Report: Teachers in New Orleans Less Local Than Before Katrina


A new report by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans finds that just one in five teachers who held positions at public schools in the city before Hurricane Katrina hit 10 years ago are still working there.

The devastation Hurricane Katrina left in its wake included a hit to the education system, as many schools were literally underwater and remained closed for months.  While a number of families left the area, others who stayed behind missed out on months of schoolwork.

Even before Katrina hit, the education system in New Orleans was in trouble, causing the Louisiana Legislature to create a statewide Recovery School District to help the struggling districts in the state.  By the time Katrina devastated the region, five schools had already been transformed into charters.  After the storm, state leaders worked quickly to recreate the school system by creating a new network of charter schools led by new teachers.

“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.

In order to arrive at its findings, the report looked at a complete listing of teachers who worked in the district between the 2002-03 school year and the 2013-14 school year.

While 60% of the teachers in the district in the 2004-05 school year had graduated from New Orleans colleges or universities, the study found that number to have drastically decreased by the 2013-14 school year, by which time only 36% of the workforce had a local pedigree.  In addition, teachers who filled positions after the storm were found to be less experienced than those who had taught before Katrina, writes Nicole Gorman for Education World.

“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.

According to the report, that decrease is expected to continue as the city experiences a record teacher turnover rate, which has almost doubled after the reforms.  In 2003, 9% of teachers left the profession.  That number increased to 18% by 2013.

Despite all this, student achievement has increased since Hurricane Katrina.  The report suggests this is due to teacher accountability, better preparation programs, and increased school hours.