The Recovery School District (RSD) Optical Illusion
The charter-promoting organization, New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) wants its charters to prosper. Its website proudly advertises a hefty $25 million grant from the Arnold Foundation– as in John Arnold, former Enron trader who made off with $4 million while most employees lost their pensions and who later spun gold in hedge funds to the tune of $3 billion.
In order to sell the charter success image, NSNO offers the public “proof” of “New Orleans Schools Success” in the form of these two graphs:
“Success” in the reformer world is all too often about image and not truth. As such, these graphs promote a lie. The bolded information below explains the deception.
It is the Recovery School District (RSD) that is state-run, not Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). OPSB retained the majority of its handful of schools after the post-Katrina state takeover; the criteria for state takeover was any school scoring below the pre-Katrina state average of 87.4 for a school performance score. (For more RSD history, read this post and this post.)
Post-Katrina OPSB has always scored well. Some OPSB “charters” are selective admission charters. This “cream” distinction is often not disclosed and makes for unfair declarations of “New Orleans charter success.”
In his capricious, ever-changing calculation of school performance scores and letter grades, so-called Superintendent John White insists upon combining OPSB and RSD scores in order to form an “average.” The reason? OPSB scores make RSD look better. Note that for 2013, OPSB alone has a “A.” However, when combined with RSD, RSD’s 71.9 C “rises” to an 83.4 C.
Do not try to compare 2013 to 2012 scores; the scales and calculations are completely different. The 2013 scores are biased towards raising RSD’s “D” schools to “C” schools. (School performance score criteria is ever-changing and fraught with problems, which makes worthless any comparison of Louisiana school performance scores across years.)
RSD has a number of “D” rated schools that were raised to “C” as nothing more than an artifact of John White and the state board, BESE, changing the school performance score scale and calculation.
Only a limited number of RSD schools are graded from one year to the next. Of the 37 RSD schools that were given “A – F” letter grades in both 2012 and 2013, 15 RSD schools that would have had a “D” under the 2013 SPS calculation received a “C” under the “new” 2013 calculation. Thus, the 2013 scores are inflated.
So, in considering the two NSNO graphs above, realize that OPSB and RSD scores are combined, thus disguising the less-than-stellar “performance” of RSD; that the “comparison” between 2012 and 2013 scores cannot be made since the scales and calculations are different; that the number of schools with scores from one year to the next is low (only 37 out of 63 RSD schools have both 2012 and 2013 school performance scores and letter grades), and that 2013 scores are biased towards raising RSD’s “D” schools to “C.”
Once again, the state-run RSD proves to be no miracle.
Spin, yes. Hype, yes.