NEPC Review: Ten Years in New Orleans: Public School Resurgence and the Path Ahead
A recent report published by two organizations, Public Impact and New Schools for New Orleans, reviews the ten years of education reform in post-Katrina New Orleans, and the creation of a “portfolio model” of school governance. While the report acknowledges some of the critiques of these reforms, it exaggerates improvements and inaccurately downplays the ways that the reforms created and, in some cases, exacerbated inequities. In addition, the report erroneously presents the reforms as the result of a logical and apolitical process that simply recasts the role of government in public education, changing from the manager or operator of schools to “a regulator of educational outcomes and equity,” with operation turned over to a variety of non-profit organizations. Finally, the report overstates its claims of post-Katrina academic gains in New Orleans, evidence for which is scant and has significant limitations, particularly due to the repeated changes in test-score standards across the decade. For these reasons, the report does little to accurately inform the lay public or scholars about the current state and future of public education in New Orleans or the viability of “portfolio” districts.