Wed, 7 October 2015
Tell the New Education Secretary: Charter Schools Flunk Out in New Orleans
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford
“The gap between Louisiana charter schools – meaning, mainly, New Orleans – and public schools was the biggest in the country.”
Arne Duncan, the outgoing U.S. secretary of education, will be succeeded by an even more rabid professional privatizer of public education. John B. King, a Black and Puerto Rican native of Brooklyn, New York – and, like President Obama, a product of Harvard and Columbia universities – has spent his entire teaching career in the charter school business. King is a hit man for school privatization – the perfect credentials to take over from presidential buddy Arne Duncan, the ghoul who obscenely declared that “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.”
Corporations stand to make hundreds of billions of dollars from privatization of education, so it pays to tell lies about what happened when Katrina provided the opportunity to illegally fire 7,000 New Orleans teachers, the majority of them Black, replacing them with young, largely white, non-union and ultimately temporary staff, and then converting all of the city’s schools to charters. The privatizers claim that test scores are way up in New Orleans, but studies show that it’s all propaganda and phony numbers. Charter schools do what they have always done: they select and retain students that tend to do well on tests, and discard the rest. That’s called “creaming” – taking the better-performing students right off the top. But, in New Orleans, the creaming preceded the charter school coup. One-third of the Black population was driven from the city, never to return. The schoolchildren among these displaced Black persons were disproportionately poor – precisely the demographic that does relatively worse on standardized tests. They never showed up for class in New Orleans newly charterized schools, leaving a more affluent mass of students to take the standardized tests. But, the charter schools continued the creaming students, in an attempt to boost the test numbers, especially at selected schools – all the while claiming that underperforming students were not being displaced.
That was a lie. For example, a study by the Education Research Alliance showed that a preparatory high school somehow lost-two-thirds of its students when it converted to charter. The school claims it doesn’t know where they went, but keeps bragging about how great things are for the kids that remained and for the new students, many of them non-Black.
“New Orleans’ charter school system flunks.”
Most of Louisiana’s charter schools are located in New Orleans. A study by the Network for Public Education found that the state’s charter schools performed significantly worse than conventional public schools. The gap between Louisiana charter schools – meaning, mainly, New Orleans – and public schools was the biggest in the country – which had a lot do with Louisiana overall scoring the fourth lowest in the nation. Even by Louisiana standards, New Orleans’ charter school system flunks – even after controlling for factors of race, class and qualifications for special education. And the entire nation’s education system will also flunk, if given over to the lying privatizers, like John B. King. But, don’t expect the Black Misleadership Class, masquerading as members of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, to save us. Leadership Conference CEO Wade Henderson had effusive praise for Arne Duncan, and for his Black and Puerto Rican protégé, who will undoubtedly become an even more effective educational evil than his outgoing boss, the obscene Mr. Duncan.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.