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Strong showing in English and social studies countered by failing scores in science and math

Update: The story has been updated to reflect the fact that officials at New Orleans College Preparatory Academy forwarded us the documents we requested regarding the CEO’s evaluation process. 

The February meeting of the Board at New Orleans College Preparatory Academies began with a lengthy discussion of academic goals.  Director and chief executive officer Ben Kleban referred to detailed graphs and Excel documents with which he keeps the board apprised of school progress on a monthly basis.

Board member Ruth Kullman asked if the board could take a closer look at the fourth- and eighth-grade scores, noting that these grades are double-weighted when factored into School Performance Scores.  Students in these grades also need to pass the LEAP exam to advance to the next grade.

“It’s high stakes,” Kleban said.  Middle-school students tested  above target in social studies (98 out of 83), and far below in science (33 out of 62) and math (36 out of 73).

The tests were conducted by The Achievement Network, and the numbers are meant to approximate the state’s School Performance Score metrics. The school had designed its own test earlier this year for an interim assessment of middle-school math, which Kleban had identified as a problem area.  Unfortunately, that test resulted in a “false positive.”

The high school received a very positive 124 in English language arts, which Kleban attributed to stepped up tutoring.

NOCP’s charter was renewed earlier this year, giving the school breathing room to bring the school’s performance score to the minimum acceptable level. “The reality is we’ve got three years to do that…” Kleban said, “It’s going to be tough to get there this year.”

Shawn Datchuk, director of academic performance, outlined plans to improve middle-school scores.  It’s important to get an early assessment of student performance so that the scoring reports are not “autopsies” received too late to make improvements, he said.

Kleban offered a motion to amend the grade levels covered in the board’s charters.  Currently, NOCP’s elementary school at Sylvanie Williams includes grades K-8, while its high school is 9-12.  Under the proposed amendment, the elementary school would be K-5, and NOCP’s Cohen charter 6-12.

Because middle-school students (grades six through eight) will use a separate floor of the Cohen building shared with the high school, the change would simplify logistics, particularly in dealing with the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“It’s a net positive across all areas,” Kristen Lozada, the school’s chief operating officer, said.

The meeting moved into an executive session to discuss the evaluation process by which they’d measure Kleban at the end of the year, Kleban’s job performance then emerged to pass a motion regarding his salary and bonus. to approve the evaluation process. Copies of the motion were not provided to the public at the meeting  A reporter received a copy of the process and the meeting minutes Thursday evening, after being told to put in a written request. 

Members present at the board meeting in addition to Kullman included Kenneth Polite, Murray Pitts, Rick Conway, Jim Raby, and Monica Edwards. Chairman Hal Brown was absent.

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