Rebirth of New Orleans schools

REBIRTH: New Orleans, a Learning Matters documentary on the post-Katrina transformation of New Orleans’ schools, is looking for Kickstarter funding to pay for “sound mixing, color correction, animation, graphic design, line editing, and building a website for the film.”

In 2004, not even one-third of 8th graders in New Orleans could pass a state reading test.  In some schools, the number was lower – just 4 percent.

Since then New Orleans public schools have been transformed.  Test scores have risen steadily outpacing every other district in Louisiana.  Graduation rates are up, dropout rates are down.

. . . Today the city is 80% on its way to becoming the nation’s first all-charter school district, perhaps a future model for the nation.

Here’s more on the documentary from John Merrow.

Teacher quality: Vital, hard to measure

“Teacher quality is the most important factor in determining how well a school will do,” says Eric Hanushek in an interview with John Merrow on Learning Matters.

. . . despite its good intentions, I think that the highly qualified teacher part of NCLB is actually its worst part. The reason is simple. We have huge measurement problems that make prior interpretations of this requirement hollow at best and harmful at worst. Teacher quality is not captured by typically discussed characteristics of teachers such as master’s degrees, teaching experience, or even certification – things that states typically monitor. Requiring such things unrelated to student performance dilutes accountability and detracts from things that would make them more effective. Fortunately, however, test-based accountability produces the student achievement data needed to assess the value-added of teachers, a more appropriate focus of policy concerns.

Reducing class size — pupil-teacher ratios are now less than 16 to 1 — is a mistake, Hanushek says.  It takes money that could be spent to pay “highly effective teachers substantially more.”

Pay effective teachers what they are worth (think six-figure salaries) but also have them teach somewhat more kids. That model is easily supported. What is not supported is paying large salaries to both effective and ineffective teachers and also reducing class sizes.

The Gates Foundation is spending its money — a lot of money — looking for ways to evaluate teacher effectiveness.

Vallas on TFA in New Orleans

Paul Vallas, now running New Orleans schools, talks about the Teach for America Effect on Learning Matters TV.