In the News: April 8, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

Common Core is Coming  

Louisiana overhauling teaching goals, standardized tests in effort to raise the bar for students
Times-Picayune – March 22, 2013
This article gives a good overview of the major changes coming as Louisiana raises the education bar again, implementing the new, national set of education standards called the Common Core. To help students meet the new goals, textbooks must be ordered, computers upgraded, lesson plans updated, and new tests developed. Louisiana has joined 22 states in using the PARCC tests for English and math, which will be much more rigorous than the current LEAP tests. The tests won’t go into effect until late 2014, but teachers will start teaching to the new standards this fall. Educators are encouraged to look at the PARCC sample items and prototypes to help them prepare.

Editor’s note: New York and Georgia are ahead of Louisiana in developing their new curricula, and both states are offering all of their materials for free online. Visit or for more information.

Can we Teach Innovation?  

Need a Job? Invent It
The New York Times – March 30, 2013
Tom Friedman interviews Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner, who says our goal today should not be to make every child “college ready” but “innovation ready.” When information is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. Wagner says the ability to innovate – to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life – along with skills like critical thinking, communication, and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. Editor’s note: Hence, the Common Core!   

Proposed Changes in Louisiana  

Louisiana public schools to receive two letter grades this year instead of one, White says
Times-Picayune – March 22, 2013
To help with the transition to the new School Performance Score (SPS) calculations this year, Superintendent of Education John White proposes that schools receive two letter grades, one reflecting what a school would have received using last year’s standards and one reflecting how it performed under the new rules. The state changed the SPS calculations for all schools this year, but high schools will see the most change with the addition of the ACT and changes in the Graduation Index.

Reducing number of high school diplomas proposed
The Advocate – March 26, 2013
State Superintendent John White wants to consider eliminating one of Louisiana’s high school diplomas, going from three diplomas (Core-4, Career and Basic) down to two (College and Career). He also wants to better align the College diploma with the requirements for TOPS scholarships and redesign the Career diploma to better prepare students for meaningful, high-wage careers in Louisiana.

National Education Stories  

Bill Gates: A fairer way to evaluate teachers
Washington Post – April 3, 2013
Bill Gates believes that fair teacher evaluations are within reach but says we must build a system that provides feedback and that teachers trust. A successful teacher evaluation system, he says, will include multiple measures of performance, such as student surveys, classroom observations by experienced colleagues, and student test results. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that new evaluation results in several states are generating concern because over 95% of teachers are being rated effective.

Atlanta Cheating Scandal Reverberates
Education Week – April 4, 2013
Retired Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 other educators have been named in a Grand Jury indictment alleging they cheated on state exams, hid the cheating, and retaliated against whistleblowers who tried to expose it. Philadelphia is in the middle of its own cheating scandal after a statewide investigation into cheating at 53 schools from 2009-11.

What’s needed for preschool to pay off? Two studies offer insights
Christian Science Monitor – March 28, 2013
Two new studies on preschool programs, one in New Jersey and one in Boston, show long-term academic gains and offer clues about what it takes to boost student progress. In both programs, teachers’ educational backgrounds, pay, and peer support are all higher than is typical at the preschool level; they are full-day programs open to all students regardless of family income; they offer curricula linked to system-wide educational standards; and the districts monitor teacher and student improvement on an ongoing basis. In Louisiana, Governor Jindal has proposed new accountability standards for public pre-K programs.

Mayoral Governance and Student Achievement: How Mayor-Led Districts Are Improving School and Student Performance
Education Gadfly – April 4, 2013
Giving a mayor control over a failing school district can lead to improved school performance according to a recent report from the Center for American Progress. The report looks at eleven urban districts governed by mayoral control, meaning the mayor had direct authority over at least some of the schools, and found that some districts significantly narrowed achievement gaps, while others saw mixed results.

Drug Testing in Middle School Can Cut Use as Students Age
Education Week – March 25, 2013
A six-year New Jersey study found that middle school students who were tested for drug and alcohol use at any point between 6th and 8th grade were less likely to drink and use drugs in middle school and less likely to drink when they got older.

Local News  

Letter: Strong schools create strong students
The Advocate – April 5, 2013
A member of the Advisory Board for the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone recently visited three New Orleans charter schools and was impressed to find that their school autonomy resulted in positive school cultures, strong leadership with a clear vision, and an unwavering commitment to the belief that every student can learn and achieve at a high level. The Baton Rouge Achievement Zone is a partnership between the RSD and the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board to turn around failing schools.

Orleans Parish School Board comes together to align a vision for the district
Times-Picayune – April 5, 2013
The Orleans Parish School Board met in Houston last week for a board management workshop sponsored by Stand for Children and the Cowen Institute.

SUNO, Algiers high school sign agreement for West Bank college campus
Times-Picayune – April 2, 2013
Southern University New Orleans is opening a new satellite campus at L.B. Landry High School in Algiers with the hope that it will increase enrollment and make courses more accessible to nontraditional students. SUNO will offer about 15 classes two nights a week this fall, including both remedial and for-credit courses.

Parents have few options when moving kids from failing public schools
The Lens – March 19, 2013
School Districts are required to notify parents when their children are attending a failing school and offer them the option to transfer to a non-failing school where there is space. Unfortunately, in New Orleans there still aren’t enough seats at high-performing schools, and the choices parents are being given often aren’t much better than their current school.

Arise Academy, Crescent City Schools receive $1.8 million to expand
Times-Picayune – March 27, 2013
Two New Orleans charter school management groups received close to $2 million from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to take over low performing schools. Arise Academy received $825,000 toward its planned takeover of Pride College Prep in eastern New Orleans, and Crescent City Schools received $1 million to help charter Habans Elementary in Algiers. The grants are part of a $25 million gift from the Arnold Foundation to give 15,000 New Orleans students a better education. The next round of grant recipients will be announced in May.