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Einstein charter to get laurels, but numbers bear a closer look

In front of City Hall on Friday, City Council members and possibly Mayor Mitch Landrieu are scheduled to congratulate Einstein Charter School leaders for turning an F school to a B school in a single year, something that has never been done.

But that apparent achievement doesn’t tell the whole story.

Einstein did earn a B letter grade from the state in the latest report card — but that score counted information from an existing, high-performing campus as well as the addition of a struggling campus it took over last year. Scores from both schools were combined, meaning the struggling campus likely benefitted from being absorbed into the successful original site.

The school, through its public-relations consultant, sent out a news release Wednesday saying it was the first school in Louisiana to turn around a failing school to a letter grade of B after one year of operation. That’s a designation they say Orleans Parish Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Padian informed them of; The Lens has asked the state Department of Education to confirm but haven’t heard back.

What the news release doesn’t make clear is that the academic achievement of the takeover school — the failing Intercultural Charter School — was lumped together with the original school that had 473 students and earned a B the year before.

Of the 375 students enrolled at Intercultural when it closed, approximately 263 continued on with Einstein, according to the school. It stands to reason that the fewer students from a failing school who remained at Einstein, the less likely the combined grade would drop. Nonetheless, the combined schools scored a 91.5 this year; the previous year, Intercultural was a 63 and Einstein was 95.4.

In the fall of 2012, Einstein Charter School was a high-performing Orleans Parish School Board charter school when Recovery School District officials approached its leaders about taking over the nearby failing Intercultural Charter School.

Einstein applied for and received a $1 million federal grant to facilitate the takeover and turnaround of Intercultural in eastern New Orleans. The school closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year as an F school, and it reopened in the fall of 2013 under Einstein’s leadership.

Even though Einstein Charter School and Einstein Charter School Extension, both serving kindergarten through eighth grade, are on different campuses, they share the same site code, the official designation of a single “school” as defined by the state. That means the two campuses are graded by the state as a single entity.

It’s not uncommon for schools with separate campuses to share site codes and letter grades.

The headline on this story originally said the numbers are “deceptive”; it has been changed to avoid the implication that any deception was intended. (Dec. 10, 2014)

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About Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    In front of City Hall on Friday (Dec. 12), Einstein Charter will receive accolades for turning around the failing Intercultural Charter School (ICS = “F”) into a B school in one year. No other school in the state of Louisiana can make such a claim. This is truly an amazing feat (Cowen Institute take note), as well as the Michoud “community,” and the MQVN – CDC (“church”) of what can be done when a high-quality CEO like Shawn Toranto and her staff take over a failing campus. Well, it just gives me the shivers! Why couldn’t the ICS (nonprofit Intercultural Board) do what the Einstein Board did in one year!? The Michoud “community” (VAYLA-NO, VIET, Stand for Children, Village de l’Est Neighborhood Assocation, et al.) should heed this miraculous turnaround executed by Einstein, and in return, throw its full support behind Einstein to run Reed High School. Is Brylinski the public relations consultant? Please tell me that LaToya Cantrell will NOT be trying to gather information from the immigrants attending the ceremony on Friday to garner support for her Municipal ID initiative. Let us remind LaToya that the homeless remain anti-ID, on that final note, I will say that “Pride, She comerh before the fall.” Excellent article, Marta! 12/10/2014 6:11 PM

  • nickelndime

    Okay, if something gets deleted, I would like to see something like, “comment deleted,” or something to that effect. Otherwise, I will think that I am posting on the TP site. Does somebody have something going with Brylinski? Thanks! 12/11/2014 6:22 PM

  • nickelndime

    Brylski’s PR company, in conjunction with the Eastbank Collaborative of Charter Schools, co-jointly issued a statement that Einstein Charter “turned” the “F” (failing) ICS (Intercultural Charter School), a takeover school, into a “B” school in one year, AND Einstein is the first school in Louisiana history to accomplish this amazing feat. Stacy Head believed it because she issued a statement to that effect. Brylski is being sued because of these kinds of press releases, albeit in another area (construction). 33% of Einstein’s enrollment is ELL (English Language Learners) which means that probably 33% (that’s big) of its students have 504 Accommodation Plans which means they get “special” treatment when it comes time for State testing. Other charter schools, including RSD charters with high percentages of ELL students can make amazing jumps in test and SPS (school performance scores), and the 504 Accommodations are easy to justify if anybody comes “sniffing” around. 12/14/2014 2:46 PM

  • nickelndime

    Maybe “misleading” or “overstated” would have been better words, but I can think of a couple of other words that would have shown that “whatever” Brylski and the Eastbank Charter Collaborative released was “intentional.” 12/15/2014 1:50 PM