Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Professor Christopher Rohlfs
Professor Jeffrey Weinstein
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Finance and Financial Management
This study examines how Hurricane Katrina affected educational statistics within Louisiana by comparing standardized test scores and school performance scores over time. To measure these educational factors, I focus on two levels of observation: district and individual. In particular, I focus on New Orleans schools before and after the hurricane and find that these educational factors increased, signaling a positive impact from Hurricane Katrina. However, on the district level there is a gap in available data due to the severity of damage to particular school systems, which led me to examine individual-level observations for more comparisons. At the individual level of observation, I focus on individuals’ test scores by categorizing the scores at particular schools and districts by the extent of damage that they received. Individuals are categorized as living in the Damage 1, Damage 2, or Damage 3 regions, where the Damage 3 region experienced the most physical damage from the natural disaster. I classified these regions based off the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) data on disaster declaration. As with the district-level analysis, I find that sample means for individuals’ test scores across all three damage regions increased, indicating either a time trend or a possible positive influence Hurricane Katrina had on the entire state of Louisiana. Using regression analysis with the individual-level data, I tested for possible selection biases that may have altered the scores across the damage regions. These possible selection biases include time trends, control variable effects (race, gender, limited English proficiency (LEP) status, lunch status, and education classification), group fixed effects constructed from student characteristics, and student displacement. Since these potential selection biases exist among my observations, I aimed to disentangle the true effects of the hurricane that corresponded with the initial findings of positive trends in the educational attainment measures. Without any corrections, 4th and 8th graders both saw large increased test scores after exposure to Hurricane Katrina and the natural disaster’s damages. However, after correcting for the above-mentioned biases, results show that the overall effect across all damage regions was negative, but the Damage 3 region experienced the least harm. Further regressions suggest that this is due to student evacuees’ departure from the worst damaged regions and moving elsewhere, which in turn lowers the surrounding regions’ standardized test scores. These findings show that the initial trends of largely increasing scores for New Orleans are not due to Hurricane Katrina directly, but instead, the changing composition of students is highly responsible for these trends.
Larson, Emily Alice, "Hurricane Katrina’s Impact on Louisiana’s Educational Systems" (2011). Honors Capstone Projects - All. 305.
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