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Nola.com: Clueless about La. Charter School “Progress”

April 11, 2016

On April 10, 2016, the nola.com editorial board published a sorry opinion piece entitled, “Legislature Shouldn’t Undermine Charter School Progress in Louisiana.” Their argument for allowing the state to bypass local school boards of A- and B-rated districts in order to close public schools in those districts that have school letter grades of D or F (and even C) is that charters represent “independence and innovation.”

But what the nola.com editorial board fails to mention is that Louisiana charters themselves are overwhelmingly rated C, D, and F. Instead, the nola.com editorial board ignorantly offers New Orleans as a model of charter success:

New Orleans public schools are almost all charters, a post-Katrina transformation that has broad support in the city. …

The old Orleans Parish school system had a few very good schools, but it had far more awful ones. Thousands of children were stuck in those failing schools and were doomed to drop out or be unprepared for work or college when they graduated.

The growth of charter schools in the past decade has changed that and given more children hope.

In 2005, New Orleans schools were divided into two groups: the handful that continued to be district-run by the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), and the majority that were taken over by the state as the Recovery School District (RSD).

The OPSB schools, a number of which were selective schools converted into selective-admission charters, are doing well for the most part and are primarily A or B schools.

But the RSD schools– which have been 100 percent charter-operated for the past two school years and which have been under state control for ten school years– are primarily C-, D-, and F-rated schools. In fact, thanks to changes in school performance score calculations two years ago, RSD artificially rose to a C district from being a D district.

And here is what the nola.com editorial board has to say about C-, D-, and F-rated schools:

Gov. John Bel Edwards has pushed for several years to take away the state school board’s ability to approve a charter application in A- and B-rated school districts. He argues that those school districts should get the final say on charter schools. We disagree.

A new briefing by the Council for a Better Louisiana explains why that is a bad idea. The state has 40 A- and B-rated school districts, but they are not uniformly excellent. There are 124 schools in those districts that get a D or F grade in Louisiana’s accountability system, CABL said. If the school boards in those communities refuse to consider a good charter proposal for those failing schools, parents ought to have the option of asking the state school board to do so.

CABL points out that even C-rated schools have significant weaknesses. Louisiana’s top-rated school districts have 201 C-rated schools. Those schools “may seem modestly okay — average — but these schools mask some real issues for children. In Louisiana, a full third of the students in ‘C’ elementary schools read below the minimum ‘basic’ skills level. Another third read only at the minimum level,” CABL said.

Essentially, those children aren’t thriving and are likely to continue to lag behind unless they get more attention. A charter school should be an option for them.

“Even C-rated schools have significant weaknesses.” Yet with all-charter RSD, very few schools hit the B grade. Not one has an A grade yet.

Why should a charter school be an option if the charter schools in Louisiana are primarily receiving C, D, and F school grades?

Well, because organizations like CABL want to slap a quasi-private, school-churn business model onto public education, that’s why, and in their zeal to do so, both they and nola.com ignore the letter grade evidence of the charters already opened– charters that are supposed to save students from failing traditional public schools– even as most of the charters themselves fit the very definition of the traditional public schools that CABL wants converted into charters:

C, D, and F schools.

Consider this file of the 2014 and 2015 letter grades for 86 Louisiana charter schools, most of them RSD schools:  La_Charter_School_Grades_2014_and_2015

I created the above file by using a larger file available on the LDOE website. The 86 charter schools are listed near the end of the original LDOE file. There are more Louisiana charters than the 86 listed here (this file does not include the charters run by OPSB, for example), but this list appears to be most of the Louisiana charters, and I figured if nola.com and CABL want to sell the Louisiana public on the virtues of handing over more traditional public schools for charter operation, then surely most of those 86 charters would be A- and B-rated based on 2015 school letter grades, right?

Not even close.

Here’s the breakdown of the 86 charter schools’ 2015 letter grades:

  • A = 5
  • B = 16
  • C = 22
  • D = 23
  • F = 15
  • T = 4
  • U = 1

T is the free pass that charters get for two years– no A-F grade until year three– which means those C, D. and F schools have been operating at least three years. As for the U school– it seems to not be operating at all.

And concerning RSD charters: the 86 schools include 52 specifically labeled as RSD schools. Most of these are RSD-New Orleans schools, but not all. Here is a breakdown of those 52 school letter grades for 2015:

  • A = 0
  • B = 8
  • C = 17
  • D = 16
  • F = 7
  • T = 4

And now, a recap of some of the language in the nola.com charter push piece:

CABL points out that even C-rated schools have significant weaknesses. Louisiana’s top-rated school districts have 201 C-rated schools. Those schools “may seem modestly okay — average — but these schools mask some real issues for children. In Louisiana, a full third of the students in ‘C’ elementary schools read below the minimum ‘basic’ skills level. Another third read only at the minimum level,” CABL said.

Essentially, those children aren’t thriving and are likely to continue to lag behind unless they get more attention.

What you just read flies in the face of the predominately C-D-F-rated Louisiana charter schools– and especially the state-run RSD charter schools.

Despite the sorry Louisiana charter school letter grade evidence above, the nola.com editors are stepping up for flunkie charters because the Louisiana legislature has (as nola.com describes) a “slew of legislation filed this year to curb the growth of charters”:

There are bills to limit the state Board of Elementary & Secondary Education’s power to grant charters, to take funding away from charters and to forbid charter boards from contracting with for-profit operators.

And indeed, the Louisiana legislature does have a number of bills that could interfere with the privatization of public education:

  • HB1033: Provides relative to the return of schools from the RSD to the transferring local school system.
  • HB1111: Provides for the return of certain schools in the Recovery School District to the transferring school system.
  • HB1045: Provides relative to teacher pay for hours worked beyond the regular school day.
  • HB1108: Provides relative to the return of schools from the RSD to the transferring local school system (when the school returns to district, so does the property).
  • SB335: Prohibits charter schools from requiring disclosure of certain student information. (Cannot ask for medical or sped info prior to enrollment.)
  • HB1004: Provides relative to assets or property acquired or used by charter schools under certain circumstances (includes limiting the amount of lease payments to charter management orgs).
  • HB167: Prohibits the State Bd. of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) from authorizing certain types of charter schools under certain fiscal circumstances (involves limiting Type 2 and 5 charter authorization if MFP is cut).
  • HB466: Provides relative to the return of schools from the RSD to the transferring local school system.
  • HB168: Requires charter school teachers to meet same certification requirements as other public school teachers.
  • HB98: Provides relative to local charter authorizers and Type 1B charter schools (gets rid of them).
  • HB879: Prohibits for-profit operators of charter schools.
  • HB615: Requires the State Bd. of Elementary and Secondary Education to disseminate annually its method for determining school and district performance scores and letter grades and limits changes to the method.
  • HB502: Requires the State Bd. of Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct a fiscal impact study prior to making a determination relative to a Type 2 charter school proposal.
  • HB338:Prohibits charter schools from requiring parents to provide certain student information as a condition of enrollment in the school (i.e., medical and sped history).
  • HB652: Requires virtual charter schools to submit student addresses to local school systems for verification (or suffer decreased funding).

These and other ed bills can be tracked here.

If nola.com and CABL want to rid Louisiana of C, D, and F schools, they must be willing to seriously curb the very charter school presence for which they are advocating.

Out of 86 Louisiana charter schools referenced above, only 21 are graded A or B.

Roll that one around the bowl, nola.com editorial board.

toilet

___________________________________________________________

Coming June 2016 from TC Press:

 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Stay tuned.

 

***

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments
  1. LA Educator permalink

    In considering the alleged “success” of the charters in New Orleans, please consider this: The traditional public metro-area high school in my district was a solid C to C+ for over two decades from 1990 through 2011 according to Louisiana’s SPS Assessment. With Louisiana’s SPS pre-2012,this school’s highest SPS score was an 88 & 114 points were needed to achieve a B – which did not appear likely to happen. Enter John White in 2012 with his “higher standards” & that same school has been consistently rated a B or A according to White’s grading scale which rates any school scoring 100 to 150 an A. A full third of points on the 150 point scale constitute an A! Some success, huh? If Louisiana, & New Orleans in particular, were not the private school capital of the world, maybe the public would care.

    • Yes. It is sadly obvious what the nation will ignore when it is happening to “other people’s children.”

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