Ashana Bigard is a parent advocate. She wrote this article for “The Progressive.” She is aware that politicians are promoting New Orleans as a national model. She warns that the “reforms” are a fraud. She says, talk to the parents, not the hucksters.

“As a New Orleans parent and an active member of my community, I think of myself as an expert on the experiment in education reform that tranformed my city into the nation’s first all-charter school district. So when I attended a recent community-centered conference on “The New Orleans Model of Urban School Reform: A Guide or a Warning for Cities Across the Nation?” I wasn’t sure there’d be much for me to learn.

“In fact, given the focus on academic urban education research, I feared the event would speak only to people who have Ph.D.s or are working on getting one, neither of which describes me.

“But the research on what has happened to New Orleans over the last ten years shocked me. The story of what happened here is important not just to those of us who live here, but to people who live in any of the cities where New Orleans-style education reform is headed next, possibly including yours.

“Parent activist Anthony Parker described what he called “washing machine” approach to education reform: “Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat.” He was talking about what happens to children. Children wait at bus stops as early as 4:30 in the morning and don’t get home until 7:30 or 8:00 at night. Then it’s time to do homework, go to sleep, get back up and repeat the cycle all over again….

“I wish every education reformer could have attended the session, “Does the New Orleans Recovery School District Measure Up? Making Sense of the Data on Charter School Performance.” Data experts Jason France, Mike Deshotels, Barbara Ferguson, and Howard Nelson used a super-sized PowerPoint presentation. The data was fascinating, horrifying, and clarifying all at the same time. In case you were wondering about the answer to the question posed by the session, it is a big fat no. As the presenters explained, if the Recovery School District was held to the same standard that allowed for the takeover of the schools after the storm, the RSD would only be allowed to keep four schools. Four.

“So next time you read about the stunning success of New Orleans-style education reform, keep that number in mind. And try to talk to someone who is living through the experiment. I bet you’ll learn a lot.”

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