Archives for category: New Orleans

There are three so-called achievement school districts in the nation that have some history. One in Tennessee, one in Michigan, one inNew Orleans. The three are so what different: New Orleans district is all-charter, all privatized. The other two were created by the legislature to gather the state’s lowest-scoring schools into a single district, then turn them over to charter operators.

 

Opinions differ about New Orleans, but no one claims that it has closed achievement gaps or left no child behind. It is not a miracle district. Some critics have called it the lowest performing district in one of the lowest performing states.

 

Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority has no defenders. It is a disaster.

 

The Tennessee Achievement District was studied by Vanderbilt researchers, who reported there was no statistically significant improvement in test scores. Gary Rubinstein looked at state data and concluded that there was virtually no improvement: the lowest performing schools are still very low performing schools.

 

Yet Georgia and North Carolina both plan to create achievement school districts, and now Nevada wants one too. Why? It must be ALEC model legislation.

 

Angie Sullivan wrote this about Nevada, where she teaches:

 

“This was the scary announcement yesterday in Nevada Education:

 

“Board of Examiners meeting Tuesday, Canavero announced the appointment of Jana Wilcox-Lavin as the superintendent-in-residence of a new Achievement School District.

 

“Based on similar models in Louisiana and Tennessee, the state-run district will hand over control of persistently failing schools to charter management organizations.

 

http://m.reviewjournal.com/news/education/state-board-examiners-oks-contract-research-firm-evaluate-success-school-reforms”

_________________
“Can someone explain to me why Nevada would want to create an Achievement School District – just as other states are closing their failing achievement school districts?

 

“Does anyone in the Department of Education or on the Nevada State School Board have google? I strongly suggest everyone google: achievement school districts Tennessee or Lousiana.

 

“Does anyone do research before they make these expensive decisions?

 

“It is obvious that the real plan is to privatize and destroy public schools like Tennesse and Louisiana. The data is in and students did not do better after expensive achievement school districts were created there. Extreme and documented failure.

 

“We are hiring someone from those failures to create a Nevada failure?

 

“Why are we doing this?

 

Tennessee: Legislators Propose Closing “Achievement School District”

 

Gary Rubinstein Reviews the Failure of the Tennessee Achievement School District

 

Tennessee: Memphis School Board Calls for Moratorium for Achievement School District

 

Tennessee: “Achievement School District” In Search of High-Performing Students

 

Tennessee Dad: It’s Time to Dump the “Achievement School District”

 

https://dianeravitch.net/category/new-orleans/

 

Andy Spears: Is Tennessee Sick of the (Low) Achievement School District?

 

North Carolina Parents: We Don’t Want an “Achievement School District”
“Bottom line: Business does not do better at running schools. Business type reforms are not changing schools for the better.

 

“The same data system that kills public schools -shows that privatization and business ran schools fail too – usually worse and more expensive.

 

“Somehow we are supposed to only use data to kill public schools but then ignore data that suggests expensive reforms are failures?

 

“Doesn’t Nevada already have enough failing segregated disenfranchising charters? Why don’t we clean up the charter messes we already made -rather than import a mess maker from another state to make another mess. Why are we renewing failing charters?

 

“We better start thinking about kids Nevada – rather than about making some business people very rich at the expense of our kids.

 

“We do not need to be scammed like Lousiana and Tennessee.

 

“Scary.

 

“Angie”

Paul Thomas of Furman University in South Carolina knows that elected officials are intrigued with the idea of “turnaround districts,” although they know surprisingly little about the research or experience associated with such districts. The idea is simple: if a school has low test scores for x number of years in a row, or if it ranks in the bottom x% of all schools in the state, fire the principal and the teachers and give the community’s public school to a private charter operator. Kind of like declaring bankruptcy, but forgetting that a school is not a business like a chain store.

 

Thomas points out that there are good reasons to be wary of turnaround districts. He cites research about what has happened to them.

 

First, advocacy for takeovers is mostly political cheerleading, and second, a growing body of research has revealed that takeovers have not achieved what advocates claim and often have replicated or even increased the exact problems they were designed to solve, such as race and class segregation and inequitable educational opportunities.

 

New Orleans is a low-performing district that has become even more segregated and stratified than it was before the takeover.

 

He writes:

 

Takeovers in several states—similar to embracing charter schools and Teach For America—have simply shuffled funding, wasted time, and failed to address the root causes of struggling schools: concentrated poverty and social inequity.

 

Yes, SC must reform our public schools, and we should shift gears to address our vulnerable populations of students first. But charter takeover approaches are yet more political faddism that our state and children cannot afford.

 

Continuing to double-down on accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing as well as rushing to join the political reform-of-the-moment with clever names is inexcusable since we have decades of evidence about what works, and what hasn’t.

 

SC must embrace a new way—one committed to social policies addressing food security for the poor, stable work throughout the state, and healthcare for all, and then a new vision for education reform built on equity.

 

All SC students deserve experienced and certified teachers, access to challenging courses, low class sizes, fully funded schools, safe school buildings and cultures, and equitable disciplinary policies and practices. These are reforms that must be guarantees for every public school student regardless of zip code, and they need not be part of complex but cleverly named programs.

 

You will want to read the post in full to gain access to its many excellent links to news and research.

 

Those who continue to advocate for already failed fixes are stalling, delaying the day that we must address the root causes of educational failure. They should be held accountable for their neglect of the real needs of children, families, and communities. And some day, they will.

 

PublicSchoolsFirst in North Carolina–a parent-led organization– has produced a short video urging the public and the legislature to reject an “achievement school district” modeled on the ones in New Orleans, Tennessee, and Michigan. The video accurately says that none of these models has succeeded. New Orleans is controversial; the one in Tennessee has produced negligible or no gains in test scores; the one in Michigan was an abject failure.

 

The legislature is considering a bill that would select the lowest performing schools in the state and put them into a non-contiguous district, where they would then be turned over to charter operators, some of them for-profit charter chains from out of state. This model has no record of success. The goal of this model, which is promoted by ALEC, is to privatize public schools and eliminate local control.

 

The video recommends that North Carolina continue to implement its home-grown turnaround model, which has shown promising results, protects local schools, and keeps out for-profit charter operators.

 

 

Here is a switch: Parents at a charter high school in New Orleans suspected massive cheating and hired a law firm to conduct an investigation. They were right. There was massive cheating.

 

 

Landry-Walker High School’s 2013-14 test results were so amazing that some New Orleans education insiders doubted they were valid. More students at Landry-Walker than at Lusher Charter, a selective-admissions school, aced geometry. In biology, the school was fourth-best in the city.

 

Skeptical of the numbers, the school’s parent organization, the Algiers Charter School Association, launched a 16-month investigation — without telling Landry-Walker’s principal — into what some feared could be widespread, teacher-enabled cheating. The association undertook a detailed analysis of student performance, hired outside lawyers and, for the spring 2015 round of testing, placed independent monitors in every single examination room at its flagship school, according to internal documents.

 

When the 2014-15 test results came back, Landry-Walker’s scores fell off a cliff. The percentage of students getting top marks in geometry fell by 51 points.


This post, which appears on Julian Vasquez Heilig’s blog, gives an inside view of a New Orleans charter. It was written two years ago by Ramon Griffin,, the former dean of a New Orleans’ “no excuses” charter.

 

 

Griffin titled it: “Colonizing the Black Natives.”

 

 

He writes:

 

 

“Are some charters’ practices new forms of colonial hegemony? When examining current discipline policies and aligned behavioral norms within charter school spaces, postcolonial theory is useful because of the striking similarities between problematic socialization practices and the educational regimes of the uncivilized masses in colonized nations. A number of postcolonial theorists focus on multiple ways that oppressors dominate their subjects and maintain power over them. For example, while working as the Dean of Students for a charter school in New Orleans, it took me some time to realize that I had been enforcing rules and policies that stymied creativity, culture and student voice. Though some of my main duties involved ensuring the safety and security of all students and adults at the school, investigating student behavioral incidents and establishing a calm and positive school culture, I felt as if I was doing the opposite.

 

 

“My daily routine consisted of running around chasing young Black ladies to see if their nails were polished, or if they added a different color streak to their hair, or following young men to make sure that their hair wasn’t styled naturally as students were not able to wear their hair in uncombed afro styles. None of which had anything to do with teaching and learning, but administration was keen on making sure that before Black students entered the classroom that they looked “appropriate” for learning. As if students whose hair was natural or those whose parents could not afford a uniform tie could not achieve like others who possessed these items.

 

 

“Most times, teachers and administrators scolded Black students for their appearance before they even spoke in morning. If a student did not have the right shoes, they would be placed in a holding area until their parent could be reached. Sometimes, if their parent could not be reached, those students remained in that area the entire day and given detention. I have absolutely no problem with enforcing school rules or policies, but when schools penalize and prevent Black students from learning and engaging in the classroom because their parents do not have the resources or simply cannot afford the uniforms, I take issue with that and I voiced my displeasure many times….

 

 

“Most Black students with or exhibiting disabilities were pegged as outliers at the beginning of each school year; they were unfairly targeted by some teachers who had deficit attitudes sometimes before even meeting the students. Many times, these students were placed on a “special plan” where their parents had to pick them up early and work would be sent home with them to make it seem like they were learning something. However, the work was never turned in or even requested from teachers. If they were not sent home early, they were given detention. If their behavior was perceived as disruptive in detention, they were given some form of suspension. 98% of the students were Black, but if you happened to be a male and exhibited some form of disability, chances are that you were treated harsher, suspended numerous times and spent several hours a day outside of the learning environment. Many were even sent home for the year after taking the LEAP (Louisiana Educational Assessment Program) standardized tests and treated like throwaways.

 

 

“When we tried to implement response to intervention (RTI) with students who either possessed or exhibited disabilities, they were immediately moved from tier 1 to tier 3 and some were subsequently placed in special education even though this did not fit the needs of the student. The idea to segregate certain students considered (outliers) was due to administrative convenience and because most teachers perceived them as being unruly, troubled or just plain too academically deficient to be in class with the other students. This allowed teachers to not be held accountable for teaching all kids and prevented Black students from receiving valuable instruction time.

 

 

“Lastly, everything at the school was done in a militaristic/prison fashion. Students had to walk in lines everywhere they went, including to class and the cafeteria. The behavioral norms and expectations called for all students to stand in unison with their hands to their sides, facing forward, silent until given further instruction. The seemingly tightly coupled structure proved to be inefficient as students and teachers constantly bucked the system in search of breathing room. The systems and procedures seemingly did not care about the Black children and families they served. They were suffocating and meant to socialize students to think and act a certain way. In the beginning, we were teaching “structure,” but it evolved to resemble post-colonialism. Vasquez Heilig, Khalifa, and Tillman (2013) stated that “education was and still is used as a hegemonic form to monitor, sanction, and control civilized people.” Thus, postcolonial theory (Fanon, 1952, 1961; Memmi, 1965; Said, 1978) offers a critical framework through which urban educational policies and practices can be understood and critiqued (DeLeon, 2012; Shahjahan, 2011). They continue their analysis by stating that “at base, post-colonial theorists interrogate the relationship between the legitimized, conquering power and the vanquished subaltern, and ask questions about who defines subjectivities, such as knowledge, resistance, space, voice, or even thought.” Fanon (1961 ) argued, “Colonialism wants everything to come from it.” Essentially, colonizers delegitimize the knowledge, experience, and cultures of the colonized, and establish policy and practice that will always confirm the colonial status quo. In other words, it is important to note that postcolonial studies, though often thought of as relegated to a particular period, are actually also a reference to thoughts, practices, policies, and laws that impact marginalized Black bodies enrolled in charters during the current educational policy era.”

 

 

Vasquez Heilig, J., Khalifa, M., & Tillman, L. (2013). Why have NCLB and high-stakes reforms failed?: Reframing the discourse with a post-colonial lens. In K. Lomotey and R. Milner (Eds.), Handbook of Urban Education. New York: Routledge. (See the post: A Quandary for School Leaders: Equity, High-stakes Testing and Accountability)

 

Eli Broad has recruited Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent in Louisiana, to lead his effort to privatize the schools of 50% of the children now in public schools in Los Angeles.

Pastorek oversaw the elimination of public education in Néw Orleans. He was also a member of Jeb Bush’s far-right “Chiefs for Change,” a group dedicated to high-stakes testing and privatization.

In his new post, he will press for the elimination of many public schools.

“Few issues have roiled the LA Unified community more than the foundation’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district. An early report by the foundation said the goal is to serve as many as half the students in the district in 230 newly-created charter schools within the next eight years, an effort that would cost nearly half a billion dollars.

“It’s also a plan that district officials have said would eviscerate public education as it is now delivered by LA Unified. The LA teachers union, UTLA, has also attacked the plan as part of the Broads’ latest effort to “privatize” public education at the cost of union teaching jobs.”

Yesterday, the ex-CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme involving SUPES Academy. She is facing serious jail time. The owners of SUPES Academy, who made an agreement to pay BBB, have yet to be judged. Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to pin the guilt squarely on BBB, but the Chicago Tribune revealed yesterday that the owner of SUPES is an ally of Emanuel and recommended first J.C. Blizzard as CEO, then BBB.

Jonathan Pelto, master blogger of Connecticut, sees connections that go beyond what we know so far. He sees Paul Vallas as a player in the Chicago drama. If you like to read truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories, read his post.

Pelto writes:

Charges were also filed against The SUPES Academy LLC and Synesi Associates LLC, as well as against the owners of those two companies, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas. According to the indictment, their role in the kick-back scheme includes charges of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

A third company owned by the two individuals, PROACT Search, a superintendent search firm that provided New Haven with Superintendent Garth Harris and Norwalk with Superintendent Steven Adamowski has also been caught up in the FBI’s investigation into the Chicago scandal….

Prior to being hand-picked by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to run Chicago’s Public Schools, Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant and lead teacher for The Supes Academy, worked as a consultant for Synesi Associates and was listed as a part of the management team at PROACT Search.

While many key actors in the Corporate Education Reform Industry have been involved with Gary Solomon and his companies, one of the most prominent names on Solomon’s list of close colleagues is the Great Paul Vallas, the Education Reform Guru and former CEO of the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans public school systems.

More recently, Democratic Governor and education reform disciple Dannel Malloy brought Vallas to Bridgeport, Connecticut and then twisted Connecticut law in knots so that Vallas could stay for two years until local residents had finally had enough and forced Vallas to leave the job and return to Illinois.

As for the situation in Chicago, it could certainly be said that Gary Solomon’s ability to build such a “successful” corporate education reform company is due, in no small part, to his close relationship with Paul Vallas.

Vallas not only hired Solomon and his companies when he worked in Philadelphia, but brought Solomon with him to New Orleans.

And Vallas worked to bring other business to Solomon and his companies as well.

While Vallas has publicly claimed that he has no financial interest in any of Solomon’s consulting activities, in Vallas’ Philadelphia days Solomon’s consulting company advertised that it had “the exclusive rights to Paul Vallas’ model of education reform….”

The story gets weirder and weirder, as Vallas and Solomon play tag team:

When Paul Vallas moved on to New Orleans to head the Louisiana Recovery School District, Solomon picked up even more lucrative contracts.

But it is a story out of Illinois that provides a true snap-shot and insider’s view into how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works;

While Gary Solomon and his companies profited greatly via Vallas in Philadelphia and New Orleans, it is the somewhat more hidden story surrounding the Rockford School District (PSD 150) in Illinois the provides telling evidence about how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works.

More consulting contracts. Follow the story. Pelto is an amazing investigative reporter.

John Thompson, historian and teacher, explains why corporate reformers are in a bad mood. Nothing seems to be working out as planned. The word is getting out that Néw Orleans was not a miracle. Worse, black communities are angry at the white elites who took control of their schools.

Thompson writes:

“It has been quite a year for school reform anniversaries. This is the fifth year of the $500 million Tennessee Race to the Top, the prime funder of the $44 million Memphis Achievement School District, and the $200 million One Newark; the tenth anniversary of Katrina and the mass charterization of New Orleans; and the 15-year anniversary of the man-made Katrina launched by the Gates Foundation.

“The corporate reformers’ top-dollar public relations gurus must have anticipated a series of lavish celebrations of their market-driven reforms. But, reality intruded. It’s a safe bet there will not be ten-year and 15-year victory laps for those prohibitively expensive urban experiments that produced underwhelming results. If the Gates Foundation stays its course, even its education division may not be around for a 20-year birthday party.

“The reason why this was supposed to be the great reform victory lap of 2015 was that the incoming Duncan administration, heavily staffed by former Gates officials, rammed through the entire corporate reform agenda all at once. In 2009 and 2010, the contemporary school reform movement became the dog that caught the bus it was chasing. The wish list of market-driven reformers, test-driven reformers, and even the most ideological anti-union, teacher-bashers, became the law (in part or in totality) in more than 3/4ths of the states. Due to the Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants, and other innovations, competition-driven reformers were given the gifts and contracts that they claimed would reverse the educational effects of poverty.

“So, how did they do?

“The year that was supposed to be triumph at the top became the year of reckoning for accountability-driven reformers. Or should I say it became the year of the Billionaires Boys Club’s non-reckoning and avoidance of accountability?

“The anniversaries began with excuses over the disappointing outcomes in Memphis, as well as the Tennessee Race to the Top. True believer Chris Barbic worked himself into a heart attack and resigned as superintendent of the ASD. The money was spent, and instead of a series of victorious public relations events, reformers found themselves explaining away the outcomes. In the wake of falling test scores, the previous spring, Barbic told Chalkbeat TN’s Daarel Burnette, “I think that the depth of the generational poverty and what our kids bring into school every day makes it even harder than we initially expected. … We underestimated that.”

“The refusal to listen to people who understand extreme poverty is almost certainly one reason why Memphis is now first in the nation in young persons out of school and without a job.

“Barbic’s parting excuse was:

“Let’s just be real: achieving results in neighborhood schools is harder than in a choice environment. I have seen this firsthand at YES Prep and now as the superintendent of the ASD. As a charter school founder, I did my fair share of chest pounding over great results. I’ve learned that getting these same results in a zoned neighborhood school environment is much harder.

“Then came Dale Russakoff’s The Prize. It would have been more difficult for Newark to have proclaimed victory after the decline of Governor Chris Christies’s political fortunes, the election of Ras Baraka as mayor on an anti-One Newark platform, and the removal of Cami Anderson as the state-appointed superintendent. But, Russakoff’s best-selling account of the battle over “Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” made it impossible to spin the corporate reform experiment as anything but an embarrassment. Russakoff revealed, “For four years, the reformers never really tried to have a conversation with the people of Newark. Their target audience was always somewhere else.” Elite reformers were seeking “a national proof point” which would demonstrate how they could provide incentives and disincentives to solve society’s problems.

“Partially because of their refusal to tolerate dissent and to learn from the people who best knew Newark schools, One Newark actually drove down student performance in its high-challenge Renew schools. And tellingly, Russakoff cites the creator of the growth model that was inappropriately imposed on teacher evaluations. He said that simply focusing on teachers and growth is “pretty obviously myopic” and “a lot of high-stakes accountability has become self-defeating.” But, reformers ignored such advice, so “nonetheless, test-based teacher accountability for student performance remained a primary goal of the reform movement.”

“Third, whether it was a tribute to the sincerity or the hubris of New Orleans reformers, they broke tradition and invited scholars and educators representing multiple perspectives to their ten-year celebration. In contrast to the opaqueness of the financial statements typically issued by charter school chains, NOLA reformers acknowledged that during the early years of their experiment an additional $8000 per student was invested, and a decade later it still receives an extra thousand dollars per student. The most prominent result of all that spending is that it turned much or most of the New Orleans African-American community against the do-gooders who came down to save them.

“True believers in mass charterization proclaimed large gains in test scores. But the conference featured panels of scholars who were very articulate in questioning whether those metrics reflect actual learning. Moreover, experts noted that the gains must be seen in terms of NOLA’s shamefully low pre-Katrina starting point; post-Katrina demographic shifts; curriculum narrowing, a focus on test prep and remediation that doesn’t prepare kids for college or life; and the nation’s 3rd highest rate of young people out of school without a job.

“Finally, the Gates Foundation ordinarily seems to be allergic to learning from others, but it certainly conducted its 15-year anniversary in a way that was cognizant of the New Orleans conference experience. The clear lesson was that scholars and educators with differing views should not be invited. As the Hechinger Report’s Meredith Kolodner reported, the event was presented to “a hand-picked audience.” Moreover, as Alexander Russo notes, the interview with the USDOE’s Ted Mitchell was closed to the press (due to a request by the USDOE), and the second day’s presentations were not live-streamed. If they were anything like the first day sessions, I doubt there would have been much of an audience anyway. The events I watched were merely infomercials.

“The Gates Foundation has spent about $4 billion on K-12 education since 1999 with nearly a billion of it going to its teacher effectiveness campaign. It still lacks a plausible scenario where its support of high stakes testing and charters will not damage the poorest children of color as in Memphis, Newark, and New Orleans.

“One would think that they would ask the same question as those who pushed the Memphis ASD, the federal RttT, and the Newark and NOLA experiments should ask. Why would the supposed beneficiaries of their largess be so livid, demanding that corporate reformers go home? If billions of dollars of test, sort, reward, and punish regimes were actually doing more good than harm, why would there be such a rejection of their programs?

“Even Bill Gates acknowledges, “Test scores in this country are not going up,” while taking solace in what he has been told are a few bright spots. He admits that a decade from now his teacher evaluation system may still be unwelcome by teachers. I doubt we will have to wait anywhere near that long before it is rejected. As Larry Cuban predicts, Gates’s value-added evaluations and other reformers’ panaceas will be “like tissue-paper reforms of the past … that have been crumpled up and tossed away.”

“Melinda and Bill Gates both seem perplexed as to why educators and patrons reject their gifts. Melinda remarked about how difficult it can be to persuade parents to accept their innovations. Bill said, “Nobody votes to un-invent our malaria vaccine.”

“Of course, Gates was criticizing the opponents of corporate reforms, not the reforms themselves. It’s a shame that he doesn’t seem to get an opportunity to be asked the seemingly obvious question. How is the malaria vaccine different than his education policies? The malaria vaccine works. Why not consider the possibility that educators and patrons oppose his education schemes because they don’t work?”

By now, you may be feeling “reform fatigue” in relation to stories about Néw Orleans. But since the propagandists never sleep in their boasts about the glories of privatization, this is a story that remains important in our civic life.

Mercedes Schneider reviews a study of charter school performance on NAEP, conducted by Francesca Lopez and Amy Olsen of the University of Arizona.

Schneider writes:

“One of the primary problems with Louisiana’s state-run, all-charter Recovery School District (RSD) is that the same state that is in control of data (and the official word on its data) is also committed to representing its state-run district in the best light.

“For this reason, independent analysis of data on Louisiana’s schools is particularly valuable, especially when the researchers are able to procure data independently of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE)….

“In order to make clearer comparisons between traditional public school students and charter school students on the eight-grade 2011 NAEP, Lopez and Olson controlled for socioeconomic status, special education status, English language learner status, and ethnicity of students as well as the ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of the schools.

“Regarding 2011 NAEP eighth-grade math, the five states with the greatest discrepancies between charters and traditional schools (with the traditional schools outperforming the charters) were Massachusetts, DC (counted as a state in this study), Texas, Rhode Island, and– with the largest discrepancy by far– Louisiana.

“As for the 2011 NAEP eighth-grade reading, the five states with the greatest discrepancies between charters and traditional schools (with the traditional schools outperforming the charters) were Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, DC, and– once again with the largest discrepancy by far– Louisiana.

“On the 2011 NAEP in both math and reading, eighth-grade students in Louisiana’s traditional public schools outscored their charter-school counterparts by between two and three standard deviations.”

Schneider says the post-Katrina reforms was “too much ‘white’ done to the black community.”

“New Orleans charter success is white-privileged-blown smoke and state-controlled mirrors. However, a more realistic, sobering word is surfacing, and the frayed, marketing edges of all-charter, state-run RSD are getting increasingly more obvious to the American public despite the likes of John White and Campbell Brown.”

Andrea Gabor, the Michael R. Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College in New York City, has recently written about the disappointing results of the chartering and privatization of almost every school in New Orleans.

Jonathan Alter was unhappy with her article in the New York Times because he is a fervent believer in the privatization of public education by charters.

The irony, as Gabor notes, is that she and Jonathan were classmates at the Francis W. Parker School, a noted private progressive school in Chicago many years ago. The “no-excuses” charters that Alter so admires are nothing like the Francis W. Parker School.

If you have read Lawrence A. Cremin’s The Transformation of the School, a magisterial history of progressive education, you know that Francis Parker preceded John Dewey as the “father of progressive education.” Here is the thumbnail sketch of the man who started the progressive education movement: Francis Wayland Parker (October 9, 1837 – March 2, 1902) was a pioneer of the progressive school movement in the United States. He believed that education should include the complete development of an individual — mental, physical, and moral. John Dewey called him the “father of progressive education.” He worked to create curriculum that centered on the whole child and a strong language background. He was against standardization, isolated drill and rote learning. He helped to show that education was not just about cramming information into students’ minds, but about teaching students to think for themselves and become independent people. This is the spirit that infused the school where Andrea Gabor and Jonathan Alter were both educated.

But now Jonathan Alter is a rabid advocate of “no-excuses” charters that look nothing at all like the Francis W. Parker School. Also, Alter is a fierce opponent of teachers’ unions. Generally, progressives support unions, because they understand that unions build a middle class and enable working people and poor people to raise their standard of living. That is not Alter’s perspective. He seems to think that having union-free schools is a recipe for success, even though there is no evidence for his belief and much evidence to the contrary (think Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, three unionized states that are the highest scoring states on NAEP).

In this post, Andrea Gabor gives some homework lessons to her former classmate.

Alter’s biggest mistake is that he fails to see public school systems as, well, systems. Even if he’s right that the “top quintile” of charter schools perform very well, that’s virtually meaningless from the perspective of creating a better system. There are good public schools as well as good charters, after all. A 20-percent success rate is meaningful only if you can show a path to scaling that success in a practical way.

The two questions we should be asking are: A) What is the best method by which to improve all schools? B) If, as in New Orleans, charter schools are used as Trojan horses for turning public schools into dumping grounds for the weakest students and, eventually, eliminating public schools altogether, what is the cost of doing so—to kids and to our society?

There is growing evidence that the market model of large-scale public-school replacement by charter schools—one based on a competitive race for limited philanthropic funding for whoever produces the highest test scores—is a zero-sum game that can only work by sidelining the most vulnerable kids.

Gabor goes, point by point, through the problematic nature of the New Orleans story.

I hope Jon Alter sits down with his former classmate and gives some more thought to his extreme views, which echo those of Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, ALEC, and the Koch brothers.

Destroying our nation’s public schools is not a liberal goal, or should not be.