In the News – New York Should Look to New Orleans

New York Should Look to New Orleans

The Big Easy
The New York Post believes Mayor Bill de Blasio should look to New Orleans to see how a school system based on choice and charters can boost achievement and reduce inequality. In New Orleans, says the Post, the emphasis is not on who is providing the education but who can deliver results, and multiple performance measures – improved test scores, fewer failing schools, and higher graduation rates – show New Orleans is headed in the right direction.

Top of the News

City’s two public school systems reach landmark agreement
OPSB and RSD have reached a landmark deal aimed at shoring up services for the city’s neediest children and sorting out how to manage the supply of school buildings. This cooperative endeavor agreement (CEA) addresses the needs of high risk students, outlining who will provide the services and how they will be paid for, including operating a truancy center, transitions for court-involved students, expanding therapeutic settings for students with severe mental health needs, and funding for very expensive special needs students. The agreement also addresses facility issues and the need for citywide planning on the number and types of schools. Editor’s note: This agreement was approved in OPSB committee and goes before the board on Tuesday. Educate Now! applauds OPSB and RSD for this effort. By working collaboratively, they have resolved a number of key issues to better serve students citywide.

Four candidates for N.O. schools superintendent draw mixed reactions
OPSB’s search firm has narrowed the field of candidates for school superintendent down from 80 to 4. Not everyone is pleased with the candidates, and board members Cynthia Cade and Sarah Usdin have expressed a desire to interview more than those recommended. The candidates are: Edmond Heatley, education commissioner in Bermuda, Georgia; D’Juan Hernandez, New Orleans businessman and lawyer who also serves on the board of Algiers Charter Schools Association; Kyle Wedberg, head of NOCCA and also RSD’s chief administrative officer under Paul Vallas; and Thomas Darden, who oversaw Philadelphia’s charter school office and its turnaround initiative and is now executive assistant for a Philadelphia charter school group. None of the candidates have a traditional educational background, and only one served as a classroom teacher.

Renewal rules to change for state-authorized charter schools
BESE is considering stricter standards for charter school renewals and revised standards for alternative charter schools. State-authorized charters seeking their second renewal, and any renewal after that, would need at least a C grade (currently they need a D) or show five points of growth per year on their School Performance Score. Alternative charters would continue to receive letter grades, but they could choose to be evaluated for renewal on different criteria, such as meeting individual graduation goals instead of the number of on-time graduates.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approves new school funding formula
BESE has approved an MFP funding formula for 2014-15, which will now go to the state legislature for approval. The formula increases baseline funding to $3,961 per student, $106 more per student than last year, with a clause that raises it each year by at least 2.75% if a new formula is not adopted. The formula also includes a $4 million pool for funding high cost special needs students, $4 million for career education, and $7.5 million to reimburse school systems for students who participate in Course Choice.

Louisiana Headlines

Common Core curriculum guides now available to Louisiana teachers
The state Department of Education has released a guide for teachers to help them teach to Common Core standards. These Curricular Resources include instructional guidebooks with unit plans for English and math and recommendations for other published curricula based on how well they align with Common Core. The state emphasized that this is only a guide and that school curriculum remains a local decision. A schedule of professional development opportunities will be released later this spring.

Louisiana education board backs overhaul of career-track diploma
Beginning in 2016-17, high school students who seek a career-track diploma will have to get an industry-based certification or credentials earned through dual-enrollment coursework at a technical school or community college. The state’s career education plan, called Jump Start, outlines how career-track courses will be developed and implemented and how students and schools will be assessed.

National Common Core test not for Louisiana high schools until 2016 – if at all
Third through eighth graders will begin taking PARCC tests next spring, instead of LEAP and iLEAP, but Louisiana has delayed implementing PARCC testing in high schools. Superintendent John White says Louisiana already has a good range of tests to measure high school performance, including EOC, ACT, SAT, AP and IB tests, and for now he has no plans to push for PARCC in high schools.

Common Core could monopolize 2014 session; vouchers, charters, tenure also on tap
About 25 bills related to Common Core have already been pre-filed for this legislative session. These include bills that would ban sharing of student data gathered for testing and evaluation, require legislative approval of any new K-12 education standards, and block further implementation of the standards this year and PARCC testing next year. Lawmakers will also be wrangling over other hot-button issues this session, including teacher tenure and accountability, charter schools, school vouchers, and creationism.

National Stories

Teach For America to Pilot Yearlong Teacher Training, Retention Efforts
Teach For America will implement two new pilot programs to address training and retention of TFA corps members. A group of TFA’s 2015 corps members will receive a full year of training and increased classroom experience before they are placed in schools. In addition, some of TFA’s regional areas are developing retention strategies to support TFA alumni in their third through fifth year of teaching.

True Grit: Predicting Effectiveness and Retention among Novice Teachers
Principals take heed – a new study demonstrates that strong teachers can be identified by looking carefully at their high school and college activities. The study found that the most effective first- and second-year teachers (measured by student performance) were the ones who remained in activities (sports, clubs, etc.) for more than two years and were high achievers in those areas. These “grittier” teachers were also more likely complete the school year. Other measures, such as grades, SAT scores, and leadership abilities, were not as effective at predicting success.

SAT Makeover Aims to Better Reflect Classroom Learning
The College Board unveiled plans for a redesigned SAT that will eliminate obscure SAT words, make the essay optional, cover fewer math topics but in greater depth, and require students to justify answers with textual evidence. In addition, the new SAT will not penalize students for wrong answers – a move aimed at removing some of the strategy from test taking. College Board says the new SAT will better reflect what students do in rigorous high school classes, and the new design does appear to be more aligned with Common Core standards. College Board also says it plans to partner with Khan Academy to offer free online test-prep for the exam.

AFT Says It Will No Longer Accept Gates Funding
The American Federation of Teachers announced that it will no longer accept funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation citing the deep distrust its members feel for the foundation’s approach to education reform. Since 2009, AFT has received more than $11 million from the Gates Foundation. AFT is considering a dues surcharge to help recoup some of the lost Gates funding.

More Local News

New Life for the School Where Ruby Bridges Made History
In this article, the National Trust for Historic Preservation looks at the building where Ruby Bridges made history – William Frantz Elementary in the upper 9th Ward. As part of a $23.5 million renovation, the site’s main building received period-style features and replacement of hardwood floors and windows, and Bridges’ own first-year classroom was restored with period-appropriate furniture. The building is now home to Akili Academy, which says Bridges’ story is an integral part of its curriculum, and her classroom is open for visitors, special programs, and events.


50CAN Education Advocacy Fellowship
Ever wonder what you could accomplish if advocating for great schools was your day job? 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now has launched a new one-year fellowship to train promising local education-advocacy leaders. The fellowship comes with a $90,000 salary and a year of support from the 50CAN team to help build an advocacy campaign for high-quality schools for all children in your community. Applications are due April 1.