In this edition of In the News:
- Voucher Accountability
- Other News on Ed Reforms
- The Common Core Cometh
- National Education Stories
- What’s Paul Vallas Been Up To?
- ACSA Shakeup
- OneApp for OPSB?
- Other Local News
Voucher Program Framework Approved by BESE Panel
KATC – June 18, 2012
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has approved a framework for the new statewide voucher program. The framework does not include accountability standards, which Superintendent John White and the Department of Education will develop separate from BESE, but it does include a cap on how much private schools can raise tuition as they take in voucher students.
Louisiana Officials Are Still Working on How to Assess Private Schools Receiving Vouchers
Times-Picayune – June 14, 2012
Plans to expand the school voucher program statewide are moving ahead, but a key component is still missing. The Louisiana Department of Education is required to come up with “accountability systems for participating students and participating schools” by August 1, but according to Superintendent John White, officials are still working on their accountability plan. A Times-Picayune editorial says accountability rules need to be strong and they need to be in place soon because schools are being approved for vouchers and families have to apply to the program by June 29.
Time to Get Tough on Voucher Schools
American Press – June 13, 2012
Jim Beam says giving parents more school choices and helping students leave failing schools for better ones are worthwhile goals, but voucher schools need to undergo greater scrutiny if the program is going to be successful. Of the schools that have applied to participate in the program, many don’t have much more to offer the students who would qualify for vouchers, and some could be offering less. The media has spotlighted schools in DeRidder, Monroe, Baton Rouge and Ruston that have issues, including financial problems, inadequate staffing, and insufficient classroom space for expansion.
Other News on Ed Reforms
Louisiana’s Bold Bid to Privatize Schools
Reuters – June 1, 2012
Louisiana’s expanded voucher program goes into effect this fall, and Reuters calls it “the nation’s boldest experiment in privatizing public education.” This year, thousands of students are eligible to receive vouchers for the cost of tuition at over 120 private and parochial schools across the state. Next year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers applicable to classes and apprenticeships not offered in traditional public schools.
Voucher Program Lawsuits Grow
Monroe News Star – June 17, 2012
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Teachers and possibly the Louisiana School Boards Association are filing lawsuits against the state claiming that the expanded voucher program is unconstitutional because it allows MFP funding to be given to private and parochial schools. They believe that Louisiana’s constitution forbids MFP spending on anything other than public schools. The OPSB is considering its own lawsuit against the state.
Gov. Bobby Jindal Vetoes Tax Rebates for Donations to Public Schools
Times-Picayune – June 8, 2012
Governor Jindal vetoed House Bill 1106, which would have established tax rebates for donations to low-performing public schools. The Governor vetoed the bill on the basis that there wasn’t a corresponding expense line item in the state’s budget to pay for the rebates.
PAR Issues Commentary on Education Reforms
Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana – June 8, 2012
The Regular Legislative Session included four major pieces of legislation focused on school choice/vouchers, teacher tenure, school tuition organizations, and early childhood education. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana examines each piece of education legislation and provides a helpful summary of the pros, the cons, and what to watch for going forward.
The Common Core Cometh
New Tests Put States on Hot Seat as Scores Plunge
Education Week – June 5, 2012
Many states implemented more rigorous standardized testing this year and are now dealing with the shock of plummeting scores. States are preparing for even tougher assessments based on the Common Core State Standards that will go into effect in 2014. To date, 46 states, including Louisiana, have agreed to adopt the Common Core Standards in English/language arts and 45 in math.
National Education Stories
Districts Experiment With ‘Weighted’ Funding
Education Week – June 12, 2012
Boston, Denver, and Baltimore are among the districts now funding schools based on the numbers and types of students they enroll, which is known as a weighted student formula.
Denver Turnaround Initiative Showing Achievement Gains
Education Week – June 5, 2012
One year into an aggressive and expensive school turnaround initiative, some of Denver’s lowest-performing schools are showing marked academic improvement. The traditional public schools are using the five tenets of high-performing charter schools from Harvard’s Education Innovation Laboratory to provide an education nearly identical to that of the most successful charters.
What’s Paul Vallas Been Up To?
Vallas Group Debuts Turnaround System with Cambium Learning
Wall Street Journal – June 6, 2012
Former RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas is now the Interim Superintendent for Bridgeport, CT public schools. He is also the head of The Vallas Group, which recently partnered with Cambium Learning to bring “The Vallas Turnaround System” – a model for comprehensive and affordable school reform – to struggling schools around the country.
Algiers Charter Schools Association Undergoing Shakeup
Times-Picayune – June 12, 2012
The Algiers Charter School Association (ACSA) is undergoing a major shakeup, with chief executive Andrea Thomas-Reynolds stepping down and new leadership moving to fire some principals, reassign others, and put several on probation. In addition, the ACSA’s board has seen high turnover, and two of its schools are potentially getting new management down the road.
Group Meets to Protest Upheaval in Algiers Charter Schools
Times-Picayune – June 15, 2012
Dozens of parents and community members gathered to protest changes within the Algiers Charter School network. They argued against moves made by interim managers to shake up the network’s principal corps by transferring some school leaders, ousting others, and placing others on probation.
OneApp for OPSB?
Orleans Parish School Board Makes Move Toward Single Application for All Schools
Times-Picayune – June 13, 2012
The Orleans Parish School Board is considering joining with the RSD in a single school application process next year. The RSD implemented its own OneApp this year, which allowed parents to fill out one application for all RSD schools (direct-run and charter), but parents still had to fill out separate applications for the 17 schools under the OPSB. In arecent editorial, the Times-Picayune urges the School Board to join the OneApp process.The Lens reported that OPSB is interested in managing the OneApp process, which the RSD is unlikely to approve.
Other Local News
New Orleans Boasts Rising Test Scores: Critics Ask, Who’s Left Out?
New America Media – June 8, 2012
The most recent test scores show students in New Orleans are steadily improving, but concerns remain that the data doesn’t tell the whole story. Some feel that gains made by individual students aren’t sufficiently represented when a student doesn’t move up a test level (from Approaching Basic to Basic for example). Others believe that higher scores are the result of fewer students with disciplinary problems taking the tests because they have dropped out or been expelled.
Editor’s Note: Expelled students who do not enroll in another school are recorded by the state as dropouts and are included in the drop out data. A recent Educate Now! analysis of drop out data for New Orleans shows drop out rates have fallen significantly since Katrina.
Congressman Exhorts New Orleans NAACP to Assert Itself in Talks on Charter Schools, Crime, Economy
Uptown Messenger – June 9, 2012
U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond told the NAACP that control of the city of New Orleans is slipping out of local hands. He urged the black community to reassert itself on crucial discussions surrounding charter schools, criminal justice, and economic development.
Kira Orange Jones Might Have to Give up BESE Seat
Times-Picayune – June 14, 2012
Kira Orange Jones recently requested an opinion from the Louisiana Ethics Administration on whether she can simultaneously sit on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and keep her job as director of Teach for America New Orleans as TFA holds a $1 million state contract with the Department of Education that requires BESE approval. In a draft opinion, the Ethics Administration found that this would be a conflict of interest. Orange Jones’ attorney maintains that the ethics law allows Orange Jones to recuse herself from any vote involving TFA, because TFA’s contract is with the state Department of Education and not with BESE.