Recently, I had the good fortune of attending a presentation by Patrick Dobard, Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District. It focused on the Louisiana Recovery School District program and how it helped to transform the poor, failing New Orleans schools – decimated by Hurricane Katrina – into one of the highest performing districts in the state. Given its success, it may serve as a blueprint for reforming the struggling Milwaukee Public School system.
In 2003, tired of having some of the worst schools in the country, the Louisiana state legislature created the Recovery School District. This was a special school district that would contain underperforming or failing schools throughout the state. A public school in Louisiana would be put in the Recovery District if it was underperforming for four consecutive years. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the state legislature put the majority of New Orleans’ schools in the Recovery District. The District’s superintendent, Dobard, is appointed by the state.
The concept of the Recovery School District is actually relatively simple – a superintendent is given wide-ranging powers with the goal of improving education in the District. The superintendent, with relative ease, can close schools, merge schools together, and turn traditional public schools into charter schools. For their part, parents and children in the Recovery District have more freedom to decide where to attend school.
The policy rationale behind the Recovery District is that school accountability, reduced red tape, and parental empowerment will appropriately incentivize educators to perform. Read more »