Stating the facts

While many school districts have experienced temporary state takeover--Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cleveland come to mind--New Orleans may be the first to permanently remain under state control. In light of a new poll of Big Easy residents showing strong support for state-controlled charter schools, as well as pervasive distrust of the New Orleans Parish School Board, State Superintendent Paul Pastorek has laid out several plans for the future of state-led Recovery School District, including permanent state-hood. (There are other less-surprising options on the table too, such as a phased return of schools back to the city, probably to a new entity that would replace the Parish School Board.) It's difficult to argue with the progress in NOLA schools since RSD has been calling the shots--the percentage of failing schools is significantly down, while test scores continue to rise in every subject across every grade, charter and non-charter alike. RSD Superintendent Paul G. Vallas hails the state takeover as the most important of four key strategies to New Orleans reform, above charter schools, parental choice, and teacher quality. This is surprising because, historically, state takeovers have been much more successful at cleaning up financial corruption and waste than improving student learning. Then again, the New Orleans story is different than any other chapter in our nation's history.

"Pastorek: State-run schools to persist," by Brian Thevenot, New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 28, 2009

"'Race to the Top' Lessons From New Orleans," by Paul G. Vallas and Leslie R. Jacobs, Education Week, August 28, 2009 (subscription required)

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