Return of Schools – Reimagining a Traditional School District

If, when and how the Recovery School District (RSD) schools should return to local control has been a point of discussion and contention for the past ten years. On Wednesday, SB 432 by Senator Peterson unanimously passed the Senate and now heads to the House. If SB 432 becomes law, these questions are about to be answered.

SB 432 redefines the roles of the School Board and the district Superintendent, creating an opportunity for New Orleans to implement a reimagined school district in which:

  • Parents choose the school best for their child
  • Autonomous schools make unimpeded academic and personnel decisions on behalf of children
  • The Superintendent authorizes schools to exist and regulates the fair treatment of students
  • The School Board hires and fires the Superintendent, oversees the system’s financial health, and approves policy as needed

The risk going forward is one of execution:

  • Will the Superintendent and School Board be willing to make the hard decisions necessary to promote excellence and equity for all students?
  • How well will the Superintendent and the central office perform the current RSD functions?

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The Differentiated Funding Formula – Where are we?

On Tuesday night, by a vote of 7-0, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) directed their superintendent to allocate MFP money to schools as required by law. The impact will be to enact a new differentiated funding formula for OPSB charter schools, a formula that will also be used by the RSD for its New Orleans charters.

In response, Lusher and Lake Forest Elementary are now suing OPSB in federal court arguing that if OPSB funds them using this formula, the board will be violating their operating agreements and their rights under federal contract law.

How did we get here?

Last year, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 467, which requires a single, differentiated funding formula for all OPSB and RSD charters.

The essence of Act 467:

Part 1 – Act 467 requires that RSD and OPSB charters be funded using a differentiated formula.

“The total amount of minimum foundation program formula funds allocated to charter schools that are located within the district shall be allocated using a district-level computation based on student characteristics or needs as determined by the state board.”

Part 2 – The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) will help bring together district stakeholders to develop the district level allocation.

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ICYMI: A Time of Controversy

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

School Funding Formula for the City

By a 10-1 vote (with one abstention), the Act 467 Committee, comprised of local Orleans Parish educators and community members, voted in favor a new funding formula for all RSD and OPSB public schools. These local weights will be submitted to BESE for consideration at their March 3rd and 4th meetings.

As discussed in Educate Now!’s February 17 email, this Orleans-specific formula will allocate money to every RSD and OPSB student based upon certain local weights, and this money follows the student to the school where that student enrolls. These local weights provide extra money for students with special needs, overage students, English language learners, high school students and gifted and talented (G & T) students. The heaviest weight is for students with special needs, so schools that enroll low numbers of special needs students are likely to see less money under this new formula.

To protect schools from a significant drop in funding, the Committee proposed that in addition to the local weights, the formula will include a “phase in” clause, such that no school’s average MFP per pupil will fall below 98% of its 10/1/15 MFP average per pupil. There are an estimated 14 schools that would need phase in support of varying amounts, but no school will see a reduction greater than $185/student.

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Facts about new funding formula

Educate Now! has received a lot of questions concerning information that Lusher and Franklin sent to their parents about the differentiated funding formula Orleans is working on, which will go before BESE in March. Unfortunately, the email circulated by the schools contains incomplete and wrong information.

The committee developing this funding formula, which includes OPSB schools, RSD schools, OPSB leadership, and RSD leadership, anticipates that the formula will include a clause such that no school loses more than a 2%. For Lusher, that 2% translates to a maximum reduction of $170/student, or around $291,000 not $1,200,000, as was stated in the email. For Franklin, the loss of revenues based on current student count is $155,000. 

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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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.

Continue reading

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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