Anytime there is a press release from the Louisiana Department of Education, I know I have some work to do.
Two years ago it was how the RSD had the highest percent growth even though that statistic is exaggerated for districts with low baseline scores. One year ago it was the ‘growth’ of their ACT scores, which was flawed for similar reasons. A few months ago it was the increased AP participation despite awful pass rates.
Today they announced the latest district and school ratings and, guess what? — the miracles keep on happening. Some highlights from the press release on their website:
- the percentage of students attending a failing public school is less than 6 percent, down from 65 percent in 2008.
- Only 9 of the 88 public schools in New Orleans are failing
- For 2013, the RSD New Orleans DPS was 71.9, earning the district a C letter grade for the first time.
Louisiana changed their method of calculation their scores this year to make them ‘simpler.’ Under the new system, out of 100 points, under 50 is considered ‘failing’ while under the old system, out of 150 points under 75 was considered ‘failing.’ How the scores are calculated has also changed so it is difficult to tell if the plummeting number of ‘failing’ schools is genuine or one of lowering the standards. John White, in what may be a Freudian slip, is quoted on his own Louisiana Department of Education website as saying “Changes made to the formula have led to real increases in student achievement.” But changes to a formula can’t lead to ‘real’ increases in student achievement, only to higher grades on a scale that they invented.
I took a look at the data and found a few things to expose here.
Two years ago, despite all the talk of the New Orleans ‘Miracle’, the Recovery School District was rated as the second to last district in the state. It was 67th out of 68, and about 80% of the schools ranked as a D or F.
So the statistic that most interested me was the claim that the New Orleans Recovery Schools had gotten a ‘C’ on their recent report “for the first time.” This sounded too good to be true and, of course, it was. When I downloaded the database, I noticed something strange. Instead of 68 districts, there were now 74 districts. And when I sorted them from low to high, the RSD was still second to last.
But at third to last was a ‘district’ which was the Baton Rouge RSD, and yes, at 15th to last, or 61st out of 76, was literally “for the first time” the New Orleans RSD schools as their own ‘district.’ Since they hadn’t separated New Orleans RSD schools from the rest in 2011, it is not clear if this represents ‘progress’ or not, even on their own rigged metric.
Another interesting fact from the databases is that in New Orleans RSD, the KIPP high school is the third lowest rated high school with a big ‘mardis’ D. I wonder if they are at risk of getting shut down anytime soon.
Anyway, I’m sure others will do a fuller analysis of all the claims in their press release. It’s always amusing to see what new ways they come up with to distort the data. But like a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, you can only do it for so long before it all comes apart.