In the News: November 17, 2013

Educating City Hall

At a recent City Council budget hearing, Mayor Landrieu’s budget director, Cary Grant, suggested that the council consider repurposing school board millages (property taxes) to pay for other city services. He said that the school board has “a huge fund balance” because their 44 mills pay for only 33 schools now, down from 120 schools before Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Grant is wrong.

  • These taxes fund students at all New Orleans public schools, not just OPSB schools. That’s 87 public schools educating 45,000 students.
  • These funds (98%) go directly to the public schools for their operations. They do not go to increase OPSB’s fund balance.
  • Public schools in New Orleans are funded below the state average. They receive an average of $9,200 per student in state and local money; the state average is $9,500.
  • Repurposing the millage would take money away from schools, and our schools do NOT need a cut in funding. Investing in our children and providing them opportunity is the best long-term strategy to lower the city’s criminal justice costs!

If you know Cary Grant, or if you know a City Council member, Educate Now! suggests you drop them a note and let them know these funds are very much needed.

NAEP Results Are In

Louisiana students score near bottom on national test
Times-Picayune – November 7, 2013
Students in Louisiana showed slight improvement in reading on the latest NAEP test (National Assessment of Educational Progress) but still rank near the bottom in reading and math when compared to the rest of the United States. Superintendent John White said the results show why Louisiana needs to implement Common Core. “Our own growth, our own progress within Louisiana doesn’t mean as much if we’re not really competitive with our peer states.”

National Stories

The Key to Success? Grit
TED Talks – May 2013
What’s the best predictor of success in a person’s life, including when it comes to education? According to Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, it isn’t IQ, or family income, or social intelligence, it’s grit. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals, and it’s especially important for kids who are at risk for dropping out of school. One way to instill grit is to help children understand that failure isn’t permanent and can be overcome, but Dr. Duckworth says we need more ideas and more solutions if we hope to make our students “grittier.”

Beyond Enrollment, Students Need Help Choosing a College and Finishing
Education Week – November 4, 2013
To meet the growing demand for skilled workers, the authors of new paper argue that schools need to identify students who are not realizing their promise, many of whom are low-income, and provide information and support to help them select the right institution, take on a manageable debt burden, and finish their degree.

Moving Top Teachers to Struggling Schools Has Benefits
Education Week – November 7, 2013
A new Mathematica study examined the results of the national Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI) and found that transferring top elementary teachers to low-achieving schools can help boost students’ performance. TTI was implemented in 10 school districts in 7 states and offered $20,000 to high-performing teachers if they would transfer to low-performing schools.

Quinn names Vallas as running mate
State Journal-Register – November 8, 2013
Former RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas has decided to run for Lt. Governor of Illinois in 2014. Vallas could have continued as school superintendent in Bridgeport, Conn. (A higher court recently overturned the ruling that Vallas didn’t have the proper state credentials to be superintendent.) Instead, he has decided to leave the post to be Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s running mate.

New N.Y.C., Boston Mayors Vow to Act Fast on Education
Education Week – November 13, 2013
Mayoral control is one way cities are trying to turn around failing schools, but what happens when mayors change? Both Boston and New York just elected new mayors who say they plan to run schools differently than their predecessors did. In New York, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is promising to scrap the A-F grading system, halt school closures, and consider charging rent to some charter schools.

Local News

Some charter schools aim to break old patterns
Hechinger Report – November 8, 2013
A small but growing number of charter schools are striving to be racially and economically diverse while remaining open to all, with no admissions requirements. At Morris Jeff Community School, 60% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, just over half are African-American, and 42% are white. Two other charter schools opened this year with similarly diverse demographics: Homer A. Plessy and Bricolage Academy.

Few Orleans schools seem eager to return to School Board control
The Advocate – November 16, 2013
Seventeen charter schools in the RSD have improved enough that they are eligible to return to local OPSB control this year, but none of them seem likely to do so. OPSB’s Interim Superintendent Stan Smith says local control benefits families because schools report to a publicly elected board, but for the charter schools, there is still too much OPSB uncertainty – about the superintendent search, board politics, funding, and other issues.

Teen is 5th NET Charter High School student killed by gunfire in last 6 months
Times-Picayune – November 14, 2013
Five teenagers from NET Charter High School have been killed in less than six months. The NET was designed to serve troubled students, many of whom were expelled or dropped out of other high schools. Principal Elizabeth Ostberg said NET students “want to be successful and leave the violence behind and finish high school.” The tragedy is that too many never get the chance.

No getting sozzled for schools? Orleans Parish School Board debates party policy
Times-Picayune – November 14, 2013
OPSB is debating whether or not to allow schools to serve alcohol at school events. It’s currently against the rules, but since issuing its first one-time policy waiver for Hynes Charter’s rededication two years ago, the board has received many requests from charter schools wanting to serve alcohol at fundraising events.

Clark High School students protest teacher firing
Times-Picayune – November 14, 2013
Students at Joseph S. Clark High School staged a sit-in to protest the firing of a popular teacher. Students presented a list of demands to school leaders that included hiring more teachers that they can relate to and the end to a system of demerits. Jay Altman, the head of the charter group that runs the school, said, “I would rather they were in class learning, but they have been very mature in the way they have protested.”

Shout Outs

4.0 Schools – Tom Vander Ark of Education Week explains why every major city needs a great incubator like 4.0 Schools. 4.0 has built an innovation ecosystem in New Orleans by connecting educators and entrepreneurs, and it’s reimagining the way we teach and learn.

Jay Altman – The Center for Digital Government invited Jay Altman, the founder and CEO of FirstLine schools, to speak at their annual leadership retreat in California. Altman was one of three speakers chosen because they show how one person can be the start of something big.

John White – Louisiana Superintendent John White received a “bead” from The Town Talk for his efforts to improve academic performance in Louisiana schools by raising standards and requiring accountability from all stakeholders.