John White’s Latest Course Choice Push Equals Large-scale, Free High School Labor

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and his hand-selected, anti-public-school sidekick, State Education Superintendent John White, really want their so-termed “online education” dollar siphon, Course Choice, to be the major death drain that it was intended to be to Louisiana public education.

In May 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court declared use of Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding– intended for Louisiana public schools– unconstitutional for either vouchers or Course Choice.

So, White had to go and “find” some money to make these two programs work.  According to this January 2014 Advocate article, Course Choice had been “largely” financed using money from a 1986 federal oil and gas settlement.

However, former Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) employee and education blogger Jason France questions the sloppy, rushed implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)– including White and LDOE’s reneging on a promised curriculum–  as a means of freeing up cash in order for LDOE to support vouchers and Course Choice.

And in early 2014, there is some playing with the MFP such that Course Choice might be treated as dual-enrollment (high school courses for which students also receive college credit):

In a new plan spelled out in a Dec. 18 letter, [Minimum Foundation Program Task Force Chairman] Guillot said Course Choice could be treated like other programs that are beyond what public schools typically offer, including dual enrollment in which students can earn high school and college credit at the same time.

Under the revision, local schools could apply for the 90 percent subsidy from the state but would retain authority over what classes are offered and who can take them.

Enter White’s plan to make Course Choice a permanent and dominant fixture in the Louisiana high school curriculum:

Jump Start.

Jump Start: Universal Course Choice

White presented the Jump Start proposal in the February 2014 Superintendents Advisory Council meeting using this Power Point: SAC_February_2014_Final.

In short, White wants to push every high school student to earn an “industry certification” via school-industry “partnerships.”

Course Choice for all– even for students who intend to attend college.

White outlines his plan on slide 16:

jump start

Now, the justification for Jump Start is a bit dicey if one considers the justification for CCSS:

Louisiana Believes our state’s comprehensive plan for continued improvement starts with a simple idea: if you believe that all students can achieve a career or a college degree – and thus master the Common Core standards – you must believe in the adults who know and care for them.  [Emphasis added.]

(Yes, the end statement is irony overflowing.)

Wait a minute– CCSS only needs to lead to “a career”?

Vague, isn’t it? I thought CCSS was supposed to make the USA a winner in the Global Economy.

Aren’t we Racing to the Top?

Is “industry certification for all” the Top??

The Truth about the Louisiana Economy

On the previous slide (slide 15), White attempts to justify this all-inclusive, vocational education idea. He begins with a lie:

While most Louisiana jobs do not require a four-year degree, the majority of them require education beyond high school. [Emphasis added.]

Hang onto your seats, folks.

According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) 2014 projected top-demand job listings by regionthe majority of Louisiana jobs require “short to moderate training and experience”– not “education beyond high school.”

Furthermore, in its 2020 projected top-demand job listings by region, LWC changes its description from the “training and experience” focus to either “less than high school” or “high school diploma or equivalent.”

Most Louisiana jobs in 2020 will require either no high school diploma or a high school diploma “or equivalent.”

On his slide 15, White continues with the statistic, More than 27 percent of Louisiana students do not graduate from high school in four years.

According to the LWC projections, the low four-year graduation rate is not the problem– Louisiana’s depressed economy is.

And according to LWC, it is the four-year college graduates who will have the hardest time securing employment in Louisiana–  not the high school graduates– and not even the high school dropouts.

Thus, White’s next statistic, that fewer than 20 percent of high school graduates end up achieving a university degree— is much more in line with what the Louisiana economy is offering according to LWC projections.

And now White wants to offer “Louisiana graduates a path to the middle class” (slide 15).

Not based upon these LWC projections. In the 2014 projections, many of the top demand jobs have hourly wages well below $20. The 2020 top demand jobs list many with annual wages below $30,000.

Ironically, many of the jobs requiring four-year degrees in both 2014 and 2020 are teaching jobs– jobs in which teachers are having a difficult time holding onto that “middle class” status due to frozen salaries for the past five years.

(White even wants to modify teacher credentialing “to facilitate industry professionals’ entry into teaching positions” {slide 22}. Big surprise there.)

Forget CCSS (even as we are in the chaotic middle of it).

Jump Start is the Louisiana Solution.

Jump Start–> Free Labor

White has this vision for “regional Jump Start teams–public-private partnerships made up of school systems and their governing authorities, two-year colleges, local industry, and economic and workforce development agencies” to “design plans for providing courses and workplace-based experiences leading to WIC (Workforce Investment Council)-approved statewide credentials” (slide 18).

He can arrange for all of the “credentials” he likes. It will not matter because the Louisiana economy is not offering viable employment opportunities to its higher-educated and trained residents.

What White’s plan will do is provide Louisiana employers with free high school labor for jobs that overwhelmingly require “short to moderate training and experience.” Not only will participating students provide potentially free labor; via Course Choice, participating businesses will actually collect public school funding!

Furthermore, if a student refuses to work, no big deal. The Course Choice Industry provider need not even have the student show up– just give the kid a grade and collect the public school money.

Course Choice sounds a lot like Jindal’s habit of offering corporations more in tax breaks than they actually pay in taxes– thereby paying corporations to not pay Louisiana taxes.

The Louisiana economy is in deplorable condition because our governor gives away Louisiana revenue. And now, John White is proposing to do the very same by offering our high school students as free labor while paying participating businesses using funding that is being creatively diverted from Louisiana public schools.

Forget “learning for learning’s sake.” John White’s vision for Louisiana high school students is that their aspirations serve the needs of business and industry.

School Performance Points (AKA White’s Top-down Expectation)

John White wants to exploit Louisiana children for the sake of Course Choice. His values are evident in the point values he places on student participation in his Jump Start.

I just have to show you the slide (number 19):

jump start 2

Notice that White is pushing the “college and industry hybrid” by offering “extra credit” for such students– thereby enticing districts to promote Course Choice Industry to students who otherwise would have no reason to put their “industry certification” slice of public school funding into corporate bank accounts.

Notice also that GED is downplayed despite the 2020 LWC projections of “high school diploma or equivalent.”

As far as LWC is concerned, it does not matter whether the high school diploma is traditional or not– or whether it is earned in four years rather than five.

The point values in the slide above represent what White values– and what will be used to calculate school performance scores used in determining the fate of schools statewide.

All in White’s hands.

Such is made clear by his doublespeak presentation of CCSS implementation and testing made earlier in this same slide show that pushes vocational education for all.

But Wait– There’s Still Common Core (Just Don’t Call It That)

White does not use the term Common Core a single time in this slide show. I suppose he is on the way to “rebranding” the Core.

On slide 5, he refers to “the last two years of transition” even though most Louisiana teachers were blindsided by full implementation of CCSS a year early (this year instead of 2014-15).

In promoting the “expectations” (“Common Core” is now taboo), White shifts from the “compete in the global economy” line advertised on the LDOE website to one that will accommodate his new, lower-level, vocational drive.

In order to make the shift, White must subtly introduce the lowered expectation while pretending to still support the higher expectation. Note that White’s information to promote CCSS on slide 6 continues to be a lie:

Most jobs in Louisiana require some education after high school, primarily at a four-year college or at a two-year technical community college.  [Emphasis added.]

Right here, White lowers the bar in order to make room for vocational education (and Course Choice) in our CCSS world.

The lie continues:

In 2011, 28 percent of the Louisiana workforce had a two- or four-year degree. To meet Louisiana’s future job needs, that number must double. [Emphasis added]

Not according to the 2014 and 2020 LWC projections.

According to the direction of the Louisiana economy as noted in the 2014 and 2020 LWC projections, what Louisiana will be able to employ most are high school dropouts or high school graduates– not those with associates degrees or higher.

According to LWC projections, Louisiana students do not need the so-called “bedrock academic expectation” to test as level 4 on the not-yet-piloted Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test (slide 6).

White has just lowered expectations to raise expectations.


Also on slide 6, White compares PARCC level 4 with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)’s “proficient.” First of all, NAEP “proficient” is “superior performance.” As educational historian Diane Ravitch notes:

NAEP has three levels: “Advanced” is the highest (only about 3-8% of students reach this level). “Proficient” is defined by the National Assessment Governing Board as “solid academic performance for each grade assessed. This is a very high level of academic achievement.”). “Basic” is “partial mastery” of the skills and knowledge needed at each grade tested.

“Proficient” on NAEP is what most people would consider to be the equivalent of an A. When I was a member of the NAEP governing board, we certainly considered proficient to be very high level achievement. [Emphasis added.]

Second, if PARCC has not yet been piloted, how can White guarantee how PARCC will compare to NAEP?

He cannot.

White: “Just Doin’ My Overpaid Job”

White cannot change the Louisiana economy by insisting on higher test scores, or by insisting Louisiana high schools cater to Course Choice in the form of a universal vocational education in which students are likely to serve as free labor.

What he can do is push both this widespread vocational version of Course Choice and CCSS in order to systematically de-fund already-fiscally-stressed public schools in favor of privatization.

Privatization is what White was hired to do.

We need a new governor.


UPDATE 02-17:

John White is now distributing sample test questions from the as-of-yet unpiloted PARCC.

Here is his justification:

In order to ensure Louisiana students are prepared for college and Louisiana’s economy, our state is moving to higher standards and new assessments. Starting today, the Louisiana Department of Education will highlight one sample question each day to help Louisiana educators and families preview Louisiana’s new 2014-15 assessments. [Emphasis added.]

Nothing can truly prepare our students to become the predominately “working poor” who constitute “Louisiana’s economy.”


  1. Thanks for this. White’s thought disorder represents another form of Tuckerism, which EPI demolished here:

  2. I think your bias against this governor may be clouding your judgment here. Almost all the OECD countries that score higher than the US on the PISA and other international rankings, including Singapore and Finland, have strong work-based, vocational education pathways in upper secondary (post-16) systems. You repeatedly equate a vocational path with lowered expectations and lower outcomes, and seem to sneer at the career aspirations that many of the students I serve are proud to strive for, including our future firefighters, heath care workers, and entrepreneurs. European countries offer work based secondary pathways that lead to high paying jobs in industry, health care and business. While I have been alarmed at Louisiana’s direction toward charter schools, this looks like a move that will give students more ownership of their educational pathways and offer an alternative to the one-size-fits-all 4-year college pathway that isn’t working for so many of our young people.

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