This past weekend marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As we can all recall, many coastal towns along the gulf shores were devastated by winds and floodwaters that ravaged the area over several days. New Orleans was the hardest major metropolitan area hit by this storm. Floodwaters reached every corner of the city and affected all who lived there. The already suffering school system was obliterated. Buildings were uninhabitable. Teachers and staff, many whom became homeless because of the disaster, were put on “disaster leave without pay” and eventually became unemployed.
Even though Katrina turned New Orleans upside down, education reformers saw an opportunity emerge from the rubble. A fresh start.
New Orleans had been home to 56,000 publicly schooled students. Only half of the students going through the NOLA system earned high school diplomas. Test scores were embarrassingly low. Reform was desperately needed to rid the system of corruption and incompetence.
The Louisiana legislature turned over 80 percent of New Orleans schools to the Louisiana Recovery School District, mandating they turn the schools into charter schools. Because of this boldness, children in NOLA have been given new opportunities and have had much success in school. Graduation rates have increased by nearly 20 percent. Test scores have nearly caught up to those in other areas of the state.
Currently, more than 90 percent of students in New Orleans attend a charter school.
We applaud the people of NOLA for embracing change. Their vision has changed the lives of thousands.