In the News – NOLA Wins Kennedy Center Grant

N.O. Wins Grant for Arts Education

New Orleans Wins Prestigious Planning Grant for Arts Education
The Kennedy Center has selected New Orleans as the newest city for its Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child initiative, a program designed to help cities address the urgent need to restore arts education in schools. Beginning this month, Kennedy Center staff will work with local leaders to conduct a comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources as well as a needs assessment. Then a plan will be created to bring more access to arts education for all K-8 students.

President Clinton Gives New Orleans a Shout Out!  

Bill Clinton: Charter Schools Must Be Held To ‘The Original Bargain’
Former President Bill Clinton says, “I think it’s really important that you invest in what works. For example, New Orleans has better schools than it had before Hurricane Katrina, and it’s the only public school [district] in America where 100 percent of the schools are charter schools.” But the reforms shouldn’t stop there, he added. Clinton was an early backer of charters and understood the original bargain to be that charters would get more freedom, but if they weren’t outperforming the public model, their charter would not be renewed.

Funding Preservation of School Facilities 

New Orleans school building maintenance millage change advances to Bond Commission, voters
OPSB voted 4-3 to ask New Orleans voters to approve a plan for funding the long-term upkeep of the city’s new and renovated school buildings. The plan involves extending a property tax earmarked for paying off debt and redirecting the proceeds toward the preservation of school facilities. If voters approve the ballot measure in December, the money will go toward emergency repairs, facility accounts for individual campuses and a revolving loan fund.

Rodent droppings, leaky roof, termite damage point up lack of New Orleans school maintenance
The A.P. Tureaud campus is just one of the many decrepit old school buildings in New Orleans. The building needed a significant investment of funds before OPSB’s Homer A. Plessy charter could move in this summer, and the repairs aren’t complete. The deterioration of Tureaud is just one example of why New Orleans needs a plan for long-term funding of facility preservation.

National Stories 

Enrollment of Homeless Students Hits New Record in U.S. Schools Data from the U.S.
Department of Education data show there were a record 1,258,182 homeless students enrolled in American public schools during the 2012-13 school year, a nearly 8 percent increase from the previous year. About 75 percent of homeless students were “doubled up,” sharing homes with other families. Another 16 percent lived in shelters; 6 percent lived in hotels or motels; and 3 percent went without shelter.

Special Education Charters Renew Inclusion Debate
Dozens of charters nationwide focus on serving students with disabilities, counter to a long-running criticism that charters don’t serve kids with special needs. In many ways, these specialized schools align with the choice movement: responding to parental demand and gaps in the education marketplace. This choice, however, may collide with federal law and related research that say such students should be integrated as much as possible with typically developing peers.

How the New SAT Is Trying to Redefine College Readiness
The SAT is rolling out major revisions to its test beginning with the fall 2015 PSAT and the 2016 SAT. These changes are intended to better reflect the material students should be learning in high school and to be more aligned with Common Core standards. Read more about the overhaul or take a look at sample questions from the new SAT.Editor’s note: Both SAT and ACT have revised their tests to be Common Core aligned.  

Is character education the answer?
Students attending KIPP schools have higher rates of high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion than students from similarly disadvantaged backgrounds who attend other public schools. A recent evaluation of KIPP middle schools found that KIPP students significantly outperformed the comparison children (students who applied to KIPP schools but didn’t get in) on numerous measures of achievement, across a range of subject areas. The KIPP children showed no advantage, however, on any of the measures of character strengths, such as persistence and self-control, despite KIPP’s focus on character education.

Louisiana Headlines 

Louisiana’s Auditor has a different take on Common Core than Bobby Jindal
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor released an independent report on Common Core in an attempt to provide unbiased information about the controversial academic standards. Governor Jindal has depicted Common Core as a scheme by the Obama administration to create a national curriculum over which states and local districts have no control, but the auditor said this is not the case. “Standards are not the same thing as curricula, textbooks, lesson plans or classroom activities and assignments,” the auditor reported. “The choice of which materials teachers use continues to be a state and local decision.”

First look at Louisiana’s new preschool report card
This school year, some preschools will be judged under new metrics designed to focus on the quality of teacher-child interaction, teacher training and curriculums. The move is a key part of state reforms aimed at raising preschools’ academic performance and accessibility to parents. Seven pilot programs around the state, including New Orleans, will test the new grading system. By 2015-16, all preschools that receive public money will be graded.

Education majors need more time in classroom
The Louisiana Department of Education released the results of a survey of more than 6,000 educators that showed most newly graduated teachers did not receive adequate preparation for what they would face in classrooms. The survey also found few school systems and teacher preparation programs collaborated regularly to identify future employment needs or to determine whether individual graduates are ready for the job.

Special education costs challenge state task force
The task force examining Louisiana’s $3.5 billion public school funding plan is struggling to find a more equitable way to distribute funds for special education. The task force is considering the method used by the RSD in New Orleans, which distributes funds to schools based on the type of disability and the number of minutes each special needs child gets help, but there are concerns about expanding this method statewide.

Local News 

U.S. Education Department opens civil rights investigation of New Orleans public school closures
The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into charges that the RSD’s policy of closing and chartering New Orleans public schools violated the civil rights of African-American students. The complaint, filed in May, said African-American students were disproportionately affected by the RSD’s decision to close its final five conventional public schools in New Orleans, and that the system did not provide good alternatives for displaced students.

New Orleans charter school union talks proceed, but no copycats yet
Negotiations are going well at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans’ first collectively bargained teacher contract since Hurricane Katrina. So far, this is the only charter school that is participating in contract negotiations with a union. New Orleans’ only other charter school union, at Morris Jeff Community School, is affiliated with the Louisiana Association of Educators, but has so far chosen not to bargain a contract.

New Orleans parent group embarks on superintendent search, citing School Board delay
Frustrated with OPSB’s lack of progress, the parents of Stand for Children Louisiana have started their own search for a new superintendent. In the past month, Stand parents have identified and recruited candidates, spoken to one recruitment firm and will interview three more, and put in a public records request “to find the kind of caliber of candidates that have been applying for the job already.”

New Orleans school for expelled students makes changes for 2014-15
The Crescent Leadership Academy is adding vocational programs, opening a second site and planning a move to Algiers in an attempt to improve results. The Academy is New Orleans’ official public school for expelled students. They take students who have been removed from other public schools, and some who are re-entering school from the criminal justice system, and educate them until their expulsion periods end and they can return to a regular campus.

Shout Outs! 

See which 6 Louisiana high schools made Newsweek’s national best list
Congratulations to three New Orleans area high schools named by Newsweek to be among the best public high schools in the United States. Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans and Thomas Jefferson High School in Gretna were ranked in the top 500 for overall excellence. Thomas Jefferson also ranked in the top 500 high-performing schools with low-income populations, as did Lake Area New Tech Early College High School in New Orleans.

Louisiana Writes! awards presented to Lusher Charter students in New Orleans
Students at Lusher Charter School won 16 awards in the 2014 Louisiana Writes! Competition, including awards for fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The students will be honored at ceremony at the Louisiana State Museum in November that will open the Louisiana Book Festival.