My Remarks at the Closing Session of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans Conference

Doug and his team at the Education Research Alliance put on a great and important conference. More importantly, they’ve done a lot of solid research. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be chronicaling the implications of the research as it is released publicly.

But for now, in case it is of interest, see below for my remarks.

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Over the past year, we’ve all had to watch the consequences of social injustice. In Ohio, Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old boy, was slain by police. In Baltimore, protestors demanded that we pay attention to police brutality and social decay.

Increasing educational opportunity will not solve all the problems of social injustice, but these problems will not be solved without increased educational opportunity.

All this is to say is that the stakes are incredibly high.

Children, many of them black, are dying in the streets.

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The following is taken from a presentation Doug Harris gave on his study on the New Orleans reform efforts.

“The results suggest that the reforms had large positive cumulative effects of 0.20 to 0.45 standard deviations. The reform effects are larger than the effects from other commonly discussed reform strategies, such as class size reduction and early childhood education.”

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New Orleans educators have done what no one thought was possible: they transformed a struggling urban educational system.

Classroom by classroom, student by student, they reinvented what public education could be.

We don’t know if their efforts can be replicated in other cities.

There are reasons to think they can: other cities will not have to grapple with trauma of Hurricane Katrina

There are also reasons to think it will be difficult to replicate these successes: it may prove easier to build new educational systems than it is to change existing once.

We simply don’t know whether the New Orleans successes can be scaled.

But what scares me is that we’ll never get the chance to find out.

There’s a very real chance that many educations leaders will look at this study, intellectually understand the magnitude of the effect, but then say: “I can’t support this because it’s not my kind of reform.”

I hope that this doesn’t happen. Because we can’t build tribes around our preferred educational approaches. The stakes are too high. If we’ve uncovered something that can be a partial antidote to the inequities that still plague our nation, then we owe it to our children to see if this antidote can work elsewhere.

As a country, we can’t turn away from what happened in New Orleans. We need to keep on studying it, we need to keep on making it better, and, most of all, we need to see if the reforms that happened here can be a part of righting social injustices across our country.

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