In the News – Superintendent Search Stalled (again)

New Orleans Superintendent Search – Stalled

In Orleans Parish schools, two years of drift, missed opportunities
Stan Smith has been OPSB’s Interim Superintendent for two years, much longer than anyone expected, and longer than what is probably healthy for the district. The Times-Picayune spoke with academics, consultants and school officials, who all say the district is drifting – wasting an opportunity to re-envision itself and possibly to bring the city’s schools back together again.

Impasse on Orleans Parish superintendent search; president criticized for construction contract
At its last meeting, OPSB voted not to proceed with either of the two finalists for the superintendent’s position – Kriner Cash, former Memphis superintendent, and Edmond Heatley, most recently education minister of Bermuda. A third finalist, Veronica Conforme, former New York City schools chief operating officer, dropped out of the running just before the meeting. The meeting was dominated by fallout from the board’s approval of a construction contract that included family members of President Nolan Marshall Jr. as subcontractors on the job. Marshall said he has asked U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite to investigate the situation to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

Radio show erupts into argument between Orleans Parish School Board members
The personal animosity between OPSB President Nolan Marshall Jr. and board member Ira Thomas shone through in a in a recent interview on WBOK radio as the two hurled accusations at one another.

Common Core Updates

Politics do make strange bedfellows:

The Louisiana Association of Educators came out in support of Governor Jindal while Dan Juneau, the former President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry for over 25 years, called Bobby Jindal’s attempts to scuttle Common Core “shameful.”

Higher Ed weighs in:

Louisiana’s Board of Regents has advised its colleges of education to continue to prepare teachers to teach to the Common Core.

 It is still about the tests:

As Educate Now! outlined in its recent blog post, the governor cannot force BESE to adopt new standards. His focus is on preventing the state from using test questions developed by a “consortium of states.” This would stop BESE from using PARCC or Smarter Balance test questions that are aligned with Common Core and that allow Louisiana to compare the performance of its students to other students across the country.

The governor suspended the contract of the test vendor, DRC. This suspension led Superintendent John White to notify districts that the summer retest could not be graded because DRC’s contract includes grading of all tests. The Jindal administration then “clarified” their suspension saying it only applies to preventing the contractor from purchasing test questions from the two state consortiums.

BESE will have a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the suspension of the test vendor’s contract and whether to ask the Attorney General to allow the board to hire special legal counsel so it can seek clarity from the courts over the status of the contract. Also, three BESE members said they want to discuss the possibility of creating new tests for 2014-15.

Common Core related:

Bobby Jindal signs student privacy bill pushed by Common Core opponents
A new law requires the Louisiana Department of Education to develop anonymous student identification numbers for each child attending a public school. The department currently uses social security numbers. The law also explicitly prohibits the state from collecting information about a student or his family’s political affiliation, mental health, sexual behavior, income, and gun ownership, among other things, without consent.

Louisiana teachers union says schools lack technology skills for Common Core test
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers surveyed 1,011 educators statewide online and found that 87% believe their schools aren’t prepared to administer a Common Core test electronically. Their buildings don’t have the necessary technology or their students lack the computer skills.

Opposing New Orleans Reforms

Guest commentary: Charter experiment in New Orleans a failure
Professor J. Celeste Lay argues that education reform in New Orleans is a failure because RSD-New Orleans is still a low-performing district. She says most kids in New Orleans have no greater educational opportunities than they did before Katrina.

Perfect Storm: The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools
This video by the New Orleans Education Roundtable takes the position that the state takeover of New Orleans Public Schools was an illegal power grab and not an honest attempt to protect students from chronically failing schools. Editor’s note: The majority of schools (78 out of 107) taken over by the RSD were in fact chronically failing – not just performing below the state average.

Closing Schools, Opening Schools and Changing School Codes: Instability In the New Orleans Recovery School District
Research on Reforms argues that RSD’s success is falsely inflated by the closing of failing schools and the opening of new schools, because student performance in transitioning schools isn’t counted toward RSD’s District Performance Score. Editor’s note: All tests, whether they are from a school that is new, closing or transitioning to charter, are included in the RSD’s DPS. See DPS on the state’s website for more information.

And In Response …

Not much evidence to support opinions about New Orleans schools: Douglas Harris
Tulane professor Douglas Harris says conclusions being drawn about the success or failure of New Orleans education reforms, are based mostly on trends and anecdotes, not on hard evidence. While trends suggest improvement and test scores and graduation rates have gone up considerably, we don’t have enough data to answer two basic questions, “First, what effects have the changes had on student learning and long-term outcomes? Second, what exactly caused these effects.” He believes many factors need to be studied more carefully, including school choice, charters, the influx of young ambitious teachers, increased spending and tougher accountability standards.

Poll shows parents support choice
John Ayers of Tulane’s Cowen Institute responds to Professor Lay’s commentary saying her arguments miss the mark. Ayers points to significant gains made by the RSD in student performance and to Cowen’s poll that says 53% of voters support school choice.

National Stories

Simple, Old-Fashioned Game Improves Classroom Behavior, Studies Say
A new study looked at the effectiveness of the Good Behavior Game as a classroom tool and found that the game had “a moderate to large effect” on a wide range of challenging behaviors, including aggression, talking out of turn, and straying from assigned tasks. The Good Behavior Game divides students into teams that compete for the week’s best behavior and/or fewest infractions.

Less Sex, Fighting, and Smoking Seen Among High School Students
According to a new report from the CDC, cigarette smoking rates among high school students dropped to 15.7%, the lowest level in 22 years. The percentage of high school students who are sexually active is also down, from 38% in 1991 to 34% in 2013, but so is condom use among sexually active teenagers. The report covers many risky behaviors, including alcohol and drug abuse, physical fights, texting while driving, and bullying. View Louisiana’s results compared to the rest of the U.S.

School takeover unit ruled unconstitutional
A circuit court judge found Virginia’s takeover school district to be unconstitutional because it was established by the state’s General Assembly, not its Board of Education, and because it is a school district that is not supervised by a school board. The Virginia School Boards Association and the Norfolk School Board filed the lawsuit last year hoping invalidate the legislation that created the district.

Schools educate kids; movements don’t
Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute challenged scholars, practitioners, and policy analysts to explain why some charters outpace their district schools while others fall behind. Joe Siedlecki argues that the reason many charters fail is lack of effective regulatory enforcement. “The reality is that governance – the right governance, not bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake – matters immensely,” he says. “And in the charter sector, effective governance sits with effective authorizers.”

Other News

Louisiana’s ACT numbers are up, more students achieving college-going scores
Nearly 1,500 more Louisiana students graduated with ACT scores this year that designate them as college-ready and qualify them for TOPS scholarships. The Louisiana Department of Education announced that 23,560 students in the class of 2014 achieved a score of at least 18 on the ACT at some point during their high school career, up by 1,472 students from last year. The state will announce district-level results and the state average later this year.

New Orleans school building plan $330 million in the hole
New Orleans’ $1.8 billion school facilities rebuilding plan will have to be scaled back due to a budget gap that could total $330 million. Over 80% of the new construction and renovation projects have been completed or are in progress, but the projected cost of the remaining projects has gone up considerably since the plan was last revised in 2011. The Master Plan Oversight Committee was going to meet last week for the first time in over a year, but they were blocked by community members angry about plans to build on the former location of Booker T. Washington High School. Soil tests at the site, which was a landfill until about 1930, have revealed the presence of numerous heavy metals.

For New Orleans, restorative justice means reconciliation
New Orleans Rethinkers met with the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention to discuss the students’ success with restorative justice. Restorative justice emphasizes repairing the harm done to people and relationships rather than only punishing offenders. Another school-based group in New Orleans, the Center for Restorative Approaches, also works to keep children in school and to heal and repair harm.

AP Interview: Ex-La education chief back in state
Paul Pastorek, who left the Louisiana superintendent of education post in 2011 for a corporate job in Washington, has left Airbus Group Inc. and is returning to his hometown of New Orleans. Pastorek says he is establishing a company that will advise people working in the education field.

New Orleans teachers’ mass layoff lawsuit moves to Louisiana Supreme Court
The Louisiana Supreme Court has unanimously agreed to review the lawsuit filed by teachers protesting the 2005 mass layoffs by OPSB and the state Department of Education. New Orleans’ district and appeals courts ruled in favor of the teachers fired after Katrina, saying they were not given due process and many had the right to be rehired as jobs opened up in the first years after the storm.

Algiers charter school group set for Shreveport expansion, newspaper reports
The Algiers Charter School Association is set to expand to Shreveport. The Caddo School Board approved the group to take over up to three public schools in fall 2016 if the schools do not significantly improve next year.

Charter school reporting project ‘on hiatus,’ the Lens reports
The Lens announced that its Charter School Reporting Corps, which aimed to send reporters to every charter school board meeting in New Orleans, is “on hiatus” due to funding troubles. The Lens is a nonprofit newsroom focused on reporting New Orleans-area issues. In many cases, The Lens‘ reporter was the only member of the public present at charter board meetings.

Want to buy a school that closed 21 years ago? First, take a look inside
OPSB has decided to sell seven school buildings that it has declared surplus. Charter school operators get first shot at the buildings, and several charters are touring the options this month. The buildings available are: Alfred E. Priestley Junior High, A.J. Bell Junior High, George O. Mondy Jr. Elementary, L.V. Hansberry Elementary, Louis Armstrong Elementary, Israel Meyer Augustine Middle and Carrollton Courthouse/Audubon Extension.

Student: My school district hires too many white teachers
A recent graduate from Lake Area New Tech High School believes that schools should hire more local teachers and more teachers who understand the city’s social and political problems. He says a focus on hiring qualified local teachers will greatly improve the quality of education in New Orleans.


PowerMoves.NOLA invites you to its Power Pitch Events July 4th weekend
PowerMoves.NOLA, recently featured in Forbes Magazine, is hosting three Power Pitch Events featuring 20 entrepreneurs this July 4th weekend alongside the 2014 Essence Festival. The events will take place on Friday and Saturday and will include pitches from eight early stage companies, eight later stage companies and four women-founded companies. The grand prize for pitch winners is $25,000. PowerMoves.NOLA is about creating power through the opportunity of high-growth minority entrepreneurship. For more information, visit

Love is Respect Hackathon July 4th weekend
Black Girls CODE is looking for girls to participate in this weekend’s Love is Respect Hackathon. The Hackathon is open to girls of all experience levels who are entering 6th through 12th grade next year. The girls will work with experienced mentors to brainstorm as a team, research their ideas, and design a mobile app. At the end of the Hackathon, teams will demo their solutions on stage, receiving feedback from judges and be eligible for prizes! View the Hackathon’s event page for more information or to register.