In the News: January 28, 2014

New President for OPSB

Q & A: Nolan Marshall Jr. says he aims to build consensus as OPSB president
The Lens – January 21, 2014
Nolan Marshall, Jr. has been elected the new president of OPSB. Marshall says he wants to build consensus on the board rather than oversee conflict, and he wants to keep reaching out to charter schools in the hope of bringing them back to local control. Marshall also says he believes in promoting policies that encourage contracting with disadvantaged businesses, and he supports reducing the number of elected school board members and adding people appointed by the mayor and the governor to the board. Reaction to Marshall’s election has been generally positive, with most hoping that Marshall will continue to be a voice of reason who will help smooth disagreements on a polarized board. For more on Marshall’s election, read this article in the Times-Picayune.

MFP Lawsuit: Is it time to pay attention?

Baton Rouge judge denies class action status for St. John School Board suit against state
Times-Picayune – January 27, 2014
A lawsuit filed against the state of Louisiana argues that because the public school funding formula, the MFP, was not correctly approved by the legislature for three years, the state should revert to a prior formula, which included an annual 2.75% increase in funding to cover inflation. If the suit is successful, the state could owe districts three years of retroactive MFP, or close to $200 million. The plaintiffs were seeking class action status, and 44 of Louisiana’s 69 districts had voted to opt in, but a District Court judge ruled against class action status. He said it would have forced all districts and other LEAs (e.g., charters) to opt in, whether they wanted to or not. Editor’s note: Now that it won’t be a class action lawsuit, Educate Now! urges any charter that is its own LEA to determine whether it has to be a plaintiff in order to benefit if the litigation is successful.

Louisiana Headlines

Panel Recommends New Grade Rules
The Advocate – January 27, 2014
The School Accountability Commission has recommended changes to the way bonus points are awarded to schools for gains made by the lowest performing students. Currently a school receives bonus points if at least 30% of its low-performing students make “significant” gains. Low-performing students are those who show subpar scores in math and/or English in both the prior and current school year. The commission recommends increasing the required percentage of low-performing students to at least 50% and changing the definition of low-performing students to those who show subpar scores in just the prior year. With the recommended changes, 104 of the state’s roughly 1,300 public schools would increase a letter grade, and 57 would drop a grade. Bonus points earned by schools would, on average, drop from 7.8 to 6.5 additional points.

Some lawmakers hope to sideline Common Core
The Advocate – January 27, 2014
The new Common Core state standards are expected to spark dozens of bills in the upcoming legislative session, including efforts to end state participation in the more challenging reading, writing, and math goals.

Group likes accountability in La. voucher program
The Advocate
– January 13, 2014
The Fordham Institute reviewed voucher programs across the country and said Louisiana “is a national model when it comes to transparency and accountability.” Fordham acknowledged that Louisiana’s voucher performance has been disappointing so far but said that many states aren’t even measuring student performance in voucher schools.

College Bound

Early-College High School Graduates More Likely to Get Degree
Education Week – January 16, 2014
New research confirms that getting a head start earning college credit in high school pays off. Students in early-college high schools were much more likely to enroll in and complete college (usually an associate’s degree) than their peers in traditional high schools.

At-Risk Young Adults With Mentors Go to College at Higher Rates
Chronicle of Higher Education – January 13, 2014
A survey of at-risk young adults (ages 18 to 21) shows that those who have or had a mentor are more likely to aspire to attend college than their peers without mentors (75% vs. 56%) and more likely to enroll in college (45% vs. 29%).

High school sophomores, 10 years on
Public Education NewsBlast – January 22, 2014
A first look at new federal longitudinal data finds 48% of students who started 10th grade in 2002 hadn’t earned any kind of college degree or certification a decade later, even if they did take some postsecondary credits. Of the 2002 sophomores who never went on to college, 27% were unemployed or otherwise out of the labor force, compared to only 6% of those who earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

White House Report Puts Spotlight on Expanding College Opportunities
Education Week – January 16, 2014
At a White House conference, the Obama administration outlined ways to improve college enrollment and completion for low income students, including connecting students to colleges with supports in place and providing counseling to help with applications and financial aid requests. Sci Academy graduate Troy Simon introduced Mrs. Obama at the event. Troy, who couldn’t read until he was 12, is now a sophomore at Bard College in New York, and he attributes his success to the Urban League’s College Track Program, the Posse Foundation, and his dedicated teachers.

Career Prep

State planning career education overhaul
The Advocate – January 22, 2014
Louisiana is revamping its career education program for public high schools. The new program, called Jump Start, will give students more time to decide on careers or college, offer improved workplace and industry training during high school, and better fund career and technical education classes.

Business lobby says Louisiana’s workers ‘inadequate and under-prepared’ for coming project boom
Times-Picayune – January 14, 2014
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) is making the development of a highly skilled workforce its top priority for 2014. In the weeks before the next legislative session, beginning March 10, LABI says it will promote several goals for Louisiana, including encouraging higher standards in K-12 education, focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, and promoting technical skills training in middle and high school.

National Stories

Texas Charter System Accused of Teaching Creationism
Education Week – January 16, 2014
In an investigative piece in Slate, Zack Kopplin (son of New Orleans’ CAO Andy Kopplin) claims that a Texas charter school network with 65 campuses is teaching creationism and other unconstitutional, religiously driven lessons. According to Kopplin, the charter system uses a biology workbook that opens with, “In the beginning, God crated the Heavens and the Earth,” and it has a curriculum that states there is uncertainty in the fossil record and that evolution is an unproved theory.

Education, Opportunity, and a 1-in-10 Chance to Move From Poverty to Wealth
Education Week – January 22, 2014
If you were born into one of America’s poorest families, you’ve got less than a 1-in-10 shot to make it into the top 20% of income levels by your mid-20s, according to a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. That’s no worse than it was in the early 1970s, but as the income gap between the wealthiest and poorest families grows, the consequences of this “birth lottery” become more significant.

Teacher Performance Trajectories in High and Lower-Poverty Schools
Education Gadfly – January 23, 2014
A study of fourth and fifth grade math teachers in North Carolina and Florida found that working in a high-poverty school does not impact growth in teacher performance. In both high-poverty and lower-poverty schools, teacher performance improves fastest during the first five years then flattens out.

California teacher tenure, dismissal challenged in lawsuit
San Jose Mercury News – January 25, 2014
A lawsuit filed in California argues that laws protecting teachers deny students, particularly those in poor communities, equal access to quality education. The suit points to the ease with which teachers get tenure, cumbersome dismissal procedures, and layoffs based only on seniority as reasons students get trapped with ineffective teachers.

Teach For America Spinoff Helps Alumni Gain Influence
Education Week – January 17, 2014
To help its corps members become civic leaders, Teach For America created Leadership for Educational Equity, a nonprofit that provides training and fellowships for TFA alumni who are interested in careers in education policy, advocacy, and community organizing.

Local News

Traveling farther to school, but choice was in New Orleans before
Times-Picayune – January 17, 2014
School choice means more students are traveling farther to get to school, but new research from Tulane University shows school choice was pervasive even before Katrina. In 2004, over half the city’s students did not go to their neighborhood school. Many went to magnet schools, and declining enrollment across the city made it easy to get a waiver to attend any regular school with an open spot.

New Orleans archdiocesan schools must unify grade structure by fall 2015 — or else
Times-Picayune – January 15, 2014
All schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans will have a uniform grade structure by fall 2015. Elementary schools must run from pre-kindergarten to seventh grade and high schools from eighth grade to twelfth. The change will affect approximately 35 schools, and schools that do not comply will have to leave the archdiocesan system.

John McDonogh High School, ‘Blackboard Wars’ focus, will close in June
Times-Picayune – January 17, 2014
John McDonogh High School, featured last year in “Blackboard Wars” on the Oprah Winfrey Network, is closing at the end of this school year. Leaders of John Mac and the RSD say it’s because the building is being shut down for much needed renovations, and no temporary site could be found for the school. John Mac was one of the worst performing schools in the city, with one of the lowest School Performance Scores and declining enrollment. Jarvis DeBerry’s open letter to the students of John Mac is a scathing indictment of those who promised these students a quality education and failed to deliver.

Charter networks tread upon ‘Parent Choice’
Louisiana Weekly – January 21, 2014
For parents, transferring a child mid-year to a different RSD school has gotten harder. After October 1, a parent must prove hardship – in health, safety, or childcare – both to the school and to the RSD before the child will be allowed to change schools. Last year, parents had until February 1 to request a transfer before having to prove hardship.

Literacy Campaign ‘Turn the Page’ to Launch in New Orleans
New Orleans Agenda – January 22, 2014
Wendell Pierce, Irvin Mayfield, and Ellis Marsalis joined other musicians and over 500 local elementary school students to officially kick off the Turn the Page literacy campaign. The goal of Turn the Page is to make New Orleans the most literate city in America by its 300th birthday in 2018. More information is available at