Andrea Gabor published an op-Ed article in the New York Times about “the myth” of the Néw Orleans reforms. Critics immediately attacked her research, her facts, her integrity. (See here and here.)

Gabor is the Michael R. Bloomberg Professor of Business Jounalism at Baruch College in the City University of New York. She has written several books and many articles.

She responds to the critics here.

Andrea Gabor writes:

“Here is a preliminary response to some who have attacked the research behind my NYT OpEd. First a little background: I’ve spent months in New Orleans over the past several years researching New Orleans charter schools and published a lengthy piece in Newsweek in 2013. (I’m also working on a book.) However, much of the impetus for this piece came from what I heard and saw at a conference, The Urban Education Future?, held by the Educational Research Alliance at Tulane University this June.

First, the data that ERA just published, and that many education-reformers point to for their positive results, is based on numbers leading up to 2012, i.e. the period during which the worst excesses, including creaming, special-education abuses, high suspension and expulsion rates took place. More than one of the participants an ERA panel in June noted that it’s questionable whether the numbers would look as good as they do if it hadn’t been for those practices.

This was also the period before the Common Core, so the elementary and middle-school test results presented by ERA, as several experts at the conference noted, were based on Louisiana’s very low-level standards.

For years, the ed-reform establishment claimed there were no abuses—no creaming, no special-education abuses—in New Orleans. Now, they are saying: In 2012 we fixed all that, so it’s not fair to reference the problems. Except that we don’t yet have evidence of if/how the new safeguards are working.

What we do know is that there’s a major governance/oversight problem in New Orleans. In 2013, a report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor found that the “LDOE no longer conducts on-site audits or reviews that help ensure the electronic data in its systems is accurate.” The audit also found significant discrepancies in the data on attendance, dropout-rates and graduation rates reported by the charters. http://www.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/0B6B9CAE61DC9C2786257B6C006DB81E/$FILE/00032CA4.pdf

Also last spring, a Louisiana appeals court ruled that the State of Louisiana, which had given a trove of student data to CREDO, but withheld it from other researchers, had violated public-records laws. So much for transparency.

Click to access student_data_case_c_court_of_appeal_notice_judgment_and_disposition_2014.pdf

I had the opportunity to ask several experts at the ERA conference questions about governance/oversight problems in New Orleans and the kids who “slip between the cracks”. Among others, I asked these questions of Dana Peterson of the RSD as well as members of the panel on the “Role of Communities in Schools.” The exchanges were captured on the webcasts below.

To see the startling discussion about governance/oversight problems during the panel discussion of the “Role of Communities in Schools” go to the 1-hour-and-12-minute mark of the following webcast and listen for three or four minutes: http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/sessions/2015/6/19/role-of-communities-in-schools

Some highlights:

Deirdre Burel, executive director of the Orleans of Public Education Network: “There’s common agreement, we know for a fact that kids have slipped through the cracks because of the closures.”

When an audience member asks: “The RSD doesn’t know who’s in the system?”

And again later: “Who’s responsible for the whole?”

Burel answers: “There is no whole. That’s a governance conversation. There is no single entity responsible for all children.”

I asked a similar question during a panel on “Test-Based Accountability Effects of School Closure” on school closings, their impacts on high school students, and received the response below from Dana Peterson of the RSD and Whitney Ruble, the ERA researcher who was presenting her findings on school closures. Two points of note: First, Ruble’s/ERA results on the effects of school closures said nothing about the impacts on high school kids who are most at risk of dropping out. You had to look and listen very carefully to realize that all the data was about elementary and middle-school effects. However, Ruble acknowledged that “A lot of students disappear from the data.”

This at about the 1-hour-two-minute mark of the following webcast:

http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/sessions/2015/6/20/test-based-accountabilty-effects-of-school-closuremost.

Dana Peterson of the RSD, a few minutes later: “We’re more worried at the high school level than the elementary level. Its true some kids do leave and fall out of the system.” That’s why, he said, the RSD started hiring couselors specifically for high school kids two years ago to try to make sure they didn’t disappear from the system.

When I asked whether he knew how many kids fall between the cracks, Peterson acknowledged: “I don’t know the total number. I don’t.”

After the panel, I asked whether there was anyone at the RSD who could get me that data. He said there was and he promised to get me the information. He never responded to subsequent emails and phone calls.

Finally, some, including John White, have taken issue with my assertion that the mostly black teaching force was replaced by young idealistic (mostly white) educators. According to another ERA report, the number of black teachers in New Orleans dropped from 71 percent before the storm to 49 percent in 2013/2014. White teachers, by contrast, made up just a little over 20 percent of the teachers in NOLA before the storm and were close to 50 percent in 2013/14. See p. 3 of the following report: http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/files/publications/ERA-Policy-Brief-Changes-in-the-New-Orleans-Teacher-Workforce.pdf

I should note that I’ve visited over half-a-dozen charter schools in New Orleans. With two exceptions, I barely saw a single African-American face among any of the educators.