Charter Schools in New Orleans

The Herald reported:

a ‘failed experiment in New Orleans’

So who is saying they are a failed experiment?

A visiting opponent of charter schools has told the education and science committee in Parliament today the Government should not proceed with charter schools.

Karran Harper Royal, from New Orleans, cautioned the committee against approving charter schools.

“I am a proud American, but not all that comes out of America is good. Charter schools have been a failed experiment in New Orleans.

There is no reason for New Zealanders to go down that road, Ms Harper Royal said.

“Why would you want to give up your democratic involvement in your public education system for a privatised public school system when the evidence coming out of the United States shows that charter schools fail.”

It is interesting that Ms Royal should talk of democratic involvement, because that is where I want to focus.

Royal is a dedicated opponent of charter schools. In fact just a few months ago she stood for election to to the Orleans Parish School Board District 3.

So do the actual parents and voters of New Orleans share her strident views on charter schools being a failure? Did she get elected in a landslide?

She came last, getting just 10% of the vote.

Did any media think of checking that the person who claims to speak for New Orleans was rejected by 90% Orleans Parish just three months ago? The candidate who won by the way is a Democrat who strongly supports charter schools – as does President Obama and many Democrats.

The story also failed to mention that Royal was paid to come over here and campaign against charter schools by the PPTA (as I understand it). That would be relevant.

But what of these “failed” charter schools in New Orleans. Will we see any mention of the following:

  • The Harvard Business School found 19 of the 20 highest performing non-selective schools were charter schools and “The overall percentage of schools performing below the failing mark of 60 fell from 64% in 2005 to 36% in 2009”
  • That the biggest supporters of US charter schools are African-Americans at 64%. Only 14% of African-Americans oppose charter schools.
  • That the overall performance of all schools in New Orleans has improved from 56.9 in 2004 to 70.6 in 2009.
  • 82% of parents with children enrolled at public charter schools gave their children’s schools an “A” or “B”, though only 48% of parents of children enrolled in non-chartered public schools assigned A’s or B’s to the schools their children attended
  • The Cowen Institute finds significantly higher test scores in charter schools in New Orleans than non charter schools
  • That 78% of students in New Orleans have chosen to attend charter schools
  • That prior to charter schools, 96% of the city’s public school students were below basic proficiency in English and “In 2002, only 31 percent of fourth graders were deemed at or above basic in English/language arts. By 2009, that number had swelled to 59 percent.”
  • The Democratic Mayor of New Orleans says charter schools have meant “the achievement level of the kids in the inner city is now beginning to match the kids on the statewide level in a very, very short period of time”
  • The Mayor also says “Before Katrina, the graduation rate was less than 50 percent. Now it’s more than 75 percent. Test scores are up 33 percent.”

All I can say is that if this is what failure looks like, we need a lot more of it.

So why are  Labour and the Greens are fighting so hard against charter schools?

I think this report in The Southern may give us a clue:

Not only do charters dominate the education landscape, but also nearly every attendance zone has been eliminated, making school choice almost universal. None of the schools, from charters to regular public schools, are bound by a collective bargaining agreement. In other words, they have no unions they have to deal with.


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