Nine years after Louisiana education officials swept most of New Orleans' chronically under-performing schools into a state-controlled district after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the last handful of non-charter, "traditional" schools run by the Recovery School District have been closed for good.
As reported this morning by the Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton, and reported many months ago by the Times-Picayune, the Recovery School District—which at one time operated nearly 35 schools—has converted fully to an all-charter school system. The last five schools the RSD operated directly will not reopen again in September. Hundreds of RSD teachers and other employees will lose their jobs as the district evolves to manage issues such as citywide truancy, special education, and the common application system for charter schools.
It's a breathtaking makeover of an urban school system that, before the hurricane, had 120 schools and 60,000 students run by an elected school board that was bedeviled by mismanagement and corruption.
People often forget that the origins of the RSD, which was created nearly two years before the hurricane to take over chronically failing schools and turn them around. It started with just five schools but the August 2005 storm that ravaged the city triggered the massive takeover. Only 17 higher-performing schools escaped the takeover and remained under the authority of the elected Orleans Parish school board. Several of those schools also eventually converted to charters, leaving just five traditional schools still under the direct operations of the board.
By the end of the 2007-08 school year, when Education Week was regularly reporting from New Orleans on the recovery and rebuilding of public schooling, 60 percent of the city's schoolchildren were already attending charter schools.