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Analysts Say MPS Should Learn From, But Not Emulate New Orleans Recovery Schools

Brad Wilson

Even before Hurricane Katrina changed just about everything in New Orleans, the state of Louisiana had started the process of reshaping the city’s public schools, creating an entity known as the New Orleans Recovery School District.  But the storm sped up the process and was used as the catalyst for nearly a wholesale state takeover of control of schools there.

That led to much more private involvement in the district through organizations such as Teach for America, and through privately run charter schools.

Many of the national stories in the wake of those changes have described a turnaround in the district – some have described it as a miraculous turnaround.  It’s led people in other places with underperforming districts – like Milwaukee – to suggest their own version of the recovery school district model.

But some say New Orleans should serve as a cautionary tale rather than a model.  Kristen Buras is an associate professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta who has studied New Orleans schools for years.  Karran Harper Royal is an education advocate in New Orleans, and Reynard Sanders is a former teacher and school administrator who has also hosted a radio talk show on education. 

"New Orleans has had some great schools, had some very poor schools, and we wanted to change. I think everybody, every school district in the country wanted to change, but this is not the solution," says Sanders.

All three are in Milwaukee to speak to several groups today and tomorrow by invitation of the MPS School Board, but first they spoke with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich about what they learned through the recovery of New Orleans.

The group takes part in a workshop this afternoon at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, and a panel tomorrow at the Parklawn Assembly of God in Sherman Park.