[UPDATE: A little after 1 p.m. Monday, LDOE sent the document in question to The Independent. Read the federal letter (peer review notes are not included) to LDOE here, and check back with The Ind's website for updates on what the letter means for Louisiana's plan for flexibility in federal accountability standards.]
If the critiques included in Louisiana’s feedback letter from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver application are as minimal as what state Superintendent John White outlines in a Monday Times-Picayune article, one has to wonder why the Louisiana Department of Education has been so hell bent on keeping the public record a secret.
As The Independent first reported in its Wednesday blog, “LDOE foot dragging tramples transparency,”the 26 states applying for flexibility under the stringent federal No Child Left Behind requirements have been put on notice by the U.S. Department of Education that certain components of their waiver applications must be modified before gaining final approval. It’s a critical part of the process for states seeking to opt out of the law’s cumbersome achievement benchmarks and accountability systems, as the feedback from the feds outlines both strengths and weaknesses in the alternative plans offered up by each state on how to improve the quality of public education without the red tape attached to the signature federal education law.
Louisiana is among the 26 states (plus Washington, D.C.) requesting a waiver from NCLB provisions, and the application submitted by the Louisiana Department of Education is not immune to the federal scrutiny other state applications are receiving. The U.S. Education Department sent critique letters to states April 17, but the contents of Louisiana’s letter — i.e. the deficiencies in our state’s alternative plan for achieving higher academic performance — are still being shielded from the public.
After almost an entire week of ignoring The Independent’s repeated records requests (inquiries that LDOE initially tried to claim were not available for public release), the newspaper reached out to Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members Lottie Beebe, Penny Dastugue and Holly Boffy seeking help in our struggles to obtain the public document. We also spoke with the state Attorney General’s Office to see what remedies are available to the paper in trying to compel LDOE to comply with state law.
LDOE spokeswoman Rene Greer contacted The Ind Friday afternoon and said via email that “information related to the NCLB waiver will be available to you on Monday.”
“Does that work? If so, I’m assuming you want me to provide you with the information electronically, correct?” Greer says in the email.
In The Independent’s response to Greer, we asked the department to send the document Friday afternoon and not wait until Monday because LDOE has been in violation of state sunshine laws since Friday, April 27.
Greer has yet to respond to the newspaper’s Friday afternoon email. She has also failed to return phone calls and emails sent Monday morning. As of noon Monday, The Independent still does not have the public record in hand.
But a report published Monday morning on The Times-Picayune’s website includes extensive details and comments from John White regarding the same federal feedback this newspaper is fighting to obtain, though it appears The T-P’s info came directly from White:
The state plans to release the federal government’s initial feedback Monday, along with its response. Overall, the feds praised Louisiana’s strategy for imposing standards to ensure the state’s pupils are college- or career-ready; for intervening with failing schools using the state-run Recovery School District; and for supporting local districts.
But the state also faced some pointed questions about its accountability system that might force some big changes. Among the most significant issues outlined by state Superintendent John White in an interview Friday, Louisiana will almost certainly have to drop using a standardized exam given last year to about 11,000 students with special needs known as the Louisiana Alternate Assessment 2, or LAA2, after the next academic year.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.