ICYMI: Trump and K-12 Education

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) … Your mini news clippings

Trump and K-12 Education

In his first address to Congress, President Trump urged Congress to dramatically expand school choice. Two days later, at a Catholic school in Florida, Trump and his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, reaffirmed their commitment to choice.

The President is considering a federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions to families who want to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. Critics on the right worry this would increase the federal government’s role in education and pressure states to standardize state tax credit programs. Public school advocates say it’s a voucher program in disguise that would divert tax dollars from struggling public schools.

In an opinion piece for CNN, Andre Perry says DeVos should start by addressing the flaws of charter schools and vouchers, which she helped create. A new study of national and international voucher programs found no evidence that school vouchers offer students significant academic advantages or are a proven education reform strategy. Louisiana’s voucher program received a D for 2016, performing worse than all but three public school districts.
A draft of President Trump’s first budget eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds programs run by AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps’ national service network includes Teach for America, which receives about $40 million in teacher awards from AmeriCorps each year.

Once President Trump fills the two vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the board will likely disavow jurisdiction over charter schools, and reverse the NLRB’s recent ruling against Lusher and International High School. If charter schools in Louisiana are not under the NLRB’s jurisdiction, it will be more difficult for unions to force these schools into a collective bargaining agreement.

Radical Change is Possible

Two education chiefs say radical change is not only possible, it is reliably doable. In a piece for the Washington Post, Louisiana’s Supt. of Education John White and Massachusetts’ Commissioner of Elem. and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester say their states show radical improvements in education are possible, but they require leadership, autonomy, flexibility, accountability, and third-party support. In Louisiana, 128,000 fewer students attend schools rated D or F than did in 2011, and African-American fourth graders moved from 43rd in the nation for proficiency in reading to 20th. In Massachusetts, students in schools targeted for intensive improvement gained a full year more of learning in both math and English.

ESSA Update

After nine months of intensive planning, public hearings, and meetings with stakeholders, the state Department of Education is close to finalizing its plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The department is accepting public comment on the draft ESSA plan until the end of the month; BESE is expected to review the plan at a special meeting on March 29; and Supt. John White will submit the final plan to the federal government on April 3. There are (at least) three issues  percolating:

  1. How to phase in the higher standards.
  2. How much weight to give growth in school performance measures.
  3. Whether to delay Louisiana’s ESSA submission for another five months, which some superintendents are urging. It would likely delay the phase in of the new standards by another year.

Louisiana Stories

BESE approved new science standards for K-12 schools, the first new standards since 1987. The revisions will allow students to study science topics in depth rather than cover a wide range of subjects with little examination. To help educators prepare for the transition, the Department of Education announced a preliminary series of supports and a gradual timeline to phase in the new standards by the 2018-19 school year.

The Louisiana Legislature approved a plan for closing the $304 million mid-year budget deficit. It uses $99 million from the state’s rainy day fund and cuts about $82 million to state agencies, but it does not cut funding for K-12 or higher education. 

BESE’s proposed budget for next year will freeze basic state aid for public schools. The Minimum Foundation Task Force recommended a 1.375% increase in MFP ($35 million), but backers of the freeze say it’s the most realistic hope given the state’s budget problems.

Budget cuts to Louisiana’s voucher program mean more private schools are taking advantage the state’s tax rebate program to boost enrollment.

Teacher turnover increased from 7% to 10% after Louisiana significantly scaled back teacher tenure in 2012, according to a new research brief from the Education Research Alliance at Tulane University.

The Advocate is in favor of the tougher standards for TOPS recipients being considered by Louisiana’s Board of Regents, which will require 15 credit hours per semester instead of 12.

Local News

The Choice Foundation board voted to transfer oversight of two charter schools to OPSB ahead of the 2018 legal mandate – Lafayette Academy in Uptown and Esperanza Charter in Mid-City.

New Orleans Magazine profiles members of the new Orleans Parish School Board, elected to serve until 2020, and says they mark the beginning of a promising second chance for New Orleans public schools.

Homer A. Plessy Community School has achieved more diversity than most schools in New Orleans, but it is struggling to retain upper middle class, white families.

The ExCEED charter group, which is applying to charter the last five traditional OPSB schools, has hired Nicolette London, former Chief of Network Schools for New Orleans Public Schools, as its CEO.

Audubon Charter wants a new expansion campus at Gentilly Terrace Elementary, where it will combine its Montessori and French immersion curricula, but the RSD is considering relocating and expanding the city’s small therapeutic day program at that location.

YouthForce NOLA is hosting its inaugural Career Expo this Thursday at Xavier University’s Convocation Center. Over 2,000 high school students from 16 YouthForce NOLA partner schools will be engaged and inspired to consider their futures through interactive demonstrations and direct conversations with industry professionals.

College and Career Readiness

Achieve.org examines college and career readiness in all 50 states. Their report finds that despite increases in graduation rates, too few high school graduates are prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, the military, and careers. In Louisiana:

  • Only 16% percent of students (in public and private schools) met ACT’s benchmarks for college and career readiness; 4% of Black students and 16% of Hispanic students met ACT’s benchmarks.
  • 5% of adults 25 and over have an associate’s degree, while 11% of jobs require at least an associate’s degree.
  • 15% of adults 25 and over have a bachelor’s degree, while 34% of jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree.

The Cowen Institute has released their 2016-17 State of Public Education in New Orleans, which shows:

  • 73% of public school students in New Orleans graduated from high school, compared with 53% in 2004.
  • Similarly, 59% of New Orleans high school graduates entered a two- or four-year college in 2014, compared with 39% in 2004.

According to the Advocate, the Cowen Institute’s report shows school-focused governance can alter the negative influences in urban school environments, but governance by itself is not enough to give every child in our communities the best chance to succeed.

Shout Outs!

Xavier University was ranked 6th in the U.S. for the upward mobility of its students. A study based on tuition records and tax filings found 80% of Xavier students from the bottom fifth of the income distribution made it to the top three-fifths (middle class and above).

Dr. Stephen Hales, a strong supporter of New Orleans charter schools, was chosen to be 2017’s Rex, King of Carnival. Dr. Hales is vice-chair of New Schools for New Orleans. The Rex organization’s Pro Bono Publico Foundation has invested almost $6 million in local charter schools.