In the News – April 13, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014, 9:25 pm

Smart New Orleans

Smart Cities: New Orleans
Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart has named New Orleans one of its “Smart Cities.” Vander Ark says the combination of innovative schools, a focus on talent development and recruitment, investments in individualized learning, EdTech startups, and the entrepreneurial environment is improving student performance and empowering parents. The innovation and success in New Orleans is “one of the best examples of what’s possible in urban education.”

Success in the New Economy

How Prospective College Students Can Gain a Competitive Advantage
If you have 10 minutes, watch this video – It is excellent! It makes a compelling case for students to explore career choices early, make informed decisions when declaring their college goals, and consider acquiring technical skills with real-world applications in tandem with a classic education.

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Court Rules Schools Don’t Have to Return

Thursday, April 3, 2014, 10:48 pm

By refusing to hear further appeal, the Louisiana Supreme Court has put an end to OPSB’s lawsuit against the state, which argued schools should be returned automatically to local control after five years if they are no longer failing.

In 2010, BESE decided each charter board had the right to decide whether it wanted to leave the RSD and return to local control. (So far, none has done so.) OPSB argued that keeping schools indefinitely exceeded the state’s constitutional authority, but the board lost its case in district court and again on appeal.

Read more in this article from the Times-Picayune.


In the News – April 3, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014, 10:41 pm

Breaking News …

Panel rejects Jindal-backed bill to kill Common Core
The House Education Committee has rejected two bills that would have effectively scrapped Common Core in Louisiana, even though both were supported by the governor. House Bill 381 would have required the state to draft new standards to replace Common Core. House Bill 558 would have prohibited the state from using the Common Core assessments known as PARCC. Both were rejected in a 12-7 vote.  Editor’s note: Thank you to the members of the House Education Committee who voted against these two bills.

Brainpower City

America’s New Brainpower Cities
According to Forbes Magazine, New Orleans ties San Antonio for America’s #1 “Brain Hub” – a metropolitan area that is rapidly gaining college graduates. Between 2007 and 2012, New Orleans gained 44,005 college grads – a 20.3% gain. The gain is not just a returning Katrina-displaced population. College educated people are looking for affordable cities with cultural and natural amenities and strong economies, which New Orleans offers.

Charter Schools

The Charter School Performance Breakout
The Wall Street Journal says the claim that charters perform no better than conventional schools is out of date and inaccurate. The Journal points to recent studies that show closing weak charters and replicating strong charters is having powerful effects across the country. In New York City, the average charter school student now absorbs five months of extra learning a year in math and one extra month in reading, compared to conventional schools students. At KIPP schools, the largest national charter group, 86% of all students are low-income, 93% are African-American or Latino, and 83% go to college.

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In the News – March 26, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 10:32 pm

Common Core – Does it Cometh?

Field-Testing Set to Begin on Common Core Exams
National field-testing has begun on Common Core assessments. Over the next three weeks, more than 4 million students in 36 states, including Louisiana, will take new math and English language arts assessments from PARCC and Smarter Balanced. Results will be used to determine if there are questions that might confuse or overwhelm students and also whether or not schools have the technological capacity to handle large-scale, computer-based testing.

In honor of the hundreds of Louisiana students field testing PARCC this week, the Times-Picayune is publishing sample questions. will post a new question online each day just before noon and post the answer the following day.

There’s a new sheriff in town: Louisiana judges Common Core alignment
Education Gadfly is impressed by Louisiana’s review of Common Core curricula. Gadfly says Louisiana’s detailed analysis of available resources, which rates each resource based on how well it is aligned with Common Core, “shows how state leaders can send powerful signals to the marketplace about what teachers and students in their states need to meet the demands of state standards.”

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In the News: March 16, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014, 12:18 pm

New York Should Look to New Orleans

The Big Easy
The New York Post believes Mayor Bill de Blasio should look to New Orleans to see how a school system based on choice and charters can boost achievement and reduce inequality. In New Orleans, says the Post, the emphasis is not on who is providing the education but who can deliver results, and multiple performance measures – improved test scores, fewer failing schools, and higher graduation rates – show New Orleans is headed in the right direction.

Top of the News

City’s two public school systems reach landmark agreement
OPSB and RSD have reached a landmark deal aimed at shoring up services for the city’s neediest children and sorting out how to manage the supply of school buildings. This cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) addresses the needs of high risk students, outlining who will provide the services and how they will be paid for, including operating a truancy center, transitions for court-involved students, expanding therapeutic settings for students with severe mental health needs, and funding for very expensive special needs students. The agreement also addresses facility issues and the need for citywide planning on the number and types of schools. Editor’s note: This agreement was approved in OPSB committee and goes before the board on Tuesday. Educate Now! applauds OPSB and RSD for this effort. By working collaboratively, they have resolved a number of key issues to better serve students citywide.

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In the News: March 4, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 10:05 am

Going All In

New Orleans goes all in on charter schools. Is it showing the way?
No other U.S. city has gone so far down the charter school path as New Orleans, where nine in ten students go to charters. The Christian Science Monitor examines the results so far, including our successes – 77.8% of the class of 2012 graduated within four years, up from just over 54% in 2004, and only 17% of students attended a failing school in 2012-13, down from 75% in 2004-05 – and also our challenges – not all schools are participating in the centralized enrollment system, and some parents of students with disabilities still struggle to find a school that can serve their children’s needs.

Louisiana Headlines

Career education overhaul proposed
The Louisiana Department of Education released its final proposal for the Jump Start program, which will provide career courses and workplace experiences to high school students and certify them in fields most likely to lead to high wage jobs. School districts, two-year colleges, and private firms will form regional teams to develop a curriculum that combines approved courses and workplace training for students. Schools will be rewarded in the high school accountability system for students who achieve high marks in both two-year and four-year college pathways while still in high school. In a letter to the editor, Superintendent John White says that we owe our students a chance for opportunity and upward mobility and that Jump Start will benefit students and Louisiana industry.

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In the News: February 23, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014, 10:23 pm

Looking to New Orleans

New Orleans school reform could serve as model for KCPS
KSHB Kansas City – February 17, 2014
The education think tank CEE-Trust has developed a plan for taking over Kansas City Public Schools (should the state of Missouri choose to intervene) that borrows heavily from New Orleans – decentralizing school control and giving educators the freedom to run schools as they choose while holding them to strong performance accountability standards.

‘Educare New Orleans’ a poster program for closing the education gap
Minnesota Post – February 17, 2014
The Minnesota Post says Educare New Orleans could serve as a model for high-quality early childhood education. The 27,000-square-foot facility, located on the site of the former St. Bernard housing project in Gentilly, opened in October and serves 150 low-income children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years and their families. Educare is a national program with 19 early childhood centers throughout the country.

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In the News: February 11, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 10:04 pm

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.

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In the News: January 28, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 7:44 pm

New President for OPSB

Q & A: Nolan Marshall Jr. says he aims to build consensus as OPSB president
The Lens – January 21, 2014
Nolan Marshall, Jr. has been elected the new president of OPSB. Marshall says he wants to build consensus on the board rather than oversee conflict, and he wants to keep reaching out to charter schools in the hope of bringing them back to local control. Marshall also says he believes in promoting policies that encourage contracting with disadvantaged businesses, and he supports reducing the number of elected school board members and adding people appointed by the mayor and the governor to the board. Reaction to Marshall’s election has been generally positive, with most hoping that Marshall will continue to be a voice of reason who will help smooth disagreements on a polarized board. For more on Marshall’s election, read this article in the Times-Picayune.

MFP Lawsuit: Is it time to pay attention?

Baton Rouge judge denies class action status for St. John School Board suit against state
Times-Picayune – January 27, 2014
A lawsuit filed against the state of Louisiana argues that because the public school funding formula, the MFP, was not correctly approved by the legislature for three years, the state should revert to a prior formula, which included an annual 2.75% increase in funding to cover inflation. If the suit is successful, the state could owe districts three years of retroactive MFP, or close to $200 million. The plaintiffs were seeking class action status, and 44 of Louisiana’s 69 districts had voted to opt in, but a District Court judge ruled against class action status. He said it would have forced all districts and other LEAs (e.g., charters) to opt in, whether they wanted to or not. Editor’s note: Now that it won’t be a class action lawsuit, Educate Now! urges any charter that is its own LEA to determine whether it has to be a plaintiff in order to benefit if the litigation is successful.

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Court Rules in Favor of Teachers Fired After Katrina

Sunday, January 26, 2014, 7:16 pm

What does it mean for New Orleans schools?

The appellate court recently issued a unanimous ruling in favor of the 7,000 OPSB employees (teachers and support workers) who were terminated in the aftermath of Katrina (Oliver vs. OPSB). Educate Now! has received lots of questions regarding the ruling and its impact on the continuing operation of schools, especially since the media has implied that the judgment could bankrupt the school system. Here is what we know.

What did the ruling say? 

  • The appeal court ruled that while the Orleans Parish School Board had the right to execute a reduction in force after Katrina, it failed to create a recall list based on seniority by position – violating its policy and depriving employees of their constitutionally protected property right to be recalled as schools reopened. The court awarded two years of lost wages and benefits, offset by unemployment compensation and other earnings received by the terminated employees during the time in question.

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