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To New Orleans RSD Parents: TOPS Isn’t Happening for Your Children

February 10, 2015

On February 9, 2015, New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) “architect” Leslie Jacobs declared victory for RSD growth” via “recently released” 2014 ACT scores.

Also, on February 9, 2015, I challenged Jacobs’ “enormously improved” portrayal of New Orleans RSD in this post.

Among the issues I challenged were the low rates of RSD graduates eligible for scholarships through the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), as concerns scholarships to both four-year colleges/universities and two-year, community colleges.

Four-year TOPS requires a minimum GPA of 2.5 in core subjects and an ACT composite score at the state average, which by current TOPS standards is 20.

Two-year TOPS tech requires a minimum GPA of 2.5 in core subjects and a minimum ACT composite of 17.

In my February 9, 2015, post, I noted that three RSD high schools had not even one graduate eligible for even TOPS two-year tech. I also noted that four additional RSD high schools had no graduates eligible for four-year TOPS.

Within an hour of my posting, Jacob’s Educate Now! had issued a correction to its data, stating that its TOPS information was incomplete. (It seems that the correction was sent in the minutes before I posted but that I did not receive the email until an hour after I posted.)

So, in this post, I would like to examine what Jacobs is offering by way of complete, corrected TOPS data for 2014 for the RSD.

Here is the state’s version of updated 2014 TOPS data for all schools in all districts.

From the data above, I created this Excel spreadsheet of TOPS information for the 16 RSD high schools:


So, here’s the news based on Jacobs’ update:

One RSD high school, Joseph S. Clark, has no graduation data available though according to the Class of 2014 ACT information system, Clark did have 84 students who identified themselves as Class of 2014 take the ACT . (See this post for details.)

One RSD high school had no 2014 graduates eligible for even two-year TOPS tech: ReNew Accelerated #1.

Two additional RSD high schools had no graduates eligible for four-year TOPS: ReNew Accelerated #2 and Sarah T. Reed.

Another five RSD high schools had less than one percent of graduates eligible for four-year TOPS:

Dr. MLK Charter School for Science and Technology

GW Carver High

John McDonogh High School

Walter L Cohen High

Algiers Technology Academy

This. Is. Not. Success.

In an effort to examine more details regarding RSD Class of 2014, I created the spreadsheet linked below using both Class of 2014 ACT information system data and state data counts of the number of Class of 2014 graduates. In this file, I also include the number of ACT-reported RSD Class of 2014 test takers who qualify for the minimum, two-year TOPS based upon an ACT composite of 17 and student self-report of a minimum GPA of 2.5:

Class of 2014 Two-year TOPS Eligibility

The above is a file worth careful consideration for its implications regarding the need for an RSD schools audit.

First of all, in its Class of 2014 information system, ACT has included all students identifying themselves as Class of 2014 no matter when the student completed the ACT. Also, ACT includes the student because the student has completed the ACT– not because the student has completed high school. So, it is possible for a Class of 2014 test taker to be in the ACT Class of 2014 count and not actually graduate with the Class of 2014 at his or her high school.

As for ACT site code information, ACT uses the high school site code identified by either the test taker or the high school administration. Therefore, it is possible for a student to identify a given high school as his/her school and then change schools.

And, frankly, in the coding of schools, there is room for major scamming via the opportunity to intentionally miscode.

I’ll just let that idea linger.

When I compared ACT’s record of total number of Class of 2014 test takers per high school with the state’s corresponding record of total number of 2014 graduates per RSD high school, I once again see the need for a comprehensive audit of RSD schools.

The Class of 2014 ACT information system identifies 17 RSD high schools (one, LB Landry, is labeled “inactive”). For nine schools, ACT indicates a higher number of test takers than the state indicates graduates. For one school, Joseph S. Clark, ACT shows 84 test takers, and the state offers no information on graduates.  For another, ACT indicates that the school site is “inactive” (LB Landry), yet 48 test takers used this code. Do all 48 “belong” with Landry-Walker, which has its own site code?

How many Class of 2014 ACT test takers did not make it to graduation? How many changed high schools?

There is also some accounting needed from the state in cases in which it has reported numbers of test takers that exceed ACT’s cumulative count for a given school. For example, ACT has KIPP Renaissance as having 27 Class of 2014 test takers, yet the state records 94 graduates, 42 of which it categorizes as “TOPS eligible.” For Sophie B. Wright, ACT records 18 Class of 2014 test takers, yet the state has 63 graduates, with 20 being “TOPS eligible.” In both cases, the state has more students as “TOPS eligible” than the Class of 2014 ACT information system has as test takers. How is this so?

Let me be clear here that the ACT data I am referencing are comprehensive. They are complete for the Class of 2014. All 49,178 Class of 2014 test takers in the State of Louisiana. So, there is no room for the argument that the ACT data to which I have access is incomplete.

The issue here is not with the ACT-reported numbers.

RSD schools need to be comprehensively and regularly audited, and that audit must reconciling state-level testing and graduation data with data from outside agencies such as ACT.

Otherwise, the state can just produce whatever it wants by way of high-stakes data and slap an official label on it unchecked.

Holding all “accountable” yet accountable to no one. A situation bound for a destructive end.

This much I know: Louisiana Superintendent John White and his secretive Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) will be held accountable on this blog.

Let the accountability continue.

As to the Class of 2014 ACT information system results on RSD high school test takers’ eligibility for two-year TOPS: Overall, only 243 out of 1151 Class of 2014 RSD test takers– 21 percent– are even eligible for two-year TOPS. That is roughly one in five. Thus, four out of five Class of 2014 ACT test takers are eligible for no college at all in Louisiana via TOPS.

Even as people like Jacobs promote RSD “success,” according to ACT, four out of five RSD test takers will not be attending college via TOPS based upon their ACT composite scores (and self-reported GPAs).

I’m thinking many RSD parents are not aware of this terrible truth as they are bombarded with commercial ads on charter “choice.”

For ten of the 17 RSD high schools in the ACT report, the percentage of Class of 2014 test takers deemed at least two-year-TOPS-eligible is 12 or lower.

That is just over one in ten eligible– and we’re not talking “ACT composite of 32 or higher, full-ride scholarship,” either. We’re talking community college eligible.

This is not success. It is fraud.

Time for the RSD charter proliferation to end, and that end should begin with that long-overdue, comprehensive, RSD-gone-charter-marvel audit.

Image result for audit


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. Dear Mercedes, I try not to bother folks who do such awesome work in their blogs, teaching and advocacy…but today I just have to say, I am so happy I share this world with you. You are relentless, thorough, truthful and so “right.” Thank you for all you do. Diane Payne, Philadelphia, PA Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2015 05:36:43 +0000 To:

  2. tj368 permalink

    If anyone wants to watch him try to pitch this concept to the Ga Legislature, you can watch the live stream here right now:

  3. tj368 – I missed the live entertainment, Can you send us a link to the archived version? It would be MOST useful “evidence.”

  4. I sent your blog to Rep. Brooks Coleman, Ed Chair of the Georgia legislature.

  5. Reblogged this on Education Talk New Orleans and commented:
    Just last night I was told that at one charter school in New Orleans that a 53 is considered a C. If this is true, when adding up quality points for a grade point average, this could mean that these students would meat the GPA standards for a TOPS scholarship. Since TOPS money comes from our tax revenue, wouldn’t that be fraud? Quality points should be standard across the state for purposes of TOPS, right? Even with a rigged GPA, clearly a number of students in New Orleans won’t be earning TOPS because of their low ACT scores. One would think that students who have been in the “reform” school since 5th or 6th grade would score well enough on the ACT to earn TOPS and be able to enter Louisiana’s 4 year university system. It seems to me that ACT data is an indication that perhaps the reforms aren’t all that successful after 11 years of having a Recovery School District in this state.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The “RSD Miracle” and College Readiness in Orleans Parish: Where Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Getting You into Our State’s Colleges and Universities | LA Higher Ed Confessions
  2. How is the Grand Experiment in New Orleans Working? | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. How is the Grand Experiment in New Orleans Working? | Co-Opt-Ed
  4. Friday Reads: Nearly 10 years after and we’re still traumatized and victimized | Sky Dancing

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