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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Wendy Lecker: Education miracle was a lie - StamfordAdvocate

Wendy Lecker: Education miracle was a lie - StamfordAdvocate:

Wendy Lecker: Education miracle was a lie

Last week, the New Orleans Tribune, a venerable news magazine of the New Orleans African-American community, published a devastating editorial about the fallacy of New Orleans school reform.
After Hurricane Katrina, education reformers swooped in to transform New Orleans into an all-charter school district, operated by host of different charter companies. These reformers promised to improve New Orleans’ schools by enhancing autonomy and choice.
In the years that followed, pro-charter groups and pundits proclaimed the “miraculous” improvements in New Orleans schools. Nina Rees declared in U.S. News & World Report that the results were “nothing short of amazing.” Jonathan Chait called them “spectacular.” Then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared that Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”
Reformers across the country pushed to replicate the New Orleans model of state takeover and school privatization. Michigan established the Educational Achievement Authority, Tennessee, the Achievement School District. States closed struggling schools and opened charters in Chicago, Philadelphia and beyond. Even here in Connecticut the charter lobby ConnCAN featured New Orleans as a model for school turnaround, claiming that New Orleans’ “miracle” dramatically improved performance, particularly for African-American students.
The problem with this miracle, as the Tribune notes, is that it was a lie. The improvements were the result of manipulated cut scores and a lack of oversight. The state raised the bar to make New Orleans schools “fail” and thus be susceptible to state takeover, then lowered the bar to disguise charter school failures allow charter operators to retain control. Louisiana was castigated by the legislative auditor for relying on unverified self-reported data to renew charters, and for failing to ensure charters have fair admissions policies. The auditor also slammed New Orleans charters for financial improprieties.
The tragic story of New Orleans is the story of the past 20 years of American school reform: “some arbitrary determination (of school failure) that fits the end goal of those wielding power and influence — no matter the impact on our communities.” The impact was severe.
Parents are forced to navigate a complex admissions maze — where the schools are the ones exercising “choice” — and to send their children to schools far from their neighborhoods. Charters have astronomical suspension and expulsion rates. They also exclude students, especially students with disabilities. Families have nowhere to bring complaints, as each charter operates as its own district, with its own unelected board.
Veteran teachers of color were fired en masse, decimating the city’s black middle class. They were replaced by Wendy Lecker: Education miracle was a lie - StamfordAdvocate:

Wendy Lecker: Education miracle was a lie - StamfordAdvocate: