This week across Louisiana, students in the 4th and 8th grades will be taking the LEAP test. It's a controversial standardized test that covers four areas: English, math, science, and social studies. Students must score "basic" on English or math, and they need to "approach basic" on all other sections to pass. If not, they have to take summer school and pass the exam before being allowed to advance. You can see a practice version of the test here. While students in Louisiana took the LEAP test the previous school year, BESE allowed each district to decide whether or not they wanted the test count due to the problems associated with Katrina. This year the scores count for everyone. I remember when my daughter was in the 4th grade. The entire school year was in preparation for the week of the LEAP exam. After the students took the high-stakes test, the rest of the year was spent watching movies and playing games.
As New Orleans has become the testing ground for charter schools, people will be watching these test results closely. Earlier in 2003, the Department of Education studied 6000 4th grade students and found that children in charter schools performed worse in both math and reading. Following a New York Times article about the lower test scores in charter schools, Secretary of Education Rod Paige issued a statement against the findings. It is no secret that Bush and his administration are fond of the charter school model. It puts the schools in the hands of for-profit private companies and reduces government.
I predict that the charter schools in New Orleans will score better than the other public schools, and people will argue that nationwide we ought to privatize all of our schools. But the test scores in Louisiana won't tell the whole story. Many charter schools do not accept special education children. Charter schools hire only certified teachers, while the public schools are often forced to hire non-certified teachers due to the teacher shortage. Plus, some charter schools only accept "gifted" children, or they take students who score the highest on tests, such as Lusher, where my children attend. So now I'm going to sit back and wait for the test scores to come out, and then point back to this posting as evidence to my prophetic abilities.
We are destined to be a battle ground for educational theory for some years to come. I hope it helps the kids. God knows they were getting the short end before.
I am hopeful new approaches will benefit New Orleans and the children of America, but that can't be much comfort to a parent who is only really interested in his or her children.
As far a "Certified" teachers, many people (including me) wonder whether the "Education Establishment" is worthy of the trust placed in it, given its failures in New Orleans.
The recent actions of the former NOPS employees in court cause me to wonder why they are not willing to be "skills tested" to justify their employment when their previous employer was obviously incapable of performing its primary function at anything approaching an adequate level.
Do you think at least some of the employees might be the reason?
Therese reminded me that you can get in at Lusher if you live in their neighborhood as well.
I believe that you will indeed be prophetic, Dr. Homan [sound of mystery emanates]. I know that the charter schools are taking "certified" teachers, but I would remind you that that does not necessarily mean "experienced." I know that you see this as two-tiered system - I do, too. But I see it that way because the charter schools now are generally in the affluent neighborhoods and not where, to me, they could be really trying to get to kids that need to be gotten to. It seems to me that pre-K, the charter schools were in worse neighborhoods and that the magnet schools of Lusher, Ben Franklin, and McMain were meant to skim the top students who, especially in the case of Lusher and Franklin, tended to be white. While I can't say that I support charter schools for the reasons that you state, I do think that whatever we were doing in New Orleans for the last 30-40 years was not working. The Orleans Parish School Board couldn't do it, and the state is washing its hands. I commend your effort to start a school in Mid-City, not because I think it would be a for-profit venture, but because it is necessary for the future of the neighborhood. We've tried lots of things. One of them has to work. Why not this and why not now?
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