"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Big Easy's Big Experiment

Having been demoralized by five years of LEAP testing with tens of thousands of 4th and 8th grade failures recorded and lived by the children there, and lambasted by countless news stories and racist gossip on the hopelessness of the public schools in New Orleans, along came a hurricane to push the entire system over the edge.

Now they are starting over, hoping that no infrastructure and no experience in running schools will accomplish the achievement miracles that the State designed and mandated in an attempt to will itself out of the educational cellar. If these adventurous new charter schoolers are able to pretend hard enough that the grinding poverty and racism of a post-plantation society was not really the reason for the system's bad showing, then they will likely put off, for awhile anyway, a big surprise awaiting those whose fantasies must eventually crack under the weight of reality.

As one former principal noted in the Times article,
"It's like you're experimenting with kids who've already been traumatized," said City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, a member of the council's education committee and a former public school principal. "The intricacies of running a successful school are a lot more difficult than anyone thinks."

Ms. Morrell also worries about charter schools' adopting selective criteria that will exclude what she calls "the poor, average kid."

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