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In the Aftermath of Katrina-Inspired School Reforms, Report Shows New Orleans Students Are Now More Likely to Attend — and Graduate From — College

The 74 Million – Kevin Mahnken

“Sweeping education reforms introduced in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina have dramatically lifted students’ chances of finishing high school and entering college, according to a new policy brief released this week by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans. Even more striking, the new policies appear to have narrowed large gaps in educational attainment between advantaged and disadvantaged students.” (more)

When Schools Meet Trauma With Understanding, Not Discipline

NPR – Mallory Falk and Eve Troeh

“If you know anything about New Orleans public schools, you probably know this: Hurricane Katrina wiped them out and almost all the schools became privately run charters. Many of those schools subscribed to the no excuses discipline model — the idea that if you crack down on slight misbehavior, you can prevent bigger issues from erupting. That was also true of Crocker College Prep, an elementary school in New Orleans. It had strict rules about everything. Students had to sit up straight at their desks, eyes tracking the speaker. They had to walk the halls in silence and even wear the right kind of socks. Students who broke these rules, or acted out in other ways, were punished. The thing is, students across New Orleans face high rates of exposure to trauma, but school discipline policies have rarely accounted for that.”(more)

Street-Savvy School Reform

Education Next – Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim

“Political scientist E. E. Schattschneider likened politics to a fight between two men in a street. If nobody intervenes, the stronger will win. But if the weaker fighter can get a bystander to join in on his side, the dynamic changes. As Schattschneider noted, the result depends less on the strength of the two fighters than on the behavior of the crowd… This article is based on the experience of civic and education leaders in six big-city school systems—New York City, New Orleans, Denver, Oakland, Newark, and Cleveland—that have adopted a “portfolio strategy.” This approach calls for continuous improvement of a city’s schools through managing a mix, or portfolio, of schools—traditional public schools, privately managed schools, and charter schools—and regularly adjusting that mix (opening some and reconstituting others) in light of student needs. But our findings are relevant to any reform strategy bold enough to threaten established interests.”(more)

What happened when one state tried to rewrite the Common Core

The Hechinger Report – Emmanuel Felton

“Carla and Carl Hebert, with two daughters and a granddaughter in tow, made the hour-long drive from their home in Lake Charles in October to watch a panel of Louisiana educators transform the controversial national Common Core standards into “Louisiana standards.” Like many, the Heberts’ anger over the Common Core began with homework assignments. Carla remembers days when the whole family grew frustrated trying to help her granddaughter with the new Common Core-aligned homework questions. “When you have two teachers and a dad who has four college degrees all struggling to help out with elementary school homework, something’s wrong,” she said.\.”(more)

Leading by example: Black male teachers make students ‘feel proud’

The Herchinger Report – Katy Reckdahl

“NEW ORLEANS—During his high school days, no football game could start without Louis Blackmon III: the team’s center. Each play began with his snap. Though Blackmon was renowned for his hustle on the field, he didn’t put the same effort into the classroom. “In school, I was just an average guy,” Blackmon said. Typically, he pulled Cs, with a few Ds, at McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans. That led to heartbreak his senior year, when his ACT scores came back a few points below college-entrance standards. Almost overnight, he lost the attention of college scouts, who had told him he was a prime candidate for an athletic scholarship. Yet today, Blackmon, now 21, is a standout student at Southern University at New Orleans, in the Honoré Center for Undergraduate Achievement, an intensive new program that gives full scholarships to young African American men who show promise despite unremarkable transcripts. All of the program’s participants, known as “Honoré Men,” study to become teachers—because the program’s founders believe that promising young men who grew up in tough circumstances are uniquely equipped to connect in classrooms with youth facing similar challenges.”(more)

New Report Grades Best (and Worst) Cities for School Choice. Where Does Your Town Rank?

The 74 Million – Matt Barnum

“New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Denver rank as the best cities in the U.S. for school choice, while Albany, Austin, and Pittsburgh rank as the worst, according to a new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.
The study ranks 30 major cities on the extent to which they promote quality educational options. The report highlights the middling rank of New York City — which is attributed in part to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s perceived antipathy towards charter schools — as well as the fairly high scores of Southern cities like New Orleans and Atlanta. The study comes as school choice across the country is expanding, particularly charter schools, which have quadrupled in number — from about 1,500 to well over 6,000 — between 1999 and 2014. The foreword to the report by Fordham’s Amber Northern and Michael Petrilli says, “Our hope is that cities across the country will look at these rankings and work to catch up with New Orleans, Washington, and Denver … But we’re keenly aware that progress is not necessarily a permanent condition.” The research contributes to understanding how local political climate and policies influence school choice, with a wealth of carefully collected data. The report, however, doesn’t put enough emphasis on school quality or the impact of choice on cities’ traditional public school systems.”(more)