Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Louisiana Lesson #2: Charters and Choice

I spent part of my vacation in New Orleans. I didn't spend much time on the schools there (although my daughter did get me some Louisiana-themed books for Chanukah, including one on education that I have not read yet). Nonetheless, I did hear a bit about how the (nearly) all-charter New Orleans school system has negatively affected students.

Just two points:

1. One person described to me how the for-profit school charters are trying to decrease their costs--and the way that they are doing it is to make class sizes larger. And the initial reason for charters? Supposedly they were going to make class sizes smaller...

[You might want to read this Diane Ravitch post with important links demonstrating why class size really does matter. In fact, the needier the kids, the more it matters...]

New Orleans school district. Screen shot taken from Google 1/4/2014.

2. I visited with an old friend of mine who was visiting her family in New Orleans. She is a teacher in Florida now. She described to me how in New Orleans today, you put in your requests to schools to a central administrative body who decides what schools your kids will go to. One of her relatives has three elementary-school-age children, and each of them is in a different school. That is not his choice. I immediately thought, "getting kids to school must be a nightmare!" But that's not what she pointed out to me. She pointed out that the system is completely disempowering to parents.

The great irony, of course, is that the whole "promotional" idea behind charter schools is that parents should have choice.

But now, the last laugh is on New Orleans parents.

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