The Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA) is a research organization dedicated to understanding the post-Katrina school reforms in New Orleans. ERA is housed in the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University and supported by funding from Tulane's Murphy Institute.
The work of ERA is guided by the following principles:
1. People are entitled to our own opinions about the reforms, but not to their own facts.
The New Orleans school reform model is controversial and that is one reason why objective analysis is so important. We will recognize philosophical differences, but focus on the facts. We will acknowledge and describe controversies, but will take sides only when the facts clearly support it.
2. The focus should be on students—all students.
Fundamental education issues often get lost in media hype and interest group politics. No matter what the topic, our analyses will always come back to the basic questions: What does this mean for the city’s students on average? And what does it mean for different groups of students, poor and middle class, black and white, native English speakers and English Language Learners?
3. Test scores, college, and other outcomes are important, but we need to understand what is happening inside schools.
Genuine school improvement requires understanding not just what the outcomes were, but what led to them — what specifically educators did or failed to do. Another reason not to focus narrowly on student outcomes is that they are often measured poorly and therefore do not reflect what students have learned or how they have been affected.
4. Understanding cause and effect is critical.
There has been much debate since the post-Katrina reforms started about how and how well the system has been working, but these debates have ben informed mainly by anecdotes and trends. To understand whether any program or policy helps students, we have to go further — to provide a picture of the entire city and to separate correlation from causation. For this, reason, much of the work of ERA will focus on comparisons of pre- and post-Katrina outcomes.
5. Research that meets the highest academic standards can still be useful and accessible to the general public, educators, and policymakers.
The research we produce will be in-depth, meet the highest academic standards, and eventually be published in peer-reviewed journals. Yet, each report will avoid the jargon and abstraction of academic work and will aim for conciseness, clarity, and relevance to the decisions facing local and national leaders. We will also publish some descriptive studies and policy reports. As the name implies ERA-New Orleans is for New Orleans and its students.