In Louisiana Convicted Murderers Have More Civil Rights Than School Children with Disabilities

In Louisiana Convicted Murderers Have More Civil Rights Than School Children with Disabilities

When I saw this video and story recently it reminded me why I became an education activist 4 years ago and also why I have become a Libertarian more recently. We have allowed our government to become our punisher instead of our protector. The Louisiana government has given itself the right to treat your children worse than it treats convicted murderers.  People need to realize it’s our job to reign in our government, not the other way around.

In Georgia a woman was told she must grant the school district the right to “paddle” her 5 year old son or she would go to jail if they had to suspend him. He had missed 18 days of school for various dignostic tests for cancer. At least 19 States, including Louisiana, allow corporal punishment in schools. Louisiana is one of the only states, if not the only state, that grants school districts the right to strike children of all ages and any disabilities with a wooden paddle, but without parental consent (and even against parental wishes.)

Using physical punishement against adults is considered cruel and unusual punishment by the US Supreme Court, and torture by the Geneva Convention (and most of the civilized world for that matter) however the same punishment when used against children, especially those with disabilities, is considered not only legal but necessary by many in our state – including many legislators and judges. Without getting into the argument as to whether it’s okay for you to spank your own kids or not (or for whatever reason varous public or private school officials decide) consider that what is meant by Corporal Punishment in Louisiana schools is a 2 foot long wooden paddle that is used on kindergarteners and highschoolers alike. According to data I reviewed while I worked at the Louisiana department of Education, some children in our state have been paddled more than a dozen times a year for very minor infractions.

As a parent, if you spank your kids and cause them harm you could face criminal charges if they are seriously hurt or injured. However as a result of our legislature’s actions, strangers, school employees, cannot be held accountable in most cases, despite many children ending up emergency rooms each year as a result of school sponsored paddling. As a parent, you might be angry with your child, but you understand your own children’s limits, and hopefully love them even if you are mad at them or feel they need some form of physical discipline. School employees that paddle children have no such constraints or equivalent emotional bonding with the children they paddle.

Years ago the state legislature passed a law that corporal punishment is allowed in our state, at a school district’s discretion, not a parent’s. Parents do not have a right to refuse on behalf of their children. In an opinion written by Judge Scofield in 2004 for our Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the Setlif versus Rapides Parish School Board

To allow parents to unilaterally thwart the legally sanctioned decisions of school officials, could lead to troublesome, if not chaotic, results. There would be nothing to prevent ten, twenty or a hundred parents calling in to request that their child not be spanked. What if these same number of parents requested that no form of punishment whatsoever be administered to their children? The legislature, in its wisdom, chose not to leave the door open for such potentially dire consequences.

Scofield conjures up a ridiculous scenario where all forms of punishment are abolished if parents are allowed to request their kids not be beaten by the state to defend his decision to legalize the rights of schools to use discipline methods that are considered too inhumane to be used against animals by the SPCA, and quite harmful psychologically and physically to use against children by the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. Moreover, our Supreme Court has deemed corporal punishemnt to be cruel and unusual and has banned the practice agaisnt even the most hardened criminals in our prisons. Even prisoners being put to death by the state via lethal injections are protected by our Constitution from unnecessary pain or suffering while their executions are carried out. Yet our children can be beaten until they are hospitalized and school employees are protected from prosecution by the laws enacted by our legislature and rationalized by our courts.

Scofield further defends his decision in the Setlif V Rapides corporal punishment appeal by making the case that violating the basic civil and human rights of anyone in a minority can be justified so long as you have a subjective goal seeking the “best acadmic atmosphere achievable” for the majority, as deemed by government officials, who also get to define what “order” they are trying to preserve and who the “miscreants” are that need the punishing.  By this definition, anyone who disagrees with a government defined “order” is a miscreant and can be stripped of their Constitutional protections.

The rationale of the legislature and the school board in allowing corporal punishment is based squarely upon the goal to preserve for the majority of students and teachers the best academic atmosphere achievable, even at the expense of swatting the behinds of those few miscreants who choose to disrupt the order.

That corporal punishement is necessary to maintain government defined “order” in our society, and without it the world would descend into chaos, is a warped idea that ignores the fact that the vast majority of civilized and orderly places do not use corporal punishment and that for the most part the only places that do are actually the least advanced and most chaotic. Scofield’s “logic” defends this practice by saying that the basic civil rights of minorities are irrelvant when considering the welfare of the majority, even if the objective is not to defend life or property, but just to improve the “academic atmosphere” a little. Furthermore judge Scofield argues that without the ability of public schools to use paddles on all children (including those with disabilities) whenever they wanted to, and regardless of parental wishes, (in the pursuit of “order”) schools would be uncontrollable. Most states in the United States do not permit Corporal Punishment on children, nor do most Western countries permit it on anyone. If this statement had any vestiage of accuracy we would see Corporal Punishment use increasing in the United States and across the “civilized” world. Contrary to the bizarre and unsubstantiated “belief” expressed by Scofield, the more rural or isolated the area the more likely this discipline method is used – probably because no significant media is around to report on it. Even the NFL, not known for the gentleness of its athletes, took a firm stand against corporal punishement when it suspended Adrian Petersen for a year after he injured his own son during a discipline session involving a “switch”.

The Louisiana Department of Education was instructed by the Louisiana Legislature to start collecting Corporal Punishment statistics in 2010. For years I have requested the details of that information numerous times in public information requests that copied the State Superintendent of Education, John White. To date, none of my requests have been filled. I know the state collected this data because I was the one who designed the system to collect it, and the one responsible for collecting it through 2012, when I left the Louisiana Department of Education.

I believe simply analyzing and reporting this data will lead to Louisiana in the direction of more rights for parents and children, and fewer opportunnities for citizens to be legally abused by their government.

Last year Superintendent John White testified numerous times against a charter school in Lafayette that did not propose using corporal punishment in the charter submitted to the state. However the founders of the charter, Kingdom Collegiate Academy of Excellence, had appeared on a reality show called America’s Supernanny spanking their own kids. This outraged John White (publicly). Even though John White had sponsored this charter operator with state funds, JW declared he was not comfortable having these folks in charge of a charter school in his state because of their actions on the show

If John White is really this fervently opposed to Corporal Punishment, why then have I been repeatedly met with illegal refusals to provide information collected by the Louisiana Department of Education, that was also supposed to be reported to the legislature annually?

I discussed my earlier attempts to get this information out with some insiders who wrote White’s stonewalling off as politics. The majority of the State that still permits and freely uses and promotes corporal punishment is in the northern part of the state, which was Bobby Jindal’s stronghold of support. (Parishes shown in green ban corporal punishment, districts in red allow it.)

from page 16 of CP study by Quentina Timoll
from page 16 of CP study by Quentina Timoll

Bobby Jindal and John White largely supported and protected each other until the end of Jindal’s second term so that reasoning might have been marginally plausible once.  I doubt John White relayed my request to Jindal though. If John White really cared about the use of corporal punishment why wouldn’t he have followed through with the push by former Superintendent Paul Pastorek and interim Superintendent Ollie Tyler to collect and disseminate this information to the public, as they were directed to do by Louisiana House Resolution 167?  Why withhold this information from me for 4 years?

I was told Pastorek’s hope was that publicizing this was a first step towards putting pressure on school districts to put a stop to it. However, if politics did play a role, we now have a new governor named John Bel Edwards in the Governor’s mansion with support in the more southern and metropolitan areas of the state and teacher’s unions.  I wonder if things will be any different with a Democrat versus a Republican? I’d like to think these policies would run contrary to the beliefs of the teacher’s unions and I hope that Edwards and his team will make some moves to put a stop to the practice.  I would think even LABI and Stand for Children Louisiana would get behind an effort to put an end to a practice that has been shown to lower IQs and other test scores, increase violent crime, cause depression and psychological trauma, reduce earning potential – and which has not even been shown to actually prevent future discipline incidents, merely make the future ones more likely to be violent.

I wonder if anyone has told John Bel Edwards that close to 1/4th of all students corporally punished in Louisiana have one or more disabilities and are classified as Special Education students according to the latest data I have available from the 2011-2012 school year through the Office of Civil Rights Office of Civil Rights?

Student’s classified as Special Education under IDEA make up around 10-11% of the public school population.  For those of you who are parents of a Special Education student let me break down what that means.  Your child is more than twice as likely to be corporally punished as a child without disabilities.  Are children with disabilities twice as disruptive as students in regular education?  Perhaps some children with some exceptionalities are more disruptive due to their exceptionality, like children with some forms of autism or severe emotional disturbance.

Perhaps hitting these types of children with wooden boards will “fix” their behavior problems? I kind of doubt it though.  I also wonder how many of these meted corporal punishments are not evidence of misbehavior, but frustration on the part of the teacher or the student?

Qualified and experienced Special Education teachers are often the hardest spots to fill, especially in rural districts.  When communication with words breaks down, maybe the best way to resolve situations involving children with disabilities is a two foot long wooden board and some pain? Not all of these children may understand why they are being punished, or be able to control their actions consistently due to their disability, but many animal trainers believe fear and pain works well for training animals to obey, so why not kids the theory goes.  Without properly trained professionals to handle the myriad conditions our students come to school with, maybe the best our school districts can do is to use pain to train obedience in the kids that are too hard to work with?  The evidence seems to support that hypothsis if we look at this situation in the best light.  Other conclusions we might draw are that students with disabilities are just more innately “bad”, and thus need more paddling, or that students with disabilities are easy targets and/or administrators administering corporal punishment derive some form of deviant satisfaction or pleasure from spanking children with disabilities.   I can’t really think of any non-depressing reasons this is true.  Can you?

We can ask them though.  LDOE also collects the names of the folks performing each paddling session.  Punishing that list might put a stop to the practice too.

Fortunately my earlier expose’s on this subject tipped off other researchers like Dr. Richard Fossey about the existence of LDOE’s corporal punishment data.  I spoke with Dr. Fossey at a few public venues and engaged him in e-mail correspondence for a while. He told me he was working on a project with LDOE through some of his graduate students who were given access to some of this data. I was careful not to rock the boat while this project took place, although I admit I eventually lost track of it, until now. <== Study Link

For the most part this thesis is a good resource on the history of Corporal Punishment in the United States and Louisiana, and includes some fascinating details about various court cases across the United States and where things stand now. I commend Quentina Timoll on producing this great reference source. I would caution readers to consider the actual numbers suspect as:

  • the author notes the figures provided by LDOE are as much as 30% lower than what the school districts reported to the federal government directly
  • pages 61 and 62 appear to have significant addition and subtraction errors
  • the “percentages” on pages 63 and 64 and throughout the paper are off by a factor of 100 (unless it is customary to show percentages as decimals but still label them as percentages in tables.)
  • some parishes are left off both the lists that permit corporal punishment and the lists that allow (like Red River)  They did not report any data and LDOE apparently did not enforce compliance.
  • the study lumps districts that permit corporal punishment (but rarely do it) in with districts with excessively high rates (but small populations).  I believe this leads the author to draw incorrect generalizations about the whole
  • and perhaps most importantly, because I had access to the preliminary data before I left LDOE.

When the project to collect this data first started at LDOE I somehow found myself in charge of it. I reviewed the preliminary data which was not tied to SIS, the Student Information System, but was instead tied to lists of forms collected for each instance of corporal punishment which were tied to incident checklists our folks in charge of discipline data required the school districts to complete and retain on file. The data I reviewed showed some districts disciplined upwards of 40% of their student body with wooden paddles, and numerous students were “disiciplined” this way more than 12 times over a six month period. At first I thought I was being given duplicate records.  I verified that some were.  However for the most part the records I reviewed had different action dates and different reason codes. I had a few records with identical dates – indicating a student corporally punished more than once on the same day – which were confirmed by school district data coordinators.

This preliminary data shocked me of course. I asked school districts to confirm my results and much to my surprise they were largely confirmed. Paul Pastorek was asked to resign by Bobby Jindal to make room for John White not long after my results started coming in.  I had plans to publish this information on our department website once a full year’s worth of numbers came in.  However John White came during the first full school year we started collecting this data through SIS.

After White’s arrival we were informed his intent, which was realized not long after his arrival, was to drive off all data coordinators and shut down the department I was associated with. I left not long after his arrival.  White and his minions successfully drove off or fired every one of my immediate co-workers within the first year.  That led to a great loss of institutional knowledge about what LDOE collected and how to go about validating it. The belief relayed to me by one of his appointed overseers (just before I escaped the slaughter) was that the Department needed to “get out of the business of validating data and holding school districts hands”. School districts needed to “submit the data correctly the first time or live with the consequences.” While this may sound good at first blush, it’s all of Louisiana that has to live with the consequences of bad data in the form of:

  • wasted funding for students that are not really present or improperly classified
  • invalid rankings of schools
  • teachers effectiveness calculations (ie VAM)
  • inflated graduation rates

Ultimately all this bad data leads to bad statistics which leads to incorrect conclusions and usually harmful and destructive actions.

Currently a majority of the 70 Louisiana City/Parish school school systems authorize the use of corporal punishment and only 16 (including the Special School District) ban the use of it.

School districts that reported using this the most from 2011 – 2014 with rates ranging from 5 – 10 % are: Caldwell, Franklin, Morehouse, Richland, and Sabine. Explained another way, your regular education child has a 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 chance of being paddled one or more times each year in these school districts (1 in 5 if your child is identified as a Special Education Student) – so your child is probably not graduating without a few licks during their K-12 education experience.

 

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.