Once Again, The Reforms in New Orleans Worked

The Education Research Alliance summarizes its research over the past four years

The Education Research Alliance (ERA) at Tulane University has a new web feature on their site summarizing their eight main conclusions about the impact of the school reforms in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

The Alliance, which was launched by Tulane economics professor Doug Harris in 2013, has published a total of 19 policy briefs and 23 technical reports that explore various aspects of the city’s public school transformation.

Of course, the primary thing folks want to know is whether or not the reforms in New Orleans worked. ERA’s answer to this question is unequivocal: the reforms resulted in large student achievement gains of 8-15 percentiles.

Screenshot from the Education Research Alliance website.

Critics often suggest that the gains in New Orleans are the result of other factors, such as a change in student demographics following the storm. However, as ERA notes, “we have tested these alternative explanations and find that the reforms caused the vast majority of the improved measurable outcomes.”

The Recovery School District’s policy of closing underperforming schools (and most often handing them over to a new operator) has also been a major point of contention. Reform opponents incessantly claim that these interventions have only ended up hurting students.

But ERA’s research shows that the RSD’s willingness to close schools has actually been beneficial, finding that “roughly one-third of the reforms’ large positive effects on measured student achievement can be attributed to this process.”

Screenshot from the Education Research Alliance website.

One of the guiding principles of the Education Research Alliance is that “people are entitled to their own opinions about the reforms, but not to their own facts.” Although critics may insist that the reforms in New Orleans have been a failure, just remember that the facts tell a very different story.

You can check out all eight of the Education Research Alliance’s conclusions here.


Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.


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