Charter Schools

Live chat, noon Thursday: Does reality of school choice measure up to rhetoric?

We’ve gotten a lot of attention for our recent story about the paradox of school choice within the Recovery School District. Federal law requires that students in failing schools are offered choices at higher-performing, non-failing schools. But Heather Miller found that those options aren’t much better — and are sometimes worse — than students’ current schools.

Here’s what two siblings at McDonogh City Park Academy were offered:

For Kaleb, [Anika] Watson’s third-grader, the transfer options were slim: four D-rated schools, one newly authorized charter that hasn’t been graded yet, and another school with a lower academic performance score than City Park Academy.

The 10 transfer options RSD offered her fifth-grader, Kaliyah, included one B-rated school, seven D-rated schools, one new charter school with no assigned letter grade and two other schools that, like City Park Academy, have been labeled “academically unacceptable” by the state.

The notices from RSD didn’t disclose the transfer schools’ letter grades, but when Watson looked at her options, she said, “I knew immediately that most of them were bad.”

Watson’s experience points to a key failure in New Orleans’ lauded landscape of choice-based educational reform: In a city where parental options abound, how many of the choices are reputable ones?

In the RSD, it seems, not enough. …

“If every student in a failing school wanted to transfer,” said Gabriela Fighetti, RSD’s executive director of enrollment, “we would not be able to guarantee them a slot.”

Our story was republished by several news sites run by Digital First Media, including the Denver Post and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Thursday at noon CT, Digital First will moderate a live chat with Miller and Rebecca Catalanello, the editor who oversees our charter schools coverage. Please come with your questions and comments about the story, and about school choice in New Orleans.

Live chat

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About Steve Myers

Steve Myers is editor of The Lens. Before joining the staff in 2012, Myers was managing editor of Poynter Online, the preeminent source of news and training about the journalism industry. At Poynter, he wrote about emerging media practices such as citizen journalism, nonprofit news sites, real-time reporting via social media, data-oriented news apps, iPhoneography, and the fact-checking movement. Six of his 10 years in newspapers were spent as a local government reporter in Mobile, Ala., where he focused on local government accountability, from jail management to hurricane preparation and response. He can be reached at (504) 298-9750.

  • I hope it’s not too Kay for me to join the chat.

  • I would li,e to add that 3 years ago I contacted the US DOE because the RSD was not sending out “choice” letters. I was told that Paul Vallas tried to use the open enrollment process as the “choice” program for the RSD. He was told that he could not so this and they had to send out letters. There is little evidence that he ever did. I believe that Vallas did not want to over run the few good charters with students who were eligible for choice in the early years I’d mass chartering of our schools.

  • karengadbois

    Not too late

  • karengadbois
  • Steve Myers

    Click on the “comment now” link at the top of the chat window and fire away!

  • Joy Van Buskirk

    What school choice? New Orleans charter schools that are deemed schools of excellence have entrance requirements such as Lusher. Those schools cream the most prepared children. The children from failing schools will not be accepted into these elite charters. How can an elite charter fail if it has the best students? Parents of at-risk children do not have sufficient information about school possibilities or are not capable of making the right choice for their children re: school selection. The state and local systems have not provided guidance, and have failed them. Their alternative is to move their children from one failing school to another. The RSD failing schools have not made much, if any, progress in providing a quality education for its students, yet the nation believes that the NO charter system is the role model to follow. Louisiana “talking heads” have managed to deceive the public in regard to the success of our charter schools, and perception has become reality. If Oprah Winfrey wants to assist in ensuring that our at-risk students are given a quality education than she should dispatch her investigative team to delve into the “fraudulent” charter system that has been created and perpetuated here. Perhaps she could redeem herself by getting the truth out about our failing charters after the airing of her atrocious program regarding John McDonogh. In doing so, the public would discover that charter schools are flawed, and are not the public schools’ salvation. It is up to all of us to voice our concerns about the NO charter school success myth. If not us, then who?