Undaunted by an earlier revelation that a somewhat suspect national study that gave Louisiana high marks for its education policies was less than candid, State Education Superintendent John White continues trying to change his frog—otherwise known as Americal Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-inspired and Teach for America (TFA)-executed education reform—into a prince by touting yet another national ranking that appears at first blush to show that Louisiana’s overall ranking leapt from 23rd to 15th over the last year.
What White conveniently neglected to report via his Department of Education propaganda arm Louisiana Believes is that same study, done by Quality Counts for Education Week magazine, gave Louisiana an F for public education achievement for the third consecutive year.
White may have neglected to report that little tidbit, but Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Will Sentell was inquisitive enough to look past Piyush’s burnished version of the report’s contents.
That may have been because only a week before a report was issued by StudentsFirst, an organization founded by Michelle Rhee, whose professional reputation has come under a cloud of controversy for suspicious scoring gains at Washington, D.C. schools during her tenure as chancellor, which ranked Louisiana first in the nation in educational policies that prioritize the interest of children.
The StudentsFirst study was debunked almost immediately when the New York Times pointed out that it focused purely on state laws and policies and “did not take into account student test scores.” Test scores are tantamount to the educational Bible for Piyush, White, et al. Test scores make up the centerpiece of the entire Piyush education reform package.
The StudentsFirst report may have been tempered both by the cheating scandal and by an almost simultaneous report by the U.S. Department of Education that shows Louisiana ranked sixth from the bottom in its public high school graduation rate—even despite White’s apparent efforts to color those statistics pretty (see Mercedes Schneider’s blog post of Jan. 12 on LouisianaVoice).
StudentsFirst has poured money into the campaigns of four of Jindal’s hand-picked Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) members—$5,000 each to Holly Boffy, James Garvey, Kira Orange Jones and Roemer.
When LouisianaVoice reported other campaign contributions in an earlier post, Boffy bristled at the perceived suggestion that campaign contributions influenced her December vote to approve Course Choice applicants when in fact we never once intimated that her vote was bought—or even rented, for that matter.
The fact remains, however, that each of five board members, including Boffy, just happened to vote to approve applications from two applicants who combined to contribute $41,000 to the BESE members: Jay Guillot of Ruston ($5,000), James Garvey of Metairie ($5,000), Boffy of Youngsville ($6,000), Chas Roemer of Baton Rouge ($10,000) and Kira Orange Jones of New Orleans ($15,000).
We’re just sayin’…
It is certainly interesting to see how Gov. Piyush Jindal and White cherry-pick the categories on which the state scored well while ignoring the F for public education achievement.
But never let it be said that LouisianaVoice is not fair (objective? Certainly not. Fair? emphatically yes). So here are the areas on which Louisiana scored well:
• Transitions and Alignment (We’re still not sure what “Alignment” is; we’re assuming it has nothing to do with automobiles. For that matter, we aren’t too sure what “Transitions” means, though we do know what a transmission is): 92.9, up from 82.1 for an A;
• School Finance Analysis: 75.3, up from 74.7 for a C.
At this point, the Louisiana Believes “news” release says (drum roll, please), “The scores in remaining categories—Standards, Assessments and Accountability and The Teaching Profession—are based on the state’s score from the 2012 report.
Wait. What? Remaining categories? But what about that public education achievement category? Did you forget that? Oh well, never mind. Here are the scores for the “remaining categories”:
• Standards, Assessment and Accountability: 97.2, for a B;
• The Teaching Profession: 72.5 (11th in the nation), for a C.
Of course, the teaching profession, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is the one area that Piyush and White have in their crosshairs. It’s the teaching profession they have consistently demonized from Day One of their so-called “education reform” efforts and yet Louisiana’s teachers, according to the very report that Jindal and White are now waving about, are ranked 11th in the nation.
Piyush said in a prepared statement (remember, the man does NOT sit for interviews in his home state; those are reserved for Fox News, CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times as he rehearses for the national stage by throwing the National Republican Party under the bus) that the Quality Counts report illustrates that Louisiana’s education system “has gone from almost rock-bottom to number 15 in the country.”
Well, Piyush, we’re not sure in which parallel universe you reside, but if that truly is the case, you must realize that it all took place before your frilly, designed-to-benefit-your-contributors reform measures actually were implemented.
Could it be that the New Living Word School in Ruston, for example, with its lack of teachers, desks, books and classrooms, managed to pull off this dramatic surge in the natonal rankings in the past four months with its 150 vouchers approved by the Department of Education?
Or could this be just another bogus study to which the administration is clinging for some semblance of vindication in the weeks leading up to the 2013 legislative session?
After all the Piyush administration’s hyperbole over the StudentsFirst report, we are now loath to accept anything at face value that he or White distributes at Press Release Central, otherwise known as the Capitol press corps.