In the News

In the News – A Student’s Point of View

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

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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In the News – Immigration Affects N.O. Schools

N.O. Unprepared for Immigrants

New Orleans’ charter school system ill-prepared for jump in Central American immigrants
Public schools in Orleans and Jefferson are facing an unprecedented wave of English-language learners (ELLs), resulting from the rise in immigration from Central American countries, with most students coming from Honduras. This year, an estimated 500 new immigrant students enrolled in New Orleans public schools, a 42% increase over last year’s ELL enrollment. Charter schools with large increases in ELLs are struggling to find Spanish speaking teachers and counselors to meet the needs of these new children and their families.

Measuring Progress

There’s a post-Katrina joie de vivre in New Orleans
The Los Angeles Times looks at the rebirth of New Orleans since Katrina. Signs of this revival include an increase in restaurants (from 809 in 2005 to more than 1,400 today), new music venues and nightclubs, new festivals and the growing success of old favorites, the expansion and renovation of our parks and zoos, and the revitalization of several key neighborhoods.

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In the News – Judge Rules Against Governor

Judge Rules Against Jindal on Common Core

Common Core proponents scored a major victory today. A Baton Rouge judge found that Gov. Bobby Jindal caused “irreparable harm” to students and schools when he froze Louisiana’s testing vendor contract. The judge said the governor failed to produce any evidence that the Department of Education violated the law when it signed the contract, and he lifted the Jindal administration’s suspension of the contract. The lawsuit was brought by a group of parents, teachers, charter schools and BESE, who argued that the governor was illegally meddling in Common Core implementation. The governor plans to appeal the ruling, and he stated, “This judge is wrong on the facts and the law. Hopefully, he will reconsider this preliminary ruling at the full trial.”

What does this rulings mean? Superintendent John White says the court’s decision will allow schools to “continue their five-year transition to higher expectations.”

Earlier this week, another judge ruled against 17 Louisiana legislators who claimed the state Department of Education and BESE did not follow the law when adopting Common Core. The judge refused to issue a temporary injunction on Common Core implementation. While the legislators can still file for a permanent injunction, the same judge would hear their request, and his ruling strongly rejected every claim the legislators made.

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In the News – Amazing Recovery

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

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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In the News – Summer News Updates

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.

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In the News – Superintendent Search Stalled (again)

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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Common Core: What happened last week?

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?

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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