- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An education think tank at Tulane University has retracted a report that indicated New Orleans’ public high schools appear to be exceeding expectations at educating students who suffer from various disadvantages.

The study on the education of so-called “vulnerable students” was released Oct. 1 by Tulane’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives. But, a statement on the institute’s website from executive director John Ayers says the institute has since determined the methodology in the report was flawed, making its conclusions inaccurate.

“As a result of this incident, the Cowen Institute will thoroughly examine and strengthen its internal protocols to ensure it adheres to the highest standards of review and accuracy in its research and in future reports,” Ayers’ statement said.

The Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives, named for Tulane’s recently retired former president Scott Cowen, was begun in 2007 to assess the effects of the post-Katrina reform efforts, including the takeover of most New Orleans public schools by the state’s Recovery School District and the widespread use of independently run charter schools.

The study defined vulnerable students as those who are more than two years above grade-level age in ninth grade, who failed an eighth-grade assessment test, who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches or who are eligible for special education services.

The study used a method known as “regression analysis.” It calculated the percentage of vulnerable students at each high school and came up with a performance score a school would be expected to achieve. The study found 60 percent of New Orleans public high schools exceeded passage rates on End of Course exams. Half had higher-than-predicted ACT scores and all were at or above their predicted four-year graduation rates.

Ayers’ statement did not address what the flaw in the methodology. In an email, he declined further comment Thursday.

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