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Climbing the College Ladder? The Effects of the New Orleans School Reforms on the Quality and Fit of Colleges That Students Attended

A policy brief by Beth Glenn and Douglas Harris finds that the post-Hurricane Katrina school reforms in New Orleans not only increased college attendance rates, but also increased the quality of colleges that local students attended.

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Climbing the College Ladder? The Effects of the New Orleans School Reforms on the Quality and Fit of Colleges That Students Attended

by Beth Glenn, Douglas N. Harris

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Pri­or ERA-New Orleans research has found that the city’s post-Kat­ri­na school reforms increased col­lege entry and grad­u­a­tion rates by 8 – 15 per­cent­age points and 3 – 5 per­cent­age points, respec­tive­ly. How­ev­er, some col­leges have more resources and more selec­tive admis­sions than oth­ers, and there­fore researchers tend to con­sid­er them high­er qual­i­ty.” Research sug­gests that stu­dents who attend these col­leges are more like­ly to grad­u­ate and see high­er salaries lat­er in life. In this study, researchers Beth Glenn and Dou­glas Har­ris exam­ine whether the reforms’ effects on col­lege entry have been sus­tained, whether they affect­ed the qual­i­ty of col­leges that stu­dents attend­ed — based on per pupil spend­ing, selec­tiv­i­ty, stan­dard­ized test scores, and stu­dent-fac­ul­ty ratios — and whether col­lege per­sis­tence rates have changed. Though these mea­sures are far from the only or most impor­tant ways to mea­sure col­lege qual­i­ty, they are use­ful and com­mon met­rics. Their key con­clu­sions are: — The ini­tial post-Kat­ri­na increase in col­lege entry, espe­cial­ly for stu­dents attend­ing 4‑year col­leges, has been sus­tained through 2016. — Over­all, New Orleans stu­dents were more like­ly to attend high­er qual­i­ty col­leges in 2016 ver­sus 2004. In 2016, stu­dents attend­ed col­leges with high­er aver­age stan­dard­ized test scores and high­er fac­ul­ty salaries, but more stu­dents per fac­ul­ty mem­ber, than in 2004. — Col­lege per­sis­tence rates for fresh­men in 2016 remained rough­ly the same as in 2004. Over­all, these results rein­force the con­clu­sion that the New Orleans school reforms improved a wide vari­ety of stu­dent out­comes, and these improve­ments per­sist­ed a decade after the reforms start­ed. While there were con­cerns that stu­dents were being pushed into col­leges they were not aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly pre­pared for, we find that the per­cent of stu­dents who were aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly well-matched for their col­lege increased. Nev­er­the­less, there is still much progress to be made, as only around 1 in 8 New Orleans high school seniors in 2009 had grad­u­at­ed from col­lege by 2014. This rein­forces the need for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to con­sid­er the wide vari­ety of fac­tors that affect stu­dent atten­dance and suc­cess in college.

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