What I Have Learned!
After researching New Orleans’s school reform post-Katrina, I have learned that the state has taken full control over charter schools in the city, leaving the community, parents, and students with no voice. The people who make up this community are mainly African Americans, and they are directly affected by these reforms. When the State of Louisiana seized the opportunity to intervene and reform public schools, they inexcusably failed to include parents, teachers, and students when making decisions. When looking at the state numbers regarding the problems within the public school system, it became clear that the state and RSD, Recovery School District, drastically improved the New Orleans educational system. However, the numbers don’t tell it all. While doing my research, I have come to learn that parents and teachers within the community don’t believe the reforms made by the state have done any good for their students, due to the state’s intentional lack of communication.
By carefully examining the practitioner and scholarly take on the issues, I have come to understand that the State of Louisiana needed to have explicit knowledge and understanding of the peoples’ interests. Since the State stepped in without including the local school boards or the community, changes were made to the public schools that didn’t benefit black and brown students and their education. The State of Louisiana claimed that they altered the system by implementing longer school days, a stricter curriculum, careful hiring of teachers, and even adding special summer programs. With these changes, numbers such as “College persistence … grew by seven points, while college graduation shot up five points” (Mahnken, 2018). Looking at these numbers, the State of Louisiana thought their strategy was working. When I looked at these adjustments, I thought to myself; these are some progressive changes that would help the community. However, I wondered what the parents, students, and teachers’ opinions were regarding these changes.
After carefully looking at the school reform efforts, I began to speculate what the community thought about these improvements. While doing some digging, I saw that the community wasn’t in favor of the state’s changes. Black respondents were vastly more likely than whites to say that New Orleans schools were better in the period before Katrina. The black parents and students within the public schools disliked how the state hired nonblack teachers and teachers who weren’t native to New Orleans. There was also disagreement about the cuts in resources and programs and the “no excuses” practices that were implemented. Lastly, parents, students, and community leaders hated how the local school board was sidelined. Overall, there was a failure by the State in its efforts because it alienated families, students, and the community it said it wanted to help.
As a result of my research, I now understand how state intervention should not be the sole response to a community’s education reform. The state shouldn’t be the primary solution because their efforts are destined to fail without community input. Without involving the community when making education reform, changes could be made that negatively impact the people they are trying to help. Due to the State failing to listen to the community, they are ultimately hindering the education of students and destroying the trust of the parents and the public school community. Lastly, I have understood from my study of New Orleans public school education post-Katrina that numbers showing progress or achievement through these reforms shouldn’t be the leading indicator of success. This is because the numbers that are presented can distort the truth of the reforms’ impact on the community. Ultimately, studying this topic has made me look at school reform more critically. It has shown me that when reforming something as important as schools, it is essential to incorporate local school boards, parents, and students so that effective change can be made that impacts the students and their families positively.