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Friday, June 6, 2014

School choice in New Orleans: A 'spectacular failure'

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Thanks to Diane Ravitch for a link to an educator, Mike Deshotels, following the radical school experiment in New Orleans — now fully privatized and/or charterized with no remaining conventional public school district. It is not the happy ending story the choice cheerleaders are trying to put out:

The Louisiana Department of education has just released the results of the state accountability testing called LEAP and ILEAP. The report includes a percentile ranking of each of the public school systems in the state according to the performance of their students in math, and english language arts. The latest student testing results and these percentile rankings demonstrate the appalling academic performance of the Louisiana Recovery District (The RSD results are given near the bottom of the chart). After more than eight years of state takeover and conversion of public schools in Louisiana into privately run charter schools, even the most ardent promoters of this radical privatization experiment can no longer hide its spectacular failure.”

“The latest state testing results in this official LDOE report now ranks the New Orleans Recovery District at the 17th percentile among all Louisiana public school districts in student performance. By the state’s own calculations, this means that 83 percent of the state’s school districts provide their students a better opportunity for learning than do the schools in New Orleans that were taken over and converted into charter schools. Considering the fact that a special law was passed for New Orleans that allowed the state to take over, not just failing schools, but any school performing below the state average at that time, this 17th percentile ranking places the New Orleans takeover schools just about where they were before the takeover. But in addition, the schools taken over by the Recovery District in Baton Rouge and other areas are now ranked at the 2 percentile and 0 percentile levels respectively, after 6 years of state and charter school control. That means that these two portions of the Louisiana Recovery District are absolutely the poorest performers on the state accountability testing. In two of the schools run by the RSD, the academic results and the enrollments had deteriorated so much that the Recovery District has recently given them back to the local school school board systems. This latest move apparently violates the whole premise behind the RSD.”

I'm counting on the Walton subsidized researchers at their university in Fayetteville to debunk this shortly.

I'd add that, still, I think the Little Rock School District should approach the charter school operators in Arkansas and ask for proposals to operate one of the district's "failing" schools. But the management companies must play it as it lays. They must take the school with the assigned students — and no ability to weed out the families that won't play along — and see what they can do in an apples-to-apples comparison. Not limiting enrollment to motivated families. No contracts that, if not obeyed, can weed out the less-motivated.

It's the only fair test of the charter school model. It doesn't seem to have worked in New Orleans, but let's give it a try in Little Rock. If the charter school operators are right — they DO have a better way — it's good for kids and we should do more of it. If they're not right, then maybe we can get back to the old business of trying to lift all kinds in a unified system, not just provide outs for a few.

See Washington Post article earlier on how the New Orleans system has produced haves and have nots. Some really good schools for some lucky people with motivated parents; some really bad ones for others.

PS — I'm hearing more and more talk these days about how the dysfunctional, racially split LR School Board may lead to a state takeover. And how a lot of people would welcome that. Pulaski County, on balance, has benefitted mightily from the state-imposed leadership of Jerry Guess.

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