NOLA Report Does Little to Accurately Inform, Review Finds
East Lansing, Mich. — A report published by Public Impact and New Schools for New Orleans attempted to review 10 years of education reforms in post-Katrina New Orleans, and the creation of a “portfolio model.” The report argued that the reform experiment has been an unquestioned success, and other cities should duplicate efforts. However, an academic review of the report finds that the report does little to accurately inform policymakers or practitioners about the current state of public education in New Orleans or the viability of “portfolio” districts.
Adrienne D. Dixson, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reviewed Ten Years in New Orleans: Public School Resurgence and the Path Ahead for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Overall, the report lays out a grand vision for the future of public education in New Orleans, which was described by the authors as “America’s first great urban public school system.” It is organized into six themes: governance, schools, talent, equity, community, and funders.
Dixson, whose research focuses on how issues of race, class, and gender intersect and impact educational equity in urban school contexts, found multiple weaknesses that limit the usefulness of the report.
In her review, Dixson highlights that the report exaggerates improvements, while downplaying the ways in which the enacted reforms exacerbated inequities in New Orleans. She also notes that the report erroneously presents the reforms as a result of a logical and apolitical process.
In reviewing the validity of the findings, Dixson says, “The report does not present original or empirical research but bases its claims on advocacy publications that have not been peer-reviewed, and newspaper articles that primarily accept the claims made by vested interest reformers.”
Dixson further finds fault with the data referenced in the report, which has not been made readily available to researchers, community members, or the press, making the claims difficult to verify.
In her conclusion, Dixson highlights the omission of research from the report as a serious concern, “The research that the report excludes tells a different and far more troubling story about the reforms in New Orleans.”
Read the full review at: www.greatlakescenter.org.