School Choice & Charters Opinion

What Have We Learned From New Orleans So Far?

By Douglas N. Harris — July 28, 2015 2 min read
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We’ve now released 11 of 30+ videos from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans conference, The Urban Education Future? Lessons from New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina.

The first two videos we released include a summary of evidence about the effects of the reforms and a discussion of what the New Orleans experience means for the rest of the country--with panelists Rick Hess, Neerav Kingsland, Sunny Ladd, Jim Shelton, and Randi Weingarten. With 125+ speakers--opponents and supports, researchers and practitioners, locals and national leaders--we had a rich and often surprising discussion.

You’re probably waiting for a bullet-point list of findings, but I’m not going to try that. It was hard enough boiling the 15+ studies and 60+ hours of discussion down to the above 45-minute summary. Trying to boil it down even more would defeat the purpose of generating a rich discussion. But I will say this--the evidence and analyses of academic outcomes, school closure, student discipline, the teacher workforce (here, here, & here), and the role of race in schools (with Howard Fuller) are the ones that generated the most chatter.

In most of the sessions and videos, we started with a research presentation and followed that with a panel discussion of practitioners and policymakers. With the evidence summary, for example, I presented the findings and then the education journalist and writer Tom Toch moderated a discussion with a group of researchers (Jane Hannaway, Henry Levin, and Macke Raymond) and one policymaker (Louisiana State Superintendent John White). This approach seemed to work well--72% of those who attended said the conference changed their opinion of the New Orleans’ school reforms.

So, have a look and let me know what you think. You can follow the ongoing release of all the videos on Twitter (@ERA_NOLA) and see here for the full range of topics and videos released so far. You’ll also be able to see the videos at that same link as they are released.

Over the coming weeks and months, I hope to bring all of you into the conversation. In the process of learning about New Orleans, the conversation will likely turn to larger current policy debates, such as the role of test-based accountability and effects of school takeover and turnaround--both important topics now with the ESEA Congressional conference committee coming up. There are a lot of reasons to think that the New Orleans’ experience doesn’t generalize to the rest of the country, or even many other urban districts, but it does force people to question their assumptions and provides a useful jumping off point for larger discussions.

I hope you’ll join the conversation.

The opinions expressed in Urban Education: Lessons From New Orleans are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.