For decades, New Orleans’ children suffered in a public school system steeped in corruption and plagued by failure. In 2004, not even one-third of 8th graders in New Orleans could pass a state reading test.  In some schools, the number was lower – just 4 percent.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, raging winds and flooding destroyed or severely damaged much of the city and most of its schools. Out of the rubble, the city and the state planned to rebuild New Orleans’ public school system from the ground up. But in a rejection of the city’s flawed education system, nearly 8,000 teachers and employees were let go, and most schools opened as charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated. For the most part, the Orleans Parish School Board was left out of the picture.

Today about 85% of New Orleans’ schools have charters, more than any other city in the country, and the leadership’s avowed goal is to charter them all. Test scores have been improving faster than anywhere else in Louisiana, but it’s too early to declare victory. Several schools are considered failing, some have been accused of treating struggling students and those with special needs unfairly, and many in the New Orleans community remain skeptical.

REBIRTH: New Orleans, featuring a musical score by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, is a culmination of over six years of filming and weaves together stories of students, teachers, parents, education leaders, activists and critics to paint a nuanced and compelling portrait of a city reborn.

The film is available streaming on Netflix. A DVD version is also available for purchase here.

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