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NOLA 2018-19 AP Scores: Two High Schools Carry the Entire District.

September 2, 2019

New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) is a corporate-ed-reform nonprofit started in 2006 by Teach for America (TFA) alum, Sarah Usdin, to promote school choice in post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2017, NSNO former Recovery School District (RSD) superintendent Patrick Dobard became NSNO CEO.

NSNO also runs PR for promoting the success narrative related to now-all-charter New Orleans. As such, on August 12, 2019, NSNO published a piece entitled, “New Orleans Students Outperform State Average on AP Exams.”

The question is, which students outperformed… and which seriously underperformed.

Now, the article is almost correct when it states, “40% of New Orleans students who took one or more AP exams scored a three or above, compared to 35% of students statewide.” So far, NSNO is not shaping the story in favor of all-charter New Orleans.

On the state level in 2018-19, 20,819 students took at least one AP exam. Of those, 7,305  (35.1%) scored 3+. (See data here.)

In New Orleans in 2018-19, 2,150 students took at least one AP exam. And of those, 880 (40.9%– roughly 41%, higher than the 40% reported by NSNO) scored 3+.

But then, the article continues:

Congratualtions to the top New Orleans public high schools for the percentage of students scoring a three or above on AP exams!

Benjamin Franklin High School
Lusher Charter School
Frederick A. Douglass High School (formerly KIPP Renaissance)
New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy

At least 100 students took AP exams in each of these schools.

In order to create a list of the top four New Orleans high schools scoring 3+ on the AP exam, NSNO had to know that only two of the 19 New Orleans high schools scored above the state average high enough to make up for the rest.

Notice also that NSNO does not include details regarding the performance of those top four high schools. To do so would be to reveal quite a bit that is unflattering to the New Orleans AP success promo.

Allow me:

  • Ben Franklin: 502 out of 594 students (84.5%) scored 3+
  • Lusher: 273 out of 409 students (66.7%) scored 3+
  • KIPP Renaissance: 41 out of 136 (30.1%) scored 3+
  • NO Maritime Academy: 27 out of 110 students (24.5%) scored 3+

Sooo, two schools– Ben Franklin and Lusher– are carrying all 19 New Orleans high schools to produce a mean of 40.1% scoring 3+ on 2018-19 AP exams.

Ben Franklin and Lusher happen to be the two New Orleans high schools that 1) are preferred by white students and 2) serve few students considered “at risk” due to factors including low income (25% and 17%, respectively, in 2017).

Two of the “top schools” featured in the NSNO AP spiel– KIPP Renaissance and NO Maritime– weren’t even close to the state average of 35.1% and actually served to pull the NO average downward. But that’s okay so long as NSNO withholds the details because the sheer number of students scoring 3+ from Ben Franklin and Lusher (502 + 273 = 775) accounts for 88% of that 2018-19 “New Orleans AP success” (775 from Franklin and Lusher scoring 3+ / 880 in NO overall scoring 3+ = 88%).

But what about the remaining 15 New Orleans high schools whose AP results NSNO certainly cannot feature?

Well. Here we go.

It isn’t pretty.

From best to worst:

  • Sophie B Wright: <10 out of >=10 students (20.0%) scored 3+
  • Einstein Charter (Sarah Towles Reed): 11 out of 58 students (19.0%) scored 3+
  • NO Charter Sci and Math: 16 out of 134 students (11.9%) scored 3+
  • KIPP Booker T Washington: <10 out of >=70 students (<=11.1%) scored 3+
  • Edna Karr: 17 out of 218 students (7.8%) scored 3+
  • Eleanor McMain: <10 out of >=100 students (6.7%) scored 3+
  • Livingston Collegiate Academy: <10 out of >=20 students (4.3%) scored 3+
  • Cohen College Prep: <10 out of >=30 students (2.6%) scored 3+
  • McDonogh 35: <10 out of >=10 students (<=1.0%) scored 3+
  • Abramson Sci Academy: <10 out of >=10 students (<=1.0%) scored 3+
  • Warren Easton: <10 out of >=50 students (<=1.0%) scored 3+
  • John F Kennedy: <10 out of >=90 students (<=1.0%) scored 3+
  • Landry-Walker: <10 took AP exams (no percentage reported for 3+ scoring)
  • NO Center for Creative Arts: <10 took AP exams (no percentage reported for 3+ scoring)
  • International High School of NO: <10 took AP exams (no percentage reported for 3+ scoring)

For NSNO, the beauty of this PR scam is that the mean is a measure of central tendency that allows for a couple of stellar results to lift (and therby conceal) numerous less-than-stellar results.

In such cases, the median, or middle-ranked score, is more telling. In the case of New Orleans high school 2018-19 AP results, the median score is Eleanor McMain, at 6.7% of its students scoring 3+.

Too, there is the mode, or most frequently occurring score, which in the case of the percentage of New Orleans high school students scoring of 3+ on those 2018-19 AP exams happens to be “less than or equal to 1%.”

Let’s put all of those measures of central tendency together, shall we?

In 2018-19, the mean percentage of New Orleans students who took AP exams scoring 3+ on those exams was 40.1%. However, the median (middle-scoring) percentage was 6.7%, and the mode (most frequent) percentage was less than 1%.

That can only mean a small subset of New Orleans high schools have carried that overall 40.1%, which is exactly what happened.

Thus, a more fitting title for the NSNO AP-success article is, “New Orleans Students at Two Notably White and Under Risk High Schools Outperform the State to Such a Degree That They Conceal the Incredibly Poor Performance of the Overwhelming Majority of New Orleans High Schools.”

Yes. Much more accurate.

sleight of hand 2


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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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One Comment
  1. Fuller permalink

    Awesome work! Thank you! Again, How do we get rid of charter schools permanently?

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