School Performance Scores Released
2013-14 a stand still year
New Orleans hit the pause button this year. After 7 years of robust growth in school performance, 2013-14 remained flat.
Variability in School Scores
While overall city performance was unchanged, individual school scores varied a great deal from 2013 to 2014. Of the 63 schools that received a letter grade in 2013 and 2014, almost half had a letter grade change: 11 moved up and 19 went down.
- K-8 scores were impacted by a decrease in progress (bonus) points. Schools earn progress points by improving the performance of non-proficient students more than expected. This year the state changed the rules and made it more difficult to earn progress points1, so only five K-8 schools received the maximum of 10 points, whereas twenty-three received the maximum last year.
- 2014 K-8 scores also reflect the migration to Common Core standards. In the spring of 2014, students took LEAP and iLEAP tests that were Common Core aligned. (Students will transition to the new PARCC tests in 2015, unless this is changed by the current litigation.) While the state “curved” the letter grades so the distribution remained the same statewide2, the test results in the spring clearly showed some schools adapted to the new standards better than others.
- Finally, beginning in 2013, the state increased the inherent volatility of school scores and letter grades by using only one year of data to calculate letter grades instead of averaging two years of data.
School Performance Scores
Despite the variability in individual school grades, the overall grade distribution is about the same as last year.
- Two-thirds of students attended a school with a letter grade of A, B or C.
- 5% attended a school with a letter grade of F.
RSD Increases Opportunities for Minority Students
It’s clear: RSD has increased opportunities for minority students
In this letter to the U.S. Department of Education, the RSD outlines how its turnaround strategy has increased educational opportunities for minority students. The RSD serves the majority of African American students in the city. It has seen gains in state test scores and ACT scores and has improved access to high-performing schools through OneApp. On average, students leaving closed RSD schools have enrolled in new schools with an SPS 24.1 points higher than their former school. The U.S. DOE is investigating a civil rights complaint that claims the closing of traditionally run schools unfairly affected minority students.
Trickle Up Government
Harvard Political Review says the leadership vacuum in Washington, D.C. has forced local governments to develop new policy solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems. The Review says New Orleans is a city that is driving innovation in the public sector. They point to RSD’s groundbreaking reforms, which have made New Orleans one of the nation’s most rapidly improving school systems. “Given the persistent struggles many big city school systems have faced for decades, New Orleans’ new approach may fundamentally alter the face of urban education in America.”
NOLA High Schools
Most New Orleans public high schools beat the odds, study says
Edit: On October 10, 2014, the Cowen Institute retracted this report saying its methodology was flawed. For more, click here.
Louisiana has second-strongest charter school initiative in the U.S., report says
Louisiana’s charter schools ranked as the second strongest according to a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Louisiana was praised for having charters that served a higher percentage of low-income students and exhibited higher academic growth than traditional public schools.
This guest editorial appeared on Nola.com. Nola.com edited it for length, but the full version appears below.
New Orleans charter schools are all the same? Not true: Leslie Jacobs
One key component of New Orleans’ innovative school model is school choice. When schools have to compete for students, they have to perform well or students and parents will choose to go elsewhere. Likewise, choice encourages parents to be more engaged in their child’s education by compelling them to be an active participant in deciding what school their child should attend.
An often repeated critique, however, is that while families have choice, they lack a diversity of choices: New Orleans charters are all the same.
This stereotype was echoed in the recent Cowen Institute report on New Orleans schools, which stated, “the variation in school design is largely limited to high-stakes standards-based teaching and strict discipline policies.”
So is there any truth to this criticism? Are most charter schools in New Orleans carbon copies of each other just focused on tests and discipline?
An argument can be made that statement was true five years ago. It is not true today.
In the early years, many of the charter schools did look alike and were very focused on establishing their school culture, discipline and academic programs.
But one of the key advantages of a decentralized school system is the freedom to innovate and respond to needs quicker and better. Over the past few years, schools have responded to families’ desire for diverse educational and extracurricular opportunities. And new charters continue to recognize gaps in the city’s educational landscape and launch schools to meet these needs.