Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White has been the top cheerleader for the Common Core State Initiative and all of the policies and testing that comes with it since he arrived in Louisiana in 2012. In recent years, a lot of folks have been asking some pretty important questions about just how standardized test scores are really determined and what they really mean, which apparently are questions White doesn’t want to answer.
Last year, Louisiana middle school students took the PARCC test. This year, they took a modified PARCC-like test (due to the state legislature passing a law calling for Louisiana to develop its own standards, only 49% of which could be borrowed from the CCSS). High school students take End of Course exams that are pass/fail. The PARCC and PARCC-like exams are not pass/fail. Yet.
But, teacher, school, and district “grades” are based on student performance. It’s kind of a big deal because people’s jobs can depend on those scores. One citizen, James Finney, sought clarification on the scoring practices through numerous information requests. When they were not forthcoming, he filed a lawsuit to get that information. White, instead of turning over the information, has decided to counter-sue Finney in an effort to keep that information suppressed.
From a letter Finney sent to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education:
The first new lawsuit (White vs Finney, 647827, attached) addresses five requests I made in fall 2015, five that I made in February of this year, and one that I made in March. In the lawsuit, Mr. White apparently is asking the judge to create special conditions on Louisiana’s public records law. It seems that, for whatever reason, Mr. White is bending over backward to make sure the public has no idea what statistical distributions LEAP, iLEAP, or EOC test scores follow. Are they symmetric? Skewed? Bimodal? Uniform? Nor does he, it seems, wish the public to have any means of verifying that School or District Performance Scores have been fairly and accurately calculated.
The second new lawsuit (White vs Deshotels et al, 647953, attached) attempts to reverse favorable judgments Mr. Deshotels received in two prior lawsuits, and apply that reversal (which seems unlikely given that the 19th JDC is not an appellate court) to a subsequent request by Mr. Deshotels and also to one of my requests. He seeks to use Mr. Deshotels and I as pawns, and cost us additional time and money, to establish a data-suppression policy that was already soundly rejected at court.
When an educator has a parent with concerns over his or her child’s grade, the teacher has to have frequently-updated records to show that, yes, the student’s grade is correct. Grading rubrics, parent contact, interventions, and other means are then used to show the parent that the child has been given ample opportunity to learn the material. If the teacher cannot prove this, then the teacher is presumed at fault for not doing his or her job.
This is the problem with education bureaucracies, especially many of those who push big agendas like Common Core or whatever new initiative will roll along after it. They tell us a system will work, implement the system, and when there is unrest, they hide any means of showing you how it is supposed to work. A large chunk of the public does not trust Common Core. If there is data that shows those standards have a positive effect, then they should be released. But, if the data is withheld, then it can only be interpreted as a sign that the standards do not work, and that the state doesn’t want you to know it doesn’t work.
Because of the frequency of the changes to education under White, many parents and even educators have lost a lot of faith in the education that is being provided. This decision to withhold information further alienates anyone from supporting the system that is putting all of this in place.