In the News – Week in Review

Going All In

New Orleans goes all in on charter schools. Is it showing the way?
No other U.S. city has gone so far down the charter school path as New Orleans, where nine in ten students go to charters. The Christian Science Monitor examines the results so far, including our successes – 77.8% of the class of 2012 graduated within four years, up from just over 54% in 2004, and only 17% of students attended a failing school in 2012-13, down from 75% in 2004-05 – and also our challenges – not all schools are participating in the centralized enrollment system, and some parents of students with disabilities still struggle to find a school that can serve their children’s needs.

Louisiana Headlines

Career education overhaul proposed
The Louisiana Department of Education released its final proposal for the Jump Start program, which will provide career courses and workplace experiences to high school students and certify them in fields most likely to lead to high wage jobs. School districts, two-year colleges, and private firms will form regional teams to develop a curriculum that combines approved courses and workplace training for students. Schools will be rewarded in the high school accountability system for students who achieve high marks in both two-year and four-year college pathways while still in high school. In a letter to the editor, Superintendent John White says that we owe our students a chance for opportunity and upward mobility and that Jump Start will benefit students and Louisiana industry.

Department Posts Proposed Minimum Foundation Program Formula
The proposed funding formula for the 2014-15 Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) includes a 2.75% increase in education funding statewide, additional funds for career education courses, funding for districts to provide early college and other coursework outside of high schools, and a $4 million risk pool for students with disabilities who are very expensive to educate. A final MFP formula will be approved by BESE at its March meeting and sent to the Louisiana Legislature by March 15.

Dennis Persica: Audit finds problems with voucher schools
In this opinion piece, Dennis Persica says that instead of criticizing Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor for his report on the voucher program, legislators should look at more responsible and accountable ways to spend taxpayer money on vouchers. The Legislative Auditor, Daryl Purpera, recommended that legislators revise the voucher program to require that all participating schools be academically acceptable. Several legislators criticized the auditor for proposing policy, but Mr. Persica says state law allows audits to include “evaluations of the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.” He also says change is necessary because Louisiana’s voucher program received a proficiency rating of only 41% based on the results of standardized testing. In addition, 30% of voucher schools overcharged the state, and 97% failed to keep a separate account of the use of voucher funds.

National Stories

Education Fuels Growth of Urban Entrepreneurs, Study Suggests
A recent study examined business activity in 356 metropolitan areas and found that startup and entrepreneurial growth is fueled more by high school diplomas and college degrees than by venture capital, government funding, or the presence of research universities.

Obama to Launch ‘My Brother’s Keeper’
Pointing to the large achievement gap between black or Hispanic boys and their white peers, the Obama administration announced a collection of public-private initiatives called “My Brother’s Keeper” to help improve the lives of boys of color. Ten foundations have committed $150 million, with another $200 million to follow, to help find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for impact.

Research Review Gives Thumbs Up to Community Schools Approach
A recent report supports the concept of community schools, which seek to boost academic performance by offering wraparound services, including mentoring, counseling, and healthcare. The report’s authors found that combining academic and nonacademic supports could be an effective strategy, but they caution that implementation matters – a lot. Poor or partial implementation of a community school was no better than no program at all.

New N.Y.C. Mayor Rescinds Co-Location Agreement With Some Charters
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is backtracking on existing agreements that allow several charter schools to share space (or co-locate) in the same buildings with regular public schools in the city. Of the 49 proposals approved by de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, nine were withdrawn by the de Blasio administration. The announcement is expected to impact nearly 700 charter students.

Study Questions Principals’ Tendency to Split Up Twins in Kindergarten
A recent survey found that school principals overwhelmingly believe twins should be separated in kindergarten to promote independence as well as academic achievement. Studies on the performance of twins, however, show either no difference or a drop in performance when twins are separated, and 20% of parents surveyed said their twins were traumatized by being separated in kindergarten. The twin birthrate rose 76% from 1980 through 2009, and now one in every 30 children is a twin.

Local News

Bill filed to return unused RSD buildings to local school board
Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, has filed a bill to require that the RSD return all unused school buildings to the local school board. The bill might not be needed in New Orleans, where RSD and OPSB are already working on this issue, but OPSB says they decided to pursue legislation as an option in case discussions fall apart.

School Shout Outs

Ben Franklin girls soccer wins second consecutive state championship
The girl’s soccer team at Ben Franklin won its second consecutive state championship, capping the end of a perfect (20-0) season.

Landry-Walker High School cheerleaders take first in national meet
Landry-Walker’s varsity cheerleaders are in their first year as a combined team, but that didn’t stop them from winning first place in the advanced category at the Worldwide Spirit Association Grand Nationals.

All-girls robotics team shines at ReNEW SciTech Academy
The robotics team at SciTech Academy didn’t set out to be an all-girls team; it just worked out that way. The girls have already competed in Texas and will be heading to California in April for an international competition.