ACT Scores in New Orleans: (1) Real Progress (2) Long Way to Go (3) Better than Nashville and Denver?

Danielle Dreilinger at the Times Picayune just wrote a good article on ACT scores in New Orleans.

The table below is from the article and captures post-2005 trends.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 1.34.42 PM


1. These results are trends in absolute scores. They don’t capture growth or the fact that student populations change overtime. So not gold standard data here. However, if you use the state as a control of sorts, you can make some reasonable inferences about performance trajectories.

2. The scores also don’t take into consideration the fact that many more students take the ACT now than they did in previous years (in 2013, Louisiana passed a policy that requires all* students to take the ACT).


1. Given this new requirement for universal test taking, it’s particularly noteworthy that the RSD schools made a 2 point jump over the past decade. These schools most likely had the lowest test taking percentages in 2005, and yet they’ve made the most gains.

2. That being said, the RSD’s 16.4 average shows just how far schools in New Orleans still need to improve.

3. All together, New Orleans schools reduced the city-state ACT score gap by nearly 75%. This is real progress.

National City Comparisons

I was curious how New Orleans compared to other cities.

So I went to the Broad Prize website and found 2013 ACT data for a few major urban areas with participation rates over 80%.

See below for a table I constructed using their data:

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 9.13.33 AM

1. To make sure 2014 and 2013 were roughly comparable, I checked national participation rate and scores. While there were slight differences year over year – nothing major, I think.

2. When you compare New Orleans data to other cities, New Orleans does well. It’s basically tied with Charlotte Mecklenburg, which won the broad prize a few years ago. Ten years ago, most people considered New Orleans one of the worst school districts in the country. This no longer seems to be the case.

3. Interestingly enough, New Orleans outperformed Nashville despite New Orleans having a similar participation rate. Ditto for Denver.

4. Again, these are simply absolute score comparisons. So more useful as a gut check than for rigorous comparative analysis.

More Caveats

I’m just finishing this post around 11 PM, which is fairly late for me, but wanted to get something out for Monday morning.

There’s a reasonable chance I’ve either made some calculation errors or made some improper comparisons.

I’ll edit the post during the day if people catch any errors.

*For some reason, the New Orleans participation rate is 86%. I’m reaching out to folks to try and understand why it’s not a 100%.

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