In the News: June 30, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

  • Conflict Escalates at OPSB
  • CREDO: Charters Outperforming Traditional Schools
  • RSD Updates
  • Louisiana Headlines
  • National Education Stories
  • Other Local News

Conflict Escalates at OPSB

Community: Orleans Parish School Board should focus on superintendent search, not politics
Times-Picayune – June 29, 2013
Recent actions by the Orleans Parish School Board have left many in the community astounded and perplexed, particularly by OPSB President, Ira Thomas. Even those who support Thomas’ views say he has failed to step up, lead a bigger conversation, and bring together people with opposing views. “I don’t know what he stands for. Nobody does,” says Andre Perry.

Orleans Parish School Board president slams superintendent, calls for ouster
The Advocate – June 28, 2013
School Board President Ira Thomas held a press conference in which he attacked OPSB’s Interim Superintendent Stan Smith, claiming that Smith doesn’t have a valid employment contract and accusing him of undermining participation of minorities in school construction. Thomas doesn’t have the support he needs to fire Smith. Board member Sarah Usdin said, “Before Katrina, the Orleans Parish School Board had eight superintendents in 10 years … We don’t want to return to the days of revolving-door superintendents.” Board member Nolan Marshall, Jr. accused Thomas of creating “one manufactured controversy and counterproductive disruption after another,” and trying to push Smith out “without a process that involves the entire board or the public.” Stan Smith says he plans to continue as Interim Superintendent, despite this challenge.

Orleans Parish School Board pulls back on OneApp, lets schools choose students
Times-Picayune – June 18, 2013
At its June 18 meeting OPSB voted not to allow students assigned by OneApp to one of its 5 schools to attend this coming school year unless they have registered at the school by July 8th, even though these students have already been told they have a spot. The RSD, which manages OneApp, issued a warning that 600 children could lose their seats if they don’t comply with this new requirement and urged parents to go to the school with proper documentation and register now.

IG demands Orleans Parish school district’s financial records
The Advocate – June 27, 2013
New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux sent a formal subpoena requesting access to OPSB’s financial records. Quatrevaux has been trying for months to get the OPSB to agree to an audit, but they have refused saying OPSB is outside of the Inspector General’s jurisdiction. OPSB requested an opinion on jurisdiction from the state Attorney General.

CREDO: Charters Outperforming Traditional Schools

Big takeaways from CREDO’s 2013 charter study
Education Gadfly – June 25, 2013
The latest study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) shows that charter schools nationally are improving and are now surpassing traditional public schools in reading gains and keeping pace in math. The study looked at 95% of the nation’s 2.3 million charter school students – a much higher percentage than covered in CREDO’s 2009 study. Key findings include:

  • Charter schools benefit minorities and are producing the largest academic gains for the most disadvantaged students. Black students living in poverty gained the equivalent of 29 days in reading and 36 days in math by attending charter schools.
  • Louisiana charters produced some of the best results nationally. In one year, Louisiana charter school students gained an average of 50 days of learning in reading and 65 days in math over their peers in traditional public schools.
  • The strongest tool for improving charter performance is closing low-performing charter schools. Editor’s Note: In New Orleans, 11 charters have closed or transferred to new management since 2009 due to performance issues.
  • The states with great charter performance have independent authorizers. Editor’s Note: Louisiana does allow district authorizing, although both OPSB and the state use outside reviewers in the process.

RSD Updates

Recovery School District, Inspector General to part ways after clash
The Advocate – June 25, 2013
One year into a three-year contract, New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux is pulling out of his agreement with the RSD to provide fraud oversight of the School Facilities Master Plan. Quatrevaux says the RSD denied him access to records, refused to make employees available for interviews, withheld contract payments, and refused to pay for forensic engineering reviews. The RSD says Quatrevaux didn’t understand the scope of work his office was supposed to provide and that he was duplicating work provided by other agencies, such as the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office. The RSD says FEMA, which is funding the $1.8 billion school building plan, will not allow them to bill twice for the same services.

Recovery School District wasted $33 million in construction oversight, inspector general says
Times-Picayune – June 27, 2013
Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux says the state Department of Education wasted nearly $33 million in taxpayer money by overpaying the company that oversees the city’s $1.8 billion School Facilities Master Plan. In a letter, Quatrevaux argues that the state should have amended its contract with Jacobs/CSRS to reduce their payments when the scope of work was reduced by close to 50%. The RSD says Quatrevaux does not understand the full role played by Jacobs/CSRS and all the services they provided.

McDonogh’s turnaround faces challenges
The Advocate – June 22, 2013
The staff at John McDonogh are still hopeful that they can turn around the failing school, but they face many challenges. One of the biggest is low enrollment numbers, which could lead to further budget cuts. John McDonogh is not the only high school facing low enrollment this year, and it’s possible there may be too many high schools for the number of public school students in the city.

Landry, Walker high schools merger gains BESE committee backing
Times-Picayune – June 18, 2013
The merger of O.P. Walker and L.B. Landry will go ahead as planned, despite intense opposition from a group of community members. BESE’s committee voted to approve the merger, and a few days later it was approved by the full board.

Louisiana Headlines

Study: Half of STEM Jobs Don’t Require Bachelor’s Degree
U.S. News and World Report – June 10, 2013
According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, the New Orleans region is ranked third in the nation for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that are available to people without a bachelor’s degree. STEM jobs that don’t require a four-year degree pay about 10% more than non-STEM jobs available to people with similar education backgrounds.

New Living Word tossed from voucher program
Monroe News Star – June 28, 2013
The New Living Word School in Ruston has been cut from the voucher program because the state’s auditor found the school charged the state more for tuition than it did parents of non-voucher students. The state is now working with other local schools to find seats for the 150 voucher students that have been displaced.

BESE approves new funding source for online course program
Times-Picayune – June 19, 2013
The Louisiana Department of Education has found a way to fund Course Choice for next year. Superintendent John White and BESE say they will use up to $2 million of the state’s 8(g) Fund, a federal oil and gas settlement trust dedicated to education, to pay for the program. The state Supreme Court ruled that funding Course Choice with the MFP was unconstitutional, so the DOE had to find another way to pay for the program.

Louisiana is walling off schoolchildren from each other: Robert Mann
Times-Picayune – June 23, 2013
Robert Mann calls Louisiana’s education reforms a failure. He says the voucher program puts students into a “gated neighborhood.” He also criticizes the state’s oversight of charter schools and condemns the RSD for having the worst performing schools in the state. Caroline Roemer Shirley replied to Mann’s letter saying he’s missed a critical point – years of a failing school system is what created the biggest barrier for Louisiana’s children. Roemer points out that the RSD took over the worst performing schools in the state and is now improving faster than any other district, and in New Orleans, charter schools are creating the next chapter in the great American success story.

National Education Stories

Informing Students about Their College Options
Education Gadfly – June 27, 2013
The Expanding College Opportunities Project (ECO) is trying to encourage high-achieving, low-income high school students to apply to more selective colleges. ECO is sending informational packets (with college-specific information, application fee waivers, and guidance on how to apply) to thousands of high-achieving seniors, and so far the results are positive: students who receive the packet are 20% more likely to apply to public and private schools with similarly high-achieving students.

Disputed Review Finds Disparities in Teacher Prep
Education Week – June 18, 2013
A new study of teacher preparation programs found that the majority of U.S. programs are not giving teachers the skills and content knowledge they need to succeed in the classroom. The study found it is far too easy to get into a teacher preparation program; only 1/3 of high school programs are preparing candidates in content necessary to teach to Common Core; and only 25% of elementary programs are teaching methods of reading instruction proven to substantially improve proficiency. In Louisiana, the lowest ranked programs were LSU Shreveport and McNeese, while Southeastern University of Louisiana made the honor roll with 3-1/2 out of 4 stars.

Study: U.S. Education Spending Tops Global List
Associated Press – June 25, 2013
A report on education spending found that the United States spends more than other developed nations on education. Looking at primary, secondary, and post-secondary education, the U.S. spent an average of $15,171 per student in 2010. France, England, Finland, and Japan all spent less than $11,000 per student. In the U.S., 70% of education costs were publicly funded in 2010. Parents funded 25%, and other private sources (e.g., foundations) accounted for the remainder.

Why judge ordered Paul Vallas removed as Bridgeport schools chief
Washington Post – June 29, 2013
A Superior Court judge in Connecticut ordered that Paul Vallas be removed from his job as Superintendent of the Bridgeport, CT school system because he hasn’t earned a state leadership certificate from the University of Connecticut. The decision will likely be appealed.

Other Local News

The Lens’ Charter School Reporting Corps is holding New Orleans schools accountable
Nieman Journalism Lab – June 25, 2013
The Lens receives recognition from the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard for accomplishing a very difficult task – reporting on more than 40 individual charter school boards in New Orleans. By recruiting freelancers into an organized corps with a targeted mission, The Lens has improved oversight and accountability of charter schools.