RSD School Construction Overspending and Substandard Concrete: Time for Jindal Admin to Expand Its Audit Sunday, Aug 10 2014 

edutalknola:

It’s long past time for real oversight and accountability with the Recovery School District. If these construction issues had happened with OPSB driving the train solely in control of the post Katrina rebuilding money, the media would be doing weekly articles on this chaos. It’s time that our legislators end this charade of so called reform called the Recovery School District.

Originally posted on deutsch29:

As of June 18, 2014, Louisiana State Superintendent John White has found himself to be the focus of Office of Contractual Renewal (OCR) and Division of Administration (DOA) investigation for his questionable methods regarding Louisiana’s assessment contracts.

White has publicly complained that such is evidence that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is out to get him. White’s buddy, Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Chas Roemer, a career politician, tries to deflect focus from any White/BESE wrongdoing by dismissing the entire situation as “politics.”

(I’m sure it’s mere coincidence that Roemer the Politician Who Hails from a Family of Politicians and Who Has Been Calling Out Jindal for Behaving Like a Politician *just happens* to be featured in this August 9, 2014, News Star heart-warmer about how he has no future political aspirations… “for now.”)

The problem with White’s complaints and Roemer’s curt dismissal is that…

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The Role of Suspensions in Public Education. Monday, Dec 23 2013 

 

Recently students and parents Image at Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate charter schools have expressed concerns about  a number of issues at their school.  One of those issues was the excessive use of suspensions for minor issues.    I am discussing this topic this morning on WBOK radio in New Orleans.  You can join the conversation  no matter where you are by visiting http://www.wbok1230am.com today, December 23rd at 10AM Central time.   We’ll talk about the recent letter from the Souther Poverty Law Center which encourages the Collegiate Academies Board and administration to make some changes.  It’s an excellent letter that points out the conflict between what’s written in law and Collegiate Academies very own student handbook.

Listen to the New Orleans Imperative Radio show this morning and if you miss it, it will re-air on http://www.theneworleansimperative.org beginning on December 30th. 

I’ll talk more about this subject after the holiday break.   

Follow me on Twitter @KHRoyal 

Facebook:  Karran Harper Royal Education Advocacy 

The Best Article Ever About New Orleans’ Charter Schools Monday, Oct 7 2013 

edutalknola:

Andrea Gabor has done a great job of putting a human face on the changes in the New Orleans public education system over the last years.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

We all have heard or read or seen the stories in the mass media about the “miracle” in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina, which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the best thing that ever happened to education in that city, wiped out public education and the teachers’ union. Now New Orleans is the only city where more than 75 % of students are in charter schools with minimal government regulation.

Experienced journalist and scholar Andrea Gabor here goes behind the curtain and takes a closer look than Oprah or the other high-profile celebrants of the “miracle.” Her article appeared in Newsweek-The Daily Beast. (I link to another site here because I had trouble opening the Daily Beast site.)

In a tour de force of investigative journalism, she takes a close look at what is happening in the best charters (typified by a degree of regimentation that most parents would…

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Public Education in Post Katrina New Orleans Through the Eyes of Parents Thursday, Sep 12 2013 

The landscape of public education has changed drastically in the 8 years since the State Department of Education took over the vast majority of the public schools in New Orleans.  How those schools are doing seems to be a matter of perspective.  However, based on the State’s own data, 100% of the direct run Recovery School District schools  under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Department of Education are rated F.  Of the charter schools that fall under the Recovery School District, 79% of those with letter grades are rated D or F.  These facts indicate that the Louisiana Department of Education has produced a similar or worse result than the previous elected school board.  However, we know that there is so much more that needs to be looked at in addition to scores.  Listen to the voices of two parents who used the public school system before the state takeover and after the state take over.  Parents Ashana Bigard and Nikkisha Napoleon are my guests on WBOK radio show Eyewitness to History.

A conversation with a New Orleans Parent about Vouchers and Choosing a School. Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

Last night I received a call from a very distress parent who was concerned about her child’s voucher school and it’s ability to provide a quality education for her 9 year old child. Sadly this child has already attended 3 different private schools and one charter school. This mother was surprised to find out that voucher school, which is a religious based school was one of the absolute worse scoring schools in the voucher program. She told me that when this school and others were promoted to her, they did not say anything about how students at this school had scored previously on state tests. This particular school is also on probation and may actually not be in the program if their test scores don’t improve significantly. In addition to these problems, the school is refusing to implement an Individualized Education Program (IEP) from the child’s previous school. I hated to tell her that as a private religious based school her child did not have a right to the same kind of special education services the child had in his previous public school. Services are limited to what the school has decided it would provide.

This parent has decided to seek another “choice.” When she told me the name of the next private religious based school she had chosen. I had to inform her of some of the experiences of other parents that I knew about who also had chosen that same school. The only thing I could do at this point was to give her a list of questions to ask the school so she could get a feel for the school’s ability to serve her child properly.

This parent was dismayed that in all of the promotion about the various school options in the voucher program, she did not have access about previous performance. No one told her that this school was on probation. This is a major problem with the voucher program.

I told the mother a little about the kinds of services that were possible within the public school system for a child with a disability. I advised her that a public school was her child’s best option to get the services he would need to be successful, based on what I know about the public and private schools available in New Orleans. As we explored other possible choice in the public school system, the mother told me about her experience in visiting a particular charter school. She was very much turned off when she asked to take a look around the school and the school was reluctant to show her around. She had a bad feeling because of this experience and did not list this school as one of her choices of public schools. I asked her if she knew that most of the Recovery School District (RSD) charters were rated D or F, she did not. She was shocked to find that 79% of the RSD charters are rated D or F. The RSD direct run schools were not even in the conversation with 100% of the direct run RSD schools being rated D or F. Our conversation moved “choices” within the Orleans Parish Public School system of schools and it’s charter schools. As it turns out, those were the only options of public schools that this parent felt comfortable exploring further. She realizes that her child needs stability and those schools have been very stable in the last 7 years since “reform” came to New Orleans.

Parental “choice” seems to be Louisiana’s major tool in reforming public education. Parents need adequate information in order to make informed choices. Even with this information, how does “choice” actually improve the quality of schools? Is it really school choice to continuously move children around in search of a better school option? Is this school reform? At what point do we get to reforming schools in our communities so parents don’t have to constantly move children around? When will the Louisiana Department of Education provide parents with adequate information to make an informed choice? When will schools open up their doors so that parents can really see how their schools operate rather than give them the usual PR propaganda? The good news is that this parent is now armed with information and will continue to seek a seat in one of the few quality schools within the Orleans Parish school system.

Meet the Parents Across America Founders: Karran Harper Royal Monday, Sep 3 2012 

This profile is part of an ongoing series of portraits of key Parents Across America  members.

Karran Harper Royal’s articulate, impassioned advocacy for children has made her a familiar figure in her hometown of New Orleans and a sought-after speaker the national scene. In public meetings, government hearings, conference presentations, radio programs and television broadcasts, she cuts straight through the puffery that so often characterizes education “reform,” asking hard questions and describing the experiences of her city’s most vulnerable children in eloquent detail.

Karran’s activism began back in the 1990s, when her oldest son encountered difficulties in kindergarten, largely because he did not fit the expected student mold. She became his full-time advocate, and in the process learned to negotiate the complications of educational policies and bureaucracies at local, state and federal levels.

As her experience grew, she began to realize “that school wasn’t just broken for my son. A whole lot of little Khristopher Royals had not been getting what they needed.” So she expanded her advocacy to other children and families, working first for the city Mental Health department and then for the Pyramid Community Parent Resource Center, where she advises the families of children with disabilities.

Then came Hurricane Katrina. The floodwaters that devastated the city filled Karran’s Gentilly home with ten feet of contaminated water. Karran, whose family has lived in New Orleans for generations, came back to the city as soon as the floodwaters receded. “I’m a New Orleanian through and through,” she said. “We love where we live. There was just no question that we were coming back.” Karran, her husband and her sons stripped the house to the studs and built it back. Karran worked to rebuild her neighborhood school and joined several civic improvement groups.

As she labored to rebuild her home and her community, Karran accepted an invitation from the Louisiana Department of Education to serve on the Recovery School District Advisory Council. She had been concerned for years about the quality of public education in New Orleans, and hoped that the state’s control of schools would be a positive move. But she watched with growing dismay as the state used Katrina as an excuse to replace most New Orleans schools with charter schools.

Unlike U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who proclaimed Katrina “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans,” Karran quickly saw the flaws in the system, especially for children with disabilities. While traditional public schools were required to meet the needs of challenged students, most charter schools preferred to simply kick them out. In a city with few traditional public schools left, children who were expelled or pressured out of charters had only deeply troubled schools as options. And even in the charter sector, many schools were failing to deliver on the educational miracles they promised.

The all-charter system also destabilized neighborhoods, because families could not count on sending their children to a neighborhood school. Karran worked with families whose children were scattered among several different schools, because of the vagaries of charter lotteries. This lack of educational stability, she explained, introduced an “additional trauma” to already devastated neighborhoods and communities. “They’re destabilizing neighborhoods,” she lamented. “They’re destabilizing families.”

As well as helping individual families, Karran began to work with the Southern Poverty Law Center to document the problems with post-Katrina education in New Orleans. She connected with other Parents Across America founders after she spoke out against Arne Duncan’s Katrina statement. She was attracted to the idea of working to improve education policy on a national level because, as she pithily put it, “It’s from those policies that actions occur that impact children at school. If you have crappy policy, you’re going to have crappy action.” She believes that parents need to be organized to influence policy and its implementation at every level of our society.

Her own family serves as an example of the power of parent advocacy. Her oldest son, Khris, graduated from New Orleans schools and won a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston, which led to a successful career in music. Her younger son, Kendrick, currently attends a New Orleans public charter high school.

When Karran isn’t traveling to speaking engagements across the country or the world, she divides her days between the phone, the Internet and face-to-face meetings with parents and community members. She sees herself as an “information sharer” in the communities she works with, helping parents and community members to understand their rights and sharing with them strategies to participate effectively in their children’s education. “I can’t solve everybody’s problems,” she notes. “I want to give parents the information they need so they can solve their own problems and be strong advocates for their children.”

She is currently seeking to expand her political influence, by running for the District 3 seat on the Orleans Parish School Board. Go Karran!

Originally published by Parents Across America at http://www.parentsacrossamerica.org

Louisiana’s Worthless Accountability Plan for Voucher Schools Wednesday, Jul 25 2012 

Louisiana State Superintendent John White

After all that fanfare about accountability, John White has crafted a completely worthless accountability plan for the voucher schools.  It’s  a shame that so many people on the BESE can’t read.  All but 2 Board members voted to support the plan.  Only members Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill voted to reject this plan and send White back to the drawing board to correct some of the concerns presented by various members of the public.

Worthless parts of the plan:

  • If a school has less than 10 students per grade, the students results will not be reported publicly
  • Unless the school has 10 participating  students per grade level taking tests  AND 40 students total voucher students in the school, the test results will not be reported
  • Schools will only be required to score above 50 on the Scholarship Cohort Index
  • John White can waive any provisions of the policy without seeking approval from BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) or the Legislature

This plan is problematic because it promotes  gaming the system.  The plan clearly says the schools will determine how many seats they will accept.   All a school has to do is enroll 9 students per grade or less than 40 students total.   John White said that this plan ensures that all schools are accountable.  However, based on the criteria released,  75% of the eligible voucher schools will not fall under the guidelines of the accountability plan crafted by John White.

Over the past 4 years the Combined results for the voucher schools in the pilot program have had between 52-72% of it’s students fail to reach basic on the iLEAP and LEAP tests.  What’s the purpose of a pilot if you ignore the results and expand the program even though it’s proven to be a failure?

The first stated purpose in the plan is “a common standard for student performance across the system of traditional public, charter public, and non public schools.”  However, the plan as adopted completely ignores that purpose.  Students in voucher schools will NOT be retained as public school students in 4th and 8th grades if they fail the LEAP test.  Public schools are given a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F, but voucher schools will NOT receive a letter grade.  The State Superintendent can’t waive any part of the accountability system for public school, but he can waive any provision in the accountability plan for voucher schools.  Another purpose of the adopted plan is to uphold the public trust when public funds are involved.   Clearly the accountability plan presented makes a mockery of the public trust.

Poverty Skyrockets in New Orleans: 65% of Black Children Under Age of Five Living in Poverty Monday, Oct 17 2011 

Guest Blog:                                                                                                                                                  Original date  October 17, 2011

On September 22, 2011, the Census Bureau released information from their 2010 annual American Community Survey based on a poll of 2,500 people in New Orleans.  Not surprisingly, the report was ignored by the local mainstream media since it speaks volumes about the inequality of the Katrina recovery.  Despite the billions in post-Katrina federal dollars for building schools, streets and bridges, and homes, the New Orleans poverty rate has actually increased back to the highest level since 1999.  The survey revealed that 27% of New Orleans adults now live in poverty and 42% of children.  

This recent development reverses the temporary decline in poverty rates reported in 2007 and 2008 surveys when the poverty rate was nearly cut in half compared to pre-Katrina numbers.  Those early declines in poverty were probably the result of large numbers of low-income African Americans who could not afford to return or lacked housing and employment.  The new spike in poverty, despite the increase in overall education levels in the city, signals that blacks are not sharing equally in the employment benefits of recovery dollars.  Indeed, the city may be creating a new generation of chronically unemployed poor who were previously part of the low-wage working poor.

When President George Bush waived the prevailing wage provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act following Katrina, he provided employers with a financial incentive to hire low-wage outside temporary workers.  State contracts to rebuild storm-damaged schools have provided little employment for black storm victims.  The new rise in poverty can be attributed in part to the exclusion of local blacks from recovery jobs, including rebuilding school facilities and school operations.  It is self-defeating to attempt to solve the long-term public education problems while children and their parents are pushed deeper into poverty by unfair education agency employment and contracting policies.

Separating out the numbers by race shows a profound and growing racial inequality.  While the overall adult poverty rate is 27%, black poverty is nearly double the white poverty rate: 34% compared to 14%.  The child poverty rate of black children under the age of five is an appalling 65%, compared to less than 1% for whites. The Census Bureau data indicate that there are 9,649 black children under the age of five living in poverty in New Orleans in contrast to only 203 white children.

But what is truly stunningly is that the survey reveals that that while there are several thousand African American males ages 12 to 15 years old living in poverty, the survey could not find a single white male in the same age bracket in poverty.

With all the triumphal rhetoric of New Orleans as a city rising from the dead, the Census Bureau data offers the harsh truth that that some have risen while others have fallen.  We act at our own peril if we ignore these troubling developments; the problems of education and youth crime and violence cannot be solved as long as local blacks are unfairly deprived the economic benefits of  recovery jobs and contracts.

Sources:  Racial breakout data from U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2010 1-year Estimates (Fact Finder files); for general non-racial 1999 and 2007 data, Greater New Orleans Community Data Center which used Census Bureau reports, Numbers Talk Newsletter September 26, 2011. For Census Bureau fact-sheets on New Orleans income by race in 2010, see http://bitly.com/x1J1Be for black income and http://bitly.com/wbqhxP for white income.  For GNODC report see http://bitly.com/oiN39S

 

Lance Hill, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Southern Institute for Education and Research
Tulane University

Re-posted 1/26.2012

The Deception of the “Lottery” at Lycee Francais and Audubon Schools The Misuse of Charter Schools — Part II Wednesday, Oct 5 2011 

Research on Reforms, Inc.
October 2011                                                                                                                Dr. Barbara Ferguson and Karran Harper Royal

Charter schools are tuition-free, independently-operated public schools that admit students based on a lottery if more apply than can be accommodated. However, the lottery is skewed at Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle-Orleans Charter School and Audubon Charter School, each located in uptown New Orleans. Lycee Francais’ pre-kindergarten children, whose parents pay $4,570 tuition, are able to re-enroll into the tuition-free kindergarten, skipping any lottery. At Audubon, children whose parents pay $9,050 for a private pre-kindergarten, enter Tier 1 of the lottery and enroll first into the tuition-free kindergarten. Charter schools are to be open and accessible to all children. Skewing the lottery in favor of children whose parents are able to pay for pre-kindergarten is a misuse of the charter school concept.

To read the entire article, please go to: http://ResearchOnReforms.org/html/documents/DeceptionoftheLottery.pdf

The Recovery School District Spends Millions to Trap Poor Students in Failing Schools Thursday, May 5 2011 

The Recovery School District is spending millions more than it should to bus children out of their neighborhoods  to the lowest performing schools in New Orleans.  In a recent report on WWL TV, the Recovery School District spends  $1800 per student on transportation.  That’s double what Hinds County Mississippi spends per student.  It would be almost acceptable if  the Recovery School District was bussing children to higher performing schools.  However, since these costs are for the RSD direct run schools alone, which are the lowest performing schools in New Orleans, thousands of children are bussed out of their neighborhoods to schools that are lower performing than schools they could actually walk to.   The RSD calls this school choice.   When you combine this story with my recent post:  The Myth of “Choice” in New Orleans:  How the Recovery School District, Through the Charter School Movement Has Cheated Nearly 5000 New Orleans Students Out of Access to Real “Choice”,  one wonders if this “system of choice” benefits children or the adults who stand to make money off of the backs of poor children.

Two years ago News 21 explored transportation in New Orleans Public Schools and very eloquently depicted the cost to children when they are transported out of their neighborhood schools.    Nearly two years later we see that the costs to children and the monetary cost of this grand experiment in New Orleans Public Schools are much too high.  How long will we pretend that this is working or even that it’s worth it?  We need a return to neighborhood schools as a right of first refusal.  It will save money and  really give parents access to school choice.


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