Down in New Orleans, which corporate reformers treat as a model for the nation, there’s trouble.
One of the charter groups, called the Algiers Charter Schools Association, is in hot water with parents. Algiers has eight charters, enrolling over 5,000 students. It recently lost its CEO and hired an interim chief academic officer, Aamir Raza, from New York City to implement changes. Raza is a management consultant (not an educator, needless to say) who had worked for the New York City Department of Education charter office.
Algiers has this problem: Some of its charters are high-flying (a 93-97% pass rate on the state tests) and some do very poorly (a 7% pass rate on the same test). Critics in New Orleans attribute the disparity to a conscious policy by the Algiers leadership to use certain schools as “dumping grounds” for low-performing students so the others look like miracle schools.
Raza, who is on a 90-day contract at $16,000 a month, decided to shake things up. He fired the central office staff and announced his intention to move the principals from the high-performing schools to the low-performing schools. This caused a ruckus.
Parents were furious. They held meetings to express their rage; they did not want to lose their principal, and they were outraged by the lack of transparency of Raza’s decisions.
When the Algiers association held its board meeting, the parents turned out by the hundreds to express their anger. The president of the Algiers Neighborhood Presidents’ Council said, “”I am unfortunately going to advise you that in the opinion of all 16 neighborhood presidents, Mr. Raza exhibited the utmost lack of respect, extreme arrogance and uncompromising demeanor.” Of course, Raza was doing only what he saw school leaders in New York City do for the past ten years, that is, whatever they wanted.
But this time, for once, maybe for the first time ever in charter school history, the voices of the parents were heard. The board backed down. The board put a hold on Raza’s proposal.
Perhaps the most outrageous idea from Raza never got past the memo phase.
A leaked memo from Raza’s office revealed details of a plan to shame the administrators and teachers at one of the lowest performing schools. The head of the Algiers association told a reporter from the New Orleans Times-Picayune that this idea would not be implemented.
But here it is:
“The document, with a heading from Raza’s firm, the Raza Consulting Group, includes a list of suggested motivational methods, including “Order Eisenhower Charter School shirts for all teachers and administrators with Eisenhower Charter School on the back and Grade D on the front.”
“It is recommended that the principal wear the Grade D shirt every day as a reminder to the school staff after enrollment drive is over,” the document continues. “Declare Friday as dress down day only for those teachers and administrators who will wear the D grade shirt.”
Referring to the state-issued school performance scores based largely on standardized test scores, the Raza report also calls to, “Display the school’s current letter grade (as determined by SPS scores) in teacher lounge and all other areas of the school once the enrollment drive is over.”
And it says, “Place the Grade D in large font on top of each internal communication and memos to the school staff.”
Really, you can’t make this stuff up.
This confirms my belief that the corporate reform agenda is not 21st century thinking. It is actually 19th century thinking, taking us back to the days when children were told to wear a dunce cap and sit in the corner. Only now it is the teachers who will wear the dunce cap and a big letter D.
I wonder if Raza, whose group consults for business, has made similar proposals to major corporations to motivate their employees? Can you imagine a corporate headquarters where every employee is required to wear a D on his or her suit?