Panel Discussion: The Education Experiment - Petri Dish Reform in New Orleans and Louisiana

This panel and more will be presented on two stages at the Rising Tide 7 Conference on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

Eventbrite - Rising Tide 7 


Panel Discussion: The Education Experiment - Petri Dish Reform in New Orleans and Louisiana

Louisiana is famous for many reasons but since Hurricane Katrina, it has become the poster child of national K-12 education reform, being touted as a “radical experiment in reform”  in the New York Times (August 14, 2008).  Recently Governor Jindal's reform agenda dominated the 2012 legislative session and the national media with legislative priorities revising teacher evaluation and implementing a voucher system. The reforms have drastically altered the process for evaluating teachers while virtually eliminating tenure. In addition, the voucher program has diverted  nearly $2 billion in public education funds to private institutions resulting in controversy concerning the curricula of the some of the approved voucher schools. Proponents claim the program is about empowering principals and parents by giving them more choices and creating competition.  Critics charge that it is no less than an attack on the very concept of public education.

Meanwhile, New Orleans, with its diverse system of various types of charter schools with their own boards, remains the state's (and some would say the nation's) most preeminent "laboratory"  for educational experimentation.  During a recent television appearance, Senator Mary Landrieu praised "a brand new entrepreneurial, public school system that's attracting middle class white and black families, Hispanics, back to the system and seeing extraordinary gains in academics, freeing up our principals to be great and expecting our teachers to be great."

Critics have charged that the charter system decentralization makes its governance less accountable and transparent and that its reliance on the Teach For America program devalues experienced educators. Many also claim that the selective admissions policies in many of the most sought after charter schools encourages racial and class segregation. Critics also charge these same charter schools of failing to provide services for special needs students.  

Education in New Orleans has undoubtedly become synonymous with innovation.   The question remains whether it will also be associated with progress.

Moderator: Jessica Williams thelensnola.org
Jessica Williams is the education reporter at The Lens, the city's first nonprofit online newsroom. Williams covers education in general, and the city's charter schools in particular, and regularly monitors and guides coverage for the brigade of reporters involved in the Charter School Reporting Corps, who cover each of the city's 46 charter school boards.  Some of her work at The Lens has included: charters' failure to follow open-meetings, open-budgeting, and public records laws, stories that resulted in many charter school boards becoming knowledgeable about their legal obligations and changing internal procedures; persistently high out-of-school suspension rates in New Orleans schools, despite many schools' pledge to implement strategies aimed at keeping kids in school; and the rising costs public-school parents pay each year for enrichment and other purposes to supplement their child's taxpayer-subsidized education. She is a New Orleans native and a proud New Orleans Public Schools graduate.

  • Brian Beabout - An Assistant Pofessor of Education at the University of New Orleans and a founding board member of the Morris Jeff Community School. His research on post-Katrina school reform has been published in the Journal of Educational Change, Multicultural Education, and the School-Community Journal.

  • Elizabeth Walters - A writer, editor and high-school teacher in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. She holds a B.A. from Smith College and received her Post Baccalaureate training for Louisiana teacher certification from the University of New Orleans. She recently served as a judge for the Newspapers in Education and Education Article categories of the 2012 Maine Press Association journalism awards.

  • Zack Kopplin - A student at Rice University and a recent graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School.  Zack grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he is working to make sure that he and other Louisiana kids will be able to get jobs after they graduate. Since June, 2010, Zack has led the effort to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, Louisiana’s misnamed and misguided creationism law.  He is organizing Louisiana students and citizens in support of his repeal.  When not fighting for science, Zack likes to play soccer and swim. website http://www.repealcreationism.com/

  • Dr. Lance Hill - Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research, a tolerance education and race relations research center based at Tulane University in New Orleans.Hill holds a Ph.D. in history from Tulane University, where he has taught US History and Intercultural Communication. His scholarly research field is the history of race relations, the radical right and ethnic group trauma. He is the author of The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and The Civil Rights Movement

    In 1993, Hill co-founded the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University, a race and ethnic relations center. The Institute's tolerance education program-the most comprehensive project of its kind in the South-has provided training to more than 4,000 teachers from 785 schools in the Deep South. Hill is the principal trainer for the Southern Institute's cross-cultural communication program which teaches skills to improve communication and collaboration among ethnic groups in the United States.

    Hill brings a unique perspective to the analysis of the impact of hurricane Katrina; he is not only an expert on the history of race relations in the Deep South, but he also remained in New Orleans throughout hurricanes Katrina and Rita where he participated in community-organized humanitarian relief work. Hill has published a series of commentaries in local and national publications on his experiences during the rescue and race and equity in issues in the recovery. He has frequently been cited in national media on post-Katrina race relations in New Orleans, including The New York Times, Time Magazine, ABC News andBBC News.

  • Caroline Roemer Shirley - Executive Director Louisiana Association of Charter Schools http://lacharterschools.org/
    Caroline has more than 20 years of experience organizing, developing and managing corporate and political communications strategies and public policy initiatives with an emphasis on message development and coalition building. Born and raised in Bossier City, Louisiana, Caroline left her home in 1991 to work around the country on political campaigns, eventually founding her own consulting firm, Roemer Bell, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Clients have included mayors, congressmen, governors and Fortune 500 companies.

    Returning to Louisiana in 2005, Caroline became the first executive director for the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools in the fall of 2006. The LAPCS currently represents more than 90% of charter schools in Louisiana and is recognized as the leading advocacy organization on behalf of charter schools in the state.



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