The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans Public Schools

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the city of New Orleans, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The storm's impact was felt most acutely in the city's public school system, which was already one of the worst-performing districts in the state of Louisiana. In the ten years since the hurricane, enrollment in New Orleans public schools has returned to more than two-thirds of its pre-storm level, and the student population is still mostly African-American and has the right to receive free or reduced-price lunches. In recent years, there has been an increase in racial and socioeconomic diversity.

Nearly all students are now enrolled in charter schools, as a result of perhaps the most ambitious school reform effort in the country's history. This month, after thirteen years, the Orleans Parish School Board took control as the regulatory body of all public schools in the city, reunifying the district and prompting intense reflection at the local and national levels on the effects of ceding the city to a charter system. Before Hurricane Katrina, only 54 percent of New Orleans high school students graduated. After the storm, academic results have improved significantly, as measured by standardized tests and school performance scores.

However, it is not clear to what extent this improvement is due to the hurricane or other factors. The question of whether race has influenced the perception of power in major cities, such as New Orleans, is not a new one. According to a new article that analyzes public opinion data during the period in which the reforms were implemented, the black majority in New Orleans is more likely to perceive post-Katrina schools negatively compared to the pre-storm status quo. This web page contains historical data and information on all New Orleans public schools over the past ten years and is organized by topic.

It also describes the unified expulsion policy and processes followed by all New Orleans public schools. Local control is a core value of education in the United States, and residents of a close-knit community like New Orleans could simply resent that an important social service has been usurped from them for more than a decade, regardless of any perceived change in racial influence.What this quantitative analysis shows is that New Orleans students were much worse off before Hurricane Katrina and improved a lot from that low starting point. In the ten years since Hurricane Katrina, enrollment in New Orleans public schools has returned to more than two-thirds of its pre-storm level and academic results have improved significantly. However, it remains one of the worst-performing school districts in Louisiana.

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