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New Report Released: "Did the New Orleans School Reforms Increase Segregation?"

April 4, 2017

A new study from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University examines how the post-Katrina school reforms affected segregation in New Orleans publicly funded schools.

Researchers analyzed changes in segregation across a number of student demographics, including race, income, special education participation, English Language Learner status, and achievement.

New Orleans schools were highly segregated prior to the reforms, especially in terms of race and income, and the study finds that segregation levels remain high post-Katrina. The authors find little evidence that the reforms affected segregation for elementary school students, but most groups of high school students they examined were affected.

The authors, Lindsay Bell Weixler, Nathan Barrett, Douglas Harris, and Jennifer Jennings, also find no consistent trends in racial segregation, as some student groups became more segregated and others less so. Among high school students, segregation has increased for low-income students and English language learners but decreased for special education students. The study also finds that segregation by achievement levels has generally declined since Katrina.

“Integrating schools has been a long-standing challenge for districts,” Weixler said. “Our results for New Orleans confirm the broader national pattern that very few school systems—whether traditional or those with choice-based reforms—have had much success in integrating schools.”

This spring, the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans is also releasing a series of papers that focus on New Orleans teachers. The first study in this series, which explored the effects of Louisiana’s teacher tenure reform, was released in February. Forthcoming studies will examine the implementation of the statewide teacher evaluation system known as Compass, as well as changes in teachers’ perceptions of New Orleans schools from those who taught before and after Hurricane Katrina.