Archives for category: New Orleans

J. Celeste Lay, a professor of political science at Tulane University, reviewed the results of the Recovery School District—which replaced all public schools with privately-managed charter schools—and concluded that the story of “the Néw Orleans miracle” is a Big Lie.

She writes:

“The Louisiana Department of Education’s recent release of the results of the LEAP and iLEAP testing is incontrovertible evidence that the “grand experiment” of the charter system in New Orleans has failed. The New Orleans Recovery School District comes in at the 17th percentile in the state in its percentage of students at the basic level and above. The RSD has no A-rated schools and few B schools. By the state’s post-Katrina definition of a failing school, nine years into the experiment, nearly all of the schools in the RSD are “failing.” Communities around the state that are grappling with their own public education challenges should look at New Orleans’ charter schools experience with skepticism.”

Read her description of how the choice system sorts students.

And she adds:

“It doesn’t matter that with all this choice, most kids in New Orleans have no greater educational opportunities than before. The focus on choice as opposed to results also obscures the fact that certain groups have profited substantially in the post-Katrina system.”

Here is the latest from New Orleans, as locals try to tell “the other side of the story” from what you see in the national media. Dr. Raynard Sanders is an educator who is affiliated with Research on Reforms. Phoebe Ferguson is a co-founder of the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation for Education, Preservation, and Outreach.

“Dear Friends and Colleagues,

“For the past two years Phoebe Ferguson and I have been working on a documentary that tells the “real’ story about the education reforms forcefully implemented in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. The upcoming documentary will be a response to the well financed narrative that reformers$ have been cheerleading across the country for more than nine years claiming unprecedented academic gains in the historically failing schools New Orleans.

“With that we collaborated with The New Orleans Education Equity Roundtable and the Schott Foundation to produce a series of videos that focus on the major components of the corporate reforms in New Orleans.

“Today we are releasing our first video publicly, below is a URL that directs you to the video for viewing:

Here is the URL for the video: bit.ly/nolastrm

“As friends and colleagues I am asking you kindly share this video throughout your network, for those of you’ll who that have web sites and blogs I am asking you to post it on your site.

“We will be forwarding to you the upcoming videos in this series as they are completed…….. THANKS

Raynard Sanders, Ed.D.”

Civil rights activists lodged a federal complaint about abuses of the rights of African-American children in the Recovery School District. State Commissioner of Education John White referred to their complaint as a “farce” and a “joke.”

 

The complaint, written by Karran Harper Royal of the Coalition for Community Schools and Frank Buckley of Conscious Concerned Citizens Controlling Community Changes, said the state’s policy of closing and chartering conventional schools is racially discriminatory. It said the decisions put black children disproportionately in low-performing schools, while the higher-scoring schools have admission policies designed to favor white children. Similar complaints were filed the same day against Newark, N.J., and Chicago schools.

 

The state Recovery School District took over about 80 percent of New Orleans’ public schools after Hurricane Katrina. After a last wave of closures, it is now an all-charter system. The complaint asks the government to freeze charter renewals and sought to stop the final closures, of Benjamin Banneker, A.P. Tureaud, George Washington Carver, Walter L. Cohen and Sarah T. Reed.

 

Royal and Buckley called for White’s resignation:

 

 

June 4, 2014

 

John White
State Superintendent of Education Louisiana Department of Education 1201 North Third Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

 

Dear Superintendent White:

 

On May 15, the Times-Picayune reported that you referred to a civil rights complaint filed by New Orleans community groups as a “joke” and “political farce.” As Superintendent, you should take seriously and investigate any charge of discrimination that harms students of color in Louisiana. Your comments are reprehensible and prove you are not fit to be Louisiana State Superintendent of Education. Therefore, we demand your immediate resignation.

 

The discriminatory effects of school closures that students of color and their families experience in New Orleans are no laughing matter. We find no humor in our school communities being dissolved, no amusement in being forced to send our children to charter schools that are unaccountable to our families, and no comedy in schoolchildren waiting outside before sunrise for school buses to take them across the city because we have no neighborhood schools left. It is with utmost seriousness that we have called for a civil rights investigation of the harmful school closure policies that have shuffled countless black and brown children from failing schools to other failing or near-failing schools, year after year.

 

Under your department, the Recovery School District has suffered the following harms:

  •  More than 30 traditional public schools have closed in the last several years.
  •  Last week, the district’s five remaining public schools closed, making it the nation’s first all-charter school district.
  •  Of the students impacted by this latest round of school closures, approximately 1,000 are black. Only five are white.
  •  Many students, mostly children of color, have experienced multiple school closures.
  •  The majority of Recovery School District schools are ranked “C,” “D,” or “F.”

    Communities of color are forced to bear the burdens of these damaging policies, with no neighborhood schools in New Orleans that serve majority black neighborhoods. When schools close, students lose crucial community relationships, have their educations painfully interrupted

and are often pushed into failing or near-failing schools. As a result of selective admissions practices, these black and brown students are often not admitted to “A” and “B” schools. African-American students are over 80 percent of the student population in New Orleans, but only around 30 to 47 percent of the population at most of the high-performing schools.

 

Closing schools often forces students to travel further for their education. In February, a six-year- old boy was killed crossing the street early one morning to catch the school bus. In 2010, a female student was raped as she walked home from school. Many students in New Orleans East have to catch the bus as early as 5:30am to travel to their schools.

 

The New Orleans community has been very vocal about these harms. Last year, a mother filed a civil rights complaint documenting them. Your department did not investigate her claims. Despite repeated protests and complaints about school closures and pro-charter policies, you have dismissed these concerns – and along with it the lived experiences of countless families. That you would now refer to this current civil rights complaint as “a joke” further shows your disregard for the discrimination experienced by students of color and their parents. We have had enough of your misguided, paternalistic policies and request your immediate resignation.

 

Your real allegiance is to the pro-charter, pro-privatization agenda. It has become clear that you will lie, bribe, and turn a blind eye to discrimination to benefit this agenda. In 2011, you told the parents and students of John McDonogh Sr. High School that they would have to convert from a direct-run school to a charter school in order to receive $35 million in much-needed renovations. After they agreed, you failed to provide these funds.

 

The May 13th civil rights complaint was filed by New Orleans community members – people who have advocated for students for decades – in collaboration with Journey for Justice, an alliance of grassroots organizations advocating for neighborhood public schools across the country. New Orleans partners include Coalition for Community Schools (CCS) and Conscious Concerned Citizens Controlling Community Changes (C-6). To mischaracterize the complaint as being “dominated” by teachers unions, as you did according to media reports, is not only incorrect but another example of your dismissal of the voices of communities and families.

 

Your irresponsible comments make you unsuitable to be State Superintendent of Education. There is no place in the education of children for individuals like you, Mr. White. We respectfully request your immediate resignation and a moratorium on school closures.

 

Sincerely,

 

Frank J. Buckley, C-6 Karran Harper Royal, CCS

2

CC: Anurima Bhargava Chief

Educational Opportunities Section
U. S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division 601 D Street NW, Suite 4300
Washington, DC 20004

Catherine Lhamon
Assistant Secretary
Office for Civil Rights
U. S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue SW Washington, DC 20202

Charles Roemer
President
Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education 1201 North Third Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

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Many charters in Néw Orleans tape a line in their hallways and insist that students must walk on the correct side of the line.

Reporter Danielle Dreilinger of the Times-Picayune writes here about this controversial policy and includes a video created by the charters to explain the value of this practice.

“Critics say it prepares students for prison, not college. A civil rights complaint filed this spring accuses Collegiate of imposing unnecessarily harsh penalties for stepping outside the lines — even, in one case, when a student’s disability made walking difficult.”

Defenders of the policy say it saves time and teaches automatic obedience to small rules, which later translates into unquestioning obedience to rules and authority, preparing students to succeed in life.

Jeff Bryant demonstrates that “school reform” (aka privatization) has hit a rough patch. Despite the giant publicity machine of the well-funded “reformers,” their claims are falling apart.

Louisiana’s all-charter Recovery School District is in fact one of the lowest performing districts in the state. It is not a model for any other district.

Bryant writes:

“There’s no evidence anywhere that the NOLA model of school reform has “improved education.” First, any comparisons of academic achievement of current NOLA students to achievement levels before Katrina should be discredited because the student population has been so transformed.

“Second, despite reform efforts, the NOLA Recovery School District has many of the lowest performing schools in Louisiana, which is one of the lowest performing states on the National Assessment of Education Progress (aka, the Nation’s Report Card).
As Louisiana classroom teacher and blogger Mercedes Schneider reported from her site, RSD schools perform poorly on the state’s A–F grading system. “RSD has no A schools and very few B schools. In fact, almost the entire RSD – which was already approx 90 percent charters – qualifies as a district of ‘failing’ schools according to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s definition of ‘failing’ … Ironic how the predominately-charter RSD has the greatest concentration of such ‘failing’ schools in the entire state of Louisiana.”

In Néw Orleans, the “reformers” have achieved their goal–to eliminate public education–but their model doesn’t get good results. Even if the test scores were higher, it is a bad trade to abandon democracy for higher scores.

Newark, Néw Jersey, is the district that has openly aspired to copy the Néw Orleans model. Mark Zuckerberg dropped $100 million into Newark, with the expectation that it would become a national model. The best description of the draining of the Zuckerberg bequest is Dale Russakoff’s story in The Néw Yorker.

Somehow, a large proportion of Zuckerberg’s donation could its way into the pockets of consultants. The “national model” is nowhere to be seen.

The recent election of Ras Baraka as mayor signaled a loud NO to plans to turn Newark into another Néw Orleans. The people of Newark are not prepared to give up democracy or to allow Cory Booker, Chris Christie and Cami Anderson to rule their schools without checks or balances.

New Orleans will soon be the first urban district in the nation that is all-charter, the first district where public education has been completely extinguished.

Because so much money has been invested in the privatization of the schools in New Orleans, there is a media machine that cranks out favorable stories about it. The state board of education, the state department of education, and the Governor are determined to prove that privatization was successful.

But there is another side to the story. Read it here. Read about a district that has low rankings on state measures, a district that has depended on fluctuating state standards, a district that depends on Teach for America, where charter leaders are paid handsomely.

Raynard Sanders, a professional educator and critic of the Recovery School District, says that New Orleans is a great case study:

“It’s a system where many of the schools take in only the most desirable students and then “create an economic opportunity for the people who operate the school,” he said. And many have been hurt in the process of experimentation, Sanders said, “because the rights of students and the sanctity of public education have been trampled on and forgotten about….”

“In New Orleans, the privateers got everything they wanted and more, and still failed, Sanders said. “It is a great case study, and also one of the biggest scams done on public education – and parents and students — in the history of the country.”

One day, perhaps, the nationaledia might admit that they were taken in by the purveyors of the Néw Orleans story. Or maybe they will keep saying the same things again and again, without regard to facts.

Mike Deshotels, veteran educator, blows up the carefully manufactured tale of success by privatization. What a lesson for the nation: close down every public school; turn every school into a privately managed charter school; fire every experienced teacher and replace with a fresh college graduate with give weeks of training. Is this the formula for success in any other nation? No.

Deshotels writes that:

“The Louisiana Department of education has just released the results of the state accountability testing called LEAP and ILEAP. The report includes a percentile ranking of each of the public school systems in the state according to the performance of their students in math, and english language arts. The latest student testing results and these percentile rankings demonstrate the appalling academic performance of the Louisiana Recovery District (The RSD results are given near the bottom of the chart). After more than eight years of state takeover and conversion of public schools in Louisiana into privately run charter schools, even the most ardent promoters of this radical privatization experiment can no longer hide its spectacular failure.”

“The latest state testing results in this official LDOE report now ranks the New Orleans Recovery District at the 17th percentile among all Louisiana public school districts in student performance. By the state’s own calculations, this means that 83 percent of the state’s school districts provide their students a better opportunity for learning than do the schools in New Orleans that were taken over and converted into charter schools. Considering the fact that a special law was passed for New Orleans that allowed the state to take over, not just failing schools, but any school performing below the state average at that time, this 17th percentile ranking places the New Orleans takeover schools just about where they were before the takeover. But in addition, the schools taken over by the Recovery District in Baton Rouge and other areas are now ranked at the 2 percentile and 0 percentile levels respectively, after 6 years of state and charter school control. That means that these two portions of the Louisiana Recovery District are absolutely the poorest performers on the state accountability testing. In two of the schools run by the RSD, the academic results and the enrollments had deteriorated so much that the Recovery District has recently given them back to the local school school board systems. This latest move apparently violates the whole premise behind the RSD.”

Despite these facts, why does the media continue to praise this failed experiment?

Earlier, I posted about “the triumph of reform” in New Orleans, referring to an article in the Washington Post on the final conversion of that district to all-charter. One commenter said there are still six public schools in New Orleans, but even so the point of the article was that this is the first urban district in which all or almost all schools are privately managed.

Mercedes Schneider, writing at warp speed, says, “not so fast.”

Reformers used to speak about the New Orleans miracle.” Now they’ve dialed it back to “improvement.” But, Schneider says, even that is an exaggeration.

(Schneider has many links to document her statements. Please read her post to find the links.)

What about that so-called “improvement”:

“I would like to clarify a few of Layton’s glossy statements about RSD.

“Let us begin with this one:

The creation of the country’s first all-charter school system has improved education for many children in New Orleans.

“Layton offers no substantial basis for her opinion of “improvement” other than that the schools were “seized” by the state following Katrina.

“Certainly school performance scores do not support Layton’s idea of “improvement.” Even with the inflation of the 2013 school performance scores, RSD has no A schools and very few B schools. In fact, almost the entire RSD– which was already approx 90 percent charters– qualifies as a district of “failing” schools according to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s definition of “failing schools” as C, D, F schools and whose students are eligible for vouchers.

“The district grade for RSD “rose” to a C due to a deliberate score inflation documented here and here.

“The purpose of vouchers is to enable students to escape “failing” schools. Ironic how the predominately-charter RSD has the greatest concentration of such “failing” schools in the entire state of Louisiana.”

She writes:

“After eight years, RSD does not have a single A school. One can see the need to bury the “miracle” message.

“As to “corruption”– do not believe Kingsland’s misleading words that “corruption” did not happen in RSD following Katrina. Here’s just a brief example:

‘The relatively gargantuan salaries of many of the consultants who appeared to rule the new system was another factor in the public’s general unease. Functionaries of the accounting firm Alvarez & Marsal, for example, which will have taken more than $50 million out of its New Orleans public schools’ operation by year’s end, were earning in the multiple hundreds of thousands, billing at anywhere from $150 to more than $500 per hour. The firm’s contracts continued unchallenged, despite the fact that one of its chief assignments — the disposition of left-over NOPS real estate — was being handled without the services of a single architect, engineer, or construction expert. This omission cost the city a year of progress in determining how and where to rebuild broken schools, and endangered hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA money. It only came to light when the two Pauls [Pastorek and Vallas] were forced to hire yet more consultants for real estate duty, and to bring in the National Guard to oversee the engineering operations. … [Emphasis added.]‘

“Compare the above blatant robbery of school funding with Layton’s words about OPSB pre-Katrina:

“When Katrina struck in 2005, the public schools in New Orleans were considered among the worst in the country. Just before the storm, the elected Orleans Parish School District was bankrupt and couldn’t account for about $71 million in federal money.”

Schneider says the bottom line in New Orleans is: “Charter churn, churn, churn.”

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post describes the triumph of the reform movement in New Orleans: The last public school has closed for good.

A few observations.

All schools in New Orleans are now charter schools. .

It’s hard to compare achievement pre-and post-Katrina because so many students never returned after the hurricane. Test scores are up, graduation rates are up, but populations are different. “By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning.

“Before the storm, the city’s high school graduation rate was 54.4 percent. In 2013, the rate for the Recovery School District was 77.6 percent. On average, 57 percent of students performed at grade level in math and reading in 2013, up from 23 percent in 2007, according to the state.”

There are no more neighborhood schools.

Almost all the teachers were fired. Almost all the fired teachers were African American. They were replaced mostly by white Teach for America recruits. The fired teachers won a lawsuit for wrongful termination and are owed $1 billion.

The central bureaucracy has been swept away.

“The city is spending about $2 billion — much of it federal hurricane recovery money — to refurbish and build schools across the city, which are then leased to charter operators at no cost.”

A curious fact: “White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery.”

Observation by State Superintendent John White: “The city’s conversion to charters promises the best outcome for the most students, White said. “These kinds of interventions are never easy things,” he said. “When you look at overall outcomes, they’ve been positive. Does it have collateral negative effects? Of course. But does it work generally for the better? Yes.”

Formula for success: close public schools. Open charter schools. Fire veteran teachers. Replace them with TFA. Spend billions to refurbish buildings. This is the same formula that is being imported to urban districts across the nation. Is it sustainable? Did it really “work” or is this a manufactured success, bolstered by billions from the Waltons and other philanthropists who favor privatization?

Grassroots community groups in Néw Orleans, Newark, and Chicago filed complaints of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. They seek an investigation of racially discriminatory school closings in their communities.

They wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Arne Duncan:

“Journey for Justice is a coalition of grassroots organizations in twenty-two cities across the country. The coalition has come together because, across our communities, education “reformers” and privatizers are targeting neighborhood schools filled with children of color, and leaving behind devastation. By stealth, seizure, and sabotage, these corporate profiteers are closing and privatizing our schools, keeping public education for children of color, not only separate, not only unequal, but increasingly not public at all.

“Adding insult to injury, the perpetrators of this injustice have cloaked themselves in the language of the Civil Rights Movement. But too many of the charter and privately-managed schools that have multiplied as replacements for our beloved neighborhood schools are test prep mills that promote prison-like environments, and seem to be geared at keeping young people of color controlled, undereducated, and dehumanized. Children of color are not collateral damage. Our communities are not collateral damage.

“Thus, we stand in solidarity, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization in Chicago, Coalition for Community Schools and Conscious Concerned Citizens Controlling Community Changes in New Orleans, New Jersey’s Parents Unified for Local School Education in Newark, and Journey for Justice member organizations across the country, to shed light on the racial injustice of school closings.

“Neighborhood schools are the hearts of our communities, and the harm caused by just one school closure is deep and devastating. This is death by a thousand cuts.”

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these community groups are appealing for justice even as the nation commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision striking down legal segregation.

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these complaints are filed to the administration of the nation’s first black president.

There is deep irony and sadness in the fact that these complaints are directed at the policies not of racist governors but of the Obama administration itself.

Secretary Duncan has encouraged and funded the school closings that are at the heart of the complaints. He has applauded and funded the privatization of schools in black communities. He openly admires the “no excuses” charter schools that emphasize control over education and that teach strict conformity to arbitrary rules, not the habits of mind and dispositions of a free people.

In effect, the Obama administration is being asked to overrule its own education policies. How sad. How ironic.

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