NEWS: Info on New Orleans Graduation Rates Pre-Katrina
Today I read a May 2014 post, Charter Schools’ Memory Hole, written by Adam Hubbard Johnson.
His piece opens as follows:
Pre-Katrina New Orleans graduation numbers are charter school advocates’ exhibit A for reform. One problem: The U.S. and Louisiana Departments of Education say they don’t exist.
What Johnson attempted to do was track the supposed pre-Katrina New Orleans graduation rate of 54.4% to a primary source by contacting those who have cited this stat, including NOLA.com reporter Danielle Dreilinger and former state board member Leslie Jacobs.
Even the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) communicated to him that they did not have “published graduation rates” that went back that far (Johnson asked for 2002-04).
No primary source available.
Well. I have some graduation data on Orleans Parish pre-Katrina, and it comes from LDOE data.
Here is the process that I followed:
In his post, Johnson noted that the url for the LDOE website has changed five times in the past ten years.
I used the web archive search engine Wayback Machine and plugged in the first of Johnson’s reported LDOE urls. Archived page views went back to 2006.
Not far enough.
So, in an effort to find a document with an older LDOE url on it, I googled the term, “louisiana department of education 2001 pdf.” Sure enough, I came up with doe.state.la.us.
When I plugged that into the Wayback machine, it showed archived LDOE page views going back to November 1996.
Here are some that I saved– and they are a trove of archived data that LDOE cannot erase:
My goal in this search was to find information on Orleans Parish graduation rates in the years preceding Katrina, information archived from LDOE.
I found two items of data that allowed me to calculate graduation rates for Orleans Parish schools for 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, and 2001-02.
The first information comes from the OPSB District Report 2002-03. Page 5-8 includes the total number of high school graduates for the district for the years 1997-98 through 2001-02 in the charts regarding first-time college freshman performance for 1998-99 through 2002-03.
The next information comes from several pages that can be found using the “student data” link above. The pages are named, “Multiple Statistics” for October of each year. I used the pages with data from 1998 to 2001. One of the district-level stats available is the number of students enrolled in each grade level in October of each school year (the official state count). Thus, I was able to find out how many seniors Orleans Parish schools had at the beginning of a given school year.
By dividing the number of Orleans Parish graduates for a given school year by the total number of Orleans Parish seniors enrolled at the beginning of that same school year, I was able to calculate Orleans Parish graduation rates for several years preceding Hurricane Katrina.
And here they are:
Year # grads total # of seniors OPSB grad rate
1998-99 3,507 4,583 76.5%
1999-2000 3,604 4,473 80.6%
2000-01 3,450 4,409 78.3%
2001-02 3,471 4,395 79.0%
Not even close to the marketed-though-unsubstantiated pre-Katrina “54.4%” that LDOE refuses to validate.
But this surely presents a marketing problem for those who would have the public believe that the charter school takeover in Orleans “raised” the graduation rate to 77.8% in 2012, as NOLA.com claimed in 2013…
…And on the proverbial eve of the National Charter School Conference, scheduled to transpire in New Orleans from June 21-24, 2015.
But wait: AN UPDATE:
One of my colleagues in North Carolina commented that Louisiana uses a cohort graduation rate, which means that graduation rates are calculated using stats from the freshman year to determine a four-year rate. (For more on the varied ways of calculating high school grad rates, read here. Also, as of 2011-12, the US Dept of Ed had states standardize reporting of grad rates.)
The only data I have readily available for such a cohort calculation is taken from the info I used above for calculating based on the number of seniors, except backing it up to the number of freshman, for 1998-99 (which means the graduation rate for 2001-02).
The calculation yields a 2001-02 OPSB graduation rate of 52% (3,471 grads from 6,675 freshman in 1998-99).
But there is yet another issue here, and that is the issue of the state splitting what were the OPSB schools into two districts– with one being state-run (Recovery School District– RSD) and turned into an all-charter district in 2014-15, while the other remained local-board-run OPSB with its own charters (but not state-takeover charters).
The data cited below can be found here.
The first RSD cohort post-Katrina was the freshman class of 2006, which means the graduating class of 2009-10. The graduation rate for this RSD cohort was 49.7%.
The RSD cohort graduation rate for 2010-11 was 58.8%.
For 2011-12, it peaked at 67.7%. Then, in 2012-13, it dipped to 59.5%.
Now, these are the fruits of the state running the show, the system that was supposed to save New Orleans schools. A question that begs an answer is the 8.9% rise to the 2011-12 67.7% peak then the 8.2% drop from the 67.7% peak to the 59.9% in 2012-13.
It is hard to sell RSD as a solution if the graduation rate does not continue to rise– and especially if it drops so drastically.
Meanwhile, the OPSB has been “creamed” (and here); the OPSB cohort rate for 2009-10 (based on the freshman class in 2006-07) shot up to 90.3%, and then further in 2010-11 to its peak, 93.8%. The OPSB cohort grad rate then dropped to 89.3% in 2011-12, where it remained for 2012-13.
The parlor trick comes when the state combines the OPSB and RSD cohort graduation rates. It is a way of selling the state-run RSD while deflecting attention from the fact that the state running schools does not produce miracles.
The best combined statistic happened in 2012: the 77.8% previously alluded to in this post. That stat helped prop up the RSD 67.7% and make it look even better than the state average of 72.3%. But then 2013 came, and with it, a drop in that combined OPSB-RSD stat to 72.8%– even as the state graduation rate continued to rise to 73.5%.
And the 2013 RSD grad rate dropping below 60 percent once again, to 59.5%, well, that’s just not a good selling point for advertising RSD as a state-run model.