Friday, September 25, 2009

Tulane institute is charter school hotbed

In yet another report about the charter school experiment in New Orleans, USA Today reporter Rick Jervis spotlights Tulane University President Scott Cowen as a "leader of the redesign of the city's public schools."

"We're going through a cultural transformation right now," Cowen is quoted as saying. "I think we're on the road to a much better system of schools than we ever had before the storm."

The story tromps over some old ground, noting how troubled the city's school system was before Hurricane Katrina. It begins with a very positive portrayal of one charter school. But it then veers away from the standard meme and characterizes the city's public schools as "a perplexing network difficult for parents to decipher, particularly those still struggling to return to their homes post-Katrina..."

Jervis reports on one family's problems with the system - their children have attended five schools in the past two years. Says the parent, "They were straight-A students. Now they're struggling. It's a new set of friends, a new group of teachers, a new set of hallways. Children can't learn like that."

Cowen admits to the reporter that the system can be confusing, and says, "We ultimately have to figure out what's the right governance model for the entire system of schools."

Here's what's NOT in the USA Today story. Cowen isn't just the president of Tulane University, he also runs the Cowen Institute for Education Initiatives, which was established "to lead the systemic reformation and transformation of the public education system," according to its Web site.

The Cowen Institute is much more than a cheerleader for public education reform, it's home base for a number of proposed charter schools in the city. Sharing a street address (200 N. Broadway, Ste. 108) with the Cowen Institute are New Schools for New Orleans, Inc., Firstline School, Arise Academy, Benjamin E. Mays Preparatory School, Pride College Preparatory Academy, Success Preparatory Academy, Xanadu College Preparatory Academy, Miller-McCoy Academy for Mathematics and Business and Sojourner Truth Academy.

Two of those schools, New Schools of New Orleans, Inc. and Firstline School, are represented by Stephen Rosenthal, brother of former BESE member Leslie Jacobs, an early and ardent supporter of charter schools.

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