In the News – January 12, 2013

A City of Possibility

GOOD Magazine names New Orleans one of its Top 20 Cities of Possibility
Times-Picayune – January 7, 2014
GOOD Magazine named New Orleans one of its Top 20 “Cities of Possibility.” GOOD measured “possibility” using criteria such as transportation, diversity, work/life balance, green space, and civic engagement. Atlanta was the only other American city chosen.

Top Education Stories from 2013

The Times-Picayune reviewed the top education stories of 2013. Here are the highlights.

Top 5 New Orleans Stories

  • Percent of students in failing schools drops below 6%.
  • Charter enrollment now tops 90%.
  • OPSB’s behavior undermines its credibility, and no charters vote to return to local control.
  • Serving special needs students is still a challenge, but centralized expulsion system improves transparency and fairness.
  • Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux gets involved.

Top 5 Louisiana Stories

  • Despite protests, Common Core is still coming to Louisiana.
  • State Supreme Court says vouchers can’t be funded with MFP.
  • Superintendent John White comes into his own.
  • Louisiana Supreme Court tosses out 2012-13 MFP funding formula, and legislature refuses to approve new formula for 2013-14.
  • Battle over value-added teacher evaluations continues.

ACT Changes

ACT to Drop ‘Explore’ and ‘Plan’ Tests
Education Week – January 3, 2014
ACT just announced that this year will be the last year it offers Explore and Plan tests for middle and high school students. Instead ACT will debut a new suite of tests called the Aspire System, for grades 3-11, that are aligned to the Common Core. Aspire is being pitched as a cheaper alternative to PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests. Editor’s note: Louisiana uses ACT’s 10th grade Plan test as a baseline to measure growth on ACT tests for school accountability, so this change by ACT may require modifications to high school accountability.

Louisiana Headlines

Task force recommends increase in education funding, changes to formula
Louisiana Department of Education – January 7, 2014
The MFP Task Force has proposed several changes to the MFP formula for 2014-15, including a statewide increase in funding of 2.75% (or about $69 million), a $4 million increase to the High-Risk Pool to fund students with disabilities, an increase in funding for courses that are technical in nature, and an enhancement to the formula for Course Choice where districts can apply for reimbursement for 90% of the cost of expanded course opportunities.

BESE member under scrutiny
The Advocate – January 12, 2014
Walter Lee, the longest-serving member of BESE, faces a charge of felony theft after a state audit accused him of double billing for over $13,000 in travel expenses. The DeSoto Parish District Attorney says he also plans to charge Lee with malfeasance in office for double billing and for misuse of a state vehicle.

Test security lapses increase in Louisiana, indicating possible cheating
Times-Picayune – January 9, 2014
The number of testing security lapses in Louisiana public schools increased last year, a possible indication of cheating. State officials cited 17 New Orleans schools for testing irregularities ranging from simple administrative errors to more serious problems with plagiarism. The number of tests voided because of irregularities remains very low, less than 1%, but the increase is cause for concern. Read more in this article from The Lens or read Louisiana’s full report.

Louisiana still lags in test scores nationwide but ranks highly for accountability, new report says
Times-Picayune – January 9, 2014
Education Week has released its 2014 Quality Counts report, a state-by-state comparison of public school performance. Louisiana students’ performance on English and math NAEP tests make it one of the three lowest performing states in the country. Louisiana did receive high scores and was ranked 10th nationwide for closing the achievement gap between poor or disadvantaged students and more affluent ones. Louisiana was also ranked 2nd for school accountability. View the Louisiana Highlights report.

47 states increased pre-kindergarten spending; Louisiana didn’t
Times-Picayune – January 9, 2014
Forty-seven states are spending more money this year on pre-kindergarten programs, but Louisiana is spending less. Louisiana spent about $91 million on pre-k in 2012-13 but this year allocated only $90 million. Funding was reduced when the DOE used part of the 8g oil drilling settlement to cover the cost of Course Choice for the year instead of for pre-k.

National Stories

How the College Bubble Will Pop
Wall Street Journal – January 8, 2014
The value of a college degree in earning power is falling, especially for those aged 25-34, at the same time the cost of college is increasing. There is also major underemployment of college grads, with more high school graduates going to college than professional careers can accommodate. In 1970, 1% of cab drivers had college degrees, now 15% do. Decreasing demand for college degrees will force institutions to reign in costs and reassess the value of the education they are providing.

Administration Urges Restraint in Using Arrest or Expulsion to Discipline Students
New York Times – January 8, 2014
The Obama administration is urging public school officials to use law enforcement only as a last resort for disciplining students. The rise in zero-tolerance policies across the country has disproportionately increased the number of arrests, suspensions, and expulsions of minority students for even minor, nonviolent offenses.

New Orleans, New York City Top List of Friendliest Cities for School Choice
Education Week – January 8, 2014
The RSD, OPSB, and New York City school system top the list of the friendliest environments for school choice and competition, according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution. The report weighed a variety of factors, including the types of school choice available (vouchers, charter schools, tax-credit scholarships, etc.), the presence of virtual schools, school funding, how students are assigned to schools, and how students apply to schools of their choice.

InBloom Sputters Amid Concerns About Privacy of Student Data
Education Week – January 7, 2014
The education nonprofit inBloom offers a program to states that synthesizes student data and helps target the needs of individual children, but concerns about security and student privacy have led several states, including Louisiana, to dissolve their inBloom partnerships.

Local News

When Failing Schools Close, Results Are Mixed
WWNO – January 8, 2014
Last year, the RSD closed four elementary schools in New Orleans because of poor performance, affecting about one thousand students. Many students transferred to better schools, but many others ended up at another low performing school.

You want local, elected school boards? Charter-based voting would do it
The Lens – January 7, 2014
What if the city’s charter school boards were elected by the parents and teachers a charter board serves? Would this make charters more accountable to the people they serve, or would it just bring politics into the charter boardroom?

After countless setbacks, New Orleans teens make final effort to earn their high school diplomas
Hechinger Report – January 9, 2014
Two New Orleans students who thought they might never graduate received their high school diplomas thanks to alternative schools ReNEW Accelerated and NET Charter.

As Mardi Gras nears, Rex’s Pro Bono Publico Foundation donates $740,000 to schools, nonprofits
Times-Picayune – January 11, 2014
The Pro Bono Publico Foundation donated $740,000 to local schools and nonprofits that support education. Recipients included Teach For America, the Edible Schoolyard, KIDsmART, City Year, and NOCCA. The Pro Bono Publico Foundation was formed by the Rex Organization after Katrina to help support the rebuilding of the city, especially the schools educating New Orleans’ children.