Almost 80% of all public schools in New Orleans are charter schools, either independently operated or run in a cluster by a Charter Management Organization (CMO). This leads to a decentralized system of public education, and an overall sense of free market competitiveness- in my mind, increasing the expectation of education for all involved- everyone runs faster in a race. The autonomy inherent in charter school structure, and their emphasis on innovative, targeted educational initiatives, have already lead to natural and successful partnerships with Sistema programs in the U.S. (http://conservatorylab.org/). Due to the ubiquity of Charter schools in New Orleans, it seems to me that they could be excellent participants in this conversation, and potentially formidable collaborators. I sat down for coffee today with a leader in one of the many CMOs which now dominate the public schools in city. We talked about many things, focusing in on what she felt the most urgent needs in the city were regarding education. She shared with me that children in New Orleans are typically two years behind the nation educationally, beginning at age 6. She noted that in order to play catch up, many principals in the city focus on basic academic skills, such as reading, above all else – some schools starting with a 90 minute block everyday of reading time and instruction. This urgent need to bring these children up to speed nationally leaves many programs with blinders on to anything regarded as extracurricular, eliminating P.E., arts, etc. in favor of maximum basic skill building time.
Dare I say it? I believe we might have identified another need.
In reference to yesterdays thoughts, there still exists the k-6 access gap in music education, which I now see is being weighted against the achievement gap in basic academic skills. Does addressing these two needs have to be at odds with each other? Is this really an 'or' issue? Is there a perspective and a potential structure which will allow it to be an 'and' issue? Could we address both needs together, and address them in such away that the children improve more in both areas of need?
Questions of the day:
Would classroom time given to intensive, rigorous music education help children bridge the achievement gap in fundamental skill areas like reading and math?
What could intensive, rigorous music education look like incorporated throughout a school day?
A study regarding the transformation of the New Orleans School System post-Katrina: http://www.coweninstitute.com/our-work/applied-research/education-archive/education-transformation-archive/the-transformation-of-a-school-system-principal-teacher-and-parent-perceptions-of-charter-and-traditional-schools-in-post-katrina-new-orleans/