Tuesday, June 3, 2014
The New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) has become the first all-public charter school district in the nation, and among the commentators on the end of the city's traditional public schools, I wanted to mention Professor P.L. Thomas' recent blog post on "disaster capitalism" and New Orleans' charter school reinvention. Professor Thomas notes that RSD has some ways to go both as an experiment in education and as a model for school choice. On the first point, RSD's schools are low-rated -- the majority of RSD schools rank as “failing” schools under Louisiana's school ratings -- but concluding that RSD is a failure on those grounds is likely premature and more complicated than the state's letter grading system. Professor Thomas notes, "By most indicators, school quality and academic progress have improved in Katrina’s aftermath, although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons because the student population changed drastically after the hurricane, with thousands of students not returning." The Washington Post is also weighing on the second point, whether the RSD truly offers educational equity or school choice:
White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery.
John White, former RSD superintendent and now the state’s superintendent of education, agrees that acess to the best schools is not equal in New Orleans, but calls attempts to challenge the system, such as the filing of the civil rights complaint last month that challenged educational equity in New Orleans, "a joke." The state is constitutionally prohibited from forcing schools to participate in One App.