Another significant factor that produces seemingly amazing gains in student perfromance for the RSD is a major inflation of accountability testing results over a period of years. Over the last ten years, most schools accross the state (not just the RSD schools) have demonstrated dramatic improvements in the LEAP measure of grade level perfromance for math and ELA. But during the same period, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAPE) showed very little improvement for Louisiana students. Over the last ten year period NAPE results showed approximately a 2.5% total gain in achievement for Louisiana students. This is significantly less than the average gains by all the other states on NAPE. This discrepancy is a strong indication of score inflation for the state's accountability testing. Either the tests got easier or students learned how to perform better on the state tests without significantly improving their English and math skills. My conclusion is that teachers in Louisiana produced what they were expected to produce. Better test scores. But that did not mean that students were significantly better educated. With all the emphsis on drilling and test prep, there has been in my opinion a major neglect of all the other major areas of education that are needed prepare our students for a successful life.
Overall testing inflation and the manipulation of statistics have allowed the promoters of the privatization effort in Louisiana to simulate a story of great success in the Louisiana Recovery District. Many in the media were romanced by the notion of a new innovative system run by bright young people who were not hamstrung by old traditions, by unions, or low expectations. The media elitists were only happy to report that finally there were miracles happening in the schools in New Orleans. Several times the hosts of the MSNBC Morning Joe program suggested that the New Orleans RSD charter school system should serve as a model for reform of all other struggling systems accross the country. And they have been taken up on that proposal by some states.
Finally there is one small weekly newspaper that is willing to tell the truth about the New Orleans miracle”. See this article in the Louisiana Weekly. Maybe we can get the Washington Post to do a similar story.