"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans"?

It wasn't that long ago that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan claimed hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans". Duncan's disgusting comment might have held some weight if the claim was actually true (although it would still be remarkably insensitive), but multiple scholars have raised questions about the so-called "recovery" of the NOLA schools. Most recently, the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota released a report, "The State of Public Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans: The Challenge of Creating Equal Opportunity," which challenges the narrative of a miraculous recovery in the NOLA schools. It's certainly a must-read. Here's the executive summary:

Charter schools in New Orleans have been hailed as the silver lining to Hurricane Katrina. The state of Louisiana used the hurricane as an opportunity to rebuild the entire New Orleans public school system, and launched the nation’s most extensive charter school experiment. This report evaluates how this experiment has fared in providing quality education to all students of the public school system regardless of race, socioeconomic class, or where they live in New Orleans metropolitan area.


The reorganization of the city’s schools has created a separate but unequal tiered system of schools that steers a minority of students, including virtually all of the city’s white students, into a set of selective, higher-performing schools and another group, including most of the city’s students of color, into a group of lower-performing schools. The extremely rapid growth of charter schools has not improved this pattern.


Segregation of students in the city and the metropolitan area is a cause for concern. Racial and economic segregation undermine the life chances and educational opportunities of low income students and students of color. School choice does not by itself empower students of color to escape this, especially when choice leads them to racially segregated, high-poverty schools.


The report argues that in order to guarantee equal educational opportunities to all of the region’s students, the school system should take a more balanced, regional approach, including a renewed commitment to the city’s traditional public schools and enhanced choices for students in the form of regional magnet schools and new inter-district programs.

Be sure to read the section on "Consequences of the Rapid Expansion of the Charter System" (p. 28-37) and the back-and-forth between IRPUMN and the Cowen Institute (p. 69).

1 comment:

  1. Here's something else: Katrina Bulkley's EPIC review @ http://epicpolicy.org/thinktank/review-fix-city...

    1. Performance went up, but similar improvements are found in the years prior to Hurricane Katrina. From 2002 to 2005, school performance scores went up about 10 points and this was before Katrina. Also, during both the pre-Katrina and post-Katrina periods, scores went up in the state as a whole. The improvement had nothing to do w/Vallas.

    2.The devastation from Katrina led to massive out-migration. The shift in population as resulted in a city that has a smaller proportion of families lliving in extreme poverty: 12.3% in 2005, 6.4 in 2007.

    3. The resources available to public schools have been significantly greater post-Katrina. Pre-Katrina spending was only slightly higher than average statewide spending. Spending in 2007-08 was more than 50% higher than the state average, due to federal "restart" money. In addition to the government money, millions in foundation money has poured into the district.

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