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America Studies

Voices from Inside the Test Tube: Student and Parent Efforts to Influence New Orleans' Public Schools Since Hurricane Katrina

Jacob Cohen '10

Abstract: Hurricane Katrina provided an opportunity for powerful state actors, corporations, and reform advocates, to institute a sweeping overhaul of New Orleans’ public school system. A grand experiment adapting free-market principles to the education system is now well underway. The major components of this experiment include a privatized delivery system (charterization), corporate management of schools, testing-based accountability, competition, school choice, and non-democratic governance. Within this emerging model families are re-imagined as consumers who exercise their preferences and desires in a marketplace of diverse education providers. My research examines students and parents who refuse to be confined to such an individuated and apolitical role, working instead to influence the direction of the school system through protest, civic engagement, and democratic forms of expression. I look at the historical development of a grassroots civic infrastructure, as well as the formation, strategies and efficacy of organizations like Fyre Youth Squad, Kids Rethink New Orleans.
Funding Provided by: The Fletcher Jones Foundation

Research at Pomona