Charter Schools In New Orleans

Though many of these schools operate similarly to private schools, they are not allowed to charge tuition, and anyone is permitted to attend. In most cases, there are no geographical boundaries set in place for students and parents when it comes to these schools. In other words, just because a child doesn't live in a specific neighborhood, that doesn't mean he or she cannot attend a school of their choice.

Following Hurricane Katrina, approximately 60% of all schools in New Orleans changed over to a charter system. The majority of these schools were placed in the Recovery School District (RSD), a state-run program designed to vastly increase the quality of education in Orleans Parish. One purpose of these actions was to create a more market driven school system, with hopes that quality of education and personnel would increase. Through this new system, these charter schools were given the power to make their own hiring decisions, design their own budget and control their own academic standards.

Since this new system was officially put into place, results have been overwhelmingly positive. The number of fourth graders passing state mandated standardized tests has increased to 65% in 2010, up from 49% in 2007. In eighth graders, the passing rate went from 44% to 58%. Academic statistics in high schools have also seen positive increases. Proficiency goals have jumped 45% in math and 44% in English.

Though these schools can be found all over the country, New Orleans is the only city in the US who's public school system is made up primarily of charter schools. Roughly 82% of all students that attend these schools in New Orleans come from low-income households. In addition, 92% of the students attending charter schools in the city are African Americans. When the new school system was put into place after Hurricane Katrina, an overwhelming number of students had returned home after missing months of school due to evacuation and damages from the flood. Considering such positive increases in test scores and school passage rates, this is an impressive fact.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the State of Louisiana declared 64% of New Orleans schools to be “academically unacceptable.” Just five years later, that number went down to 42%. In that same time span, the number of graduating seniors went from only 50% to 90%.

Though scores in math and English have jumped significantly since the education reform in New Orleans, a lot of the numbers are still very much below average compared to other parts of the state and country, showing that there is still a lot of work to be done. In the coming months, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education must decide whether or not to return schools in the recovery school district to Orleans Parish, or to keep them under the supervision of the state. There have also been talks of charter schools opening up in neighboring parishes

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