In the News – September 27, 2012

In this edition of In the News:

Is N.O. a Model for America?

Born on the Bayou: A New Model for America
Third Way – September 2012
In this report for the non-partisan think tank Third Way, writer David Osborne examines the turnaround of New Orleans public schools, reviewing the history of the RSD, how the city arrived at what is now a majority-charter school system, and what have been the academic results. Osborne calls our school turnaround “stunning” and “dramatic” and says results in New Orleans “could well shake the foundations of American education.” He also wrote a commentary for Education Week.

ACT Scores Rise in RSD

ACT Scores Up in RSD New Orleans Schools
Associated Press – September 20, 2012
The Recovery School District recently announced that the average composite ACT score for RSD New Orleans students increased four-tenths of a point from 16.4 to 16.8 from 2011 to 2012. Statewide, the average composite score rose one-tenth of a point from 20.2 to 20.3.  

More Students Taking AP Classes

Surge in Advanced Placement Continues for Sixth Consecutive Year
Louisiana Department of Education – September 24, 2012
The number of Louisiana students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses increased dramatically for the sixth year in a row, according to a report released by the College Board. Tulane’s Cowen Institute promotes and supports at risk New Orleans students taking AP courses through its AdvanceNOLA program. Read more about AdvanceNOLA in this fall 2012 update 

Latest on LA Education Reforms

Louisiana Voucher Schools Will Be Audited to Ensure Compliance
Town Talk – September 14, 2012
Superintendent John White says private schools participating in the statewide voucher program will undergo annual audits to examine how public money is being used. The audits will focus on a several areas, including whether schools are using adequate accounting controls, spending the money on educational purposes, and charging the voucher program the correct amount based upon regular tuition and fees.

State’s Top Education Official Sketches Plans for Closer Scrutiny of Private Schools
Times-Picayune – September 11, 2012
According to Superintendent John White, Louisiana should revise the way it approves state-sanctioned private schools, a process under greater scrutiny now that private schools can participate in the state’s voucher program. White believes these schools should provide more information on curriculum, teacher evaluations, and other aspects of their operations. White will present a detailed version of his plan to BESE for approval next month.

La. Opens Marketplace of Courses for Students
Education Week – September 10, 2012
Louisiana’s Course Choice program lets students shop around for publicly funded courses – both online and face-to-face – beyond their school. Some call it an innovative approach to improving public education, but others worry about accountability and taking dollars away from already strapped school districts.

Online Classes Touted for Special Needs
The Advocate – September 19, 2012
State education leaders are encouraging teachers and others with expertise in special education to develop courses for students with special needs through Louisiana’s Course Choice program.

National Education Stories

A Closer Look at Blended Learning Approaches
Michael and Susan Dell Foundation – September 4, 2012
New Orleans’ own FirstLine Schools is one of five charter management organizations profiled in this national case study of blended learning. The study examines the different approaches to blended learning – a combination of face-to-face classroom time with computer-based learning – and offers an overview of potential financial implications as well as lessons learned.

New Studies Dissect School Turnarounds
Education Week – September 18, 2012
The Institute of Education Sciences has released a guide for turning around chronically low-performing schools. The guide identifies practices that have improved performance that used together can help failing schools make substantial improvements: 1) Signal the need for dramatic change with strong leadership; 2) Maintain a consistent focus on improving instruction; 3) Make visible improvements early in the school turnaround process (quick wins); and 4) Build a committed staff.

The Community College Pipeline
Inside Higher Ed – September 10, 2012
A new study reveals that 45% of all students who finished a four-year degree in 2010-11 had previously enrolled at a two-year college, and more than half of transfers earn their bachelor’s degrees within three years.

An Interview With Paul Tough On Character & Schools
Education Week – September 3, 2012
In this interview, Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, says schools should teach performance character – self-control, persistence, grit, optimism – because they help students do better in college and beyond. Tough says performance character is distinct from moral character – honesty, piety, chastity, generosity.

A Call for Centralized Enrollment

New Orleans School Officials Push Holdout Charters to Join Single-Application Process
Times-Picayune – September 26, 2012
The RSD and OPSB are working to convince the 12 OPSB charter schools and the 3 state-authorized Type 2 charter schools to join the centralized enrollment process. They maintain centralized enrollment cannot be truly effective unless all New Orleans schools are part of the system, but some charters are not convinced that joining the OneApp is the best choice for their schools.

Officials, education leaders, and charter advocates are weighing in on the subject, including RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard, Loyola University’s Associate Director for Educational Initiatives Dr. Andre Perry, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools Caroline Roemer Shirley, and the New Orleans Director of Stand for Children Westley Bayas III.

Other Local News 

In Debate on Public Schools, New Orleans Stands Apart
Times-Picayune – September 24, 2012
In New Orleans, where almost 80% of students attend independent charter schools, the debate on public education is very different from that in places like New York or Chicago. Instead of labor (represented by teachers unions) vs. management (represented by a mayor or superintendent), the debate in New Orleans centers around the long-term structure of the city’s school system and whether or not schools will be returned to local control.

Orleans Schools Struggling to Turn Credits into Dollars for Rebuilding
The Lens – September 25, 2012
Much of the funding for the second phase of the school facilities master plan relies on tax credits that the OPSB and RSD haven’t netted yet. According to the committee tasked with overseeing the $2 billion master plan, landing new-market tax credits is tough and extremely competitive, and it is likely they won’t be able to net the $84 million in tax credits allocated for the second phase this year, or even next year.

Orleans Parish School Board Approves $42 Million Budget
The Lens – September 13, 2012
The Orleans Parish School Board approved a general fund budget of $42 million, a 5% decrease from last year. The decrease comes in part from a reduction in workforce and a drop in costs related to the merger of McDonogh 35 and the Architecture, Design, and Engineering High School.

Parents Urged to Attend Charter School Board Meetings
Times-Picayune – September 22, 2012
Speaking at the Rising Tide conference, Caroline Roemer Shirley, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, challenged New Orleans residents to attend charter school board meetings to learn more about school issues and assert the public’s desire to improve local schools.


Orleans Parish School Board Candidate Forum – Tuesday, October 2, 6-8 pm
Tulane’s Cowen Institute is partnering with the League of Women Voters, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, the Young Leadership Council, and Baptist Community Ministries to help inform voters about this important Orleans Parish School Board Election. The forum will take place on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the First Baptist Church, 5290 Canal Boulevard. Each candidate will be asked questions on the four topics of governance, superintendent, facilities and finances as well as a rapid fire round. President Cowen will moderate.