Leading New Orleans’ classroom comeback
This year is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and among the amazing aspects of the comeback of New Orleans is the reinvention of its school system. After an influx of charter nonprofits, the distinction between charter and public schools was virtually eliminated: all are empowered to run themselves and compete for students. Kira Orange Jones, a Bronx native, was one of the critical engines of innovation. As Teach for America’s executive director in New Orleans, she attracted educators from across the U.S. and developed ways for reformers, community members and veteran teachers to respect and learn from one another. To preserve the reforms, she ran for Louisiana’s board of education and upset an entrenched incumbent. The public-charter-choice model has been a success: since 2005, the on-time graduation rate has gone from over 50% to nearly 75%, the number going to college has more than doubled, and New Orleans now outperforms cities like Chicago, Denver and Miami on ACT tests.
Isaacson is the CEO of the Aspen Institute and a chair emeritus of Teach for America. He was the vice chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority