Odds & Ends: Big Easy Goes All-Charter; Upgrading School Report Cards

It’s Friday, and it’s my blog. So if I want to cover two topics in a single post, well… I hope you like it. This story from Wednesday’s Washington Post was too significant to pass up. Lyndsey Layton reports that the last five traditional public schools in New Orleans close down this week, making the Recovery District the first all-charter district in the United States:

By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning.

Before the storm, the city’s high school graduation rate was 54.4 percent. In 2013, the rate for the Recovery School District was 77.6 percent. On average, 57 percent of students performed at grade level in math and reading in 2013, up from 23 percent in 2007, according to the state.

These numbers align with a 2011 CREDO study on the effectiveness of New Orleans charter schools. I’m talking about demonstrably stronger results among the city’s emerging charters at improving students’ math and reading abilities.

The article provides a balanced perspective, pointing out the challenges that accompany such a paradigm shift as well as unresolved concerns. The all-charter model (and remember, charter schools are public schools) offers no guarantee of success. But based on results thus far, it offers a lot of promise as parents have more power, and don’t have to mess with a tangled, unresponsive bureaucracy.

The other odd (?) (end?) comes from the Education Commission of the States, which this week released survey of state’s K-12 school report card systems. Researchers, parents, and experts all were consulted for their feedback on the quality of the information, as well as how hard/easy it is to find and understand.

Despite Colorado’s history with school report cards — and the Independence Institute as an early pioneer — our current reporting system needs improvement. To our credit, we are one of 19 states that include all five “essential indicators for school accountability.” But we’re still about where we were three years ago, with a SchoolView website that even many well-educated parents find somewhat cryptic.

Some of that void is filled by the private effort known as Colorado School Grades, but there’s work to be done there, too. You know, something that better brings together a meaningful school grading scale with something transparent and readily understood by the average parent.

So that’s it. You may find this a little odd, but now I’m at the end of the post, and of the week, for that matter. Monday should bring us back to something more coherent.