Today’s radio show on WBOK covers latest release of SPS scores

Michael Deshotels will be on the New Orleans Imperative WBOK  AM1230 show on Monday October 27, 2014 at 10 am to discuss the recently released SPS scores.  Below is a description of the program:

You can also go to their website to listen to the live program online.

Introducing Savvy Squash – Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

Introducing Savvy Squash – Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

Ok, now I think people are becoming inspired or starting to make fun of my Crazy Crawfish motif! I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted? No matter, Savvy Squash is here to explain some of the nuances and private backdoor deals of Louisiana’s Accountability system. It appears the system is changing again, but this time entirely secretly, even from a BESE that rubberstamps everything DOE does.  The only reason I can see for doing this is to conceal what they are doing from the public and the US Department of Education.  It also appears they are not turning over the list of AUS schools in a prompt manner and formulating realistic alternatives for students so as to leave children no other “choices” but Course Choice which has no standards, no evaluation methods, no requirements for certified teachers (or requirements for having teachers at all), and actually no money to fund it as many students who tried to apply this year found out the hard way.  Admittedly I was having trouble conveying what I was being told so I asked for some contributions to tell it like it is. Without further ado, allow me to present the latest Crazy Crawfish Blog contributor, Savvy Squash.

Who needs BESE? Apparently not LDOE. . .

The LDOE appears to be by-passing BESE and creating/implementing policy (all on their own.) This is shocking not because it’s occurring but because BESE has rubber-stamped almost everything LDOE has sent there way so one must ponder why there are some policy issues LDOE just doesn’t bother to take to BESE.

Fake Policy: Academic School Choice for AUS schools

LDOE sent out letters which inform school districts that the content of the instructions in the letters are now policy “which took effect July 2012, supersedes all other related policies.”. A summary of the letters in comparison to BESE policy is outlined below: [this is a secret policy LDOE created last year that was never approved by BESE or USED and which has been expanded upon and reiterated this year . Ccf]

  July 2012 letter from LDOE July 2013 Letter from LDOE Bulletin 111 (as of June 2013) ESEA waiver
Who develops the plan? The Louisiana Department of Education developed the following selection criteria for Public School Choice for local school districts.  The Louisiana Department of Education has developed the following process to ensure Public School Choice for any student attending a failing school. §2501.An LEA must develop a school choice policy for schools that are academically unacceptable.


Not mentioned
What is the objective/purpose? In recognition that Louisiana’s children deserve access to a high quality education regardless of family income and zip-code, all children enrolled at F schools must be provided the opportunity to transfer to a higher performing public school within their local school district.  Local school districts must provide students who qualify for NCLB School Choice with the opportunity to attend any school in the district irrespective of geography or zoning. The list of options must include all unfilled seats in all non-failing schools. AUS 1  (Year 1) (notified Aug. 1) – AUS 3 (Year 3) Remedy School Choice For those schools failing to achieve AMOs and meaningfully progress, multiple consequences or interventions will be used. These include:

(b) school choice;

What are the plan requirements? 1.       Local school districts must develop a listing of available enrollment slots at higher performing receiving schools broken down by school by grade level.  Higher performing schools for the purposes of Public School Choice are non-F schools. 

2.       Local school districts must place children attending F-schools at a higher performing school based upon the following criteria:

a.       Develop list of all students attending F-schools.  The list must be broken down by grade level.

b.      Students attending the lowest performing F-schools, as determined by School Performance Scores (SPS), will be given the highest preference.

a.       For each request form, match students with the highest performing school with available enrollment slots.  If parents rank multiple receiving schools, match students to their top request at which there is an open seat.  If no match is made, students will remain at their current school.

                                                   i.      Follow this process in ascending order until all choice request forms from all F-schools are reviewed.

4.       Notify families in writing on the status of their request form within a reasonable time period.


1. Local school districts must develop a list of available enrollment slots at higher-performing receiving-schools arranged by school and grade level. Higher performing schools for the purposes of Public School Choice are non-failing schools (i.e., letter grades of D or higher).

2. Local school districts must notify parents of children attending failing schools, of all higher performing enrollment options within the school district within ten days of receiving notification from LDOE.

3. The local school district must review choice requests from parents of the district’s failing schools in the following order to ensure that Louisiana’s lowest performing students are provided access to higher performing schools:

a.       Begin to review the Choice Request forms of children attending the lowest performing failing school.

b.      For each request form, match the student with the highest performing school with available enrollment slots.

c.       If parents rank multiple receiving schools, match them to their top request for which there is an open seat.

d.       If no match is made, the student will remain at their current school.

e.      Follow this process in ascending order until all Choice Request forms from all failing schools are reviewed.

4. Notify families, in writing, on the status of their request form.

5. Local school districts should also inform parents of Course Choice as an option for their child.

a.       Course Choice is a pilot program that provides educational opportunities to students across the state that are currently denied the ability to enroll in the high-quality courses necessary for college or career preparation because they are not available at their local school.

b.      For more information, please contact Ernise Singleton (



1. An LEA must offer more than one choice to eligible students, if more than one school is eligible to receive students.

2. The LEA must take into account the parents’ preferences among the choices offered, or the LEA may allow parents to make the final decision.

§2503. Student Eligibility

A. An LEA must offer choice to all students in an eligible school until the school is no longer identified as AUS except:

1.       if an eligible student exercises the option to transfer to another public school, an LEA must permit the student to remain in that school until he or she has completed the highest grade in the school and shall provide transportation to the student.

§2505.Transfer Options

A. An LEA may consider health and safety factors in determining the transfer options. Should the LEA have concerns for health and safety factors, the LEA will need to find ways to provide choice consistent with their obligations to provide a healthy and safe learning environment.

B. An LEA that is subject to a desegregation plan is not exempt from offering students the option to transfer.

1.       An LEA should first determine whether it is able to offer choice within the parameters of its desegregation plan.

2.        If it is not able to do so, or if the desegregation plan forbids the LEA from offering the choice option, the LEA needs to seek court approval for amendments to the plan that permit a transfer option for students.

C. Students may not transfer to any school that is academically unacceptable or that has been identified for school improvement 1 or higher for subgroup component failure.

D. If there are no schools to which students can transfer, parents must be notified that the child is eligible for choice. The notification will further indicate that no choice options are currently available.


Not mentioned
What is the timeline for notification? Eligible families must be contacted and offered Public School Choice by their local school district within ten business days of receiving such notification. Eligible families must be contacted and offered Public School Choice by their local school district within ten business days of receiving notification from the Louisiana Department of Education that one of their schools is at-risk of becoming a failing school. §2501.Beginning with the 2003-04 school year, an LEA shall notify parents of their school choice options not later than the first day of the school year for the schools that must offer choice.


Not mentioned
How is notification to be made? Notify families in writing on the status of their request form within a reasonable time period.


Communication may include a phone call, but must include a formal notification letter. Not mentioned Not Mentioned
What are the Policy References? This policy is in effect for the school year starting on July 1, 2012 and supersedes any other written document you may have received prior to today’s date.  This policy, which took effect July 2012, supersedes all other related policies. Bulletin 111; Chapter 25, Sections 2501, 2503, and 2505  

From January of 2012 to August of 2013 there was only one instance of policy revision to Bulletin 111’s academic school choice policy. The references in the letter to new policy as of July 2012 appear to reference final approval of ESEA. The problem is the ESEA waiver only vaguely mentions choice as a sanction for failing schools and doesn’t even mention a change in the process for how choice is to be carried out. The process change appears to be entirely created and deemed policy by LDOE.

There are 3 major concerns with these letters masquerading around like policy:

1. There does not appear to be any BESE or ESEA-waiver policy which dictates the school choice processes outlined in the letter

2. The “policy” seemingly evolves from year to year

3.  The one-size fits all model doesn’t consider local restraints

So what’s the big deal?

 1.       Policy should be vetted and run through the policy making board, not created and enforced LDOE

Policy is written, understood, it maintains a level of knowledge and stability. What happens when LDOE decides their own policy? Take a look at the letters. From July 2012 to July 2013 somehow policy miraculously changed to require that Districts peddle LDOE’s course choice program. In essence, Districts are being asked to try and sway their students, in a failing public school, to begin taking classes via course choice, which to date has no data to support that it would be a quality program that if measure would not be deemed academically unacceptable. Additionally, why would a District want to promote courses that they have no control over yet are responsible for in accountability? If I’m a district and I want to reform my failing school, the first place I’m not going to consider is an outside provider with no measures of success with no local control yet I would ultimately be responsible for the outcomes.

Now, bottom line, students should NOT have to attend a failing school. The failing of a public school is the failure of a school district to provide an equal and acceptable arena for learning. There should be no need for school choice, however since there are failing schools there should be state policy guidelines which consider that the way to carry out school choice should be left up to districts discretion or, at the very least, the process should be vetted in a public forum where districts could speak to the course of action.

Why do districts need a voice in school choice? I’m sure there are many reasons but I will just vent a bit about two.

2.       Logistics

The fake policy LDOE propagated in their letters is arguably a good option for students. It’s feasibility in a district is logistically challenging, however. Take for example a district with a large geographical spread where a failing school may be located 29.7 miles away from a higher performing school which has 1 open seat in grade K and 1 open seat in grade 4. According to LDOE, policy says the district must let those 2 students transfer and the district must provide transportation. I don’t know what line of thinking LDOE is using but there simply isn’t a plausible logistical way to transport two students across opposite ends of the district – it requires 1 bus, 1 bus driver, and a ride of anywhere between 1-2.5 hours each way for the student. So the student in grade K is conceivable riding a bus with only 1 other student and being picked up at 6am and not returning home until 5:30 pm. Are there compromises? Sure; but since LDOE never bothered to bring this to the policy making board there was no opportunity for districts or board members to propose one.

3.       Desegregation Orders

If a district is operating under a desegregation plan, or if the district has gained unitary status, the decisions about school choice transfer may reach a level when judicial input is necessary to insure compliance with an active or closed plan.  Under LDOE’s fake policy there is no consideration for district to modify the choice process to comply with desegregation orders.

On a related note:

For the second consecutive year, LDOE has not publicly released the list of preliminary AUS schools that are required to offer choice. The release of this information publicly is necessary for

1.       Transparency – parents and the public at large have a right to know which schools in which districts are deemed academically unacceptable. Without this information being public, it is not possible for parents to know, until sometime in October when final SPS scores are officially released, whether they should have been offered a choice transfer. This is not to say that I think districts will ultimately not offer choice to students, however, this is a public process and the public has a right to know and ensure they are being offered what they are entitled to by BESE policy.

2.       Checks and Balances – Without a public preliminary list of AUS schools, it is not possible for the public to measure the growth or decline of failing schools; to make decisions about moving into different attendance zone/districts; to know which RSD schools are F and which are masquerading as T; or to know if any schools identify as F in July are no longer identified as F in October.

Why should we care do you ask?

1. This isn’t policy.

2. If this was policy, it’s not good for districts.

3. Districts under desegregation orders – LDOE should be producing the preliminary list much earlier than the last week of July and they should be sending the information to desegregation districts and CC [carbon copy] the judge so that a proper plan can be worked out for choice.

4. The one-size-fits-all approach by the state doesn’t work in all districts.

If this went to BESE, districts could make a case that if the state wants this policy then perhaps we compromise – perhaps we offer a minimum of two options with transportation and then offer every other available seat across the district without transportation. For car riders and parents who work near other schools that’s feasible.


Savvy Squash

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. . .

Shadow Schools, the many victims of their success, and why US ED is useless

Shadow Schools, the many victims of their success, and why US ED is useless

If you are a journalist. . . beware trying to cover this story. This may be a story only a blogger can handle because of all the high profile political players involved.  Just asking questions about this subject is liable to get you fired as one reporter unfortunately found out.

Some of my earlier readers of my blog may have heard me talk about a situation I called Shadow Schools. A shadow school looks just like a normal school from the street and to parents and children attending it, but these schools don’t actually exist, at least not in an accountable, reportable way. Imagine if you had children and never applied for Social Security cards for them, and the hospital never issues birth certificates for them. Your children would exist, hopefully you named them and feed them, but to the state and federal government they would be invisible and if you decided to home school them and never file a tax return claiming them as a dependent and never added them to your health insurance policy it would be very hard for anyone who didn’t actually know you and them personally to know they existed.

That’s what shadow schools are. These are brand new schools that have been built, enroll students, hire teachers and principals, pick their mascots, form PTA committees and put up websites advertising they are open for business. However these schools are never reported to the State or the US Department of Education.

I will of course forgive you if you don’t believe this situation could exist. I was a bit incredulous myself when I first found out about them. You see, I just assumed our various state and federal agencies would prevent such a situation from occurring. We have so many levels of bureaucracy in our government, so many folks that would have to collude or turn a blind eye to just ignoring the existence of entire schools (for what is going on 6 years now) I had a little trouble believing it a first. I found out about them while working at the Louisiana Department of Education. I was told about them by other employees, parents, other district coordinators, and software vendors trying to figure out how to send us data and even people who drove by these new construction projects on their way to their work and asked about them.

I have uncovered evidence that two Parishes currently employ Shadow Schools, St James and Iberville, but it’s probably pure folly to believe they are the only ones. In the past Jefferson Parish used them as a way to avoid some accountability sanctions, and at one point East Baton Rouge asked to employ this technique with Baton Rouge High School. Jefferson was told to stop the practice, and I’ve been told they have done so.

East Baton Rouge was told they could not turn Baton Rouge High into a shadow school, publicly. Paul Pastorek, Louisiana’s then State Superintendent of Education even went on TV to reveal this plot and to denounce it, successfully. East Baton Rouge did not create a shadow school, and East Baton Rouge has had numerous schools taken over by the state and turned over to the RSD, the Recovery School District. The reason I draw attention to this fact, is that this is ostensibly the reason to create high performing shadow schools, to avoid accountability sanctions and school takeovers that the state department of education has the power to do, and which the US Department of Education encourages.

Here is a comment from Tom Spencer, former head of Accountability for the Louisiana Department of Education during the time of the shadow schools were created that appeared on the The Lens which attempted to cover this topic most local media organizations were cowed away from reporting.

“I was at the LDOE nearly 10 years. He’s telling it straight. Thing is – Jefferson Parish had several of these shadow schools, but the way they were recorded allowed tracking and Paul Pastorek, former supe of ed, made the LDoE change how scores were calculated. This was because EBR was openly requesting to set up similar situations. PP had the ball rolling to take over schools and didn’t want any magic to prevent his heavy-handed activity. John White is the only individual I know who lies more than Pastorek.” – Tom Spencer

To date, Mark Moseley with The Lens is the only journalist able to get to successfully cover this story to any degree. Sue Lincoln at LPB attempted to cover this story, the story never aired due to interventions by John White, and she was recently fired so LPB could go in “another direction.” I suppose straight to Hell is the direction LPB is aiming for these days.

What is the motivation and was DOE aware of this? A former DOE accountability employee reported this:

It’s probably not just about the magnet schools. Plaquemines and White Castle both have SPS in low 70’s. Without the scores routed back, they will not do well. EBR and Jefferson, however, aren’t afforded the opportunity to do the same thing.

Shadow schools exist and even have their supporters such as Mike Deshotels, a fellow Louisiana Education blogger did a story on them suggesting this was “true reform.” I usually agree with Mike on most things education related, but I find this deception too much, despite the reasoning behind the subterfuge.

The Academy program is not classified as a school. Therefore all student LEAP and iLEAP scores go back to the student’s home school. Everybody benefits from the high performance of the Academy students. Cancienne believes that students in the home schools are motivated to perform better by opportunity to attend the Academy. Link

Everyone most certainly does not benefit equally by this scheme. I will get to some of the victims and how they are victimized in a bit. There is no question that these schools or “academies” exist in an intentionally grey area and that the Louisiana Department of Education is fully aware of them. One of the reasons this was done was shared by one of my commenters, but it mirrors what I heard when I worked at LDOE and inquired about them:

A little bird told me that East Iberville and MSA East are the same school, but the reason for this is because East Iberville’s scores are so low that if the schools were not joined together, East Iberville would be taken over by the state. Since the scores for MSA East are high, they compensate for East Iberville’s low scores.

While the Reform movement is a bankrupt and bankrupting philosophy, I don’t feel the ends justifies the means here. When we abandon the moral high ground and resort to trickery we risk becoming as bad, or worse, than the faux reformers we fight in the name of truth and justice – and the children suffer. It is wrong to sacrifice poor children to improve the lot of others. Despite what Reformers would have you believe poor children are not less valuable than rich kids. They are not disposable batteries like Iberville uses them for. They should not be abandoned because wealthier kids are easier to reach. This is exactly what is happening overtly with Shadow Schools, but covertly nationwide when schools for poor kids are closed and the kids are shipped across the school district to hide the problem, hide the individual struggling students among the masses.

Out of their sites, out of our minds.

That’s the way of the Reformer. It’s the John White way so it’s not surprising he crafted policy to take advantage of this situation on a case by case basis to support his allies.

(6) Alternative Schools

• Background:

○ Alternative schooling and programs vary widely in structure, purpose and quality across the state.

• Issue:

○ Despite the wide variance, the LDOE’s past practice has been to tightly define these learning environments as (a) alternative

schools or (b) alternative programs. This removes decision-making authority from educators closest to kids and, further, fails

to clarify the differences between the sites.


○ Rather than the LDOE, districts will designate alternative programs and/or schools.

Programs = Scores will count at sending school and the site will not have a site code

School = Scores will be assigned based on the new Full Academic Year definition

○ Any students sent to an alternative school for less than 45 days will be considered to be enrolled in an alternative

program within the alternative school, and their scores will be counted at their sending school.

You can even read Erin Bendily’s, Assistant Superintendent, Policy and External Affairs at Louisiana Department of Education, response when I brought Shadow Schools to her attention several years ago.

From: Erin Bendily (DOE)
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 4:05 PM
To: Jason France
Cc: (redacted); (redacted); Joan Hunt; Jennifer Baird
Subject: RE: Unreported Sites

This still doesn’t answer the question of why IPSB is communicating to parents and others externally that these are SCHOOLS, and why they are segregating data for them.

That was an excellent point, Erin. It still is. I wonder what, or who changed your mind? A FOIA request might reveal those answers.

State law is pretty specific on this issue as we all discussed with Chief Legal Counsel, Joan Hunt, and as we can see from Bulletin 111.

Part LXXXIII. Bulletin 111―The Louisiana School,
District, and State Accountability System

§301. School Performance Score Goal

A. A School Performance Score (SPS) shall be calculated for each school. This score shall range from 0.0 to 120.0 and beyond, with a score of 120.0 indicating a school has reached Louisiana’s 2014 goal.

B. Each school shall receive its school performance scores under one site code regardless of its grade structure.


§3301. Inclusion of New Schools

A. For a newly formed school, the school district shall register the new school with the Louisiana Department of Education to have a site code assigned to that school. A new school shall not be created nor shall a new site code be issued in order to allow a school to avoid an accountability decision or prevent a school from entering the accountability system. Before a new school is created, the local education agency must work with the Louisiana Department of Education to explore ways the new school can be included in the accountability system.

Shadow Schools exist and they were funded from a 31-mill special property tax parish voters approved in 2008. The tax is expected to generate $10.5 million per year for 20 years in Iberville. I’m not tackling the issue of whether they exist or not in this post. If you are interested in seeing some of my previous discussions on why these schools were created, what they allow you to do, or where some the current ones are 1, 2, 3, (and what the grounds look like from an aerial view) you can refer to these previous posts.

The sad part is this has never been a well-kept secret. Iberville Parish and St James Parish built new schools, called them academies and programs, and that was the extent of the deception!

Without the collusion pliant local and state school boards, a corrupt State Department of Education a useless US Department of Education, and compliant media that dutifully reports anything handed to them without delving any deeper than the press releases that get handed to them on a silver platter, this situation could not exist. A former, wishing to remain anonymous, LDOE staffer writes this:

That superintendent in Iberville was in St. James a few years ago. Seems that’s where the ‘process’ started. EBR tried this and Pastorek wouldn’t allow it. He also stopped Jefferson – who was doing it in several schools. When Tyler was in Caddo, she tried to do it with overage 8th graders (low performing) and the LDE doesn’t allow it. Cancienne also invented the practice of leaving poor performing students in 8th grade while they were working toward a GED, so they wouldn’t enter the high school graduation calculations. As you pointed out – with scores as low as they are in Iberville as a whole – how pitiful must the schools be when considering all the ‘propping up’ that occurs. ERIN BENDILY is the governor’s superintendent of education. Whitey is just the mouthpiece.

I’ve been researching this topic on and off for a few years now so I have pretty rough timeline of what occurred and who the primary players were in this setup, corroborated from multiple independent sources.

Apparently around 2006 or 2007 or so Linda Johnson, a state school board or “BESE” member, found out about some shadow schools that were operating in Jefferson Parish. Rather than worrying about shutting them down, she decided she liked the idea and wanted it to spread to other parishes under her oversight. Edward Cancienne was the Superintendent of St James Parish at the time and had just set up an “Academy” there that was actually split between 3 schools. Cancienne came to Iberville in 2007 and proposed opening up two more shadow school academies and funding them through a tax millage increase, which passed. While the schools were being built, Canicenne opened up the Academies in temporary accommodations.

Now the schools are built and they draw children from miles around, even outside of Iberville Parish as this press release found on Iberville’s website helpfully describes.


Last school year, 32 such students applied to the academies in a parish with about 4,000 school age children. At the Jan. 15 application deadline, 273 parish students who attend school outside the parish and private school students in the parish were in a pool of 1,000 seeking entry into the academies for next school year, school system officials said. One of those former private school students is Kristin Ellis, a Plaquemine resident who attended school in Ascension Parish her entire life. She was admitted this year into the west side Math, Science and Arts Academy at the E.J. Gay campus in Plaquemine. Ellis, 16, is an achiever with a 4.2 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale due to her enrollment in honors courses. Leaving her Ascension Parish private school for the arts-intensive, technology-rich academy program in Iberville Parish made sense to Ellis, she said, because the academies push students to achieve.

The cumulative totals are even more staggering as Mike Deshotels reported:

In fact parents on both sides of the river are so impressed that in just 3 years a total of 780 students have transferred from private schools back into the public school system. For years the Iberville public school system had been plagued by the flight of serious top students (both black and white) to private schools. Now the kids are back, and the new concept Academies have a waiting list of over 400.

This all sounds fantastic! So what’s the problem do you ask?

For starters, with as many as 1000 high performing students transferring into a parish of only 4300 students as of 2011 the parish has only shown anemic growth. If you read any report about how awesome MSA East and MSA west are, you’d have to believe those are the best schools and kids on earth. It’s very likely, almost certain that the schools left behind are declining; the students are failing and dropping out in the shadows.



2007 District Performance Score

2008 District Performance Score

2009 District Performance Score

2010 District Performance Score

2011 District Performance Score

Letter Grade

024 Iberville Parish







At a recent seminar on race I attended I happened to have an Iberville teacher at my table. I mentioned knowing about the Academies but not that I was a blogger that knew “quite a bit” about them. She told me that almost all the good students and teachers were drained from the other schools to support the Academies and that the actual reported “schools” had all the new teachers and lowest performing students. I also asked about the “lottery” system which I was told by a number of parents was a joke, and she confirmed that it was well know that if you were well connected, you got in, if you were a poor local parent there was no waiting list, and you might never get in. Many of the kids going to the Academies are from other parishes that don’t even pay the millage tax actual parishioners passed. I learned that all the schools have finally been remodeled and all students now have laptops, for what that’s worth, but the impacts of those investments is not showing up for local children. In all likelihood they are suffering worse than before the MSA’s came into existence. A parent relates this about the “lottery.”

Thanks for responding. The whole situation is sad and the kids are the ones who suffer. Mr.Cancienne even went to the extreme of contacting neighboring parishes once North Iberville was closed asking them not to accept those students forcing them to attend Plaquemine High or private school. Those parents had to sign temporary guardianship to a family member or friend for their child to attend school in another parish. However, students from WBR parish just have to provide an address in Iberville parish and they are eligible to attend. I know a honor student from North Iberville that has been # 10 on the waiting list for 2 years.

I know they’ve enrolled more than one kid at the MSA’s in the last 2 years. You do the math. A fictitious lottery allows school districts to pick and choose who they admit and who they don’t. People can claim it is “random” and who can prove otherwise? This is probably what’s going on with the State’s voucher “lottery” according to reports I’ve gotten from staffers who no longer work there.

Another teacher wrote in to tell me about how this Shadow School situation looked like from the inside:

I worked for Eskridge last year. Noone even told me about MSA. It took me a month to figure out where the other “half of the school” was.

They even wear different colors!

MSA had lab-tops, East Iberville didn’t. Oops they’re the same school? WHAT A CROCK

two totally different schools. it makes me sick to see that it is even claimed

At one point USED informed us that this was a very bad thing going on. I was not allowed to confirm that we actually had this situation until after I left. When I tried to report this issue to EDEN, the federal data collection agency I never received even the courtesy of an out-of-office response. I sent e-mails to dozens of federal employees letting them know this was going on, and I never received a conformation or response of any kind. When I worked at DOE this was the response we got right away.

From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) [] On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2011 1:48 PM
To: [Redacted]
Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]

PSC asked ED how they would like this situation to be handled and ED sent the following response.

“The situation that is described in the e-mail is inappropriate. If something meets the definition of a school, LA needs to assign it a state site code and report it as a school to EDFacts.

As far as the LEAs go, LA SEA needs to be clear that the LEA are expected to report schools and students accurately and completely. The SEA could consider requiring a certification of some kind from the LEAs, that the data are reporting accurately and completely.

LA SEA could elaborate to the LEAs that while the LEAs might get by with misleading reporting for a while, eventually they will get caught. Then send them copies of the articles about Atlanta Public School District.”

Please let us know if you have any further questions regarding this issue. Thank you.


Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center

Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 5:56 PM
To: EDEN Submission System
Cc: Jason France; [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302


Please answer these questions and send back to Kara.



From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) [] On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 4:15 PM
To: [Redacted]

Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]

I have a couple of follow up questions for your concerning this.

1) Is this a common practice in Louisiana?

2) How does Louisiana treat/report these types of schools? Is there an established/common practice in Louisiana for these types of situations, or does the state not have a written rule and would like for ED to weigh in?

Once I have these response I will be able to look into this more accurately for you. Thank you.


Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center

Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: Osmonson, Kara (Contractor) On Behalf Of EDEN Submission System
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 12:30 PM
To: [Redacted]

Cc: Jason France
Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school #171302

Hi [Redacted]

Thank you for sending this to PSC. We will look into this question for you and get back to you with a response. Thank you.


Kara Osmonson

EDFacts Partner Support Center

Telephone: 877-457-3336 (877-HLP-EDEN)

Fax: 888-329-3336 (888-FAX-EDEN)

TTY/TDD: 888-403-3336 (888-403-EDEN)

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 11:16 AM
To: EDEN Submission System
Cc: Jason France; [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school


I found the definition of school in the workbook. Jason has asked a question below that I would like PSC to answer.



From: Jason France
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 10:14 AM
To: [Redacted]

Subject: RE: federal/Eden defintion of a school

What if an LEA has a “school” for all intents and purposes, except a site code and send their students as enrolled at another school to improve accountability scores at failing schools or to evade detection as a failing school by sprinkling their students among more successful schools so as not to have to report a failing “school”? Do the feds have an ruling/guide on that?

Apparently USED is not interested in discovering any more Atlanta situations. In the Georgia case the fraud was committed by dozens of teachers and principals by changing a few test items. In Louisiana this fraud is being perpetrated by the State Superintendent of Education, BESE members, and local superintendents and possibly Governor Jindal.  These folks have been hiding entire schools for going on 6 years,(during the entire Jindal Administration.) If you try to cover this you don’t get accolades, unlike the Atlanta scandal, you get fired even for asking questions.

Now it looks like Iberville is looking to expand its Shadow School program. I’ve heard reports that principals and parents of students in the schools for the poor kids have discussed trying to break away from Iberville to form their own school district, much like South East Baton Rouge is doing, except the geography is identical and in this case it’s the poor kids trying to get some decent experienced teachers and attention. Cancienne is using these poor kids like disposable batteries, to strip their funding to supply the MSAs with the best teachers and facilities money can buy.

Hello, I came across your blog on the MSA Academy in Plaquemine and I was shocked at some of the information you posted. I went to my first school board meeting this month for the first time in years and I would describe it as a circus. IPSB wants a Virtual Academy at the old North Iberville High School. They only want to open the library to house 30 students, however all the other schools have access and same advantages to the same courses. The school board hasn’t voted on the approval nor was a presentation of the cost analysis was given. I witnessed a company there last Monday installing wiring for internet. The school will be named MSA North Iberville (wow)! Let me go further to say the gpa requirements has been changed to 2.75 effective 2013-2014 school year. How can this be done when they are not a true magnet school?

Melvin Lodge sold North Iberville High out along with Daigle. East Iberville got to keep their school with a low enrollment plus an academy. Now they want to form their own school district saying they are tired of being treated like the “step child”. How about that for the latest in Iberville Parish news? The parents don’t know because they don’t educate themselves. This school has been given so much praise. The borderline students are being forced out back to their home school to make room for students coming in from private school and OTHER PARISHES; West Baton Rouge in particular. I made a mistake taking my kids out of private school. There is a meeting on the Virtual Academy at North Iberville this Thursday. One of my local board members that is in favor of this school requested Cancienne to come and hasn’t informed the parents. I have taken the initiative to do so and try to expose them. Thanks Again for your blog!

Despite what John White, and Edward Cancienne would have you believe, this is really what Iberville Reform looks like.

And if you don’t believe me, well now there’s a fired reporter to prove it.

If you believe in the Freedom of Press, you will make this go viral. If you value your freedom you must not tolerate this intimidation. Government agencies interfering and punishing the press is a clear cut violation of the First Amendment.

The Free Press Clause protects the freedom to publish. In Lovell v. City of Griffin (1938), Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes defined “press” as “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” This right has been extended to media including newspapers, books, plays, movies, and video games.

A landmark decision for press freedom came in Near v. Minnesota (1931), in which the Supreme Court rejected prior restraint (pre-publication censorship). In this case, the Minnesota legislature passed a statute allowing courts to shut down “malicious, scandalous and defamatory newspapers”, allowing a defense of truth only in cases where the truth had been told “with good motives and for justifiable ends”. In a 5-4 decision, the Court applied the Free Press Clause to the states, rejecting the statute as unconstitutional. Hughes quoted Madison in the majority decision, writing, “The impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press”.

But just like anything else, our “rights” are illusory if we don’t defend them. If you are someone that feels “criminal alliances” and “official neglect” are the American Way, then feel free to ignore this story, while you can. Just don’t complain when your property is expropriated, your children “disappeared” and no one cares.


Louisiana Educator: The Course Choice Cancer (promotional posting)

Louisiana Educator: The Course Choice Cancer (promotional posting)

You need to read this post by Mike Deshotels.  One of the reasons John White is handing student data over to private, unaccountable vendors is to make it easy for them to enroll you kids in terrible virtual courses, taught by uncertified teachers, on the state’s/your dime.  Not only are these often classes taught by uncertified “teachers” recruited from Craigslist, but school districts have no choice in the matter of awarding students credit for these courses.

This is especially bad for the following reasons:

  • Student performance is tied to teacher performance.  If a student takes a Course Choice class in Algebra I and passes, but without learning anything, and then reports to another real teacher’s class for a higher math class, that teacher will get a horrible score and face possible termination.
  • School and district closures and takeovers are tied to student performance.  If a significant number of students take these crap courses to get easy credits, then take the tests used to determine SPS scores (School Performance Scores) they will do terrible.  That’s a guarantee.  This will mean school districts will be taken over and away from those parents and kids that did not participate in “Course Choice” and handed over to for profit companies, without any accountability or oversight.  Course Choice is a way to accelerate school takeovers by trashing school performance.
  • If significant numbers of students take these substandard courses, you can forget about students from Louisiana getting fair treatment when it comes to applying for colleges or jobs after high school.  Once the ill prepared kids reach the job market Louisiana’s reputation, such that it is already, will plummet even more.  A diploma from Louisiana will be little better than a piece of used toilet paper.  We might as well just start awarding diploma’s online for a 99 dollar fee when kids are born.  They will carry as much weight as the actual ones.

buy a degree

Course Choice: What a steal.  Get Yours Today!!!!!

The Grand Accountability Scam – Kill the RSD

The Grand Accountability Scam – Kill the RSD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Guest column response, by Herb Bassett, to Superintendent John White’s reply to Deborah Tonguis’s question about the inflated 2012 Louisiana High School Performance Scores.(with notes from yours truly)

An open response by Herb Bassett (one of the researchers who has recently produced a paper the inflation of Louisiana’s SPS scores as well as LDOE’s published intent to radically inflate next year’s scores) to Superintendent John White’s reply to Deborah Tonguis’s question about the inflated 2012 Louisiana High School Performance Scores. On November 29, 2012, Deborah Tonguis sent an e-mail to Superintendent John White asking for explanation of the unusually high 2012 Louisiana High School SPSs.  In his reply, John White explained that there were three factors that led to the high scores, and that all three were determined in advance of his arrival. The original post that generated this response can be found here:

I was astonished! (well, actually not really surprised,) I mean astonished to see John White’s assertion that he had no control over the High School SPS inflation in your recent article, John White “I’m just a leaf in the wind.”

Quite the opposite, of course,  is true.  In June 2012, the Louisiana Register, the official publication of BESE rules, records that — while John White was Superintendent — a key formula for computing the 2012 High School SPSs was changed, adding an average of 4.0 points to the scores.  Who should we assume changed that formula?  Did John White sleep through the BESE meeting where it was passed?

Surely he knew about the change because at the same time he was busy writing (with help from STAND for Children) totally new rules for the 2013 School Assessment System.  Oddly, the very formula he changed in June goes away in his radical new rules for computing the SPSs for 2013.  Why did he even bother to change it?

When I started researching the scores, I thought my math chops (I have 30 college credits of math) would be the most important tool in my kit. But when I discovered BESE Bulletin 111, the official guide to the School Performance Scores, I quickly realized that I had to become a historian.  To understand the SPSs you have to understand the changes, year after year, to Bulletin 111 and how to find them.

Now, back to John White’s assertion that he had no control over the High School SPS inflation.

John White’s words:

The story is, as is said there, that three factors, each determined years in advance of my arrival in this role, let to a significant increase in scores. You can argue whether they are inflated per se or not, of course. But the intent of each factor was a good one at least. The factors are:

  1. The decision to count graduation rate in the high school SPS (the grad rate grew in response by more than four percentage points, increasing schools’ numbers dramatically)
  2. The inclusion of a bonus for all schools with rates over 65 percent (the increase in the rate above was compounded in its impact through this bonus)
  3. The onset of the EOC tests, and schools becoming accustomed to these tests, perhaps faster than anticipated

In each case, the Department made a decision years ago to give points in specific ways….

Having extensively studied the history of BESE Bulletin 111 through the Louisiana Register, I  will grant him points #1 and #3. I have issues with certain characterizations he slips through, but in the end, those things were in place before he arrived.

I do wonder if the order in which he listed the factors was a Freudian slip.  Considering the  assertion that he had no control over the scores, factor #2 is quite aptly numbered.  His word choice of “bonus” also shows that he understands how inflationary it is.

Now for the details and history lesson.

Point # 2 refers to the “cohort graduation rate adjustment factor” (CGRAF) described in Bulletin 111 section 613.  Section 613 has been changed over and over.  This is the history of section 613.

In mid-2010, BESE mapped out the changeover from basing the High School SPSs on the GEE to the EOC in 2012. At that same time they decided to introduce the CGRAF in the 2011 SPSs.  The purpose of the CGRAF was to spread the scores so that the schools with high graduation rates would be scored even  higher and those with low graduation rates would be made even lower.

In September 2010 the CGRAF was set so that in 2011, when it would be first implemented, schools with graduation rates above a 65% threshold would get extra points.  Below 65%, points were taken away.  In 2012 the threshold would be raised to 70%.  (Notice that the CGRAF both giveth and taketh away, it is not really a “bonus” as John White called it.)

Enter the push for privatization and “sweeping reforms”.  Now, just before the introduction of Letter Grades for the schools, it was decided that the CGRAF would benefit too many schools.  The schools needed to fail so that more kids would be eligible for vouchers.

So in August 2011, just before it was implemented for the first time, the CGRAF was changed so that the schools below 65% graduation rate would still be penalized the same, but schools would get a boost – and far less of it – only if their graduation rate was above 80%.

Due to a clerical error, this last-minute rule change did not get published until November 2011, after the 2011 SPSs were released.

In early 2012, when John White became Superintendent, the CGRAF was set so that schools would get the “bonus” only if the graduation rate was over 80%.

Then, inexplicably, in June 2012, the CGRAF was changed back to the original formula with one modification.  Remember how in Sept. 2010 the threshold was set to be 70% in 2012?  That was lowered to 65% by the John White administration.  Now schools got a “bonus” for a graduation rate over 65% instead of having to be over 80% (like the year before) or 70% (as originally intended).

Let’s be clear: That gave an average of 4.0 points and up to 6.75 extra points to the SPSs.   Apparently he had declared victory for getting the sweeping reforms though the legislature and wanted to celebrate.

The discrepancy between the GEE and EOC-based scores was evident before he took office.  The 2011 Scores were in and a comparison should have been available.  Did he not see the inflation coming? Why not?  If he saw it coming, why did he choose to inflate the scores even more?

He states that there were three factors put in place before he became Superintendent that he could not change.  Still, he changed #2, the easiest one to manipulate.  The record clearly shows that.  Why didn’t he try to fix the others?

In the end, it appears that the inflated scores are an embarrassment and he is trying to distance himself from them.  Data highlighting the inflation was mislabeled in the public release of scores.  And now John White says he had no control over the inflation, but the official record says he did. He not only took control, but made it worse.

Which will Louisiana Believe?

Herb Bassett

The Full exchange between Deborah Tonguis and Superintendent John White:

Dear Superintendent White,

I had hoped to see some sort of public response from the LDOE by now about the flaws in the statistical analysis of the Louisiana high school SPS scores.

Here is the link to the information I am referring to:

Dr. Mercedes Schneider and I could tell with the naked eye that something was very wrong with the high school scores the day they came out. Attached to this e-mail is a comparison of select Louisiana high school SPS scores from 2001 to the present. It doesn’t take someone with a Ph.D in Statistics (which she does have) to see the statistical impossibility of the huge gains in the last year.

That’s when we went to the math. I told her to send her analysis to you and the BESE board. She did, but to no avail.

How long will you make parents wait before you tell them that their child might be attending a “failing” high school due to an incorrect mathematical formula that inflated all Louisiana high school SPS scores? I, for one, am holding out hope that this was human error and not an attempt to inflate certain charter high school scores. People make mistakes, but then they admit them, correct them and make every attempt to heal the harm. I haven’t seen anyone from the LDOE even acknowledge that the scores are wrong, much less correct them.

Since my attendance at the BESE board meeting in October, I had hoped that you meant what you said about getting teacher leaders like me “on board” with the reforms we are implementing in our state. But I don’t feel like the LDOE is building trust with teachers when we ask for pertinent information about our own campuses and don’t get it. The public taxpayers, whose money you spend every day, deserve transparency from their government. I am disappointed that we are holding teachers to a higher standard than the elected and appointed officials entrusted to govern our educational system.

I tried in good faith to understand how the new legislative policies would drive real reform in our schools. I know, as someone who has spent 30 years of my life as a classroom teacher, that we can do better. I know that you have a heart for service. Let the public know that they can hand over their children to you, and that you will make wise, compassionate decisions on their behalf. The biggest steps in the right direction might be to take a cautious approach, and consider the feedback that employees like me are giving you.


Deborah Hohn Tonguis

John White’s reply:


Thanks as always. I’m sorry we have not been back sooner to Dr. Schneider. We receive hundreds of letters each week, and we try to get responses back as quickly as we can. In this case, I believe we have a response coming today.

To your point, and to her analysis, I think I’ve been as up front about the situation as possible. See this article:

The story is, as is said there, that three factors, each determined years in advance of my arrival in this role, let to a significant increase in scores. You can argue whether they are inflated per se or not, of course. But the intent of each factor was a good one at least. The factors are:

1. The decision to count graduation rate in the high school SPS (the grad rate grew in response by more than four percentage points, increasing schools’ numbers dramatically)

2. The inclusion of a bonus for all schools with rates over 65 percent (the increase in the rate above was compounded in its impact through this bonus)

3. The onset of the EOC tests, and schools becoming accustomed to these tests, perhaps faster than anticipated

In each case, the Department made a decision years ago to give points in specific ways. We now see the results of those decisions. In one sense, the decisions achieved exactly what they were supposed to achieve: schools focused on graduation and on EOC tests. On the other hand, according to some, they skewed the results. One way or the other, they were decisions made for valid reasons with the best information the Department had at the time.

My role in specific has been to raise standards away from the system described above. Under my management, the Department brought the ACT and AP into the system, reducing the focus on EOCs alone. I did so precisely out of a desire to raise standards, in anticipation of the Common Core standards taking effect. If anything, I have been criticized for raising the bar too high and for the potential that schools’ scores will be dropped under the new system.

These are all difficult policy determinations. After all, this is just about people saying that something is important and making decisions about what they think the impact of their decision will be. But I think the story of this situation will be as it should: the schools met one challenge resoundingly and we raised the bar such that the next challenge is laid out accordingly.

Thank you again for writing.

John White

Louisiana Department of Education

Twitter @LouisianaSupe

CCF remarks – John White sounds too knowledgable about the specifics for this oversight (lie) to have been accidental, but I’m sure my audience can make up their own mind about that.  While I would prefer to think he’s an unqualified, intellectually challenged, ignorant tyrant, his own words seem to paint him as a willfully deceitful and paint him as someone just pretending to be ignorant of the implications of his own actions.  It makes  a certain amount of sense. If you had control of the grading scale that would be used to evaluate your performance, and could give yourself a couple of letter grade bumps that would impact whether you stayed or received a raise, and no one would be the wiser, it would be tempting to go that route, no?