In the News – June 2, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

  • Legislative and Legal Updates
  • Other Louisiana News
  • Common Core Updates
  • National Headlines
  • Local Stories

Legislative and Legal Updates 

The Louisiana Supreme Court vacated the district court ruling that Act 1 (teacher evaluation and tenure) was a dual-object bill. Essentially, the justices want the district court judge to reconsider his ruling on Act 1 based on the fact that the Supreme Court recently ruled Act 2 (school choice) was a single object.

Louisiana’s legislative session ends this Thursday (June 6th). Here’s what’s happening on the K-12 Education front:

Act 2: Financial Implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling that vouchers and Course Choice could not be funded through the MFP and that the 2012-13 MFP resolution was not legally adopted.

The Senate has sent HB1, the bill that funds state government, to the House for final approval. The House can either accept the revised budget or the bill goes to conference committee. The legislature must approve a budget by the end of the session (Thursday) or go into special session.

The budget, as passed by the Senate:

  • Includes money to pay for the voucher program for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year and for the 2013-14 school year (enough to fund more than the 5,000 students from this year but less than the 8,000 projected for next year).
  • The Senate also added $50 million for a one-time teacher pay supplement (bonus) for public school teachers across the state (Yes, this includes charter school teachers.) that will likely be close to 2% of pay. This supplemental pay is for the 2013-14 school year and is in addition to MFP funding.
  • It includes $16.1 million to reimburse school districts for local funds paid for voucher students as well as local funds paid for some Type 2 charter schools (e.g. Milestone Sabis, ISL) and Special Schools (e.g. NOCCA).
  • New Orleans Public Schools will get an extra $260 per student for the 2012-13 school year because of these changes.
  • The Course Choice program will become a pilot program paid for through the Department of Education’s budget.

HB 661 by Representative Wesley Bishop has cleared the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor for his signature. HB 661 deals with returning Type 5 charter schools to their local school district. 

  • When Type 5 charters return, they become Type 3B charters. (Yes, another number to remember!)
  • By law, they must continue to adhere to equity provisions (like OneApp and expulsion rules) as established by BESE.
  • The district will pay them using the Weighted Student Formula in the MFP (versus the average amount).
  • They have the option of becoming their own LEA.
  • The school district must continue to provide them with a building.

HB 466, which would have frozen changes to school accountability, died in the Senate Education Committee.

Efforts to stop Louisiana’s adoption of the Common Core were defeated on the Senate floor. 

A bill to delay parts of teacher evaluations/Compass was killed in the Senate Education Committee, although proponents have added the measure onto another bill with the hope of keeping it alive.

Schools will now be required to do safety/planning drills simulating an armed intruder entering the school.

The Legislature looks poised to pass a parent trigger law allowing parents of RSD-operated schools to petition to have the school returned to local control.

Other Louisiana News 

Louisiana voucher students score almost 30 points below average on LEAP tests
Times-Picayune – May 22, 2013
Only 40% of voucher students scored at or above grade level on LEAP and iLeap tests this spring. The state average was 69%, and the average for RSD New Orleans schools was 57%. Five New Orleans schools participating in the voucher program had scores so low (less than 25% of voucher students performing at grade level) that they have been barred from accepting new voucher students in the fall. Editor’s note: There are only seven public schools in New Orleans with less than 40% of students performing at grade level and none with less than 30%.

Louisiana reports increase in student participation in Advanced Placement courses
Times-Picayune – May 29, 2013
Almost 6,000 more Louisiana students took Advanced Placement classes this year. AP classes give students the opportunity to gain college credit while still in high school, and research has shown a strong link between students who take AP classes and success in college. Information about student performance on the AP exams will be released this summer.

Common Core Updates 

LEAP scores upbeat for N.O. metro area
The Advocate – May 27, 2013
Along with announcing test results, Superintendent John White discussed the Common Core. This year’s essay writing prompts on the English tests were from Common Core, and on this part of the test, the number of students scoring at grade level dropped by 10%. Next year, all of the English and math questions on the tests will be Common Core questions.

Common-Core Online Practice Tests Unveiled
Education Week – May 29, 2013
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two major coalitions of states designing Common Core tests, has released sets of online sample test questions for grades 3-8 and 11 in both English language arts and math. Educators, parents, or anyone who is curious about what Common Core will bring, can online. Editor’s note: Louisiana is in the other testing consortium – PARCC.

State Chiefs: Common Core Requires Flexibility, Not a Pause
Education Week – May 28, 2013
The Council of Chief State School Officers says they reject the idea of a moratorium on high-stakes accountability based on Common Core. Instead, they ask that states be given some flexibility in how and when they apply the new accountability standards for student, school, and teacher performance. Another, smaller group, Chiefs for Change, is also against and against states delaying the implementation of teacher evaluations. Louisiana’s John White is a member of both groups.

Khan Academy to Focus on Common-Core Math With Private Grant
Education Week – May 20, 2013
The nonprofit Khan Academy received a $2.2 million grant to develop online content and tools to help teachers and students meet Common Core standards in mathematics. The founder of Khan Academy, Salman Khan, is a native New Orleanian. He recently returned home to give the commencement address at Ben Franklin High School.

National Headlines

Am I a Part of the Cure … or the Disease?
Education Week – May 4, 2013
Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli weighs in on the testing debate. For those interested in a thoughtful response to critics of test-based school reform, this is a good read.

Study: Of NCLB Sanctions, Restructuring Spurred Most Improvement
Education Week – May 22, 2013
recent study looks at what effect sanctions from No Child Left Behind have had on low performing schools. It turns out that significant school improvement came only from the law’s biggest penalty – wholesale restructuring (converting to a charter or firing the principal and most staff). Smaller-scale corrective actions, including changes in leadership and teachers, had very little effect.

Public Spending Per Student Drops
Wall Street Journal – May 21, 2013
According to Census Bureau data, per student spending in the U.S. fell in 2011 for the first time in more than three decades. New York spent the most per pupil at $19,076, followed by Washington, D.C. at $18,475. Louisiana spent close to the national average at $10,723 per pupil, and Utah spent the least at $6,212 per student.

Charter Students in Boston Outperform Their Peers, Study Finds
Education Week – May 23, 2013
new study found that students in Boston charter high schools performed better than their regular public school peers on state tests, were more likely to take Advanced Placement tests, and were more likely to pass the state graduation exam. They were also more likely to attend 4-year rather than 2-year colleges.

Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status
Education Gadfly – May 30, 2013
A longitudinal study in the United Kingdom tracked 18,000 individuals from age 7 to age 42 to determine whether childhood reading and math skills at age seven predicted adult socioeconomic success. The study concluded that while socioeconomic status in childhood played a role in a student’s future level of success, school-based knowledge mattered more.

Local Stories 

2 Ira Thomas job descriptions at play in dual office-holding review
Times-Picayune – May 28, 2013
Ira Thomas says he is not violating the state’s law against dual office holding by serving on the Orleans Parish School Board while working as head of security for SUNO. Thomas submitted a job description to the state attorney general, which is different from the one SUNO provided to the Times-Picayune.

Appeal hearing case set in post-Katrina school firings
Associated Press – May 30, 2013
A state court of appeals is set to hear arguments over whether thousands of New Orleans public school employees were wrongfully fired after Hurricane Katrina. Last year, a civil district court awarded more than $1 million to seven people in a class-action suit against the OPSB and the state. If the appeals court upholds the ruling it could lead to damages for an estimated 7,000 others and potentially cost $1 billion.

State school board may stop Landry/Walker merger 2 months before new school year
Times-Picayune – May 29, 2013
Responding to continued objections from parents, students, and alumni of L.B. Landry and O.P. Walker, a committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to consider delaying or stopping the unpopular merger between the two schools this fall. BESE staff members will now present options for the board to consider at its full meeting in June.

Closure of Unneeded Failing Schools Causes Disruption for Students and Teachers
The Lens – May 30, 2013
Tough accountability standards are critical to the success of New Orleans school reform, but the closure of failing and unneeded schools is tough on children, families, teachers, and local communities. Four public schools are closing this year – Benjamin Mays Prep, Abramson Elementary, James W. Johnson, and Murray Henderson.

New Orleans charter school budgets available through The Lens
The Lens – May 22, 2013
Louisiana charter schools are in the process of budgeting for 2013-14, and The Lens is collecting the school budgets as they become available and posting the documents on its website.

ARISE charter school to purchase its own bus fleet
The Lens – May 29, 2013
Arise Academy will soon join Sophie B. Wright Charter in owning and operating its own school busses. Arise says the decision to own busses, rather than contract out, makes financial sense, and they hope to save close to $2 million over the next 20 years.