In the News: February 18, 2013

In this Edition of In the News:

Hope Against Hope

Hope Against Hope
USA Today – February 17, 2013
In her new book, former Times-Picayune reporter Sarah Carr chronicles the efforts to overhaul the troubled New Orleans school system post-Katrina. Hope traces the reform efforts mainly through the eyes of three characters, veteran principal Mary Laurie, new teacher Aidan Kelly, and fourteen-year-old Geraldlynn Stewart and her family. Carr will be at the Garden District Book Shop on Thursday, February 28 and at Octavia Books on Tuesday, March 5.

Charter Rapprochement

State forges rapprochement
The Advocate – February 17, 2013
The state is working with three local school districts on approving new charter schools. In Baton Rouge, the RSD will allow charters approved to takeover failing schools the option of becoming a Type 3 (chartered by the local school board) or a Type 5 (chartered by BESE). Additionally, Jefferson and Lafayette will join Baton Rouge in using the Department of Education’s charter application, its review process, and its timeline (which has changed), while still retaining the right to grant final approval of applicants. This collaboration will allow charter applicants to apply to the three districts and BESE with one application and review process. For more, read the Department of Education press.

Special Education Overhaul

John White proposes overhaul in how special needs students are funded
Times-Picayune – February 11, 2013
State Superintendent John White is proposing a major funding overhaul for special needs students. Currently, the MFP funds special education students at 150% of a regular education student, regardless of disability. These funds go to districts as a block grant, and districts decide how to spend the money. White proposes that instead funding be based on three factors: the needs of the child, how the child is educated, and how well the child is served. District superintendents have expressed concern that White’s plan may negatively impact their funding. Editor’s note: RSD New Orleans takes its MFP allocation and funds schools on a per student basis, differentiating funding by type of exceptionality. No other district in the state does this.

Voucher Updates

Applications open for state school vouchers even though questions remain about program
Times-Picayune – February 13, 2013
Applications are now available for Louisiana’s voucher program, but two big questions remain for families deciding whether to enroll their children: Will the state Supreme Court overturn a district ruling that voucher funding is unconstitutional, and which schools will be eligible to take more students next year? The Supreme Court will in March. Individual school eligibility won’t be determined until May. For more on the voucher application, view the Department of Education press release.

Milwaukee Public Schools Outperform Voucher Schools in Program, Report Says
Education Week – February 13, 2013
A new report from the Public Policy Forum found that students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, part of the state’s voucher program, perform slightly worse on standardized tests in math and reading than students in Milwaukee Public Schools. The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is in its 23rd year, includes 113 private schools, and educates nearly 25,000 public school students.

National Education News

The four biggest myths of the anti-testing backlash
Education Gadfly – February 14, 2013
Fordham Institute addresses anti-testing backlash. Read their refutation of these common myths: 1) Teachers instincts should guide instruction – not standardized tests; 2) Testing is responsible for drill-and-kill instruction; 3) Tests can’t measure what really matters; 4) “Standardization” doesn’t work.

Ed. Department Eases School Access to Medicaid Funds
Education Week – February 12, 2013
New regulations will make it easier for schools to access Medicaid funds to pay for services to students with disabilities, including occupational, physical and speech therapy, and mental health counseling. In the past, schools had to get written consent from parents each time they tried to get a Medicaid reimbursement, but the new rules say schools only need to get written consent one time if they send parents a notice each year reminding them of their rights.

With New ‘Scorecard,’ Obama Seeks to Give Students a Tool for Comparing Colleges
Chronicle of Higher Education – February 13, 2013
A new “College Scorecard” is designed to help students and families find the institutions that will give them the most bang for their educational buck. The online tool provides data on costs, potential earnings, and average student-loan debt. In the future, it will also provide information about what kinds of jobs students get when they graduate and the average earnings of students who took out federal loans.

Five Common Myths on Pre-K Evidence
Education Week – February 13, 2013
With President Obama’s call for the expansion of pre-K, Sara Mead of Bellwether Education Partners looks at five common myths about pre-K education: 1) Evidence for pre-K impact comes from small studies that can’t be replicated. 2) The positive effects of Pre-K always fade over time. 3) Pre-K only works for poor kids. 4) All pre-K programs are successful. 5) Pre-K pays for itself.

Number Sense, Not Counting Skills, Predicts Math Ability, Says Study
Education Week – February 4, 2013
Math tests in early grades often focus on how well and how quickly a student can solve basic arithmetic, but a recent study found that this is not a good indicator of later math achievement. Instead, how well a child understands the relationships between numbers and can manipulate sets of numbers is a better predictor of how well he or she will perform in secondary school and in day-to-day life.

Closer to Home

Making school selection process easier for New Orleans parents: Erika McConduit
Times-Picayune – February 14, 2013
New Orleans’ new “system of schools” has shown positive growth in graduation rates, ACT scores, and statewide examinations, but each year has brought significant changes in school options and enrollment rules. Erika McConduit points to the Urban League’s School Expo as one successful effort to educate families, but she says much more needs to be done to give parents the critical information they need to make informed decisions.

Einstein Charter to take over Intercultural
The Advocate – February 15, 2013
Einstein Charter Group has been approved by the RSD to take over the Intercultural Charter School in New Orleans East. The Einstein group received a $1 million federal grant through the Investing in Innovation (i3) program to help them turnaround the failing school.

‘Blackboard Wars,’ episode 1 — what did you think?
Times-Picayune – February 7, 2013
“Blackboard Wars,” the documentary series set at John McDonogh High School, premiered on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network last Saturday. The documentary stirred up controversy before it aired for how it depicts John McDonogh as both dysfunctional and dangerous, but according to a Times-Picayune poll, 75% of those who viewed the first episode say it is a realistic look at the school. Comment or vote on the Times-Picayune website, or view a sneak peak of the first five minutes on OWN.

Announcement: Upcoming OneApp Events

The Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board are working together to educate families about the OneApp centralized enrollment system – how it works, what schools are participating, and how to apply. In February and March, they are holding school fairs for rising kindergarten, middle school, and 9th grade students, as well as several school open houses. The next scheduled event is a school fair for rising 9th graders on February 20th at Lake Area New Tech High School. For more information, visit Events and Open Houses or get updates on OneApp’s Facebook page or on Twitter – @OneApp_NOLA.