Monday, November 19, 2012

School Closings Not the Answer

Another elementary school (Delmont Elementary School) in East Baton Rouge Parish is being recommended for closing due to lack of academic improvement. The school had been reconstituted with a new principal and faculty just before the beginning of the last school session and has already been demonstrating several indications that it was well on its way to improving. Such indications included enthusiastic support from parents and children. But the LEAP scores (in less than one year) have not yet shown significant improvement.

See Anthony Cody's Education Week blog Living in Dialog for a great analysis of why closing schools in poor neighborhoods is just another form of disrespect for poor people. He points out that there is hope in fighting the education "deformers".

The new EBR school administration is so impatient for higher test results that they are proposing to close the school and assign the students elsewhere without allowing the school the three years originally agreed to for the reorganization to show results. This is a big mistake, and will end up harming children and the dedicated teachers who had accepted the challenge of improving the school. It is very wrong to disrupt the lives of students and teachers when they have all made a strong commitment to turning a school around.

As far as I know, no one even bothered to consult with or properly inform the parents who had put their full faith in this school. The teachers who signed up at Delmont for the reorganization had committed countless extra hours of work, and had been doing the important work of building cooperation with parents. Their efforts had already been rewarded by a huge increase in enrollment compared to competing charter schools and voucher schools in the area. Enrollment at Delmont has gone up by 150 students despite the intense efforts by the State to encourage students in the community to attend voucher schools or state run charter schools in the area.

Children are attending Delmont because the parents trust the principal and the teachers there to give their children the very best education possible. Any visitors to Delmont can see for themselves how engaged students are in their school work and how efficiently the school operates.

All of the state run charter schools in the Baton Rouge area in contrast are dismal failures as is evidenced by low SPS scores and especially by huge declines in enrollment. But the state government still wants to add more charters and push more students into vouchers. Recently the LDOE quitely revoked all the charters except one in Baton Rouge and announced that the RSD would form an “Achievement Zone” in Baton Rouge to mimic the New Orleans Recovery District. The New Orleans RSD has been touted all over the country by highly unformed sources as a model for education reform. See the most recent research on the Recovery District by Research on Reforms.

The Louisiana school grading system is terribly flawed and is unfairly designating many good schools as failures so that privatization interests can profit from our school taxes. It is time for parents and teachers in Louisiana to organize against these ill advised school takeovers and school closings. Such takeovers and closings make a mockery of the so called “school choice” push by Jindal and White. When we have a community school that parents support, why can't we put in the effort and resources to make it better instead of disrupting the education of the children. Finally, in many parts of the country, parents are demanding that their community schools be kept open and that the necessary resources be allocated to provide the enriched programs needed in impoverished communities. Takeover and privatization have only worked for the benefit of the Living in Dialog