Latest Cohort Graduation Rates Released

4-Year Cohort Graduation Rates Released

The Orleans Parish School Board and Recovery School District have released the latest 4-year cohort graduation rates. The citywide 4-year graduation rate was 72.1% for the class of 2016,1 a drop of 3.3 percentage points from 2015. Twenty percent of the students who did not graduate in four years remained in school and were enrolled for a fifth year in the fall of 2016.  

Statewide, the graduation rate fell from 77.5% to 77%.

While the graduation rate of 72.1% is a huge improvement from the 54% graduation rate in 2005, these results are still disappointing. We are not graduating 1 in 4 students, even including students who take longer than 4 years to graduate, and the gap to the state average is getting larger, not smaller.

Need to Get Better

The unification of the schools under OPSB represents a new chapter in public education and the opportunity for some new strategies. To improve the graduation rate, we need to:

  • Begin using data to identify drop outs in real time. By October, we can identify students who should be enrolled in school but are not. This information needs to be generated by the central office, as any individual school does not know if a student has dropped out or decided to attend another school. Once we know in a timely fashion which students dropped out, the district can partner with schools and other agencies to find these students and get them re-enrolled.
  • Diversify our high schools. We need more alternative high schools to better address struggling students’ needs. We also need more high schools that offer meaningful career-technical education for interested students.
  • Work to expand access to mental and behavioral health care for students before and during high school. Schools cannot do it alone.
  • Improve our K-8 performance, as discussed below.

Comparing New Orleans to Other Districts

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ICYMI: What New Orleans Thinks of Its Schools

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What New Orleans Thinks of Its Public Schools

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has released the results of its citywide survey, and the Cowen Institute has released its report on their annual public perceptions poll. The results were very consistent between the two. 

This chart from OBSB’s report shows roughly one quarter of respondents in both surveys would give the public school system an A or B grade, and around 65 percent of respondents in both surveys would give the public school system an A, B, or C.

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ICYMI: Education in Trump’s First 100 Days

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Education in Trump’s First 100 Days

The Fordham Institute looks at education in President Trump’s first 100 days to see what has changed and what might change in public education. Some of the early changes enacted by the Trump administration include: eliminating school accountability regulations in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, relaxing school lunch standards, rolling back protections for people who default on student loans, and reversing bathroom access guidelines for public schools.

The Trump administration continues to promote school choice, including charter schools and vouchers. Voucher opponents will use a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education of the Washington, DC, voucher program as ammunition to oppose vouchers. This study found students lost ground in their first year in private schools (compared to non-voucher students), as have recent studies in Louisiana, Ohio, and Indiana. Charter schools fared much better in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual high school rankings, with 6 of the top ten and 34 of the top hundred schools being charters.

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ICYMI: All-Charter District on Hold (for now)

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Update on District-Run Schools

The New Orleans public school system is not going all-charter – at least not this year. Eleanor McMain will be chartered by InspireNOLA, but Ben Franklin Elementary, Mary Bethune, McDonogh 35, and Mahlia Jackson will continue to be run by the district through the 2017-18 school year.

Last week, Exceed charter group withdrew its charter application after outside consultants said its application fell short. OPSB approved InspireNOLA’s application to charter Eleanor McMain.  

The Superintendent recommended and an OPSB committee approved closing Mahalia Jackson Elementary at the end of the 2017-18 school year, but the full board deferred action on the final decision at its meeting last week.   

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ICYMI: BESE approves school accountability plan

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BESE Approves White’s ESSA Plan

After a contentious, six hour hearing, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved Supt. John White’s plan for overhauling Louisiana schools – the first step in complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). BESE also approved submitting the plan to federal officials for review in April and not delaying until September as the governor wanted.

The accountability framework adopted by BESE will:

  • Increase the weight given to student academic growth in calculating school performance scores to 25% and include the growth of all students
  • Eliminate the curve (which freezes the percent of D and F schools at the 2013 level) and replace it with a phase in of the new standards
  • Trim standardized testing
  • Devote some federal Title One funds to struggling schools in rural areas

Critics of the plan called for a five month delay, saying there should be more input from stakeholders, but White said his agency has held 136 meetings on ESSA and there will still be months to get input and debate changes to the plan before it would be implemented in the 2017-18 school year.

Patrick Dobard Leaves the RSD

Patrick Dobard is stepping down as superintendent of the Recovery School District. Dobard, a New Orleans native, will continue his work for public school students as CEO of New Schools for New Orleans. During his six years as head of the RSD, schools not only improved academically but also developed essential structures such as the OneApp enrollment system, unified expulsion procedures, and the systemic reduction in out-of-school suspensions. 

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Career Expo Success for YouthForce Expo

YouthForce NOLA Inaugural Career Expo Draws Over 2000 Students, 60 Businesses

Livingston Students Practice CPR

YouthForce NOLA teamed up with Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans and Greater New Orleans, Inc., Thursday, March 9, to host a Career Expo to pair public high school sophomores with health science, information technology, and skilled craft employers.

Xavier University’s Convocation Center buzzed with energy as students engaged with employers to learn about different industries and careers.
“The Career Expo is a great motivational tool for our students,” said Warren Easton Charter HighSchool CEO/Principal Alexina Medley.  Continue reading

ICYMI: Trump and K-12 Education

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Trump and K-12 Education

In his first address to Congress, President Trump urged Congress to dramatically expand school choice. Two days later, at a Catholic school in Florida, Trump and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, reaffirmed their commitment to choice.

The President is considering a federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions to families who want to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. Critics on the right worry this would increase the federal government’s role in education and pressure states to standardize state tax credit programs. Public school advocates say it’s a voucher program in disguise that would divert tax dollars from struggling public schools.

In an opinion piece for CNN, Andre Perry says DeVos should start by addressing the flaws of charter schools and vouchers, which she helped create. A new study of national and international voucher programs found no evidence that school vouchers offer students significant academic advantages or are a proven education reform strategy. Louisiana’s voucher program received a D for 2016, performing worse than all but three public school districts.
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Debating School Performance Measures

How Should We Measure School Performance?

As BESE gets ready to vote later this month on a new school accountability model for Louisiana, one key issue has been how much weight should be given to student growth in determining a school’s letter grade. This question has generated a lot of discussion and contention.

The superintendent and the Accountability Commission have recommended that student growth count for 25% of the school performance score for K-8 schools and 12.5% for high schools. Nine education and business groups criticized this recommendation, saying it would over-emphasize student progress and could mislead parents and the public about a school’s performance. In a guest column in the Advocate, Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute disagreed with their assessment, saying academic growth is actually a more accurate reflection of teacher and school performance.

Why the debate?

At a high level, there are two ways to use test results to judge a school. One is by status: How do students perform at a particular moment in time. The other is growth: How well has the school improved student performance over the course of the year. Both measurements are valid, but they measure different things.

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ICYMI: ESSA plan available for public comment

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ESSA Updates 

An updated framework of Louisiana’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is available for public comment. The revised framework from state Superintendent John White details possible changes to how school performance is rated and how local school systems can apply for federal funding. 

White’s ESSA plan includes less mandatory testing in public schools, but there is debate over how much testing should be reduced. White recommends modest changes; the governor’s panel favors much more, including an end to annual science testing in third through eighth grades; and teachers disagree over whether fewer tests will downgrade the importance of key subjects, especially science.

Other ESSA recommendations are stirring controversy, including how much weight should be given to student growth and how to phase in higher standards over time (whether schools should be graded on a curve).

Other Louisiana News

To address this year’s budget shortfall and to reduce the amount of rainy day funds used to plug the deficit, Louisiana House Republicans have proposed two plans that include mid-year cuts to K-12 education.

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Helping Students and Schools Affected by Tornadoes

Tuesday’s devastating tornadoes impacted the lives of students, teachers and school staff in New Orleans East. Here are some ways you can help.

Donate Funds

ReNEW Schools has started a Tornado Relief Fund to help students from ReNEW Schaumberg Elementary, which suffered extensive tornado damage, as well as other ReNEW students impacted by the tornadoes.

Einstein Charter Schools has started a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay for school uniforms, school supplies, and other supports for their affected students, families, and teachers.

Communities in Schools New Orleans is accepting donations to support the specific needs of students and families from ReNEW Schaumberg and their other affiliated schools who were affected.

New Schools for New Orleans is collecting funds to support public school families. 100% of donations will go towards purchasing gift cards for families in need.

The American Red Cross is accepting donations to support their efforts to meet short term and long term housing needs.

The Greater New Orleans Foundation has opened the Helping Our Neighbors: Tornado Relief Fund to provide support to nonprofit organizations in the Greater New Orleans area providing assistance to affected families.

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