Charter schools in New Orleans, LA (NOLA) receive a great deal of attention, in no small part because they serve a larger proportion of public school students than do charters in any other major U.S. city. Less discussed, however, is the prevalence of NOLA’s “selective schools” (elsewhere, they are sometimes called “exam schools”). These schools maintain criteria for admission and/or retention, based on academic and other qualifications (often grades and/or standardized test scores).
At least six of NOLA’s almost 90 public schools are selective – one high school, four (P)K-8 schools and one serving grades K-12. When you add up their total enrollment, around one in eight NOLA students attends one of these schools.*
Although I couldn’t find recent summary data on the prevalence of selective schools in urban districts around the U.S., this is almost certainly an extremely high proportion (for instance, selective schools in New York City and Chicago, which are mostly secondary schools, serve only a tiny fraction of students in those cities). Read More »
Charter schools in New Orleans (NOLA) now serve over four out of five students in the city – the largest market share of any big city in the nation. As of the 2011-12 school year, most of the city’s schools (around 80 percent), charter and regular public, are overseen by the Recovery School District (RSD), a statewide agency created in 2003 to take over low-performing schools, which assumed control of most NOLA schools in Katrina’s aftermath.
Around three-quarters of these RSD schools (50 out of 66) are charters. The remainder of NOLA’s schools are overseen either by the Orleans Parish School Board (which is responsible for 11 charters and six regular public schools, and taxing authority for all parish schools) or by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (which is directly responsible for three charters, and also supervises the RSD).
New Orleans is often held up as a model for the rapid expansion of charter schools in other urban districts, based on the argument that charter proliferation since 2005-06 has generated rapid improvements in student outcomes. There are two separate claims potentially embedded in this argument. The first is that the city’s schools perform better that they did pre-Katrina. The second is that NOLA’s charters have outperformed the city’s dwindling supply of traditional public schools since the hurricane.
Although I tend strongly toward the viewpoint that whether charter schools “work” is far less important than why – e.g., specific policies and practices – it might nevertheless be useful to quickly address both of the claims above, given all the attention paid to charters in New Orleans. Read More »