nola_schoolchildren.png"An Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim's latest documentary, "Waiting for 'Superman,'" opened this month in theaters nationwide. An examination of the state of U.S. public education, the film has sparked controversy for its criticism of teachers' unions and promotion of charter schools. But are breaking teachers' unions and establishing charter schools really the formula for educational success? We look at some numbers from New Orleans, where an experiment launched in the wake of Hurricane Katrina decimated the teachers' union and made it the U.S. city with the greatest portion of public schools that are charters -- with mixed results.

Percent of New Orleans schools deemed academically unacceptable before Hurricane Katrina and the catastrophic flooding caused by failed federal levees: 64

Year in which Louisiana's Recovery School District (RSD) was created as a special district administered by the state Department of Education to reform under-performing schools: 2003

Number of New Orleans schools transferred to RSD control before the 2005 flood: 5

Number of New Orleans schools transferred to RSD control three months after the flood: 107

Number of New Orleans' 65,000 public school students before Katrina who did not return to the school system after the flood: 27,000

Number of the city's public school employees who were fired in the disaster's wake: more than 7,500

Number of those fired who were members of the United Teachers of New Orleans labor union: 6,800

According to a 2000 study, average SAT score advantage for states where teachers are covered by collective bargaining or meet-and-confer agreements: 51.6

Following an intensive push to convert the city's traditional public schools to charters, rank of New Orleans among U.S. cities today in terms of public school students attending charters: 1

Percent of New Orleans public schools that will be independently-run charters after this school year: more than 70

Of 12 categories measured in a recent evaluation, number in which test score growth for students in New Orleans' traditional public schools was greater than in charters: 8

Number in which test score growth was greater for charter school students: 4

Growth advantage in test scores for students attending New Orleans' regular public schools compared to those attending charters: 2 to 1

Month in which a coalition of legal advocacy groups filed a complaint against the Louisiana Department of Education, alleging that students with disabilities were being denied access to schools and pushed into schools unable to provide services they're entitled to under federal law: 7/2010

Percent of the student body represented by children with disabilities in the RSD overall: 12.6

Percent of the student body represented by children with disabilities in New Orleans charter schools: 7.8

Rate by which some charter schools' suspensions of children with disabilities exceed the state average: 100

Number of consecutive years that the Louisiana Justice Institute has issued an advisory warning parents about illegal school fees being charged by charter operators for required school activities: 3

Amount the Louisiana constitution allows public schools to charge students for books and other instructional materials: $0

Amount that one New Orleans resident's two children were required to pay in public school fees: $1,150

Of the 34 New Orleans charter school boards asked to provide basic information under open government laws by the investigative publication The Lens, number that did not even acknowledge the request: 13

Of the 21 that did acknowledge the request, number of boards that provided the information: 10

Number of charter school boards that refused to provide members' home addresses to gauge their compliance with a residency requirement: 6

Number of boards that did respond that were found to be out of compliance with the residency requirement: 1

According to one of the most in-depth studies of charter schools to date, percent of charters nationally that reported academic gains significantly better than traditional public schools: 17

Percent of charters that reported academic gains significantly worse than traditional public schools: 37

Percent of New Orleans public schools still deemed academically unacceptable in 2009: 42

(Click on figure to go to the source. Photo from the Louisiana Recovery School District website.)