Friday, June 13, 2008

Open Enrollment and Genetic Condition

I think it's an oxymoron.

This is a bad story. I don't like it one bit.

This was all put together and brought to my attention by an anonymous tipster. I'm copying and pasting their words but I'll be embedding some links and highlighting some text.

This is interesting given the recent Washington Post article on charters. The first link is to a story that appeared today on Audubon Charter School. This is the school where New York Times reporter Adam Nossiter's son attends and his wife, Sharon, is secretary of the board—French and Montessori Inc. FAME). It mentions that they raised $26,000 to send the fifth grade class to France for a field trip. A picture showed 16 students, three of whom were black. In other words, in school system that is 90% black, 82% of the Audubon students are white. Audubon is "open enrollment lottery" k-3 and then in the third grade students take an admission test to advance to 4th grade. So why so few black students?

Link three [THIS IS A PDF] is the admission requirements for the lottery. A few weeks ago there was some controversy over Audubon giving first preference to French nationals, but the Times-Picayune and school officials concealed much more than that. Not only is preference given to French Nationals, but siblings of current students are also given preference—a practice that the Justice Department has forced other schools to stop because of racial discrimination. Moreover, to qualify for the "tier one" lottery, students have to have attended a private French Language academy or a private Montessori school. To prevent low-income students who might have found a free French or Montessori school from getting in the lottery, Audubon actually lists only ""approved/accredited" schools on the last page—all expensive private schools. This may be the only "open enrollment" public school in the U.S. that makes genetics or a private school education a condition of admission. You can bet that no one in the "second tier" ever gets in.

The second link [ALSO PDF] has a photo of the kids on the tour which gives you a sense of the ethnic composition. Note also that the school passed itself off as Katrina victims and got the Eagle Scouts and Americorp to expand the current playground. All this while the school raises $26,000 for a vacation in France and schools like Carver Elementary, an RSD school, are housed in trailers and have no playground so children have no recess.

"This may be the only 'open enrollment' public school in the U.S. that makes genetics or private school education a condition of admission."

Is this the school reform we've been hoping for?

Why are we entrenching additional educational inequality in New Orleans?

Update: See also Ray's place for questionable spending at Langston Hughes Charter


Francine Stock said...

1. The Public School Review reports that the ethnic composition of Audubon Montessori is 46% white, 44% black, 8% hispanic, and 2% asian.

2. I do agree that it is highly unusual, likely unique and maybe even unconstitutional for a public school to grant preferred admission to children of foreign nationals.

3. The parents of children at Audubon who helped raise funds to send ALL the children in the 5th grade French class to France deserve recognition. We need more parental involvement in the schools. Their initiative should be honored.

E said...

It's tough Francine because I'm sure this is a good school with good kids and good parents.

I went to a magnet public school in Philadelphia and never felt entirely comfortable with the great education I was getting from the same public school system that routinely failed my neighbors.

The issue here is that charters don't have the same obligations to the community at-large that a unified public school system would.

And that's a piece of the problem with "school reform" as it is being implemented in Orleans Parish.

Francine Stock said...

We may have to agree to disagree on this.... I'm personally thrilled that parents have more diverse options for their children today and hope that we have more charters in our future.

One of the reasons for the success of the charters is that they can hold parents / guardians accountable to participate in the education of their children. This is so important.

Our unified public school system was such a colossal failure that citizens voted en masse for its takeover by the state before Katrina. The RSD has many challenges. But I think they ought to figure out how to capitalize on the successes of the charters. And let the charter schools lead the way from recovery to rebirth.

E said...

I'm all fine with the provision for some charters as part of the public school mix provided that they are 100% universally accessible.

I have no problem with the continued existence of some charters provided that remaining traditional public schools are given the same resources and energy.

My problem with charters is that individual successes from that framework are used as a rationale for continuing to avoid funding the type of social service network needed to turn around all of the schools of our community.

Dismantling the RSD and returning O-P schools to the OPSB does not mean a total reunification of the district where charters are revoked. What it does mean is that all of our schools will be accountable to all of our voters.

G Bitch said...

Audubon's admissions policy hasn't changed a lot from its magnet school days. Making it a charter hasn't made it easier or harder to get in. The fracturing of the system has made it toougher to get in. But it is like Lusher--your best chance to get your child in is in K or PK.

I only know that Lusher and Audubon (Hynes? ISL?) both used sibling preferences before and after they went charter. None of this is really new. Is it fair? No. Was it fair before? No. Will it be fair without serious effort? No. It's hard, though, to ask folks to sacrifice their children for principles/ideology/political conviction.

Francine, the "success" of charters and school choice is debatable. There has been some limited success in some schools but there is no evidence that NO's "system" or any like it will succeed. Parents will certainly fight like hell to make sure their child's school "succeeds" no matter what. It does not help anyone else. What this extensive charterization has done is Balkanize the system so parents either do or are tempted to fight like hell for their little island/oasis.

E, the unfairness in our schools didn't start with charters or the RSD. I know you know that. And the shattering of the system has left us all biting at each other's children's heels. A shame.

G Bitch said...

Francine, is that racial statistic about the Montessori program alone or the entire school, the French and Montessori programs combined?

Anonymous said...

I'm a bilingual speech-language pathologist who tutors students in the immersion program at Audubon Montessori. I think the immersion program is great, but it's only a part of what is offered at Audubon Montessori. Most of the students receive a high-quality education in English.

Of the students I see, most come from monolingual homes in Hollygrove or Carrollton. These kids face tremendous challenges in the immersion program because French is not spoken, or even understood at home. Some of my students are brilliant and would be performing at the highest levels in any school, public or private. Nevertheless, they are at a disadvantage to kids that come from bilingual households, or homes where parents are comfortable attempting to communicate in French. My students' difficulties are less prominent in the younger grades, but as the vocabulary of instruction gets richer and more demanding (around 3rd grade), they fall behind despite their great minds. Many choose to go into the general curriculum because they can excel with much less effort.

I'm not justifying the racial inequality that was prominently displayed in the T-P photograph. I saw what you saw. But, I hope that my experiences show that it is not a result of such great injustice as could be perceived at first glance.

E said...

G Bitch. You raise a good point about being pitted against each other.

This is one of my biggest complaints about the charterization of the district.

My concern is that because some schools will become effective safe havens, the political will necessary to provide adequate resources for all the city's children will be diminished.

My goal was not publish the tip just to trash Audubon Montessori or simply imply that this school is maliciously suppressing their outreach into disadvantaged communities.

I do, however, think it is important to examine the real consequences of widespread charterization as it is occurring here in New Orleans and question whether or not it is the type of educational reform that will uplift the entirety of the community.

Anonymous said...

Those stats on the school "diversity" are pre-Katrina and at least four years old. What are the stats for this year? The photo does not lie and the school is much whiter than before chartering. I don't recall that they required a private school education as a condition of getting in the first tier of the lottery either. I don't define any school as "good" that dumps challenging children into the RSD system, screens out children using what amounts to income requirements (private school education); kicks out children in the 3rd grade if they fail to pass an admission test to the 4th grade --so the school can claim to have the highest 4th grade LEAP scores, and teaches children that raising $26,000 for a private vaction to France is our idea of "good character" and "inclusive values." Why not raise $26,000 for schools that can't afford any field trips? Adding a few token black children in the lower grades does not make up for class segregation which is what the selective admission charters result in. I don't understand why people continue to argue that the choice is between the old and the new. The old way was wrong and the new way--more selective scools--is worse. So a few children have good schools and the rest are concentrated in schools where teaching is impossible. Gbitch is right: we are teachhing our children to "get there's and screw the rest." Then we wonder why young thugs are robbing us on the streets. They learned one thing from the "new shool reform": get yours and screw the rest.

Francine Stock said...

I can't continue to converse on such a serious topic with those who masquerade with pseudonyms or hide in the shadows of anonymity.

So this is my last comment on this topic here.

For more information on participating in progress, see: New Schools for New Orleans
Teach NOLA