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New Orleans College Prep CEO predicts schools will have D grades despite some gain

New Orleans College Preparatory Academies CEO Ben Kleban said he expects the organization’s schools will show some improvement when the state releases its school performance scores this fall.

Kleban said Tuesday that based on student scores on LEAP and end-of-course tests, he believes Sylvanie Williams College Prep will have a school performance score of 67 and Cohen College Prep Middle and High will have a score of 60 combined.

If those preliminary estimates hold true when the state releases its official scores and school grads this fall, then Sylvanie Williams would remain a D and the Cohen schools combined would probably be a D.*

Because the Louisiana Department of Education has changed its scoring system for the 2012-13 school year, the scores this year will be calculated on a 150 point scale compared with the former 200 point scale.

Kleban said that when adjusted for the grading scale change he believes the 67 at Sylvanie Williams represents a slight increase over the 81.9 it earned in 2011-12. The last time Cohen was graded, it was called Walter L. Cohen High and was under different management. It had a score of 45.5.

Kleban said that his calculation does not take into account value-added factors, which could improve the organization’s score.

Kleban shared some of the numbers with board members during their June 4 meeting.

“All in all, it looks like we’re going to end up still short of that C goal, which is what we were shooting for. But we’re closer,” he said.

Board member Peter Harding wanted to know more. “What failed in terms of the way you were monitoring the system?” he asked.

Kleban said that benchmarks tracking student performance had proved more rigorous than the actual tests in past years. As a result, low scores on benchmark exams this year were not taken seriously enough. He said that the organization is now using tests designed by charter management organization Sci Academy, which he felt were closer to the actual tests.

Also during the meeting, human resources director Ryan Frailich updated the board on the school’s staff demographics. According to Kleban, NOCP schools expect to have 170 staff next year, 107 of whom are teachers and teacher assistants.

Currently, Frailich said, the average teacher at NOCP has 3.54 years of teaching experience, up from 2.06 years in the 2011-12.

Approximately 56 percent of the instructors have traditional teacher training. Ten percent are currently enrolled in alternative certification programs such as Teach for America or teachNOLA, and another 35 percent are alumni of such programs. Frailich also said the staff was approximately 30 percent African-American.

The organization expects to retain about 82 percent of its teachers in 2013-14.

Members questioned Frailich on the most common reasons teachers left the organization. He said that teachers commonly reported their that lives were taking them in other directions, while others said they were experiencing emotional exhaustion that was leading them to leave the teaching profession altogether.

NOCP was approved for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant it applied for in April. The grant will enable the organization to set up after school programs which Kleban said he hoped could be used to help students recover credits and support the school’s other academic goals.

The board met in executive session for about 45 minutes to, they said, consider Kleban’s professional competence. After the session, they voted to add a new item to the agenda, approving a new employment contract for Kleban. Under the contract, Kleban continue to lead the organization through June 30, 2015 at an annual salary of $143,000.

Also present at the meeting were chair Kenneth Polite, vice chair Monica Edwards, secretary Murray Pitts, Jim Raby, Stephen Boyard, Drew Goodwin, Griselda Jackson, Barbara MacPhee, Shaun Rafferty and director of development Geneva Longlois-Marney. Also present were a group of alumni from Booker T. Washington High School.

The meeting started at 5:36 p.m. and ended at 7:37 p.m.

* Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that Cohen College Prep Middle and High School could be an F in the fall, based on CEO Ben Kleban’s projections. Under a new scoring scale, the Cohen schools would actually be a D if Kleban’s calculation that the school would have a performance score of 60 proves to be accurate. Also, Ryan Frailich is NOCP’s human resources director. His name was misstated earlier. Finally, value-added factors that can influence a school’s score do not include attendance or fiscal standing. This story has been updated to reflect all these changes.

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