In the News – First All Charter District

First All-Charter District

In New Orleans, major school district closes traditional public schools for good
The Recovery School District is closing its last five traditionally run schools at the end of this year, which will make it the first all-charter district in the country. The story has received national coverage from The Washington Post, NPR, PBS, Diane Ravich and others, and local coverage from The Times-Picayune and Louisiana Weekly.

While this has not been a major local story, the national media is abuzz as New Orleans has become the poster child in a national debate (fight) over how to improve public education.

Common Core Updates

Jindal wants La. out of Common Core
Gov. Bobby Jindal is committed to getting Louisiana out of Common Core and the PARCC tests that go with it. “It is time for the Department of Education to come up with a plan B,” he said. At a Common Core summit for teachers Superintendent John White said enough Common Core political fighting. Plans for the new academic goals have been in the works among students and teachers for the past four years. Teachers deserve to know what they will be teaching come August.

The legislature passed only one Common Core-related bill this session – House Bill 953, which gives teachers and schools an additional year (three years instead of two) before being penalized for poor performance on new PARCC assessments. It will likely be vetoed by the Governor.

More on Latest Test Scores

Recovery School District charters inching past historic top-performers in New Orleans
The Lens analyzed the latest test scores and found that “RSD schools are better than you’d think.” In every grade, a lower-rated RSD school had more students pass English or math than a higher-rated OPSB school. KIPP Central City Academy bested several A schools in math in most grades; Dr. King Charter had more of its students pass fourth-grade English and math than every school but Lusher and Lake Forest; and every eighth-grader at Lagniappe Academies passed English and math.

Collegiate Academies: Take Two

Video explains why New Orleans Collegiate Academies charter students ‘walk the line’
At Sci Academy, Carver Collegiate and Carver Prep students have to walk on one side of lines painted or taped on the floor. In this video, students and staff talk about why they think “walking the line” is important. One student says, “At first we thought it was just to keep fights from happening or to keep you from bumping into the next person, but then we learned that in life you always have to walk on the right side of the path.” A Sci Academy twelfth-grader explains that seniors no longer have to “walk the line” because they have internalized the practice and now are orderly on their own. Says another student, “If you’re here to get your education, why worry about the lines?”

Charter schools’ discipline policy under fire
Andrew Vanacore of The Advocate visited two of Collegiate’s schools – Sci Academy and Carver Collegiate – to try to sort out fact from fiction when it comes to discipline policies at the schools. Vanacore found that “As structured as classes are at Collegiate, most rules do seem aimed at making sure learning is actually going on.” He also said, “Positive feedback seems as prevalent as reminders to follow the rules.”

State News

School aid plans clears final hurdle
The House approved the $3.6 billion spending plan for Louisiana’s public schools known as the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP. The new MFP increases the base funding per pupil from $3,855 to $3,961. It also includes $14.5 million in new aid to help students with profound disabilities, a boost in support for the most expensive career education classes, and new assistance for dual enrollment classes. This is the first new MFP formula since 2011.

La. Bill Would Empower IEP Teams
Louisiana lawmakers approved a bill that would give teams of teachers, administrators, and parents wide latitude in determining grade promotion and graduation requirements for students with disabilities. Under the measure, IEP teams would be empowered to create performance requirements for students with disabilities who have not been able to pass state-mandated tests.

National Stories

The education-reform movement is too white to do any good
Andre Perry argues that when black and brown people are largely absent from positions of power in the reform movement, the entire movement loses credibility and accrues suspicion. The word “reform” has become a dirty word in some communities, and consequently black education reformers struggle to connect with their own communities. Perry believes that more diversity among reformers – especially at the leadership level – would remove doubt of racial bias, explicit or implicit.

School Spending Increases Linked to Better Outcomes for Poor Students
According to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, in school districts that substantially increased their spending, low-income children were significantly more likely to graduate from high school, earn livable wages, and avoid poverty in adulthood. The study looked at 28 states that were required by the courts to reform their school finance systems to address large gaps between richer and poorer school districts.

Local Headlines

Public excluded from second round of interviews for Orleans Parish schools superintendent
The second round of interviews with candidates for OPSB superintendent is set for this week. The candidates are former Memphis superintendent Kriner Cash, former New York City schools chief operating officer Veronica Conforme, and former Bermuda education minister Edmond Heatley. Cash visits Wednesday, Heatley on Thursday and Conforme on Friday of this week. Like the first round, this second round of interviews will be closed to the public.

Settlement effort to begin in 2010 New Orleans schools special education lawsuit
Nearly four years after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit claiming New Orleans schools aren’t fulfilling their obligations to students with disabilities, attorneys for state education officials and the SPLC held a closed-door conference with a federal judge aimed at finding a compromise. Editor’s note: After the conference, the judge set new filing deadlines and a late June hearing date.

John White’s critics call for Louisiana education chief to resign
The New Orleans education activists who filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Louisiana Department of Education in May are calling on Superintendent John White to resign, offended by his response. White said their complaint, which argued that the state’s policy of closing and chartering conventional schools is racially discriminatory, was “from a factual perspective a joke.” He also said it was part of a “nationally coordinated campaign” to support teachers’ unions and their drives for power and money – not to help children.

Comprehensive truancy center moves forward in New Orleans
In New Orleans, 16% of prekindergarten through eighth-graders and 28% of high schoolers missed more than 10% of school in 2012-13. While these numbers are high, they are in line with data from other high poverty school districts. OPSB and RSD are jointly moving forward with a comprehensive truancy center to keep kids in school. The new center will work with the police and truancy officers and will also provide counseling services and “attendance coaches.”

6 N.O. schools among Top 10 STEM schools
Six of Louisiana’s top ten STEM high schools are in the Greater New Orleans area, according to Children at Risk. The nonprofit ranked Louisiana high schools for how well they educated students in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Benjamin Franklin was ranked No. 1; Haynes Academy in Jefferson Parish was No. 2; Lusher was No. 4; Mandeville High was No. 7; New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High was No. 8; and Fontainebleau High in St. Tammany was No. 9.

NO schools wasting millions in energy costs, says local company
Green Coast Enterprises is tracking energy use at about 30 New Orleans schools and says many schools can save tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs. One of the biggest wastes of energy, the company says, is cooling and heating empty rooms after hours.

Jefferson charter school dispute: SABIS, Milestone argue over cause of break
The governing board of Milestone SABIS Academy in Old Jefferson is dropping the for-profit SABIS management company that has run the charter school since it opened in 2002. Every New Orleans-area charter that hired a for-profit company to run its school has eventually decided to part ways. The Milestone board is now in talks with the Algiers Charter Association about running the school in the fall. SABIS was the last for profit charter operator in the city.

Slain teenager was promising Landry-Walker football player
Johan Kenner, a 17-year-old at Landry-Walker High School, was shot dead Sunday at a playground not far from his home. Kenner’s football coach said, “He was the kid that was always smiling, that lights up the team. He always kept it fun, always worked hard, a really, really good student-athlete.” Police haven’t released any information on suspects or a possible motive for the killing, which was one of two murders of New Orleans teens that occurred in a 30-minute period Sunday.

New Orleans’ ReNEW charter group engaged in improper pension practices, audit says
According to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the ReNEW group of charter schools may have broken state and federal law by not enrolling and/or by improperly enrolling staff in the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. Charter schools in Louisiana are required to have either all teachers in TRSL or none in TRSL. To give its staff their preference on retirement programs, ReNEW contracted with teachers for certain of its schools but leased them out to others – a practice questioned by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

Shout Outs

A 13-year-old mother, a murdered father and a scholarship to Yale
Leonard Galmon, age 17, is the oldest of six children, and the son of a 13-year-old girl and a murdered drug dealer. He is also an artist, and next year he is going to Yale. In his senior year, Leonard transferred to NOCCA’s half-day program and to Cohen College Prep, which encouraged him to apply to all the top colleges. Leonard was accepted by Yale and was one of 26 out of 5,500 applicants to win a Ron Brown Scholarship, which provides extra money plus support to keep promising future black leaders on track.

New Orleans’ Esperanza Charter head of school named a finalist for state honor
Nicole Saulny, the head of Esperanza Charter School in New Orleans, was selected by Dream Teacher and the Louisiana Department of Education as a finalist in the Principal of the Year competition. Saulny is one of 10 teachers chosen from hundreds nominated statewide for making outstanding contributions to K-12 education. The winning educator will be announced in July.