New Orleans RSD Memory Lane, with a Stop at Falling Scores Statewide in 2016
New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) is a modern miracle, and, as such, it should be celebrated by reflecting on how far that state-run wonder has advanced based on the principle measure that matters in the world of corporate ed reform: the almighty test score.
Let us restrict our celebration to high school test scores, such as the ACT and Louisiana’s End-of-Course (EOC) subject area tests.
We will begin our stroll down RSD Memory Lane with this fine moment in September 2012, as such was publicized on the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) website:
RECOVERY SCHOOL DISTRICT-NEW ORLEANS MAKES GAINS ON ACTSep 18, 2012
School District Also Boasts Largest Increase in Number of Students Taking Exam
BATON ROUGE, La. – The average composite score on the ACT for students in the Recovery School District (RSD) New Orleans rose four-tenths of a point from 16.4 to 16.8 from 2011 to 2012 – representing an increase four times the statewide average which rose one-tenth of a point from 20.2 to 20.3 during the same timeframe. In the last two years, the average composite score for RSD New Orleans has increased a total of 1.2 points, up from 15.6 in 2010, ranking fifth in the state for overall progress.
“Students in New Orleans continue to make significant strides in academic achievement,” said Patrick Dobard, Superintendent of the Recovery School District. “The steady increase in results, year after year, proves what we have always believed – that all students can learn and achieve. We will continue to work until each and every child gains the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers after graduation.”
A marvel, truly. RSD New Orleans ACT score hit a high of 16.8 in 2012.
Well. Feel free to blow all of the fireworks and pop all of the party poppers now, for that 16.8 in 2012 is the best RSD New Orleans ACT composite to date.
In 2013, the RSD NO ACT composite fell to 16.3. You can see that 16.3 in a brief statement under the heading, “We have shown robust improvement on the ACT,” in this propagandistic, October 2013, Educate Now! promo of the New Orleans Miracle, where there is no mention of that noticeably higher 16.8 composite from the prior year.
Louisiana state superintendent John White did not release any ACT scores in 2014. He held off release of 2014 ACT composites until February 2015. Wonder why.
It could have been because the state-run RSD in New Orleans had a sorry ACT composite, which White publicized as 16.4, and which Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune discusses as follows:
…Students attending state Recovery School District schools averaged 16.4, one of the state’s worst. The Recovery system took over all the city’s low-performing public schools, which meant all but five high schools, after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. …
Almost all the bottom spots in the state were taken by Recovery high schools, with eight posting scores lower than 15. Of these, all but Joseph Clark Prep and Algiers Tech Academy were alternative schools or slated to close over the summer. …
State Education Superintendent John White acknowledged Wednesday (Feb. 4) that “clearly there is a long way for the schools in New Orleans to go.” But he said the Recovery system’s improvement was “enormous.”
Not as much fanfare as in 2012, two years earlier, the year of the 16.8. And no explanation for why publicizing those ACT scores was delayed until only one month prior to the next La. ACT administration, in March 2015.
In 2015, that RSD ACT continued to approach its 2012 value– but not quite arrive. LDOE posted the 2015 RSD NO ACT composite as 16.6.
And for 2016, that RSD NO ACT composite continues to creep toward its 2012 value– creep, but not arrive, at 16.7. Again, Dreilinger reports:
The composite score for Recovery School District high schools went up a hair, from 16.6 to 16.7, one of the lowest absolute results in Louisiana.
And then we have those EOC tests. Here’s the spiel from July 05, 2012, as noted by Andrew Vanacore of the Times-Picayune:
Results on state exams for high school students across much of the New Orleans metro area rose nearly across the board this past school year, data released Thursday by the state Department of Education show. The results mirror a statewide uptick in the percentage of students scoring “excellent” or “good,” as opposed to “fair” or “needs improvement,” on all four course exams given during the past school year: Algebra I, Geometry, English II, and Biology. …
But that improvement has not been reflected in the state’s average score on the ACT….
Louisiana’s top education official, state Superintendent John White, nevertheless called the latest end-of-course exam scores “tangible proof that the state’s education reforms are working.”
Test scores rising–> “tangible proof that the state’s ed reforms are working.”
Test scores falling–> uhhh….
Vanacore’s 2012 article includes another section supposed to wield the powers of state-run improvement but that is an absolute, retrospective flop:
Overall, scores in School Board-governed schools remain far above those in the Recovery District, which oversees a small number of traditional high schools that continue to struggle, even as some of the district’s new independent charter schools show marked improvement. …
Stark disparities remain from one school to the next.
At McDonogh 35 in New Orleans, for instance, just 18 percent of students scored excellent or good in algebra, compared with 77 percent at Warren Easton. No students at John McDonogh High School hit that mark in algebra, compared with 75 percent of students who did at Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School.
Those gaps underscore in particular why the Recovery District is still trying to lure additional charter operators to take over its remaining traditional schools. Charters, run independently by nonprofit groups that receive public funding, have typically put up better test scores in New Orleans. John McDonogh will open its doors as a charter school this fall under Future is Now Schools, a nonprofit founded by Steve Barr, who started a relatively successful group of Los Angeles charters known as Green Dot Schools.
“Luring” Steve Barr proved to be a waste. Barr did nothing for two years and then bailed on his commitment.
But back to those EOC scores, and to the present.
Cutting to the chase: EOC dropped not only in RSD NO but virtually statewide. I think we ought to attribute it entirely to the stellar leadership of John White, as “tangible proof that the state’s education reforms are” um, floundering. As Dreilinger reports in the Times-Picayune on July 26, 2016:
High school exam scores dropped almost across the board in metro New Orleans this year, according to data recently released by the Louisiana Department of Education.
The Education Department publicized new ACT scores Monday (July 25) but quietly posted the subject exam results on its website this month.
Louisiana public school students take exams in six subjects and must pass three in order to graduate. They may in fact pass with just a “fair,” the second-lowest of four score levels. But their high schools earn points on the state report card only for the top two levels, “good” and “excellent,” which are considered to represent true proficiency.
The statewide proficiency rate remained unchanged at 62 percent. But locally, St. Bernard’s fell six points. Jefferson’s scores declined by three points to 61 percent, dipping under the state average. New Orleans also fell by three points, to 58 percent. The city’s figure did not include several schools that are under state oversight but are not part of the Recovery School District.
As for New Orleans results for specific schools: The LDOE did not publicize the scores, but somehow, Dreilinger states, corporate reform madam Leslie Jacobs posted them on her nonprofit, Educate Now!, website:
The state did not release school-level results. However, former state and local school board member Leslie Jacobs published New Orleans scores in an email newsletter Tuesday, and Annie Morrison of the Louisiana Education Department confirmed their accuracy.
In New Orleans, proficiency rates fell at 16 of 24 schools. Most changes were small, but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter dropped 25 percentage points. Administrators could not be immediately reached for comment.
Lake Area New Tech saw a drop of 13 points. …
Only five schools gained ground: Algiers Technology Academy, Eleanor McMain, Joseph Clark Prep, NOCCA and Sophie B. Wright Charter.
Jacobs called New Orleans’ combined ACT and end-of-course exam results “disappointing” in her email. They “mark a pause in the steady progress we’ve made toward closing the gap with the state average,” she wrote.
Are there supposed to be any “pauses” in state-run, charter-conversion miracles? Are the test scores supposed to go backward in a state that has been under the direction of a zealous corporate reformer like White since January 2012?
Is the RSD NO ACT composite supposed to be in a 16-point-something holding pattern for six consecutive school years? What colleges and universities accept students whose ACT composites are below 17?
Converting the state-takeover schools in New Orleans to charters falls short, as does John White’s market-driven reformer leadership of Louisiana’s schools in general.
The test score is White’s preferred method to measure progress, and according to his corporate-reform, test-centric yardstick, those scores should be ever rising– no holding patterns, and certainly, no falling scores on a statewide test that has been in place for years.
By the very gauge of the corporate ed reform that he promotes, White is a failure. The “quiet posting” of falling test scores provides “tangible proof” of that fact.