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

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Deregulation, New Orleans Schools, and the Kindness of Strangers

The bigtime merchants of greed have retired to their barricaded penthouses overlooking the financial district, passing back and forth footballs made of ten-thousand dollar bills from the federal treasury and toasting the last eight years of successful pillaging.

In the meantime, the small change merchants of greed have come to New Orleans and other urban centers, where charter schools are replacing most of the public schools that were blown up by natural disasters (Katrina) and by manmade disasters (NCLB). These bottom-feeding greed merchants of the ed industry have been handed the schools to exercise their marketing savvy and their business acumen, where oversight of accounting practices (test scores) are non-existent and protection of consumers (children and parents) is nowhere to be found. And, of course, due process and decent benefits for workers (teachers) is a thing of the past.

As reported in the Times-Picayune, edu-entrepeneurs are out canvassing the Wal-Mart parking lots around New Orleans looking for families with children of school age, preferably non-poor 6th graders without learning difficulties or other special needs. And no one wants fourth graders or eighth graders in particular, since children in these grades have to take the high-stakes LEAP test, and where the peristaltic bulges of failed children are the largest. (See chart from the Times-Picayune).

These charter-preneurs are handing out gas cards and other incentives to get parents to enroll their children in one of their new untried and unregulated school storefronts, where the future generation serves as the guinea pigs in one of the riskiest social experiments ever devised by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Here is a clip from the story, and it begins with a few details of a study on the charterizing process by Brian Beabout from the University of New Orleans:
. . . .Beabout promised confidentiality to principals he interviewed. One, he said, spoke of wanting to serve families from the middle-class neighborhood surrounding the school. The principal sought to win accreditation for a prekindergarten program specifically with this in mind.

"We had our initial meetings . . . to work on a (national) accreditation because that's a big thing with all these young little yuppie . . . moms and stuff, I want to" attract, the principal told him.

Competition and quality

The intensifying battle for students in New Orleans comes at a time when even some staunch advocates of school choice have tempered their views on the degree to which competition for students leads to improved school quality.

One of the original theories behind school choice held that parents would pull their students out of bad schools, forcing their closure, and that remaining schools would improve their programs to attract students from those closed schools.

But the persistence of some flagrantly bad schools -- whether traditional, charter or private -- in cities with strong choice programs has sparked some doubt, experts say.

"The more competition, the more there's an incentive for schools to manipulate information to present themselves in the strongest possible light, " said Jonah Liebert, an assistant director at the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University.

Liebert does not necessarily believe that competition is a bad thing, but, like Hess, he thinks cities like New Orleans need to strengthen the quality of information and do a better job connecting with parents.

The district did hold a poorly attended school fair last spring. And New Schools for New Orleans works with several other organizations to put out a parent's guide to all of the public schools, including a page outlining the school's program and application process. . . .

1 comment:

  1. One thing did recently occur to me: Private business, smelling government contract money, will only increase costs and not create a more efficient educational system. For them, taxpayer dollars are endless. We've seen that with military contractors, so why should education be any different?