New Orleans is home to the nation’s first all-charter district. Is this the future of education?

Ana Kamenetz

Bright and early one hot Wednesday morning in July, Nathlynn Dellande went to choose a new school for her grandchildren. Chloe, 7, was heading into the second grade, and her brother, Ashton Jr., 5, was starting kindergarten.

Dellande lives in historically black, middle-class New Orleans East. She at first assumed Chloe and Ashton Jr. would go to Lake Forest Charter Elementary, a well-regarded local school, alongside the neighbors she calls “my kids”: “They play ball outside and I keep freeze pops for them,” she says. “When I go to the grocery, they all run and help me bring everything in.”

It’s what nearly every family looks for: a quality neighborhood school, in a neighborhood that’s worked hard to come back. This area flooded badly during Hurricane Katrina, and there are still abandoned homes on Dellande’s block.