Tuesday, April 10, 2007
How To Fix Public Education in New Orleans: Hope, Values, and Vision
I spent much of Good Friday riding around the Carrollton, Lakeview, Gentilly, and Mid-City neighborhoods of New Orleans. A group of neighborhood activists, including myself, were taking several people from the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education on a tour of our neighborhood schools. The meeting was organized by Denise Byrne, a founding member of the Friends of New Orleans. It was a great experience for me. So many of the meetings that I attend are dominated by the pro-charter schools lobby. They're well funded and they hire some bright and articulate spokespeople. But here, all of the neighborhood leaders wanted the same thing: a quality public school system in all neighborhoods run by a competant Orleans Parish school board. On the tour I sat next to the president of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, Dr. Eric Cooper. He is my new hero. He spoke passionately about how students need hope, and how we should stop using data driven assessments to make our decisions regarding education. Instead, we should use the data as a tool, but the decisions should be based on values. He spoke about how students need hope, and about how the government has contributed to the widening of the achievement gap in education. He said that for a community to be healthy, they need healthy community schools. We all spoke about how the Recovery School District took over our schools in New Orleans and has been running them without any sort of a vision. Dr. Cooper, the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, and the Friends of New Orleans all indicated a committment to helping us improve our public schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. I was very impressed by all of them, and look forward to future collaboration.