By Carol Burris
New Orleans, post-Katrina, is undoubtedly the most cited example of the success of state takeovers, charters and choice.
Former education secretary Arne Duncan once said that Hurricane Katrina was the “best thing” that ever happened to education in the city (though he later apologized). The New York Times’s opinion columnist David Leonhardt recently praised the city in his series on New Orleans school reform. And the City Fund, led by Neerav Kingsland, the former chief executive of New Schools for New Orleans, uses New Orleans as a tool to pry open the coffers of philanthropy for its portfolio approach of school governance — one that would replace 30 percent to 50 percent of traditional public schools with charter schools in 40 cities.
When the data slides go up to pitch replacing public schools with “portfolios” and charter schools, you inevitably see research from theEducation Research Alliance for New Orleans, led by Tulane University economics professor Doug Harris. Harris and his team have studied the post-Katrina school reforms of New Orleans for years. He and his colleague Matthew Larsen recently published the latest update on NOLA schools in a policy brief entitled, “What Effect Did the New Orleans School Reforms Have on Student Achievement, High School Graduation, and College Outcomes?”
Their analysis found that test scores, high school graduation rates and college outcomes all improved for students who attended school in New Orleans post-Katrina. It is true that outcomes are up. The important question to ask is why the improvements occurred.
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