The Advocate’s recent editorial on New Orleans schools was a strong validation of the city’s significant increases in student learning. New Orleans students are achieving at levels few thought were possible. And in doing so, they are eating away at the myth that children in poverty cannot master rigorous academic material.
However, the editorial did not describe why New Orleans students are achieving at higher levels. New Orleans still has a long way to go to provide every child with a great education, so if we are to continue increasing achievement levels for all students, we must have a clear sense of what has led to our recent success.
And the answer here is simple: New Orleans students are succeeding because power has been handed back to New Orleans educators and families.
The New Orleans system is built upon three powerful principles: First, educators should be able to form nonprofits to operate their own schools (this is all a charter school really is). Second, families should be able to choose amongst these schools (so they can find the right education environment for their child). And third, government must monitor the system for performance and equity (to ensure that public dollars are well-spent and all children are served by the system).
While these principles might sound intuitive — let educators run schools, give families choice and ensure good government oversight — New Orleans is the only city in the nation to build a public education system on these ideas.
So let’s be clear: Success did not occur because we hired a superstar superintendent, renegotiated a union contract or implemented any other traditional district-based reform efforts. Success occurred because power was stripped from a bureaucracy and handed back to educators and families.
In New Orleans, it was only by empowering educators and families that students were finally given an opportunity to thrive.
CEO, New Schools for New Orleans