In the News – RSD Responds to Civil Rights Complaint

Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 11:49 am

RSD Increases Opportunities for Minority Students

It’s clear: RSD has increased opportunities for minority students
In this letter to the U.S. Department of Education, the RSD outlines how its turnaround strategy has increased educational opportunities for minority students. The RSD serves the majority of African American students in the city. It has seen gains in state test scores and ACT scores and has improved access to high-performing schools through OneApp. On average, students leaving closed RSD schools have enrolled in new schools with an SPS 24.1 points higher than their former school. The U.S. DOE is investigating a civil rights complaint that claims the closing of traditionally run schools unfairly affected minority students.

Trickle Up Government
Harvard Political Review says the leadership vacuum in Washington, D.C. has forced local governments to develop new policy solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems. The Review says New Orleans is a city that is driving innovation in the public sector. They point to RSD’s groundbreaking reforms, which have made New Orleans one of the nation’s most rapidly improving school systems. “Given the persistent struggles many big city school systems have faced for decades, New Orleans’ new approach may fundamentally alter the face of urban education in America.”

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In the News – October 5, 2014

Sunday, October 5, 2014, 11:52 pm

NOLA High Schools 

Most New Orleans public high schools beat the odds, study says
Edit: On October 10, 2014, the Cowen Institute retracted this report saying its methodology was flawed. For more, click here.

Louisiana Headlines

Louisiana has second-strongest charter school initiative in the U.S., report says
Louisiana’s charter schools ranked as the second strongest according to a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Louisiana was praised for having charters that served a higher percentage of low-income students and exhibited higher academic growth than traditional public schools.

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Diversity in School Choice

Friday, October 3, 2014, 2:08 pm

This guest editorial appeared on Nola.com. Nola.com edited it for length, but the full version appears below.

New Orleans charter schools are all the same? Not true: Leslie Jacobs

Diversity_in_School_ChoiceOne key component of New Orleans’ innovative school model is school choice. When schools have to compete for students, they have to perform well or students and parents will choose to go elsewhere. Likewise, choice encourages parents to be more engaged in their child’s education by compelling them to be an active participant in deciding what school their child should attend.

An often repeated critique, however, is that while families have choice, they lack a diversity of choices: New Orleans charters are all the same.

This stereotype was echoed in the recent Cowen Institute report on New Orleans schools, which stated, “the variation in school design is largely limited to high-stakes standards-based teaching and strict discipline policies.”

So is there any truth to this criticism? Are most charter schools in New Orleans carbon copies of each other just focused on tests and discipline?

An argument can be made that statement was true five years ago. It is not true today.

In the early years, many of the charter schools did look alike and were very focused on establishing their school culture, discipline and academic programs.

But one of the key advantages of a decentralized school system is the freedom to innovate and respond to needs quicker and better. Over the past few years, schools have responded to families’ desire for diverse educational and extracurricular opportunities. And new charters continue to recognize gaps in the city’s educational landscape and launch schools to meet these needs.

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In the News – NOLA Wins Kennedy Center Grant

Friday, September 26, 2014, 1:15 pm

N.O. Wins Grant for Arts Education

New Orleans Wins Prestigious Planning Grant for Arts Education
The Kennedy Center has selected New Orleans as the newest city for its Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child initiative, a program designed to help cities address the urgent need to restore arts education in schools. Beginning this month, Kennedy Center staff will work with local leaders to conduct a comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources as well as a needs assessment. Then a plan will be created to bring more access to arts education for all K-8 students.

President Clinton Gives New Orleans a Shout Out!  

Bill Clinton: Charter Schools Must Be Held To ‘The Original Bargain’
Former President Bill Clinton says, “I think it’s really important that you invest in what works. For example, New Orleans has better schools than it had before Hurricane Katrina, and it’s the only public school [district] in America where 100 percent of the schools are charter schools.” But the reforms shouldn’t stop there, he added. Clinton was an early backer of charters and understood the original bargain to be that charters would get more freedom, but if they weren’t outperforming the public model, their charter would not be renewed.

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In the News – A Student’s Point of View

Monday, September 15, 2014, 11:31 am

A Student’s Point of View

Q&A: One Student’s Educational Saga In New Orleans
NPR reports on high school senior Whitman Wilcox, who attended five schools in nine years, beginning with an elementary school in the 9th Ward, followed by a Catholic school in Houston after Katrina, two New Orleans charters, and ending as a senior at St. Augustine’s. Whitman chooses to focus on the positive side of attending so many schools. “I think I got a benefit because I got to work and socialize with multiple types of people.” Wilcox also says he believes the school system is better now than it was before the storm. “The school in your neighborhood might not be up to par,” he says. “You might need to go a few miles away to get a quality education.”

La. Given Poor Academic Rating

Report pans La. public school performance
According to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Louisiana ranks among the lowest in the nation for public school performance. Louisiana received an F for academic achievement, readiness for college and careers, and international competitiveness. The group gave Louisiana a D-plus for the strength of state exams compared to national assessments, a B in teacher preparation, and an A for school choice.

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In the News – September 4, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014, 11:13 am

New Orleans Stories

Stop Saying Market-Based Reform. Please.
In the debate over education reform, the RSD represents either the shining star or cautionary tale of so-called market-based reform efforts. Peter Cook says the RSD isn’t really a market-based model: There are high “barriers to entry” for charter school operators; competition doesn’t force low-performing schools out of the marketplace – government intervention does; and there is significant government oversight and collaboration among schools. Cook says characterizing New Orleans’ transformation as “market-based reform” ignores the motivations of those involved. “It may be hard to conceive that folks could be motivated by ideals rather than profit, but in New Orleans that’s the case.”

The End of Neighborhood Schools
This NPR story focuses on the challenges New Orleans schools and families face nine years after Katrina, including a fairly new centralized enrollment system, student transportation in a district without neighborhood schools, and the difficulties of moving schools from a C performance to an A performance. Editor’s note: This analysis of the NPR story from Peter Cook provides interesting insight into how phrasing and the selective omission of pertinent facts can change a reader’s perception of an issue.

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New Orleans Schools: Then and Now

Friday, August 29, 2014, 9:57 am

In honor of the 9 year anniversary of Katrina, Danielle Dreilinger compiled a snapshot of New Orleans schools then and now.

For those of you who were here before Katrina, it may bring back some interesting memories. For those of you who have moved here since the storm, thanks for being part of the recovery of the city and of our schools.

You can see how far we have come in 9 years … and how far we still have to go.

New Orleans public schools pre-Katrina and now, by the numbers

 

In the News – Immigration Affects N.O. Schools

Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 9:50 am

N.O. Unprepared for Immigrants

New Orleans’ charter school system ill-prepared for jump in Central American immigrants
Public schools in Orleans and Jefferson are facing an unprecedented wave of English-language learners (ELLs), resulting from the rise in immigration from Central American countries, with most students coming from Honduras. This year, an estimated 500 new immigrant students enrolled in New Orleans public schools, a 42% increase over last year’s ELL enrollment. Charter schools with large increases in ELLs are struggling to find Spanish speaking teachers and counselors to meet the needs of these new children and their families.

Measuring Progress

There’s a post-Katrina joie de vivre in New Orleans
The Los Angeles Times looks at the rebirth of New Orleans since Katrina. Signs of this revival include an increase in restaurants (from 809 in 2005 to more than 1,400 today), new music venues and nightclubs, new festivals and the growing success of old favorites, the expansion and renovation of our parks and zoos, and the revitalization of several key neighborhoods.

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In the News – Judge Rules Against Governor

Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 7:06 pm

Judge Rules Against Jindal on Common Core

Common Core proponents scored a major victory today. A Baton Rouge judge found that Gov. Bobby Jindal caused “irreparable harm” to students and schools when he froze Louisiana’s testing vendor contract. The judge said the governor failed to produce any evidence that the Department of Education violated the law when it signed the contract, and he lifted the Jindal administration’s suspension of the contract. The lawsuit was brought by a group of parents, teachers, charter schools and BESE, who argued that the governor was illegally meddling in Common Core implementation. The governor plans to appeal the ruling, and he stated, “This judge is wrong on the facts and the law. Hopefully, he will reconsider this preliminary ruling at the full trial.”

What does this rulings mean? Superintendent John White says the court’s decision will allow schools to “continue their five-year transition to higher expectations.”

Earlier this week, another judge ruled against 17 Louisiana legislators who claimed the state Department of Education and BESE did not follow the law when adopting Common Core. The judge refused to issue a temporary injunction on Common Core implementation. While the legislators can still file for a permanent injunction, the same judge would hear their request, and his ruling strongly rejected every claim the legislators made.

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$2 Mil Grant Opportunity for N.O. Charters

Thursday, August 14, 2014, 8:41 am

GRANT OPPORTUNITY FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS
LOCATED IN ORLEANS PARISH AND PARTICIPATING IN ONEAPP*

BREAKTHROUGH SCHOOLS: NEW ORLEANS PERSONALIZED LEARNING
$2 MILLION IN GRANTS AVAILABLE THIS SCHOOL YEAR

Round One Proposals are due September 15, 2014. Winners will be announced in October.

Personalized Learning (PL) seeks to accelerate student learning by tailoring the instructional environment – what, when, how, and where students learn – to address the individual needs, skills, and interests of each student. Students take ownership of their own learning, while also developing deep personal connections to each other, their teachers, and other adults. Between 2014 and 2017, Breakthrough Schools: New Orleans will distribute approximately $6 million to support the robust integration of personalized learning in schools and classrooms in New Orleans.

This year’s funding will entail two rounds:

Round 1

Grant opportunities ranging from $10,000 to $66,000 will be available in Fall 2014 to prepare schools that are interested in further exploration or in whole-school implementation. Grant funding will be issued to schools interested in any of the following:

  • Further EXPLORATION of Personalized Learning;
  • The development and implementation of a yearlong Personalized Learning PILOT; or
  • The creation of a WHOLE-SCHOOL MODEL PL PLAN.

Free technical assistance will be provided to all grantees.

A Request for Proposals has just been released for the exploration, pilot, and planning grants, and can be accessed hereApplications are due September 15, 2014.

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