Five years ago yesterday, the levees broke. Hurricane Katrina flooded roughly 80% of this city, causing nearly $100 billion in damage. The storm forced us to rebuild our homes, workplaces and many of our institutions–including our failing public education system.
But from the flood waters, the most market-driven public school system in the country has emerged. Education reformers across America should take notice: The model is working.
Citywide, the number of fourth-grade students who pass the state’s standardized tests has jumped by almost a third–to 65% in 2010 from 49% in 2007. The passage rate among eighth-graders during the same period has improved at a similar clip, to 58% from 44%.
In high school, the transformation has been even more impressive. Since 2007, the percentage of students meeting the state’s proficiency goals is up 44% for English and 45% for math. Schools have achieved this dramatic improvement despite serving a higher percentage of low-income students–84%–than they did before the storm. Many of these students missed months or even a whole year of school.