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Lusher asks Attorney General if it must release the name of its admissions test

Lusher Charter School has asked Louisiana’s attorney general if it must release information about its admissions test — including what it’s called.

The admissions process for the highly-rated charter school was thrust into the spotlight this month after Jacob Landry disclosed in a column for The Lens that Lusher’s CEO refused to tell him the name of its kindergarten admissions test.

Lusher is one of a handful of selective-admissions schools in New Orleans, all of which answer to the Orleans Parish School Board. The vast majority of schools in the city are overseen by the state Recovery School District and are open to anyone.

According to Landry, Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger told him he would have to sue to find out what test Lusher uses.

“Even if we don’t provide you with test questions and answer keys, if prospective parents know the name of the test, they might be able to access the test that is used year after year,” Riedlinger told Landry in a followup email.

Riedlinger said her lawyer advised her to seek an attorney general’s opinion on the matter. Last week, state Rep. Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) forwarded her request to Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

In her letter Riedlinger said Landry asked for “information concerning the entrance exam.” She cited an exception to the state Public Records Law that shields “testing instruments” administered by the state, as well as answers or student scores for those tests.

“If the admissions exam does not fall under the above referenced exemptions, then virtually all tests given in Louisiana primary and secondary schools would be subject to the Public Records Act,” Riedlinger wrote. “For example, a parent could use the Public Records Act to request a copy of his or her child’s biology exam before it is administered.”

Landry said he just wants to know the name of Lusher’s test.

If he knew it, he said, he could check to see if it’s an IQ test. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education forbids schools from using IQ tests to make admissions decisions.

He also could check with the company that designed it to see if it’s supposed to be used for admissions.

Those answers would tell him whether the Orleans Parish School Board is properly overseeing Lusher and other charters.

“It’s not about Lusher,” he said. “It’s about charter school oversight and whether it’s being done properly.”

Landry, who has worked at the Louisiana Department of Education and the Jefferson Parish Public School System, said he applied to Lusher’s kindergarten for his son. He waited until admissions decisions had been made — his son didn’t get in — before asking about the test.

What’s in a name?

Landry said he is particularly concerned that Lusher’s test is not named in the school’s contract with the district.

Riedlinger said the the school’s admissions process has been approved by the Orleans Parish School Board. However, that approval apparently doesn’t include the test itself.

“Because we respect their autonomy, we do not know the name of the test,” OPSB spokesman Matt Broussard said. He said that’s true of all admissions tests used by selective charter schools in the district.

Lake Forest Charter School also uses an admissions test. CEO Mardele Early would not say what it is.

“Releasing the test name compromises test security and allows some potential applicants to have an unfair advantage,” Early said in an email.

She said she will abide by whatever the Attorney General’s Office advises Lusher.

But Benjamin Franklin High School, a top-ranked school in the city, names its entrance exam in its admissions policy: the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Duris Holmes, chairman of the Ben Franklin board, said he’s not concerned about anyone gaining an unfair advantage because the school uses different versions of the test.

Test security expert James Wollack said Riedlinger could have a valid concern. “For all we know, it could be something freely available,” he said.

If so, “knowing the name provides potentially some individuals the opportunity to track down a copy of the test,” said Wollack, an associate professor of educational psychology and the director of testing and evaluation services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Riedlinger said that a “limited number” of Lusher employees know the name of the test.

Ten years ago, Gambit reported that Lusher and Audubon Montessori (now Audubon Charter School) used the Metropolitan Readiness Test for admissions.

Audubon no longer uses this test, Principal and CEO Janice Dupuy said. Riedlinger did not answer an email asking if Lusher still uses it.

Without knowing the name of the test, Wollack said, it’s hard for anyone to know if Lusher is using a valid method to decide who can get into the school.

“It’s about what that thing measures and how well it’s working for the intended purpose,” he said.

The Lens asked Riedlinger if she would provide information showing that the test is valid. She said she could contact the testing company to get it.

As for the name, she said Lusher will leave it up to the Attorney General’s Office ”to make the decision as to whether or not this policy should stand, and follow his opinion.”

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    The OPSB should be shaken and hung out to dry. It is doing “shoddy” monitoring of its charters. If it does not improve, the OPSB should not be allowed to authorize any more charters, nor should any RSD charters go back. That the OPSB and the Deputy Superintendent of Charter Schools, Kathleen Padian, do not know what tests its selective-admission charter schools are administering to children is dastardly and cowardly.

    As far as AG, Buddy Caldwell, he reminds me of the old joke (paraphrased), “If you want to hide anything from (Buddy), put it in a law book.” Riedlinger and Early will get what they expect from Buddy Caldwell.

    Get ’em, THE LENS. You can do this.
    Shake ’em up. Hang ’em high and show everybody, that these select privileged individuals have to comply with the law (play by the rules) like everybody else. If they don’t like it, tell them not to take the money. Let Riedlinger start another school – on her dime!
    06/22/2015 6:14 PM DST USA

  • Lee Barrios

    It’s a public school. It must reveal the name/source of the test. Public – paid for with public tax dollars. Public – should accept every child why I walks thru the door. Public – not in business for profit or personal gain by admin or mgt company. Time to end the privatization of our public school system which is widening the achievement gap. The AG will suggest the test can remain secret. He doesn’t work for the public good.

  • nickelndime

    There are so many “issues” within this one story, WE don’t know exactly where to begin. Pick the biggest and the one most-full-of-herself and show the public that bullying will not be tolerated. Well, Jacob Landry picked the biggest bully of them all and THE LENS is the perfect venue.

    Paul Vallas had it right (about the only thing that Vallas got right) back in 2009 when Kathleen Hurstel Riedlinger’s “highest” charter CEO salary was exposed. Paul was defending her salary. He said, “Kathy is Lusher.” And so the words come back to haunt.

    Well, Vallas was right. Nail the bully. Hell, she’s using public money to buy the tests. Whose credentials is she using to order the tests? She sure as hell ain’t no psych-educational diagnostician or a psychologist. Who is Riedlinger’s admissions/testing coordinator?

    Ask for (public records) the order forms and let her expensive legal counsel redact away. What is the name of the test company? Surely a parent can see his/her own child’s test. Parents could do so pre-Katrina before New Orleans got turned upside down. Maybe Lee Reid of Adams and Reese will give Lusher “time,” pro bono.

    06/22/2015 10:40 PM DST USA

  • JCL

    No, parents aren’t allowed to see their child’s tests. And when they ask how it was scored, they hit the same stone wall. Basically, kids go in a room by themselves with a stranger, and Lusher gets to decide what this kid’s score is and whether it meets their standards.

  • nickelndime

    Thanks, “JCL,” pre-Katrina, all of the OPSB CityWide Access Schools (CWAS) had applicants’ tests on file at the school sites and parents could sit down and look at their own child’s test.

    Parents could see the scoring and the percentiles, and because they were looking at the test, they could see the name of the test.

    LUSHER was a CWAS school. Roxanna Charbonnet was the CWAS coordinator for all of the OPSB CWAS schools, which also included Audubon, Lake Forest…(schools that were testing for admission decisions).

    How in the hell could the OPSB have fallen so badly post-Katrina when it became a “charter authorizer” and gave all of its power away to school “boards” that it (the OPSB) is/was supposed to be monitoring!

    The tail wags the dog. Kathleen Riedlinger is not the only one who is doing wrong things to other people’s children. There are others who also share the blame – Maudelle Early, Janice Dupuy…

    Through an OPSB spokesperson, the public is being told that it (including the Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Padian) do not know what tests are being administered to children, as these charter school “leaders” make life decisions (K-8) for young children.

    06/23/2015 2:06 PM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    2005: Selective-admission public schools in Orleans Parish (OPSB) are administering tests to make admission decisions (post-Katrina). The tests and test names ARE NOW HIDDEN and so are the scores.

    The exorbitant salaries of charter school administrators, expensive attorneys, political influence, and power should not change the interpretation of the law as it refers to PUBLIC RECORDS.

    Because these schools are public, they must be transparent to the public.

    I am not saying that Franklin High School in Orleans Parish is above reproach, but it is correct in informing potential applicants of what tests are being administered. This was the same pre- and post-Katrina.

    The OPSB needs to correct these kind of charter mis-steps, and it needs to do it now. Credibility issues remain, and the public perception is that the OPSB is IN-CREDIBLE and remains corrupt, interested only in the money and not in the children and families who reside in Orleans Parish.

    06/23/2015 6:16 PM DST USA

  • Uptown Dad

    For a bunch of educated people you all seem to miss the boat and not see the big picture. Yes Lusher is Public but that does not mean all the money they spend is public and a first year law student can make a sound argument against revealing the test name pursuant to a public records or FOIA request.

    Just because it is public does not mean it has to accept everyone, as long as the same test is given to everyone. Based on some of the argument you all put forth LSU should admit any student with a high school diploma or GED and LSU medical School or Vet School should admit all college graduates. There should be a few schools for the brightest and the smartest kids. Lusher is one of those school. I am sorry if your kid did not make the cut.

    We need more Lushers and Ben Franklins not less. We need more Kathy Rietlingers. If we need to pay them twice what Rietlinger makes, pay them if they can create a top school.

    New Orleans Schools and the kids educated here are a national joke and have been for a very long time. We now have a few schools rising above so instead of trying to replicate their success everyone attacks them.

    Instead of trying to attack Lusher, Ben Franklin, Audubon etc. go work with low performing schools – help them be successful. Remember when you attack Lusher you are also drawing a line in the sand and attacking the parents of 100s of students who love their school and put a great deal of time, energy and money into the schools success. How much money do other schools PTA raise and spend on teacher development or building maintinence? It’s going to be a very small amount compared to the top schools.

  • Uptown Dad

    You need to check you facts. Your statement about pre-katrina is incorrect.

    Again, Yes our school system is riddled with problems and our tax dollars are not educating our kids as well as they should be. The problem is not the top schools. Look at other school districts outside of the South and you will see how it should be run and the way the top charters and magnet schools are run in on par with the top school in school districts in states where the schools are NOT the lowest in the nation.

    clearly public schools that are performing as well or better as the high price private schools must be the problem with our school system.

    I guess the basic question is should there be a few school for the top performing students or not. If not then close Ben Franklin, Lusher, NOCCA etc. If there should be a place for the top students then we need more Ben Franklins and Lushers.

    Not every child should go to high performing magnet type school. A 9 year old who reads at the 8th grade level should not have to sit and be bored because he is in aclass with 9 and 10 and 11 year old who read at the 2nd grade level.

  • nickelndime

    So… “Uptown Dad,” you are telling “nickelndime” to check the facts (admissions, procedures, and protocol) about selective-admission pre-Katrina public OPSB schools. My facts are straight. I was part of the facts and can tell you the name of every test that was administered to prospective applicants at all of the selective-admission schools in the NOPS pre-Katrina, and so could Roxanna Charbonnet (CWAS Director) and a bunch of other people, including parents who made appointments and looked at their children’s tests. It was not a secret. BUT IT IS NOW. What’s the difference? Power and money.

    Having the public informed about what tests are being administered at LUSHER will not ruin the selection process there or anywhere else. She (Riedlinger) just doesn’t like for anybody to get the “drop” on her, and that is exactly what Jacob Landry did. She got fooled and she doesn’t like it.

    The other silent CEOs want to see if Riedlinger gets slapped. They are overpaid sheep and will fall in line as soon as somebody takes control of the situation.

    And while Ms. Riedlinger needs to “get” normative data, reliability and validity information from the test company to answer MARTA JEWSON and THE LENS, I can tell you without a doubt that Riedlinger doesn’t have a clue about the test instruments that Lusher is using.

    06/23/2015 11:13 PM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    NOTE: This is an excerpt, and WE (ASP and I) suggest that you read the entire article. Its focus is on IQ testing, and the test is the WPPSI-Revised.
    Pay attention, the test used by Audubon and Lusher is identified by name. IT WAS NO SECRET THEN (Riedlinger was principal), BUT IT IS A SECRET NOW (Riedlinger is CEO).

    Alice Lessing remembers the day her kid was put to the test.
    Alice’s 4-year-old daughter, Ella, was a “summer birthday” child, taking an exam to determine if she would begin kindergarten that fall or wait another year. The person giving the test left the door ajar, and Alice listened as the questioning began.

    “The woman was very nice,” she says, “and she would ask her things like, ‘Have you ever been to the zoo?'”

    Alice (names of all parents and their children have been changed for this story) heard her daughter say no, they never went to the zoo. When asked to name some animals, Ella froze.

    It didn’t make sense. The family goes to the zoo constantly. “This is really a verbal kid,” Alice says. “I knew she wasn’t being her normal forthcoming self, and what the woman said to me afterward was something about how she was reticent and not ready for the challenge, or something like that. Ella is so outgoing, I felt like it did not in any way reflect anything truthful. And I didn’t want to debate it with her because I didn’t want to look like an anxious picky parent.”

    In the end, the school told Lessing her daughter had to put in another year of pre-K before starting kindergarten in the fall of 2002. Alice picked another school, and Ella is currently doing well — in kindergarten.

    For the past 20 years, both public and private schools across the nation have used a variety of developmental and intelligence tests as admissions and screening tools. The most widely used intelligence test for preschool children — and the instrument used by most independent (private, non-parochial) schools in New Orleans — is the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised, known as the WPPSI-R. (Public magnet schools such as Lusher and Audubon Montessori use a basic skills test, called the Metropolitan Test, for kindergarten entry.)

    Such standardized testing of very small children — often as young as three — has sparked controversy among educators and researchers nationwide, not least because young children are pretty unreliable test subjects. Experts say…there is another 75 percent worth of factors important to school success that the test cannot measure: creativity, motivation, family life, personality. By contrast, an adult’s aptitude is believed to be tested with 50 to 60 percent accuracy. Furthermore, preschoolers’ reactions to the test situation are notorious…

    “Young children do not test well,” says Elaine Joseph, director of Newcomb Nursery. “Just knowing some of the kids [that schools] reject, I know they are rejecting some extraordinary children.”

    On a recent morning,… a group of parents are gathered to hear Tulane University psychologist Jeffrey Lockman speak about the process of testing young children…

    “I know there are some parents who are trying to prepare their kids,” says one local educator who asked not to be named. “I don’t know who they’re using, as far as private tutors or whatever — I don’t know. To me it’s so foolish, because it’s almost self-defeating. You’re not trying to do this to hurt the child, you’re trying to get an idea of what their capabilities are, and if you’re [coaching them], you’re robbing the test of its validity, and so why are you even testing them? It’s an exercise in futility it seems to me.”

    Specifics on how they achieve that fit are hard to come by, though. “They’ll never tell you. Several schools said stuff like, ‘Well, you know, we really work with the individual.’ They wouldn’t give any…

    School officials say they aren’t seeking to screen out average and low-scoring applicants, and testing advocates insist that if the tests are used properly, they are not harmful to children’s prospects.

    “There are some children who maybe don’t do as well verbally, or maybe we can see they have some fine motor difficulties, but have so much other potential that you just cannot exclude them — there are often children that you think, maybe our school can really be the help for this child that she may need.”

    Another school, St. Paul’s Episcopal, dispenses with standardized tests of any kind, preferring to rely on observations of the child and information gathered from parents and nursery school teachers — techniques that most other schools use in conjunction with testing.

    “We don’t want to cause stress, which testing can do,” says St. Paul’s Admissions Director Pat Hemenway. “We feel like our method works…Who can best do that? Experienced educators and parents.”

    “The party line seems to be that they use the test because they have a limited number of spots and they are trying to tease out children that will do well in their accelerated curriculum. I think some schools may be looking for children who will perform well, will do well, and will keep those numbers up, and then they’ll have National Merit finalists…

    The most consistent criticism leveled at standardized testing of preschoolers is that it is not reliable. Tulane University’s Jeffrey Lockman believes that New Orleans schools generally use testing appropriately, but he still advises caution.

    “What needs to be recognized is that testing at a young age is not as predictive,” he says. “A lower score doesn’t necessarily mean that a child won’t do well in school. It is inconsistent to think that the test alone will tell you how a child will do — that invalidates the role of the school in educating the child.”

    It is also important to keep in mind, Lockman says, that “some skills are developmentally linked. Children develop at different rates in different abilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the child who is slower in rate of development is slower in intellectual ability.”

    Those who work with preschoolers point to their changeability, distractibility and emotionality, all factors that may interfere with accurate testing….
    Shaw still questions this assessment. “Her father overheard the tester say, ‘Do you want to put together the puzzle?’ ‘No, I don’t want to put together the puzzle.’ Not that she couldn’t. But at that point she was an hour into it — past an hour — and for a 5-year-old that’s a very long time. When I showed the score to her [nursery] teachers who had known her for four years, they said, ‘You can obviously tell that this standardized measure is not really measuring, because we would have felt that Annie’s performance would have been much higher.’ Because they had known her for four years.”

    A good tester, counter school administrators, recognizes and makes allowances for the limitations of both test and child. “A good test giver puts it all in perspective,” says Lockman.

    06/24/2015 2:40 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    I like your lead (statement), “Uptown Dad,” “For a bunch of educated people you all…” Caught our attention. Please pay attention. WE (ASP and I) think you will.

    Well, things are not so good educationally for 98 percent of the New Orleans population that must rely on public education. They are not test-wise. Their child(ren) will not do well at Lusher or Audubon or Lake Forest…In fact, WE don’t even think they will try for admissions, much less show up for testing.

    No, this problem rests squarely on the shoulders of the OPSB and the new academic superintendent, and WE are looking to see if the guy actually has ####s or Tic Tacs.

    06/24/2015 3:14 AM DST USA

  • NOLA Born and Raised

    If I remember correctly, the Office of Civil Rights had to approve the admissions tests for all of the CWAS schools. I also remember that before CWAS they did not all test either. Personally I think there is room for all types of schools, including Performing Arts, Selective Admissions, KIPP and KIPP Like schools (of which we have way too many in New Orleans now) as well as other unique programs. Nothing wrong with it as long as everyone has a fair shot at getting into the school that is best for their child. Everyone touts OneApp, but it does not work they way they say it does, just ask Gabby…..

  • nickelndime

    You got me and my ASP (that’s my pet snake ASP) laughing and hiss-s-s–ing, “NOLA Born and Raised,” but WE are now working with a new group that wants to re-invent the wheel and has no “institutional” knowledge whatsoever – or if they do, will not admit it because it is not in their monetary best interests.

    Look at one of the many things that we’ve got going on here: For example: New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), founded by now-sitting her Lakeview ASP – her ASP, not my ASP – resident, Sarah Usdin, who has a DUNS# and has contracts with the/our federal government, including the USDOE – is a nonprofit, and is identified as an INVESTMENT and CONSULTING firm. The firm (a nonprofit) regularly does business with BESE, which, if you zone in, looks like Gladys Knight and the P-I-M-Ps.

    Then, the Cowen Institue (“oh no,” said Scott, I did not suggest that the institute be named after me – a donor did it), after its most recent (and there will be others – that will be swept under the rug) scandal under Ayers’ leadership, (who resigned and took six players with him – but rest asured, they are employed elsewhere in this national corruption web), has a new director – and guess where she came from! NSNO!
    Jesus H. Holy Christ. ASP
    and I are off the chair and rolling on the floor,

    Back to OCR-ah! OCR-ah (we are not quite sure why but the Rs rolls off the tongue) did reach the conclusion that the OPSB could not and should not “reserve” seats to achieve a “balanced” proportion of 50-50 minority participation at CWAS schools.

    More to follow – gotta run. ASP thinks he has spotted Mitch with a gaddam can of paint around Lee’s Circle.

    Gabriella is still on payroll. Well, you know.

    Oh $hit $on!
    06/25/2015 12:30 AM DST USA

  • NOLA Born and Raised

    If I remember correctly, the Office of Civil Rights had to approve the admissions tests for all of the CWAS schools. I also remember that before CWAS they did not all test either. Personally I think there is room for all types of schools, including Performing Arts, Selective Admissions, KIPP and KIPP Like schools (of which we have way too many in New Orleans now) as well as other unique programs. Nothing wrong with it as long as everyone has a fair chance to get in, even with admissions testing.

  • nickelndime

    Pardon my Tagalog, but one of things that the OCR-ah was looking at, was what The New Orleans Magnet Consortium (in its member schools) was doing (tests included) to determine how admission decisions were being made at the school sites.

    The OPSB Central Office was (ha!) a “hotbed” of corruption and mismanagement, and people like Area Superintendents and Directors, had trouble foucusing on academics, because they were more focused on S & M (ASP is off da chair and rolling on the floor) – SEX AND MONEY!
    Some things never change – not even close,
    06/27/2015 12:16 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    CWAS was the “response” to OCR-ah’s concerns. Well, look at what we have going on now – this is like the “human” (state – federal government) version of Hurricane Katrina applied to “education.”
    We all/You all might want to re-think this. Either that, or start closing down Orleans Parish ZIP CODE BY ZIP CODE.
    Knowing the corruption in this city, guess what ZIP CODES…
    Got to keep the public “at risk” population contained. Don’t want them infiltrating Hynes, Audubon, Lusher…
    What will it take? Ten more years – ah! Master Plans, Politicians, and Urban Renewal.
    06/27/2015 12:31AM DST USA

  • NOLA_Darling

    There isn’t one legitimate academic aptitude testing company that doesn’t modify it’s tests on an annual or regular basis and doesn’t have multiple versions every year to ensure that test takers in the same room can’t share answers, so Reidlingers concerns are BS. In the absence of OPSD monitoring & evaluation, the public SHOULD be suspicious about the accuracy, fairness and integrity of Lusher’s testing program, in particular whether or not it is really is an illegally-used Q test.

  • nickelndime

    Absolutely correct, “NOLA_Darling,” multiple test versions, revisions…And if the OPSB is either afraid (or is not competent enough) to monitor its own charters, then the PUBLIC needs to do it. The B$ needs to stop now. 07/02/2015 7:26 PM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Also, WE would like to know who is scoring LUSHER’s (prospective applicants’) tests and norming (because WE don’t think that the LUSHER “Team” is sending those tests back to the test company for scoring, etc.). It’s time to “break some eggs.” Let’s eat! 07/02/2015 7:34 PM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    The President of Dillard (bless his heart and his wife’s heart and the hearts of his children – one of whom attends Lusher – with Drew Brees, I think, and the other child is at a private independent school) thinks that LUSHER is replicatable – so that everybody can get a great public education in New Orleans – before the next hurricane. HELLO!
    ASP is gASPing for air. WOW!
    07/04/2015 3:06 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Call me curious, but did Dillard President Kimbrough “run by” his opinion article to the T-P NOLA.COM to the Dillard Board of Trustees before he posted OR was it the FULL MOON and/or the Star of Bethlehem (Venus conjunction) OR cocktails and stoop music OR “Essence” OR “Pride cometh before the fall” OR a death wish OR a desire to return to Georgia OR a combination of any two of the above?

    It’s either the air or the water in this city, cuz gawd knows, that the two of these is fatal – so it’s got to be one or the other.

    You think the guy would have gotten a clue – I mean, Denzel came down here and gave the commencement address to the Dillard graduates – but it must have flown over Kimbrough’s head,

    0704/2015 3:59 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    It seems dat yo’ boy, Dillard President Kimbrough, likes to express himself in writing, especially when it comes to the T-P NOLA. COM. Well, who gonna tell yo’ boy to pack up and get da U-Haul ready?
    Denzel were here and he talk about da U-Haul, but it must have
    fly over Kimbrough’s head.
    Back to the Dillard Board of Trustees – Pres Jabacoff – coff coff. Jesus H. Holy Christ Star of Bethlehem! 07/05/3015 12:57 AM DST USA

  • nickelndime

    Guess “who” is going to be looking for a job come Monday? 07/05/2015 1:10 AM DST USA