Friday, June 13, 2008

On the one hand, I count myself very lucky to have gotten the little guy into a good school. A confluence of events has us paying very little for a quality education. I'll be the first to tell anybody that we got everything lined up just perfectly - applying just after the storm for a place we already knew was good pre-8-29 and remained so, getting the then-three-year-old guy tested for pre-K entry, getting all the ducks in order, and then settling down to pray, knowing that, if worse came to worst, we'd pay for the preschool he was already in. The planets aligned and the earth smiled upon us, because he's been in the school we applied to for two years.

On the other hand, any parent who has a smidgen of empathy for what other families are going through knows that things could be otherwise. The situation in these parts is fast making the advice I gave in previous posts and to other parents fairly untenable and overly optimistic.

Like shifting sands, the elementary and secondary educational landscape is changing so fast that, by the time one whips his/her head around to see what moved, one is up to his/her neck in complications. Unaccredited schools. Move-as-we-go-along types of nonexistent plans for rebuilding physical buildings and traditional public, locally-run schools.

And now...lotteries designed to keep diversity in check.

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.

And some more loopholes being exploited:

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.

No, this isn't strictly news. This has been happening for a while.

As someone who got lucky, as a family who got a foot in the right door and managed to pry it open wide at the right time, I feel I have an obligation to put this longtime happening out. As parents, we need to be better educated about what is going on...and it's giving us all whiplash, figuratively speaking, and making the odds against our children getting a quality public education grow to gigantic proportions, I know...

...but we have to keep up. 8-29 provided the perfect opportunity for many, many decisions to be made without the input of parents concerning the educational system here. If we continue to keep our heads down once we take care of our own and fail to question what is going on, then everyone fails. It's as good as signaling the current decision-makers of the whole "system of schools" here that we are putty in their hands to be molded in whatever way they choose.

Got to say, though, this only contributes to the summer of my discontent.

Fine, fine. I'll just have to suck it up...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but these arguments against Audubon are ridiculous. First, sibling preference hasn't been banned at other schools, notably Lusher, and second, it's hard enough to drop one child off and pick her up at one school. Without sibling preferences, magnets and charters would be funnelling more traffic and parents would have a harder time driving to multiple campuses on a daily basis, along with work and recovery functions.

The French language requirement for older students only makes sense from an immersion viewpoint, and again is not limited to Aubdubon. The International School pre-Katrina had the same requirement.

There are no income-based tests at admissions for Audubon, though there seems to be an internet smear campaign led by someone calling themselves Ryan Bird which purports fallacies like: "Kids need to have paid ten thousand dollars for the Harvard of preschools to have a chance at getting their children into the French school." This feeds into the ridiculous idea that the population isn't mixed, where the shining example is of a French school in France showing a banner that says "Welcome Audubon" which, being written in French, is obviously not contextually translated by the English speaking proponents of this vendetta.

The school didn't pass itself off as a Katrina victim, it WAS one. It was destined to be shuttered, but the parents and staff went charter, pulling off a two month miracle to reopen in January 2006. It accepted a lot of displaced Katrina kids, regardless of income or previous enrollment. Do you think Americorp got duped by Audubon? Really?