Regarding your recent editorial, “Reform Numbers Don’t Lie”: The president of the United States “touts” the numbers on education reform that are given to him by the Louisiana Department of Education, which stopped releasing the raw data to educational researchers who would independently produce graduation rates and other educational outcomes.
Research on Reforms successfully sued the department to obtain the raw data (Ferguson and Hatfield v. La. Department of Education, 2014-CA-0032) and published dropout numbers that were inconsistent with the department’s findings.
What should have been a simple public records request became a nightmare. It took us three long years and litigation to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to obtain the raw data.
We agree that the New Orleans public school system was plagued by corruption and low test scores. We agree that significant changes needed to be made. But your newspaper should not completely disregard the fact that the Department of Education both controls the raw data and reports on its own success.
Before Katrina, the department freely released raw data to researchers to evaluate all of the school districts.
After Katrina, the department began to operate a school district that could, therefore, be evaluated with the raw data in the department’s possession.
Thus, the department stopped releasing the raw data and released only summary data, as was “touted” by the president.
For the first time in the history of Louisiana, the department that controls the data used to evaluate a school district also operates a school district.
Such conflict of interest leads to corruption and distorted data reporting.
If we are to move on with the reforms, we need all researchers working together.
Research on Reforms