This summer, Chris Stewart has moved the Rock the Schools podcast to his hometown of New Orleans, where he speaks to the city’s parents, activists and educators about the state of the public schools 10 years after Katrina, and where the city’s schools are going in the next 10.
Rock the Schools host Chris Stewart talks with Ashana Bigard, a New Orleans advocate who helps other parents navigate school choice process and has a birds-eye view of the problems still plaguing the district.
Bigard said she speaks for many parents in New Orleans, who were initially hopeful about the reforms taking hold in her hometown, but was left feeling disempowered and disenchanted. Stewart noted that, “School reform in New Orleans is a national story that is often called miraculous by education leaders, but local parents often tell a more mixed story”—a theme he’s heard over and over as locals talk about the post-Katrina changes. Certainly more can be done in New Orleans, including more parent engagement, but for parents who do support and organize around reform, the measure of success is academic progress. On this point Chris shares his perspective:
If there was anything you were going to organize around, reformers, including myself, think that results for kids are the thing you organize around...better results in graduation rates, test scores, admissions. On those measures, folks will tell you that the city is moving much faster in the right direction than it ever has before.
Bigard said the true test of success rests on whether the school system can produce high school graduates who are prepared for college and are poised to succeed there. Stewart agreed that, despite the differences in opinion about the progress in New Orleans, “All [we] care about is that we get more black people across the finish line.”