Wednesday, December 2, 2015

White Still Pushing the Same Old Failed Reforms

I have previously characterized Superintendent John White as a one trick pony. I was referring to his efforts to base all education reform on a system of test and punish with all accountability falling on the shoulders of professional educators. But White is actually a two trick pony. He apparently also believes that the right "high performance" charter schools, run by TFA types or non-educator entrepreneurs with high expectations can educate students better than a traditional public school run by real educators. He has stuck with those two tricks even in the face of overwhelming evidence that his simplistic education reforms are not working.

At this last meeting of our present super PAC controlled BESE, White was once again able to ram through approval of two more type two charters that had been previously rejected by the East Baton Rouge school board. Speaking against the override were parents, local school board members, and White's former employee, EBR superintendent Warren Drake. It does not matter that as Drake pointed out, there is nothing innovative in the design of these charters, just more of the same type of blind faith and inexperience that has caused all but one of the 11 takeover schools in the EBR area to fail in recent years.

The image of John White, as the miracle worker from New York with no education credentials is wearing thin in Louisiana.  The problem is that instead of supporting the difficult work of bringing incremental improvement to schools that serve a high proportion of at-risk students, White has continued to push phony ideological solutions that are supposed to produce immediate dramatic improvements in schools.

White has not learned yet that there are no miracle solutions to basic socio-economic obstacles to student performance. Just like another fallen TFA miracle worker for Washington D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee, White has continued to over-promise based on flawed ideology that had no scientific basis. Take a look at the just released PARCC results to Washington D.C. schools. This was also another model of test and punish and portfolio charter schools. The article points out that the only component of data for D.C. that keeps the overall scores from going down the toilet are the scores from two highly selective magnet schools in the district.

White and the reformers have one more trick up their sleeve planned for the new Super Duper PAC controlled BESE sometime early next year. Now they want to ram through the approval of two new charter authorizers that will be able to approve new charters without going to BESE or the local school boards. The idea is to skip the democratic process altogether. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and New Schools for Baton Rouge have supported all the failed school takeovers in recent years, but now they think they have a real winner. The new high performing charter they plan to push through without any input from the voting public is a darling of charter schools movement. The BASIC charter schools group has announced that it is ready to expand to Baton Rouge as soon as the charter advocates can cut through the bureaucratic red tape. That will be especially easy once New Schools for Baton Rouge is approved as a charter school authorizer. Then there will be no need for messy public appeals to BESE with all those pesky local taxpayers complaining that they never asked for another predatory charter school. Please see this letter in The Lafayette Advertiser by Kathleen Espinoza.

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