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Did the New Orleans School Reforms Increase Segregation?

A policy brief and technical report by Lindsay Bell Weixler, Nathan Barrett, Douglas N. Harris, and Jennifer Jennings on the effects of the post-Katrina reforms on school segregation in New Orleans.

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Did the New Orleans School Reforms Increase Segregation?

by Lindsay Bell Weixler, Nathan Barrett, Douglas N. Harris, Jennifer Jennings

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In this study, we exam­ine the effects of the post-Kat­ri­na school reforms on the seg­re­ga­tion of stu­dents on a wide vari­ety of dimen­sions: race, income, spe­cial edu­ca­tion, Eng­lish Lan­guage Learn­er sta­tus, and achieve­ment. Research shows that all stu­dents ben­e­fit, social­ly or aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly, from more inte­grat­ed schools, mak­ing this an impor­tant issue to exam­ine. We draw four main con­clu­sions: New Orleans schools were high­ly seg­re­gat­ed pri­or to the city’s school reforms, espe­cial­ly in terms of race and income, and remain seg­re­gat­ed now. We found lit­tle evi­dence that the New Orleans school reforms affect­ed seg­re­ga­tion for ele­men­tary school stu­dents. Most groups of high school stu­dents that we exam­ined were affect­ed, with some groups see­ing an increase in seg­re­ga­tion and oth­ers a decrease. There were no con­sis­tent trends in racial seg­re­ga­tion. Some groups became more seg­re­gat­ed, oth­ers less so. Among high school stu­dents, seg­re­ga­tion has increased for low-income stu­dents and Eng­lish Lan­guage Learn­ers, but decreased for spe­cial edu­ca­tion stu­dents as well as by achieve­ment. To our knowl­edge, ours is the first study to exam­ine the effect of school choice on the seg­re­ga­tion of Eng­lish Lan­guage Learn­ers, spe­cial edu­ca­tion stu­dents, and low- and high-achiev­ing stu­dents. Oth­er nation­al stud­ies of choice and char­ters have exam­ined effects on seg­re­ga­tion by race and income. The most rig­or­ous of these stud­ies find a mix of usu­al­ly small effects of choice and char­ters on racial and income seg­re­ga­tion. Our results are gen­er­al­ly in line with these pri­or find­ings in oth­er cities. New Orleans remains high­ly seg­re­gat­ed after the reforms, sug­gest­ing that this will be an issue for years to come.

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