Scorecards Indicate Charter Schools are Failing in New Orleans Experiment

Snapshot of New Orleans Charter School Performance

New Orleans   Performance rankings for schools conducted by the Louisiana Department of Education indicate that most New Orleans schools have tanked between 2014 and 2017 with 65% of them scoring more poorly in that period. Schools in Orleans parish overall now only rate a “C” grade. About 40% of the city’s schools received either a D or an F grade. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans school system has been the site of the largest and most extensive charter school experiment in the country, so this is a bright yellow flashing caution light, if not a solid red stop sign.

Part of the problem, according to educators and the online news site, The Lens, lies in the tougher standards being implemented since Louisiana adopted Common Core standards in 2010 and introduced as a test in 2015 that reflected the new standards. Part of the failure, as conceded by charter operations like one of the larger New Orleans groups, Firstline Schools, lies right at the feet of charters compared to central, public school districts. Firstline’s CEO was quoted in The Advocate saying, “The resources to develop a comprehensive curriculum that aligns with those (new standards) exceeds the capacity of a single charter or group. It’s interesting that one of the things that helped the schools – autonomy – can work against us if we’re not also open to adopting things that are more standardized when helpful.” Needless to say, this goes to the heart of the charter school movement’s key arguments for their existence and their superiority over public school systems.

And, worse it turns out that all of this reflects the fact that the state has been grading on a curve to protect against the criticism of lower performance. As Marta Jewson reports, “For the last four years, school letter grades have been assigned on a curve to ensure the statewide distribution didn’t get worse than it was in 2013.” Without the curve school board members note that more than half of the schools would have been D or F’s.

The school performance grades are used by the state to assure charter accountability, but this has broken down as well. Charter contracts are only evaluated three years after their first initiated and then “again after the fourth year.” Worse, critics and other observers note that the same schools are staying at the bottom of the list, and too often it means that when the reckoning comes due, one charter is simply switched for another, and the clock is allowed to run out on the students yet again with substandard schools and curriculum.

No matter which side of the argument you have been on, this has to trigger a demand for immediate accountability and direct responsibility for school performance by the public, not a con game shuffle of kids from failing charter to failing charter.


Bobby Jindal Finally Takes Us Out of Some of Our Misery

screen-shot-2014-10-01-at-1-39-12-pmNew Orleans   There is a pretty fair dose of embarrassment that comes from just plain living in Louisiana. Poverty, inequality, education, health, welfare, and football teams are regularly at the top of every list, though most of these are bad lists to be on and require lots of apologizing. Even trying to catch a break by changing the subject to New Orleans can quickly go down a bad road about Katrina recovery, crime, boiling water to drink, and, well, some people think the city is dirty from what they tell me. If you are going to live in Louisiana, you have to learn to take it in stride and shrug it off.

Adding insult to injury though has been the humiliating farce of Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal’s perverse fantasy run for President of the United States. There has never been a rational way to explain this other than an ego trip divorced from all reality.

Sometimes governors run for President as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did based on their record in their home states. In Jindal’s case, there was no way to pretend he wasn’t running based on his record in Louisiana, yet that’s been abysmal.

Louisiana is going into the eighth straight year of a budget shortfall, this time by what looks like a half-billion, and because of Jindal’s no-taxes pledge to Grover Norquist, a Washington resident who to the best of anyone’s knowledge does not live and suffer in Louisiana, many citizens would embrace voodoo economics as something better than what Jindal was pretended. Universities have been decimated. Hospitals have been semi-privatized to outside contractors but the contracts are short money to run them. Medicaid was not expanded under the Affordable Care Act even though the state leads the nation in the number of low income families without health protection. There is no state minimum wage. Like I said, there will soon be a proposal to change the license plate slogan from Sportsman’s Paradise to Shamer’s Paradise.

Jindal pretty clearly made the decision some years ago to sacrifice the State of Louisiana and its citizens on the altar of his ambition. In order to try to build a crazy conservative base there were never any obstacles to the outrages, including the legal limits of his considerable powers as governor under the Louisiana constitution. Planned Parenthood, get them out of the state. Syrians, no way, Jose. Guns, let ‘em fire. Immigrants, deport every last one. Honduran children, get them out of here. Charter schools, vouchers, and religious extremism, bring it on! And, so on and so on.

The arc of justice eventually bends our way though. None of this boot licking worked. A cartoon in one the newspapers had Jindal giving his announcement that he was dropping his Presidential campaign, while calling for his “supporter,” singular, not plural. His popularity is now about 20% in Louisiana. Pundits believe he may be sinking the Republican shot at replacing him. President Obama is now more popular than Jindal in Louisiana!

Finally, some of the embarrassment for Louisiana will ease. Jindal’s ego fueled presidential run is over. Jindal said he has come to realize, “it’s not my time.” Sadly, he has not come to realize that he has now squandered his time, and it will never ever be his time. His time is over.

Now the big problem for Louisianans is living with Jindal’s scorched earth governance policies, and that pain will last for years.