In a parallel universe down in New Orleans, the transformation myth of the Recovery District, a portfolio district of privatized charters that was forced on the citizens of New Orleans, is being dissembled by Louisiana education bloggers and the publication of a landmark book dissecting the hostile takeover of New Orleans public schools after the Great Flood of 2005.
Dr. Kristen L. Buras, education professor at Georgia State University and native of New Orleans, has completed a ten-year documentary of the veteran African American teacher holocaust that took place as the necessary preface to cleansing New Orleans public schools of their history and their experienced black teachers in order to transform New Orleans schools. Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance probably won’t be on the reading list for Teach for America or the SMU Teaching Trust or Sharon Grigsby, the Dallas Mayor, or the book club for CitySquare. The book is way too graphic and doesn’t fit the current Dallas narrative created by the editorial board at The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Education PACs that have bought most of the current Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, or the Bush Institute at SMU.
Dallas ISD Levees
The levees in Dallas ISD were breached in October, 2014 with the physical ouster of a democratically elected Trustee from a middle school, Billy Earl Dade, in her school district. The manhandling of Trustee Bernadette Nutall by Dallas ISD’s police, summoned by Superintendent Mike Miles, is the perfect metaphor for the exact ideologies that accompanied the hostile takeover of New Orleans public schools by corporate reformers and federal and state politicians. With the successful removal of an elected Trustee from a public school, the levees in Dallas ISD were finally breached by corporate reformers.
Seven of the nine elected Dallas ISD trustees are currently bought and paid for by millionaires and billionaires. These trustees support the mythologies that African American teachers are not fit to teach African American students, that the biggest cause of the pervasive achievement gap is a black patronage system, that white capitalistic, for-profit business models can cleanse school districts containing a majority of poor kids, that poor black folks are not capable of governing themselves, and that reform of public urban schools can only be carried out by the white, business community.
We know through their silence regarding the treatment of Trustee Nutall that the seven, bought Trustees on the Dallas school board have very limited capacities in terms of reading education research and deriving meaning through the context of campuses. Instead, these trustees need their marching orders from a failed investment banker or the Regional Chamber or phone calls from the moneyed class in Dallas, which for the most part is male and white. Lack of diversity of voice keeps Dallas mired in self-consciousness. No “world class” city in the universe actually looks like reruns of the television show, Dallas. In no “world class” city is the female voice so consistently silenced or mocked.
While the hostile takeover of the public schools by the Mayor, Mike Rawlings, and Trustee Morath has failed due to actual public input, the fact that an elected Trustee would be manhandled by the school police says otherwise. SOPS has won. Morath has won. Barth has won.
Dallas schools are on a trajectory to look exactly like the failed experiment in New Orleans that was also the result of a breech in the levees accompanied by a hostile takeover of a minority school district.
The New Orleans Recovery District (RD) “Miracle”
Just like the Dallas ISD Miracle that is nothing but a mirage of delusions spread by Todd Williams and Trustee Mike Morath, the Recovery District Miracle doesn’t stand close examination. ACT scores for the RD stand at 16.3 with only 80% of students tested and uncounted dropouts disappearing before the testing date and inadvertently increasing test results. Many of the RD charter schools with similar demographics to the highest poverty, African American high schools in Dallas have similar ACT scores even after New Orleans was illegally cleansed of its African American veteran teachers who were fired en masse to make way for charters filled with TFA.
While Louisiana’s pass rates on Advanced Placement tests rank only above those in neighboring Mississippi, the RD pass rates on AP tests are a stellar 4% even after years of black teacher cleansing and the inevitable takeover by mainly white, transient, Teach for America Jim Crow cronies and other alternative certification teachers.
The myth of higher graduation rates in the RD also can’t stand scrutiny. Not only did the Great Flood wipe out much of the record keeping done at the state level on high school students’ exits before graduation, charter schools in Louisiana don’t have the oversight provided by the stringent state public records laws of Texas. Instead, Louisiana state superintendent John White resists all efforts at transparency in charter finances and student achievement records. RD charter schools quickly adopted the same techniques that Dallas public schools have used to inflate their graduation rates: phony credit recovery through online programs, leaver code misuse that mirrors that of Dallas ISD (fraudulent exits to other states, private schools, and being homeschooled) and high attrition rates before graduation for the all-charter district.
Added to blatant fraud in student transfers and leaver codes are the KIPP favorites of high student attrition, especially in black male students, and high rates of suspension. While charters might report a 90% graduation rate, they are only counting the percentage of the senior class that graduated, not the original freshman cohort which may have been downsized by 50% before their senior year.
Louisiana state superintendent John White went a step further to build the fantasy of the RD miracle: he simply lowered cut rates on state tests in order to pump up student pass rates. Only when Advanced Placement and ACT scores were finally published by campus could researchers determine the RD miracle was a sham academically. The graduation fraud accomplished by disappearing students and phony credit recovery were also accepted until education bloggers exposed the methods used to bolster rates.
The Recovery District of New Orleans is rated by the state of Louisiana at the very bottom of Louisiana school districts, three or four spaces from the very bottom after turning the entire district into charter schools.
We in Dallas are left with only one question: why the rush to take Dallas public schools down the same path?
Short of $100 million dollars in federal, state, and philanthropic dollars chased the vision of white capitalism cleansing New Orleans public schools of their black teachers and history, both betrayed and portrayed as the source of low achievement along with a publicly elected school board. Today the Recovery District portfolio of charter schools can’t withstand close scrutiny of student achievement results or graduation rates while citizens of New Orleans have no citizenship rights in their own public schools .
So why the mad rush by Dallas Trustee Mike Morath, the Dallas Mayor, Todd Williams, the Teaching Trust at SMU, Mark Melton, and others to force a hostile takeover of Dallas schools based on the belief that poor folks cannot assume the responsibilities of democracy, that African Americans in South Dallas can only be saved by removing their citizenship rights through ethnic cleansing of their veteran teachers and elected school board members?
The cleansing of New Orleans, both by water and privatizing and chartering the entire school district, has already proven no less corrupt and no more effective than what existed before the Great Flood, but as we witnessed this month at Billy Earl Dade Middle School in South Dallas, SOPS, Todd Williams, the Teaching Trust, the Dallas Morning News editorial board, and the remainder of the corporate reformers are intent on breaking the levees here in Dallas through the actions of a rogue superintendent.
Democracy in South Dallas will be broken, one way or the other. Schools in South Dallas will be taken, one way or the other, even if the only way to make them completely fail is through Dallas Superintendent Miles’ Broad-inspired initiatives and critical masses of TFA and inexperienced teachers.
The levees will be broken. Democracy will be broken, with the same assumptions, the same players, and the same money that took New Orleans after the Flood.