Revisionist History

High School Performance: Then and Now
Or … Leslie’s Rant

A few months ago, I went on WBOK radio to discuss public schools in New Orleans. A number of callers, as well as one of the hosts, disputed the fact that our schools are getting better. I readily acknowledge that we have room for improvement, but quite frankly, I am tired of the revisionist history some folks insist on using to rationalize their opposition to the school reforms taking place in New Orleans.

There cannot be honest disagreement, based on any semblance of facts, on whether schools are doing a better job educating students today versus 2005 – THEY ARE SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER.

To make my point, let’s look at the TOPS data, which is compiled by the Office of Student Financial Assistance (not the Department of Education). Louisiana offers qualifying students a scholarship to a 4-year (TOPS Opportunity1) or 2-year (TOPS Tech) college based on a combination of GPA, coursework, and ACT scores. OSFA has been compiling this data since TOPS began, and the standard for earning a scholarship is the same in 2013 as it was in 2005, so it’s a pretty good measurement to compare high school performance.

So let’s compare.

New Orleans has made remarkable gains since 2005. 

In 2013, 38% of our graduates qualified for TOPS scholarships, an increase of more than 50% from the 2005 rate of 25%.

TOPS Eligibility

Year
# Graduates
TOPS
4-year
TOPS
2-year
All TOPS
2005
2906
16%
9%
25%
2013
2252
26%
12%
38%

View OFSA’s 2013 TOPS report.

But this isn’t the real story.

Critics of the current reforms say they don’t like that schools are run by two governing bodies – RSD/BESE and OPSB. They want to go back to just one system.

They forget that in 2005 New Orleans also had two school systems: a system of “good” schools and one of “bad” schools – separate and very unequal.

These two unequal systems are vividly captured in the 2005 TOPS data.

There were the Selective Admissions High Schools (the “good” schools).

In 2005, there were 6 selective admissions 
high schools in New Orleans.

  • 98% of their seniors graduated.
  • 37% of their graduates earned a 4-year TOPS college scholarship.
  • 15% of their graduates earned a 2-year TOPS Tech scholarship.
  • They had an average School Performance Score of 120 (4 stars or equivalent to an A).

See list of schools below.

And there were the District High Schools (the “bad” schools).

All other students went to one of 13 non-selective district high schools.2

  • All 13 schools were failing – with a low F. 
  • These 13 schools’ combined average SPS was 26 when below 60 was failing. 
  • 1 in 4 of their 2,300 seniors did not graduate.
  • Only 18 graduates (1%) earned a 4-year TOPS college scholarship.
  • Only 69 graduates (4%) earned a 2-year TOPS Tech scholarship.

See list of schools below.

Of 2,302 seniors who attended a district high school in 2005, 607 of them did not graduate, and only 18 earned a 4-year TOPS scholarship. Why would anyone ever defend this system??

High Schools Today

We may have two governing bodies, but we no longer have a two track system where the majority of students attend schools with little educational opportunity.

Of the 22 regular high schools operating in the city2, all but four (Franklin, Lusher, Warren Easton, and New Orleans Military Academy) are participating in OneApp3 next year and have no admission requirements. These non-selective high schools are performing significantly better than non-selective schools did in 2005.

Comparing 2013 non-selective high schools
to 2005 non-selective high schools

  • The senior dropout rate has been cut by more than half. 
  • The TOPS 4-year scholarship rate has increased from 1% to 18%.  
  • The TOPS 2-year Tech scholarship rate has increased from 4% to 14%.  
  • And we’ve gone from 100% failing schools to 9%.4

See list of schools below.

Conclusion

Those who argue schools are no better allege the data is not real. This TOPS data is as real as it gets, especially for the students who are now eligible for a college scholarship because our high schools are doing a better job today.

Eight years after Katrina, it is time to recognize that our schools before the storm were failing to provide the majority of our students educational opportunities. It is also time to celebrate and take hope in the fact, that given the chance, our students can achieve. Our challenge going forward is to continue to improve, so more and more high school students graduate college or career ready – a goal that will ensure strong opportunities for ALL of our children.

School Performance

2005 Selective Admissions High Schools

Schools

2005 SPS

12th Grade Enrollment

Graduates

TOPS
4-year

TOPS
2-year

Ben Franklin High School

200.5

187

186

147

0

Edna Karr Magnet School

127.2

160

158

84

29

McDonogh #35 Senior High

115.8

235

229

57

56

McMain Magnet School

121.3

182

176

105

26

Rabouin Magnet School

61.1

122

121

4

10

Warren Easton Senior High

93.6

355

341

55

63

Total

1,241

1211 
(98%)

452 
(37%)

184 
(15%)

 

2005 Non-Selective District High Schools

Schools

2005 SPS

12th Grade Enrollment

Graduates

TOPS
4-year

TOPS
2-year

Alcee Fortier High School

17

123

111

2

4

Booker T Washington High

15

50

38

0

2

Frederick A. Douglass

15

121

62

1

3

George W Carver High

26.5

152

101

0

1

John F Kennedy High School

26.1

284

220

0

7

John McDonogh High School

25.1

259

152

1

5

Joseph Clark High School

14.6

135

83

2

1

L B Landry High School

36.2

106

64

2

1

Lawless Senior High School

30

127

109

0

2

Marion Abramson High

31.2

384

285

8

32

O Perry Walker High School

41.1

204

187

1

4

Sarah T Reed High School

42.7

244

200

1

2

Walter L Cohen High School

21.4

113

83

0

5

 Total

2302

1695 
(74%)

18
(1%)

69
(4%)

j

2013 Non-Selective High Schools

Schools

12th Grade Enrollment

Graduates5

TOPS
4-year

TOPS
2-year

Algiers Technology Academy

71

75

3

6

Carver College Prep6

**

**

Carver Collegiate Academy6

**

**

Dr. M.L.K. Charter for Science and Tech

37

39

1

12

Edna Karr Secondary School

217

210

61

34

Eleanor McMain Secondary

127

119

35

21

George W. Carver High School

75

66

1

10

International High School

106

101

37

12

John McDonogh High School

119

69

2

10

Joseph S. Clark High School

85

72

3

5

L.B. Landry High School7

43

52

1

5

Lake Area High School

161

141

20

22

McDonogh 35 Senior High8

209

207

25

24

Miller-McCoy Academy

34

31

1

7

New Orleans Charter Science and Math

110

95

34

12

New Orleans College Prep6

**

**

O. Perry Walker High School7

261

212

42

21

Renaissance High School6

**

**

Sarah T. Reed High School

92

54

7

6

Sci Academy

64

63

21

15

Sophie B. Wright Inst. of Acad Excellence

77

59

14

16

Walter L Cohen High School

63

48

0

4

Total

1951

1713
(88%)

308 
(18%)

243 
(14%)

 

2013 Selective High Schools/Not in OneApp

Schools

12th Grade Enrollment

Graduates5

TOPS
4-year

TOPS
2-year

Ben Franklin High School

154

154

127

1

Lusher Charter School

115

113

95

3

New Orleans Military & Maritime6

**

**

Warren Easton Senior High

220

220

55

32

Total

489

487
(99%)

277 
(57%)

36 
(7%)

Notes:

1) In addition to TOPS Opportunity, 4-year scholarships also include TOPS Performance and TOPS Honors.

2) Excludes alternative schools 

3) OneApp is the centralized enrollment system for New Orleans public schools. 

4) Although School Performance Scores have not been released yet, the state did release the number of failing schools this summer. Only 2 regular (non-alternative) high schools are failing – John McDonogh and Walter Cohen.

5) A school can have more graduates than seniors enrolled, as the number of grads includes juniors graduating early and students who take longer than 4 years (graduate the following fall) to complete the requirements.

6) This school does not have a graduating class yet.

7) L.B. Landry and O.P. Walker were merged in 2013 to form Landry Walker High School.

8) McDonogh 35 Career Academy is combined with McDonogh 35 High School.

 

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