Einstein charter to get laurels, but numbers bear a closer look

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In front of City Hall on Friday, City Council members and possibly Mayor Mitch Landrieu are scheduled to congratulate Einstein Charter School leaders for turning an F school to a B school in a single year, something that has never been done.

But that apparent achievement doesn’t tell the whole story.

Einstein did earn a B letter grade from the state in the latest report card — but that score counted information from an existing, high-performing campus as well as the addition of a struggling campus it took over last year. Scores from both schools were combined, meaning the struggling campus likely benefitted from being absorbed into the successful original site.

The school, through its public-relations consultant, sent out a news release Wednesday saying it was the first school in Louisiana to turn around a failing school to a letter grade of B after one year of operation. That’s a designation they say Orleans Parish Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Padian informed them of; The Lens has asked the state Department of Education to confirm but haven’t heard back.

What the news release doesn’t make clear is that the academic achievement of the takeover school — the failing Intercultural Charter School — was lumped together with the original school that had 473 students and earned a B the year before.

Of the 375 students enrolled at Intercultural when it closed, approximately 263 continued on with Einstein, according to the school. It stands to reason that the fewer students from a failing school who remained at Einstein, the less likely the combined grade would drop. Nonetheless, the combined schools scored a 91.5 this year; the previous year, Intercultural was a 63 and Einstein was 95.4.

In the fall of 2012, Einstein Charter School was a high-performing Orleans Parish School Board charter school when Recovery School District officials approached its leaders about taking over the nearby failing Intercultural Charter School.

Einstein applied for and received a $1 million federal grant to facilitate the takeover and turnaround of Intercultural in eastern New Orleans. The school closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year as an F school, and it reopened in the fall of 2013 under Einstein’s leadership.

Even though Einstein Charter School and Einstein Charter School Extension, both serving kindergarten through eighth grade, are on different campuses, they share the same site code, the official designation of a single “school” as defined by the state. That means the two campuses are graded by the state as a single entity.

It’s not uncommon for schools with separate campuses to share site codes and letter grades.

The headline on this story originally said the numbers are “deceptive”; it has been changed to avoid the implication that any deception was intended. (Dec. 10, 2014)

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