John White’s “Statewide Trends” of LEAP Supposed to be Publicized on May 27
When Louisiana State Superintendent John White withheld the Louisiana Education Assessment Program (LEAP) scores on Friday, May 16, 2014– the day that these scores were supposed to be released, he chose to wait until midday to contact the schools.
White offered no reason for the delay. However, by now, it is no secret that scores for White’s pet project, predominately-charter Recovery School District (RSD), were likely the reason for the delay.
On May 19, 2014, White issued a district newsletter that opened with a message from him. Here is that message, in full:
In the body of this weekly email you will find instructions regarding 2014 LEAP, iLEAP, and LAA 2 results. The results are now available in the secure LEAPWeb portal, and you may access them at this time.
In the days to come, the Department will issue a summary report detailing statewide trends. We will provide you notice of when the report will be issued and would ask that until that time you use the posted results for educational purposes rather than publicity purposes.
While the statewide report will provide insight into our state’s efforts to adopt new, higher expectations, the state’s initial analysis shows that results overall are steady when compared to last year. This result is consistent with the transition policies Louisiana adopted earlier this school year, gradually raising the student achievement bar over a decade rather than doing so immediately. Among these transition policies are adjustments to the 4th grade promotion policy and the Transitional 9th grade policy.
More detail on the statewide report will come in the days ahead. Please do not hesitate to contact Network staff or me with questions.
As always, thank you for all you do for our children,
Louisiana Department of Education
Twitter @LouisianaSupe [Emphasis added.]
John White thanks us for all we do for children.
Some observations regarding White’s letter:
First, keep in mind that this letter is included as part of a greater newsletter telling districts that summary reporting of LEAP scores is embargoed until he gives the word. I have learned that White’s publicly-sanitized “word” is supposed to come on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The “Department” (LDOE) will give the official public spin on these scores. “Detailing statewide trends” means that White will decide what “details” to offer to the public on LEAP scores that are suspiciously late.
When considering any score spreadsheets White offers to the public, know that score “details” unfavorable to White’s privatization purposes will be shaped into that which is more useful to him.
For example: When I emailed White in September 2013 for a comprehensive listing of ACT scores by district, he wrote back that the ACT scores would be incorporated into the 2013 school performance scores– scores that ended up being inflated to favor RSD.
LDOE did not allow the public to view a comprehensive listing of 2013 ACT scores by district. Such information cannot be manipulated by John White and his LDOE, so it remained hidden in LDOE-manipulated school performance scores.
In his May 19, 2014, letter, White tells district leaders that LEAP results are not to be used “for publicity purposes.”
Only he gets to do that.
White is noting more than a fact twister seeking the strategic political moment to sell his farce. But the show is his, so districts, keep quiet and let White offer his propaganda, the next installment of which is due to hit on Tuesday, May 27– which happens to be our district’s last day of school.
Hide important news in plain sight by reporting it on the cusp of transition, be it a weekend, or holiday, or, in this case, right at the very end of the school year.
A second notable issue in White’s letter is his avoidance of the term “Common Core State Standards” (CCSS). He even avoids the word “standards” by itself, instead resorting to “new, higher expectations.” I wrote about this LDOE signature avoidance of terms such as CCSS and its assessment, PARCC, in this March 2014 post.
Maybe the public will forget about CCSS and PARCC if the state superintendent limits its usage, right?
The third issue in White’s May 19 letter is his declaration that LEAP scores are “steady” when compared to last year. White offers no numbers– too specific. Just use the term “steady.”
On this date last year– May 22, 2013– the Times-Picayune described the 2013 LEAP scores as “essentially flat.” The Times-Picayune article also included links to LEAP and iLEAP results as well as a district-by-district comparison for 2009 thru 2013.
(Note that in the 2013 article, the term, “new, more challenging academic standards” was used. This year, in White’s May 19, 2014, letter, the term is “new, higher expectations.”)
Thus, in this letter to districts, White uses the more-positively-spun term, “steady,” as opposed to “flat.”
But he notes that 2014 LEAP scores ” overall are steady.”
This leads to my next point:
“Overall” implies that there is variation. I postulate that White wants to conceal this variation. Consider “overall steadiness.” Realistically, some districts (or schools within districts) likely are higher– and others are lower.
Which schools/districts are lower versus which are higher is the heart of the delayed-score-reporting matter.
What if traditional public education is not failing obviously enough? What if the lauded charters are, uh, “steady”… or not even that?
“Managing the truth” is the White’s game.
And “manage” it he does. White could have easily included some summary LEAP score details in his letter to districts. Instead, he offers nothing by way of the larger picture to local superintendents. I confirmed that White chose not to send district-by-district comparisons to the district superintendents, even under his May 19 embargo.
White had the data analyzed in time to release the scores as scheduled, which means that keeping district superintendents in the dark is his choice.
Corporate reform is all about information manipulation and controlled access.
Back to those “overall steady” LEAP results:
White makes it clear that he expected these “steady” results since the “new, higher expectations” are being “gradually” introduced.
Thus, White establishes a connection between the test score results and his state expectations. He “expects” this “steady” result because he set the manner in which the “new, higher expectations” are incorporated.
Teacher influence is not part of his “expectation.”
Teachers are not “expected” to influence these scores.
Shoots a huge hole in reformer insistence that teachers are “the single most important factor in student achievement,” now doesn’t it? (The actual statement is that teachers are the single most important factor “open to policy influence.” Teacher influence does not come close to that of “what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background.”)
Higher “expectation” –> scores go up.
“Steady” expectation –> scores stay “overall steady.”
Simplistic, mechanical, and based on the premise that it is the “new, higher expectation” that dictates the test score outcome, not the teacher’s influence at all.
That aside, anyone who has taught in Louisiana for the last few years knows that John White will make sure the test score outcome suits his agenda.
White withholds the scores until his outcome is set and his publicly-released spin is spun.
And it seems that the next public spinning is set for Tuesday, May 27.