Nine years past Katrina, Scott Cowen reflects on the New Orleans school ‘experiment’: HuffPo

By Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune

Former Tulane University President Scott Cowen cheers the massive changes in the New Orleans education system that followed Hurricane Katrina in a Huffington Post essay.

In the fall of 2005, the state took over 80 percent of the city’s public schools.

“The turnaround of New Orleans’ public schools — only 5.7 percent are now failing compared to 65 percent pre-Katrina — has been critical to the resurgence of the city as a whole,” he wrote in the days leading up to the ninth anniversary of the storm.

All but six of the city’s 80-plus public schools are now independent charters run by nonprofit boards. “What we’ve ultimately done is develop the concept of a portfolio of schools in the belief that freedom breeds initiative, civic engagement, creativity and innovation,” Cowen wrote.

He praises Sci Academy for its ongoing student assessment program and extensive literacy instruction, and the FirstLine charter group for blending computer learning into the classroom.

Still, he wrote, “The type of school is far less important than a system that sets expectations, provides reliable feedback, rewards competence, penalizes failure, encourages creativity and inspires commitment.”

Cowen recently published a book lauding the city’s educational recovery.