The education priorities One Acadiana announced at a PR event at ULL’s Picard Center are a mixed bag. Sure it’s great to support increased funding of pre-K classrooms at the Picard Center for Childhood Development. But the confident announcement of success for Louisiana’s corporate-driven reforms is both disturbingly self-congratulatory and dangerously wrong.
The absences and odd choices in the presentation should serve as a warning signal to concerned citizens—absent is any mention of Louisiana’s basically unchanged ranking on all indicators of educational success. Charts showing progress in the state are absent any reference to the national trends which have also been upward without the dubious “benefit” of the state’s recent attempts to privatize public education and impose a standardized curriculum on local communities. It is an odd choice to present a set of graphs that is supposed to show Louisiana’s progress that ends the very year Louisiana’s new reform regime started in 2012. The reforms that One Acadiana wants us to defend could not possibly have produced the advances made in the graphs shown to defend them! It was not odd, but still disturbing that the charter schools imposed on Lafayette are presented as a solution to achievement gap when they are largely sited in fancy new subdivisions and don’t offer the transportation that would allow them to serve the low-achievement population. A reasonable person would want to dig a good bit deeper than the feel-good self-satisfied presentation we saw at the Picard Center. They do not present real evidence that we should keep their reforms.
But all that aside: the really disturbing point in the presentation was the continuing utterly false assumption that any problems in the schools are the fault of schools or teachers. No, there was no direct finger-pointing—that has proven politically toxic as the recent school board election demonstrated—but all the “solutions” address curriculum, school “choice,” and who controls the labor of teachers. There was absolutely no understanding of what anyone at all familiar with education or education research or plain common sense knows is the real problem: poverty and its effects. The langauge used by almost every official speaker (except for the director of the Picard Center and a parent) was about “failing schools” or “low-achieving schools” or “D or F schools.” These are profoundly misleading when you understand—as I believe even some of the presenters realize—that anyone can predict the grade label of a school simply by knowing the percentage of children there that qualify for free or reduced lunches. The current reforms grade schools by the wealth of their students’ families and almost nothing more. The schools have emphatically not failed the students. Our communities have failed their families. Our business community has failed to provide a healthy enough economy to ameliorate this issue. The schools have been the only place that we attempt to correct the damaging effects of poverty and to blame them for not accomplishing the whole task by themselves is enormously dangerous.
Ignoring poverty in order to emphasize issues like principal control, limiting the power of elected officials, new standardized curricula and standardized testing to match, and focusing on labeling schools that actually deal with the real problems as failing is enormously misguided. It blames the first responders to our communities’ problems, demeans their reputation and directs funds to “reforms” that will fail because they ignore the real problem at hand.
One Acadiana’s education priorities, aside from its support of pre-k funding, is deeply wrong and divisive. It should be, must be, resisted.
Read about the announcement event at: