Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Assessment Released on State of New Orleans Schools

I read today that the Greater New Orleans Education Foundation, Scott Cowen's Institute for Public Education Initiatives, and the New Orleans City Council Education Committee released their report on the state of public education in New Orleans. The report brags about "extensive community engagement." I went to several of these meetings, and the recommendations that I heard from the community, teachers, parents, and education leaders didn't quite make it into the report in my opinion. The report lists six primary recommendations:

1. Ensure adequate capacity for the 2007-2008 year.

I agree, of course, but I hope there will be community input in these decisions. I doubt there will be from past experience and the nearness of the new school year.

2. Equip and empower all families to choose the best public schools for their children from a range of high-quality options.

This sounds like it was written by Leslie Jacobs and the pro-charter lobby.There is nothing about neighborhood schools. This is plain and simple forcing public education in New Orleans into a business model, and this will continue to widen the achievement gap and break down communities. Companies such as Edison will certainly benefit.

3. Strenghten the Recovery School District. I would not have chosen the word "strenghten." Perhaps improve, or try something outrageous like prepare hot food and get books. But the last sentence of this recommendation I applaud with skepticism. It states "Last, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the RSD’s governing board, should create a process and timetable for returning public schools in New Orleans to local control." Amen. Currently the people in New Orleans have one elected official on the BESE board. That is not right.

4. Attract, develop, and retain high-quality school principals, teachers, and staff for all public schools.


5. Support school- and system-level excellence for all public schools.


6. Create and endorse a short-term action plan and a long-term strategic plan for public education.

We have been lacking vision in our leadership. They even say a plan that builds on previous planning processes, and "communicated." Let's hope.


Eric Rowe said...

What's wrong with a widening of the achievement gap? Isn't that what happens automatically when the students with the highest potential achieve it?

Naturally, there are some students who, along with their parents, have no desire to achieve, and thus will occupy the low end of the achievement scale no matter what anybody else does. In moments of weakness I am tempted to say that there should be no public funding at all for the education of these types. But then I recall that if money is not spent to keep them occupied in a classroom, then it will have to be spent to keep them occupied in juvenile prisons. But don't hold back the achievers from realizing their potential just to narrow the gap between them and the hooligans.

Michael Homan said...

Erich, maybe you can decide their fate at birth so they don't waste your air. Those fortunate enough to have parents with resources would get to live.

Eric Rowe said...

The problem with that thinking is that neither you nor I will ever be able to co-opt responsibility from their God given parents. Their fate very well may be decided at birth. But that doesn't warrant a system that holds back those more fortunate solely to stroke the self-esteems of those who don't care about education anyway.

If these kids and their parents are to become educated and productive members of society they need to have an incentive to do so. A widening gap between them and their more farsighted peers may provide that. But more money wasted on their schools will not.

Michael Homan said...

Poor kids in Omaha NE, where I'm from, had a much better chance at succeeding in life than poor children in New Orleans. This is because Omaha had good public schools for all of their citizens.

Anonymous said...

Your profile says you are a religion student?
What kind of religion has such a negative view of the less fortunate?

Eric Rowe said...

I have not offered any view either positive or negative about anyone based on how fortunate they are. I have only offered opinions about what I see as a misguided value system of trying to shrink achievement gaps. The people who occupy the lower end of that gap are not there solely because of being less fortunate, but also, in many cases because they choose to be and will continue to be regardless of efforts to inflate their self-esteems. To answer your question, I am an evangelical. I try as well as I am able to conform my social views and commitment to individual responsibility to the teachings of the New Testament.

We could go state by state across the whole country and find that the achievements of poor students are not determined by the amount of money spent on their educations. I have no specific knowledge about the poor students you speak of in Omaha. But I'll go way out on a limb and suggest that the illegitimate birth rate in Omaha is much lower than it is in New Orleans. There are consequences of that which will not be rectified by any of the state's efforts.

Anonymous said...

It's so easy to label folks (evangelicals are great at that!) and write them off so that our responsibility for other children of God is ignored. I don't see how anyone can read Luke's gospel without seeing how important the poor are in God's eyes. Seems to me the arrogant greedy religious folk are given a pretty hard time by my Lord in that book.

Maybe you out to come down here and work with the poor like Michael and I do before making uninformed rash judgments on them. The poor I've dealt with often work several jobs to make ends meet. They love God and work hard to overcome the obstacles (poor education, racism, classism) they've been faced with.

Grace is a term few evangelicals understand. I can't love those who deserve love. I've got to love all people, because none of us are without sin. Arrogance and pride are just as sinful as sloth and lust.

Without grace, Christianity is just another means of controlling people. Be good, follow these rules, and I'll help you. Glad God doesn't work that way. I'd be in a heap of trouble.

If God operates according to grace, guess I'd be arrogant to do otherwise.

Eric Rowe said...

I don't think you and I disagree about the value of the poor or about the Christian's obligations of love toward all people. I think our disagreements reside more in our understanding of how that love is to be shown, in particular as relates to the obligations of human government. When it comes to those questions I believe we harm our own efforts when we ignore the laws of the science of economics or when we imagine that all poor people, just because they are poor, have the same work ethic as those you know who work several jobs.

Anonymous said...

The issue isn't keeping those with high potential from achieving it. It's about enabling those with equally high potential being trapped in a situation which is actively preventing them from achieving that potential or even conceiving that their success is possible.

Children CAN be injured by their parents, their neighborhood, their peers. This is not an excuse to stop trying but simply one more reason to try and provide a positive, successful education for those whose personal situations are impediments. Children have to LEARN how to seek a path other than that of least resistance. We need to prop up the more disadvantaged for precisely that reason - to break that pattern of thinking and lead them to the realm of ideas and possibilities.

Anonymous said...

I was distracted from what I originally wanted to post. It's wonderful that this report has great recommendations. But how do they expect these recommendations to be met? A goal without a plan for acheiving that goal is nothing more than a wish. "I wish I had a million dollars." "I wish things would get better." "I wish my life were different." Without a plan, these statements are nothing, even if I write them up in a fancy report.

Eric Rowe said...

The students whom you imagine to be trapped in a situation that somehow prevents them from achieving their potential are already being freely given far more expensive and elaborate schooling than most of the highest achieving individuals in human history. In fact, there are at this moment billions of students in third world countries who are educated in schools far inferior to those in New Orleans and who can easily run academic circles around those students to whom we refer (i.e. those who would not take advantage of the benefits of a school choice system). The barriers between these students and the realization of their potential are not placed there by the state, nor can the state remove it.

I agree that the sole reason modern philosophers of education oppose school choice is that they want a smaller gap between the high and the low achievers. But let's be honest, the way they achieve their ends is by holding back the high achievers, resulting in the more relevant achievement gap, which is the gap between American students and students in other countries where they positively promote an achievement gap by deliberately fashioning the educations of variously gifted students in ways that are commensurate with their respective potentials. Sure the gap is bigger that way, but the best and the worst students all end up better than they do in our self-esteem driven system.

Alan Gutierrez said...


I guess you've been reading your Mallard Filmore. You're on about self-esteem based system, as if New Orleans' children were subjected to coddling at their schools. Schools opened this year with not enough openings city wide. Children themselves have protested the lack of food and books.

The problem with school choice in New Orleans, is that it has become the perfect terror that opponents predicted. There are a handful of schools that are exemplary. They are in the best neighborhoods. Admission outside the school district, Lusher or Audubon, is by lottery.

The gap here is between schools, not between students. Nothing is holding back the over-achievers who are living in neighborhoods with the very best schools.

Anonymous said...

And you think that by getting rid of Lusher, Audubon, etc...that those students would flock to the neighborhood schools, thereby saving the system?

That's the fallacy. Those kids would no more go to a neighborhood school than they would go to school in Iraq.

The proof is that even people against these schools - like Mr. Homan, etc. - send their kids there.

If they won't send them to neighborhood schools, you think others will?

Michael Homan said...

Sadly, I agree with the last part of Anonymous' comments above. Though I would point out that in cities throughout the U.S. children are able to go to quality neighborhood schools. Why not in New Orleans anonymous?