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[Susan notes: Kudos to Rob Bligh. It is especially shameful when neo-liberals conveniently ignore the 31% children of poverty no longer in New Orleans.

Chait reveals that his wife works for a charter organization. He does not reveal his close ties with Center for American Progress. His piece tries to overwhelm reader with charts & graphs, and he spends half the ink attacking Andrea Gabor's criticism of New Orleans reform.]

Submitted to New York Magazine but not published

To the editor

Re: How New Orleans Proved Education Reform Can Work by Jonathan Chait

A triumph it's not. When Katrina struck there were 65,000 students enrolled in New Orleans public school system. Today there are 45,000 students enrolled in what replaced that system. There is no reason to believe that the 31 percent who are missing are anything but the poorest of the impoverished pre-Katrina students and, therefore the very least able students.

Any urban district that could shed the poorest 31 percent of its students would experience an instantaneous and enormous spike in the average academic performance of the remaining 69 percent without any change in the performance of any individual student.

If the largest impoverished urban district in my state (Omaha Public Schools) were to experience the loss of its 31 percent least able students, its reading proficiency rate would instantly jump from the current 63 percent to 91 percent, leaving the state average of 77 percent in the dust. This "improvement" would happen without any increase in any academic performance by any of the remaining students.

Average academic “improvement” following the removal of the poorest of the poor students is certainly not a "triumph of social policy." It's what always happens in arithmetic when you reduce the denominator without changing the numerator.

Rob Bligh

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