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Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams is Prepared to Thin-Spread NYC’s “Great Teachers”

Eric Adams is running for mayor of New York City.

He wants to assign hundreds of students to a single teacher because technology could allow it, and it costs less.

Of course, in Adams’ mind, the ridiculous student-teacher ratio is fine because *great teachers* with technology (aka, kids on laptops) produces “skillful” teaching. Consider Adams’ words in this February 2021 candidate interview with Citizens Budget Commission president, Andrew Rein, when Rein asks Adams about how much a “full year school year” would cost.

Apparently, Adams’ plan is the well-worn ed-reform idea of cost-cutting excellence:

Think about this for a moment, let’s go with the full year school year because that’s important to me. When you look at the heart of the dysfunctionality of our city, it’s the Department of Education. We keep producing, broken children that turn into broken adults and live in a broken system. 80% of the men and women at Rikers Island don’t have a high school diploma or equivalency diploma. 30% are reported based on one study to be dyslexic because we’re not doing what we should be doing in educating, we find ourselves putting young people in a place of being incarcerated. That must change. And so if you do a full year school year by using the new technology of remote learning, you don’t need children to be in a school building with a number of teachers, it’s just the opposite. You could have one great teacher that’s in one of our specialized high schools to teach 300 to 400 students who are struggling in math with the skillful way that they’re able to teach.

Let’s look at our best mastered teachers and have them have programs where they’re no longer being just within a school building. We no longer have to live within the boundaries of walls, of locations. We can now have a different method of teaching and I’m going to have the best remote learning that we could possibly have, not just turning on the screen and having children look at someone or really being engaged.

When market-based ed reform hit Louisiana in 2011, one of my concerns as a classroom teacher was that I might be rated “highly effective” and *rewarded* with increased class sizes. That thinking was and still is an idiotic core belief of ed reform: A “great teacher” can continue to be great no matter how thin that teacher is spread in trying to meet the educational needs of any number of individual students.

And that was before advocates of this foolish narrative realized how much of an increase student load they might try to push in the name of remote-learning *freedom from boundaries.*

One boundary does not change, and that is my finiteness as a human being. Only so much time. Only so much energy.

If you’re willing to burn out teachers, you’re not seeking educational excellence for students.

Masterful teaching does not happen when teachers are pushed beyond their limits. Having several hundred students at once and being expected to meet the needs of those students via computerized instruction is a non-solution billed as solution to the likes of a would-be politician trying to market public education on the cheap.

Interestingly, Adams is trying to backtrack on his hundreds of students per teacher sales pitch, as noted by NY1 on June 14, 2021:

The comment may have come at a mayoral forum four months ago, but that mattered little to critics who saw it for the first time on social media this weekend.

After a video of Eric Adams extolling remote learning began making the rounds online, his opponents pounced, and Adams did some backtracking.

In the clip, taken from a mayoral forum held by the Citizens Budget Commission in February, Adams says, “By using the new technology of remote learning, you don’t need children to be in a school building with a number of teachers. It’s just the opposite. You could have one great teacher that’s in one of our specialized high schools to teach three- to four hundred students who are struggling in math.” …

Adams’ original comment was in the context of his proposal for a full-year school year, with college seminar-style learning as one element. Despite the fact he made similar comments elsewhere, he said Sunday that he misspoke during the mayoral forum, and didn’t mean to say 300 to 400.

“We were talking about 30 to 40 children,” he said.

Thirty or forty students per teacher is too much of a class load and still precludes quality instruction.

What else is too much is that in another February 2021 interview, this time for Bloomberg, Adams again pushed for hundreds of students per teacher, but at the reduced rate of only 200 to 300.

Here’s Adams’ 200-to-300 commentary, with remote-learning-mastery-despite-teacher-overload nonsense, but great teacher, great teachers:

You know, Michael Bloomberg had it right by going after mayoral control in schools. The crisis we are experiencing in America, not only in New York but across America, every big city, is fed by education. Everything that we’re facing for the most part in our city stems from our failure to educate, and we can’t continue to say it’s too expensive. No. It’s too expensive if we don’t do it. I always talk about the quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He spent a lifetime pulling people out of the river — no one goes upstream and prevents them from falling in in the first place. We’re running our city downstream. We have to go upstream and change our thinking from a crisis-management system to a proactive one.

So just dealing with summer school — we could use remote learning. We should have the best remote-learning experience on the globe. We should reach out to Google, we should reach out to Facebook, we should reach out to our tech industry, and we should build out a state-of-the-art remote learning experience so that children don’t have to sit in the school building. We should require two to three hours a day where our young people during the summer months are receiving continuous instruction. And you could have a great teacher, math teacher, English teacher, from one of the specialized high schools, who can do this remotely, or one of the great teachers of schools, public, middle schools.

Covid has revealed to us we can do remote learning — we just have to do it right. We can’t go through the motions. Too many students — they’ll sign on, they just put a screen up. That is not remote learning. We need to master remote learning. You could have one teacher who could instruct remotely 200 to 300 students, and give them the instruction that they deserve. We can do this if we bridge technology with the learning experience, and it would be cost-effective.

“And it would be cost effective.”

There it is: Educational excellence on the cheap. Call it the best. Say 200-300 kids per teacher, no, 300-400 kids per teacher, no 30-40 kids per teacher because backtrack-lying is the presumed road to that mayoral control for candidate Adams.

Okay. I just have to repeat this incredible contradiction, literally within the same sentence:

You could have one teacher who could instruct remotely 200 to 300 students, and give them the instruction that they deserve.

One teacher.

200-300 students. (Or is it 300-400 students?)

Instructed remotely.

The instruction students deserve.

I’ll tell you what, New York:

You deserve more that the education thin-spread Eric Adams is prepared to institute.



No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Democracy Prep Founder and Thief, Seth Andrew: Spinner of Chaos.

Seth Andrew is the founder of Democracy Prep charter schools. After serving in the Obama administration and then leaving Democracy Prep, he decided to rob the charter chain’s escrow accounts, for which he was arrested on April 27, 2021.

Andrew was in the process of promoting another ed venture, Degrees of Freedom, billed as “a new kind of higher ed experience that is affordable, flexible and inclusive,” but do read the fine print because Degrees of Freedom– though it sounds like it is a degree program– is not able to confer any degrees and is dependent upon accredited, third-party higher-ed programs:

Degrees of Freedom is a non-profit hybrid leadership program. DoF provides comprehensive wrap-around services to students pursuing a degree at an accredited institution including work-based learning, social-emotional support, on-campus community building, intensive academic coaching, travel opportunities, and professional training. Degrees of Freedom does not yet possess a certificate of approval or a certificate of degree-granting authority from the Vermont State Board of Education to operate an independent school, college or university. Degrees of Freedom is not yet accredited by any accrediting body or a candidate for accreditation by any accrediting body.

In other words, though Andrew is publicized in May 2020 as having purchased the grounds of now-defunct Marlboro College (VT) through his nonprofit, Democracy Builders Fund, the presence of his non-accredited Degrees of Freedom program on what once was a college campus does not make the program an accredited, degree-conferring program.

In what seems to be an effort to build a partnership in order to financially support his non-degree-conferring Degrees of Freedom program (wrap-around services to prop up his wrap-around services so to speak), Andrew’s Democracy Builders turned around and sold Marlboro College to LLC, Type I Civilization Academy. That was February 2021.

One month later, in March 2021, Andrew purportedly canceled the sale, telling the Bennington Banner and others in a community Zoom meeting, “We were engaged, not married.”

So. After Andrew was arrested in April 2021 for stealing money from Democracy Prep, Democracy Builders Fund cut ties with Andrew. Furthermore, according to the June 09, 2021, Brattleboro Reformer, Democracy Builders says that it had not finalized the sale of the Marlboro campus to Type I Civilization Academy. However, Type I disputes this fact, with the ownership now a matter for the Windham Superior Court.

The sale of Marlboro from Democracy Builders to Type I would have generated revenue to support Degrees of Freedom, with Democracy Builders leasing the Marlboro campus from Type I.

Degrees of Freedom– already shaky because it does not confer degrees though its website reserves this stark reality for small print at the bottom of its web page– is supposedly seeking to become a stand-alone nonprofit, with no mention of any connection to Democracy Builders on its site. For that matter, the Degrees of Freedom site fails to mention any single human being associated with this sell.

On its site, Degrees of Freedom is still recruiting for 2022 (In large letters: “Learn online and on-campus for $0 out-of-pocket”), though it nixed its September 2021 launch when Andrew was arrested.

Meanwhile, the Marlboro School of Music, which retains a 99-year lease to hold its annual music festival on the Marlboro campus, is caught in the middle of this chaos chiefly attributable to one man.

What a guy.


No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Louisiana School Grades: Adjusting the Farce for Student Growth

Louisiana state superintendent Cade Brumley has proposed increasing the impact of “student growth” upon Louisiana’s school letter grades.

The expectation based upon computer simulation is a 50-percent cut in the number of schools that would otherwise receive D and F letter grades.

The June 4, 2021, Advocate first reported on Brumley’s efforts to increase the student growth proportion from 25 percent of a school’s grade to at least 38 percent, which the Advocate reports is more in keeping with national school grading trends.

However, the Advocate misleads readers in how it defines student growth– a definition that makes student growth appear to be independent of student test scores and even test-score comparisons with peers. From the Advocate:

Since 2017 student growth – whether students meet learning targets regardless of test scores and how they compare to their peers – has accounted for 25% of the score.

On the contrary, student growth is test-score dependent at its core, with growth determined also dependent upon peer comparisons, as noted in the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) document regarding use of student growth as a school performance component beginning in 2017-18:

From the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) website (linked above):

Beginning in 2017-2018, for school performance scores, growth of students will be measured in two ways – Value-Added Model and Growth to Mastery.

Growth to Mastery measures the distance between the student’s curret ELA or math scaled score, and the scaled score required to achieve Mastery by grade 8 in elementary/middle schools (750) and by the second high school LEAP assessment in high schools.

For students who are already at Mastery, Continued Growth measures the distance between the student’s current ELA or math scaled score and the scaled score required to achieve Advanced on the same timelines listed above. …

(At end of doc) If a student does not achieve the Continued Growth target, the school is awarded points based on the student’s performance compared to similar peers.

The Value-Added Model (VAM) measures students’ success compared to similar peers year to year. … The VAM anticipates how well students will perform on the test in comparison to their peers with similar prior test scores and background.

So, let’s be clear: Louisiana’s school grading, including the student growth component, is heavily test-score dependent and comparison-dependent.

According to the 2019-20 formula, test scores account for 90 to 95 percent of the K8 school grade and 45 percent of the high school grade (50 percent of high school grades are tied to graduation rates and diploma types; K12 schools all derive 5 percent of the school score from an “interests and opportunities” component.)

Increasing the student growth component will contribute to moving school grades toward the center. Lower grades (F and D) will “improve,” and higher grades will “decline” unless some sort of handicap is instituted to account for scoring ceilings (i.e., the point at which “improvement” becomes either practically negligible or numerically impossible.)

The Advocate article includes no reference to the impact upon higher school grades if the student growth component is alloted greater weight:

Kathy Noel, deputy assistant superintendent for assessments, accountability and analytics, said Louisiana falls into the lower quartile of states in how much credit they give students for yearly academic gains.

Noel said simulations show about 50% of the state’s D- and F-rated public schools would improve a letter grade under the new ratings. A total of 23% of public schools were rated D or F in 2019, the latest snapshot.

I emailed Noel and asked about simulation results related to the student growth change upon higher-scoring schools (A B and C). I will add any response she sends to this post. (UPDATE: Noel response on June 07, 2021: “Good morning.  I have attached a summary of the simulations across all letter grades.  There is not a substantial change for A schools.  Minor improvement is noted in B and C schools.” Link will not load.)

Another issue: In this whole scheme of district/school/teacher grading, it seems that little thought (and no accounting) is given to the concept of measurement error, with test results wrongly assumed to be exact, indisputable, spot-on, end of story. Consider this example from Louisiana’s “studentgrowth” link (see above) concerning how VAM works– and how the example stops short of any discussion of measurement error:

VAM is a prediction of how a student is expected to score on state assessments for the current year relative to the student’s peers including prior achievement and demographics.

The actual score for each student is compared to the expected score to determine if he or she has made more, less, or an expected amount of progress. The following example illustrates how these variables would apply to a student.

Suzy scored Approaching Basic in ELA each of the past three years with no grade retention. As a result, she is expected to score Approaching Basic (719) this year.

Suzy has a speech/language disability. All students with speech/language disabilities scored, on average, 1.5 points below their peers. Thus, her expected score is reduced to 717.5.

Suzy missed ten days of school. All students missing ten days of school scored, on average, 1.5 points below their peers. Thus, her expected score is further adjusted to 716.

No other influencing VAM characteristics apply to Suzy, so they do not impact her expected score.

Suzy is expected to be the average of the limited number of characteristics included in her VAM scoring outcome, without any means for accounting for individual uniqueness (Suzy is now an “average”), and without including any adjustment for measurement error. Suzy is expected to score 716, not 715. If she doesn’t “grow” to specs, her school’s grade is negatively impacted.

Next, consider how the Growth to Mastery also includes no acknowledgement of measurement error. it is a “simple calculation” and a timeline to score that certain score leading to Mastery:

Growth to Mastery is a simple calculation of the scaled score points a student needs to improve each year to reach Mastery status by the grade 8 or second high school assessments.

It consists of the prior year performance, the distance to Mastery, and the number of years left to grade 8 or the second high school assessments. This measure is known in advance. …

For students scoring Mastery the previous year… if a student does not achieve the Continued Growth target, the school is awarded points based on the student’s performance compared to similar peers. …

For students scoring Advanced (the highest possible rating) in the prior year… if the student drops to the Mastery level or below, the school is awarded points based on the student’s performance compared to similar peers.

Divide the number of points needed to reach Mastery by the number of years left to do so, and viola! we know what that kid needs to score per year. No individual considerations involved. By the grade 8 or second high school assessment date, reach Mastery. Score a point below, that’s not to specs, and the school score is negatively affected.

Growth points awarded based on how a student compares to “similar peers.”

Chin up, though: If everyone declines in concert, the school can get some points out of it– and that appears to be the magic of student growth in bolstering the F or D school grade.

Grading schools is a bad idea for many reasons. The following December 10, 2010, Associated Press opinion on Louisiana school grades includes a number of those reasons. The piece also illustrates problems with comparing grades across the years since the grading criteria alluded to in this 2010 article is obsolete:

Analysis: Letter grades for Louisiana schools too complex

BATON ROUGE — Letter grades seemed so simple in school. When your teacher gave you an “A,” it meant you did really great work, a “C” was average and an “F” meant you had failed at the tasks on which you were being judged.

Leave it to Louisiana’s education leaders to make a direct letter grading scale so messy and confusing. Of course, state lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal had a hand in the problem as well, suggesting that it’s a straightforward task to grade Louisiana’s public schools – and providing little guidance on how it should be done.

It seems like a great idea: Assign a letter grade from “A” to “F” for the nearly 1,300 schools so parents can understand what type of education their children are receiving.

“People can relate to grades,” said Penny Dastugue, president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The idea is where simplicity ends, however.

The road to BESE determining how to assign grades got wrapped up in issues of poverty, performance improvements and the other struggles that face school superintendents, principals and teachers every day.

Should a school be rewarded for how much it improved its students’ achievement rates and given a better grade even if its overall results still show a large percentage of students performing below their grade level and the state’s standards?

Is it fair for a school in a poor neighborhood where many students don’t have parental support and don’t get basic reading training before they enter school be graded against a school in a wealthier neighborhood where more students start off with greater advantages?

If you curve the system, will it really provide any useful information to parents and will it meet the intent of what lawmakers and the governor wanted out of the grading scale?

Does a letter grading system in some cases discount the strides a school is making or the hard work its teachers are doing? Could it damage morale and make it more harder for a lower-graded school to attract strong teachers and education leaders to help improve it?

BESE wrangled with those difficult questions before backing a grading scale Thursday, in a 6-4 vote. In the end, the board went with a tougher letter-grading system than was proposed by district superintendents, a panel of educators and Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek.

The first letter grades will be assigned to schools in October 2011, when the latest school performance scores are released by the state education department. The letters will replace a previous grading system that had involved a series of stars.

Schools will be graded “A” through “F” based on the performance score they receive in the state accountability system, which consider student standardized test scores, attendance rates and dropout rates.

A “plus” will be added to the grade if a school meets its annual improvement goal, while a “minus” will be added if the school’s performance declines.

Pastorek wanted a different structure that would give schools that improved their growth score a letter boost, but BESE members objected. School district superintendents wanted a more generous grading scale than what got approved.

Dastugue acknowledged that even the revised, tougher scale “is a pretty generous curve,” though she also called it reasonable and balanced.

Schools that receive an “A” can have as many as 12 percent of their students performing below “basic” or below grade level. Schools with a “B” can have as many as 23 percent below grade level, with a “C” can have up to 36 percent and with a “D” up to 61 percent.

In other words, at a “C” level school, one in three students can fall behind the state standard of where they should be performing. Is that average? Is a “D” school where 6 in 10 students aren’t performing at their grade level really a passing school?

To know what the grades really mean, parents will still have to do a bit of homework.

Grading schools is a bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which is the instability of grading criteria across time. And let’s be realistic: If people have to “do homework” to try to understand “what the grades really mean,” then school letter grade “simplicity” is a farce, and the grading needs to go.


No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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La. BESE Member Kira Orange-Jones: Financial Disclosures Missing; Fines Years in Arrears

As a Louisiana public school teacher, I am required to annually complete a ethics training course, which I did this week.

When completing this requirement, my mind inevitably settles on Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) board member and Teach for America (TFA) senior vice president, Kira Orange-Jones, for the wreckage she makes of filing personal financial disclosures. No other BESE member comes close to Orange-Jones’ lousy record in honoring public transparency via timely and complete disclosures.

Kira Orange-Jones

According to the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program, in the name of fostering transparency and public trust, BESE members are supposed to file annual disclosure reports (Tier 2, in this case), and they are to do so by May 15 of the following year.

The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of $100 per day ($2500 maximum).

Orange-Jones is notorious for failing to file her personal financial disclosures and is years in arrears on associated fines.

On August 11, 2019, I wrote a post about Orange-Jones, who at that point had not filed her personal disclosures for 2018 or 2017– and whose residential address was in question because her husband filed his personal disclosure using a NM address. I also included info on BESE meetings Orange-Jones missed.

The next day– August 12, 2019– Orange-Jones filed those missing 2017 and 2018 disclosures, but her filings were incomplete, and she has yet to pay the associated fines ($4300; see page 14 of this “failure to pay late fees” list).

Orange-Jones’ last ethics filing was on November 04, 2019, to amend info on her 2017 disclosure.

Since then, no new filings from Orange-Jones.

No 2020 filing. Not even a 2019 filing.

One big question continues to be Orange-Jones’ residential address. As of 2020, is she living in Louisiana or elsewhere? The public cannot answer this question in a timely manner based on Orange-Jones’ ethics disclosures because her latest filing is for 2018.

In fact, beginning with her first disclosure filing in 2011, Orange-Jones has never filed a single personal financial disclosure by the May 15th deadline:

  • 2011 disclosure filed over a year late, on July 03, 2013
  • 2012 disclosure filed on June 18, 2013
  • 2013 disclosure filed on July 24, 2014
  • 2014 disclosure filed on June 03, 2015
  • 2015 disclosure filed over a year late, on July 14, 2017
  • 2016 disclosure filed same day as 2015 disclosure (July 14, 2017)
  • 2017 disclosure filed over a year late, on August 12, 2019
  • 2018 disclosure filed same day as 2017 disclosure (August 12, 2019)
  • 2019 disclosure not yet filed (over a year late as of this writing)
  • 2020 disclosure not yet filed; no request for extension filed (over a week late as of this writing)

On May 25, 2021, I submitted the following public records request with the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program:

Dear Public Records Custodian:

Please provide a comprehensive history of payments of fines related to delinquent personal financial disclosure filings for BESE board member, Kira Orange Jones.

Thank you.

–Mercedes Schneider

In response, on May 26, 2021, I received the following comprehensive history of Orange-Jones’ fines for her failure to file timely financial disclosures:

According to the above file, as of May 26, 2021, Orange-Jones has paid a total of $7500 (maximum fine of $2500 for 2013, 2014, and 2015), and she appears to have been on some sort of payment plan for the 2013 and 2014 fines.

I wanted to know what was transpiring behind the scenes between the Louisiana Ethics Administration and Orange-Jones, so I filed another public records request for “all documents not made public” related to Orange-Jones’ noncompliance/delinquency related to her Tier 2 annual personal financial disclosures.

What I received was 89 pages long, including duplication for subsequent warnings via certified mail/having state troopers hand-deliver as well as reporting Orange-Jones’ noncompliance to the attorney general’s office.

I had to pay 25 cents per page for these docs:

I learned a lot about the process that the Louisiana Ethics Administration follows in regard to delinquent annual disclosure filings. The “hard” deadline is May 15, but the fine clock does not begin to run until the Administration contacts the non-filer by mail via a seven-day-warning letter, which could be months later. After the seven days, then the $100-per-day fines begin to accrue and max out at $2500. Once the fines reach $2500, another letter is sent, and then another, some via state trooper, then at some point (after repeated warnings that $2500 has accrued), a letter stating that the Administration may (operative word; not will certainly) oppose the candidate’s running in any election so long as fines are not completely paid, and then (again, at some points, after lots of warnings that the max fine has accrued, literally years later), the matter is referred to the attorney general’s office.

Orange-Jones is a notorious repeat offender at not filing, and piling up fines, and then incorrectly filing, that it seems the Administration really needs to develop a more stringent course of action for repeat offenders, including referring the offender to the attorney general’s office much sooner that several years later and certainly objecting to future candidacy for Louisiana office.

When Orange-Jones was cornered into filing her 2017 and 2018 disclosures in August 2019 (prior to the November 2019 election), she submitted incomplete documentation for both 2017 and 2018 and was called upon to correct these. Orange-Jones’ last filing as of this writing (in November 2019) was to correct the delinquent, incomplete, 2017 disclosure. Orange-Jones’ 2018 disclosure has yet to be corrected.

She has yet to pay the associated fines for 2017 and 2018. These have been referred to the attorney general’s office, but not until June 19, 2020, and there appears to have been no suit filed in which the Louisiana Ethics Administration objected to Orange-Jones’ BESE candidacy at any point since her first delinquent filing in 2011.

One would think that individuals holding public office would not have to be induced by serious, definite, punitive consequences to serve the public trust in so simple a matter as an annual ethics disclosure, but here we are with the damning example of Kira Orange-Jones and an ethics administration seemingly unwilling to enforce its own rules in the face of Orange-Jones’ solid history of blatant disregard.

Orange-Jones’ sloppy filing history makes a mockery of public service, and yet it continues. BESE, are you not embarrassed by this? Teach for America (TFA), are you proud of your senior vice president?

As for the remaining BESE board members, in general, they seem to manage much better with their timely, disclosure-filing task than does Orange-Jones, but keep in mind that Orange-Jones’ record sets a very low bar. Below are details of the personal financial disclosure filing histories of the remaining 10 BESE members:

Perhaps Doris Voitier should offer fellow members a master class on timely filing, but not to Orange-Jones. For assistance so benign, Orange-Jones has used up all of her coupons. Instead, BESE should formally censure Orange-Jones for her lack of compliance, and BESE needs to find out what percentage of her time Orange-Jones is spending actually residing in her own BESE district. Enough is enough.


No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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The Fall of the IDEA Charter Execs: No Luxury Jet Can Save Us Now.

The May 25, 2021 Houston Chronicle reports of the firing of IDEA Public Schools charter chain CEO JoAnn Gama and CFO Irma Muñoz “after a forensic review found ‘substantial evidence’ that top leaders at the state’s largest charter network misused money and staff for personal gain ‘in a manner to avoid detection by the standard external audit and internal control processes that the Board had in place at the time,'” according to IDEA board president Al Lopez in the letter to IDEA parents, posted below.

The Chronicle continues:

The firings followed an anonymous tip received after the departures last year of two other high-ranking IDEA leaders, former CEO Tom Torkelson and former CFO Wyatt Truscheit. Lopez’s letter says the allegations of misconduct involve “a small number of IDEA senior leaders,” though it does not name any individuals alleged to have engaged in improper spending or use of staff.

IDEA’s finances came under fire in late 2019, following the board’s quickly-reversed decision to lease a private jet and the disclosure that the charter network spent money on luxury suites at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, among other decisions. Torkelson resigned in May 2020, agreeing to a $900,000 settlement payout with the charter’s board.

And just that fast, both Gama and Muñoz were scrubbed from the IDEA leadership page.

I wanted some background on Gama and Muñoz, which I found on this archived IDEA leadership page from February 17, 2021.

Here’s Muñoz’s archived bio sketch:

Irma Muñoz was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. She graduated from the University of California at Davis, and from Harvard University’s School of Government.

Prior to joining IDEA, Irma worked as Sr. Director of New Markets and Spokesperson for GMAC Financial, a subsidiary of General Motors. In this capacity she was responsible for all marketing initiatives within the domestic Latino, African American and Asian communities.

Before joining GMAC Financial, Irma worked for Fannie Mae assisting the organization’s Sr. Leadership Team on a variety of efforts, including process re-engineering, research and development and business strategy implementation. She also worked with the World Bank on projects regarding the development of a securitization platform, housing finance and policy in a variety of countries throughout Latin America. Her work led to the issuance of these countries’ first mortgage back securities and ultimately the establishment of a secondary mortgage market.

Irma joined IDEA Public Schools in December of 2008 as Vice President of Strategy and Growth.  In 2009 she was promoted to IDEA’s senior leadership team and now serves as Chief Operating Officer. In this capacity she oversees the Department of Marketing & Communications, Student Recruitment, Information Technology, Data Management, Transportation, Child Nutrition, Facilities Maintenance and School Operations.

And “co-founder, CEO, and superintendent” Gama’s archived bio, with a touch of Torkelson:

JoAnn Gonzales Gama was born and raised in the north side of Houston, near IDEA Hardy. After graduating from Sam Houston High School in 1993, JoAnn attended Boston University on a full scholarship.

In 1997, she joined Teach For America, a national corps of high-achieving leaders who commit two years to teach in public schools in low-income communities. Upon moving to the Rio Grande Valley, JoAnn enrolled at the University of Texas-Pan American and earned her master’s degree in Educational Leadership.

JoAnn taught 4th and 5th grade English as a Second Language in Donna, Texas. After one successful year of teaching, JoAnn was nominated by her peers as the campus Teacher of the Year.

n 1998, JoAnn co-founded IDEA Academy within Donna Independent School District with fellow Teach For America corps member, Tom Torkelson. After one year as a “school within a school,” JoAnn and Tom applied for a state charter in order to open their own charter school. In August 2000, they opened the IDEA Academy with 150 students in grades 4-8.

As co-founder and Superintendent, JoAnn has helped lead the replication efforts of the original school. Currently, IDEA Public Schools educates nearly 66,000 students in 120 schools across eight regions—the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Southern Louisiana, Tarrant County, Permian Basin and Greater Houston. 

The mission of IDEA Public Schools is to prepare students from underserved communities for success in college and citizenship. 

In 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked IDEA College Preparatory Donna as the 13th best high school and second best charter high school in the nation. That same year, IDEA Public Schools was the first-ever charter organization to be named the best school system in the state of Texas (H-E-B Excellence in Education Award). Today, The Washington Post’s latest rankings of America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranked all seven of IDEA’s eligible College Preparatory high schools in the top 200 high schools nationwide and in the top 50 in Texas.

In 2017, IDEA Donna, IDEA Quest and IDEA Frontier were ranked in the top 1% of all public high schools in the United States and the top 40 best public charter schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

JoAnn received the prestigious Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership in 2009 and was appointed to President Barack Obama’s White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics in 2010. In 2018, JoAnn was inducted into the National Charter School Hall of Fame. She was also honored by Teach For America with their Alumni Leadership Award. In 2020, JoAnn was appointed to be IDEA’s Chief Executive Officer and currently serves as the network’s CEO and Superintendent.  

But full Torkelson is so much better. Here’s Torkelson’s archived bio, technically dated July 2020, but he was already gone, having resigned following that whole luxury-jet-Spurs-season-tickets-luxury-box- etc. public revelation in December 2019:

Upon graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in economics in 1997, Tom joined Teach For America and taught fourth grade in Donna, Texas for three years, after which he successfully launched the IDEA Academy in 2000, serving as the first board president and founding principal.

At 24 years of age, Tom was then Texas’ youngest-ever charter school founder. Since 2000, Tom has led the replication efforts of the original school. System-wide there are now more than 53,000 students enrolled in the 96 schools that comprise IDEA Public Schools.

The mission of IDEA Public Schools is to prepare students from underserved communities for success in college and citizenship.

By 2009, the U.S. News and World Report ranked IDEA Donna College Preparatory as the 13th best high school and second best charter high school in the nation. Also in 2009, IDEA Public Schools was the first-ever charter organization to be named the best school system in the state of Texas and received the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award. Today, The Washington Post’s latest rankings of America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranked all seven of IDEA’s eligible College Preparatory high schools in the top 200 high schools nationwide and in the top 50 in Texas.

Tom has been widely recognized in a variety of publications, including being featured in 2009 by Time magazine as Wendy Kopp’s pick for the 100 most influential global citizens. Tom is the recipient of the prestigious Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership (2009), University of Michigan Ross Business School’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year (2010), the Freddy Fender Humanitarian Award (2008), and served as Chairman of the 2007 National Charter Schools Conference. In 2018, Tom was inducted into the National Charter School Hall of Fame. Tom is often called upon to provide expert testimony to state and local officials on issues of education policy and school choice.

An avid runner and frequent Ironman triathlon competitor, Tom and his wife, Dr. Nina Lee Torkelson, live in the Rio Grande Valley with their three children, Lincoln, Liam, and Gwendolyn. 

In April of 2020, after 20 years, Tom resigned from IDEA Public Schools to embark on the next chapter of his career.

I dig the airbrushed, final sentence. Torkelson did jump nonprofits, moving on to promote charter schools in San Antonio. However, given that four IDEA leaders (including both cofounders) are connected to “‘substantial evidence’ that top leaders at the state’s largest charter network misused money and staff for personal gain,” having Torkelson on one’s charter-school-promoting team might not be the best marketing strategy at present.

*Two Teach for America (TFA) charter school cofounders allegedly rip off taxpayers with extravagant spending and are now no longer connected to the chain they founded as a result.*

Also not good TFA-promo fodder.

Here’s former CFO Wyatt Truschiet’s archived bio just before his 2020 exit. The last paragraph makes for an interesting post-disgraced read in 2021:

Wyatt earned a B.A. in Government from Valparaiso University, a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting (cum laude) from the University of Missouri, and a M.B.A. from Baylor University.

Wyatt began his financial career with the national public accounting firm Deloitte & Touché in St. Louis, MO., and has served in various senior level financial positions over the past 30 years specializing in entrepreneurial, multi-location, accelerated growth organizations, notably as Vice President Finance with Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Dallas, TX, and as Chief Financial Officer in the private equity sector for the past 8 years prior to joining IDEA.

As Chief Financial Officer for IDEA Public Schools, Wyatt Truscheit is responsible for all aspects of IDEA’s financial operations, including capital markets, banking and treasury, financial and management accounting, financial reporting, budgeting, payroll, benefits administration, procurement, risk management, human resources administration, and financial regulatory compliance.  Wyatt also chairs the Budget & Finance Committee of the IDEA Board of Directors.

Truscheit: “Responsible for all aspects.” Like luxury jets and Spurs tickets?

At this point, the public has no IDEA just how much taxpayer money has been squandered by “a small number” of its leaders.

More to come, it seems.


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Judge: Betsy DeVos Cannot “Quash” Deposition About Her Actions Re: Defrauded Corinthian College Students

Former US ed sec Betsy DeVos did not want to give a formal, in-person account of her decision to side with defunct, for-profit, California-based Corinthian Colleges by not granting monetary relief to hundreds of thousand of students defrauded by this federal-aid-sucking monster.

However, on May 19, 2021, US District Judge William Alsup refreshingly denied DeVos’ “motion to quash a subpoena for her deposition.”

Alsup’s denial includes the backstory, excerpted here (parenthetical case references omitted for ease of reading; highlights mine):

Former Secretary of the United States Department of Education Elisabeth DeVos moves to quash a subpoena for her deposition, issued in co-pending litigation before the undersigned. Exceptional circumstances warranting the deposition, the motion is DENIED.

Our underlying suit, Sweet v. Cardona, concerns the lawfulness of the Department of Education’s eighteen-month halt in issuing decisions on student-loan borrower-defense applications under Secretary DeVos. Our story began in 1993 when Congress directed the Secretary of Education to specify the sort of school misconduct that borrowers may assert as a defense against repayment of their student loans. This “borrower-defense” apparatus lay dormant for its first several decades until May 2015 when the large for-profit college, Corinthian Colleges, Inc., collapsed. Students submitted a “flood” of borrower-defense applications, so Secretary John B. King appointed a special master in June 2015 to adjudicate claims and then updated the borrower-defense regulations in November 2016. But it remained a game of catch up. By the end of the Obama Administration, the Secretary had approved 31,773 applications and found 245 ineligible, for a 99.2% grant rate. Borrowers, however, had submitted 72,877 applications.

In 2017, newly-installed Secretary DeVos moved to rein in the previous administration’s overzealous (as she put it) grant of relief to borrowers. Between December 2017 and May 2018, the Secretary reportedly decided 26,000 claims from Corinthian students, approving 16,000 under a new relief methodology. But a judge (in this district) preliminarily enjoined this partial-relief methodology for its likely violation of the Privacy Act.

Up to that point in June 2018, the two administrations had granted 47,942 applications and denied or closed 11,940 since 2015. Borrowers had submitted in total, however, 165,880 applications, leaving 105,998 still to be decided. Then, despite the backlog, the decisions stopped. For eighteen months, from that June 2018 until December 2019, the Secretary issued no decisions, even as the backlog mounted.

A putative class of student-loan borrowers, not already involved in Calvillo Manriquez, sued in June 2019 to compel the Secretary to restart the adjudication process. An October 2019 order certified a nationwide class of approximately 160,000 borrower-defense applicants who still awaited decision. In November, the Secretary certified an administrative record to explain her delay (though, without any declaration by the Secretary herself) and, at summary judgment, justified the eighteen-month delay on (among others) staffing shortages and competing priorities, such as developing the new relief method. But most forcefully, the Secretary argued that:

“Issuing final decisions on such claims is time-consuming and complex, with many steps in the adjudicatory process, and agencies must be given, within reason, the time necessary to analyze the issues presented so that they can reach considered results.”

But before a ruling could be had, the parties reached a proposed settlement, which would have imposed an eighteen-month deadline for the Secretary to decide outstanding claims. Preliminary approval followed, yet as the class fairness hearing approached, major problems emerged.

We’d known at summary judgment that in December 2019, with around 225,000 claims pending, the Secretary had released an updated “tiered relief methodology” and issued 16,045 decisions. We’d also known that, in a marked departure from the previous grant-denial ratio, she had approved only 789 applications and denied the remainder. We had little indication, however, how matters would progress.

Not well, we learned. While negotiating the proposed settlement, and while awaiting this Court’s final approval, the Secretary had been issuing alarmingly-curt denial notices for several months, in violation (as class counsel put it) of both the spirit of the proposed settlement and the Administrative Procedure Act. And, in contrast to the previous administration’s 99.2% grant rate, the Secretary had run up a 94.4% denial rate for our borrowers — denying 74,000 applications and granting only 4,400.

An order dated October 19, 2020, recognized the apparent pretext for what it was. The perfunctory form-denial letters stood in contrast to the supposed basis for the delay — the “‘time-consuming,’ ‘complex,’ legal analysis of both borrower-submitted and agency evidence, ‘under applicable State law,’ to ‘reach considered results.’” As the United States Supreme Court has long held and recently reemphasized, “meaningful judicial review” requires “an agency [to] ‘disclose the basis’ of its action.”

Given the extraordinary circumstances, the Court denied final approval of the proposed settlement and ordered written discovery and the depositions of five Department officials overseeing the borrower-defense apparatus (except for the Secretary herself) to determine the actual bases for the eighteen-month delay and to probe the development, approval, and use of the form-denial letters. The Court also ordered the Secretary to show cause why she should not be enjoined from issuing further form denials to our classmembers, and the Secretary agreed to abstain until further order.

Plaintiffs have taken discovery over the past several months, including four depositions. Secretary DeVos resigned her post on January 8, 2021, so a January 12 order authorized class counsel to seek her deposition. Counsel then issued a subpoena for that deposition, and the Secretary moved to quash. The District Court for the Southern District of Florida transferred the matter to this district and the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied review. … This order follows full briefing and oral argument (held telephonically due to COVID-19).

Even assuming Secretary DeVos retains some measure of executive prerogative, she must answer an appropriately issued subpoena. Judicial process runs even to unwilling executives. Chief Justice Marshall first ruled that a subpoena could require a president’s production of documents material to the defense when presiding over Vice President Burr’s treason trial. For the same reasons, in 1818, President Monroe answered written interrogatories on summons by the defense in a court martial. In 1974, a unanimous Supreme Court ordered President Nixon’s compliance with a subpoena for the White House tapes. President Clinton twice gave videotaped testimony for criminal proceedings and, most famously, sat for deposition in a civil suit regarding his conduct as governor of Arkansas.

If judicial process runs to presidents, it runs to cabinet secretaries — especially former ones. The Supreme Court, nevertheless, requires some deference to agency heads summoned to explain their actions. In the seminal case on this point, the Supreme Court observed that Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace (by then Vice President) “should never have been” compelled to testify to the bases for certain challenged orders [in United States v. Morgan, 1941]. Setting aside that Congress would not pass the Administrative Procedure Act for five more years, no United States Court of Appeals has read Morgan as a rigid bar against the subpoena of a cabinet secretary for either production or testimony.

Our court of appeals has read Morgan as a word of caution that “[h]eads of government agencies are not normally subject to deposition.” Though our court of appeals has spoken no further on this point, the remaining courts of appeals have established several categories of “exceptional circumstances” that warrant the deposition of a cabinet secretary (several examples then listed).

Simply put, while rare, courts do authorize depositions of cabinet secretaries and similar high-level officials where appropriate, and have authorized examination — over objection — of Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton, Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe, Comptroller of the Currency James J. Saxon (see original document for details). And, for what it’s worth, even the undersigned has done this before, though from the other side of the bench. In connection with the Department of Education’s move to shut down a Native American university near Davis, California, the undersigned (then still a lawyer) attended the deposition of Secretary Terrel Bell in United States v. Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University.

The first ground of extraordinary circumstances we have already established. To recap, the Secretary justified the eighteen-month halt in issuing final decisions on student-loan borrower-defense applications on the time required for considered decisionmaking. But months later, we learned that her Department had resumed issuing decisions, not at measured but breakneck pace, in perfunctory and unreasoned form-denial letters, at an alarming rate. Such apparent pretext, the paradigm of agency bad faith, subverts the presumption of agency “conscience and intellectual discipline” underlying Morgan’s deferential review. Moreover, pretext opens to question the credibility of Secretary DeVos’s remaining justifications for the delay. “In almost every setting where important decisions turn on questions of fact, due process requires an opportunity to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.”

Our record also highlights the Secretary’s personal involvement in the conduct under review here. The high-level officials already deposed have disclaimed authority for that conduct and have instead pointed to the Secretary. For one, the Department has in-part premised the eighteen-month halt upon the Calvillo Manriquez injunction regarding the separate class of Corinthian student-loan borrowers. Mark Brown, head of Federal Student Aid, testified that the decision to halt the rest of the borrower-defense apparatus would have been “relayed” to him by the “Office of the Under Secretary.” Yet Diane Jones, Under Secretary from May 2018 to January 2021, testified that she was not “a senior enough official to have” that sort of “decision-making authority.” She was simply “told that was the decision.” Nor could her predecessor, James Manning, explain the decision. Both reported directly to the Office of the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary — though the Department still has yet to identify a relevant Deputy Secretary here who, regardless, appears to focus on primary and secondary education matters unrelated to ours. To wit, if an order came from above, it came from the Secretary.

For another explanation of the delay, the Department has said that it did not want to confuse borrowers by only issuing claim denials while it still worked to develop a new method of awarding relief for successful claims. Again, however, Under Secretary Jones did not know who made this decision, and instead of shedding further light, Under Secretary Manning pointed to the Secretary. Then, once the Department resumed issuing borrower-defense decisions, Colleen Nevin, Director of the Borrower Defense Unit, testified that the Secretary herself “set [targets for] the elimination of the backlog” and received regular status updates from Mr. Brown of Federal Student Aid. The short of it is that Department officials keep pointing toward the Secretary when questioned.

Beyond illuminating her involvement, these material gaps at the highest rungs of the Department’s decisionmaking record reveal the necessity of Secretary DeVos’s testimony for an independent reason. We lack an official and contemporaneous justification for the eighteen-month delay because this suit concerns agency inaction, and not the usual agency action. In these circumstances, far afield from any consideration of agency bad faith, the Supreme Court has recognized that often “the only way there can be effective judicial review is by examining the decisionmakers themselves.” Indeed, in a separate though contemporary case, the district court (as noted above) had required Secretary of Transportation Volpe to testify at trial for the same reason (see document for details). …

To be sure, the Secretary has submitted an administrative record here. But that sparse submission, consisting primarily of declarations from other Department officials generated during the course of the litigation (along with, for the most part, public case law, regulations, and documents reflecting the views of the previous administration), has not answered our questions yet. In fairness, we should not write off these declarations as post-hoc rationale. But neither may we accept them without question. Compounding matters, as noted above, the revelation of pretext has opened to question the credibility of the Secretary’s retroactive justifications for the delay.

There appears some question about the scope and effect of the deliberative process privilege here. Class counsel have disclaimed any attempt to traverse the privilege at this stage and we will hold them to it. But this does not undercut the relevance or efficacy of an examination of the Secretary. … In other words, we cannot determine whether the Secretary has offered sufficient explanation for the eighteen-month delay until we address the threshold question of whether those explanations in fact drove the delay in real time. Some of this information will be written; some will be unwritten and reside only in the Secretary’s mind. But regardless, the deliberative process privilege will shield neither the actual decisions to engage in the challenged conduct nor their justifications, and class counsel will be free to probe both.

Along this line, class counsel will ask whether Secretary DeVos directed her subordinates to cease issuing student-loan borrower-defense decisions, or whether she tacitly approved of the halt once manifested. They will then ask whether the justifications offered at summary judgment, such as staffing, competing priorities, and the difficulty of review, in fact drove the decision. Counsel will draw out whether any other considerations played a role in the decision when made. Counsel may also supply considerations and probe the extent to which those informed the decision in real time. All of this may be accomplished without offending the Secretary’s privilege against revealing her predecisional deliberations.

A similar line will address the yet unanswered questions surrounding the flash flood of blanket-form denial letters. The Department notes that Ms. Nevin testified at some length to the use and development of the form-denial letters. But her answers leave us guessing who approved the forms (though her testimony points to the Secretary’s direct involvement) and, more importantly, why? When the decision was made to use the forms, how did Department policymakers square the unreasoned form denials with the APA’s requirement of reasoned decisionmaking? And, how did they justify the perfunctory flurry of denials after telling this Court that those decisions needed time and consideration? These questions, after all, drove the discovery here. If the Department had answers, it presumably would have advanced them already, if only to render the Secretary’s deposition unnecessary.

Movants contend that plaintiffs have not exhausted other avenues of discovery, a question other courts have correctly raised in these circumstances. But these cases cannot require literal exhaustion of alternatives. Following the October 19 order, plaintiffs have deposed four high-ranking Department officials, including two prior Under Secretaries and have taken targeted document discovery. Exhaustive discovery through line employees will reveal little about the bases for Department policy, and, for that matter, though Department lawyers offer guidance, they don’t make policy — the policymakers do. If our current set of policymakers cannot answer questions, the only place left to look is up. Movants’ press… obscures reality; authority here lies with the Secretary. Where questions remain, a deposition of the Secretary offers the most efficient means of gathering her candid testimony, asking follow-up questions, refreshing her recollection, and testing her credibility as to the policy decisions at issue.

The remaining quibbles with the means of discovery used thus far fail to convince. The Secretary faults class counsel for taking only four of their five authorized depositions. But counsel have saved the last for the Secretary; doubtless if counsel had taken all five already, she would have opposed the overreach. So too with the scope of document discovery, about which the Department has already complained. The Department’s further characterization of the deposition subpoena as premature mistakes the record. Discovery in the underlying case should have been completed by December 24, 2020. The parties stipulated to extend that deadline until January 14. And so, class counsel formally notified the Department of their intent to depose the Secretary on January 7. Any later and movants would have argued undue delay. Regardless, the Department’s own intransigent document production has provided the primary basis for our extended term of discovery over the last several months.

At the close, movants’ reliance on the Supreme Court’s recent stay of the deposition of the Secretary of Commerce pales in view of the ultimate merits decision, which stressed that “to permit meaningful judicial review, an agency must disclose the basis of its action.” When “[w]e are presented . . . with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decisionmaking process . . . we cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given.” “With all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the Executive be under the law.” So too for cabinet secretaries.

In sum, extraordinary circumstances warrant the deposition of Secretary DeVos for three hours, excluding breaks. No part of this order maligns the Secretary’s deliberative-process privilege. But class counsel are entitled to probe matters broadly related to the actual cause for the challenged eighteen-month delay, the development, approval, and use of the form-denial letters, and the Secretary’s involvement in clearing the backlog of our classmembers’ borrower-defense claims.

This order shall be STAYED for fourteen days or until the resolution of any mandamus review, whichever comes later. At that point, while class counsel will accommodate (within reason) the Secretary’s convenience, this order impresses upon the parties that our failed settlement and term of discovery have delayed the just resolution of this case long enough already. Diligent haste will be expected. The motion to quash is DENIED. A status conference in both this and in [our underlying suit, Sweet v. Cardona] is set for JUNE 3 AT 11:00 A.M.


Dated: May 19, 2021.




United States District Court

Northern District of California

Motion denied, Betsy.

It Is So Ordered.

Betsy DeVos


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USDOE Announces Virtual Public Hearings on Title IX (Sexual Discrim./Harassment)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Office for Civil Rights announces a number of virtual public hearings related to Title IX (“Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance”) scheduled in June 2021.

Hearing dates are as follows:

  • June 7, 2021, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST
  • June 8, 2021, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST
  • June 9, 2021, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST
  • June 10, 2021, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST
  • June 11, 2021, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST

Details below are from the May 20, 2021 Federal Register (reorganized to promote ease of reading):

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announces a virtual public hearing to gather information for the purpose of improving enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). OCR seeks comments from the public at the hearing on steps the Department can take to ensure that schools are providing students with educational environments free from discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence; to ensure that schools have grievance procedures that provide for the fair, prompt, and equitable resolution of reports of sexual harassment and other sex discrimination, cognizant of the sensitive issues that are often involved; and to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in educational environments. This notice provides information to members of the public regarding the hearing and OCR’s request for live and written comments, and sets forth the dates and times, agenda, and instructions for attending this public hearing.


OCR is conducting this hearing pursuant to Executive Order 14021, Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2021 (86 FR 13803), which directs the Secretary of Education to review the rule entitled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance,” published in the Federal Register on May 19, 2020 (85 FR 30026), and other agency actions that are or may be inconsistent with governing law, including Title IX, and the Executive order. This hearing is also a step toward fulfilling the directives of Executive Order 13988, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, published in the Federal Register on January 25, 2021 (86 FR 7023). …


This public hearing is part of OCR’s review of the Title IX regulations, including the 2020 amendments to the regulations, and other agency actions related to discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, including sexual violence, in educational environments, and including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in educational environments.

OCR has a particular interest in receiving live comments through the virtual hearing platform and written comments through the email address provided below on the Title IX regulations related to sexual harassment, including the 2020 amendments to the regulations. We also have a particular interest in receiving comments on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in educational environments. For participants who choose to address the 2020 amendments to the Title IX regulations related to sexual harassment or other topics, OCR encourages commenters to be as specific and detailed as possible regarding the regulatory provisions they are commenting on and the proposals they would like OCR to consider. Although OCR has a particular interest in receiving comments on the two topics identified above, participants may choose to address any topic regarding Title IX. …

Participation Opportunities

Individuals and organizations have two options for participating in this hearing and may choose one or both options: (1) Provide a live comment of up to three minutes during the virtual hearing; and (2) Submit a written comment.

Individuals may also attend the hearing to listen to comments from others. Please note that the transcript of the hearing will be posted to the OCR website as described below.


The hearing will be held in an audio format. Commenters and attendees will not be visible. The hearing will be made available simultaneously in additional formats to enable access for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. For those needing additional reasonable accommodations, please see below for further details about how to make such a request. OCR staff members will be present for the entire hearing.

Live Comments

To request to provide a live comment of three minutes or less during the June 7, 2021 to June 11, 2021 hearing, please use the registration link to register to provide a live comment on a particular day. The registration form will allow you to indicate the topic on which you wish to offer a live comment and request a specific two-hour window on the particular day during which you would like to offer your comment.

Individuals may provide only one live comment. OCR is interested in receiving comments that reflect a wide diversity of viewpoints and experiences. For this reason, we ask that those who are working together on comments avoid duplication of live comments to the extent possible. In recognition that some commenters may want to limit the disclosure of their personal information, the registration form will include instructions for registrants to provide a comment without providing their name.

The registration link is now open. We strongly encourage those who wish to provide a live comment to register promptly. Slots for providing a live comment will be assigned in the order in which requests are received until they are filled. Please note that we have reserved some slots for students and educators, as described below. Even after all slots are filled, we anticipate that a small number of slots may become available prior to or during each day of the hearing as a result of cancellations. We encourage those who do not register in time to receive a hearing slot to recheck the registration link for slots that become available in this way.

If you are assigned a slot to provide a live comment, you will receive an email containing personalized dial-in information, an access code, meeting web link, and the approximate time at which you will have your turn to comment. Commenters may use either the dial-in information or the hearing web link to provide their live comment. Commenters can then rejoin the hearing to listen to comments from others by using the attendee-only link below.

Throughout the hearing, OCR has designated slots for students, educators, and other commenters. We particularly encourage students who wish to provide live comments to register for day two (June 8, 2021) or day three (June 9, 2021) of the hearing. We have reserved a greater number of slots for students on these days. This will help to ensure that students have adequate opportunity to offer their insights and perspectives. We also encourage students whose class schedules impede participation during the hours of the hearing and others who have similar scheduling constraints to participate in the hearing by submitting written comments.

For those who need a reasonable accommodation in order to provide a live comment during the hearing, please see the “Reasonable Accommodations” section below for information about how to make such a request.

American Sign Language translation and closed captioning will be provided to all who attend the hearing using the attendee-only link.

For those who wish to attend the hearing but do not have access to the internet, please request the dial-in information from Alejandro Reyes, Director, Program Legal Group, Office for Civil Rights. Telephone: (202) 245-7272. Email:

To Submit Written Comments

OCR welcomes written comments on the topics for this public hearing. You may send your comments by email to Please do not send comments or other material to other email addresses for OCR or the Department as those materials will not be considered part of the record for this hearing.

Written comments must be received at by 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on June 11, 2021, and include the subject line “Written Comment: Title IX Public Hearing (topic of the comment).” The email may include the name(s), occupation, city and State, organization/affiliation (if any), and email address of the person(s) submitting the written comment, along with the comment. Those wishing to maintain their privacy can submit a comment without including personally identifiable information.

Written comments submitted for this hearing are solely for the purpose of informing the Department’s review of its regulations, guidance, and other agency actions under Title IX. Written comments will not be treated by OCR as complaints against a school or other recipient of Federal funding. To file a complaint of discrimination with OCR, please visit, or you may file a discrimination complaint by using OCR’s online complaint form, available at​about/​offices/​list/​ocr/​complaintintro.html. OCR also will not notify law enforcement about alleged violations of criminal laws. For assistance with reporting child abuse, sexual violence, or other crimes, please visit​report-crime.

Access to Records of the Hearing

The Department will post a transcript of this hearing on the OCR website, at​about/​offices/​list/​ocr/​newsroom.html, within 30 days of the hearing’s completion or as soon thereafter as possible. OCR will not make a recording of the hearing in light of the potential sensitivity of some of the topics under discussion and the Department’s interest in reducing barriers to participation. If OCR refers in the future to any comment that it receives through this process, it will not share any of the commenter’s personally identifiable information without obtaining the commenter’s prior consent.

Reasonable Accommodations

The hearing will be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Information for contacting the Department to request auxiliary aids or services to provide a live comment will be included in the registration process for providing a live comment during the hearing. If you will need an auxiliary aid or service to provide your comment, please notify Alejandro Reyes, Director, Program Legal Group, Office for Civil Rights. Telephone: (202) 245-7272. Email: at least two weeks before the scheduled meeting date so that OCR can ensure that all have access to the hearing, consistent with our Nation’s civil rights laws.

Electronic Access to This Document

The official version of this document is the document published in the Federal Register. You may access the official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations at At this site, you can view this document, as well as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). To use PDF, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the site. You also may access documents of the Department published in the Federal Register by using the article search feature at: Specifically, through the advanced search feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published by the Department. ..

For more information about Title IX, please see​about/​offices/​list/​ocr/​docs/​tix_​dis.html.


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Dartmouth Blindsides Med Students with Shaky Cheating *Evidence*

One of my concerns in teaching senior English is that students will cheat on major assignments.

The increasing usage of online technology in my classroom has done little to quell this concern. In my case, I had reason to suspect that an adult completed an online test for one of my students, who then possibly shared those results with friends who also scored suspicious-fabulously. As much as I was miffed, I did not have evidence solid enough to pursue any serious course of action against any individual student. Therefore, I threw out the test and required my students from then on to complete major online assignments during class time, and in class, whenever possible. (Those in quarantine had to log in during class time or during a preset window to complete the assignment, often using Google Meet so that I might monitor the situation.)

The prospect of students cheating on remote assignments bugs me. Even so, I remain skittish about purported online monitoring tools for detecting cheating. To try to track a student’s eye movements, or even to say that cheating happened if a student seemed to be logged into another device while completing as assignment on one device lacks the certainty needed to have a solid case for such accusation.

Along these lines, the May 09, 2021, New York Times reports on an interesting-sad situation has transpired at Datmouth’s medical school: It seems that administration decided to use course software to try to track students’ online activity during exams– and that without students’ knowledge.

Note that the course software, Canvas, is not designed to monitor cheating or detect cheating activity. So, if a medical student were completing an exam without having logged out of the Canvas software, Canvas could have inadvertently registered that the student was using Canvas during the exam.

In retrospect, Dartmouth administration told students that they needed to log off of Canvas prior to completing exams– after levying numerous accusations of cheating at students, and creating a hostile atmosphere, and even admitting that yes, in some cases, Canvas appeared to be registering user activity that was not actually happening.

Canvas is not an academic-honesty surveillance tool; thus, it should come as no surprise that the company offered no comment in response to Dartmouth admin’s usage of its product in such a manner.

Kind of reminds me of how no standardized testing company offers a guarantee that its student tests are able to measure teachers and schools. In education, those in charge seem too quick to misuse education products in the name of accountability, all the while escaping it themselves for their misuse.

In misusing Canvas software to track medical students during remote exams, Dartmouth has sowed terrible fear and doubt among its students. From the Times:

Several students said they were now so afraid of being unfairly targeted in a data-mining dragnet that they had pushed the medical school to offer in-person exams with human proctors. Others said they had advised prospective medical students against coming to Dartmouth.

Exam integrity is important. So is having a publicized process in place prior to leveling accusations.

Set clear policy regarding logging out of Canvas prior to completing any remote exam then apply consequences to students who do not comply.

Or, provide some arrangement for now-traumatized students to complete exams on site, in front of people who are also present and not surreptitously playing Big Brother.


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Kansas City Schools’ Accreditation Woes: Are the Philanthropic Vultures Circling?

On April 02, 2021, the Kansas City Star reported that an “outside group” spent $100K in the Kansas City (MO) School Board election in support of two contenders, locals Tanesha Ford and Kandace Buckener.

In the April 2021 KC board election, two other members were unopposed. Ford and Buckener were buoyed by $100K in mystery money funneled through Blaque independent expenditure committee. Since Blaque is not directly connected to the candidates it supports, the “non-committee” is not required to disclose to the public who, exactly, is funding its efforts.

Members of the KC public in support of traditional public schools are concerned that Blaque’s undisclosed money comes from school choice promoters, as the April 23, 2021, KCUR reports:

Advocates for the district are worried about money that poured into the school board election from school choice proponents — BLAQUE gets funding from SchoolSmart KC, which in turn gets money from the Kauffman and Hall foundations.

Based on the KCUR article, Ford and Buckener appear to be concerned about “student achievement,” which certainly involves the test scores upon which KC’s longstanding accreditation woes critically depend. Other components of Missouri school performance include student attendance and graduation rates.

Kansas City Schools has had accreditation issues across the decades. KC Schools first lost accreditation in 2000, as noted in the May 04, 2000, Los Angeles Times:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Kansas City’s public school district has become the first in the nation to lose its accredited status by failing all Missouri’s performance standards, and could be abolished unless it improves, officials said Wednesday.

The loss of state accreditation as of Monday set the clock ticking on a two-year evaluation in which the city’s 30,000 public school pupils will have to raise test scores, graduation rates and other academic measures or the district could be split up, taken over by the state, or dissolved. …

Missouri’s Board of Education voted in October to strip the Kansas City district’s accreditation for failing all 11 of its performance standards, but the action was delayed to prevent students from withdrawing en masse during the school year.

Then, a decade later, and after being granted provisional accreditation, the notably-smaller KC Schools lost accreditation again in 2011, as reported in the September 21, 2011, New York Times:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The struggling Kansas City, Missouri School District was stripped of its accreditation on Tuesday, raising the possibility of student departures and a state takeover. The action follows weeks of tumult that included another round of turnover of top leadership.

Though not entirely unexpected, the move was a painful return to reality for the city after a period of optimism that difficult choices were finally being made to confront longstanding problems in the school district, most notably the closing of nearly half the schools in response to a huge budget deficit.

The Missouri Board of Education cited the continued failure to improve academic performance and the continued instability in district leadership as driving its decision. The district has been provisionally accredited for nearly a decade after a two-year period during which it was unaccredited. …

The loss of accreditation does not go into effect until January [2012]….

More pressing are concerns that some parents in the district may now choose to enroll their children elsewhere. The district has shrunk to just 17,000 students as more people have turned to adjacent school districts, including other public districts in the city, as well as private or charter schools. An unaccredited school district must pay for the tuition and transportation costs for students wishing to transfer to another district….

KC’s accreditation wavering continued, as KC Schools in 2014 once more landed among the provisionally accredited. Moreover, in February 2019, it appeared that KC schools might regain accreditation, as the February 01, 2019, notes:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Public Schools is back on its way to full accreditation after improving its state Annual Performance Report scores from last year.

KCPS scored 82.9 percent in 2018, earning 99.5 points out of a possible 120. Its score places the district in the accreditation category. School districts must earn at least 70 percent to be accredited.

But in order to receive full accreditation status, KCPS must have two consecutive years of a score between 70 percent and 100 percent. The district was downgraded to provisional accreditation last year after scoring 63.9 percent.

However, as the December 04, 2019, notes, it turns out that KC’s 2018 score was based upon falsified information:

KCPS’s journey to full accreditation suffered a setback in November when the district revealed that an independent investigation requested by the district showed that a group of KCPS staff between 2013 and 2016 had falsified attendance data to help the district earn more APR points.

A former staff member alerted the current district administration that the numbers had been falsified.

The inflated numbers also brought the district more funding from the state based on per-student allocations. The district announced this week it was returning nearly $200,000 to the state.

The falsified numbers occurred during the tenure of former Superintendent Steve Green, who told The Kansas City Star he was not aware that staff had inflated the data.

The investigation showed that no data had been inflated under current Superintendent Mark Bedell, and the district failed to earn attendance points in recent APR reports.

As of January 2021, KC Schools again resides in the provisionally-accredited category.

Something in the history of KC Schools and/or the surrounding community is contributing to KC Schools’ continued destabilization. Based upon my knowledge of the disenfranchisement of the Black community in New Orleans, I thought that something was likely rooted in race and complicated by school choice.

To this end, I was fortunate to find this May 09, 2018, KCUR article on Kansas City’s racial history and how its schools were crippled by that history and its problems further exacerbated by the presence of charter schools intentionally opening in middle-income neighborhoods. Excerpts from the article:

Most cities have a school system. Kansas City has a system of schools.

It’s an important distinction in a metro bisected by a state line, in a city with dozens of charters, in a school district state lawmakers intentionally kept small.  This is a place where the quality of education often depends on parents’ ability to navigate a frustratingly complex system. …

Here’s what two years covering Kansas City schools has taught me: enduring residential segregation means white families are often in a position – quite literally – to make different education decisions than black families. And that means you can’t really talk about school choice in this city without acknowledging Kansas City’s racial dividing lines. …

When Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell accepted the district’s top job in 2016, school board member Jennifer Wolfsie sent him the book “Complex Justice: The Case of Missouri v. Jenkins,” by Joshua M. Dunn.

Wolfsie told Bedell it was required reading if he wanted to understand the desegregation case that divided the district and failed a generation of KCPS students. …

… The most salient point in “Complex Justice” – the one that gets missed when people talk about the failed magnet school experiment and white flight to the suburbs – is the fact that by the time Missouri v. Jenkins was winding its way through the courts in the late ’80s and early ’90s, black families in Kansas City didn’t care as much about integrated schools as they did good schools.

With court-ordered desegregation, they got neither. …

One of the reasons Kansas City didn’t have a desegregation case sooner was because while the city had separate schools for black and white children before Brown v. Board of Ed, they weren’t unequal. At the very least, they weren’t as unequal as schools in other cities. Historically black Lincoln College Preparatory Academy has always been one of the city’s top schools. …

But in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled de facto segregation wasn’t OK, either. That’s legalese for when segregation isn’t mandated by law, but it happens anyway. … Soon the Kansas City, Missouri, School District found itself under investigation.

When that happened, the KCMSD [Kansas City Missouri School District] school board did something highly unusual: in 1977, it preempted a lawsuit against the district by suing the predominately white suburban districts, the state of Missouri and the federal agency responsible for overseeing school integration. …

But in another desegregation case, the Supreme Court had already ruled that neighboring school districts couldn’t be compelled to be part of the solution if they hadn’t caused the problem. All the suburban districts had to do was show they hadn’t intentionally kept black students out, and they were dismissed as plaintiffs. …

There’s one more thing you need to know about the history of KCMSD: at a time when the city was aggressively annexing the small communities around it, Missouri lawmakers changed state law to stop the school district from expanding.

It used to be that any Missouri city with more than 500,000 residents could only have one school district. But in 1957, with Kansas City’s population approaching half a million, lawmakers bumped it up to 700,000. This ensured that the district would not automatically merge with Center, Hickman Mills and other school systems that at the time were majority white. When Kansas City’s population peaked in the late 1960s, it remained under the 700,000 threshold.

So as Kansas City grew and absorbed some of its inner ring suburbs, those communities kept their school districts. That’s how we ended up with a small, central school district surrounded by other small school districts instead of a big, city wide school district.

This is where Missouri v. Jenkins really starts to deviate from other desegregation cases that were fought in that era. When Judge Russell Clark took over the case, he ruled that KCMSD couldn’t sue the state because it was, in fact, an entity of the state.

But instead of dismissing the case, Clark did something really unusual. Unprecedented, even.

He made the school district a defendant in the suit it had brought.

Between 1984 and 1995, Judge Clark would order KCMSD to build magnet schools to attract white suburban students back to the district, a costly boondoggle that was inherently unfair to the black students integration was supposed to help. For the first few years, black students couldn’t even attend what the media dubbed “the Taj Mahal of schools” unless white students enrolled in sufficient number.

They never did. The magnet school experiment failed. In retrospect, it was probably the only solution available to Clark, who knew higher courts would strike down anything short of an aggressive plan to integrate city schools. But it was never going to work. Education policy wonks sometimes talk about the “tipping point” at which white parents are unwilling to send their kids to integrated schools. They usually put it around 50 percent.

But a study of demographic trends in the district between 1956 and 1974 suggests that the tipping point was actually much lower – only 30 percent black. In Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS), white students haven’t made up the majority since 1969. Today, the district is 54.7 percent black and 28.6 percent Hispanic. Less than 10 percent of the 14,240 students enrolled in KCPS in 2017 were white.

The district has struggled to retain superintendents and accreditation. Previous administrations mismanaged money and assets. In 2007, voters overwhelmingly approved the transfer of seven schools outside city limits to the Independence School District. In 2010, the district closed more than 20 schools because it couldn’t justify keeping the buildings open as enrollment declined. …

… The real test is whether KCPS can grow enrollment after decades of decline.

Because it’s not just the suburban schools KCPS is competing with these days. Charter schools, the first of which opened in 1999, have further complicated Kansas City’s education landscape.

In order to better understand KC Schools’ racial history, I bought the book, Complex Justice.

As for KC Schools’ competing with charter schools, well, that’s where knowing just who ponied up that $100K to have Ford and Buckener elected is important.

Is the goal of the mystery funders to somehow convert KC Schools into another state-takeover-become-all-charter system like New Orleans? Is that the hidden goal?

Neither Ford nor Buckener appears to be promoting such an agenda.

However, Ford at least seems content to have someone pay tens of thousands of dollars to get her elected and to not “have any certainty” about just who that someone is. From the April 02, 2021, KCUR article:

Ford said she wouldn’t speculate on the money trail.

“Any conversations about funding from BLAQUE need to be directed to the leaders of that organization because I don’t have any certainty about where they get their funding,” Ford said.

You bought my KC board election, but I am apparently content to not know who you are.


Makes one wonder if the philanthropic vultures are circling.


No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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The Testing Game, Louisiana-style

Let’s say that I am at the end of my freshman year of high school in Louisiana. I must take two Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) exams: English I and Algebra I. So long as I minimally pass these exams (“approaching basic”), I am good for graduation three years from now. Furthermore, my state exam score counts as my final exam in the class (between 15 and 30 percent of my fourth quarter grade, according to state specifications; see below).

If I score the highest level on my LEAP exams (“advanced”), then I get an A as an exam grade. If I score the second highest level (“mastery”), I get a B. The third level, “basic,” gets me a C, and the fourth (and lowest passing) level, “approaching basic,” earns a D.

Given that the state exams last between 225 and 260 minutes each, I might zoom through my LEAP test, aiming, if you will, for the lowest score that will satisfy graduation requirements and will also get me a passing exam grade in the class.

But my zooming could well more severely impact my school’s letter grade. My school gets 150 points if I score “advanced,” 100 points if I score “mastery,” 80 points if I score “basic,” and nothing if I score “approaching basic” or “unsatisfactory.”

And my school gets nothing if I must retake the test in the future once I am no longer enrolled in the associated course for the first time.

I don’t really know all of this, and even if I did, since I’m 14 years old and the testing marathon is a real downer for me, I probably would not care. My English I test is divided into three sessions of 90 minutes, another 90 minutes, and 80 minutes. I tried the most for the first session. By the second and third sessions, I had enough, so I put forth less effort with the goal to get this done as soon as possible. “Approaching basic” is good enough for me.

Besides, if I do not pass the English I or Algebra I exams, there’s always next year. According to state requirements, I need only pass English I or English II, or Algebra I or geometry. So, if I pass both exams my freshman year, then the pressure is off of me to pass either exam my sophomore year. If I flunk both state exams in English II and geometry, I could still pass my courses so long as I have at least a high C going into the exams. It isn’t glamorous, but it works.

I must also pass the LEAP exam in biology (240 minutes; sophomore year) or US history (225 minutes; junior year). In order to satisfy graduation requirements, I could aim for a minimum score just like I did on my previous tests.

So, on what, exactly, is my school being graded?

Could be my willingness to engage for several hours in standardized testing. Could be my exhaustion over the length of the tests. Could be my knowledge that I have already passed enough of these tests to satisfy graduation requirements. Could be my knowing that even if I fail, my class average is high enough for me to still pass the class.

Now, I might also really care about my grades, and so, I try to do well on LEAP tests. But they are so long, and they wear me out. I think the state is testing my test-taking endurance more than my knowledge of a subject. My Algebra I test had four parts, taking 25 minutes, 55 minutes, and then two at 80 minutes apiece. I had an A in the class, but I only scored “mastery” on my LEAP, so it brought my grade down. I am disappointed because that test was just too long.

What I don’t know is that if my score is lower than otherwise simply because of testing fatigue, my school is also penalized, in this case 50 points (the per-student, school-scoring difference from “mastery” to “advanced”).

Did my school just get graded on my ability to endure 240 minutes of testing?

Then comes the complications of COVID. Since LEAP testing did not happen in 2019-20, many students who would otherwise have had two opportunities to pass one math or one English exam (or either biology or US history) now only have one chance. According to the rules of the game, students must be currently enrolled in a LEAP-tested course in order for the school to receive credit towards the school grade. So, if students who were exempted from Algebra I as 2019-20 freshmen due to COVID do not pass the geometry LEAP as 2020-21 sophomores, those students can subsequently take the Algebra I LEAP, but the school would receive a zero since the student would not be enrolled in Algebra I at the time of testing.

Will the school receive a zero in such cases? Will the state waive the penalty? Does the state need to request such a waiver from the federal government in connection with Title I funding?

As of this writing, Louisiana schools are still in limbo on that issue and all that is associated with 2020-21 school grades in Louisiana. The Louisiana legislature wants state superintendent Cade Brumley to wait until after LEAP testing season is over to see how it all went before deciding how, exactly, to grade schools, and, if the decision is that schools should not be graded, to petition the feds for their permission.

It’s all in the game, folks. It’s all in the game.


No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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