school choice

Un-“chartered” Territory: An Educator’s Perspective on New Orleans

On Tuesday May 13, Amy, Kelsea and I met with Alex, a sixth grade social studies and English teacher at a New Orleans charter school. She has taught at a public school as well as two charter schools. The charter school where she teaches now is specifically for Hispanic students. We were ignorant to the charter school system when we first met with Alex so we had many questions. She described how charter schools are becoming a huge part of the school system in New Orleans. In the upcoming years, New Orleans is supposed to become 100% charter. This is the first area to ever do this.

We soon learned the difference between the charter schools and the public schools. Alex said that teachers should be able to teach more creatively at a charter school. The main difference, though, is the ability to choose what school a child can attend. There is the idea of “school choice” that allows anyone who does not want to attend their local public school to choose what charter school to go to. This strives to stop discrimination and divisions in schools. Alex shared with us a negative side to this. She said that she has seen first hand parents taking advantage of this system. She said she has seen parents switch their child’s school so many times that they child has no consistent environment for their education. The parents think that if the child has one bad teacher that they need to pull them out of that school; this happens multiple times and places.

She also mentioned how charter schools are more known for grades K-8. The charter high schools are more similar to the public high schools because there is a more fixed curriculum. Every student in every high school has to take the same basic courses to prepare to eventually take the SATs or ACTs.

What I found to be most interesting about our conversation was her response to our question asking where she would send her kids to school. After she taught at the charter school and said many positive things about it, we expected her to say a charter school. But when she answered, she said she would send them to public school. When asked why, she responded simply, “I believe in the public school system.” I wondered then how many other New Orleans citizens felt about this transition of the school system becoming 100% charter.

Liz Broske