On October 29, 2015, Louisiana state superintendent John White released the 2014-15 school performance scores for Louisiana high schools enrolling grades 9 - 12.
In a story about the release, Danielle Dreilinger of nola.com included this table on the results (source: Louisiana Department of Education):
If one compares the percentages of A though D letter grades across the three years in the table (2012-13 to 2014-15), one sees that the percentage of B, C, and D schools is lower in 2014-15, and the percentage of A schools is notably higher.
Now, here's the trick:
As Dreilinger reports,
Superintendent John White said 2015 should be considered a baseline year. Over the next 10 years, he plans gradually to raise the standard for what's considered an A.
What White wants the public to believe is that receiving an A will become progressively more difficult.
But he just inflated the number of A high schools.
So, when the standard for an A high school is "raised" in future years, White is positioned to ride the optical illusion of rigor as that A-school percentage does nothing more than return to its pre-inflated percentage.
He just bought himself roughly 13 percentage points from the 2013-14 percentage of A-graded high schools (10.1%) to the 2014-15 percentage of A-graded high schools (23.0%).
Again, that means a 13-percent staged opportunity to lower the number of Louisiana high schools receiving A's during upcoming years, call it "raising standards," but really just break even with that 2014 percentage.
It is easy to lie with letter grades. Just ask John White.
Here is what he notes about letter grades on his Louisiana Believes website:
Letter grades provide families and the public with a straightforward indicator of school performance.
The grades are inflated. But they will deflate in the direction of the pre-inflated values in the name of "raising standards."
The following is a FB response to this post from (now former) BESE member and St. Martin Schools superintendent, Lottie Beebe. It wisely cautions schools receiving higher letter grades in 2015 to beware:
Dr. Schneider, thank you for your continued efforts to educate the public and the education community, for that matter. (You get it; I get it; and I am certain a number of other folks get it! Often, White and his supporters state that parents understand letter grades. We get that, also!) However, does the general public understand the methodology used to award these letter grades? While I realize the hard work and dedication of those within many schools, this "celebratory success" will be short-lived! At some point, there will be notable declines in student achievement due to the "inflated grades" and a failure to maintain progress points, etc. This is when these very schools being celebrated today will be vilified for failing to maintain or increase student achievement. No argument can then be made due to the success celebrated today! ...and at a later date---bamm! I acknowledge it is a normal response to accept the "flowers" when they are presented; sadly, they are going to "wilt" at some point!
Those 2015 high school letter grade gains are illusory and are poised for future LDOE manipulation.
Originally posted 10-30-15 at deutsch29.wordpress.com
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.
She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.