As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins. . .

As the new school year begins I find myself more than a bit confused by what is going on in Louisiana education these days. Lately it’s felt a little like forces outside of my control are dictating the outcomes of a whole lot of situations (with a whole lot of crazy) mixed in with a generous helping of frivolous lawsuits. I use the word frivolous not because the topics are unimportant, but because I don’t really see anything coming from them in a timely manner. Jindal will be wrapping up his second term by the time anything substantive takes place with his lawsuit, and the odds makers in Vegas probably have David Vitter pegged as our next chief executive.  Vitter has come out strongly in favor of Common Core (after initially sending out fundraising requests deriding it as a Washington plot to take over our schools.) My guess is David got some nice fat checks from Common Core corporations, wrapped in a diaper, to change his mind (and diaper) at the same time.

But back to more important things. . . like what I’ve been doing. 🙂

I have been chatting with folks from across the political spectrum and on both sides of the education reform/pro-public education issue and have come across some well-meaning folks on both sides that appear to want many of the same things I do, but have different ways and ideas for achieving those. Something I found disturbing was what Reformers tell their allies about us.  Let me dispel some myth reformers like to spin about pro-public education folks. I believe just about anything is possible and almost nothing is perfect . . . so almost anything can be improved with constructive criticism and honest analysis. This comes as a shock for some reform folks when I talk to them. Reformers narrative about us in the pro-public education camp is that we are for the status quo (whatever that is), we are for doing nothing, standing still, ignoring problems and blindly supporting teachers unions. This is a ridiculous falsehood. Quite often we have been fighting the very same policies they claim to want to do away with; policies put in place by the very people same advocating for new policies; as if they had nothing to do with the state of education and many of the legitimate problems we all see!

Is it any wonder so many of us fight back against new untried ideas and policies promoted by the same people that promoted that last slew of horrible ones? Every day many of the Reform ideas of the last decade are now clearly shown to be big losers.,There is still no admission of this, just another set of new new untried ideas an no accountability for the string of failures Reformers discard (and distance themselves from.)

Recently (like a few hours ago) I got in a Twitter argument with a Reformer that claimed his side was being maligned by all that money from us pro-public ed folks. I was incredulous to say the least. Billions are spent by US Ed, numerous billionaire philanthropists like the Waltons, Bloomberg, Gates, Broad, not to mention the countless departments of education (like Louisiana’s department of education) that employ thousands of people full-time to advocate for their policies on the public dime.

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @DmitriMehlhorn we can’t find truth when so many in Reform movement spend so much time energy & money lying & r rewarded 4 it

Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus Many reformers feel that way about other side. Lots of money spent attacking reform, much of it not nice.

2:18 PM – 15 Aug 2014 · Details

Reply to @DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus

 crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus lots of money????? Are we in same country let alone same ballpark here? Reformers spend money to make money

 Perapiteticus ‏@Perapiteticus  · 5h

@crazycrawfish @DmitriMehlhorn You’re concerned with BATs? We’re outspent, what? 10-to 1, 20-1, 50-1? Truth has funny way of edging door ope

 Dmitri Mehlhorn ‏@DmitriMehlhorn  · 5h

@Perapiteticus @crazycrawfish Unions have $2.2b in annual revenue from compulsory dues. Reformers have tiny % from voluntary gifts.

Sahila ChangeBringer ‏@Kiwigirl58  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn have 2 ask U this – R U serious? Have U any idea what @BillGates, all by himself, has spent? @crazycrawfish @Perapiteticus

crazy crawfish ‏@crazycrawfish  · 5h

@DmitriMehlhorn @Perapiteticus Note to Reformers: if you want good publicity and people saying nice things about you, don’t be jerks. TYVM

Apparently the only voices Reformers hear are those of unions, but not us poor parents they claim to speak for. If they really listened to us they wouldn’t have to spend so much money (and feel so put upon they feel the need to cry about it on Twitter.)

Unlike most reformers, I do not receive money for my advocacy.

Unlike most Reformers I actually have kids, and I actually put my kids in the school systems I advocate for.

Reformers claim their charters are so successful (although they often refuse to produce any data that shows this in Louisiana) that these charter schools should replace all traditional schools (literally, they send out e-mails that say this.) If their reforms have made traditional public school systems so awesome, if all charters are so incredible they require zero supervision or minimal review processes, why do reformers always enroll their own kids in exclusive private schools that employ very little of the policies and curricula they insist on for everyone else’s children? (This is not a trick question, it’s an obvious one more reporters should be asking.)

Reformers name themselves and their groups StudentsFirst and Stand for Children to pre-emptively declare themselves and their morals and motivations to be pure and child centered.  How many times have you heard them declaring something is necessary to do “for the children?”  Seriously. “Why would they lie to us,” they seem to say when they have the word children or students in their name. . .  These groups are founded on lies, cloaked in lies, supported by shrouded benefactors that benefit from the reforms they tell us are “for our own good.” These groups are defended by faux researcher organizations and act as foundries for manufacturing more lies and to perpetuate the ones they have sent out among the media and the masses. Despite their lofty self-anointed titles, these Reform groups are principally preoccupied with teacher’ issues (namely defaming and defiling the legitimate teaching profession and teachers) and promoting charter schools at all costs. Eventually folks do catch on, as happened to Rheeform darling Michele Rhee, who like a run of the mill disgraced politician facing a sex scandal or cocaine addiction, has stepped down from the lofty post she created for herself to “spend more time with her family”.   Rather than sex or drugs, her failing was her personality and charm (or lack thereof), so not much to fix there! Rhee’s family lives in Tennessee, with her husband Superintendent of Tennessee schools Kevin Huffman, while Michele has remained in California and appears poised to take over running some California charters for good ole Kev, so I’m not sure how that spending more time with her family works exactly?  Will she be tweeting more often to them in between pot shots at real educators?  Perhaps liking more Facebook posts of her children?  Don’t get me wrong, I think she should definitely spend more time worrying about her family and less about mine.  I just don’t get I I suppose, but then so little that national Reformers leaders say makes any sense to me. . . and truthfulness has never been one of their strong suits.

Now while I am pretty harsh and unforgiving to the leaches leading the Rheeform movement, I feel it’s important to point out not all Reform allied folks understand this complete disconnect and disregard for honesty or facts. Some are lulled by the seductively compelling marketing and messaging of for profit charter schools and the various hedge fund entrepreneurs and bored billionaires that fund the reform movement.  Unlike Andrew Carnegie who donated his vast fortune to build up schools and universities across the United States, today’s billionaires apparently see destroying education as a philanthropic mission to remake our society to their liking.

Reform organizations actively create and support cultish brainwashing organizations like what Teach for America has become and the sibling organization The New Teacher Project was designed to be, to subvert impressionable and passionate college students and recent graduates. These groups and their members in turn branch out into other organizations and infiltrate all corners of our society. (I will have more on this development in later posts I have planned but exploring this issue could take a whole book.) Many of these folks don’t understand who we, in the pro-public education movement, are. They have quite literally been brainwashed with tactics not far removed from the latest psyops manual or Nazi propaganda program. They have been told to fear us, they have been told we are the enemy. They are taught chants that dehumanize us and extol their movement’s virtues. To them teachers and society are apathetic, lazy and incompetent, and that apathy is the enemy – thus so are we. These groups form their own secret societies and covens where they are instructed to limit contact with local communities and leaders. They judge us through carefully crafted windowed narratives.

It would be easy to judge them, as they so often judge us, but many of these youth are idealistic victims that we can reach with compassion, persistence, honesty, competence, knowledge and our humanity. To break the back of this reform Beast they have created we must reach these youth and get them to tell their stories for others to hear as this former TFA teacher has done. We musty enlist those we can to our side – not with coercion, threats, lies, fear or hate but with truth and honesty. We must let them ask the hard questions their leaders won’t have pat and rehearsed answers for. They can awaken from the Matrix world that TFA and the Reform movement has created for them. Not all will take the red pill, because what they will see will shatter a lot of what they have worked hard for and believe, but those that do will be some of our strongest and most devoted allies. They will show they are the education leaders they want to be. They will learn that road is a hard one; not lined with cushy high paying jobs, lazy fellowships and blank checks and free rides to grad schools of their choosing carelessly paved with edReform dollars on the bowed backs of poor children – education dollars that should go to underfunded communities and schools.  These idealistic kids should really know better, but who wouldn’t like to believe they could make a small fortune and make the world a better place at the same time for those less fortunate? Coming from elite private colleges and sheltered upbringings many of them already come from gilded backgrounds. It’s not a very hard sell and they have to do something with those, history, general studies, English, and Poli Sci degrees. While they figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives. . . why not help some of us poor Southerner’s out?  The messaging they are bombarded with is we can’t take care of ourselves so the have to save us from ourselves.

They tell us our kids are as smart as any in the rest of the nation. If they were half as smart as they think they are, if they were one of us, they would realize how condescending and insulting that statement is by now.

It’s about time we showed those condescending creeps our kids’ parents know a thing or two as well. It’s time to take back our Department of Education and our local schools. I actually believe our parents are smarter and more savvy than the rest of the nation (we are survivors and not all our skills can be tracked with penciled in bubbles) and it’s about time we showed it. We gave a previews by kicking out inBloom first, passing real state privacy protections first. Common Core banishment is coming. It’s time we evicted out Reformers and their corporate charter thieves. We should do this first and took back our local control and show the nation how’s it’s done. We can do this.

Our kids are just as smart, eh John White?

Who you been talkin’ to that’s says they ain’t; that you feel this needs to be a talking point in every speech you make? Jus’ ’cause we choose to talk a little different sometime don’t mean we stupid, test bubble boy.

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2014/08/15/statement-from-superintendent-john-white-regarding-ruling-denying-request-to-halt-implementation-of-higher-expectations

http://www.nola.com/education/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2014/03/state_superintendent_john_whit.html

http://www.katc.com/news/state-superintendent-defends-common-core-curriculum/

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/links-for-newsletters/06-03-14-supt-white-opening-remarks.pdf?sfvrsn=2

http://www.bellechasseacademy.org/news.cfm?story=141812&school=0

http://chiefsforchange.org/letter-from-supt-white-and-bese-president-chas-roemer-to-louisiana-educators/

http://nolongersilent.net/2014/06/18/jindal-signs-executive-order-to-oust-parcc-from-louisiana/

http://www.lpssonline.com/printable.php?pageID=39&newsID=928

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs104/1109765654095/archive/1114470659568.html

http://www.myarklamiss.com/story/superintendent-john-white-visits-delta-community-college/d/story/T25LSIPg-E25ImzWIzS6sA

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/home/9994121-123/judge-denies-temporary-common-core

http://live.aei.org/Event/Taking_school_reformers_to_task_Louisiana_Chief_John_White_on_fixing_K12_reform?Page=0

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20140612/OPINION01/140619772

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p style=”padding-left:30px;”>http://www.wdsu.com/news/local-news/new-orleans/legislative-session-to-tackle-common-core-curriculum/24870332#!bEjFNx

On behalf of all Louisiana parents, please shut the hell up.

Jerk.

TYVM.

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Will John White prove to be the downfall of TFA, or just Louisiana?

Some of you may have seen some articles and letters to the editor lately relating to TFA (Teach For America Contracts) To help bring clarity to this issue I have submitted some FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to the Louisiana Department of Education. I believe the questions many people are asking is if TFA has an undue influence on contract issuing, bidding and approval. Before anyone gets the idea in their head that I am anti-TFA people, let me reassure you that I am not. Many of the folks that enter the TFA program are some of the finest people you will ever meet in your life, and I’d say the majority honestly care about doing good, saving students and saving the world through their contributions to society. Those are very admirable goals, and ones I feel I’ve come to share. My wife is a former TFA corps member, and I truly believe knowing her has made me a better, and more caring and empathetic person. Her passion for making the world a better place and her kind heart were some of the qualities that drew me to her. So when I say things about TFA, I do not mean any disrespect for the individual corps members, although I certainly understand where they might be offended. I am referring to the organization in its current form, and how it has come to do “business” how it has matured over the years, rather than how I believe it was originally conceived.

Many of you have seen me say rather unkind things about LDOE, where I used to work with many great and fine people. I have pointed out before, that when I speak or refer negatively about LDOE, I am not referring to most of my colleagues or the previous incarnation of LDOE I worked in, but the usurpers such as John White and his underlings that have invaded and purged the LDOE of its original mission and personnel, reincarnating it as dysfunctional dystopian private agency stuffed to the brim with overpaid inexperienced lackeys that do his bidding, rather than what’s best for Louisiana and its children. (Defending voucher schools teaching students without teachers from DVDs in a gymnasium was a horrible an idea as it sounds and even John White finally agrees, at least a year too late for hundreds of children and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer funds.)

Even some of our finest and most esteemed institutions, such as the Catholic Church, have their Saints and their Satan’s – in the form of predatory pedophile priests that impersonate our pastors while preying on our young. For too long the Catholic Church protected these predators, to their ultimate detriment.  Great harm befell many children who became tragically scarred adults. Protecting false prophets of education like John White will have a similar impact on TFA, jeopardizing their mission and bringing scorn to many fine young adults who entered this program to make a difference.

Now perhaps everything John White and his circle of friends is doing is fine and above board, but considering his previous record (on just about everything), it seems highly unlikely.


From middle Left to bottom left we have Wendy Kopp, National Head (CEO)of TFA (although she is moving on to form/lead an international version now), John White Louisiana Superintendent of Education, Hanna Dietsch Assistant Superintendent of Talent and Acquisition (and I believe in charge of COMPASS and VAM), Michael Tipton Executive Director for Teach for America in Louisiana, Kira Orange Jones Executive Director for Teach for America in the New Orleans area and also the BESE member representing this area on the state Board of Education.

While the ethics commission did okay Kira Orange Jones to serve on BESE while remaining an active director of TFA, and approving TFA contracts, that are submitted by TFA executives in the TFA lifecycle, it’s not clear the commission understood the complete relationship Kira has with the folks submitting the contracts, nor did they give her a blank check to vote on any measure under any circumstance. For instance, did they realize other TFA folks were creating a need for the contracts by driving out qualified teachers with VAM results that have been documented as being manipulated for at least political/personal gain (as was the case in the Seabaugh Solution situation) but may there have been a monetary incentive as well? I wasn’t sure about the monetary connection until I heard the details on this latest BESE contract that sparked such controversy.   Before I get angry comments telling me about how Mrs. Jones recused herself from voting on this particular TFA contract, I’d like to remind my readers it’s easy to bench your starters when the game score and outcome is already decided before it’s started.  What will be interesting to see is if Jones continues to recuse herself if board membership became less lopsided than the 9/2 decisions we see on almost every agenda item, or the 8/2 decisions when Jones recuses herself.

However, as bad as this seems, if the services being provided and amounts being charged were reasonable, and competitively bid, then I would have much less of a problem. However take a look at this contract that recently created a controversy at the June 18th BESE meeting between Lottie Beebe and John White and has been covered vaguely in the Advocate. This is an amendment to a previous no-bid TFA contract for “recruitment” services. The amount of the amendment is $820,000 to recruit up to 25 TFA teachers for New Orleans. If you’re doing the math that comes to 32,800 dollars per recruit assuming they place 25 recruits. This is not the full contract but I see nothing to indicate if this contract will be adjusted on a prorate basis, or if TFA only manages to recruit 1 teacher they still get the 820,000 dollars. My understanding is this is in addition to the placement fee of up to 5,000 dollars each school district much pay to employ a TFA teacher. That would make the total recruitment cost 37,800 dollars per teacher. We have approximately 47,000 teachers in Louisiana. Michael Tipton, executive director for TFA’s in Louisiana, has reported as many as 525, or 1%, are TFA recruits. If you multiply the 37,800 dollars by 525 the fees TFA may be raking in off of their “placement” services we now need under John White comes to close to 20 million. Most TFA recruits only stay 2 years, and according to this contract, even though we paid 320k to recruit 23 teachers last year, some of that 820,000 is needed to “guarantee” they stay recruited. After all, it would be a shame if something happened to all our TFA teachers in these high risk areas, right? Approximately 400,000 per 25 teachers per year seems to cover the bill, or 800,000 for 2 years to keep those previously placed teachers stay “placed.”

Below is a text extract of the contract: It is a public record and you can find it with the directions I’ve enclosed. I have no idea how many more “recruitment” contracts DOE has with TFA, but I’m sure this isn’t the only one.

From BESE documentation system: http://www.boarddocs.com/la/bese/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=978N4G5DAFF8 item 6.4 on June 18th, 2013, RSD contracts over 50k (page 14 of 16 of .pdf agenda)

Vendor’s Name/Address:

Teach for America

315 West 36th Street, 6th Floor

New York, New York 10018

Duration Information:

Date of Services: 6/1/2012 – 6/30/2014

New Contract or

Amendment: Amendment

$820,000.00

Contract Duration: 25 months

Previous Contract Dates:

(With selective vendor only)

6/1/2012 – 6/30/2014

Funding Information:

Contract Amount:

$1,202,500.00

Previous Contract

Amount: (If applicable;

with selective vendor only)

$382,500.00

Funding Source: (Federal, State, IAT, etc.)

State and Federal – IAT

Funding Type: (IDEA, 8-G, Title I, etc)

Title I and 8(g)

Use of Funds:

Research or pilot programs designed to improve elementary or secondary student

academic achievement.

Contract Information:

Contact Person: Nash Crews

Contact Person Telephone #: 504.373.6200

Section/Office: Achievement

Competitive/S. Source

Non-Competitive / Education

Program Specialist

Purpose:

To recruit and place up to 25 first-year state and federally qualified teachers and retaining 23 second-year teachers

in RSD schools through the 2013-14 school year.

Departmental Goal:

Placement of qualified individuals in teaching positions at RSD schools in order to ensure that each student in the

Recovery School District is being taught by a qualified, driven, and engaging teacher.

Description:

Contractor will recruit and select for placement 25 first-year teachers meeting all state and federal legal requirements for

teaching the content areas and grade levels as needed by the RSD (high needs subject areas) and satisfy current

federal and state requirements for “highly qualified” teacher status. This contract will also allow for the retention of 23

second-year teachers through the 2013-14 school year.

Justifications:

Contractor will assist the Recovery School District in teacher recruitment and placement for normally hard-to-fill teacher

vacancies in RSD schools.

Impacted:

RSD students, school staff, RSD Achievement Dept.

Does the contract assist in complying with state and/or federal regulation or laws?

Yes – aligns the RSD with BESE funding guidelines in accordance with 8(g).

So with the implementation of COMPASS and VAM our local school districts will be forced to fire as many as 10% of our teachers, after 2 years of ineffective ratings. These teacher evaluations are based on curves, so the lowest 10% are ineffective, by definition. I wonder where we will get so many new teachers, as many as 10% more every year? I have 200 million reasons to think the TFA will be more than happy to help us out there, and every year. Since most TFA recruits only stay 2 years as teachers, every 2 years they will need replacing, and the lowest 10% of teachers will come from the remaining educators. Under this arrangement TFA could grab as much as 25% marketshare in our teaching corps. I wonder what they will demand we pay then when most of our original teachers are driven off replaced with a perpetual temp teaching force?

I haven’t gotten a response yet except to say they will notify me when they manage to locate my records.  I promised to publish what I asked for so they couldn’t claim they haven’t seen it at the next BESE meeting. John White has made it a habit of promising everyone that he will provide documentation while the cameras are rolling, but promptly forgets everyone again when he leaves the room until the next meeting. He’s hoping we will stop asking and take the hint that he’s not telling, but perhaps you can ask him to?

Here is the text of my FOIA:

Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana, R.S. 44:1 et seq., I respectfully request the following information:

Please provide a copy of the detailed contract between TFA (Teach For America) and RSD referred to and voted upon at the June 18th  2013 BESE meeting for 1.2 million dollars that was amended from a previous contract of approximately 380 thousand dollars that included an 820k amendment for recruitment of 25 teachers.  (I believe this contract was summarized and listed in contracts over 50k, item 6.4 of the BESE Finance agenda.)

Please provide details on any contracts or incentivization packages offered or provided to top graduates in any Louisiana State university teaching programs since January 1st, 2012 and any correspondence with University Deans of education related to recruiting top candidates.  (An answer of no such documentation exists is an acceptable answer.)

Please provide any contracts between TFA (Teach For America) and the Louisiana Department of Education, or any contracts between TFA and RSD (the Recovery School district) that were signed on or after January 1st, 2012 or existing contracts that were amended after 1/1/2012.

Please provide any documentation, contracts, or salary schedules, about signing bonuses school districts must pay to recruit TFA teachers which I am told can range from 3000 – 5000 dollars.

Please provide a list of all LDOE, RSD, or BESE department staff, their titles, dates of hire, and salaries that submitted SF10’s or resume’s citing TFA experience, or any staff members known to have previously been affiliated with TFA in any capacity.

The Crazycrawfish Blog would like to recognize Peter C. Cook as the newest member of the Crazycrawfish fanclub

The Crazycrawfish Blog would like to recognize Peter C. Cook as the newest member of the Crazycrawfish fanclub

It’s been a while since we in Crazycrawfish land have had a chance to welcome a new member. As some of you may know, to become a member you must write up a dedicated blog post to “yours truly” that attacks me personally but does so in such an inept way that readers will instantly know the attack is meant to be comical. Usually this is done by making absurd claims, hurling a few unnecessary insults, and demonstrating a flair for the ironic by attacking my knowledge and expertise with especially faulty and delusional reasoning of their own.

For these reasons, I induct thee, Peter C. Cook, of TFA stardom, into the Crazycrawfish fanclub for this posting. Since the club already has a president, we will make you the mascot for the time being, but with a little hard work and energy on Peter’s part I have no doubt he will be knocking at the door of a promotion to club groundskeeper.

First let us address this comment:

France’s broadside against Sci Academy is filled with the half-truths and logical fallacies that would be expected from someone with zero experience working in public schools, and thus, lacks the context needed to draw informed conclusions.

This assertion would seem to exclude most of the researchers that extol the virtue of charter schools and TFA, as well as many of the reformer’s biggest billionaire proponents like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, Bloomberg, Michael and Susan Dell, etc. Who while never working in a school district, use data to tell us how everyone else should run theirs. To some extent I agree. We should not rely solely on data to draw conclusions. Data can be manipulated, people can misinterpret it, or interpret it in a way that supports their agenda, but denies reality. This is what Reformers like Peter Cook does, as you will see in his attack on me. When the facts don’t align with your narrative, make up some new facts or rules to suit the situation. In this case Peter is saying I should not have an opinion, no one should have an opinion, that has not worked at ground zero. As I said, this is a very interesting line of attack, but one that wildly misses the mark.

For the past 8 or so years (well not so much this last year )I’ve volunteered as an adult mentor with the Big Buddy Program in Baton Rouge. The only reason I stopped was my little buddy (who’s father was incarcerated when I started working with him in second grade) ,and his sister are about to graduate from high school. I was amazed that my little buddy had never participated in trick-or-treating with a Halloween costume, and had only done so once until I took him until he felt he was too old. I was sad that living in Louisiana, in Baton Rouge, that he had never been to a Mardi Gras Parade until took him and his sister. Now that I have my own young children it’s hard to volunteer with others for now.

Speaking of children, my children are also both in public schools in EBR, at one of the poorest schools in EBR. My wife was a former TFA teacher and I worked with her and her children who had never actually seen white people before they met her. (When I visited her a school the first time the kids crowded around us and declared we should get married because we were the only two people “like us” [white] they had ever seen.) I also accompanied her on trips to bring food to the shadiest hotels in town for families that had been evicted, while their mothers were either missing or dressed up to walk to the streets to put food on the table for all the times we couldn’t be there. My wife was the PTA president for our kids’ school, probably one of the highest poverty ones in East Baton Rouge, and we volunteered for many field trips with the kids and other school activities.

As for understanding the data, I can honestly say no one in this state, perhaps on this planet, understands Louisiana’s education data more than me. (John White fired or drove off all of the knowledgeable data folks so he could honestly say no one could provide data anymore.) I also happened to work with school data and data coordinators in every parish and school district in the state for 9 years, and was intimately familiar with many of them and their specific data, and the issues with their data. My wife and I also volunteer to host TFA students for dinners, and after Katrina we had about 8 TFA teachers staying with us at different times while they worked and looked for housing. We got to hear many of their stories at ground zero, and some of them we remain friends with to this day.

Currently I volunteer my time to work with numerous current educators, retired educators, superintendents, BESE members, non-profit children’s organizations, etc. Unlike Peter, I do not get paid to help children. I do this for free, in my free time. I am not defending teachers or specific policies because I am paid to, like Peter C. Cook. I do so because I believe in our teachers, our Louisiana citizens and I want all of our children, not just the ones charter schools like Sci Academy keep around, to have a prosperous future and a worthwhile education. I believe TFA and John White’s LDOE are stealing this dream from many of the kids I work with, and from my own children.

So let’s see what else ya got Pete. . .

France claims that unnamed “sources” asked him to investigate Sci Academy’s graduation rate, which he claims the school has manipulated in order to make it appear that they are outperforming “traditional” public schools.

Uh? This is true. That’s how I got the data and why I chose Sci Academy. Frankly I’d never heard of them before, probably because they seem to change their name every few years. I also never claimed the graduation rate was manipulated, although I did have a commenter from Louisiana’s accountability section at LDOE that claims it very likely was. My beef was they are reporting a graduation rate of around 90% or so when recruiting new students. Most parents would not know what a cohort graduation rate, and those rates are easy to manipulate at a site level, especially for an independent charter school within a larger district. It’s just a bad stat to use, without any malevolent intent necessary. Schools that drive off students are way misrepresented by that statistic. It’s like saying I’ve graduated 100% of the students I graduated. It’s meaningless. . . except when used to delude parents and the public.

The Sci Academy model might work well for advanced and committed students, the fact is, unless you want a DISTRICT or STATE graduation cohort rate of 55%, or less, (probably much less) this model will not work if a significant number of schools try to replicate it. It is dangerous for the public to believe that this is an ideal model and will doom many kids literally to death on the streets to guns, drugs and violence. The fact is, if those students are not dropping out, they are enrolling in another school, bringing down traditional schools test scores, and graduation rates. Sure, maybe Sci Academy takes everyone, but they only keep the best and discard the rest. Are you really advocating for a 55% statewide graduation rate and screw the rest of the kids who can’t keep up?

That post is why I made the distinction been a “cohort graduation rate” and a “percent graduating that start in ninth grade”, which is more precise and makes it harder to for schools to manipulate, and levels the playing field for charters that employ creative “unenrollment opportunities” for half their student populations. It might help if you actually read my report and the notations before attacking and dismissing it.

But pray tell, go on.

First of all, although I have no basis with which to assess the validity of the data used to arrive at these conclusions, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of his grasp of the facts. For example, at another point in his post, he claims Sci Academy is “also known as New Orleans Charter and Science Academy,” which is most certainly incorrect.

Ok, because this is the name they gave LDOE as you will see below. How am I supposed to know what name they are using this week? But it’s nice to see you admit you have no basis upon which to assess the validity of my data, and if this is their sitecode, you would be the one who is most certainly incorrect, no?

Furthermore, his claim that only 46 students graduated in 2012 is in direct conflict with figures noted elsewhere.

I never claimed this was my claim, as you so studiously pointed out earlier. I was told only 46 students actually graduated. I asked LDOE to provide a count for Sci and everyone else. Why would they hide this number? Blame them if I have to rely on other data, but hiding the data does not mean they are free to claim whatever they want without people using next best available data to question it. If you have a problem with that, and charter schools have nothing to hide, I recommend you take this up with LDOE and your buddy John White. If charters are as glorious as you believe them to be, surely the data will prove that out? How could I hope to argue with such an eloquent and knowledgeable advocate as yourself? I will confer with my source and unless they provide a supporting statement or explanation I will happily amend my numbers. However, while your point does not make my point invalid, it does show that LDOE needs to be forthcoming with actual data to either, verify their claims so we can all rejoice, or to dispel these destructive myths you and your ilk seem determined to perpetuate by embracing darkness, ignorance and lies.

The second and most obvious problem here is that France is confusing Sci Academy’s graduation rate with its cohort graduation rate which are two totally different measures. It is already well-established that graduation rate is an imperfect measure of school performance. In any event, at no point has Sci Academy maintained that 92% of the students that entered

As I pointed out before, a cohort rate is actually not a valid rate for an individual site especially one contained within a much larger district. That data can be falsified very easily or collected very lazily as you point out has happened with this remark.

We’re trying to distill why it is that kids are leaving…We’re going to start valuing retention the way we value academics.”

Why are they trying to “distill” anything? We have reason codes, exit forms, and contact info. They didn’t lose 1000 kids. Call them up and ask them or collect accurate data up front for Peter Cook’s sake.

Questions of accuracy aside, a more relevant point of contention is that France is making these claims without placing them within the greater context of the challenges common to RSD schools.

Because LDOE won’t provide data??? You think that could be it? I could compile a report one school at a time of our 1500, but with weeks and months of looking for leads we will all be dead by the time I finish. Did you miss the entire point of my post? You know, the part where LDOE does not provide data but likes to make lots of claims?

While he casts aspersions from behind the “firewall” of his middle-class life in Baton Rouge, those of us who have actually worked in New Orleans’ public schools know that a high rate of student mobility is unfortunately a fact-of-life for both charters and traditional schools alike

You’re right, how could someone as coddled and isolated as me even remotely begin to understand your challenges.

Incidentally, here is Bill Gate’s house, where he is totally understanding your plight from Xanadu, an anchient Mongolian city known for its splendor (and for keepin’ it real. Word.)

Bill Gates’ house is a large mansion in the side of a hill which overlooks Lake Washington in Medina, Washington, United States of America. The 66,000-square-foot (6,100 m2) mansion is noted for its design and the technology it incorporates. It is nicknamed Xanadu 2.0[1] after the title character’s estate in Citizen Kane. It took 7 years to build and cost $63 million.

In 2009, property taxes were reported to be US $1.063 million on a total assessed value of US $147.5 million

Xanadu is the fictional estate of Charles Foster Kane, the title character of the film Citizen Kane. The estate derives its name from the real ancient Mongolian city Xanadu, known for its splendor

Eli Broad’s down to earth Brentwood estate – where he mingles with common folk.

Some of Michael Dell’s modest little cottages

I guess I am only entitled to an opinion on education policy when I can live as modestly as these folks, and Peter C. Cook. I guess I’ll have to concede that point to you. I do live in a middleclass enclave of prosperity in Baton Rouge, where my kids attend school with their peers and their 85% poverty rate. I’m such an out of touch aristocrat and should never be allowed to give opinion on schools I never attended, or had my children attend. Hmm, although I did attend Magnolia Woods, South East Middle, and Scotlandville High School (public schools in EBR) and my kids attend public school here too. Where did you attend school, Peter, and if you have kids, do they attend public schools there too?

What else ya got?

Given the tenuous economic circumstances of the families that schools like Sci Academy serve, students frequently find it necessary to switch schools, often several times over the course of their academic careers. Nevertheless, at no point does France concede that the changes in Sci Academy’s enrollment, at least in part, could be explained by this overall trend.

True. Why do we never see more kids transferring in, only out in such a dynamic environment? Of course, I learned everything I know about pimping statistics from people who promote destructive evaluation systems like VAM, that punish teachers for things that might well be beyond their control like economic circumstances, abuse, deaths in families, drug or emotional problems, etc. No excuses, right? Or does the “no excuses” mantra only apply to traditional schools and teachers, and anyone who opposes you?

MFP data from the SY 2012-2013 school year provides a good illustration of the widespread and often unpredictable nature of student mobility in the RSD. Official enrollment numbers are reported to LDOE twice a year, in October and again in February. As the data below demonstrates, enrollment in RSD schools can change – sometimes dramatically – even within the short timespan of five months. [N.B.: Ironically, enrollment at Sci Academy actually increased 9.26% over this period.]

Dude, I collected that data for 9 years. Now you are just plain annoying me with you ignorance and you lack of ability to form a cohesive argument. Please stop quoting random numbers at me. You lack any context with how to interpret them. I don’t come down you your classroom and claim to know how to teach your kids, don’t be all busting up in my data business, thinking you have a clue you know what you’re talking about.

It’s disgraceful that critics like Jason France, who have never gotten up from behind their computer screens to actually do something about the inequities in our public schools, would have the audacity to denigrate those engaged in this important work.

Perhaps that’s the lesson in all of this: before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. France and other education reform critics like him have only a superficial understanding of the facts, issues, and questions involved in the effort to improve our public schools. Until Crazy Crawfish & Co. are ready to roll up their sleeves and grapple with the challenges faced by real-life heroes like those at Sci Academy, they should do the rest of us a favor and quietly crawl back into their mud holes.

Oww, that almost hurt. (Although I do appreciate a good mudhole now and again. )

I think my man Pete needs to heed some of his own advice about criticizing someone you don’t know: Doing that can make you look like a complete tool, and reveal tragic flaws in your own character.

Unfortunately for Peter and his band of brigands, I venture out of my mudhole more and more these days.

Expect to see more of me Petey. Much more.

Thanks again for joining the fanclub!

See you soon!

Gary’s Letter to TFA

Very outstanding letter from Gary Rubenstein, a dissillusioned TFA alum, sent to the head of TFA, eloquently voicing how TFA has been corrupted by big monied interests, and phony math.

Speaking as someone from the education arena, married to a TFA alum from the earlier era, and as someone who has housed and hosted TFA recruits over the years, I wholeheartedly agree and endorse his assessment. I used to be proud of their work, but now all these new recruits and over-promoted leaders do is ashame and disgust me.

educationclearinghouse

Gary Rubinstein is a Teach for American Alum (TFA).  In this letter to TFA’s founder and now multi-millionaire Wendy Kopp Rubinstein explains why he is concerned about the misinformation (see: lying) coming out of the mouthpieces of TFA.

I find what TFA does to be extremely harmful to existing public schools.  They are involved in ‘reforming’ which means bashing teachers and teachers’ unions on a full-time basis.  Check the bold areas below.  Mr. Rubinstein gets many kudos for a well-written letter to Wendy Kopp.  I would LOVE to see her response!

Dear Wendy,

Hope you and your family had a happy New Years.

Without Teach For America there wouldn’t be a ‘me,’ or at least there would be one but I’d likely be doing something very different and likely much less fulfilling with my life.  And without you there wouldn’t be a Teach For America.  So in that sense…

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