New start in New Orleans

New Orleans is turning to charter schools to build a new school system that’s better than the pre-Katrina mess, reports USA Today.

State Superintendent Cecil Picard, who effectively took over most of the city’s schools, says families returning from other states have seen functional schools, often for the first time. A few are asking him, “Can you promise me that I’m going to come back to something better than I left?”

If outsiders had visited New Orleans the day before the storm, they’d have seen a school district already in distress. Nearly two-thirds of the parish’s public schools weren’t meeting state standards. The city went through 10 superintendents in 10 years; in 2003, one high school valedictorian needed seven tries to pass the state’s 10th-grade math test.

New York City is creating quasi-charter schools with more autonomy, reports the New York Times.

Signaling the next stage in his overhaul of the city’s public school system, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced yesterday that 331 schools, nearly a quarter of all of those in the system, would be given more control over critical decisions like hiring, teacher training, curriculum and budgets if they agreed to meet performance standards.

Partly because these schools would largely operate independent of the centralized school bureaucracy, officials said the city would be able to cut a net sum of roughly 210 administrative jobs and pass on some $80 million in savings to the participating schools and related programs.

Bloomberg was surprised at how many principals have jumped at the chance to control their schools.

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  1. They have something similar in Las Vegas, but with less controversy:
    Clark County SD (small pdf)
    LV Sun article
    As mentioned, they seem to be similar to charters, but with teachers who are district employees. The impression I get is that the principals are all but hand-picked, who in turn get to hand-pick the teachers. It’s hard to see how it could fail, but NYC may find a way.