GLC Logo

Kristen Buras: (404) 413-8030,
Teri Battaglieri: (517) 203-2940,

Review: Recovery district model doesn't produce the student turnaround promised

Fordham Institute report ignores the facts on charter school experience

EAST LANSING, Mich. (March 20, 2012) – A recent report claiming that the charter school-driven Recovery School District in New Orleans can be replicated in other urban centers ignores the fact that charter schools have not produced significant gains in student achievement and have been criticized by large segments of the African American community due to concerns over access, equity, performance, and accountability, according to an academic review released today.

The report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, The Louisiana Recovery School District: Lessons for the Buckeye State does not cite empirical evidence when it asserts locally elected school boards and teachers unions are to blame for failing schools. Kristen Buras of Georgia State University's Department of Educational Policy Studies reviewed the report and found it lacks any consideration of the chronic under-funding and racial history of New Orleans public schools before Hurricane Katrina.

No evidence is provided that a conversion to charter schools would remedy these problems. The review was produced by the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

"Since the report critiques the lack of accountability exhibited by New Orleans public schools before 2005, one would expect the report to offer detailed analysis of data demonstrating how charter schools in the RSD [Recovery School District] have improved their financial management and produced better test results. Instead, the success of such reforms is simply asserted rather than established," Buras wrote in her review.

The Fordham report focuses on school performance, yet it fails to address contradictory evidence. Time and again, Louisiana lawmakers have shifted the definition of what constitutes a "failing" school. After Hurricane Katrina, they changed the standard so 107 of 128 schools in New Orleans could be defined as failing, placed in the RSD, and then converted into charter schools. Since this time, the standard for defining failure has been lowered, thereby generating the "successful" pattern of school performance that reformers attribute to charter school management.

There have also been accounts of the unwillingness of charter schools to enroll low-income and special education students, contradicting the portrayal of charter schools as open access.

"This has inspired substantial criticism of charter schools in New Orleans, where not all students are provided with the 'new opportunities' alluded to in the report," Buras said.

Find Buras' review on the Great Lakes Center website at:

Find Louisiana Recovery School District: Lessons for the Buckeye State? on the web at:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications.  The project is made possible in part by the funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center at:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at:

Follow us on Twitter at: