In the News

California Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional

A California judge has ruled that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their right to an education under the state Constitution. The decision hands teachers’ unions a major defeat in a landmark case, one that could radically alter how California teachers are hired and fired and prompt challenges to tenure laws in other states.

In the ruling, Judge Treu agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that:

  • current laws make it impossible to get rid of the system’s numerous low-performing and incompetent teachers;
  • seniority rules requiring the newest teachers to be laid off first were harmful;
  • granting tenure to teachers after only two years on the job was farcical, offering far too little time for a fair assessment of their skills; and
  • the least effective teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools filled with low-income and minority students.

The judge determined the situation violates those students’ constitutional right to an equal education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released a statement, saying, “My hope is that today’s decision moves from the courtroom toward a collaborative process in California that is fair, thoughtful, practical and swift. Every state, every school district needs to have that kind of conversation.”

The court has ordered a stay of the decision, pending an appeal by the state and the teachers union.

Read more in The New York Times.

In the News – First All Charter District

First All-Charter District

In New Orleans, major school district closes traditional public schools for good
The Recovery School District is closing its last five traditionally run schools at the end of this year, which will make it the first all-charter district in the country. The story has received national coverage from The Washington Post, NPR, PBS, Diane Ravich and others, and local coverage from The Times-Picayune and Louisiana Weekly.

While this has not been a major local story, the national media is abuzz as New Orleans has become the poster child in a national debate (fight) over how to improve public education.

Common Core Updates

Jindal wants La. out of Common Core
Gov. Bobby Jindal is committed to getting Louisiana out of Common Core and the PARCC tests that go with it. “It is time for the Department of Education to come up with a plan B,” he said. At a Common Core summit for teachers Superintendent John White said enough Common Core political fighting. Plans for the new academic goals have been in the works among students and teachers for the past four years. Teachers deserve to know what they will be teaching come August.

The legislature passed only one Common Core-related bill this session – House Bill 953, which gives teachers and schools an additional year (three years instead of two) before being penalized for poor performance on new PARCC assessments. It will likely be vetoed by the Governor.

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In the News – OPSB Interviews New Candidates Today

Superintendent Search Continues

Orleans Parish School Board considers former Jefferson Parish, Memphis superintendents for top job
The Orleans Parish School Board is meeting Thursday to interview three new, more experienced candidates for superintendent. The additional finalists are: Kriner Cash, the former superintendent in Memphis, Veronica Conforme, the former chief operating officer of New York City schools, and Diane Roussel McDonald, the former superintendent in Jefferson Parish.

Student Voices

Time magazine recently published opinion pieces from two New Orleans high school students on its website. In Teach For America Deserves Credit for Improving New Orleans Schools, Brianisha Frith, a junior at KIPP Renaissance High School, writes about the TFA teachers that inspired her and held her to a very high standard. “Their drive to educate every single child is refreshing and dignifying,” she says. In New Orleans Charter Schools Shouldn’t Treat Students Like Prisoners, Kenyatta Collins, a junior at Lake Area New Tech High School, describes her experiences with very strict discipline policies. She says the discipline at her school focuses too much on behavior rather than academic performance. Both essays are part of a collaboration between The Hechinger Report and high school students at Bard’s Early College in New Orleans. Editor’s note: Hats off to Bard’s Early College Program. These are two very well written essays!

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In the News – May 13th

Superintendent Search Struggles

Orleans School Board to continue superintendent search this month
OPSB is planning another round of interviews with new applicants for the school superintendent position. The board interviewed an initial group of four finalists in March but never voted to bring any of them back for a follow up. Stan Smith has served as Interim Superintendent for close to two years.

St. Louis superintendent: New Orleans schools job is not appealing
Kevin Adams, the Superintendent of Schools for St. Louis, says he is not interested in becoming the Superintendent for New Orleans Public Schools. Adams was a chief of staff for the RSD and was one of the most talked-about possibilities for the superintendent’s job, but he says he didn’t apply because the future of OPSB is still unclear. OPSB’s district is small, with only 11,000 students, and it’s uncertain when or if schools in the RSD will return to local control.

Latest on Common Core

Students give Common Core tests high marks
The first phase of Common Core field testing in Louisiana is complete, and according to the Department of Education, nearly 70% of the 25,000 students who took the tests said PARCC was easier or about the same as their current schoolwork. Nearly 85% said none or few questions dealt with materials they hadn’t discussed in class. The second phase of field testing (with another 25,000 students) has already begun.

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In the News – Cause for Celebration

New Orleans Students Are College Bound

New Orleans public school seniors celebrate acceptances to college
Great news from New Orleans high schools! Ninety-five percent of seniors will graduate this spring (compared to only 79% in 2005), and so far 2,500 seniors have received college acceptances from more than 345 colleges and earned $53 million in merit scholarships. There is no doubt that lives are being changed thanks to the hard work of teachers, administrators, community members and the students themselves.

Congratulations to the class of 2014!

Academic Growth Defies Poverty

Cowen report: Sharp academic growth defies New Orleans’ widespread poverty
The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch has gone up 9% since 2004, and yet the average school performance score in New Orleans has risen by 41%, according to a report from Tulane’s Cowen Institute. The report highlights the success of efforts to improve schools since Katrina.

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In the News – Let Charters Succeed

Let Public Charters Succeed

Let public charter schools succeed: Column
In this USA Today column, Neerav Kingsland of New Schools for New Orleans argues that attacks against successful charter schools, like those in Illinois, are really an attack on parents who want a different option because their neighborhood school has failed them. Kingsland says that only by handing power back to educators and families will our nation ever achieve academic greatness. “It seems clear that we must reject the ‘our schools should be the only schools’ way of thinking. Let educators create great public charter schools. Give families the power to choose these schools.”

Hope Renewed for Special Needs Students

Hope Renewed
Teach For America’s national publication, One Day, profiled ReNEW schools’ special education programs to demonstrate the innovation and flexibility available to charters to better serve children with special needs. The five-school network has two classrooms for students with severe autism spectrum disorders, one “community skills” classroom for middle school students with moderate cognitive impairments, a high school for students up to 22 years old who are missing credits, and two “therapeutic classrooms” for students with serious psychiatric disabilities. About 14% of the network’s students have IEPs, compared to a citywide average of 10%.

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In the News – New Orleans Named a “Smart City”

Smart New Orleans

Smart Cities: New Orleans
Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart has named New Orleans one of its “Smart Cities.” Vander Ark says the combination of innovative schools, a focus on talent development and recruitment, investments in individualized learning, EdTech startups, and the entrepreneurial environment is improving student performance and empowering parents. The innovation and success in New Orleans is “one of the best examples of what’s possible in urban education.”

Success in the New Economy

How Prospective College Students Can Gain a Competitive Advantage
If you have 10 minutes, watch this video – It is excellent! It makes a compelling case for students to explore career choices early, make informed decisions when declaring their college goals, and consider acquiring technical skills with real-world applications in tandem with a classic education.

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In the News – April 3rd

Breaking News …

Panel rejects Jindal-backed bill to kill Common Core
The House Education Committee has rejected two bills that would have effectively scrapped Common Core in Louisiana, even though both were supported by the governor. House Bill 381 would have required the state to draft new standards to replace Common Core. House Bill 558 would have prohibited the state from using the Common Core assessments known as PARCC. Both were rejected in a 12-7 vote.  Editor’s note: Thank you to the members of the House Education Committee who voted against these two bills.

Brainpower City

America’s New Brainpower Cities
According to Forbes Magazine, New Orleans ties San Antonio for America’s #1 “Brain Hub” – a metropolitan area that is rapidly gaining college graduates. Between 2007 and 2012, New Orleans gained 44,005 college grads – a 20.3% gain. The gain is not just a returning Katrina-displaced population. College educated people are looking for affordable cities with cultural and natural amenities and strong economies, which New Orleans offers.

Charter Schools

The Charter School Performance Breakout
The Wall Street Journal says the claim that charters perform no better than conventional schools is out of date and inaccurate. The Journal points to recent studies that show closing weak charters and replicating strong charters is having powerful effects across the country. In New York City, the average charter school student now absorbs five months of extra learning a year in math and one extra month in reading, compared to conventional schools students. At KIPP schools, the largest national charter group, 86% of all students are low-income, 93% are African-American or Latino, and 83% go to college.

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In the News – Does Common Core Cometh?

Common Core – Does it Cometh?

Field-Testing Set to Begin on Common Core Exams
National field-testing has begun on Common Core assessments. Over the next three weeks, more than 4 million students in 36 states, including Louisiana, will take new math and English language arts assessments from PARCC and Smarter Balanced. Results will be used to determine if there are questions that might confuse or overwhelm students and also whether or not schools have the technological capacity to handle large-scale, computer-based testing.

In honor of the hundreds of Louisiana students field testing PARCC this week, the Times-Picayune is publishing sample questions. will post a new question online each day just before noon and post the answer the following day.

There’s a new sheriff in town: Louisiana judges Common Core alignment
Education Gadfly is impressed by Louisiana’s review of Common Core curricula. Gadfly says Louisiana’s detailed analysis of available resources, which rates each resource based on how well it is aligned with Common Core, “shows how state leaders can send powerful signals to the marketplace about what teachers and students in their states need to meet the demands of state standards.”

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In the News – New York Should Look to New Orleans

New York Should Look to New Orleans

The Big Easy
The New York Post believes Mayor Bill de Blasio should look to New Orleans to see how a school system based on choice and charters can boost achievement and reduce inequality. In New Orleans, says the Post, the emphasis is not on who is providing the education but who can deliver results, and multiple performance measures – improved test scores, fewer failing schools, and higher graduation rates – show New Orleans is headed in the right direction.

Top of the News

City’s two public school systems reach landmark agreement
OPSB and RSD have reached a landmark deal aimed at shoring up services for the city’s neediest children and sorting out how to manage the supply of school buildings. This cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) addresses the needs of high risk students, outlining who will provide the services and how they will be paid for, including operating a truancy center, transitions for court-involved students, expanding therapeutic settings for students with severe mental health needs, and funding for very expensive special needs students. The agreement also addresses facility issues and the need for citywide planning on the number and types of schools. Editor’s note: This agreement was approved in OPSB committee and goes before the board on Tuesday. Educate Now! applauds OPSB and RSD for this effort. By working collaboratively, they have resolved a number of key issues to better serve students citywide.

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