After I started posting comments on the new ACT score release yesterday, I was engaged by an anonymous reader with an obvious bias against charter schools. That individual also seems to be having a lot of trouble getting his or her facts straight. That happens in this blog from time to time, and we do work to try to insure that our readers get an accurate picture when those who post comments are confused.
However, sometimes, good comes from those reader challenges, even when the reader is wrong.
A case in point: our anonymous – and not well-informed – correspondent alleged that Louisiana tested 100 percent of its students with the ACT in 2007. That isn’t true, but when I checked the right information for 2007, I discovered something that adds to my evidence that post-Katrina Louisiana has made some remarkable progress on the ACT.
Here is the real data on graduates tested and ACT scores for Kentucky and Louisiana from 2007. It is on line in the ACT, Incorporated’s web site, accessible under the “ACT Average Composite Scores by State” section (I removed other state data for clarity).
Notice that both states had nearly identical numbers of graduates tested in 2007 (77 percent in Kentucky and 79 percent in Louisiana) and that Louisiana scored 0.6 point lower on the ACT Composite Score than Kentucky.
Because the 2007 participation rates are so very close, I think comparison of these scores is reasonable.
Now, flash forward to 2011. Here is how ACT reported that data.
Notice that both states now test all their graduates. However, the ACT Composite Score situation has flip-flopped. Louisiana – ravaged by Katrina six years ago – now scores 0.6 point higher than Kentucky.
So, between 2007 and 2011 charter school rich Louisiana went from 0.6 point below Kentucky’s ACT Composite Score to 0.6 point above. That relative change of 1.2 points is noteworthy on a 36 point test like the ACT.
Even after I pointed this out, our anonymous nay-sayer was unconvinced. He or she tried to claim something to the effect that only the rich had moved back to Louisiana after the big storm hit.
I doubted that assertion, so I checked the percentages of students eligible for free and reduced cost lunches in the National Assessment of Educational Progress eighth grade reading assessments of 2003 (Closest pre-Katrina administration) and 2009 (most recently available). I used the NAEP Data Explorer to find those figures.
Guess what: In 2003, free and reduced cost lunch eligible students in Louisiana amounted to 50% of all the students there.
In 2009, lunch eligibility in Louisiana rose significantly to 62 percent, an increase of 12 points.
In contrast, Kentucky’s poverty rate was 42 percent in 2003 and rose to only 47 percent in 2009.
So, Louisiana had 8 points more poverty in 2003 and that rose to 15 points more by 2009.
If anything, based on the most recently available student poverty rates in NAEP, Louisiana should be at a notably higher disadvantage relative to Kentucky today than it was back in 2003 before Katrina hit. That makes Louisiana’s progress on the ACT even more remarkable.
The ACT doesn’t report on poverty rates, so for now the 2009 data is the most recent I can offer. But, most school statistics don’t change all that rapidly, so it is still very likely that poverty in Louisiana remains notably higher than Kentucky’s even today.
This adds more evidence that something in Louisiana is boosting their performance, and charter schools, which now enroll 70 percent of the students in New Orleans, for example, certainly seem likely to be a part of the process.