Schools Need Your Help

Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 6:54 pm

Times-Picayune and Gambit have both come out in support of the school facility millage on December 6th.

  • Before the flood, many schools in New Orleans were old and in deplorable shape because of years of deferred maintenance. There was no dedicated stream of revenue for repairs. It would be a terrible waste to allow that to happen again with the schools being built or refurbished post-Katrina.
  • This proposition will NOT increase your taxes: The 4.97 mill tax currently received by schools to pay construction bond debt would be redirected gradually (when not needed to pay the bonds) and dedicated to facility preservation. Your taxes will not increase.

Help pass the millage – What YOU can do:

  • VOTE on December 6th! Turnout looks to be low, so every vote is important.
  • Share this information with your friends.
  • Put up a yard sign. Email me at ljacobs@educatenow.net, and I will get you one.

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News Alert: Supreme Court Dismisses Fired Teacher Lawsuit

Saturday, November 1, 2014, 10:49 am

The Louisiana Supreme Court has dismissed the lawsuit by OPSB teachers and staff who said they were illegally terminated after Hurricane Katrina.

Read more in this Times-Picayune article.

And for those who are interested, the ruling contains a very good summary of the events post Katrina.

 

2014 School Scores Released

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:34 pm

School Performance Scores Released
2013-14 a stand still year

New Orleans hit the pause button this year. After 7 years of robust growth in school performance, 2013-14 remained flat.

 Variability in School Scores

While overall city performance was unchanged, individual school scores varied a great deal from 2013 to 2014. Of the 63 schools that received a letter grade in 2013 and 2014, almost half had a letter grade change: 11 moved up and 19 went down.

  • K-8 scores were impacted by a decrease in progress (bonus) points. Schools earn progress points by improving the performance of non-proficient students more than expected. This year the state changed the rules and made it more difficult to earn progress points1, so only five K-8 schools received the maximum of 10 points, whereas twenty-three received the maximum last year.
  • 2014 K-8 scores also reflect the migration to Common Core standards. In the spring of 2014, students took LEAP and iLEAP tests that were Common Core aligned. (Students will transition to the new PARCC tests in 2015, unless this is changed by the current litigation.) While the state “curved” the letter grades so the distribution remained the same statewide2, the test results in the spring clearly showed some schools adapted to the new standards better than others.
  • Finally, beginning in 2013, the state increased the inherent volatility of school scores and letter grades by using only one year of data to calculate letter grades instead of averaging two years of data.

School Performance Scores 

Despite the variability in individual school grades, the overall grade distribution is about the same as last year.

  • Two-thirds of students attended a school with a letter grade of A, B or C.
  • 5% attended a school with a letter grade of F.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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