In the News: September 2, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

  • Impact of Change
  • Louisiana Headlines
  • National Stories
  • What Do Parents Want?

Impact of Change

New Orleans’ summer of school change: Where did the students go?
Times-Picayune – August 30, 2013
This summer saw more changes in New Orleans public schools than in prior years – 4 closed, 3 converted to charters, 3 transferred to new charter operators, and 2 merged. The centralized OneApp system has made it easier to track where the impacted students enrolled this year. The new charter operators worked hard to retain existing enrollment, and most schools saw high rates of returning students.

For some New Orleans students, school choice means pre-dawn bus pickups
The Lens – August 26, 2013
Before Katrina, most students were assigned to their neighborhood public schools. Now that parents can choose a school, many are choosing schools in other parts of the city from where they live. Parents say long commutes are worth it when they find the right school for their child, but the early mornings and long days can be hard, especially for young students.

New Orleans schools expel more students, but are more accountable
Times-Picayune – August 24, 2013
The RSD and OPSB have released the results of the first year of the new centralized expulsion policy for Orleans Parish. Of about 48,000 students enrolled, less than 0.6% were expelled in 2012-13. The new expulsion policy gives New Orleans schools a common definition and common process, so this year’s expulsion data for the city is much more accurate than in prior years and will be a good baseline going forward.

For expulsions by school, click here.

Education activists remain unresigned to post-Katrina changes
Times-Picayune – August 28, 2013
A group of education activists continue to fight against the reforms in New Orleans saying the changes since Katrina have disempowered existing authorities and the community. They also disagree with the idea that schools are better now than they were before the storm.

Louisiana Headlines

ACT scores drop amid expanded test pool
The Advocate – August 22, 2013
Louisiana’s average ACT score dropped this year from 20.3 to 19.5. This drop stems from the new requirement that all public high school seniors take the ACT, which resulted in about 8,600 more senior test takers this year. The LA DOE highlighted the good news – 3,600 more students than last year scored well enough to attend a Louisiana college without remediation, and Louisiana dropped less than any other state that has implemented this requirement. School leaders are concerned because the ACT results count for 25% of the high school SPS, and others worry that Louisiana’s low ACT score is an unnecessary black mark against a state that has struggled hard to improve its national standing.

U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems
Times-Picayune – August 24, 2013
The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana to block vouchers for students in parishes that are under federal desegregation orders. The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) says it may be time to revisit the desegregation orders if it means forcing kids to attend failing schools in the name of racial integration.

Public schools make computer gains
The Advocate – August 25, 2013
By 2014-15, all Louisiana school districts are supposed to reach a 7-1 ratio for online access, meaning at least one computer or similar device for every seven students. A new survey shows that 86% of students attend schools that meet minimum requirements, and 38 of 70 districts now meet the new guidelines, up from five a year ago.

Louisiana gets federal money to help poor kids take AP tests for free
Times-Picayune – August 27, 2013
The federal government will reimburse Louisiana $158,085 to help pay for administering Advanced Placement (AP) tests to low-income high school students. The grant money will cover the cost of administering 3,140 AP tests.

Louisiana’s ‘Course Choice’ Program Gets Underway
Education Week – August 27, 2013
Education Week takes an in depth look at Louisiana’s Course Choice program, which allows high school students to select outside courses – online, face-to-face, or blended – supplied by a mix of public and private providers. Education Week examines the pros and cons of this unique initiative, including the program’s goals, its background and history, and whether Louisiana can ensure the quality of the vendors providing classes.

Common Core
The Hechinger Report – September 1, 2013
In a new series, former Times-Picayune reporter Sarah Carr looks at how Belle Chasse Primary is adjusting to the new Common Core standards. In part 1, Carr follows Debbie Giroir, a first grade math teacher, to see how she’s making the transition.

National Stories

Small Schools Give Graduation Boost in Big Apple, Study Says
Education Week – August 26, 2013
Over ten years ago, New York City closed 31 large failing high schools and replaced them with more than 200 small high schools. A new study shows the experiment is paying off with sustained student success in smaller schools as well as evidence that small schools are helping special needs and ELL students. Editor’s note: Since Katrina, New Orleans has many small high schools, which could be a factor in our improved graduation rate.

At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice
New York Times – August 27, 2013
Charter networks across the country are developing a culture where teaching for two to five years is seen as acceptable, and sometimes desirable. This trend could be due to the transition from Baby Boomers to Millennials in the workforce. Millennials are seen as more restless and always reaching for the next best thing. Teach For America may also have an impact, as one third of its recruits teach in charter schools. For more on TFA’s practices and philosophy, click here.

Lead poisoning’s impact: Kids suspended more at school
USA Today – August 14, 2013
We know that high levels of toxic lead in the bloodstream affect behavior, IQ, and school performance, but a new study found that children with even moderate levels of lead before age three are nearly three times more likely to be suspended from school by fourth grade. Researchers believe that these results could help explain the suspension gap between African American and white students.

Community Service Requirements Seen to Reduce Volunteering
Education Week – August 20, 2013
A Maryland study found that requiring students to take part in community service to graduate from high school initially increased volunteer activity but led to less volunteer hours by 12th grade compared to other states. Researchers suggest that mandating community service could actually reduce volunteering later in life.

Siblings’ Disabilities Linked to Academic Troubles for Brothers, Sisters
Education Week – August 20, 2013
Brothers and sisters of disabled students are 60% more likely to drop out of school than students without disabled siblings, according a new study. The impact is greater on girls than boys, with sisters of disabled students 80% more likely to drop out.

Paul Vallas Faces an “Absurd Drama”
New Orleans Magazine – September 2013
New Orleans Magazine says it’s absurd that Paul Vallas could be considered unqualified to govern 37 floundering schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Vallas served as CEO for schools in Chicago and Philadelphia, turned around failing schools in New Orleans, and influenced educational policy in Haiti and Chile. A judge decided that Vallas should be removed as Bridgeport’s superintendent because he didn’t complete a leadership program at the University of Connecticut.

What Do Parents Want?

Three pollsters walked into a school…
Education Gadfly – August 22, 2013
Three recently released polls try to make sense of how people feel about public education. Here are some of the results: AP-NORC found that most parents support standardized testing and believe student test scores should be part of a balanced approach to teacher evaluation; PDK Gallop found more negative attitudes toward standardized testing than AP-NORC, with a majority opposing using test scores for teacher evaluation. PDK Gallop also found broad support for charter schools, strong opposition to vouchers, and very little knowledge of Common Core; Education Next compared public opinion on education issues to last year and found very little change, although they did see some increased resistance to raising per pupil funding and teacher salaries and more opposition to performance pay and school vouchers.

Parents Favor ‘Niche’ Schools, Fordham Institute Market Study Finds
Education Week – August 27, 2013
The Fordham Institute looked at parents’ educational preferences and found that most have a list of must-haves (quality instruction in core subjects, critical thinking, and writing skills) but they also want more. Fordham divided parental priorities into six market niches, each with a different emphasis: Pragmatists (vocational), Jeffersonians (citizenship/leadership), Test-Score Hawks (high test scores), Multiculturalists (diversity), Expressionists (arts/music), and Strivers (top-tier college acceptance). To find out what kind of parent you are, take Fordham’s mini-survey.

Local News

Orleans Parish School Board president drops fight to oust interim superintendent
Times-Picayune – August 20, 2013
OPSB President IRA Thomas says he will no longer fight to have interim Superintendent Stan Smith fired. Thomas says he will accept the decision of the majority of the board to keep Smith until a new, permanent Superintendent can be chosen.

Tim Ryan quits as New Beginnings board member
The Lens – August 22, 2013
Tim Ryan, chairman of New Beginnings Schools Foundation, has resigned. He is the third board member of the charter network to resign in a week, and it’s unclear why three board members resigned so close together. New Beginnings oversees four schools: Pierre A. Capdau, Medard H. Nelson, Gentilly Terrace, and the Lake Area New Tech High School.