For the past seven years state education officials, market-model education reformers and politicians have gone to great lengths to claim unprecedented success of charter schools in New Orleans. Barely a day goes by without someone bragging about the remarkable turnaround of the public schools. These claims of success have appeared in print, on TV and in documentaries. They are touted at press conferences and even during presidential debates. However just a cursory look at the reformed school district in New Orleans reveals a much different story.
“It took the storm of a lifetime,” said Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, “to create the opportunity of a lifetime … that the state take control and re-create” the New Orleans public schools.
–Former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, 2005
“A more hopeful New Orleans means replacing a school system that didn’t work with one that will…….. I’m excited for you about the innovative charter school system you have put in place. I applaud you for thinking differently. I can’t thank you enough for seizing the moment.”
–President George W, Bush 2006
“The results thus far are compelling. In the four years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, New Orleans has shown more growth in student achievement than any other district in the state. The percentage of failing schools is down significantly, and student test scores are up in every grade and subject. Some of the gains are dramatic. The 10th grade math proficiency rate has jumped from 39 percent to 58 percent, and the senior graduation rate from 79 percent to 89 percent.”
–Paul Vallas and Leslie Jacobs, Education Week, 2009
“The successful methods we’re using in New Orleans—charter schools and scholarship programs—could serve as a model for other cities looking to secure a good education for their poorest, most vulnerable kids. I’m for what works.”
–Gov. Bobby Jindal, 2010
“Choice and competition amongst schools is one of the key elements that’s already been proven in places in like New Orleans and New York City and other places, where we have charter schools.”
–John McCain, Presidential Debate Oct. 15, 2008
“We have tended as a country to solve problems like this more through generating energy by way of our entrepreneurs. The approach [in New Orleans] is just government facilitating an entrepreneurial solution to this inequity.”
–Recovery School District Superintendent John White
in The Wall Street Journal, 2011
“But, by nearly every measure, success is unparalleled. Take two measures: academic achievement as measured by state standardized tests has doubled in New Orleans (though still not nearly enough); parental satisfaction with schools and choice has also doubled. Or consider that New Orleans is a mecca for educators with an entrepreneurial spirit.”
–Former Louisiana State Superintendent Paul Pastorek,
The Seattle Times 2012
Recovery School District (RSD) 2012 LEAP, state mandate test, results:
• 100 percent of the 15 direct-run RSD schools assigned a letter grade received a `D’ or`F’.
• 79 percent of the 42 charter RSD schools assigned a letter grade received a `D’ or `F’.
• Of the RSD students attending direct-run schools with letter grades, 100 percent, or 5,422, are attending schools with assigned letter grades of either `D’ or `F’.
• Of the RSD students attending charter schools
assigned a letter grade, 76 percent or 15,040, are attending schools with assigned grades of either `D’ or `F’;
“Although the RSD’s public relations machine glorifies the tremendous gains made over 6 years, the overall performance of the RSD in New Orleans remains at or near the bottom in Louisiana.
–Hatfield, Recovery School District in New Orleans: National Model for Reform or District in Academic Crisis, 2012.
“Despite the data to the contrary, the State Department continues to encourage the myth that the Dept. of Education and its favored charter schools can take over and correct poor student performance….when comparing students in the RSD and students from across Louisiana….students in the RSD high poverty schools scored lower on the 2011 LEAP test than the high poverty schools in the rest of Louisiana.”
–Deshotels, ‘Louisiana Turnaround Zone’, 2011
“The Louisiana Department Of Education just released the 2011 School Performance Data. As New Orleans has been hailed as a ‘miracle’ district, I was eager to see the results. As you might know, after Katrina the lowest performing schools were assembled into a district known as ‘The Recovery District’ (RSD) which has become a grand experiment in what would happen if an entire city was taken over by charter schools with a high number of Teach For America teachers.
When I downloaded the data I learned that 87 percent of the 68 schools in the RSD got either a D or an F on their State Report Card. This did not seem very impressive.
The corporate reformers are desperate. They have no proof that any of their theories about how to improve education are working. They have been given the power to experiment with needy kids and they should be ashamed of themselves. Their arrogance to ignore all statistics that prove they don’t know what they are doing is awful and if we stand back and let them continue, we share, a bit, in the blame.”
–Rubenstein, New Orleans RSD –
The miracle district, 2011
“Public education in post-Katrina New Orleans held the promise of providing superior educational opportunities to New Orleans children. Unfortunately, that promise is not equally available to all students. Despite the fact that federal law requires publicly funded schools to educate students who may have disabilities, many New Orleans schools are closing their doors to these students. The results are perverse: students with the greatest needs are denied the rich educational opportunities that school reform was intended to provide.
According to state data, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) has systemically failed to fulfill these obligations to New Orleans public school students with disabilities. The results are abysmal:
The graduation rate for RSD students with disabilities is less than half of the overall graduation rate.
Only 6.8 percent of RSD students with disabilities exit with a high school diploma, while across the state, the average is 19.4 percent.
In the 2008-09 school year, RSD schools suspended nearly 30 percent of all students with disabilities — a rate that is 63 percent higher than the state average.
During the 2007-08 school year, 94.6 percent of eighth grade RSD students with disabilities failed the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) exam.
• For the same year, 78.3 percent of all eighth grade charter school students with disabilities failed the LEAP.”
–Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010
“In 2005, before the schools were divided between the RSD and the OPSB, approximately 4,200 10th graders took the Graduate Exit Exam (GEE). The schools that were transferred to the RSD received about 3,000 of the testers, while 1,200 remained with the OPSB. Over the years, enrollment declined and is now increasing. But, no matter what the enrollment, one should expect that the RSD would test about 3 times as many 10th graders as does the OPSB.
This is not so. In 2009-10, the RSD and the OPSB each tested approximately 1,200 10th graders. The RSD should have hundreds more 10th grade students to test. There are serious implications in this data. Large numbers of high school- aged students in the RSD did not make it to 10th grade to take the test; and at the same time, crime rates in New Orleans continue to explode. There is a strong relationship between these two factors, and there must be an urgency to address this issue.”
–Ferguson, RSD High School Test Results Show Alarming Trend, 2010
A pig wearing lipstick is still a pig.