Hurricane Evacuees Thrive After Switching Schools, Study Says

After sharp declines the first year, students who fled New Orleans improved and enrolled in college.

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New Orleans students who were forced to switch schools in the wake of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina performed poorly the first year in their new schools but quickly recovered and made significant improvement in the second and third years, according to a new study. The research, conducted by Bruce Sacerdote, a researcher at Dartmouth College, also found that more evacuees eventually enrolled in college than past waves of students who graduated from their former high schools in New Orleans.

These findings suggest that the costs associated with relocating children to different schools are offset by apparent long-term academic benefits. Many families who fled New Orleans and surrounding areas in the wake of the two powerful storms enrolled their children in schools in Houston; Mobile, Ala.; and Baton Rouge, La. Not surprisingly, the evacuees who made the most gains on state tests in the second and third years at their new schools had attended low-performing schools in New Orleans, the study found. Four-year college enrollment for evacuees from the graduating classes of 2006 and 2007 went up 4 percentage points, the study says. These findings could give fodder to proponents of shutting down failing schools in other parts of the country—a decision that local and state officials are often afraid to make for fear that relocating students is too disruptive. The full study appears here.

natural disasters
New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina
Dartmouth College