Can the Governor Derail Common Core?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 5:50 pm

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 6:06 pm

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

Monday, June 9, 2014, 6:09 pm

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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Grades 3-8 Test Scores Are In

Monday, May 26, 2014, 10:35 am

New Orleans Flat; State Flat

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) has released the 2014 test scores for grades 3-8. The percent of students performing Basic or above remained unchanged from 2013. This is the first year since Katrina that New Orleans did not improve.

  • The state average remained the same at 69% Basic or above.
  • New Orleans (RSD & OPSB) remained the same at 63% Basic or above.
  • OPSB went down 2 points; RSD remained the same; and Type 2 charters grew 5 points.

Percent Basic or Above – Grades 3-8

District 2013 2014 Change
Louisiana
69% 69% 0
All New Orleans
63% 63% 0
RSD – N.O.
57% 57% 0
OPSB
84% 82% -2
Type 2 charters – N.O.
73% 78% 5

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In the News – OPSB Interviews New Candidates Today

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 11:52 am

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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Who’s Going to College

Monday, May 19, 2014, 9:20 am

Who’s Going to College?

A new report from the Louisiana Department of Education shows how many students from the class of 2012 enrolled in college after high school.

For the Class of 2012 (OPSB & RSD combined):

  • 58% of graduates enrolled in college right after high school.
  • By the fall of 2013, college enrollment went up 10 points to 68% of graduates.
  • This is 2 points higher than the state average of 66%.

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In the News – May 13th

Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 9:09 am

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

Monday, May 5, 2014, 9:30 am

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 10:09 pm

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”

Sunday, April 13, 2014, 9:25 pm

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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