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Challenging Doug Harris to a Follow-Up Study Isolating OPSB and RSD Outcomes for New Orleans Schools

July 24, 2018

In a July 15, 2018, study on market-ed reform in New Orleans, researchers Doug Harris and Matthew Larsen combined data on two sets of New Orleans schools: those not taken over by the state and remaining with the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), and those taken over by the state to form the Recovery School District (RSD).

OPSB schools, most of which are charter schools, include selective admission charter schools and also have notably more white students. Not considered “failing,” OPSB schools have had higher school performance scores and ACT scores. OPSB schools are fewer in number, but examination of the number of students attending OPSB high schools from 2007 – 2014 indicates that OPSB schools have served more New Orleans students than have RSD high schools for all years but one.

RSD schools are not the schools that white students choose to attend. The number of RSD schools has fluctuated over the years, with the ratio of RSD schools to OPSB schools being 4:1. However, as previously noted, the number of students attending OPSB high schools rivals and exceeds the number of RSD high school students from 2007 – 2014 (the years included in Harris and Larsen’s study.

New Orleans has two school systems, if you will: one for the “haves” (OPSB), and one for the “have nots” (RSD).

It is misleading to analyze all New Orleans students together as one “choice” district.

I believe that OPSB success can conceal RSD deficit, especially in analyses of high school and college success.

I believe Harris and Larsen have done the public a disservice by ignoring where a student has attended school (OPSB or RSD) in their study.

It is not enough to even offer analyses by race or low-income divisions alone since many black students attend OPSB schools.

I challenge Harris and Larsen to redo their study and compare OPSB outcomes with RSD outcomes. To do so offers distinct insight into the outcomes associated with state takeover and subsequent charter conversion (RSD) versus non-state-takeover that includes selective admission charters (OPSB).

When the state took control of most of New Orleans’ public schools, it was with a boast of turning those schools around. Provide the public with measurable outcomes on this boast.

The public deserves to know the degree to which such turn-around was achieved.

Produce the study. And if you cannot produce the study, produce a brief explaining why you cannot produce it.



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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From → Charters, RSD

  1. Informed parent permalink

    I bet they wish you’d stop writing, Mercedes! I doubt they have the guts to write the truth because it would jeopardize their careers.

    How embarrassing for that think-tank and its donors! Falsely manipulating data to hide the truth. Shame on them! Maybe their donors will read this and realize they are being fooled? Or maybe they did it on purpose because it is profitable for them to fool the public?

    Please keep shining a light on these things!

    • Linda permalink

      Douglas Harris is Director of the Education Research Alliance which is funded by Arnold. The Dept. of Ed.’s $10 mil. grant this summer to develop products and marketing for the private sector’s charter schools was given to Harris and other “scholars”. All of those announced, are White, like the “scholars” in the program’s predecessor at Vanderbilt.
      Prof. Strunck of Michigan State also received an Arnold grant (2016-2018). Prior to receipt of the grant money this summer from the Dept. of Ed., who funded (funds) the Strunck-linked EPIC, located at the PUBLIC Michigan State University?

  2. In 2008, Douglas Harris wrote a report for the National Research Council on the “resource costs” of the testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. I am no fan of the NCLB Act and have often criticized the ineffective testing regime it set up …which continues today 16 years later. Harris did a poor job with a topic, exaggerated costs he did not understand very well, and misrepresented previous work on the topic that I and others had done.* But, his results matched what those running the NRC testing committee at the time certainly wanted–he claimed that all previous testing cost estimates were too low and asserted that the NCLB testing mandate would cost much more. The many readers of yours who hate testing might well like his report.

    I get the impression that Harris does not tightly fit the mold of the corporate education reformers that you have so expertly skewered over the years. Rather, he may fit a different mold–that of a latter-day mercenary who conducts research that produces results those sponsoring the research wish to obtain.

    Of course, I could be wrong, and would be happy to be proven wrong. All the more reason that he should respond to your challenge to be more transparent.


    • Laura H. Chapman permalink

      Thanks for these insights. I have seen the mercenary researchers at work in several projects funded by private foundations, and routinely while tracking the American Diploma Project, forerunner of the Common Core and the Common Core itself.

      Mercedes is uniquely qualified to offer this challenge to researchers who are functioning more like shills than scholars.

    • Lance Hill permalink

      Like the burger commercial says, its product can be custom-ordered and “done your way.” It is no coincidence that at the very moment educationists have run out of excuses for market-model reform failures, the foundations call on a different discipline to obscure the truth.

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