The post-Katrina New Orleans school reforms: Implications for national school reform & the role of government
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About the speaker Douglas N. Harris is an Associate Professor of Economics and University Endowed Chair in Public Education at Tulane University in New Orleans. About the topic: One of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history, Hurricane Katrina spawned a flurry of public policy reforms. The public school system, in particular, became one of the most radical experiments in more than a century. Attendance zones and teacher contracts were eliminated, all teachers were fired, almost all public school became semi-autonomous charter schools, and a state agency replaced the school board as the primary oversight body. This represented a sharp break with the traditional school district model used in nearly every city and town in the country. Even by the standards of the more reform-minded cities like Detroit, New York City and Washington, DC, where small numbers of charter schools and more aggressive accountability have been used for some time, no city had ever taken these ideas to scale so completely, so aggressively, and so quickly as this hurricane-ravaged city. What can we learn from the New Orleans experience? Given the unique circumstances the precipitated it, what does this reform effort mean for the national school reform agenda?