Lack of social services affecting schools, board member says

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Members of the Choice Foundation charter board expressed concern Wednesday about the impact of new Common Core curriculum standards.

According to Measure of Academic Progress tests, or assessments that provide educators with the detailed information they need to build curriculum, Choice Foundation schools all scored in the “lower achievement section” for almost every grade for math and English.

The data means that those students need additional support in order to succeed academically, according to national standards.

Board member Mickey Landry also pointed out that, with the higher standards, the prediction is that any student who scored a “basic” on LEAP testing last year will be unsatisfactory next year.

“It’s a train wreck,” Landry said.

But he added that it wasn’t because the foundation’s three schools — Esperanza Charter School, Lafayette Academy Charter School and McDonogh 42 Elementary Charter School — didn’t have good teachers.

It’s because failed city services for underprivileged students, combined with Recovery School District’s OneApp enrollment program, make it difficult for the schools to get a dedicated group of students to return to the same school every year.

“The RSD OneApp program is really not working well for Choice Foundation,” Landry said.

He pointed out that Lafayette was not fully enrolled this year — an incident that has “never happened” before this year. According to Landry, the school had always had long waiting lists. McDonogh 42 also has vacant spots.

Rather than have the same set of kids come back from last year, Landry said that the schools are getting students who have not been taught by Choice Foundation teachers and who are behind grade level.

Moreover, to make up for empty spots, Landry said, the RSD is sending over kids who are enrolling late.

“What kind of kids are those? They’re not the kids you want. They’re almost uniformly way behind,” Landry said. “So it makes our job that much harder.”

The matter is complicated by the fact that the school’s budget could suffer if not enough students enroll.

Landry also said that the RSD was failing to provide adequate services for students who were “highly disruptive,” as was New Schools for New Orleans.

New Schools for New Orleans is a program developed in 2006 to support the accelerating school reform effort. The program helps support the expansion of open-enrollment charter schools, but has been met with criticism from some local school officials.

“They’ve brought in these jokes of organizations to run services for these kids,” Landry said. “It’s not working.”

Landry added that New Orleans suffered from lack of mental health programs, social workers and after-school enrichment, saying schools around the city get “these kids for whom there are no services.”

“These are the kids who end up murdering our kids later,” he added.

Landry said that he had been to three funerals over the summer for boys that were former Lafayette students, all of whom were subjected to the city’s violence.

Moreover, four Choice Foundation students went to jail over the summer, he added.

He pointed to an article about a recent triple murder of a mother and her two children, pointing out that one of those kids was a Lafayette Academy graduate.

“You take a look at what that boy was living with,” Landry said. “Now, he was a squirrel. He was a pain in the you-know-what. But he was a smart kid. He was capable.”

Landry said that when the student was with Choice Foundation’s teachers, he would behave, for the most part, and do his work.

“But without the support from this city for the services that those children need and those families need, this is what we end up with,” Landry said.

He didn’t blame the lack of services on the RSD “too much.”

“The truth be told, Orleans Parish doesn’t have them, and they never did,” Landry said. “But unless we get these services for these kids, and unless we straighten out these neighborhoods, how do we expect our teachers to do their jobs?”

Moreover, any progress that the teachers are making isn’t recognized, Landry said.

“It’s this foolish, no-excuses model, where it doesn’t matter who you have, you’re supposed to get them on grade level right away,” Landry said. “That just is not possible.”

Board member Kate Werner expressed concern with the number of kids that Choice Foundation schools were getting who were behind grade level.

“If we keep getting new kids who are way behind the curve, but we’ve done an extraordinary job with the kids we’ve retained, we’re going to reverse our trend,” Werner said. “Is there any way to counter that?”

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