Governance

Reflecting on 2015

Looking Back: 2015

2015 was a pivotal year for public education in New Orleans. In retrospect, it will mark a turning point in creating a more united system of public schools and blurring the difference between OPSB and RSD schools in New Orleans.

Unifying our system of schools

In 2015, OPSB and the state addressed some core issues that had created schisms. Resolving these issues will create a more stable, equitable, and shared foundation for the city’s system of schools going forward.

OPSB turns a new page

In January 2015, Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) finally selected a superintendent, Dr. Henderson Lewis. In March, Ira Thomas resigned from OPSB and subsequently pled guilty to taking bribes. With Thomas’ departure and a new superintendent, the OPSB quit fighting and supported Dr. Lewis’ efforts to reorganize its central office to better oversee a system of autonomous charter schools.

OPSB adopts key policies
  • OneApp and Transportation: OPSB passed policy HA, which created clear and consistent policies for all OPSB charters, including the requirement that all OPSB charters participate in OneApp (as their charters renew) and provide transportation.
  • Fund balance (reserves): OPSB made another, equally important policy change that received a lot less attention. It limited how it can spend its fund balance going forward, restricting more than 90% of the current fund balance ($45 million+) to emergencies and other “unforeseen, exceptional circumstances” and for the needs of the system as a whole (all public schools in Orleans Parish).

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Kudos to OPSB

OPSB took a huge step forward last week by passing a strong charter school policy (Policy HA).

Policy HA was needed because OPSB did not have clear and consistent rules governing charter school operations. As a result, some OPSB charters participate in the city’s common enrollment system; others do not. Some provide transportation; others do not. And some have negotiated special neighborhood preferences that are different from the citywide zones that almost all other schools in the city use. These different rules fostered distrust between schools and confusion for parents trying to navigate the system of schools. (Note: The RSD requires all of its charter schools to participate in EnrollNOLA (OneApp) and to provide transportation.)

For OPSB to be a good authorizer and regulator of charter schools, it needed policy that created consistent rules for everyone and a framework for new charter schools. Policy HA lays an excellent foundation.

Highlights
 
New Charter Schools: Going forward, all new charter schools authorized by OPSB:
  • Must provide transportation.
  • Must participate in the citywide enrollment system (OneApp/EnrollNOLA).
  • Cannot have a neighborhood attendance zone different than the zones in the citywide enrollment plan.
  • Cannot be academically selective.
  • Can, as part of its initial charter application, have non-academic admission criteria, tied into its mission and scope. For example, Cypress Academy has a mission-specific focus on early intervention in reading and reserves spaces for students with dyslexia.

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By the Numbers: Who Is Leading Our Schools?

By the Numbers: Who is Leading Our Schools?

There has been a lot of talk – from both friends and foes of New Orleans K-12 Ed Reform – about outsiders coming in to run the schools. So, Educate Now! surveyed every OPSB and RSD school, direct run and charter, to get a profile of who is leading our schools and whether they were here before the levees broke.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

There are 77 schools for the 2015-16 school year and 85 school leaders, as some schools have more than one leader.

2015 School Leaders
District African-
American
White Other Lived in N.O.
pre-Katrina
RSD-NO
30 24 4 26
OPSB
13 13 1 21
New Orleans
43 37 5 47
Percent
51% 43% 6% 55%

The education reforms post-Katrina have been the work of veteran and new educators, and the work of New Orleanians who were here before the storm as well as others who moved here to be part of rebuilding a great city.

Our educators are more ethnically diverse, but a majority of our school leaders and a majority of our teachers are still African-American.

As we commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and the beginning of another school year, I hope we can join together to celebrate the remarkable progress that has been made in our schools and thank all of our teachers and administrators, both those from New Orleans and those who moved here more recently, as they work tirelessly to provide educational opportunities for our students.

N.O.’s Expulsion Rate Below State Average

New Orleans’ Expulsion Rate is Below the State Average

In 2014-15, the Student Hearing Office worked with schools, students, and advocates to refine expulsion policies for New Orleans. Discipline conferences are now used as an intervention prior to expulsion and are keeping more students in school. Additionally, student offenses are tiered based on severity of behavior to better differentiate consequences.

The Results:

  • The number of expulsions fell from 231 to 199, even as student enrollment across the city increased.
  • The expulsion rate dropped from 0.52% to 0.43%.
  • New Orleans’ expulsion rate is now below the 2014 state average.
Expulsion Rate*
New Orleans
0.43%
State
0.50%

*State data is from 2013-14 year. The state has not completed its full 2014-15 data entry and verification.

Expulsion Rates by District

District 2014-2015 2013-2014 Change
#
Students
#
Expelled
Rate #
Students
#
Expelled
Rate Change
in #
Change
in Rate
RSD
30,487 145 0.48% 30,220 198 0.66% – 53 – 27%
OPSB
13,335 47 0.35% 12,514 29 0.23% + 18 + 52%
OPSB Charter
10,008 17 0.17% 9,466 4 0.04% + 13 + 302%
OPSB Direct Run
3,327 30 0.90% 3,048 25 0.82% + 5 + 10%
BESE 1,981 7 0.35% 1,572 4
TOTAL
45,803 199 0.43% 44,306 231 0.52% – 32
– 17%

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TEDxNew Orleans Conference: Watch It!

Videos from the recent TEDxNewOrleans Conference are now available online.

This TEDx conference showcased a wide range of perspectives on Katrina and the changes we’ve seen in the New Orleans region since the storm. It was a powerful day, and Educate Now! encourages you check out the videos below.

Speakers Mentioning Education

Jay Altman – The Charter School Movement in New Orleans
Andy Kopplin – Government Post-Katrina: A Disruptive Force for Good
Troy Simon – Education as a Vehicle for Liberation

Other Speakers

Aron Chang – Make Your Mark
Michael Hecht – Radical Resilience
Lavonzell Nicholson – Green Space Completes a Canvas
Brandan Odums – Art to Inspire
Peter Ricchiuti – The New Orleans Economy; What’s Up Down Here
Kimberly Rivers-Roberts – Triumph Over Tragedy – What Do You Win?
Virginia Saussy – If We Don’t Laugh, We Cry
Jessica Shahien – The Talent Phenomenon
John Spain – New Orleans and Baton Rouge – a Super Region
Doug Thornton – How Unity of Purpose Brought the Superdome Back to Life
Rod West – Powering Life – Literally!

 

ICYMI: Changes for New Orleans Charters

Sen. Claitor’s SB 267 is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The bill will result in a number of changes for charters across the state, but it will have a significant impact on how New Orleans charters are funded.

Changing How Charters Are Funded

The MFP uses a weighted student formula, recognizing some students are more expensive to educate than others. The formula provides extra money for poor students, VoTech education, and gifted and talented students. But, it provides the most money for special education students.

Currently, Type 1, 2, 3 and 4 charter schools are funded using the AVERAGE per pupil amount in the MFP. Hence, they get the same amount of money for a student whether that student is a regular education student or a special education student.

SB 267 changes charter funding in two ways:

1.  It requires Type 1, 2, 3 and 4 charters to be funded based on the money inside the formula for the individual students they educate – not the average. 

    Money will still follow the student, but the amount of money will better reflect the cost budgeted in the MFP for that student. For a charter school that has a lower percentage of special needs students than the district, this change will lower the amount of money the school receives. If a charter exceeds the average, it will get more money.

Educate Now! agrees with this funding change. If a school is not educating special needs students, then they should not get the extra money the state allocates for these students. In New Orleans, we have some charters that enroll less than 5% special education students and others that have more than 20%. The amount of money schools receive should reflect these differences.

Read More »

Great Story: New Normal in New Orleans Public Schools

This article captures the spirit of the unique way New Orleans’ system of schools is working. Enjoy.

New Orleans Has Developed a New Normal in Education

 

ICYMI: 10th Anniversary Data Available on DOE Website

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) … Your mini news clipping

The Louisiana Department of Education has created a special webpage with information on RSD and OPSB schools from 2004 to the present. 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina: The New Orleans Education Landscape Today includes analyses and data on enrollment and demographics, academic outcomes, high school performance, African-American student performance, students with disabilities, school facilities and ensuring equitable access for all students.

Congratulations to the class of 2015! Watch highlights from the second annual Senior Shout Out, a celebration of the 2,500 New Orleans seniors who received $75 million in scholarships and are going to over 300 colleges and universities.

The Times-Picayune takes a comprehensive look at changes in special education since Katrina, beginning with An introduction, and continuing with What happened after the storm?, One child learns to love school, Graduation rates rise and other successes, Problems that remain, and Is there life after high school?

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ICYMI: HB 166 (Bouie) Defeated

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) … Your mini news clipping

HB 166 (Bouie) Defeated

The Louisiana House of Representatives defeated HB 166 (Bouie) return of schools 33-61. The Times-Picayune would agree with this decision.

State Headlines

A District Court ruled BESE’s funding of type 2 charters in the MFP is constitutional. The judge said Type 2 charter schools are clearly public schools, and it was proper to support them with the use of public funds. The plaintiffs will appeal.
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Common Core Compromise Reached

Legislators and Superintendent John White have reached a compromise on a plan to move forward with Louisiana student standards and tests.

Both sides of the Common Core debate will declare a victory with this compromise.

For Common Core opponents:
  • BESE will begin a review process of the standards and come up with proposed new/revised standards by February 21, 2016.
  • The public, the Legislature, and Louisiana’s next governor will be able to weigh in on any new proposed standards.
  • Louisiana will no longer be part of the PARCC consortium for its tests. Next year’s tests will have no more than 49% of questions from PARCC.
For Common Core supporters:
  • Louisiana will keep its commitment to more rigorous standards and will have tests that allow Louisiana to compare its performance to other states.
  • The existing Common Core standards will remain in place until new standards are developed and approved.
  • Although new standards must be approved by the Legislature and the governor, any decision must be on the standards as a whole; they can’t edit specific parts. A No vote means BESE goes back to the drawing board, and the existing standards remain in place.

For more on the compromise and the proposed legislation that will make it possible, click on the links below.

View the proposed plan: Terms of an Agreement to Implement Challenging Louisiana Student Standards and Tests.

Read a Statement from the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) on the proposed compromise.

Read more about the proposed compromise on Nola.com.