School Choice & Charters

10 Years After Katrina: New Orleans School System Still in Flux, Report Says

By Arianna Prothero — June 17, 2015 2 min read
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New Orleans’ education system has undergone a dramatic transformation since Hurricane Katrina hit nearly 10 years ago, and a new report out today says the system is still in flux.

After the storm hit, the levees failed, and the city flooded, the state moved in and took over most of New Orleans’ schools. Today, more than 90 percent of the city’s students now attend charter schools—more than any other city in the nation.

‘The State of Public Education in New Orleans’ report from the Cowen Institute at Tulane University examines a range of issues including changes in student achievement, teacher demographics, and school oversight.

That last item has been especially dynamic as the state-run Recovery School District and the original Orleans Parish School Board are continually adapting to an increasingly decentralized system of schools.

Although the report’s authors write that there are benefits to this new governance structure, specifically the autonomy it gives schools, they acknowledge “the decentralization of governance also presents challenges for schools. RSD, OPSB, and charter schools have to creatively tackle system-wide challenges collectively, such as providing services for students with special needs or mental health issues.”

The report predicts long-term governance will remain an issue for the foreseeable future—specifically whether the RSD will remain the dominant entity overseeing most of the city’s schools, or if more will return to the oversight of the OPSB.

To date, only one school has opted to do so.

The Cowen Institute was founded in 2007 expressly to analyze New Orleans’ transitioning system and releases this report annually, albeit this year’s analysis is more in-depth and retrospective.

“The goal is to have all this information and data about the education system in one place,” said Vincent Rossmeier, the institute’s policy director. “The data doesn’t all come out at the same time of the year, and we want to create a guide.”

The report goes into far more than I can here on this blog, so I encourage you to check it out. There are also video interviews with policy makers and a timeline that examines 200 years of New Orleans education history.

Related stories:

Judge OKs Special Ed. Settlement Marking Changes for New Orleans’ Charter Schools

Study Says Some New Orleans Principals Cherry-Picked Students

Image from ‘The State of Public Education in New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina’ by Patrick Sims and Vincent Rossmeier of the Cowen Institute at Tulane University.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.