Archives for category: New Orleans

Mercedes Schneider teaches in Louisiana. She has repeatedly explained that there was no “New Orleans Miracle,” as the media wants us to believe.

In this post, she expresses her disappointment that John Merrow refuses to accept her invitation to meet her in New Orleans and refuses to acknowledge her existence. And she chastises him for abandoning his pursuit of the facts in DC.

Of course, anyone who thinks (as Merrow does) that KIPP is in the “messy middle,” never boasting of their miraculous successes, has a very different world view from Mercedes Schneider.

We all have heard or read or seen the stories in the mass media about the “miracle” in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina, which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the best thing that ever happened to education in that city, wiped out public education and the teachers’ union. Now New Orleans is the only city where more than 75 % of students are in charter schools with minimal government regulation.

Experienced journalist and scholar Andrea Gabor here goes behind the curtain and takes a closer look than Oprah or the other high-profile celebrants of the “miracle.” Her article appeared in Newsweek-The Daily Beast. (I link to another site here because I had trouble opening the Daily Beast site.)

In a tour de force of investigative journalism, she takes a close look at what is happening in the best charters (typified by a degree of regimentation that most parents would abhor), and what happens to the thousands of kids who disappear and are not included in the statistics.

She concludes:

“In New Orleans, critics argue that the pressure to show high test scores and get kids into college, combined with the broad leeway given to charter schools to suspend and expel students, means the “difficult to teach” kids have been effectively abandoned. New ideas on how to teach disruptive and unmotivated students have not emerged from charter schools,” charges Barbara Ferguson, a former superintendent of public schools in New Orleans and a founder of Research on Reforms. “Whether the difficult-to-teach high school students are expelled by charter schools or whether they attended schools closed by the RSD, they are an outcast group, thrown into an abyss … Neither the RSD nor the state Department of Education tracks these students to determine if they ever enter another high school.”

“But even for students who don’t fall through the cracks or get expelled, it bears asking: have the pressures and incentive systems surrounding charter schools taken public education in the direction we want it to go? Anthony Recasner, a partner in founding New Orleans Charter Middle School and FirstLine, is visibly torn between his hopes for the New Orleans charter experiment and his disappointment in the distance that remains between today’s no-excuses charter-school culture and the movement’s progressive roots. “Education should be a higher-order exploration,” says Recasner, a child psychologist who left FirstLine in 2011 to become CEO of Agenda for Children, a children’s advocacy organization. The typical charter school in New Orleans “is not sustainable for the adults, not fun for kids,” says Recasner, who is one of the few African-American charter leaders in New Orleans; his own experience as a poor child raised by a single parent mirrors that of most students in the charter schools. “Is that really,” he asks, “what we want for the nation’s poor children?”

This is a fascinating
between John Merrow and Mercedes Schneider.
Merrow, a PBS correspondent, explains his independence from his

Here are my two cents. Merrow is the only mainstream journalist to pursue the cheating scandal in D.C., and he took a lot of criticism from rightwing bloggers and other admirers of Rhee’s slash-and-burn tactics. I admire him for his courage and integrity. How many other journalists were willing to admit they were misled?

Schneider, a Louisiana teacher with a Ph.D. In research
methods, challenges Merrow’s positive coverage of the “rebirth” of
the schools on Néw Orleans. She also takes issue with his decision
to abandon his search for what happened in DC on Michelle Rhee’s

The old Lion vs. the young Tiger.

Merrow writes that the mainstream media has ignored the Rhee story, and Rhee’s admirers have
disparaged him for reporting it at all: “And as for covering
Michelle Rhee, I think my critics ought to be writing Nick
Kristoff, Charles Blow, Bill Moyers, Tom Friedman, Diane Sawyer,
Katie Couric, the editors of the Washington Post and the Atlantic,
Diane Rehm, Jon Stewart and all the other folks who have far more
influence than I. Why aren’t they on this story? The data could not
be clearer: her ‘scorched earth’ approach has been tried, and it is
an abject failure. And why isn’t the failure of the mainstream
media to cover this story a story of its own? “You know that I have
exposed Rhee’s failure to act when confronted with evidence of
cheating; have shown how her basic approach to ‘reform’ all but
guaranteed cheating; have documented the hollow and fatally flawed
nature of every one of the so-called investigations; have given
chapter and verse of the Washington Post’s editorial page shameful
cheerleading (especially when contrasted with the courage of the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution); and have called out the national
media for its failure to report the story. “I went to Dartmouth,
where “vox clamantis in deserto” is a college motto, but being a
voice crying in the wilderness in this case is actually
counter-productive. Right-leaning bloggers dismiss the evidence by
painting this as personal, a vendetta, calling me Ahab or a high
school senior whose prom date stood him up. That would be laughable
if it were not effective–some people want to cling to Rhee’s
narrative, which they have adopted.”

It is odd that both Time and Newsweek put Rhee on their covers, but then refused to follow the story as John Merrow did.

Jason France, aka Crazy Crawfish, used to work for the
Louisiana Department of Education.,he worked in research and
statistics. He helped to assemble the data on New Orleans charter
schools before he left. He has concluded
that CREDO is not credible. First
, he realized that
CREDONis a pro-charter organization. Then, he looked at the
methodology, and was disturbed to see that the NOLA charters were
compare to the Recovery School District, the state’s lowest
performing districts. And he was chagrined when he saw that some of
the “successful” charters had selective admissions.

Lance Hill, a New Orleans civil rights activist, describes
the ongoing debacle of special education in that city.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued the state in 2010 for
pervasive discrimination against students with special needs. Just
recently, SPLC filed another suit against the state department of
education, the state board of education, and Commissioner John
White for continuing discrimination against these students. Lance
Hill writes: “The root-cause of discrimination against
special needs students in New Orleans is the privatized charter
school model in which a school’s viability depends on its ability
to post high or constantly improving annual test scores. Special
needs students are more costly to charters that depend on
inadequate and fixed state funding. The easiest way to decrease
costs and increase test scores in this “competitive market model”
is to exclude special needs students. Louisiana has implemented
some policies to discourage “student skimming” and discrimination,
but we can expect that charters, which are essentially government
funded private businesses, will eventually succumb to market forces
to maximize income over costs–even if it as at the expense of the
most vulnerable and needy student populations.”
of dollars have been poured into New Orleans by philanthropists,
foundations, corporations, and the federal government, all to prove
that privatization is a great success. But the privatizers don’t
tell you about their exclusion of children with special needs. They
prefer to keep it quiet.

The National Education Policy Center urges caution when reading the CREDO study of charter schools in New Orleans. Governor Bobby Jindal has already taken CREDO as evidence for the success of privatization.

NEPC says not so fast. In addition to technical issues in the study, the critics make the following observations:

“Even setting aside these concerns, the effect sizes reported for New Orleans—let alone for the state as a whole—are not impressive in terms of absolute magnitude. Differences of 0.12 standard deviations in reading and 0.14 in mathematics indicate that less than one half of one percent of the variation in test scores is explainable by membership in a charter school.

“The study’s methods raise concerns that the findings could easily be misinterpreted to inflate pro-charter conclusions. In context, there’s little to crow about: the results from Louisiana and New Orleans are not much different from the uninspiring national results; the results for the state’s suburban charter schools showed negative gain scores (somewhat less growth in charters than in the comparison schools); and the small positive results reported for New Orleans are confounded by the devastating aftermath of a unique disaster.”

An even more serious challenge to the study was posed by New Orleans-based “Research on Reforms,” which complained that the Louisiana Department of Education will not release student data to independent research organizations.

It wrote: “As long as the Louisiana Department of Education can determine to whom to release student records for research purposes, the reports produced thereof, such as the CREDO report, are nothing more than biased evaluations.”

“The Department of Education (DOE) maintains that it has the discretion to release de-identified student-level records to selected researchers, and that it has the discretion to deny the same student records to other researchers. And, for the past few years, that is what the DOE has done. CREDO received the student records, and, Research on Reforms, Inc., who submitted a public records request for the same student records, was denied. As long as the DOE gets to select its evaluators, i.e., its researchers, the impact of the state-takeover and the charter school movement will never be objectively evaluated.

“Specifically, the Department of Education (DOE) released de-identified student-level records to CREDO for the school years 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 and denied the student level records for the same school years to Research on Reforms, Inc. (ROR). Thus, ROR sued the DOE in October 2012 for violation of Louisiana’s Public Records Act. The matter is now in Civil District Court.”

Lance Hill of Néw Orleans, who has a long history in the civil rights movement, notes that Governor Bobby Jindal has been routing the “comeback” of Néw Orleans, giving credit in part to its privatized schools.

Lance points out that Forbes ranks Néw Orleans as 198th of 200 US cities in job growth. No miracle there .

Gary Rubinstein was intrigued to read a tweet by John White of Louisiana boasting about the dramatic improvements in education.

Gary decided to look more closely at the data. Not surprisingly, he found that White was playing games with numbers, which seems to be a habit in Brooklyn schools.

Gary discovered this significant fact; “In the Times-Picayune article they indicated “the percentage of students passing the exam dropped from 44 percent to 33 percent: 3,501 of the 10,529 test-takers.” So in 2012, 41% (the article had this number wrong) of students who took at least one AP test passed at least one, while in 2013 this number dropped to 33%. So they are celebrating, basically, that 4,000 new students TOOK the AP. Of those 4,000 students, only 19% passed an AP.”

So White was celebrating the number of students who took the AP, not the proportion who passed.

But wait: the lowest proportion of students who took and passed the exam was in the Recovery School District. Not quite 6% in that much-celebrated state-run district managed to pass. At SCI Academy, and the top charter school in the RSD had only 11% of its students earn a 3 or better on the AP.

So much for the New Orleans “miracle.”

If you want to read the Louisiana take on this shape-shifting scandal, read Crazy Crawfish here.

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.


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