Stephanie Banchero at WSJ describes how state introduction of charter schools in New Orleans has lifted academic performance.
There is broad acknowledgment that local schools are performing better since Hurricane Katrina washed away New Orleans’ failing public education system and state authorities took control of many campuses here.
Graduation rates went to 78% last year from 52% before Katrina—surpassing Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Oakland, Calif., cities also struggling to boost achievement among lower-income students. The share of New Orleans students proficient in math, reading, science and social studies increased to 58% in 2012 from 35% before the 2005 storm, state data shows.
….About 84% of its 42,000 public school students attend charters, the largest share of any district in the U.S.
Charter schools are largely free to manage their own budgets and hiring, set curriculum and schedules, and select textbooks. The lowest performing schools are eventually closed by state officials or replaced with new operators.
For the school year that started in August, parents picked among 78 charter schools, as well as eight traditional campuses, one independent school with a board appointed by the governor and 38 private schools that are paid with state-issued tuition vouchers. To help guide the selection, public schools are issued grades of A to F, based on academic performance.
State-issued vouchers promote competition amongst schools and lift performance. The system not only empowers parents but also empowers staff in those institutions, judging them on performance rather than on conformity to strict regulatory controls.
An experiment in the Lombardy region of Italy has also demonstrated that similar competition between state and private institutions in the health care sector reduces costs and improves outcomes. Given the striking success of this model, expect to see growing adoption in both health care and education despite resistance from vested interests.
Read more at Inside the Nation's Biggest Experiment in School Choice – WSJ.com.