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November 02, 2009
After a decade of tragedy and rebirth, New Orleans (America’s best city for school reform) stands as a
unique model for districts looking to reboot their frozen K-12 systems. This
report explains how other cities can replicate NOLA’s impressive
transformation. Written by Public Impact for New Schools for New Orleans (and paid for from a federal i3
grant), it focuses on three key areas of reform needed to develop a successful,
predominantly charter system: governance and accountability, human capital, and
school development. Under each heading, the reader receives specific policy
recommendations, as well as key lessons and insights from New Orleans’s own experience. (Example:
Ensure strong political footing early—something the authors say didn’t happen
for NOLA’s reform effort.) Without hubris, the authors acknowledge that this
guide is but a starting point. Even in New
Orleans, much work remains by way of recruiting and
developing quality teachers and finding the path to long-term sustainability.
Still and all, the quick uptick of student achievement under the Big Easy’s
reinvented public education system is impressive: 2005 to 2011 saw the
percentage of students attending “academically unacceptable” schools decrease
by 38 percentage points—even as standards went up. The guide deserves attention
from those interested in reforming education in other American cities: Make its
“preparedness checklist” your first stop.
Dana Brinson, Lyria Boast,
Bryan C. Hassel, and Neerav Kingsland, New Orleans-Style Education Reform: A Guide for Cities,
Lessons Learned 2005-2010, (Public Impact and New Schools for New Orleans, January 2012).