Paul Vallas: Maybe you should get the New Orleans people to stop calling it “The Vallas Turnaround System”
The URL for Vallas’ new corporate website is http://www.vallasturnaround.com/.
The headline on the website reads, “The Vallas Turnaround System.”
They’ve probably even copy-written the term.
And certainly the PR people at Vallas’ partner company, the Cambium Learning Group, must be getting increasingly concerned.
Why? Because the more truth comes out about New Orleans, the weaker the “brand” gets…
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, destroying or damaging 100 of the City’s 128 school buildings.
In response, the Governor and Legislature of Louisiana adopted legislation shifting 107 of the “worst-performing public schools” to the Louisiana Recovery School District.
Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, has been quoted as saying the Hurricane, “was probably the best thing ever to happen to education in New Orleans,” because it literally washed away the old and allowed the anti-teacher, anti-union, education reformers to design the “perfect system” that would showcase the benefits of privatization.
The Recovery School District’s move led to the layoff of all public school teachers and the elimination of any teacher unions.
The task of building a new education system fell to Paul Vallas, whose previous efforts had included serving as the CEO of the Chicago School System and then the state entity running the Philadelphia School System.
As Superintendent of Louisiana’s Recovery School District, Vallas implemented what he has proudly called, The Vallas Turnaround Model.
Despite now serving as the superintendent of the Bridgeport, Connecticut schools system, earlier this summer, Vallas’ private consulting company signed a $1 million contract with the State of Illinois and an $18 million contract with the City of Indianapolis, to bring the Vallas Turnaround Model to those communities.
As of result of Vallas’ work, most schools in New Orleans are now run by charter school management companies. In fact, at least 80 percent of schools are under the control of charter schools.
As the Recovery School District explains on their website,
“Charter school educators are empowered to teach; parents are empowered to choose their school; principals set their own budgets so that more money gets to the classroom; community members form boards that oversee schools; and the district’s central office, which is not close to the parents, the teachers, or the children, monitors schools but does not tell parents and teachers how to educate their children.”
The RSD website goes on to inform readers that,
“Empowered schools flourish. Rather than focusing on mandates from bureaucrats, teachers and parents work together to get all kids through college or into professional careers.”
Together, they paint a troubling picture about the truth behind New Orleans and Paul Vallas’ Turnaround Model.
Yesterday, Louisiana Commissioner of Education, Paul White, and the Recovery School District’s Superintendent, Patrick Dobard, issued a press release crowing about the improved standardized test scores that are coming out of New Orleans.
As Diane Ravitch notes, when it comes to the “education reform movement, “success” is a relative term.
Before the Louisiana State Department of Education was silenced by the state’s present Governor, bobby Jindal, their State Department of Education noted that, 79% of New Orleans’ ‘highly-praised charters’ received either a D or an F on Louisiana’s school report card.
But despite that truth, the state Commissioner of Education, who had previously served as the RSD’s superintendent and the new RSD superintendent, informed the media that this year, New Orleans students improved their ACT standardized test scores by “four-tenths of one percent.”
Or, using their words, “The average composite score on the ACT for students in the Recovery School District (RSD) New Orleans rose four-tenths of a point from 16.4 to 16.8 from 2011 to 2012 – representing an increase four times the statewide average which rose one-tenth of a point from 20.2 to 20.3 during the same timeframe.”
In response, Gary Rubinstein puts their claim into perspective.
Seven years after Paul Vallas and the “education reformers” successfully destroyed the public education system in New Orleans and replaced it with charter schools, the average score for the standardized test known as ACT stands at 16.8, placing it among the very lowest cities in the nation.
Worse, the best political spin that the reformers could come up with was that after privatizing virtually the entire education system in New Orleans, and giving the corporate education movement total control of the city, the “average composite score on the ACT for students in the Recovery School District (RSD) New Orleans rose by” less than half a percentage point.
These reformers then claim that this movement is particularly impressive, because the number represents, “an increase four times the statewide average.”
To put the situation into perspective, imagine a parent telling their child that they can go into a store and buy a piece of “penny candy.” The child returns, moments later, to report that the piece of candy actually costs 4 cents. The parent, who becomes outraged, responds, “Absolutely not, are you kidding me? That piece of candy is “four times” more than the penny I said you could spend and you certainly aren’t going to get that much money from me.”
Imagine, the reformers feel entitled to issue a press release claiming the “reform movement” deserves credit for increasing test scores by an insignificant amount, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars implementing the very program they said would “turnaround” the entire New Orleans School System.
But perhaps the most incredible piece of this whole episode is how the press release ended.
Recall that the Recovery School District’s primary claim is that “Empowered schools flourish. Rather than focusing on mandates from bureaucrats, teachers and parents work together to get all kids through college or into professional careers.”
The Louisiana Commissioner of Education’s press release summarized the improvement in the ACT scores by noting that,
“Starting this school year, Louisiana will administer the ACT test series to all public school students in grades 8, 9, 10, and 11 as part of the state’s comprehensive plan for continued improvement… Administering the exam in middle school and throughout high school will provide an assessment of student progress that can be used to keep students on track to graduate ready for college and career.
Furthermore, through Louisiana’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act Waiver Application, the state will include student scores on ACT tests in a simplified school performance score, beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. The ACT will account for 25 percent of the School Performance Score for high schools.
So, in the minds of the education reformers, the definition of “rather than focusing on mandates from bureaucrats,” is to mandate yet another set of standardized tests that will be given to all students, starting in middle school and then throughout high school, and then using the test, which has shown NO statistically relevant improvement as one-quarter of the entire “School Performance Score” that parents and policymakers are supposed to use to determine which schools are succeeding and which schools are failing.
Perhaps Paul Vallas should ask his reform colleagues to stop calling the New Orleans process, “The Paul Vallas Turnaround Model.”