End Of Course (EOC) tests

o Students in 9th grade who score excellent on Geometry End Of Course (EOC) tests or score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 10th grade who score 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam

o Students in 11th grade who score a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or a 4+ on an International Bachelorette (IB) Course

Any year a gifted student does not take an EOC or AP test, even if its a test they’ve already taken before, they will lose a portion of their funding. This change was done (to ensure testing companies have an ever increasing revenue stream) to make sure gifted students were getting their money’s worth out of all those fancy shmancey advanced course work they are taking. If gifted students can’t prove they are getting their money’s worth to the state every year by earning AP credit,  White takes their money away.  To his mind, this will ensure they try harder, or lose access to advanced classes.

As far as I can tell. . .

Bobby Jindal is a heartless tyrant trying to shoot-the-moon in terms of being the most horrible human being possible and John White is following Jindal’s lead. If you are poor, weak, old, infirm, disabled, gifted, troubled, sick, young, old, a student, a teacher, or cross his path, Jindal wants to be your black cat and your grim reaper all rolled into one.

If you are a legislator you need to finally stand up to this lame-duck shell of a human being. You may think that by going along with him you are sparing yourself a committee demotion or perhaps a pet project for your constituents, but if Jindal’s history is any indication he will be coming for you, and whatever you hold dear.  If you never stood for anyone else then who will stand with you? The only way you can fight a petty tyrant like Jindal is by showing a united front.  This was done with the hospice elimination issue and more recently with his reverse robin hood sales tax scheme that turned out to be a losing deal for everyone, except Jindal and his pipe-dream inspired presidential political aspirations.

Reject the 2013 MFP formula proposed by John White and approved by BESE. Tell John White to restore the MFP formula to what it was before, a fair and much easily understandable funding formula that doesn’t punish or steal from disabled students.

If you are a voter, please call your senators and representatives NOW and tell them to reject the current 2013 MFP.

If you need to find out who your elected officials are, please use this tool.   To use this web based lookup tool all you will need is your current address.  The tool will give you the names and contact details for your state representatives.

We took his funding, like John White said, but he's not getting any better. . .
We took his funding, like John White said, but he’s not getting any better. . . And now we can’t afford his equipment.