9 out 10 schools in experimental New Orleans district earn performance score of D or F
Education reformers like to tout the gains posted in New Orleans’ Recovery School District, a school system borne into existence a few years before Hurricane Katrina but expanded prodigiously in the city months following the storm. The surfeit of praise comes from a mixed bag of public policy players. U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in April termed the city’s progress ”remarkable” and “stunning.” From the Times Picayune:
While other cities have had trouble implementing major changes, Duncan said, New Orleans educators have shown “amazing courage and no complacency” in radically remaking the public schools.
Another reformer, Leslie Jacobs, whose education credentials include a career in insurance and serving as a member on Louisiana’s State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, founded the advocacy group Educate Now, which presents evidence of RSD’s education gains. The figures Educate Now presents (PDF) chronicle a rate of improvement relative to the state, which is different from displaying hard numerical data. Comparing results to analysis (PDF) conducted by Research on Reforms (ROR), an education policy group composed of education researchers, those relative gains still leave most of the district’s schools in poor shape.
For example, when School Performance Score (SPS) values are used to demonstrate large gains, Educate Now is repeating ROR data but with a patina of celebratory rhetoric. For example, under “Growth and Performance” in the Educate Now study, RSD and the traditional Orleans Parish schools are shown to have an average SPS of 75.4. That’s an apparent jump of 18.5 points since 2005 (the year before RSD’s first budget); the state as a whole increased 9 points in that same period to 91.8.
However, on the graded scale Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) is adopting this coming school year, that combined RSD-Orleans Parish average is good for a D. Applying the new LDOE breakdown to the 2010 performance indicators shows 46 percent of RSD schools earned a D, and the same number of schools earned an F.
Of the RSD schools, 86 percent that are charters, and all of the non-charter schools (called RSD-Direct), would earn a D or below.