UNO Charter Network making moves to get every education major into classrooms

Published on April 1, 2011 at The Lens.

All education majors at the University of New Orleans would take on teaching roles in the four Capital One-UNO charter schools, under a new plan presented to the charters’ governing board.

The New Beginnings School Foundation oversees 1,640 students in four schools: P.A. Capdau Elementary, Gentilly Terrace Elementary, Medard Nelson Elementary, and Thurgood Marshall Early College High School.

As part of their restructuring toward a ‘professional development school’ model, the board members also voted unanimously on Saturday to transfer financial decision-making authority away from UNO to themselves. UNO will be solely responsible for the educational programs in the schools.

The hope is that this shift will improve school accountability and educational programs, said Vera Triplett, chief operating officer of the UNO Charter Network, a department within UNO’s College of Education.

“It got to be a bit convoluted figuring out who was accountable for what,” said Triplett. “UNO is a state entity, so…it got be a bureaucracy that K-12 systems are not used to dealing with. This decision is to take the focus off UNO to be able to deal with the educational side so they aren’t spending too much time on the operations.”

Professional-development schools are institutions that aim to improve both student and teacher achievement through close formal ties with the partner university. April Bedford, the interim dean of UNO’s College of Education, said the amount of UNO students will increase substantially from their current average of 15 in each school. The UNO students will not teach alone in classrooms, though they will have teaching responsibilities alongside a certified teacher.

“I want ours to be professional development schools on steroids,” board president Tim Ryan said. .

Citing examples of professional-development schools around the country, such as those at Howard University and University of Maryland, the board hopes this move will improve schools’ test scores, student learning, and better prepare teachers.

More than 125 university-charter partnerships nationwide have adopted such a model, resulting in more than 600 professional-development schools, according to the American Association for Teacher Education.

Andre Perry, the chief executive officer of the UNO Charter Network, said the charters’ internal assessments should focus more on indicators of college outcomes, such as SAT and ACT scores, rather than LEAP and GEE scores.

As part of the transformation, Shirley Monastra, a charter school consultant, recommended hiring a site coordinator to oversee all schools’ educational and operational functioning.

“You need a change agent,” Monastra told the board. “You need to steal somebody from one of these model networks around the country who wants to come to New Orleans and turn around the schools. Offer them big money. Make them a deal they can’t refuse.”

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