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Are School Closures Really the Best Solution for Our Kids?

 

 

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As a parent, if you believed your child to be enrolled in a failing school, would you withdraw them?

And if you did, using the city’s One-App process, how likely would it be that you would be lucky enough to get your child enrolled within your preferred school? A better school?

I have been asking myself these questions since learning that two New Orleans schools, Algiers Technology Academy and Gentilly Terrace Elementary School, are preparing for closure at the end of the 2016-17 school year.  Students and parents alike will now be left to figure out the next steps to ensure enrollment into new schools.  

The emotional toll closures such as these take on students, families, and school staff leaves me wondering if and how we can avoid these painful pitfalls in the future.

We must first be honest and acknowledge that we have some really bad schools in the city of New Orleans. And we are not unique in that; every city in America is struggling with the same problem. So the question becomes how and why are schools allowed to repeatedly demonstrate poor performance while serving our kids?  Neither of the aforementioned schools has earned higher than a D performance rate since 2014 and they are far from the only ones with this repeated pattern of poor performance.

 

SCHOOL 2016 PERFORMANCE GRADE 2015 PERFORMANCE GRADE 2014 PERFORMANCE GRADE
Algiers Technology Academy F D D
Gentilly Terrace Elementary School D D D

*Obtained from Louisiana Department of Education

There are too many D and F schools to list but the number is way too large. And perhaps most concerning is that all of the city’s accelerated high schools received F ratings as well.

The Louisiana Department of Education uses an assortment of assessments to get a snapshot of each school’s performance rating and states the following:

Since 1999, the state has issued School Performance Scores for public schools, which are based on student achievement data. To clearly communicate the quality of school performance to families and the public, Louisiana adopted letter grades (A-F). All schools with sufficient data receive school performance scores.

Is School Closure the Best Solution?

Danielle Dreilinger with the Times Picayune writesIf you’re going to close a school, you had better have a better place for students to go.”  

Dreilinger goes on to write the following in a different piece during the same week:

The Tulane researchers generally endorses the closures and chartering despite the disruption they caused for families. However, they found the strategy worked because the decisions typically targeted very low-performing schools — schools that earned an F on the state report card — and students attended better schools afterwards.

On the surface, it makes great sense that students from chronically failing schools would benefit from leaving those schools to make a fresh start with greater opportunities at a higher performing school.

But, what exactly happens when these students are now placed into new and assumingly more successful learning environments?

And are they given the tools and supports required to keep up with the higher expectations?

Or, are they unfortunately unable to play catch up, thus maintaining low academic-performance and in turn, negatively impacting the performance rating of the new schools?

I understand why people want to give schools failing schools a chance to improve; but at what cost? And on what timeline? While we work to rewrite the narrative of New Orleans Public Schools, we must do what is in the best interest of the children who need to learn now, today.  

Many millions of dollars are allocated to education each year, but if strong academic performance and improvement are the priorities, then our communities are being short-changed. Much like the culture that existed pre-Katrina, some of our schools have become synonymous with failure, and contrary to their mission, are only maintaining the city’s cycle of poverty and poor outcomes for the students they “serve.”

For a full-review of Louisiana Schools’ 2016 Performance Scores, click here

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