Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and RSD AP

Sometimes it’s not just what you say, but what you don’t say that tells the true story as one of my contributors from St Tammany recently pointed out. Recently John White and our local media have been proudly crowing from every tower and tree about how well our students have done on AP (Advanced Placement) tests. White downplays the fact that school districts were incentivized to send as many of their students for AP tests as possible to prevent state takeovers. . .

As an incentive to offer AP coursework, high schools now receive points for every student who takes an AP exam, with the most points for students who score 3, 4 or 5. The results are counted in School Performance Scores, which determines whether charters stay open and whether conventional schools are eligible for a state takeover.

. . .or mentioning that a greater percentage of them failed, John White has declared victory of the slice of data he has chosen to present to the public.

That said, the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers. That was OK by state Education Superintendent John White. . .

John White even took to twitter to proclaim on July 30th “. . .We don’t have to be 49th in AP. Our Kids are as smart as any in America.” (I’m not sure who that message was meant for exactly, except that maybe the people he deals with on a regular basis think our kids our dumb?)

Without mentioning quality of the scores (which plummeted) John White paints a rosy picture of more students passing but from a great many more being given the test which deflates his argument somewhat, but what is most striking is the complete lack of coverage of John White’s Achilles’ Heel, the RSD (Recovery School District.) RSD’s performance was abysmal – almost 95% of the students taking those tests did not make a passing score. If these students were taking AP classes, what exactly were they learning when the rest of Orleans parish scored close to 50%? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for allowing the state to continue taking over public schools. . .

 

Let’s look at AP scores, and how the media spins them in Louisiana:

 
 

http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2013/07/louisiana_students_earn_most_a.html  

 
 

The headline does not reveal that only 5.9% of students who took AP tests in RSD schools (which are all RSD charters like KIPP Renaissance and Sci High) made a passing score.

 
 

Compare this to 65.3% in St. Tammany, the 84% at Ben Franklin HS, and even the 33.3% state average.  

So the charters get points just if their students take the AP tests; it appears irrelevant if the charter school actually prepared the students well, and whether or not the students got AP credit. What counts is the points for the charter to stay open—a business decision.

 
 

As a friend of the Coalition says:  “If all children really had ‘school choice’, they could leave their D/F schools in the RSD, and enroll in a public school where it would be likely that they could be better prepared, and might pass the AP test and receive college credit. 

 
 

The real story here is there was an big increase in the number of students taking AP classes, but that the charter schools are apparently not preparing them to succeed. In addition, these statistics point to the fact that the traditional public schools are again outperforming the charter schools.  But the media won’t print that.

 

Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune

July 30, 2013 at 7:09 PM, updated July 30, 2013 at 7:32 PM

       

Louisiana high school students earned college credit on 5,144 Advanced Placement exams in 2013 — the largest number in the state’s history. The state also saw the biggest increase ever in the number of students taking the test: from 6,637 students last year to 10,529, the biggest gain in the nation.

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday credited a state initiative to encourage schools to offer these courses. In 2012, the state had the fifth-lowest AP participation rate in the country, with 16.1 percent of high school graduates taking one of the tests.

“Today’s announcement that a growing number of our state’s high school students are already earning college credit before they even leave for school is more proof that our hard work is paying off,” Jindal said.

To earn college credit, test takers must score at least 3 on a 5-point scale. A passing grade often lets students place out of introductory college coursework.

The average high school student took two AP classes for a total of 23,435 courses.

That said, the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers. That was OK by state Education Superintendent John White, given the alternative.

The state increased the number of tests by nearly 50 percent. That means schools are providing opportunity for kids, even when it’s challenging,” he said in a statement. “It’s better to err on that side and risk a lower pass rate than to do what has been happening and err on the side of easier course work. Kids who haven’t experienced rigor in high school struggle in college; better to struggle now.”

Download in Excel

New Orleans-area AP pass rates, 2011-13, by district and school

All Louisiana AP pass rates, 2011-13, by district and school

White also said that “Advanced Placement is the highest indicator of college success.” And indeed, a 2009 study from the College Board, the AP’s parent company, found that students who take AP exams outperform their peers in college freshman grade-point average and success in moving on to the second year of college — no matter what score they receive.

As an incentive to offer AP coursework, high schools now receive points for every student who takes an AP exam, with the most points for students who score 3, 4 or 5. The results are counted in School Performance Scores, which determines whether charters stay open and whether conventional schools are eligible for a state takeover.

To motivate teens, a new law passed this spring gives more weight to AP courses when calculating eligibility for Louisiana’s TOPS scholarships. The state also covers test fees for low-income students.

Whatever the impetus, efforts clearly paid off at several New Orleans-area high schools that were among the state’s top performers. Benjamin Franklin High in Orleans had the second-highest percentage of test-takers earning college credit: 84 percent, second only to West Monroe High School. Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies in Metairie followed at third with an 82 percent pass rate.

Also in the top 10 were Mandeville High, 79 percent pass rate; Fontainebleau High in Mandeville, 73 percent; and Lusher in New Orleans, 65 percent.

At a district level, five of the New Orleans area’s eight districts beat the state average for percentage of students earning credit: Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Charles and St. Tammany — though the Jefferson pass rate was nine percentage points lower than the previous school year’s results.

Rates were significantly lower in St. John the Baptist Parish, where 12 percent of student test-takers scored 3 or above, and in the Recovery School District, where the rate was only 6 percent.

Table: Change in AP Participation and Pass Rates in Greater New Orleans and Louisiana, 2011-2013

 

2011-2012

2012-2013

 

District

Number of students taking AP exams

Percent of students scoring 3+

Number of students taking AP exams

Percent of students scoring 3+

Percent change in students scoring 3+

Jefferson

496

45.2%

713

36.0%

-9.1%

Orleans

932

54.7%

1,106

49.5%

-5.3%

Plaquemines

31

41.9%

74

40.5%

-1.4%

Recovery

174

<5%

405

5.9%

NA

St. Bernard

34

47.1%

86

26.7%

-20.3%

St. Charles

288

44.4%

310

42.6%

-1.9%

St. John the Baptist

NA

NA

≥40

12.2%

NA

St. Tammany

423

70.4%

487

65.3%

-5.2%

Louisiana total

6,637

41.4%

10,529

33.3%

-8.1%

Data source: Louisiana Department of Education. NA = No data.

 

Louisiana students earn most Advanced Placement credits in state’s history

www.nola.com

4,000 additional students take one of the exams