Eileen Fleming / WWNO

Hundreds of graduating high school seniors gathered at Champions Square Friday morning to celebrate their academic success. Officials at the second annual Senior Shout Out hailed the graduation rate of 73 percent – up from 54 percent 10 years ago.

Lately, schools have been adding arts integration and experiential learning to their curriculum, but these are things that the Waldorf educational system has been doing for nearly a century. A local branch was started 15 years ago and gets more popular each year.

For NolaVie, Renée Peck brings us this report.

Pat Sullivan / AP

What if you had to start your school system over almost from scratch? What if most of the buildings were unusable, and most of the teachers had left or been fired? Is that a nightmare, or your dream come true?

In New Orleans, that was the reality after the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. That set off a chain reaction that transformed the city's schools forever, first by a state takeover and then by the most extensive charter school system in the country.

Steve Voss / NPR

The New Orleans education system has changed dramatically in the almost ten years since Hurricane Katrina. NPR's Michel Martin is in town for a live event looking at those changes. It's part of her Going There series, where she hosts conversations about local topics with national significance.

Martin recently spoke about the event with WWNO Education Reporter Mallory Falk. She started by explaining why she chose to focus on education in New Orleans.

On weekend afternoons, Craig Adams Jr. plays for tourists on the streets of the French Quarter.

He gigs with different bands, bringing whatever's needed: trumpet, trombone, saxophone — he plays six or seven instruments in all. There's a white plastic bucket on the sidewalk so people can drop in cash as they browse the T-shirts and Mardi Gras masks.

Craig is 18, and there's music in his blood: "I had my uncle, my grandfather, and my dad to teach me." His father, Craig Adams Sr., leads a group called the Higher Dimensions of Praise Gospel Band.

Principal Nicholas Dean looks at his scarred, broken office door with resignation.

"Time to get a new lock," he says.

Over the weekend, a person or persons smashed into his office, found the keys to the school van and drove off in it.

It's another day at Crescent Leadership Academy, one of New Orleans' three second-chance schools for students who have not been successful elsewhere.

Mallory Falk / WWNO

New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, or NOCCA, has long been known as a leading arts education program. But the staff there began to notice a trend. Students came to NOCCA from schools all over the city and had dramatically different experiences.

"And there were a lot of sad moments at the end of somebody's senior year where they'd be given a scholarship based on their art, or get into a school based on their arts audition, and then not be able to accept it because they weren't admitted academically," says Dr. Kate Kokontis.

Last month Henderson Lewis Jr. took the helm as superintendent of the Orleans Parish School Board. Today he laid out his plan for his first six months — and his vision for the future.

Henderson Lewis Jr. has a clear vision: "To reunite the school district," he says. "Right now we have a fragmented school system. We have some schools that are part of the Orleans Parish School Board. We have other schools that are part of the Recovery School District."

Many New Orleans students are finding out where they'll go to school this fall. OneApp placements went out in the mail and through email on Thursday.

Lashunda Dean was at work when she got the email from OneApp.

"My first reaction was like 'yay! Oh my God! Yeah!'" she says. "And then I opened the email and I was like 'oh, okay, well.'"

Her son William, a fifth-grader, got his second choice. Dean was disappointed but not surprised.

"I knew it was gonna be a slim chance of getting in," she says. Because their top choice had very few open seats.

It wasn’t a comfortable conversation, as Lake Charles Rep. Brett Geymann — a Common Core opponent — grilled Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White in the House Appropriations committee meeting Tuesday. At issue were plans to purchase new batteries of state standardized tests.