Friday, March 6, 2009

Orleans schools show big gains, but experts say its thanks to Katrina

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans was one of 10 big-city school districts that scored at or above their state averages for student achievement in 2007, but that distinction comes with an asterisk, the author of a report released by an education think tank said Wednesday.

Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, said the same definition of districts was used as in analyzing student achievement scores from 2000. But Hurricane Katrina in 2005 changed the city's educational landscape.

For example, more than 100 schools fell under the New Orleans Public Schools system before Katrina; by 2007, after an overhaul of the city's long struggling public education system had begun, the local district retained control of a handful of schools — which also were among the best-performing in New Orleans.

The rest are now run by private organizations as charter schools or fall under the state-run Recovery School District. The recovery district last year estimated about 85 percent of its students were at least two years behind grade level in reading and math.

Loveless said charter, recovery district, alternative and laboratory schools were not included in the New Orleans Public Schools' score.

"Obviously, New Orleans is a special case and is singled out as such in the report," Loveless said, adding he is not confident saying New Orleans' schools overall have made the level of progress indicated in the report.

"There just have been so many other things that have gone on in New Orleans from 2000 to 2007, it's definitely with an asterisk."

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