Nearly 14 years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana’s elected leaders decided to rebuild New Orleans’s failing public education system from the ground up, as a system of public charter schools. Prior to the storm, the district was considered one of the nation’s worst. Half the students dropped out, and four in 10 adults in the city could not read beyond an elementary school level. The district was almost bankrupt, searching for a $50 million line of credit just to meet payroll. Katrina only exacerbated an already dire situation, displacing 64,000 students and creating over $800 million in damage to school buildings alone.
For New Orleans, this catastrophe brought with it an opportunity. In 2003, the governor and state legislature had created a Recovery School District (RSD) to take over the state’s worst public schools, including five in New Orleans, which the RSD had turned into charters. After the storm, the legislature placed all but 17 of New Orleans’s 127 public schools in the RSD. Over the next nine years, the RSD turned them all over to charter operators, and academic progress surged.
In 2015 Louisiana switched to standardized tests aligned with the Common Core standards, which was far more rigorous than the old tests. It began the process in 2014, when it first moved its tests in that direction, and it continued to alter the test after 2015. Not surprisingly, starting in 2014, what had been a steady rise in proficiency leveled off. Education reformers began to fear that this plateau revealed waning effects of the move to charters, rather than just the impact of tougher tests.
But a new report by the Stanford Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) focused on student growth scores reveals that New Orleans’s progress has continued.
Continue reading at Forbes.