How does Kentucky’s top-performing magnet high school compare to New Orleans’ top performing CHARTER magnet school?
Answer: Not well
There is no question that the DuPont Manual High School in Louisville is Kentucky’s top performing school on the ACT college entrance test. Year after year, Manual’s kids have achieved the very best ACT Composite Score in Kentucky.
That’s not so surprising, considering this highly selective magnet school pretty much gets to admit only the cream of the crop from the massive student enrollment in the state’s largest school district.
But, how does Manual look when we stack it up against the Benjamin Franklin Charter Senior High School, the top performing CHARTER high school in New Orleans? This table gives you an idea. While Manual has a number of advantages and which should allow it to easily outperform Ben Franklin on the ACT, that clearly isn’t happening.
*2009-10 Franklin Percent Minority and Lunch Data from Here.
2008-09 Franklin Disabilities Data from Here.
2008-09 DuPont Manual ACT Scores from 2008-09 School Report Card. Manual Demographic Data Calculated from Report Card’s KCCT Math Testing Data
There are some important things to note.
• The poverty excuse doesn’t work for DuPont Manual here. There are three times more students in poverty, as signaled by enrollment in the federal school lunch program, in the New Orleans school.
• The tired old complaint that charter schools exclude minority students doesn’t help Manual in this comparison, either. Not surprisingly, both of these highly selective magnet schools enroll few students with learning disabilities, but Benjamin Franklin enrolls more than Manual.
• The “race card” won’t work for Manual. Benjamin Franklin has nearly twice the percentage of minorities found in selective Manual.
• The school enrollment base in Louisville that Manual draws from is three times larger than the school enrollment base in post-Katrina New Orleans. With many more students to draw from, this should give Manual a large advantage. That advantage doesn’t work, however.
Any way you slice this, DuPont Manual should outshine New Orleans’ Ben Franklin High.
Thus, the educational flexibility that comes from being a charter school works for this “high end” example of ‘a tale of two schools’ just like it works for other charter examples we have been highlighting for those schools that work with disadvantaged inner-city students. In a comparison of Kentucky’s and Louisiana’s largest city’s very best magnet schools, the flexibility of a charter school solidly trumps Kentucky’s very best.
Part of the reason for that is that thanks to charter school flexibility, Ben Franklin can get and keep the teachers it needs and implement the policies it needs without undue union interference. Try doing anything like that in the schools in Louisville without the union being willing to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to block it.
I calculated the school lunch, disabilities and minority data for DuPont Manual High school from student count data for the 2009 Kentucky Core Content Math testing as reported in the 2009 DuPont Manual School Report Card. You can access that report card by logging into the Kentucky Department of Education’s School Report Card Archive and selecting Jefferson County in the pull down window and hitting the Search button. That brings up a new window that lists all the schools in the district along with links to each school’s report card for various years.