In the News: A Clipping Service – August 8, 2011

Closing the Gap

New Orleans Public School Achievement Gap is Narrowing
The Times-Picayune – August 7, 2011
Black students in New Orleans performed better than black students statewide. New Orleans’ poor students and students with disabilities are also rapidly closing the performance gap compared to state performance. The numbers include all students in any OPSB or RSD school (traditional or charter) who took the state standardized tests this spring. According to The Education Trust, a national organization whose mission is to close achievement gaps, “This is really meaningful progress.”

Editor’s note:  In 2004, of 68 school districts, Orleans Parish ranked 68th – last – in the performance of its black students. To now outperform the state average is a major milestone as public education in New Orleans continues to improve.

Reversing the Gap
Percent of Black Students Basic or Above (Proficiency Goal)
All Grades, All Tests (E, M, S, SS)

View additional graphs on student performance.

View the Department of Education’s data. (Excel spreadsheet)

Criticism Leads to Master Plan Review

Districts Commit to Revising Proposed Master Plan Amendments
Recovery School District – August 7, 2011
The RSD and OPSB have agreed to go back to the drawing board and do a better job of providing all students with high-quality facilities and maximizing the one-time federal funding available for construction. A team of business volunteers will review the plan and look for new sources of funding as well as ways to improve cost efficiency, such as prototype schools that can be replicated to reduce design and construction costs.

Business, Nonprofit Leaders Blast Plan for Rebuilding New Orleans School Facilities
The Times-Picayune – August 1, 2011
Business and civic groups sent a letter to BESE, the OPSB and the RSD calling on the OPSB and RSD to make major changes to the proposed amendments to the School Facilities Master Plan. The groups recommended that the plan clearly indicate how many school buildings are needed, provide all schools and students with reasonable facilities with existing funds, adopt more cost effective strategies, and form a task force to develop a funding program for future building maintenance and repairs.

Senator Landrieu Responds to RSD Critics

Recovery School District Misrepresented
The Daily Advertiser – August 6, 2011
Senator Mary Landrieu responds to allegations made by the Coalition for Public Education that the state’s Recovery School District receives a disproportionate amount of funding with no results to show for it. Landrieu points out that the RSD’s per pupil funding ranks 59th in state revenue and 20th when federal revenues (but not one-time hurricane-related funds) are included. Despite the challenge of lifting up the state’s worst performing schools, the RSD has led the state in academic growth over the last four years.

Read the letter from the Coalition for Public Education.

Why New Orleans Has Taken Charters to Extreme

The Long Turnaround – Why the Big Easy Has Gone Furthest with the Charter Experiment
The Economist – July 30, 2011
One reason charters in New Orleans have expanded so quickly and been so successful is that our school system was so bad before. For other cities, those that haven’t hit rock bottom, such wholesale change still seems too risky.

Teachers and Teaching

Training of Teachers Is Flawed, Study Says
New York Times – July 21, 2011
In a recent study, the National Council on Teacher Quality reports that most student-teaching programs are seriously flawed. The study rated 134 student-teaching programs nationwide – about 10 percent of those preparing elementary school teachers – and found three-quarters of them did not meet five basic standards for a high-quality student-teaching program.

Survey: Alternative Teacher Certification on the Rise
Education Week – July 29, 2011
Forty percent of new teachers hired since 2005 came through alternative teacher-preparation programs, according to a new survey. The survey also found that alternative-route teachers are more in favor of performance pay, elimination of tenure and tying student achievement to teacher evaluations than are their traditionally prepared counterparts.

New York City Abandons Teacher Bonus Program
New York Times – July 17, 2011
After a study found that bonuses for teachers had no positive effect on either student performance or teachers’ attitudes toward their jobs, New York City has decided to discontinue their $56 million bonus program.

Once Nearly 100%, Teacher Tenure Rate Drops to 58% as Rules Tighten
New York Times – July 27, 2011
Five years ago, roughly 99 percent of eligible teachers in New York – those who had completed their third year on the job – received tenure, a number similar to most school districts in the nation. Under the city’s new standards, 58 percent of teachers eligible for tenure received it, while 39 percent were deferred and 3 percent were denied outright.

Cheating Scandals Intensify Focus on Test Pressures
Education Week – August 4, 2011
The recent cheating scandal in Atlanta and allegations of cheating in cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore have galvanized the testing debate. Some experts say that as long as test scores are used to make decisions on rewards or punishments for schools or educators, a small percentage of people will be willing to bend the rules – or break them. Is the answer stronger test security or eliminating the tests?

National Education News

Is the Charter-School Movement Stuck in a Rut?
Education Next – July 29, 2011
Is the charter movement growing rigid and intolerant after 20 years? Evidence suggests that charter leaders are becoming more resistant to schools that don’t behave exactly like the typical charter schools of the past twenty years.

Half of Texas’ Students Have Been Suspended, Study Finds
Education Week – July 19, 2011
Using 10 years of discipline records for nearly 1 million Texas middle and high school students, researchers found that more than half were suspended or expelled at least once between 7th and 12th grades. Students suspended or expelled were more likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school than students who were not punished in the same way.

Was the $5 Billion Worth It?
The Wall Street Journal – July 23, 2011
Ten years into his record-breaking philanthropic push for school reform, Bill Gates talks about the Gates Foundation’s efforts to improve education, the mistakes it has made and the lessons learned.

Around Louisiana

Education Chief Changing Charter School Oversight
The Associated Press – August 3, 2011
In the wake of the Abramson scandal, the RSD is requesting additional authority to more directly monitor charter schools. If BESE approves the request, the RSD and state education department will conduct annual on-site reviews and new rounds of training will be held.

Despite Gains in Student Achievement, Bump in Minimum Standard Results in More Schools Earning Academically Unacceptable Designation
Louisiana Department of Education – July 26, 2011
More Louisiana students than ever are grade-level proficient, but tougher school measurements have placed more schools on the state’s 2011 Academically Unacceptable list.

Judge Calls Education Waiver Law Unconstitutional
New Orleans CityBusiness – July 18, 2011
A law that gives school districts more operational flexibility has been ruled unconstitutional. This law allowed school districts to apply to BESE for waivers of state laws they believed restricted their ability to improve performance. The Governor’s office will be appealing the decision.

Local Education Stories

LAPCS Unveils Online Dashboard for Charter School Test Scores
Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (LAPCS) – August 1, 2011
LAPCS has created an Online Dashboard that displays test scores for each charter school in New Orleans from 2007 to the present. The website provides easy-to-follow graphs of student test scores (LEAP, Graduation Exit Exam and iLEAP) for English and Math as well as the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch.

New Orleans Inspector General Considering Whether He Still Wants School-Construction Fraud Unit
The Times-Picayune – July 19, 2011
The Inspector General of New Orleans is debating whether or not he will still create an anti-fraud unit to monitor the $1.8 billion in school construction projects due to a disagreement over whether the unit staff members would be classified or unclassified civil service employees.

Veteran Teachers Remain in Limbo
Fox 8 News – July 27, 2011
Scores of experienced teachers are still waiting to hear if they will have jobs. Last year there were 23 schools run directly by the RSD. That number falls to 15 for the new school year, which means many RSD teaching contracts will not be renewed.

Abramson Charter School

Restraining Order Request Denied In Charter School Controversy
WDSU – August 4, 2011
One day after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education revoked the rights of Pelican Educational Foundation to operate Abramson Science and Technology charter, a judge also rejected the group’s bid for a temporary restraining order. The judge did, however, call for a full evidentiary hearing to allow Pelican to make its case. Abramson is expected to open this month under new management.

Read More About Abramson

BESE Votes to Support Recommendation of Department to Revoke Charter
Louisiana Department of Education – July 4, 2011

RSD Develops Contingency to Operate Abramson if School’s Charter is Revoked
The Times-Picayune – July 27, 2011

Reaction to the Temporary Shut Down of a New Orleans East Charter School
Fox 8 News – July 16, 2011