Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Report from New Orleans

It was one of those rare years when I didn't (couldn't) make it to the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. This year's Forum was held in New Orleans in the wake of the death of CES's founder, Ted Sizer. So I'm relying on friends and colleagues to fill me in on the happenings.

This report from Matt Alexander was in mailbox yesterday and was posted on the Smallschools Listserv:

Hi everyone,

I just got back from the CES Fall Forum in New Orleans -- an inspiration as usual! Thanks so much to Lewis Cohen and the folks at CES national for continuing to make this phenomenal gathering a reality.

It was also fascinating -- and depressing -- to learn about the state of public schools in New Orleans 4 years after Katrina. I have always thought that choice was an important component of an effective school system, but what I heard and saw over the past few days made me question my thinking. Despite the many choices available -- numerous charters, plus two different school districts --it seems that a disturbing number of families cannot access public schools, either because nearby schools are full or because they have burdensome admissions requirements. Many of the best choices seem to be in wealthier neighborhoods; the Lower Ninth Ward (where housing is also hard to come by) has only one school (as opposed to 4 before the storm).

After hearing about this at the conference, I saw yesterday's Times-Picayune, which is doing a series on the same subject. The first article, "Selecting a school can be a real test for New Orleans parents," came out yesterday and there are stories coming this week describing 4 families' efforts to enroll their children in a good school.

Matt Alexander
June Jordan School for Equity
San Francisco, CA

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