The post-Hurricane Katrina educational reform in New Orleans has been largely based on analyzing academic data to improve instruction, and student and school performance. However, to provoke reform that improves outcomes for all students, the discourse must include data on individual school climate.
School climate, including school and classroom-level discipline, are important to ensure a positive learning environment and we must look at the “discipline gap” as it relates to the “achievement gap.”
Consequently, discipline data must play an explicit role when determining the expansion of charter management organizations. Neglecting to factor in discipline data constricts the narrative of school performance and provides the public with a narrowed view of the reform efforts.
Consider this snapshot (based on reporting by The Lens Charter School Reporting Corp):
- ReNew Charter Schools was asked by the Recovery School District to send a letter of intent to charter Schaumberg Elementary for the 2014-2015 school year.
- ReNew operates Batiste Cultural Arts Academy and Sci Tech Academy, which both earned grades of “F” last year (and this year are transformation schools). Both schools have out-of-school suspension rates above 20 percent.
- New Orleans College Prep Schools, whose schools are failing, suspended over 60 percent of their student population and has applied to take over management of any other charter or direct-run school.
The recently released school performance scores not only flatten the fantasy of education reform success, they make us question the core convictions of the reform itself — to transform failing schools into high-performing, quality learning environments.
According to the data, 69 percent of the schools are failing and in the 2010-2011 academic year 46 percent of the schools had an out-of-school suspension rate above 15.0 percent. Yet routinely, failing schools and failing charter management organizations are given the opportunity to take over other schools.
The RSD should consider discipline data to determine school and CMO performance in addition to using the data in the charter application approval process. There is a relationship between school discipline and student achievement.
Ineffective discipline policies, such as overuse of suspension, often push students out of school, increasing the likelihood that they will drop out and increasing the likelihood of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
But education reform in New Orleans promised an audacious vision of high student performance and high quality schools for all students. What we have is quite the opposite and low-performing schools with high suspension rates do not serve our children or our city.
Jolon McNeil, Schools First Project director
Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana