When I give talks about the New Orleans education system, I argue that New Orleans is on its way to becoming the most equitable urban school district in the nation.
That being said, recently, there has been a decent amount of negative national media attention on special education and discipline issues in New Orleans.
Often, after the talk is over, and when we move into audience questions, someone will mention these articles and challenge my assertion about New Orleans and equity.
I respond by saying: New Orleans isn’t a perfect system, but New Orleans educators are tackling equity issues head on. Many systems are not. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, New Orleans has a clear set of rules on equity that are increasingly being enforced in a thoughtful manner.
I also note that New Orleans expulsion rates are below the state average, and that CREDO found that students with special needs are achieving at a higher rater in New Orleans charter schools than in similarly situated schools. Neither of these measures are perfect, but I think the picture this data paints is largely correct.
This article tells a story that supports the notion that, in New Orleans, equity is on the rise . The whole piece is short and worth reading, but the takeaway is this: the RSD sanctioned a top performing charter for violating enrollment rules.
Arguably, the sanction is not strict enough, but I do think it will make a difference and change the school’s practice. Moreover, the sanction seems reasonably appropriate given that the school is providing a good education for a lot of kids; revoking the charter would have likely done more harm than good.
It’s worth considering why equity is on the rise in New Orleans.
1. The government solely functions as a regulator of the system. Its focus is almost exclusively on promulgating and enforcing rules, not operating schools.
2. The government has created processes and infrastructure – in this case a unified enrollment system – that allow for careful monitoring of the system.
3. The values of the government, which are modeled by the RSD’s leader, are rooted in social justice.
4. The entrepreneurs who launch schools in New Orleans are deeply driven by an equity agenda.
I remain convinced that charter schools, when regulated thoughtfully, will the be drivers, and not inhibitors, of educational equity.
To be clear, every day many students in New Orleans still suffer from inequitable practices.
But the number of students that suffer from inequity continues to decrease.
And I’m confident this trend will continue.