This guest editorial appeared in the Times-Picayune, and I wanted to share it with you.
Charter Schools Help Improve Special Education in New Orleans: Leslie Jacobs
In fourth grade, James, a special needs student at John Dibert Charter School, was struggling academically and behaviorally. He was making daily trips to the dean’s office for disruptive behavior and emotional outbursts. James is now on honor roll in eighth grade, scored mastery and advanced on state tests and is applying to Ben Franklin High School.
Zaria transferred to Arthur Ashe Charter School at the beginning of second grade as a special education student, reading at kindergarten level. By the end of fourth grade she scored mastery in English.
Zaria and James are two of the many students who have benefited from the city’s improvement in serving students with special needs.
The Recovery School District (RSD) and the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) announced the results of the first year of the new expulsion policy for public schools in Orleans Parish.
- There were 272 expulsions in the 2012-13 school year, for an expulsion rate of .57%
- In comparison, the state had an expulsion rate of .7%
- New Orleans’ expulsion rate is 20% below the state
Not only is New Orleans leading the state in academic gains, we are doing so while expelling fewer students than the state average.
What did New Orleans do differently in the 2012-13 school year?
- Common expulsion process and definition: Charter and traditional school leaders across the RSD, OPSB, and Type 2 charter schools worked together to establish a joint policy and coordinate a centralized process for student expulsions.
The 2012-13 school year was the inaugural year, with 90 of the 91 public schools in New Orleans participating. These schools agreed that all expulsion hearings would be administered by the RSD’s Student Hearing Office and agreed to limit the reasons a student could be expelled. Continue reading
The Lens recently reported on the number of test administration mistakes and instances of cheating found by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) from 2010 to 2012 for public schools in New Orleans. This information was provided to The Lens by the LDOE.
Educate Now! is very encouraged by the results.
The fact that only 130 tests out of hundreds of thousands given in New Orleans over three years were voided – due to student cheating, adult cheating, or administrative errors – is very good news.
The state has released the End-of-Course (EOC) exam results for 2012-2013.
The percent of students proficient (scoring Excellent or Good) increased – and at a faster rate than the state.
From 2011-12 to 2012-13, looking at all tests combined:
- RSD-New Orleans and OPSB each gained 7 percentage points.
- The state gained 4 points.
Percent of Students Proficient
(Scoring Excellent or Good)
View a comparison of gains by district.
Schools under the OPSB serve a disproportionately low number of students with disabilities. The city average is 9.9% special education students, but OPSB schools (charter and traditional combined) serve 6.6%. OPSB charters serve only 5.49% while RSD charters serve 11.1%.
Even OPSB’s open-admission charter schools are significantly under-serving special education students.
OPSB receives a lump sum based on the total number of students with disabilities in the city. It then distributes the money among its schools as if each individual school had the average 9.9% special education enrollment. That means some OPSB schools are getting much more than their fair share of special education dollars, while other schools aren’t getting enough.
Read more in this article in the Times-Picayune:
Special education enrollment numbers show Orleans Parish School Board charters lagging
View the list of schools and special education enrollment:
OPSB President Ira Thomas could be violating state law by holding a seat on the Orleans Parish School Board while also working for the state.
Thomas has served on the Orleans Parish School Board for the past four years. He has been Police Chief for Southern University at New Orleans for three and a half years. By holding both positions, he may be violating Louisiana’s Dual Office Holding and Dual Employment Law.
The law states: “No person holding an elective office in a political subdivision of this state shall at the same time hold another elective office or full-time appointive office in the government of this state or in the government of a political subdivision thereof. No such person shall hold at the same time employment in the government of this state, or in the same political subdivision in which he holds an elective office.”
Read more about Thomas and what might happen next in The Lens.
Update 3-19-13: Board President Ira Thomas said he will seek the opinion of the state Attorney General on whether it is legal for him to be both the board President and an employee of Southern University at New Orleans, where he directs security.
The state has released enrollment data for New Orleans public schools, which includes all OPSB schools, RSD New Orleans schools and the city’s Type 2 charter schools. As of October 1, 2012:
- 84% of New Orleans public school students attend charter schools, up from 78% last year and 71% in 2010. New Orleans has a greater percentage of students in charter schools than anywhere else in the country. Detroit and the District of Columbia come in a distant second with just over 40% in charters. The national average is 4%.
- Enrollment increased for the 6th consecutive year to 43,540 students, up 1,510 students from last year and a 70% increase from 2006, the first full year after Katrina. Additionally, another 2,440 New Orleans students are receiving publicly funded vouchers to attend private or parochial schools. This increase in enrollment likely means the city’s population continues to grow. Continue reading
This fall, all seven seats on the Orleans Parish School Board will be up for election. This election is important because:
- This board will choose the new School Superintendent.
- This board will play an important role in the return of RSD schools to local control over the next few years.
The primary will be held November 6, 2012, and runoff elections will be held December 8, 2012.
The K-8 student test scores for Louisiana were released today, and New Orleans continues to improve.
Test Score Highlights
- For the 6th year in a row, student performance is up.
- Growth was less robust this year. While the RSD outperformed the state, for the first time since Katrina, OPSB did not.
- New Orleans Combined (OPSB +RSD) tied the state with a 2 point gain in the percentage of students Basic or above.
- New Orleans students performed better than last year in all four subjects (English, Math, Science and Social Studies).
- We reduced the percentage of students performing in the lowest category (Unsatisfactory).
- We increased the percentage of students performing above grade level (Mastery and Advanced). Continue reading