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New basis for school rankings detailed; enrollment slide prompts staff cuts

Chief executive officer Ben Kleban began the Sept. 11 meeting of the board of New Orleans College Prep Academies with a detailed explanation of the new system by which Louisiana schools will be evaluated and ranked.

Under the new system, English language and math classes in grades three through eight will be double-weighted. A quarter of the high school’s rating will be based on end-of-course exams, a quarter on ACT scores, a quarter on graduation rate, and a quarter on graduation index, a variable that factors the type of diploma achieved in combination with other factors.

Kleban said that though numbered scores will change, the state says the new system will not change the letter grades of most schools.

Kleban said that under the new system teacher performance will also be evaluated  according to specific criteria but those criteria specific teacher goals are not being disclosed.

Clarification: Kleban explained the general criteria for evaluations, but he said that teachers wouldn’t know their individual goals.

“So, it’s blind?” board member Ruth Kullman asked.

“Totally blind.” Kleban said.

Board Treasurer Peter Harding asked how long the new system would last.

“Until they change the system again,” replied Kleban, inspiring a burst of laughter.

In other business, Kleban presented a new CEO evaluation policy for the board’s consideration. Under the new policy, half of Kleban’s bonus would be tied to taking the school from a D to a C rating under the new state system.

NOCP has applied to run an additional charter school. The application states that the board is interested in taking over operation of any charter or direct-run school in New Orleans.  At previous meetings, members have discussed the possibility of evolving into a broader charter management organization, with several schools in its portfolio.

Clarification: NOCP currently runs two schools and already describes itself as a charter management organization. 

Harding reviewed a new draft of the 2012-13 budget, one adjusted to reflect a current enrollment of 886, down from an earlier projection of 960, but higher last year’s official count of 817 students.  The school lost enrollment in some of the lower grade levels, and has eliminated some staffing positions to accommodate for the reduction in revenues allocated on a per-student basis.

Clarification: Overall enrollment at the NOCP’s campuses is higher than last year.

The budget also calls for $300,000 in private fundraising, a goal that Kleban said was consistent with the best practices at comparably sized schools. He noted that NOCP had consistently raised more than that in the past.

Kleban said charters were poaching each others’ students in certain grades. Fifth graders who have passed the fourth-grade LEAP test are in demand, he said. He said that he would work to see a plan implemented that would limit charter enrollments.

Clarification: Kleban didn’t specifically tie competition for students to passage of the LEAP test; however, students generally can’t fully advance to fifth grade without passing the fourth-grade LEAP test. 

“Approaching 100 percent charter [in New Orleans], there has to be more coordination in that,” he said.

Present at the meeting were chairman Kenneth Polite, treasurer Peter Harding, secretary Ruth Kullman and members Jim Raby, Monica Edwards, and Kleban.  Murray Pitts was absent.


The one-hour meeting ended at 6:34 p.m.

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