In the News – September 18, 2013

In this edition of In the News:

  • TFA Boosts Learning
  • OPSB Updates
  • Teacher Evaluation – Compass Results
  • Other Louisiana Headlines
  • National Stories
  • Local News

TFA Boosts Learning

TFA Teachers Shown to Boost Secondary Math Learning
Education Week – September 11, 2013
A rigorous, federally funded study examined the impact of Teach For America on student learning in math and found that:

  • Students of TFA teachers outperformed university trained teachers and teachers from other alternative programs.
  • Students of inexperienced TFA teachers (teaching for 3 years or less) outperformed students of more experienced teachers.
  • The difference in performance was equivalent to about 2½ months of additional learning.

The authors concluded that filling positions with TFA teachers, even if they leave after a few years, would still lead to higher math achievement than filling the same positions with non-TFA teachers who remain in their positions for longer.

The study looked at both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years and looked at thousands of students and hundreds of teachers in eight different states. As the headline from this Washington Post article states, “TFA is a deeply divisive program. It also works.”

OPSB Updates

N.O. School Board picks superintendent search firm, but questions linger
The Advocate – September 17, 2013
A divided Orleans Parish School Board voted to hire the Illinois search firm Hazard, Young & Attea (HYA) to conduct its superintendent search – with the requirement that HYA partner with a local DBE company. HYA doesn’t usually partner with local firms, so they may not be able to accept the contract. The issue of minority contracts came up earlier this week when one member of the panel reviewing applications joined the coalition Justice & Beyond in saying OPSB should reject all firms with no participation from disadvantaged businesses.

At the same meeting, OPSB approved one new charter – a blended learning school called Thurgood Marshall College Fund Collegiate Academy @ SUNO – despite concerns that the charter board planned to partner with a for-profit company. To read more about TMCF @ SUNO and the three other charters that were denied, click here.

In Orleans Parish School Board records case, judge leans toward inspector general’s authority
Times-Picayune – September 13, 2013
The judge who is hearing the case between the New Orleans Inspector General’s office and the Orleans Parish School Board says state law does seem to favor the Inspector General’s claim that he has the right to audit OPSB.

Teacher Evaluation – Compass Results

Teacher testing shows performance gaps
The Advocate – September 10, 2013
The results of the new teacher evaluation system show a clear gap between the objective rankings based on test scores and subjective rankings based on classroom observations. Statewide, 52% of teachers were rated highly effective or proficient based on test scores versus 90% based on observations. RSD New Orleans was one exception, with 72% of teachers rated highly effective or proficient based on test scores and 73% based on observations. By contrast, 67% of OPSB teachers were rated highly effective or proficient based on test scores and 98% based on observations. For a list of schools that achieved excellent academic results while also holding their teachers to a high standard, click here.

9 of 10 Louisiana teachers are rated effective or highly effective in new evaluations
Times-Picayune – September 3, 2013
The Louisiana Department of Education released the results of Louisiana’s new teacher evaluation system. Eighty-nine percent of Louisiana teachers were given an overall rating of proficient or highly effective. The four Compass ratings (highly effective, effective: proficient, effective: emerging, and ineffective) are based on two components: principal evaluations and student performance as measured by state tests. Download teacher data by parish or view New Orleans ratings by school.

Other Louisiana Headlines

State hopes to lure former residents
The Advocate – September 6, 2013
The Board of Regents is hoping to entice thousands of Louisiana college graduates to return home to fill new high-technology jobs. Operation Recall will try to identify graduates who could be persuaded to return home, especially those with degrees in engineering and computer science. The New Orleans metro area is projected to grow by 17,000 jobs in the next three years, significantly faster than the national job market.

School task force sets modest agenda
The Advocate – September 16, 2013
At its first meeting, the 21 member MFP task force decided to forgo big-picture issues and instead focus on how the state funds special education, how districts should spend a projected $69 million increase in 2014-15 MFP, and how to make the entire funding system more efficient and transparent. At $3.5 billion, the MFP represents almost 40% of the state budget.

Public school principals, counselors are evaluated in new grading system
Times-Picayune – September 4, 2013
According to the Louisiana Department of Education, ratings for school principals largely mirrored those of teachers, with 88% of principals ranked highly effective or proficient compared to 89% of teachers. Results for school counselors weren’t as consistent, with 97% rated in the top two categories. In New Orleans (OPSB and RSD combined), every counselor was rated proficient or highly effective.

Tea party opposition to Common Core could have implications
The Advocate – September 16, 2013
In Louisiana and across the country, officials are running into a backlash from local tea party groups who fear Common Core standards amount to a national curriculum for K-12 education and too much federal government intrusion.

National Stories

New Study: Data Say Charters Aren’t ‘Pushing Out’ Students
Education Week – September 5, 2013
There is no statistical evidence that charter schools are pushing out low-performing students at a rate higher than traditional schools, according to a new study. The researchers examined seven years of demographic and test score data from an anonymous urban district with over 60 charter schools.

State K-12 Funding Lags Six Years After Recession Hit, Report Says
Education Week – September 12, 2013
report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that at least 34 states are funding public schools at lower levels in 2013-14 than they did in 2007-08. Louisiana schools are better off than many because per pupil funding remained frozen for five years. However, the Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) says Louisiana spends $212 less per student than it did in 2007-08 when adjusted for inflation.

Tony Bennett Exonerated in Indiana Grading Furor
Education Week – September 9, 2013
It’s official – Tony Bennett, Indiana’s former School Superintendent, did not alter the grade of an Indiana charter school to placate a campaign contributor. The investigation, conducted by Democrat John Grew and Republican Bill Sheldrake, concluded that although Bennett and his staff did make changes to the state’s A-F school rating system before releasing the 2012 grades, these changes were due to a lack of planning and capacity and were consistently and fairly applied across 180 affected schools.

Math, science program sees big improvement on AP tests
Sacramento Bee – September 13, 2013
The latest Advanced Placement (AP) results show that students enrolled in schools that partner with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) earned significantly higher AP scores compared to the national average. NMSI combines teacher training and student support to dramatically improve AP test scores, and the average first year increase in the number of passing AP scores at NMSI schools is 72%. Editor’s Note: In New Orleans, NMSI provides training and support for AP teachers through the Cowen Institute’s AdvanceNOLA program.

Education Secretary says students would learn more if high schools started later
Times-Picayune – September 4, 2013
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that high school students would probably learn more if their school days didn’t start so early. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need over 9 hours of sleep each night and have a sleep cycle that has naturally shifted to later sleeping and waking, putting them in conflict with school start times.

Local News

Jefferson Parish public schools show significant improvement, new report says
Times-Picayune – September 10, 2013
new report on Jefferson Parish public schools outlines the gains the parish has made in the last few years. Its cohort graduation rate went from 61% in 2010 to 70% in 2012, and it has made significant gains in the percent of students scoring at or above grade level on state tests – improving faster than the state average.

Cost of busing students in New Orleans rises as parents exercise school choice
The Lens – September 12, 2013
The cost of busing students to New Orleans’ public schools has risen from about $18 million pre-Katrina to $30 million this year. The increase appears to be driven by the transition from neighborhood to open-enrollment schools and from a unified system to a network of independent charter organizations. In response, bus companies are working to keep costs down, encouraging schools to share contracts and implement staggered start times to improve efficiency.

Eastern New Orleans group asks BESE to rescind vote on school, IG to investigate
Times-Picayune – September 10, 2013
The East New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission wants BESE to rescind its decision to allow the RSD to purchase and convert the old BellSouth call center into a school. The commission also plans to ask the Inspector General to investigate why the RSD would consider paying $5.4 million for a building that sold in 2006 for $1.2 million.

YES Prep Public Schools Announces Major Expansion Including First Schools Outside of Houston
Digital Journal – September 4, 2013
YES Prep charter school network plans to expand outside the Houston area with new campuses in Memphis, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Yes Prep currently has 13 high-performing charters in Houston. It has a 100% high school graduation rate and is consistently ranked in the top 100 public schools in the country by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.