[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.
The Independent will update this blog and publish the federal letter to LDOE in its entirety as soon as we receive it.
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APR 18 So Gov. Jindal's new press secretary already has blocked blogger CB Forgotston from her Twitter account, CB tells us in this post. Sure, CB hasn't exactly been sugar sweet to the lady, but if his blogs are all it takes for her to get in a huff she better find some intestinal fortitude somewhere, because that's just the tip of the iceberg.
APR 18 Pooyie! Robert Kennedy Jr. isn't pulling any punches in this column on Huffington Post about the flood board's lawsuit against Big Oil and Bobby Jindal's involvement in efforts to kill it. Kennedy, who is president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, describes Jindal as 'genuflecting to Big Oil's pressure' and 'the industry's chief indentured servant.' Dang!
APR 18 Here's a video of UL Coach Mark Hudspeth showing he can pump some serious iron. It sure impressed the Dr. Saturday blog, which calls his press of 370 pounds a "ridiculous" number for a coach -- and opines that no other college coach could beat ours.
APR 18 Columnist John Maginnis offers some advice to Vance McAllister on this post: Don't quit. Republicans have demanded he resign, but offer no "sensible answer" to the question of why David Vitter shouldn't leave, too, he says. McAllister needs to do his duty and serve out his (abbreviated) term, Maginnis says.
APR 18 Blogger Lamar White Jr. comments upon the plan to make a Bible Louisiana's "official book" in this post. He argues his point by telling us the story of an immigrant couple who moved to Louisiana: Amar and Raj, whose oldest child is now our Governor. This action would have a much larger impact, he opines.
APR 18 There's only one major bill left defending public education, blogger Mike Deshotels writes in this post. He's also got a few choice words for state Superintendent John White, who implies that Louisiana teachers would be thrown into chaos and disarray if they didn't have a test to teach. (Maybe kids would actually get an education then? Nah!)
APR 18 An effort to set up speed cameras on the Interstate has been shut down before it even got started, columnist Stephanie Grace tells us in this post. A bill to block the practice is sailing through the legislature -- where apparently no one wants visitors to our fair state to arrive home to a ticket. (These guys must never drive on I-10 with people from Texas).
APR 18 Blogger Tom Aswell reassures everyone worried about the staffers for Rodney Alexander -- the ones who didn't go to work for McAllister or Candid Camera, anyway -- with this post. Apparently one staffer for the retired Congressman (who also worked for a preacher accused of sexual assault) already has been hired by Alexander in the state department he now runs, Aswell says.
APR 17 At the start of the Tuesday board meeting that ended with his removal from the President's post, Joe Aguillard told the governing board of Louisiana College that SACS, the accreditation agency, requires the board to adopt a confidentiality agreement regarding board actions. Later that day, SACS told the Town Talk that confidentiality agreements would never be required. Calvinist or not, isn't lying wrong?
APR 17 Here we are, looking like backwater dummies again in the national media. This story on Huffington Post tells the nation that our legislators are so scared of the Louisiana Family Forum that they won't vote to repeal a law that was ruled illegal years ago. (Guess these particular Christians don't cotton to that "love one another" thing.)
APR 17 Here's an interesting column from Paul Stanley, political opinion editor of the Christian Post. He breaks down the differences between David Vitter and Vance McAllister, in terms of political realities. What he found surprising was the fact that many GOP leaders are swinging a self-righteous sword at McAllister which had remained sheathed when Vitter's "sin" was revealed. He does have an interesting theory -- that Jindal's people want the Vitter issue to be revived.
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