Lance Hill reports that Steve Barr has hired a principal at a salary of $115,000 for a charter school with an enrollment of 13 freshman students. Perhaps the reason enrollment is so low is that Barr hyped the schools as “the most dangerous school in America” on a TV show in Oprah’s channel. Some parents pulled their kids out. But now Barr can demonstrate how he “turned around” the “most dangerous school in America.”
Mercedes Schneider attempts to explain here how school choice works in New Orleans.
It is complicated, confusing, and messy.
More often than not, the schools choose, not the parents.
More often than not, students leaving a “failed” and closing school may “choose” to go to another F-rated school.
The one choice that is not available is the choice of a neighborhood school. They don’t exist any more.
When you try to follow the ins and outs of choice, you begin to believe that you need to hire a facilitator to help you maneuver the process.
Choice is not for the weak, the weary, or the impatient.
Corporate reformers cling passionately to the myth of the New Orleans miracle because it is all they have. The New York City miracle evaporated in 2010 when the State Education Department acknowledged that the state scores were inflated. The DC miracle never happened. The Vallas miracle in Philadelphia vanished on day one. Arne Duncan’s amazing score gains in Chicago disappeared.
All that is left is New Orleans. The media loves to find miracle schools and districts, but anyone who looks beyond the press releases soon discovers that the Recovery School District is the lowest performing district in the state.
So the reformers say, “But look at our gains.”
Mercedes Schneider takes apart those claims here.
In this post, Jonathan Pelto assembles a timeline of the stunning court decision to remove Paul Vallas as superintendent of schools of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He includes Vallas’ tenure as superintendent of schools in Chicago, where he was hailed for “saving” the schools and in Philadelphia, where he installed the nation’s most sweeping privatization plan (to that point). Philadelphia and Chicago are now in crisis. Vallas then went on to New Orleans, where he oversaw the almost total privatization of that city’s schools after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is hailed by the media as a success but the Recovery School District is the lowest performing district in the state of Louisiana, its top schools skim, and it is propped up by infusions of millions of philanthropic dollars.
Robert Mann, a professor of communications at Louisiana State University, recognizes that the point of charters and vouchers is to withdraw into gated communities.
He writes: “Private schools have long flourished in America for reasons legitimate (religious and scholastic), and some not so legitimate (race). But now many parents and taxpayers – manipulated by politicians who argue that the only way to fix public education is to weaken it with privatization – are giving up on the very idea of public schools.
“A strong component of Louisiana’s education “reform” agenda – led by Gov. Bobby Jindal and state education Superintendent John White – is abandoning public schools in favor of private educational enclaves.”
Vouchers do not fulfill their promise. Voucher students fare poorly. Only 40% perform at or above grade level.
And more: “Then there are the 80 schools in Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD), beset with allegations of mismanagement, wasteful spending and millions in lost or stolen property. Last year, New Orleans’ RSD schools – mostly charters – were the worst performing in the city.”
The truth is beginning to break through the myths about the glories of privatization.
Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation allowing parents in the state-run Recovery School District to vote to return their low-performing school to local control.
“The measure by Baton Rouge Rep. Ted James lets parents petition the state-run RSD to return a school to local control if that school has earned a “D” or “F’” grade from the state for five consecutive years.”
Maybe this legislation will help to puncture the myth of Louisiana’s Recovery School District, the media’s miracle district.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation in Houston made a gift of $25 million to a group called New Schools for New Orleans to create and expand more high performing charter schools in that much touted city.
John Arnold made a fortune as a trader at Enron.
The hype surrounding New Orleans is so commonplace that many struggling urban districts are told that they should switch to an all-charter model so they could be as successful as New Orleans.
Mercedes Schneider looked at the latest publication of New Schools for New Orleans and recognized the presentation as a slick PR document, with colorful graphs and dramatic claims. But, she writes, none of it is true. New Orleans is a low-performing district in a low-performing state.
New Orleans has a higher proportion of students in privately-managed charters than any other district in the nation. Most get poor ratings. Research on Reforms says that 79% of the charters in the Recovery School District were graded D or F by the state. The Cowen Institute, a big supporter of charters, reported that 66% of the charters were rated D or F (see p. 7 of this report).
But New Orleans will get more. Major national chains want to get in or get more.
New Orleans will be our first city with fully privatized schools.
I posted a few days ago about a panel discussion in New York City where Paul Vallas made this startling statement: “We’re losing the communications game because we don’t have a good message to communicate.”
He spoke bluntly of the “testing industrial complex.”
Here Valerie Strauss briefly reviews Vallas’ role in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, where testing and privatization were key elements of his reforms. It is difficult to see any of those districts today as a template for reform of the nation’s schools. Chicago is in dire straits, As is Philadelphia, and the only thing sustaining the myth of New Orleans is a massive disinformation campaign by the funders of privatization.
I know Paul Vallas and there was a time about a decade ago when I thought he was the most promising leader of school reform in the nation. I was impressed by his energy and his quick intellect.
Because he is so smart, I hold out hope that he might be the first of the “reform” A-team to see the light, as I did around 2005.
By his remarks at the forum cited in the links, he recognizes that teacher evaluation by formula is a mess. From his Philadelphia experience he may have learned that privatization is no solution. He inaugurated the nation’s most extensive experiment in privatization a decade ago, and it failed.
Now Vallas has another chance to get it right, this time in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a small district compared to his previous assignments.
Will he lead the way away from the failed status quo? Will he be first to renounce the failed status quo?
A proposal to turn the public schools of York, Pennsylvania, into an all charter district was overwhelmingly rejected.
Do you think someone told them that the Néw Orleans Recovery School District is the lowest rated district in Louisiana?