In the News – BESE is Suing the Governor

Common Core: What’s Happening Now?

Yesterday, BESE voted to challenge Jindal on Common Core by joining a lawsuit filed by several parents and teachers from Orleans, Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes and the Choice Foundation charter group. This lawsuit claims that Jindal has overstepped constitutional boundaries in his fight with BESE over contracts and tests.

The governor responded by filing his own lawsuit against BESE, claiming the Memorandum of Understanding with PARCC (which he signed) is unconstitutional because, “it offends state sovereignty by attempting to improperly delegate the constitutional authority of BESE and the Legislature to a “consortium” of other states.”

Prior to these actions, over the last couple of weeks:

Governor Jindal met with Superintendent John White (nothing came of the meeting), and he rejected BESE’s compromise proposal for student testing through 2016 saying the proposal wasn’t consistent with the state’s procurement code. Lafayette’s The Advertiser called BESE’s proposal a “reasonable solution, offered in good faith.”

Jindal also accused the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) of repeatedly sidestepping Louisiana’s procurement laws in approving its testing contracts. LDOE denied his allegations saying their procedures follow state law.

Seventeen lawmakers filed a lawsuit in District Court hoping to halt the implementation of Common Core by arguing that BESE and LDOE didn’t follow the Administrative Procedures Act. BESE and LDOE maintain they followed state law, which clearly outlines a process for establishing content standards.

Earlier this month, BESE requested approval to hire legal counsel. The attorney general approved BESE’s request to bring in an outside attorney, who agreed to work for free, but Governor Jindal’s office rejected it last week. The Times-Picayune criticized the governor, saying his actions “are driven by political ambitions that have nothing to do with Louisiana.”

Here’s a quick summary of Who’s Suing Whom? from the Times-Picayune.

Outside the courts, the debate over Common Core is getting personal. In a letter to BESE, Superintendent John White says he is being unfairly targeted. He says Governor Jindal, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, Jindal’s key BESE ally Jane Smith and others have used rhetoric that has “increasingly insinuated that the department’s motivations, perhaps even my own motivations, for supporting the Common Core standards or the PARCC test questions are potentially nefarious.”

Finally, at yesterday’s board meeting, BESE also unanimously approved a motion requiring the Superintendent to bring an alternative plan to BESE in 30 days on how the state will have a test, since it is unlikely there will be a resolution – either by the courts or by an agreement between BESE and the governor – anytime soon.

Economic Mobility in America

This Way Up: Mobility in America
The Wall Street Journal reports that economic mobility is alive and well for Americans who pursue technical or practical training. Many economists are bullish about the prospects of what they call “middle-skilled” workers. They are predicting that in the coming years, at least a third and perhaps a half of all U.S. jobs will require more than high school but less than four years of college. Most of these jobs will involve some sort of technical or practical training, which means trades like welding and nursing will provide real opportunities.

Louisiana Headlines

Special ed overhaul called ‘monumental’
Louisiana faces several challenges in implementing a new law that would allow special education advisory teams to develop an alternative path for some special education students to qualify for a high school diploma, exempting them from some of the current requirements. The U.S. Department of education has advised the state that allowing different standards for some students might violate federal laws and could jeopardize federal aid. Implementing the law consistently across districts will require additional training for IEP teams and for parents.

Teacher and public school evaluations face renewed scrutiny
A review of Louisiana’s school accountability system shows that, in some ways, the state is a national leader, but school accountability and teacher evaluation are not aligned. Teachers are evaluated based on growth in student performance (value-added), while most of a school’s letter grade is based on student performance, irrespective of where students started or how much improvement students demonstrated. Hence, there are F-rated public schools that have top-rated teachers, while some A-rated schools have teachers rated as ineffective. The accountability commission voted to explore the two evaluation systems further.

Recovery School District drops FUSE as charter operator in Baton Rouge
The Recovery School District dropped the Connecticut-based charter operator Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) when it learned FUSE’s executive director had a criminal background and apparently lied about his academic credentials. FUSE was supposed to open the new Dalton Elementary School in Baton Rouge, but the school’s management has been handed over to Los Angeles-based Celerity Educational Group.

Education Politics (Besides Common Core)

AFT, NEA Agendas Converge Amid External, Internal Pressure
Two of the country’s largest teachers’ unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), are aligning their agendas. Both have targeted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have issues with the implementation of Common Core and the use of standardized test scores to judge teacher performance, and are fighting attacks on teacher tenure and seniority.

Teachers versus the Public: What Americans Think about Schools and How to Fix Them
A new book looks at surveys of over 5,000 teachers and members of the general public from 2007 to 2013 and concludes that teachers and the public disagree most on issues pertaining to tenure, pensions, union efficacy, charter schools, school vouchers, and standardized testing. The divide was deeper in low performing districts, where the public was more eager to support school vouchers, charter schools, and parent-trigger laws.

Dennis Persica: Charter school issue divides Democrats
Dennis Persica says that just as Republicans are split over Common Core, Democrats have been divided on the issue of charter schools, and the division seems to be sharpening. A few other issues separating traditional Democratic allies are market-driven education reform and “value-added” teacher assessments.

National Stories

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?
On national tests and in international comparisons the United States consistently falls short in math performance. The New York Times says it’s clear that the traditional way of teaching math, as rules to be memorized, simply doesn’t work. Common Core offers a chance to change the way math is taught, but without a good system of implementation, one that helps teachers learn to teach to the new standards, the reforms will only backfire and make things more difficult.

New Federal Report Reviews Extended Learning Time Research
The U.S. Department of Education reviewed 30 studies on extended learning time to help educators figure out which approaches prove beneficial. The DOE found mixed results in the studies but did highlight some promising practices, including the use of certified teachers for the extra time and targeting specific student needs, such as reading instruction.

Success of Recovery School District considered at national conference
Andre Perry recently participated in a national panel discussion on the challenges of school takeovers. Perry, who ran the Capital One-UNO Charter Network before leaving for academia, was joined by Chris Barbic, superintendent of the Achievement School District in Tennessee, and Dan Varner of Excellent Schools Detroit. The panelists compared notes on their state takeover districts’ similarities and differences and tried to address the question, “What do you do about really terrible schools?”

Local News

Orleans Parish superintendent search consultants try to get back on track as School Board members bicker
Consultants working to find the next OPSB superintendent are trying to set up another meeting with the board “to keep everyone engaged and try to arrive at consensus on the two candidates they haven’t acted upon yet.”

Two new charters recommended for Orleans Parish system
OPSB staff recommended that the board approve two of four proposed new charter schools, both focusing on special student groups: Cypress Academy, targeting students with dyslexia and other reading disorders, and Foundation Preparatory Charter School, with services for Vietnamese immigrants in eastern New Orleans. Editor’s note: OPSB approved both recommended charter applications at its last meeting.

Orleans Parish School Board votes to ask for return of John McDonogh High
OPSB voted to ask the Recovery School District to return John McDonogh High to OPSB control. Supporters of the move said the state system has been unable to turn around the long-failing school, either by running it directly or through a charter. BESE is scheduled to consider the matter at its July 30 meeting.

France gives academic accreditation to New Orleans charter school
Lycee Francais, a French-language charter school in Uptown, has been accredited by the French government for pre-kindergarten through second grade. Accreditation from the French Ministry of Education certifies that a school offers the official French curriculum. Audubon Charter and the private school Ecole Bilingue are also certified by the ministry.

Milestone Academy retains its charter as BESE defers voting to revoke it
BESE has deferred a vote on whether to revoke the charter for Milestone Academy. The school, which dropped its for-profit operator, SABIS, in June, is still without a new operator or an operating lease for its building and is in the process of hiring a new principal. Superintendent John White believes that a memorandum of understanding with the state will allow the school to remain open and will prevent a last minute shuffling of Milestone’s 350 students to other schools in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.


4.0 Schools is now accepting applications for its 10th Launch program. Launch is a three-month incubation program for education entrepreneurs developing new apps, services and school models. If you are building a company that will help create the future of schools, apply by August 18 on the Launch webpage. To get a feel for the types of solutions that have come out of Launch, read this blog post or browse this list.