New Orleans Reforms Are Making a Difference

Study finds that, post-Katrina, more students are going to college and succeeding there.

January 11, 2021

Hurricane Katrina led to many changes in New Orleans. Among them: "a vast and unparalleled transformation" of the public schools. "Almost all traditional public schools in the district were turned into charter schools, which are privately operated but publicly funded and subject to accountability standards laid out in performance contracts," says a new report by Beth Glenn and Douglas N. Harris, both at Tulane University.

The report examines the impact of the changes in New Orleans on college-going rates, and students' success in college. Preliminary research a few years after Katrina was encouraging, and the new study finds those successes have lasted.

  • The initial post-Katrina increase in college entry, especially for students attending four-year colleges, was sustained through 2016.
  • New Orleans students were more likely to attend higher-quality colleges in 2016 versus 2004. In 2016, students attended colleges with higher average standardized test scores and higher faculty salaries, but more students per faculty member, than in 2004.
  • College persistence rates for freshmen in 2016 remained roughly the same as in 2004 -- despite the students attending better colleges.

Despite those gains, the authors also noted that only one in eight New Orleans high school seniors in 2009 graduated from college by 2014. “Clearly, students still face many other barriers to college access and success, such as financial barriers intensified by rising tuition in the state,” Glenn said.


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