Tag Archives: Louisiana Education Superintendent

John White: Gross Ineptitude at the Highest Level

News-Star File Photo

News-Star File Photo

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once quipped, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts.”

While White battles to keep his job, we the teachers and students are constantly held hostage to an Education Department that seems to convey the message that ineptitude is “evidence of progress.”

The Lens, a New Orleans publication, posted an article about how students’ scores won’t arrive until November. Students across Louisiana “took the exact same form as did kids across the country,” State Superintendent John White said. “Same questions. Same order. Nothing different.”

No, they did not.

Louisiana contracted with Data Recognition Corporation, while the other PARCC states contracted with PARCC. Unless DRC and PARCC colluded to make the tests the same, this did not happen.

White has stated in the Advocate that the test will show “evidence of progress.”

How? We have never given this test before, so how can we show progress? It is different in makeup and design from all previous tests. Even worse, the public has not been shown a single question on the tests to even gauge if they were written appropriately for the age levels, or answered correctly. There have been numerous errors in past tests.

These tests will supposedly give a better evaluation of our students’ performance.

How? These tests that students took in March won’t be released until November. Students have already been placed in classes this year without any knowledge of their strengths or weaknesses on state tests. Teachers have no clue what skills need more emphasis this year, or what they could have done to help students from last year.

How is this “evidence of progress”?

White and numerous BESE Board members up for re-election have been boasting about the fact that graduation rates are up under White’s leadership.

When you lower the passing score on a Geometry End-of-Course Test to a 32%, that’s not leadership. That’s malpractice.

When asked recently about being able to see exact questions on the test and precisely what skill they were meant to evaluate, White responded that such information was not available because a question can test many skills.

Then what is the point of this expensive test? A test that takes months longer to grade than the previous tests and the questions are not clearly written to evaluate specific skills?

How is this “evidence of progress”?

On Tuesday, October 13th, White will be asking the BESE Board for the authority to set the cut-off scores for the Louisiana categories (advanced, mastery, fair, good, etc.). Based on his track record of lowering EOC scores in the last few years, the public should have little confidence in the results to come.

While White battles to keep his job, we the teachers and students are constantly held hostage to an Education Department that seems to convey the message that ineptitude is “evidence of progress.”

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Supporters of Common Core & PARCC, like John White, Have a Logic All Their Own

News-Star File Photo

News-Star File Photo of Louisiana State Superintendent John White

More than ever, I am convinced that supporters of Common Core and PARCC assessments live in their own little world, a world devoid of logic.

Many of these supporters make terrible debaters. I witnessed a prominent officer of the Council for a Better Louisiana say that no one should believe what the opponents are saying. That’s always a good way to win an argument.

Last week, I pointed out the lack of logical thought in a letter to the editor by Mallory Wall. My response was published alongside the latest salvo from Superintendent of Education John White.

Tackling the problem of poverty, combined with those excellent pre-Common Core standards, is precisely the common sense approach we need. Oh, a competent, well-qualified Superintendent of Education certainly couldn’t hurt.

I have already written extensively about White’s lack of credentials: two years in the classroom and six weekend seminars at the uncredited Broad Academy do not a competent Superintendent make. White’s underwhelming performance has caused a credibility gap reminiscent of the Nixon years, and internet memes of “White Lies” crop up everywhere.

Adding to his insignificance was this letter claiming Louisiana should embrace Common Core. Too bad his logic was just as bad as Ms. Wall’s.

From the very beginning, White proves he’s a novice at debating. He starts with “In 2009, Louisiana education officials recognized that our state’s academic expectations were not as advanced as were the expectations in many other states.”

The Pinocchio meter yells “False!” In 2010, the Fordham Institute evaluated the Louisiana Grade Level Expectations and ranked the English GLEs with a B+. They wrote, “Louisiana’s standards treat both literary and non-literary texts in more systematic detail than the Common Core…”

Even more inconvenient for White was the publication in Education Week in 2005 that stated “Louisiana ranked number one for its standards and accountability for the second time in three years…” We were using those same standards in 2009, so what happened? How did they get so low?

They didn’t. Louisiana had good standards. John White is, as usual, missing the point.

The argument John White could have made—but didn’t—was that despite having top-notch standards, Louisiana students consistently scored near the bottom of the fifty states on the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) tests. That is undeniably true.

With a logic known only to himself, White then links Louisiana’s low performance with the standards. Translation: it’s the standards’ fault.

Elementary logic 101: correlation does not imply causation. Just because Louisiana students perform badly on NAEP tests while we were using GLEs does mean it’s the GLEs’ fault.

White ignores what nearly all of his ilk do: poverty is at fault. Louisiana could have the world’s most outstanding standards, and it won’t do much good against the crushing poverty that Louisiana students face.

If students lack technology, solid home structures, even the basics of food and warmth—all things caused by poverty—then they will not perform well on these tests.

But according to White, the problem is not poverty. It’s the standards.

Now firmly entrenched in his tangent, White goes for broke. He says Louisiana participated in creating Common Core Standards—a dubious claim at best—and gives the usual statement that 100+ educators formed committees to review the standards. With so much misinformation from White, unless he names some people, no one will believe these 100 souls exist.

I do find it interesting that White actually makes the statement that “politics found its way into the mix.”

I agree. Politics DID enter the mix. It’s how White got elected as Superintendent of Education.

Numerous authors besides myself have documented the tortuous path that White took to becoming the State Superintendent. Of the eleven BESE board members, seven were in favor of White, but four were staunchly opposed. Needing eight votes, Governor Bobby Jindal, White’s one-time friend, poured tons of money into the elections which were conveniently near, and secured the removal of two of those opponents, thus guaranteeing White’s selection. We’ve been paying for that political move ever since.

White’s logic again fails when he argues that Louisiana will be able to show a “fair comparison of elementary and middle school student performance in Louisiana with that of states across the country.”

The Pinocchio meter yells “False!” Louisiana can compare its students to NO OTHER STATE. Pearson made the PARCC tests for ten states, and those ten states can compare themselves to each other. Louisiana has no contract with Pearson so students did NOT take a PARCC test. Instead we contracted with Data Recognition Corps, which does provide some questions to Pearson, but how many and who knows are anyone’s guess. Louisiana students took a PARCC-like test, and it would behoove the media to stop reporting it as the PARCC test when it is not. No matter how much White says it, we can compare ourselves to no one.

In closing, I will point out that White said that Louisiana should “embrace a pragmatic approach to the future.” I completely agree. Common Core has become an albatross around Louisiana’s neck, and a sensible approach would be to return to the standards that were once ranked the highest in the nation. Tackling the problem of poverty, combined with those excellent pre-Common Core standards, is precisely the common sense approach we need. Oh, a competent, well-qualified Superintendent of Education certainly couldn’t hurt.

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A Letter From New York Highlights Similarities Between John White and John King.

In her vigilant fight to preserve educational excellence in the US, Diane Ravitch posted this letter from a mother who spoke at one of New York Chancellor John King’s informational gatherings around New York State. This one was held in Port Chester, New York, and her letter and testimony is included below. It is interesting to note that Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education John White has followed an almost identical path to New York Commissioner John King. Neither King nor White has taught more than three years in a classroom. Both gentleman then spent all their educational experience in leadership positions, King founding a private charter school, and White serving as Deputy Superintendent in New York. Both gentlemen had the support of powerful governors, and both are pushing PARCC testing for their states. New York has already implemented one round of testing, with disastrous first-round scores, and Louisiana is supposed to start in 2014-2015. Even more telling, Bianca Tanis speaks about her son, who has autism and who had to take the high-stakes tests. Louisiana under John White required its special education students to take the ACT test also, until Louisiana legislator John Bel Edwards (D)  stepped in with HB 343 to correct this oversight. Both men are under intense pressure and scrutiny.

Here is that mother’s letter to Diane Ravitch.

“Dear Diane,

Last night I attended the Common Core Forum in Port Chester, NY. I was number 6 to speak.It was an incredible feeling to finally be able to look Commissioner King in the eye and say what I have been wanting to say to him for the past 6 months, and to know that this time, he would have to hear me. But that’s the thing, he didn’t hear me or anyone else for that matter.

I brought my almost 80 year old father to the forum. Before last night he was only peripherally aware of education reform. As we left, he was holding back tears, overwhelmed by the pain that he heard parents and teachers expressing and moved by the dozens of parents, teachers and administrators who had spoken so eloquently on behalf of children. I too was moved but I was also angry.

Despite being forced to listen to dozens of parents, superintendents and teachers say over and over again that the current education reform is hurting children and public education, Commissioner King was unmoved. King had not heard me or anyone else for that matter. Despite his 12 stop mea culpa tour, King is going full steam ahead with his corporate, hostile takeover of education.

Back when I was a 28 year old mother of 2 children on the Autism spectrum, I worked hard to return to graduate school and become a teacher. During my teacher training I lost my little brother to cancer and watched my son undergo numerous surgeries. Through it all I continued my graduate work and maintained a near perfect GPA. I don’t tell you these things because I want sympathy or accolades, but to make the point that I know perseverance, I know struggle…the qualities that commissioner king believes that 8 and 9 year olds should experience as the means of motivating them to achieve career and college readiness. And part of what has helped me to persevere and to push through the tough times is my ability to stop and reflect, to change course when one paradigm no longer works. I am saddened and angered that public education is led by someone who is willing to do neither.

I have attached my testimony from the forum below. This is what our commissioner of education didn’t hear.Commissioner King must resign because as parents and educators, we deserve better.

Sincerely,
Bianca Tanis
Parent, educator and co-founder of New York State Allies for Public Education

“My son has autism and your reforms have hurt him. You mandate schools to share sensitive student data. You force students with disabilities to submit to inappropriate and humiliating testing. Only now, 5 months later, after you have had to endure public outcry, are you willing to consider changes. Where was common sense and decency 5 months ago when parents begged to for their children to be exempt and when children with disabilities were being tortured. You should be ashamed.

“These reforms are not about education. They are about the agenda of billionaires with no teaching experience. The fact that your close advisors are the mysterious Regents Fellows, individuals with little to no teaching experience, who are paid 6 figure salaries with private donations by Bill Gates and Chancellor Meryl Tisch, speaks volumes. Private money comes with a price tag and that price tag is influence. We reject leadership that allows public education to be bought. That is not democracy. By the way, the Regents Fellow job description does not mention teaching experience as a requirement.

“It has been said that parent opposition is typical when change is introduced. There is nothing typical about the present response. The incompetent roll out of the common core and the naked disregard that has been shown for developmentally appropriate and educationally sound practice is unacceptable. Your recent concessions are disingenuous and a case of too little too late. They do nothing to reduce the hours of testing or the inappropriate level of test difficulty. They do nothing to make cut scores reasonable or address serious problems associated with high stakes testing.

“In addition to hurting children, your policies promote social inequality. Private school parents, such as your self have the opportunity to say to no to harmful testing and data sharing while public school parents are not afforded the same rights. Are you afraid of what would happen if you gave all parents a choice?

“The inadequacy of our schools is a manufactured crisis. Poverty is the number one indicator of student achievement. When you factor in poverty, US schools are at the top. New York deserves real leadership that addresses real issues. If you won’t provide that leadership, we need someone who will.”

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