New Orleans Schools Struggle to Revive

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New Orleans schools are struggling, right along with the rest of the city, to recover from Hurricane Katrina. How are they doing a year after the storm? There are problems. But there is also a high level of optimism.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Here's a note on some upcoming reports on MORNING EDITION.

It's more than a year after Hurricane Katrina: Only one-third of the students have returned to the New Orleans schools and it's hard to find enough buildings, computers and teachers even for them.

NPR's Larry Abramson has been visiting schools in New Orleans. And, Larry, what did you want to learn?

LARRY ABRAMSON: Well, to be honest, Steve, I went down there to see how messed up things are. And things are messed up in the New Orleans schools. There are a lot of schools that don't have enough pupils. There are a lot of students that can't find the right school.

But I was amazed at how optimistic people are there that the failing school system that they had before Katrina is now going to turn into something new. People are amazingly dedicated to this project. Listen to Adam Meinig. He's the principal of the KIPP Believe school in New Orleans.

Mr. ADAM MEINIG (Principal, KIPP Believe College Prep School, New Orleans): And so the teachers that I've gotten have been people who can give a 110 percent of their life right now over to teaching. You're here on Saturdays. We're here on Sundays painting the walls and putting up posters and unpacking furniture.

INSKEEP: So are you finding this optimistic story in public schools or private schools?

ABRAMSON: Well, really a lot of the optimism is about the growth in charter schools all over the city. More than half the schools in New Orleans are now run by charters. That means they are run either by some national company or by neighborhood activists who got involved. And they feel like they are free from the constraints of the old administration, they could run their school the way they want and so they are very optimistic.

Of course, in other cities charter schools haven't necessarily gotten better results than regular public schools, so there's no guarantee that these new optimism is really going to lead to better performance.

INSKEEP: Okay. Surprising story, and Larry will investigate it Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on MORNING EDITION. Larry, thanks.

ABRAMSON: Thank you.

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