In the News: March 4, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

Schools Unite on Expulsion Policies

Charter Schools’ Discipline Policies Face Scrutiny
Education Week – February 19, 2013
This Education Week cover story looks at charter schools and their discipline policies. The story highlights New Orleans for its innovation in creating a unified expulsion plan that ensures more consistent discipline across the district. Charter and traditional schools under both the Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District now follow the same expulsion policies and procedures, share a common list of expellable offenses, and conduct all hearings through a centralized expulsion office. Read more in this in depth Ed Week profile of New Orleans.

How Will Sequestration Affect K-12 Education?

Sequestration and Education: 12 Frequently Asked Questions
Education Week – February 26, 2013
Wondering how Sequestration will affect K-12 education? Education Week says the majority of school districts won’t see the cuts go into effect until the 2013-14 school year. If the Sequester isn’t reversed before then, however, most districts will see budget cuts in Title 1, IDEA, and other federal funding. Federal programs like Head Start will see more immediate budget cuts.

First Look at the New OPSB

Orleans Parish School Board president fails to win support for controversial moves
Times-Picayune – February 19, 2013
In the first full Orleans Parish School Board meeting of 2013 new President Ira Thomas came out swinging, but in the end, all of his controversial moves were blocked. Thomas unsuccessfully tried to nullify and then renegotiate the contract for interim Superintendent Stan Smith. His attempt to void the contract of Deputy Superintendent for Charter Schools Kathleen Padian died when no other board member would support it. Finally, even though Thomas blocked a key tax-credit item from being added to the agenda, four board members went through the necessary procedure to get a special meeting called to address that issue two days later, where it was subsequently approved.

OPSB Needs to Work with RSD on NMTCs
The Cowen Institute – February 20, 2013
Tulane’s Cowen institute says New Market Tax Credits are critical to the School Facilities Master Plan and shouldn’t be up for debate. Cowen predicts that without New Market Tax Credits the Master Plan will be short $94 million, roughly equivalent to building or renovating 4 new schools or stabilizing 24 existing schools.

Next Year’s MFP

School funding formula for 2013-14 unlikely to satisfy state education chief John White’s critics
Times-Picayune – February 28, 2013
State Superintendent John White has released his proposed school funding plan for 2013-14, and per pupil MFP funding will remain flat for the 5th straight year. Orleans Parish schools will receive $8,526 per student, just $4 more than last year. Special education funding will no longer be a flat rate per student but will vary depending on a student’s needs.

School boards cool to La. education chief’s voucher option
Associated Press – March 1, 2013
Under State Superintendent White’s proposed school funding plan, the voucher program will continue to be paid for with MFP funds, but White did offer a contingency plan in case the state Supreme Court rules the current voucher law unconstitutional. White says the state could send the MFP funds to the districts, and districts would then pay the private schools directly, just like they pay for private ACT tutoring classes or for specialized care for children with disabilities. Two of the three plaintiffs in the voucher lawsuit – the Louisiana School Boards Association and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers – say the solution won’t solve their core objection, which is using public school MFP funding for private schools.

Common Core Brings Changes

New Tests Ahead for New Orleans Schools
New Orleans Magazine – March 2013
The implementation of the Common Core Curriculum in 48 states, including Louisiana, will bring with it new, more challenging expectations for students. Common Core is intended to develop critical thinking skills and the ability to integrate knowledge taught in different classes to solve real world problems. Higher standards mean more difficult tests, so expect to see a dip in student test scores and School Performance Scores as the Common Core is phased in.

Louisiana Headlines

Jindal’s charter authority expansion initiative falls flat in first year
Times-Picayune – February 27, 2013
Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reforms allow local nonprofits, public agencies, and colleges to grant charters to schools, but the deadline to submit a letter of intent passed last month without a single entity saying they wanted in. Explanations for the lack of interest include limited outreach, tough rules for both authorizer applications and evaluation, and general satisfaction with the current chartering system.

New online degree program for college dropouts
Shreveport Times – February 18, 2013
The University of Louisiana System is offering a new two-year online bachelor’s degree program for adults who dropped out of college. If you left college with 60 credit hours and at least a solid C average, you can apply for the program, which offers an eight week term at $325 per credit hour. About 600,000 Louisiana residents have college credits but no degree.

State Superintendent John White announces education initiatives for the year
Times-Picayune – February 20, 2013
State Superintendent John White announced his 5-point education reform plan for the year: unify early childhood education, improve graduation rates for students with disabilities, revamp the Career Diploma, guide teachers through the new Common Core State Standards, and turn around more F-graded schools. White’s plan for school turnarounds goes beyond creating new charters. It provides training and funding for school district teams to either create a brand-new school or take over an existing, failing school.

La. abandons early high school graduation program
Associated Press – March 1, 2013
Plans to create a statewide program that would give college tuition grants to Louisiana students who graduate early from high school have been scrapped. The grant program, part of Governor Jindal’s 2012 education reforms, was scheduled to go into effect in 2013-14, but Superintendent John White didn’t include the program in his proposal to BESE for next year’s school funding formula. White said that his department has no plans to move ahead with creating the program.

National Education Stories

USDA Wants Healthy Fare in School Vending Machines
Education Week – February 19, 2013
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new rules for vending machines in schools. The rules would keep soda out of elementary and middle schools and limit calories in drinks sold in high schools. The USDA seeks to limit fat, calories, and sodium in vending-machine foods; require items to be made from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, or protein; and mandate that they naturally contain nutrients such as calcium and fiber.

Dual-Credit Courses Expand in High Schools
Education Week – February 20, 2013
According to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 82% of public high schools have students enrolled in dual-credit courses, and 69% have students enrolled in International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses. This translates into 2 million enrollments in dual-credit courses and 3.5 million in AP or IB courses. Another report from the Colorado education department shows their participation in dual-enrollment programs increased by 15% between 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Student Performance on AP Exams Improves
Education Week – February 20, 2013
Close to 20% of public high school graduates in the class of 2012 passed an Advanced Placement exam. This is up from 18% in the class of 2011 and 11.5% in 2002. The AP program is expanding, as well. Over 32% of 2012 graduates took at least one AP exam, compared with 30% the year before and 18% in 2002.

Local News

Catholic school enrollment drops
The Advocate – February 26, 2013
Catholic school enrollment in Louisiana has fallen 18% over the past 13 years, compared to a national drop of 23%. Theories for the decrease in enrollment include rising costs of tuition, migration away from cities where Catholic schools often thrive, and smaller-sized families. Enrollment in schools run by the Archdiocese of New Orleans has fallen 25%, in part because of population losses after Hurricane Katrina.

Xavier Prep in New Orleans to close at end of current academic year
Times-Picayune – February 20, 2013
Xavier University Prep will close at the end of this school year. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who have run the Catholic girls high school for 98 years, say it no longer has a financially sustainable future. Supporters of Xavier Prep haven’t given up yet. Over 500 alumni, parents and students attended a meeting recently to discuss ways to save the school.

Andre Perry: How to Make the Vision for Education Reform a Reality – February 2013
Dr. Andre Perry shares his vision for education reform and the role community and community reform must play in making that vision a reality. In Public School Utopia? Dr. Perry paints a detailed picture of what a perfect New Orleans public school would look like – the sights, smells, sounds, students, teachers and curriculum – with the complete commitment of every community member to the school’s success. In Education Reform Starts With Community Reform Dr. Perry acknowledges that education reform is important, but he says community reform should be our ultimate goal. Focusing on gains in test scores and graduation rates makes us feel good but distracts us from the very real needs of the community. “Measures of smartness won’t save New Orleans – or any other city,” he says. “Commitments to community will.”

Charter School Leader Steve Barr at Work in New Orleans, L.A.
Education Week – February 26, 2013
Learn more about Steve Barr, the man behind the turnaround effort at John McDonogh High School. Barr shook up the Los Angeles Unified School District several years ago with his efforts to both compete and cooperate with the district to fix some of its worst schools. Today Barr’s Future Is Now Schools is half way through its first year of running John McDonogh.


New Orleans summer job program for teens is taking applications
NOLA Youth Works, New Orleans’ annual summer jobs program, is accepting applications for students interested in getting on-the-job training by participating in various community service projects. The program is available to children from age 14 to 21, and it pays an hourly wage or a weekly stipend. The deadline to apply is March 28, 2013.

Paul Tough to speak at the Newcomb-Tulane College Lecture Series at Tulane University
Paul Tough will be the guest speaker for the 2013 Newcomb-Tulane College Lecture. Tough is a writer, broadcaster, and speaker, and one of the country’s leading voices on the topics of education reform and social innovation. He will speak on “The Hidden Power of Character” and how “nature” and “nurture” are intertwined. The lecture will be held Monday, March 11, 2013 from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at Tulane’s Dixon Hall. Admission is free and open to the public with a reception and book signing to follow.

The College Admissions Project has opened a Request for Proposals
The College Admissions Project (CAP) invites Orleans Parish public high schools to submit proposals to host its program during the 2013-14 school year. CAP, a project of the Young Leadership Council, is a volunteer mentoring program that helps public high school students (most of whom are first generation college applicants) through the often-overwhelming college admissions process. The deadline for school proposals is March 18, 2013.

Hope Against Hope
Gambit Magazine – February 26, 2013
Gambit Magazine highlights Sarah Carr’s new book with this exclusive excerpt. Octavia Books is hosting Sarah’s next presentation and book signing on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm.