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A Choice to Fail: Voucher Schools Flunk LEAP And Johnny White Out?

It’s all about a choice. School choice rings from the hills as the clarion call from reformers. “Parents need a choice,” they say smugly, while counting their private foundation grant cash in their skinny jeans. And who could argue? Choice sounds great. It’s like Burger King: school anyway you want it. 

So some parents got a choice. Without information. With smug sloganeering about superior private schools, filled with visions of their children studying philosophy in wood-paneled prep academies. Instead, they got snowed in a White-out:

As Gov. Bobby Jindal tries again to fund his controversial school voucher program, new test scores indicate that many of the current students educated with public money in private schools are not thriving. Or at least they aren’t yet.

Released Wednesday, LEAP scores for third- through eighth-graders show only 40 percent of voucher students scored at or above grade level this past spring. The state average for all students was 69 percent.

For accountability purposes, students attending private schools at taxpayer expense take the same standardized tests as their peers in public schools. In 2011, when the voucher program operated only in New Orleans, students averaged 33 percent proficiency.

Now seven schools in Jefferson and Orleans parishes have results so low — less than 25 percent of voucher students proficient for three years running — that they have been barred from accepting new voucher students in the fall, as per state policy. In Orleans, the schools are Life of Christ Academy, the Upperroom Bible Church Academy, Bishop McManus, Conquering Word Christian Academy Eastbank and Holy Rosary Academy. In Jefferson, they are Faith Christian Academy and Conquering Word Christian Academy.

From failing schools to failing schools. A difference without a distinction. Choosing without a choice. And John White sees the writing on the wall. As the walls of Jindal’s Education reform sandcastle tumble down in the courts and legislature, White is out the door:

Rumors have persisted for several days now that White would be leaving his post at the end of the current legislative session, which must adjourn by June 6.

Those rumors reached a new pitch on Wednesday with word that White would be headed “for Duncanland” in June.

For those unfamiliar with the Obama cabinet, “Duncanland” would be Washington where Arne Duncan serves as Secretary of Education. Before joining the Obama administration, Duncan served as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools whence controversial former Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas came. White succeeded Vallas as RSD superintendent before being elevated to his current post by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) at the behest of Gov. Bobby Jindal in January of 2012.

BESE President Chas Roemer, contacted about the report that White was headed for Washington, said he had not heard any such report.

To the escape hatches! No ed reformer hack left behind!

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