Considering that the unfolding education tragedy in Louisiana is being promoted as a national model, it is useful to look at a few facts about the record of this model as it has been implemented in New Orleans.
The vast majority of the public schools in Orleans Parish (70 of 84) are administered by the Recovery School District of Louisiana. More than half of those are charter schools. The Recovery School District publishes an annual "Equity Report" from which the following data is taken unless otherwise indicated.
The State of Louisiana evaluates districts along a number of indicators for a "School Performance Score." That for the Recovery District is 69.2, compared to a state average of 93.9.
Student skills achievement is reported as percentages at various levels on the state's testing system (LEAP). The key 8th Grade English Language Arts assessment shows 12% of the Recovery District's students achieving the"Mastery" level, 28% at "Basic" 38% at "Approaching Basic," and 12% at "Unsatisfactory." The average state rates are much higher: 25% at "Mastery," 42% at "Basic," 27% at "Approaching Basic," and 7% at "Unsatisfactory."
On the other hand, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for 8th Grade Reading for the state are 1% at "Advanced," 21% at "Proficient," 43% at "Basic," and 35% at "Below Basic." Given NAEP's "Gold Standard" status, LEAP scores for the state appear to be very exaggerated at the "Mastery" level, double the NAEP findings at the "Basic" level, half at the "Basic" level and one-fifth of the proportion expected from NAEP at the state's "Approaching Basic" level.
In fact, at grade 8, just over 14% of the Recovery District's students are at grade level in English Language Arts, as compared to 22% for the state and 32% for all American public school students.
According to the Recovery District's own "Equity Report," the district's 4-year Cohort Graduation Rate in 2010/11 was 57% (as compared to the state's reported 71% rate on this measure). Given that (and both figures are probably high), 27% of Recovery District students who took the ACT examination met the College-Ready benchmarks in English Language Arts, while 7% met those in Mathematics (as compared to the Louisiana state averages of 67% in ELA and 33% in Mathematics).
If we assume that only the students who were likely to graduate took the ACT, it appears that approximately 14% of the District's students reached the college-ready mark in ELA and 4% in Mathematics.
This is a tragedy for the children of New Orleans. It is hardly a model for America's schools.