Aug 22 2011

Looking for a whistle blower in New Orleans

I heard a rumor today which I can’t confirm, but hope that this post helps confirm or deny it.

New Orleans, though it is being hailed as a miracle district after the restructuring after Katrina, seems to be an unregulated mess of charter schools doing whatever they want.

So the story I heard was that at a charter school they held their yearly open admissions lottery. Now, after the lottery is held the winners don’t have to go there, but they have the ‘choice’ (as reformers like to say) so they meet with the school who explains to them what to expect.

I’ve heard that this is an opportunity for the charters to counsel out a kid or family who don’t seem like a good fit. One way to do this is to tell the family of a student with special needs that they don’t have the support for that child. Perhaps that child needs to be in a class with just 12 kids, and they don’t have a class like that — oh, and can we have that lottery ticket back?

But that’s not the big story I heard. This story, if true, is truly sickening. What I heard is that the charter school was explaining the schools expectations to parents who were not very educated themselves and didn’t really have their act together. They lived several miles from the school (another problem with choice) and the charter told the parent that if the student was late for school more than some number of times, the charter would call Child Protective Services and report the family. Of course this means that there could be the risk that the kids are taken into foster care.

So, what do you say, are you ready to sign here …

And the family decided that maybe this school wasn’t a good fit for their child.

If any readers of this blog can give me any details about stories like this or other actions which, in my mind, warrant a shut down of an offending school, comment here or e-mail me at garyrubinstein the-at-symbol

4 Responses

  1. Funny, I heard this exact story from an ex-charter school parent in RI today, except the threat was made to a current parent rather than a prospective one. The “offense” was not hearing the school bus twice when the bus stopped to drop off the child.

    Of course, as you say, this kind of thing is difficult to confirm, particularly since these kind of things tend to create a culture of intimidation.

  2. Actually, this is from the Achievement First Brownsville Charter School Family Handbook 2010 – 2011:

    “Nine Absences in a Year: If a student is absent nine times in a year, the student is considered
    a truant and is at risk of not being promoted to the next grade. The parent/guardian will be
    called to the school to meet with the Dean of Students and Principal. The Principal reserves
    the right to retain any student who misses more than nine days of school. In addition, a
    report may be filed with the appropriate child services agency.”

    So… there it is.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Thanks for finding this. This is sickening.

  3. S. Bendtsen

    Sad it is, but so is the abandonment of the public school system in general, with charters hailed as the answer. As a longtime, hard working, successful public school teacher in New Orleans, I am sickened at the demonization of teachers and public schools in general. I have had to watch the successful, arts based middle school that placed third in the city in post K state 8th grade testing scored in its baseline second year, be declared “failing” byt he state, taken over by the state (who posted 17% passing the same test 2 years later), then chartered (and still failing 2 years later), now rechartered as one of the the lowest performing schools in the city once again.

    Our Orleans Parish NOCCA Middle school was open admission with an Arts audition but we welcomed special ed. students and took that little school from 38% on or above reading level to 71% in 2 years with regular school hours that includeed 90 minute Literacy, Numeracy and Arts blocks.

    Too many people have drunk the “Charters are the only answer” kool aid! When i heard Oprah say, “We are sending the children of today to the schools of the 50′s,” I immediately thought, “I wish we had school nearly as good as I attended in the 50′s. Then we would have recess, the arts, PE with dressing out and gyms, a host of extra curricular activities and dedicated, caring teachers for ALL students.”

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