In the News – RSD Responds to Civil Rights Complaint

RSD Increases Opportunities for Minority Students

It’s clear: RSD has increased opportunities for minority students
In this letter to the U.S. Department of Education, the RSD outlines how its turnaround strategy has increased educational opportunities for minority students. The RSD serves the majority of African American students in the city. It has seen gains in state test scores and ACT scores and has improved access to high-performing schools through OneApp. On average, students leaving closed RSD schools have enrolled in new schools with an SPS 24.1 points higher than their former school. The U.S. DOE is investigating a civil rights complaint that claims the closing of traditionally run schools unfairly affected minority students.

Trickle Up Government
Harvard Political Review says the leadership vacuum in Washington, D.C. has forced local governments to develop new policy solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems. The Review says New Orleans is a city that is driving innovation in the public sector. They point to RSD’s groundbreaking reforms, which have made New Orleans one of the nation’s most rapidly improving school systems. “Given the persistent struggles many big city school systems have faced for decades, New Orleans’ new approach may fundamentally alter the face of urban education in America.”

Louisiana News

Bobby Jindal allows John White to move forward with federal grant application
Governor Jindal says he won’t stand in the way of Louisiana applying for a $15 million federal grant that would expand preschool programs in targeted communities and better serve the state’s most vulnerable children. The governor delayed his approval until the day before the grant was due, saying he wanted to be convinced the federal funds were not tied to Common Core state standards. Editor’s note: Thanks to all who contacted the governor to support applying for this grant.

Report: Louisiana Among Nation’s Most Improved States on Advanced Placement Scores
Data from the College Board shows the number of Louisiana students scoring a 3 or higher on Advanced Placement (AP) exams increased 24.6 percent from 2013 to 2014, the highest increase in the nation. The percent of African American students scoring a 3 or higher increased 31 percent. The College Board says a student who scores a 3 or above is 12 to 27 percent more likely to graduate college on time. Louisiana is still one of the lowest performing states in the country, even with these significant gains.

Jindal: Teachers can complain about Common Core
Gov. Bobby Jindal has issued an executive order saying school administrators aren’t allowed under state law to deny a teacher’s constitutional freedom of speech. The governor issued the order after teachers in Alexandria said school administrators had tried to stifle their criticisms of Common Core on social media and in public.

Cowen Retracts Report

Tulane’s Cowen Institute retracts New Orleans schools report, apologizes
The Cowen Institute has withdrawn its recent report Beating the Odds, which indicated that some public high schools in New Orleans, especially those that serve the most vulnerable students, are performing better than predicted. After its release, the Cowen Institute determined that the report’s methodology was flawed.

What Should OPSB Do?

It has been over two years since OPSB began looking for a new superintendent. just added a Superintendent Search Clock to its website, which displays how many years, months, days and seconds Stan Smith has served as interim superintendent.

The Lens invited educators and advocates – including all members of the school board – to weigh in on how OPSB should break the logjam and convince a top-notch educator to take charge as superintendent. So far, they have received responses from Sarah UsdinAndre PerryGail GlapionDeirdre Johnson Burel, and Mike Stenson.

OPSB’s dysfunction becomes even more apparent when compared to the accomplishments of the Jefferson Parish School Board since Katrina. In A Tale of Two School Boards James Varney looks at the issues JPSB is grappling with and compares it to the political squabbles that have bogged down OPSB.

For example, Ira Thomas, in his latest bid to unseat OPSB’s interim Superintendent Stan Smith, put forward a committee agenda item to discuss Smith’s competence. Thomas wanted to discuss Smith’s handling of disadvantaged business enterprise contracts, but he was unable to get the votes to go into executive session.

National Stories

Study: ‘Pygmalion Effect’ Links Teacher Expectations to Student Success
new study from the Center for American Progress concludes that teachers’ expectations for students are strongly correlated with student graduation rates, but teachers don’t necessarily have high expectations for all students, especially poor and minority students. The study focuses on the Pygmalion Effect, the theory that higher expectations of a person lead to higher performance, and lower expectations lead to poorer performance.

Should a School Get an ‘A’ Even if Poor and Minority Students Underperform?
Ed Trust looked at three states to determine if the A-F grading systems allowed by No Child Left Behind waivers accurately reflect minority student performance. They found that African American student performance in some high ranking schools was actually below that of white students in other, lower ranked schools. They also found that many higher ranked schools weren’t necessarily closing the achievement gap. Ed Trust is calling for the U.S. Department of Education to put the focus back on equity when it issues new state guidance for waivers.

No Struggle No Progress: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform
Howard Fuller’s new memoir, No Struggle, No Progress, tells the story of how a boy in the Jim Crow South became one of the nation’s most respected and influential education reformers. Fuller grew up in Shreveport, and the daily injustice he saw in his own neighborhood reinforced his belief that “education offers the best route out of poverty for individuals.”

District studies roots of dropout crisis and promises it will work to fix it
A report on D.C. public schools found middle school performance played a significant role in whether students were on track to graduate high school on time. For every course an eighth-grader in the District failed, that student was six percentage points less likely to graduate from high school on time. And for every 10 times a student was absent the same year, that student was four percentage points less likely to graduate.

Local News

New Orleans public high school enrollment increases by 10 percent
New Orleans public high school enrollment rose to almost 12,500 for the 2014-15 academic year, an increase of about 10 percent from last year.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announces $8.2 million workforce development grants
Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the creation of two new job training grants worth a total of $8.2 million. Delgado Community College will receive $2.4 million to train 1,500 students for jobs in welding and machining as well as electrical and industrial maintenance. New Orleans Workforce Investment Board will receive $5.8 million to build local workforce capacity.

A New Orleans Charter School Marches To Its Own Tune
As part of its series on New Orleans, NPR profiles Homer A. Plessy charter. Plessy is in its second year and is struggling to put down roots. It needs students, money and a permanent home, but the teachers, school leaders, and families are committed to the school’s focus on the arts and a hands-on approach to education.

Community Discusses Future Of John McDonogh High School
Community members weighed in on the future of John McDonogh High School at two public meetings last week, saying they wanted the high school to reopen under OPSB control, but this may not happen. Even if the RSD returns control of the building to OPSB, the school board projects the number of elementary students to grow faster than high school students, so there might be more need for a new K-8 school at that location. The RSD will make a decision about the school building in January.


BGR’s 2014 Annual Luncheon to feature Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be the guest speaker at BGR’s 2014 Annual Luncheon, Thursday, December 11 at 12:00 pm.