Connecting the Disconnected: Scholar Activists & Education Reform in Post Katrina New Orleans

Document Type



When Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans on August 29, 2005, the failure of the levees resulted in the largest single human-made disaster in the United States. In addition to the physical devastation of the city, the landscape of public schools in New Orleans was permanently altered, as was the national dialogue about school reform in the United States. The contested terrain of urban school reform in post-Katrina New Orleans led to the establishment of the National Coalition for Quality Education in New Orleans, an ad hoc group of New Orleans and national scholars who believe that New Orleans education, if rebuilt with thoughtful attention, can become a model for improving urban education in the nation. Drawing on data from two coalition-sponsored equity forums held during the summers of 2006 and 2007, this article discusses findings from the work of the coalition that deepen our understanding of how scholars can work with communities around education reform in three ways. First, it is crucial for scholars to focus work on the expressed needs of the community rather than from the imposed authority of the research community. Second, making use of academic research expertise requires acknowledging the diversity within the communities where the reform is being implemented. Finally, sustainable relationships between researchers and communities must be supported with mechanisms that facilitate clear expectations and communication. It is my hope that readers come away with a sense that working with marginalized communities to shape educational reform agendas is an important aspect of sustainable reforms.

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APA Citation

Cook, D.A. (2014) Connecting the Disconnected: Scholar Activists & Education Reform in Post Katrina New Orleans. International Journal of Educational Reform. 23(3), 207-222.


© 2014 International Journal of Education Reform, SAGE Publications