They don't have quite the grueling work day Smiley Lewis is lamenting, but New Orleans' students are working hard and learning. And they're doing so in higher-quality schools. As of 2009, among the students of Orleans Parish:
59 percent attend
That's up from 30 percent in 2004. It's progress, but there's the "glass-half-empty" way of looking at it, too: it means that 41 percent of students are still in schools that haven't attained that rating.
Covering about a quarter of the metro area's students, Orleans Parish is only part of the story. In other parishes, the changes were less dramatic, though that's maybe because the schools there were in better shape before Katrina. In Jefferson Parish, 95 percent of students attend schools rated satisfactory, up from 83 percent in 2004. Plaquemines, St. Tammany, St. Charles and St. Bernard saw a small dip from 99 percent to 97 percent.
So what does it all mean? These ratings, which again come from Brookings' report The New Orleans Index at Five, are based on student performance on standardized tests. They're just one measure of learning, but they're also a glimmer of hope for a city with many problems.