Friday, June 6, 2014

Louisiana Showcases Utter Failure of School "Reform"

The New Orleans Recovery School District has proven (again) that Reformsters cannot deliver on a single one of their promises.

What I'm reporting today has been reported elsewhere-- in particular I recommend Michael Deshotels' report on his blog Louisiana Educator-- but there are some pieces of news that need to be repeated over and over and over again, and this is one of those. The grand experiment that is the New Orleans Recovery School District is complete failure an consequently represents a failure of virtually every piece of Reformster policy wisdom.

Remember-- in New Orleans, the reformsters got every single thing they wanted. With a little help from a natural disaster (aka Hurricane Katrina, aka "the best thing that happened"), reformsters were able to sweep the board clear of all public schools and open the field to free market forces of charter schools.

They were able to get rid of all those terribly awful no good (and also expensive) public school teachers and replace them with pliable TFA temps who would A) implement whatever harebrained school program they were told and would also B) go away before they could become a problem. (Granted, the mass firings turned out to be illegal, but the RSD still got to do it).

They have had years, a full generation of students, to make their reforms pay off. They had, until recently, enthusiastic state government support for all these reforms on top of a spirited implementation of Common Core and its attendant high stakes testing.

NOLA was reformster Christmas, a reformster land of do-as-you-please, a happy place where they could fully test every single thing they ever claimed would fix American public education. And they even got to set the terms by which success would be measured.

And they failed. Unambiguously, completely failed.

Using the state's own figures, we fine the RSD at the 17th percentile for the state. Individual portions of the RSD have the distinction of being the worst schools in the state.

Not only did they not prove their programs academically, but they provided yet another case study of how school "choice" really works (spoiler alert: it doesn't). Parents in the RSD have no more choice about where their children go to school than if they were subjected to the terribly tyranny of having the schools chosen by student address. And their graduation rates are a sham (read about it here).

The RSD has proven one point that I once made. Market forces do not foster superior quality; market forces foster superior marketing. The one manner in which the RSD has excelled is in the application of beautiful lip gloss to its pig of a schooling failure. And news outlets are accordingly providing gentle and accommodating coverage. Deshotel included a link to this coverage which provides a fine rundown of the whole sad story, but it's about the only such reporting you'll find in the region. For an atomic level of detail in charter coverage, I can also recommend the work of Kelsey Foster in The Lens (who is, because the world is a small and strange place, a former student of mine).

We have been in the bait of making the criticism that reformsters are pushing untried policies and untested educational ideas, but in fact, that is no longer true. There is nothing that reformsters love that has not been tested, and nothing that has not failed every test. I know this piece has been repeating the work of other writers, and now I am going to repeat myself, because this message needs needs needs to be repeated,

In New Orleans, the reformsters got everything they wanted. They got to build a school district from the ground up according to their own specs. And. They. Still. Failed. Spread the word.


  1. Hi Peter,

    I'm new to your blog, so forgive my ignorance. Do you think the failure of the reformsters is because of the particular policies they implemented, or because of the difficulty inherent in building an entire system from scratch? If it's the former, what were the flawed policies?


  2. It's certainly difficult to build a system from scratch. It's even harder if you use flawed policies. As suggested above, those policies included a devotion to Common Core, the mass firing of teachers to be replaced with untrained temps, and the opening the gates to charter operators who were far more interested in turning a profit than actually educating children.