Cajun Contagion

In New Orleans. Conference. I only go to a few per year. a) I like home. b) I feel a wee bit guilty. I'm invited to these things based on the performance of our school. The performance is that of our students, shaped by teachers, leaders, tutors, et al. Not me. Well anyway. It's not like these trips are fun in the normal sense. I've been inside the hotel almost every minute. I even skipped the one cool activity - going to hear jazz - and snuck back to my room to watch the Celtics unravel against the Cavs. Sigh. I needed to loot the mini fridge of 5 different snacks to calm down.

The conference is called The Futures of Ed Reform and organized by a couple Harvard profs. 30 or so people banging out ideas. I'll share some this weekend.

Post Katrina, NOLA has almost no real school district anymore. All the power is at the individual school level, whether charter or charter-like. The school autonomy virus has spread here like wildfire.

Something like 80% of residents in local polls feel the schools have made a real leap forward since Katrina. Visited Sci Academy and Miller-McCoy.

Ben, the leader of Sci, was trained in Linda Brown's Building Excellent Schools fellowship (and spent a week shadowing our principal, Jorge). The school is just a couple years old.

Classic young No Excuses school. The culture is really impressive. The kids appreciate the teacher effort and being pushed. I asked one kid about the diff between this school and his former one. "Teachers teach you here," he said. What do you mean? "In my last school, we just....(shrugs)......kinda sat."

Few Sci teachers have more than 3 years of experience, though. And that probably correlates with what I saw: what my colleague Orin would call low "ratio." Short for "student work divided by teacher work." When a teacher is working like a madman, but the kids - while attentive - are not actually doing much hard work, that's low ratio.

Experience does not, of course, guarantee at all that a teacher becomes good at this.

But it's really hard to get right as a rookie.