Archives for category: New Orleans

Andrea Gabor, experienced journalist and scholar, pulls apart the myth of the Néw Orleans “miracle.” What is remarkable is that her article appears in the New York Times, which has never investigated the exaggerated claims made by corporate reformers on behalf of eliminating public education.

The number of students in the schools of that city has dropped dramatically since Hurricane Katrina, making pre- and post- comparisons unreliable. Large numbers of students are not in school at all.

The “success” story is a myth but a very powerful one. Urban districts across the nation yearn to copy the New Orleans model: wipe out public schools; replace them with privately managed charters; fire all the teachers; hire inexperienced teachers and a few of the veterans; fund generously.

Gabor shows that other states and districts must inform themselves before proceeding.

This article is an outstanding and heart-breaking account of the harsh treatment meted out to the public school teachers of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It appears in Education Week.

About 7,000 veteran teachers were summarily fired. Most were African-American and most were women. They fought their firing in the courts because they did not receive due process, but a few months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal. Their legal battle was defeated, like them.

Many of their schools were physically destroyed. Most were turned into charter schools. Public schools that were once the heart of their communities, are gone. Now everything is choice, as though a goal of reform was to destabilize black communities.

Defenders of the wholesale privatization, like Leslie Hacobs, defend it on grounds that test scores are up. We all know that the data about this experiment are hotly contested. Since so many children never returned after the storm, it is hard to make fair comparisons.

Read this article and ask whether it was a good trade off: ruining the lives of thousands of dedicated teachers and uprooting historic communities as the price of a few more points on standardized tests?

This is a fascinating blog post. I urge you to read it. Milwaukee school board member Larry Miller went to New Orleans to learn more about the district that reformers applaud.

And he discovered this editorial in the New Orleans Tribune, which is the oldest African American newspaper in the city, dating back to the 19th century.

Here are some excerpts:


This thing appears to be a run-a-way train.

And we can’t stop it.

We have said all of this and more in the past several weeks and months. Yet, here we are again—devoting an entire issue to sharing the truth about the post-Katrina education reform that is hurting local students, marginalizing parents and disenfranchising voters and taxpayers and that will hurt us for generations to come.

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Surely, we could find other uses for our newsprint and ink.

Well, we do not ever want it to be said that The New Orleans Tribune sat in silence and said nothing while this travesty took place. That’s not what we do or who we are. You expect more from us. We demand more of ourselves. So we would find no joy in saying “we told you so.” We would rather say “so glad we stopped that from happening.” And we hope that every time we raise our voice, others will take heed and join us in a battle we know is righteous. As such, we will go on record now and every chance we get. We will call out the calamity for what it is. We cannot allow defeat to silence our voice. We will not concede—not with the future of our children at stake. The education of children, especially traditionally under-served African-American children, should be no one’s experiment—or meal ticket.

We’re doing it for the record. See, maybe in 20 years, one of the architects of this so-called reform will finally have a crisis of conscience and admit that they were wrong. Maybe it will be John White or Paul Pastorek. Maybe Leslie Jacobs will see the error of her ways. Maybe.

This is the devastating commentary:


FOR THE RECORD: THEY DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT US
The people, entities, organizations and institutions driving the education reform movement, especially here in New Orleans, don’t care whether our children receive a quality public education. Neither they nor their children attend or have attended public school in New Orleans. It is not about choice or change or charters. If it were really about choice for parents and children, why is a computer program matching students with schools? Sounds more like school chance and happenstance than school choice to us.

Still, they are happy to use that “choice” mantra so long as it means billions of dollars will continue to flow through their non-profit organizations and their new-fangled foundations. They will continue to use that mantra so long as it means contracts for consulting or school construction or Common Core-aligned text books and testing services for their big corporate buddies. They will continue to use that mantra so long as they can hand out cushy jobs to cronies and allies. And the cronies and allies are happy to go along as long as they are taken care of.
For the record, we are not against change or charters. We do not oppose education reform. There are successful models where traditional public schools co-exist with charters to offer students and their parents quality educational opportunities. In fact, the so-called reformers are right. Katrina was the biggest opportunity. It wiped the slate clean. It offered us the rare chance to get it right. We could have built first-rate facilities in neighborhoods across this city. We could have staffed them with top-notch education administrators, veteran teachers and new ones, too, trained and prepared to contribute to the field. We could have had real change. It’s just that what has happened in New Orleans in the 10 years since Katrina has not been about any of those things.

Instead, education reform, pseudo school choice, and the proliferation of charter schools have merely been one of the vehicles co-opted to perform an entirely different agenda—gain control of an entire city and every system that operates within its jurisdiction. Those who fled New Orleans decades ago on the heels of integration want the neighborhoods back. So they tore down public housing. They want seats of political power back; and they are gaining. The schools—or rather control of schools—are a major piece of that puzzle. This so-called reform is a spoke in a wheel that has been turning now for decades. Katrina was the catalyst that allowed these social engineers and profiteers to hasten their plans. If they have to pretend like they care about where our children learn to gain access to and control of money, land, facilities and dominance, it is a small price to pay. If their gain is on the backs of students, parents and taxpayers, so be it. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that there is money—big money—tied up in this reform movement. And if they can control that as well, all the better. Some of the biggest players in this game are about as concerned about the education of poor Black children in New Orleans as they are about a swarming fly.
Come on, let’s get real. The hypocrisy of it all is actually unsettling. One of the biggest national players in this reform folly is the Walton Foundation. The Walton Foundation has funneled nearly $180 million in grant money in three years (2011, 2012, and 2013) to national and local organizations in the name of education reform. In 2014, alone, the Walton Foundation directed more than $2.6 million to local groups, such as New Schools for New Orleans, the Louisiana affiliate of Stand for Children, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Orleans Public Education Network, 4.0 Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Now, it’s the Walton family’s money; and they are free to donate it as they please. But just for a second let’s consider that research clearly shows a correlation between family income and a child’s academic achievement and that the widening achievement gap is in great measure associated the widening wealth gap. Given those points, one would think that if the Waltons were so concerned with transforming educational outcomes for America’s children they would not have to be shamed into giving their own low-wage earning employees a pay raise. The wages earned by many Wal-Mart employees are so low that their workers often rely on food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, and state-funded healthcare programs.

FOR THE RECORD: MYTHS AND LIES OF THE TRANSFORMATION
Truth is that we would be okay with it all—with the foundations for education for this . . . and the new schools for that . . . if public education in New Orleans was actually improving.

But for the record: The myth that this new system of education is more accountable and successful than before is just that—a MYTH. Better still, it is a pack of lies. Don’t be fooled when the reform advocates tout the successes of schools like Lusher and Ben Franklin. First of all, these are not RSD campuses. They were not taken over by the state. These schools, though they have now been chartered, are OPSB schools. More importantly, they were the crown jewels, the top performers in local public education long before the storm. There was no transformation at these campuses. They have been the consistent successes. They were the schools parents and education advocates pointed to years ago and asked “hey, wait…why can’t you make all of our schools like them.”

So now that we have that straight, here’s the reality of the mythical miracle. Fifty-seven (57) RSD-New Orleans schools have school performance scores and letter grades for the 2013-2014 school year. And they don’t look so miraculous. There are six (6) Ts or schools in transition, meaning they have been assumed by a new charter operator and are being given a grace period before their academic performance is measured. We have written before about this perpetual state of transition that can exist as the RSD decides to kick out one charter operator for another over and again.

There are 20 Cs. The last time we checked Cs were nothing to write home about. They indicate a performance level that is acceptable—not exceptional. They represent mediocrity, which is one reason it is mind-boggling that as we understand it FirstLine Schools is in line to get more get more campuses, despite the poor showing of the schools already under its control (four Cs and one F).

There are combined 24 Ds and Fs. In other words 24 schools are academically inadequate. Twenty-four schools are failing to meet the state’s minimum academic standard.

Yes, there are a few Bs—seven (7) to be exact. Meanwhile, not a single charter school in the RSD-New Orleans has earned an A. And with the state’s fluctuating definition of a “failing” school, even a few of the Bs are suspect.
Recall that in 2005, the state legislator raised the minimum SPS score to 87.4 in order to takeover local schools. The minimum SPS has since been lowered to accommodate the reform’s failure. But based on the same standard used to take over more than 100 schools in New Orleans nearly 10 years ago, three (3) of the schools with B letter grades would actually be considered failing. Just so we are clear and for the record, three (3) RSD schools that have earned Bs in the current performance rankings would have been taken over by the state for those same SPS score 10 years ago.

Add this doleful thought:

More than 54 percent of the charter schools under RSD control are either failing or in transition. Another 35 percent are mediocre. If they were measured by the same standards used to take over the schools in Orleans Parish in 2005, the RSD would be forced to relinquish all but four campuses under its control. Again, just to be clear and for the record: if the RSD were judged by the same standards used to take control of schools in New Orleans 10 years ago, the RSD would be left with only four schools.

The fact that it actually continues to grow its power and control is what is miraculous.

Ah, but that is reform. What a joke…..This reform ain’t done a thing. And yes, that is for the record.

You will hear very different conclusions from those who are on the gravy train, getting some slice of the millions poured into New Orleans to create the miracle of privatization. They say what they are paid to say.

The New Orleans Tribune is not on the payroll.

Mike Klonsky reports that Kristin McQueary of the Chicago Tribune wishes that something like Hurricane Katrina would hit Chicago and wash away the school system and large parts of the city. That way, the city could start from scratch. Call it Katrina-envy.

He writes:

The Tribune is on a roll. Weeks after calling for a Mussolini-type dictator to run the school system, editorial board member McQueary now prays for a Katrina-like disaster, suggesting a catastrophe of that magnitude could change Chicago for the better without borrowing money or raising her taxes.
I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops. That’s what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak.
Yes, I know McQueary is making a stab at metaphor (or is she?) and probably doesn’t really want water damage in her condo. But her disgusting worse-the-better message of New Orleans envy, without a thought for the thousands of people, mostly African-American families,who died or were driven out of the city when the levees broke, comes through loud and clear.

For sure, Mike is reminded of Duncan’s observation that Katrina was the best thing ever to happen to New Orleans schools (if you don’t think about the people who died.)

Another writer, Adolph Reed, wrote about McQueary’s absurd column here.

Reed writes:

The greatest irony of her original stupid article and the backtracking unpology is that she can’t recognize that it’s precisely the sort of arrangements she enthusiastically touts as the utopian possibilities opened by the horrors of Katrina that created that disaster in the first place. She’s right; it was man-made, but, if she were a little less smugly shallow and ideological, she might have asked how it was man-made. It was the product of decades of the sorts of policies, pursued at every level from Orleans Parish to the White House and by corporate Democrats as well as Republicans, she rhapsodizes about—privatization, retrenchment, corporate welfare paid for by cutting vital public services and pasting the moves over with fairy tales about “efficiency” and “lean management” and “doing more with less” and hoping to avoid the day of reckoning.

So, I’ll give this much to McQueary; she’s right that Katrina has a lesson for us. It’s a lesson about what happens when you follow the sorts of destructive approaches to public policy that McQueary shills for.

We have often heard that Mark Twain said that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I checked with Wikipedia, and it turns out that this phrase has many fathers. For example, says Wikipedia:

Mark Twain popularized the saying in Chapters from My Autobiography, published in the North American Review in 1906. “Figures often beguile me,” he wrote, “particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'”

But there are other claimants to the phrase, as the article notes, including one who ranked false statements as “a fib, a lie, and statistics.” A variation on this phrase is: “simple liars, damned liars, and experts.”

And then we come to the “New Orleans Miracle.” According to recent research, test scores have improved dramatically since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina wiped out the public school district and replaced it with a district which is almost all-charter. Douglas Harris, director of the Research Alliance in New Orleans reported the results in the conservative journal Education Next, which promotes alternatives to public education. Bottom line, in his account: Wiping out the district, firing all the teachers, wiping out the union contract, hiring Teach for America to replace veteran teachers, has mostly good outcomes. Education Week reported Harris’s claim of dramatic progress.

But then there is Mercedes Schneider, who reports that the state released 2015 ACT scores for every district, and the New Orleans Recovery School District ranked 70th out of 73 districts in the state. Its ACT scores are virtually unchanged over the past three years. The RSD ACT scores of 16.6 are far below the state average of 19.4.

An average ACT score of 16.6 is low. Louisiana State University requires a composite score of 22. A composite of 20 qualifies for La’s tuition waiver to a 4-year institution; a composite of 17 qualifies for tuition waiver for 2-year technical college.

And here’s the latest study by Research on Reforms in New Orleans, comparing the Orleans Parish public schools to the reformers’ Recovery School District. “A study of three ninth grade cohorts, beginning with the 2006-07 year, shows that the percentage of OPSB 9th graders who graduate within four years is almost double that of RSD 9th graders, and the RSD’s dropout rate is nearly triple that of the OPSB.”

You may decide which statistics matter most to you. But whichever you choose, be sure to read Jennifer Berkshire’s account of what the reforms in New Orleans have produced. It is important context in which to place whatever data you think is most valuable.

Paul Thomas reviews the debate about The progress of Néw Orleans and concludes:

“So we are left with two truisms about education publications and education reform: (1) If “Education” is in the publication title, you better do your homework, and (2) if education reform is touted to achieve outcomes that seem too good to be true, then they likely aren’t true.”

Jennifer Berkshire recently spend ten days in New Orleans, where she attended a research conference about the changes in the schools since Hurricane Katrina, and met with a number of local African-American activists who are disenchanted with the reforms.

These are her reflections, on the gains and losses.

She doesn’t get into the convoluted debate about whether test scores went up. She thinks the data wars are hard to decipher because people are using different standards and benchmarks. In any event, if the scores did go up, there are other issues that may be even more important than test scores.

The parents and advocates she interviewed were all former enthusiasts for the charter revolution.

Part of the “reform” was the wholesale firing of some 7,000 teachers, most of whom were black, who formed the backbone of the city’s middle class. That hurt.

One parent complained that the all-choice system actually disempowered parents. If she complained, she risked being asked to leave the charter school. The schools have more autonomy, but parents have less power.

Berkshire says the charter sector is now consolidating, with chains taking over most of the stand-alone charters, and with the successful charters defined as those that produce the highest scores. Innovation is hard to find. What is common practice is long days, tough discipline, testing, and “no excuses.” One parent lamented that the charter sector thinks that parents and children are problems, not patrons of the schools.

Ignored in the celebratory accounts, she says, is the large number of young people who are not in school and the persistence of poverty and youth violence:

The challenge for architects and advocates of the reform effort here is that, expanded even slightly beyond these narrow metrics, the case that life is improving for the children of New Orleans gets much harder to make. Child poverty stands at 39%, a figure that’s unchanged since Katrina, even though the city is now home to tens of thousands fewer children. Inequality is the second highest in the country, on par with Zambia. And violent crime remains a persistent plague here.

“The measure of the work has to be about how it changes the life outcomes of our children,” says OPEN’s Deirdre Johnson Burel. “If my baby isn’t alive, it doesn’t matter what he got on his ACT. If he’s been divorced from his reality and has no idea who he is, what does it mean that he’s on a college campus, lost and confused?”

Then there are the huge number of young people in New Orleans between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school or working. The recent Measure of America study, conducted by the Social Science Research Council, found that the greater New Orleans/Metarie region is home to more than 26,000 so-called “opportunity youth. The youngest would have been just six when the overhaul of the school system began.

But even this number fails to convey the sheer number of young people here who have left the city’s schools, and are in one of the fast-expanding alternative programs, or are in work-training programs to prepare them for jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry. Added together, the number of students who’ve dropped out of the New Orleans’ schools begins to creep up uncomfortably close to the 43,000 students who are still in them.

Berkshire’s account should be read alongside the inevitable stories about the “New Orleans’ Miracle.” The question is: a “miracle” for whom?

It has been almost ten years since Hurricane Katrina, and the hype is waxing large. Advocates for privatization and free-market reforms are celebrating the great gains, but skeptics are unconvinced. New Orleans as a model suggests turning all (or almost all) public schools into privately managed charters; firing all the teachers; and banishing the union. Arne Duncan once memorably said that Hurrucane Katrina was the best thing ever to happen to the schools of Néw Orleans: no more public schools! A strange comment from the U.S. Secretary of Education.

The National Education Policy Center recently issued a review of the evidence about Néw Orleans, prepared by Professor Huriya Jabbar and Mark Gooden at the University of Texas.

What they found was contested ground. Advocates claimed dramatic gains. Critics attributed any gains to the large decline in students after the hurricane and changes in the state’s grading standards, as well as a huge influx of federal and philanthropic funds to support the market system.

The authors write:

“Moreover, groups of students, parents, and community members remain skeptical of the reform movement and have raised concerns that the new school system remains inequitable. For example, students and parents have raised concerns with some charter schools that have been unresponsive to students and too harsh in their disciplinary policies. After years of complaints lodged by parents about the treatment of students with special needs in the charter system, including physical and emotional abuse and “counseling out,” the parties settled a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, acknowledging these grievances and requiring independent monitoring and auditing of charter schools’ special education services. According to news reports, the decentralized, fragmented school system in New Orleans has also been particularly unprepared to serve the growing percentages of English Language Learners in the city.

“Further, within the choice system family income exerts a strong influence. A recent study found that low-income families make schooling decisions differently than affluent families. Low-income families are much more constrained in their choices because of practical considerations such as after-school care and distance, and therefore measured academic outcomes play a smaller role their decisions.”

Some locals complain that the reform leaders are mostly white and that the black community has no role in decisionmaking. In addition, the test score gains have been made mostly by white students.

The authors conclude:

“Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent reforms, there remain more questions than answers. Even if the reforms implemented under such a hyper-politicized arrangement show some clear gains in student achievement, as seems to be the case, it is important to attend to the serious equity concerns that remain in the system, and to examine other outcomes, beyond test scores. The preliminary evidence, from a combination of news reports and research studies, suggests that the New Orleans reforms disproportionately benefit more advantaged students, relative to the most at-risk and under-served students. In light of these concerns, there is a need for more research that systematically examines whether the reforms have truly altered the structure of opportunities for students who are low-income, of color, English Language Learners, or have disabilities. Given the additional resources and the unique New Orleans experience, there are also questions about how sustainable and replicable the New Orleans model is, even though many cities are adopting similar reforms.

“It is also important to ask how much local, democratic oversight the public is willing, or should be willing, to trade for somewhat higher test scores. In New Orleans, as well as in many other cities and states seeking to adopt a “recovery” or “portfolio” model, policymakers should ensure that the temporary turnaround measures do not permanently disenfranchise local actors.”

Mitchell Robinson, Associate Professor of Music Education at Michigan State University, has compiled a handy guide to the bold idea of “achievement school districts.”

 

There is the Recovery School District in New Orleans; the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan; the Achievement School District in Tennessee; and more on the way in other states.

 

The main thing you need to know about these experimental districts is that they promise rapid improvement in the state’s lowest performing schools, and all of them have failed.

 

Here are the key traits of Achievement School Districts:

 

School Funding

 

Individual ASD schools are often required to pay a “kickback” or “tax” to the state ASD authority for the “privilege” of being identified as a “low performing school”. In Nevada, “ASD schools receive the same state and local per-pupil resources that they would have received as part of their original home district. This includes local, state, and federal funding. As with other charter school sponsors, the ASD will receive a small administrative fee from each school it authorizes.” (bold added)
In other words, in spite of the probability that an ASD school has been chronically underfunded for years, perhaps decades, the state will now take its own cut from whatever local, state and federal funding the school may be receiving for administrative overhead, further decreasing the actual number of dollars that are going to classrooms, teachers and children.
Local Control

 

Local control, long recognized as a hallmark of public education, is a dinosaur in ASDs. In Detroit, the locally-elected school board still meets, but has essentially been stripped of all power and authority. The members of the elected school board refer to themselves as being “exiled,” and the newly elected state superintendent of schools has called on the governor and state legislators to return control of the Detroit Public Schools to the local school board, saying, “I believe we ought to have a Detroit school district for the Detroit community.” Instead, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a radical plan to split the city’s schools into two districts: one to educate children, and the other devoted to addressing the district’s debt problem.

 
Transparency

Even though it is often trumpeted as an integral aspect of effective school governance, very few ASDs follow their own propaganda when it comes to transparency in reporting. Detroit’s EAA is an especially notorious offender in this respect, making claims that do not stand even the faintest amounts of scrutiny. According to Wayne State professor of education Thomas Pedroni, the EAA’s “internal data directly contradicts their MEAP data. Even Scantron, the maker of the internal assessment, would not stand behind the EAA’s growth claims. And Veronica Conforme, the current EAA Chancellor, removed all the dishonest growth claims from their advertising and their website, and told me personally she doesn’t give them credence for the purpose the EAA used them for.” For more from Dr. Pedroni on the EAA’s specious relationship with transparency, see this, and this.

 
Punitive vs. Educative Methods

Many ASD charters include language regarding the possible consequences if schools do not meet “adequate yearly progress” goals, such as: “Operators of ASD schools that do not demonstrate meaningful improvement will be held accountable pursuant to policies set by the ASD.” Indeed, school closings have become a prominent tool in the school reform playbook:
Washington, D.C. closed 23 buildings in 2008. Officials are currently considering another 15 closures.
New York City closed more than 140 schools since 2002; leaders recently announced plans to shutter 17 more, beginning in 2013-14.
Chicago closed 40-plus buildings in the early 2000s. The district recently released a list of 129 schools to be considered for closure.
This approach follows guidelines first established in the No Child Left Behind legislation, which stipulate draconian changes for any school that fails to meet yearly progress within five years….

 

This thinking represents a sea change in terms of strategy with respect to schooling and education policy. Never in our nation’s history have we taken a punitive approach rather than an educative approach when schools or children have struggled with demonstrating expected levels of progress.

Gary Rubinstein watched a panel discussion on the reform movement’s three allegedly successful turnaround districts. He reports on the discussion here. The discussion was sponsored by the Fordham Institute, which is in the forefront of the privatization movement. This is an impressive debunking of “reformer” boasts. It is especially important because so many in the media take those false claims at face value, and several states say they intend to copy one of these failed models.

 

Rubinstein points out that none of these highly touted examples of “reform” success are successful. New Orleans is a swamp of conflicting data, but the bottom line is that it continues to be one of the lowest performing districts in one of the lowest performing states in the nation. The Tennessee “Achievement School District” is based on a bold and wholly unrealistic pledge by Chris Barbic that he could take the lowest performing schools in the state and lift them into the state’s highest 25% in only five years. That has not happened, and it may never happen. The third speaker is from Michigan’s woeful Education Achievement Authority, which has produced numerous scandals but not much academic progress for the students.

 

Rubinstein uses his keen mathematical intelligence to dissect each of the reformers’ claims. In the case of the Achievement School District, he points to the slippery use of data (a common trait among all the “reform” projects):

 

In a very revealing moment, Barbic explains that he’s the one who came up with the bottom 5% to top 25% in five years. He could have just said bottom 5% to bottom 10% and he wouldn’t be taking such heat now, but having such an ambitious goal had a positive side effect since “It created a momentum and an urgency that we needed to create to get this off the ground” and allowed them to recruit ‘partners’ and leaders and teachers. In other words, it was a lie, but it was a worthwhile one since it tricked people into giving us their money.

 

Barbic makes some bizarre claims about the success so far of the ASD like that the bottom 5% ‘priority schools’ are growing ‘four times faster than the rest of the state.’ To put this in context, the rest of the state of Tennessee has had flat math scores and declining reading scores. So if the state went up, on average, of .25%, then ‘four times’ that is just 1%.

 

Rubinstein notes:

 

Watching these three turnaround gurus quote misleading statistics, give vague abstract answers, and really offer nothing in terms of concrete ideas from what they’ve learned in trying (unsuccessfully) to turnaround their respective districts, made me think that rather than call these ASDs, it would be more accurate to call them BSDs.

 

 

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for Detroit, here come the stars of the corporate reform movement with advice to do more of what Detroit has been doing without success.

 

More than half the students are in charter schools, but Detroit doesn’t have enough, it seems. The lowest-performing schools were dumped into the woebegone “Education Achievement Authority,” under an emergency manager with dictatorial powers, but that didn’t go anywhere.

 

If Detroit can’t get its school problems solved, it won’t be for lack of quality advice from national education experts.

 

As city and state leaders seek to figure out how best to salvage Detroit Public Schools and improve performance across a complex network of school choices, top school reformers from around the country want a piece of the action, too.

 

Last week, Michael Petrilli, CEO of the D.C.-based Fordham Institute, and Eric Chan, a partner at the Charter School Growth Fund, were a few of the latest to drop in on Detroit. Excellent Schools Detroit, which is helping lead the conversation locally about improving all city schools, invited them to town to discuss how best to create the right environment for quality charter school growth.

 

The more insights, the merrier. Other cities have undergone major school turnarounds, and there are consistent guidelines for success. When asked what Detroit needs to do to start showing results for kids, Petrilli and Chan echoed similar ideas.

 

“Deal with low-performing schools, and encourage high-performers,” says Petrilli, whose organization works to raise the quality of U.S. schools. “There are concrete things we can do.”

 

The examples of success offered by Petrilli and Chan: New Orleans, the District of Columbia, and Memphis. Privatization is the answer. Neither Petrilli nor Chan has an idea about how to improve public education. Just privatize it. Get rid of it. Bring in high-quality “seats.”

 

Readers of this blog have read again and again that most charter schools in New Orleans are rated D or F schools by the state of Louisiana; D.C. continues to be one of the lowest performing districts in the nation, as judged by the NAEP; and Memphis is home to the all-charter Achievement School District, whose founder Chris Barbic promised would produce a dramatic turnaround in only five years. That turnaround has not happened. Not in  New Orleans, D.C., or Memphis.

 

Surely there must be better examples of success for corporate reform. Or are there?

 

 

 

 

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