A personal message from Leslie

Dear Friends and Readers,

It is with the utmost gratitude for your ongoing support, engagement, and partnership that I inform you this will be my last post with Educate Now!.

In August of 2008, when Educate Now! was born, the education landscape in this city was complicated, to say the least. We were still putting the post-Katrina pieces back together. Charter schools were new but showing success, and our schools were governed by two different entities – the RSD and OPSB – that were largely failing to communicate with one another or with the public. For parents, educators, and activists alike, there was no central place to turn for data, information, or a singular, comprehensive view of what was going on citywide. Educate Now! has worked to fill that void.

It is astounding to think of how far this city’s education system has come over these past nine years – and the generation of young lives changed as a result. I’m incredibly proud and grateful to have played a part in efforts to improve our students’ academic performance, graduation rates, and post-secondary readiness, and I am touched and inspired by the people working everyday on the frontline to improve the lives of our city’s youth. With each passing year, we are seeing more graduates leave high school better prepared to go forth into the world, and that is an achievement New Orleans can own with pride.

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ICYMI: What’s New in 2017-18

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

What’s New in 2017-18

Work will begin to create a new high school Career and Technical Center that will provide advanced training for interested students in fields like health sciences, IT, and skilled crafts or trades. The center has secured initial grant funding and is working with the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) to develop a sustainable funding plan. 

OPSB and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office are launching new education program for young inmates at the Orleans Justice Center, with a new high school diploma track and additional classrooms to serve more students. 

The Times-Picayune looks at the new school line up for 2017-18, including which schools are opening this fall and which have closed. There are now 86 public schools in New Orleans – 41 overseen by OPSB, 38 overseen by RSD, and 7 statewide charters overseen by BESE. 

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ICYMI: Local Innovation in National Spotlight

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

Local Innovation in the National Spotlight

The Carnegie Corporation profiled EdNavigator, a local nonprofit that works with companies to identify and support working parents who need help navigating the school system and advocating for their children.

New Orleans’ own unCommon Construction won a national Teach For America 2017 Social Innovation Award. The nonprofit, which helps students earn credits and scholarships while building houses, will receive $50,000 from TFA to continue developing and expanding their reach.

Researchers estimate that New Orleans children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder at rates three times the national average. NPR highlighted Crocker College Prep, one of five charter schools in a collective working to become more trauma-informed, and the Christian Science Monitor visited the New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program, a school that gives children with severe trauma and emotional disturbance a safe place to learn.

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ICYMI: What New Orleans Thinks of Its Schools

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What New Orleans Thinks of Its Public Schools

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has released the results of its citywide survey, and the Cowen Institute has released its report on their annual public perceptions poll. The results were very consistent between the two. 

This chart from OBSB’s report shows roughly one quarter of respondents in both surveys would give the public school system an A or B grade, and around 65 percent of respondents in both surveys would give the public school system an A, B, or C.

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ICYMI: Education in Trump’s First 100 Days

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Education in Trump’s First 100 Days

The Fordham Institute looks at education in President Trump’s first 100 days to see what has changed and what might change in public education. Some of the early changes enacted by the Trump administration include: eliminating school accountability regulations in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, relaxing school lunch standards, rolling back protections for people who default on student loans, and reversing bathroom access guidelines for public schools.

The Trump administration continues to promote school choice, including charter schools and vouchers. Voucher opponents will use a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education of the Washington, DC, voucher program as ammunition to oppose vouchers. This study found students lost ground in their first year in private schools (compared to non-voucher students), as have recent studies in Louisiana, Ohio, and Indiana. Charter schools fared much better in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual high school rankings, with 6 of the top ten and 34 of the top hundred schools being charters.

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ICYMI: All-Charter District on Hold (for now)

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Update on District-Run Schools

The New Orleans public school system is not going all-charter – at least not this year. Eleanor McMain will be chartered by InspireNOLA, but Ben Franklin Elementary, Mary Bethune, McDonogh 35, and Mahlia Jackson will continue to be run by the district through the 2017-18 school year.

Last week, Exceed charter group withdrew its charter application after outside consultants said its application fell short. OPSB approved InspireNOLA’s application to charter Eleanor McMain.  

The Superintendent recommended and an OPSB committee approved closing Mahalia Jackson Elementary at the end of the 2017-18 school year, but the full board deferred action on the final decision at its meeting last week.   

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ICYMI: BESE approves school accountability plan

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BESE Approves White’s ESSA Plan

After a contentious, six hour hearing, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved Supt. John White’s plan for overhauling Louisiana schools – the first step in complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). BESE also approved submitting the plan to federal officials for review in April and not delaying until September as the governor wanted.

The accountability framework adopted by BESE will:

  • Increase the weight given to student academic growth in calculating school performance scores to 25% and include the growth of all students
  • Eliminate the curve (which freezes the percent of D and F schools at the 2013 level) and replace it with a phase in of the new standards
  • Trim standardized testing
  • Devote some federal Title One funds to struggling schools in rural areas

Critics of the plan called for a five month delay, saying there should be more input from stakeholders, but White said his agency has held 136 meetings on ESSA and there will still be months to get input and debate changes to the plan before it would be implemented in the 2017-18 school year.

Patrick Dobard Leaves the RSD

Patrick Dobard is stepping down as superintendent of the Recovery School District. Dobard, a New Orleans native, will continue his work for public school students as CEO of New Schools for New Orleans. During his six years as head of the RSD, schools not only improved academically but also developed essential structures such as the OneApp enrollment system, unified expulsion procedures, and the systemic reduction in out-of-school suspensions. 

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ICYMI: Trump and K-12 Education

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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.
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ICYMI: ESSA plan available for public comment

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ESSA Updates 

An updated framework of Louisiana’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is available for public comment. The revised framework from state Superintendent John White details possible changes to how school performance is rated and how local school systems can apply for federal funding. 

White’s ESSA plan includes less mandatory testing in public schools, but there is debate over how much testing should be reduced. White recommends modest changes; the governor’s panel favors much more, including an end to annual science testing in third through eighth grades; and teachers disagree over whether fewer tests will downgrade the importance of key subjects, especially science.

Other ESSA recommendations are stirring controversy, including how much weight should be given to student growth and how to phase in higher standards over time (whether schools should be graded on a curve).

Other Louisiana News

To address this year’s budget shortfall and to reduce the amount of rainy day funds used to plug the deficit, Louisiana House Republicans have proposed two plans that include mid-year cuts to K-12 education.

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Helping Students and Schools Affected by Tornadoes

Tuesday’s devastating tornadoes impacted the lives of students, teachers and school staff in New Orleans East. Here are some ways you can help.

Donate Funds

ReNEW Schools has started a Tornado Relief Fund to help students from ReNEW Schaumberg Elementary, which suffered extensive tornado damage, as well as other ReNEW students impacted by the tornadoes.

Einstein Charter Schools has started a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay for school uniforms, school supplies, and other supports for their affected students, families, and teachers.

Communities in Schools New Orleans is accepting donations to support the specific needs of students and families from ReNEW Schaumberg and their other affiliated schools who were affected.

New Schools for New Orleans is collecting funds to support public school families. 100% of donations will go towards purchasing gift cards for families in need.

The American Red Cross is accepting donations to support their efforts to meet short term and long term housing needs.

The Greater New Orleans Foundation has opened the Helping Our Neighbors: Tornado Relief Fund to provide support to nonprofit organizations in the Greater New Orleans area providing assistance to affected families.

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