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

# Graduates

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. Read More »

New Orleans Expulsion Rate Below State Average

The Recovery School District (RSD) and the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) announced the results of the first year of the new expulsion policy for public schools in Orleans Parish.

  • There were 272 expulsions in the 2012-13 school year, for an expulsion rate of .57%
  • In comparison, the state had an expulsion rate of .7%
  • New Orleans’ expulsion rate is 20% below the state

Not only is New Orleans leading the state in academic gains, we are doing so while expelling fewer students than the state average.

What did New Orleans do differently in the 2012-13 school year?

  • Common expulsion process and definition: Charter and traditional school leaders across the RSD, OPSB, and Type 2 charter schools worked together to establish a joint policy and coordinate a centralized process for student expulsions.

The 2012-13 school year was the inaugural year, with 90 of the 91 public schools in New Orleans participating. These schools agreed that all expulsion hearings would be administered by the RSD’s Student Hearing Office and agreed to limit the reasons a student could be expelled. Read More »

Number of Failing Schools Plummets

Every August, as part of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the state releases a preliminary list of failing schools because most will be required to offer parents the option to transfer their children to another school.

This year, only 9 New Orleans schools are failing. This low number is truly a cause for celebration and reflects the past 7 years of stellar growth.

To determine which schools must provide choice, the state calculates a preliminary School Performance Score (SPS). This year marks a new SPS system with changes in how the scores are calculated.

With a new system, it’s best to compare New Orleans performance to the state, since the system has changed for all schools across the state.

  • In 2013, New Orleans has 9 of 112 failing schools in Louisiana (8%).
  • In 2005, New Orleans had 66 out of 151 failing schools in Louisiana (44%).

See below for the list of failing schools.

We just need to repeat it: There were only 9 New Orleans schools on the list (and 4 of them are alternative schools).

Read More »

Good News About Cheating

The Lens recently reported on the number of test administration mistakes and instances of cheating found by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) from 2010 to 2012 for public schools in New Orleans. This information was provided to The Lens by the LDOE.

Educate Now! is very encouraged by the results.

The fact that only 130 tests out of hundreds of thousands given in New Orleans over three years were voided - due to student cheating, adult cheating, or administrative errors – is very good news.
Read More »

2013 EOC Results – High School Gains Continue

The state has released the End-of-Course (EOC) exam results for 2012-2013.

The percent of students proficient (scoring Excellent or Good) increased – and at a faster rate than the state. 

From 2011-12 to 2012-13, looking at all tests combined:

  • RSD-New Orleans and OPSB each gained 7 percentage points.
  • The state gained 4 points.

Percent of Students Proficient
(Scoring Excellent or Good)

District 2011-2012  2012-2013  Gain
RSD-New Orleans 31% 38% 7
OPSB 61% 68% 7
Louisiana 55% 59% 4

View a comparison of gains by district.

Read More »

2013 Test Scores Are In, and We Rock! … Again!!

Student performance showed robust improvement for the 6th consecutive year.

  • New Orleans (OPSB & RSD) is #1 in growth, gaining 5 points in the percentage of students meeting the state proficiency goal of Basic or above.
  • This growth was fueled by RSD-New Orleans, with its 6 point gain.
  • OPSB grew 1 point, equal to the state average.
  • Students improved across all grades and subjects.
  • New Orleans continues to close the gap with the state average. Read More »

Close to 80% of Students Graduating on Time!

The state has released the four-year cohort graduation rates for 2012, and the news is good for New Orleans.

The combined graduation rate for all New Orleans public schools rose to 77.8%.

Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rate by District
New Orleans = OPSB, RSD, charter and traditional schools

  • The New Orleans graduation rate of 77.8% compares well to the rest of the country. According to the U.S. Department of Education report released in November, in 2011 the national average graduation rate for African American students was 60%, and the national average for white students was 76%.
    • In New Orleans, public school enrollment is 88% African American, 6% white and 6% other.
  • New Orleans outperformed the state of Louisiana (72.3%).
  • New Orleans also outperformed Shreveport (63.4%) Baton Rouge (66%) and Jefferson Parish (70.4%).
  • RSD-New Orleans is among the most-improved districts, going from a graduation rate of 58.8% in 2011 to 67.7% in 2012.
  • RSD-New Orleans ranks #49, outperforming Baton Rouge and Shreveport. The RSD took over the worst performing high schools in the state. This progress in just a few years is remarkable.
  • OPSB has the highest graduation rate in the state, although it dropped from 93.8% in 2011 to 89.3% in 2012.

Read More »

In the News: April 8, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

Common Core is Coming  

Louisiana overhauling teaching goals, standardized tests in effort to raise the bar for students
Times-Picayune - March 22, 2013
This article gives a good overview of the major changes coming as Louisiana raises the education bar again, implementing the new, national set of education standards called the Common Core. To help students meet the new goals, textbooks must be ordered, computers upgraded, lesson plans updated, and new tests developed. Louisiana has joined 22 states in using the PARCC tests for English and math, which will be much more rigorous than the current LEAP tests. The tests won’t go into effect until late 2014, but teachers will start teaching to the new standards this fall. Educators are encouraged to look at the PARCC sample items and prototypes to help them prepare.

Editor’s note: New York and Georgia are ahead of Louisiana in developing their new curricula, and both states are offering all of their materials for free online. Visit or for more information.
Read More »

In the News: January 20, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

Read More »

Game Changer! N.O. High School Grad Rate Outperforms US

With the recent release by the U.S. Department of Education of national high school completion rates, New Orleans has cause to celebrate.  In terms of graduating students on time, we have closed the performance gap.

New Orleans outperformed the state and outperformed the nation. 

States are now required to use a common measurement for high school completion:  the percent of first time 9th graders who graduate within 4 years with a regular diploma (the 4-year cohort graduation rate1). The data on the graduating class of 2011 shows that nationally 76% of white students and 60% of black students graduated on time.

In New Orleans, 76.5% of our students graduated on time2

  • Outperforming the national average for white students
  • Outperforming the national average for black students by 16.5 percentage points
  • Outperforming the state of Louisiana (70.9%)
  • Outperforming Jefferson Parish (67%), Baton Rouge (62.3%) and Shreveport (61.5%)

New Orleans had 2,051 high school graduates in 2011, 443 more than if we were at the national average for black students, and 657 more than if we were still at New Orleans’ 2005 graduation rate.

This improvement is a game changer for our students and our city. 

Read More »