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Study Reveals NOLA Teachers Are Less Experienced After Katrina (And Not From NOLA)

First Study Reveals NOLA Teachers are Less Local and Experienced After Katrina

With this month marking 10 years since Hurricane Katrina forced New Orleans to rebuild much of its city, the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-New Orleans) at Tulane University has released the findings of the first in a series in studies on the post-Katrina teacher corps.

"Many of the changes in school policy after Katrina were aimed at changing the teacher workforce...After the storm, all teachers were fired, the union contract was not renewed and charter schools that had more control over the teacher workforce began running more schools. These events clearly led to many changes in the classroom," said ERA-New Orleans Director Douglas N. Harris, whose organization seeks to objectively evaluate the changes in the New Orleans school system in a ERA-New Orleans statement.

The study used a complete list of teachers working the public school system from the 2002-03 school year to the 2013-14 school year to arrive at its findings.

For one, the study found that the teacher workforce in New Orleans is significantly less local. In the 2004-05 school year, 60 percent of teachers working in the system had graduated from New Orleans college or universities. In 2013-14, only 36 percent of teachers had studied in New Orleans.

Further, teachers were also found to be less experienced after Katrina than before.

"The percentage of teachers with 10 or fewer years of experience increased from 48 percent in 2004–05 to 70 percent in 2013–14 while the number with 20 or more years of experience dropped by over 20 percentage points," said the company in a statement.

In the coming years, this decrease in experience is likely to remain constant in New Orleans' teacher corps as the city is also experience record teacher turnover.

"Turnover rates nearly doubled after the reforms," the company said. Teachers leaving the profession doubled "from 9 percent in 2003–04 to 18 percent in 2013–14. As with the changes in experience and certification, this was not a sudden shift after the reforms, but rather a gradual change over time."

But despite the negative changes occurring in New Orleans' teacher corps that typically means less effective teachers, student achievement has indeed improved post-hurricane. The report attempts to explain this phenomenon and found several reasons for the increased achievement despite the weakening teacher force.

It found that teacher accountability, better preparation programs, and longer hours could be some of the changes that have helped students improve regardless.

"Future research by ERA-New Orleans will help explore whether the improvement in student outcomes can be explained by any of these factors. This new brief is an important starting point," the company said.

Read more about ERA-New Orleans here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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