Different = Better?

Jul 22, 2011 by

Okay, I’ll first deal with the horror that comes up whenever there is any questioning of the current system of public schools in New Orleans. You know the reaction…well, at least, I do. Question or criticize the charter school-o-rama in this town in any way and people instantly think you want things to go back to the bad old centralized days of all the public schools at the mercy of the corruption that cost at least one generation of NOPS students a shot at a good education.

Rest assured, people, that (to explain for the umpteenth time) I am not in favor of that return.

I am, instead, in favor of constantly keeping the people who would privatize public education on their toes – and keeping us all involved in the process, which would do better by our kids in the short and long runs. Instead, people here and those elsewhere who would hold up the BESE, RSD, and OPSB melange of barely-there administration as a model for other districts across the country have continually mistaken different for better. In making that mistake, true, lasting, good reforms get pushed to the side in favor of testing, testing, and more testing, on which the performance of teachers and schools hinges…but that’s only one thing that is in need of greater scrutiny.

Even before Abramson Charter School’s current pickle, there was a “general feeling of fear”¬†amongst the parents and staff about any criticism of the school’s workings at all. When one considers the checkered history of the Gulen Schools, the question changes from if¬†to when something was going to happen here. To add further insult to injury, however, the people who warned of this state of affairs well before this time have been rewarded with their dismissals, putting the message out there that the state condones the actions of the Gulen organization in covering up their misdeeds. The question of why the state would possibly cut people off who were trying to save them from a load of embarrassment lies in the hold that the trend of decentralization has on the way things work in elementary and secondary education now.

In other words, the proliferation of charters now guarantees that if any one of the charters fails, at the very least, to meet its goals as mandated by the standardized testing imposed upon their regular goals of getting students to have learned enough to at least pass on to the next grade level, it can be cut away like a cancerous mole, and BESE, the RSD, or the OPSB are under no real obligation to keep the failing school open. On paper, this looks black and white, cut and dried, open-and-shut. End of story, end of a bad school. Easy-peasy. Except it isn’t. Children are still being left behind.

What will happen? What other charter operator will be rushed in to take over Abramson? Do I even have to ask about oversight, as I doubt there will be any in the rush to get the school ready for the 2011-2012 year? How many more schools will have to fail like this before we have to reconsider this decision to hand over 70% of our schools over to the charter movement? When will we start asking the right questions here?

If you have to ask me what the right questions are, then I beg you, start paying attention. Now.


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