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John White Shoots Self in Foot with Loaded SLTs

September 8, 2013

Former-TFAer and Broad-trained Louisiana “Superintendent” John White must broadcast something data-ish to demonstrate that He Is Right and Reforms Are Working. Mind you, his reforms are not working; they are a repeatedly demonstrated con perpetrated on Louisiana’s education system. Nevertheless, White insists on issuing the following press release regarding the “usefulness” of Louisiana’s first student learning target (SLT) result. White actually released this statement. I bolded the Dodo-race nonsense White promotes as Proof That the Reforms Are Working:

The Department of Education today released a list of schools across the state that had successful student outcomes and set a high bar for what students would learn during the school year. Yesterday, the Department released a list of schools with a high bar for excellence in classroom teaching, and todays release highlights schools that have made a similar commitment to setting a high bar for the progress students are expected to achieve.

Each of the schools on the list was in the states top 10 percent for student improvement or overall achievement and at the same time had 20 percent fewer of its teachers scored at the highly effective level on the student learning target element of the Compass process.

“These schools show the great results that can be achieved when educators have high expectations for the students they teach,” said State Superintendent John White. “By raising the bar for what children are expected to achieve academically, educators raised the bar for what they could achieve professionally, which is the goal of Compass.”  [Emphasis added.]

Translation:  Having many teachers miss scoring highly effective on teacher ratings/observations on SLTs is proof that SLTs are working in schools that are improving.

Keep running, Alice. There is no finish line.

My thanks to my colleague Herb Bassett for providing the details on just how well SLT ratings are working (tongue in cheek) for select among those state-run, RSD charters White refuses to properly monitor. Specifically, Bassett comments on the four Firstline charters and their astounding (tongue again in cheek) SLT results. I copied much of the text of Bassett’s email to me yesterday; it is just too good to omit:

Four of the eighteen “high performing” schools cited are Firstline Schools, and White is trumpeting how few teachers were given Highly Effective; he claims that raising the bar impossibly high raises student achievement.

16 of the 18 were in the top ten percent in proficiency rate increase, 2 were in the top ten percent of proficiency rate.

What is stated clearly in the data is an astonishing rate of Ineffectives – particularly for the Firstline schools. Also – None of the four had a single Highly Effective Professional Practices Rating. This appears to be collusion between the evaluators, and John White praises the low scores.

Arthur Ashe (School) – 25% Ineffective , 0 Highly Effective – Final ratings

John Dibert (School) – 18% Ineffective, 3% Highly Effective – Final

Joseph Clark Prep (School) – 68% Ineffective, 0 Highly Effective – Final

Samuel J Green (School) – 42% Ineffective, 0 Highly Effective – Final

Why is White pushing so hard to praise Firstline for something it (RSD) has done by design (i.e., tanking its teachers on SLT evaluations)? Are they high concentration TFA? Is he insane?  [Emphasis added.]

Not sure if White is insane, but he sure is foolish. First, in offering this propagandistic press release, White publicly offers his own testimony that SLT scores are not connected to school “success,” thus providing fodder for the lawyers who are preparing to sue LDOE for issuing declarations of teacher “ineffectiveness” despite evidence of student improvement. Second, White has just demonstrated that teacher “effectiveness” is not “the single most important factor” in student success– inadvertently blasting the overused reformer mantra. Third, White demonstrates amazing callousness in capriciously labeling teachers as “ineffective”; he reveals his ignorance of the personal anguish he is causing a number of dedicated teachers (i.e. more opportunity for lawsuits). Fourth, White highlights the elephant-in-the-room question of just who is in charge of crunching all of the teacher eval scores (i.e., credentials, anyone?) (and again, more potential lawsuits).

As to the question of a TFA-Firstline connection: Absolutely. However, I would like to focus on a more pressing concern: TFA connection to LDOE data.  White is certainly pushing hard to recruit more TFAers into leadership. As a matter of fact, White is heading a new reformy group, Education Pioneers. The board of directors is amazingly non-traditional education:

New Orleans Launch Committee

Neerav Kingsland

Chief Executive Officer, New Schools for New Orleans

Kira Orange-Jones

Executive Director (and Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Member); Teach For America – Greater New Orleans

Matt Candler

Founder and CEO, 4.0 Schools

John White

Louisiana State Superintendent of Education, Louisiana Department of Education

Strategic Advisor:

Leslie Jacobs,

Founder, Educate Now!

And what exactly is the purpose of this new group? Consider this Gates grant description for its $7.6 million to Education Pioneers:

Date: March 2011

Purpose: to leverage Education Pioneers existing pipeline and breadth and establish a focused data leadership track as a pathway for the hundreds of emerging talented professionals they bring into the education field each year. [Bold added.]

Amount: $7,611,775

The “emerging talented professionals” handling data will come from TFA. There are simply too many connections between Education Pioneers and TFA for that not to happen. TFA is an Education Pioneers partner, as are Amplify and Wireless Generation.

Envision all of those “talented” hands on sensitive and high-stakes data after having followed some Gates-funded “data leadership track.”

John White is former TFA and Broad Superintendents Academy alumnus; Kira Orange-Jones is a TFA executive. Neerav Kingsland is a Broad Residency alumnus, and Broad has strong TFA ties; Kingsland is CEO of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), which was founded by Sarah Usdin, former TFAer; Matt Candler was the first CEO of NSNO, and three of seven 4.0 Schools “team” members are former TFA. Candler is also a former KIPP Schools VP, and KIPP’s CEO is Richard Barth, TFA founder Wendy Kopp’s husband. Matt Candler, Kira Orange-Jones, and Sarah Usdin all sit on Leslie Jacobs’ Educate Now! advisory board.

I have no doubt that TFA will be handling LDOE data in the future.

I believe TFAers are already handling LDOE high-stakes and sensitive data.

In an email exchange two weeks ago, John White accused me of using LDOE information to “validate my beliefs.” I publicly offer him this opportunity to respond to this blog with the names and credentials of LDOE employees responsible for any and all LDOE data usage, including the calculating of VAM and school performance scores.

My “belief” is that John White is at worst calculating and cruel and at best incompetent in his role as a state superintendent.

When he shoots himself in the foot with ridiculous press releases like the one featured in this post, it does indeed validate my belief.

6 Comments
  1. Amen. Be sure to note that of 26 schools in the state with VAM results showing more than 50% of the teachers are highly effective, 14 of the schools are in RSD-New Orleans. Anybody else suspicious of how the VAM calculations might have been manipulated?

  2. Reblogged this on Crazy Crawfish's Blog and commented:
    Circumstancial proof John White may be insane, but proof positive that VAM, the student test based evaluation of teacher performance is a complete farce. Many thanks to Herb and Mercedes for documenting this latest pantload of ridiculousness.

  3. Peggy S permalink

    Did anyone notice the Teacher Evaluation articles hidden in the pages of nola.com last week. Only 4% of the state’s teachers were ranked ineffective & a whopping 58% of the state’s teachers were ranked highly effective. Remember White’s projections of ONLY 10 % Highly Effective & 20% ineffective?

  4. Mercedes,
    Thank you for your insightful information. Thank you as well for responding to me in the past.
    Is there a avenue to contact you directly (an email?) for I am looking for your help again in
    finding specific information on the charters in the RSD in New Orleans. I am hoping to find out
    how many are “for-profit” and how many TFAers staff them. I have read your 3 Part analysis
    of the “LIe.” My motivation derives from a recent meeting that the president of the Milwaukee
    Metro Chamber of Commerce had with state legislators and “representatives” of the Mayors
    office and (supposedly) the Milwaukee public schools. He brought in Patrick Dobard of the RSD
    to explain all the success that the RSD has had. The chair of our state senate education committee, who is not from the Milwaukee area, shared with me in a communication his positive
    feelings about the success of the RSD. No local school board members were invited, nor were
    local legislators. As with any urban school district, some of Milwaukee’s public schools are
    considered “failing” and the goal would be for the state to take them over. I have already
    emailed several legislators your 3 Part analysis, but want to provide more rationale for the
    folly of any state take over of Milwaukee schools. Thank you so much for your help.
    Deb

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