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New York Times Exposes Louisiana School’s 100-Percent-College-Acceptance Lie, and More

December 2, 2018

If you read about a school with a 100-percent college acceptance rate for its grads, keep in mind that one of the surest ways to achieve such astounding results is to lie– to whip up fictitious student success stories that include a horrid home life and a string of glowing achievements that shows that these students Beat the Odds.

Such is apparently the tack of the husband and wife leadership at a Louisiana private school, T.M. Landry, an unaccredited (i.e., the state does not recognize the diplomas) private school held in a warehouse-styled building with an interior that is little more than an unfinished, open area with some white boards and a scattering of tables and chairs.

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T.M. Landry College Prep, exterior

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T.M. Landry, interior

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T.M. Landry, interior

T.M. Landry is unaccredited, but what does that matter if its graduates are accepted into top-tier postsecondary institutions, right?

Well.

One of the problems with publicizing false success is that such Beat the Odds stories draw the attention of the media– media like the New York Times. 

Either the story holds up– the school produces miraculous results (quite a story)– or the story falls apart and is shown to be fraud on fraud (also quite a story).

Unfortunately, the T.M. Landry fraud also includes evidence of physical and emotional abuse.

From the November 30, 2018, New York Times:

BREAUX BRIDGE, La. — Bryson Sassau’s application would inspire any college admissions officer.

A founder of T.M. Landry College Preparatory School described him as a “bright, energetic, compassionate and genuinely well-rounded” student whose alcoholic father had beaten him and his mother and had denied them money for food and shelter. His transcript “speaks for itself,” the founder, Tracey Landry, wrote, but Mr. Sassau should also be lauded for founding a community service program, the Dry House, to help the children of abusive and alcoholic parents. He took four years of honors English, the application said, was a baseball M.V.P. and earned high honors in the “Mathematics Olympiad.”

The narrative earned Mr. Sassau acceptance to St. John’s University in New York. There was one problem: None of it was true. …

In reality, the school falsified transcripts, made up student accomplishments and mined the worst stereotypes of black America to manufacture up-from-hardship tales that it sold to Ivy League schools hungry for diversity. The Landrys also fostered a culture of fear with physical and emotional abuse, students and teachers saidStudents were forced to kneel on rice, rocks and hot pavement, and were choked, yelled at and berated. …

Adam Broussard, a Landry parent, noticed last fall that his 8-year-old, who had attended the school since he was 3, was writing “chicken scratch.” Mr. Broussard had been happy with the school — his older son had been admitted to Brown after two years at Landry — but he confronted Mr. Landry about his younger son’s progress. Mr. Landry responded that he did not teach sentence structure and just wanted students to love to write.

An independent assessment at Sylvan Learning Center revealed that Mr. Broussard’s younger son was performing two grade levels behind. …

News of the Broussard boy’s low test scores spread last fall, and at least eight parents interviewed by The Times had their own students assessed. Of their 11 students, only two were performing at grade level, while the rest had fallen behind or made no progress. One junior was performing at a fourth-grade level in reading and math. …

High school students took ACT practice tests day after day and sporadically attended classes. Bryson Sassau, who took the ACT three times, said that once he got to college, he realized an education that revolved around test preparation had ill-served him. “If it wasn’t on the ACT, I didn’t know it,” he said. …

At least a half-dozen staff members resigned. Among those remaining was Keidrick Owens, who had been accused at his previous school of instructing older students to whip younger students with a belt. Last fall, Mr. Owens pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation. …

Some students still cry when they discuss their experiences at T.M. Landry. …

Parents have been consumed with guilt.

How We Reported This Story

The New York Times interviewed 46 sources including parents, current and former students, former teachers and law enforcement agents.

The Times also examined incorrect transcripts, a college application, court documents showing that Michael Landry and another teacher at the school had pleaded guilty to crimes related to violence against students, and police records that included multiple witness statements saying that Mr. Landry hit children.

There is much more to the New York Times article on T.M. Landry College Prep.

The entire story is worth a read, for it reminds us of the dangers of assuming that a school– an unaccredited school, at that– must be both legitimate and safe if it repeatedly advertises that its graduates– 100 percent– get accepted into prestigious colleges and universities.

Lies upon lies.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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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.

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4 Comments
  1. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Wow

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    A friend saved the full story in the NY Times. This school is a dangerous fraud, with “bow to the master” a small signal that it is dangerous.

  3. “…it reminds us of the dangers of assuming that a school…must be both legitimate and safe if it repeatedly advertises…” In our city where the invasion of a ‘portfolio’ school model where choice/charter schools took over poorest neighborhoods unchecked, the public fell passively and is only now waking from the thrall brought by a seemingly endless BARRAGE of early years advertising.

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