In the News: A Clipping Service – July 5, 2011

In this edition of In the News:

  • Facilities Master Plan Revised
  • New Orleans Receives National Attention
  • The Question of Academic Gains
  • In the National Spotlight
  • Louisiana Education News

Facilities Master Plan Revised

New Orleans School Construction Blueprint Revised
The Times-Picayune – June 30, 2011
Education officials have released a revised School Facilities Master Plan, the blueprint for spending the remainder of almost $2 billion in federal aid set aside to rebuild and renovate city schools.

View the Master Plan revisions
Attend a public hearing

Educate Now! commentary:

This revised Master Plan does not have buildings for all existing New Orleans public schools. Today, there are 82 schools operating under the Orleans Parish School Board or the Recovery School District plus 3 type 2 charters in RSD facilities. This revised plan has 72 school buildings. Where will these other schools be housed?

For example, McDonogh 15’s building is land banked, and O. Perry Walker’s is “available for continued use,” but the building is not slated for renovations despite tremendous need. These are two of the RSD’s highest performing schools.

While this plan may technically provide enough “spaces” for the projected student enrollment, it is unlikely and impractical to shutter 10 or more of the schools operating today. This revised master plan needs to clearly state where all schools will eventually be housed and prioritize existing funds so that all schools are in reasonable facilities.

It is important that school and community leaders pay attention to this issue and voice their opinions now, before the revisions to Facilities Master Plan are finalized.

New Orleans Receives National Attention

New Orleans ‘Portfolio’ Strategy for Public Schools Gains Supporters Around the Country
The Times-Picayune – June 29, 2011
According to a new study from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, New Orleans is just one of more than 20 districts around the country employing a “portfolio strategy” for improving public schools. This approach involves developing a diverse mix of schools, granting them autonomy over budgeting and hiring, and holding them accountable to common performance standards. Early results are promising, including improved high school graduation rates, better student attendance and test scores, and fewer students in low-performing schools.

Read the full report

America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs 2011
Business Week – June 21, 2011
According to Business Week, New Orleans’ own Jennifer Schnidman Medbery, founder of the educational software company Drop the Chalk, is one of America’s most promising social entrepreneurs.

Smells Like School Spirit
New York Times – July 1, 2011
Columnist David Brooks acknowledges that the schools that best represent the reform movement, like the KIPP academies, put tremendous emphasis on testing. But these schools are also where students are most likely to participate in chess and dance, read Shakespeare and argue about philosophy and physics. In these places, tests are not the end. They are a lever to begin the process of change. Brooks singles out New Orleans as a city where this kind of change has led to dramatic improvements in student and school performance.

Major Donor to New Orleans Public Schools Outlines 2010 Spending
The Times-Picayune – June 28, 2011
The Walton Family Foundation is one of the most significant financial backers of the modern educational reform movement. In 2010, Walton gave out $157 million for K-12 education, about $5 million of it in New Orleans.

The Question of Academic Gains

Recovery School District Academic-Gains Data Challenged
The Times-Picayune – June 27, 2011
How many New Orleans students are enrolled in failing schools? Some say we should focus just on RSD students – 28% in failing schools. Others say we should look at all public school students in New Orleans – 18% in failing schools. Of course both numbers are well below our pre-Katrina figure of 62% of students attending failing schools.

No Denying Orleans Schools are Making Strides: Letters
The Times-Picayune – July 3, 2011
Tulane University President Scott Cowen responds to the article on RSD academic gains being challenged. He says this argument “obscures the indisputable fact that the percentage of students attending failing public schools in New Orleans is significantly smaller than it was in recent years.”

In the National Spotlight

New Denver Enrollment System Asks All Students to Choose Schools
Education Week – June 27, 2011
Denver Public Schools is planning to streamline its enrollment process with a single application form and deadline for all schools – traditional, charter or magnet. Families not wishing to participate would be assigned to their neighborhood school by default, as always.

N.J. Dems Approve Sharp Rise in Teacher Pension, Health Care Costs
Education Week – June 24, 2011
In an effort to reduce skyrocketing pension and health care costs, New Jersey has approved legislation that will increase pension and health care contributions on a half-million teachers and other public employees and suspend collective bargaining over health benefits for the next four years.

Bipartisan Charter Bill Clears House Education Committee
Education Week – June 22, 2011
A new bipartisan bill on charter schools would encourage states to create more high-quality charter schools. It would allow states to apply for competitive grants to expand and replicate high quality-charters, not just grants for new charters, and improve charter accountability. However, it would reduce government spending overall for charter grants and charter facilities.

Teaching Secrets: Communicating With Parents
Education Week – June 21, 2011
Dealing with parents can be very intimidating, especially for new teachers, but this article offers some practical tips for communicating effectively with parents.

Louisiana Education News

Jindal’s Vetoes Reveal a Foolish Consistency
The News Star – July 4, 2011
Governor Jindal vetoed several parts of the budget last week, including a section that would set minimum performance standards for school voucher programs and a section that would allow the RSD to look for less expensive insurance carriers (with any savings going to literacy programs). According to this reporter, Jindal’s vetoes were consistent only in their foolishness.

Recovery School District Will Put More New Orleans High Schools Under Charters
The Times-Picayune – June 26, 2011
The RSD has released plans for turning around more failing high schools. The same group that runs New Orleans College Prep, a charter school in Central City, will take over management at Walter L. Cohen in the fall of 2012. And the charter group that runs Sci Academy in New Orleans East will open two new campuses in the place of two existing high schools.

James Meza Takes Over as Head of Jefferson Parish Public Schools
The Times-Picayune – July 1, 2011
James Meza, the former education dean at the University of New Orleans, is the new Acting Superintendent of Jefferson Parish Public Schools. He will lead the system for at least a year while the Board searches for a permanent replacement.

Pro-reform Member of State Education Board Will Not Seek Another Term
The Times-Picayune – June 27, 2011
Glenny Lee Buquet from Houma, one of the more reliable backers of the reform movement that has radically altered public schools in New Orleans, is planning to retire from the state board of education. Educate Now! thanks Ms. Buquet for her years of service and commitment to the children of Louisiana.