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Which New Orleans Schools Made The Grade In 2015? LDOE Releases Letter Grades & SPS Scores

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Just in time for Christmas, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released 2015 school letter grades and School Performance Scores (SPS) earlier today. Schools were assigned grades on a curve again this year, based on a temporary policy adopted to ease the transition to the higher demands of the Common Core standards.

LDOE calculates elementary school letter grades based entirely on state standardized test scores. For middle schools, 95% of the school grade is based on test scores and 5% is based on credits earned through the end of their students’ freshman year in high school. The formula to calculate letter grades for high schools is a bit more complicated: 25% is based on ACT results; 25% is based on End-of-Course test results; 25% is based on a “graduation index” which takes into account AP participation rate and results, among other factors; and, the final 25% is based on the school’s cohort graduation rate. All schools can receive bonus points if they make significant academic gains with students who are behind.



While the overall distribution of letter grades of New Orleans schools didn’t change that much, some of the city’s schools saw big swings in performance. In terms of winners, KIPP Renaissance High School saw the biggest increase in performance this year, with its school grade jumping from a “D” in 2014 to a “B” this year. New Orleans Military/Maritime Academy, McDonogh #35 Academy, ReNEW Cultural Arts, and Harriet Tubman rounded out the top five most improved schools.

The folks at KIPP Renaissance High have lots to cheer about.

The folks at KIPP Renaissance High have lots to cheer about.

Who got coal in their stockings from LDOE this year? James M. Singleton Charter School in Central City continues to struggle. Singleton’s SPS fell by more than 33 points this year – the largest decline in the city – although its overall letter grade remained a “D”. On the other hand, Landry-Walker High School fell from a “B” to “D” this year, and its SPS fell by more than 28 points from 89.7 to 61.5. Nelson Elementary, Mahalia Jackson, and G.W. Carver Prep also saw SPS declines of more than 20 points. Finally, Lagniappe Academy, which was closed this spring after an investigation by the state uncovered serious violations of its charter contract, saw its SPS fall by over 23 points and its grade drop from a “C” to a “D”.

James M. Singleton: Good band, terrible academics.

James M. Singleton: Good band, terrible academics.

You can find letter grades and School Performance Scores for public schools across New Orleans using the map or table below.

2015 School Letter Grade Map


2015 School Letter Grade/SPS Table

SCHOOL2015 GRADE2014 GRADE2015 SPS2014 SPS14/15 SPS Chg.
SCHOOL2015 GRADE2014 GRADE2015 SPS2014 SPS14/15 SPS Chg.
Akili AcademyCC6780-13
Algiers TechDD54.551.72.8
Alice M. Harte ElementaryAA100106.6-6.6
Andrew H. WilsonFF39.749.1-9.4
Arise AcademyDD47.858.3-10.5
Arthur AsheCC73.281.2-8
Audubon CharterAA116.9118.4-1.5
Benjamin Franklin ElementaryBB91.490.60.8
Benjamin Franklin HighAA138.9140.1-1.2
Cohen College PrepBC8872.915.1
Crescent Leadership AcademyFT20.214.45.8
Dr. Martin Luther King CharterBB91.685.56.1
Edgar P. HarneyCC76.275.90.3
Edna KarrAB111.196.714.4
Edward HynesAA107.1108.6-1.5
Einstein CharterCB83.591.9-8.4
Eisenhower ElementaryCD71.367.73.6
Eleanor McMainBB88.987.91
ENCORE AcademyCC70.973-2.1
Esperanza CharterCB72.285.6-13.4
Fannie C. WilliamsCD66.364.81.5
G.W. Carver CollegiateCC73.670.63
G.W. Carver PrepDC59.180.6-21.5
Gentilly TerraceDD5267.3-15.3
Harriet TubmanCD81.46318.4
Homer A. PlessyDn/a49.1n/an/a
International High SchoolBC85.683.62
International SchoolAA102.5114.1-11.6
James M. SingletonDC47.480.8-33.4
John DibertDC64.882.1-17.3
Joseph A. CraigDT53.239.813.4
Joseph S. ClarkDF62.445.417
KIPP BelieveCC78.883.5-4.7
KIPP Central City AcademyBB85.495.2-9.8
KIPP Central City PrimaryCC75.178-2.9
KIPP McDonogh 15CB7985.7-6.7
KIPP N.O. Leadership AcademyDD64.549.914.6
KIPP RenaissanceBD96.86135.8
Lafayette AcademyBC89.681.77.9
Lagniappe AcademyDC58.782.3-23.6
Lake Area New TechCD79.464.514.9
Lake Forest ElementaryAA123.8124.6-0.8
Landry-Walker High SchoolDB61.589.7-28.2
Langston HughesDC5977.6-18.6
Lawrence D. CrockerTT69.266.13.1
Lusher CharterAA130.3131.5-1.2
Lycée FrançaisBB9591.53.5
Mahalia JacksonCB69.793.7-24
Martin BehrmanCB75.893.3-17.5
Mary BethuneBB9593.71.3
Mary D. CoghillCC80.469.710.7
McDonogh #28DD49.266.4-17.2
McDonogh #32DD54.564.4-9.9
McDonogh #35 Acad.DF56.336.719.6
McDonogh #35 PrepCC70.379.4-9.1
McDonogh #42DT62.658.34.3
Mildred OsborneDD50.852.9-2.1
Milestone AcademyCD69.367.32
Miller-McCoy AcademyFF40.449.7-9.3
Morris JeffBC84.683.51.1
Nelson ElementaryFD41.267.3-26.1
NOCCAAA107.9120.4-12.5
NOMMAAC103.28320.2
Paul HabansFF39.842-2.2
Pierre A. CapdauCB71.489.9-18.5
ReNEW Accelerated City ParkFF29.216.412.8
ReNEW Accelerated West BankFF18.921.9-3
ReNEW Cultural Arts CD745519
ReNEW D.T. AaronCD77.362.514.8
ReNEW SchaumburgTT73.655.717.9
ReNEW SciTechBC94.281.612.6
Robert Russa MotonBB88.486.71.7
Samuel J. GreenCC73.674-0.4
Sci AcademyBC96.379.816.5
Sci HighBB98.694.34.3
Sophie B. WrightCC8173.97.1
Success PrepDC56.974.7-17.8
Sylvanie WilliamsDD52.452.8-0.4
The NET Charter High FF25.722.23.5
Warren EastonAB109.496.213.2
William J. FischerFD39.656.8-17.2

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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Charters

A Sibling Dispute In Court Could Spell Trouble for Smothers Academy Charter School's CEO Is Accused Of Financial Impropriety In Lawsuit Filed By Brother

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The CEO of a local charter management organization, which was investigated by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) after a report on this blog raised questions about its management and financial practices, is being accused of financial impropriety in a lawsuit filed by his own brother.

On March 28th, I published a post – “Red Flags Everywhere” – which highlighted troubling issues at Smothers Academy, a Type 2 charter school in Jefferson Parish. It noted that the school appeared to be in violation of state ethics laws prohibiting nepotism, seeing that Smothers Academy’s CEO Damon Smothers had hired his brother, Kemic Smothers, as the organization’s legal counsel and director of procurement. The piece also drew attention to several concerns surfaced in Smothers Academy’s F.Y. 2017 audited financial statements, including the assertion that Damon Smothers had spent over $9300 on the school’s credit card for personal expenses.


Read my original piece on Smothers Academy:

Red Flags Everywhere | PE + CO

A review of documents from a Jefferson Parish charter operator that applied to run a historic high school in New Orleans has revealed that the organization could be violating state ethics laws and has been flagged for serious deficiencies in its management and accounting practices.


 
A week later, LDOE officials sent a letter to Eddie Williams, president of the board of directors of Smothers Academy, requesting documentation related to the problems identified in their audit. On April 17th, LDOE sent a second letter to Williams, which formally notified the board that Smothers Academy was in violation of the state’s nepotism laws and instructed them to terminate the employment of either Damon or Kemic Smothers by June 30th. As a result, Kemic was fired that same day.

Yet it appears that he is refusing to go without a fight.

Court documents reveal that Kemic is now suing his brother Damon (along with Smothers Academy, Inc., two members of the board of directors, and the school’s CFO Mark DeBose) for breach of contract, violation of the whistleblower statute, retaliatory discharge, and fraud.

Smothers Academy CEO Damon Smothers (left) is being sued by his brother Kemic (right), who previously served as the school’s legal counsel and director of procurement.

In a petition filed with the Orleans Parish Civil District Court in July, Kemic claims that he was summoned to an April 5th meeting with his brother and CFO Mark DuBose in which they revealed that Damon had “gifted himself” $20,000 drawn from the school’s bank account without the knowledge or consent of the board of directors. They then asked Kemic to devise a way for Damon to keep the money without having to inform the board or repay it. However, Kemic refused, noting that the unauthorized allocation of funds was almost certainly illegal.

Kemic goes on to assert that he was subsequently terminated on April 17th – as opposed to June 30th when his contract officially ended – for refusing to help Damon hide the $20,000 he had taken from the school’s bank account. According to the lawsuit, “Damon Smothers insinuated that Kemic Smothers was not a team player and that he should have found a way for Damon Smothers to avoid repaying the $20,000.00.”

It should be noted that accusations made in Kemic Smothers’ lawsuit are simply that: accusations. The court has not ruled on the merits of the case. Nevertheless, in light of the board’s lax financial oversight and Damon’s questionable use of the school’s credit card, these latest allegations should be investigated to ensure that Smothers Academy administrators are not enriching themselves at the expense of their students.


Read Kemic Smothers’ lawsuit against his brother:

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Charters

Dear Board Members… An Open Letter To The Arkansas State Board Of Education

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On January 15th, I sent a letter to the members of the Arkansas State Board of Education to bring their attention to the troubling revelations about Einstein Charter Schools that have emerged over the past several months.

Last fall, the State Board of Education approved a proposal from Einstein to open a new charter school in Little Rock after Einstein officials assured board members that they would provide transportation to students. This was the same promise they made to the Orleans Parish School Board last year as part of their charter renewal agreement. As we now know, they cannot be be taken at their word.

For some reason, I never received a response from anyone on the board. Therefore, I’ve decided to publish my original letter, which I’ve reproduced in full below.


Dear Board Members,

In September, the Arkansas State Board of Education approved a proposal from Einstein Charter Schools of New Orleans to open a new K-3 school in Little Rock School District. Today, I am writing to urge you to reconsider that decision in light of a series of troubling revelations about Einstein that have emerged here in New Orleans in the intervening months.

On September 19th, just five days after SBOE approved Einstein’s charter application, the Orleans Parish School Board issued an official notice of non-compliance [see notice here] to Einstein’s CEO and board president for failing to provide bus transportation to students as required by the terms of their charter. District officials became aware of this breach-of-contract after a parent reported that Einstein had refused to provide yellow bus service for her two children (5 and 10 years old) and instead offered them public transit tokens. News reports subsequently revealed that Einstein had been refusing to provide bus transportation to dozens of students.

Six weeks later, on November 7th, Einstein was issued another notice of non-compliance [see notice here] by the Orleans Parish School Board for enrolling 26 students outside of OneApp, the city-wide enrollment system that assigns students to New Orleans’ public schools. In fact, the notice indicates that district officials previously investigated enrollment violations at Einstein in 2016 and had told administrators that the charter network needed to implement internal systems and procedures to ensure they were in compliance with the OneApp process.

These are serious violations that undermine the systems we have established to ensure that all children – regardless of race, socio-economic background, or disability status – have fair and equal access to our public schools. Since Hurricane Katrina, all of the city’s open enrollment schools – both charter and traditional – have been required to provide free bus transportation to children in pre-K through sixth grade, no matter where they live in the city. Moreover, the Orleans Parish School Board renewed Einstein’s charter last year on the condition that school provide transportation to its students.

In 2012, district officials launched OneApp to simplify the enrollment process by allowing parents to fill out only one application in which they rank schools in order of preference. These preferences are then fed into an algorithm developed by a Nobel Prize-winning economist, which in turn, assigns students to schools. OneApp ensures that schools cannot engage in so-called “creaming” or turn away students with disabilities. All schools are required to participate in OneApp and all are prohibited from enrolling students outside of the system.

Nevertheless, Einstein’s leaders have responded to the school board’s warnings with outright defiance. As a result, the district is now seeking a court order to force Einstein to comply with the busing requirement. According to The Lens, a local non-profit news outlet, Einstein CEO Shawn Toranto responded to the OneApp non-compliance notice with a letter stating they had “simply accepted children whose parents had chosen one of its schools — a hallmark of the charter movement.” She has also taken to the pages of the New Orleans Advocate in an unconvincing attempt to deflect criticism of the school, as if the rules should not apply to them.

Finally, I want to make something very clear: I am outspoken supporter of charter schools. As a former charter school board member and teacher, I have seen the impact that high-quality charters can have on the lives of children. At the same time, I also firmly believe that charter schools are only successful when they adhere to clear operational and academic standards. Given their blatant disregard for the terms of their charter contracts in New Orleans (and the possibility that they could lose their charter if they continue to defy the district), I would once again urge you to reconsider Einstein’s expansion to Little Rock.

If you would like to read more about Einstein’s charter violations:

Otherwise, thank you for your time and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Peter C. Cook
New Orleans, LA

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Peter C. Cook
Peter C. Cook @petercook
New Orleans, Louisiana peterccook.com
Unapologetic Education Reformer • New Orleanian • Progressive • Democrat • Proud TFA alum • Check out my new side project: @retortonline
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