- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Researchers at Tulane University say students in New Orleans’ public schools have been less likely to switch schools in the years after Hurricane Katrina than they were before the storm hit in 2005.

New Orleans has moved to a system of mostly charter schools with enrollment open to all students throughout the city. The report released Wednesday by the Education Research Alliance at Tulane, said the decline in school-switching belies fears that the open-enrollment system would result in students constantly changing schools; and, it may indicate families have become more satisfied with the schools they choose.

Still, researchers say the report raises questions about whether some students are actually finding it more difficult to get into preferred schools.

Amid numerous education changes that followed Katrina, most public schools became charter schools, run by independent organizations with oversight by the state or the local school board. The vast majority of schools are open to students from throughout the city, a practice aimed at promoting choice and competition.

Professor Douglas Harris, director of the Research Alliance, said the latest study on school switching, or school student mobility, addresses fears that such a system would result in chaos - a revolving door of school-switchers.

“A study of mobility is partly a study of whether the system has generated chaos or has had the opposite effect,” Harris said in an interview prior to the study’s release.

The study found that 60 percent of elementary and middle school students stayed in the same school during 2004, the year before the storm; 67 percent was the figure in 2011, six years later. Among high school students, school-switching increased slightly, with 64 percent staying put in 2004, compared to 62 percent in 2011. But that may have been in part due to the fact that some post-Katrina high schools did not serve all grades 9-12.

Overall, student mobility declined. And a decline in mobility indicates stability, Harris said, with students not having to face constant changes in buildings, classmates, teachers and curricula.

However, some of the data indicate areas for possible concern. Researchers found that, overall, students who switch typically move to higher performing schools. But, lower scoring students who switched schools were less likely to move to higher performing schools.

Harris said more research will be needed to determine reasons, but the report raises possibilities.

“One possibility is the students are having trouble getting into the better schools,” Harris said.

A handful of the city’s best public schools have selective admissions. Others may be taking steps to enroll the best students and limit enrollment of lower performing students, the report said.




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