Orleans Parish vs. Jefferson Parish

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About five year, I got into an argument with a friend.

He argued that the reforms taking place in Jefferson Parish (a large, diverse suburb outside of New Orleans) would lead to more gains in student achievement than the reforms in New Orleans.

I told him that I was very skeptical of the Jefferson Parish reforms, which were mostly predicated on district improvement.

“Chartering isn’t the only way,” he said.

I told him I had two main objections to the Jefferson Parish reform efforts.

First, I think entrepreneurship (great educators launching and scaling schools) is a more effective reform strategy than best practice adoption (superintendents trying to have their staffs adopt good practices).

Second, I think that structural reform (chartering) is more sustainable than management reform (changing district practice).

Four months ago, a union backed reform bloc won a majority on the Jefferson Parish School Board, displacing the previous reform board, which was led by the business community.

The new chair of the school board, Cedric Floyd believes things are changing:

The early going has been “1,000 times better than the first two or three months of 2011,” he said, referring to the initial period of the former School Board.

Time will tell what happens in Jefferson Parish.

But I stand by my earlier predictions.

I don’t think best practice adoption is very effective or sustainable.

I do think allowing great educators to open their own schools is effective and sustainable.

This is why I believe in relinquishment, not reform.

6 thoughts on “Orleans Parish vs. Jefferson Parish

  1. mripski4536

    I’d like to live in a world that sees all students attend great schools, regardless of their district or charter status. It seems shortsighted to think only one model can do right by kids and families. Student achievement is not a zero sum game. Why must it be one or the other?

    Your friend was certainly wise in his/her forecasting:

    In 2011, fewer than 5,700 Jefferson Parish public school students attended schools rated “A” or “B.” Today, more than 22,400 students attend “A” or “B” schools in Jefferson — more than in any other parish in Louisiana.

    In 2011, more than 32,000 students in Jefferson attended “D” or “F” rated schools. Today, fewer than 9,000 attend such schools. That’s still too many, but the trend is very positive.

    Seven of Jefferson’s 15 “A” schools have open admissions and serve students who largely come from poor communities. Two of those schools were rated “D” in 2011.

    Jefferson’s public high schools are in the state’s Top 10 in graduation rates and students earning college-eligible ACT scores.

    Jefferson has 10 of Louisiana’s top 25 schools.

    Given these remarkable numbers, perhaps it’s time to relinquish the belief that charters have a monopoly on school success.

    1. nkingsl

      Hey Ripper. I think you mischaracterized my argument. No where did I argue that charter vs. district is a zero sum game. There is surely room for both to succeed in that the success of one sector does not directly hurt the other.

      And I don’t believe my opinions are shortsighted. They might be wrong, but they are grounded in: (1) the past fifty years of urban school system performance (2) the most recent CREDO data showing that urban charters are significantly outperforming urban district schools and (3) a reasonable theoretical belief.

      Again, I might end up being wrong, but zero-sum + short sightedness do not appear to be the issue.

      I agree that JP has improved, and this is undoubtedly good for kids.

      My guess is that a charter strategy would have led to better results, but I obviously can’t prove that.

      Regardless, the results in JP are good to see.

      My main question is whether or not these gains will be lasting.

      Time will tell.

      1. mripski4536

        Neerav, good morning banter brother.

        I took the notion of zero sum from your juxtaposing the two districts with “verses.” That implies there’s a winner and a loser.

        I appreciate that you name in your reply that both models can succeed. Steadfast on both sides of the reform/anti-reform debate is an unwillingness to celebrate successes that contradict our own belief system. We don’t allow cognitive dissonance. “F” rated schools in Jefferson Parish got to “C” status at a much faster clip than those in New Orleans, but that narrative is ignored or disregarded by relinquishers. Similarly, some in New Orleans still believe schools here have not made progress in the last 10 years.

        Both sides suffer from confirmation bias. CREDO studies are truth. Jefferson Parish success must be tenuous.

        There’s a middle path where multiple truths exist and very different models create great schools for kids.

  2. Wm Murphy

    On the one hand, I agree with M.Ripski. I believe I have had the same argument with N.Kingsland, and I am deeply proud of the outcomes in JP given my role there for the previous just over two years. JP outpaced the state and continues to perform better than Orleans even in areas where it has similar demographics.

    On the other hand, those results were hard won and, like many successes they are fragile. Perhaps like reformers in New Orleans, we made some dangerous decisions on the way to success. Perhaps we made enemies where we might have made allies or moved fast with technical changes when thoughtful adaptive change was called for. Perhaps the result was the four months ago election and the inclination of the current board to roll back changes may be a monster of our own making.

    Time will tell.

    Interestingly one of the primary reforms was to increase traditional principal autonomy and accountability so they could operate like and compete with charters. I suspect those freedoms can be taken away far faster than even a poor but passable performing charter can be closed. But I also suspect there is an erroneous assumption inherent to relinquishment that charter reform is heartier and doesn’t suffer from an equally dangerous fragility or its own unique potential improprieties. But again time will tell.

    In the meantime, for our part, we cannot pause on perfection of plan or sanctification by thought leaders. The children will be at breakfast in 30 minutes.

  3. Mike G

    Great post and comments from Ripski and WmMurphy.

    Neerav, a question:

    1. Has any city with charter population of 10% seen a significant rollback in the existing charters? I.e., Boston has a cap, and many poison pills have been proposed over the years, but none adopted. What about elsewhere?

    2. I’m not sure how to ask the same question of district reform. I can only think of a few outliers that haven’t been totally swept away….DC for example.

    In sum, I agree that charter reform is far more likely to “survive” than district reform (but only date modestly more likely to succeed, per CREDO).

    1. nkingsl

      Hey Mike.

      1. I know of no charter sector that has lost market share over time.

      2. It would be interesting to track what % of charter markets have declined in quality over time vs. have increased in performance. Nationally, the story has been marked improvement in urban charter quality, but I imagine there are exceptions.

      3. I would call the urban charter success more than modest, as it’s nearing 3-4 months of extra learning per year.

      4. Not sure regarding district: Long Beach is often held up as a sustainable model of district reform. Denver as well. But I agree that most get swept away…




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