The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

New Orleans Charter Schools Are Not as Advertised

Aug 31, 2015

Nearly all of New Orleans’ 128 schools were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The State of Louisiana used the storm as a pretext to take more than 60 of the schools it labeled “failing” and placed 20 schools it deemed “well-performing” in another separate school district.

Nearly all the schools have since been converted to charters and the system has been held up as a model showing the supposed ‘advantages’ of charter schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called it “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”

Charter proponents present a range of statistics purporting to prove their point. Only problem is, it’s all lies!

Charter proponents point to rising proficiency scores for elementary and middle school students, but leave out the fact that average scores for high school students on their ACTs remain too low to allow them to enter most 4-year public universities. They leave out the fact that scores for the lower grades are inflated because many disadvantaged students disappear and so aren’t counted, according to Andrea Gabor in the New York Times.

Charter proponents claim the proportion of students attending failing schools has dropped considerably since before Katrina. They leave out the fact that once “failing” schools are converted to charters, many of the former students simply do not “re-enroll” in the newly formed charter.

In fact, it’s nearly impossible to know what has happened to students following conversion of their schools to charters, since no agency has responsibility for keeping track of students under the decentralized charter schools, which are run by many separate charter organizations.

The charter schools actively engage in what is known as “creaming” – selecting or pushing out students based on their scores on standardized tests, which distorts any comparisons to be made before and after conversion of schools to charters. A recent study shows they have continued to do so, even after a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center forced them to make some changes. The suit on behalf of special education students pointed out the confusion inherent in many separate charter school applications. The suit forced many of the decentralized charters to accept a more uniform application process.

Powerful forces would like to make New Orleans school privatization into a model for the rest of the country. They’re not above lying with statistics to make their point.