Saturday, August 29, 2015

The New Orleans Charter School Miracle Is A Myth.

Its been 10 years that hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and destroyed the City's public school system.  Most of the residents were displaced and almost all the schools were damaged from flooding and then toxic mold.  That school year was lost as the students of the City were scattered throughout the South.  The next year as the schools were repaired and  in some cases rebuilt, the State of Louisiana desired to reinvent to New Orleans schools as a charter school network.  The school board fired the 7,000 experienced teachers  most being minorities and allow the charter schools to hire whom they pleased.  The result was that the charter schools hired younger and mostly white teachers, many from Teach for America and were uncertified.  Education deformers like Michael Bloomberg hailed the charter miracle and other deformers showed statistics that the graduation rate was higher than before.  However, on closer inspection it turns out that the charter school miracle is simply a myth.

First, the changing demographics of New Orleans has resulted in the City becoming whiter and more middle class as the City renovated the more desirable areas and raised rents that attracted a more affluent population.  At the same time the deep poverty all black neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward  is still a wasteland with boarded up homes and empty lots and still depopulated as many residents didn't or couldn't return.

Second, the charter schools practice a "zero tolerance" policy that expels students for minor infractions like not following the teacher with their eyes, talking out of turn, or wearing the wrong socks.  Anything to  harass a low performing student out of the school. While the State has finally cracked down on the wholesale expulsions, there is nothing the State can do if a charter school chooses to give out 5 day suspensions for minor infractions of the school code, which many do to encourage the parent to finally remove the student from the school.

Third, the charter schools fail to take in students with disabilities, claiming they don't have the resources,  or expertise to educate them.  The practice became so pervasive that the State imposed a blind lottery system this school year to force the New Orleans charter schools to take their fair share of special education students.  It will be interesting to see how the charter schools handle the influx of these students and to what lengths they will take to encourage their parents to remove them from the school.

Finally, despite the "bending of the rules" by the charter schools many were rated by the State either a "D" or "F" when compared to their State peer schools.  In other words, they are still labeled failing and if the State really enforces the rules that level the playing field and how the State scores will be affected once these new State requirements are included in the upcoming State test.

In conclusion the New Orleans charter school have been a failure.

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