Skip to content

New Orleans’ Kennedy High School Grading Fiasco and Perforated Accountability

August 7, 2019

In all-charter New Orleans, New Beginnings Schools Foundation (NBSF) operates three charter schools in New Orleans, one of which is John F. Kennedy High School.

Kennedy is in the throes of an astounding fraud which resulted in almost 50 percent of its Class of 2019 being found to not have actually met state requirements for graduation. As a result, 87 out of 177 students who were allowed to participate in a graduation ceremony and who thought that they would receive diplomas discovered that they would not be receiving diplomas after all. In an effort to mop up this mess, the NBSF board offered post-haste summer school as an option that 53 of the affected seniors participated in. Mind you, this last-minute, thrown-together clean up effort put students who had been offered scholarships at a critical disadvantage because official, complete, state-approved high school transcripts were not available in May 2019, when the students supposedly/legitimately graduated.

It is now August 2019;  college/universty fall classes will soon begin, and the Kennedy seniors who participated in the alleged summer-school fixer still have not received copies of their transcripts. (For the extensive backstory and continuing saga, see here and here and here and here and here and here.)

On August 06, 2019, reported on Kennedy student and parent efforts to require release of student transcripts via court order.

What is of particular importance in this all-charter arrangement is the fact that the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) (ironically renamed NOLA Public Schools) has no direct authority over those “public” schools to require the schools to release the transcripts. In this “portfolio model,” the school board is left out of any authority over ensuring school data integrity; the charter school deals directly with the state in delivering data, which is part of the problem since the state apparently had no controls in place to audit charter school grading practices.

The district was left out of Kennedy’s grading processes until a whistleblower brought the fraud to district attention, and then the district requested a state audit of all charter high school grading practices.

The district has the right to revoke NBSF’s charters, but only post-mess. (NBSF agreed to surrender its charters, but not until after the 2019-20 school year.)

But there is another piece to this *greater accountabilty* farce, and it is an easy means of dodging accountability for entities that call themselves “public” not because of public oversight via publicly-elected officials, but because these nonpublic entities receive public funds:

Reserve the right to play the “nonpublic” card when it is convenient to do so.

In the case of NBSF, the nonprofit manager of Kennedy High School, that card came in handy in court when NBSF asserted its right to withhold transcripts from Kennedy students and their parents, as the August 06, 2019, reports:

OPSB attorney Sharonda Williams said the School Board isn’t involved because charter schools handle their own student data directly with the state. New Beginnings argued it’s a private nonprofit running the public school and therefore isn’t subject to a legal order requiring it to turn over records.

As for the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE): It is apparently putting no great pressure of NBSF to deliver student data in order to finalize the transcripts (classes finished July 10, and its now August), which lends credence to the leverage NBSF has as a “nonpublic” entity to drag its feet as it pleases.

And why would NBSF drag its feet? Well, it seems that some of the Kennedy students did not complete the correct courses in summer school:

Those students, including the class valedictorian, learned after walking in May’s graduation ceremonies that they still had to make up work in summer school classes. The school has previously said all 53 completed that work by July 10, but Jennifer Baird, director of accountability and assessments for the state Education Department, testified during a hearing stemming from the parents’ lawsuit that some students took different classes than the ones the state recommended. …

Baird said the charter organization that runs Kennedy, the New Beginnings Schools Foundation, still hasn’t provided all of the detailed data about the summer school work so the state can certify the kids’ transcripts.

Baird said she approved one transcript Tuesday and may be able to approve another 20 by week’s end, but “not all of these kids are going to get across the finish line.”

These kids thought they had already crossed the finish line, and they were led to believe as much via a charter school portfolio operation running on perforated accountability.

As for the person initially at the center of all of this chaos and more, Kennedy principal, Michelle Blouin-Williams, who was suspended in April 2019 and who resigned in May 2019:

She has been hired to teach math at East Jefferson High School in Jefferson Parish.

Unlike the 87 Kennedy seniors whose lives were negatively impacted by Blouin-Williams’ incompetence, Blouin-Williams has seamlessly moved on.

It remains to be seen whether she will be held accountable and whether the entire Kennedy/NBSF fiasco will result in meaningful, effective change in the all-charter New Orleans oversight mockery.



Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

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

From → Charters, LDOE, Litigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s