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The Recovery School District and Charter Schools in New Orleans

September 21, 2011

By Kaitlin Tyrill, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Reed Elementary School, A ReNew Charter School

There has been new energy swirling around education in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck six years ago. When folks outside of the Crescent City talk about education in New Orleans, they call it a city of reform.  The Times-Picayune article “Thirty nonprofits line up for New Orleans school charters” points out, “New Orleans edges closer to establishing the country’s first school system made up almost entirely of charters, schools that take public funding but operate autonomously.”

There are two boards operating the public schools in New Orleans—the Orleans Parish School Board which operates 17 public schools and the state-run Recovery School District which took over the poorest -performing public schools back in 2003 and currently runs the other 112 public schools in New Orleans.

The majority of schools in New Orleans, whether they are run by the OPSB or the Recovery School District, are charter schools.  Now, six years later, the OPSB has won the right to accept new charter applications which was only made possible by the lifting of the OPSB’s “district in crisis” status. To accomplish this, OPSB successfully argued that “in its shrunken state, the board has been able to repair its finances and now runs a group of mainly high-performing campuses.”

City Year operates in three schools, two charters run by ReNew charter management and Sarah T. Reed High which is a RSD direct run school.  Principals in both charter and non-charter schools see the value of hiring full-time tutors and mentors.

The storm destroyed many schools and displaced thousands of students.  Since Katrina, and in a sense because of Katrina, New Orleans has been able to truly make itself a city of reform.  A model for education is growing in New Orleans and it is only a matter of time before other cities in crisis throughout the country stop talking about being reform-minded and start considering the New Orleans model.

“Thirty nonprofits line up for New Orleans school charters”: http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/09/nonprofits_line_up_for_new_orl.html

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