What was lost

Death, Sex and Money is doing a series of podcasts on New Orleans and what has changed in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina.

I was particularly struck by one woman’s comments who had lived through the storm and the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Terri Coleman tells the reporter:

Progress and change comes at a cost, I think in the narrative of progress told by outsiders there’s not an appreciation for what we lost in order to make this progress.

I think this stuck out for me because we are hearing so much about the New Orleans Recovery District. After Hurricane Katrina, the school systems was essentially scraped, the teachers fired, and the entire district was converted to charters. And yes, the children’s test scores have risen in the last ten years.

But of course, that isn’t the whole story. What the people of New Orleans have lost is a seat at the table. The parents have lost their voice because there is no real “district.” There are only autonomous schools so there is no one to go to if you are not being heard.

The school district has been made over by people who are not from New Orleans. The teachers do not represent the community. The administrators are making decisions without community engagement.

This is particularly problematic for English Language Learners and families who have special needs kids. And indeed, the district is being sued both by parents of non-English speakers and families with kids of special needs.

There are also student walk outs from students who feel as if the harsh disciplinary practices are not preparing them for college but are preparing them for the military or prison. http://media.nola.com/education_impact/other/Carver%20Students%20Demand%20Letter%20(2).pdf

I have noticed that there is a dividing line in folks who are interested in education. There are those who believe that test scores are the only things that matter. Therefore, any and everything is justified by the raised test scores.

But there are folks like me who believe that test scores are only one marker of a school’s success. And a school district is not a success if you have taken away a community’s right to be actively engaged in the education of its children.

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