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Los Angeles Superintendent Austin Beutner, new to the education world, has defined himself by his first big hire. He selected Rebecca Kockler, the Louisiana Department of Education’s assistant superintendent for academic content to be his chief of staff. Like her boss, John White, Kockler is both TFA and Broadie. (For the initiated, that means they both got a little bit of teaching experience as recruits for Teach for America and are “graduates” of Eli Broad’s unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, whose “graduates” are taught top-down management, the value of closing schools and replacing them with private management, and other reformer tricks of the trade. John Thompson recently wrote a series of posts here about the dismal record of Broadies.)
Mercedes Schneider, researcher and high school teacher in Louisiana, reviews Kockler’s TFA career in TFA here, which was mysteriously absent from the LAUSD press release. Also unmentioned in the press release was her Broadie history. Mercedes knows more about the Louisiana Department of Education and its new chief of staff than LAUSD. To be fair to the person who wrote the press release, Mercedes notes that Kockler deleted her Linked In bio that describes her TFA history. But Mercedes has it.
Both the LAUSD press release and the Broad Center agree that Louisiana is one of the “fastest improving” states in the nation.
But is that true? Nope. Its NAEP scores declined significantly from 2015 to 2017.
What is especially irksome about the LAUSD press release linked above is that it refers to Louisiana’s academic standards as “a national model.” Who would look to a state that scrapes the very bottom of NAEP rankings as “a national model”? Maybe it is a model of how to fail while boasting of success. Maybe it is a model of Trumpian rhetoric that turns lemons into lemonade.
Consider this report in the New Orleans Advocate on 2017 NAEP.:
“In the latest snapshot of education achievement, scores for Louisiana public school fourth-graders plunged to or near the bottom of the nation in reading and math.
“In addition, eighth-graders finished 50th among the states and the District of Columbia in math and 48th in reading…
In 2015, fourth-graders finished 43rd in the U. S. in reading and 45th in math….
“But both scores dropped five points – to 212 and 229 out of 500 respectively – during tests administered to 2,700 students last year.
“That means fourth-grade math scores finished 51st while fourth-grade reading scores are 49th.
“The group that oversees the exams, the National Center for Education Statistics, said both drops are statistically significant.”
Why not tell the truth? Beutner hired the academic director of one of the lowest performing states in the nation, where NAEP scores fell in the latest assessment. He was impressed by her credentials in TFA, and she came highly recommended by his friend Eli Broad.