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.


LatinTeacher said...

Wow, you do some excellent stuff. I agree with all of this, and I applaud your efforts. I hope that someone is listening because this is the kind of thing that is going to make a difference in New Orleans for a long time (and has been necessary for a long time, too). Keep up the awesome work!!!!

Anonymous said...

They are the first people I've heard defend public education. I hope to hear more about and from them in the near future. Numbers and test scores do not equal education and it is a pervasive unfounded belief.

LatinTeacher said...

And as I have said in other forums, the ability to pass a "test" proves that you can take "tests." How can measure social involvement, discussion and participation skills, helpfulness, kindliness, and trustworthiness on a standardized test. Those things seem to be more important to me than filling in A, B, C, or D.

Anonymous said...

For years, the Orleans Parish School systems has by and large been completely unable to achieve their primary mission to teach the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, so that students have a basic level of competency on which to build. I don't think it is in any way untoward to seek alternatives in such a case. The alternatives may be flawed, but if they are even slightly less flawed than what we had, it is an improvement.

The nicest, kindest, most helpful and trustworthy student will have a difficult time in life if he cannot read and write. If the tests are showing that public schools are failing, complain about the public schools and change them. Don't blame the test for showing the schools for what they were/are, wasters of taxpayers money and harmful to the children trapped in them.

The silver lining of Katrina is that individually and as a city we got a chance to start over...for the better. Going back to the model of public school we had before August 2005 would not seem to me to be the right thing to do.