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More 2014 ACT Data on New Orleans RSD: Meeting Louisiana Four-year College Admission Requirements

February 6, 2015

It is February, and at my high school, that means scheduling students for the next school year. During two of my classes today, our counselors were in my room explaining to students the Louisiana Board of Regents minimum requirements for first-time college freshmen who wish to attend a four-year college or university in Louisiana. These requirement are the result of legislation passed in 2010 and phased in over four years, the Grad Act.

One requirement is a minimum score of 18 on the ACT in English and a minimum score of 19 on the ACT in math.

Even though Regents also has an ACT composite requirement, one can readily substitute a high GPA in place of a lacking composite.

However, that 18 in English and 19 in math is virtually non-negotiable. An institution might be able to conditionally admit some students in the name of “research”; however, there is not too much of this allowed, for Regents states that the two ACT subscores are the most widely acceptable, readily available evidence that a student would not require remedial college coursework in English or math– a rule effective for all Louisiana four-year institutions of higher education effective Fall 2014.

Thus, the first graduating class affected by this Regents rule is the high school graduating class of 2014.

The rule is rather stringent, and since neighboring states such as Mississippi are not held to Louisiana Board of Regents criteria, it is no wonder that the Louisiana rule of “raising the bar”– and insistence that such “raising” will somehow result in students meeting the raised bar– could actually cause many would-be Louisiana college students to make the drive across a state border to get a four-year-college education.

Unfortunately, many Louisiana graduates willing to enroll in college and many Louisiana four-year institutions of higher education willing to enroll them are prevented from making a decision that could benefit both.

This is “raising the bar,” and keep in mind that the corporate-reform-minded, “no excuses” set believe it will work.

These same bar-raising folk also believe in the magic of the state takeover of schools that cannot cut it when it comes to standardized test scores. They believe in closing community schools in favor of opening under-regulated charter schools heavily staffed by temporary-yet-“talented” Teach for America (TFA) recruits. They believe that with this TFA-charter combination, student test scores are bound to rise and that the “no excuses” ideology will win in the end.

That is what they believe.

Yet problems arise when those pesky test scores tell a different story. When that happens, one must hide the data in order to “give choice a chance.”

Meanwhile, the graduates of the “choice” experiment suffer when “choice” is preserved at the expense of truth.

So, it is for the children of so-called New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) “choice” that I present the data in this post.

This is not an effort to chastise those trapped in the RSD “choice” system.  It is an effort to finally offer the public RSD research that has not been warped and refashioned into the hologram of victory by a very-pro-privatizing Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

What I have here are data on how many of the state-run, RSD schools’ class of 2014 graduates scored that 18 in English and 19 in math on the ACT– a necessary condition for admission into a Louisiana four-year college or university straight out of high school.

My data are relatively simple: Numbers of ACT test takers with certain ACT subscale scores for each RSD high school. I have not twisted and shaped these outcomes; I have not created nebulous indices and ever-changing, convoluted scoring systems with them.

I simply offer them, especially to states and districts nationwide that are considering modeling state-run districts after what has repeatedly been marketed as the “New Orleans charter district miracle.”

I don’t do marketing.

There is no miracle.

Here is my data:

RSD class of 2014 meeting Regents ACT English and math requirements

The above file is an Excel spreadsheet that includes info on the state-run RSD class of 2014. The sheet has seven columns:

A. ACT school site code

B. RSD high school names

C. Number of class of 2014 test takers per school

D. 2014 ACT average composite per school

E. Number of test takers meeting Regents requirement of 18 in English and 19 in math per school

F. Percentage of test takers meeting Regents requirement of 18 in English and 19 in math per school

G. Average ACT composite of those meeting the Regents requirement

I also have totals for each column for the RSD high schools in New Orleans alone and them for all RSD high schools statewide.

(Note: ACT refers to these test takers as “graduates”; however, though they are the class of 2014, it is possible for one to take the ACT and still not graduate as planned.)

Some highlights from this data:

Of the 16 active New Orleans RSD high schools, five graduated not one student meeting the Regents 18-English-19-math ACT requirement. That’s no qualifying students out of 215 test takers.

Another six RSD high schools each graduated less than one percent meeting the requirement, or 16 students out of 274 (5.8 percent).

Out of a total of 1151 RSD New Orleans class of 2014 ACT test takers, only 141 students (12.3 percent) met the Regents requirement. Eighty-nine of these 141 attended a single high school (OP Walker, ACT site code 192113).

By far, OP Walker had the highest number of Regents 18-English-19-math-ACT-subscore-qualifying class of 2014 test takers (89 out of 311, or 28.6 percent).

If the OP Walker were removed from RSD-NO, then RSD-NO would be left with 52 qualifying students out of 840, or 6.2 percent.


Notice also that the average ACT composite scores of those meeting the Regents 18-19 requirement (column G) are all above the 18 that LDOE focuses on as a minimum mark of success.

Clearly the theory of “raise the bar and achievement will rise” is not playing out in the New Orleans RSD when it comes to meeting the Regents minimum requirement of an 18 in English and 19 in math on the ACT.

No miracle here. Only more data that Louisiana Superintendent John White wishes he could hide.


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

  1. Jack Covey permalink

    Hey Mercedes,

    Both the National Review, and ReasonTV say that the New Orleans school choice charter system is a smashing success:

    What gives?

    The only problem, these orgs say, is that a bunch of corrupt defenders of a failed status quo—you know those commie unionistas and others that put adult interests ahead of children’s interests—are demanding some new regulations of the booming charters in N’awlins.

    Watch the ReasonTV video and you’ll see how off-base this attack on the free market education system is.

  2. Jack Covey permalink

    In the video linked to above,

    Julie Lause, currently a New Orleans charter school principal, makes some very bold claims at:

    07:05 – 07:33
    JULIE LAUSE (Principal, Harriet Tubman Charter School) :

    “I am proud of where we are. I mean, 33% of the city passed tests at basic levels levels in 2004, and now it’s 67%

    “Just that growth has never been seen in the history of our country before.

    “We’re going to be the first mostly black city to outperform its mostly white state in the history of this country.

    “So I think there’s something significant about what’s happening here. And we’re not yet there. We’re not yet perfect. We’re not an A-school system yet, but I think we’re on the way.”

    Wow! That’s a whole lotta “first-ever/never-been-seen-before-in-our-country’s-history” stuff goin’ on down there in the Big Easy…

    Indeed, Julie really loves re-using that line…

    “We’re the first (mostly black… city / school district / whatever) to (INSERT amazing achievement HERE) in the history of our country.”

    Is any of what Julie is saying true?

  3. What can you tell us about OP Walker?

  4. Only that I wonder how it is that the one school has so many Regents qualifiers. The issue begs further scrutiny.

    • Jack Covey permalink

      ” … further scrutiny… ” indeed!

      My guess is that O.P. Walker’s impressive and outlier results derive from one of more of the following:

      1) there was aggressive creaming in the school’s admissions… at the front end… resulting in a student body comprised of a significantly and comparatively (to the rest of the RSD) higher concentration of naturally-gifted, easy-to-educate, highly-motivated, non-disruptive students… from stable, unusually supportive, two-parent, higher-income, professional, college-educated parents;

      2) extreme attrition (dumping) of those less able, unmotivated, and/or or disruptive students… those from very unstable, single-parent-households(homeless? foster care?), where, sadly, they are raised by unsupportive, lower-income / on-welfare, non-college-educated / uneducated parents in distressed conditions… i.e. kicking out of the “lemon” students initially accepted by the school and those students who unfortunately are being raised by these “lemon” parents in “lemon” conditions; as doing so resulting in a strong, positive peer effect for those remaining in the school;

      3) massive and intensive test prep… practicing, drilling, etc…. the educational equivalent of “steroids” that athletes employ to show an inaccurate picture of their true abilities;

      OR… (and yeah, I’m going to “go there”, folks…)

      4) some kind of systematic, organized cheating—“erase-to-the-top”-style—on the part of O.P. Walker’s administrators, teachers, etc… a la the school systems in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.(when Michelle Rhee ran the show there).

      No. 1 and No. 2 above can be examined by looking at the data of the income, employment, marital, criminal, and education history of the parents at O.P. Walker… as well as data showing how many students who matriculated to O.P. Walker at the start of 9th grade survived all the way to take the ACT test (in 11th or 12th grade).

      No. 3 could be discovered by questioning the teachers, administrators, students, and parents to determine how much instructional time was preoccupied with test prep. (i.e. the way a high-up administrator at Eva Moskowitz’ SUCCESS ACADEMY charter school let slip how an incredible amount of time was taken up by test prep, and even bragged to NEW YORK Magazine—or the New York Times Magazine… I forget—that the adults there had turned all the SUCCESS ACADEMY students in to “little test-taking machines.” This is on the internet somewhere… I’m too lazy to link to it.)

      No. 4 could be examined by:

      a) an erasure analysis similar to the ones conducted in D.C. and Atlanta;


      b) O.P. Walker’s students re-taking the ACT under conditions where the most stringent test security and test proctoring of the tests is employed by an entity other that the teachers and administrators at O.P. Walker—either officials of the ACT, or a third party (kind of like what was done near the end of the movie “STAND AND DELIVER”).

      Who knows? Like the true life story of STAND AND DELIVER, a retaking may be prove naysayers like me wrong about the whole cheating accusation.

  5. ulyankee permalink

    The reason the admission criteria are what they are is not just because the Board of Regents decided unilaterally to raise the bar. It is because it was written into GRAD Act. GRAD Act I states that four-year institutions are not allowed to offer developmental education unless there is not a community college in the region. The Board of Regents admission criteria were announced in April 2010, right at the start of the legislative session when GRAD Act I was introduced. They went into effect at statewide institutions (ULL, UNO, LaTech) in 2012 and regionals in 2014. LSU’s standards were already at the state minimum at that time.

    So when you read articles about state institutions experiencing drops of enrollment, especially those in the New Orleans area, it’s not because students don’t want to go there anymore.

  6. ulyankee permalink

    Oh… and SAT and even COMPASS scores can be used in place of the ACT to determine if a student is college-ready in math and English. Not just ACT. But since Louisiana is an ACT state and all our students now take the ACT, the vast majority of students are using those for college admission and not other test scores.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. UNO and SUNO aren’t kidding. Orchestrated by Jindal. Guaranteed by GRAD Act and Stelly repeal. | lahigheredconfessions
  2. Mercedes Schneider: The ACT Bombshell Blows Up the Myth of New Orleans “Reforms” | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. Campbell Brown Hearts NOLA Charters | Live Long and Prosper

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