In the News: June 16, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

  • Ira Thomas: The Saga Continues
  • Louisiana Headlines
  • Poor Voucher Performance
  • RSD in the News
  • National Education Stories
  • OPSB Updates
  • From the RSD
  • Shout Out

Ira Thomas: The Saga Continues 

Orleans Parish School Board president’s SUNO job description not valid, university says
Times-Picayune – June 7, 2013
OPSB President Ira Thomas could be violating state law by serving on the Orleans Parish School Board while also working as Police Chief for Southern University at New Orleans (a state entity). The question is whether the law’s educational exemption applies. It allows dual office holding if the person “is employed in a professional educational capacity.”

  • In March, The Lens reported that Thomas might be violating the state’s dual office holding law and posted his job description, which did not contain any education responsibilities.
  • After delaying more than two months, in late May Thomas asked for an opinion from the Attorney General’s office and included a revised job description that was different from the one SUNO sent The Lens and the Times-Picayune. This revised job description included some educational duties, although it is unclear if they meet the definition of “professional educational capacity.”
  • Now we learn that SUNO has said the revised job description Thomas submitted is not valid and stated the original job description is the official one.

The matter is now awaiting an opinion from the Attorney General’s office.

Louisiana Headlines

Bill to exempt special education students from accountability tests
Associated Press – May 28, 2013
Parents of special education students can now decide whether their children will take the ACT, LEAP, and other state tests. Their children will not be penalized for opting out, and a student’s non-participation will no longer be factored into a school’s performance score or grade.

Louisiana needs to better prepare high school graduates for college and work: John White
Times-Picayune – June 15, 2013
In this op ed, Superintendent John White says we need to do more to prepare our students for college and career success. White proposes that we simplify our high school diploma options, going from three – traditional (preparing for four-year college), basic, and career – to one diploma with two pathways: college and career. He says the career option should offer more training that is relevant to today’s work force, and it should be easier for a student to change paths along the way.

Louisiana ranks 49th in percentage of adults with college degrees, a new study shows
Times-Picayune – June 13, 2013
Louisiana ranks below every state but West Virginia in the number of people with college degrees. Only 28% of adults age 25 to 64 held a college degree in 2011. The New Orleans area had the highest proportion of college graduates in Louisiana with 34%. The national average was 39%.

Poor Voucher Performance

When will performance of Louisiana voucher students match parental satisfaction?: Jarvis DeBerry
Times-Picayune – June 11, 2013
A recent BAEO survey found that 93% of voucher parents are satisfied with their children’s school even though test scores show the majority of voucher students are performing below grade level. Jarvis DeBerry spoke with two of BAEO’s leaders who said parents have many reasons why they choose schools. Performance is a factor, but so is safety and school location. They did agree, though, that parent satisfaction is not enough when it comes to public dollars.

Louisiana Student Vouchers: Private Schools Get an “F” by the Program’s Own Standard
PolicyMic – June 13, 2013
Louisiana’s voucher students’ performance would make them the 3rd lowest performing district, behind RSD State and RSD Baton Rouge. Editor’s note: RSD New Orleans significantly outperformed the voucher students. 

RSD in the News

Can School Reform Hurt Communities?
New York Times – June 15, 2013
Former Times-Picayune reporter Sarah Carr examines the school reform movement in New Orleans, which is rooted in the notion that “fixing” schools is the strongest lever for improving communities. Any obstacles that stand in the way of this goal – poverty, trauma, parental ambivalence – are just “excuses,” but Carr wonders if schools are being asked to fix an impossibly broad set of challenges. At the same time, Carr points out that the reform movement may have destabilized the community in unexpected ways, including the lost of veteran educators who formed the core of the city’s black middle class and the influx of young inexperienced teachers who can’t relate to the problems their students face at home. Carr says we can ask more of our public schools without asking them to save the city all on their own.

A roadmap for education reform
American Enterprise Institute – May 30, 2013
The American Enterprise Institute asked leading educational thinkers to develop blueprints for improving our educational system. NSNO’s Neerav Kingsland was asked to write about The Recovery School District Model and how it can be adapted and implemented in other states. Other chapters look at strategies to increase the number of high-quality education providers and new ways to make the most of limited resources, harness data and analytics to improve performance, and think about professional development.

State District to Run Struggling Schools in Va.
Education Week – June 11, 2013
Plans are underway in Virginia to develop a new state-run district aimed at taking over and turning around the state’s lowest-performing schools. Tennessee and Michigan have their own versions of the RSD, and the idea was recently considered in Texas.

National Education Stories

The Big Squeeze
Education Gadfly – June 6, 2013
A new study from the Fordham Institute looks at how three school districts, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, are attempting to deal with the serious problem of unfunded pension liabilities. One estimate shows that Philadelphia could find itself spending as much as $2,361 per pupil by 2020 just on retiree costs. Editor’s note: The unfunded liability for the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana is approaching $11 billion, and the increasing costs are choking schools. This issue will only increase in importance. 

Ambitious Five-Point Tech Plan Outlined by National Ed. Leaders
Education Week – June 13, 2013
The Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission (LEAD) has released a five-point plan to help facilitate the growth of digital learning with a goal of putting digital devices into the hands of all students by 2020. Their plan calls for modernizing the federal E-rate program, providing training and support for teachers, accelerating the adoption of digital curricula, working with device manufacturers to get technology into the hands of students, and investing in technology-rich schools of innovation to serve as models for other public schools.

The Premium From a College Degree
New York Times – June 7, 2013
New research from the Hamilton Project shows that despite rising costs, a college degree is still worth the investment. The authors calculate that over a lifetime, a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree will earn over $500,000 more than an individual with just a high school diploma. Students who go to college but don’t graduate still earn about $100,000 more over the course of their lifetimes than those with just a high school diploma.

OPSB Updates 

Orleans Parish School Board resists inspector general audit request
Times-Picayune – June 14, 2013
Ed Quatrevaux, the city’s Inspector General, has been trying for seven months to get the OPSB to agree to an audit, but so far they have refused to cooperate. OPSB says they are outside the Inspector General’s jurisdiction, but Quatrevaux says their legal arguments are “totally without merit.”

McDonogh 35 school should return to magnet status, New Orleans legislators say
Times-Picayune – June 13, 2013
Two State Representatives are pushing to make McDonogh 35 a selective-admissions high school again. Mac 35 has been open-admissions since Katrina and has seen a significant drop in its School Performance Score as a result. The legislators argue that the need for another open-admissions high school has passed and that Mac 35 could regain its reputation as a high-performing school if allowed to return to magnet status.

5 groups seek to open new Orleans Parish School Board charters
Times-Picayune – June 6, 2013
Five groups have filed letters of intent to open charter schools under the Orleans Parish School Board. All the applications are for new schools, not takeovers, and are not part of the current school building master plan. If approved, each group would be responsible for finding its own building. Full applications are due to the OPSB in July.

From the RSD 

Mid-City school groundbreaking first of 10 building projects this summer
Times-Picayune – June 12, 2013
The RSD broke ground recently on the new Fisk-Howard building in Mid-City, which will house the Morris Jeff Community School. Construction is scheduled to start on 10 new school campuses this summer, all part of the $1.8 billion School Facilities Master Plan.

Most students leaving from RSD’s 4 closed, failing schools are headed to other substandard schools
The Lens – June 11, 2013
The majority of students from schools closed by the RSD this year will be attending either another F or T rated school. Despite significant improvements in school performance, there still aren’t enough seats in high-rated schools. Parents had the option to enter the OneApp in the second round, but as the Times-Picayune reported, choices in the second round were limited.

Shout Out 

New Orleans Sci Academy educator wins $25,000 for exceptional leadership
Times-Picayune – June 2, 2013
The Accelerate Institute of Chicago named Ben Marcovitz, Sci Academy’s founding principal and CEO of Collegiate Academies, the first New Orleans recipient of the Ryan Award. As one of three 2013 winners, Marcovitz received $25,000 for “demonstrating exceptional leadership in closing the achievement gap.”