School Information System
Newsletter Sign Up |

Subscribe to this site via RSS: | Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

August 16, 2008

A Teachable Moment: On Changes in Governance and Curriculum in New Orleans Schools

Paul Tough:

But it wasn't only sympathy for the survivors of Katrina that drew them to New Orleans. The city's disastrously low-performing school system was almost entirely washed away in the flood -- many of the buildings were destroyed, the school board was taken over and all the teachers were fired. What is being built in its place is an educational landscape unlike any other, a radical experiment in reform. More than half of the city's public-school students are now being educated in charter schools, publicly financed but privately run, and most of the rest are enrolled in schools run by an unusually decentralized and rapidly changing school district. From across the country, and in increasing numbers, hundreds of ambitious, idealistic young educators like Hardrick and Sanders have descended on New Orleans, determined to take advantage of the opportunity not just to innovate and reinvent but also to prove to the rest of the country that an entire city of children in the demographic generally considered the hardest to educate -- poor African-American kids -- can achieve high levels of academic success.

Katrina struck at a critical moment in the evolution of the contemporary education-reform movement. President Bush's education initiative, No Child Left Behind, had shined a light on the underperformance of poor minority students across the country by requiring, for the first time, that a school successfully educate not just its best students but its poor and minority students too in order to be counted as successful. Scattered across the country were a growing number of schools, often intensive charter schools, that seemed to be succeeding with disadvantaged students in a consistent and measurable way. But these schools were isolated examples. No one had figured out how to "scale up" those successes to transform an entire urban school district. There were ambitious new superintendents in Philadelphia, New York City, Denver and Chicago, all determined to reform their school systems to better serve poor children, but even those who seemed to be succeeding were doing so in incremental ways, lifting the percentage of students passing statewide or citywide tests to, say, 40 from 30 or to 50 from 40.

Related:Clusty Search:Fascinating. Innovation occurs at the edges and is more likely to flourish in the absence of traditional monolithic governance, or a "one size fits all" approach to education.

More from Kevin Carey.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at August 16, 2008 1:04 PM
Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas