Lab Rats

Welcome to New Orleans—America’s urban education laboratory

B. Frederic Skinner [Misc.]Do you dream of being part of our nation’s greatest experiment in urban education? I know I do—which is why I was thrilled to be the recipient of a recent Google ad inviting me to Teach, Live and Love New Orleans. Welcome to NOLA, reader, where you’ll find plenty of *that je ne sais quoi, that elan, that bon temps* but absolutely pas d’excuses. In other words, it’s time for us to button up our lab coats and get busy. We’ve got a city to colonize an achievement gap to crush. Continue reading →

The Great Big Lovin’ Walheart

The Walton family hearts America’s poor kids. Their parents? Not so much.

walheartWhen we last paid a call on our good friends the Waltons, we found them in a fine, beneficent fettle indeed. Armed with Walmart profits equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 42% of American families combined, the Waltons felt moved to wrap their arms around the nation’s burgeoning population of low-income children and hug them into college readiness and 21st century success. And I’ve got great, heartwarming news, reader. As this New York Times feature reveals, the Waltons’ great big lovin’ Walheart beats stronger than ever—and there is nary an education reform group nor a charter school that is not ententacled in the family’s tender embrace. Continue reading →

College Perp

Is harsh discipline really the best way to prepare low-income minority students for college?

silent lines

Quick reader: what is the best way to prepare low-income minority students for college and 21st-century success? If you answered *an obsessive focus on the students’ smallest behaviors (particularly infractions of the uniform variety) paired with plenty of harsh discipline for disciplinary infractions* you are in excellent company. In fact, almost everyone who is anyone these days is in near uniform agreement that harsh punishment today is a recipe for 21st century success tomorrow. Well, not everyone. A group of New Orleans parents recently filed suit, claiming that a *demeaning culture of discipline* at three of the city’s charter schools, including Sci Academy, considered a model charter for New Orleans and beyond, violates the civil rights of students.  Continue reading →

Arne Does Boston

Behind this week’s non-story is an interesting story…

What a week, reader! The excellence express rolled into the Bay State, carrying some seriously career-ready cargo—none other than Arne Duncan himself. What do you mean you didn’t know anything about it??? Now ordinarily this is the point at which I would lambaste you for eschewing excellence in favor of conducting your own race to the bottom of the wine box. But you’re off the hook. You see, almost no one knew that Arne was in town this week as his visit garnered nary an inch of newsprint. Which seems a little, well, odd, given that the battle over the Liftin O’ the Charter Cap is reaching its acme. Tin foil at the ready, reader. It’s time for another edition of *the story behind the story.*  Continue reading →

Big Easy, Little Choice

A parent advocate says run—don’t walk—from New Orleans-style school choice

New Orleans parent advocate Ashana Bigard.

By Ashana Bigard
When I talk about *choice* in New Orleans I use quotations with both fingers and I wink too. Supposedly we have what’s called a *choice model for excellent education* but the reality is that the overwhelming majority of schools in New Orleans now operate the exact same way. They have rigid disciplinary codes that punish poor kids for being poor and are neither nurturing nor developmentally appropriate.

I’m an advocate for parents in New Orleans, which means that I work with them and represent them when their kids are suspended or expelled from school. Last year we had 54 school districts in New Orleans and all of those different districts make their own rules. For six years after the storm, the schools all set their own expulsion policies. As of last year we have a uniform expulsion policy but individual schools still make their own suspension rules.

Continue reading →