You would think that after widespread cheating scandals swirling around student testing, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White would be extra cautious to ensure the same embarrassment was not repeated here. People, after all, have been indicted in other places for the practice.
The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) has been sitting on the results of the LEAP, iLEAP and the LEAP Alternative Assessment Level 2 (LAA 2) tests for several weeks now and no matter what the official line to the contrary coming out of LDOE, the fact is those results were scheduled to be released Friday morning (May 16).
Now comes word from within the department that LDOE employees have balked at White’s demands to tweak the results for the Recovery School District (RSD) and this little development has thrown a wrinkle into the scheduled release of the test scores.
We have no way of knowing at this point whether or not the reports are true but when the test scores were not forthcoming as promised at 9 a.m. Friday, that certainly did not help White’s credibility. He already has been caught lying about departmental pay raises, hiring freezes and attempting to “take some air out of the room” in his testimony to a legislative committee over the awarding of more than 300 vouchers to a Ruston school with no desks, teachers, or facilities. So when release of the scores was delayed without any explanation except to say he would have a statement at 3 p.m., why should we be surprised?
The age-old tactic of releasing adverse statements and news stories late on Fridays, when many Capitol reporters have left for the weekend, has become a preferred and perfected practice for this administration and White apparently has learned well.
The 3 p.m. Friday announcement said that the test results would be released on Tuesday of this week. An LDOE official said that while the Friday “tentative release date” for the scores was on the calendar, there was never an official date for their release. Bull feathers, horse hockey and meadow muffins. John White is from the government and he’s here to help, the check is in the mail, and he’ll still respect us in the morning. Sorry, John, we’ve heard ‘em all before and we ain’t buying it.
While there are claims that last minute Legislature-mandated changes to the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), the formula employed to allocate funding to the various school districts in the state, coupled with staff shortages at LDOE caused the delay, there’s no escaping the fact that LDOE has been sitting on these test results for weeks now. Moreover, do the same personnel perform work on extrapolating test data and the MFP? That would appear to be a stretch—even with staff shortages.
Those “staff shortages,” by the way, are no one’s fault but White’s. He has gutted the staff by drastically reducing the number of employees, the “in the trenches” workers who do the actual work, while bloating the department with unclassified, highly-paid administrative political appointees who appear to do little other than occupying reserved parking spaces in the Claiborne Building’s parking garage.
When your subordinates refuse to place their reputations on the line for your political agenda, the reasons for your delay in releasing the scores suddenly become much clearer.
Louisiana tests its students annually in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies in third through eighth grades in order to measure whether students have gained the knowledge and skills in the subject for their respective grades.
The Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) is the series of annual assessments in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies for fourth and eighth grades. A criterion-based test, these tests are aligned to state academic standards.
The series of annual assessments administered in grades three, five, six and seven is known as the “integrated” Louisiana Educational Assessment Programs (iLEAP). It is referred to as an integrated LEAP because it originally combined a criterion-based component, which measured whether a student had mastered the academic standards, with a norm-referenced component (the Iowa Test of Basic Skills), which provided a percentile ranking of students. The iLEAP tests of 2013-14 no longer contain the Iowa portion and are criterion-based only.
It would be to the advantage of White, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Gov. Bobby Jindal if the test scores reflected significant gains by students but word received by LouisianaVoice indicates that all is not well in the RSD and that White would prefer a rosier picture in the trouble-plagued district—if only those stubborn civil servants would cooperate.
But the obvious question here is: why would we expect good scores from the RSD anyway? RSD has been a stink hole of inefficiency, poor performance, overpaid administrators, missing equipment and waste since day one. Mediocrity is a goal to which the RSD can only aspire.
Word coming out of the department is that LDOE employees were asked to cook the RSD books but LDOE staff members have refused to become a part of yet another cheating scandal. And given what has already transpired in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Nevada, and other states, who could blame them:
- Former Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the poster child for school reform fraud, was fully aware of widespread cheating and even handed out bonuses totaling $1.5 million to teachers whose students showed significant gains before the cheating on standardized test answers by nearly 200 teachers in 70 schools became public knowledge and forced her out. She, however, landed on her feet and formed StudentsFirst, raking in millions of dollars from the likes of the Walton family, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg.
- Close on the heels of the D.C. cheating travesty was the early 2013 indictment of the former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools and three dozen other administrators, teachers, principals and other educators for cheating—even after a similar state investigation two years earlier found similar cheating by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools.
- In mid-April of this year, three Clark County (Nevada) School District employees were placed on leave after a state investigation found that adults altered answer sheets on standardized tests at a Las Vegas elementary school which in turn led to skyrocketing scores from one year to the next.
- Last week, less than a month after the Las Vegas revelations, an elementary school principal and four teachers were arraigned in connection with test cheating in the Philadelphia School District. The arraignments were the result of a grand jury investigation.
One child whose test results were changed, showed huge gains in reading comprehension and was promoted to the ninth grade even though her reading level was found to be still at a fifth grade level.
Cheating robs children of a good education and hurts kids and their families, the Pennsylvania attorney general said.
The reaction of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was even more severe with the federation president issuing a statement that the union would not provide legal assistance for those charged.
Such, though, is the nature of school reforms implemented with so much emphasis on all the wrong things—standardized test scores at the expense of actual learning.
In the frenzy to improve national standings to enhance the résumés of politicians, bureaucrats and demagogues, they have fallen all over each other in attempts to put up stronger numbers while overlooking the most important element in education—the kids. It’s almost as if the frenetic efforts to improve test scores are being made for the benefit of the adults at considerable expense to the real education of children.
Perhaps a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, provided by Diane Ravitch, said it best: “I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”
Einstein said that people like Henry Ford, who advocated the standardization of both automobiles and people, “do not realize that the adulation they receive is due to the power of their pocketbooks on the force of their personalities.”
We have to wonder if Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, the Walton family Michael Bloomberg, Bobby Jindal, John White or Chas Roemer ever read those words—or if they can even comprehend their importance or their implications.
And are our legislators paying attention at all?
Perhaps we should bring back the dunce cap—just for them.