August 29, 2010


New Orleans' School Miracle: Hurricane Katrina changed the city. Five years later, Sarah Carr looks at the school revolution brought by the storm. (Sarah Carr, 8/28/10, Daily Beast)

Lafayette and, indeed, New Orleans in general is instructive when considering these questions because, since Katrina, the city has become a sort of education laboratory, with a higher percentage of children in charter schools than anywhere else in the country. Nearly 70 percent of the city’s children are enrolled in charter schools this fall, and educators say that New Orleans might become the nation’s first all-charter city within the next few years.

Charter schools differ from other schools according to the specific laws of the state. But, in general, a charter school is run by a board of directors that has flexibility to set its own curriculum and calendar, and make its own decisions when it comes to the hiring and firing of teachers.

In New Orleans, the storm that upended life in the city also enabled a band of officials to make a series of controversial, radical changes in an effort to improve the city’s historically troubled schools.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, state officials took control of most of the public schools, firing all the teachers and putting the schools into the state-run Recovery School District - an entity created before Katrina to suggest recovery from academic failure, not recovery from the hurricane. Since then, officials have rapidly moved to turn the city’s traditional schools into charters.

“We talk about post-traumatic stress, but there’s also post-traumatic growth,” said Andre Perry, the CEO of a network of charter schools. “There’s an empowerment that comes from being held responsible—and I don’t mean that from some conservative, ‘pull yourself up by you your boot straps’ mentality. But when you have to hire contractors, negotiate with FEMA, rebuild your house, these things change you.”

After Katrina, how charter schools helped recast New Orleans education: New Orleans has become a laboratory for education reform since hurricane Katrina. Charter schools, which are free to experiment, make up the majority of the city’s schools. (Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, August 29, 2010, CS Monitor)
Five years later, the schools are like a nascent jazz band: bursting with energy and improvisation and making bold academic strides – but still far from achieving their full promise.

“Few cities have achieved the widespread gains in student learning that New Orleans has recorded since Katrina ... [but] state and city leaders need to keep upping their game,” says Bryan Hassel, co-director of Public Impact, an education consulting group in Chapel Hill, N.C. “Dramatic reform will always involve trade-offs, in this case a trade of stability for dynamism.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 29, 2010 10:28 AM
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