Educate All Students, Support Public Education

September 16, 2016

Alberta Darling Attacks Milwaukee Once Again

Filed under: Darling,Vouchers — millerlf @ 11:13 pm
Alberta Darling takes aim at MPS while many voucher schools are mis-educating Milwaukee children, with no accountability.


Sen. Darling: Why Won’t Milwaukee’s Leaders Stand Up for Kids?

 Posted September 12, MacIver Institute

September 12, 2016

By Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)

Thousands of kids remain trapped in failing Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) while the city’s leaders continue to ignore the problem. There are more students in failing schools in MPS than the entire population of the city of Stevens Point. State Senator Alberta Darling says when it comes to failing schools, Milwaukee leaders are AWOL.

“It breaks my heart to see city and school leaders drag their feet while there are MPS schools where not a single child can read proficiently,” Darling said, “They are putting a failed system ahead of kids.”

Last session, Senator Darling gave the Milwaukee Public School Board the authority to give Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver the power to turnaround a failing school. The board refused, leaving thousands of kids trapped in failing schools.

“All I hear from Milwaukee leaders is give us the money instead of the reform,” Darling said, “We are trying to help out school kids and all the leaders want is a handout. It doesn’t work like that.”

The Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) focuses our combined resources on mitigating all of the challenges these students face by providing wrap-around services. The longer the implementation of the law is delayed, the longer it will take for these vital services to improve the health and safety of the community around the turnaround school.

“OSPP puts kids ahead of the system,” Darling said, “Our attention and concern will remain on the students who are trapped in failing schools. Parents can take comfort that a turnaround school is headed to Milwaukee and their kids will have an opportunity to succeed.”

Senator Darling represents portions of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties.

August 25, 2016

Alberta Darling Joins Campaign to Elect Racist Buffoon, Donald Trump

Filed under: Darling,Racism — millerlf @ 3:05 pm

Alberta Darling joins effort to elect racist buffoon, Donald Trump. See Journal Sentinel article at:

The most outrageous Donald Trump quotes, ever

(Followed by a short history.)

Quotes and  history compiled by Marie Claire magazine August 5, 2016

  1. “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud”

Trump was determined to ‘expose’ President Obama’s birthplace back in 2012, and even claimed to have sent investigators to Hawaii in the hopes of proving Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

  1. “Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again – just watch. He can do much better!”

Clearly Donald is a Team Edward kind of guy…

  1. “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

Trump always has charming things to say about successful, prominent women – but he stooped particularly low with this comment about Huffington Post founder.

  1. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” 

Trump proves (again) that he views a woman’s looks over anything else…

  1. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” 

Oh for goodness sake.

  1. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” 

Just another casually racial slur, then…

  1. “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” Don’t worry, his racist outbursts aren’t just directed at Mexico.

    9. “If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”

Trump has infamously hated on Rosie O’Donnell, making crude, sexist and misogynistic remarks about her on multiple occasions.

10. “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

Because of course, no woman can resist Trump’s charms. [Throws up on keyboard]

11. “One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”

Well at least he’s showing some self awareness.

  1. “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

And not that fabulous barnet of yours?

  1. “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”

Definitely not missing the point…

  1. “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Possibly (/definitely) one of the creepiest things we’ve ever heard…

  1. “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” Ew.
  2. “I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.”

We’re glad he’s so concerned about the obesity crisis.

  1. “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

Women aren’t possessions, Donald. They can’t belong to you.

  1. “You’re disgusting.”

To put this into context, Donald Trump said this to the opposing lawyer during a court case when she asked for a medical break to pump breast milk for her three-month-old daughter.

  1. “The point is, you can never be too greedy.”

Campaign slogan = sorted.

  1. “Sorry, there is no STAR on the stage tonight!”

In his Twitter liveblogging of the Democratic debate, Trump seemed to think he was watching a talent show rather than looking for the next POTUS.

21. “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”

We think Donald may be overestimating the power of Twitter.

22. “My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

Don’t worry, we won’t.

23. “I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”

What does that even mean?

24. “The other candidates — they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioning didn’t work. They sweated like dogs…How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.” 

Because sweating = the inability to solve a political crisis. Gotcha.

25. “Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

Along with the petition to keep him out of the UK, can we also campaign for Trump to stop talking about his penis?

  1. “Thanks sweetie. That’s nice”

Said Donald in typically patronising style to a female 9/11 survivor. Inappropriate – and quite creepy.

  1. “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

Threatening your opponent’s wife on Twitter? Stay classy, Don…

  1. “I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down”


Ah 7-Eleven, great convenience store, and def not to be confused with a national tragedy and symbol of global terrorism, eh Trump?

29. “The only card [Hillary Clinton] has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

Speaking from a, errr, woman’s perspective, we reckon ol’ Trumpy may be a little off with this one.

30. “Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women, more than anybody in the construction industry.”

Thank you Donald. Thank you for all your help.


Who’s Donald Trump?


July 12, 2015

MPS Response to Alberta Darling’s Attack on Model Montessori Program

Filed under: Darling — millerlf @ 7:45 am

Suburban lawmakers’ remarks, perhaps unintentionally, highlight high-performing MPS schools and plans to expand them to serve more students
Friday, July 10, 2015

MPS is building walls – walls on additions at two high-performing Montessori schools to serve more students and provide more opportunities for families; Montessori enrollment up by about 400 over five years
MILWAUKEE – Perhaps unintentionally, a series of comments from suburban lawmakers are serving to highlight some of Milwaukee Public Schools’ highest-performing schools and plans in place to expand them to serve more students.
The remarks also highlight the need to discuss how the state can best support high-quality early-childhood education.
Sen. Alberta Darling claimed that MPS “builds walls” around successful schools like Fernwood Montessori School. In fact, MPS is building walls at Fernwood as part of a building addition to help the school serve more students.

Fernwood, which has been rated “Exceeds Expectations” or higher in every year of the state’s school report cards, has expanded enrollment from 544 in 2009-10 to 705 in 2014-15. The addition will ensure the building has the room to serve those students as they move through the school toward 8th grade and the new students filling their seats in younger grades.

MPS is also building an addition to serve additional students at high-performing Maryland Avenue Montessori School, rated “Exceeds Expectations.”

The Fernwood and Maryland additions are part of MPS’ Regional Development Plan, which strategically utilizes facilities to expand successful schools. That includes two charter school expansions approved in June – one which is expanding in a once-closed building – and a potential second campus for the Milwaukee Spanish Immersion School.

The additions come after a series of decisions to expand access to Montessori schools and increase opportunities for families across the city including:
• Repurposing a would-be vacant school building to create Howard Avenue Montessori School in 2012-13
• Moving MacDowell Montessori School to a larger facility in 2012-13, allowing it to serve more students in grades K3-12 and allowing Highland Community School, an MPS charter Montessori school, to serve more students at the former MacDowell site

Instead of “keeping kids out” of Montessori schools as a lawmaker’s news release suggested, MPS has actually increased enrollment at MPS Montessori schools across the city from about 2,700 students in 2009-10 to about 3,100 in 2014-15. The increase means MPS – with Montessori schools located on the north, northwest, east, south and west sides of the city – continues to be home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of public Montessori schools.
The lawmaker’s news release also misstated MPS Montessori enrollment policies: MPS Montessori schools accept new students at grades K3 and K4 and students in grades K5 and older with previous Montessori experience. That is similar to the practice of other Montessori schools – including the stated practice of a publicly-funded, non-MPS charter Montessori school in Milwaukee – because the learning method in Montessori schools is substantially different from that of traditional schools.

The remarks from lawmakers also may help spark discussion about how the state funds quality early-education programs. MPS provides 3-year-old kindergarten in its Montessori schools without the state aid that comes for students ages 5 and older. MPS and other districts only receive partial aid for 4-year-old kindergarten students, even if the students spend a full day in school.

July 11, 2015

Alberta Darling Attacks MPS Montessori Program!

Filed under: Darling,Racism — millerlf @ 10:13 am

Alberta Darling, in her unending quest to destroy MPS, has now attacked the largest and most successful public school Montessori program in the country. It has served as a model world-wide.

Darling will stop at nothing to tear apart a district that is working arduously to educate all students. Her goal is a voucher in every backpack, privatization of all things public and payback to CMO and voucher donors.

 July 7, 2015
Senator Alberta Darling
Statement by State Senator Alberta Darling Regarding

Senator Alberta Darling provided the following comments supporting Senator Farrow’s statement regarding MPS’s Fernwood Montessori discriminatory admissions policy.
“MPS builds walls around some of its schools to give certain kids a seat and keep other kids out. Senator Farrow correctly noted Fernwood Montessori is only open to 3 year olds or students who always attended an
MPS Montessori or certain private Montessori schools. If your child wasn’t continuously enrolled in an MPS approved Montessori school, then MPS won’t let them into most of theirs.
“Fernwood is the norm for MPS’s Montessori campuses. As MPS’s own enrollment webpages say, Barbee Montessori, Craig Montessori, MacDowell Montessori all use discriminatory enrollment to let some kids in and keep some kids out.
The bottom line is MPS operates its own two-tiered system where a few students have options in the district and most do not.”

To view the statement by Darling in PDF format go to the following link:

Montessori attack

July 2, 2015

Milwaukee Democratic Legislators Unified in Opposition to MPS Takeover Plan

Filed under: Darling,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 9:36 pm

Attached and below is a press release from the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Delegation regarding their continued unified opposition to the “MPS Takeover Plan” and the delegation letter distributed today to Assembly and Senate Republican members. Please consider for publication and/or distribution. Thank you and all the best.

July 2, 2015

Milwaukee – Today the members of the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Delegation distributed a letter to their Republican colleagues asking that they join them in opposing the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) takeover plan and removing the proposal from the 2015-2017 state budget.
The proposal currently in the state budget would create a separate school district outside of MPS under the management of a Commissioner selected and supervised by the Milwaukee County Executive. The Commissioner would have the power to transfer the lowest rated public schools out of MPS control and place its operation and management under the authority of a charter or voucher school. Teachers would be immediately fired regardless of merit.
State Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), Delegation Chair, expressed his continued opposition to the plan and the need for continued advocacy to remove the proposal from the budget.
“This plan would be devastating to our community’s children. Every school day, roughly 80,000 kids count on MPS. Attaching the idea to the budget and jamming it through in the middle of the night without proper debate harms those kids and is simply bad governing.
My Milwaukee colleagues and I stand unified in our opposition to this plan. It should be removed from the budget. It is policy which doesn’t belong in the budget and our community deserves the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Contact: Rep. Goyke 608.266.0645

To see the letter that the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Delegation sent to their Republican colleagues go to:

Milwaukee Delegation MPS Release

June 18, 2015

“A train wreck you could see coming” – A lesson from Detroit about the Darling/Kooyenga MPS takeover plan

Filed under: Darling,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 10:06 am

Milwaukee public schools has been led by Dr. Darienne Driver for one year. In that time MPS has taken unprecedented steps to stabilize its finances, reform its lower performing schools and aggressively establish a child-centered teaching and learning culture. Rather than support these efforts and the MPS Superintendent, Sen. Darling and Rep. Kooyenga continue to seek a policy that will undermine these efforts and cause significant harm to school reform in MPS.

There continue to be questions about the financial impact of the Darling/Kooyenga MPS takeover plan and at this point we have yet to see the final legislative language and there are any number of questions that can’t be precisely answered. What can be shared is that where similar experiments have been tried, particularly in Detroit, the results have been financially disastrous for both the school district and now school districts across the state of Michigan.
Knowing what we know today about what happened in Detroit, why would legislators in Wisconsin want to create the same chaos in Milwaukee?

As one republican legislator in Michigan stated recently about, “I think there is culpability here… we have some blood on our hands.”

Or as Detroit’s mayor recently told his colleagues, the takeover plan was “a train wreck you could see coming.”
If the people in Michigan knew this wasn’t going to work and their worst predictions have now come true, why would we go down the same path in Wisconsin?

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan made a compelling case last month that the Detroit Public Schools’ downward spiraling enrollment is partly attributable to efforts to fix its finances through emergency managers. The problem, Duggan told attendees at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, is that massive school closings, teacher layoffs and other cuts created enough uncertainty about the system’s future that parents moved their children elsewhere.

“It was a train wreck you could see coming,” he said, because emergency managers are temporary, but parents are making long-term decisions for their children.

Kelly, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on education, also acknowledged the state bears some responsibility for DPS’ financial mess.

The state has controlled DPS for much of the last 15 years. It has been run by governor-appointed emergency managers since 2009, and was under state control from 1999 until 2005.

“I think there is culpability here, we have been involved in the last 15 years in Detroit,” Kelly said. “While I would suggest it would be worse if we hadn’t intervened, we have some blood on our hands. And I don’t know if it’s worth $500 million or $50 million a year for 10 years, but there is some bit of culpability.”

When asked at last week’s Mackinac Policy Conference about why his reform plan doesn’t open the door more for allowing kids from Detroit to go to other districts, Snyder said he’s been down that road.

“I worked on that once before. And that one didn’t work out so hot,” he said. “For the amount of political capital and the attention that would drive, it would distract from getting the core solution done. So, I still believe that it should be something to be looked at longer term. But you’ve got to pick your priorities.”

Detroit schools deficit payoff proposal could cost every district in the state $50 per student.

According to the report, Detroit Public Schools is placed in the unusual circumstance of having to pay for a larger-than-average number of retirees with a dwindling work force. Staff cuts have meant contributions to the MPSERS system dropped from $137 million in 2007 to $84 million last year, but Detroit Public Schools’ contributions to MPSERS is still $280 per pupil above the state average.

Detroit Education Overhaul Would Cost Other Schools $50 Per Student.
Proponents say ‘not a bailout,’ but other districts not keen on chipping in.

Gov. Rick Snyder says his vision of the new Detroit public school system does not represent a bailout because it doesn’t ask for more taxpayer dollars. But one study says that school districts around the state will have to chip in $50 per pupil, which some superintendents aren’t happy about.

A statement from Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds and MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver regarding the Kooyenga/Darling proposal

Today, Milwaukee Board of School Directors President Michael Bonds called a plan released by Wisconsin Republicans Dale Kooyenga and Alberta Darling to turn over the Milwaukee Public Schools’ (MPS) lowest performing schools to Milwaukee County “seriously flawed” and said it will do “nothing for educational reform.”

Both Bonds and MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver expressed skepticism that the so-called “turnaround district” will do anything to improve outcomes for students, and voiced concern that the plan solely focuses on MPS as opposed to including schools across all sectors in the City of Milwaukee that need to improve student achievement.

“This plan removes decision-making from the democratically-elected school board and newly-appointed MPS superintendent, Dr. Darienne Driver,” stated President Bonds. “This comes at a time when MPS is making significant progress in the areas of financial stability, academics and community outreach.”

“This plan seems to focus more on closing public schools and reopening them as private or charter schools instead of focusing on improving achievement and the challenges our students face,” said Superintendent Driver.

“The state has done this once before when it created the voucher program,” Bonds added. “That’s the state’s first ‘turnaround district’ and after 20 years it remains an academic failure for students. According to a Public Policy Forum report in December 2014, the voucher schools are the lowest-performing sector of schools in Milwaukee.”
In communities where recovery districts have been tried, they have not yielded the results that students deserve and communities were promised. In New Orleans, nearly every school was taken over, but only four of those schools are above state average. There have been lawsuits and court settlements after failures with special education. Michigan may now be on the hook for millions of dollars of the Detroit school district’s debt after schools were taken away there.

“The Kooyenga/Darling plan provides indefinite oversight to a non-educator, the Milwaukee County executive, at a time when Milwaukee County is facing significant problems of its own. A Public Policy Forum report showed that MPS is in better financial condition than Milwaukee County,” stated Bonds.

Bonds also expressed concern the plan would allow for MPS schools and facilities to be turned over to voucher schools and charter schools. Schools with substantial improvement plans – driven by local community input – could be forced to scrap those plans and start from square one with a charter or private school operator that isn’t required to have local ties.

“I do believe in accountability for our schools,” stated Superintendent Driver. “We have a responsibility to provide a strong public education, but our schools and students need the support of all of our stakeholders to be successful. Our students are counting on it.”

June 4, 2015

Response: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Op-ed

MPS is changing the status quo
By Larry Miller June 3, 2015 MJS Op-ed

Charles J. Szafir’s May 31 opinion piece contains a glaring factual error that undercuts his entire piece — and it repeats the often-used but false claim that Milwaukee Public Schools leaders believe the “status quo” is acceptable (“At MPS, the status quo is unacceptable,” Crossroads). Both claims are just plain wrong. A clear reading of the piece also calls into question the credibility of a recovery district plan that does not include some of the city’s lowest-performing schools.

First, Szafir falsely tied an analysis showing low test results in reading among schools whose students are mostly African-American and low-income to MPS when it in fact represents results from voucher and charter schools as well, as PolitiFact Wisconsin has noted.

When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took a closer look at data for such schools, it found that seven of the 10 lowest-performing schools in the group were, in fact, voucher schools. Of the five lowest-performing schools — schools where no students were proficient in reading — three are voucher schools.

If Szafir and his allies in the state Legislature are concerned about improving all of the low-performing schools in Milwaukee, why doesn’t their plan address low-performing voucher schools, as those schools have results that are the same or worse than those in MPS’ lowest-performing schools?

Put another way: Why is the status quo at voucher schools apparently acceptable to them?

Milwaukee Public Schools is already implementing its plans to accelerate student achievement growth, and the district is seeing early signs of success, a fact that Szafir failed to note. Specifically:
■MPS’ Commitment Schools effort to transform underperforming schools is accelerating reading and math achievement enough to narrow achievement gaps in most grades K-8.
■MPS’ GE Foundation Schools are seeing similar gains.
■MPS’ 5-in-1 collaboration at Carver Academy is improving school climate and academic outcomes.
■MPS’ work with Milwaukee Succeeds on a foundational reading pilot is seeing some encouraging early results.
■MPS’ four-year graduation rate is up slightly to 60.9% and five- and six-year rates (68.7% and 72.9%, respectively) show that significant numbers of MPS students are willing to take additional time, if necessary, to graduate.
■MPS’ eight strategic objectives — created with input from students, staff and the community — are in place to further accelerate improvement.

Szafir also plays fast and loose with facts about MPS buildings. He falsely claims that Bradley Tech High School is “operating well below capacity,” when its 2014-’15 enrollment of 889 puts it at about 95% of its capacity of 931 as identified in the district’s facilities master plan. He made a point of identifying the number of buildings his organization considers underutilized while failing to note that by his organization’s own standards, MPS has substantially more buildings that are at 100% capacity or above than are underutilized.

MPS has utilized buildings strategically to expand successful schools with waiting lists — such as Golda Meir School and Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School — and it will continue to do so, which helps address the overcapacity issue identified above.

Of the remaining MPS school buildings not currently in use, four already have been specifically identified as sites for expansion of sought-after programs, including international baccalaureate education, language immersion and a charter school. Another nine have been declared surplus by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors and transferred to the city for redevelopment. Yet another is being redeveloped into housing.

The efforts MPS is undertaking to improve outcomes for students may not have the “flash” of plans to strip local control of schools, to transfer public buildings to private entities or to fire teachers en masse. But they are far from the “status quo” and they have the benefit of being strongly rooted in what has worked and is working to improve achievement for students in Milwaukee.

Larry Miller is vice president of the Milwaukee School Board.

June 2, 2015

MPS Parent Information Meeting Monday June 8 on “Recovery School District”

Filed under: Darling,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 9:59 pm

On Monday June 8 at 6PM in the MPS Central Office Auditorium there will be an information meeting on the “recovery school district” legislation adopted by the Joint Finance Committee.

Please get every MPS parent, grandparent and guardian that you know to attend this meeting. Learn more about this plan and the latest legislative updates.

Have your voice heard.

Download the English and Spanish leaflets announcing the event below:

CO Info Meet English

Co Info Meet Spanish

Our Children Are Not Chattel, Our Schools Are Not Plantations And Educators Will Not Be Reduced To Servitude.

Filed under: Darling,MPS Takeover — millerlf @ 7:38 pm

Is Alberta Darling encouraging disruption of MPS educational process?
Her legislation on takeover of MPS schools says she is.

On a walkout Monday by MPS students from 3 schools opposing her proposed legislation, Darling reacted stating that, “The children of MPS have every right to be upset…” She went on to say, “… but they should be upset with the schools failing them. My goal is to change that and make sure every child has the opportunity for a great education.”
Senator Darling, they do have the right to be upset. They made it clear on Monday that they are upset with your legislation and the political terrorism coming from the legislature.

Our Children Are Not Chattel, Our Schools Are Not Plantations And Educators Will Not Be Reduced To Servitude.

To see the report on the student action, go to Fox 6 News at:

May 23, 2015

Alberta Darling’s False Claims About New Orleans Exposed Once Again, But Truth Does Not Matter To Those Intent On Destroying The Public Good

Filed under: Darling,MPS Takeover,New Orleans — millerlf @ 8:17 am

Louisianna Educator Blog: by Michael Deshotels May 21, 2015

New Orleans RSD Compared to Traditional Schools

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 seem to be claiming that poverty can no longer be used as an excuse for poor academic performance. They 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 16.2 which is at the 7th 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.

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