New Orleans achieved dramatic student achievement results while, at the same time, upending much of the conventional wisdom of education policy.
The Education Research Alliance has done a bunch of great research that should humble pundits and educators alike; some highlights below:
Popular Belief #1: Experienced Teachers are Better
New Orleans increased student achievement while the % of teachers with less than 5 years of experience skyrocketed, and the % of teachers with over 20 years of experience plummeted.
Popular Belief #2: Teacher Credentialing Matters
New Orleans increased student achievement while the % of teachers with no, temporary or, the lowest level of certification (C/1) skyrocketed, and the % of teachers with advanced credentials (A/3 and B/2) plummeted.
Popular Belief #3: Teacher Turnover is Bad
New Orleans increased student achievement while teacher turnover significantly increased.
Popular Belief #4: Education Choice Markets Will Fail Due to Information Problems
A continuing criticism of choice based reforms is that parents will make poor decisions due to being incapable of understanding school quality. In New Orleans, student achievement (SPS score) was one of only a few factors that strongly increased the likelihood a family would choose a school in the open enrollment system.
Popular Belief #5: School Choice Only Benefits a Select Group of Choosers
A continuing criticism of choice based reforms is that only the active choosers will get into the schools they want. In New Orleans, 75% of families were matched with one of their top three choices.
Popular Belief #6: School Choice Increases Student Mobility
Numerous commentators have argued that school choice will cause significant increases in student mobility. New Orleans moved to an all choice system and student mobility decreased.
Popular Belief #7: School Closure Harms the Children Attending the Closed School
In New Orleans, students attending schools that were closed (intervention schools) saw their student achievement increase significantly in the subsequent years.
Popular Belief #8: Money is Best Spent “in the Classroom”
In comparison to other districts, New Orleans increased student achievement while spending more on administrative costs and less on instructional costs.
To be clear, I’m not saying that any of the above caused the student achievement gains in New Orleans.
Rather, I’m only pointing out that New Orleans saw some of the most dramatic student achievement gains in our country’s recent history while doing a bunch of things that you’re not supposed to do.
I’m sure we’ll learn more over the coming decade.