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How Arne Duncan is Transforming New Orleans Public Schools

Few of us can forget Arne Duncan’s now infamous quote that Hurricane Katrina “was the best thing to happen to the education system in New Orleans”.

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, charter school enterprises came in along with Teach for America and “transformed” the education system of that city. For a description of what happened during that period and why, read Naomi Klein’s introduction to her book The Shock Doctrine.

For other views on whether Duncan and Co. have succeeded with their grand plan see the Institute on Race and Poverty: New Orleans School Experiment is Not Serving the Needs of All Students, Access Denied, KIPPsters vs. Hipsters, New Orleans Parents Complain That Charter Schools Are Leaving the Most Vulnerable Behind, Paul Vallas Gets An Earful from Karran Harper Royal, a founding member of Parents Across America, School Turnaround Blitzkrieg Mires Down and The Problem With New Orleans Charter Schools.

And now this story from The American Independent, New Orleans schools: A nexus of poverty, high expulsion rates, hyper-security and novice teachers. To follow is an excerpt.

John, an eighth grader at the time, gives another student on school grounds a candy bar. He is spotted by a security guard and told he now faces suspension. Frightened, John runs, getting caught twice and slapped with handcuffs as many times, acquiring bruises along his wrists in the process. A jacket his grandmother purchased is torn during the scuffle with the much larger security personnel.

“Knowing how my dad has been in and out of jail his whole life and always had handcuffs on… I promised myself it would never happen to me,” John says. “I’m a kid, and kids shouldn’t have handcuffs on them. It disgusts me putting kids in handcuffs and jail.”

Another student, identified as Chris, is handcuffed to a radiator in the central office of the school after completing an out-of-school suspension. He’s shackled for three hours, and not even the protestations of a teacher, and finally his mother, lead to the release of the boy.

“They just kept handcuffing me. Even other students got handcuffed,” shares Chris. “One kid was in special-ed and he would holler and cry when they handcuffed him.”

Last December, the Southern Poverty Law Center transcribed these stories of Chris and John, students attending New Orleans schools, along with half a dozen other first-person accounts of the increasing penalization on the playgrounds and hallways throughout the city.

Yet the brute force chronicled speaks to a much larger dissonance affecting New Orleans public education, supplying more ammunition to critics of New Orleans schools that bulk up on young, cheap and inexperienced teachers to educate a community particularly blighted by poverty.

To read the full story, go to the American Independent.


3 comments on “How Arne Duncan is Transforming New Orleans Public Schools

  1. Gerald Chertavian
    August 4, 2011

    Great article, and very interesting link. Very eye-opening.

  2. Anonymous
    July 27, 2011

    Excellent article.
    Thanks for the link.

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