NY Education

RFP Posted: NYS Statewide Center fo...

RFP Posted: NYS Statewide Center for School Health

The Office of Student Support Services of the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is seeking proposals to operate a Statewide Center for School Health (the Center). The Center will work in collaboration with the New York State Education Department as a resource center to provide professional development and ongoing technical assistance to all school health personnel employed in all schools throughout the State (inclusive of both health and mental health personnel), and all school personnel that are involved in coordinating and/or delivering school health education.
RFQ Posted: Teacher and Principal E...

RFQ Posted: Teacher and Principal Evaluation: Qualifications for Supplemental Assessments and Corresponding Growth Models and/or Assessments for Use with SLOs to Be Used by New York State School Districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BO

In order to implement the provisions of Education Law §3012-d, relating to annual professional performance reviews of classroom teachers and building principals, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) is soliciting applications for assessments that will be used as measures of student growth, either through supplemental assessments in conjunction with a growth model for use in the Optional Student Performance Subcomponent or through an assessment used with a Student Learning Objective (SLO) that will generate a growth target for one year if expected growth for use in the Required Student Performance Subcomponent and will subsequently contribute to teachers’ and principals’ annual performance appraisals. Such assessments include those previously placed on the “List of Approved Student Assessments for Use by School Districts and BOCES in Teacher and Principal Evaluations.” Assessments approved under the previous list are only eligible for use under Education Law §3012-c. Assessment providers must apply to this RFQ in order to be approved for use under Education Law §3012-d. THIS SOLICITATION WILL NOT RESULT IN A CONTRACT WITH THE NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT.
Funding Opportunity: 2015-16 Title ...

Funding Opportunity: 2015-16 Title I School Improvement Section 1003(a) Basic School Improvement Grant Application

Section 1003(a) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that State Education Agencies allocate funds to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) for Title I Priority and Focus Schools to meet the progress goals in their District Comprehensive Improvement Plan and School Comprehensive Education Plan(s) (DCIP/SCEP) and thereby improve student performance. These funds are to be used to support implementation of school improvement activities as required in the 2015-2019 ESEA flexibility waiver. More information regarding the approved four-year flexibility renewal can be found at: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/ESEAFlexibilityWaiver.html.
Funding Opportunity: New York State...

Funding Opportunity: New York State Career and Technical Education Technical Assistance Center (NYS CTE TAC)

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is seeking proposals from organizations to provide research and support services that build effective communication links with Career and Technical Education (CTE) and academic programs at the secondary and post-secondary school-levels. The purpose of the NYS CTE TAC is to assist the NYSED in carrying out the Board of Regents reform agenda and CTE team’s mission of improving the quality, access, and delivery of CTE through research-based methods and strategies resulting in broader CTE and career readiness opportunities for all students.
Funding Opportunity: Expanded Preki...

Funding Opportunity: Expanded Prekindergarten for Three- and Four-Year Old Students in High-Need School Districts

The purpose of the Expanded Prekindergarten for Three- and Four-Year Old Students in High Need School Districts is to increase the availability of high quality prekindergarten placements for high need children and schools within New York State.
RFP Posted: Breakfast Media Campaig...

RFP Posted: Breakfast Media Campaign

The New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) Child Nutrition Program Administration (CNPA) team is seeking proposals for a comprehensive statewide multi-media campaign to promote the importance of consuming a nutritious breakfast and getting daily physical activity to students and teachers. The vendor would be responsible for developing an impressive statewide multi-media campaign that focuses on the correlation between the consumption of breakfast and getting daily physical activity with positive learning outcomes.

InsidehigherEd

An experienced professor's advice f...

An experienced professor's advice for new teaching assistants (essay)

Julie Dodd shares the advice she gives graduate students about to teach undergrads for the first time -- and reminds professors of their obligation to share their expertise.

Essay on what tenure-track professo...

Essay on what tenure-track professors can do before semester gets busy to advance their careers

Kerry Ann Rockquemore offers advice on pre-semester priorities for those who are new on the tenure track.

Essay on mindfulness during the aca...

Essay on mindfulness during the academic job search

New Ph.D.s need to conquer the negative messages they hear from themselves, writes Sue Levine.

Essay on mindfulness during the aca...

Essay on mindfulness during the academic job search

New Ph.D.s need to conquer the negative messages they hear from themselves, writes Sue Levine.

Essay urges grad students to adopt ...

Essay urges grad students to adopt new persona on the job market

When it's time for a job search, Ph.D. candidates need to drop these behaviors, writes Karen Kelsky.

Essay on advice for academics start...

Essay on advice for academics starting their careers

Philip Nel has some ideas for those seeking to land on the tenure track.

BBC News Education

Primary pupils' results edge upward...

Primary pupils' results edge upwards

The performance of children in England in tests at the end of primary school edges upwards, the government announces.
Ghana universities 'targeted by IS'

Ghana universities 'targeted by IS'

Ghana's authorities are investigating several universities over links to suspected recruitment for the so-called Islamic State (IS), officials say.
Young goths 'at risk of depression'

Young goths 'at risk of depression'

Young people who identify as goths may be at increased risk of depression and self-harm, a study suggests.
Head leaves 'investigation' academy

Head leaves 'investigation' academy

The executive head teacher of a south London academy that is being investigated by the Charity Commission is to retire.
Good news for graduate employment

Good news for graduate employment

More UK graduates are in work than at any time since the recession, new figures suggest.
City's 'north-south transport divid...

City's 'north-south transport divide'

A free transport scheme causes a north-south divide in London and needs to be updated, a politician says.

US Govt Dept of Education

Another Step Forward Under the Stud...

Another Step Forward Under the Student Aid Bill of Rights

Earlier this year, President Obama unveiled a Student Aid Bill of Rights to ensure strong consumer protections for student loan borrowers and issued a Presidential Memorandum to begin making those rights a reality.
New Orleans: An Unfinished Story

New Orleans: An Unfinished Story

This piece was originally posted on the Huffington Post. The story of rebirth in New Orleans? schools since Hurricane Katrina is one of nationally historic significance ? but as is true of the city?s recovery, it is a profoundly unfinished story.
U.S Department of Education Announc...

U.S Department of Education Announces New Grants for Charter Schools Serving Low-Income Students

The U.S. Department of Education announced today a $4 million grant competition for planning and launching high-quality public charter schools through the non-state educational agency grant program. In addition, operators of existing high-quality public charter schools can receive funding to share information with other schools about best practices.
U.S. Department of Education Awards...

U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $50.4 Million in Grants to Support American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges, Universities

The U.S. Department of Education today announced the award of more than $50.4 million in new grants to support American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities in a dozen states. Under the Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Program, the formula-based grants will help eligible higher education institutions increase their self-sufficiency by providing funds to strengthen their academic quality, management and overall fiscal stability.
New GEAR UP Grants Awarded to Help ...

New GEAR UP Grants Awarded to Help Prepare Students for Success in College

The U.S. Department of Education has announced grant awards totaling nearly $8 million under the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP) that will help increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
Don?t Pay for Student Loan Debt Rel...

Don?t Pay for Student Loan Debt Relief

Have student loans? You?ve probably seen social media ads, received emails, or even opened a piece of mail from companies promising to reduce your monthly loan payments or cancel your loans. But here?s the catch. These companies are doing something you can do yourself, but they?ll charge you a fee. The U.S. Department of Education provides FREE assistance to help you:

Yahoo

A timeline of Texas' 30 years of sc...

A timeline of Texas' 30 years of school finance legal fights

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) ? A lawsuit challenging how Texas pays for its public schools will soon reach the state Supreme Court ? the sixth time since 1984. Here's a look at major milestones in 30-plus years of legal battles:
More than 1 in 6 children are obese...

More than 1 in 6 children are obese: How parents and teachers can help

While child obesity is problematic, it is largely preventable, say experts. ?Child obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century,? says the World Health Organization. In a study released last week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 17.5 percent of US children between 3 and 19 years old are obese, a percentage that increased sharply in the 1980s and 90s, but has plateaued over the last decade.
Immigration shift shows India, Chin...

Immigration shift shows India, China outpacing Mexico

In this photo made Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, Sita Jaganath, 7, left, shows her father Siddharth Jaganath a math problem she worked out at their home in Plano, Texas. U.S. Census Bureau research shows immigrants from China and India, many with student or work visas, have overtaken Mexicans as the largest groups coming into the U.S. Jaganath is an example of the new trend in immigration. He came to the U.S. to earn his master?s degree at Southern Methodist University. Instead of returning to India, he built a new life in the U.S. and is a manager at a communications technology company. (AP Photo/LM Otero)DALLAS (AP) ? Siddharth Jaganath wanted to return to India after earning his master's degree at Texas' Southern Methodist University. Instead, he built a new life in the U.S. over a decade, becoming a manager at a communications technology company and starting a family in the Dallas suburb of Plano.

Top 10 most globally minded college...

Top 10 most globally minded colleges

US News & World Report recently revealed their 2015 Best Global Universities ranking. Based on global research performance including research reputation, number of Ph.D.s and publications, the ranking focuses more on the faculty than on the students.
Chicago school closure battle inten...

Chicago school closure battle intensifies with hunger strike

Protestor Monique Smith is seen outside Walter H. Dyett high school on the 11th day of her hunger strike in ChicagoA long-standing battle between activists and the City of Chicago over school closures in minority neighborhoods has intensified with a dozen protesters entering their twelfth day of a hunger strike on Friday over a shuttered high school. Camped out on the lawn in front of Dyett High School in South Chicago, the strikers vow to consume only liquids - such as juice and chicken broth - until the city agrees to reopen the school. The protest comes as the Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest school system in the country, cuts 1,400 jobs, seeks a $480 million bailout from the state of Illinois and struggles to beef up underfunded pensions.

Nobody Wants Another Bake Sale: Tex...

Nobody Wants Another Bake Sale: Texas PTA?s Funny Letter Goes Viral

Nobody Wants Another Bake Sale: Texas PTA?s Funny Letter Goes ViralMagazines, chocolate, cheesecake, scented pencils, poinsettias, gift wrap, and Christmas trees are just some of the items I?ve been asked to purchase?and help my two sons sell?over the past few years in order to raise money for their cash-strapped Los Angeles public schools. On Tuesday, mom of three Dee Heinz posted a picture on her Facebook page of a letter from the PTA of her children?s Dallas-area school. The PTA then gives parents options such as donating $15 in order to skip selling cupcakes and $100 if they don?t want to be bothered again about fund-raising.

Independent

University to mark down students wh...

University to mark down students who say 'illegal immigrants' in class

Professors at a US university have told students that they risk failing their assignments and even their semester if they use offensive or hateful language in class or submissions.

University of Tennessee switches ge...

University of Tennessee switches gender-specific pronouns 'he' and 'she' for 'xe' and 'ze' to promote inclusivity

Gender-neutral pronouns for transgender and queer-identifying people - such as "xe" and "ze" - are being encouraged at a second university in the US.

London company's 'Solar Classroom i...

London company's 'Solar Classroom in a Box' project aims to change the face of education in Africa

You?d be surprised at what some cables, four batteries, a set of solar panels, and a 3G satellite connection could achieve, but that?s exactly how one UK-based computer company will be changing lives in one of the world?s poorest nations.

Shortening the school week to 4 day...

Shortening the school week to 4 days has a 'significantly positive impact on student academic performance', say US researchers

Shortening the school week to four days would have a significantly positive impact on pupils? academic performance, particularly in maths, according to a new study.

School bans Wonder Woman lunchbox f...

School bans Wonder Woman lunchbox for being 'too violent' in sensational letter which has gone viral

With her bullet-repelling bracelets and unbreakable golden lasso which forces villains to tell the truth, she has been a force for good for over 70 years.

Schools should be 'fined' if pupils...

Schools should be 'fined' if pupils fail get C at English and maths GCSEs, think-tank says

Schools should be ?fined? if their pupils fail to get at least a C grade in English and maths at GCSE, an influential think-tank says.

Education Week

Vermont releases statewide assessme...

Vermont releases statewide assessment test results

State Ed board to mull next move in...

State Ed board to mull next move in Douglas fight

Mobility hampers Kansas City distri...

Mobility hampers Kansas City district, charter schools

State education chief weighs in on ...

State education chief weighs in on charter school cuts

School safety grant program cut in ...

School safety grant program cut in new Indiana budget

Colorblind Education Is the 'Wrong ...

Colorblind Education Is the 'Wrong Response'

Discussing race openly in schools can lead to better outcomes for students of color, write Dan French and Warren Simmons.

Educause

The Role of Campus Leadership in En...

The Role of Campus Leadership in Ensuring IT Accessibility

“Everyone should have an opportunity to participate in higher education.”

With those words, Michael K. Young, President of the University of Washington, opens a new video from his institution’s AccessComputing Project, IT Accessibility: What Campus Leaders Have to Say. Developed with support from the National Science Foundation, this video presents university presidents, chief information officers, and other higher education leaders who stress the importance to higher education of accessibility for persons with disabilities, and of having campus technology environments that support it.

read more

The Game is Changing. What Will Be ...

The Game is Changing. What Will Be Expected of You?

“When we were doing our studies for the National Academies, the typical first response of university presidents or CFOs or provosts was to say: ‘I understand things are changing very rapidly, but I'll ask my CIO to take care of it. The CIO usually can.’ We would then ask: ‘Suppose you wake up in the morning and come in to your office and nothing works anymore. You can't access e-mail. All of your course systems have collapsed. Who fixes the problem?’ They begin to scratch their heads, and pretty soon it's like the five phases of grief. They start off with denial and anger, move through bargaining and depression, and finally reach acceptance.” — James J. Duderstadt, Change and the Research University

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The Top-Ten IT Issues, 2012

The Top-Ten IT Issues, 2012

EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues, 2012

The EDUCAUSE annual publication of top IT issues has long resonated as a yearly snapshot of the most pressing issues for IT leaders in higher education. At the top of list for 2012:

Updating IT professionals’ skills and roles to accommodate emerging technologies and changing IT management and service delivery models Supporting the trends toward IT consumerization and bring-your-own device Developing an institution-wide cloud strategy

 

Below are the EDUCAUSE Review article summarizing the IT Issues Panel's findings for 2012 and accompanying resources.

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Tune In June 5 -- Rolling Out a BYO...

Tune In June 5 -- Rolling Out a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Program

This free hour-long session, “Rolling Out a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Program,” will offer ideas, sample policy statements and guidelines, and lessons learned for campuses interested in implementing a BYOD strategy for mobile devices on campus.

Those unable to attend may wish to visit the archives after the event or browse related resources.

Interact on Twitter at #EDULive.

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Get Involved with EDUCAUSE -- Volun...

Get Involved with EDUCAUSE -- Volunteer Submissions Are Due June 1

As someone who has a vested interest in higher education IT, you are part of a dynamic and close-knit community where we share new ideas, network with peers, and work toward the common good of the profession.

EDUCAUSE provides opportunities to be an active member by volunteering in a variety of roles, either short- or long-term, throughout the year. These opportunities include:

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Is Agile the Future of Project Mana...

Is Agile the Future of Project Management?

Gartner predicts that by the end of 2012, agile development methods will be used on 80 percent of all software development projects. Project Management Institute’s research shows that agile project management tripled from December 2008 to May 2011, and can help decrease product defects, improve team productivity, and increase business value.

Read the latest article release on agile project management from the Project Management Institute.

To help you apply project management processes at your organization, EDUCAUSE members have access to a selection of professional development resources:

read more

Huffingtonpost.com

10 Ways for Kids to Find Their Own ...

10 Ways for Kids to Find Their Own Score Card to Maximize Learning at School

How do you help your children and teens think for themselves, stay true to their nature, and go at their own pace? Schools have rules, grades, tests, competitions, and hopefully, learning. If kids want to enjoy school, be inspired, maintain their desires for discovery, and have fun, they need to find their own pace at learning and not be pressured into doing more or less. It's up to us as parents to find the right balance to encourage our kids to stretch themselves without feeling overly stressed and avoidant of learning. Here are 10 ten ways to do just that: Ten Ways To Help Kids Find Their Own Score Card 1. Ask your kids what interested them in their school day? 2. Encourage them to explore these interests beyond the scope of their assignments if they find it fun. Google the heck out of new ideas. Check Wikipedia for other points of view. 3. Use resources from the environment, the library, friends who enjoy the same topic. 4. Forget measuring how well you perform and concentrate on the joy of learning. 5. Make grades less important than the excitement of making a new discovery. 6. Draw pictures and write stories about interesting ideas and post them on facebook. 7. Measure your success by how many new ideas you come up with not by test scores. 8. Post YouTube videos of projects that you complete and get comments. 9. Inspire others to follow your ideas on social media and get an interaction going. 10. Learn for its own sake and grades improve naturally. Ted Talks Once kids are in middle school and high school introduce them to Ted Talks for all kinds of new innovative ideas about science and math and the environment. Watch the shows with them to field questions and learn together. It's a great audio and visual experience to join millions of other listeners. The audience is filled adults but most of the talks teens can follow and be really excited by. It's a great plus for parents and kids to be learning together. Suddenly dinner conversations are inspiring and exciting. Learning is going at the teens' own pace and pace becomes exponential because they are following subjects that intrigue them. Discovery is the motivation, not tests and performance. As an adult, you discover you are learning from your kids. This is a terrific experience that goes far beyond the walls of schools. You find yourself reading at your own pace on the topics that your child has drawn your attention to. If we want to keep up with our kids, we need to learn what they are learning. Turn on to their music, their art, their ezines and chat rooms (if they let you) and learn what they learn. It's unbelievably energizing and everyone learns together. 2015-08-29-1440857035-2882618-FRONTCOVER.jpg Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. has a new book coming out, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior.

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Food and Phonics

Food and Phonics

A Literal and Figurative Meaning of Children's Needs As the inaugural edition of my blog, "Food and Phonics," I thought I would take a moment to explain the thinking behind its name. Washington, DC, my hometown is lauded for having an array of decadent tourist attractions including museums that punctuate the great contributions made by artists all attempting to use art as a means by which to comment on the social, political and economic actualities of the world. As a District resident, I spend much of my summer Saturdays touring the museums of my hometown and while all of them are stunning in their own right, I recently stumbled into the National Gallery of Art, and into an intriguing session on how artists use contrast to tell a story or to offer interpretation. In the art world, contrast is the difference between two or more elements (e.g., value, color, texture) in a composition or the difference between the lightest and darkest areas of an image. As I toured the National Gallery of Art looking for examples of contrast in the art pieces, I could not help but think about the two very decisive portraits of DC: the "haves," and the "have nots" ostensibly titled "west of the park," and "east of the river." Juxtaposing the two yield a very clear difference between communities that share the same city name, but nevertheless experience two very different realities. For one community those experiences are decisively burdensome, and for the other, those experiences are fiercely beneficial and the children of both communities experience either the burden or benefit more indelibly than any other community member. Uncovering the lightest and darkest areas of "west of the park," and "east of the river," reveal that for "west of the park" 2 in 3 children will attend and finish college, whereas for "east of the river," 3 in 5 children will serve long stretches of prison time. A closer look at the contrast between the two reveals a light in "west of the park," where less than 5% of its children live in poverty, but a darkness in "east of the river," that reveals nearly 50% of its children live at or below the poverty level. This contrast is at best disheartening, and at worst it is criminal. As I continue to analyze the contrast in the two portraits, I came to realize that a real juxtaposition can be made in the difference between the ability of each community to give its children the most basic needs. I looked up the definition of "basic," and found that according to Webster's Dictionary, "basic," means "forming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental "certain basic rules must be obeyed." It was having a clear understanding of the concept of basic that led me to name my blog. Almost every psychological, sociological, anthropological, and educational piece of research with any integrity notes that when the most basic needs of children are met, their life outcomes, and ability to determine and seize upon opportunities for an improved quality of life drastically expand. In essence, the basic needs of children can be summed up into two synchronizations: food and phonics. For me there was a perfectly designed, yet dark irony that would see two communities, merely a few neighborhood blocks from one another, where one could envelope its children in the finest assurances of a good start, while the other community could do little to execute on ensuring that its children had a salubrious beginning. Food and phonics are assuredly the basics, and whether they are considered figuratively or metaphorically, through their interdependence both components represent the compass for a favorable life trajectory, especially given that 75% of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90% of high school dropouts are on welfare. While food most definitely can be taken at face value, what food ultimately offers is nutrients that is needed to ensure healthy physiological and cognitive development. To that end, what food represents can be expanded to include guaranteeing that every child has quality housing, and quality healthcare. Moreover, children need a healthy community to protect them from the perils of an exploitative economy. Phonics refers to ensuring that all children have the fundamentals in both reading and mathematics so that they are equipped to be victors of achievement, instead of victims of the achievement gap. The need to ensure high quality "food," and highly effective "phonics" is evident in a recent study conducted by Donald J. Hernandez, a sociology professor at Hunter College; a syndicate of the City University of New York. Dr. Hernandez compared the reading scores and graduation rates of nearly 4,000 students from public K12 schools. Dr. Hernandez found that students who could not read on grade level by 3rd grade, are almost 4 times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who can read proficiently by 3rd grade. Further, students from high poverty backgrounds, who also could not read on grade level by 3rd grade were 13 times less likely to graduate on time than peers from wealthier backgrounds, and who could read on grade level in 3rd grade. In the same way that food can be expanded past its literal meaning, to describe the physical, psychological, social and emotional needs of all children, phonics too can be expanded past its literal meaning to describe the academic and education needs of all children. High quality schools, and educational opportunities must ensure that every child, again, irrespective of their socioeconomic background receives strong foundations in 21st century skills and the skills needed to be college ready. A further example of the importance of "food and phonics," can be seen in a U.S. Department of Justice's report which reveals a link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime. In the report, Justice Officials confirm that there is an unequivocal connection between abhorrent behavior and poor reading ability. Evidence from the report offers that 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level. Early childhood, when food and phonics, especially at their most literal meanings are most critical spans from in Eudora to 3rd grade. Demonstrations of the importance of food and phonics yet again manifest themselves in the fact that 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Further, teenage girls between the ages of 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty line and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who can read proficiently. Ultimately, this blog will seek to do more than explore the importance of food and phonics, as critical roles in the lives of children, especially vulnerable children, but in fact this blog will serve as a call to action ensuring likeminded stakeholders and defenders of children collaborate to ensure that they receive high quality "food," and superior "phonics" in both their literal and expanded meanings. It will attempt to define what good food and phonics is for children from high poverty rural and urban communities, for children with learning, emotional and physical disabilities, for children who are victims of bullying, for children who attend high and low performing public and public charter schools, for children who are struggling learners, for children who are transgender, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, for children who are in foster care, for children that suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and hopelessness, for children orphaned by AIDS, drug addiction and alcoholism, for children who have an incarcerated parent or parents, for children who are homeless. Ultimately, this blog is about what food and phonics, looks like for all children. I want to do more than add a voice to the conversation, but rather add action to a growing, long overdue movement to ensure that all children reach and fulfill their potential. Source: 11 Facts About Literacy in America. https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-literacy-america

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What New Orleans Needs in the Next ...

What New Orleans Needs in the Next Post-Katrina Decade

As the nation remembers the destruction and devastation of Hurricane Katrina in light of the tragedy's 10th anniversary this weekend, we also should celebrate the indomitable resolve and resilience of New Orleans - and look to what's next for the city to position itself for 21st century success. New Orleans became a symbol of American rebirth and reinvention in the face of senseless tragedy. From dramatically improving results in its public schools to rebuilding its civil infrastructure, the city has taken many impressive and forward-looking steps. Continuing this momentum will be essential for New Orleans over the next decade, and much more needs to be done to secure a bright future for the city and its residents. What really matters to New Orleans--and the people who call it home--is what happens moving forward to build on that impressive start and ramp up the rate of progress. How to achieve that can be summarized in a single word: Talent. Moving forward, New Orleans must ensure its residents have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to succeed in today's economy. Talent is the vital ingredient in the recipe for the type of workforce that cities need to truly prosper in today's dynamic, global economy. The cities destined for real success in the 21st century will be the ones that work continually to broaden and deepen their local talent pools. The places that concentrate on expanding talent--dramatically, and in all directions--will be the cities that rise up as the paragons of urban excellence in the next century. The tech magnets of Silicon Valley and the "cool factor" cities like Denver, Austin or Seattle all have practiced urban expansion by talent attraction, and that strategy works. But there's an unfortunate downside to the emphasis on drawing talent in. Many of the cities that have closed the skills gap by importing talent have subsequently widened the equity gap. By attracting new talent to the city, they've reduced opportunity for those in their communities who need it most. Austin provides a telling illustration of this. More than half of the out-of-state transplants living in that southwestern city hold a college degree, but that's true of just a third of the native Texans in the city. This creates a challenging divide--and it isn't specific to only Austin. In fact, three-quarters of the cities with the widest gaps in terms of college attainment between blacks and whites also happen to rank among the top half for college attainment among white residents. So, any city that wants to build equitable, sustainable prosperity can't just focus on talent attraction. To position themselves to thrive in the next era, cities will need to grow their own talent. They'll have to work to boost the quality of education at all levels--from early childhood all the way through college. They'll need to create a college-going culture in their communities--because a high school diploma isn't sufficient to thrive in the 21st-century knowledge economy. And they will have to work to make the pursuit of education beyond high school more affordable, more accessible and more relevant for all residents. On many of these fronts, New Orleans is off to an impressive start. For example, the city's efforts to rebuild its public school system since Hurricane Katrina have yielded noteworthy results. The percentage of public school students performing on grade level in New Orleans doubled from 2004, the year before Katrina, to 2014 - moving from 31 percent to 62 percent. The progress that's been made in the post-Katrina era is undeniable proof of the city's deep resolve and indomitable spirit. It's made this American city a national symbol of rebirth, reinvention and innovation. By embracing that talent challenge--a challenge that extends far beyond its city limits and stretches from coast to coast--New Orleans can build upon that success and position itself to thrive into the next post-Katrina decade - and beyond. Jamie Merisotis is president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation and author of "America Needs Talent: Attracting, Educating & Deploying the 21st-Century Workforce," released by RosettaBooks in September.

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7 Facts School Leaders Want You To ...

7 Facts School Leaders Want You To Know About Kids In New Orleans

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Take a look at the current state of education in New Orleans and you’ll see things have steadily improved since 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.  But while the progress schools have made prompts praise, school leaders say it doesn’t paint the full picture. 

Leaders throughout the city have dedicated their lives to the kids who, they hope, will guide New Orleans to a better future. But as they do, there are still certain challenges students, teachers and families must overcome, many of which disproportionately affect African-American students.

We spoke with black school leaders in New Orleans, who weighed in on the state of education in the city now and the areas that have -- and have not -- improved in the last 10 years.

Here are seven things they want you to know:

1. There Is A Huge Need For More Mentors And More Experienced Teachers

Kids in New Orleans are in deep need of positive role models, says Jamar McKneely, CEO and co-founder of InspireNola charter schools, which represents two faculty-run schools.

“Every day on our news, we're seeing killings, especially in New Orleans, right? And not only are we seeing killings, we're seeing African-American males and females always getting shot,” he said. “So for [kids], they have no self-understanding of what they can become because that's all they've glorified and see.”

Adding to this may be the fact that the predominately black student population in New Orleans now looks less like its teachers than before the hurricane. Following Katrina, teachers in New Orleans were laid off en masse as many schools were closed or converted to charter schools. The teachers who were hired after the fact are whiter and less experienced than those who came before them.

During the 2003-2004 school year, 72 percent of the teacher workforce in New Orleans was black. In 2013-2014, this same number was at 49 percent. During the 2004-2005 school year, only 48 percent of teachers in the area had less than 10 years of experience. By 2013-2014, this number had shot up to 70 percent, according to data from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans.

2. Rates Of Success Have Drastically Increased

In 2005, nearly 75 percent of the schools in New Orleans were failing by state standards. That number has drastically decreased, now standing at 7 percent. The city, which is now the national leader in the black male graduation rate, can credit much of this success to $1.8 billion that was invested in repairing many of the schools that were demolished in the storm -- as well as t0 school leaders who have been committed to bringing about change.

Educational measures suggest that kids are doing better in school now than they were before the hurricane. Graduation rates have increased dramatically in the past 10 years, going from 54 percent to 73 percent. The number of students performing at grade level has shot up, according to a report from the National Urban League.

Sivi Domango, the co-director of Arthur Ashe Charter High School, says she can see the difference.

“Overall, the district is absolutely stronger than it was,” said Domango. “I think right now the focus on education is a key to the success and ongoing growth of the city.”

3. Childhood Poverty Has Serious Effects

More than 50 percent of African American children in New Orleans live in poverty, data shows. The staggering number is a result of low income rates and high unemployment levels among black men and women in the city -- and disparities with their white counterparts continue to widen.

For many black kids, the serious effects of child poverty go beyond examining its impact on their success in school. It also affects their livelihood.

“It goes to show you the various different dynamics that our kids are experiencing in their households where they're just looking for somebody who can believe in them to provide a safe, secure atmosphere,” McKneely said.

“We gotta have some heart-to-heart conversations based on these statistics and say, 'What can we do within the next one to three years to really close the achievement gap even more?' Because if we're still having a lot of kids in poverty, then we're still missing the boat,” he added.

4. There Is A Strong Focus On Post-Secondary Prep And Career Readiness

Domango said that in her school, there is more of an emphasis on college now than she saw in the past or at previous schools.

“We now definitely focus a lot on [college],” said Domango. “Not that college was not the focus initially, but the conversation is happening more.”

This is reflected in college-going rates in New Orleans schools. About 60 percent of students in the class of 2014 enrolled in college upon graduation, the National Urban League reported. Of this number, about 48 percent of the class of 2014 went to an in-state college. In 2004 -- when the Louisiana Department of Education only collected data on kids who stayed in state -- 37 percent of high school graduates went to an in-state university.

5. Psychological And Mental Health Concerns Should Not Go Overlooked

Experiencing the devastation and death in the aftermath of the hurricane had very serious psychological effects on both children and their families.

In New Orleans, 60 percent of children show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to education consultant Nash Crews. And when compared to their peers nationwide, children in the Crescent City are 4.5 times more likely to show symptoms of serious emotional disturbance. 

“It definitely impacted our kids emotionally. They definitely struggled in school, some even after returning to NOLA still had social and emotional struggles,” Domango said.

Meanwhile, schools are struggling to adequately address the needs of students who have psychological distress and disabilities, which often lead to suspensions or expulsion when students exhibit behavioral issues. However, in an attempt to find a solution, the city will soon open a therapeutic day program that aims to provide students with individual services to better address their mental and behavioral health needs.

6. There’s Still Much To Be Done

Although there has been much improvement in the quality of education in New Orleans, things aren’t where they should be ... yet, McKneely said.  

“I think that one of the biggest challenges is although we're making improvements, we still have so far to go,” he said. “We really need, more than ever, our true leaders, to stand up and set an agenda where we can rally around common [goals] of what we need to do.”

“Even if our kids are graduating at a higher rate and we have more African American kids graduating more than ever before, there's still a lack of jobs out there,” McKneely said. “Then what can you do? Even if they graduate and they try to have a job, the only jobs that we can offer are those [that are] still very low-paying. It’s a counterproductive cycle.”

7. But There’s Plenty Of Hope For The Future

Despite the challenges, school leaders say that they are optimistic for the future of New Orleans schools, and have high hopes for where they will be 10 years from now.

In 2006, then-President George W. Bush visited Warren Easton Charter High School to mark the one-year anniversary of the hurricane. He visited again this week.

“When he was here [the first time] we didn’t have air conditioning, we didn’t have a gym, we didn’t have a health center, and we have all of those things now,” said principal Alexina Medley. “With our children we can now say, ‘Hey, we’ve come a long away.’ You can imagine if we’ve done this on the 10th anniversary, then think about what we can do in the next 10 years.”

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Public (School) Enemy Number One: H...

Public (School) Enemy Number One: How Structural Racism Undermines New Orleans Public Education

Let there be no mistake. Public enemy number one in New Orleans' public schools is structural racism. Despite the various narratives of progress, black and brown kids across our city--almost regardless of school, age, neighborhood, or income--are punished, threatened, failing, and producing predictable, vilified, low test scores. This is no surprise to any of us--not a one. These results are not a mistake. No, these are the predictable, consistent results of a system in precise balance. These are the oppressive results of structural racism in both our schools and our city and country at-large. In fact, white supremacy is prevalent in every layer of New Orleans's public school system--from the dominant media narratives of our city and it's education system to the inequitable funding structures that finance our schools; from disempowered parents to irresponsible and inaccurate uses of data; from resegregation of students and staff to the inequitable representation in governance; from private financing, influence, and bias down to the nuts and bolts of curriculum and school culture. You think you know, but you have no idea: The True Diary of New Orleans Public Schools For the myriad articles, books, and documentaries written on the topic, the true story of public education in New Orleans is parallel to that of nearly all public institutions across this great nation--a battle for racial and class equity in a system crippled by the invisible but very real shackles of systems that undermine that pursuit. As the saying goes, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. There are tens of thousands of well-intentioned, hard-working people who do prodigious things for one another and for the kids of New Orleans, but who do so often blind to the truth of what is holding us all back and therefore often inadvertently hurting the cause they work so hard to help. Young White Teacher in an Old Black City: Accounting for My Privilege & Mistakes To be clear, I am an educator: a white transplant educator. I was part of Teach for America's 2008 Greater New Orleans corps of nearly 300 mostly-white, mostly-transplant 20-somethings who were recruited to come to this city to teach for two years to supposedly serve the needs of New Orleans's kids. I have, unequivocally, been a part of the problem during my time in New Orleans, scolding kids for petty transgressions, buying into staff and school CULTures that model dictatorial power structures for my mostly-black students, punishing kids who were going through deep traumas, and teaching a simplified curriculum divorced from the reality of my kids' lives and needs. It was constructive dialogue with peers, parents, and students that pushed me to finally analyze the errors in my ways and understand what all of us truly need to do to make sure that all kids in New Orleans live happier and healthier lives. I am now beginning my eighth year as a public school teacher in New Orleans now at my third school in the region. I am also parents of a 4 year-old son newly enrolled in pre-K in the New Orleans public school system (albeit paying tuition because of my income). I still teach in a New Orleans open-enrollment charter because I have found a role that allows me to spend my days facilitating more multidisciplinary, liberatory experiences for my amazing students; but I am still a white transplant earning a living wage teaching mostly black and brown kids. Being white, I am privileged to face fewer ramifications for speaking up in certain situations than some of my colleagues of color, and thus feel responsible to help share the perspective that those colleagues of color have helped me and others reach. So, is it better?: Comparing Pre-Katrina to Post-Katrina We should also be clear that it is hard to draw a fair comparison between the schools in New Orleans pre- and post-Katrina, just the same way that it's hard to draw a comparison between their respective student bodies. Both are fundamentally different. And that is ultimately the wrong question to be asking because both are less than what our children deserve. There are, indisputably, many good things happening throughout the city for kids of color. But there are also, equally clearly, many enduring bad things happening for those same kids and their community. You see, New Orleans is an indigenous-swampland-turned-bustling-port by European settlers of many ethnicities who amassed the wealth of a continent on the displacement of a civilization of native peoples and the hard labor of enslaved Africans: a place where some of the harshest cruelties of decades of legalized segregation, hatred, rape, and plunder played themselves out for the past three centuries--and arguably still do to this day. After legal desegregation in 1954 (which still to this day has never truly been enforced almost anywhere in this country!), New Orleans only had the chance to educate a few generations of its children in its public schools before media began skewering the system's faults. The largely-unpublicized truth is that pre-Katrina New Orleans was a city and education system in multi-generational renaissance where a great diversity of truly public, neighborhood, community schools were instilling a sense of identity, building community, and cultivating leadership. New Orleans was in the early stages of shedding its overtly racist and oppressive past, beginning the deep, generational work of healing and educating its young to create a new type of social fabric. Yet that same school system in renaissance was also home, in places, to violence, apathy, underachievement, and corruption upon which Katrina provided an opportunity to improve. Public School Pirates: The Hostile Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools Unfortunately, that reform movement was commandeered almost entirely by white leadership, both public and private, who jumpstarted the reform effort by firing all 7,000 plus educators in the public school system (mostly educated, black middle-class jobs), dismantling the teacher's union (a historic, black-lead community organization), promoting hyper-disciplined school cultures that demand conformity and total compliance from kids (mostly of color) to teachers (mostly white), and simplifying how we measure schools' successes down to math and reading test scores (measures that don't correlate to the needs of any students). I hear the many CEOs, school leaders, and non-profit directors of the reform movement saying, "But what about the racism of low expectations that existed before the storm? Don't we need to be promoting rigor and data-driven instruction in our classrooms to make sure that no kid falls behind?" To them I ask, "What are your high expectations now?" Yes, the expectations for compliance and quantitative data--both from staff and students--are much more rigorous, but to what end? A dear friend of mine--a black, female assistant-principal of a large charter school--returned horrified after the first day of summer development for teachers at her new school. The opening day was being led by a for-profit consulting group born by a group of "high-performing, no-excuses" schools in Boston--a consulting group whose market share has increased each of its first 3 years in New Orleans. The instructor opened by asking the room full of teachers and administrators, "Who thinks discipline is the most important thing our school?" My colleague was alarmed when hers was the only hand up in the entire room for discipline not being the most important thing (figuring education, character, happiness, or health might trump it). That alarm quickly turned into disgust when the facilitator briskly corrected her for having the wrong answer, praised everyone else for understanding that key point, and moved on without a moment of debate or discussion. The Golden Rule and the Audacity of Healing Whether well-intentioned philanthropy or an example of Disaster Capitalism, this approach to reform undermines what kids and communities in New Orleans really need: a liberatory education that addresses the material conditions of kids' lives, breaks down the societal structures that create their oppression, and promotes self love and worth, healing, reconciliation, and restitution from historical and contemporary traumas. Educating all of our kids well is within our reach. It's remarkably simple: we must educate every child as if he or she was our own. Though of course we all know that raising our own children well is deep, grueling work. Below I propose a web of actions we can take at various levels of our society, whether you are an educator, student, parent, or citizen. May these generate discourse and actions that improve all of our lives for generations to come. We must clarify the goal(s) of educating our children. I would argue that the best metrics of a successful education are the happiness and health of the human being and the community in which they exist. These stand in opposition to the more standard metrics of accomplishment or competitiveness that are often used to frame the purpose of our education system. We ought to invest time as a society clarifying what we want our kids to really get out of their education. We must clarify the obstacles preventing us from achieving those goals. The common answers to this question are "the achievement gap" or "inequity". Though these are both true, I would argue that public enemy number one is the structural racism that maintains and deepens the inequity which creates the achievement gap in this country. If we can actually name structural racism as the biggest obstacle impeding our progress, then we can better align our resources to dismantle those oppressive structures. We must resource education according to our goal(s). We must revisit the conversation of how much to spend on education and how to allocate it only once we have clarified our goals. I imagine we might come away deciding that we need to spend much more per-pupil (accordingly, a much larger percent of our federal, state, and local budgets) to really give our children what they deserve. Along with this, we also need to delineate which responsibilities fall under the school (and resource those responsibilities adequately) while also separating out responsibilities that are better served, say, by local health-care or housing agencies. We must figure out how to measure the actual life outcomes and early indicators of those outcomes that we want for our kids. Yes, data driven instruction is crucial--the trick is paying attention to the right data. What will help us determine the right data is having a clear sense of goals and what gets in their way. From there we can determine which data points really lead to the types of outcomes we want to see for all of our children, that way our schools can focus on measuring those and get rid of the panoply of tests that currently maintain a stranglehold on urban schools. We must root our kids' education in real-life experiences (not artificial tests and standards) and measure their progress with real-life tasks. I imagine this would happen without needing to say it explicitly once our goals are clear. Once our goals are greater than academic achievement, we can no longer rationalize curricular silos called "subjects". Our kids must be immersed in a wealth and diversity of experiences and projects that real humans do--across cultures, ages, and epochs. Kids must do the learning, not receive or memorize it. Every assessment must be a project or task based on projects that real adults do in the real world, every class connected to a real human job, passion, or experience. We must root our kids' education in critical thinking by questioning our species' "successes". We must reorient the culture of our schools to foster, teach, and reward kids who ask hard questions, constructively challenge authority, and create new ways of being. We must explicitly promote an agenda of elevating the best things that make us human and solving our species' most endemic problems. We must help our kids reckon with the fact that our scientific "successes" have left us with technology that has reaped ecological destruction and social isolation; and our economic "successes" have left us with the most inequality every experienced by any species on our planet's history built from a history and present of legalized exploitation. We must root our kids' education in creative and divergent thinking. Similarly, we must reorient the culture of our schools to foster, teach, and reward kids who do the unexpected, dismantle and rebuild things, and who create new and beautiful things in the world. This applies both to the arts and to teaching kids how to design, build, run, evaluate, improve, and dismantle our systems on Earth from law and media to infrastructure and technology. We must promote diversity and autonomy (not standardization) in curriculum, pedagogy, and outcomes. Biodiversity is nature's wonder and it's insurance policy; we must learn from and seek to protect and proliferate the world's indigenous and aboriginal cultures that hold so much of our species' fundamental knowledge of how the universe and we work together. This means promoting a rich biodiversity of schools, goals, pathways, and outcomes. We must model our human systems off of natural ones. Our education system cannot be one simply of human extraction or gain. Living systems have the ability to sustain good things for billions of years and evolve into even greater ones. We must orient our human systems around similar goals, carefully observe how natural systems achieve such prosperity, and emulate their design to the benefit of all species. Only that level of design will ensure true, sustaining equity. We must promote a set of values and character strengths that emphasize love, cooperation, and universal community. To paraphrase the words of acclaimed Holocaust survivor, child psychologist and author, Dr. Haim Ginott, we must not raise learned engineers who go on to build gas chambers or educated physicians who poison children. Above any curriculum, we must foster, teach, and model a culture based on universal unity and brotherhood of all beings, human and non-human, to truly understand and honor our interconnectedness. We must teach our kids to question reality, to construct their own truth empirically, and to love themselves for who they are. To synthesize the previous points, our pedagogy must be based on teaching kids fundamentally to question, synthesize evidence into truth, and be content and self-loving as a foundation for loving others. We must seek to recruit, develop, retain, honor, and compensate vast leagues of incredibly skilled career educators. None of us would have become happy, healthy humans without the stable loving care of someone or something in our lives. The best chance we can give all of our kids at achieving such happiness and health is to ensure the stability and preparedness of those entrusted to love and care for them. Accordingly, to steal from the genius of Dr. Jeff Duncan Andrade, we must recruit our educators like we currently do athletes. We must treat them like franchise players, nurture their talents, reward their accomplishments, and honor them culturally and fiscally for the most fundamental work in our society. We must evaluate ourselves by what we want for our own children and great-great-great-great-great grandchildren We must not compromise on resources or approaches that we would give to our most privileged children and we must evaluate ourselves by the projected outcomes 7 generations out. This is not to say that every kid should have the same thing, but that we should spare no expense on any kid, the same way we wouldn't on the luckiest. It's not just that we can't spare any expense now, it's that we must understand the implications of our investments for many generations to come, and make wise choices accordingly. Educators must organize and engage in critical dialogue and praxis parallel to their planning and teaching No group of responsible adults entrusted with the lives of our young people should do so in a dictatorial school structure that over-works them and neglects their ability to self-organize. Adults teaching kids must constantly be engaged themselves in the acts of facilitating democratic structures, intelligent debate, and community organizing. Educators must debate the structures of their school, school system, and curriculum and make critical choices cooperatively to advance the quality of education and educational institutions. We adults must maintain active, differentiated involvement: Teach, volunteer, serve on boards, observe, discuss and ask questions, vote, read, write, organize. Certainly much of this list is written for educators, students, and parents--but all of us fall into those categories at some point in our lives. Wherever you are at this point in your life, maintain an awareness of and a caring for our education system, even if that means just supporting one single child, educator, or project. The beautiful thing is that with a diversity of involvement, we will naturally fulfill all of our needs.

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After Katrina, Here?s How New Orlea...

After Katrina, Here?s How New Orleans Improved Education, Low-Income Housing, Health Care

A decade ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, claiming 1,800 lives and causing unspeakable destruction. But, parenthetically, experts say, the storm gave the reeling city no choice but to hit the restart button on some of its broken systems that were long overdue for repair, including education, low-income housing and health care. Here's how the city addressed some of those challenges -- both succeeding and failing along the way.

 

Education

Da’ja's Story: From Struggling Reader to Valedictorian.

When Da’ja Simmons started seventh grade at her new charter school in New Orleans, she was nowhere near her grade’s literacy level. In addition to lagging behind academically when she started at Cohen College Prep, Simmons also lived in a homeless shelter for a year in eighth grade, after her father lost his job, making concentrating on her school work even more challenging.

“I was weak in math and reading,” Simmons, now 18, told The Huffington Post. “I would mix up simple words.”

Fast forward to last year, when Simmons was named valedictorian, accepted to 10 colleges and won $264,000 in merit scholarships.

Before the Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was the second-lowest-ranked district in the second-lowest-ranked state in the country. In 2005, 62 percent of students were failing, according to district records.

Simmons' story represents that of many students who might not have succeeded to the same degree without the post-Katrina education system changes, experts point out. 

For Simmons, that meant attending a charter school, where she said her teachers pushed her even more once they found out about her compromising situation. They guided her to the point that she was able to add Advanced Placement courses and Chinese to her packed schedule. 

Back in 2005, there was some talk about introducing more charter schools, the kind Simmons benefited from, to help revive the education system. But supporters didn’t expect to see any swift changes.

“There would’ve been incremental government change,” Patrick Dobard, superintendent of the Recovery School District, told HuffPost. “We never would’ve made the long systemic changes we see now.”

Compounding the issue was the fact that critics were reluctant to accept what they viewed as a "top-down" costly system. They didn’t like that it would require mass firings and wouldn't necessarily take minority students' needs into consideration. 

But when Hurricane Katrina hit, -- taking down 106 schools and sparking a fierce debate about poverty and race with it -- advocates seized the chance to start over and build a stronger system.

It was a horrible catastrophe, but as we try to look for silver linings, if there?s any glimmer of hope, we were able to wholesale, put changes into place that have systemically improved the quality of schools." Patrick Dobard, superintendent for the Recovery School District in New Orleans

Faced with rebuilding an entire system from scratch, the Louisiana Legislature handed over the majority of Orleans Parish public schools to the Recovery School District. The entity was created to transform failing institutions into high-performing charter schools.

"It was a horrible catastrophe, but as we try to look for silver linings, if there’s any glimmer of hope, we were able to wholesale, put changes into place that have systemically improved the quality of schools," Dobard said.

Today, 92 percent of students are enrolled in charter schools. And supporters of the model are quick to tout its successes. 

In 2004, 54 percent of high schoolers graduated from high school. A decade later, that figure jumped to 73 percent.

Grades in the city are up, too.

Last year, just 6 percent of students were failing, according to statistics released by New Orleans Public Schools.

But Some Say the Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story.

From the perspective of many, the changes in education haven't been strictly a success story.

Administrators have been criticized for being quick to resort to suspending and expelling students who misbehave, which has helped boost figures and has also disproportionately affected minorities.

Louisiana schools are twice as likely to suspend black students as they are white students, according to a 2010 study conducted by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and the Family and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children. 

"The unfortunate reality of 'three strikes you're out' and other unnecessarily harsh policies [is that they] have escalated the pushing of young people out of school and down a pipeline to dropout, unemployment and prison," Julian Heilig, a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at California State University, Sacramento, told HuffPost.

The other concerning issues, advocates say, is that too few minority teachers were hired in the aftermath and that systemic issues that pertain specifically to underserved students weren't addressed. 

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had a higher proportion of black teachers than most urban U.S. school districts.

During the 2003-2004 school year, 71 percent of New Orleans public school teachers were black, according to the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans. 

By 2014, that figure dropped to 49 percent. 

Heilig, and others agree, that black leaders were “sidelined” in the process. They say that more money should’ve been invested in early childhood education and increasing parental engagement, as well as access to health, social and other services at-risk students need to stay on track.

But Dobard continues to stand by the charter school model New Orleans has pioneered -- noting that the district plans to address issues related to expulsion and is gearing up to roll out a robust program for students with special needs.

He also noted that schools still have to meet a rigorous set of standards in order to stay in business. 

When a school is up for renewal, it goes through an extensive review process and if it’s not meeting expectations, the RSD has the power to shut it down or transfer its leadership, Dobard said. 

Dobard says that the schools that do thrive, do so mainly because of the “direct control” each entity is granted. 

For example, if a school feels the need to stay in session longer than the prescribed 180 days in order to get students caught up, it has the ability to do so. They also have more control over budgets, transportation and meal plans than standard public schools do. 

Some students, like Simmons, say that giving teachers more autonomy over how they instruct is what enables them to succeed. 

“The teachers actually taught us instead of just giving us work, and helped us with anything we needed,” Simmons said. “They actually challenged me instead of just giving me the answers. They actually pushed to think.”

Low-Income Housing

New Orleans Rolls Up Its Sleeves To Help Build Homes

Before Hurricane Katrina hit, elite local institutions -- like the Tulane School of Architecture, -- were considered removed entities that were completely out of touch with struggling residents' needs. 

In fact, one local recently told NPR that he saw the Tulane school as home to snooty “trust fund babies.”

But after the storm displaced more than 1 million people in the Gulf Coast region and destroyed 134,000 housing units in New Orleans alone, Tulane and other prominent entities felt the need to take pause and reassess their role in the community.

"I sort of stopped writing papers and started taking bold steps with students to build things," Scott Bernhard, a professor who spearheaded the school’s post-Katrina projects, told NPR. 

So, in 2005, the school established URBANbuild in order to apply its rich resources to helping to rebuild decimated neighborhoods. 

At the city’s peak in 2007, more than 11,000 people were homeless, according to a new report released by UNITY, a coalition that provides housing and services to homeless people and at-risk individuals in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

 

Tulane’s program is an example of just one innovative program that has helped to aggressively tackle New Orleans’ homelessness crisis.

URBANbuild collaborates with a number of local groups, including Brad Pitt’s Make It Right nonprofit, to build homes for people in need in the area. Since then, it has built six houses for struggling families. 

Altogether, the school has helped develop more than 80 local projects that use design to improve the community.

Over the past eight years, homelessness figures have dropped by 85 percent.

On a single night in January, there were 1,703 people without homes, still much higher than such comparably sized cities as Chicago and Baltimore, but a notable decline. 

To be sure, the rate of homelessness, which compares its unsheltered population to the general population, is 14 percent higher than it was in 2005. But, part of that is due to the fact that the city’s general population is significantly lower than it was before Katrina.

New Orleans was able to reduce its post-Katrina homeless population to this point with its Permanent Supportive Housing program, according to UNITY. People who qualify are granted permanent rent subsidies, primarily in privately owned apartments. Residents are then connected with case managers who oversee their medical needs, and other issues, to ensure that they can remain living independently. 

City Is One Of First To End Chronic Vet Homelessness.

What’s perhaps most noteworthy, though, is how in the years since the storm, New Orleans has catapulted to the forefront of the fight to end veteran homelessness -- an accomplishment that has elicited praise from first lady Michelle Obama.

In January, it became the first major city to end chronic veteran homelessness. 

By employing the housing first method, an approach that champions providing homes to homeless people and then addressing their health and employment issues, New Orleans has accomplished what other similar-sized cities haven’t yet been able to do.

Last July, Mayor Mitch Landrieu committed to joining the first lady’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness and within six months, surpassed its original goal by housing 227 homeless veterans. It succeeded in doing so by bringing together agencies that hadn’t previously worked together. Now that it’s combined such existing resources, the city is able to house a homeless veteran within 30 days.

"You all have proven that even in a city as big as New Orleans, veteran homelessness is not a reality we have to accept,” Obama said, according to The Times-Picayune. “It's not an impossible problem that is too big to be solved. We want cities across this country to follow your lead."

Still, the city continues to be plagued by crushing poverty rates and a dearth in affordable housing, which has hampered its homelessness efforts.

Before the hurricane, more than half of all apartments in New Orleans rented for less than $500 a month, according to UNITY. Now, the fair-market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $767, well above what low-wage workers can afford.

Often, though, it’s been finding the resources to rebuild deteriorating structures that’s posed the biggest challenge.

Even before Katrina, the city had a sizable number of blighted properties it didn’t have the resources to fix. The hurricane only exacerbated that situation. By 2010, there were over 43,000 dilapidated properties and empty lots -- more than a quarter of New Orleans’ total housing stock, according to a report released by the city. 

Many owners who didn’t have the funds to repair their devastated homes, simply abandoned them.

Making such properties available for habitation has been critical considering how much housing prices have spiked since Katrina. 

In 2010, Landrieu committed to addressing the issue, and in a matter of three years, reduced the number of blighted properties by 10,000. The mayor succeeded in doing so by collaborating with private and public partners, and commissioning help from the public, too.

Among its multi-thronged approach, the city reopened negotiations with FEMA to demolish 919 units, prioritized city funding for the rehabilitation of dilapidated properties and fixed up 520 homes belonging to low-income owners who didn’t have the funds to do so.

Health Care

Low-Income Patients Get More Timely, Quality Care.

Even before Katrina, New Orleans’ public healthcare system was flailing.

Neighborhood primary care facilities, where low-income patients could develop relationships with their doctors, essentially didn’t exist. As a result, patients turned to the historic Charity Hospital, which accepted all patients no matter what they could afford. But as the region’s only level 1 trauma center, it simply didn’t have the infrastructure to support clients’ needs.

Patients would wait, on average, in excess of six months just to book a basic primary care visit, Dr. Peter DeBlieux, interim Chief Medical Officer at University Medical Center New Orleans, told HuffPost.

The hospital also didn’t meet federal standards at the time, but it was allowed to remain open because it was the only safety net facility in the area, DeBlieux added.

But after the hurricane, when Charity Hospital was forced to close its doors because the cost to repair the institution was too great, the medical community was compelled to reevaluate how it could rebuild a more resilient system that better served its entire patient population.

A New Medical Center Opens Its Doors

On Aug. 1, with $1.1 billion in federal, state and private rebuilding money, the city opened the doors to the 2.3-million-sqaure-foot University Medical Center New Orleans, which replaced the destroyed Charity Hospital.

Over the past 10 years, a number of community partners came together to open more than 70 neighborhood health clinics that give patients long-overdue access to primary care and disease prevention, Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health Center, wrote in a blog for HuffPost. Many of those clinics have direct links or affiliations with UMC, which allows patients to book appointments within one to two days, according to DeBlieux.

While Louisiana's largest teaching and training hospital boasts state-of-the art equipment and striking designs, DeBlieux, who worked at Charity Hospital for more than 20 years, says the mission to serve as a safety net hospital hasn’t changed one iota. 

“At no point in time has our mission changed,” DeBlieux said. “No one has shied away from that mission. No one has shirked it.”

The 446-bed hospital is open to anyone who needs care, just as it was before, it now just also has a more sustainable business model.

After its horrific experience during Katrina, the medical community vowed to build a facility that could withstand the next once-in-50-years storm, and it has.

All of the hospital’s critical functions are located 21 feet above base level flood elevation. With its storm-resistant technology, UMC can withstand a hurricane with a force of 200 miles per hour. And, it could continue its operations for up to a week without any external support or supplies. 

It has also developed a new and leaner business model.

Before, Charity Hospital relied solely on state and federal dollars and was serially underfunded, DeBlieux noted.

Today’s private-public model will allow UMC to still serve indigent populations, while also making itself a competitive option for Medicaid, Medicare and commercially insured patients in order to “attract all payers.”

At this hospital, we welcome all patients.?

 

Every room in the hospital is private, with ample space for family members to stay over. The only exception is in the behavioral health section where sharing a room was deemed “therapeutic.” The hospital has also set a goal of developing programs that will enable patients to seek out specialty care locally at UMC, so they don’t have to travel out of state, or out of the region.

It’s also going to be a major economic driver in the community. Construction alone created thousands of jobs and the hospital currently employs more than 2,100 people. It’s expected to create hundreds more full-time positions in the next few years, according to UMC. 

At its core, DeBlieux says, UMC aims to be a more inviting facility, and has kept intact its purpose of providing healing to every patient who walks through its doors. 

“In 1940, [when it opened], Charity Hospital was considered the preeminent hospital in the world. People who sought care there, thought, ‘Well, I have a seat at the table,’” DeBlieux said. “That history has not changed. At this hospital, we welcome all patients.”

Read about what you can still do to help New Orleans here

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