John Payne
New Orleans' schools are improving, and they can teach districts in Missouri a valuable lesson about the importance of choice in education. When Hurricane Katrina turned the city upside down, New Orleans reorganized its school system by turning most schools into charters and giving more autonomy to those that remained traditional public schools. Furthermore, parents can now choose between these different models of schools thanks to largely open enrollment across the city. I have written about the successes of these policies before, and although New Orleans' schools are still struggling, they continue to improve under this system of accountability through choice. From last Tuesday's Times-Picayune:
Since 2007, the proportion of students in the district scoring "basic" -- essentially at grade level -- or better has now more than doubled from 23 percent to 48 percent, rising faster than any other district in the state.

Test scores from students that still fall under the Orleans Parish School Board, which held onto a small group of high-performing schools, improved as well, with 82 percent of students scoring basic or better, up 2 percentage points from the year before.
[...]
Still, the proportion of RSD students scoring at basic proficiency in state testing climbed 5 percentage points to 48 percent this spring from the year before. That figure combines results from state LEAP, iLEAP and graduation exit exams.

The latest results compare with growth of just 1 percentage point to 66 percent across the state as a whole.

The 16 schools that remain under the Orleans Parish School Board, some of them magnet schools with admissions requirements, continued to perform well above the state average.

This last bit undermines the oft-repeated notion that charter schools only prosper by "stealing" the best students from public schools. New Orleans' experience shows that all schools can improve when parents are allowed to choose the schools that best fit their students' educational needs. There's a great deal of evidence that charter schools in Missouri improve educational outcomes, but in order to realize gains anywhere close to what New Orleans has witnessed, Missouri will have to allow for expansions of both the number and the geographic scope of charter schools.

Link via Marginal Revolution.

About the Author

John Payne

John Payne is a native of Poplar Bluff.