Earlier this week, the T-P ran an article touching closely on my little corner of the public school landscape: Our sister school, the New Orleans Free Academy, has the unfortunate distinction of being the first charter school in New Orleans to close. Like my school, McDonogh City Park Academy, it became a charter after the storm. Like my school, it struggled for two years. But this year, under a new principal and largely new staff, MCPA made substantial improvements. The Free Academy, troubled by a series of leadership disruptions, didn't. So the board made the decision to surrender the charter—and to fire the for-profit company that has been managing both schools.*
I met the staff of the Free Academy on several occasions. They had many talented, dedicated professionals. And maybe, with time—and viable management—they could have turned it around. We won't find out.
I think—I hope—that good things will come from the current petri dish of New Orleans schools, but the closing is a reminder that charters (and privatization) aren't a magic panacea for the entrenched and profound problems in public education.