ERIC Number: EJ1073904
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Good News for New Orleans: Early Evidence Shows Reforms Lifting Student Achievement
Harris, Douglas N.
Education Next, v15 n4 p8-15 Fall 2015
What happened to the New Orleans public schools following the tragic levee breeches after Hurricane Katrina is truly unprecedented. Within the span of one year, all public-school employees were fired, the teacher contract expired and was not replaced, and most attendance zones were eliminated. The state took control of almost all public schools and began holding them to relatively strict standards of academic achievement. Over time, the state turned all the schools under its authority over to charter management organizations (CMOs) that, in turn, dramatically reshaped the teacher workforce. The author and his colleagues at the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-New Orleans) at Tulane University carried out a series of studies to address questions such as: (1) Are the reforms living up to the hype associated with this unprecedented reform?; and (2) How did the reforms affect school practices and student learning? The researchers carried out two difference-in-differences strategies: (1) Returnees only--study only those students who returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; and (2) Different cohorts--consider the achievement growth of different cohorts of students before and after the reforms. The performance of New Orleans students shot upward after the reforms. In contrast, the comparison group largely continued its prior trajectory. Between 2005 and 2012, the performance gap between New Orleans and the comparison group closed and eventually reversed, indicating a positive effect of the reforms of about 0.4 standard deviations, enough to improve a typical student's performance by 15 percentile points. In order to rule out explanations for the changes in outcomes other than the reforms themselves, four specific factors that could bias the estimated effects on achievement were considered: population change; interim school effects; hurricane-related trauma and disruption; and test-based accountability distortions. This report analyzes the findings of the series of studies conducted in terms of what really changed due to the reforms, implications for New Orleans, and implications for the nation.
Descriptors: Public Schools, Natural Disasters, School Turnaround, State Government, Local Government, Teaching Conditions, Educational Change, Program Effectiveness, Charter Schools, Change Strategies, Comparative Analysis, Student Characteristics, Trauma, Academic Achievement, Educational Environment, Equal Education, Disadvantaged Youth, Urban Schools, Minority Group Students
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Louisiana