In the News: December 8, 2013

Transitioning to Common Core

BESE backs changes to ease Common Core transition
The Advocate – December 5, 2013
BESE approved the changes to accountability recommended by Superintendent White to soften the impact of moving to the Common Core and PARCC testing. For 2014 and 2015, schools will be graded on a curve, with the same percentage of schools receiving an A, B, C, D, and F as did in 2013; fourth and eighth graders will be given more leeway to advance to the next grade if they do not pass the tests; and there will be a two-year moratorium on using value-added data in teacher evaluations.

BESE tweaks school grading policy
The Advocate – December 5, 2013
BESE made one adjustment to its plan to grade schools on a curve in 2014 and 2015. They added a safeguard to protect any school that has the same or better School Performance Score as 2013 from the unlikely event they would be dropped a grade due to the curve.

Louisiana Headlines

State recommends charter extensions, renewals for 25 schools
Times-Picayune – November 25, 2013
Thirteen New Orleans and Baton Rouge charter schools are getting contract renewals of three years, and one, Landry Walker, is getting a renewal for ten years. In addition, eleven New Orleans charters have been recommended for one-year extensions. This is the first time in several years that not a single charter was pulled, meaning more stability and continuity in New Orleans’ system of schools.

Kellogg to pick leaders from Miss., New Orleans
Associated Press – November 25, 2013
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation will choose a total of 100 fellows from Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans for a three-year program designed to address the critical needs of vulnerable children. Kellogg fellows will receive a stipend of $20,000, plus $5,000 to execute their action plan in their third year. Developing or established leaders, age 23 or older, can visit the Kellogg Foundation website for more information. The deadline to apply is January 10.

National Stories

Where Factory Apprenticeship Is Latest Model From Germany
New York Times – November 30, 2013
South Carolina offers a model for apprenticeships in America. Manufacturing companies are partnering with local high schools to train students in skilled labor, providing decent-paying jobs for students who don’t want, or can’t afford, a four-year degree. The growth of apprenticeships has reduced unemployment in the state, and South Carolina is using its job-training success to lure new manufacturing companies to the area.

Seeing the Toll, Schools Revise Zero Tolerance
New York Times – December 2, 2013
Schools in Broward County, Florida are moving away from zero-tolerance policies and instead are working with the local criminal justice system to keep non-violent offenders in school, away from trouble on the street, and offer them counseling and other assistance aimed at changing behavior. This shift has resulted in a 41% drop in school-based arrests and a 66% drop in suspensions.

Music Training Sharpens Brain Pathways, Studies Say
Education Week – November 25, 2013
New research suggests that the complexity involved in practicing and performing music may help students’ cognitive development by increasing neural connections in regions associated with creativity, decision-making, and complex memory, and may improve students’ abilities to process conflicting information from many senses at once.

Local News

New Orleans schools should stick with OneApp: Editorial
Times-Picayune – December 2, 2013
The Times-Picayune says it’s vital for every school participating in the centralized enrollment system to honor OneApp’s rules. This didn’t happen last year because OPSB allowed its direct-run schools to pull out of OneApp two-thirds of the way through. In addition, Eleanor McMain and McDonogh 35 chose to handpick some of their students rather than taking the ones assigned to them through OneApp. The Times-Picayune says this was unfair and improper, and OPSB shouldn’t allow it to happen again.

Anthony Amato, former New Orleans education superintendent, dies unexpectedly at 66
The Advocate – December 5, 2013
Anthony Amato, the last superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools before Hurricane Katrina, died last Monday at the age of 66. Amato left NOPS in April of 2005, but he returned to New Orleans in 2010 to run the International High School of New Orleans. The school’s board chairman said Amato “passed away unexpectedly yet peacefully surrounded by his beloved family.” Editor’s Note: Tony Amato was the most successful superintendent OPSB had in the decade prior to Katrina. Under his leadership, New Orleans public schools showed strong academic gains, especially in reading, and grew at a rate faster than the state – for the first time since accountability began in 1999.  

New Orleans by the Numbers: School Performance Scores, 2013
Cowen Institute – November 2013
The Cowen Institute has released the latest report in its NOLA by the Numbers series: “School Performance Scores, 2013.” This analysis includes some highlights from 2013 – more students are in A, B, or C schools compared to 2013 (68% vs. 17%). It also provides a detailed explanation of changes to Louisiana’s accountability system and how the new SPS calculations in 2013 affected district-level and school-level results.

New Orleans Schools Are Improving (Yet some people are unhappy about that)
New Orleans Magazine – December 2013
Dawn Ruth writes about a group of New Orleanians who seem to mourn the disappearance of the chaotic, inept, and even corrupt school system that existed before Katrina. No matter how many statistics show substantial gains in student achievement since 2005, this stubborn knot of naysayers insist the stats are false – the result of a conspiracy by a dishonest government and power-hungry reformers.

More New Orleans Students Eat All Three Meals At School
WWNO – December 3, 2013
Organizations that provide school meals for after school programs, such as Community Works and Second Harvest Food Bank, say more New Orleans children are eating three meals a day at school.

N.O. struggles to provide adequate education for special-needs students
Louisiana Weekly – December 6, 2013
Despite the implementation of a centralized enrollment system, some parents of special-needs students say they are still having trouble finding a school that will, or even can, provide the services their children are entitled to.

What does a Common Core curriculum mean to students at risk of being shot?
The Hechinger Report – December 6, 2013
Andre Perry is concerned that our schools are focusing on academic achievement and college prep at the expense of equipping students with the skills they need to survive in an antagonistic world. He says the curriculum should be connected to students’ lives and should teach students how to deal with gang violence, the criminal justice system, and unemployment and how to seek help “with the same level of rigor and accountability as in a science lesson.”

School Updates

Students arrested after gun fired inside Sophie B. Wright band room, police say
WWL-TV – November 26, 2013
Two teenage students at Sophie B. Wright Charter School were arrested after firing a handgun inside the band room at the school. The school called police, and when officers arrived, the two boys were being detained in the office with a bag containing a gun magazine, two casings, and some marijuana.

KIPP New Orleans Schools spent $120,000 on training in Las Vegas
The Lens – November 26, 2013
KIPP New Orleans Schools spent about $119,000 to send 185 employees to a national KIPP summit in Las Vegas this summer. Around the same time, Friends of King Schools spent about $70,000 for an organization-wide retreat at the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi. KIPP New Orleans expects to be reimbursed with federal Title II funds, which must be used for professional development. Friends of King paid for its retreat out of the schools’ general funds, Title II money, and Title I money, intended to improve education for disadvantaged students.

New Orleans alternative school suggests neighboring school improve security
Times-Picayune – December 6, 2013
Crescent Leadership Academy, an alternative for expelled students, and McDonogh 42, a K-8 school, are currently located next to each other in portable buildings on the former George Washington Carver campus. Security concerns have led the elementary school to install a new gate and hire off-duty police officers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Two New Orleans charter schools announce interim leadership changes
Times-Picayune – December 6, 2013
Six schools have changed principals in the first half of this school year. Nan Ryan is taking over at the International High School following the death of head of school Anthony Amato. The other schools with new principals are Akili Academy, Clark Prep, KIPP Leadership, KIPP Renaissance, and Homer A. Plessy. Sylvanie Williams is looking for a new principal for next year.

Rally to protest planned closing of Sarah T. Reed High School
The Advocate – December 8, 2013
A coalition of local organizations is organizing a rally to protest the closing of Sarah T. Reed High School. Reed, an RSD direct-run school, is being gradually phased out, shrinking by a grade each year. The coalition hopes they can find sufficient resources to reopen Reed as a high school under the OPSB.