June 26, 2015

TEACHING SHOULD JUST BE A COMPONENT OF NATIONAL SERVICE:

Reflections on an Extraordinary Decade of New Orleans School Reform (Frederick Hess, 06/26/2015, Education Next)

Katrina killed 2,000 residents, forced a massive evacuation, and shut down the city's schools for a year. In the aftermath, all district employees were terminated and the collective bargaining agreement was allowed to expire. The state took control of nearly all local public schools via the Recovery School District and rebooted the district as a system of charter schools. [...]

It seems to me that the story of New Orleans' success entails two parts: a disaster that created room to reinvent a deeply troubled urban school system and an energetic commitment to seize that opportunity. Post-Katrina New Orleans wasn't just about reforming what already existed; it was an invitation to be free of rules, regulations, relationships, and routines that had created the status quo and to start anew. Of course, as Howard Fuller pointed out in New Orleans on Saturday, this restart also meant that the good embedded in those relationships and routines was lost along the way. Offered a fresh start, a platoon of private actors seized that opportunity. It's a testament to what can be created when reform is given a fresh slate, but it's also a reminder that neither a fresh start nor school choice guarantee anything--they provide only an opportunity to design promising solutions and then make them work.

New Orleans also offers an intriguing story when it comes to teacher quality. New Orleans has posted remarkable results even while witnessing a substantial drop in the share of certified teachers and veteran educators--and despite a big increase in teacher turnover. According to conventional wisdom, what happened in New Orleans should've been a recipe for disaster. Instead, the results have been quite positive.

Posted by at June 26, 2015 9:35 PM
  

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