CPSB Tax Package Screams A Loud Refusal To Learn

February 22, 2016

The first article in this series (here) detailed the bad news: almost two-thirds, 63%, of Caddo schools are failed or failing according to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). That number is higher now than ten years ago.

Many of you have expressed surprise, centered on an obvious question: how can news of such a crisis evoke so little, if any, response from the CPSB? Indeed.

The fact is, our school system has fallen very far behind others in Louisiana in reducing school failures. Something is uniquely different – wrong – here.

The latest ballyhooed cure is the “transformation zone” program, now extended to 2017. At best, huge doubt dogs it. In what might be seen as the ultimate example of teaching to the test, the program scores almost no public confidence. In the real world, its “accomplishment” of three “F” schools “improved to “D” underwhelms.

Those upgrades, by the way, are already reported in the new LDOE school failure counts.

I continue to believe, ever more strongly, that our system’s indigenous disease is crazily wrong priorities.

What stands out here, more than anything else, has worsened over decades: we never shrank the system’s footprint. Over 45 years, we keep the same number of buildings with 20,000 fewer students. Now, other imbalances are standard features, like far, far more school failures than elsewhere, and too-low pay to frontline, school-based employees.

These wacky priorities are no mystery. This system prays at an altar of brick and mortar because our m.o. requires more jobs, more maintenance and construction, and more of every other curse of political patronage. It is obvious: a majority of our school board members and top staff worship this abjectly political god.

In turn, Shreveport property taxes are three-times those paid by the average Louisiana homeowner.

To understand how system “marketers” lock us in to wrong-headed priorities, comments by CPSB Superintendent T. Lamar Goree are sadly instructive.

Again, the grades are from LDOE for 2014-2015, for the state’s ten largest public school districts by number of schools. First is the total of schools, followed by the count of those graded “D” and “F”, then the percentage of those (SEE data here):

CADDO PARISH ….. 65 / 41 .. 63% Failing

E. Baton Rouge … 100 / 44 .. 44%
Orleans ………. 73 / 29 .. 40%
Ouachita ……… 55 / 20 .. 36%
Rapides ………. 47 / 15 .. 32%
Jefferson …….. 80 / 22 .. 28%
Calcasieu …….. 56 / 13 .. 23%
Lafayette …….. 40 / 8 .. 20%
Livingston ……. 42 / 0 .. 0%
St. Tammany …… 55 / 0 .. 0%

(Additional information is included in the footnote.*)

In a Shreveport Times interview on December 17, 2015 (here), Dr. Goree responds:

We are moving at a fast pace in the right direction for our children, and I applaud the efforts of students and staff which is reflected in today’s data release. To see all of our schools make gains is no small feat and should be celebrated as we continue on a path to excellence for all children.”

The phrase “… to see all of our schools make gains …” is THE “marketing” point. That claim refers to the “DPS,” or District Performance Score, for all school systems. For last year, our LDOE score was 79.5 compared to the 2013-2014 score of 79.4 (SEE data here) …

one-tenth-of-a-point higher! Voila! … ‘better than last year! Thus, “All of our schools make gains!!

On a 1-10 scale of substantively, knowingly misleading claims, that one scores a 20.

As decoded by LDOE, we learn the District Performance Score is not a percentage. What may look like a grade of high “C” for our system is actually far worse. On a 140-point scale (with the highest DPS this year 114.1), school systems are graded on: Dropout Credit Accumulation, Assessment Index End-of-Course Exams, Assessment Index ACT, Strength of Diploma, Cohort Graduation Rate Index, Cohort Graduation Rate (Actual), and Progress Points.

Indecipherable gibberish though that is, where does our school system stand by that measure? Among the 69 like public school systems LDOE scores, Caddo is ranked 48th: 47 districts are better than ours, and only 21 are worse.

Buried in all such misdirection and marketing are 7,600 children trapped in “F”-graded schools, and a teacher shortage fed by far too low salaries for any system so difficult to work in and for.

Regardless, CPSB bosses will have us vote April 9th on precisely the same tax package we did ten years ago … our very own homage to public policy insanity.

… more later …

Elliott Stonecipher

* The East Baton Rouge data include the parish system plus the three (3) “Recovery School District” schools plus the fourteen (14) schools in the EBR parish Independent School Districts of Baker, Central and Zachary. (The ISD schools in EBR were not included in the first article.)
The Orleans data include both the Orleans Parish and RSD schools, and the Ouachita data combines both the Ouachita Parish District and the City of Monroe District schools.

(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)

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