In the News – September 4, 2014

New Orleans Stories

Stop Saying Market-Based Reform. Please.
In the debate over education reform, the RSD represents either the shining star or cautionary tale of so-called market-based reform efforts. Peter Cook says the RSD isn’t really a market-based model: There are high “barriers to entry” for charter school operators; competition doesn’t force low-performing schools out of the marketplace – government intervention does; and there is significant government oversight and collaboration among schools. Cook says characterizing New Orleans’ transformation as “market-based reform” ignores the motivations of those involved. “It may be hard to conceive that folks could be motivated by ideals rather than profit, but in New Orleans that’s the case.”

The End of Neighborhood Schools
This NPR story focuses on the challenges New Orleans schools and families face nine years after Katrina, including a fairly new centralized enrollment system, student transportation in a district without neighborhood schools, and the difficulties of moving schools from a C performance to an A performance. Editor’s note: This analysis of the NPR story from Peter Cook provides interesting insight into how phrasing and the selective omission of pertinent facts can change a reader’s perception of an issue.

Column: A New Orleans model for Detroit?
Michigan has asked former RSD Superintendent Paul Pastorek to spend time in several of its troubled school districts and help take stock of urban education in the state. Pastorek says what worked in New Orleans could be replicated elsewhere, but he doesn’t think charters are the only way to boost school performance. He believes success is more about placing excellent leaders in schools and allowing them to lead.

Governor Sues Feds over LA’s participation in Common Core

Jindal sues Obama administration over Common Core
Gov. Bobby Jindal has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, accusing it of illegally manipulating federal grant money and regulations to force states to adopt the Common Core education standards. The Washington Post says Jindal needed to sue to counter his early, enthusiastic support for Common Core, which could harm him if (when) he runs for president. The Advocate‘s Gregory Roberts says the suit is politically useful for Jindal and could win him support in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.

The Education Gadfly says Jindal’s suit has virtually no chance of success because tying federal grants to certain state actions is very common (think highway funds tied to the drinking age). The Times-Picayune says there is no good reason for the governor to be in court, and he is wasting the public’s money with a lawsuit that could cost $275,000 or more. The Washington Post‘s editorial board criticized Jindal, saying, “Sadly Mr. Jindal seems more intent on burnishing his conservative credentials for a presidential run than in serving the interests of students.” Read more of what the national media are saying about Jindal’s lawsuit.

In Other Legal News …

Louisiana high court to hear two teacher cases the week of Sept. 1
The state Supreme Court will hear appeals of two prominent cases this week: a lawsuit challenging Gov. Bobby Jindal’s controversial law weakening teacher tenure and the class-action lawsuit of more than 7,000 New Orleans public school staff who were laid off after Katrina.

Iberville files charter school funding lawsuit
The Iberville Parish School Board filed a lawsuit against BESE to stop the funding of new Type 2 charter schools. The board is asking the court for a permanent injunction, arguing the constitution requires that MFP funds go to parish and city school systems and can’t be allocated to a school directly by the state.

Jefferson School Board: Use performance to decide on teacher layoffs
The Jefferson Parish School Board voted to support a constitutional amendment that would allow the district to use performance, rather than seniority, when deciding which teachers to lay off. The board says the measure, which calls for a constitutional right to an effective teacher, would make it easier to fire ineffective teachers.

National Headlines

Making sense of the ed-reform backlash
Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute says we’re in the midst of the biggest backlash to education reform in a decade, if not a generation. He says one of the biggest mistakes reformers have made is promoting one-size-fits-all policies and top-down mandates that apply to all schools, in all situations. The challenges faced by suburban school districts are not the same, or as dire, as those faced by their urban counterparts, and Petrilli says proposals for change need to reflect this.

Common-Core Testing Group Shortens English/Language Arts Assessment
After reviewing the results of last spring’s field tests, PARCC has decided to cut out some of the questions on the English/language arts portion of its common-core-aligned test in order to reduce the length of the exam. PARCC officials said the range of standards being tested will remain unchanged, but fewer items will assess certain standards. Louisiana is part of the PARCC consortium, along with 12 other states and the District of Columbia.

The Original Charter School Vision
The original vision for charter schools came from Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Shanker imagined a new kind of public school that was more integrated and where teachers had a strong voice and could experiment with fresh and innovative ways of reaching students. Today, only about 12% of the nation’s charter schools have teachers’ unions, but a growing number of charters are using their flexibility in governance and enrollment to increase the influence of teachers and the diversity of their student bodies.

Finn: Eight of the Toughest Challenges Schools Still Face
After 30-plus years in education reform, Chester Finn, Jr. of the Fordham Institute looks back on what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done. Finn says we now judge schools by their achievement results, not their inputs or intentions, and choice among schools has become almost ubiquitous. The next big challenge, he says, is ensuring there are enough high quality choices to serve all students. Obstacles include obsolete governance structures, financial inequity across schools and districts, too few high quality leaders and teachers, complacency, and greed.

More Local

Charter, community group vie over long-shuttered Carrollton school building
Lycee Francais charter school is hoping to buy the long-shuttered Alfred Priestley school property from OPSB, but a neighborhood group called the P-Town Project objects to the sale. P-Town says it wants the building for an adult education center or a social services agency to help keep longtime residents in the Pigeon Town neighborhood as housing costs rise. Editor’s note: State law requires a school district to give a charter school first option on surplus property.

30% of New Orleans schools face charter renewal decisions this fall
This fall, 26 New Orleans charter schools are up for renewal and extension decisions by the state – 22 in the RSD and 4 Type 2 charters authorized by BESE. Most of the schools should be fine, but those that don’t meet performance goals could lose their authorization to operate and could be closed or turned over to new management.

YAYA youth organization to build $1.3 million art center in Central City
The YAYA youth art organization is breaking ground on a new $1.3 million art center in Central City. The center, which is expected to be completed by June 2015, will include a woodworking shop, a print shop, a hot glass studio, a painting-craft studio, classrooms and a gallery.