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NET school reviews new policy for alternative schools

At a meeting Tuesday night, the board of The NET Charter High School reviewed a draft of an alternative-school performance framework proposed by the Recovery School District.

All schools in the district are assessed using a School Performance Score  and Letter Grade, but NET Charter and New Orleans’ two other alternative high schools want an additional framework to account for differences in their student populations.  All three schools received an “F” letter grade for their performance the past school year.

Alternative schools offer a more flexible program of study than other elementary or high schools, often because the students attending them have a special set of circumstances or needs preventing them from attending conventional schools.

Principal Elizabeth Osterberg said families were confused after they received a letter in August from the Recovery School District notifying them of the school’s failing grade.

After discussing the issue with ReNEW Accelerated, Crescent Leadership Academy and NET Charter High School, the RSD shared a bulletin with the objective “to develop a simple and fair proposal for an alternative school renewal/extension framework that provides information in addition to the current accountability system.”

The proposed framework uses different standards and outcomes to supplement the SPS and Letter Grade the schools receive.  It includes standards for end-of-course performance, credit recovery, drop-out rate and post-secondary outcomes.  Numerical targets for each standard have not been proposed yet.

“Ideally, this would serve as a counterweight to the F grade we are going to get on the standard school measure,” said Dr. Michelle Brown, board member.

The board was pleased that a framework is being cooperatively developed, but expressed concerns about details of the drafted proposal.

“All of these [standards] except EOC [end-of-course] are open to interpretation as to how you would track them,” Osterberg said.

The post-secondary outcomes standard was debated because it measures percentages of students entering college but does not account for employment or college drop-out rates.  It also remained unclear how it would be measured, Osterberg said.

Board member Marshall Fitz wanted any proposal to include indicators for employment. “It would be absolutely insane to think that our goal would be to get all our kids to go to college.  I mean, some kids, yes…but we want people working out here,” Fitz said.

There also were concerns about academic measurements and how the framework would meet the needs of all three alternative schools.

“One challenge that we’ve had is they want to create one alternative-school framework, but each alternative school is very different,” Brown said.  She noted it will be important for the framework “to balance the very different needs of the different schools.”

“Value-added growth would have been a really nice measure to have since our kids come in very far behind and they make a lot of progress in such a short period of time… but we wouldn’t be able to use to that,” Brown said.  Value-added growth cannot be measured validly because there are no quality standardized pretests available, Brown said.  Also there’s no outside accountability to monitor such tests, Osterberg said.

“I think the positive thing that came out of our meeting is that [RSD] plans to have something approved by BESE,” the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Kristina Kent, board president.

The RSD’s timeline is to meet with charter school leaders again next month before developing a final framework by December.  The framework would be proposed to BESE in January for approval, according to the bulletin.  ReNEW Accelerated High School is in its third year and would depend on a new framework to determine renewal of its charter this year.  NET Charter High School is its in second year.

“This is a lot further than we were a year ago.  I’m really happy with this progress,” said Will Kulick, board treasurer.

The school also is developing a request due to the RSD by Oct. 11.  Osterberg would like to use funds to expand the school’s special education services.  Currently, 14 percent of students are diagnosed with special needs, but Osterberg suspects more students qualify.  Osterberg would like to increase staff’s ability to evaluate students and service their needs.

The school is designing a memorial garden for the back of the property.  It will be dedicated Nov. 1 on All Saints’ Day to two students died over the summer due to violence, including Leonard George, who was murdered at his home Sept. 11.


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