A new study of charter schools in New Orleans is challenging the central claim of charter school proponents that forcing schools to compete for students will increase the quality of a city's education system. In fact, the "school choice" system in New Orleans hasn't empowered students or parents. Rather, it has allowed administrators to selectively pick their students and side step the central tenet of our nation's public education system: that schools are open to and serve all students.
New Orleans is an all-charter district, which makes this new study from the Education Resource Alliance for New Orleans particularly important for understanding how school choice plays out on a large scale. Of the 30 charter school administrators who were interviewed for the study, a third admitted to deliberately picking students and focusing much more on marketing instead of improving academics. Despite district policies mandating open enrollment, schools used strategies like private open houses, informal connections and interviews in an attempt to maintain a selective student body.
This study demonstrates that increased competition does not universally (if ever) lead to higher academic outcomes; rather, it can actually contribute to inequity in schools and keep students from succeeding. Moreover, it highlights how essential it is that these charter schools are regulated and accountable to overarching authorities. Otherwise, "without some process to manage the current responses to competition like student selection and exclusion, New Orleans could end up with a less equitable school system" – something that would hurt all of the city's students.
An ongoing video series from the New Orleans Education Equity Roundtable is chronicling the impact of the city's school choice system on students and their families. You can watch the latest video here.
You can find the full report from the Education Resource Alliance here.