September 21, 2005

An ill wind might blow some good

Having to start all over might not be a bad thing:

Both in Louisiana and beyond, the wreckage in the Big Easy has sparked thinking about how the city might reinvent its beleaguered school system, in difficult straits long before the storm was but a gentle sea breeze.

“We need some bold, out-of-the-box thinking right now,” said Stephanie Desselle, the senior vice president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a Baton Rouge-based advocacy group. “We absolutely ought to not return . . . to the school system that they had before.”

Clearly, New Orleans has many urgent needs, with so much of the city still drying out from flooding brought on by the hurricane. But as those priorities were being attended to last week, education thinkers were contemplating a different future for a district that the state already considered in both academic and financial crisis.

Emphasis mine. It shouldn't take a hurricane to prompt these kinds of comments, not when it had this kind of reputation before the storm:

Like many urban school districts, the New Orleans public-school system faces countless social problems. Families are poor. Violence is prevalent. Many parents are uneducated and underemployed.

New Orleans schools have been plagued by scandals and leadership crises that have made a difficult situation even more unmanageable. Led by a squabbling school board that state officials openly deride as incompetent, the system was forced to hire a private management company this summer after it was discovered that the administration was more than $25 million in the red.

There have been four acting or appointed superintendents in the past four years, and a majority of the district's students fail state-mandated English and math tests.

Posted by kswygert at September 21, 2005 10:48 AM