In the News: July 21, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

  • OPSB Antics
  • Louisiana Headlines
  • National Education Stories
  • Local News
  • Shout Out

OPSB Antics

Orleans Parish School Board antics harken back to pre-Katrina politics
The Advocate – July 14, 2013
Infighting, public squabbles, charges of racism, and threats to put another superintendent on the chopping block – Is the OPSB returning to its old ways? Andrew Vanacore looks at the controversies surrounding today’s OPSB in this article from The Advocate. James Varney also examines this lamentable sense of déjà vu in an op ed for the Times Picayune.

Heated N.O. School Board meeting ends in stalemate
The Advocate – July 17, 2013
The OPSB’s last meeting consisted of hours of heated public debate with disagreements over everything from enrollment to whether the district’s anti-bullying policy should mention gays and lesbians. The discussion of interim Superintendent Stan Smith’s contract got so ugly, with accusations of out-and-out racism, that the board finally voted to table it for a later date. Two of the night’s jaw-dropping moments came from Vice President Leslie Ellison when she told fellow board member Seth Bloom that, unlike being Black, being gay is something you can change, and then when she declared that there was no such thing as separation between church and state.

Inspector general ready to sue for Orleans Parish School Board documents, he says
Times-Picayune – July 12, 2013
New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux is prepared to take the OPSB to court if they don’t allow him access to their financial records. Quatrevaux says he can audit anyone who receives money through the city, but the OPSB says the city merely collects property taxes on behalf of the OPSB and has no say in how it is spent. OPSB filed its own lawsuit saying any subpoena from the Inspector General should be ruled invalid.

Louisiana Headlines

Teachers union sues state for $200 million; second $65 million suit possible
Times-Picayune – July 1, 2013
The Louisiana Association of Educators has filed a class-action suit charging that the state owes local school boards $199 million for 2012-13. They argue that the MFP formulas for the past three years were all invalid because they were introduced too late in the legislative session, so the most recent valid formula is 2009-10. That formula mandated a minimum 2.5% annual increase in the state’s share of the MFP. Applying the 2.5% increase for the subsequent years works out to an additional $199 million for 2012-13.

Two-year schools focus on job training
The Advocate – July 1, 2013
Legislators passed a bill allowing community and technical colleges to borrow more than $250 million to build new facilities to train skilled workers needed to meet the state’s growing industrial economy. South Louisiana is expected to see the highest demand for skilled workers over the next three years, with an estimated 17,000 needed in New Orleans.

About 22,000 Louisiana students qualify for TOPS college scholarships
Times-Picayune – July 17, 2013
This was the first year that all high school graduates were required to take the ACT. Approximately 11,000 more seniors took the test this year than last year, and the Louisiana Department of Education reported that 3,600 more seniors scored at least an 18 (out of 36), which means more seniors will be eligible for college enrollment and TOPS scholarships. The number of 18+ scores went up, but the percentage went down – from 69% to 59% – not unexpected given the rapid increase in the number of test takers.

ACT scores spark new dispute
The Advocate – July 20, 2013
Many high schools are worried they will see a drop in their school grades this year, now that all high school graduates must take the ACT and those results count for 25% of School Performance Scores. Schools will receive a “0” for any score below 18, which could significantly impact their SPS. Superintendent John White says the focus should be on the increase in students who are eligible for college enrollment and scholarships, not on the adults who are worried about an A or B grade for their school.

2013 Legislative Wrap Up
House Legislative Services – June 2013
This wrap up from House Legislative Services provides a good summary of the 2013 session’s legislative action, including both education and non-education issues. It does not reflect any bills or funding vetoed by the governor.

Teachers retiring in high numbers
The Advocate – July 11, 2013
Louisiana’s teachers are retiring in higher numbers than ever before. In 2011, 2,581 K-12 teachers retired. In 2012, that number jumped to 3,295, and in 2013 it jumped a little more to 3,415. The President of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents attributes the increases to a Baby Boomer bubble (more people nearing retirement age) coupled with additional demands and expectations in the classroom.

National Education Stories

Applications to Ed. Pioneers Booms, Will Ed-Tech Benefit?
Education Week – July 1, 2013
This year, Education Pioneers saw a 70% jump in the number of applicants for its fellowship program, with close to 7,000 applicants for 450 openings. Education Pioneers partners with local school districts, charter management organizations, and nonprofits to offer fellowships outside the classroom in key areas such as finance, curriculum design, data analysis, and education technology. Editor’s note: Education Pioneers recently launched a new site in New Orleans.

Uneven at the Start
Education Trust – July 9, 2013
This report from the Education Trust compares NAEP performance by state over the past decade to the nation as a whole in order to see how challenging it will be for states to implement the more rigorous Common Core. The report says Common Core will represent a serious stretch for most states, but low-performing states and states that have been improving slowly (or not at all) are at a disadvantage and may struggle to implement Common Core. Louisiana is above the national average in growth but remains in the bottom for performance.

Early College, Early Success
Education Gadfly – July 11, 2013
A recent study looks at success rates for Early College High Schools – academically rigorous schools that partner with colleges and universities to offer courses for up to two years of college credit. According to the study, minority students from Early College High Schools were 29 times more likely to graduate from college, and low-income students were 25 times more likely to graduate. There are 260 Early College High Schools in 28 states.

Tougher Requirements Ahead for Teacher Prep
Education Week – July 9, 2013
The Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) has adopted new, tougher standards for teacher education programs. Programs that wish to be accredited by CAEP will have to establish stronger minimum admissions criteria and will have to incorporate value-added student performance data when determining the program’s success rates.

‘Active’ Student Engagement Goes Beyond Class Behavior, Study Finds
Education Week – July 10, 2013
A new study looks at three components of student engagement – behavior, emotion, and cognition. The study concludes that what works to improve students’ behavior only sometimes engages them emotionally and cognitively. This can be a problem because emotion and cognition are also critical to long-term academic success.

Local News

In choice system, New Orleans schools face new problems with no-shows
Times-Picayune – July 13, 2013
No-shows have always been a problem for New Orleans public schools, but school choice means more parents are applying to multiple schools – OneApp schools, OPSB charters, and private schools – and keeping their options open as long as possible. This leads to administrative headaches and serious financial concerns for schools that have to make an educated guess about how many students will show up when school begins.

New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board to start billing schools for water use
The Lens – July 15, 2013
The Sewerage and Water Board hasn’t been charging public schools for water use since Katrina, but that’s about to change. Schools will now have to pay for any water use that’s over their allotment. (Under state law, public schools are allowed four gallons of water per person per day for free.) This could mean a financial hit for some schools. For example, The Lens estimates it could cost Lusher’s Freret Street campus, with its large athletic field, over $23,000 next year.

John McDonogh High hires $115,000 principal for 13-member freshman class
Times-Picayune – July 9, 2013
John McDonogh High School has hired a new ninth grade principal with an annual salary of $115,000 for a freshman class that currently has 13 students. The school says they expect freshman enrollment to increase before school begins, but Jarvis DeBerry questions whether a freshman enrollment of 100, 200 or even 300 students could ever justify such a payout.

State of Public Education in New Orleans: 2013 Report
The Cowen Institute – July 2013
This annual report from Tulane’s Cowen Institute provides valuable information about our system of schools based on quantitative data, media coverage, and conversations with school and district leaders. The report also outlines our schools’ successes as well as key challenges that still face public education in New Orleans.

Shout Out

Congratulations to the Partnership for Youth Development (PYD) for being named a founding partner and grant recipient in The Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. PYD connects local community groups, schools, government agencies, and families to maximize learning opportunities for students in New Orleans. For more on PYD, visit their website