New Orleans Recovery School District, ACT Outcomes, and Falling Through the Cracks
This post includes information on Louisiana’s Class of 2015 ACT scoring outcomes and is chiefly focused upon the Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans. It is as much a post about who in RSD is taking as it is about who is not.
According to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) district enrollment counts for February 2015, Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) enrollment is 13,173, and New Orleans RSD enrollment at 30,448.
In July 2015, Jessica Williams of Nola.com published information about the Louisiana’s Class of 2015 district ACT composite scores. In that article, Williams included a search engine for ACT composites related to schools and districts. Specifically, Williams’ search engine allows one to look up some schools/districts to see 1) the number of seniors who took the ACT, 2) the percentage of those seniors who scored at or above 20 on the ACT, and 3) the percentage of seniors who scored at or above 18 on the ACT.
According to Williams’ search engine, 39,752 Louisiana Class of 2015 seniors took the ACT; 45.4 percent scored 20+, and 61.9 percent scored 18+. The state’s Class of 2015 ACT composite was 19.4.
Also according to Williams’ search engine, 1065 Class of 2015 seniors took the ACT; 21.1 percent scored 20+, and 36.7 percent scored 18+. These are low percentages, but one might expect as much given that the RSD Class of 2015 ACT composite was 16.6.
What is also noteworthy is the number of RSD seniors: 1065 for a district of 30,448 students.
Using the LDOE district enrollment counts for February 2015 and Williams’ ACT-related search engine, I was able to conduct some comparisons of RSD total enrollment vs. number of seniors to those of other Louisiana districts.
For example, Livingston Parish has 25,539 students; 1,451 Class of 2015 seniors took the ACT. (57.9 percent scored 20+; 73.3 percent scored 18+). Livingston has several thousand fewer students overall, yet it has several hundred more Class of 2015 seniors taking the ACT.
Another example: Ascension Parish has 21,562 students; 1,364 Class of 2015 seniors took the ACT. (56.4 percent scored 20+; 72.8 percent scored 18+). Ascension has almost one-third fewer students than RSD, yet it has 300 more Class of 2015 seniors taking the ACT.
A third example: St. Tammany Parish has 37, 699 students; 2,323 Class of 2015 seniors took the ACT. (63.6 percent scored 20+; 78.1 percent scored 18+). Though it is certainly not more than twice the size of RSD, St. Tammany had well over twice as many seniors taking the ACT.
Part of the issue has to do with keeping track of students.
As New York researcher Andrea Gabor noted in her August 25, 3015, blog post, it is easy for RSD high school students to go missing and for no one who is supposed to be in charge to notice. The excerpt below refers to Gabor’s experience at the June 2015 Education research Alliance of New Orleans (ERA) conference:
Deirdre Burel, executive director of the Orleans Public Education Network and the [“Role of Communities in Schools”] panel moderator: “There’s common agreement, we know for a fact that kids have slipped through the cracks because of the (school) closures.”
When an audience member asks: “The RSD doesn’t know who’s in the system?”
And again later: “Who’s responsible for the whole?”
Burel answers: “There is no whole. That’s a governance conversation. There is no single entity responsible for all children.”
I asked a similar question during a panel on “Test-Based Accountability Effects of School Closure” on school closings, their impacts on high school students, and received the response below from Dana Peterson of the RSD and Whitney Ruble, the ERA researcher who was presenting her findings on school closures. Two points of note: First, Ruble’s/ERA results on the effects of school closures said nothing about the impacts on high school kids who are most at risk of dropping out. You had to look and listen very carefully to realize that all the data was about elementary and middle-school effects. However, Ruble acknowledged that “A lot of students disappear from the data.” …
Dana Peterson of the RSD, a few minutes later: “We’re more worried at the high school level than the elementary level. Its true some kids do leave and fall out of the system.”That’s why, he said, the RSD started hiring counselors specifically for high school kids two years ago to try to make sure they didn’t disappear from the system.
When I asked whether he knew how many kids fall between the cracks, Peterson acknowledged: “I don’t know the total number. I don’t.”
Any examination of RSD outcomes– especially high-school-related outcomes– should be tempered by the inept admissions captured above. However, it is possible for students to be unaccounted for prior to enrolling in high school, as well.
As Gabor notes, according to 2013 US Census Bureau data, New Orleans has approximately 26,000 youth ages 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor employed. These young people are referred to displaced youth, or, euphemistically, “opportunity youth”– though what is lost to them is exactly that: opportunity.
So, when one reads that RSD has 30,448 students and only 1,065 make it to a senior year to constitute “all” senior ACT test takers, one should wonder how many students “fell through the cracks” in order to product the amazing result ten years post-Katrina of 21.1 percent scoring an ACT composite of 20+ and 36.7 percent scoring an ACT composite of 18+.
In addition, all too often, those wishing to fashion RSD success use OPSB to carry RSD. OPSB has a 2015 district ACT composite of 20.9. OPSB has 13,173 students; 1,111 Class of 2015 seniors took the ACT. (53.6 percent scored 20+; 71.7 percent scored 18+). Thus, the RSD-OPSB “combined” ACT composite of OPSB’s 20.9 with RSD’s 16.6 allows for a much better marketing composite of 18.8.
However, one should wonder about the fact that RSD enrolls well over twice the number of students as does OPSB, yet OPSB had more Class of 2015 seniors taking the ACT.
One should think of those RSD high school students in particular falling through those displaced, “opportunity” cracks.
Some additional OPSB insight: OPSB had Class of 2015 seniors at seven high schools take the ACT (the OPSB site has since dropped Warren Easton). However, two OPSB selective admission high schools chiefly carry OPSB ACT composite gains: Benjamin Franklin and Lusher.
Below are all seven OPSB high schools, including Class of 2015 1) number of seniors taking the ACT; 2) percent scoring 20+, and 3) percent scoring 18+ (Note: N/A means either zero percent or the number was too low to report for student privacy reasons):
Edna Karr 222 41.0 68.0
Lusher 124 93.5 98.4
Ben Franklin 189 100 100
Eleanor McMain 121 40.5 67.8
McDonogh #35 145 14.5 30.3
Warren Easton 236 40.7 70.3
NO Charter Sci/Math 74 45.9 58.1
And here are the results for the RSD high schools:
KIPP Renaissance 101 37.4 62.4
MLK Charter 32 N/A 53.1
The NET 35 N/A N/A
Cohen College Prep 77 28.6 45.5
Lake Area New Tech 139 17.3 36.7
Landry-Walker 288 13.2 22.6
Joseph Clark 106 14.2
Miller-McCoy 30 N/A N/A
Sophie Wright 54 38.9 64.8
ReNEW City Park 31 N/A N/A
ReNEW West Bank 29 N/A N/A
Sci Academy 85 52.9 69.4
Algiers Technology 49 20.4 40.8
Crescent Leadership N/A N/A N/A
New Orleans Maritime N/A N/A N/A
State-run (but not adequately state-managed) RSD has Class of 2015 ACT results that are all over the map– but mostly covering the sorry end of that map.
This is not a strong selling point for a state-protected, all-charter school district. Neither is RSD deputy superintendent Dana Peterson’s admission that he really doesn’t know how many RSD high school students just *disappear.*