In the News – December 4, 2012

In this edition of In the News:

Arnold Foundation Invests in N.O. Charters

Foundation invests in N.O. charters
The Advocate – November 30, 2012
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation announced a new $25 million investment in New Orleans to help create and expand high-performing charter schools. This five-year initiative is designed to increase opportunity for nearly 15,000 students currently attending low-performing schools. It will be managed through a partnership between New Schools for New Orleans and the Charter School Growth Fund.

Dobard Says Reforms Are Working

New Orleans schools are making dramatic strides: Patrick Dobard
Times-Picayune – December 1, 2012
RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard points to recent test and School Performance Scores as proof that the reforms in New Orleans are working. In 2005, fewer than 25% of public school students were on grade level, and African American students in New Orleans lagged significantly behind their counterparts in the rest of the state. Today, New Orleans has more than 50% of students performing on grade level and is closing the achievement gap faster than any other urban district in the country.

Latest Updates on Vouchers

Voucher Lawsuit #1: State Courts

Jindal school voucher plan ruled unconstitutional
Fox News – November 30, 2012
A state judge ruled the Louisiana school voucher program unconstitutional saying the state cannot use funds set aside for public education (the MFP) to pay private school tuition. The judge said the state can legally fund vouchers, but the funding “must come from some other portion of the general budget.” Governor Jindal says he plans to appeal. This decision has made national headlines. Read more in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Education Week.

Voucher Lawsuit #2: Federal Courts

Louisiana school voucher law conflicts with desegregation order
Town Talk – November 28, 2012
A federal judge issued a temporary injunction halting the use of vouchers in Tangipahoa Parish saying the program siphons off state dollars needed to implement the parish’s desegregation plan. Similar, decades-old desegregation orders exist in nearly half of the state’s parishes. The Louisiana Department of Education plans to appeal the ruling saying, “There was no evidence produced at the hearing as to why the scholarship program would impact the [desegregation] order.”

Voucher Curriculum is Important

Educational beef jerky: The John White-Bobby Jindal voucher program
Something Like the Truth – November 25, 2012
Robert Mann believes that quality public school teachers are important, but he also believes that curriculum and textbooks are equally important, especially when it comes to voucher schools. Mann lists twenty voucher schools that include creationism and “other wacky, quasi-religious subjects” in their curriculums.

National Education Stories

High School Graduation Rates By State: U.S. Department Of Education Releases First-Ever National Data
Huffington Post – November 26, 2012
The U.S. Department of Education has released a first-ever list detailing state-by-state four-year high school graduation rates – the percentage of first time 9th graders who graduate within 4 years with a regular diploma. Nationally 76% of white students and 60% of black students graduated on time in 2011. The Times-Picayune reported that Louisiana has the fifth lowest graduation rate at 71%.

Schools Head Finds a Formula
Wall Street Journal – November 27, 2012
In St. Louis, Superintendent Kelvin Adams is turning around public schools. Adams, a New Orleans native and former chief of staff of the RSD, has lifted their high school graduation rate by 18 percentage points and eliminated $25 million in debt. Meanwhile, attendance is up; misbehavior is down; and state test scores are improving.

The Ripple Effect
Public Education Network – November 26, 2012
A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education looks at shifting demographics, public education, and the future of the U.S. economy. The high school graduation rates for minority students trail whites’ by an average of 20 percentage points. The report argues that as the country becomes more diverse, the economy will suffer if we can’t find a way to improve graduation rates and increase earning power for students of color.

A New Campaign to Close Sub-Par Charter Schools
Education Week – November 28, 2012
As enrollment in charters schools continues to climb, a the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) is launching a new campaign called “One Million Lives.” They are urging authorizers and legislators to close failing charter schools and open many more good ones with the goal of getting 1 million additional children into 3,000 high-performing charters schools over the next five years. The first step is to close charters that are failing. NACSA estimates that one in five charters are among the lowest academic performers in their states.

Louisiana Headlines

High schools raise scores
The Advocate – November 28, 2012
Seventy percent of Louisiana’s public high schools showed double-digit growth in their school performance scores this year compared with just 2 percent of elementary and middle schools. Next year, accountability standards will be even tougher for high schools, and it’s expected that some schools will see lower scores and possibly drop back a grade.

Louisiana needs to ensure students have the best teachers: John White
Times-Picayune – November 23, 2012
This year, Louisiana has implemented a new program, called Compass, to evaluate teacher performance. It combines student-based results, on-the-job observations, and intensive support for teachers who are struggling. In this Op-Ed, Superintendent John White argues that although Compass isn’t perfect, and will need some adjusting, it is already providing critical feedback to teachers and administrators.

Next school year, a dozen new charters and chances to study outside the classroom
Times-Picayune – November 29, 2012
The Louisiana Department of Education has released its recommendations for Course Choice providers. Course Choice offers college- and career-prep courses for public school students using state MFP funding to pick up the tab. BESE will consider the 45 Course Choice providers along with the DOE’s recommendations for 11 new charter schools at its next meeting.

At this meeting, four local charters are not being recommended for renewal: Mays Prep, Pride College Prep, Crocker Arts and Technology, and Intercultural. See this RSDigest for more highlights of BESE’s December board meeting.

Buddy Roemer and Melissa Harris-Perry stumble on a pitched debate about schools
Times-Picayune – November 28, 2012
In a recent debate at Tulane University, former Governor Buddy Roemer and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry argued over Louisiana’s education reforms. Ironically, Republican Roemer advocated passionately for Obama’s education reform, while liberal Harris-Perry expressed anger at the president over his support for charter schools and school choice.

Local News

New Orleans public schools get $3.8 million bonanza due to higher home values
Times-Picayune – November 21, 2012
When the Orleans Parish School Board voted to roll forward the 2013 millage, they knew this would mean increased tax revenue for schools, but they underestimated the amount. Home value assessments have come in higher than forecasted, which means an extra $3.8 million for public schools in 2013.

Teachers face tough choices as charter schools drop pensions
The Lens – November 28, 2012
Daunted by the high cost of the state teachers pension system, charter schools are switching to 401(k)-style retirement plans, forcing longtime teachers to decide if they are willing to accept a smaller, less-certain retirement package or if they will change schools to keep their pension.

Making the switch
New Orleans Magazine – December 2012
Even though 13 charter schools are academically eligible to move out of the state’s RSD system into the OPSB system, few are expected to do so anytime soon. Concerns over autonomy and control of funding are keeping these high-performing charters from electing to return to OPSB control. The Lens reports that the KIPP Board recently voted to keep their schools with the RSD because a recent survey of KIPP parents showed most felt staying with the RSD would be in their children’s best interest and also, with multiple schools, it was best to keep all KIPP schools under one governing body.

Ethics Board faults Moton principal for hiring kin
The Lens – November 29, 2012
The Louisiana Board of Ethics filed charges against Paulette Bruno, the principal of Robert Moton Charter School, saying she employed and promoted two of her daughters-in-law in violation of ethics laws.