Corporate education reformers will latch on to anything to portray their preferred policies as being effective. Terry Ryan of the Fordham Foundation has one of the most ridiculous efforts to date
That's one heck of a claim, but the entire piece misses one astoundingly obvious and important fact. New Orleans suffered one of the worst natural disasters to ever afflict a US city, and as a consequence the demographics of the city changed dramatically.
According to Nielsen, New Orleans lost 595,205 people prior to and shortly after Katrina, dropping it from the country's 35th largest market in 2000 to the 49th largest market in 2006. Atlanta, Houston and Dallas received the bulk of Katrina refugees. Now in 2010, New Orleans ranks as the 46th largest market with 1,194,196 persons. Nielsen projects the city will have a population of 1,264,365 in 2015 and will likely remain ranked as the 46th largest market in the U.S.
"The city has become older (the median age rose from 34 to 38.8), less diverse (the white non-Hispanic population increased from 25.8% to 30.9%) and a bit wealthier (median income rose from $31,369 to $39,530)," says the Nielsen report. The challenge now for New Orleans is to find ways to use some of these changes to help attract the developers and corporations who could help the city rebound.
The population got smaller, richer. It's not a stretch to understand that these factors, and not some corporate education reform policies that have failed to work at scale anywhere are the cause for any aggregate gains in student performance in New Orleans.
Unless, along with getting superintendents to relinquish control of their districts, corporate education reformers can also summon great floods and pestilence, we might be better off not throwing everything out the window just yet.