Educate All Students, Support Public Education

August 26, 2015

Black Lives Matter Press Conference Friday August 28, Red Arrow Park at 1PM

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 2:21 pm


August 26, 2015

Contact: Nate Hamilton 414-839-7204


The Coalition for Justice and Organizations Respond to Governor Scott Walker’s Response to the Black Lives Matter Questions 


Milwaukee, WI– The Coalition for Justice stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and responds to Governor Scott Walker’s recent responses to questions about the movement.


On Friday, August 28, 2015 at Red Arrow Park The Coalition for Justice along with other organizations, community leaders and concerned citizens will host a press conference calling Governor Scott Walker out on disregarding and disrespecting African Americans.

“The Governor’s remarks don’t come as a surprise to us not that he almost refused to answer the questions surrounding the Black Lives Matter Movement, but in the end he completely disregarded us and the work that we’re doing,” says Nate Hamilton, Co-Founder of the Coalition for Justice.” “With the comments he made we want to know where the Governor thinks that leaves African Americans.  Are we not American or are we not voters?” Hamilton adds.


It’s time to call Governor Walker out on these comments and more.

WHEN: Friday, August 28, 2015

WHERE: Red Arrow Park, 920 N. Water Street, Milwaukee,WI

TIME: 1:00 p.m. 

Data Comparison: New Orleans Recovery School District and Traditional Schools

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 1:03 pm

New Orleans RSD Compared to Traditional Schools
Thursday, May 21, 2015 by Mike Deshotels (Mike is a retired chemistry and physics teacher and writes a bi-weekly blog for The Louisiana Educator.)

The national news media has been reporting for several years now that the “portfolio” of charter schools created to run the state takeover schools in New Orleans have produced an amazing turnaround of those schools in the ten years since hurricane Katrina demolished the public schools in New Orleans. We see claims that most of the takeover schools are no longer failing and that the graduation rate has improved dramatically, and that the improved performance of the RSD students has greatly exceeded that of more traditional schools across Louisiana and across the nation. The charter school proponents believe, or would have us believe, that the New Orleans RSD has found the secret to closing the achievement gap between impoverished, at-risk minority students and more advantaged middle class students.

This report is an attempt to simply examine the relevant data that can be used to measure academic success of the New Orleans Recovery District. It will attempt to measure how the RSD compares to traditional public schools. What does the data tell us? Is it Reform Success or Reform Hype?

Is the Comparison Really Complicated?
Some education researchers on this topic have agonized over the fact that the Louisiana school rating system has changed so much in recent years that it is difficult to compare apples to apples. Also, the RSD has closed and renamed so many schools in New Orleans that it is almost impossible to trace the progress of any particular school. The test scores of RSD students on the Louisiana LEAP and iLEAP tests seem to have significantly improved, but so have the scores for the students in traditional schools throughout Louisiana. So, is there a still a method that will really compare the RSD schools to the traditional schools in Louisiana and possibly to other schools across the nation?

Unfortunately for comparison of student performance, the state test results in Louisiana have been manipulated so that they no longer measure the same level of proficiency as they did ten years ago. There appears to have been significant grade inflation of test results over the past ten years that have nothing to do with improvement in student achievement. Some of the grade inflation has come from familiarity of educators and students with the state test, so that students can score higher without significantly improving their math and reading skills. The rest of the grade inflation comes from a general lowering of the raw cut scores documented in this blog for the rating of “Basic” which in Louisiana is considered to be grade level performance. Not only have the state test results been manipulated by lowering many of the raw cut scores, the ratio of difficult to easy questions on the test can be changed from year to year also changing apparent performance.

So how much inflation has occurred in the state testing? The testing inflation can be estimated by comparing the average test results of Louisiana students as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) with the results of the state designed LEAP and iLEAP tests. In the last ten years, analysis shows that according to state tests, approximately 11 percent more students statewide were deemed to be on grade level (scored basic or above) than ten years ago. But at the same time, the NAEP test shows that only 3 percent more students advanced to basic. That difference and the simultaneous softening in the Louisiana formula for assigning grades to schools (bonus points for subgroups) have resulted in more and more schools appearing to have made dramatic progress in the last ten years. That dramatic “faux progress” includes the New Orleans RSD charter schools.

Graduation rates have improved statewide, and ACT scores are up slightly across the state. So how can we use these statistics to compare the RSD to the rest of the state and to schools nationwide?

There are three simple criteria that may be used to compare student performance between the RSD, state traditional schools, and schools in other states.
The answer to comparison of student performance in Louisiana is really quite simple and does not require complex calculations. First a little history:

The narrative by the charter school proponents is that prior to Hurricane Katrina, the school system in New Orleans was failing miserably. There was graft and corruption by school managers, and most students were getting such a substandard education that the schools deserved to be taken over and drastically overhauled. Some of that narrative is correct, but in the few years leading up to Katrina, the school system in New Orleans, just like all other systems in the state, was in the process of improving its student test scores. Even so, the destruction of Katrina was used as an opportunity for the State to take over schools and put them under new management. Independent charter management organizations were invited to come in and set up new schools chartered by the RSD and operated independently of the Orleans Parish School Board.

As some schools were taken over and some were closed, it became more difficult to trace the progress of individual schools. There is however, one very important statistic on student performance that we will use as a basis for our most critical comparison: Just prior to 2005, there was a special law (Act 35) passed by the Louisiana Legislature that allowed all public schools in New Orleans that had received a state calculated school performance score below the state average to be taken over by the state. This means that every school in Orleans rated below the 50th percentile in the ranking of schools across the state was taken over. So that’s the starting point for our comparison with student performance today.

It would require complex formulas and analysis to trace and compare individual school performance scores of the schools in New Orleans with the rest of the state because the formula for rating schools has changed and the tests and the grading system have changed. Also, the Orleans Parish school board has retained the management of a significant number of schools, which are operated as a separate school system from the RSD. But there is one simple statistic that can compare the takeover schools to the original schools that were taken over in 2005. That is the percentile ranking of the composite RSD student performance on the state tests compared to all the other students in the state. With the reopening of schools in New Orleans following Katrina, the special law applying only to New Orleans required that all schools ranked below the 50th percentile in New Orleans compared to all schools in the state, would be taken over by the RSD. Therefore it can be roughly concluded that the new district started with school performance on average ranking near the 25th percentile. Since school performance scores are based primarily on student test performance, the schools taken over and managed by the New Orleans Recovery District were producing student-testing results in the bottom quartile of all school systems in Louisiana at the time of takeover.

The Latest Academic Ranking Based on State Testing Places the New Orleans RSD at the 17th percentile

The fairest and most accurate academic comparison of the New Orleans Recovery District with all other districts in the state is the percentile ranking of student performance. The Louisiana Department of Education calculated this ranking at the end of the 2013-14 school year and listed all school system rankings in a table on the LDOE website. The latest calculated percentile ranking of the New Orleans RSD district is at the 17th percentile (see item #3 under State + District reports) compared to all other districts in the state based upon the percentage of students in the district achieving the rating of “Basic” on state testing. This means that at the present time, 83 percent of the school districts in the state outperform the New Orleans RSD in educating students to the level of “Basic”.

Therefore if schools in the RSD are compared using student test performance, there is no indication of improvement compared to all the public schools in the state. The ranking of takeover schools started in the bottom quartile compared to all schools in the state, and remains in the bottom quartile.

So if at the time of takeover, the New Orleans RSD ranked near the 25th percentile in student performance, then the present ranking of 17th percentile shows no improvement in relation to other school systems.

Also based on the NAEP tests, the Louisiana ranking compared to the 50 states and the District of Columbia stands at approximately 48th. That’s approximately the same ranking Louisiana had right before Katrina. So the New Orleans RSD ranks near the bottom of a state that still ranks near the bottom nationwide in student performance. Since schools in Louisiana today are rated primarily on their student performance on state tests, the RSD is far from achieving parity with the more traditionally operated school systems. The new all charter school system is unique both in its structure and also in its extremely low performance.

What About the Graduation Rate?
Another way to measure school success is the use the high school graduation rate. The latest official graduation rate for the New Orleans RSD now stands at 61.1%, which is dead last compared to all other Louisiana school districts. In addition, enrollment figures indicate that there are a huge number of students in the RSD that drop out before they ever get to high school. Students who drop out before they reach 9th grade are never figured into the graduation rate. There is a huge difference in 6th grade student enrollment (2495) compared to 9th grade (1685) in the New Orleans RSD. If we were to calculate the RSD graduation rate starting with 7th grade, it would be significantly less than 50%. That’s an awful lot of students walking the streets in New Orleans without a diploma. This early loss of students does not exist in two other school systems (St Bernard and Plaquemines) that were also similarly affected by hurricane Katrina.

What About Preparing Students for College?
Most of the schools in the New Orleans RSD are designed and advertised as college prep schools. There is a major emphasis on preparing and motivating students to enroll in four-year universities. Again there is one simple extremely relevant statistic that can be used to measure potential success in this area. All students in Louisiana are now required by the state to take the ACT test. The average ACT scores for RSD New Orleans students is now at 16.6 which is at the 6th percentile ranking in comparison to all other school districts in the state. Most graduates from the RSD score too low on the ACT to be accepted to most state colleges without remediation. The average ACT score would be even lower if all students in the RSD were taking the ACT as is mandated by the State Department of education. The enrollment of students in the 12th grade for the RSD in the 2013-2014 school year was 1380, according to the February student count. But the number of students with an ACT score for that year was only 1178. That’s only 85% of the 12th grade students enrolled. The two other school systems closest to the New Orleans RSD are the Orleans Parish School Board and the Jefferson Parish systems. They had a testing rate of 98% and 99% respectively. Removing 15% of the seniors from the testing can significantly raise the average score. But even with that advantage, the RSD still scores near the bottom compared to all other public school systems.

Expansion of the RSD System
Since the formation of the New Orleans RSD, there has been an attempt to extend the takeover concept to low performing schools in other parts of the state also using the charter “portfolio” method. There is now an RSD Baton Rouge and an RSD Louisiana. These schools have been in operation for 8 years. Using the same method of ranking based on percentage of students achieving “Basic” on state tests, these districts are now at the 2nd and 0 percentiles respectively. That is third to last and dead last. The graduation rates and the ACT scores for these takeover schools are also at the bottom of the state rankings. These simple statistics demonstrate that there has been absolutely no progress in Louisiana in improving student performance by taking over and converting schools to charters.

As several other independent investigators (Mercedes Schneider and Research on Reforms) have demonstrated, the so-called New Orleans Miracle is simply a hoax perpetrated upon a gullible and trusting public and news media by the charter promoters. Just like the rainmakers and con men of long ago, charter promoters have preyed upon a new group of willing rubes.

And now unfortunately, the false propaganda of the faux success of the Louisiana Recovery District is being used to justify the creation of similar takeover districts in many other states. All the data available so far for those new recovery districts shows a similarly disastrous result.
Posted by Michael Deshotels

August 24, 2015

African American teachers in New Orleans demand a Congressional Hearing

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 3:37 pm

What is the true story behind the mass firing of 7500 state-certified and tenured public school employees following Katrina? Those fired were overwhelmingly African American. This was a strategic and intentional blow to the Black middle class of New Orleans.

Following is a letter requesting a Congressional hearing on this issue:

New Orleans Public School Employees Will Request a Congressional Hearing on the $750
Million Federal Fund to Restart Schools after Hurricane Katrina

We suggest that an oversight or investigative Congressional hearing is warranted to review the use of $750 million in federal funds to “Restart School Operations” after Hurricane Katrina. Obtaining information from witnesses will be beneficial to various Congressional committees regarding the intended and actual use of federal funds after a natural disaster.

We propose that the initial review focus on the State of Louisiana, which was awarded $445.6 million in Restart funds, and the State of Mississippi, which was awarded $222.5 million. In New Orleans, Louisiana (only) 7500 state-certified public school employees were terminated based on a claim of “no jobs and no money.” However, “the Bay St. Louis-Waveland school district in southwest Mississippi, some of the $13 million it has received in restart money [paid] for the salaries of school psychologists, behavior specialists, and social workers to counsel staff members and students” here.

The fair and equal opportunity for citizens to receive authorized federal assistance after a natural disaster is clearly a non-partisan objective.

The following preliminary information is offered in support of a formal request for a Congressional Hearing to be made on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana’s urgent request for federal funds
The damaged school systems not only have damaged physical property, but loss of students, staff, local revenue and basic state aid. The damaged districts are very concerned, not only with securing educational services for the students while the districts are closed, but in providing some type of compensation for their staffs during the period the districts are closed, but in providing some type of compensation for their staffs during the period the districts are closed. In talking with Florida Department of Education about last year’s hurricane issues, we learned that they continued to pay their staffs and requested that the staff either help rebuild the schools, work in a shelter or perform other community work, or deal with their emergency family situations while their home schools were closed. This was done for several reasons, but mainly to assist in retaining staff for when the schools reopened. Of course, they still lost a large percentage of staff members who found other jobs and/or moved away.

In Louisiana, our situation is much more drastic. Several school systems are only able to make one more payroll. After that, their employees will be on unemployment or will need to find other work. These employees are very concerned with their livelihood, health insurance coverage, and just being able to cover basic needs. The districts are very concerned not only for their employees, but with other fiscal obligations that may force the districts into financial default, which they will not be able to overcome for many, many years.

On December 30, 2005, U.S, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings informed Louisiana and other states affected by Hurricane Katrina that Congress had appropriated $650 million for Displaced Students and $750 million for “Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations. See the letter here.

Millions spent on out-of-state consultants
However, Members of Congress should know that Louisiana did not use the emergency federal funds to help “employees who were concerned about their livelihood.” In April 2006 a financial consulting firm from New York was given a 3-year $29.1 million contract to “…develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated disaster recovery plan in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (See page 20 of Board Minutes here). A Texas company was paid $20 million for “school security” (see the news story here). Louisiana’s State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a “Recruitment Incentive Package” for out-of-state teacher and other personnel “moving to New Orleans to work at any school in the Recovery School District” using federal “Restart” money as follows: $2500 relocation allowance, $400/month housing allowance (one year only), $5,000/year signing bonus (for two years). Total Package-$17,300. Seethe Official Board Minutes—April 19, 2007 (See page 11 of the Board Minutes here).

A Trial Court noted the intended use of the federal funds:
Notwithstanding the State Defendants’ representation to the U.S. Department of Education that it needed over “$700 million to pay salaries and benefits of out-of-work school employees, and the State Defendants’ receipt of over $500 million dollars in post-Katrina federal “Restart Funds” based upon this representation, the State Defendants did not ensure that any of this money was used to pay the salaries or benefits of the Plaintiff Class. Rather, the State Defendants diverted these funds to the RSD [Recovery School District—emphasis added].

Politics and the firing of’7500 school employees
What is the true story behind the mass firing of 7500 state-certified and tenured public school employees—including thousands of tenured and non-tenured, union and non-union employees?
At the end of the 2004-2005 school year, eighty-eight (88) of the more than 120 public schools in Orleans Parish had met or exceeded the state’s requirement for adequate yearly progress. These schools were not failing. Ninety-three (93) of the schools showed academic growth. The Orleans Parish School Board was making documented progress in raising failing school scores in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind legislation prior to Hurricane Katrina. Thus, as of the 2005-06 school year, the OPSB was working towards meeting the State’s growth target.

Prayers and politics were at the top of the agenda for the first Orleans Parish School Board meeting held September 15, 2005 at the State Department of Education in Baton Rouge. Members prayed for those who suffered loss of life and property. However, immediately after the public comment period, Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education tried unsuccessfully to have a New York financial

Even after the meeting was over, Mr. Picard persisted with the issue telling me yesterday that he
has already spoken with the Governor about an Executive Order, presumably to initiate a takeover of
the schools should we not agree to giving Mr. Roberti the position of Superintendent.”

It must also be noted that public schools in St. Tammany Parish, which borders New Orleans, also
sustained substantial damage, but state education officials were “very supportive” in reopening
schools there—working with FEMA to obtain trailers and some schools operated out of portable
classrooms” In stark contrast, the state controlled financial consultants from New York ignored a
similar plan suggested by the New Orleans Superintendent of Schools (he wanted to replace).

Feds demand Nebraska repay $22 million for botched child welfare reform; Maryland misspent $28M
of ObamaCare grants; and Baltimore set to repay $4 million in misspent homeless funds. In a
December 23, 2014 announcement about the Eastern District of Pennsylvania collecting $2.3 billion
in civil and criminal actions in FY 2014, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger stated, “Our nation’s
taxpayers deserve our most aggressive efforts to recover their hard-earned tax dollars that have
been misappropriated.”

The tenth anniversary of Katrina would be an ideal time for Members of Congress to reassure American citizens, especially New Orleans public school employees, that the misspending taxpayers’ hard-earned tax dollars will not be tolerated. These employees were the intended beneficiaries of federal “restart” funds and legislation can ensure that they become beneficiaries of misspent funds repaid by the state of Louisiana. After a 10-year fight for due process and property rights, we continue this struggle because justice has no deadline.

Willie M. Zanders, Jr.
Lead counsel

From New Orleans: Washing Machine-Style Education Reform

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 2:51 pm

From New Orleans: Washing Machine-Style Education Reform
Ashana Bigard The Progressive August

As a New Orleans parent and an active member of my community, I think of myself as an expert on the experiment in education reform that tranformed my city into the nation’s first all-charter school district. So when I attended a recent community-centered conference on “The New Orleans Model of Urban School Reform: A Guide or a Warning for Cities Across the Nation?” I wasn’t sure there’d be much for me to learn.

In fact, given the focus on academic urban education research, I feared the event would speak only to people who have Ph.D.s or are working on getting one, neither of which describes me.

But the research on what has happened to New Orleans over the last ten years shocked me. The story of what happened here is important not just to those of us who live here, but to people who live in any of the cities where New Orleans-style education reform is headed next, possibly including yours.

Parent activist Anthony Parker described what he called “washing machine” approach to education reform: “Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat.” He was talking about what happens to children. Children wait at bus stops as early as 4:30 in the morning and don’t get home until 7:30 or 8:00 at night. Then it’s time to do homework, go to sleep, get back up and repeat the cycle all over again. Children are badly sleep deprived. Despite the long school days, children often get no time for social development because of the strict and rigorous atmosphere of the charter schools here. Nor are they learning from a curriculum that feels relevant, respectful, and accessible to a child of color growing up in this community. This is a painful and unnecessary waste of most of these children’s time.

Parker, whose grandparents taught in the New Orleans Public Schools for a combined sixty years, described how hard it was to explain to his son why he can’t attend their neighborhood school after his charter school was closed. For Parker’s own son, who is just seven years old, “washing machine” reform means he’ll be attending his fourth school this fall. “Wash, rinse, repeat.”

The lives of adults have been disrupted, too. Charmaine Neville talked about her relationship to the schools in the New Orleans neighborhood of Bywater. Before the storm, she was deeply involved in schools across the city, volunteering, tutoring, and giving lessons of all kinds. She described her heartbreak when she tried to help children with special needs who attend the school across the street from her house. Administrators at the charter school asked her what she wanted. “To help with my children,” Neville answered. She was told that her help wasn’t needed.

The word trauma was invoked by many speakers. Children are particularly vulnerable, and in New Orleans, children who were already traumatized by high levels of poverty and violence experienced one of the worst traumas in the nation’s history. The response was to re-traumatize them by creating instability—the very opposite of what the children needed. Our children were in desperate need of counselors, social workers and therapists. Instead, they got the National Guard functioning as private security. Parent advocate and poet Nikkisha Napoleon describes what happened in the wake of Katrina as educational and economic “terrorism.” She says that when she uses this term, people tell her she’s being too harsh. If you agree with her critics, I encourage you to look up the definition of terrorism: the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims.

Parent advocate Cristi Fajardo talked about a different kind of trauma. Many of the city’s charter schools pat children down at the start of the day. Fajardo explained that for children who’ve been traumatized by unwanted touch, these pat downs—and the requirement by charter school operators that children begin each day shaking the hands of adults—can be re-traumatizing. Children who refuse risk suspension or expulsion. Charter operators in this new New Orleans district don’t take children’s trauma into consideration when making rules.

Fajardo and Napoleon spoke as part of a panel on “Parental Choice and the Struggle of Navigating Education Markets.” Their nuanced stories of the parents and students they advocate for in the city’s new school system were more powerful than any of the official PR you’ve heard.

I wish every education reformer could have attended the session, “Does the New Orleans Recovery School District Measure Up? Making Sense of the Data on Charter School Performance.” Data experts Jason France, Mike Deshotels, Barbara Ferguson, and Howard Nelson used a super-sized PowerPoint presentation. The data was fascinating, horrifying, and clarifying all at the same time. In case you were wondering about the answer to the question posed by the session, it is a big fat no. As the presenters explained, if the Recovery School District was held to the same standard that allowed for the takeover of the schools after the storm, the RSD would only be allowed to keep four schools. Four.
So next time you read about the stunning success of New Orleans-style education reform, keep that number in mind. And try to talk to someone who is living through the experiment. I bet you’ll learn a lot.

Ashana Bigard is a parent advocate in New Orleans.
– See more at:

August 23, 2015

Donald Trump Has Pulled Back the Curtain on the Republican Party Exposing the Profound Racism Plaguing Their Ranks

Filed under: Immigration,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 12:57 pm

Donald Trump has pulled back the curtain on the Republican Party, showing us the profound racism plaguing their ranks. This is the same once proud party based in abolition and in support of its first presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln.

Now we see the arrogant Donald Trump leading the charge against babies, U.S. born citizen babies. He uses the racist term “anchor” babies. Who is now standing alongside Trump? Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has joined in the chorus, attacking immigrants and their children. (See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial 8/23/15 at:Gov. Scott Walker: Wrong again on immigration )

This issue is not a policy discussion. This is an all out ultra-right wing call to round-up immigrants, giving police more power to act in a police-state fashion against Latinos. Trump wants to build a fence and put the Army at the border. He wants to deport 11,000,000 people.

Two men in Boston, motivated by Trump’s message, attacked a homeless Latino man last week. In response, Trump said, “the people that are following me are very passionate.” Trump later said it was “terrible” but the truth had already been revealed. His words encourage racist, KKK-style attacks on immigrants.

Following is section one of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Trump said that it is “unconstitutional.”
Amendment XIV
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

New York Times Op-Ed Once Again Exposes New Orleans “Recovery School District”

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 11:06 am

The Myth of the New Orleans School Makeover

By ANDREA GABORAUG. 22, 2015 NYTimes Op-Ed

WAS Hurricane Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” as Education Secretary Arne Duncan once said? Nearly 10 years after the disaster, this has become a dominant narrative among a number of school reformers and education scholars.

Before the storm, the New Orleans public school system had suffered from white flight, neglect, mismanagement and corruption, which left the schools in a state of disrepair. The hurricane almost literally wiped out the schools: Only 16 of 128 buildings were relatively unscathed. As of 2013 the student population was still under 45,000, compared with 65,000 students before the storm. Following the storm, some 7,500 unionized teachers and other school employees were put on unpaid leave, and eventually dismissed.

Two years before the storm, the State of Louisiana had set up a so-called Recovery School District to take over individual failing schools. After Katrina, the district eventually took over about 60 local schools; about 20 well-performing schools remained in the Orleans Parish School Board, creating, in essence, a two-tier system. Nearly all the schools in both parts of the system have since been converted to charters.

Last year, 63 percent of children in local elementary and middle schools were proficient on state tests, up from 37 percent in 2005. New research by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance shows that the gains were largely because of the charter-school reforms, according to Douglas N. Harris, the alliance’s director. Graduation and college entry rates also increased over pre-Katrina levels.

But the New Orleans miracle is not all it seems. Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation. The new research also says little about high school performance. And the average composite ACT score for the Recovery School District was just 16.4 in 2014, well below the minimum score required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana.

There is also growing evidence that the reforms have come at the expense of the city’s most disadvantaged children, who often disappear from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data.
“We don’t want to replicate a lot of the things that took place to get here,” said Andre Perry, who was one of the few black charter-school leaders in the city. “There were some pretty nefarious things done in the pursuit of academic gain,” Mr. Perry acknowledged, including “suspensions, pushouts, skimming, counseling out, and not handling special needs kids well.”

At a time when states and municipalities nationwide are looking to New Orleans, the first virtually all-charter urban district, as a model, it is more important than ever to accurately assess the results, the costs and the continuing challenges.

New Orleans has been trying to make the system more fair. It replaced its confusing and decentralized school application process with one in which most schools accept a single application. In response to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of special education students, the courts recently tightened oversight of charter schools.

But stark problems remain. A recent report by the Education Research Alliance confirmed that principals engage in widespread “creaming” — selecting, or counseling out, students based on their expected performance on standardized tests. In a forthcoming study, the alliance expects to show that lowest-scoring students are less likely to move to higher-performing schools.

The rhetoric of reform often fails to match the reality. For example, Paul G. Vallas, the superintendent of the Recovery School District from 2007 to 2011, boasted recently that only 7 percent of the city’s students attend failing schools today, down from 62 percent before Katrina, a feat accomplished “with no displacement of children.” This was simply false.

Consider Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, one of the city’s last traditional public schools to be “taken over.” Most of its 366 students declined to re-enroll when it reopened under new management in the fall of 2011. During its first year under FirstLine, a charter management organization, Clark had only 117 “persisters,” or returning students, according to a study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, known as Credo. FirstLine could not account for where the students went after they left Clark. However, Jay Altman, its chief executive, told me in an email that before FirstLine took over, a similarly low proportion of students, about 35 percent, were returning. (The school district did not respond to my queries about Clark.)

One problem is that in the decentralized charter system, no agency is responsible for keeping track of all kids. Two years ago the Recovery School District, acknowledging that it was “worried” about high school attrition, began assigning counselors to help relocate students from schools it was closing. Louisiana’s official dropout rates are unreliable, but a new report by Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, using Census Bureau survey data from 2013, found that over 26,000 people in the metropolitan area between the ages of 16 and 24 are counted as “disconnected,” because they are neither working nor in school.

Ironically, schools like Clark actually feed the New Orleans success narrative because when bad schools are taken over their “F” grades automatically convert to a “T” — for a turnaround. Thus, in the 2013-14 school year, the four schools with “T” grades wouldn’t be counted as “failing” schools, nor would the 16 schools that received a “D” grade. About 40 percent of Recovery School District schools were graded “D,” “T” or “F” that year.

Adding to the difficulty of assessing the New Orleans experiment is the fact that Louisiana education data has been doled out selectively, mostly to pro-charter researchers, and much of the research has been flawed. Last fall, the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives was forced to retract a study that concluded that most New Orleans schools were posting higher-than-expected graduation rates and test scores.

Last spring, Credo produced a study of 41 urban charter districts, including New Orleans, that purported to show that charters outperformed urban public schools on standardized test scores; but this study was also highly flawed. The methodology was based on comparing each charter student to a virtual “twin,” a composite of as many as seven public-school kids who attend “feeder” schools and who match the charter students on demographics and test scores. The problem in New Orleans was that there are virtually no local feeders left from which to draw comparisons.

Andrew E. Maul, an assistant professor of research methodology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, found that Credo’s report “cannot be regarded as compelling evidence of the greater effectiveness of charter schools compared with traditional public schools.”

Meanwhile, black charter advocates charge that the local charter “club” leaves little room for African-American leadership. Howard L. Fuller, a former Milwaukee superintendent, said the charter movement won’t have “any type of long-term sustainability” without meaningful participation from the black community.

A few school leaders agree that the model needs major change. For example, a new open-enrollment charter school, Morris Jeff, is working to integrate both the student body and its teaching force, and even backed a unionization effort — one of the city’s first since the hurricane.

A key part of the New Orleans narrative is that firing the unionized, mostly black teachers after Katrina cleared the way for young, idealistic (mostly white) educators who are willing to work 12- to 14-hour days. Patricia Perkins, Morris Jeff’s principal, says the schools need the “wisdom” of veteran black educators.

Morris Jeff is benefiting from one of the most important post-Katrina reforms: a big increase in both government and philanthropic funding. It recently moved into a new bright, air-conditioned building.

For outsiders, the biggest lesson of New Orleans is this: It is wiser to invest in improving existing education systems than to start from scratch. Privatization may improve outcomes for some students, but it has hurt the most disadvantaged pupils.

Andrea Gabor is a professor of business journalism at Baruch College, the City University of New York.

August 22, 2015

Howard Fuller attempts to separate himself from Scott Walker while saying he is not “trying to be negative toward Scott Walker”

Filed under: Fuller,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 4:52 pm

Wisconsin State Journal on Scott Walker’s comments saying that Howard Fuller is “to whom he listens when it comes to education policy.” Read at:
The article shows Fuller attempting to separate himself from Walker but saying, “I’m not trying to be negative toward Scott Walker.”

Note the quote from Fuller at the end of the article which states, ““It’s very difficult for me because I come from a family where (public sector) unions were a critical part for my mother and her friends … but when it comes to teachers unions … I’m sort of split.”

At a 2010 KIPP school summit Fuller compared teacher unions and their leaders to Governor George Wallace standing “at the door trying to keep our kids from getting in.”

I guess being “split” is progress.

August 19, 2015

Hope Christian Schools: Another Voucher School Program Built on Half-truths, False Claims and Manipulated Data

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:02 pm

Previously I have addressed the failure of so-called high-performing voucher schools by exposing the facade created by St. Marcus Lutheran School (see: Response to MJS Article on Henry Tyson and St. Marcus Lutheran School ). Recently I was able to interview an educator from Hope Christian Academy describing similar failings to those of St. Marcus.

Hope Christian Schools (HCS) started in 2002 with one school serving 47 students. Today, they have six schools serving nearly 2,000 students.

The narrative presented to me by a teacher at HCS, does not represent transparency and fidelity in educating our kids.

For example:
Hope Christian Schools claims: “(MAP testing) At our K-8 level, our students have grown by 45% more than their peers, nationally, in both math and reading.”
The truth is that students retake the MAP test until they show demanded improvement.

Students have been expelled, not for fighting, but for simply showing aggressive behavior. Students are constantly warned, “Do you want to go back to MPS?” MPS is constantly berated and made fun of.

Special education: There are little accommodations for students with special needs. Students are placed into groups according to reading or math MAP scores but there is no special education. Students who have special needs are most likely categorized as chronically misbehaved and may be subject to being “counseled out” or expelled. There is no special education program and student IEP’s are fulfilled by MPS.

Hope Christian Schools claims: (WKCE testing): “At our K-8 level, students arrive at our schools scoring significantly below the district average. After 2 years at HOPE, our scholars not only met, but exceeded their district peers in both math and reading.”
The truth is that last year’s 8th grade at Fortis (31 students tested) saw only 6% of its students (2 students) test at proficient and zero percent tested as advanced for reading. The 5th grade at Semper had only 4% test proficient with zero percent testing advanced. (See at:

HCS brags about its graduation rates. But this year’s graduation cohort of 34 students had 51 students take the WKCE exam in 2012. What happened to the 17 students (36%) not graduating this year? Were they counted toward graduation rates as they would be with MPS’s graduation calculations?

HCS teaches very little social studies and history while focusing on “no-nonsense” Christian “character building”. The staff person I interviewed described the culture as torture to watch, a jail.

Most teachers come from Teach For America and very few of the teachers at Semper and Fortis have a teaching license. Between these two schools (the person I interviewed estimated between 40 and 60 teachers) last year there was one African-American teacher.

Hope Christian Schools has many new buildings and is aggressively expanding with public money. But behind its shiny new exteriors, is it doing justice for our children?

August 9, 2015

New Orleans Recovery District Called a Dismal Failure by the City’s Leading African American Newspaper

Filed under: New Orleans,Recovery District — millerlf @ 8:44 pm

On August 4th and 5th I attended an education conference in the great city of New Orleans, titled the New Orleans Education Conference. In contrast to the June conference, sponsored by Tulane University, it presented the truth about the New Orleans recovery school district. The amount of information, both from presented data and through parent and academic narratives, was overwhelming.

To start one should go to the website of The New Orleans Tribune, the uncompromising Black newspaper, published in New Orleans. Dr. Louis Charles Roundanez, founded The New Orleans Tribune, circa 1864. The modern Tribune is part of a publishing legacy that began 148 years ago, when Roudanez published the first Black daily newspaper in the United States. Then, as now, The Tribune was dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens. Volume 31, Number 5, is dedicated to the recovery school district and presents a major summary of 10 years of “Myth and Lies of The New Orleans Transformation.” (Go to:

Following is their May/June editorial from that issue along with the Louisiana report card letter grades for the New Orleans schools:

It’s been a tough several months on the local public education front: Let’s count the ways:
First, Act 543, which captures local sales and property tax dollars for the use of the Recovery School District and charter school boards that do not answer to the voters and tax payers of New Orleans, passed easily late last year with the help of our local elected officials and leaders.

Then, advocates, community members, alumni and friends of John McDonogh High School were dealt a death blow when the historic school site was recently given to Bricolage Academy, a charter school that has close ties with a number of the key players and organizations in the reform movement and that has received significant financial backing from the Walton Foundation and New Schools for New Orleans.

With our offices across the street from John McDonogh, we have watched in disgust as workers have been sent in recent weeks to clean and clear the school. We assume that it is in preparation of Bricolage’s eventual move to the facility. Perhaps they will get that $35 million renovation John White promised John McDonogh students and staff more than four years ago when he announced that the only way their school could get renovated was if they were taken over by a charter and then reneged on the promise

Next, state Rep. Joe Bouie’s HB 166, which would have returned improved schools to local elected governance (consistent with the intent of the original law) failed 31-60.

If that were not enough, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of wrongfully fired Orleans Parish public school employees, including more than 7,000 mostly Black, veteran teachers who were the backbone of the city’s middle class.

We could go on with the list of setbacks as it relates to the farce that is being tossed around as education reform. It seems the more we and others aligned against this fake reform—people like veteran educators Raynard Sanders and Lee Barrios, parent advocate Karran Harper Royal, community advocates Brenda Square and teacher and coach Frank Buckley, researchers Barbara Ferguson and Charles Hatfield, education bloggers Mercedes Schneider and Diane Ravitch, and organizations like Justice and Beyond—fight, the more the ground so-called reformers gain.

The truth is, we’ve been feeling like conceding lately.
Why do we persist?
How’s it going to help?
What’s going to change?
This thing appears to be a run-a-way train.
And we can’t stop it.
We have said all of this and more in the past several weeks and months. Yet, here we are again—devoting an entire issue to sharing the truth about the post-Katrina education reform that is hurting local students, marginalizing parents and disenfranchising voters and taxpayers and that will hurt us for generations to come.

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Surely, we could find other uses for our newsprint and ink.

Well, we do not ever want it to be said that The New Orleans Tribune sat in silence and said nothing while this travesty took place. That’s not what we do or who we are. You expect more from us. We demand more of ourselves. So we would find no joy in saying “we told you so.” We would rather say “so glad we stopped that from happening.” And we hope that every time we raise our voice, others will take heed and join us in a battle we know is righteous. As such, we will go on record now and every chance we get. We will call out the calamity for what it is. We cannot allow defeat to silence our voice. We will not concede—not with the future of our children at stake. The education of children, especially traditionally under-served African-American children, should be no one’s experiment—or meal ticket.

We’re doing it for the record. See, maybe in 20 years, one of the architects of this so-called reform will finally have a crisis of conscience and admit that they were wrong. Maybe it will be John White or Paul Pastorek. Maybe Leslie Jacobs will see the error of her ways. Maybe.

It would be a move reminiscent of President Bill Clinton’s recent acknowledgment of the fact that it was his criminal justice policies that caused and contributed to the mass incarceration problem. Maybe, just maybe in 20 years, President Obama and his education chief Arne Duncan will apologize and admit that the policies they set in motion were deleterious, that the Race to the Top was nothing more than running in place or worse—running backwards
But as it was with Clinton’s mea culpa, even if President Obama and Secretary Duncan apologized in two decades, it would be 20 years too late.

On the same day that scores of local residents boarded a pair of buses headed to Baton Rouge to support HB 166 as it was taken up by the state House of Representatives, the American Federation for Children was in town for a two-day policy conference. They were here, touting the success of charter schools, talking up the need for reform in education and talking about the parents and children—especially urban parents and children (code for Black, brown and poor) who benefit the most from all of this so-called progress.

We couldn’t help but notice the irony of it all.
We looked at the faces of the people at the AFC summit there to glean talking points to shape and share the education reform narrative in ways that could change policy and minds; and we noted the lack of brown and Black folk. It was striking. Of course, there were a handful, just a handful and likely hand-picked.
So where were all those urban parents and children who benefit so greatly from all of the choice and success that charter schools offer? The AFC has a policy summit in New Orleans—the home of the nation’s only all-charter school district; and not one local parent was in the room when a panel about “transforming” New Orleans was being held. We are told that some had actually been turned away.

We had just left a bunch of urban, Black folk concerned about public education in New Orleans. Of course this group had not been invited to the AFC conference. They were boarding buses at Christian Unity Baptist Church to go to Baton Rouge to support HB 166, the bill authored by state Rep. Joe Bouie.

HB 166 would have done one thing and one thing only—return successful schools (their buildings and fiscal resources) from the Recovery School District to local, elected governance. To be sure, not one of those schools would have had to convert from a charter to a direct-run school had Rep. Bouie’s bill passed. The only thing that would have changed was that instead of being under the umbrella of the Recovery School District, schools no longer deemed “failing” would return to the Orleans Parish School Board. That’s it.

As such, the disheartening failure of the state House to pass HB 166, to us, proves yet again that the so-called reform that has taken place here has had little to do with improving academic performance or increasing choice and academic opportunity for the children and families that need it most. Instead, it has everything to do with money and power. And HB 166, simply put, threatened to diminish the control of the power brokers and education reform architects.

For the record, the organizations and individuals that so arrogantly seized our schools and empowered themselves to drive the education “reform” agenda do not take us by surprise. We expect as much from Leslie Jacobs and Sarah Usdin, from Paul Pastorek and John White. However, we have been astonished and saddened to watch as institutions and individuals trusted by our community are all too happy to sign on to this sham. They have done so for their own reasons we suppose. Some of them are our friends, and we know they are smart enough to know what’s really taking place. We can agree to disagree; still, we wonder about their motivations. Don’t they know they are just pawns in a game? Don’t they know the reformers have a play book and it tells them to turn to “trusted community organizations” so that they can “play a critical role in effective community engagement.”

Take a look in a mirror, friends, and ask yourself if you are the “trusted community organization” picked by the reformers to carry the Kool-Aid to your community.

If some schools have recovered, then why keep them under the control of the Recovery School District? There is not a single charter school operating in New Orleans that could not operate under the elected Orleans Parish School Board, which currently oversees 12 charters and six direct-run schools. In fact, why is the RSD still in New Orleans?
Well, we have answered that very question more times than we can count, right here on the pages of this publication. We’ve grown tired. We are aggravated. Actually, these days we are downright incensed. But we will answer once again.

The people, entities, organizations and institutions driving the education reform movement, especially here in New Orleans, don’t care whether our children receive a quality public education. Neither they nor their children attend or have attended public school in New Orleans. It is not about choice or change or charters. If it were really about choice for parents and children, why is a computer program matching students with schools? Sounds more like school chance and happenstance than school choice to us.

Still, they are happy to use that “choice” mantra so long as it means billions of dollars will continue to flow through their non-profit organizations and their new-fangled foundations. They will continue to use that mantra so long as it means contracts for consulting or school construction or Common Core-aligned text books and testing services for their big corporate buddies. They will continue to use that mantra so long as they can hand out cushy jobs to cronies and allies. And the cronies and allies are happy to go along as long as they are taken care of.
For the record, we are not against change or charters. We do not oppose education reform. There are successful models where traditional public schools co-exist with charters to offer students and their parents quality educational opportunities. In fact, the so-called reformers are right. Katrina was the biggest opportunity. It wiped the slate clean. It offered us the rare chance to get it right. We could have built first-rate facilities in neighborhoods across this city. We could have staffed them with top-notch education administrators, veteran teachers and new ones, too, trained and prepared to contribute to the field. We could have had real change. It’s just that what has happened in New Orleans in the 10 years since Katrina has not been about any of those things.

Instead, education reform, pseudo school choice, and the proliferation of charter schools have merely been one of the vehicles co-opted to perform an entirely different agenda—gain control of an entire city and every system that operates within its jurisdiction. Those who fled New Orleans decades ago on the heels of integration want the neighborhoods back. So they tore down public housing. They want seats of political power back; and they are gaining. The schools—or rather control of schools—are a major piece of that puzzle. This so-called reform is a spoke in a wheel that has been turning now for decades. Katrina was the catalyst that allowed these social engineers and profiteers to hasten their plans. If they have to pretend like they care about where our children learn to gain access to and control of money, land, facilities and dominance, it is a small price to pay. If their gain is on the backs of students, parents and taxpayers, so be it. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that there is money—big money—tied up in this reform movement. And if they can control that as well, all the better. Some of the biggest players in this game are about as concerned about the education of poor Black children in New Orleans as they are about a swarming fly.
Come on, let’s get real. The hypocrisy of it all is actually unsettling. One of the biggest national players in this reform folly is the Walton Foundation. The Walton Foundation has funneled nearly $180 million in grant money in three years (2011, 2012, and 2013) to national and local organizations in the name of education reform. In 2014, alone, the Walton Foundation directed more than $2.6 million to local groups, such as New Schools for New Orleans, the Louisiana affiliate of Stand for Children, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Orleans Public Education Network, 4.0 Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Now, it’s the Walton family’s money; and they are free to donate it as they please. But just for a second let’s consider that research clearly shows a correlation between family income and a child’s academic achievement and that the widening achievement gap is in great measure associated the widening wealth gap. Given those points, one would think that if the Waltons were so concerned with transforming educational outcomes for America’s children they would not have to be shamed into giving their own low-wage earning employees a pay raise. The wages earned by many Wal-Mart employees are so low that their workers often rely on food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, and state-funded healthcare programs.

Truth is that we would be okay with it all—with the foundations for education for this . . . and the new schools for that . . . if public education in New Orleans was actually improving.

But for the record: The myth that this new system of education is more accountable and successful than before is just that—a MYTH. Better still, it is a pack of lies. Don’t be fooled when the reform advocates tout the successes of schools like Lusher and Ben Franklin. First of all, these are not RSD campuses. They were not taken over by the state. These schools, though they have now been chartered, are OPSB schools. More importantly, they were the crown jewels, the top performers in local public education long before the storm. There was no transformation at these campuses. They have been the consistent successes. They were the schools parents and education advocates pointed to years ago and asked “hey, wait…why can’t you make all of our schools like them.”

So now that we have that straight, here’s the reality of the mythical miracle. Fifty-seven (57) RSD-New Orleans schools have school performance scores and letter grades for the 2013-2014 school year. And they don’t look so miraculous. There are six (6) Ts or schools in transition, meaning they have been assumed by a new charter operator and are being given a grace period before their academic performance is measured. We have written before about this perpetual state of transition that can exist as the RSD decides to kick out one charter operator for another over and again.

There are 20 Cs. The last time we checked Cs were nothing to write home about. They indicate a performance level that is acceptable—not exceptional. They represent mediocrity, which is one reason it is mind-boggling that as we understand it FirstLine Schools is in line to get more get more campuses, despite the poor showing of the schools already under its control (four Cs and one F).

There are combined 24 Ds and Fs. In other words 24 schools are academically inadequate. Twenty-four schools are failing to meet the state’s minimum academic standard.

Yes, there are a few Bs—seven (7) to be exact. Meanwhile, not a single charter school in the RSD-New Orleans has earned an A. And with the state’s fluctuating definition of a “failing” school, even a few of the Bs are suspect.
Recall that in 2005, the state legislator raised the minimum SPS score to 87.4 in order to takeover local schools. The minimum SPS has since been lowered to accommodate the reform’s failure. But based on the same standard used to take over more than 100 schools in New Orleans nearly 10 years ago, three (3) of the schools with B letter grades would actually be considered failing. Just so we are clear and for the record, three (3) RSD schools that have earned Bs in the current performance rankings would have been taken over by the state for those same SPS score 10 years ago.

If this reform was really about hope for our children, there would be no more RSD-New Orleans. Truth is the real miracle is that anyone is actually able to follow all of the shenanigans that have taken place in the name of education reform—raise the SPS score minimum; lower the SPS score minimum; plan to return improved schools to the local education agency after five years; don’t automatically return improved schools; give appointed charter boards the final say so on whether they return to elected control; charter every school under your jurisdiction; and if one or two schools ever decide to return, enforce the rules you have neglected for 10 years, yank their charter and shut them down.

More than 54 percent of the charter schools under RSD control are either failing or in transition. Another 35 percent are mediocre. If they were measured by the same standards used to take over the schools in Orleans Parish in 2005, the RSD would be forced to relinquish all but four campuses under its control. Again, just to be clear and for the record: if the RSD were judged by the same standards used to take control of schools in New Orleans 10 years ago, the RSD would be left with only four schools.

The fact that it actually continues to grow its power and control is what is miraculous.

Ah, but that is reform. What a joke.
Of course, it isn’t. Those SPS scores aren’t the digits that matter, though. No, no—they are not the numbers that the reformers care about. Here are the numbers that get them going 17.2 as in the more than $17.2 million the Reily Foundation gave to the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Greater New Orleans Education Foundation between 2010-2012. And while 53 is definitely a failing number in the state’s accountability system, it certainly is a passing score if we are talking about the nearly $53 million the Walton Foundation gave to the Charter School Growth Fund, Inc.

But let’s say we ignore the billions of dollars that have flooded this city in the name of education reform to be controlled by the hands of a few self-appointed elite and just focused on the mishandling and downright misuse of some of those funds.

According to media reports, the RSD has not been able to account for millions in state property. Charter school employees have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars, which has been easy enough given the lack of oversight of these charter operators by the RSD and the state department of education. Of course, the RSD doesn’t want to oversee the charters. In fact, they refuse to be overseen themselves; and because of RSD officials’ refusal to cooperate with the New Orleans inspector general, that office walked away from its contract to oversee school construction. Despite the $35 million earmarked for John McDonogh High School’s renovation, the school was never renovated even after it was forced to take on a charter operation in order to get the rebuilding dollars as promised by then-RSD Supt. John White.

For sure, this transformation of New Orleans is about success and gain—just not for our students. RSD schools and this reform are failing us.

This reform ain’t done a thing. And yes, that is for the record.

Blog at