The carpool line at the Child Development Program on Claiborne Avenue looked a bit different Saturday (May 16). Children’s heads popped up through sunroofs as teachers greeted the line of cars with cheers, waves, balloons and gift bags. Preschoolers were being treated to a drive-thru graduation. Of the 54 total students, ages 6 weeks through 4 years old, at the Uptown center, seven were graduating 4-year-olds. After being told by several parents that the sudden shelter-in-place orders brought on confusion to many of the children, particularly the older students, CDP staff members determined that they needed to do something to lift the children’s spirits.
The final months and weeks leading up to high school graduation tend to hold anticipated end-of-year senior traditions, celebrations and countdowns, but this semester is different. The class of 2020 won’t be able to celebrate their accomplishments with hugs from faculty and classmates this month; they won’t be able to graduate in a venue surrounded by cheers from family and friends; and they won’t be able to walk proudly across a stage to receive a handshake and a diploma. When Gov. John Bel Edwards announced school closures for the remainder of the semester in mid-March, students were faced with the challenge of adjusting to a new normal of distant learning. Now, with the state-wide stay-at-home order extended through May 15, graduating seniors are confronted with another major unprecedented change: a socially distanced graduation celebration. “Once you start your freshman year of high school, all you can think about is walking across that stage your senior year to make yourself and family proud,” said Rayon Pratt, a graduating senior at Landry-Walker high school.
The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated a dramatic shift in public education that could finally force New Orleans leaders to address the myriad inequities that have robbed our most vulnerable children of reaching their full potential. It will take outside-the-box forward thinkers to build a post-COVID educational system that focuses on what will become the new normal — personalized learning beyond the traditional school classroom. Our elected and charter officials as well as parents and civic and business leaders must come together with a clear vision to meet these expanded education goals. School systems without fund reserves could be armed with fewer financial resources as budgets take a hit from projected virus-related reductions in sales and ad valorem taxes, which currently make up a large portion of education funding. During this pandemic one group of New Orleans learners have faced the greatest challenges — the 35,000-plus students from disadvantaged households who make up 83% of charter school students in Orleans Parish.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences has awarded the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, or REACH, at Tulane University a $100,000 contract to collect data from approximately 150,000 school websites across the country to see how the nation’s education system is responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The project, which will track traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools, aims to quickly answer questions that are critical for understanding how students are learning when school buildings are closed. Key questions include: how many schools are providing any kind of instructional support; which are delivering online instruction; what resources are they offering to students and how do students stay in contact with teachers? “This data will also help answer important questions about equity in the school system, showing how responses differ according to characteristics like spending levels, student demographics, internet access, and if there are differences based on whether it is a private, charter or traditional public school,” said REACH National Director Douglas N. Harris, Schlieder Foundation Chair in Public Education and chair of economics at Tulane University School of Liberal Arts. REACH will work in cooperation with Nicholas Mattei, assistant professor of computer science at Tulane University School of Science and Engineering, to create a computer program that will collect data from every school and district website in the country.
The Mayor’s Neighborhood Engagement Office, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families, would like to invite you to participate in Junior Civic Leadership Academy (JCLA). This initiative from Mayor LaToya Cantrell is an engaging 8-week program that will provide youth with an in-depth look at city government. JCLA will meet virtually every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. starting June 6 through August 1 (excluding July 4). Enrollment opens today (April 27), and applications are available online. The program includes hands-on demonstrations and presentations that give participants an insider’s view of how the City of New Orleans operates.
Orleans Parish School Board member Ben Kleban will step down from his District 5 post on June 15, and the board is looking for someone to finish out his term. Kleban announced his resignation in March, saying in an email that he and his wife and three children plan to move to Washington State to be closer to their extended family. Before joining the board in 2017, Kleban founded and led the charter school network New Orleans College Prep, which operates Hoffman Early Learning Center, Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep elementary school and Walter L. Cohen College Prep high school. The Orleans Parish School Board will appoint someone to finish his unexpired term, which ends Dec. 31.
In true collaborative spirit, Lusher Charter School engineering teacher Matthew Owen and his wife, Laura, are working with Tulane Medical School and local hospitals to create much-needed personal protective equipment, or PPE, for New Orleans hospital employees to protect them from COVID-19. The Owens are working with medical students and other engineers and students on designs for PPE. Laura Owen, a support services teacher at Lusher, spearheaded the effort with medical students who contacted hospitals about their needs. When they discovered that the teachers had access to Lusher’s 3D printers, the med students planned a Zoom call with the couple and developed a design to print. With permission from the school, the Owens brought three 3D printers and supplies home to begin the project.
From the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice
A new study from an education research center based at Tulane University finds that New Orleans’ all-charter school system succeeds in removing low-performing teachers, but it struggles to replace them with high-performing ones. The study by National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, or REACH, cuts to the heart of the debate over whether market-based school reforms help improve teacher quality. In New Orleans, all schools are charters with great freedom to hire and fire teachers. Schools also compete with one another for talent and are under intense pressure to raise student test scores. Advocates of market-based reforms argue that this combination of flexibility and accountability should encourage schools to remove ineffective teachers.
The NOPD responded to a phone threat Monday (March 9) morning reporting an active shooter at Eleanor McMain High School on South Claiborne Avenue. After further investigation, the threat was determined to be unfounded. A juvenile suspect believed responsible for the call has been detained. Charges are pending at this time. Out of an abundance of caution, the school was briefly placed on lockdown.
Four Lusher Charter School seniors have been named Posse Scholars, an honor that provides them with full-tuition college scholarships. Two of the students, Esperanza Milla and Allan Buezo, plan to stay in New Orleans and attend Tulane University. India Miller is heading to Villanova University in Pennsylvania, and Kayla Red will attend Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. The four Posse Scholars were chosen for their leadership potential. The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains individuals to become tomorrow’s leaders.