Tag Archives: PARCC Test

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.”


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Superintendent’s Little White Lies

Mark Twain

Mark Twain once quipped, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

He could have been talking about Louisiana.

With White’s track record for massaging scores, essentially all one needs is a pulse and good guessing skills to pass the PARCC tests.

The Council for a Better Louisiana recently touted the great things that have happened since Louisiana adopted Common Core in 2010 and since the 2011 BESE elections produced a rigid majority in favor of the education reform package.

It’s a shame CABL essentially cherry-picks their facts for their cause.

One “fact” touted is that Louisiana’s graduations rates have increased over the last four years.

Of course they have. When the Louisiana Department of Education consistently lowers the bar on End of Course Tests, it will produce higher graduation rates. The passing grade on the EOC tests now are so alarming low that a student can get as little as 26% correct to earn a grade of “C.”

So getting only slightly better than one question right out of every four equates to a C?

Based on that rate, workers need only show up one out of every four days and receive an average evaluation… and a full salary.

Don’t forget it took lawsuits to get the LDOE to release the raw numbers. So much for transparency and those “rigorous” tests.

Another “fact” pushed by CABL is that more students than ever are earning an 18 on the ACT. On face value, that is true. In the first year that all juniors were required to take the ACT, some 11,000+ more students took the ACT than the previous year. Superintendent John White ballyhooed the fact that some 3,600 of those students made an 18, considered an important ACT benchmark.

There is a flipside to that argument: some 7.400 of those 11,000 did NOT make the score, and that actually dropped Louisiana’s passage rate nearly 10 percentage points.

See what happens when one manipulates numbers?

And speaking of number manipulation, White already has all the raw scores from last year’s PARCC tests. He claims that he needs time to quantify them into a measure that most people can understand.

People in Louisiana deserve credit for seeing through this chicanery. With White’s track record for massaging scores, essentially all one needs is a pulse and good guessing skills to pass the PARCC tests.

Other states have already received and disseminated their scores. Louisiana is also evaluating their present standards and could use this vital information to prioritize important skills students might be lacking. Why must everyone wait until November?

Oh, the BESE Board elections! No one wants the inconvenience of actual scores to influence election results. Nothing could possibly be political about that decision at all.

If he were alive, Mark Twain would be shaking his head. Things haven’t changed all that much.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Opt-In Supporter Mallory Wall’s Letter Substitutes Emotion for Logic

No PARCC ing

Teacher Mallory Wall wrote a highly emotional letter that was printed in the March 8th Lake Charles paper. It was a loosely-organized indictment of the teaching profession, which seems odd coming from a teacher. (A link to the letter is below.)

It’s not just the letter’s poor logic that irritates; it’s the absence of logic entirely that offends.

Wall relayed an emotional story about a bright potential college student “full of hope and determination” from a rural parish. Somehow this female valedictorian could only score a 13 on her ACT, so she was appealing to still earn TOPS.

According to Wall, the student’s words were “full of emotion.” So were Wall’s. Too bad she substituted emotion for logic, for her words lacked a coherent train of thought.

Wall took this anecdotal story and then linked it with gossamer threads to blame the entire Louisiana public education system. Somehow this student’s situation gave Wall the right to accuse all teachers—nay, the entire state—of mass negligence: “Her teachers have failed her. Her state has failed her. We have failed her.”

Here is prudent advice for Wall: do not use tales to blame all teachers or this state. If Wall wants to accept blame for this student, she is certainly free to do so, but she has no right to spread her scapegoating blanket on others in the teaching profession.

Her irrational letter defames the character of thousands of hard-working teachers with an insupportable argument: students with low-ACT scores are PROOF that EVERYONE has failed them.

In twenty-four years of teaching, I have known brilliant students who were poor test takers. One valedictorian I taught never obtained the ACT score necessary for scholarships, but today is a successful doctor. Unlike Wall, I will not blame the entire profession because of his performance on one test.

Here’s an inconvenient fact: a low ACT score indicates that a student on a particular day did not do well, that is all. It is not concrete evidence that the teaching profession and/or the state neglected to do its duty.

ACT is merely one tool to gauge if a student is ready for college. It is NOT a tool that easily identifies if a student is ready for life. And here’s another shocking fact for Wall to absorb: not everyone is cut out for college, but they can be highly successful human beings.

Wall claims to know her students’ data, which is interesting considering that this is the first year of the new PARCC-like tests. Exactly what can she compare: last year, Louisiana field-tested a PARCC test designed by Pearson; this year we’re giving a PARCC-like test designed by Data Recognition Corp. Such an apples-to-oranges comparison is potentially fruitless.

Is this kind of thinking the best that Common Core supporters have to offer? No wonder there is a rising tide of outraged parents and educators against a set of standards designed by people with no experience in writing standards.

I have taught over 3,500 students in almost a quarter of a century. Many have been successes; some have not. To judge me by their results is akin to rating a dentist by the cavities in their patients’ mouths. It makes no sense.

I teach my students to never stereotype or scapegoat a group of people based on a single story. I will, however, call out any person who claims I’m a failure because of one story. For me, that’s personal.

Ms Wall's letter to editor



Filed under Uncategorized

An Educational Titanic, A Louisiana Edsel: Stand for Children Defends PARCC

Stand for Children Logo Red

A spurious web page is circulating throughout Louisiana from Louisiana branch of the organization Stand For Children. On this page, they warn that some parents are trying to convince other parents to pull their children from the upcoming PARCC tests. They urge parents to ignore these pleas and let the students take the tests because it’s the right thing to do for students.

“Parents with the courage to recognize an educational Titanic when they see one are wisely removing their kids from an untested experiment.”

Stand for Children, you want to do the right thing for students? How’s this for starters?

How about declaring how much money your organization accepted from the Bill Gates Foundation, the financial heart of Common Core and its accompanying tests. Savvy parents don’t accept anything at face value, and parents can’t trust you if they don’t know who paid for you. Transparency is all that they ask before you attempt to usurp the role of guardian to the next generation.

Next, how about researching this “new, better test” which your organization accepts blindly and without question. (Oh, yeah, that money issue.) From your tone, it’s obvious you know little about PARCC tests, which New York has used for two years. Do you honestly think a test that fails 2/3 of the New York testers is a “new, better test?” A test where 85% of African-American students and 81% of Hispanic students failed is a “new, better test?” All this proves is that it’s a harder test, or more likely, a poorly designed one, that’s all. In most cases, when people have been able to get test questions, they are worded in a most confusing manner and usually a couple of grade levels above the readers’ abilities. How is this a “better” test?

You claim that students will no longer be mindlessly bubbling, but will be able to show their academic growth. How? It’s the first time using this test in Louisiana, and the questions are not even coming from Pearson, the only company licensed to give the PARCC test. Louisiana has no contract with Pearson, no matter what John White says, so we are not comparing our students to anyone else in ten other PARCC-participating states. (It was once 24, but wiser states have been bailing the sinking ship.) And since it is the first time we’re giving this test, we can’t measure our growth because it’s so new. Only when the test has been given over many cycles can one judge growth or decline.

You claim these tests can help our teachers improve their teaching skills. How? The results won’t come out until next year, when the children will all be in the next grade, so how will this help the teachers better prepare the students they no longer teach? “If only I had tried this last year, I’d be so much better,” said what teacher ever? And why should tests from March take so long to grade, especially if they are so awesome? Even ACT tests don’t take this long, and they are a better indicator of being ready for college than these new, untried tests.

You fiercely defend this test as a great gauge for academic growth, but consider the ramifications of this monolithic test. One parish in central Louisiana has stopped “regular” teaching entirely and has been preparing their students for the PARCC-like tests for six solid weeks. Those six weeks of exploration and fascination over learning are gone as that parish “drills and kills” their students for a test that’s never been proven to do what it claims it will.

Perhaps worst of all is the unfortunate title Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). It’s grossly misleading: what third grader is ready for college? They’re not even ten! Of course they’re not ready. But when they hear that they have failed the test, they clearly understand that they are a failure and will never be ready for college. Who are these leaders designing this mess? Oh, wait, they aren’t teachers, that’s right.

So parents with the courage to recognize an educational Titanic when they see one are wisely removing their kids from an untested experiment. They refuse to lend their children as guinea pigs to the Louisiana version of the Edsel. Stand for Children may think it is standing for children, but it’s unnecessary. Parents are already standing up for their kids, and they do it for the right intentions, and without the benefit of Bill Gates’ money.



Filed under Uncategorized

The Chorus Grows: Sample Letter from the Lake Charles area

Stop Common Core

Calcasieu Parish, home to Lake Charles, has been fighting the good fight when it comes to Common Core and the PARCC test associated with it. Below is a letter written by Ganey Arsement in response to a pro-Common Core editorial which remarkably came out the SAME day as the Advertiser‘s pro-Common Core editorial. (I sense a pattern.) It was another example of an unnamed editorial blindly supporting a program based on no particular evidence other than retreaded arguments and soundbites provided by CC supporters. I responded to the Advertiser and Arsement responded to the Lake Charles paper. As paraphrased from a World War II saying, Common Core has awoken a sleeping giant.

Dear Editorial Board,

I am more than a little concerned that the editorial board has chosen to publish today’s opinion. I feel strongly that before forming an opinion on any matter, one is tasked with first reviewing the facts. It appears that the editorial board did not. If the board had taken the time to research the opposition to Common Core and PARC, they would have formed an entirely different opinion.

In addition, I challenge each and every member of that editorial board to take the 5th grade PARCC practice test. I hope you have the intestinal fortitude to post your results.

Let me start by saying that Common Core standards were not developed by a group of educators, administrators and governors. In fact, the writers of the standards have zero background in education. In general, the standards written at each grade level are astonishingly above the cognitive abilities of the children in that grade. A hundred years of research is proof of this. Despite esteemed educational researchers protesting the standards from the very beginning, 46 states adopted Common Core. As of this writing, 9 states have withdrawn and 4 are in the process. Some say that Governor Jindal’s attempt to withdraw is motivated by political aspirations. Perhaps, but I can tell you that his decision was greatly affected by the community efforts to stop Common Core in the this state. Why, you ask, are these states changing direction? It has nothing to do with not wanting standards. It is because the standards are inappropriate, and there is an enormous amount of unethical behaviors surrounding it.

Let me address the PARCC test that you proudly support in your editorial. Did you know that Louisiana does not have a contract with Pearson, the publisher of the PARCC test, and the test the children will be given is a “PARCC-like” test printed by another publisher. Your argument that this test will be a baseline is invalid. Next, the publisher, Pearson, promotes only one curriculum on its website to ready children for the PARCC test; Eureka Math (changed to Great Minds) and Core Knowledge ELA. Why does this matter? Because the curriculum is an atrocity. There are gaps in the lessons, misprints in the answers and it forces teachers to teach to the test. Here is something else you didn’t know. Of the three Common Core aligned curricula offered by the Louisiana Department of Education, only one provides money to districts to train teachers on how to use it. Guess which one.

Well, now we come to the money. Where does the money come from? In the last five years, the LDOE has received $10 million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The BMGF funnels millions upon millions of dollars to agencies to help ensure that the Common Core standards are implemented and the Pearson Recommended text is used, and the PARCC test is administered. Why? Because full implementation would guarantee a very profitable future for Microsoft as it would require his operating system and applications in every classroom in America. Here is a history lesson. Do you know what the first multi-million dollar corporation was? The American Business Machines corporation became so profitable selling its tabulating machine to Nazi Germany that it changed its name to International Business Machines, also known as IBM.

Who else gets money from BMGF? Probably some of your biggest advertisers. The Better Business Bureau, the Council for a Better Louisiana, Stand for Children; these are just a few of the non-profit organizations being paid to promote Common Core and PARCC.

I’d like to inform you that the movement in Lake Charles and Louisiana to remove Common Core and PARCC from our schools isn’t going anywhere. To underestimate it, or easily dismiss it, would be a mistake. In fact, it would be worth your while to do your homework. I assure that we have. In addition, I challenge each and every member of that editorial board to take the 5th grade PARCC practice test. I hope you have the intestinal fortitude to post your results.

Ganey Arsement
Lake Charles, LA

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Here Jindal Takes His Stand

Photo by Adriane Quinlan, NOLA.com, Times Picayune

Photo by Adriane Quinlan, NOLA.com, Times Picayune

I haven’t written about educational topics for a spell. The month of May physically exhausts me, as it does every educator, with graduation, exams, state testing, and the closing down of the school for the summer. I have already written extensively about Common Core, COMPASS, and PARCC testing, wondering if it would ever make a difference.

Jindal signed us into Common Core in 2010. It takes a brave man to recognize an error. It takes an even greater one to try to rectify it.

I’m unsure if I did, but the governor made a splash. After weeks of increasingly passionate speeches, Bobby Jindal made an executive order pulling Louisiana out of Common Core and PARCC testing.

He cited many things: federal intrusion in a state matter; the lack of competitive bidding for PARCC tests; the frustration of teachers who were inadequately prepared; and the advance of the Common Core timetable forced upon districts this past year. The most important factor, however, was the overwhelming anger of parents, whose myriad issues are too many to cover here.

Superintendent of Education John White and BESE Board President Chas Roemer have decried the governor’s decision and have vowed to fight it. I will sarcastically note that every governor looks forward to being told what he can and cannot do by an appointee who would not even have his job if weren’t for the governor. White had minimal qualifications and lacked experience, and so far his actions in office have reaffirmed my lack of confidence in his abilities.

White and others have said it would take the Department of Education a whole year to develop a new test to replace PARCC. What foolishness. We already possess diagnostic tools called LEAP, iLEAP, and End of Course Testing. To evaluate schools, the state DOE has already forced every junior to take the ACT. These tests have been tinkered with and refitted for years, so claiming that we need a new test is simply balderdash.

I think the most professional response came from St. Martin Parish Superintendent Lottie Beebe, who said the following, “We stand tall as leaders and we comply with the Governor’s executive order…. Educators need to be at the table when education decisions are made.”

She cut to the heart of my complaint about Common Core: it was developed by non-educators—i.e., test makers—with little or no input from teachers, principals, parents, or experts in child development. It was funded by billionaires like Bill Gates, whose interest is not the welfare of children, and assiduously supported by organizations (CABL, LABI, ALEC, Chamber of Commerce) whose educational expertise is suspect at best.

How can someone support what is essentially a huge gamble, an educational experiment using our children as guinea pigs with little or no guarantee of success?

Jindal signed us into Common Core in 2010. It takes a brave man to recognize an error. It takes an even greater one to try to rectify it.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized