The Big Easy’s School Revolution

by on April 30, 2012 at 7:33 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

Interesting op-ed in the Washington Post on schools in New Orleans.

…the levees broke and the city was devastated, and out of that destruction came the need to build a new system, one that today is accompanied by buoyant optimism. Since 2006, New Orleans students have halved the achievement gap with their state counterparts. They are on track to, in the next five years, make this the first urban city in the country to exceed its state’s average test scores. The share of students proficient on state tests rose from 35 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2011; 40 percent of students attended schools identified by the state as “academically unacceptable” in 2011, down from 78 percent in 2005.

….Most of the buzz about the city’s reforms focuses on the banishment of organized labor and the proliferation of charter schools, which enroll nearly 80 percent of public school students, up from 1.5 percent pre-Katrina. But what really distinguishes New Orleans is how government has re­defined its role in education: stepping back from directly running schools and empowering educators to make the decisions about hours, curriculum and school culture that best drive student learning. Now, state and school-district officials mostly regulate and monitor — setting standards, ensuring equity and closing failing schools. Instead of a traditional school system, there is a system of schools in what officials liken to a fenced-in free market. Families have more choice about where their children can best succeed, they say, and educators have more opportunity to choose a school that best aligns with their approach.

The population of New Orleans changed pre and post-Katrina so it’s difficult to compare pre and post-Katrina test scores; although given the state of the schools pre-Katrina it’s hard to believe that the schools have not greatly improved. What really drives innovation, however, is not a simple substitution of private for public but a system substitution of competition for monopoly. The key therefore is to expand charters and voucher programs.

The state of Louisiana just passed a voucher program that although limited to poor and middle class students in failing schools will offer as many as 380,000 vouchers to be used at private schools or apprenticeships. Indiana has passed a potentially even larger program that would make about 500,000 students voucher-eligible. Keep in mind that at present there are 50 million public school students and only 220,000 voucher students nationwide.

My ideal program would fund students not schools and would make vouchers available to all students on a non-discriminatory basis. We are far from that ideal but we are slowly moving in the right direction. Charters and the expansion of voucher programs around the country are starting to bring more competition, dynamism and evolutionary experimentation to the field of education.

Big Labor Ostrich April 30, 2012 at 7:57 am

Queue the excuses for why pre-Katrina public schools were underfunded and never given a chance.

Ben April 30, 2012 at 7:58 am

I don’t get your leap in logic. The article doesn’t talk about vouchers or private schools at all (you do know charter schools are not private schools, right?). Yet, you are somehow trying to twist the story to suit your personal perspective?

Also, you do realize that private schools are no panacea, and are not the answer, right? Well, apparently not, given your comments. Teachers at private schools tend to be paid far less than public school teachers (not due to unions). Also, private schools are generally unable (and unwilling) to help students with special needs. They do not generally have specialists to assist students with various learning disabilities. In fact, it’s very common for them to marginalize or de-enroll students with special needs in order to get them out of their test pool, and push them back to public schools, which incidentally do provide these services.

Lastly, while it’s not covered in the story, I wonder how many students are receiving at least 2 meals per day through the school? For example, I noticed that the principal who in this quote:
“To those who argue that the overarching effects of poverty prevent children from learning, Principal Mary H.L. Laurie has a terse answer: “Then don’t come to work here.””
…teaches at a school that offers breakfast first thing in the morning. One thing urban schools have noticed is that when it assures students are getting at least breakfast and lunch, then their performance and behavior greatly improves.

At any rate, as you note, there are a lot of variables, but it seems that the NOLA public school system is having some success, and not because of vouchers or private schools. As such, the story seems to greatly contradict your desired outcome of increasing the voucher program. At the least, that sounds like a weak attempt to create another pathetic social class system; one that isn’t necessary. Rather, it’s time to get politicians and the amateurs advising them out of the way and let educators do what they do best: educate!

Doc Merlin April 30, 2012 at 8:48 am

“At any rate, as you note, there are a lot of variables, but it seems that the NOLA public school system is having some success, and not because of vouchers or private schools.”

Er, new orleans has school choice, and charters which is much the same thing.

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 9:09 am

“:Rather, it’s time to get politicians and the amateurs advising them out of the way and let educators do what they do best: educate!”

With no accountability this is a known recipe for disaster. Why would they do anything, because they are all really good people? Sure. Yes, politicians may be the second-worst accountability system of all others tried. That’s why we want parents in a fiduciary duty for the children.

Doc Merlin April 30, 2012 at 10:28 pm

“That’s why we want parents in a fiduciary duty for the children.”

+10000000000

Noah Yetter April 30, 2012 at 9:10 am

Do you have any evidence to back up this claim that private school teachers are paid less? Nuns don’t count, BTW.

prognostication April 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

I don’t think this is really a controversial statement. Some types of prestigious private schools may pay more than their public equivalents, and perhaps these are what comes to mind when you think of a public school. But a huge percentage of private schools are religious schools (even ignoring Catholic schools, since you want to exclude nuns, http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/TableDisplay.asp?TablePath=tables/table_02.asp), and these almost never pay as well as their public equivalents.

prognostication April 30, 2012 at 9:32 am

When you think of a *private* school, rather

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

And the question is “so what?” You probably don’t need all the rigamarole that goes along with public schools. You are less unionized, so it’s more of a labor market and less of a labor tournament. So, sure, they should tend to get paid less, which is just getting paid commensurate with their requirements in a market where they can be replaced, not easily, but as legally easily as a majority of other jobs.

Doc Merlin April 30, 2012 at 10:29 pm

There are national stats. Private school teachers are not just paid less, but A LOT less on average. Also per pupil costs for private schools are far lower.

arpad April 30, 2012 at 9:47 am

Actually, private schools are a panacea.

A bad private school exists only so long as parents have no better alternative. Once a better private school opens up a bad private school simply disappears. A bad *district* school can go on for decades doing a lousy job of educating kids with the staff and elected officials enjoying sublime indifference to the damage they cause.

Teachers in district public schools are paid not according to their value but according to what they can extort from their employer. So while private school teachers may be paid less then their district school counterparts it’s not because one group is doing a good job and the other a poor job.

In fact, in district schools, competence on the part of teachers isn’t so much assumed as irrelevant, a state of affairs both the public education establishment and the teacher’s unions are trying very hard to maintain. Pleasingly enough the notion that all teachers competent is eroding under public scrutiny and in state after state, despite the most forceful of resistence, teacher accountability is being enacted into law.

As for kids with disabilities, it turns out that the more money’s available per disabled kid the more of them there are. There are school districts which actively push kids into that status just because there’s funding available.

Oh nos! How can that be? District schools are the soul of compassion and egalitarianism. The adults who make a living from district schools and oversee them would never engage in anything as reprehensible as identifying kids as disabled just to get more funding. That sort of conscienceless avarice is the province of wicked capitalists.

Proving that district schools can’t get anything right, except prehaps by accident, school-supplied breakfasts are coming to be seen as complicit in the boogeyman-du-jour, childhood obesity. Turns out that the schools, while anxious for the funding that accompanies breakfast programs are indifferent to the possibilty that they might be contributing to childhood obesity. After all, they’re job is to stuff the little rats not worry about their health.

And while there may be a lot of variables, variables, unlike all men, are not created equal. One variable stands head and shoulders above others and that’s the difference in authority available to parents and the repercussions of the specifics of that authority. In a district school the last *decision* parents make is where to live. After that it’s apply, ask, beg, wheedle, petition, hope and pray. Ultimately though district officials who have no concerns about repercussions of virtually any sort make the decisions. Where charters and/or vouchers are available parents are the ones with the final say. Between the two situations it’s not hard to discern in which the best interests of the child are paramount.

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 11:36 am

I’ve heard anecdotes of them shuffling kids into special classes to get them out of the standardized testing pool. Who is studying this?

Brian Donohue April 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm

…and let educators do what they do best: secure better pay and working conditions for educators.

there- fixed that for you.

Dan Weber April 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

> Teachers at private schools tend to be paid far less than public school teachers (not due to unions).

Please follow up on this. Why is this important?

> Also, private schools are generally unable (and unwilling) to help students with special needs

In my experience, the public schools were completely unwilling to deal with special needs, despite legal requirements to. The most productive path was to find a private school that was very inviting. And also a fraction of the cost.

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 9:06 am

“you do realize that private schools are no panacea, and are not the answer, right?”

I love questions like this. Noone here believes in panaceas, but okay, so why aren’t they the answer?

If you’ve been paying attention to the NO education, and I barely have, they have talked about vouchers, private and charter schools before.

KevinH April 30, 2012 at 9:30 am

I have to say that I have mixed feelings about vouchers. I agree with you that it could create a air of competition where everyone wins, but I am a bit worried that it would fail two groups of people: First, special education/severely underperforming students. And second, families who are poor enough that they cannot afford to pay even part of private school costs.

So, I’m curious what you would think about the following compromise. Fund students, not schools, like you said, but only allow those funds to be used at schools that meet two basic criteria: they allow anyone in (and have some reasonable lottery system when they are above capacity that does NOT take into account ability), and the voucher must pay for the entier education, not cover only some portion of the costs. Thoughts?

ila April 30, 2012 at 9:55 am

Both of the measures mentioned will improve equity. However, large, public schools benefit quite a bit from scale in that the average fixed cost per student is smaller. Charter schools are significantly smaller on average than public schools (http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/view/projects/1?page=yes&id=5&parent=1&question=3). If vouchers are limited such that they can only be paid to schools that do not charge more than the cost of the voucher, then there would need to be significant consolidation in charter schools that use the vouchers. I don’t know how that would impact performance. I would probably support mandatory admission. Can anyone cite anything about how voucher programs that have these two limitations compare to the current baseline?

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 10:02 am

Why? Underperforming kids can underperform. Why should they get more resources per student? Special education should probably be treated as, oh I don’t know, “special.” There is no obvious reason to bundle obviously different services.

Steven Kopits April 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

Competition does not mean “everyone wins”. In competition, there will be some losers. However, the overwhelming proportion of people will do better, and within that, the marginal-but-viable students will benefit the most. So with competition, it’s not clear (to me at least) that the bottom 5% or so will be better off. Nor it is clear that the top 10% or so will be better off (they are already at private schools or are self-motivated.) It is relatively clear, however, that students in the 25-75th percentiles will be better off. That’s the essence of the liberal (free market) argument: Competition delivers the best results for most of the people, not the best results for all the people. Liberals (libertarians) are willing to make that trade-off.

The Original D April 30, 2012 at 11:04 pm

From what I’ve heard, it’s not about performance. The more common outcome is that the private schools just refuse to admit them. Only public schools are mandated to accept special needs students.

Lou April 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

A private school that could effectively teach kids with learning disabilities, behavior problems, etc. would be a fantastic profit opportunity. And it would certainly serve the students better than the current system of mashing them in the same classrooms as everyone else. Not only would special ed kids not be losers in a privatized system, they might be the biggest winners of all.

Popeye April 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm

And a private school that could effectively teach children from poor and broken homes has no real ceiling on how much profit it can rake in! Magic!

Lou April 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

You don’t really get the purpose of the voucher system, do you?

Bender Bending Rodriguez April 30, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Fund students, not schools, like you said, but only allow those funds to be used at schools that meet two basic criteria: they allow anyone in (and have some reasonable lottery system when they are above capacity that does NOT take into account ability), and the voucher must pay for the entier education, not cover only some portion of the costs. Thoughts?

My first thought is that sounds amazingly like a charter school: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_school

dearieme April 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

“The population of New Orleans changed pre and post-Katrina …”: ah, the land of free speech.

Nanonymous April 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm

A man has to eat. Professors have to eat well.

Cambias April 30, 2012 at 9:44 am

Don’t call it the Big Easy. That’s a media-invented nickname younger than I am. The city’s real sobriquet is “The Crescent City.”

Jason April 30, 2012 at 10:06 am

I agree that there was a benefit to charter schools — they assisted in getting a new school system off the ground rapidly. Who wouldn’t want to lock in economic rents in a new government program?

Here’s how I see this playing out long term.

One of these charter schools will develop a reputation as a “good school” based on a statistical fluctuation in test scores (it will probably have low enrollment). It will see a surge of applications allowing it to become more selective, boosting test scores even more. It won’t increase enrollment relative to population because that will drive test scores toward the average. Eventually, this mechanism will create a strict hierarchy of schools that will lock in advantages for wealthier residents who have time to spend with their kids (or money to buy them e.g. science camps) during their summer vacations. The school’s name will become a source of signalling and any difference in the quality of education will be negligible. Its apparent “good test scores” will be due to quality inputs/selectivity.

Possible mechanisms to bypass this include the elimination of summer vacation and an NFL-style draft where the best students each year are subject to the first pick of the worst schools …

Steven Kopits April 30, 2012 at 11:11 am

Actually, what’s more likely is that the primary school scene becomes a bit more like the college assortment, in which quality levels range from community college, to technical schools, to state schools and mid-tier liberal arts colleges, to small elite colleges and large elite colleges. Not everyone goes to Harvard or Haverford. A lot of people go to Michigan State, Evergreen, Towson State, and Cape Cod Community College. There are different alternatives for different tastes and talents. Of course, primary schools will tend to be more local, and the range correspondingly smaller. However, I think we can expect that parents, on the whole and regardless of income and background, will have a desire to see their children learn basic reading, writing and math skills.

Methinks April 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Naturally smarter people with more resources at their disposal will do better than people who are not as smart with fewer resources at their disposal. Old news.

Public schools don’t change that.

Bender Bending Rodriguez April 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm

In most states, the laws regarding charter schools don’t allow for selective placements: Everybody who applies gets in. If there are more applicants than slots, slots are assigned on the basis of a random chance lottery.

Doc Merlin April 30, 2012 at 10:31 pm

…Or they are awarded preferentially to poor students. (As is the case for the Charter school that my mother sits on the board of)

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 10:20 am

Bizarre stuff.

1. Assume voters/consumers are irrational 2. ???? 3. Equality!

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 10:32 am

Perhaps mostly, it is a confounded experiment of what happens to education when you get rid of underperforming students. It always amuses me that the knock against private schools is they can accept who they want. If you accept student A and student A’s test scores go up because student A no longer has to put up with bullying or spit wads from student B, then student B needs to be a better student. It’s a feature, not a bug. The student B problem is a separate issue.

bob April 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm

It is very easy to get better average scores: Segregate students based on their results. Curriculum matches the student, teachers live with less disruptions, and averages rise. Troubled students get the shaft though.

You see the opposite in Spain. The currend model produces great results in the lower quintile, but the average is down from a few decades ago.

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Some day I’ll go back and look up to see how many of the kids who gave me grief in public school are now in prison. Being fairly libertine I don’t think they necessary should all be in prison, but they damn sure don’t deserve to be in my living room.

dead serious April 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm

If you were honest with yourself you’d admit that you probably don’t deserve to be in your living room either, given that you seem to spend most of your day commenting on blog posts.

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I’m not in my living room, and it takes me a total of about 15-20 minutes to make comments. Why are you so unproductive?

KLO April 30, 2012 at 10:33 am

The problem with the cheery take on these numbers is as follows:

(a) In grades 3,5,6 and 7, the average number of students scoring “Basic” or above on the iLEAP tests across Louisiana in 2006, the first year for which I could find data, was 60.7. By 2011, that number had increased to 66.8. This suggests that, as with most unreliable state tests, Louisiana’s tests have gotten easier over time.

(b) During the period from 2005 to 2011, Louisiana students made no statistically significant progress on the federal NAEP tests in 4th grade reading and math and 8th grade reading. The only test Louisiana students made statistically significant progress on was the 8th grade math test. Even there, the progress was quite modest.

The iLEAP tests are basically bogus, whereas the federal tests are generally regarded as far more reliable. The iLEAP test shows all Louisiana students made enormous gains during the period from 2006 to 2011. The federal tests shows no such progress. Why, except the need for crummy education reporters to continually find ephemeral education miracles, do we justify meaningless results such as these?

chuck martel April 30, 2012 at 10:47 am

“The state of Louisiana just passed a voucher program that although limited to poor and middle class students in failing schools will offer as many as 380,000 vouchers to be used at private schools or apprenticeships.”
____________________________________-

So much for equality under the law.

TallDave April 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

This is a very interesting story that’s been developing over the past few years, something to continue keeping an eye on.

What really drives innovation, however, is not a simple substitution of private for public but a system substitution of competition for monopoly.

Incentives matter.

Right Wing-nut April 30, 2012 at 10:53 am

Would someone explain to me how a pervasive voucher system in primary & secondary education would not have the same inflationary impact as the guaranteed student loan system has had on post-secondary education? Would that same someone also explain how a pervasive voucher system would not eviscerate the independence of private primary & secondary schools as the GI Bill has in post-secondary education?

Half-privatized is often worse than fully regulated (see electricity in California).

The rich drive better cars, take better vacations, eat better food, live in larger houses in neighborhoods with less crime. We accept this. But for some reason, if they send their kids to better schools (or have better doctors), some Great Injustice has occurred, and Something Must Be Done. Please.

For the record, we home school.

as April 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I assume as a right wing nut you value equality of opportunity very highly and equality of outcomes very little. But then, it should be pretty obvious why an injustice occurs if poor kids have to go to bad schools.

If I am wrong with my initial assumption, you should mention your system of values to explain why you don’t think an injustice occurs in this case.

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm

This is not necessarily true, especially if bad schools are a given and someone has to go to them. Just as parents having one too many kids than they can afford is taking as a given rather than realizing this is part of the opportunity vs outcome dichotomy.

First and foremost, most school doesn’t benefit the kid at all. This is one of the lies adults tell themselves to make themselves feel better. What a scandalous concept, and yet so obvious. Most kids are still out of school all Summer and we don’t consider it a tragedy, at least if we see the world as it is. More specifically, these bad schools certainly don’t benefit the kid. Maybe we could take away the title “failing school,” a bizarre concept, and call it what it is, a holding center.

Right Wing-nut April 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I’m happy to oblige.

First, I do not equate “beneficial to society” with “justice”. The two are very different concepts. It might be very beneficial to society for no one to smoke. That does not make outlawing smoking a matter of justice.

Second, I do not agree that these sausage factories are beneficial to society, either in the small or in the large. Institutions naturally incline to the advantage of their more permanent members. That is, (even for private schools), their advantage it to the teachers & principals, not to the students. The “education” being offered is the loss-leader used to get the children to the school. Once there, school is first about indoctrination according to the view of those wielding power in the system. (A fact that the militant Islamists understand as well as the Baptist & Methodists did in the US 140 years ago.)

The question is this: do I find a government-run welfare school system, a government-financed and regulated school system, or a truly private (for profit & charity) school system preferable? Clearly, the latter. I would even argue that the first two violate the freedom of religion and freedom of association clauses, and likely, the freedom of speech.

Under a private system, children (and parents) would be much, much more aware of the cost of the education. This would help them to value it. It would also help them to assess whether or not it makes sense for Johnny to spend seventeen years sitting on his butt for six hours a day or maybe go into a trade after nine. Businesses would stop belly-aching about how the school system is not preparing children to work in the real world (after all, why should it?), and start financing programs that would do exactly that. It would even free the Supreme Court up to consider other matters.

And no, no tax breaks (government regulation) for any of it.

mpowell May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Thank you for clarifying that I should ignore all your opinions on education. It would have been enough for you to establish that you don’t care about equality of opportunity. But apprently you also believe that many students would actually be better off starting work at age 10.

Ghengis Khak May 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm

6 + 9 = 10? Or you think children should start school at age 1?

Right Wing-nut May 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Would you care to explain what exactly you mean by “equality of opportunity”? We all speak in short hand, (ie: calling the US a democracy). I believe that the government needs to keep it’s hands off the scales. I believe that hard work should not be punished, as it is for too many in these sausage factories. I believe that those who work hard should be permitted to pass the benefits to their children.

And for the record, I did not state that their education should end after eight grade. Trade schools spend a lot more time standing up & moving around than the current primary track in the US.

TallDave April 30, 2012 at 10:54 am

Keep in mind that at present there are 50 million public school students and only 220,000 voucher students nationwide.

Someone noted a while back that America is now on average something like a 4th-generation meritocracy. So while it seems insane that to get your kids better opportunities you actually have to move to a district that has better schools (by dint of being populated with higher achievers) but that’s what happens when the school system is dragged along behind the private sector instead of being part of it.

Ryan April 30, 2012 at 11:01 am

“What really drives innovation, however, is not a simple substitution of private for public but a system substitution of competition for monopoly.”

The result of these competition/ accountability systems has been corruption of measurement tools (high stakes tests).

Seth April 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm

True. Parents should be the accountability measure through their choice of where to send their kids to school, not tests.

Bob Dobalina April 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I have thought very hard about this and I can’t come up with what a ” 4th-generation meritocracy” is. It’s been a meritocracy for only four generations? It was a meritocracy specifically four generations ago? Neither seems to make sense in context.

JWatts April 30, 2012 at 4:38 pm

“4th-generation meritocracy”?

I don’t know about the 4th generation argument. I thought the argument via Murray was that it’s become a much greater meritocracy since the great expansion of college education post WW2.

lords of lies April 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

“The population of New Orleans changed pre and post-Katrina”

coy understatement: the only way anyone in the public sphere can talk honestly about anything these days. stay brave, CC!

Urso April 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Except that what you’re implying isn’t actually true. New Orleans public school students were black before the storm; they’re black after the storm. They’re just doing much better now.

Dan April 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Yes, everyone else is afraid to mention the gap in test scores between black and white students.

sa April 30, 2012 at 11:39 am

this was quite insightful, alex. of course it stands to reason, what would happen if vouchers came to effect.

pmp April 30, 2012 at 11:46 am

So, Professor Tabarrok, about those Indiana vouchers

Andrew' April 30, 2012 at 12:57 pm

What is the point here? Of course they want control over everything, but at least now they have to dissemble and doublespeak to get it. They will have to fight against a rising tide of public opinion and they haven’t got the boots, or the levees for it.

Obviously, there should only be ‘accountability’ to our enemy, The State for NEW kids to the private schools even under their logic. We’ll get there and then some. 10 years ago when I talked to normal people about this stuff they thought it was make believe, and it mostly was.

Ryan April 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm

“My ideal program would fund students not schools and would make vouchers available to all students on a non-discriminatory basis.”

If what you mean by “vouchers” is “dollars” and if what you mean by “non-discriminatory” is “unfettered,” then I most whole-heartedly agree!

Jacob Lyles April 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Mancur Olson’s idea of institutional sclerosis. His big thesis was that when you smash and rebuild a bureaucracy, it gets better.

GW April 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Two questions:
(1) What happens to grades in an environment in which schools compete for students, like customers. Won’t they inflate as they have in Higher Education?
(2) In a universal voucher system, will all schools be required to take all local comers, or will that continue to be the burden of the traditional schools, allowing charters and privates to boost their performance stats simply by excluding anyone who would drive their scores down?

The Real Bob April 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I am on the board of a private school. We use our state’s public teacher pay schedule but only pay 70% of the public school rate because that is all we can afford. Our total tuition is right at half of the stated cost per child in the local public schools but since parents have to fork out the money themselves we are at the choke point for tuition costs. Academically we are highly successful and I attribute this to two main things: discipline and parental involvement. If a kid is a troublemaker, they get a couple warnings. If the issue is not corrected, they are gone with no recourse (remaining tuition is refunded of course). This keeps troublemakers from hampering the learning environment of the other students. It is also quite embarrassing for the parents (perhaps a catalytic mechanism). Also, when parents have foregone other consumption to procure a private education for their child, they are very interested in their child’s academic progress and work willingly with teachers to improve the student’s weak areas. I like the idea of vouchers so that all kids could have access to this kind of education but fear that in reality the state would be given the power to mandate away our policies to match their social agenda.

buddyglass April 30, 2012 at 5:07 pm

In the least antagonistic way possible, allow me to voice some disagreement. You write:

“We use our state’s public teacher pay schedule but only pay 70% of the public school rate because that is all we can afford.”

Why are you able to do that? That is to say, why would a job-seeking teacher decide to teach at your school for 70% of what he/she could make at a public school? Two reasons. First, public school teachers have to deal with unmotivated, unprepared and undisciplined students, whereas teachers at your school presumably don’t. Those types of students either aren’t admitted in the first place or they’re kicked out. Second, public school teachers have to deal with a bunch of bureaucratic red-tape just to do their jobs. So, while your school manages to educate on the cheap, it does so in part because it’s able to cherry pick a certain class of student and because the job of a public school teacher is so crappy you’re able to hire staff at a discount. Your school’s cost formulae are likely not generalizable to the situation in which all students have to be educated (to the extent that’s possible), including those who are unmotivated, unprepared and undisciplined, and who get no support at home.

“Academically we are highly successful and I attribute this to two main things: discipline and parental involvement.”

Exactly. First, your students are pre-selected to have parents who are devoted (at some level) to their childrens’ education, otherwise they wouldn’t be at a private school in the first place. Second, you have the ability to kick out students who are unruly or unmotivated. This makes your teachers’ lives significantly easier (meaning you can pay them less) and allows you to filter out students who aren’t trying. This isn’t a criticism, but it’s no wonder your school outperforms most public schools.

mpowell May 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm

This exactly. Private schools are great for those that want to pay for them, but really, you can’t be committed to the principle of universal public education and also believe that full vouchers should be issued without restriction on where they can be used. It is necessary for fully state paid educational programs to include all students regardless of special need properties, discipline or unmotivated parents. Unless you want to institutionalize the principle of holding kids responsible for their selection of parents. As a result, Bob’s comment, while interesting, is not particularly relevant to the subject.

buddyglass May 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I actually kind of like the idea of unrestricted vouchers. Possibly larger ones for special needs kids. Why does what I wrote imply they’re incompatible with the goal of universal public education?

Insight April 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm

“Also, when parents have foregone other consumption to procure a private education for their child, they are very interested”

“I like the idea of vouchers so that all kids could have access to this kind of education”

Oops.

The Real Bob April 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm

So it’s not really a “school” problem, it’s a discipline/motivation problem in public schools. I am not sure how we address this through education policy. It’s obviously cheaper to intervene now than to support them later in life when they can’t compete in the labor market of the future. Boot camp?

buddyglass April 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm

For what it’s worth, my suspicion is that the demographic differences between “pre” and “post” Katrina are significant. Also, some of the improvement may have come from a decrease in private school utilization. I don’t have stats, so that’s pure conjecture. Parents who might previously have sent their kids to private school (because the public system was so abysmal) are now sending their kids to public school, and those kids are predisposed to perform better. In other words, some of the performance gain may come from the post-Katrina N.O. public system simply having a better class of student and not from any change to the schools themselves.

Steve Sailer April 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm

As far as methods for raising test scores go, drowning some of the poorest people and driving many of their neighbors to Houston seems kind of severe.

Anti-Gnostic May 1, 2012 at 9:30 am

Toughen up, Steve-o. It’s better than using a ball peen hammer.

Seth April 30, 2012 at 5:48 pm

“What really drives innovation, however, is not a simple substitution of private for public but a system substitution of competition for monopoly.”

This, I think, is a key point missed by most. Another way to frame it is from the perspective of the user. ‘It is not a simple substitution of a choice between free-to-the user public and cost-to-the-user private, but a system substitution for choice by the user.’

jorod April 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm

It couldn’t hurt to stop building schools in areas that are below sea level and regularly get hit with Category 3-5 hurricanes. In fact, don’t build anything in those areas and save billions.

Floccina May 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm

1. How much are they spending per student in these charter schools.
2. Do the tests measure anything important?
3. This The population of New Orleans changed pre and post-Katrina so it’s difficult to compare pre and post-Katrina test scores should be highlighted.

Personally I think that the Government schools should be means tested and middle class and rich families charged directly for each child they have in Government schools. The charge should be based on the parents’ reported IRS income and scaled so as to not create a huge marginal tax.

Urso May 2, 2012 at 10:25 am

So I guess there’s this unconscious national narrative whereby, on September 1, 2005, New Orleans put all its poor black folks on a bus to other states, and they’ve never returned, so all that’s left is middle class white folks. Nothing could be further from the truth. I didn’t realize people still believed this canard (which I last heard from Jesse Jackson in roughly spring 2006) until I read this thread and found so many apparently intelligent, well-educated people who apparently still believe it.

In other words, everyone in this thread going on about how much the demographics in NO have changed since the storm obviously has no idea what they’re talking about. I’m just throwing that out there.

Anti-Gnostic May 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm

If you take the IQ distribution of New Orleans blacks, drown or banish the ones on the left-end tail, then you will see an increase in the mean test scores of the remainder.

Harsh, but effective.

Urso May 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I realize you really, really want that to be what happened, because it would support your monomaniacal insistence on inherent racial IQ disparities being the cause of and/or solution to every problem on earth. And if that had been what happened, it would support your thesis. But that’s not what actually happened.

Anti-Gnostic May 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Okay, so what happened? Iodized salt? Dads moving back in with moms? More Hispanics?

They broke the unions and chartered schools from the ground up, which appears effective. But the article also mentions that the “population of New Orleans changed pre and post-Katrina.” It could be a lot of things. The author seems to think demographics played at least some role.

Urso May 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

“They broke the unions and chartered schools from the ground up, which appears effective.”

This + an influx of optimistic do-gooder TFAers from up North, who are probably better (and cheaper) teachers at 23 than the previous set ever could be in their entire lives. Sometimes a system is so broken it’s better just to blow it up and start over.

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