Selected readings on US charter schools
Einstein Charter School in eastern New Orleans has won $1 million and will take over the struggling Intercultural Charter this summer, marking the first time that a school under the control of the Orleans Parish School Board will assume leadership of a Recovery School District campus.
Tuesday’s announcement had been expected for some time. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted in December not to reauthorize Intercultural’s charter. Then last month, the OPSB approved Einstein’s request to extend its enrollment. Once the takeover is complete, the Intercultural campus, also located in eastern New Orleans, will be renamed Einstein Extension.
The funding comes from a federal Investing in Innovation (I3) grant administered jointly by New Schools for New Orleans and the Recovery School District. Einstein is the first Orleans Parish school to receive funds from the I3 program.
Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard said the agreement between the two districts is a milestone.
“This is our first successful work on portfolio-managing together [with OPSB],” he said. “And we plan to continue doing that.”
The two districts have often been at odds. The OPSB has a lawsuit objecting to the RSD’s control of most of the parish’s school buildings. And tension surfaced recently when the RSD announced that Encore, an Orleans Parish charter, must leave the RSD-controlled building it’s sharing in Central City after the 2013-14 academic year.
Thirteen high-performing RSD charters were eligible to return to OPSB control this year — but not one opted to do so.
However, cooperation has progressed. The districts have worked together on the city’s school building master plan, and last year the OPSB pushed its schools to join OneApp, the unified school application process spearheaded by the RSD.
Going forward, Orleans Parish schools that want to increase their enrollment could certainly take over struggling Recovery District schools, Dobard said.
“Parents don’t send their kids to government structures. They send them to schools,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Finding the right charter operator to take over Intercultural was critical because of its unusually high population of English language learners — a population that’s echoed at Einstein, where over a quarter of the students are in ESL, according to data that principal Shawn Toranto provided.
In the 2011-12 academic year, Intercultural’s school performance score was 72.7 out of 200 – or an F. Einstein earned a C, with 102.1 points. Both had 92 percent of their students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a measure of poverty.
The addition could almost double the organization’s enrollment: Einstein had 487 students as of Feb. 5, and Intercultural had 385 students as of Oct. 1, 2012. The RSD is guaranteeing that all Intercultural students can stay where they are.
“We’re hoping that all of them enroll. We want them there,” Toranto said.
Einstein Extension will remain a K-8 school. Toranto will oversee both campuses with a separate principal and assistant principal at the Extension campus.
“We’re basically going to duplicate the program we have here,” she said, which creates educational plans for each student based on data from standardized tests, math and reading computer programs that measure progress, report cards and the like.
The Intercultural staff has been invited to apply for jobs in the fall.
“We definitely are going to be successful there,” Toranto said. “We’re extremely vested in this community.”
Nine New Orleans schools have already received I3 funds: KIPP Believe Primary in Gentilly, Harriet Tubman in Algiers, Joseph Clark and Joseph Craig in the Treme, Cohen College Prep in Central City, John McDonogh in Esplanade Ridge, McDonogh 42 in the 7th Ward, Crescent City Leadership Academy in eastern New Orleans and two new schools to be started at the Carver high school site in the Desire neighborhood.
Source: The Times-Picayunne – Danielle Dreilinger