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RSD Achievement Claims Debunking - Monday, October 17, 2011

Hear the Echoes No. 30

RSD Achievement Claims Debunking


Corporate Reformers are Desperate
 Don’t Let the BESE Election Give Them a New Life


An election of seven new Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members is about to close.  Election is October 22.

A clear distinction can be seen between those candidates getting help from the Gov. Bobby Jindal administration and those representing public education stakeholders in every community.

The Jindal-led cabals of business interests, many of whom are making profits out of "choice” in public education and hope to make more, stand for charter schools, tax credits for parents sending kids to private schools and vouchers.

National studies that sometimes come from charter-friendly institutions such as Stanford University’s CADO Institute find little to encourage the charter advocates.  CADO’s report showed only 17 percent of charters performed as well as cohort public schools.  A U.S. Department of Education report concluded about the same.

In order to persist in advancing the "choice” movement, it is imperative that progress be shown.  High levels of creativity have been brought about to stretch actual performance into signs of success.

It seems as if the reform emperors pretend to be wearing clothes of success, and now after six years the viewer is coming to the conclusion that the emperor wears no clothes.

It seems the fake reformers touting miraculous success are in fact the purveyors of the status quo. All the extra federal dollars after Katrina, free reign to operate RSD schools as they please without union rules or Board meddling produced these piddling results. Some of the RSD schools that became charters right after Katrina were already on an upward trajectory. In fact one much celebrated school has actually slowed its growth since becoming a charter post-Katrina.

At least two schools that existed in the RSD last year–Joseph S. Clark High School and Greater Gentilly– were either re-chartered or closed this year and do not appear in the scores at all. Students at these schools took the tests. The RSD has basically been able to wipe them out of the accounting.  Also missing are Gregory, Reed Elem, Carver Elem, Rabouin, F.C. Williams, Jeff, International HS, and KIPP Renaissance.  Some of these schools closed others became new charters and two were in their first year. Nevertheless, they were omitted. The LDOE never gives an explanation for the missing schools. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency from year to year as to which kinds of schools are included. One is left to wonder how these schools would impact the DPS’s School Performance Score. Then there is the case of the KIPP School that offers only K through grade three and served too few students to earn an SPS in 2010.  It nevertheless was combined with a larger and lower-performing KIPP School and miraculously was graded 120.6.  Now, it moved to 105.6, both questionably high obtained scores!

The LDOE is so invested in the farce of being successful that it is not objective in its data reporting or in its oversight of these schools.  (Karran Royal-NOLA Activist)

The national charter push goes forward, even when the American Federation for Children has recognized the performance problem in charters is hurting their "choice” cause.  Now its website speaks of vouchers and tax credits in lieu of charters.

It is not just in Louisiana that charters are proving to be less successful than advertised. In the 2010-11 school year, 56 percent of the students attending the Pittsburgh Public Schools met the Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark, compared to only 43 percent of the students in the district's charter schools.This success reflects the tireless effort of Pittsburgh's dedicated public school teachers and administrators as well as the parents and students who worked so hard.

            The Jindal forces from the business community argue for more time; that student achievement is growing; and the world class education requires patience.  On the contrary, the Louisiana Student Achievement program is hard-nosed about traditional districts with schools that do not improve in sufficient haste.  Takeover of trailing schools is unforgiving and impatient.  And, the system controlled by the Jindal administration, makes the judgments.

Their flawed theories about how to improve education are demonstrated in an education model that doesn’t work.  The prospect of replacing a traditional system, which is producing results, with a model that relies on first year Teach for America teachers who will be gone in two or three years, is a risky experiment for Louisiana’s children.

We find that when one considers growth as a sign of success, even the poverty-stricken East Carroll Parish children grew faster than the supposed growth of the RSD schools.  East Carroll, deep in Delta country of northeast Louisiana, collects only $516,736 dollars in ad valorem taxes, and $1.4 million in sales taxes.  Compare that to Orleans Parish’s $96.3 million in ad valorem and $161.3 million in sales taxes, and one might wonder how such success is being achieved with such a poverty gap. With far fewer dollars the Delta’schildren out- grew the RSD’s.

Louisiana public education stakeholders must realize that the Jindal education agenda will have an impact on all corners of the state.  Caddo, Pointe Coupe, St. Helena, E. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Calcasieu, and now Jefferson Parish expect multiple new charter school start-ups next year.

Why else would the administration be pushing forward with another contract, to recruit teachers, with Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools (almost $3 million worth), when the Louisiana Education Estimating Council reports a two year surplus of certified teachers already within the state?

Education stakeholder’s turnout on the October 22nd is like the proverbial Little Dutch Boy’s preventing the flood by keeping the damn from bursting and, in this case, flooding our public education system.  Education is Louisiana is headed for a major crisis over the next several years without the checks and balances that our proven BESE candidates can provide. 

Don Whittinghill - Consultant



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