voodoo doll photo

The power of the voodoo. Who do? You do. Do what?
Photo by Juha-Matti Herrala

2005’s hurricane catalyzed one of the largest
governance experiments in American education to date, as Louisiana implemented
its Recovery School District law under which it took responsibility for the
worst schools in the Big Easy (and a few others throughout the Bayou State).
While other state-takeover initiatives have seen mixed results, Louisiana’s push has yielded big upticks in student-test scores. Two reasons why
Louisiana’s initiative has fared well: It doesn’t get bogged down in the
schools’ day-to-day operations. (It offloads that responsibility onto school
leaders—where it belongs.) And it scraps the current edu-governance system (no
more school boards, locally elected or otherwise), giving site management over to
charter networks and other external providers. The idea has some converts:
Michigan (with
its Education Achievement System
) and Tennessee both recently announced the
creation of their own “recovery school districts” (though both remain in the
pilot stage). This slowly widening movement holds much promise: States can
offer management know-how and dedicated resources and can skirt district contracts that stymie creative school
models—without getting bogged down in local politics or bureaucracy. Successful
state takeovers of failing districts are elusive—often written off (including by us) as a lost cause. But this 2.0 model sure
is promising.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on the state-led districts from the Education Gadfly Show podcast.
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