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La. BESE Member James Garvey’s School Grading “Lie”: Read His Full Speech Here

April 17, 2017

On March 29, 2017, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) held a 6 1/2-hour special meeting on the state plan to be submitted to the US Department of Education in April 2017 in compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Most attendees thought the plan was being rushed without having been properly vetted, including the Louisiana School Boards Association.

One of the components of Louisiana’s ESSA plan is a phasing out what White calls the school performance score “curve” in two years, and a raising of the criteria for school grading year by year until 2025. (In 2015, White called the school grading a “baseline year,” to be raised over ten years. That was when the state still used the term “Common Core” and when students took a “Common Core exam” that was PARCC-like.)

Despite school performance score/ letter grade modifying and phasing, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) unequivocally promotes school letter grades, including the measuring of “improvement,” on its school letter grades page:


Since 1999, the state has issued School Performance Scores for public schools, which are based on student achievement data. To clearly communicate the quality of school performance to families and the public, Louisiana adopted letter grades (A-F). All schools with sufficient data receive school performance scores.

  • Elementary schools (K-6):
    • 100 percent of the school grade is based on student achievement on annual assessments in English language arts, math, science, and social studies

    Schools may also earn points for significant improvement with students who are academically behind.

  • Middle schools (7-8):
    • 95 percent of the school grade is based on student achievement on annual assessments
    • Five percent of the school grade is based on credits earned through the end of students’ 9th grade year.

    Schools may also earn points for significant improvement with students who are academically behind.

  • High schools (9-12): Half of the school grade is based on student achievement on state assessments and the other half on graduation performance.
    • 25 percent is attributed to student performance on the ACT or WorkKeys
    • 25 percent is attributed to student performance on End-of-Course assessments
    • 25 percent is attributed to the strength of diploma index, which rewards achievements like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exam credit
    • 25 percent is attributed to the cohort graduation rate, or the percentage of students who started 9th grade and graduated on-time within four years

Schools may also earn additional points for significant improvement with students who are academically behind.

Note that BESE approves the school performance scoring system and associated school letter grading system.

Note also that bias and inflation in the Louisiana school grading system has been documented on this blog (e.g., here and here and here).

Note also that BESE member James Garvey promoted Louisiana’s school grading as he was campaigning in October 2015 for reelection to BESE– the same month that I wrote this post about the inflation in school grading and quoted former BESE member Lottie Beebe about the inevitable crash that will occur when the inflated-school-grade rug is pulled out:

Dr. Schneider, thank you for your continued efforts to educate the public and the education community, for that matter. (You get it; I get it; and I am certain a number of other folks get it! Often, White and his supporters state that parents understand letter grades. We get that, also!) However, does the general public understand the methodology used to award these letter grades? While I realize the hard work and dedication of those within many schools, this “celebratory success” will be short-lived! At some point, there will be notable declines in student achievement due to the “inflated grades” and a failure to maintain progress points, etc. This is when these very schools being celebrated today will be vilified for failing to maintain or increase student achievement. No argument can then be made due to the success celebrated today! …and at a later date—-bamm! I acknowledge it is a normal response to accept the “flowers” when they are presented; sadly, they are going to “wilt” at some point!

In October 2015, Garvey said nothing about school grade inflation. According to, Garvey only promoted Louisiana’s school grading:

When asked how the state could improve scores on the ACT exam, Barrios, a former gifted-student teacher, turned the question around. “First of all, the premise is completely wrong,” she said, adding that it was ridiculous to hang so much on a single test.

Garvey, a lawyer, responded by praising the board’s work to put in place a system of school letter grades that let parents see exactly how good a school is or isn’t.

A second October 2015 article featuring Garvey’s campaign positions includes the following:

Increase transparency and accountability for education results by maintaining our current letter grading system for schools and districts.

No word about any opposition, reservation, or even slight hesitancy concerning Louisiana’s school grading system as misinforming parents.

So, imagine the surprise of many, including members of the St. Tammany Parish School Board (Garvey’s district) when Garvey waxed contrary at the March 29, 2017, BESE special meeting in long-winded,  tones familiar in barrooms in the wee morning hours:

Garvey begins at time 4:24:55:

I’d like to say on this issue [Louisiana’s ESSA state plan]… it’s hard to pick a good place to start. I guess I will start by saying that we have been lying to our parents, and lying to ourselves, and lying to taxpayers, and, most importantly, we’ve been lying to the children of Louisiana.

We’ve been telling parents, taxpayers, ourselves, and telling children that their schools are A schools when a lot of those schools, if they were scored in other states or under higher accountability systems that other states are using, they would be B schools or C schools.

Similarly, we’ve been telling parents that their B schools are doing great because they’re B schools. In other states, they’d be C schools and D schools. And you can go through the same thing with the other grades.

One of the biggest controversies that I think this issue contains is the clarity and honesty that it will create  and give to the parents about how their schools are doing, how well they’re doing or how well the schools are not doing.

This “lie” as I called it, I called it a lie because I know that other states have higher accountability systems, more vigorous accountability systems. I believe that all of the BESE members [know] it. Yet we are putting these false letter grades out there. In fact, even under this plan that moves us to where we will be on a similar grading system with other states, we’re going to take eight more years before we stop this lie that we’re telling the parents and that we’re telling our children.

This lie really hit home when I got a phone call from a parent who was a friend of mine a couple of years ago asking me about one of the local schools in Metairie. It was an A-rated school, one of the top A-rated schools in the state. And the parent asked me, “Is this a good school? Should I send my child to this school?”

I could have taken the easy way out and told the parent, “Well, go look at the letter grade. It’s an A. Of course, it’s got to be a good school.” But what I knew was that that was a magnet school, and it was able to draw students from around the parish, the best from around the parish.

I told her, “I can’t tell you if that is a good school or if that is a good school for your child in particular because I don’t know what the school is doing with those students once they get there. I know that there are good students in this school, but I also know that there are good students that are enrolling in that school. I can’t tell you how much they’re growing while they’re in that school.”

This plan, a big part of this plan will fix a lot of that problem.

Garvey continues speaking about how “delay will hurt it,” with “it” being Louisiana’s ESSA plan. (Feel free to listen to that Garvey spiel at time 4:29:10). But let us maintain our focus on Garvey’s “I could have taken the easy way out” hammer-home-the-“lie”:

Garvey is apparently unaware that anyone could feel betrayed by his now calling a lie what he for years actively promoted.

He was wrong.

On Thursday, April 13, 2017, the St. Tammany Parish School Board passed the following resolution declaring “an irreparable breach of trust” between the school board and Garvey:


WHEREAS, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) Representative James (Jim) Garvey, who serves District 1, including all of St Tammany Parish, in a public meeting of the same board on March 29, 2017 stated that he and the other members of BESE have been “lying to parents” about the public school accountability system that BESE mandated all Louisiana public school districts use; and

WHEREAS, this accountability system that was publicly deemed a “lie” by BESE member Mr. Garvey was developed by State Superintendent of Education John White, who was appointed by Jim Garvey and other BESE members; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Garvey voted for and has actively promoted this accountability system as late as 2016 when he touted its successes in his bid to be re-elected to BESE; and

WHEREAS, if the current accountability system developed by Superintendent White is termed a “lie” as publicly stated by BESE representative Mr. Garvey, then the St. Tammany Parish School Board can only conclude the new Louisiana plan for the Every Student Succeeds ACT (ESSA), also developed by Superintendent White and his staff and rushed for approval by BESE members including Mr. Garvey, would be highly questionable; and

WHEREAS, despite widespread requests for delay from education professionals throughout the state, including numerous School Board members, the Louisiana School Board Association (LSBA), the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS), and the Louisiana Association of Principals (LAP), the state prematurely submitted to the U.S. Department of Education Louisiana’s plan for ESSA, which was formed on the basis of the highly questionable accountability system that Mr. Garvey publicly called a “lie to parents”; and

WHEREAS, the St. Tammany Parish School Board sadly concludes that there is an irreparable breach of trust between the St. Tammany Parish School Board, many educational professionals, school boards across the state and Mr. Garvey, as demonstrated by his own public admission; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that if Mr. Garvey truly stands behind his statement that the current Louisiana accountability system, that he has supported for several years, is a “lie to parents”, then this Board believes Mr. Garvey should take responsibility for these actions by resigning his BESE position, and any other individual involved in developing this flawed and inferior accountability system that was mandated upon all Louisiana public schools systems should take responsibility for these actions by resigning his or her position, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that St. Tammany Parish School Board asks Mr. Garvey to appear in a public forum at a time and location of the Board’s choosing to explain his actions for supporting this flawed accountability system for so long; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution be to spread upon the official minutes of this Board, with copies being sent to Jim Garvey, BESE, District 1 Representative, all BESE members, State Superintendent of Education John White, LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard, LASS President Superintendent Hollis Milton, and LAP Executive Director Debra Schum.

When I first received the above resolution file, I thought it concerned the fact that in 2016, Garvey signed off on a falsified certificate granting John White ed leader 3 status even though White does not have the requisite five years of teaching experience.

Another Garvey-White “lie.”

 James Garvey


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    What a hot mess. The message is simple minded. Teach to these annual tests: English language arts, math, science, and social studies and get as many students as you can take advanced placement course and score high on SAT or ACT.

    • What I learned after years of test-score invasions into our low-income schools was that while suddenly many school reformers were pushing the idea that more kids needed to be enrolled in AP courses and more kids needed to be doing better on college entrance exams, the teachers who had experience teaching college-prep courses were suddenly the likeliest to be harassed, labeled and ultimately dismissed. How do you then expect your very young two-year-contracted greenhorns to do the job which you so viciously argued that fully experienced older teachers “couldn’t” do?

  2. Love Garvey’s comment on magnet schools. Just digging his hole deeper.

  3. NOLAISASHAM permalink

    Seems like the entire “Educator” population should be jailed…court injunction to shut down everything immediately…

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