Study Shows New Orleans Students More Likely To Stay In Same School After City’s Education Reforms
Study Shows New Orleans Students More Likely to Stay in Same School After City’s Education Reforms
In New Orleans, the rate at which students transition between elementary and middle schools has decreased in recent years after the implementation of post-Hurricane Katrina reforms. These reforms introduced more charter schools, improved test scores, and generated a significant amount of controversy in the city. A study conducted by Tulane University’s Education Research Alliance supports this finding, which was released shortly after the state handed control of schools back to city residents.
Following the devastation caused by the hurricane, the majority of buildings in New Orleans were converted into charter schools. During this time, education spending increased and schools became more accountable for their performance through standardized test scores. Critics of these reforms argued that the changes led to a higher turnover of students, forcing them to constantly switch between schools.
However, the latest data from the study does not support these criticisms and actually shows a decrease in school switching after the reforms. Nevertheless, the authors highlight that more privileged students experienced the largest decrease in mobility, leading to concerns about equity.
The study examined student mobility in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina (2001-2004) and after the reforms (2008-2011). The data reveals that the percentage of students who remained at the same school from the previous year increased from 60% in 2004 to 67% in 2011 for elementary and middle schools. In high school, mobility only increased by two percentage points due to the limited coverage of some charters. Overall, there were slight decreases in the number of students exiting the system across all school levels.
These findings are significant because research consistently shows that high mobility negatively affects student outcomes, as stated by the authors.
The study mainly focuses on "non-structural mobility," which refers to students switching schools within the system for reasons other than completing the last grade offered by a particular school. The data reveals that this type of mobility has decreased in New Orleans compared to the rest of Louisiana.
The research does not provide a definite answer for what caused the decrease in mobility. The authors acknowledge the difficulty in proving causality, as there is no data on housing mobility, which could also impact student mobility. However, they speculate that the mobility decrease may be a result of improved school quality or a better match between schools and students.
There have been concerns about the accuracy of the underlying data on New Orleans’ schools, with reports suggesting that graduation rates may have been inflated due to how students leaving the system were coded in state data. Nevertheless, the study’s authors address these concerns and express confidence in their mobility calculations.
The findings of the study also raise concerns about equity. Although school switching rates decreased for all students, they declined at a faster rate for more advantaged students. Students with medium and high test scores experienced a decrease in mobility, whereas students with low scores had fairly steady rates of mobility. Additionally, while higher performing students tended to transfer to higher achieving schools, lower-performing students typically moved between schools with similar performance. This suggests that some schools may be purposely enrolling higher achieving students and limiting the enrollment of lower performing students. Another study from the Education Research Alliance found that one in three principals in the city admitted to attempting to avoid struggling students in order to boost test results, although there is no public data available to confirm this.
Overall, the study provides valuable insights into the decrease in school switching in New Orleans, which has implications for student outcomes and equity in education.
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