Sunday, August 9, 2015

New RSD Propaganda Machine Whitewashes Dismal Performance

The latest Recovery District propaganda machine is called the Research Alliance for New Orleans. It was founded by Tulane University professor of economics, Douglas Harris. In this article printed in Education Next, Harris makes an attempt to paint the struggling Louisiana Recovery School District in New Orleans as a big success despite the dismal facts about student performance.

This faux research technique is used primarily to prevent us from noticing the extremely low performance of the New Orleans RSD in the ten years since Katrina

Harris uses a very dense and confusing array of research strategies to convince us to disregard the most basic data on the actual performance of the New Orleans charter schools comprising the RSD. He attempts instead to make obscure comparisons of growth in performance by matched groups that show that the RSD is succeeding in greatly improving student performance in New Orleans. Based on these obscure caparisons he concludes that the New Orleans "portfolio model" should be a model for turning around struggling schools across the nation. Harris utilizes a comparison of the RSD schools using a "difference between the two differences between the treatment and comparison groups" that supposedly "yields a credible estimate of the policy effect." This stuff is just gobbledegook! This faux research technique is used primarily to prevent us from noticing the extremely low RSD performance in the ten years since Katrina.

Don't believe your lying eyes! Harris wants to distract us from the actual performance of the charter schools administered by the RSD and have us focus only on his complex growth comparison analysis


Harris produces almost no actual data about the real performance of the New Orleans RSD. He does not tell us how the RSD now ranks in student performance (after ten years of reform) compared to all other school systems in the state, he does not tell us what the RSD graduation rate is, he does not discuss the average ACT scores, and he never mentions the RSD dropout rate. For most researchers (And for the parents of RSD students) these actual facts are very important as they paint a very sad picture of the real performance of the RSD. But Harris wants us to disbelieve our lying eyes and instead take his word for it that the RSD is a tremendous success and a model for reform across the Nation.

Here are the indisputable facts as verified by Louisiana Department of Education Data:

  • The latest performance of the N.O. RSD schools as a whole places them at the 17th percentile in students who performed at the basic level on state tests. This means that 83% of the other school systems in Louisiana produced better results than the RSD.
  • ACT scores in the RSD now average 16.6. That's not enough for a student to be funded to enter even the least demanding Louisiana community colleges. 94% of Louisiana school districts produced better ACT results than the RSD.
  • The RSD graduation rate is dead last in the state! 61.1% not counting the kids who drop out as early as 7th and 8th grades. That's last place out of 72 school systems! The RSD is still the biggest dropout factory in the state, with many low performing students being pushed out as early as the 7th and 8th grades. (See this latest report from Research on Reforms)
  • Even though most RSD schools tout themselves as college prep, only 5.5% of their students who take Advanced Placement courses in the RSD score high enough on the AP tests to get credit. Again, one of the lowest results in the state. 

So let's summarize:

The title of Douglas Harris' article about the performance of the New Orleans RSD was Good News for New Orleans. The author makes the following statement: "The rest of the country wants to know how well the New Orleans school reforms have worked. But the residents of New Orleans deserve to know." Yet the article did not cite a single statistic that compares the performance of RSD students with the rest of the students in the state or with the rest of the country. We are just supposed to take Harris's word that the RSD is on a great trajectory of improvement. That might have worked for the first few years of the school takeover. But now it's been 10 years!  The real statistics show very poor results. Any other states' leaders that choose this method of school turnaround should have their heads examined!


1 comment:

Karran Royal said...

Great job Mike, this real data analysis combined with our recent conference that shows the real consequences for our community tell the true story of Louisiana's RSD. This model is being touted and big money has been pumped in to drown out the real un-financed voices of parents living through this nightmare. Keep up the good work! Thanks for being at #nolaedWarning