Great Lakes Center Disputes Fordham Findings

The Great Lakes Center is criticizing the claims made in a recent Fordham Institute report that the success of the Recovery School District in New Orleans can be exported to other struggling urban school districts. The Center claims that the Fordham report doesn’t cite any statistical evidence to back up its assertions that the school boards and unions are to blame for failure of the New Orleans public schools. Furthermore, in crediting the charter schools for the recovery, Fordham fails to acknowledge reservations expressed about the charter school system by the African American community that charters are supposed to be servicing. Some of the complaints include problems with accountability, access and performance.

Kristen Buras of Georgia State University’s Department of Educational Policy Studies reviewed the report and found it lacks any consideration of the chronic under-funding and racial history of New Orleans public schools before Hurricane Katrina.

“Since the report critiques the lack of accountability exhibited by New Orleans public schools before 2005, one would expect the report to offer detailed analysis of data demonstrating how charter schools in the RSD [Recovery School District] have improved their financial management and produced better test results. Instead, the success of such reforms is simply asserted rather than established,” Buras wrote in her review.

Great Lakes funded the National Education Policy Center review of the Fordham report which found that Fordham consistently overlooked evidence that would have contradicted its conclusions about the success of the RSD. In particular, the report didn’t mention he fact that the state legislators repeatedly rewrote the standards that classify schools especially after the Hurricane Katrina, when 107 of the 128 New Orleans schools were marked as “failing,” so they could be grouped in to a Recovery District and converted to charters.

Since this time, the standard for defining failure has been lowered, thereby generating the “successful” pattern of school performance that reformers attribute to charter school management.

In addition, contrary to the touted “open access” policies, many charters are reluctant to admit children with special needs or those from low-income families, forcing traditional schools to shoulder the additional burden.

“This has inspired substantial criticism of charter schools in New Orleans, where not all students are provided with the ‘new opportunities’ alluded to in the report,” Buras said.