Katrina brought a lot of devastation, but also a chance to convert New Orleans into America's shining example of school reform. Of course, the city schools were already well down the road to collapse before the hurricane arrived last year (New Orleans had 55 of the 78 worst schools in Louisiana); the devastation simply accelerated the timetable for reform. A forthcoming Education Next article describes how charter supporters have worked to make the Crescent City America's first majority-charter city. But not all has gone according to plan. The Times reports that, with more students returning than expected, charters are turning away children (as are the few traditional public schools that have opened, and which were late in hiring new teachers). This leaves parents none too happy with either brand. With due respect to Pottery Barn, charter advocates didn't break the New Orleans school system but now they own it. These back-to-school struggles indicate just how hard rebuilding it is going to be.
"Rough Start for Effort to Remake Faltering New Orleans Schools," by Susan Saulny, New York Times, August 21, 2006
"After Katrina, School Reforms Make New Orleans Most Chartered City in U.S.," BusinessWire, August 23, 2006