In the News: February 11, 2014

Debate Over Discipline

The Student-Led Backlash Against New Orleans Charter Schools
The Atlantic – February 5, 2014
Meredith Simons believes that discipline policies at some New Orleans charters, specifically Collegiate Academies, are too strict and not in the best interest of the students or the community. Ms. Simons is a local KIPP elementary school teacher who praises her own school for improving academic outcomes while celebrating the creativity and spirit of celebration that makes New Orleans unique. Collegiate Academies says Ms. Simons misrepresented their school culture. She never visited any of their campuses, and she chose to withhold details of Collegiate’s positive incentives, extracurricular and elective programs, and community partnerships.

Editor’s note: What is lost in this conversation is that students and families in New Orleans have choice. No student is forced to enroll in a particular high school. Students are welcome to visit the campus prior to enrolling, and Collegiate is very transparent about its philosophy, its expectations of students, its discipline policy, and its results. If Collegiate is not the right fit for a student, then that student and family should choose another school.

Sample PARCC Questions Now Available

Department Releases Sample 2015 PARCC Test Questions
Louisiana Department of Education – February 10, 2014
The state has released sample test questions for educators, students, and families to help prepare for the new Common Core assessments. Students in grades 3-8 will take the new English and math assessments, designed by the PARCC Consortium, in the spring of 2015. View sample test questions or view a tutorial on how to use the technology platform.

Why We Need CTE

A Tidal Wave of Jobs
Greater New Orleans Community Data Center – January 30, 2014
The Community Data Center says the massive expansion in petrochemicals, advanced manufacturing, and the energy industry will lead to a wave of new job opportunities in Louisiana. The majority of more than 42,000 new openings will be in occupations that require just a high school degree complemented by various levels of training – such as welders, machinists, and pump operators – and will offer a high median wage between $15 and $35 an hour.

Our Views: For jobs, basic skills
The Advocate – February 8, 2014
The Advocate is enthusiastic about the state’s Jump Start program and its efforts to focus on career education but cautions that today’s programs won’t be able to fill the workplace gaps coming over the next few years. Vocational programs simply cannot ramp up in that way, nor can they fill the gaps in basic education overnight.

Manufacturing Job Growth Prompts K-12 Training Effort
Education Week – February 4, 2014
Many schools are working to meet the demand for manufacturing jobs by modernizing their education programs. Nearly 1,300 public high schools and 1,700 two-year colleges currently offer programs in career-technical education where students learn to use 3-D printers, carve metal, build robots, and use laser and vinyl cutters.

Signaling Job Readiness: Degrees Decline in Value, Alternatives Emerge
Education Week – February 6, 2014
There are many issues facing universities today, including competition from online providers, the declining value of a college degree, and increased acceptance of non-degree credentials. Universities that can adapt to new models of delivery and can provide knowledge and skills that are valued by students and the workplace will have a better chance of surviving in the long term.

Louisiana Headlines

La. leads U.S. for low-income fourth graders not reading proficiently, study says
Greater Baton Rouge Business Report – January 30, 2014
According to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 85% of low-income fourth graders in Louisiana are not reading proficiently, compared to 58% of high-income students. Louisiana is tied with five other states, including Mississippi, for the worst low-income proficiency rate in the country.

ACLU, parents of Buddhist student in N. La. sue Christian educators for religious harassment
Times-Picayune – January 29, 2014
The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit against the Sabine Parish School Board on behalf of a Buddhist family. The lawsuit claims the board violated the right to religious freedom, and says that teachers at Nagreet High School preach Creationism, mock the theory of evolution calling it “a stupid theory,” routinely lead their students in Christian prayer, give extra credit for Christian responses to assignments, and actively question or deride the religious beliefs of non-Christian students and parents. When the family complained, the district superintendent suggested they transfer their son to a school with “more Asians.”

Most La. public schools meet minimum computer standard
The Advocate – February 6, 2014
Forty-seven districts in Louisiana have met the state’s minimum technology standard of one computer for every seven students. Twenty-two districts, including Orleans, are still trying to reach Louisiana’s goal. Louisiana’s technology standards, which also include requirements for Internet speed and bandwidth, are important not just for student learning but also for the implementation of new online testing requirements.

National Stories

Throwing teachers into the ‘Shark Tank’
CNN – February 3, 2014
New Orleans’ own 4.0 Schools is helping teachers and entrepreneurs make their ideas a reality through its Launch program, a two-month accelerator program that provides intensive coaching, workspace, and in-kind resources. Launch culminates in a final pitch night, billed as a “Shark Tank” for teachers, where the entrepreneurs compete for two $10,000 awards. The most recent pitch night was held last month in Brooklyn, New York.

Great English teachers improve students’ math scores
Hechinger Report – January 25, 2014
According to a new working paper called Learning that Lasts, great English teachers not only boost a student’s reading and writing performance in the short term, but they also raise their students’ math and English achievement in future years. Students of good English language arts teachers had higher than expected math scores in subsequent years, although the long-term benefits were smaller in schools dominated by minority and low-income students.

Educators, Researchers Look for Lessons in Blended Learning Algebra Program
Education Week – January 27, 2014
A two-year study of the Cognitive Tutor blended learning program found that in the second year of implementation, high school students using the curriculum’s combination of self-paced software and class-paced textbooks made significant additional learning gains in Algebra compared with students using a traditional Algebra curriculum.

Other States Consider RSD Model

Lawmakers plan district to take failing schools
Sun Herald – January 31, 2014
Mississippi’s legislators are debating a law that would create an “Achievement School District” to take over failing schools.

Kansas City Plan Would Weaken Superintendent’s Office, Expand Charter Schools
Governing – February 3, 2014
Missouri is considering a plan to turnaround failing schools in Kansas City by removing control of all 34 schools from the district and handing over school management to charter operators and nonprofits.

Local News

New Orleans school transportation safety to be examined at public meeting Wednesday (Feb. 12)
Times-Picayune – February 8, 2014
City Hall is sponsoring a public forum on the safety of school transportation. The forum will include representatives from OPSB, RSD, and BESE and will provide time for parents, educators, and other members of the public to share their concerns about the current state of school transportation. The meeting comes in the wake of the hit-and-run death of an Akili Academy first-grader who was fatally injured as he and three siblings crossed four lanes of traffic to reach their bus stop.

N.O. teachers laid off after Katrina notch victory, but payouts could take years
The Advocate – February 1, 2014
The appellate court recently ruled in favor of 7,000 teachers fired after Hurricane Katrina, but the issue is far from resolved. Even if there is no appeal, many questions remain about how many teachers are eligible for damages, how damages will be calculated, and whether or not any damages will ever be paid. Neither OPSB nor the state can be forced to pay on this settlement. Both entities would have to vote to allocate the funds.

Orleans Parish schools superintendent timeline slips one month
Times-Picayune – February 6, 2014
OPSB originally planned to start interviewing candidates for the new school superintendent this month, but interviews have been pushed back to March. Instead, OPSB has scheduled a retreat this month to clarify the board’s roles and responsibilities as well as hiring criteria and job priorities for the new superintendent.

KIPP New Orleans charter school employee embezzled $70,000, audit says
Times-Picayune – February 10, 2014
An employee in the central office of KIPP New Orleans schools embezzled $69,840 in the 2012-13 academic year, according to the organization’s most recent audit. The money has been recovered, the employee was fired, and a criminal investigation is underway.


Turn the Page continues its campaign for literacy. Last week Irvin Mayfield hosted a reading and jazz event for over 100 children at the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library. On March 8, New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon will host another event and read from his favorite children’s book, “J is for Jump Shot.” Turn the Page hopes to make New Orleans the most literate city in America by its 300th birthday in 2018. More information is available at

Congratulations to the Urban League of New Orleans for another successful Schools Expo. The 2014 Schools Expo was held February 1 at the Super Dome, and approximately 95 public and private schools and 85 community groups participated in the event. The Schools Expo is a wonderful resource that helps educate and empower families.


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