Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes: Instability In the New Orleans Recovery School District

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Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes: Instability In the New Orleans Recovery School District 2016-11-29T17:39:25+00:00

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Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes
Instability In the New Orleans Recovery School District

Dr. Barbara Ferguson, Research on Reforms, Incorporated June 2014 | Originally Published at Research on Reform
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During its first few years, the Recovery School District (RSD) simply opened schools in New Orleans, without closing any and without changing any school codes. But, five years ago the RSD began to close schools and change school codes as frequently as it opened schools. These actions compromise the RSD District Performance Score because test scores from students in closed schools are omitted. Also, when the RSD changes a school code, the old code and the test scores listed under that code are often eliminated. In addition, when schools are newly opened, many wait years to receive a School Performance Score, meaning that those students’ test scores are not calculated into the RSD District Performance Score. During the last five years, 2010 through 2014, the RSD closed 25 schools, opened 23 new schools, and changed the codes of 21 schools in New Orleans. The question is whether these actions represent the challenges of the newly created Recovery School District, or if they are a deliberate attempt to thwart research on its progress.

Each student has a student code that records information, such as, the student’s grade level, ethnicity, gender and test scores. Each public school has a school code that contains the collective information for all of the students in the school. The students’ test scores are used to calculate the School Performance Score (SPS) that is then used, along with the scores from other schools in the district, to calculate the District Performance Score (DPS).

When the Recovery School District in New Orleans closes 25 schools in five years, then test scores from students in those closed schools are not included in the calculation of the RSD District Performance Score. When a school closes, the students’ test scores are eliminated. Even if the students from the closed school enrolled in a different school the following year, their scores would still be discarded because their new school’s performance score would have already been calculated using the test scores of the students from the prior year. Eliminating the scores of so many students by closing schools makes it difficult to determine whether the RSD has improved or not improved.

In addition to closing schools during the last five years, the RSD opened 23 new schools and assigned each a new school code. Many of these schools did not receive a performance score for their first few years because scores are calculated based on growth from the previous years. Thus, the test scores of students in many of the newly opened schools are not included in the RSD District Performance Score.

Also, during the last five years, the RSD changed the school codes of 21 schools. Of these, several continued to have performance scores reported. But, beginning in the 2011-12 school year, the RSD started to remove performance scores for most of the schools whose codes it changed. For example, in 2011-12, five schools had school code changes and four of those schools, even though each had been opened for several years, did not have performance scores reported.

  • Harriett Tubman had been opened for five years when its school code changed from 395006 to 363001, and its performance score was eliminated.
  • Fannie C. Williams had been opened for four years when its school code changed from 396028 to 364001, and its performance score was eliminated.
  • Sarah Towles Reed Elementary had been opened for five years, when its school code changed from 396021 to 369003, and its performance score was eliminated.
  • Joseph S. Clark had been opened for five years when its school code changed from 396002 to 399003…and its performance score was eliminated.
  • The District Performance Score is cited to praise or decry the progress of each of the school districts in Louisiana. However, this cannot be considered an accurate yardstick by which to measure the Recovery School District in New Orleans since it has opened schools, closed schools, and changed school codes over the last five years at an alarming rate.

    Recently, the Cowen Institute reported that from 2010 to 2014, the RSD pass rates increased by 11 percentage points, and the OPBS pass rates increased by 2 percentage points. That comparison lacks merit because during those 5 years, the RSD closed 25 schools, opened 23 schools and changed codes on 21 schools for a total of 69 schools whose students’ test scores were mainly not used in the RSD calculation. Whereas, during those 5 years, the OPBS closed two schools, opened four new schools and changed the code of one school.

    While the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has considerably fewer schools than the RSD, percentages can be used to show the disproportionality of the school changes that resulted in eliminating test scores.

    Recovery School District Changes

    After its first three years in operation, the RSD was beginning to have its success questioned. It was then that the RSD began to close schools and to change school codes. Some schools had been open for only one year, then were closed or had their codes changed. Some had been open for as many as seven years, then were closed. Of the 34 schools that the RSD opened during its first full year of operation in 2006-07, only 20 remain opened in 2013-14.

    Murray Henderson School and James Weldon Johnson School opened in 2006-07 and closed seven years later, at the end of the 2012-13 year. Whatever school will eventually open in each of those buildings will receive a new school code. This process circumvents what was meant to happen. School performance, which was supposed to improve following the State Takeover, was to be measured by longitudinally assessing the schools. But, this now becomes difficult as so many schools are being closed and/or are having their codes changed.

    The Louisiana Department of Education provided raw data to Research on Reforms, Inc. to conduct longitudinal studies on the progress of the RSD during its first few years. However, when the RSD began to close schools and change school codes, the Department denied the requests for the data. Instead, the Department began to select certain entities to whom it released the data. Thus, Research on Reforms, Inc. sued the Department under the Louisiana Public Records Act. That lawsuit is still pending.

    The Appendix below lists the schools referenced in this report. The continued closing and opening of RSD schools, and the changing of school codes makes research on student progress difficult. The RSD District Performance Score is supposed to reflect the test scores of all students, not just the scores of students in the schools that are unaffected by closings, openings, and changing codes.

    Mia Cruse, right, and Tanyell Ellis work on an assignment on the first day of school.
    Recovery School District New Orleans:  Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes
    Third grade student Thaddeus Rhodes, 9, sits in class. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

    APPENDIX
    Recovery School District New Orleans: Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes:

    2009 – 2010 Recovery School District

    2010 – 2011 Recovery School District

    2011 – 2012 Recovery School District

    2012 – 2013 Recovery School District

    2013 – 2014 Recovery School District

    Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes
    Instability In the New Orleans Recovery School District

    Dr. Barbara Ferguson, Research on Reforms, Incorporated June 2014 | Originally Published at Research on Reform