This Sunday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made his first diplomatic visit to gaffe-land while discussing New Orleans' educational gains on Washington Watch: "The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina." Duncan later apologized for the comment.
The statement itself isn't really a call for outrage; it was a trite way to tie test-score gains to the mythology of the city's resurgence. I see it as just another excess of the "education speak" that's bandied about, where everything's about "reform," "achievement," "accountability" -- and "wake-up calls."
However, the reason for the correlation should provoke anger. New Orleans schools aren't necessarily doing better with the same students. They are serving a different demographic, one that is more affluent, whiter, and more educated (to see the pre-/post-Katrina demographic breakdown, you can look here).The educational "gains" are only further evidence that Hurricane Katrina disproportionately affected -- and exiled -- the city's substantial and segregated underclass.
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