Success: Only 9 New Orleans Schools Failing, Post-Katrina

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In New Orleans, charter schools are the reality of public education. Most students attend one of 57 charter schools, established by the state-run, Recovery School District created after Hurricane Katrina.

"They created essentially an all-choice system because it was very hard to plan where people should send their kids in the traditional draw areas when 80 percent of the schools were flooded," John Ayers, with Tulane University's Cowen Institute, said.

The charter schools receive public money, but are run by independent organizations. This gives them more freedom to innovate and allows them to operate free from the policy and bureaucracy of traditional public schools.

Supporters call the experiment a success, pointing to test scores and school ratings as proof.

"We've really put something in place that gives everyone a fair shot and shows that everyone is going to be served," Patrick Dobard, with the Recovery School District, said.

If a school fails to meet the standards set by its charter, it's shut down. Dobard said, prior to Katrina, schools stayed open even if they'd been failing students for decades.

But there are critics of the system. Some parents say the charters have shut down neighborhood schools, causing students in lower income areas to ride a bus across town to attend the better schools.

"Everybody is scrambling to try and find the time and the ride. And if it's in your neighborhood, you're very lucky if you get into it," parent Dawn Howard said.

Still, no one can deny that progress is being made. According to ratings released in October, only nine schools in New Orleans were failing, down from 78 before Katrina.

"No city in the nation has done anything as assertive as this. The fact that we've had seven years of gains on test scores is very encouraging," said Ayers. 

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Caitlin Burke

Caitlin Burke

CBN News Reporter

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