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:  


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, | 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






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+

























St. Bernard






St. Charles






St. John the Baptist






St. Tammany






Louisiana total






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


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

4,000 additional students take one of the exams

10 thoughts on “Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and RSD AP

  1. Perhaps you or Cenlamar should write an editorial to the T-P pointing out their inability to delve deeper into a report on how the charter schools did vs. public schools. I find most of this data too complex for the general public to grasp if they aren’t tuned in to this discussion, but this AP data is much easier to present and understand.

    Also the 49th comment should be dissected. AP has never been encouraged in LA until very recently. So we should clarify where we are in relation to other states in #s taking and passing. We may still be at the bottom. It wouldn’t be hard to improve over previous years since our AP record has always been dismal. They claim we lead the country in “growth” but as usual that doesn’t give the whole picture.

    1. Good points.  I’m not sure how a piece critical of their reporting would be recieved, but I’m surprised they didnt do some research to see where our rates and, rankings and numbers measure up.  For instance, a 100% increase is less impressive if you know the previous count was 1.  

      1. I’d also like to know the demographics of those passing the test – race/ethnicity, socioeconomic, etc. If findings show that white, middle-class kids were the ones earning credit – kids who would already have a leg up when they enter college w/o AP – then what have we really accomplished?

        I’m truly appalled at what passes for education reporting these days in the mainstream media. So a little criticism probably wouldn’t even register. And, no, camping out by the Supt. office in the Claiborne building to have your story dictated or reprinting a press release by the propagandists doesn’t count as reporting.

  2. Just a tidbit …
    A trickle of truth occasionally drips from the upper echelon in the LDOE down to the dungeon where I work. Seems Baloo (Erin Bendily), Bagheera (Jessica ‘Tuckered Out’ Baghian), and King Louie (Whitey) (guess who Mowgli is) have had the preliminary school performance scores for a week now. Failing schools should have been notified immediately so that school choice options could be given to parents. What, pray tell, has caused the delay. They can’t need time to spin a story, at least not a week, since they are quite practiced at lying. Could it be that the news is not so good concerning the RSD and charters? Maybe the feds have required them to call all of those ‘T’ schools failing, since that’s what they are and would be called if they were a regular district’s schools. Keep your eyes and ears open, Debunky! I hope they aren’t changing numbers. No, actually, I hope they are, and that some district can prove it. I’ll keep a light on down here in the damp.

    “I probly wouldn’t believe ya if ya told me,
    She was doing what she’d already done.”
    John Prine

    1. I heard about this yesterday.  Not sure what it portents but would not surprise me if numbers are being tweaked or researched/scoured for any possible bonus point that can be applied to RSD.  

      Sent from my Samsung smartphone on AT&T

  3. Why delay? Umm…we’re gonna get TB’d. Tony Benneted…they have to teak the formula to get the desired outcome of course. Muddying up the narrative takes time ya know.

  4. At private high schools, students aren’t permitted to even take A.P. exams unless they’ve already taken and passed A.P. courses in the subject area being tested.

    Makes sense, right?

    Well, John White and the TFA-affiliated folks had the bright idea of making masses of totally unprepared Louisiana students take A.P. tests in subjects in which they’ve never even taken courses, let alone achieved a passing grade. The result: almost all of them fail miserably—probably just randomly bubbling in, and leaving the constructed response essay portion blank.

    A idiotic exercise, right?

    No, because a miniscule few did pass while the rest (96% or more, depending on the school) failed, John White, TFA CEO Ms. Villanueva-Beard, and others tout this a “major success.”

    Why would they claim such nonsense?

    Well, this is because that even though that cohort of students failed the test miserably, they were “exposed to more rigor” in theprocess of taking the test, and thus benefited from this “exposure”.

    Welcome to Louisiana!

    How about first “exposing” them to the actual courses in the subject matter that the A.P. is testing, and then see if they can achieve proficiency… and then let them take the test?

    Throwing paraplegics and quadroplegics—or even people capable of swimming, but who have never been in the water—into the deep end of a swimming pool, certainly “exposes” them to more “rigor”, but is it a good idea?

    According the John White and TFA folks like Ms. Beard, the answer is “YES.”

  5. I saw this “miracle” of the AP performed here in Boston. The Mass Math and Science Initiative set up shop in my school (89% of our students were minorities). We already had an outstanding track record of well-prepared kids diligently working their way toward scores of 4 and 5 in a host of AP classes. But the goal was not to have kids do well, the goal was simply to get more kids to take AP classes. Why?

    Well, although teachers had long taught AP courses successfully, no outsider consultants were involved. Suddenly, we were inundated with “verticle alignment” workshops, AP workbooks, CD’s, mandatory extra time for teacher AP training (including Saturdays) and cash payments to students taking the tests, as well as “merit pay” to AP teachers for high scores. In other words, what had been an in-house effort to take our most talented students a step forward toward distinguishing their academic records was co-opted to make bank for test fees, materials and consultants.

    In the same time period, the College Board began to require that AP teachers write up and submit an AP curriculum to them for approval (un-reimbursed, of course), and AP training courses began to be required of teachers so that they would be “qualified” to teach those “endorsed” classes. More “ca-ching” at the cash register.

    Remember that our faculty and students had a long track record of success in this arena. Under pressure from the school department, our numbers of students taking AP classes expanded exponentially, until nearly every student was enrolled in some AP class or another. So we met the goal of more kids, but of course our percentage of high scores fell off precipitously.

    It so happened that my own kids were applying for college during this time period. I noticed that though AP had been on the lips of admissions officers of “elite” schools four years earlier for my older child, now there was little interest. Every admissions person I asked about this at competitive liberal arts colleges had the same answer – that credential has been devalued.

    Follow the money.


    And also:

    Tom Luce served in Bush’s cabinet as an under secretrary of education. Failing to win the governor’s race in Texas, he was inspired to form “two nonprofit ventures that led public schools across the United States to measure performance based on standardized tests.” An early innovator (read NCLB) – all good ideas come from Texas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s