John White Tells the Truth! Charter Schools are Not About Children or Choice, They are About Cashflow

In the past I would write posts about John White’s lies.  However his lies have become so commonplace (and obvious) that eventually the public stopped paying attention.  It was generally accepted that if John White’s lips were moving, he was lying.  (“White Lies” is how they are frequently referred to online.) However John White is living proof that it’s difficult to lie all the time. Invariably you are going to let some truth out to someone, somewhere. Because this happens so infrequently the times he tells the truth are perhaps the most interesting now.

Take for instance this clip I made from the December 1st 2015 BESE meeting where John White explains to the public why he has chosen to authorize charter schools in public school districts that don’t want them, with plenty of options, choices and under financial strain, but is refusing to authorize them in New Orleans, which is 100% charter controlled.

Louisiana State Superintendent John White:

“If you were running a traditional school system you would never open a new school when you have an enrollment deficit.  And here we have a charter system.  So on one hand you’re called to authorize charter schools.  On the other hand [RSD] superintendent Dobard and I must determine what the right enrollment balance is, just like a traditional system.

I will tell you this type 2 charter school, and I have told this to Dr. Triplett, cannot open this year.  It cannot open this year.

It may open in a year when the enrollment re-stabilizes and we have another need, but I have been very clear to them for this year, as a type 2 charter school because it would add to the number of seats when our kindergarten enrollment is down.

Now I think she has also applied for a type 5 charter school.  That type 5 charter school could take over for schools that are struggling. Uh. We are recommending its for approval as well.  And she could, uh, provide services within a currently existing school.  But a standalone new additional set of however many new kindergarten kids, 50 or 100 or so, I just do not see how we can do that and be fair to the school system.”

This is very interesting because it goes against every idea the charter industry pushes as the need for new charter schools.  This decision limits choice at a time where only about 30% of the kids get their first choice by the OneAp system that assigns kids to schools in the city.  Some kids must get up at 4 am and don’t return home till 7 at night, even when their first pick choice is directly across the street form their house! Unfortunately assignments are determined by a lottery system and an algorithm, not by common sense or rationality.

This decision of John White’s goes against the cornerstone idea of the charter industry’s claim to want to foster competition, where the best schools will rise to the top based on parental choices and the worst schools will be driven out of business if they don’t please their clients.  (Once charter schools are in place they want to harvest their automatic allotment of kids for their MFP dollars and their allies find excuses to make this happen.)

This goes against the idea of preserving and improving quality.  John White asked for extensions and renewals of numerous D and F rated charter schools in RSD before this statement (which many community members asked him to reject.)

This also goes against the philosophy John White applies to every other public school system in the state.  He is happy to drive traditional public schools into bankruptcy by overriding their decisions to open new charter schools, even as he clearly understands the ramifications of what he is doing:

If you were running a traditional school system you would never open a new school when you have an enrollment deficit.

He is not just overriding local superintendents opinions but the opinions and desires of the actual communities where these schools are being opened!

East Baton Rouge School Board member of district 3, Mrs. Nelson-Smith, the exact place where the 2 charter schools John White authorized at this meeting, explains that while the charter operators did meet with her and other members of the community, they failed to relay to the state school board, BESE, that “We did not approve them.” and that these new STEM charter schools are not needed in this area, which is already designated as the STEM hub for all of EBR and perhaps the worst place to open them in EBR.

 

 

Charter schools are clearly not about choice.  They are not about competition.  They are not about quality.  They are not about satisfying the desire or needs of the public.  They are clearly not about children.  They are about charter schools.

John White is one of the industries greatest charter school/portfolio advocates in the country and oversees the only complete charter district in the nation.  Now that they have replaced the traditional system they are digging their heels in even as interest in their “choices” wanes (the reason for the decline White refuses to acknowledge during this meeting).

Charter schools, as they are being implemented now, are about profitability and control. Now that they have the control they are working on the profitability part by hiring inexperienced employees, providing substandard materials, increasing class sizes while fudging results to keep official results “passable” if not overly impressive. If they were actually forced to fight for their students with quality personnel, materials, and results they would not be as profitable as their investors want them to be and some might even go out of business.

Charter schools are not competition, they are not capitalism, they are simply another example of government cronyism.  This is one time that I actually believe what John White is saying:

If you were running a traditional school system you would never open a new school when you have an enrollment deficit. And here we have a charter system. [..]

I will tell you this type 2 charter school, and I have told this to Dr. Triplett, cannot open this year. It cannot open this year. [..]

I just do not see how we can do that and be fair to the school system.

 

John White’s final days or rabbit trick waiting to happen?

John White’s final days or rabbit trick waiting to happen?

Those who follow k-12 education in Louisiana closely know about state supt. John White and his illusionist tricks.  There have been several times over the last few years I expected John to hightail it out of here, only to see him double down on his egregious and dishonest behavior and come out stronger than before each crisis.  Amazing and mystifying, but he is a true magician.

In the last BESE (BESE is the State School Board responsible for hiring and firing the state superintendent) election John White’s out-of-state billionaire supporters (led by education crime syndicate boss and chairman of LABI, Lane Grigsby) poured millions into the race to save his lying ass from getting canned for all the atrocious, dishonest, and antagonistic behavior he’s exhibited over his entire tenure as State Sup and local Sup of the New Orleans Recovery School District.

White even received some national notoriety (and praise) for “standing up” to Governor Bobby Jindal over the issue of Common Core State Standards. While this dispute may have been staged for the benefit of Jindal’s National presidential ambitions from the outside it looked like Jindal was really giving White a hard time.

(Fighting something controversial is a good way to stay in the media – see Donald Trump’s entire campaign – but actually resolving issues has a way of removing that spotlight so I don’t believe Jindal actually wanted to resolve the Common Core issue.)

Jindal is now leaving office in disgrace, unable to become more than a sad footnote in this presidential race, unable to extricate the state from Common Core, leaving a mortgaged state in shambles with a budget held together by rusty screws and tattered, generic Scotch tape, and a gaping multi-billion dollar deficit for years to come for governor elect John Bel Edwards.

Whatever the truth, Jindal looks like Tweedle-dum, and White looks like the Cheshire cat that ate that rat.  John White has the effect on people.

John White’s fortunes may be looking up.  Grigsby and his corporate education cabal managed to snare 7 of 8 elected BESE seats through lies, trickery, false promises and outrageous SuperPAC spending.  4 very vocal critics of White will be gone from BESE by the January meeting and he will have 7 solidly purchased allies in his pocket (and in the pocket of the charter industry who purchased their seats.)

John White was obviously feeling his oats at the December 1st BESE meeting where he routinely interrupted and spoke rudely and condescendingly to the outgoing members and only provided materials to members to review on the day of the meeting, prompting at least one citizen to publicly chastise the board for their lack of decorum and preparation.  White was even rude and combative to citizens providing testimony at the meeting.

(As usual, every one of John White’s recommendations was rubber-stamped by his accomplices on the board.)

Not exactly the actions of someone who feels they may be at the end of their rope.

Governor elect Edwards will appoint 3 members, and the 8th elected official, Kathy Edmonston, is an ally of mine, an NPE endorsed candidate, and a staunch opponent of all things John White, and John White himself.

 (As an interesting note, I learned John White and outgoing BESE district 6  representative Chas Roemer audaciously tried to butter Edmonston up right after the election, but she was having none of that foolishness.  After their allies manipulated video of Kathy to  accuse her of being an idiot who wants an illiterate America I predict it’s unlikely she will be coming around to their side anytime soon.)

As Dr. Mercedes Schneider discovered and covered in her blog, John White’s contract ends with the new terms of BESE and the Governor. It also requires 8 votes to approve a contract.  Governor elect John Bel Edwards has consistently insisted he wants John White gone, and will do anything in his power to see that happen.

I do not believe John White can stay as Superintendent of Education while I am Governor. And to the extent that I can control that, that will not happen. Because I do not find him to be honest and credible when he deals with the legislature and other members of the public in Louisiana.
I know, for example, from some of his dealings with me, and some of the things he has said about me.
We know he went into a Senate Education Committee meeting with the intended purpose of muddying the water as opposed to telling the truth. He did it to promote a bill that was patently unconstitutional, that he had to have known was unconstitutional: funding vouchers through the Minimum Foundation Program. That is a problem for me.

(From where I stand there is no way John White can reach the 8 vote threshold on an 11 member board.  Other LDOE personnel under contract immediately cease to work there when their contract expires.  I would have expected the same to happen here although it sounds like White will remain as a month to month employee under the terms of his original contract per Dr. Schneider’s blog.)

Moreover I have been assured by another longtime source that not all of Grigsby/LABI’s backed 7 approve of John White and will vote to keep him.  If that is true White is sitting at 6 or fewer votes of the required 8 he needs to keep his job.

(I have discussed working with the new administration to target those staffers loyal John White’s lies and not to Louisiana’s children with members of John Bel’s campaign prior to the election.  I hope they end up in a position to take me up on that offer.)

However another longtime source has revealed John White is claiming to his staff that he has the required 8 votes he needs.

OH- JW has told some staffers that he has 8 votes (that would mean Edmiston is in his pocket) AND – he will remain as superintendent.This may simply be another of John White’s lies meant to keep his staff from staging a mass exodus.

I disagree that White has Edmonston in his pocket, however White is a wiley bastard and his allies have deep pockets and no fear of employing lies or deceit to get what they want. Another possibility is that Edwards has offered BESE positions already to some folks who are planning on betraying him and his wishes on keeping John White.

I have not been contacted by the transitional Edwards administration despite offering my services on multiple occasions, although some 53 others have been contacted and appointed to a k-12 advisory committee. One of the members of this advisory committee is a former BESE member,  a well connected and wealthy New Orleans Democrat, claims to be the RSD architect, and is a staunch John White supporter named Leslie Jacobs.

This is a concern for me and I would hope her role remains limited as she is a proponent of everything John Bel has claimed he is against.

Obviously this is making me a little nervous as the time approaches for Edwards to take office and make his appointments.  I chose to back Edwards in the last election in large part for his history and stances on education issues and don’t wish to have to turn that support to withering scrutiny so early in his term, but I haven’t fought this long just to see a new administration support the same bad people and terrible ideas.

I have a much longer history keeping an eye on White than just about anyone in this state and I know he’s slicker than WD40 smeared on an icy lake.  The Edwards administration doesn’t have to contact me of course.  (Who am I to them after all?) However I don’t see many of my allies on his list of 53 nor have many of my allies who have exposed White’s corruption been contacted.   I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but to make sure they are equipped with enough info to pry White out of his dank DOE hole.  They don’t have to contact me, but they damn well better be successful in getting rid of him if they don’t.

I would like to offer a word of caution to Edwards’ transition team since they appear disinclined to contact me at this time.  White is covering for a lot of demons and hiding a lot of skeletons at LDOE. Don’t expect his allies to give him up without a fight or for him to go quietly.  Don’t squander this opportunity for real change and transparency.  If you let him stay he will stab you in the ass, just like he did to Jindal, and he’ll enjoy it immensely.  K-12 education may not be your top priority compared to the budget crisis and planned Medicare expansion, but it may be your downfall if you’re not careful.

White always seems to have just the right rabbit to pull out of his hat at just the right moment.

Fortunately I still a few tricks left up my sleeves as well. . .

 

JW_Rabbit
Beat that, Copperfield.

How John White Will Use His Own Failures to Sink Governor Elect John Bel Edwards (If he stays on)

I have been writing for years about the numerous ways John White has been lying about the “progress” his agenda has brought the state of Louisiana.  White has inflated the graduate rate, inflated the matriculation rate, depressed the dropout counts, flipped the LEAP and End of Course test scores to show Louisiana students are doing better,  while they are actually doing much worse, sheltered RSD and charter schools from investigations, wiped out the Special Education department and forced his employees to commit fraud to keep their jobs on a routine basis and violated federal laws and policies in regards to funding allocations, shared data illegally with third party vendors and researchers that only favor his agenda while withholding data from independent researchers (for years) costing the state many thousands of dollars in litigation fees.  These are just a few of the underhanded and unethical practices John White has engaged in on a regular basis.  White even has one of his former lieutenants in place on the State’s board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  All of this bodes ill for John Bel if he is not able to remove John White promptly, and properly audit, recalculate and re-report the previous years’ fraudulently prepared education data.

John White has quietly amassed an enormous power base in Louisiana.  He has legislators, superintendents, super Pacs, LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry run by a Grigsby figurehead), APEL  a pseudo teachers union run by a LABI/Grigsby promoted figurehead, The Times Picayune editorial board, The Advocate editorial board and management, Teach for America (who also has a BESE member, Kira Orange Jones that will support White unquestioningly), Stand for Children (run by a former White/LDOE staffer) ,CABL, BAEO (run by a former White/LDOE staffer), DFER (Democrats for Education Reform), and Lane Grigsby in his back pocket. That’s just to name of few of his instate supporter power players and organizations.

White also has the ability to draw down millions of dollars from out of state ed reform minded billionaires to wage war on John Bel Edwards on his behalf.  Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Jim and Alice Walton, that spent millions defaming BESE candidates across the state (for unpaid positions) in the recent elections.  Unless John Bel wants to turn his entire education agenda over to these groups, he will be unendingly assailed by them throughout his term.  He will probably be attacked even then because:

  • LABI would like to find a way to remove him and put someone loyal to them on every issue.
  • John Bel have to renege on his promises to do something about John White, Common Core, and the corruptions and malfeasance at LDOE.

The latter would alienate many of the folks  I rallied to support him based on the belief JBE would have our backs.

LABI and these other groups would still angle to remove John Bel with outrageous lies and misrepresentations, like they did for so many of the BESE candidates in the last elections.

The most diabolical aspect of this is; John White could simply agree to everything John Bel asks him to do, he could cooperate in every way, and he could even release the actual data starting from day one of John Bel’s term.  Unfortunately, this would prove disastrous.

John White has built an enormous and unfounded success data bubble.  If this pops only during John Bel’s term in office, and the scores are not properly recalculated for previous years, it will be an easy claim to make and support, that:

  • John Bel ruined education in Louisiana.

I expect White and his staff, along with Lane Grigsby and Bridgette Nieland with LABI, are working on some plan like this right now at LDOE to propose to John Bel and his leadership team.

This will be a poisoned olive branch, much like the Common Core compromise turned out to be for actual anti-Common Core BESE candidates this fall.  LABI’s candidates also claimed to be against Common Core, and for Louisiana Standards.  They sent out mailers proudly proclaiming their disdain for Common Core, support for high standards, and embracement of the Common Core compromise.  Some BESE candidates, like the re-elected Holly Boffy, even ludicrously claimed to have led the fight against Common Core, while actually getting paid by CCSSO to support and promote it as a paid consultant.

Truth has no meaning to these people.  Lane Grigsby actually met with me and told me he was tired of all the education politics and was going to be sitting out getting heavily involved this year.  Instead he raised millions of dollars to launch misleading, continuous, and deceitful attack ads on his opponents while also donating and having all of his friends and family donate the maximum allowable amount to the candidates he supported.  Based on the similarity of all the produced commercials and mailouts for all 9 candidates he supported it is very likely he had a hand in running both candidates actual campaigns as well as the Super Pac that also promoted them.  This type of coordination is theoretically a no-no, but I have yet to hear of anyone ever sanctioned in any way for doing this.

I would recommend getting knowledgable and outspoken critics of John White and Common Core placed on the board as his appointees – from different political parties.  Fortunately there are quite a few great candidates for these jobs available – still sore from the lies John White and his allies used to assail them.  Motivation for counter-attacking and applying pressure to John White should not be an issue for these folks, as they already have lengthy track records in putting  students, teachers and parents before corporations and firsthand experience at how these shady folks work. I would also recommend putting someone like me in charge of education policy or LDOE’s IT department, which is now a division of DOA and not beholden to John White – thanks to Jindal’s statewide IT reorganization.  The governor has complete authority over DOA.  Once John White is removed, most of his unclassified executive staff should be jettisoned as well.  I would also recommend putting someone in charge of RSD who is not Patrick Dobard or his second in command.  I have had reports that Dobard’s mission is to acquire as many schools from as many districts as quickly as possible so they can be turned over to charter operators.  He has even expressed dismay when traditional public schools run by local school districts improve, because that puts a wrench in his plan to acquire them.  John White’s and Patrick Dobard’s mission is to eventually take over all public schools in Louisiana and run them from a statewide agency as a charter portfolio.

Baton Rouge is actually slated to be their next target for mass charter invasion and takeover.  It has been reported to me that before Edwards assumes office, on the December 2nd 2015 agenda, BESE is expected to vote to approve New Schools for Baton Rouge (run by a former LDOE executive staffer) as a type B1 charter authorizer.  This means the state board will vote to completely bypass local EBR school board authority in charter decisions and hand it over to a private, unelected organization to approve as many charter schools as they want, anywhere in the city, as New Schools for New Orleans does in New Orleans.  Next up will be New Schools for Lafayette, New Schools for Lake Charles, New Schools for Shreveport, and finally New Schools for Louisiana as they finally bypass local school boards entirely.

These folks never sleep.  It is important to get ground game going as soon as possible, because 4 years will go by before you know it.

 

The Seabaugh Solution Apology and Explanation

VAM (Valued Added Modeling) is garbage.  It does not work. Louisiana’s system is especially flawed. The underlying premise behind VAM is also flawed, and no VAM assessment (good or bad) should be trusted.  Before I wrote about the Seabaugh Solution I wrote numerous articles about this.

I probably have have dozens of articles where I discuss the fallacies of VAM.  Others around our state have written dozens more.  As a data analyst by trade myself, this misuse and misapplication of data is especially infuriating.

Recently, a series of articles I wrote about an Louisiana Department of Education conspiracy to adjust the entire VAM system to benefit 3 teachers in Caddo was rediscovered, and made popular, but without all the backstory and context.  (I hope those that are promoting that story will also promote this one.)

This conspiracy was actually named the Seabaugh Solution by John White’s staff.  John White, and several of his executive TFA staffers recruited from out of state, carried out this deception after discovering it was flagging our best teachers as our worst teachers.  Please let this sink in.  They understood that VAM was identifying our best teachers as our worst teachers, and they have continued to promote this charade to this day.  Their behavior is well into the loathsome territory here, folks.

A number of native Louisiana citizens working at the department at the time were outraged by this perversion of the VAM system. They could not have disclosed it without jeopardizing their jobs and careers.  Nevertheless, at great personal risk to themselves, they notified me and fellow blogger Tom Aswell, at Louisiana Voice, so we could alert the public to this travesty being perpetrated against our teachers.  Please read Tom’s story for more specific details and background.

My intent was never to involve the specific teachers.  (VAM only has a 25% accuracy rate at best.)  Internally these teachers were sometimes referred to as ineffective by VAM calculations, and by other less flattering terms.  However the truth is in fact the exact opposite.  I was trying to make an ironic point by referring to them as “crappy” when both John White and Alan Seabaugh knew, or claimed to know, the exact opposite was true. The students of these teachers scored consistently at the top – for the entire state.  These teachers initially labels as “ineffective” were in actuality some our best teachers. VAM had classified them as our worst.

Legislators need to understand this and ban VAM from being used in the future for any punitive purpose.  They are knowingly persecuting and hanging innocent teachers in a politically motivated witch hunt that is none of their business in the first place.  LDOE is a state agency and not them employer of these teachers. LDOE should not be making judgments about them from afar; especially based solely on a  few pieces of data that were never meant for the purpose they are being used.

Sadly, these truly outstanding teachers were not alone.  Many teachers across the state are classified as ineffective because their students scored so well it was impossible for them to improve.  Others were classified as horrible because they were teaching some of our most disabled, neglected, homeless, limited English, and poverty stricken kids and learning and improvement is not always linear. VAM assumes all kids will improve at a completely linear rate regardless of teacher or circumstances and teachers are responsible for any and all deviation from that rate.  That’s just ridiculous assumption.  Furthermore, for a child to contribute the maximum points to each teacher ever your would require exponential improvement; which is impossible.  These tests have a finite range.  You can’t improve beyond 100%.  As illustrated by the need for the Seabaugh Solution, for VAM to work for teachers with students performing in the upper ranges, the tests would need to have no upper boundary, they would have to be worth an infinite amount of points.

Teachers have resigned in shame and have even committed suicide  across the nation after being unjustly defined by VAM systems as inferior.

LOS ANGELES — Colleagues of Rigoberto Ruelas were alarmed when he failed to show up for work one day in September. They described him as a devoted teacher who tutored students before school, stayed with them after and, on weekends, took students from his South Los Angeles elementary school to the beach.

When his body was found in a ravine in the Angeles National Forest, and the coroner ruled it a suicide, Mr. Ruelas’s death became a flash point, drawing the city’s largest newspaper into the middle of the debate over reforming the nation’s second-largest school district.

When The Los Angeles Times released a database of “value-added analysis” of every teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in August, Mr. Ruelas was rated “less effective than average.” Colleagues said he became noticeably depressed, and family members have guessed that the rating contributed to his death.

I was actually trying to highlight a real problem for out teachers across the state.  I am trying to prevent more, Rigoberto Ruelas tragedies, in our state.  Great teachers labeled have been and continue to be labeled as terrible by a terribly inaccurate and unjust data system.

Part of the problem is how the state has expanded its reach into places it has no business being in.  The state needs to get out of our local classrooms.  It is not helping.  John White’s department of Education is tearing our teachers and students down while claiming it is building them up.  As your teachers what they think about the LDOE’s involvement in their classrooms.  As the Seabaugh Solution shows, even LDOE can’t trust LDOE’s own data.  John White even said this in his conversation with Alan Seabaugh.

I beg you, please do not refer to these teachers as crappy, inferior, ineffective, or anything other than mistreated by a system I was trying to expose as outrageously unfair, dehumanizing and debasing.  The legislature may not have understood this at the time, but they should understand this now.  Anyone who supports VAM is attacking our teachers and children for political points.  It’s not a coincidence that a psychologist, and not a professor of mathematics, designed and endorses this system.  It’s not just that VAM is “a little off”, it’s actually completely backwards and entirely unreliable.

The outrage here is that John White and his executive staff fully understood the implications of what they were told.  Top teachers were being lambasted and shamed by an unjust data system.   John White knew his staff tried dozens of ways to calculate the VAM numbers and could not find a credible way to prevent some of our greatest teachers from being classified as “crappy” so White gave these teachers “bonus points” as he often does for charter schools he’s trying to save from his accountability system, which is also flawed.

Initial supporters of VAM may have had the best of intentions, but VAM is not the answer and never will be because the underlying premise is flawed.  VAM is victimizing our teachers.

Instead of conceding this, LDOE and John White simply added bonus points to certain teachers and shifted the curve downward to classify a new set of teachers as ineffective.  This new set of teachers might have been outstanding too, but they did not have an Alan Seabaugh willing or able to speak for them.

The State needs to discard VAM once and for all.  Not only is evaluating teachers none of their business, LDOE and John White are knowingly doing a horrible job, and playing favorites in the process.

My deepest apologies to the teachers involved.  My intention was to highlight the flaws in VAM to prevent what happened to you from happening to others.

Jindal scrutinizes micro-contracts

I’ll be honest.  When i piggybacked ( http://wp.me/p2iZLF-Kp )on Mercedes  Schneider’s post about John White seeking to stealthily contract out PARCC like questions on the sly last week, (and recommended someone notify the Jindal administration I didn’t really think that anyone would do it, and if they did I didn’t think it would amount to much.) 

Then i saw this article:

http://www.wbrz.com/news/jindal-administration-questioning-education-contracts/

This situation bares watching.  This could get interesting.  Jindal is now public about knowing about this, and John White is running out of time to build or buy some tests for the Spring.

You guess is as good as mine as to how this will turn out.  Get some popcorn though, this cluster might be fun to watch pop.

Nice tip, sources who will remain anonymous.  :)

LDOE has not audited themselves since Katrina

According to a new article written by Jessica Williams at the Times Picayune, the LDOE has not performed an internal risk assessment since 2006, the same year the state was impacted by Katrina.  They could also not show how they were auditing any programs internally.

http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2014/12/louisiana_education_department_3.html

The Louisiana Department of Education did not effectively audit its $5 billion operation in the 2014 fiscal year, state auditors said. According to a legislative audit released Monday (Dec. 1), state education officials had an internal audit plan for that year, but could not show that they had actually audited any programs.

This information jives with what I learned when I was investigating some payroll fraud claims by current and former employees of LDOE. When Paul Pastorek and then John White took over management of LDOE, they did not want anyone snooping in their business (legislatively required or not.)  They allowed the audit department to dwindle to zero supervised employees (as employees left or retired they reallocated those audit positions to their own executive staff) and just a single audit manager responsible for auditing the disbursement of over 5 billion dollars annually as well as the oversight of all day to day operations of the 500-700 or so LDOE employees and their paper timesheets.

I tipped Daryl off to LDOE’s inability to perform even the most basic of audits, the lack of personnel, and the rampant abuse by John White’s executive staff of “working” from home (as reported by numerous time keeping staff), over the summer.  We discussed the issues with proving payroll fraud with a complicit boss covering for them, as well as the possibly of performance audits.

I learned from internal staff that the auditors from Darryl’s team had stumbled across rampant disregard for rules and abuse and were aggressively auditing LDOE –  for the first time in at least a decade.  LDOE is responsible for one of the largest chunks of our 25 billion dollar annual budget (if not the largest) and for years had been escaping any oversight whatsoever.  Most of their metrics for evaluating themselves are flawed, their conclusions are biased and often quite absurd non sequiturs –  as pointed our recently by a professor from Harvard.

Are you happy with the current BESE rubberstampers that approves expenditures like this?

The report also highlights the misdeeds of an embattled eastern New Orleans non-profit director, as previously outlined in a June audit. Former Open World Family Services Inc. executive director Kim Cassell spent $307,500 in public education funding on travel, pet-grooming supplies and other personal expenses, state Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera noted.

The state Education Department distributed nearly $1.6 million in federal grants that Cassell’s organization used to operate. She now faces three felony criminal charges.

The education department’s failure to effectively audit increases “the risk that errors and/or fraud could occur and remain undetected,” Purpera added. The department managed $5.1 billion in public revenue in 2014.

The audit reveals that 5.1 billion dollars of your tax dollars may be going anywhere as far as John White and 8 of the 11 BESE members may care.  Daryl could not audit all of the programs, he was only able to audit the auditors and their audits (or lack thereof).  Most fraud and abuse should be detected by the department long before Purpera’s team needs to get involved.

That means there are many more dog grooming expenditures out there yet to be discovered, and which probably never will be.

Special thanks to BESE member Jane Smith for putting me in contact with Darryl and fighting so valiantly for the cause she has recently joined.  I am also very thankful for BESE member Lottie Bebee for being a fierce and tireless defender of our state and children and BESE member Carolyn Hill for fighting alongside them.

LDOE’s statistical methods and reports are beyond useless according to Harvard professor

(Provided by Mary K. Bellisario)

 

Question: Have press releases issued by the LA Dept. of Education been accurate,especially regarding specific analysis ofresults of student AP tests, possibly ACT tests,  PARCC preparation, and the VAM– Value-added Method for teacher evaluations? 

 

Further:  Should legislators base their decisions, and vote their support, oninformation contained in state press releases about public education whichcould be inaccurate?

 

An independent, nationally-recognized data analyst, Dr. A. J. Guarino, is doubtful that data from the LA Dept. of Education is being analyzed or presented accurately.  He gives his reasons below. He calls into serious question analysisprocedures and “selective” reporting in three specific areas:  AP test results (and possibly ACT results), PARCC preparation, and the VAM method of teacher evaluation.

 

Attached above and below is an unsolicited critical analysis of information that has recently come from the LA Dept. of Education, describing Louisiana’s purported progress in public education.  The analyst, Dr. A. J. Guarino,is a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard University teaching hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital of Health Professions. He and his graduate students routinely collect and analyze media reports from around the U.S. for their accuracy.   Dr. Guarino has ties to Louisiana, where he formerly served as president of the Louisiana Education Research Association (LERA). 

 

If you have further questions, or want to verify his credentials, Dr. Guarino can be reached at:  ajguarino@mgh.harvard.edu

 

Among Dr. Guarino’s conclusions are: 

“When looked at collectively, there is a troubling trend of either the misrepresentation of statistical outcomes or the incorrect application of statistical principles.”

 

Further, Dr. Guarino concludes: 

“Based upon my professional experience, I believe the Department of Education and Superintendent White have created both of these scenarios.  My intent is to bring attention to these problems so that legislators and policy makers can make informed decisions moving forward.”

__________________________________ 

Teaching, learning, and assessment: The closed circle

A. J. Guarino*

I certify that there is no conflict of interest with any financial organizationregarding the content of this letter.

The intent of this posting is to report on findings and policies that are based uponincomplete information or misapplication of statistical principles.

        I am a professor of biostatistics at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions in Boston (teaching hospital for Harvard) where I teach basic and advanced quantitative methods to graduate students in the health sciences. To document the need to be “statistically literate,” I present reports from media sources purporting major findings while failing to provide essential information, which often contradicts their “major findings.” As the former president of the Louisiana Education Research Association (LERA), I continue to follow the educational developments in Louisiana.  Over the past weeks and months, I noticed “press releases” and other media containing only selective information, which made the reported findings suspicious. After securing the full information, my analyses did not replicate those of the press-releases.

        Decisions must never be derived from findings that fail to provide complete information. At this stage of my career, my community-service is to report possible data misrepresentations that appear in the media. I would never seek nor accept compensation to provide statistical consultation.   

1.      Reporting of AP Test Scores

A recent press-release by Superintendent White noted that AP passing rates increased 24.6%, the highest in the nation, from 5,144 in 2013 to 6,407 in 2014. What is conspicuously missing is the ratio between successful tests and unsuccessful tests for each year.  The first number (5,144) represents a reported 5.3% passing rate while the second number (6,407) represents a 4.1% passing; in other words, the AP passing rate actually Decreased 22.64% from 2013 to 2014.

(5.3 – 4.1) /5.3 = 1.2/5.3 = .2264 (22.64%)

The failure to provide the essential information grossly distorts the interpretation. In order to review the actual passing rates for the latest round of tests, I had to obtain that information from a newspaper article the next day.  Here is the summary:  Of the 55,000 or so additional tests in 2014, only 1,263 (approximately 2.2%) passed. These data were never mentioned in the press release. 

Calculating the percent increase from the raw data without taking into consideration the contexts of those numbers is complicity. This is like saying more people finished the Boston Marathon this year than last year only because more people entered the race.  Given the ever increasing monies expended by the state to provide for students to take AP exams, it would be appropriate for those holding the data to inform those who need the data to make informed decisions that, last year, approximately 156,000 total AP tests were given and around 6,407 passed (i.e., 4.1%).

6407/156000 = .0410 (4.1%)

One final note on this matter: It appears that the ACT results have been reported in a similar fashion to the AP scores.  If that is the case, and the increases in the number of tests that were scored at 18 or higher are due to increased numbers of students taking the tests then those results are equally distorted.

2.      Preparation for PARCC Exams

A recent press release from the Superintendent of the State Department of Education states: Since 2010, teachers and state assessment staff in more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have developed questions, accommodations, and policies that make for an improved blueprint for standardized testing.

At first glance, the statement appears to be quite informative. However, my graduate students were quick to notice the missing essential information, i.e.,Curriculum. It is significant to note that a “Test” is a type of assessment that evaluates academic achievement. Downing & Yudkowsky (2009) explain, “…assessment and instruction are intimately related. Teaching, learning and assessment form a closed circle, with each entity tightly bound to the other” (p. 9) .

Superintendent White broke the “closed circle” by suggesting that neither Eureka Math nor any other curriculum is favored for state testing.  In a note to a high level government official who was expressing concerns about Eureka Math, Superintendent White replied:  “We will also continue to insist, as you urge, that state tests be aligned to high expectations for our students’ skills and not to any particular curriculum (emphasis added).” 

In other words, Superintendent White is suggesting that Louisiana should give high-stakes exams to studentsirrespective of the fact that students, teachers, and stakeholders have not been given a clear curriculum on the first day of school.  How do you test what you are supposed to know at the end of the year if you haven’t communicated those expectations at the beginning of the year?  Lack of clarity for curriculum guarantees that profit-driven entities will provide their own curriculum, all of which purportedly provide the best means of preparing students to meet expectations laid out by high-stakes exams.  This guarantees a process that is costly, inefficient, and ill-defined.

The DOE discreetly recognizes this unfortunate reality by designating certain curriculum derived by outside sources as “Tier 1.”   However, no outside entity can provide to parents and teachers on the first day of school what students should know and how they will be expected to demonstrate that knowledge; this responsibility falls squarely to the DOEand to this point in time it is a responsibility that has not been met. TheDOE tacitly acknowledges its failure to generate curriculum when it continues to insist that school systems are free to use whatever curriculum they choose. 

The lack of a state generated curriculum that is available on the first day of school short circuits end-of-course exams..Results are tainted since there has been no defined path presented to articulate the criteria, much less communicate how the criteria will be met. 

3.  The Evaluation of Teachers via a Value-Added Model (VAM)

The Louisiana Department of Education has implemented the Value Added Measures (VAM) as part of a teacher’s performance evaluation. However, implementation of any educational interventions must be supported by the best available research results (evidence) or more formally known as Evidence-Based Practice (EBP). For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) require that schools use programs, curricula, and practices based on “scientifically-based research” “to the extent practicable.” The best available research from the American Educational Research Association (AERA)  reports the following, “…weak to nonexistent relationships between state-administered value-added model (VAM) measures of teacher performance and the content or quality of teachers’ instruction.” Implications of these resultsfail to support the utility of VAM data for teacher evaluations. Concurring with the AERA findings is the American Statistical Association , the largest organization in America that represents statisticians and related fields.  The Louisiana Department of Education’s implementation of theValue Added Measures (VAM) as part of a teacher’s performance evaluation is in conflict with Evidence-Based Practice (EBP).

Conclusion

When looked at collectively, there is a troubling trend of either the misrepresentation of statistical outcomes or the incorrect application of statistical principles.  If the results aremisrepresented, you do not have all the necessary data to make an informed decision (#1 above).  If the statistical principles are incorrectly applied, you have created a fundamentally flawed process that provides no meaningful interpretations (#2 and 3 above). 

Based upon my professional experience, I believe the Department of Education and Superintendent White have created both of these scenarios. 

My intent is to bring attention to these problems so that legislators and policy makers can make informed decisions moving forward.

________________________________________________ 

Bio:  Dr. A.J. Guarino

*A. J. Guarino presently teaches biostatistics at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions in Boston. In 2011, Dr. Guarino was awarded the 2011 Nancy T. Watts Award for Excellence in Teaching – the highest prize given to a faculty member at Boston’s health sciences graduate school.  He received his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and his doctorate in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in statistics and psychometrics. He has published over 50 refereed research articles in a variety of fields in health, education, psychology, assessment, and statistics and presented nearly one-hundred papers at national and regional conferences. Dr. Guarino has also coauthored five graduate level statistics textbooks.  A partial list of recent scholarship is provided below.  Dr. Guarino has also served as president of the Louisiana Education Research Association (LERA). 

He can be reached at: ajguarino@mgh.harvard.edu 

Recent Scholarship

Textbooks:

Meyers, L., Gamst, G. & Guarino, A. J. (2013). Performing Data Analysis: Using IBM SPSS. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Meyers, L., Gamst, G. & Guarino, A. J. (2013). Applied Multivariate Research Design and Interpretation Second Ed. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Meyers, L., Gamst, G. & Guarino, A. J. (2006). Applied Multivariate Research Design and Interpretation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Gamst, G., Meyers, L., & Guarino, A. J. (2008). Analysis of Variance Designs. New York: Cambridge Press.

Meyers, L., Gamst, G. & Guarino, A. J. (2009). Data Analysis Using SAS Enterprise Guide. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publication.

Refereed Articles and Presentations

Matthews, L. T., Ghebremichael, M., Giddy, J., Hampton, J., Guarino, A. J., Ewusi, A., Carver, E., Axten, K., Geary, M., Gandhi, R. T., Bangsberg, D. R. (2011). A Risk Factor-Based Approach to Reducing the Likelihood of Lactic Acidosis and Hyperlactatemia in Patients on Antiretroviral Therapy. PLoS ONE 6(4), 1-7.

Nahas, S. J., Young, W.B., Terry, R., Kim, A., Van, D. T., Guarino, A.J., & Silberstein SD. (2010). Right-to-left shunt is common in chronic migraine. Cephalalgia 30(5), 535-42.

Chesser, S., Forbes, S. A., & Guarino, A. J. (November, 2011).  Investigation of intra-individual response of the stress hormone cortisol to varying educational environments (single vs. mixed sex groupings). Poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Washington DC.

Lopez, R. P., & Guarino, A. J. (2013). Psychometric Evaluation of the Surrogate Decision Making Self-Efficacy Scale. Research in Gerontological Nursing 6(1), 71-76.DOI: 10.3928/19404921-20121203-02

Certain, L., Guarino, A. J., & Greenwald, J. (2011). Effective Multilevel Teaching Techniques on Attending Rounds: a Pilot Survey and Systematic Review of the Literature. Medical Teacher, 33, 644-650.

Hastie, P., & Guarino, A.J. (2013). The Development of Skill and Knowledge during a Season of Track and Field Athletics. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sports.

Lopez, R.P., & Guarino, A.J. (May, 2011). Confirmatory factor analysis of the Surrogate Decision Making Self-Efficacy Scale (SDM-SES). Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, Washington DC.

Eaves, R.C. & Guarino, A. J. (2006). Dunn’s multiple comparison test. Encyclopedia of Measurement and Statistics, 293-296.