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John White’s Attempt to Counter Upcoming NAEP Release: Publicizing Louisiana’s “Innovative Assessment Pilot”(?)

April 7, 2018

On April 10, 2018, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math and reading scores will be released.

Louisiana state superintendent John White is already nervous about what the public will see on that day. Like other state superintendents, White has already seen the scores prior to release.

So, here he is in the op-eds, arguably trying to minimize the damage by redirecting public attention to this April 02, 2018, Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) press release in the name of “innovative assessment” connected to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

From White’s April 03, 2018, op-ed in The Hill:

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the share of American fourth-graders reading proficiently increased by 7 percentage points over the past quarter-century. …

But older students have not demonstrated equivalent progress. Eighth grade reading levels on the NAEP have been at a standstill for 25 years. The Program for International Student Assessment, a global test of reading skills among 15-year-olds, shows literacy on the decline in America. …

On today’s reading tests, students read articles and stories they’ve not encountered before on topics they don’t necessarily know anything about. This may explain why older students struggle more on these tests; there is simply more that older students have to know to be sure they will comprehend an article written for an older audience.

The trouble is that by not requiring knowledge of any specific book or facts, reading tests have contributed to the false impression that reading is mainly about having skills such as being able to summarize, and not about background knowledge. Walk into many English classrooms today and you will see students capably identifying an article’s main idea. But you’re less likely to find students learning the historical context for a novel or discussing the novel’s broader meaning. By not requiring knowledge, tests create no incentive for particular knowledge to be taught.

This is not fair to adolescents, who need knowledge to become effective adult readers. It’s particularly not fair to students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, whose summer breaks rarely involve trips abroad or afternoons at museums, and who are thus at a disadvantage on any test that, whether it’s acknowledged or not, measures background knowledge. And it’s not good policy for a nation struggling with the influence of falsified news reports over its citizenry.

Yesterday, Louisiana submitted a proposal to the federal Department of Education to develop an Innovative Assessment Pilot, a new provision under ESSA. Rather than administering separate social studies and English tests at the end of the year, Louisiana schools participating in the pilot will teach short social studies and English curriculum units in tandem over the course of the year, pausing briefly after each unit to assess students’ reading, writing and content knowledge. Students, teachers and parents will know the knowledge and books covered on the tests well in advance. Knowledge of the world and of specific books will be measured as a co-equal to students’ literacy skills. And teachers would have good reason to focus on the hard and inspiring lessons of history and books.

Keep in mind that White has been a strong supporter of Common Core, which promotes total reliance upon a given text, a.k.a. New Criticism literary analysis. From a post I wrote in November 2014:

CCSS ELA emphasizes New Criticism literary analysis, which excludes moving beyond the text itself in deriving meaning from a text. No historical context considered in understanding a text. No reader experience tied to understanding a text.

This type of “interpretation” seriously limits critical thought and pigeon-holes cross-curricular instruction.

CCSS ELA tells the masses, “Consider the text in isolation.” …

CCSS ELA “lead architect” David Coleman prefers New Criticism. As such, Coleman prefers to stay “inside” of a text. Moreover, he has peddled a technique to do so, one that has gained national popularity for its coming from the mouth of non-teacher, edupreneur Coleman: close reading.

Teachers who follow CCSS ELA must disregard any instructional materials that direct students to consider context not mentioned inside of a text, whether historical context or (certainly) the reader’s personal experience, in approaching a text.

It is one issue to utilize New Criticism sometimes and its alternative, Reader Response, other times. But CCSS lacks this balance.

Thus, CCSS ELA does indeed restrict curricular decisions, and not for the better.

Some might say, “Oh, but in 2015-16, Louisiana revised its math and ELA standards.”  However, anyone comparing the “revised” Louisiana ELA standards to Common Core ELA can see that they remain virtually one and the same– as White hinted they would when he announced a standards “review” in February 2015:

“The Common Core standards are serving our students well and we’re not afraid to take a look,” and tweak here and there, [White] said. “You can call them whatever you want — you can call them the Common Core standards or the Louisiana standards.”

If Common Core, with its text-limiting, New Criticism training, were “serving our students well,” there would be no spring 2018 op-ed complaint about “the false impression that reading… is not about background knowledge” and “historical context.”

However, is a new day– a 2018 day– and that 2017 NAEP release is fast approaching.

But let us take White’s advice and tap into some March 2018 background knowledge for his April 2018 pronouncement:

If one reads White’s April 03, 2018, op-ed via the lens of his also-freshly-composed, March 23, 2018, letter of NAEP release concern sent to the US Department of Ed, one can reasonably conclude that the soon-to-be-released, apparently poor 2017 NAEP results now have White strategically publicizing that what students need is exactly the opposite of the ueber-text-dependence that White-endorsed, Common-Core-renamed Louisiana-standards emphasizes.

Now, I could be wrong about White. Perhaps he sees no connection between Bad NAEP and New Innovative Assessments. However, I expect that when Bad NAEP hits the news, White will try to counter the blow by controlled redirection towards New Innovative Assessments without dissing Common Core– I mean, the Louisiana Standards.

IMG_1022  John White


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?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

  1. Bearded John White?

    Sent from my iPad


  2. DanG permalink

    Now he looks like a salty Pinocchio!
    How is it that we in Louisiana are still burdened with this CC Rasputin?

  3. Christine Langhoff permalink

    The combination of Social Studies and English is pernicious. That tactic has been tried in Boston’s public schools, and has been used as a cudgel against teachers during evaluations. In MA, few teachers hold certifications in both areas, but administrators can choose to evaluate and ding teachers in the area that is NOT the one they are certified in.

    Students get the full benefit of neither an English class nor a Social Studies class, but it works nicely for block scheduling of 90 periods, and for hiring a smaller number of teachers.

    • I am reminded of how suddenly, with the advent of endless testing and the buying of “magical” packaged curricula as a means to “fix” our low-income, low-scoring schools, our English teachers were suddenly only supposed to teach literary elements, spelling and the mechanics of writing “in context.” Nothing direct, nothing explicit — and yet the spring state testing was heavily bent to knowing exactly those things.

  4. Robert Tellman permalink

    Another of White and Co.’s attempts at deception. Since he doesn’t know or care about real education and simply follows the national deform trends, he is clueless about Common Core tactics, etc. Just another ploy to lie about test results.

    He will depart Louisiana in about 2 years or less and hopefully take all of his clueless TFA friends with him. I guess he is currently weighing his options for the most profitable job he can have after he ruins education in Louisiana.

    I sure hope the Louisiana Legislature realizes its mistake in believing any word that ever came out of his mouth and can reverse the damage he has caused.

    What a day of celebration his leaving will be!

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