In 2010, Educate Now! convened a Task Force to consider long-term governance alternatives for New Orleans public schools. In a series of meetings over several months, the members of the Task Force worked on how best to restore local control of public education without imperiling the considerable academic progress since 2005.
The Task Force determined that New Orleans requires a unique governance structure to manage the new “system of schools” that has evolved since Katrina. The structure that the Task Force recommended is called the Return Model.
The Return Model: A New Approach to Governance for Schools in Orleans Parish
Interviews: Leslie Jacobs Explains the Return Model
Comment on the Return Model
The Return Model report lays out the governance system that the Task Force recommended. Not every detail is attended to, and Educate Now! expects and invites community debate that will further refine the model.
BESE held its full Board meeting today. The final votes are as follows:
1. Pastorek’s Revised Plan for Return of Schools was approved.
2. BESE approved a new letter grading system for schools, which will go into effect in 2011. The letter grades will replace the current star ratings. The Department of Education estimates over 500 schools will have D rating. Continue reading
After a 13-hour, marathon day of meetings, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) has approved the following items in committee. While these votes are preliminary – each committee recommendation will be considered by the full Board on Thursday – items recommended by committees are almost always approved by the full Board.
1. Pastorek’s Return of School Proposal: Approved
The Recovery School District Committee approved Superintendent Pastorek’s Revised Plan for Return of Schools by a vote of 4 to 2. Continue reading
Five years ago yesterday, the levees broke. Hurricane Katrina flooded roughly 80% of this city, causing nearly $100 billion in damage. The storm forced us to rebuild our homes, workplaces, and many of our institutions – including our failing public education system.
But from the flood waters, the most market-driven public school system in the country has emerged. Education reformers across America should take notice: The model is working.
Citywide, the number of fourth-grade students who pass the state’s standardized tests has jumped by almost a third – to 65% in 2010 from 49% in 2007. The passage rate among eighth-graders during the same period has improved at a similar clip, to 58% from 44%.
After Hurricane Katrina, state officials faced a choice: Take control of the schools in New Orleans or leave them in the care of the city’s notoriously troubled School Board. A takeover was risky. New Orleans Public Schools were among the worst in the nation. Most New Orleans legislators opposed state action. More daunting, any reasonable analysis would have put the state’s chance of success extremely low and of political embarrassment correspondingly high. Nowhere else in the nation had a state department of education ever assumed direct responsibility for operating local schools.
Yet state leaders, led by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and then-Superintendent Cecil Picard, had the courage to take the gamble. With legislative blessing, they moved decisively to expand the state-run Recovery School District – initially created to handle just a handful of failing schools – to include all but 16 schools in the city.
Five years later, it’s clear that gamble has paid off in ways unimaginable even to the most ardent supporters of the takeover. Continue reading
Before the end of 2010, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will have to determine if New Orleans schools will stay in the Recovery School District (RSD) or be returned to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB). Here is a brief review of the law governing BESE’s decision-making process and an outline of the steps involved.
- Who should authorize charter schools?
- Who should manage school facilities?
- Who should handle the money?
- What should happen to the Orleans Parish School Board?
- What about giving the mayor authority over schools?
- What about an appointed school board?
While these are all important questions, Educate Now! urges everyone to hit the pause button and take time to fully understand the “what” of school governance (what roles, functions, services must be in place) before looking at the “who” (what individuals, group, organization, or political entity or entities should be responsible for these functions).
Education was an issue in the recent Mayoral and City Council elections, especially school governance and school performance. These issues were debated, discussed, and polled. Finally, the candidates were asked their positions. So, now that we have a new mayor and five of the seven city council seats have been decided, where are we?
The majority of voters:
- Believe the state made the right decision in taking over the schools (Cowen);
- Strongly support choice (CABL, Cowen);
- Strongly support charters (CABL, Cowen, Democracy Corps);
- Do not want schools returned to the Orleans Parish School Board (CABL, Cowen);
- Do not want mayoral control of schools (Cowen); and
- Would like return of local control eventually (Democracy Corps). Continue reading
The Big Picture: Good News Overall
The state has just released the 2009 School Performance Scores, and the news is good overall. Students in New Orleans are doing better than they were pre-Katrina, and New Orleans is one of the 5 most-improved areas in the state.
In 2005, just before Katrina, only 37% of Orleans Parish schools were considered Academically Acceptable with one star or higher. Today that number is 58% – an increase of 21 percentage points.
New Orleans is one of the most improved areas in the state, and our rate of progress is significantly higher than the state average. The District Performance Score for New Orleans Schools went from 56.9 in 2005 to 70.6 in 2009, an increase of 13.7 points. The state average only went up 3.6 points during this time.