Nearly ten years after Katrina and the implementation of a host of new and radical education reforms in New Orleans, there remains little evidence about whether the changes have improved school performance. Despite this lack of evidence, the New Orleans model is held up as a reform success, and is being adopted by other cities. In this article the authors ask how policymakers in New Orleans and at the state level define, access and interpret research or evidence on the reforms, and how, if at all, such evidence informs their decision-making. They interviewed key district and state policymakers, as well as representatives from dozens of intermediary organizations in the area, who, they argue, are also shapers of policy. On the demand side, they found that policymakers primarily used personal anecdotes to justify their position and explain the success of reforms, and they relied on blogs or non-peer-reviewed sources for background information. Peer-reviewed research was seldom used, typically passed to policymakers via an echo chamber of intermediary organizations, personal contacts or key partners. Connecting supply to demand, the authors find that intermediary organizations broker research and evidence to advance their policy agendas, and that they serve as de facto policymakers in New Orleans.
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