The Truth About the Failure of Louisiana Charters millions of dollars and lots of dazzling hype, the John McDonogh School finally closed
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I worked at the Louisiana Department of Education when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. While many residents were drowning in their homes, choking on the oily toxic floodwaters, expiring from exposure on their rooftops, or furiously evacuating if they had the wherewithal, operatives at the Department and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education were scheming to remake the city’s school system to their liking. On August 29, 2005, canals were breached across New Orleans, killing more than 1,000 people. Public education in New Orleans also died that day. New Orleans is now a 100 percent charter district. 
Louisiana had charter schools long before Katrina. Many of our first charters were closed for gross malfeasance and fraud. Some claimed they had hundreds of students, and received payments for these students, although they actually had none.
One of Louisiana’s oldest charter schools, Delhi Charter, made national news for requiring girls to take pregnancy tests. If these tests came back positive, girls were forced to withdraw.
In Louisiana, charter schools have intensified segregation by race and poverty.
The fate of one school, John McDonogh, also known as John Mac, speaks volumes about charters in New Orleans. John Mac was in trouble before Katrina. It was located in a historic building on Esplanade Avenue in Mid City, a nice part of town. But the school itself had fallen into decay after many years of neglect by the local school board. After the storm, the community had a glimmer of hope. Donors with big dollars were pouring into the city, and people from around the country were lining up to help. A local community group applied for a grant from the Waltons. They were awarded close to $1 million to fix up the school. Paul Vallas, a self-styled reformer and recent evacuee from the Philadelphia school system, where he left behind an enormous budget crisis, was taking over as superintendent in New Orleans.
When Vallas learned of this windfall for the community, he set to work to get grants for a number of Recovery School District schools he was brought to New Orleans to oversee. Vallas did receive a much larger award from the Waltons totaling almost $6.3 million for schools including John Mac, which he took over from the local community and began to run. The school appeared to do well enough under Vallas’s tenure. The truth became public only in 2014 when the state performed an audit that showed Vallas’s schools had purged under-performing students to artificially inflate their performance scores and graduation rates.
Next, John Mac was turned over to a charter operator from California, Steve Barr, who founded the Green Dot chain of charter schools in Los Angeles. Barr started Future Is Now Schools in New Orleans, which got the the charter to run John Mac. One of Barr’s first acts was to contact the media to document his plans to transform the school.
Despite all the money that flowed into New Orleans, very few of the dollars went to John Mac for renovations. Most of the building’s windows were boarded up—neighborhood activists documented rat infestations, black mold, and decaying floors and walls. When the vast sums of loosely monitored recovery dollars dried up, Paul Vallas moved on. John White, from New York, became the new superintendent. White famously went on the Morning Joe show to tout John Mac’s future as a state-of-the-art culinary institute that would be renovated with $35 million in recovery funds.
Those funds never materialized. What did come to John Mac was a poorly conceived Oprah documentary called Blackboard Wars, which described John Mac as the most dangerous school in America. Many community members felt their kids were being exploited and their privacy rights trampled. The school was finally shuttered before the end of the 2013-14 school year due to low enrollment (the ninth grade class started out with a baker’s dozen) and the lowest school performance score of any non-alternative school in the state, a 9.3 out of 150.
As a final parting gift, Future Is Now failed to wipe laptops and computers of private student data, including Social Security numbers. When reached for comment, former Future Is Now spokesman Gordon Wright said the organization had no response “because it no longer exists.”
Pointe Coupee was one of the first parishes outside of New Orleans with charter schools forced upon it. It is a small parish, and it is also one of the poorest in the state. In 2008, Pointe Coupee Central High School was closed by the state for poor performance. This was one of the first tests of the state law, outside of New Orleans, that allowed the state and Recovery School District to take over schools with “poor performance.” This move was not accepted well by locals, and the community organized numerous protests. Nevertheless, the school was handed over to an organization called Advance Baton Rouge.
Advance Baton Rouge had no experience running schools, and its failed efforts only further illustrated how idealism is no substitute for experience and competence. The school is now closed.
In 2012, one of Central High School’s students committed suicide by hanging herself from the bleachers of the school’s football stadium. Tesa Middlebrook did not leave a suicide note, but family and friends claimed it was a result of bullying at the school.
Her death spurred the creation of a push for bullying prevention legislation. State legislators chose to name a new antibullying bill the Tesa Middlebrook Act, but without checking with her family. The family did not like it, and filed a lawsuit over the use of her name for the legislation. Even more insulting was the fact that a stronger anti-bullying law had already been passed the previous year, but many schools, including Pointe Coupee Central High School, had not been complying with it. The new law that passed was weaker in numerous ways, but the final humiliating blow was that charter school lobbyists had managed to insert a provision that excluded them from having to comply with the law named after a student who took her own life on the grounds of her charter school.
The state took over schools in East Baton Rouge the same year they seized Pointe Coupee Central High School. The first three went to Advance Baton Rouge and another organization named 100 Black Men. Both groups were advocacy organizations and lacked any experience running schools. Most of the schools taken over by the Recovery School District, which include those three and five others, are abandoned or so sparsely populated with students that they are unsustainable. The abandoned and underutilized campuses are fast approaching blighted property status.
Most of the properties are becoming overgrown; some have actual trees growing in the gutters on the tops of the buildings. Parents from the communities where these schools are located have opted to have their children bused across the parish rather than attend them. This has led to overcrowding in much of the rest of the parish.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm for, or interest in, charter schools by the parents of public school children, the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce and a local businessman named Lane Grigsby have engaged in a tireless campaign—and funded numerous PACs and faux-grassroots organizations like Better Schools for Better Futures, Stand for Children, and FuturePAC—to support charters despite their long track records of failure. Their efforts, far from improving schools in East Baton Rouge, have been successful at bankrupting the East Baton Rouge School District, and creating overcrowding that fuels breakaway efforts and dissatisfaction with the school district.
The negative impacts of these groups’ efforts have largely been downplayed or ignored by the media. When public school supporters met with the editorial board of The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s primary newspaper, they were told bluntly that public schools had failed, and the paper was supporting school vouchers, charters, private schools, and virtual schools—“anything but public schools.” 
In Lafayette Parish, the local school board voted against allowing charter schools to open up shop. Charter schools did not respect the rights of locals and petitioned the state education board to grant them state charters. Charter operators and proponents claimed their schools were needed to address the needs of poor children not being well served by the existing school district. Over objections from the local community and school board, the state granted all petitions.
In the latest state school board race, some candidates were given half a million dollars in direct contributions from out-of-state PACs and education reform-minded billionaires like Michael Bloomberg from New York. Millions more were spent in indirect advertising and attack ads. These campaigns previously cost mere thousands of dollars. The state board’s recent decision made it very clear exactly what those dollars bought.
Lafayette illustrates another facet of charter behavior: the bait and switch. Charters are advertised as a way to help out or replace struggling schools. Lafayette Parish, one of the top school districts in the state, had some schools in poorer areas that were not performing well. 
However, the shiny new schools were built about as far away from the poorest communities as they could be. Charter Schools USA opened up two charters in new housing developments named Sugar Pond Mills and Couret Farms, which sell new shotgun-style houses on small lots of land for as much as half a million dollars each.
These schools are theoretically open to the entire state, but do not provide transportation. They also require many hours of “service” from parents. Service time increases per child enrolled. Charter schools offer enrollment to all children on paper, but in the real world they do whatever they can to keep out the riffraff.
The third charter school opening up in Lafayette does seem to be targeting poorer children, but not the poorest. Willow Charter Academy opened in an abandoned Albertson’s grocery, by the interstate, and across from overgrown fields filled with litter and surrounded by other abandoned businesses. Willow Charter also decided not to provide transportation. School officials wanted local kids to “walk to a neighborhood school,” they explained.
There’s one problem with that idea. The school property is in a mall complex, surrounded by busy  highways on all sides and giant parking lots. The nearest subdivision is blocked by an impenetrable overgrown forest.
Charter schools often find ways to comb out the poorest of the poor. Poverty is the single biggest predictor of student performance on standardized tests, which are used to grade schools. The wealthier your student body, the better your school will look regardless of any other factors.
By requiring service at schools and transportation, charter schools know they can filter out the poorest children with the least involved parents. This gives charters an advantage over traditional schools that is not captured by data, since public schools must educate everyone. This “creaming” strategy actually burdens traditional schools by leaving them with the students who need the most support and who are the farthest behind. Despite these advantages, charter schools still post poorer performance than their demographics would warrant. However, most traditional media outlets don’t understand this. Many of them have been bought, or they’ve bought the propaganda that charter schools are always an improvement over public schools. 

Jason France, aka Crazy Crawfish, writes a blog about education in Louisiana. Check out his writing at 

Open Letter to Louisiana Legislature Joint Education Committee Members

Ladies and Gentlemen:
The controversy is raging as to the procurement of our Common Assessment.  John White submits that the test will be the PARCC test although there is no contract with Pearson who has been awarded the PARCC contract signed by Sec. Hannah Skandera of the New Mexico Department of Education on behalf of all PARCC states.  States must individually enter into this  contract with Pearson to acquire their own test.
Supt. White has created an untenable situation by misrepresenting our state assessment as the PARCC test.  Teachers and students are preparing for the PARCC test using materials provided by PARCC online and the Department of Education.   Our state participated in the PARCC field test last spring (which was free).  Under the circumstances, there is no way that Louisiana can administer a faux PARCC test and consider the results to be reliable or valid.  
I am providing you with some information regarding the special interests and conflicts that Supt. White and others appear to have regarding the procurement of this test through Pearson, Inc.  First I offer the latest information regarding the latest legal problems facing Pearson that should factor into any decision to do business with that corporation and should prompt you to question the propriety and legality of Louisiana's proposed procurement of the PARCC test through another provider, Data Recognition Corporation.  Please open the links provided for supporting evidence. 


Bad news for Pearson Education may be good news for the rest of us. The testing and publishing mega-giant is on the run, but it looks like it will not be able to hide. Pearson Education is closing its foundation; it is under investigation by the FBI for possible insider dealings in the Los Angeles iPad fiasco; the company is being sued by former employees for wrongful termination; and its PARCC exams are losing customers.

(A) Pearson's Foundation Closing

 Pearson has tried to give it a positive spin, but the reality is that Pearson the for-profit company is closing down its partner not-for-profit Pearson Foundation after having trouble with the law in both New York and California. In 2013, the Pearson Charitable Foundation paid $7.7 million in fines in New York State to reach an out-of-court settlement after the Office of the State Attorney General found the Foundation had broken state laws by generating business for the for-profit company.

According to the settlement agreement, "The Foundation's staff has consisted of Pearson employees; the Foundation's board was comprised entirely of Pearson executives until 2012; select Foundation programs have been conducted with the advice and participation of senior Pearson executives; and the Foundation continues to rely heavily upon Pearson Inc. for administrative support." While the Pearson Foundation neither admitted to nor denied the charges, it agreed to pay the fines.

In September 2014, Annie Gilbertson, education reporter for 88.3 KPCC, Southern California Public Radio, uncovered emails that appear to show complicity between officials in LAUSD, Pearson, the Pearson Foundation, representatives of Apple, and America Choice, a Pearson affiliate, to influence a LAUSD contract decision and circumvent the bidding process.

This was followed on November 18, 2014 by an announcement by the Pearson Charitable Foundation's Board of Directors of their "intent to cease Foundation operations and close the Pearson Foundation at the end of the year." They claimed that Pearson Education no longer needed "the Foundation as the primary vehicle for its philanthropic and community activities."

In an internal memo to Foundation employees that was passed along to me, Pearson promised to place many of them with other groups working on its projects and denied it was closing the Foundation "because it was unable to comply with the New York Attorney General settlement." It claimed that, "Over the last two years, Pearson has undertaken a review of all its business activities and investments, including its corporate responsibility activity. We feel strongly that there is significant potential to scale Pearson's social impact efforts by leveraging the full resources of our global operations, networks, and expertise." Maybe it is true; I just do not believe them, especially given the FBI investigation in Los Angeles.

(B) FBI Raid in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had seized twenty boxes of records about the LAUSD's $1.3 billion plan to provide iPads to every student and a federal grand jury is examining the matter. A subpoena demanded that LAUSD produce documents on deals with Apple, the maker of the iPad, and Pearson, who developed the iPad curriculum material as part of an "official criminal investigation." In a Washington Post interview, Marc Harris, the former deputy chief of the public corruption and government fraud unit at the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, said improprieties in the bidding process would be a federal crime if federal funds were involved or if the actions amounted to fraud against taxpayers by public officials.

Email records show that Deasy and an assistant superintendent had contacts with Apple and Pearson executives before the bidding process opened and that people connected to Pearson may have actually shaped the final proposal. The LAUSD request for proposals was not issued until six months later in March 2013. However, there are a series of emails between Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino and LAUSD officials starting in May 2012 and September 11, 2012; Sherry King of the Pearson Foundation emailed John Deasy, Superintendent of Los Angeles schools, setting up a lunch meeting at a restaurant in Santa Monica that included Judy Codding, a Pearson Education corporate field representative. According School Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, who replaced John Deasy, who resigned under pressure in October, the bidding process for the iPad contract had been plagued by "innuendoes" and "rumors."

(C) Wrongful Termination Suits

 Disgruntled Pearson employees are lambasting the company online at a website that posts company reviews. Many of their complaints stem from a restructuring at Pearson starting in May 2013 to focus on digital services and emerging (Third Word) markets.

A former educational specialist at Pearson based in Oregon wrote: "There are still a few decent, intelligent, caring people at Pearson. They're just few and far between and too scared for their own jobs to call attention to themselves ... Many, many good people left or were fired and in their place you have lots of managers and executives who have no idea what their jobs entail or what products Pearson sells. It would be comical if it weren't so sad." This employee recommended to anyone working at Pearson, "Don't Let the Door Hit You on Your Way Out."

In one case, Bryan Baudean is suing Pearson in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for wrongful termination and gender and age discrimination. According to his deposition, "From his employment in October 2009 until on or about October 31, 2013 Bryan Baudean had no disciplinary history with Pearson and received positive performance reviews"; and "For the year 2012, Bryan Baudean was awarded Digital Account Executive of the year as he was the top performer in his position throughout Pearson nationwide." Baudean was even praised on LinkedIn by Pearson supervisors. However, when Pearson announced plans to reorganize the company, Baudean and other senior employees were dismissed. Pearson claimed their positions were eliminated. Baudean and others claim Pearson just changed job titles. He is suing Pearson for five million dollars.

(D) Problems at PARCC

 In the first half of 2014, Pearson sales were down 7% from the first half of 2013; Pearson's adjusted operating profit was down 45%; and its adjusted earnings per share was down 53%. Its school sales were down 14% and its North American sales, which account for 57% of its overall business, was down 6%. As I read these figures, Pearson is in trouble.

I think the company is banking on new Common Core tests to improve its financial outlook, but given the rising national opposition to Common Core and high-stakes testing, that may just be wishful thinking. PARCC is one of two federally funded consortia charged with developing high-stakes assessments that are supposedly aligned with national Common Core standards. In May 2014, the PARCC consortium awarded a contract to Pearson to design its math and English language assessments. While the PARCC website claims that it represents twelve states and the District of Columbia, Mercedes Schneider reports that only ten states and Washington DC are planning to use the PARCC assessments in 2014-2015. That means at this time, PARCC represents only 20% of the states and the number is declining, which is not a good sign for Pearson 's bottom line. It could not happen to a better company.
Note: On October 17, 2014, The New York Times reported "Deasy Resigns as Los Angeles Schools Chief After Mounting Criticism." But the problem in Los Angeles, at least according to the report, was not John Deasy's performance as Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and possible insider deals with Apple and Pearson. Instead, the article blamed "the powerful resistance that big-city school chiefs face in trying to make sweeping changes." According to the so-called "news" report in the Times, "Mr. Deasy [was] a strong proponent of new technology in schools and of holding teachers accountable for improving student test scores, had faced mounting criticism from board members and teachers who saw him as an enemy."
Among other things, Deasy had testified in a court case against tenure and due process protections for teachers. Line after line in the article is distorted by bias. "Detractors," not parents, teachers, government officials, and educational advocates, "criticized Mr. Deasy ... for the difficult rollout of an ambitious $1.3 billion plan to give iPads to every student in the district." It was a "difficult rollout" and Deasy was "ambitious," not incompetent. The article does mention that "Students hacked the tablets and used them to play games" and the "new school data system ... ran into snags" but does not blame Deasy for these problems. Steve Barr, founder of a charter school network who is also active in campaigns against teacher tenure and in favor of using student test scores to evaluate teachers, is quoted in the article defending Deasy. "John was just a big thinker, and he was going to go as long and as hard as he could." Given his experience battling the "detractors," I wonder if The New York Times plans to recommend Deasy as the next General Manager of the Mets or as coach of the Jets.

Further down in the article, its intent, and the New York Times educational agenda, becomes clearer. We learn that "Los Angeles is far from the only place where aggressive education overhauls -- such as expanding charter schools, using standardized tests to evaluate teachers and attempting to revamp tenure and seniority -- have hit pushback." Heroes of Times-promoted educational deform, Michelle Rhee in Washington DC, Cami Anderson in Newark, NJ, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have all had a difficult time because people mysteriously just do not accept their premises and plans. Even Barack Obama's Race to the Top and Arne Duncan's assault on teachers and school districts that dare to challenge federal policy has been questioned.

The problem, according to the Times, is not mistaken policies but poor public relations. It cites "education experts" who believe "Deasy's resignation was part of a broader pattern, partly because change-minded leaders may have pushed too hard without securing the commitment of the teachers who would be responsible for making the modifications in their classrooms."


This previously reported Pearson illegal activity in New York:

December 13, 2013
Pearson Charitable Foundation, the nonprofit arm of educational publishing giant Pearson Inc., has agreed to pay a $7.7 million settlement to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman after he determined that the foundation had created Common Core products to generate “tens of millions of dollars” for its corporate sister.

“The law on this is clear: non-profit foundations cannot misuse charitable assets to benefit their affiliated for-profit corporations,” Schneiderman said in a statement Thursday.

The investigation by the attorney general examined Pearson’s efforts since 2010 to develop a line of classroom materials and tests built around the Common Core, new K-12 academic standards in reading and math that have been
fully adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Pearson, the largest educational publisher in the world, sells instructional content, tests, systems and technology for profit to states, school districts and individual schools in the United States and across the globe.

The adoption of the
Common Core has created a lucrative opportunity for educational publishers, as states and schools rush to buy products “aligned” to the new standards.
According to the settlement, Pearson used its nonprofit foundation to develop Common Core products in order to win an endorsement from a “prominent foundation.”

The latter entity is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the creation of the Common Core standards and announced in 2011 that it would work with the Pearson Foundation to create reading and math courses aligned with the new standards. Four of those courses would be offered to the public free of charge, it said.

Pearson Inc. executives “believed that developing the courses within the Foundation would enhance innovation, that the other foundation’s support would potentially enhance Pearson’s reputation with policymakers, the education community and potential customers and that the other foundation would be more comfortable working with the Foundation rather than one of Pearson’s for-profit entities,” the settlement said.

According to Schneiderman, Pearson executives believed the Common Core work performed by their nonprofit arm could later be sold by the for-profit organization and generate “tens of millions of dollars” for the company.

Once the attorney general began investigating, the Pearson Foundation sold the courses to its corporate sister for $15.1 million.

The attorney general also investigated international educational conferences sponsored by the Pearson Foundation, which flew U.S. state school officials from jurisdictions where Pearson Inc. did business, or sought to do business, to destinations such as Singapore. Executives from Pearson Inc. attended these conferences, and would report to the for-profit company about the purchasing needs of some of the attendees, according to the settlement.

In a statement, the Pearson Foundation denied any legal wrongdoing.

“We have always acted with the best intentions and complied with the law,” the foundation said. “However, we recognize there were times when the governance of the Foundation and its relationship with Pearson could have been clearer and more transparent.”

The foundation said it has added “independent directors” to its board who will review any foundation transactions that could benefit Pearson Inc. It said it has also adopted “stronger operational systems.”
In addition, it agreed to pay $7.5 million into a fund managed by the New York attorney general to support the work of
100Kin10, an organization committed to placing 100,000 science and math teachers in U.S. schools in the next ten years. Pearson will also pay $200,000 to cover the costs of the investigation.

Pearson’s commercial products may no longer be featured or sold at any events funded by the foundation, and Pearson’s corporate employees may no longer attend foundation-funded events, according to the settlement.


Note some of the recipients of largess from The Pearson Foundation in 2012 990 Report:

Council of Chief State School Officers: $100,000  (co-owners along with the National Governors Association  of the Common Core State Standards copyright) -  Louisiana Supt. John White is a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

 One could infer that he is one of the holders of the CCSS copyright and has a special interest in the success of the standards and its accompanying PARCC assessment.

Foundation for Education Excellence (FEE):   $60,000
      Governing Board As of October 2011:

         Supt. John White is one of the 6 elite members of Chiefs for Change along with Hannah Skandera appointed by the Governor as leader of New Mexico's Dept. of Education.

Sec. Skandera was appointed sans any qualifications for the post much like our Supt. White and she also likes to hand out $$millions to Teach for America. 

Sec. Skandera  entered into the Pearson contract on behalf of the PARCC consortium.  You an see the contract here.

 One could infer, again, that Supt. White as a member of Jeb Bush's Chief for Change has another special interest in the success of the Common Core Standards along with the PARCC assessments.  As a matter of fact, you an determine clearly his position here in this "Open letter of support."

For even more clarity about John White's position on PARCC, he is on the Governing Board and Louisiana is a Governing State.  Who else in Louisiana has a special interest in promoting PARCC?:

Superintendent John White serves on the Governing Board. Jessica Baghian, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Louisiana Department of Education, is the K-12 Lead for PARCC in Louisiana. Dr. Joseph Savoie, President of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, serves on the PARCC Advisory Committee on College Readiness. Jeanne Burns, Associate Commissioner of Teacher Education Initiatives at the Louisiana Board of Regents, coordinates PARCC-related postsecondary engagement activities in the state.

  • F. Philip Handy, Secretary
  • Dr. Zachariah P. Zachariah, Treasurer
  • Reginald J. Brown
  • Cesar Conde
  • Joel I. Klein - Formerly John White's mentor in NYC. Now CEO of Amplify, a Division of Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp, and producers of the new Core Knowledge ELA curriculum that John White has deemed the only Tier 1 Common Core aligned Curriculum which he seems to be marketing on the Louisiana Believes website, and the only ELA curriculum used to train his Teacher Leaders. Although Louisiana has not provided a curriculum to align with the Common Core Standards, he IS officially promoting only one math (Eureka) and only one ELA (Core Knowledge) curriculum. 
  • William S. Simon
  • Brian Yablonski
What problems might be foresee with Pearson and John White's claim that Louisiana will use the PARCC test but it has somehow been contracted through an amended Data Recognition Corporation contract?

In this recent NewsStar article it was reported: "According to the Department of Education, Louisiana's students will be tested using PARCC questions administered by the DRC, which has a licensing agreement with Pearson."

To gain a better understanding of that reported contract, I filed the following public information request with the Department of Education on Dec. 10:

As per Louisiana public information statutes, please provide the following:

 Copies of any licensing agreement between DRC and Pearson and/ or LDE and Pearson and/or PARCC and Pearson, and/or PARCC and LDE  referenced below, which will allow or provide the PARCC test or questions from the PARCC test to be used by DRC in its creation of a "PARCC" test for Louisiana.  
"According to the Department of Education, Louisiana's students will be tested using PARCC questions administered by the DRC, which has a licensing agreement with Pearson."

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
 The same day, I filed this public information request:
As per Louisiana Public Information statutes, please provide the following:
Any and all correspondence between John White and PARCC governing board members or legal representatives, John White and DRC, John White and Pearson regarding the use of Pearson created PARCC assessments/questions/items by LDE or DRC and regarding the plans to administer or not administer the Pearson/PARCC test - being produced as per the New Mexico contract -between 1/1/2013 to date. 

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
I received acknowledgment of my request, but as of today, December 16, I have not received the requested documents. 
You will have an opportunity and a responsibility tomorrow during the Joint House and Senate Legislative Committee meeting to ask Supt. White for clarification. 

 Louisiana's children are important.  Their education is important.  If a standardized assessment is administered this spring, that grade will become a part of their academic records. 

Louisiana's teachers are important.  Their careers as professional educators are important. If a standardized assessment is administered this spring, it will be used as a baseline for their future evaluation of effectiveness.  Louisiana's COMPAS evaluation system can be used to end their careers. 

We have to get this right!


A Parent's Vision For America's Public Education System

I have had the privilege of getting to know Sara Wood, a Louisiana parent, who today expressed her thoughts about the importance of fighting to preserve our public school system.

Sara says, "We are fighting for the freedom to have our children educated in a manner that nurtures and fosters the formation of an educated mind, capable of INDEPENDENT thinking; not driven to ignorance and standardization by confusing and frustrating curriculum derived from a psychometric test of mediocre standards."

Sara and I are very different from very different backgrounds with what would seem to be ideologically opposite beliefs, but the story she tells here is one we both relate to as beneficiaries of its legacy, and as citizens of the United States of America we are obligated to remember and to respect. 


It seems that a symptom of the fear-mongering approach through PARCC test is compliance with the failing curriculum recommendations of the state regardless of the damage and harm to children.  

Such compliance because of fear greatly affects the reality of the local control bill passed this legislative session in that the reality is that it is rejected or ignored by school districts.  These harmful actions to our children out of fear leave me wondering. 

I really and honestly wonder how our nation’s story would have played out, if at the start of the American Revolution, when Paul Revere took his Midnight Ride to warn that the British were coming.

  I wonder how our nation’s history would have been written if it was fear-filled school boards, fear-filled teachers and complacent parents to whom Paul Revere was shouting.  Or what if the colonists who he was trying to warn, had as a society abandoned their faith in God; not their belief but their faith in his Almighty Power.  What if that night during the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere those to whom he was shouting had let their fears of dreadful consequences rule their decision of whether to act; not just to speak out, but to take real action to fight the tyrannical sufferings imposed by the British; and therefore in letting those fears rule, they had failed to act upon Revere’s warning and had merely followed the British in power, even to their own detriment and that of their children.


This fight over Common Core tests, curriculum and the entire initiative is a very similar situation.  We are fighting for the minds of our children, like those who fought for America’s independence and were awakened to the battle by Paul Revere.  We are fighting for the freedom to have our children educated in a manner that nurtures and fosters the formation of an educated mind, capable of INDEPENDENT thinking; not driven to ignorance and standardization by confusing and frustrating curriculum derived from a psychometric test of mediocre standards. 

I am not polished and many probably view me as nothing more than a loud mouth, Don Quixote whose “windmills” embody a belief and vision for America that can never be anything more than a dream because they are just words on a crusty piece of paper written by “some dead white guys.” Nothing more than a dream because you “silly,” that America was abandoned long ago, like real faith in God, over the course of many years.  

As for me though, I will not stop because when we fall, as has fallen every nation that has historically taken this destructive path, either through deception or by force…when we fall, I so want to be able to look into the eyes of my four children and say that I did all within my power to be like Paul Revere and awaken fellow Americans or to be like George Washington and fight the good fight for a free America with tools God gave and with faith in his Almighty Power to protect me in my actions.  But that my actions were simply not enough or I was born a generation too late to lift the chains of complacency and apathy that had already taken firm root.  I so must be able to face my children and say this at the point they realize that their future was stolen by greedy and powerful people and that it was stolen because of the fear-filled, the blind and the faithless!

And that ladies and gentlemen will be the truth of it when all is said and done, if by large numbers we fail to have real faith in God and take a stand in more than way, to stop all that is destroying America, as the land of the free. I don’t know where we got the notion that our federalist system of representative government was invincible and that it was meant to be easy; an afterthought for all else in our lives; but such is not the case, if it is to be preserved.  It is our responsibility to do something meaningful for us and for our children and out of respect for all those before us that did their part to preserve it for us. 

If we continue to complain without taking consistent and constant, meaningful action, the land of the free will fall.  If we continue to trade freedom for government security, we will live in slavery.  History 
is very clear on this.   In the words of President Eisenhower, “If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.  

Please people, WAKE UP and take a stand and watch great things happen!!  To say we can no longer make a difference, is just a cop out and it is to ignore what a relative small number of Americans have done in this fight against Common Core in just about every state in the Union.  We have forced conversations and action to be had against the elitists and their millions, shoving this down the throat of our nation and that is nothing to ignore.  Freedom is not free but it sure is priceless.  

Do you have that courage?

Thank you for reading my thoughts and for choosing not to be fear-filled, blind or faithless,
Sara Wood

Louisiana Supe Tells Another Whopper to Board of Education

The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting October 14, 2014, Admin and Finance Committee, Agenda Item 6.4 regarding the return of McDonogh High School to OPSB.

At the August 13 BESE meeting, Lottie Beebe  requested an Attorney General's opinion as to whether or not the Recovery School District (RSD) or BESE had the authority to make a decision to allow McDonogh to return to OPSB. That letter was to be discussed at the October 14 BESE meeting. 

At the October 14 BESE meeting (see video) Lottie asked JW the disposition of that request. He said, "I believe BESE staff has formulated that request and has made that request. I don't believe it has been granted." Committee Chair  Jay Guillot asked, "So it's still in process? JW responded, "Yes."  

Later Lottie asked JW, "Can we expedite the process to retrieve the AG opinion?" JW said, "You can seek an expedited opinion." Lottie followed with a motion to asked for an expedited opinion.

JW clearly implied (I believe) that the previous request had been sent to the AG by BESE staff but that no opinion had been rendered at the time of this meeting. That was, in fact a lie. No request had been made. I filed a FOIA on October 14 while at the meeting when I heard his statement. I received a response finally - much later than the time allowed for a public information request. It clearly shows that Chas Roemer did not ask for the AG opinion until after the October 14 meeting. In fact the opinion request was dated October 14.

Supt. White once again misrepresented the status of the AG request which he knew had not been written or sent.   When is this BESE board going to hold Supt. White accountable?!  

John White's Bogus Textbook Evaluations

I posted this blog on 10/15/2014 about the perceived conflicts of interest in Louisiana Superintendent John White's selection of only TWO sets of instructional materials as being what he calls his TIER 1 approval for Common Core alignment. 

Those instructional materials (curricula) were Eureka Math and Core Knowledge (for ELA).

As the Common Core Initiative promises to be an economic boom for all who hope to benefit financially from the public education sector, instructional materials are, of course, no exception.  According to this August, 2014 report from EdWeek's Liana Heitin:

 A new group billing itself as a “Consumer Reports for school materials” will soon begin posting free online reviews of major textbooks and curricula that purport to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards—an effort, some say, that has the potential to shake up the market.

The report goes on to describe the "review" process:

The nonprofit organization, called, has gathered a team of 19 educators, about half of whom are classroom teachers, to conduct extensive reviews of yearlong instructional series. The team will start with 21 series for K-8 mathematics and eventually move on to secondary math and K-12 English/language arts curricula. For the first round of reviews, likely to be published early next year, the group selected some of the most commonly used materials: print products that had at least 10 percent of the market share and print and digital materials that had been recommended by at least two states’ review processes[this is where John White enters the game with his recommendation of Eureka Math and Core Knowledge both of which had ZERO market share prior to CCSS - do you get my drift?]
The 19-member review team for includes educators who have worked for or with Student Achievement Partners, a group co-founded by several lead writers of the common core; the teacher-training organization Math for America; the Illustrative Mathematics Project, led by common-core writer William McCallum; and EQuIP.
Each instructional series will be evaluated by at least three reviewers, and the results will be presented to the other 16 team members.
Funding for the project comes from [none other than -] the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—which also was a major financial backer for the development of the common core—the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.
What's wrong with this picture?   If the previous excerpts aren't enough evidence to convince you that the reviews are BOGUS, read the entire article - it gets worse!
But back to John White:
 Lynne Munson, the president and executive director of Common Core, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that publishes the Eureka Math curricula, said she is “extremely excited” to have her materials to be among the first reviewed by “We’ve been awaiting opportunities like this and are going to do what we can to provide whatever they need” for the reviews, she said. “We’re confident in the quality of our work.” Eureka Math was the only math curriculum to be awarded the highest possible rating by the Louisiana education department.

So let's compare the Louisiana education department's meticulous review process to the one proposed by 

As fate would have it, when I attended a committee meeting at the Department of Education in Baton Rouge, I sat next to a Curriculum Director from another school district.  Unlike the Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum in my district, this administrator was well informed about all he shenanigans going on at LDE.  She shared this with me and it was the catalyst for my research to write this blog:
In answer to the textbook evaluation process – at the Louisiana Association of Parish  Textbook Administrators (LAPTA) in December of 2013, Jackie Bobbett, Marcie Coupel, and Brenda Nevels (all three have handled textbook state adoptions for a number of years) told those present (supervisors and bookmen) at the meeting in answer to the question “Who evaluates the materials in order to determine whether they make Tier 1,2, or 3?”:
For each set of materials, a team of TWO Teacher Leaders selected from a Cadre’ of Teacher leaders decides whether the materials are Tier 1-Are completely aligned to CCSS, Tier 2-Are partially aligned to CCSS or Tier 3-Are not aligned to CCSS.
We questioned them about credentials of the two Teachers Leaders as to experience with the subject area or grade level.  We were told they just had to be Teacher Leaders from the Cadre’.
The process by which the 2,000 “Teacher Leaders” were selected In the spring and summer of 2013 was lax to say the least.  No vita or resume’ was required, just a registration to the conference (that is, if the school system didn’t take control of the process).  The same process was in place to double the numbers (4,000) in June of 2014.

First of all, what evaluation rubric did John White use in his evaluation of instructional materials which resulted in a TIER 1, 2 or 3 evaluation?

The reviewers, who were chosen from a group of White's Teacher Leader Advisors,  used rubrics that were conveniently provided by the Revised Publishers’ Criteria developed by Student Achievement Partners. If that name doesn't sound familiar, it's the organization co-founded by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel which developed the Common Core State Standards.

Wouldn't you, as a reasonable person, surmise that having the developers of CCSS develop the criteria for evaluation instructional materials to be used to teach CCSS is somewhat of a conflict of interest? 

More Evidence that John White is promoting Eureka Curriculum and it is costing taxpayers money. 

But with everyone claiming to be “CCSS-aligned,” how do we separate the strong from the weak — those that are truly CCSS-based and those that aren’t? Fortunately, because the stakes are so high, a number of well-regarded organizations have begun thoughtful work in this area.
Reliable tools that evaluate CCSS alignment now exist. I recommend consulting the Toolkit for Evaluating Alignment of Instructional and Assessment Materials to the Common Core State Standards, developed by Achieve, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Student Achievement Partners (the authors of the CCSS). Deeply rooted in the standards and the publishers’ criteria (seminally important resources for anyone serious about this work), the toolkit contains different instruments currently being used to evaluate materials and to showcase exemplary curriculum.
The Louisiana Department of Education is using one of these tools to review and rate curricula. Our organization’s Eureka Math curricula is fortunate to have received a Tier I rating by the state agency. And both Achieve and Student Achievement Partners have posted Eureka Math modules as exemplars on their websites, using one of the other tools making up the EQuIP Rubric tool-kit (formerly known as the Tri-State Rubric) as their guide.

But hey, let's not jump to conclusions here.  Let's look first at the rubric.  As you can see, it's so simple that one does not even need a K-12 educator, much less an educator certified in the subject area or grade level,  to use it (improperly).   The rubric stipulates the criteria and then the evaluator simply has to check MEETS or DOES NOT MEET

To be fair, the IMET (Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool) instructions do stipulate the following:
Who Uses the IMET?
Evaluating instructional materials requires both subject-matter and pedagogical expertise. Evaluators should be well versed in the Standards ( for all grades in which materials are being evaluated. This includes understanding the Major Work of the grade (www.achievethecore/focus), the Supporting and Additional work, how the content fits into the progressions in the Standards (, and the expectations of the Standards with respect to conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application. Evaluators also should be familiar with the substantial instructional Shifts (http:// of Focus, Coherence and Rigor that are listed above.

So in the interest of transparency, I filed a public information request with the Louisiana Department of Education (because LDE is NOT transparent) asking for the names of the Teacher Leader Advisor Evaluators and any training materials used along with the fees paid to these teachers.  The response I received from LDE did not include the credentials of the Teacher Leader Advisors, so I determined to ascertain for myself using the website where one can verify the credentials of all Louisiana certified teachers. 

In the interest of fairness, I used the names as provided by LDE, so it is possible that the two names for which I found no certification records were not accurately provided to me.  I also do not lay blame on any of these evaluators who I will give the benefit of the doubt that they did not understand that they were being used to promote John White's BOGUS evaluation process!  If any of these evaluators have any corrections or would like to make a statement, I will be glad to publish it here.  My purpose here is to show you that these teachers were not qualified to perform these textbook evaluations for ELA and Math.    

I am next going to write about the Louisiana Textbook Adoption process, both the legal one and the one that John White used last year.  A publisher's representative called me recently and has provided me with some insight on that.  I'm also going to write about the Tier 1 ELA instructional materials that John White chose - Core Knowledge - and White's connection with its developer, Amplify, and New York's Joel Kline. 

Please excuse the empty space below.  I cannot figure out how to eliminate it.



ParishFname  Lname Contract Amount 
LincolnAquanetta Archangel $2,275 MIDDLE SCHOOL: MATHEMATICS 4-8 - 6/10/2009

AscensionBryan              Bertucci$1,120
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC (K-12) - 6/13/2006
SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12 - 6/13/2006
VOCAL MUSIC (K-12) - 6/13/2006

OrleansWendyDeMers$1,720No Certification Found

LafayetteAmyDeslattes$1,720ENGLISH 6-12 - 2/19/1998


No Certification Found


ENGLISH 6-12 - 2/8/1994

VernonJeromeHenson $                        

*Not under contract
SEVERE/PROFOUND (1-12) - 3/5/2001
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 2/16/1996
OuachitaJessicaHunter                               $2,275

SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12 - 3/3/2008
MATHEMATICS 6-12 - 2/21/2008

JeffersonChristinaJohnson $1,720
ENGLISH 6-12 - 9/11/2008

LafayetteLaciManiscalco $1,720 ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 6/27/2005

CaddoKristinaMorris$2,275ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5 - 3/22/2012

Jefferson DavisRoryMyers$1,900

(ALT2) Completed 240 hours of leadership experiences for certification., 7/29/2014
(557) READING SPECIALIST (1-12), Grade(s):1-12, 6/21/2012
(111) ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8, Grade(s):1-8, 3/23/1995
(107) LOWER ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-4, Grade(s):1-4, 12/29/1994
(165) UPPER ELEMENTARY: MATHEMATICS, Grade(s):5-8, 12/29/1994

West FelicianaSharonNecaise$1,120*Contract ended early
ENGLISH 6-12 - 8/28/1997

St. CharlesStacyNeighbors$1,720
ENGLISH 6-12 - 1/23/2004
EXTENDED FOR 5 YEARS - 8/27/2014

TEACHER LEADER - 9/27/2012
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 1/24/1990

READING SPECIALIST (1-12) - 6/18/2012
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-5 - 6/4/2009
LafourcheCherylSoley $1,720

ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 2/19/1992
KINDERGARTEN - 2/19/1992

OuachitaIreneTivet $2,275 NBCT 2007
TEACHER LEADER - 5/11/2010
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 3/20/2000

CalcasieuMalloryWall-Padgett $1,720
(392) SOCIAL STUDIES 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011
(394) SPEECH 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011
(374) ENGLISH 6-12, Grade(s):6-12, 5/11/2011

TangipahoaTamaraWhittington  $1,720           
ELEMENTARY GRADES 1-8 - 10/29/2001

CaddoNancyYoder$2,275               No Certification Found