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La. Supt. John White Falsely Credentials Himself with BESE Member James Garvey’s Help

In order to have his or her contract renewed, a state education superintendent in Louisiana must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the state board of education every time a new state board is elected every four years.

That would be 8 out of 11 state board members.

In January 2012, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved John White for state superintendent by a vote of 9 to 1, with one abstention. They offered him this contract.

In January 2016, White’s contract renewal did not come up for a vote because only seven members of the newly-elected/appointed BESE board can be counted on to vote for contract renewal.

What this means is that as Louisiana state superintendent, John White is now a month-to-month employee. As it stands, BESE is locked in a holding pattern where a majority of 7 are holding on to White (and will not seek a replacement), but without the ability to sway one more vote, this majority cannot offer White another contract. (To read about the office of Louisiana state superintendent, including terms of appointment and continued employment, see page 3 of this Title 28 excerpt.)

In order to be Louisiana state superintendent, White does not need any certification or licensure. And to be state superintendent, he does not need any minimum number of years in the classroom.

However, it seems that not long after the 2016 BESE board was seated, White quietly credentialed himself as a certified “educational leader” in Louisiana.

In fact, White now has three Louisiana certificates on file, all for educational leader– levels 1 through 3:

JW ed leader cert 1

JW ed leader cert 2

JW teaching cert 3

White’s certificates for educational leader 1 and educational leader 2 were issued on the same day– February 19, 2016– and with sequential certificate numbers.

The third certificate, for educational leader 3, was issued less than four months later, on June 08, 2016.

Normally, the state superintendent signs all teacher and other school certifications. Yet in a situation that drips the influence of the corporate ed reform from which White hails, White’s certificates have no state superintendent signature because of the backwards nature of this venture: It seems even too blatant for White to sign his own come-lately certifications.

All other Louisiana teaching and other certificates are signed by both the state superintendent and BESE president, Gary L. Jones.

Even Jones’ teaching certificate has these two signatures: state superintendent and BESE president (which happens to be himself).

Now, for an unusual turn:

The single signature on all three of White’s certificates is that of BESE member and avid White supporter, James Garvey.

Why current BESE president Jones’ signature is not on White’s certificate begs the question of BESE’s awareness of White’s certifications. (Current BESE president signature is on all other certificates no matter date of issuance.)

But there is more.

Louisiana’s own certification webpage directs individuals to the statutes governing certification of teachers, administrators, and other school professional-level personnel:

Certification Policy for Teachers/Leaders

The Louisiana Department of Education, Division of Teacher Certification, Preparation and Recruitment, implements and maintains teacher certification procedures as mandated by legislation and State Board policy contained in Bulletin 746?Louisiana Standards for Certification of School Personnel. The information in this section is provided as a resource to educators and school districts to ensure that:

  • All Louisiana students receive instruction from appropriately credentialed and effective teachers
  • All Louisiana schools are led by appropriately credentialed and effective school leaders.

The link above for Bulletin 746 includes the criteria for educational leader 1, 2, and 3 certification (see pages 65 – 67).

Educational leader 1 is the certification necessary to become lower-level administration– and it appears to be issued once a local education agency (LEA) has decided to hire an individual as a leader in one of the following administrative roles:

Educational Leader Certificate Level 1 (EDL 1)

This is the certificate needed by those who fill school and district educational leadership positions (e.g., assistant principal, principal, parish or city supervisor of instruction, supervisor of child welfare and attendance, special education supervisor, or comparable school/district leader positions). This certificate is issued upon the request of the LEA once the individual is hired to serve as an Educational Leader.

It seems that educational leader 2 exists to either help one gain experience (be a matured ed leader 1, so to speak), to offer time to gain experience, including the required minimum 3 years of teaching experience– or to take a person to educational leader 3.

In order to receive ed leader 2, one must have ed leader 1, and in order to receive ed leader 3, one must have ed leader 2.

Thus, ed leader 2 offers eligibility for no additional administrative positions in and of itself. However, ed leader 2 can lead to ed leader 3, which allows for higher-level superintendency:

Educational Leader Certificate Level 3 (EDL 3)

This certificate is required in order to serve as a school system superintendent or assistant superintendent.

So, in certifying himself as educational leader 3, White is seeking to make himself appear legit in order to possibly assume a district superintendency or assistant superintendency when his stint as a state superintendent comes to an end.

Of course, the ed reform irony here is that White already held a district superintendency, for the state-run Recovery School District (RSD), only briefly (not even a year, from mid-2011 to early 2012), as part of ushering him as swiftly as possible to the role of state superintendent. As nola.com noted in January 2012:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education signed off on Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s pick to be Louisiana’s new superintendent of schools on Wednesday, elevating John White from his post at the head of the state’s Recovery School District just months after he arrived in New Orleans.

White’s appointment has been widely anticipated since elections for the board this past fall ensured he would have the eight-vote supermajority needed to become the next head of the state Department of Education.

In creating White’s ed leader 3 certification, it seems that White and BESE pal Garvey anticipate that a second Louisiana district superintendency for White might not be as easy to procure.

In particular, what caught my attention were the requirements for years of teaching experience, especially for the ed leader 3 certification.

Ed leader 1 does not require teaching experience. However, it seems that one holding ed leader 1 is expected to progress to ed leader 2, which requires 3 years of teaching experience.

Even though in his own Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) bio, White chooses to be hazy regarding the actual years in which he did what and where, a 2011 EdNext interview with White has him with three years of teaching experience in New Jersey with Teach for America (TFA):

TFA sent White to Jersey City, to 3,000-student Dickinson High School, overlooking the Holland Tunnel, where he taught English for three years….

His three years in the classroom at Dickinson High gives White a firm grasp of these fundamental teaching challenges, including trying to teach the same content to a room of children where the proficiency spread may be two to three grade levels.

So, for ed leader 2 certification, White has enough years in the classroom.

But not for ed leader 3 certification.

Ed leader 3 certification requires five years of teaching experience:

§ 708. Educational Leader Certificate Level 3 (EDL 3) [Formerly §709]

A. This certificate is required in order to serve as a school system superintendent or assistant superintendent.

  1. Eligibility requirements:

a. valid EDL 2 or one of the Louisiana administrative/supervisory certifications that preceded the educational leadership certification structure;

b. five years of teaching experience in his/her area of certification;

c. five years of successful administrative or management experience in education at the level of assistant principal or above. The assistant principal experience would be limited to a maximum of two years of experience in that position; and

d. passing score on the school superintendent assessment (SSA), in keeping with state requirements.

John White does not have five years of teaching experience in any certification, yet he now holds what amounts to a falsified Louisiana educational leader 3 certificate bearing BESE member James Garvey’s signature.

To legitimize his ed leader 3 certificate, White should have 1) become a certified teacher in Louisiana and 2) taught an additional two years in that certification.

But he didn’t do that. Instead, he did what he often does: He tries to sneak and worm his way around legitimacy.

BESE needs to confront both White and Garvey about this false credential. But to do so, the BESE majority would have to confront itself about why it continues to employ as state superintendent a man without the votes needed for contract renewal.

No breath holding here, folks.

  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?.

both books

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

Question: Who Are the ESSA “Peer Reviewers” Selected to Review State Plans?

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state plans are to be reviewed by a group of individuals holding specific roles– and the reviewers are to be identified by name.

From the ESSA document (pages 20-21):

(4) PEER REVIEW AND SECRETARIAL APPROVAL.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall—

(i) establish a peer-review process to assist in the review of State plans;

(ii) establish multidisciplinary peer-review teams and appoint members of such teams—

(I) who are representative of—

(aa) parents, teachers, principals, other school leaders, specialized instructional support personnel, State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and the community (including the business community); and

(bb) researchers who are familiar with—

(AA) the implementation of academic standards, assessments, or accountability systems; and

(BB) how to meet the needs of disadvantaged students, children with disabilities, and English learners, the needs of low-performing schools, and other educational needs of students;

(II) that include, to the extent practicable, majority representation of individuals who, in the most recent 2 years, have had practical experience in the classroom, school administration, or State or local government (such as direct employees of a school, local educational agency, or State educational agency); and

(III) who represent a regionally diverse cross-section of States;

(iii) make available to the public, including by such means as posting to the Department’s website, the list of peer reviewers who have reviewed State plans under this section;

(iv) ensure that the peer-review teams consist of varied individuals so that the same peer reviewers are not reviewing all of the State plans;

(v) approve a State plan not later than 120 days after its submission, unless the Secretary meets the requirements of clause (vi);

(vi) have the authority to disapprove a State plan only if—

(I) the Secretary—

(aa) determines how the State plan fails to meet the requirements of this section;

(bb) immediately provides to the State, in writing, notice of such determination, and the supporting information and rationale to substantiate such determination;

(cc) offers the State an opportunity to revise and resubmit its State plan, and provides the State—

(AA) technical assistance to assist the State in meeting the requirements of this section;

(BB) in writing, all peer-review comments, suggestions, recommendations, or concerns relating to its State plan; and

(CC) a hearing, unless the State declines the opportunity for such hearing; and

(II) the State—

(aa) does not revise and resubmit its State plan; or

(bb) in a case in which a State revises and resubmits its State plan after a hearing is conducted under subclause (I)(cc)(CC), or after the State has declined the opportunity for such a hearing, the Secretary determines that such revised State plan does not meet the requirements of this section.

The US Department of Education (USDOE) website includes this ESSA page that has a link at the bottom, entitled, “ESSA State Plan Call for Peer Reviewers.”

The link is dead: “404– page not found.”

The dead page apologizes and notes that many pages are moved to new urls. However, a search for the new url– or even for the original via “do not send me to the new page” request– yields nothing.

So, I located the original page using Google Cache, which notes that Google last saved the page on April 03, 2017, at 17:24 GMT (which is the same as 1:24 p.m. in Washington, DC).

The page itself is noted as being last modified on 02/27/17.

The full text is below:

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Calling Peer Reviewers for ESSA State Plans

The U.S. Department of Education (the Department) is seeking highly qualified individuals to serve in a critical role as peer reviewers of State plans, as required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Under the ESSA, States will build on their experience making progress toward providing a high-quality, well-rounded education for all students. On November 29, 2016, the Department published final regulations that govern consolidated State plans under the ESSA. To facilitate the development of State plans, the Department published a required Consolidated State Plan template that aligns with the statutory and regulatory requirements. Under sections 1111(a)(4) and 8451(d) of the ESEA, the Department must facilitate a review by external peer reviewers of each State’s plan.

The ESSA requires that the Department establish multi-disciplinary peer review teams and appoint members of such teams that include:

  • Educators (e.g., teachers, principals or other school leaders, or specialized instructional support personnel);
  • State and local educational agency personnel;
  • Researchers who are familiar with the implementation of standards, assessments and accountability systems; and
  • Researchers who are familiar with how to meet the needs of disadvantaged students, children with disabilities, and English learners, the needs of low-performing schools, and other educational needs of students.

To the extent practicable, the peer reviewers should represent a regionally diverse cross-section of States and include individuals who have had practical experience in the classroom, school administration, or State or local government (such as direct employees of a school, district, or State) in the past two years.

Peer reviewers will work individually and on a panel to evaluate whether each State plan meets statutory and regulatory requirements and the degree to which each State plan will support a comprehensive and coherent set of improvements in the areas of: consultation and performance management; academic assessments; accountability, support, and improvement for schools; supporting excellent educators; and supporting all students. Peer reviewers will make recommendations to the Department to inform our review and approval of each State’s plan.

Questions about this request for peer reviewers may be sent to ESSA.PeerReview@ed.gov.

Application Process

We are no longer accepting applications at this time.

Availability

Peer reviewers must commit to the following review process:

  • Virtual peer reviewer training for approximately four hours during the week of March 21, 2017;
  • Read and provide detailed comments during off-site individual review for four-five State plans between April 3 and May 3; and
  • Participate in a 5-day panel review in Washington, DC in early May (specific dates to be established in early 2017).

The Department will conduct a second peer review process beginning in September 2017.

Conflict of Interest

Please be aware that any applicant’s selection as a peer reviewer for the State plan peer review will include a review for possible, apparent, and/or actual conflicts of interest. If a potential conflict of interest is identified, the Department will consider whether the applicant can participate as a peer reviewer in full compliance with all applicable Department policies and procedures designed to ensure the integrity of the Department’s process for reviewing and approving State plans.

Honorarium and Other Information

Peer reviewers will receive an honorarium for their time and effort, contingent upon satisfactory completion of the above requirements and consistent with the required schedule. Travel costs to the events in Washington, DC will also be covered.

Some observations:

  • If these peer reviewers were “virtually” trained the week of March 21, 2017 (for four hours, at that), and are already reviewing plans as of the April 03, 2017, state plan deadline (the first round of state plan submissions), then the peer reviewers have been selected. (Note that the webpage last updated 02/27/17 was “no longer accepting applications at this time.”)
  • If these peer reviewers have been selected, then they can (and should) be publicly identified. Otherwise, the public cannot know that the reviewers have indeed been selected and that these reviewers meet the criteria for review team membership.
  • The language of ESSA implies that USDOE is not obligated to publicize reviewer names until after state reviews are completed (i.e., “(iii) make available to the public, including by such means as posting to the Department’s website, the list of peer reviewers who have reviewed State plans under this section”). However, this failure to publicize supposedly selected reviewers appears to run counter to promoting public faith in the “transparency” of the state plan review process. Indeed, publicizing reviewers after the fact keeps the public in the dark during the review process and makes it convenient for USDOE to compose a fake listing of reviewers with no reliable leverage for the public to know otherwise.
  • USDOE’s deleting the call for peer reviewer webpage without a word and without offering any substitute to provide the public with information on this process seems bumbling as best and deceitful at worst. USDOE should not be deleting webpages designed to inform the public without offering further explanation.
  • At the very least, USDOE should offer the public a definite date that it plans to release the names of the state plan reviewers.
  • Given that USDOE has numerous senior-level official positions vacant, and given the market-driven-reform bent of USDOE, it is not unrealistic to expect that USDOE has somehow outsourced the entire ESSA state-plan review process. If that is true, the public deserves to know what organization(s) are involved in such outsourcing.
  • How much are individuals and/or organizations being paid to review ESSA state plans? If outsourcing is happening, what are the costs, and are there conflicts of interest at work?

US ed sec Betsy DeVos owes the American public these answers.

  Betsy DeVos

__________________________________________________________

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.

Heroin Distributor Once Set Up Fake WV Prep School in Apartment

Reality television has nothing on modern day school scams.

In 2011, Daniel Hicks created a fake school, ostensibly a boarding school, West Virginia Prep, which somehow “enrolled” over 20 athletes who were actually living in an unfurnished apartment.

The April 05, 2017, Charleston Gazette reported that Hicks “lured students …from around the world to attend a school that didn’t exist.” Hicks told prospective recruits that the school would provide opportunities not only to play basketball and football but also to vie for postsecondary basketball and football scholarships.

From the September 08, 2011, USA Today:

The players never saw the inside of a classroom. When student-athletes began arriving from France, Great Britain and several U.S. states, 17 of them were housed in a three-bedroom apartment with meager food and troublesome air conditioning, according to city officials, players and police.

Also, according to the Gazette, “West Virginia law allows anyone to organize a prep school, with minimal oversight or regulation by state authorities.”

The 2011 USA Today article confirms this:

West Virginia Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said as a exemption K school, West Virginia Prep Academy did the required paperwork and no background checks were performed on Hicks or on any possible teachers at the school.

“Under the law, all they have to do is send us a letter-of-intent, which has an explanation of who they are, where the school is to be located and contact information,” Cordeiro said. “On the back end, the schools have to send us their testing data and there has to be a certain level of proficiency on the tests. If not, the school has to write up a plan of improvement. But, since they are exemption K schools, we have no oversight on them at all.”

Student safety takes a complete back seat to self-regulation. Good test scores “on the back end” are what matters.

Astounding.

The Gazette states that in 2010, Hicks had been convicted on drug charges. USA Today notes Hicks’ parole violation in relation to a January [2011] narcotics conviction– which appears to be the inroad to investigation of Hicks’ “school.”

The Gazette also indicates that in June 2016, Hicks pleaded guilty to heroin charges.

On April 05, 2017, US District Judge Thomas Johnston sentenced Hicks to 17 months for heroin distribution and one additional month for “making a false statement to a federal investigator during an investigation,” a felony charge “filed by way of information.”

Once Hicks serves his sentence, he will be under an additional three years of federal supervision.

The false statement was that Hicks told federal investigators that he made no money from his prep school scheme.

Previous charges of mail and wire fraud had been dropped when Hicks agreed to work with federal prosecutors.

According to the Gazette, Judge Thomas seemed to believe that Hicks had “good intentions” in trying to start a school:

“I understand you were probably intending to help young people. Obviously, that has gone wrong. … I don’t know if it started out as a fraud. …But it turned out a disaster.”

Of course, a key component of that disaster is the fact that Hicks could go as far as he did with luring students to an unfurnished apartment– and with a prior drug conviction, to boot.

Good intentions are irrelevant.

Vetted competence. That’s what is relevant.

__________________________________________________________

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.

Tax Credit Scholarships: “Neovoucher” Profiteering Disguised as Philanthropy

In October 2016, Carl Davis of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy published a paper entitled, “State Tax Subsidies for K12 Private Education.” Below is Davis’ introduction:

One of the most important functions of government is to maintain a high-quality public education system. In many states, however, this objective is being undermined by tax credits and deductions that redirect public dollars for K-12 education toward private schools. Twenty states currently divert a total of over $1 billion per year toward private schools via special tax credits and deductions. These tax subsidies are essentially backdoor voucher programs, or “neovouchers,” as they use the tax code to provide what amount to private school vouchers even when traditional voucher programs are unpopular with the public or outright unconstitutional.

Because of the ways that state and federal tax law interact, the subsidies offered in ten of these states turn the concept of a charitable “donation” on its head by offering upper-income taxpayers a risk-free profit on contributions they make to fund private school scholarships. In these cases, even taxpayers who would not ordinarily be interested in contributing to private schools may find the incentive too strong to ignore.

Some states have seen an entire year’s allotment of tax credits claimed within days, or even hours, of being made available as wealthy taxpayers seek to capture their share of the profits associated with convoluted “neovoucher” systems.

In effect, states that have encountered political or constitutional obstacles to spending public dollars on private schools have instead set up a system that allows wealthy taxpayers to enjoy a profit by facilitating such spending on the state’s behalf.

This report explains the workings, and problems, with state-level tax subsidies for private K-12 education. It also discusses how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has exacerbated some of these problems by allowing taxpayers to claim federal charitable deductions even on private school contributions that were not truly charitable in nature.

Finally, an appendix to this report provides additional detail on the specific K-12 private school tax subsidies made available by each state. [Additional paragraph breaks added.]

Indeed, the heart of the scam factor behind the education tax credit appears to be in the seeming ability of donors to receive tax breaks in excess of donations. From the section of Davis’ paper entitled, “Subsidies Run Amok: Profiting from Scholarship ‘Donations'”:

In 2011, the IRS issued a memo indicating that taxpayers can claim a federal charitable deduction for private school scholarship donations even when those donations are also subsidized with a state tax credit. While the memo states that it “may not be used or cited as precedent,” scholarship organizations in over dozen states have been advising their donors that their contributions are eligible for a federal tax deduction in addition to a state tax credit.

For some high-income taxpayers, this dual benefit can turn a scholarship “donation” into a profit-generating scheme where the total tax cut received significantly exceeds the size of the original donation. It should therefore come as little surprise that in some states, the entire allotment of available credits is often claimed just hours after state tax officials begin accepting applications. …

Many scholarship organizations have realized that the profit-generating opportunities outlined above may appeal to donors that would not otherwise be interested in giving to private schools. One organization based in Georgia, for example, brags to potential donors that “you will end with more money than when you started.” Similarly, a tax lawyer in Alabama notes on her firm’s website that for taxpayers subject to the AMT, “donating” will actually “put money in your pocket.” …

Wealthy taxpayers appear to have taken notice. In Georgia, the state’s entire allotment of $58 million in scholarship credits was claimed in a single day on January 1, 2016. Later in the year, the same occurred within a matter of hours with regard to $67 million of credits in Arizona and $763,550 in credits in Rhode Island. [Additional paragraph break added.]

Finally, among Davis’ conclusions is the following:

…Upper-income families that are able to exploit complex interactions between state and federal tax law can sometimes use these backdoor subsidies to generate a profit for themselves. This is made possible largely because the IRS currently allows taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction for private school contributions even when those contributions were fully reimbursed by the state and were therefore not truly charitable in nature.

“Not truly charitable,” indeed.

On April 04, 2017, Jennifer Berkshire and co-host Jack Schneider featured Davis in a 34-minute, Have You Heard podcast.

Below are excerpts from a 3-minute section of the interview (around minute 9:00 to 12:00):

JB: So, Carl, you did a study last year, and suddenly, you’ve gotten a lot of attention because it turns out that you’re really one of the few people who has been keeping an eye on how tax credit scholarships work and where the potential for abuse lies at both the state and federal level, and, in some states, how the two different tax credits work together to make particularly generous donors a pile of money.

CD: Yeah, I think these tax credits have received more attention as education policies than as tax policies. I don’t want to speak for the whole tax policy community, but I don’t think…

I don’t think we in truth have been paying enough attention to what’s been going on here. At the state level, we now have 17 states that are offering very, very generous tax credits for donors that give money to private school scholarship funds in order to help students attend private, K12 schools. And these credits, in some cases, they range up to 100 percent of the amount donated, which is just a highly unusual feature to have as a tax law. …

When you’re reimbursing taxpayers for 100 percent donated, there doesn’t need to be any generosity at all involved on the taxpayer’s part. And in fact, what we’re finding is that in some cases, certain taxpayers are in a situation where they are able to game the system and are being advised by their accountants to claim a state tax credit and a federal tax deduction on the same donation and actually turn a profit for their so-called generosity. At this point, I’m not even sure if the word “charitable donation” applies. If you’re turning a profit on the deal, there’s nothing philanthropic going on. …

The underlying motivation here is that states want to spend public money on private schools, and a lot of times that can’t do that, either for political reasons… or for constitutional reasons…. So, what they’ve done is set up a more elaborate tax credit system that allows them to accomplish the same goal but that lets them get around the political hurdles or constitutional hurdles. So, what happens is they given these very generous incentives….

To further investigate the subtleties in education tax credits, and to view specific state information, be sure to read Davis’ paper.

For firmer grounding in educational tax credits, including associated Blaine Amendment history, be sure to read this Blaine Amendment post and Davis’ paper, and listen to the entire Have You Heard podcast.

____________________________________________________________

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.

Johns Hopkins Researcher Celebrates the “Promise of Louisiana Curriculum” Associated with Common Core (?)

In November 2016, Ashley Berner, Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, published this review of her own book, which happens to feature Louisiana as an example of the success of closely aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) “or a version derived from them” (ahem).

Berner’s review includes some select tidbit examples of Louisiana’s academic success:

There was, however, a surprise finding in the national analysis: Louisiana’s teachers demonstrated a significantly stronger grasp and use of standards-aligned materials and practices than their peers elsewhere. The question was, why?

What makes the difference in teacher practices particularly interesting is the recent rise in Louisiana’s student achievement:

  • The state’s 4th-grade students had the country’s highest growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test and tied with Mississippi for the fastest state growth in math. Louisiana was among the top five states in narrowing several achievement gaps: the white-black gap in 4th-grade math, the white-Hispanic gap in 4th grade math and reading; the white-Hispanic gap in 8th grade math and reading (“NAEP 2015: Mathematics and Reading Assessments” 2015).
  • In 2013, Louisiana became one of 12 states to require all juniors to take the ACT test. In 2015, Louisiana’s students gained more points in their composite ACT scores than those in the other 11 states that required 100% participation (“Louisiana Is Number One State in ACT Gain” 2015).
  • The College Board announced in 2014 that Louisiana had made the country’s greatest gains in the number of students scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on AP exams, and the number of students taking AP courses more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 (“Louisiana Students Achieve Top Advanced Placement Gains in State History” 2014).

The combination of Louisiana teachers’ distinctive responses and the state’s rising student achievement prompted RAND’s research team to press further. Was there a connection between these two phenomena and how the Louisiana Department of Education had leveraged the standards?

Notice the focus here on “growth” and gains”– which deflects focus from achievement translating into any practical outcome. But we’ll return to these three bullet points of Louisiana student achievement score-upping.

As for quantitative support, Berner surveyed teachers, including Louisiana teachers.

For qualitative support, the researcher questioned the Louisiana Department of Education for its support of Common Core in Louisiana (even though we have *new* standards and don’t refer to the virtual sameness of the *new* as “Common Core.”)

Berner does note that she did not verify LDOE’s qualitative responses about its marvelous, high-quality support of its teachers by contacting actual Louisiana teachers:

On the qualitative side, the project did not include interviews in schools or districts and thus could not confirm state-department officials’ accounts. As the researchers note, the LDOE’s perception of a singular focus has not been validated on the ground independently of the questionnaire responses. A qualitative study of local perspectives would be important.

But let’s return to the test-score-related news bits that seem to support Louisiana as a curriculum-to-Common Core-connected miracle. (Louisiana standards are not “derived from” Common Core, as Berner hints. They are Common Core Ever-So-Slightly Altered.)

A Selective Slice of NAEP

First of all is the Berner’s featuring of certain NAEP scores– mostly 4th grade scores– again, with that focus on “growth”:

  • The state’s 4th-grade students had the country’s highest growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test and tied with Mississippi for the fastest state growth in math. Louisiana was among the top five states in narrowing several achievement gaps: the white-black gap in 4th-grade math, the white-Hispanic gap in 4th grade math and reading; the white-Hispanic gap in 8th grade math and reading (“NAEP 2015: Mathematics and Reading Assessments” 2015).

In a March 17, 2017, post, New York math teacher and blogger, Gary Rubinstein, pulls back the curtain on Louisiana Superintendent John White’s selective celebration of NAEP scores. Rubinstein’s observations fit well with Berner’s selective NAEP feature. An excerpt:

Since NAEP isn’t just for 4th graders, the first thing I checked was what their current ranking was for black 8th graders and saw that for 8th grade math they actually dropped from 39th to 44th between 2009 and 2015.  For 8th grade reading they dropped from to 43rd to 45th between 2009 and 2015.  So it is obvious why they don’t mention their 8th grade change in rankings.

I also checked how they have done in math for all 4th graders regardless of race.  I found that in 2009 they were 48th while in 2015 they were not much better, at 44th.  In reading they went from second to last in 2009 to 8th to last in 2015.  A jump, but not the sort of thing that John White would ever use to prove his point about his knowledge of improving schools.

But still I could see someone being compelled by the improving position for the scores of black 4th graders since those are students who have had their entire schooling after the ‘greatest thing that ever happened to New Orleans’ (according to Arne Duncan) event, Hurricane Katrina.  I did see that it was accurate that Louisiana had leapfrogged over a bunch of states in the most recent 4th grade tests for black students.  And I could see how it sounds good to go from the bottom to the middle.  But what I wanted to find out is if this was a ‘significant’ change. …

…In math black 4th graders in Louisiana are not ‘significantly’ different from about 40 states and are better than about 5 and worse than about 5.  So with this pretty weak measurement, it could be argued that Louisiana 4th graders are tied for 45th or that they are tied for 6th.  Basically, there isn’t much that can be concluded when the scores are run through this ‘significance’ filter.

A similar thing happens for 4th grade reading…

Rubinstein continues with discussion of the weakness of trying to prove “significant” change using NAEP scores:

I never thought that NAEP scores were very significant, but I didn’t realize until now how, mathematically speaking, ‘insignificant’ NAEP differences really are.

Berner does the public an injustice to omit offering a more comprehensive view of NAEP scores, including one that investigates the potential statistical insignificance of NAEP subgroup comparisons.

An Average ACT Composite Below 4-Yr Regional College Standards

Berner’s next featured stat is the purported rise of Louisiana ACT scores.

Note that once again, the focus is deflected to improvement:

  • In 2013, Louisiana became one of 12 states to require all juniors to take the ACT test. In 2015, Louisiana’s students gained more points in their composite ACT scores than those in the other 11 states that required 100% participation (“Louisiana Is Number One State in ACT Gain” 2015).

Note that Berner cites a 2015 article on Louisiana ACT gains.

However, let us consider the leveling off of these gains in 2016— and the practical significance of average ACT gains that cannot get most students into four-year college in Louisiana:

ACT scores continue to creep upward in Louisiana public schools, according to results the state Department of Education released Monday (July 25). The Class of 2016 earned an average composite score of 19.5 on the 36-point test, up 0.1 from the year before. …

Functionally, looking at Louisiana’s public higher education system, the new ACT average is still too low to win admittance to anything but community college, or to qualify a student for a four-year TOPS scholarship. Regional four-year universities including SUNO, Southern, Nicholls and Southeastern require a 20, according to the Board of Regents. On Thursday, UNO President John Nicklow lamented that he couldn’t take the average New Orleans graduate.

The average score for low-income students increased from 17.9 to 18.1. That makes them eligible for community college without the remedial classes that can stall their progress.

Berner can celebrate gains in Louisiana ACT scores; however, she would do well to note that even if the gain continued in linear fashion with a .2 gain per annum for low-income students, the average low-income student would not have that 20 ACT composite necessary for entrance in a regional, four-year university until the year 2026.

Note also that the Louisiana Classes of 2013 and 2014 both had ACT composites of 19.1. Then, in 2015, a jump to 19.4. And in 2016, a modest rise to 19.5.

So, on average, Louisiana’s statewide composite rose .4 over four years.

And we haven’t even broached the variation among ACT composite scores across school districts.

We also haven’t determined whether what we have is less Common Core or curriculum and more drilling the ACT test. Indeed, ACT drill might be replacing curriculum. Now there’s a study.

A final note on Louisiana ACT: Comparing Louisiana to the other in 2016 has Louisiana ranked 13th out of 18 states that administer ACT to 100 percent of their students (presumably by the time they’re seniors). A ranking of 13th out of 18 in 2016 isn’t as impressive as being Number One out of 11 in 2014.

However, let’s end this post by considering Berner’s final bit of proffered evidence of the potential triumph of Louisiana-styled-Common Core’ s aligned curriculum– AP score “gains” (again with the improvement focus).

Louisiana AP Score Diminishing Returns

Here’s what Berner features regarding Louisiana AP scores:

  • The College Board announced in 2014 that Louisiana had made the country’s greatest gains in the number of students scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on AP exams, and the number of students taking AP courses more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 (“Louisiana Students Achieve Top Advanced Placement Gains in State History” 2014).

Fast forward to March 2017 and an Advocate article entitled, “Despite Big Push, Louisiana High School Students Still Struggle to Earn College Credit”:

Louisiana’s five-year push to reach the national average for public high school students earning college credit missed the target — by a lot.

Less than 8 percent of students did so, well below the U.S. average of nearly 22 percent for 2016.

The state is 49th in the nation for students scoring well enough through a program called Advanced Placement to get a head start on college credits, which improves the chances they will be successful there. …

Brigitte Nieland, who follows public school issues for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, noted the state is offering more AP courses and students are taking the test more often.

“But I think we have a lot of kids taking it but not really achieving a lot,” Nieland said.

More AP test takers; less achievement. Hold that thought.

In the same article, John White tries to emphasize gains:

State Superintendent of Education John White noted that the state has shown improvements.

In the past five years, AP credits doubled, from about 4,100 to roughly 8,600.

Those earned by African-American students tripled during the same period, to 935.

“It is all relative to where you start,” White said. “Louisiana has doubled the number of college credits students earn through Advanced Placement through the last four years. That is remarkable progress, and there are not many states that can say the same thing.”

I love the corporate-reform, eternal spring of “gains.” Whenever a declared goal is not reached, just deflect to “gains.” Save the “failure to meet the goal” talk for goals that do not serve market-driven-ed-reform purposes.

Says one surgeon to another, never: “Sure, most of my patients do not survive a surgery with me, but at least more are living now than in the past.”  

The AP progress that White would promote is not so remarkable if one considers what is hidden in the following statements in the same article:

The state has also shown gains in students taking AP exams. In 2006, just 5.5 percent of students did so, compared to 25.5 percent last year, according to the state Department of Education.

Also in 2006, just 2.5 percent of students scored 3 or higher on an AP exam, compared to 7.8 percent last year.

In 2006, 5.5 percent of students took AP exams. If 2.5 percent of students scored 3 or higher, that means that 45 percent of the students taking AP exams in 2006 scored 3 or higher (2.5 / 5.5).

In 2016, the proportion of students taking AP exams was over four times the proportion of those taking AP exams in 2006 (25.5 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively). However, the percentage of students scoring 3 or higher in 2016 was only 30.6 percent (or 7.8 / 25.5).

So, even though Louisiana has profoundly increased the number of AP test takers from 2006 to 2016, the percentage of those AP test takers who score 3 or higher on the tests has dropped from 45 percent (2006) to 30.6 percent (2016).

In other words, to reach that lukewarm 7.8 percent AP passage rate in 2016, Louisiana had many more students taking the test overall in 2016 and not passing it in 2016 than those who took it and did not pass it in 2006.

There is an AP credit diminishing return here, as Nieland noted in her statement, “We have a lot of kids taking it but not really achieving a lot.”

Indeed, the number of students even taking the AP test is also subject to states pushing the test. Consider Arkansas, as noted in the March 2017 Advocate article:

Years ago, state education officials cited Arkansas as a state that showed AP passage rates could rise quickly.

Last year, 17 percent of students there scored a 3 or higher or an AP test, roughly where officials hoped Louisiana would be by now.

The growth stems from a state law that requires each public high school to offer at least one AP course in each core area….

The state then pays for all AP exams taken by the students.

Incentivize the AP test; increase the number of AP test takers.

Increase the number of AP test takers; increase the percentage of students who score 3 or higher on the AP test.

But there are no guarantees of a proportional return. No worries, though. Just advertise success from the angle that works best.

Is Louisiana Curriculum a “Promise”?

The evidence that Berner offers as support for “the promise of curriculum” in Louisiana (and the connection of that curriculum to Common Core) is easily shredded when one  bothers to look just a little bit closer.

  • Louisiana’s NAEP scores are only marvelous is one selectively views them and disregards the nonsignificance of NAEP subgroup comparisons.
  • Louisiana’s average ACT composite has not reached that required for entrance into its regional, four-year universities, with the state’s low-income students on average just able to gain admission to Louisiana’s community colleges without need for remedial coursework. Moreover, teaching-to-the-ACT should be investigated.
  • And Louisiana’s AP credits are creeping up at a much lower rate than the rate of Louisiana AP test takers is increasing.

Shall we make the leap and tie all of these test score situations to Louisiana’s curriculum? Shall we count all to the credit of Common Core?

It’s all in the marketing, I suppose. But I’m not buying it.

___________________________________________________________

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.

“Failing Schools” as Far Back as 1735?

I have temporary access to the newspaper search engine, Newspaperarchive.com. So, I decided to search the term, “failing schools.”

The earliest usage of this term dates back to March 02, 1735, in the Dublin Evening Post.

The context of the term is financial. The 1735 news excerpt concerns “a Voluntary society in Dublin, who associated in the year 1717, for this very Purpose to promote Charity Schools”:

…[The Voluntary Society] assisted some failing Schools by the help of a Collection about once in two Years made in one of the Churches of Dublin….

The second oldest search result for the term, “failing schools,” is in the June 21, 1885, British publication, the Guardian. In this case, the “failing school” is one that does not make efficient usage of its financing. In this extensive article, the author mainly argues for the consolidation of the financing of individual schools and for the establishment of a “slush fund” to assist schools when extenuating fiscal circumstances arise.

The third oldest search result for “failing schools” is from April 29, 1896, also in the Guardian.

The third article is apparently an editorial, written by a man named Jasper Nunn; it concerns an education bill that apparently had two parts: one was an offering of facilities in order to enable the “federation” of individual schools. The other was the offering of a one-time stipend to schools as a substitute for regular, public funding of the schools by “Church rate-payers in school board districts.”

In the context of Nunn’s commentary, it appears that “failing schools” refers to the financial state of the schools:

SIR — It seems desirable that I should reply to the two questions that you are inclined to put to me. The first is whether I contend “that the voluntary schools will be worse off” with an additional grant of 4s. [shillings] per annum, “even though that grant has to be spent upon the improvement of staff and apparatus.” The second is whether the facilities given in the Bill for federation are of no value to poor schools.

I may say that I have long endeavoured to understand the alleged benefits of federation, and, though my mind is open to conviction, I have never yet been able to comprehend them. A number of failing schools are not, like a bundle of weak though sound sticks, stronger by being tied together. They are rather like a number of bankrupt societies gathered under one syndicate, and ripe for the official receiver. But I am open to enlightenment.

With regard to the 4s., if this sum had been put into the Code this year as an addition to the general grant, to meet the increased expense due to recent and impending government requirements, I should have regarded it as a proper concession, and as a token of a friendly hand guiding the Government. But given as it is in the form of a final dole, an excuse for not doing justice, as a professed compensation for continuing to deprive Church rate-payers in school board districts of their share in the rate they are compelled to pay, it should be rejected with indignation.

The Guardian has one other article predating 1900 and in which the term “failing schools” was used: June 14, 1899.

As you might have guessed, a “failing school” was again one in dire economic straits. In short, it appears that legislation had put schools in the position of incurring a new expense in place of what appear to be free or modestly-paid “pupil teacherships” (which sounds like students who are tutors/assistants or possibly what is equivalent to student teachers/apprentices). As a result, it seems that a supervisory positions of oversight of groups of schools might not be possible and that such a loss would remove “efficient help” for fiscally-struggling schools.

Even without a detailed study of the history behind the four articles above, what is clear is that the term, “failing schools,” is not one in which schools– particularly teachers–  are themselves being singled out as failures.

The message behind these articles was one of trying to figure out how to adequately financially support schools.

____________________________________________________________

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.

First Round of ESSA State Plans Are Due April 3rd to a USDOE Severely Lacking in Senior Officials

According to a March 13, 2017, letter that US ed sec Betsy DeVos sent to chief state school officers, states are able to submit their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for two possible deadlines: April 03, 2017, or September 18, 2017.

In that letter, DeVos writes that the state plans will be peer reviewed and that the US Dept of Ed (USDOE) will be in contact with state officers as the applications proceed through the peer review process.

But she does not detail who, exactly, will be in charge of the applications. Who will be responsible for coordinating this peer-reviewed process?

 Betsy DeVos

I suppose that is difficult to detail at this point since DeVos has almost no USDOE senior officials in place in her Department. (I’ll return to this point.)

However, according to the ESSA legislation, here is what is supposed to happen (see pages 20-22):

(4) PEER REVIEW AND SECRETARIAL APPROVAL.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall—

(i) establish a peer-review process to assist in the review of State plans;

(ii) establish multidisciplinary peer-review teams and appoint members of such teams—

(I) who are representative of—

(aa) parents, teachers, principals, other school leaders, specialized instructional support personnel, State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and the community (including the business community); and

(bb) researchers who are familiar with—

(AA) the implementation of academic standards, assessments, or accountability systems; and

(BB) how to meet the needs of disadvantaged students, children with disabilities, and English learners, the needs of low-performing schools, and other educational needs of students;

(II) that include, to the extent practicable, majority representation of individuals who, in the most recent 2 years, have had practical experience in the classroom, school administration, or State or local government (such as direct employees of a school, local educational agency, or State educational agency); and

(III) who represent a regionally diverse cross-section of States;

(iii) make available to the public, including by such means as posting to the Department’s website, the list of peer reviewers who have reviewed State plans under this section;

(iv) ensure that the peer-review teams consist of varied individuals so that the same peer reviewers are not reviewing all of the State plans;

(v) approve a State plan not later than 120 days after its submission, unless the Secretary meets the requirements of clause (vi);

(vi) have the authority to disapprove a State plan only if—

(I) the Secretary—

(aa) determines how the State plan fails to meet the requirements of this section;

(bb) immediately provides to the State, in writing, notice of such determination, and the supporting information and rationale to substantiate such determination;

(cc) offers the State an opportunity to revise and resubmit its State plan, and provides the State—

(AA) technical assistance to assist the State in meeting the requirements of this section;

(BB) in writing, all peer-review comments, suggestions, recommendations, or concerns relating to its State plan; and

(CC) a hearing, unless the State declines the opportunity for such hearing; and

(II) the State—

(aa) does not revise and resubmit its State plan; or

(bb) in a case in which a State revises and resubmits its State plan after a hearing is conducted under subclause (I)(cc)(CC), or after the State has declined the opportunity for such a hearing, the Secretary determines that such revised State plan does not meet the requirements of this section.

(B) PURPOSE OF PEER REVIEW.—The peer-review process shall be designed to—

(i) maximize collaboration with each State;

(ii) promote effective implementation of the challenging State academic standards through State and local innovation; and

(iii) provide transparent, timely, and objective feedback to States designed to strengthen the technical and overall quality of the State plans.

(C) STANDARD AND NATURE OF REVIEW.—Peer reviewers shall conduct an objective review of State plans in their totality and out of respect for State and local judgments, with the goal of supporting State- and local-led innovation and providing objective feedback on the technical and overall quality of a State plan. ‘

(D) PROHIBITION.—Neither the Secretary nor the political appointees of the Department, may attempt to participate in, or influence, the peer-review process.

(5) PUBLIC REVIEW.—All written communications, feedback, and notifications under this subsection shall be conducted in a manner that is transparent and immediately made available to the public on the Department’s website, including—

(A) plans submitted or resubmitted by a State;

(B) peer-review guidance, notes, and comments and the names of the peer reviewers (once the peer reviewers have completed their work);

(C) State plan determinations by the Secretary, including approvals or disapprovals; and

(D) notices and transcripts of hearings under this section.

As per ESSA, USDOE has 120 days to communicate with each state regarding its submitted plan’s approval or disapproval.

Yet according to the USDOE website, the deputy secretary position remains vacant, as is the undersecretary position.

All nine of the US ed assistant secretary positions remain vacant.

Both assistant deputy positions are vacant.

All five executive directorships remain vacant.

And all six directorships are vacant.

Only three senior official positions are currently filled:

  • Kathleen Tighe, Inspector General
  • Jason Gray, Chief Information Officer
  • Tim Soltis, Chief Financial Officer

So, which of these senior staffers will be in charge of ESSA?

Or will DeVos do it herself?

However, (and aside from the 24 senior staff vacancies noted above), it seems that as of April 02, 2017, Trump has selected another USDOE senior official– Jeb Bush-connected Carlos Muñiz— for the position of general counsel. Muñiz awaits Senate approval.

Still, Muñiz will not be in charge of ESSA applications… unless USDOE is dysfunctional…. (Voice trails off….)

120 days.

120 days from April 03, 2017, is August 01, 2017.

Then, the second batch of ESSA applications is due September 18, 2017.

And DeVos cannot simply rubber-stamp the applications in the name of power-to-the-states because of the detailed, publicized, peer-review requirements.

This ought to be interesting.

_____________________________________________________________

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.