NOLA Schools as A Bold Experiment? by Michelle Weinel

Day 4, NOLA
The statement of "New Orleans is emerging as a bold experiment in what a city school system can be" alludes to the idea that this "experimentation" is greatly benefiting the school system of New Orleans. Almost as if what has evolved from Katrina, education wise, has now become the pinnacle of "successful school transformation" and reform. True, from what we as a class have gathered from tours, panels and general discussions, the plan for rebuilding New Orleans education sounds like a smooth transition and flawless blueprint. But only on paper.

Like the article by the Boston Globe suggests, the system has indeed started from scratch. As for the imple- menting of "promising models of reform from around the country", that has also only happened successfully in theory. What we as a class have witnessed as the product of post Katrina education rebuilding is complicated. This "experiment" has so many groups and individuals pulling strings and attempting to achieve different outcomes. The communication between groups, stakeholders really, is little to none. So what one ends up with is a messy system, full of passionate principals working at schools with breathtaking facilities, to overcrowded elementary programs with a serious lack of assistant staff, and everything in between.

What I don't think the Boston Globe under- stands, and lets face it, many people in the country (myself before this class included) is yes, the New Orleans school system is starting from scratch. And yes, starting from scratch allows for new beginnings, new promising programs that on paper sound like a saving grace. But with so many stakeholders (teachers, teachers unions, parents, "communities", corporations, volunteer groups, STUDENTS) involved within this one education system (charter schools, public schools, private schools, etc) compounded with competitive attitudes, ("us against you") has turned NOLA schools into a complicated, hard to navigate system particularly for those who are supposed to be benefiting from it the most; New Orleans students & and parents.

Maybe many, many, many years down the line, what the Globe alludes to as "re- defining education" post Katrina will ring more true, at least to me, but after the week we have spent here and the people we have talked to, the system is a far cry from being the pinnacle of education reform, success.

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