About a decade ago, education journalist Sarah Carr noted a dearth of “on the ground” writing on schools. Deciding to rectify that, Carr followed a student, a teacher, and a principal at three different schools in post-Katrina New Orleans for a year. In this EconTalk episode, Carr discussed what she learned in her books, Hope Against Hope, with host Russ Roberts.


1- What does Carr mean when she cites a “false dichotomy” in debates about school reform? What do you think school reform should focus on?


2- Roberts and Carr discuss the variance in standardized test scores before and after Katrina. What lessons does Carr suggest we should learn from this variance? While these scores represent a drastic improvement, what are some elements we should still be concerned about?


3- What were some of the differences between the schools Carr was immersed in that year? What were some of their different strengths? How might New Orleans have better combined the strengths of these different schools?


4-  Carr insists that the early post-Katrina charter operators under-estimated the complexity of the task before them. What does she mean? To what extent can and/or should schools be charged with influencing students’ lives beyond the classroom? (Hint- you may find it helpful to refer back to this episode with Paul Tough and this episode with Robert Pondiscio.)


5- What does Carr describe as the biggest lesson(s) she learned from this project? What were your biggest takeaways from this episode?