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Why the Jindal Loss Was Expected Regarding La.’s PARCC Injunction

On August 19, 2014, District Judge Todd Hernandez ruled that the Jindal administration’s suspension of the Louisiana state testing contract was to be temporarily lifted until the pro-Common Core (CCSS) full case against Jindal and his administration goes to court. (For backstory, click here.)

I was surprised at the judge’s ruling because the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) spliced the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment into an already-existing “sole source” testing contract with Data Recognition Corp (DRC).

Pearson has been awarded the PARCC assessment contract, not DRC.

It is possible that Pearson could hire DRC as a PARCC subcontractor. As it is, DRC has been hired as part of a team to develop assessments for the other federally-funded consortium, Smarter Balanced. However, there is no way that DRC is the sole source for PARCC.

This means that Louisiana will fund an extra vendor (DRC) in its not-so-“sole source” procurement of PARCC.

Testing contract laundering.

Thus, the judge’s decision surprised me.

However, I have since read pertinent sections of the court ruling, and it seems that Jindal’s attorneys tried to let the contracts “speak for themselves.” Thus, the judge appears to have missed the John White sleight-of-contract in grafting PARCC into what was supposed to be a contract used by DRC for transition to PARCC.

Consider this statement from the ruling:

Evidence presented proves there was much discussion among [the state board of education, the Division of Administration--DOA, and the Office of Contractual Review--OCR] relating to the contract with Data Recognition Corp (DRC) and its status as “Sole Source” vendor for the implementation of common core. This evidence indicates this activity took place as far back as December, 2010. The contract with DRC was eventually approved as a “Single Source” contract with a contract term that ran through 2015. [Emphasis added.]

What is missing here is that DRC could not be a “sole source” contract provider for CCSS because DRC has not been awarded the PARCC assessment contract. DRC was a “sole source” provider for the transition to the PARCC assessment.

DRC cannot be a sole source provider of PARCC. DRC must do business with Pearson in order to deliver PARCC to Louisiana.

I understand this. Then again, I have not only studied the documents but also heard DOA Chief Kristy Nichols explain the contracting and auditing processes.

I heard the explanation.

In contrast, Jindal’s attorneys apparently did not provide their own people to explain White’s grafting PARCC into the DRC contract. As noted in Hernandez’s decision:

The defendants did not present any witnesses at the hearing but did introduce documents during the examination of witnesses, and the defendant, Bobby Jindal…. There was not evidence presented at the hearing attempting to establish or prove any reason or reasons for any of the actions taken by the defendants in “retracting” or “suspending” the contract with DRC except what was testified to by plaintiff’s witnesses on cross examination and from what the court was able to read and review. The defendants further failed to produce any evidence that the plaintiffs have violated any law concerning procurement of state contracts. [Emphasis added.]

In short, it seems that Jindal’s defense team of Jimmy Faircloth handed over the DRC contract and expected the judge to “get it.”

Not good enough by a long shot.

Very poor move, in fact.

If having no expert testimony was Faircloth’s idea, Jindal should seriously consider retaining a better lawyer.

If it was Jindal’s idea in order to avoid cross examination, then he needs to realize he will be his own undoing in court.

Jindal’s defense attorney needs to get qualified individuals on the stand clearly explaining to the judge how White twisted the intent of that sole source contract into a means of avoiding proper procurement. This is not a case of “just hand the paperwork over to the judge and he’ll surely understand.”

As it is, Jindal now must face a judge who has already been primed to believe that Jindal’s defense has no merit.

The Jindal administration is seeking a stay of Hernandez’s ruling and an expedited writ of appeal to the First Circuit. They believe Hernandez is wrong.

Hernandez is wrong. However, Jindal’s defense really dropped the ball on this one– for whatever reason.

Get a contract procurement expert on that stand, or don’t be surprised at continued loss.

 

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Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.

 

 

To Amanda Ripley: A Second TIME Article on Rhee is Long Overdue

Michelle Rhee has failed as a test-driven education reformer.

Rhee taught for three years (1992-95) in Baltimore as part of Teach for America (TFA). By her own admission, her first year was terrible. She taped students’ mouths and made them bleed, and she dropped a student off after a field trip at an unverified residence. For her second and third years, she taught as part of a team. Her students’ test scores were very low (Rhee’s first year: 20th percentile in reading and math on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills–CTBS; second year: reading, 15th percentile, and math, 38th percentile; third year, with notably fewer test takers than other district schools: reading, 45th percentile, and math, 55th percentile).

Contrast this to Rhee’s bragging that she raised 90 percent of student scores to the 90th percentile.

All of the above on Rhee is documented in chapter four of my book, A Chronicle of EchoesThe origins, mission, and funding of TFA are documented in chapter three.

Following her TFA stint, Rhee decided to “found” a teacher-training nonprofit, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), in order to train “great” teachers– which she herself never was according to her own definition of “great” as one who produces high student test scores. She was with TNTP until 2007. Information on the origin and claims of Rhee’s TNTP are documented in chapter sixteen of Echoes.

Then comes her time in DC.

Three and a Half Years as Chancellor Rhee

New York City Chancellor Joel Klein recommended Rhee as DC chancellor. A lawyer by trade, Klein himself was appointed as chancellor by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Klein’s accomplishments include lying about his “poor” upbringing; giving free public school space to hedge-funded charter schools; creating a “leadership academy” that was a joke for its “products, including Principal Andrew Buck, who refused to provide teachers with textbooks and bordered on illiterate as evidenced by his written communications with teachers.

Klein also groomed a number of protégés for positions of leadership nationwide. Their agenda was the common one for education privatizers, the centerpiece of which was making the entire life of a school system hinge upon standardized testing outcomes.

I discuss Klein in detail in chapters one and two of Echoes.

Rhee was not a Klein protégé. According to Rhee, she and Klein had “known each other for some time and worked closely together.” Apparently Klein had employed thousands of uncertified teachers in NYC, and Rhee (during her time at TNTP) had helped Klein create a “teaching fellows” program, a TNTP exclusive to NYC.

Klein called Fenty and recommended Rhee as DC chancellor.

In an October 2007 interview with John Merrow of Learning Matters, Rhee referred to herself as a “change agent” and noted that Fenty said he was willing to risk “everything” on taking a chance on her as chancellor.

No sensible probationary period for Rhee the Chancellor. Straight to tenure– for as long as Fenty was in office and would give her unfettered control.

And so, Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Rhee chancellor of DC schools in June 2007. He hitched his wagon to Rhee’s polarizing star, and it was his undoing. As Sarah Larimer of ABC7 (Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia) reports in September 2010 regarding Fenty’s loss of the 2010 DC mayoral primary to DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray:

Fenty staunchly stood behind Rhee, a lightning rod of an administrator whose abrupt, sometimes harsh methods were at times questionable and always up for debate. For his part, Gray staunchly refused to answer inquiries about whether he would retain the chancellor, instead insisting it was a decision best left for after the election. …

Fenty was counting on the support of pro-Rhee parents. More specifically, he was betting that these [black DC Democrat] parents supported Rhee. Maybe they had been unhappy with Fenty. Maybe they’d hated the way he’s worked with the community, squabbled with the D.C. Council, and maybe they wanted to send him the signal that he could lose. Maybe they aren’t even sure the school system is better under Rhee. But would they risk abandoning the chance for real change?

Hard to say. But here’s what we do know: A Washington Post poll reported that 54 percent of black D.C. Democrats cited Rhee as a reason to vote against the incumbent. Her overall numbers, too, had slipped badly over the past couple of years. Even though Rhee had taken the drama out of the school system’s opening day, generally improved test scores among pupils, and raised expectations for the entire organization, her feats weren’t netting a payoff commensurate with the Fenty administration’s political investment.

In the end, that backfiring engine sent signs of desperation across the city’s political landscape, as Rhee hit the campaign trail — as a so-called private citizen, to avoid any Hatch Act complications — on behalf of her boss. She got hammered for that, too. [Emphasis added.]

Fenty’s and Rhee’s official, public farewell was posted in October 2010.

It is important to understand that Fenty’s successor, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, is very much in favor of test-driven reform. As the Washington Post observes in October 2010:

Presumptive mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray introduced Kaya Henderson on Wednesday as the interim chancellor of D.C. public schools and vowed that reforms launched under Michelle A. Rhee would continue when he takes office in January (2011).

In Henderson, Gray inherits someone in tune with Rhee on the fundamentals of education reform, especially the belief that teacher quality is the most important determinant of student success. Rhee and Henderson worked together at the New Teacher Project, a teacher recruiting nonprofit group that Rhee founded and ran before she was appointed by Fenty in June 2007. Henderson was a vice president for the group.

She was Rhee’s first appointment and was named her top deputy the day Rhee was introduced to the District. At the time, Rhee made it sound as if they had come to the District as a package. [Emphasis added.]

Henderson’s allegiance to Rhee would pay off for Rhee in 2011, when DC test score erasures on Rhee’s watch came into question– and were never thoroughly investigated. (See chapter four of  A Chronicle of Echoes for details.)

Gray was just not agog over Chancellor Rhee, which was likely the deal-breaker in Rhee’s thinking. As Larimer notes:

Gray was repeatedly asked whether he would retain Rhee, with whom he butted heads for years in his capacity as council chairman. Again and again, he failed to directly answer the question. Rhee came close to answering it for him when she hinted this summer that she couldn’t work for a mayor who didn’t support her as much as Fenty has during his term. [Emphasis added.]

Did you catch that?

Rhee wants support from her superior. Rhee– who makes principals declare their test gains (i.e., “goal set”) at the beginning of a school year or risk dismissal– quit because she “could not work for a mayor who did not support her.” (Read former DC Principal Adell Cothorne’s story here.)

But there is more: “Support” from Fenty meant that Rhee did not have to “goal set” for him.

For all of her demanding that DC teachers and administrators be held “accountable” for test scores, Rhee expected to be above answering to anyone, and Fenty let her have that license. As Marc Fisher of the Washington Post notes in September 2009:

Rhee is all about control. She agreed to come to Washington only after being assured greater authority over the schools than any superintendent had ever had. Almost instantly, she managed to alienate important people. [Emphasis added.]

Regarding Rhee’s talent for alienating people, Fisher continues:

At 39, she’s never run a school, let alone a school system. She doesn’t make nice, insists on bashing her own employees in public, and seems to think that she can pull off a miracle. She barely deigns to speak to D.C. Council members, she’d fire legions of teachers if she had the chance, and she sacked her own daughters’ principal. [Emphasis added.]

Now, keep in mind that this is the same Rhee who expected unquestioning, unwavering “support” from her superior.

By the time of the September 2010 mayoral primary, it was Fenty who had managed to alienate his black constituency by his apparent catering to DC’s white constituency:

…Race was part the dialogue, whether it was appropriate or not. Residents of predominantly black wards in the city wondered what Fenty had done for them lately, how he had helped their community. White Washingtonians sometimes seemed baffled that Fenty could lose this election at all. [Emphasis added.]

Rhee’s and Fenty’s plans to “improve” DC schools invariably acknowledged the need to attract more affluent parents to the DC traditional public school system:

But even if Rhee somehow beats back the union and sacks hundreds more teachers, even if she finds a way to bump up test scores a little more each year, the future of the D.C. system looks grim. Parents are voting with their feet, abandoning the schools by the thousands every September. …

For more than a decade, middle-class parents in the District have lobbied for public school programs at least marginally competitive with offerings in Montgomery and Fairfax counties. There have been pockets of progress: A few schools attract a mix of kids reflecting the racial blend of their neighborhoods, but most white parents — as well as an increasing number of middle-class black families, many of whom have chosen charter schools — still avoid the D.C. schools. Rhee wants to attract middle-class families of all races back to the system, but she worries that any effort to win over white parents might alienate those blacks who perceive outreach to whites as pandering. [Emphasis added.]

Indeed, in the September 2010 mayoral primary, the predominately black constituency rejected Rhee via ousting Fenty.

And in hers and Fenty’s attempts to attract middle-class families to DC schools, they inadvertently admitted that they believed that economic improvements and not “great teachers” were what was really needed to “improve” DC schools (that is, to raise those test scores to a “national gap closing” level).

Let us consider some scores– ones that Rhee or those under her charge could not manipulate under pressure to save their jobs.

Rhee’s time as DC chancellor (2007-2010) did not impact scores on the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) in either reading or math.

In fourth and eighth grade math, DC’s NAEP average scaled scores have been steadily rising since 2000 but remain consistently and obviously below the national average even in 2013.

In fourth and eighth grade reading, DC’s NAEP average scaled scores have been steadily rising since 1998 but remain consistently and obviously below the national average even in 2013. (Scores can be accessed here.)

Rhee failed.

There really was no reason to expect that Rhee would succeed as DC chancellor. She was little more than a public relations campaign constructed on an abrasive personality– the kind of person whose ugliness raises “reality TV” ratings.

That 2008 TIME Magazine Cover

Perhaps the most famous article written about Rhee is Amanda Ripley’s November 26, 2008, piece in TIME magazine, the one with Rhee on the cover dressed in black and wielding a broom. (The “witch” image is not lost on most who view it.) (Note: The article is behind a pay wall. It costs $4.99 to view the article for one week.)

Rhee TIME 2008

Before getting to Ripley’s words, let us consider the cover.

Fisher notes that the cover was to make “Rhee’s central point”:

…the time for weaselly reforms and endless studies is over, that a new sheriff has arrived to take charge of the nation’s most troubled schools. [Emphasis added.]

Abrasive, sociopath Rhee was going to “fix” DC. Period.

Ripley did not choose the cover, which she initially considered “cheesy” but then was fine with since Rhee was going to “clean up” DC public education. As Fisher notes:

…After about an hour of posing Rhee with kids and the ruler, the photographer, Robyn Twomey, pulled the next item from her bag of tricks.

“How about a broom?” Twomey said. …

“Sure,” Rhee replied, according to Amanda Ripley, the reporter who wrote the Time cover story and attended the photo shoot.

“At the time, I thought it was a little cheesy,” Ripley says. “But it was fine; this was a symbol of reform and cleaning up. There was no discussion; it seemed relatively minor.” [Emphasis added.]

If you can imagine as much, according to Fisher, Rhee was “even hurt, by reaction to that photo.” Here’s the “reaction”:

The broom — poised to sweep out the old, the failed, her employees — has become convenient shorthand, a quick answer to the question I ask one D.C. schoolteacher after another: What makes you think Rhee doesn’t respect teachers? [Emphasis added.]

And here is Rhee’s “hurt”:

It was not what I was expecting. I was surprised by how other people saw it — me being a witch, which I don’t get. I personally thought it sent the right message — sweeping change and cleaning house. [Emphasis added.]

Fisher wrote his article in 2009. In 2008, Rhee fired 75 teachers without offering any reason for termination. (In 2011, an independent auditor ruled that the firings were improperly executed and that efforts needed to be made to find the teachers and reinstate or otherwise compensate.)

Rhee fired teachers without so much as offering them a reason. And yet, she “doesn’t get” how others view her as being “a witch.”

Rhee only lasted three and a half years as DC chancellor.  In that time, she terminated approximately 1,000 teachers and administrators. For all of her hot air about “cleaning up,” Washington Post reporter Bill Turque notes that only 200 were fired for reasons related to job performance. The bulk was for other issues, including those related to budget cuts and improper credentialing.

In December 2009, the DC Public Schools (DCPS) website reported employing 4,000 teachers and 125 principals. (Keep in mind that numbers fluctuated some due to staff leaving and arriving.)

Rhee the Change Agent could only manage to dismiss approximately five percent of DCPS teachers and administrators for “poor performance.”

She could not pin “poor performance” on approximately 95 percent.

Now, keep in mind the testing erasure scandal from which Rhee escaped thus far– and which likely drove DC teachers and administrators to “intervene” in getting those scores up. (Again, former DC Principal Cothorne’s story is illuminating on this point.) Thus, some of those 95 percent likely sacrificed integrity to save their jobs under Rhee’s “sweeping” pressures.

 The 2008 TIME Article on Rhee

Investigative journalist Amanda Ripley wrote the 2008 TIME article that accompanied the infamous, Rhee-with-a-broom magazine cover.

The article is replete with Ripley’s slanted perspective against American education.

Let me note that I do not view Ripley as a credible researcher. In December 2011, Ripley wrote a smug criticism against education historian Diane Ravitch for supposedly wrongly interpreting poverty as a contributing factor in the 2009 PISA rankings. In her smugness, based on a link that she provided, Ripley failed both to convert euros to dollars and to note that the poorest Finnish are not having children. Both errors seriously undercut her arguments.

In January 2014, I wrote about Ripley’s errors. I know that she is aware of my post because fellow blogger Jennifer Berkshire tweeted it to her and received a tweet denying any errors.

To my knowledge, Ripley has not written a post correcting her blunders.

Those are major errors coming from an investigative journalist who advances herself as an expert on international education.

In her 2008 TIME article on Rhee, Ripley is also slanted and sloppy with the facts.

Consider her opener about a student enrolled in a Microsoft Word class in which so few computers work that the teacher must resort to teaching Word using paper handouts.

Ripley opens an article about Rhee’s supposedly clearing out ineffective teachers with an example of how teacher effectiveness hinges upon issues outside of teacher control.

Then Ripley offers these amazing statements, without qualification:

The U.S. spends more per pupil on elementary and high school education than most developed nations. Yet it is behind most of them in the math and science abilities of its children. Young Americans today are less likely than their parents were to finish high school. This is an issue that is warping the nation’s economy and security, and the causes are not as mysterious as they seem. The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching, according to decades of research. [Emphasis added.]

If the “biggest problem” is ineffective teaching, why open this article with an example of insufficient classroom materials?

Hmm.

Let us examine what else Ripley purports in her above indictment on the American teacher.

Per-pupil spending: Today, in 2014, US public schools provide transportation to all students to and from school. Many districts offer climate-controlled classrooms. Many offer two meals per day. Most provide textbooks for their students. Many provide computer access, including internet service. And all public schools are required to offer special education services.

What are those other countries doing for less?

As for math and science “ability”: There is a difference between international standardized test scores and math and science “abilities.” What evidence is there that nations scoring well on international tests (undoubtedly Ripley’s basis for “ability”) are translating the scoring into that which enhances quality of life and therefore contributes to a productive society?

Indeed, in 2013, China resolved to “lessen the academic burden” on its students. As Yong Zhao writes in the Washington Post:

Reduced standardized tests and homework and no tracking. These are some of the new actions China is taking to lessen student academic burden. The Chinese Ministry of Education recently released Ten Regulations to Lessen Academic Burden for Primary School Students for public commentary. The Ten Regulations are introduced as one more significant measure to reform China’s education, in addition to further reduction of academic content, lowering the academic rigor of textbooks, expanding criteria for education quality, and improving teacher capacity. [Emphasis added.]

Shanghai tops the international testing charts. America never has. And yet, China is backing off of the academic *rigor* placed upon its children.

Explain that one.

Ripley continues with a statement about US graduation rates being lower than in the past.

That depends upon how one defines “graduation rate.” Is one a “graduate” if it takes five years instead of four? If one earns a GED? If one enters a school in the sophomore or junior year as opposed to the freshman year? If one drops out, only to “drop back in”?

Niraj Chokshi of the Washington Post noted in April 2014 that the US graduation rate has been rising steadily by 1.3 percentage points annually since 2006. As of 2012, it is at a record 80 percent. This rate is based upon freshman who complete high school in four years. It does not account for those who take longer but still earn a diploma, and it does not account for those who earn graduate equivalency diplomas.

So much for students “less likely to finish high school than their parents.”

Next, Ripley notes that the state of American education ‘s “warping the economy.”

This one has to be my favorite.

She published her article two months after the September 2008 stock market crash brought on by bank liquidity and a subprime mortgage crisis. The federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The federal bailout of the “Big Three” auto makers. Corporate greed created the 2008 crash, not “ineffective teaching.” And yes, a crippled economy certainly does affect issues of national security. Yet Ripley doesn’t mention fiscal mismanagement and corporate greed induced by those with much more money and power than any teacher will ever have.

Ripley’s statements seriously lack evidence. And those are only a few sentences in an article that prints out as eight pages.

Let me just hit a few more highlights.

Let’s go with this one next:

Rhee has promised to make Washington the highest-performing urban school district in the nation, a prospect that, if realized, could transform the way schools across the country are run. She is attempting to do this through a relentless focus on finding–and rewarding–strong teachers, purging incompetent ones and weakening the tenure system that keeps bad teachers in the classroom. [Emphasis added.]

A few points here. First, Rhee did not make DC “the highest performing urban district.” What she did do was create an unresolved cheating scandal. As previously noted, Rhee’s presence in DC did not impact NAEP scores– which were already on the rise prior to her arrival yet remained far below the national average. Second, Rhee expected to be held accountable to no one while at the same time expecting that teachers and administrators should be accountable to her. Third, she and Fenty tried to alter the economic makeup of DC by catering to the more affluent– a tacit admission that the economic condition of a community does impact test scores. Finally, for all of her talk about “cleaning up,” only approximately five percent of the DC teachers and administrators whom Rhee fired were released due to “poor performance.”

And now a word about tenure.

Ripley refers to tenure as “an exceptional job security that teachers enjoy.” In K-12 education, tenure is the right to due process. In my district in Louisiana, I was assured due process after three years. This does not mean I have a job for life. If I stop doing my job, my principal can let me go. However, I have a right to appeal and have a hearing regarding my release.

If Ripley doesn’t like it, too bad.

Ripley is forgiving of Rhee’s first year of teaching. She also glosses over the fact that Rhee did not “raise test scores” without assistance– a problem to tease out if teachers are to be measured using student test scores. And Ripley does not include actual numbers regarding Rhee’s performance– she simply trusts Rhee’s principal as stating that the students were “at or above grade level”:

Rhee suffered during that first year, and so did her students. She could not control the class. Her father remembers her returning home to visit and telling him she didn’t want to go back. She had hives on her face from the stress.

The second year, Rhee got better. She and another teacher started out with second-graders who were scoring in the bottom percentile on standardized tests. They held on to those kids for two years, and by the end of third grade, the majority were at or above grade level, she says. (Baltimore does not have good test data going back that far, a problem that plagues many districts, so this assertion cannot be checked. But Rhee’s principal at the time has confirmed the claim.)

No mention of Rhee’s taping students’ mouths. No mention of dropping a student off after a field trip at an unconfirmed residence. And even though “Baltimore does not have good test data going back that far,” a June 2007 Washington Times article raises questions about Rhee’s claim to have been responsible for raising 90 percent of her students’ test scores to the 90th percentile.

Ripley offers no indication of specifically asking Rhee’s principal if she raised 90 percent of student scores to the 90th percentile. This claim deserves more than the frosting of “the majority were at or above grade level.”

A red flag waving yet completely ignored in Ripley’s rush to approve of Rhee’s questionable background.

And what an amazing Ripley-on-Rhee follow-up story it could have made in 2011: Rhee, who made unsubstantiated, remarkable test-score gains in 2007 becomes the center of an amazing test-score-gain erasure scandal in 2011.

Nothing doing.

Even as she refuses to thoroughly investigate and report on Rhee’s 90-90th claim, Ripley turns around and misquotes DC City Council Chair Vincent Gray in order to sensationalize Rhee. Here are Ripley’s words:

Rhee’s ferocity has alienated many people–even those who support her ideas and could be helpful to her. This summer the chair of the Washington city council called dealing with Rhee a “nightmare.” [Emphasis added.]

Here is the actual text Ripley misquoted, from a letter Gray sent to the editor of TIME:

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray is currently in the midst of slamming, hard, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his education deputies­—DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Deputy Mayor Victor Reinoso, and school facilities chief Allen Y. Lew­—for bigfooting the legislature. Gray, in some of his strongest anti-Fenty statements to date, called Fenty et al.’s behavior ‘unconscionable’ from the council dais. ‘This started off as a partnership, and an enthusiastic partnership, to reform District of Columbia Public Schools,’ he said. “There’s been more than a few days where it’s been a nightmare. [Emphasis Gray's.]

Just before she misquotes Gray, Ripley does get one issue right: Rhee alienates people.

Badly.

After leaving DC, Rhee founded a political lobbying organization, StudentsFirst. She did not play well with others there, either, and ended up stepping down as its leader in August 2014. As Politico‘s Stephanie Simon reports:

Michelle Rhee had big ambitions when she went on Oprah four years ago to launch her new advocacy group, StudentsFirst, with a promise to raise $1 billion to transform education policy nationwide.

But as she prepares to step down as CEO, she leaves a trail of disappointment and disillusionment. Reform activists who shared her vision say she never built an effective national organization and never found a way to use her celebrity status to drive real change.

StudentsFirst was hobbled by a high staff turnover rate, embarrassing PR blunders and a lack of focus. But several leading education reformers say Rhee’s biggest weakness was her failure to build coalitions; instead, she alienated activists who should have been her natural allies with tactics they perceived as imperious, inflexible and often illogical. …

“There was a growing consensus in the education reform community that she didn’t play well in the sandbox,” one reform leader said. …

An education reform leader familiar with her tactics said Rhee made audacious demands of potential backers — once asking for $50 million from a single donor. (She got $1 million, this source said.)

She spent heavily on lobbying and advertising for policies such as eliminating teacher tenure, restricting collective bargaining rights and promoting new evaluation systems that rate teachers in large part by their students’ scores on standardized tests. …

…Her fellow education reformers tell remarkably consistent stories about their frustration with Rhee and the organization she founded.

In Connecticut, Minnesota, Florida and elsewhere, activists said StudentsFirst often swooped in with pre-fab policy agendas set by national strategists operating out of its Sacramento headquarters.

Rhee’s state directors then promoted those policies and only those policies, without regard to local needs or political realities, according to activists who tried to work with them. In at least one case, the StudentsFirst team insisted on pushing legislation that clashed with other state laws and would have been impossible to implement, sources said.

“They’d walk around with a 15-point legislative agenda and a legislator would say, ‘What are your top two on the list?’ and they would say, ‘Nope, we need all 15,’ — so then they got zero,” one activist said. “They were policy purists in a way that made them seem oblivious to political reality.” [Emphasis added.]

With Rhee, it was all or nothing.

Looks like “nothing” won.

How About a 2014 TIME Update on Rhee?

As of August 2014, Rhee has a spot on her scandal-plagued, NBA-mayor Kevin Johnson’s charter district school board.

And she has a spot on the board of Scott’s Miracle Gro.

What a TIME cover that news could make. Rhee in overalls. A shovel. Manure. Flies buzzing.

I challenge Amanda Ripley to write eight printed pages’ worth of a 2014 TIME follow-up article. She offers numerous opinions on what she believes a ‘great teacher” to be (pay the five bucks to read Ripley’s 2008 TIME Rhee/”great teachers” fiction)– yet she has let Rhee off of the hook for years.

Rhee has never answered to anyone for any consequences related to her abrasive “reforms.”

For all of her projected toughness,  she also has refused to publicly debate anyone. In a sad comedy, she canceled a February 2014 debate with Diane Ravitch– purportedly because she could not find a third person to be on her team. As Ravitch writes in November 2013:

I earlier posted that Michelle Rhee and I would debate at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania on February 6.

As you may recall, Rhee first demanded that we have two people on each team, then three people on each team.

I readily assented and selected a wonderful second and third for the debate. …

Rhee and I–through our agents– mutually agreed on the date.

However, the debate is off because Rhee says she cannot find a third partner.

This is the information I received from Lehigh.

I don’t know anything more, except that this debate will not happen.

How sorry is that: Rhee canceled three months in advance because she could not find a third person to join. She refused to debate one-on-one. She even refused two-on-two.

What a glorified coward.

Without unreserved license, Rhee flees– just like she did from a non-Fenty DC.

That doesn’t mean she did not scoop up some major cash for herself over the years.

For more details on the control Rhee expects over events in which she is involved and the price tag she demanded for her brand of abrasion, read the details on this “discounted,” $35,000 speaking contract for Rhee to appear at Kent University.

Soo much here to report on.

I will stop for now.

Perhaps Ripley will pick up where I have left off. I even invite her to use the links in my post.

And look: No pay wall.

Whadda-ya-say, Amanda?

I’ll even proofread your draft for clearly substantiated, factual accuracy.

_______________________________________________________________

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Updates for La. Common Core/ PARCC Lawsuits– Including Fresh Spin from John White

The State of Louisiana is currently involved in three lawsuits over the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and/or the CCSS testing consortium assessments belonging to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

Here is a brief update of the entire affair:

Lawsuit One Update

On August 13, 2014, Judge Todd Hernandez denied the pro-CCSS heavily-charter-backed plaintiffs in a suit being funded by the national “choice” group, BAEO (Black Alliance for Educational Options) the option of deposing the high-ranking state officials that are listed as defendants in the suit, including Governor Jindal:

District Judge Todd Hernandez agreed with Jindal attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who argued Tuesday that the governor could not be deposed in the lawsuit.

He extended that protection to the other defendants, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and Office of Contractual Review interim director Pamela Barfay Rice, and to OCR auditor Marsha V. Guedry, all of whom are represented by attorney Greg Murphy.

However, Hernandez did allow for the state to sue itself given that the state board of education (BESE) voted to join the pro-CCSS lawsuit on July 29, 2014.

On Monday, August 18, 2014, Hernandez will hear arguments regarding whether or not to issue a temporary injunction against Jindal’s June 18, 2014, decision to prevent BESE and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) from purchasing the PARCC assessment.

So that’s the status of one lawsuit.

UPDATE 08-18-14: Hernandez heard arguments but did not rule on a temporary injunction.

Lawsuit Two Update

The second lawsuit involves the July 21, 2014 filing by 17 Louisiana legislators against BESE for failing to follow the Administrative Procedures Act in adopting CCSS in 2010. (Read here for more nuances of argument in the case.)

On Friday, August 15, 2014, Judge Tim Kelley denied a temporary injunction against CCSS:

Kelley, after listening to arguments from attorneys for both sides and hearing directly from Superintendent of Education John White and BESE President Chas Roemer, denied the legislators’ request for a preliminary injunction but said they have the right to ask that the implementation of Common Core in the state be permanently enjoined (i.e., prohibited). …  [Clarification added.]

Kelley stressed that his ruling was not a comment on the merits of Common Core itself.

Of course, White and Roemer billed this as a “win.” However, Kelley noted that CCSS is “a political hot button.” I’m guessing both he and Hernandez would rather not be put in the middle of the current CCSS “state leading.”

Lawsuit Three: Stay Tuned

The third lawsuit involves Jindal countersuing BESE for its involvement in PARCC and includes asking for an injunction against state usage of CCSS tests. This lawsuit has yet to go to court.

In for the Long Haul

So, there we have state-led harmony over Louisiana education matters.

Legal decisions regarding the presence of CCSS and PARCC in Louisiana will not end quickly.

As the lawsuits proceed, expect appeals to whatever judgments the courts decide.

Meanwhile, during the time that the state is busy fighting itself, I have had the smoothest beginning of the school year since 2011.

Utter Assessment Dependence vs. “Aspirational” CCSS

Before I exit this post, let me offer a couple of observations on what is appearing in the press regarding the Louisiana CCSS/PARCC legal dance marathon:

The entire litigation shows just how test dependent Louisiana education has become to the educrats and other educationists. Consider this excerpt from The Town Talk regarding the pro-CCSS lawsuit:

The plaintiffs filed suit after Jindal issued executive orders blocking the purchase of a test that is to be used to measure student success used in the state accountability program.

They argue that without a test that meets state law requiring measurement of nationally comparative standards, the state cannot have an accountability program that decides whether students can move from fourth and eighth grades, whether schools can be evaluated and from which schools parents can transfer students to the statewide voucher program because of their grading. [Emphasis added.]

Keep in mind that this is the lawsuit funded by the “choice” group, BAEO.

“Choice” cannot happen without standardized tests to direct it–really??  The truth is, consequences cannot be levied against students, teachers, and schools without the standardized test scores necessary to damn them.

Such makes for an undeniably punitive, really expensive (in time and money), narrowly defined, sorry promotion of “choice.”

But now comes my favorite line in all of the links cited with this post– and it is spoken by none other that our slimy, shape-shifting educationist superintendent, John “Look, there’s mud in my narrative!” White.

It is an easy-to-overlook, a two-word alteration regarding the definition of CCSS as reported in the Advocate and as stated by White as he testified in court on August 15, 2014, on the issue of the 17 legislators’ seeking a temporary injunction against CCSS:

White testified concerning the legislators’ Administrative Procedures Act argument that, in 2010, Common Core was not a proposed rule that needed to be published in the Louisiana Register but was instead a set of content standards.

“It is a set of aspirational benchmarks,” he said. [Emphasis added.]

It’s that first word of the two that has my attention.

“Aspirational,” John?

The CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) does not declare CCSS as “aspirational.” On the contrary, CCSS is declared as the practical and intended hub for test-driven, definitely consequential, so-called “reform.” As I note in a previous post on CCSS creation and intention:

Here is the opening paragraph of the CCSS MOU (see p. 128):

Purpose: This document commits states to a state-led process that will draw on evidence and lead to development and adoption of a common core of state standards (common core) in English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards will be aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and be internationally benchmarked. The intent is that these standards will be aligned to state assessment and classroom practice. The second phase of this initiative will be the development of common assessments aligned to the core standards developed through this process. [Emphasis added.]

Thus, from the outset of the CCSS MOU, the intent to develop and adopt CCSS and connect CCSS curriculum and CCSS assessments is made clear.

The rationale behind the BAEO-funded, pro-CCSS lawsuit is that the CCSS assessments are a must in order for public education to function in Louisiana.

The CCSS MOU confirms the intent of CCSS as high-stakes, test-driven “reform.”

Yet now, White calls CCSS “aspirational.”

I guess its more difficult to argue that LDOE and BESE slighted public input on a CCSS that is tourniquet-tied to high-stakes-assessment-driven outcomes than it is to present CCSS as hypothetical-theoretical, removed-from-practical-consequences aspirational, huh, John?

But you, and I, and the public know that “aspirational” is not how the CCSS website presents CCSS to parents:

Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade.

The standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. [Emphasis added.]

According to the CCSS website, CCSS is insurance that ALL students are prepared for whatever paths they take when exiting high school.

I will tell you who thought CCSS was “aspirational” when she was involved in CCSS development:

Psychologist Louisa Moats.

She was all for CCSS until she realized that these supposedly “aspirational” standards she helped to write were intended to be bound to high-stakes assessments.

Then she decided she could no longer support CCSS.

In a January 2014 Huffington Post interview with behavioral pediatrician Mark Bertin, Moats observes:

I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests. How naïve I was. The CCSS represent lofty aspirational goals for students aiming for four year, highly selective colleges. Realistically, at least half, if not the majority, of students are not going to meet those standards as written….

Our lofty standards are appropriate for the most academically able, but what are we going to do for the huge numbers of kids that are going to “fail” the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test? We need to create a wide range of educational choices and pathways to high school graduation, employment and citizenship. [Emphasis added.]

It seems that the CCSS developers might have been given one story about CCSS (as “aspirational”) while being kept in the dark regarding the original intent of CCSS as a high-stakes-assessment framework.

A Word Upon Exiting

The lawsuits will continue, and so will the attempted sell of CCSS and PARCC as indispensable to Louisiana education. I am particularly interested in how the judge will handle the request for temporary injunction against Jindal for halting PARCC funding, to be heard Monday, August 18. It is not as though BESE and White have a sound testing contract already in place to fall back on. Plus, the Division of Administration (DOA) already approved a new request for proposal (RFP) process as requested by three BESE members– with the stipulation that additional individuals must be involved in the process.

And so, the future of Louisiana public education fastens its roller skates in preparation for what those outside of our classrooms know is best for us:

________________________________________________________________

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Michelle Rhee-branded, But Still Promoting Crap

If I had to choose one individual for the title of Most Polarizing Educationist, that person would certainly be Michelle Rhee.

(You know– educationist– the genuine article, like the Rolexx watch or Louis Wuitton handbag.)

Though Rhee has received much press in venues including Time, the  Harvard Political Review, the Washington Post, and the New York Times for being “polarizing,” the problem with being polarizing is that those with influence might like to read about you and talk about you, but because they are mindful of their own career climbing (as many educationists and politicians tend to be), they won’t want to be closely identified with you.

Sure, in your only year as the single teacher in the classroom, you might tape children’s mouths and cause them to bleed– and later joke about it to a group of first-year teachers– and never be called to answer for such behavior. Or, you could start your own Teach for America-styled nonprofit and be catapulted into the spotlight as– of all things– a chancellor of schools. But then, things become more complicated as you deliver on your No Excuses, Fire the Teachers Who Don’t Deliver Pre-determined Test Score Gains in a manner that warrants criminal investigation– and no serious investigation happens, even years laterAnd you might even follow-up that “polarizing” stint as chancellor by starting your second nonprofit and brag that it will raise one billion dollars in its first year.

But then, not only does that billion not even come close to materializing; your beloved educationism-promoting nonprofit has even had to scale back its operations.

Not every educationist-supporter will support a polarizing educationist.

Whatever is Michelle the Polarizing Agent to do?

First, she might turn to her scandal-embroiled husband, former NBA star-gone-mayor, Kevin Johnson, and be reinstated as a board member of the St. HOPE Public Schools in Sacramento.

And if that is not enough, she might follow the educationist-product-promoting advice and rebrand.

Rebrand herself.

Shake off that polarization, not with a “new Rhee” really, of course, but with the veneer of a “new Rhee.”

Rhee-newed. Rhee-branded.

Enter Michelle A. Johnson. 

Next, Michelle A. Johnson must be willing to exit “her field” of educationism for, say, lawn and garden care.

That’s right: Rhee is ditching her name (at least when it serves her to do so) and is also planning to forego her CEO-ship of the struggling StudentsFirst.

A new Rhee– now a “non-Rhee”– on a new board, where the manure she’ll be shoveling in the name of “change agent” board member will be figurative for a company where dealing in fertilizer is literal:

Scott’s Miracle Gro:

MARYSVILLE, Ohio, Aug. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (NYSE: SMG), the world’s leading marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products, announced that Michelle A. Johnson has been named to its Board of Directors, effective immediately.

“Michelle is an innovator, a change agent and has clearly helped shape the national dialogue in her field,” said Jim Hagedorn, chairman and chief executive officer. “We look forward to her bringing a unique perspective to our Board that will help shape our thinking and make Scotts a stronger and smarter company as we look to the future.”

Johnson is the CEO of Sacramento-based StudentsFirst, which she founded in 2010, a bipartisan grassroots movement aimed at making sure all kids have access to great teachers and schools. She is also the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

She graduated from Cornell University in 1992, and went on to join Teach for America. Johnson subsequently spent three years as a teacher at Harlem Park Elementary in Baltimore.

She went on to earn her Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, after which she launched The New Teacher Project, where she was chief executive officer and president.  In 2007,Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Johnson to be the city’s schools chancellor.

She is from Toledo, Ohio and currently resides in Sacramento, California.  Johnson currently serves on the board of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, a nonprofit organization that prepares system-level leaders in public K-12 education.

Johnson will serve on the Company’s Compensation and Organization and Innovation and Marketing Committees, with a term that expires in 2015. [Emphasis added.]

What in the world would the Scott’s Miracle Grow CEO see in Michelle Rhee… uh… Michelle A. Johnson?

Unfeeling, No Excuses downsizing and restructuring agent.

Rhee/Johnson is able to callously sever an underling’s employment. She can even invite a camera crew to film her firing a principal– demonstrating her ability to objectify human beings in their most vulnerable moments.

And Scott’s Miracle Gro has had a rough couple of years, with record “slow” 2013 and 2014 springs cutting into its profit margins according to its August 5, 2014, third quarter earnings call.

They have had to “say goodbye to some old friends.”

Scott’s CEO Jim Hagerdorn refers to “the team”– but it is clear that “team members” are dispensable in an effort to “return more cash to shareholders”:

Over the past several months, we’ve aggressively attacked our expense structure. We’ve made some tough decisions and parted company with some old friends and talented co-workers. … They were the best decisions for the long-term of this business.

Hagerdorn continues by noting Scott’s profits are just above breaking even.

As Columbus Business First reporter Tom Knox reports, Scott’s spokesman Jim King stated that Rhee/Johnson “will help Scott’s think through broad organizational issues.”

Look out, Scott’s employees:

“Michelle A. Johnson” or no– you’re about to learn what it felt like to be a 2007-10 DC teacher.

The numbers matter. Not you.

_______________________________________________________________

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RSD School Construction Overspending and Substandard Concrete: Time for Jindal Admin to Expand Its Audit

As of June 18, 2014, Louisiana State Superintendent John White has found himself to be the focus of Office of Contractual Renewal (OCR) and Division of Administration (DOA) investigation for his questionable methods regarding Louisiana’s assessment contracts.

White has publicly complained that such is evidence that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is out to get him. White’s buddy, Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer, a career politician, tries to deflect focus from any White/BESE wrongdoing by dismissing the entire situation as “politics.”

(I’m sure it’s mere coincidence that Roemer the Politician Who Hails from a Family of Politicians and Who Has Been Calling Out Jindal for Behaving Like a Politician *just happens* to be featured in this August 9, 2014, News Star heart-warmer about how he has no future political aspirations… “for now.”)

The problem with White’s complaints and Roemer’s curt dismissal is that White and BESE did not follow proper procedure regarding assessment contract procurement.  Furthermore, White has a history of intentionally ignoring proper procedure in favor of advancing sloppy contracts that favor vendors over the interests of the Louisiana taxpayer.

White doesn’t “superintend.” He incubates chaos, including inviting corporate theft. And Roemer and his White-protecting BESE majority are readily available to protect the incubation.

Regarding such incubation, let us consider building contracts for the Recovery School District (RSD), a district flush with $1.8 billion in FEMA cash in order to rebuild or renovate 85 schools following Hurricane Katrina.

According to this 2013 Cowen report, the $1.8 billion from FEMA wasn’t all of the money made available for the School Facilities Master Plan (SFMP):

The School Facilities Master Plan (SFMP), adopted by the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) in 2008 and revised in 2011, establishes a blueprint for renovating and rebuilding crumbling school facilities. The $1.8 billion lump sum settlement awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coupled with funding from the community development block grants (CDBG) program, insurance proceeds, New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) and State Historic Tax Credits, and external grants allow OPSB and RSD to complete the SFMP; the stated mission is to ensure that all New Orleans public school students attend a school in a new, renovated, or refurbished school. [Emphasis added.]

That sure is a lot of dough. The Cowen report does not provide a total, but know that it is multiple billions of dollars.

And yet…

…the same Cowen report notes that, sadly, the costs of rebuilding are greater than expected and even “threaten the completion of the plan”:

Yet, the SFMP has cost significantly more than originally estimated. The budgets for projects, both under construction and completed, have exceeded their original budgets by 24 percent on average. Unanticipated cost increases threaten the completion of the plan. Continuous review of the costs and revenue projections, the scope and scale of the projects, and the educational program needs are essential to ensure efficient and equitable implementation of the plan. [Emphasis added.]

Oversight is needed, Cowen notes.

Indeed it is.

Oddly enough, there was an arrangement for oversight of RSD construction. Via a 2010 cooperative endeavor agreement with the State Department, the City of New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux was supposed to monitor the RSD spending on its rebuilding.

Problem is, in the true edu-reform mindset of holding others  “accountable” without being held accountable, RSD wasn’t (and isn’t) too keen on being required to answer for its fiscal decisions.

On June 7, 2013, Quatrevaux wrote to tell White that he was canceling the agreement to oversee RSD construction because RSD was interfering with Quatrevaux’s oversight, including “routinely fail[ing] to provide access to its records”; “routinely attempt[ing] to restrict the scope of the agreements”; “permitt[ing] its own contractor to provide testing,” and “arbitrarily [withholding] payments due under the Agreement.”

Under the guise of supposed “efficiency,” in April 2013, RSD emailed its employees to not respond “directly” to any requests from state agencies for information and instead to send all requests to one individual, RSD Deputy Chief of Staff Laura Hawkins.

Based upon Quatrevaux’s experience with RSD, it seems that Hawkins’ goal was to cut his investigation off at the pass, so to speak.

Mission accomplished, eh, Hawkins? But I’m sure you did it “for the children.” (Schneider expression: Deadpan stare.)

It is vain to believe that RSD has the integrity to volunteer to be held accountable and even more vain to think for a minute that White would honestly oversee public dollars.

In truth, third-party oversight of RSD construction spending is indeed needed. And forget about White and BESE for any meaningful response. No, no. In 2014, third-party oversight of RSD construction spending should begin with an investigation of RSD contracts and of White’s and BESE’s pronounced failure to address Quatrevaux’s concerns.

And now, for some outcomes of RSD’s defying oversight regarding RSD post-Katrina reconstruction and White’s and BESE’s refusal to intervene.

In 2007, the Recovery School District (RSD) put on a nice show with the rapid construction of three new schools and two renovations. Known as the “Quick Start Initiative,” the three new schools were L.B. Landry High School, Lake Area High School, and Langston Hughes Elementary, and the two renovations were Fannie C. Williams Elementary and Andrew Wilson Elementary.

BESE member Jane Smith, who toured RSD schools in August 2014, referred to these few newly constructed, RSD showcase schools as “Taj Mahals.”

As she toured, she noticed cracks climbing the walls in the stairwell at one school.

Hmm.

As part of an ongoing exchange regarding RSD rebuilding, on June 27, 2013, Quatrevaux registered his concerns with White and BESE regarding RSD’s paying the construction project manager, Jacobs CSRS of Poydras Street in New Orleans, for oversight of work that was not completed in relation to a 2007 contract between Jacobs CSRS and RSD.

Nevertheless, despite its not even completing work related to the first contract, Jacobs CSRS was awarded a second and a third contract. Thus, Jacobs CSRS had three contracts with RSD, each for three years, beginning in 2007 and ending in 2016.

Quatrevaux took issue with Jacobs CSRS’ being paid to oversee RSD school construction and renovation that did not happen.

Both White and BESE have ignored Quatrvaux’s concerns. Neither White nor BESE has intervened, and now, RSD has awarded Jacobs CSRS a third opportunity to dip into FEMA and other RSD construction funds in order to manage a “master plan” that pro-charter Cowen laments is short on money.

Here are some excerpts from Quatrevaux’s June 27, 2013, letter to White, which was copied to BESE:

Dear Mr. White: 

The principal disagreement involves compensation to the Project Manager/ Construction Manager, Jacobs CSRS, for services delivered from November 30, 2007 through march 31, 2013. The RSD entered into two contracts for PM/CM services that appear to favor the contractor.  We found that the compensation to the PM/CM remained lose to the contracted amount while the amount of rebuilding in dollar terms was greatly reduced.

The PM/CM received $18,189,198 for its services in accordance with the 2007 contract. The contract related that the professional fee was for managing the completion of 13 newly constructed or major renovations plus nine other schools estimated to be in construction at the end of the 2007 contract. The estimated cost of rebuilding work in the contract was $483,930,344.

By the end of the contract, the PM/CM had managed the completion of five new or major renovated schools and 11 major or minor demolition projects.  Only $231,922,820, or 48%, of the estimated $483,930,344 work was actually completed, yet the PM/CM was paid the entire contracted amount of $18,189,198. [Emphasis added.]

Got that? Jacobs CSRS received full payment despite having to manage only half of the contracted work.

Continuing with Quatrevaux’s concerns about the 2010 RSD-Jacobs CSRS contract, which is even more of a joke than the 2007 contract outcome:

The 2010 contract called for the PM/CM to be compensated $26,994,177 for its services. The original contract also stipulated that the professional fee was for: managing the completion of 22 newly constructed or major renovations and 70 minor school renovations; seven demolitions of campuses; mothballing nine historic school buildings; and dismantling or relocating of five temporary education facilities. The estimated cost of rebuilding work in the contract was $983,487,533.

Amendment #3 to the contract was executed April 2012 and increased compensation to the PM/CM by $7,899,903 (29%) to a total of $34,894,080. At the same time, the amendment reduced the estimated value of work from $983,487,533 to $432,840,524, a 56% reduction. [Emphasis added.]

How’s that for a clincher? The dollar value of the oversight decreases by over half (which means a lot less work is being done, so there’s substantially less to “oversee”), yet Jacobs CSRS gets a raise!

And guess what? Only half of the amended 2010 contracted work for $432,840,524 was completed– yet Quatrevaux estimates that Jacobs CSRS was compensated 74%, or $25,735,412, for overseeing the outcome of the amended 2010 contract.

Let me put it this way:

1. Originally in 2010, Jacobs CSRS was to be paid $27 million to manage RSD improvements totaling just shy of one billion dollars.

2. In the end (March 2013), Jacobs was paid roughly $26 million for overseeing improvements totaling one-fourth of the original dollar amount.

In his June 27, 2013, letter to White, Quatrevaux notes the following regarding the 2007 and 2010 contracts combined:

…RSD management should have realized that the PM/CM would require fewer professional staff after the rebuilding program was slowed by two-thirds from its original estimated value. Within the scope of our review, RSD continued to pay for PM/CM services that were underutilized without altering contract language to permit for variations, delays or changes within the building program. …

The failure to amend the 2007 contract to reduce the professional services fee when only 48% of the construction value was completed may have cost taxpayers an estimated $9,472,055 for services not required. The failure to amend the 2010 contract when the value of completed construction projects was reduced by 56% may have cost taxpayers an estimated $23,207,386 for services not required. [Emphasis added.]

So, Jacobs CSRS is getting paid for not working. But there is more:

White and RSD (and BESE, via its refusal to act) appear to be fine with allowing the RSD schools’ construction company to hire its own concrete testing firm. Quatrevaux shows this for the nonsense that it is by referring to this case of concrete testing fraud (also here and here):

I advised your predecessor at RSD (Paul Vallas) that a criminal prosecution in New York City revealed that the construction company had colluded with the independent concrete testing firm to falsify the results of concrete tests at 117 sites in Manhattan. Those sites included the base of the Freedom Tower, Yankee Stadium and the Second Avenue Subway station. The faulty concrete that threatened the structural integrity of them was replaced at considerable expense.
 
The state legislative auditor reported in 2012 that RSD allowed the construction company to hire the concrete testing firm, and recommended that a third-party firm conduct the tests. The RSD did not accept the recommendation. On January 30,2013, the OIG (Office of Inspector General) advised the RSD that allowing the construction company to select a testing firm was a poor practice and recommended independent concrete testing (attached). The RSD never responded.
 
I urge you to reconsider what is an invitation for fraud by substitution of inferior goods, a fraud that could threaten the structural integrity of the buildings that serve our children. [Emphasis added.]

(Note: The 2012 Legislative Auditor’s report on RSD construction can be found here. Pages 4 and 5 offer details on substandard concrete samples, unqualified testing, and RSD refusal to directly hire testing agencies and instead allowing the construction company to do its own quality control hiring. Also, the January 30, 2013 OIG letter noted above as “attached” can be found here on pages 30 and 31–Attachment G.)

In the closing of his June 27, 2013, letter to White, Quatrevaux offers this suggestion to a man who defies anything remotely resembling oversight:

I recommend you consider ending the reliance on a contractor to protect the state’s interests. In addition, you may wish to consider establishing an Inspector General for the Department of Education. [Emphasis added.]

Ha!  Allow me to capture this moment with a photo:

 

pigs fly

Envision the cracks that BESE member Jane Smith noticed climbing the walls of one of those newly constructed RSD schools.

Now envision John White and BESE willfully ignoring the problem.

John White and Chas Roemer, I hope Kristy Nichols of the Division of Administration reads this post and decides to expand the Division’s contract audit to include RSD building contracts.

Pout publicly all you like, White, and call it “politics” in every media venue, Roemer: The unpurchased public is getting tired of you two.

john white 2 chas roemer 2

 

__________________________________________________________

Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.

 

 

Does Jindal Have a Case with Common Core as Federal “Scheme”?

It is no secret that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has aspirations for the White House.

On June 13, 2014, Jindal visited the “presidential testing ground,” Iowa. Many in Iowa did not know who he was.

To me, a Louisianian, it is absolutely no surprise that Jindal said that a 2016 presidential run is “something” he is “thinking about.”

What Jindal needs is a sensational, distinguishing, timely issue to propel him into the national spotlight….

Enter Jindal’s very public Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) rejection.

The same day Jindal was in Iowa, June 13, 2014, he vetoed a bill for a CCSS moratorium in Louisiana.

On June 17, 2014, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan criticized Jindal on the CBS News for “the situation” being “about politics.”

It’s funny to hear that from a non-teacher, former pro-basketball player who was placed in the position of US secretary of education by a president who met him on a basketball court.

The next day, on June 18, 2014, Jindal announced his cancellation of Louisiana’s CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) and his intent to “get PARCC out of Louisiana.”

He spoke of federal overreach.

The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) want to keep both CCSS and PARCC.

As of August 7, 2014, BESE and Jindal are involved in three lawsuits related to Louisiana’s involvement in CCSS and PARCC.

Two of the three lawsuits involve the state suing itself.

BESE President Chas Roemer– whose father, Buddy Roemer, is a former Louisiana governor– and whose sister, Caroline Roemer Shirley, is a Louisiana charter school association president– accused Jindal of acting based upon “politics” designed to promote a 2016 presidential campaign.

Another politician accusing a politician of acting like a politician.

But back to that “federal overreach.”

On August 6, 2014Politico published an article entitled, “Jindal Lawyer: Common Core a ‘Scheme’ that Breaks Federal Law.” In the article, Jindal and his attorney declare concerns that should have been stated at least five years ago, at the time that Jindal first signed the CCSS MOU:

The Obama administration’s involvement with the Common Core is part of a “carefully orchestrated scheme to control curriculum in the states,” an attorney for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday.

The Obama administration is “trying to accomplish very indirectly what Congress has told them they can’t do,” attorney Jimmy Faircloth said. In a court filing Wednesday, Jindal’s administration says that a federally funded group designing Common Core tests violates federal law because it ultimately drives what students are learning in class. [Emphasis added.]

High-stakes tests drive curriculum. And the federal government had every intention to pay for all related to CCSS except for directly paying for CCSS development.

The federal role was clearly stated in that CCSS MOU Jindal and 45 other state governors signed in spring 2009.

Even Race to the Top (RTTT) was mentioned in the CCSS MOU under “federal role”:

Federal Role. The parties support a state-led effort and not a federal effort to develop a common core of state standards; there is, however, an appropriate federal role in supporting this state-led effort. In particular, the federal government can provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Further, the federal government can incentivize this effort through a range of tiered incentives, such as providing states with greater flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, supporting a revised state accountability structure, and offering financial support for states to effectively implement the standards. Additionally, the federal government can provide additional financial support for the development of common assessments, teacher and principal professional development, and other related common core standards supports, and a research agenda that can help continually improve the common core over time. Finally, the federal government can revise and align existing federal education laws with the lessons learned from states’ international benchmarking efforts and from federal research. [Emphasis added.]

So, the federal government was all over CCSS prior to both CCSS creation and formal announcement of RTTT. This was news to no governor who signed on in 2009 for the to-be CCSS and its TBA assessments.

The Politico article includes this loaded statement in defense of the federal government:

The Education Department didn’t require states to adopt the Common Core or related exams. As long as states took on higher standards and higher quality exams, it didn’t matter what states chose, and many states have selected other exams. [Emphasis added.]

The federal government has taken on the role of arbiter of what constitutes “higher” state standards and “higher quality” state exams. But USDOE takes it a step further: Not only did they pay for PARCC; they told the PARCC consortium that it must adhere to this January 2011 cooperative agreement outlining “substantial communication, coordination, and involvement between the U.S. Department of Education (Department or ED) and the recipient,” and that USDOE involvement would be “necessary to carry out a successful project.”

USDOE has been all over PARCC development since inception. Consider this statement from the USDOE September 28, 2010, award letter to PARCC:

This award is subject to the attached grant conditions related to administering the grant, monitoring sub-recipients, reporting, maintaining adequate financial controls and procedures regarding the selection, award, and administration of contracts or agreements. Further, in accordance with 34 CFR 75.234(b), this award is classified as a cooperative agreement and will include substantial involvement on the part of the Department of Education (Department) program contact. As noted in the grant award documents, we expect that PARCC and the Department will successfully negotiate and complete a final cooperative agreement the recipient signs and returns no later than January 7, 2011. [Emphasis added.]

Thus, any product of PARCC is a federally funded and supervised product. It does not matter which PARCC states did what. All that has been done under the auspices of PARCC has been accomplished via federal money and via federal oversight.

Federal funding of PARCC doesn’t stop with federal involvement in fronting $170 million for PARCC assessment development. It also includes an additional $16 million for CCSS and assessment “transition,” as noted in the USDOE award letter to PARCC:

In addition, I am enclosing a second GAN for a supplemental award of $15,872,697. These funds support efforts to help participating States successfully transition to common standards and assessments. [Emphasis added.]

The “I” noted above is Joseph Conaty, USDOE Director of Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Programs.

So, is USDOE driving curriculum via the PARCC assessments?

Yes.

The PARCC tests are considered high-stakes. Students, teachers, and schools have a lot to lose by doing poorly on PARCC tests. Some such stakes include student promotion, teacher livelihood, and school existence. The potential loss can pressure stakeholders into securing “helps” in order to (at least in their perception) improve the chances of avoiding negative consequences– not the least of which involves securing “aligned” curriculum.

Even the USDOE award letter to PARCC hints at Duncan’s intention to manipulate curriculum via the USDOE-funded, CCSS assessments:

Congratulations to you and others participating in PARCC on your hard work and accomplishment. As the Secretary noted in his remarks on September 2nd when he announced the Race to the Top Assessment winners, if America is to have a public school system second to none, each state needs a first-rate assessment system to measure progress, guide instruction, and prepare students for college and careers. [Emphasis added.]

There you have it: Duncan wants to use his USDOE-funded PARCC to “guide instruction.” The vehicle for accomplishing this test-centered “instruction guiding” is the curriculum.

Despite his motivation for confronting the issue, Jindal surely has a case in declaring federal intention to control curriculum via CCSS and PARCC.

However, the best part of the Politico article is its recognition that Jindal’s stance now puts his views on the matter in line with none other than education historian Diane Ravitch:

Jindal’s argument isn’t new, but it may be the first time it’s been made in court. Education historian Diane Ravitch has questioned whether the Common Core is legal, saying the Education Department used billions in federal grants through Race to the Top and waivers from No Child Left Behind encouraging states to adopt the standards.

“The role of the federal government in offering money to states to adopt the standards may well have been illegal,” Ravitch wrote last November. “Secretary [Arne] Duncan’s fervent advocacy for the standards at every opportunity may well be illegal. His denunciation and ridiculing of critics of the standards as Tea Party extremists belies his insistence that the federal government had nothing to do with the Common Core standards. If he had nothing to do with them, why is he their number one salesman? Why does he so stridently belittle their critics and mischaracterize their motives?”

Why, indeed.

Duncan could not be more chummy with CCSS than if he had, say, met it on the basketball court and rode its coattails to the White House.

That very federal-to-CCSS chumminess will fuel CCSS’s undoing.

_______________________________________________________________

Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.

 

 

 

 

 

My 2014-15 “Back to School” Post

I started my 2014-15 school year on Monday, August 4. On Thursday, August 7 (which happens to be tomorrow), the students return.  Thus, the three days beginning this week have been faculty professional days.

I planned to write a different, more research-based post in the days prior to my students’ return, but mentally, I feel like I am on vacation after spending two months writing my second book. Starting school requires a different energy than the intense self-discipline I had to impose upon myself in order to complete a book in a summer. (I do enjoy writing; however, in order to complete a book before returning to school, I often had to write whether I felt like it or not. That’s just how it works.)

In many ways, starting a school year after having written so much this summer (not only the book, but also blog posts) is like exhaling a deep breath.

So, no lengthy investigative post for now.

Instead, I would like to offer a word regarding the very beginning of my 2014-15 school year.

It was nothing like last year’s start, when Louisiana State Superintendent John White decided to speed up Common Core (CCSS) implementation by a full year. When I returned, I and my colleagues faced “the CCSS sales job” in which we were told we were going to “do this thing.” By October 2013, our local school board approved an anti-CCSS resolution that our local superintendent and local union president both signed.

However, our district still considered itself “in” CCSS since CCSS was adopted at the state level.

Well. It seems now that the state is suing itself over CCSS and the related Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. And not only the state is suing itself, but also a charter-backed, pro-CCSS group is suing part of the state (the Governor Jindal part), and 17 legislators and approximately 200 parents and students are suing the state board of education (BESE) for improper adoption of CCSS.

The suit of the 17 legislators et al. suing BESE and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE)  for improper CCSS adoption will go to court first, on August 15, 2014:

Judge Tim Kelley will hear arguments Aug. 15 in a lawsuit filed by 17 state lawmakers who are seeking an immediate suspension of the multi-state English and math standards in schools.

The lawsuit alleges the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the education department did not follow state law to enact Common Core.

And the pro-CCSS lawsuit against Jindal is scheduled for August 18:

On Aug. 18, Judge Todd Hernandez will consider arguments in a separate lawsuit filed by parents and teachers who have sued Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Their lawsuit alleges Jindal violated the Louisiana Constitution by issuing a series of executive orders aimed at undermining Common Core. BESE has voted to join in the effort against the governor.

But there’s more.

On August 6, 2014, Jindal amended his lawsuit against BESE to include an injunction against the PARCC tests:

In the latest salvo in the ongoing fight over Louisiana’s use of the Common Core education standards, Gov. Bobby Jindal has amended his lawsuit and is now seeking a court injunction to immediately stop the state from using the tests tied to Common Core. …

The injunction would bar the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from implementing any assessment program developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, known as PARCC. …

Late last month, BESE voted to join a lawsuit suing the governor over the issue, claiming he was unconstitutionally meddling in the education board’s work. Jindal fired back with a counter-suit of his own against BESE, saying the state’s agreement with PARCC is unconstitutional and gives the group too much power to make state education decisions.

Jindal’s new amended version of that lawsuit, filed Wednesday in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, expands on that premise. In addition to adding the request for the injunction, the lawsuit claims the PARCC agreement violates federal law.

Laws including the General Education Provisions Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ban the federal government from controlling school curriculum and instructional material, said attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who is representing the Jindal administration in the case. …

In addition, Faircloth says that BESE never truly gave authorization for the state to participate in the PARCC testing system, so its agreement — which Jindal signed — is invalid. The board approved joining the “Common Core” standards in June 2010, but never explicitly approved participation in PARCC, the lawsuit says.

Likely under the advice of counsel, BESE President Chas Roemer and “them” could not be reached for comment.

That did not stop White later on the same day from issuing this gooey, over-the-top effort of a newsletter to resell CCSS to Louisiana teachers.. and to offer us…clarity.

Ironically, John, since LDOE and BESE are on the receiving end of a Jindal-induced CCSS and PARCC exit, the beginning of my school year is clearer than it has been in years.

In our faculty inservice time these past few days, there has been very little talk of CCSS and no hyper-focus on any looming PARCC assessments.

It’s as though “top-down” has put the top down.

In short, it has been a comparatively easy 2014-15 beginning for me.

While I watch the show that is essentially Roemer/White vs. Jindal, I’m just going to do what I have been doing full time for almost every year since 1991.

I’m just going to teach.

driving with top down

_____________________________________________________________

Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE.

 

 

 

 

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