Saturday, January 25, 2014

Charter School forum: "Lessons from New Orleans Post-Katrina"

I'm at Madison Park High School in Roxbury this morning for a Citizens for Public Schools forum on charter schools, which includes a keynote on "Navigating Chartered Waters: Lessons from New Orleans Post-Katrina" and a community forum afterwards. I'll post my notes from the keynote here; I'm participating in the forum as a speaker, so I'll have to see how that works.
(Note that Chris Faraone, reporter extraordinaire, is here and you can find him on Twitter)

Updating as we go:
Professor Daniella Ann Cook, who comments that her mother sent in a donation to Citizens for Public Schools when she heard that she was coming up to speak to us.
"I can't covered it all in my fifteen minute allotment"
"what makes the New Orleans experiment so different"
"quality, equity for all kids"
pose her talk around two quotes: "Where do we go from here, chaos or community" (from Rev. King) and "What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that the community must want for all its children" (from John Dewey)
relationships between past and present in New Orleans
have to understand their past to understand any communities struggle with charter schools
"school reform is always political, social, and racial"
over 50% of the school buildings in New Orleans were damaged beyond repair in post-Katrina
spoken of as a "green field of opportunity"
"largest Catholic city in a Protestant state in the country"
"Creole city"
racial interplay between city and state: state is mostly white, city is mostly black; same is true of public school system
first integrated union in the South and the white union folding into the black union
important to have a integrated teaching force

"system of systems" New Orleans is a predominately charter school district
in June it will be a charter school district
Recovery School District and New Orleans Public Schools: both could charter schools, as could the state
Three entities that could charter schools
in first year post-Katrina, 53 schools run by 21 entities open; next year, 77 schools run by 31 entities (shout out to her grad student for tracing this through)
in order for RSD to take over a school, they had to change the definition of what "failing" was
Now: RSD runs 12 schools; state has 56 schools (that RSD runs) and 4 that they run; NOPS runs
"just because you have new things and the best of things, that says nothing about kids still being educated" Jeremiah Snyder, 21 year veteran teacher
teacher knowledge not used
How did we get here?
political policy: "Bring New Orleans Back Education Committee" appointed by former mayor
developing a plan to reform education in New Orleans
"serve as a model for schools in the 21st century"
"you don't see a lot of diverse community representation"
unearth relationships: "People say 'we care about kids!' and I say, 'Show me the money.'"
current parent guide for New Orleans is 200 pages!
first guide was printed by "the Parent Organizing Network" was housed in New Schools for New Orleans (which came from Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives from Tulane University)
"how independent is the information if it's all coming from the same location?"

  • Barriers severely limit public and parent participation
 "we don't think parents should be part of decision making"
Tension between thinking about all kids and wanting the best for OUR kids
  • choice is an illusion without better communication
immense fatigue: go find another school, "I've lost two weeks at time from work at this...a lot of parents give up"
"you can imagine which parents end up giving up the most"
charter leader: "equity is big concern and concerns's a hard truth that somebody's a winner and somebody's a loser"
"a market based model is bad for our kids....there are some things that shouldn't be market-based and education should be one of them"
system that doesn't have automatic winner and automatic losers
"I challenge all of us to listen more than we talk."
"The...board did not have any attachment or relationship to our community and the children and they're there to serve" (parent)
The children is who we're serving
"Test scores are nice, but they ain't the be-all, end-all of a quality education."
  1. what do we mean by providing our children a high quality education grounded in equity and educational opportunity?
  2. How do we fairly and equitably distribute resources (human and capital)?
  3. In a decentralized educational system with multiple entities operating schools, what supports need to be in place to create and sustain opportunities for parents and communities to be involved in decision-making about schooling?
  4. What needs to be in place to ensure that there is equity in education?
Good news: now a central office that handles expulsion; used to be separate application for each school, now a single one
Community pressure matters!
pre-Katrina, there were six generations that might have gone to a neighborhood school

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