In August of this year, NSNO released our report Ten Years in New Orleans: Public School Resurgence and the Path Ahead.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of our key findings.
Our community engages in unprecedented ways in public education in New Orleans. Families choose schools for their children in the absence of default neighborhood options. Nearly 400 citizens representing every corner of the city serve as volunteer charter board members. Community organizations provide resources and supports to institutions that have served students for decades and new public schools that have emerged in recent years. And polling data indicate strong support for key policy reforms — charters, school choice, and accountability for low performance.
Yet after a decade of unprecedented growth and irrefutable evidence that schools are getting better, many in our community remain frustrated with how reform in New Orleans happened, how decisions are made, and who makes those decisions. There is a pervasive feeling, especially within many black communities, that reform has happened “to” and not “with” the students and families served by New Orleans schools.
This leads some to ask the question, “Was it worth it?” Our answer is definitive: Yes. Student outcomes must be the lens through which we judge reforms. Our students are, without question, better off than a decade ago. But the frustration many feel is real and must be heard and acknowledged. If New Orleans does not reconcile our city’s perennial issues — particularly those steeped in race and class — we will remain mired in the same arguments for another decade. These disputes will continue to drain energy from our shared focus: ensuring that every child in New Orleans is set up for a great life.
Our system has repeatedly demonstrated that it can identify and fix seemingly intractable problems. It’s time we recognize our issues on community voice, and address them.