A dose of reality

Education reformers found a silver lining in the Katrina tragedy when Louisiana officials announced that charter schools would play a central role in the rebirth of New Orleans's education system. Reality, however, has a way of sprinkling ice water on such idealism. So far, a number of charters--especially those overseen by the state-run Recovery School District--are struggling mightily. Shortages of teachers, textbooks, classrooms, and cafeteria equipment, for example, have forced students into chaotic situations where little learning is apt to occur. (For instance, half-day study hall, held in the school auditorium.) And administrators already straining to rebuild schools from scratch must devote significant chunks of their day to combating violence. McDonogh High, one of five high schools in the recovery district, has already registered a whopping 50 suspensions and eight expulsions. If there is any bright side to this mess, it's that teachers will eventually have newer and better supplies than in their old schools--along with greater autonomy. McDonogh biology teacher Wanda Dailet said "This is my first year coming in with a brand new desk, without wood peeling off it." A small comfort perhaps, but relief is clearly going to come in small doses to education as to everything else in New Orleans.

"Problems plague N.O. schools recovery," by Steve Ritea, New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 9, 2006

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