Monday, May 1, 2017

Major weaknesses of New Orleans charter schools have been laid bare - Salon.com

Major weaknesses of New Orleans charter schools have been laid bare - Salon.com:

Major weaknesses of New Orleans charter schools have been laid bare

Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation, and the charter school lobby is only making it worse

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New Orleans is the nation’s largest and most complete experiment in charter schools. After Hurricane Katrina, the State of Louisiana took control of public schools in New Orleans and launched a nearly complete transformation of a public school system into a system of charter schools. Though there are spots of improvement in the New Orleans charter system, major problems remain.
Many of these problems were on display in New Orleans when the NAACP, which last year called for a moratorium on charter schools until issues of accountability and transparency were addressed, held a community forum in New Orleans on charters.  The New Orleans hearing, which can be viewed here, featured outraged students, outraged parents, and dismayed community members reciting a litany of the problems created by the massive change to a charter school system. The single most powerful moment came when a group of students from Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools took the podium and detailed the many ways the system has failed and excluded them from participating in its transformation.
“We really wanted to share what happens in our schools” writes 18 year old Big Sister Love Rush in an article on the challenges the students face. “How the few permanent teachers we have work so hard for us, how so many classes are ran by short term substitutes, how food runs out at meal times, and how we worry if our school’s reputation is good enough to support us in getting into the college or careers we want.  We shared how we face two hour commutes to and from school, are forced to experiment with digital learning with systems like Odyssey, are punished for having the wrong color sweater, or how we worry about being able to attend a school that will give us the education we need.”
In summary, the NAACP heard that they charter system remains highly segregated by race and economic status.  Students have significantly longer commutes to and from school.  The percentage of African American teachers has declined dramatically leaving less experienced teachers who are less likely to be accredited and less likely to remain in the system.  The costs of administration have gone up while resources for teaching have declined.  Several special select schools have their own admission process which results in racially and economically different student bodies.  The top administrator of one K-12 system of three schools is paid over a quarter of a million dollars.  Students with disabilities have been ill served. Fraud and mismanagement, which certainly predated the conversion to charter schools, continue to occur. Thousands of students are in below average schools. Students and parents feel disempowered and ignored by the system.
The birthing of the charter system occurred in 2005 when the community was displaced by Katrina.  Control of the public school system was taken away from a board which had an elected majority of African American officials and was given to the white majority board of the state system.
The first casualty of the abrupt change was the termination of the South’s largest local union and the firing of over 7000 most African American female teachers. Attorney Willie Zanders told the NAACP of the years of struggle for those teachers which, though initially successful, ended in bitter defeat years later. The city’s veteran black educators were replaced by younger, less qualified white teachers from Teach for America and Teach NOLA.

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