Friday, May 18, 2018

Schneider Tallies up the cost LEAP testing

This is the link to the latest post on the Mercedes Schneider blog where she totals up the cost of LEAP testing over a five year period.

As Schneider points out, the cost of ACT related testing is not included in her analysis.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Louisiana Recovery District's Performance

In my most recent post below, I provided statistics obtained by public records requests that showed that an extremely small percentage  of Louisiana public school students who fail both their math and English-Language-Arts LEAP tests each year are denied promotion to the next grade.

The precise statistics for the 2015-16 school year revealed that a total of 66,209 students in grades 3 though 8 failed both their math and ELA LEAP tests. That's approximately 21% of students enrolled in grades 3-8 statewide.

The purpose of this post is to compare the performance and promotion rate of students in the Louisiana Recovery District (the RSD) with the average for all other public school students.

Starting in the fall of 2005, the state took over approximately 70 schools from local school boards and created a new school system called the Louisiana Recovery District. The purpose was to upgrade the performance of these so called failing schools and to convert them into successful schools. Most of these takeover schools were chartered to a mix of non-profit and for-profit charter management organizations that were expected to boost performance of students to acceptable levels.

For the first few years after the state takeover and conversion of the RSD schools to charter schools we saw press releases from the state department of education proclaiming that student performance on state LEAP tests were improving at a much faster rate than that of other public schools. I wanted to know how these schools compared more recently to other public schools after all these years of greater growth. So I requested the most recent statistics on student performance and also on grade retention rates.

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, the Louisiana Recovery District was operated under the BESE as the charter authorizer. Public records obtained from the LDOE reveal that the failure rate of RSD students in both ELA and math for the 2015-16 school year totaled 49% of all students enrolled in grades 3 though 8.

After 11 years of state control of the RSD and operation of its schools by charter managers, approximately half of the students in such schools failed both their math and English-Language-arts tests. Statistics also obtained from the LDOE indicate that only 2.9% of students in grades 3 though 8 in the RSD were denied promotion to the next grade. That's almost the same rate as the students that were retained in grade by all other public schools under the administration of local school boards even though their failure rate on state LEAP tests was much lower.

So what was the result of transferring control of all these so called failing schools to BESE and to charter management organizations? Approximately half the students in such schools failed to score even 30% correct answers on their math and ELA state tests. Yet almost all of these students were promoted to the next grade. And each year these takeover schools continued graduating more and more uneducated students.

A general analysis of all state "recovery districts" or so called "achievement zones" patterned after the Louisiana Recovery District finds that such takeovers have had pretty much the same phony results as our model reform district.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

State policy produces more diploma mills than ever

One of the oft stated objectives of education reforms in Louisiana was the elimination of “diploma mills”. Diploma mills were generally described as schools that award diplomas to almost all students, even those that had minimal academic achievement or were considered functionally illiterate.

Now after over 13 years of intensive education reform under State Superintendent John White, our Department of education is handing out more worthless diplomas than ever before. The new policies adopted by BESE at the urging of John White and the LDOE funnel almost all students to automatic graduation without regard to actual academic achievement. Here are the two portions of law that are supposed to implement "The Louisiana Competency Based Education Program":

  1. State law allowing for promotion of students in 4th and 8th grades to the next grade is defined as follows by Act 275 of 2012: "Fourth and eighth grade students shall be required to demonstrate proficiency on such tests in order to advance to grades five and nine, pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in accordance with the administrative Procedure Act. Such proficiency shall be set with reference to test scores of students of the same grade nationally."
  2. Another part of the law on competency based education states the following: "The department shall establish, subject to the approval of the state board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the nature and application of various intervention options in the case of failure to demonstrate proficiency, which may include remediation, retention in grade, an alternative placement in succeeding grades, or any other option which will support a student's achieving the required proficiency lovel
The LDOE and BESE originally implemented the laws above by adopting a policy that prevented students from being promoted to the fifth and ninth grades if they did not achieve at least "basic" on their LEAP tests. That portion of BESE policy was quietly repealed this year.

An Important Note: My opinion expressed many times in this blog is that the new state LEAP tests are totally invalid and should never have been used to determine promotion or failure of students. The real problem is that teachers are being pressured to promote students who have not demonstrated any level of achievement in their course work.

BESE policy now allows almost any "intervention" when a student fails some or even all of his/her LEAP tests. All the educators have to do is write up a proposed plan of action to address the academic deficiencies of the student. But there is no required follow-up. There is no day of reckoning for students who repeatedly fail either their class work or their state tests or both. How do I know this? Because I have submitted public records requests that reveal that even though 21% of all students regularly and repeatedly fail both their math and ELA LEAP tests, they are promoted to the next grade. Statewide, an average of only 2.5% of students are retained in grade even if the failure rate on two state tests at a time holds steady for each grade at about 21%. Teachers in most schools tell us that even if a student fails all of his/her teacher made tests, teachers are expected to somehow provide make-up work that allows an excuse for passing the student to the next grade.

In addition to elementary and middle school automatic promotion, when students are provisionally promoted to the ninth grade after failing all of their eighth grade LEAP tests, after one year, they are automatically given full status as high school students. Then if they fail their required courses, they are allowed to take computerized "credit recovery" courses that may take as little as one week for the student to be granted credit.

The problem is that the present school rating and grading system provides an incentive for circumventing standards. A school gets zero points on the state rating system for maintaining high standards, but the school gets lots of credit for graduating more and more students.

The true, overriding, unwritten policy of most school systems is to graduate as many students as possible without real regard for standards of any kind. We how have the ultimate diploma mills.

See my next blog above for specific examples of our "standards free" promotion policy.