Monday, April 11, 2016

NOLA.com Editorial Supporting Charters Could Not be More Wrong!

This is a recent editorial by the New Orleans electronic newspaper, nola.com which once again touts the virtues of charter schools in Louisiana and opposes any effort by the Legislature to curtail abuses and add safeguards and more oversight by elected school boards to prevent abuses. The article is based on a major misconception by most of the news media about student performance and the mistaken assumption that our schools can somehow get all students to perform at average or above levels. This big misconception has served as a basis for many reforms that are more destructive than helpful to our public schools. I am reprinting the comment I submitted to that editorial:

One of the biggest misconceptions about student performance appears again in this article. When student performance is referred to as being below grade level, we need to understand that this fact is a statistical result that will always produce a very high percentage of students performing below grade level, no matter how well our schools are doing. That's because when student performance is measured by standardized testing, they (students) are automatically sorted into different levels of achievement. Human beings are different in many ways including their reading and math performance. So what the grade level sorting system does is to take the students that are performing about average and designate them as performing on grade level. Those students that perform significantly below average are considered as performing below grade level. It will always be statistically impossible for all students to perform at average or above, so there will always be a significant number of students that are performing below grade level. Even if we improve the overall performance of students (which should be our goal), new testing will establish a whole new group of students that are performing below grade level. 

Now it is also well known by education researchers that the lowest performing students are those that come from high poverty neighborhoods. This lower performance has nothing to do with the quality of the school they attend nor the ability and dedication of the teachers at those schools. To label schools as "failing schools" just because they happen to serve more at-risk students than other schools is a terrible injustice to the schools, the teachers and even the students of the schools serving high poverty students.

Also, to claim that charter schools are needed because they are the new thing, or because the state has many so called "failing schools" is a huge mistake. The negative results of the charter system implemented in Louisiana far outweigh the positives. Just the loss of nearly 7,000 dedicated teachers, mostly African American, who were fired in New Orleans to allow charter operators to hire low cost neophyte teachers so that they could make more profit for their highly paid managers, was a travesty that did not improve the future for the children served. The latest results for the economically at-risk population of the New Orleans Recovery District schools show them to still be performing below the state average for comparable students. The increased opportunities for graft, corruption and test cheating by charter school operators are definitely not justified by these below average results.
Michael Deshotels, editor: The Louisiana Educator

1 comment:

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