How The Lens reported our latest story on standardized testing in New Orleans

For our latest story on testing irregularities in New Orleans, The Lens analyzed test security reports from 2012 and 2013, the most recent completed testing years, and compared them to the number of tests taken at each school.

The state and its vendor, Data Recognition Corp., check all tests for potential plagiarism. For erasures, the state checks only LEAP, iLEAP, and GEE tests; sample sizes for other types of tests are too small for this analysis to be valid.

We changed how we calculated the rate of testing problems because officials with the state Department of Education disputed the method we used for a previous story.

For that story, we calculated the percentage of schools that had tests voided for testing problems. Three testing experts said that method was sound. State officials, however, argued that we should look at the percentage of tests instead.

Both methods show New Orleans is an outlier.

When analyzed by our prior method, the percentage of schools flagged for plagiarism in Orleans public schools was twice as high as the rest of the state in 2012 and 2013. Under the new method, we found that the percentage of tests flagged for plagiarism was three times higher in New Orleans.

For answer changes, both methods yielded a rate twice as high in Orleans than the rest of the state.

We also examined the number of tests voided for administrative errors or self-reported problems.

For 2012, both ways of measuring yielded a rate three times as high in New Orleans as the rest of the state. In 2013, Orleans was 1.5 times higher than the rest of the state under the old method, and twice as high under the new one.

Using five years of data, we looked to see which schools have had repeated problems. We excluded schools that state officials flagged on test-taking days because they tend to visit schools that have had problems in prior years, thus skewing the sample under study.

We discovered an error in the data that the state provided. Milestone SABIS was counted in  Orleans Parish figures for 2013. But it moved to Jefferson Parish in the 2012-2013 school year.

The Lens informed the state of the inaccuracy on March 20 and followed up several times. Three months later, the state has not provided the correct information.

Still, the number of tests taken at Milestone SABIS is too small to have a significant impact on the percentages in our analysis. Fewer than 300 students were in testing grades in the 2012-13 year, according to enrollment numbers.

Further questions? Email me at

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • nickelndime

    Isn’t Milestone SABIS a Type 2 charter school? Yes, it was in Orleans Parish on Patton St. (Where Lycée is now), then moved to Gretna. I wouldn’t want to claim ownership of it either, but why is this State charter being included in any parish?

  • nickelndime

    Other than plagiarism and erasures, what schools and their resultant percentages were cited for proctoring or administration errors? Even self reported errors show up somewhere.

  • Jessica Williams

    Happy to provide.

    District voids (self-reported) and administrative errors, 2011-2012
    New Orleans:
    .06 percent of tests taken were voided for administrative error or another self-reported problem. (21 tests out of 34,126)

    .02 percent of all tests taken were voided for erasures. (64 tests out of 311,970)

    List of schools:

    Sarah T. Reed High
    McMain Secondary School
    ReNEW at Reed Elementary
    Dr. King Charter School
    Arthur Ashe Charter School
    Benjamin Banneker Elementary School
    Lake Area High School
    G.W. Carver High School
    John McDonogh High School
    H.C. Schaumburg Elementary School

    District voids (self-reported) and administrative errors, 2012-2013
    New Orleans:
    .1 percent of tests taken were voided for administrative error. (44 tests out of 36,916)

    .05 percent of tests taken were voided for administrative error or some other self-reported problem (354 tests out of 608,183)

    List of schools:

    Einstein Charter
    Miller McCoy Academy
    Intercultural Charter School

    The NET Charter School
    KIPP Renaissance High School
    G.W. Carver High School

    Cohen College Prep
    Lake Area High School