New Orleans: Traditional public schools close

Akili Academy first-grader Kyron Bourgeois, 6, raises his hand in the class of Hannah Bunis on May 27, 2014 in New Orleans. Akili Academy in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans will be absorbing some students from the city's closing public schools.Akili Academy first-grader Kyron Bourgeois, 6, raises his hand. The New Orleans charter school will take some students from closing schools. (Edmund D. Fountain/For The Washington Post)

New Orleans schools won’t all be charters next year, but the post-Katrina state agency that controls most of the city’s public schools has closed its last traditional school, reports the Washington Post. Recovery School District students will use OneApp, a computerized lottery, to find a place in one of 58 charter schools. The city’s old school board, the Orleans Parish Board, also runs six schools and has chartered 14 more.

Critics of the all-charter New Orleans model say it is undemocratic, because leaders of charter schools are not accountable to voters. They also say the system is challenging for parents, who have to figure out logistics that were not an issue when their children walked to neighborhood schools. . . . Advocates say the all-charter model empowers parents. “We’ve reinvented how schools run,” said Neerav Kingsland of New Schools for New Orleans, which promotes and supports charter schools. . .  “If I am unhappy with service I’m getting in a school, I can pull my kid out and go to another school tomorrow. I don’t have to wait four years for an election cycle so I can vote for one member of a seven-member board that historically has been corrupt.”

Before the hurricane, New Orleans was one of the worst school districts in the nation. The Orleans Parish Board was “bankrupt and couldn’t account for about $71 million in federal money, reports the Post. After Katrina, the school board was left in control of a small number of magnet and selective-admissions schools. Activists complain the board’s admissions policies limit black enrollment, though a very high proportion of OPB — and RSD — students are black. The state’s Recovery School District seized 102 low-performing schools. The schools have improved significantly, “although it’s difficult to make direct comparisons” because many students never returned to New Orleans, reports the Post.

Before the storm, the city’s high school graduation rate was 54.4 percent. In 2013, the rate for the Recovery School District was 77.6 percent. On average, 57 percent of students performed at grade level in math and reading in 2013, up from 23?percent in 2007, according to the state.

“The difference between now and pre-Katrina is that we’re replacing schools that are not performing well,” (RSD Superintendent Patrick) Dobard said. “We don’t let children languish in chronically poor performing neighborhood schools.”

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  1. Dang.

    And I was so hoping the Detroit Public Schools would be the first large, municipal school district to go all-charter but I guess there’s no competing with a catastrophic natural disaster when it comes public education reform.

    But I think the DPS is still in the running for the first large, municipal school district to go all-charter without the benefit of a Hurricane Katrina-level disaster.

    Here’s hoping.

  2. PhillipMarlowe says:

    Money line:
    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.

    • Yeah but the money’s pocket change.

      The New Orleans school district was execrable before Katrina so all the charters had to do was better that abysmal standard. So while it is difficult to make comparisons there was widespread agreement that anything was preferable to school district which sets the bar low enough that only ideologues will find cause to object.

      Hello ideologue.

  3. PhillipMarlowe says:

    I would like to clarify a few of Layton’s glossy statements about RSD.

    Let us begin with this one:

    The creation of the country’s first all-charter school system has improved education for many children in New Orleans.

    Layton offers no substantial basis for her opinion of “improvement” other than that the schools were “seized” by the state following Katrina.

    Certainly school performance scores do not support Layton’s idea of “improvement.” Even with the inflation of the 2013 school performance scores, RSD has no A schools and very few B schools. In fact, almost the entire RSD– which was already approx 90 percent charters– qualifies as a district of “failing” schools according to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s definition of “failing schools” as C, D, F schools and whose students are eligible for vouchers.

    The district grade for RSD “rose” to a C due to a deliberate score inflation documented here and here.

    The purpose of vouchers is to enable students to escape “failing” schools. Ironic how the predominately-charter RSD has the greatest concentration of such “failing” schools in the entire state of Louisiana.

    • Layton also doesn’t offer a basis for her opinion that “(charters) also has severed ties to a community institution, the neighborhood school, and amplified concerns about racial equality and loss of parental control.”

      The Washington Post, like most news organizations, could do with some copy editors to keep reporters from throwing opinion into a hard news piece.

      But your point about a lack of substantiation is well taken which is why you ought to hold yourself to the same standard you’d hold Lyndsey Layton. So feel free to provide some substantiation.

      • PhillipMarlowe says:

        allen, go the Louisiana state department of education website and dig up the data yourself. You can record it in a spreadsheet, or use paper and pencil.
        And report back on what I got wrong.

        • We’ve been down this road before and I’m no more inclined to accept assignments from you now then I was when you first proposed this interesting, if pointless, gambit. When you cough up the link I’ll find the lie.

          • I guess the question is whether there’s any data there at all to support what you wrote or whether the lie’s in the orchestration and presentation of the data.

            I’m going to guess it’s the latter. Something about misrepresentation of facts appeals to such as yourself. As if twisting facts to suit your agenda is somehow less damning then baldfaced lies.

            As before, no citation so it’s just an unsupported assertion.

          • PhillipMarlowe says:

            Yes, you would guess that.
            Facts are pesky things.

  4. PhillipMarlowe says:

    On the subject of charters, a month ago Joanne reported on a University of Arkansas dressed up paper on how the charter schools are underfunded and might have to join Newman in dancing on street corners for nickels.
    Bruce Baker, from Rutgers, looked the paper and found it lacking. Specifically, he noted: ” the report suffers from alarmingly vague documentation regarding data sources and methodologies, and it constructs entirely inappropriate comparisons of student population characteristics. Simply put, the findings and conclusions of the study are not valid or useful.”
    Read it at

      • PhillipMarlowe says:

        Today is a day that ends with a “y,” which can only mean one thing: Jim Hoft, the Stupidest Man on the Internet, has pooped on the carpet again and is standing over it wagging his tail and hoping we will pet him and tell him he is a good boy. Well, we won’t! Bad Stupidest Man on the Internet! That’s a very bad Stupidest Man on the Internet!

      • I guess I hit the bull’s eye. Otherwise you wouldn’t feel the need to try to make up with a surfeit of quantity what you couldn’t do with a dearth of quality.

        Anyway, the point’s made; you’re boy’s an academic whore who’s willing to throw his legs in the air when someone has his price. But that was inferable from the company he keeps as a Friend of Diane.

        But to get back to the topic, as I wrote above, I was hoping the DPS would be the first district to be
        dissolved to be replaced with charters but it’s looking very much like New Orleans will have that distinction.

        But this is still very much the beginning of the transition away from the district model, perhaps away from public education, so it’s important to look forward to the next step in this evolution.

        • PhillipMarlowe says:

          It is not surprising that you select people (Hoft and O’Keefe) who have noted their opposition to Obama is due to his race.
          Lay with the dogs, allen and you end up smelling like one.

          • And we have the playing of the race card.

            Not working so well, is it? Mostly an indication that things aren’t going too well in general for such as you which of course means that things are looking up for everyone who didn’t root for the wicked stepmother in Snow White.

            You know, it’s really not that much of a mystery why you want to move off the topic as quickly as you do – there’s really nothing in the way of good news for you, is there? Every gambit you propose either falls flat or elicits laughter. Must be pretty frustrating.

            Any thoughts on which large, municipal school district it’ll be that’s dissolved in favor of charters? I’m not sure New Orleans is really the watershed event since the school district was destroyed by a natural disaster. So maybe the DPS is still in the running to be the first school district to be dissolved as a conscious decision not encouraged by a hurricane and flood. What do you think?