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Charter Schools Remedy Education Woes in New Orleans

May 20, 2008 09:52 AM
by Jen O'Neill
In New Orleans, the tragedy of Katrina has become an opportunity to reform an ailing school system, and charter schools are at the heart of the solution.

30-Second Summary

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New Orleans has become and incubator and testing ground for charter schools, which are publicly funded schools administered by private groups. Charter schools are granted autonomy under the condition that they achieve the goals and standards specified in their individual charters.

Before Hurricane Katrina, over two-thirds of students in New Orleans were failing to meet state standards, and corruption was rampant within the administration. Thus, the storm’s aftermath was seen as an opportunity for schools to start over.

In early 2006, the Bring New Orleans Back Education Committee laid out a reform plan in response to the city’s need for a decentralized system of schools that could operate independently and effectively.

The initial recommendation, that the city of New Orleans consider creating a cluster of charter schools, was met with skepticism because it would make New Orleans an experiment in the United States’ charter school movement.

Many within the system are optimistic, and view the project as already yielding results. Adam Nossiter for the International Herald Tribune had this to say: “Only in the last year, with the marshaling of new forces, has anything like a coherent poststorm strategy for the shaky schools here emerged. It is too early for results—standardized-test scores are out in May—but educators here insist that there are some promising signs. At the very least, early shortages of teachers and space for students have been overcome.”

A recent poll conducted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools indicates that although many voters want to have more public school options, they remain “unsure” of charter schools. Many don’t realize that charter schools are a type of public school.

Headline Link: Against odds, New Orleans schools fight back

Opinion & Analysis: Effectiveness of charter schools

Background: Response to an education crisis

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