Saturday, March 15, 2008

I read the news today...

Ohhhh, boy.

In a public school landscape with many start-up charter schools without established reputations, competition for students can be fierce. The schools, particularly charters, are turning to marketing strategies more typically associated with private schools or businesses. They are running radio ads, blanketing the neutral ground of streets with signs, buying bus ads and billboards, canvassing neighborhoods for interested families, and holding special band performances in parks to attract new students.

"This is probably the most competitive market for public schools in the country, which is a good thing," said Ben Kleban, principal of New Orleans College Prep, a first-year charter school.

Educators say they aim to transform the way New Orleans parents think of choosing a school for their children. No longer should children denied admission to selective magnet programs be given few choices. Instead, they should be treated like empowered consumers.

At least the application deadlines have been extended to March 19. And, instead of having to fill out applications for each school a parent wants to apply to, there is a so-called "common application" that's supposed to streamline the process. Things are still mighty chaotic in the process of trying to get these parents to enroll, however - precisely because of all the signs being used to advertise the schools.
A spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Parkways say several motorists have complained about the signs. Nonprofits, including churches and schools, can get permission from the department to post neutral-ground signs, and about six schools have this year. The department tries to keep pace with removing unauthorized school signs as fast as possible, but has struggled to keep up this year.
Read on in the article for the other ways in which what was formerly a nonprofit exercise of educating children has become a dog and pony show for school administrators trying to get enrollment up.

Of course, the other issue is: where are all these new charter schools gonna be?

A nifty company out of Baton Rouge, Arrighi-Simoneaux, installed over $40 million worth of modular buildings at seven school sites in the city. One of the new charters will be operating out of the ones behind Livingston Middle School, in the middle of New Orleans East, while another will be located in the ones behind Sarah T. Reed High School.

There are more rows of good-sized white cells...uhh...modular classrooms behind Fannie Willams Middle School, Carver-Edwards, Abramson High School, and two others.

In light of what I've seen the past few weeks, well, all of these things demonstrate a market economy approach to schooling children that treats them like pawns in a for-profit game. The move is clearly one that leaves traditional neighborhoods in limbo - because we still haven't seen anything in contract form that obligates the RSD to rebuild on the sites of the former OPSD schools to be demolished.

Oh, and, speaking of market economies......anybody wanna buy a school?


Schroeder said...

I asked someone who lives across the street about the old NOCCA building. She said the building is often being used for drug users, and the main problem anyone would have who wishes to purchase it is asbestos remediation. It sure would make a fantastic community center.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone ever stop and wonder why all these schools only enroll 5th grade and 9th grade? That's because charters, unlike RSD schools, have the advantage of only accepting students who have passed the 4th grade and 8th grade leap--meaning that they are essentially all selective admission schools that do not have to take on the challenge of 4th graders who can't read or write. I can't even guess how many charter schools there are now that have only one grade. Then they move the fifth grade kids up to sixth grade and weed out the ones they don't like--and they are not obliged to enroll any new kids. In the end, they graduate a class of cherry-picked kids and claim they worked miracles for the same revenues (and hide millions in foundation grants that supplement their state revenues)

Leigh C. said...

It's a shame about the building, as it's a gorgeous place.