Mike Deshotels is an experienced Louisiana educator and currently a blogger about education in his state. His blog is called Louisiana Educator.
He read a blog by Andy Smarick on the Education Next website and found it superficial and inaccurate. Smarick has worked for various Republican administrations and conservative think tanks and once served on the board of a KIPP school. Smarick would like to see public education turned over to the private sector.
Deshotels says that Smarick is wrong to use the Recovery School District as a model. It is actually a failing district. The most amazing feature of the RSD is that so many people, like Smarick, believe the hype and spin about it.
He explains the facts about the RSD here:
“A blog by Andy Smarick in Education Next describing the Louisiana Recovery School District as a good model for the new Tennessee Achievement School District has to be a joke. Either that or Smarick is one of the most misinformed education commentators I have ever seen. I live in Louisiana and I have watched the operation of the Louisiana RSD, and I find that Smarick is totally wrong on almost every point he tries to make. I feel compelled to point out a few of his misstatements.
Smarick likens the current education reform movement to a big Play. He claims that the formation of the Louisiana Recovery School District was the “high point” in the play of education reform. If that’s the case then the play is going to be a flop!
Here are the facts: The RSD in New Orleans was allowed to take over a broad cross section of schools including schools that were performing just below the state average at the time. Many of the students captured by the RSD in the takeover were pretty good students with parents who supported them properly. Many others were minimally supported by their parents and community.
Out of the 70 or so schools formed by the RSD in New Orleans, only a few succeeded in recruiting the most motivated students. All the rest continued to be low performers. But the cheerleaders for the RSD, like Smarick, only talk about the few schools that have done slightly above average by using now well known selection and culling techniques. So using the state grading scale (which is seriously flawed but which was pushed by the reformers Smarick has praised) only 5 schools in the New Orleans RSD are now rated as “B”. There are no “A”s in the RSD. There are only three “C”’s and all the rest D or F. In fact 87% of the RSD New Orleans schools at last count were rated D or F, with the F’s predominating. But it gets worse.
Soon after taking over the bulk of New Orleans schools the Recovery District started taking over low performing schools in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and a couple of rural Parishes. Those have been run by the RSD for 5 years now. All of them are now rated F and on average are doing worse than before they were taken over. They are performing so poorly that the State has taken them over from their charter operators and no longer releases the letter grades for most of them, using the excuse that it would be premature to publish their letter grades because they are in the process of being reorganized. By the way, that’s also how the state covers up the poor performance of some of the New Orleans schools.
Smarick makes the assertion that the RSD is not really run by the state, but just answers to the state. He could not be further from the truth. In fact, except for the small handful of charters in New Orleans that were able to cream the best students, all of the other charters and direct run RSD schools are totally controlled by the state. The state has now built such a large bureaucracy to run the RSD in the Baton Rouge area, that it has taken over a whole school building to house their administrators. But that was no problem since the parents had withdrawn so many of the students that the RSD ended up with a vacant building that originally belonged to the local school board. Now the parents in Baton Rouge are running a petition to have the building returned to the East Baton Rouge school system which has experienced major growth through transfers back from the RSD.
It would be very sad if the Tennessee Achievement District were to follow the example of the Louisiana Recovery District. It is also sad that Smarick is allowed to publish his totally inaccurate analysis.