In the News: December 27, 2012

In this edition of In the News:

Proud to Call It Home

America’s 50 Best Cities
Bloomberg Businessweek – December 28, 2012
According to Businessweek, New Orleans is one of the top 15 cities in America. New Orleans ranked #14 out of 100 based on leisure activities, educational attributes, economic factors, crime, and air quality. We scored high marks for our good times, our resilience since Katrina, our universities and the quality of our air, but crime kept us out of the top 10. 

Most Innovative Mayors in the U.S.
Newsweek – December 17, 2012
Mayor Mitch Landrieu was singled out by Newsweek as one of the five most innovative mayors in the country for his work on behalf of education reform in New Orleans. Although the mayor doesn’t control the school system, Newsweek says Landrieu championed charter schools and other changes that are considered politically difficult.

New Orleans, St. Tammany top-gaining schools honored by state education superintendent
Times-Picayune – December 18, 2012
Twenty-six public schools in Orleans Parish earned the designation of Top Gains schools for significantly improving student performance. Sixteen RSD schools (13 charters and 3 direct-run), nine OPSB charters, and one Type 2 charter earned this distinction, and each school received an award of $8,453 to be used for educational purposes.

Grants target innovative special education projects in New Orleans
Times-Picayune – December 6, 2012
Five local school consortiums won grants of just under $1.5 million through the state’s Believe and Include program. Believe and Include is designed to increase academic performance for students with disabilities and help them achieve proficiency on the more rigorous Common Core State Standards assessments. The five winners are: the CAMS Consortium of four schools (Morris Jeff, McDonogh City Park, Andrew Wilson, and N.O. Sci High), the Algiers Charter School Association with eight schools, Choice Foundation with three schools, FirstLine with six schools, and KIPP New Orleans with nine schools. Each group was funded at a maximum of $50,000 per school.

Charter News

Orleans Parish School Board requires charters to join unified enrollment system
Times-Picayune – December 18, 2012
The Orleans Parish School Board will now require all of the district’s charter schools to participate in the centralized enrollment system (OneApp) upon renewal of their current contracts. In addition, starting in 2014 all new OPSB charters will have to join the OneApp system.

RSD announces latest management changes; moves toward all-charter system
Times-Picayune – December 20, 2012
Superintendent Patrick Dobard announced that the New Orleans’ Recovery School District will become a nearly 100 percent charter system in the 2013-2014 academic year, with the district running only five or six schools directly.

    • Three of its direct-run schools will close: Abramson Elementary, Murray Henderson Elementary, and James Weldon Johnson Elementary.
    • Three will become charters: Mary D. Coghill Elementary, Paul B. Habans Elementary, and H. C. Schaumburg Elementary.
    • Landry High School will merge with O. Perry Walker.
    • Three will continue to be phased out grade-by-grade: Walter L. Cohen, G. W. Carver and Sarah T. Reed.

State helps find consultant to guide Lycee Francais board
The Lens – December 21, 2012
State Superintendent John White stepped in to help the troubled charter school Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle-Orleans find its new school leader. White secured funding from the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools to pay for a consulting company to guide the school’s search process.

Police report adds details surrounding theft at Lusher
The Lens – December 21, 2012
An employee in the accounting office of Lusher Charter School is being investigated for embezzling $25,000 from the school. Lauren Hightower allegedly forged the signature of Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger and others on six checks.

LA Teacher Tenure and Retirement

Jindal education reform: one section of four ruled unconstitutional by district judge
Times-Picayune – December 18, 2012
A district court judge upheld three of four sections of Act 1 from the 2012 Regular Legislative Session. The judge ruled that teacher tenure, performance evaluations, and compensation were closely related and fell within the bill’s title, but the section dealing with local superintendents was not closely enough related to the other aspects of the bill.

Report: Teacher retirement underfunded
The Advocate – December 18, 2012
A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality finds that teacher retirement systems in the United States are in trouble, with unfunded liabilities totaling $390 billion. Louisiana’s unfunded liability is $10.8 billion, the 10th highest in the nation.

National Education Stories

Security Steps Said to Avert More Deaths at Conn. School
Education Week – December 18, 2012
By nearly all accounts, the administrators, teachers, and students at Sandy Hook Elementary did everything they were supposed to do. The school’s security system delayed the shooter from just walking through the front door. A secretary switched on the public address system as shots rang out, alerting the entire school, and teachers and other school employees quickly herded students into closets, kept them quiet, and locked their doors. Unfortunately, even the best schools have limitations to what they can do when someone is intent upon committing an act of violence.

NEA, AFT Partner To Build Common-Core Tools
Education Week – December 17, 2012
The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are joining with Student Achievement Partners to develop and disseminate instructional tools for the new Common Core State Standards. This is welcome news for teachers and administrators who are already working to align their practices to the new standards.

Why Do Academically Promising Students Not Choose College?
Education Week – December 17, 2012
An analysis by Harvard’s Strategic Data Project found that college enrollment rates for students with similar academic potential varied dramatically, even within a single school district. These results suggest that a high school can have a considerable impact on the college enrollment patterns of its students. Further analysis showed that highly qualified students who enrolled in less-selective colleges were less likely to stay in school and earn a diploma.

Head Start Advantages Mostly Gone by 3rd Grade, Study Finds
Education Week – December 21, 2012
A new federal study of nearly 5,000 children found that the positive impacts of Head Start dissipate over time, and by the end of 3rd grade, Head Start students are academically indistinguishable from their peers who did not participate in the program. The question is whether the problem is with the Head Start program or with a public school system that cannot build on gains made before kindergarten.

Other Local News

Labor leaders claim New Orleans school lunch provider is illegally pressuring workers to keep union out
Times-Picayune – December 18, 2012
A union of service employees has accused Revolution Foods, a school lunch provider, of illegally pressuring workers to keep the union out. The union claims that Revolution fired three workers for supporting the union, promised workers higher wages if they stayed non-union, and put surveillance on employees who spoke with union reps. Revolution currently provides food for seventeen local public schools.

Board targets weak schools – Jefferson Parish initiates “Transformation Network” to elevate performance
The Advocate – December 22, 2012
The Jefferson Parish public school system announced plans for a new “Transformation Network” to help turn around low-performing schools. The district will partner with Mass Insight Education to provide tools and support to existing staff as they work to transform their schools. Jefferson Parish has also implemented a Turnaround Zone Network, which involves replacing staff and teachers at failing schools, and is looking into an Autonomous Zone, where high-performing schools are given more decision-making power in terms of teaching and learning, as well as the budget.