In the News

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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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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