In the News

In the News – October 5, 2014

NOLA High Schools 

Most New Orleans public high schools beat the odds, study says
Edit: On October 10, 2014, the Cowen Institute retracted this report saying its methodology was flawed. For more, click here.

Louisiana Headlines

Louisiana has second-strongest charter school initiative in the U.S., report says
Louisiana’s charter schools ranked as the second strongest according to a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Louisiana was praised for having charters that served a higher percentage of low-income students and exhibited higher academic growth than traditional public schools.

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In the News – NOLA Wins Kennedy Center Grant

N.O. Wins Grant for Arts Education

New Orleans Wins Prestigious Planning Grant for Arts Education
The Kennedy Center has selected New Orleans as the newest city for its Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child initiative, a program designed to help cities address the urgent need to restore arts education in schools. Beginning this month, Kennedy Center staff will work with local leaders to conduct a comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources as well as a needs assessment. Then a plan will be created to bring more access to arts education for all K-8 students.

President Clinton Gives New Orleans a Shout Out!  

Bill Clinton: Charter Schools Must Be Held To ‘The Original Bargain’
Former President Bill Clinton says, “I think it’s really important that you invest in what works. For example, New Orleans has better schools than it had before Hurricane Katrina, and it’s the only public school [district] in America where 100 percent of the schools are charter schools.” But the reforms shouldn’t stop there, he added. Clinton was an early backer of charters and understood the original bargain to be that charters would get more freedom, but if they weren’t outperforming the public model, their charter would not be renewed.

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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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