$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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In the News – Amazing Recovery

Wednesday, August 13, 2014, 8:27 am

New Orleans in the News

Amazing Recovery
The Recovery School District is remarkable for the gains it has made in student and school performance and also for the fact that state and district leaders have been so willing to give up operational power. Government agencies typically mushroom in size, not downsize, but the RSD has allowed academic and budget decisions to be made by school-based leaders.

Great Expectations in New Orleans
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) conducted a case study of New Orleans schools to determine what lessons could be learned about charter school authorizing. NACSA concluded that New Orleans’ successful authorizing process involves high standards, increased community engagement, and greater accountability. View a quick summary of NACSA’s Lessons Learned.

New Orleans’ Recovery system changes heighten charter school debate, NPR reports
As a new school year begins, NPR’s Claudio Sanchez visited New Orleans schools. He interviewed a school principal, two teachers and the head of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, who discuss the changes they have seen, some of the successes that have come from charters and school choice, and the challenges still faced by New Orleans schools.

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In the News – BESE is Suing the Governor

Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 8:02 am

Common Core: What’s Happening Now?

Yesterday, BESE voted to challenge Jindal on Common Core by joining a lawsuit filed by several parents and teachers from Orleans, Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes and the Choice Foundation charter group. This lawsuit claims that Jindal has overstepped constitutional boundaries in his fight with BESE over contracts and tests.

The governor responded by filing his own lawsuit against BESE, claiming the Memorandum of Understanding with PARCC (which he signed) is unconstitutional because, “it offends state sovereignty by attempting to improperly delegate the constitutional authority of BESE and the Legislature to a “consortium” of other states.”

Prior to these actions, over the last couple of weeks:

Governor Jindal met with Superintendent John White (nothing came of the meeting), and he rejected BESE’s compromise proposal for student testing through 2016 saying the proposal wasn’t consistent with the state’s procurement code. Lafayette’s The Advertiser called BESE’s proposal a “reasonable solution, offered in good faith.”

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PAR Common Core Commentary

Thursday, July 17, 2014, 8:19 am

The Public Affairs Research Council released an excellent summary of the pending crisis in student testing and school accountability and the role Governor Bobby Jindal has played in this state-manufactured crisis.

PAR Logo

Leadership and Crisis in Education

In the fight over Common Core, Louisiana state government is
failing its citizens and the governor is chiefly responsible

Louisiana state government is failing its duty to provide leadership and accountability for public school education in the upcoming academic year. The situation has reached a crisis level with serious potential consequences for students, parents, teachers and all of us as stakeholders in the future of Louisiana. This was a crisis of choice and the clearest responsibility for it lies with the governor. 

Read more …

In the News – Summer News Updates

Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 11:04 pm

News on High School Performance

New Orleans high school exam results, graduation rate near state average
Since Katrina, New Orleans has gone from having the worst public schools in the state to performing close to the state average on high school End of Course exams. Eighty-six percent of students passed their tests, and 61% met the higher bar of proficiency. The state averages were 88% passing and 62% proficient. And while New Orleans graduation rate dropped to 72.8%, it was close to the record high state average of 73.5%.

Record-high graduation rate, slight test-score increase reported for Louisiana high schools
Louisiana’s high school students saw gains in three key performance areas: End of Course exams, ACT scores and the 4-year cohort graduation rate.

Latest News on Common Core

After Governor Jindal issued his executive orders and suspended the Department of Education’s contract with its testing vendor to prevent Louisiana’s implementation of Common Core, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to hire outside legal counsel for guidance and a possible lawsuit against the governor.

BESE’s plan could be derailed, however, because they may need the governor’s approval to hire legal counsel. Any state agency, board or commission that hires outside lawyers must get written approval from the attorney general and the governor. In addition, the Jindal administration recently notified Superintendent John White that he could no longer approve contracts for more than $2,000.

Read More »

High School Performance

Friday, July 11, 2014, 6:58 pm

The state has released data on high school performance.

The Really Good News

New Orleans showed robust growth on the End of Course Tests (EOCs).

  • New Orleans1 (OPSB & RSD) is 8th in improvement in the state, with 59% of students proficient (scoring Excellent or Good) compared to 52% in 2013.
  • This is a jump of 7 percentage points; the state improved 3 points, from 59% to 62% proficient.
  • Compared to the other 69 districts, New Orleans is now #37, up from #47 last year (up 11 spots).
  • When we look at all New Orleans2, including Type 2 charters and NOCCA, 61% of students are proficient, just 1 point below the state average.

The state has been phasing in the EOCs by testing more subjects each year. This year, for the first time, all six subjects were tested: Algebra, Biology, English II, English III, Geometry and U.S. History. Since 2011, New Orleans has improved 14 points, while the state has improved 7 points.

Percent of Students (OPSB & RSD) Proficient
2012-2014_EOC_Percent_Proficient_NO_v_State-2

See below for EOC performance by school.

The Really Good News (part 2)

New Orleans students improved on the ACT

All students are now required to take the ACT. Many take it multiple times, and ACT uses their highest score.

  • Looking at all New Orleans high schools, 50% of students scored an 18 or higher, up 6 points from 44% in 2013.
  • Statewide, 59% of Louisiana students scored an 18 or higher, a 1 point gain from 2013.
  • 18 is the score that ACT says is aligned with college success.

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In the News – Superintendent Search Stalled (again)

Sunday, June 29, 2014, 8:47 pm

New Orleans Superintendent Search – Stalled

In Orleans Parish schools, two years of drift, missed opportunities
Stan Smith has been OPSB’s Interim Superintendent for two years, much longer than anyone expected, and longer than what is probably healthy for the district. The Times-Picayune spoke with academics, consultants and school officials, who all say the district is drifting – wasting an opportunity to re-envision itself and possibly to bring the city’s schools back together again.

Impasse on Orleans Parish superintendent search; president criticized for construction contract
At its last meeting, OPSB voted not to proceed with either of the two finalists for the superintendent’s position – Kriner Cash, former Memphis superintendent, and Edmond Heatley, most recently education minister of Bermuda. A third finalist, Veronica Conforme, former New York City schools chief operating officer, dropped out of the running just before the meeting. The meeting was dominated by fallout from the board’s approval of a construction contract that included family members of President Nolan Marshall Jr. as subcontractors on the job. Marshall said he has asked U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite to investigate the situation to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

Radio show erupts into argument between Orleans Parish School Board members
The personal animosity between OPSB President Nolan Marshall Jr. and board member Ira Thomas shone through in a in a recent interview on WBOK radio as the two hurled accusations at one another.

Common Core Updates

Politics do make strange bedfellows:

The Louisiana Association of Educators came out in support of Governor Jindal while Dan Juneau, the former President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry for over 25 years, called Bobby Jindal’s attempts to scuttle Common Core “shameful.”

Higher Ed weighs in:

Louisiana’s Board of Regents has advised its colleges of education to continue to prepare teachers to teach to the Common Core.

 It is still about the tests:

As Educate Now! outlined in its recent blog post, the governor cannot force BESE to adopt new standards. His focus is on preventing the state from using test questions developed by a “consortium of states.” This would stop BESE from using PARCC or Smarter Balance test questions that are aligned with Common Core and that allow Louisiana to compare the performance of its students to other students across the country.

The governor suspended the contract of the test vendor, DRC. This suspension led Superintendent John White to notify districts that the summer retest could not be graded because DRC’s contract includes grading of all tests. The Jindal administration then “clarified” their suspension saying it only applies to preventing the contractor from purchasing test questions from the two state consortiums.

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Cowen’s 2014 Poll: What Do Voters Think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 5:49 pm

With the RSD becoming the first all charter district, there have been lots of assertions in the media about how New Orleanians view public education reforms. Tulane’s Cowen Institute recently released its 2014 opinion poll, and comparing these results with prior polls provides some insight based on survey results versus speculation.

School Choice

Voters generally think choice has had a positive impact on schools.

In 2014, Cowen asked if “choice has had a positive, negative or no impact on the quality of education in New Orleans.”

  • 53% said positive
  • 20% said negative
  • 27% said no opinion, no impact or some positive and some negative

Voters support OneApp.

When asked if all public schools in New Orleans should use a common application process,

  • 79% of voters agreed
  • 12% disagreed
  • 9% were uncertain or refused to answer

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Common Core: What happened last week?

Sunday, June 22, 2014, 6:30 pm

Latest on Common Core – Round 2 

Last week, Governor Bobby Jindal played to his national ambitions and announced his plans to take Louisiana out of Common Core and PARCC. The Louisiana Department of Education and the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) responded saying they plan to stay the course on Common Core and PARCC, resulting in confusion among educators and the public.

Educate Now! will try and cut through the clutter and distill the salient points.

First, a primer: 

Standards: What we expect students to know and be able to do. In the past, every state had its own standards, but in 2010, BESE adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along with more than forty other states.

Curriculum: What teachers use in the classroom to teach the standards. Districts, schools and teachers have the autonomy to pick the actual teaching materials and manner in which they want to teach. The state has issued curriculum guides to assist educators, but there is no set national or state curriculum.

Tests: How we assess student mastery of the standards. Well-designed tests are expensive and take time to develop. Louisiana joined a consortium of states to create the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC test, while a different consortium of states created the Smarter Balance test. Both groups began working on the tests in 2010 and field tested questions for quality and rigor in 2013 and 2014. Fifty thousand Louisiana students took a PARCC field test this year, giving schools experience in administering the test while further “testing” the questions for quality, clarity and rigor.

Now to last week’s events … 

Common Core: The governor will not win this one.

The standards are still in place, and the governor cannot force BESE to adopt new standards. While Jindal’s executive order asked the legislature to adopt new standards, he cannot require them to do so, and the legislature just rejected this request last session.

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Can the Governor Derail Common Core?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 5:50 pm

Common Core: Governor v. the People

The Louisiana Legislature, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the State Superintendent of Education have stood strong in support of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests.

On June 6, after Gov. Jindal failed in his efforts to kill CCSS and PARCC during the legislative session, he stated, “It is time for the Department of Education to come up with a Plan B … I am committed to getting us out of PARCC, out of Common Core.”

The question is … does Jindal have the constitutional authority to unilaterally get the state out of Common Core and PARCC?

First, BESE has the constitutional authority to enact the standards and select the test. 

BESE “shall supervise and control the public elementary and secondary schools … as provided by law.”

Second, the law clearly provides for CCSS and PARCC, and every attempt to change the law this session was defeated. The law states:

“Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, standards-based assessments implemented by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in English language arts and mathematics shall be based on nationally recognized content standards … Rigorous student achievement standards shall be set with reference to test scores of the same grade levels nationally.”

So, by what means could Jindal thwart this authority?

Educate Now! is skeptical that the governor can force BESE to drop Common Core and adopt new standards. Even if he convened a commission to write new standards, BESE would not have to adopt them. He would likely focus on eliminating the PARCC tests because Common Core standards without tests aligned to these standards would be pretty meaningless.

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