In the News: March 20, 2013

In this Edition of In the News:

  • Resurgent New Orleans
  • News from the OPSB
  • Latest on LA Education Reforms
  • BESE Approves MFP for 2013-14
  • National Education Stories
  • Local News
  • Announcement: Grant Funds Available

Resurgent New Orleans

New Orleans reached 81 percent of pre-Katrina population in 2012, Census figures show
Times-Picayune – March 14, 2013
New Orleans continues to grow and, according to the latest Census data, was at 81% of the city’s pre-Katrina population as of July 1, 2012. The New Orleans metropolitan area was in the top 25 counties for growth – the only urban center in that group. This growth includes a new influx of professionals to the city – from recent graduates to entrepreneurs to seasoned corporate professionals. Read more about the resurgence of New Orleans in this Times-Picayune article.

News from the OPSB 

Orleans Parish School Board nullifies Deputy Superintendent’s contract
Times-Picayune – March 19, 2013
At their latest meeting, the OPSB voted 4-2 to nullify the contract of Kathleen Padian, Deputy Superintendent for Charter Schools. Padian will become an at-will employee without a contract. Meanwhile, Board President Ira Thomas said he will seek the opinion of the state Attorney General on whether it is legal for him to be both the board President and an employee of Southern University at New Orleans, where he directs security.

Orleans Parish School Board committees focus on charter control
Times-Picayune – March 18, 2013
The OPSB is expected to approve support for a proposed bill that would allow returning charters to keep their LEA and continue to receive federal funds directly, without the OPSB taking a cut.

Latest on LA Education Reforms

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s teacher tenure and evaluation reforms ruled unconstitutional
Times-Picayune – March 4, 2013
A district court judge has ruled Act 1, the part of Governor Jindal’s education overhaul dealing with teacher tenure and evaluations, unconstitutional. The judge declared that it violates the “single object” section of the state Constitution, which says any bill must contain only one “aim or purpose of enactment.” The state has appealed the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court. If it is found to be unconstitutional, Governor Jindal stated he will call the Legislature into special session to address the issue.

State Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Louisiana vouchers case
Times-Picayune – March 19, 2013
The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether Act 2 – Governor Jindal’s voucher legislation – is unconstitutional because it diverts public MFP funds to private entities. No immediate ruling was handed down.

Eric Cantor touts Gov. Jindal’s voucher policies during New Orleans visit
Times-Picayune – March 8, 2013
During a recent visit to St. Mary’s Catholic School in New Orleans, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Governor Jindal’s voucher program could serve as a model for education reform and school choice nationwide.

Registration open for new state program that allows public school students to take outside courses on the state’s dime
Times-Picayune – March 11, 2013
The Louisiana Department of Education announced that online registration is now available for Louisiana’s Course Choice Program, which provides funding for high school students to take college and career courses outside the traditional school setting. Course Choice is available to students who attend a C, D or F public school or who want to register for a course not offered at their A or B public school. Editor’s note: Course Choice and the voucher program are part of Act 2, which may be ruled unconstitutional. The State Supreme Court heard arguments this week. 

Louisiana receives $9 million to turn around failing schools from U.S. Dept. of Education
Times-Picayune – March 18, 2013
Louisiana will receive $9.2 million from the federal School Improvement Grant program to help turnaround failing schools. Local school districts can apply for grants for specific turnaround efforts, including: replacing the school principal and some or most of the staff, converting the school into a charter, or closing the school and making room for students at high-performing schools. The state estimates that this year’s funding will be enough to finance the turnaround of 10 to 15 schools.

BESE Approves MFP for 2013-14

$3.4 billion school funding plan OK’d by BESE, heads to Legislature
Times-Picayune – March 8, 2013
BESE has approved this year’s MFP resolution, which specifies the cost of educating a child in Louisiana and determines what share the state and each parish should contribute. The resolution does not increase per pupil funding, changes the funding formula for students in special education, maintains the private and parochial school voucher program, and ends the requirement that districts spend 70 percent of the funds in the classroom. The Legislature must approve the plan during its spring session.

National Education Stories

Career Technical Education Linked to Boys’ High School Survival
Education Week – March 4, 2013
Enrollment in career technical education courses (CTE) is a strong predictor of staying in high school – especially for boys. An analysis of high school transcripts by the National Research Center of Career and Technical Education showed that earning three or more CTE credits was second only to a freshman boy’s grade point average as the strongest variable affecting high school graduation. The Research Center’s director said that high schools place too much emphasis on preparing students for a four-year college when that’s not the right path for many. CTE can help retain some students who are at high risk of dropping out.

Searching for Charter School Excellence
Education Gadfly – March 14, 2013
The researchers at Public Impact looked at charter school performance in five cities – Albany, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis – and found that 1) charter schools outperformed their home district’s schools, which had similar levels of poverty, but trailed their states overall; 2) within each city quality varied widely, with some very high-performing charter schools and some dismal ones; 3) the way to improve charter performance overall is to close or replace low-performing schools and expand or replicate high-performing schools.

Why both extremes are wrong in the debate over school closings
Hechinger Report – March 8, 2013
A coalition of residents from 18 cities have called for a moratorium on school closures in this country, but Sarah Carr says a moratorium is too simplistic. A more holistic approach is needed, one that extends beyond test scores and includes an assessment of whether families will have ready access to high-quality alternatives.

Helping Education Leaders Grow
Education Week – March 12, 2013
A new national survey finds that three out of four K-12 public school principals believe the job has become “too complex,” and about a third say they are likely to go into a different occupation within next five years. This Ed Week commentary, co-authored by New Orleanian Jonas Chartock of Leading Educators, proposes more training for teachers who will become tomorrow’s principals and an expansion of middle-level leadership roles that provide teachers with a more intentional, longer-term path to the principalship.

Best and Worst Teachers Can Be Flagged Early, Says Study
Education Week – March 5, 2013
A recent study of New York teachers suggests that the most – and least – effective elementary teachers show their colors at the very start of their careers. The study tracked over 7,600 new teachers over 5 years and found that teachers who were the lowest performing in their first year were likely to still be the lowest performing in their fifth year, and teachers who were the highest performing in their first year remained the highest performing five years later.

Experts Make a Case for Later School Start Times
Education Week – March 15, 2013
As more research becomes available on the importance of adequate sleep for adolescents, communities across the country are looking at pushing back start times for middle and high schools as a way to improve student performance and behavior as well as physical and mental health.

Diane Ravitch Launches New Education Advocacy Counterforce
Education Week – March 7, 2013
Education historian Diane Ravitch, a fierce critic of current trends in education reform, is launching an advocacy organization. Her new Network for Public Education will support political candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, and what her group calls the “privatizing” of public schools.

Local News

Report puts light on school suspension
The Advocate – March 13, 2013
According to the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JPPL), 59% of public schools in New Orleans have an out-of-school suspension rate higher than the state average of 9.6%. Twenty-five schools have an out-of-school suspension rate above 20%. JPPL says suspensions matter because they are a leading indicator of whether a child will drop out of school and because they increase a child’s risk for future incarceration. Sci Academy says they use out-of-school suspensions as tool to help improve student success, but they are combined with counseling, peer mediation, and other interventions. View individual school report cards on the JPPL websiteEditor’s note: The annual drop out rate for all New Orleans public schools (OPSB + RSD) has fallen 60% since Katrina, from 11.4% in 2004-05 to 4.1% in 2010-11.

BESE hears from merger opponents
The Advocate – March 17, 2013
Three BESE members recently met with Algiers residents to hear their concerns about the planned merger of L.B. Landry and O.P. Walker. The BESE members, Lottie Beebe, Carolyn Hill, and Kira Orange Jones, said they were surprised to learn that so many were against the merger. Orange Jones said that she was told only a small group of people were fighting the merger, but the crowd of 300 that filled the room showed that wasn’t true.

Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network considering expanding ‘Blackboard Wars’
Times-Picayune – March 15, 2013
“Blackboard Wars,” the unscripted series set at John McDonogh High School, has struck a chord with American audiences. Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network is considering extending its six-episode run with a second season. Back home, the show remains controversial, with many John McDonogh families angry over what they see as the exploitation of their children.

Announcement: Grant Funds Available

La. to use fund to boost low-rated schools
The Advocate – March 14, 2013
The Louisiana Department of Education announced a new competitive grant initiative, called Believe and Succeed, to help turn around failing schools. Using re-purposed federal dollars, Believe and Succeed will provide grants to school districts and nonprofits for new school development and for expanding high-performing schools and school networks. Applications are available online and are due on April 26th, 2013.