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Explainer: The Disconnect on Opportunity Youth There are not 26,000 young adults out-of-school or unemployed in NOLA

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In the face of overwhelming evidence that the New Orleans’ education reforms have worked, critics have been forced to change their messaging strategy. Instead of denying the results outright, opponents now maintain the district’s academic gains amount to a Pyrrhic victory, bought at the expense of local teachers and the city’s most disadvantaged students.

Thus, every anti-reform diatribe written about New Orleans this summer portrayed the mass layoffs of teachers after Katrina as part of a diabolical plan to privatize the school system (which as I’ve shown, wasn’t the case). You might have also noticed critics like Karren Harper Royal throwing around this statistic, too:

It’s easy to imagine folks out there reading that stat and thinking to themselves: “26,000 New Orleans kids are either out of school or unemployed?!? Guess the reforms aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.” Of course, that’s exactly the point critics are trying to make – and they keep making it, again and again.

The first to raise it was NPR’s anti-edreform beat reporter, Anya Kamenetz, who asked the question of whether the city’s decentralized charter-based system was behind its high number of disconnected youth:

Anya Kamenetz got the ball rolling...

Anya Kamenetz got the ball rolling…

Later, Jennifer “Edushyster” Berkshire used this statistic in her piece bashing New Orleans in Salon that I picked apart back in August:

Edushyster said it.

…Edushyster followed up…

Andrea Gabor also used it as ammunition against the city’s post-Katrina reforms in her error-filled op-ed for the New York Times two weeks ago:

Andrea Gabor said it too.

…Andrea Gabor couldn’t help herself…

And soon thereafter, another one of my favorites, Mercedes Schneider, regurgitated this stat in one of her legendary rants against the RSD on her blog:

....and Mercedes goes four for four.

….and Mercedes brought up the rear.

There’s just one problem: they’re not actually getting the facts right.

Earlier this spring, two studies brought attention to the plight of so-called “Disconnected [or Opportunity] Youth,” defined as 16-24 year-olds who are neither in school, nor working. The first report was issued by the Cowen Institute at Tulane University and the second was issued by the Social Science Research Council. Both were based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) 2013. Both found that approximately 18.2% of the 16-24 year olds (about 26,200 people) in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area qualified as “Disconnected Youth.”

However, the Census Bureau defines the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area as the 3,203 square miles of land that makes up the toe of Louisiana’s boot [see the region in yellow below]. It includes eight parishes – Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany – which together had a population of 1,241,949 in 2013, according to the ACS.

For reference, the 2013 ACS estimated New Orleans’ population as 376,006 – i.e., the city only accounted for about 30% of the total population in the New Orleans Metro Area.

That’s not to say that New Orleans doesn’t have an unacceptably high number of young people disengaged from school or the workforce, but the fact is we don’t know that number. What is clear though is that the number certainly isn’t 26,000 and critics like Royal, Kamenetz, Berkshire and Gabor shouldn’t be using those stats to paint New Orleans and its school reforms in a negative light.

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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Dr. Vera Triplett

Dr. Vera Triplett liked this Article on twitter.com.

Dr. Vera Triplett

Dr. Vera Triplett reposted this Article on twitter.com.

Citizen Ed

@chrisbuttimer @petercook Didn’t your school have a 30% gap between black and white kids? Defending that is kinda white supremacist to me?

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Chris Buttimer

@petercook No1 fights harder on Twitter 2 uphold white suprmcy & neocolonization thru defense of neolib ed rfrm than u Peter. U keep doin u!

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DFER Louisiana

RT @PCunningham57: Debunking the “disconnected youth” stat in NOLA. No one does it better than @petercook peterccook.com/2015/09/17/exp…

Rachel Magee

RT @PCunningham57: Debunking the “disconnected youth” stat in NOLA. No one does it better than @petercook peterccook.com/2015/09/17/exp…

J. Gordon Wright

RT @PCunningham57: Debunking the “disconnected youth” stat in NOLA. No one does it better than @petercook peterccook.com/2015/09/17/exp…

Peter C. Cook

RT @PCunningham57: Debunking the “disconnected youth” stat in NOLA. No one does it better than @petercook peterccook.com/2015/09/17/exp…

Peter Cunningham

Debunking the “disconnected youth” stat in NOLA. No one does it better than @petercook peterccook.com/2015/09/17/exp…

Peter C. Cook

Hey, I made a cool map. Check it out here: pcook.me/bltM #NOLAed #LaEd #edreform


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LaLege

A Victory For Pettiness Over Progress Why Did The Governor Veto A Common Sense Education Bill?

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On Friday, Louisiana lawmakers voted to cancel a veto session to override Governor John Bel Edwards’ rejection of a number of bills passed by the legislature during this year’s regular session. The move was expected even though many Republican legislators accused the Governor of using his veto power to punish lawmakers who have consistently opposed his agenda.

Although the Governor’s line-item vetoes of construction projects in the state budget aroused the most controversy, the press largely overlooked his rejection of House Bill 568, a proposal from State Rep. Nancy Landry which would have revised the state’s student data privacy law.

Some background on H.B. 568

The story of House Bill 568 has its origins in a conversation I had last spring with a friend who works at the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. For years, CREDO has produced highly regarded studies on the effectiveness of the state’s charter schools using data provided by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). However, in 2015, LDOE officials informed CREDO they could no longer provide access to that information due to changes in the state’s student data privacy law, passed by the legislature in 2014, which prohibited the department from sharing data with research institutions outside of Louisiana.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford has published highly regarded studies on the effectiveness of charter schools.

Without access to student performance data, CREDO’s research on Louisiana’s charter schools would grind to a halt and education policymakers would lose an objective, in-depth assessment of the health of the state’s charter sector. Moreover, the refusal to share data with out-of-state researchers would mean that Louisiana’s influence on the national education policy debate would be significantly diminished.

Seeking to avoid that outcome, my friend at CREDO reached out to see if I had any ideas on how they should proceed. I connected her with State Rep. Nancy Landry, who serves as chair of the House Education Committee, to explain the situation and see if she could help. Their subsequent discussions resulted in H.B. 568, which Landry filed during this year’s regular legislative session.

State Rep. Nancy Landry (R – Lafayette), is chair of House Education Committee and has clashed with the Governor over education policy.

The bill sought to carve out an exception to the overly broad changes lawmakers made in 2014 by allowing data to be shared (in accordance with standard data privacy protection procedures) with researchers at any college or university in the United States accredited and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In short, H.B. 568 was limited in scope and non-controversial, as evidenced by the fact that it passed by large margins in both the House (95-3) and Senate (27-7).


Read more about how researchers use student data:

Student data privacy and education research must be balanced

Last week, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on data privacy protections for students. Michael Hansen highlights the gravity of the debate around how Congress will update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) for use in the modern age where big data is king.


So what’s with the veto?

Which brings us to the question of why Governor Edwards vetoed the legislation, especially when it had broad bipartisan support. Let’s start with the “official” rationale provided by the Governor in his veto message:

“The legislation requires LDOE to enter into a memorandum of understanding in which the person conducting such academic research agrees to be civilly liable for any fine imposed as a violation of authorized uses of the student information. Under current law, a person who violates authorized uses of the student information is subject to both criminal and civil penalties. House Bill 568 references civil penalties only relative to the memorandum of understanding. However, it does not create an exception to the criminal liability provisions in current law. Because of these drafting concerns, I have vetoed House Bill 568.”

The contention that the Governor felt compelled to veto the bill over a technicality – i.e., it didn’t create an explicit exception to the criminal liability provision in the current law – is unconvincing. Even though H.B. 568 didn’t specifically address criminal liability, it’s not at all clear that it necessarily needed to do so. In any case, from a practical standpoint, it is highly unlikely that a prosecutor would pursue a misdemeanor conviction – as opposed to a civil fine – against an employee of an out-of-state research institution. In fact, to my knowledge, no one has ever faced criminal charges in Louisiana for violating the state’s student data privacy law. It’s also worth noting that the Governor’s Office never raised this concern as H.B. 568 was winding its way through the legislature and could have been amended.

The Governor’s Office never raised concerns about H.B. 568 as it was making its way through the legislature.

When taken together, the facts suggest that the decision to veto House Bill 568 had little to do with the content of the legislation and more to do with its author. Rep. Landry has clashed with the Governor repeatedly over education policy in recent years and several of the Governor’s school-related proposals have died in the House Education Committee, which Landry chairs. Although Edwards would not be the first governor to use his veto pen to punish lawmakers who opposed his agenda, it makes no sense to apply it to a bill as innocuous and apolitical as H.B. 568, especially seeing that Rep. Landry had nothing to gain by sponsoring the legislation.

Nevertheless, Governor Edwards did just that. Thanks to his veto, Louisiana’s overly broad and mind-numbingly parochial student data privacy law remains in force. Out-of-state academics who want to study our public schools will be told to look elsewhere. And as a result, our public education system won’t be able to benefit from the knowledge and insights their research would provide.


Read House Bill 568:


Read the Governor’s Veto Message:

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Charters

All About The Kids? Calcasieu Teacher Plays Politics At The Expense Of Students, Taxpayers

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For more than a year, Calcasieu Parish special education teacher Ganey Arsement has been on a self-appointed crusade against education reform in Louisiana. He has blasted charters, standardized testing, Common Core, teacher evaluation, and yours truly on his blog, as well as on social media. He has worked to coordinate his attacks with the state’s teachers unions, particularly the Louisiana Association of Educators, and has sought to ingratiate himself with anti-reform politicians like Gov. John Bel Edwards and former State Rep. Brett Geymann.

Arsement with Gov. John Bel Edwards and former State Rep. Brett Geymann.

Arsement has also become an increasingly visible presence in Baton Rouge, where he has spent untold hours attending meetings of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and lobbying in the hallways of the State Capitol. In recent months, Arsement has turned his guns on State Superintendent of Education John White – the bête noire of Louisiana’s reform opponents – whom he wants replaced. After failing to convince legislators that the law required them to reconfirm White (who has been on a month-to-month contract since the beginning of 2016), Arsement filed a petition in state court late last month that seeks to remove him from office.

Through it all, Arsement has portrayed himself as a selfless defender of public education who is fighting the nefarious schemes of greedy “corporate” reformers. However, a closer examination reveals that his political adventures have instead come at the expense of students and taxpayers.

Unethical and possibly worse

Official attendance records provided to me by Calcasieu Parish Schools Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus show that Arsement missed 16.5 days of work – more than three weeks of school – over the course of the 2016-17 school year.

Enlarge

Screen-Shot-2017-06-10-at-02.52.38
Arsement's absences and Calcasieu Parish School Board holidays.

According to Bruchhaus, all but one of these days (May 9, 2017) were recorded as sick leave. State law permits teachers to take two days of personal leave per year without loss of pay. The law also allows teachers to take ten days of sick leave per year due to illness or other emergencies without loss of pay. Unused sick leave can be carried over from one year to the next.

In Arsement’s case, it is clear that he took paid sick leave on many days when he was actually playing politics in Baton Rouge. Moreover, you don’t have to take my word for it, as he admits as much several times on his blog. Here are just a few examples…

What this means is that Arsement was off doing political advocacy while his special needs students were left with a substitute (who also had to be paid) and taxpayers foot the bill. I would venture to guess that most people would find that unacceptable, especially the parents of his students.

Missing absences?

If that’s not bad enough, I’ve also identified at least one day – and possibly two days – where his attendance record says he was working, but he was actually in Baton Rouge.

Several sources have confirmed that Arsement was at the Capitol during school hours on May 2nd. Nevertheless, his attendance record does not mark him absent on that date. Why that absence is missing is unclear, but since teachers verify their timesheets, the error should have been corrected.

The second day in question is May 8th when, by his own admission, he proudly delivered a petition calling for the removal of John White to the office of Senate President John Alario. Although he does not indicate when he made that delivery, one assumes he didn’t hop in his car immediately when school ended at 3:10pm to drive two hours to Baton Rouge to drop it off. In any case, Arsement is not marked absent on May 8th, either.

Exactly why reform is needed

When Arsement claims education reform supporters “demonize” teachers, what he means is that they actually expect teachers to do the work they’re paid to do. While this may seem draconian to someone who can apparently skip entire days of work and get away with it, this is not a radical concept to most of us. When taxpayers hand over their hard-earned money to pay for public education, they expect teachers to teach. When parents send their children off to school, they expect their kids will actually spend the day learning. When Arsement instead takes a bunch of sick days to lobby lawmakers for lower standards and less accountability, he’s breaking that social contract and possibly the law. Worst of all, he’s doing a tremendous disservice to the young people in his classroom – kids who need the most help.

In his effort to rollback Louisiana’s education reform policies, Arsement has inadvertently provided a real-life illustration of why they are so desperately needed. For that at least, I thank him.

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