Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Times-Picayune explains it all for you

The Times-Picayune starts out doing what it does best in this Cindy Chang story - bashing New Orleans schools, praising the state-seized Recovery School District and going on about how much better off people are in Houston.

But then things get hazy.

Could be they're not better off in Houston: “Meanwhile," Chang writes, "New Orleans public school students have also made academic progress, though the results in each location involve different exams and cannot be directly compared."

So there has been improvement among New Orleans students. According to the Picayune's mythology, that must be because of the RSD, "which took over most of the city's schools after Katrina, (and) a combination of factors, including the post-storm prevalence of charter schools."

The article fawns over RSD chief Paul Vallas, and quotes him as saying, "Clearly, the kids we have in this district now are doing far better than they did prior to Katrina."

Then, in a true feat of journalistic dissonance, comes the very next sentence in the story. Read it slowly, and savor the contradiction: "According to Tulane's Scott S. Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, which consolidated data from the Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board, the city logged a 10-point improvement in district performance scores from 2005 to 2008 -- a gain roughly equal to that posted during the years prior to the storm."

The Picayune continues in that vein in the editorial of the day: "The progress shown here and in Texas involves different tests and cannot be directly compared. But clearly New Orleans children are doing much better now than they were before the storm."

As our favorite barrister explains it, "So, the kids are doing far better in Houston than in New Orleans, except they aren’t. And the kids are doing far better now because of charter schools, except they’re doing the same."

1 comment:

Donnie Cameron said...

The article could be much better, but education performance indicators that do allow state-to-state comparisons (such as the ones published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress) all show that on average kids in Texas can read and do math significantly better than kids in Louisiana.

Consider also that the public schools in New Orleans are (again, on average) the worst in Louisiana, despite in many cases being better funded.

Also, the Orleans parish education success metrics were among the worst in the United States, in some cases rating Louisiana 50th among all the states plus the district of Columbia. This is particularly disturbing given that the United States itself compares rather poorly with other developed nations of the world.

Are things better now? Yes, definitely, measurably.

Was the work that work that the Orleans Parish School Board did before Katrina commendable? Was the OPSB successful? By any standard that we're able to measure, the answer is No. For a long time, we couldn't really do much worse educating our kids in New Orleans.

The Washington Post quoted Education Secretary Arne Duncan as saying that Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans". There might be some truth to that.


* National Center for Education Statistics (

* The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives (

* U.S. Department of Education (

* Washington Post (