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Old Soldiers Never Die…Old Superintendents don’t even fade away! - Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Listen Up!



Old Soldiers Never Die…

Old Superintendents don’t even fade away!




The Kitsam Pennsula Business Journal on line version, Monday, carried a report in which Paul Pastorek, who traveled all the way to Washington State, invited folks to go to New Orleans to see if he’s reporting factually on the wonderful progress of RSD schools in that city.


                Pastorek told his audience that "The system is so outdated, outmoded, and diysfunctional, good people can’t help but be unsuccessful.  The system is broken, and one of these days people around the country are going to recognize that.”


                The legislature in Washington is finally getting a chance to consider authorization of charter schools.  The meeting of 200 business and community leaders heard Pastorek’s claim that the system he left rewards the state with high quality results "you designed for.”


The readers should visit the Louisiana Department of Education web site (he was its boss) and look at the district rankings that reveal the state-run RSD performance scores rank 61 of 62 districts with a District Performance Score in 2011 of 66.7.  Even that score should be looked at with some suspicion.  Another report from the state reveals that enrollment in the RSD New Orleans schools were under tested by 16.7%.  That is fewer enrolled students had their test scores counted than were enrolled.  Conversely, the schools run by the Orleans Parish School Board tested 2% fewer than were enrolled in February 2011.


Another department data report lists schools by district.  There are 60 RSD (state run) New Orleans schools listed and 29 of them boast letter grades of F.  Another 25 scored D.  In total 54 of 60 schools did no better than D.  Only 16 of the RSD schools reportedly reached their growth targets for the year.  If 90 percent of schools scoring D and F is the high quality design goal, then I don’t think going about the country misleading folks is wise.


What he failed to mention is that Orleans Parish School Board run schools rank second best in District Performance Scores with a 118 score; and that only one of those schools had School Performance Scores below 101.  Twelve of the 15 locally run schools earned School Performance Scores of A or B.


When Pastorek still ran the Louisiana public education system he told the Louisiana legislature that turning around the low performing schools would be a tough job and would likely take three years to bear results.  In one of his last actions, as state superintendent, he oversaw the extension of contracts for a dozen charter schools in New Orleans that had exhausted five years trying to meet his contract goals.  Not one of them had met the academic achievement goals set forth in the contracts.  Only one of them had fulfilled the financial reporting requirements of the contracts, yet the state renewed.


One might well draw the conclusion that the state run system in New Orleans derives some benefit from the state being the source of school achievement data. 


One might also draw the conclusion that state department refusal to allow academic researchers access to core student data files so as to perform longitudinal achievement and mobility studies bolsters the conclusion that there is anxiety about what those records will reveal.


A researcher devoted to monitoring student and school performance in New Orleans has made a claim for those files under the Louisiana Public Records Act, and after many patient weeks is considering a legal action to gain access.


What is understood, by parents in New Orleans, is that student and teacher mobility is extraordinarily high.  Whether it is poverty or charter school administration "creaming” to filter out their lower performing students, the movement of students from school to school is well beyond that of other public systems.


Newly minted State Superintendent John White inherits a state Recovery School District whose achievement record is highly suspect, and one that violates the law creating it.  Act 35 clearly stated that the RSD was not to be a permanent school district but rather an "interim school district.”  Following the reformer’s suggestions, the legislature granted the RSD five years to turn around schools and then to return them to the local district from which they came.


Pastorek led the state to violate the spirit and letter of the law on both counts.  Now, he has left education for a business job in the Washington, D.C. area, and lives in a home in a elite suburb of the Capitol, a home for which he paid $650,000 and which backs up to a golf course fairway. 


That he continues to travel completely across the country to speak in behalf of tearing apart public education, while drawing a large corporate salary, suggests the depth of devotion to his cause of "breaking the 100 year old monopoly” that is local public education.


Don Whittinghill




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