Citywide Education Progress Report

Key Takeaways: System Reforms

Over the past year, Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and local nonprofits have made steps to increase avenues for community input, address transportation, and improve the process for assessing school quality—all while planning for reunification. Each strategy will need to be a continued area of focus as OSPB and its partners begin to execute their work as the sole public education system in the city. In addition, system leaders will need to pay attention to other weaknesses: talent identification, development, and retention; the curricular variety of new school options; and OPSB’s school portfolio management.


Do students have access to a high-quality education?


Do school choice and supply meet family needs? This goal addresses how well the city is doing with providing families access to quality schools. We look at what the city is doing to ensure quality schools are in every neighborhood, and how well the choice process is working for families who want to use it.


► Is transportation working for families?

New Orleans families have free transportation to nearly all schools in the city, either through busing or transit passes. Despite these existing policies, in a 2017 survey of 400 New Orleans families, nearly a third (30%) said that transportation was a challenge. Families have expressed concern with safe passage, long commutes, and high costs. In response, OPSB pushed a noncompliant operator to provide busing and hired a consultant to develop recommendations for improving transportation.


► Is the enrollment process working for families?

The city’s unified enrollment system, EnrollNOLA provides families with a streamlined application and enrollment process. However, a third of families surveyed in 2017 said that understanding which schools they were eligible to attend was difficult. Over the 2017-18 school year, OPSB worked with the nonprofit Ed Navigator to provide additional support to families in the choice process.


► Do families have the information they need and know how to use it?

School information is accessible and easy to use, although 36% of families say finding enough information about schools makes the application process difficult. Community members report that the guide lacks detail about school curricular models and school climate. Many schools also don’t provide information about English language learner services.


► Does the school supply represent an array of models?

School information is accessible and easy to use through EnrollNOLA. The guide makes it easy for families to compare schools, and it provides detailed information about special education services. However, some school entries lack detail about curricular models and English language learner services. Interviewees in 2017 noted that families are using the guide, but they want more information about school climate. In our survey, about a third of families said that finding enough information was a difficulty during the application process.


Is the city strategically managing its school portfolio?

Clear criteria and procedures have been in place for school closure and restart, but interviewees have noted that without a structured siting process, it has been challenging for the city to be strategic about where new schools locate or expand. According to interviewees, the city has also struggled to improve the supply of high-quality seats at the middle and high school levels. To guide improvements, OPSB developed a new school performance framework over 2017 and 2018 with significant community and school leader input. The framework establishes a common definition of quality for all schools in the city. OPSB is also trying to better align its Facilities Master Plan (last updated in 2011) with the district’s school pipeline development work. To date, OPSB has not yet implemented much of the portfolio management work resulting from unification. In 2017 fewer than half (43%) of all families reported having confidence in the system to provide quality options for every neighborhood, and a fifth of families believed that public schools in the city were getting worse.

Is the education strategy rooted in the community?


Is the whole community engaged? Education is a citywide endeavor. When families, community organizations, and city leaders have the opportunity to provide feedback and share in the vision, the strategy is more likely to be sustainable and meet the needs of all students. In this goal, we look at how well the city is doing with engaging key stakeholders.


► Does the city engage families in educational decisions that impact them?

Nonprofit groups in New Orleans support families throughout the turnaround, closure, and operator selection process. This includes Parent Advocators, which supports family engagement. However, with so many groups involved, the lines of responsibility are not always clear, and interviewees noted that families have gotten frustrated when they perceive that their input is not included in system-level decision making.


► Are a variety of groups engaged in education?

In New Orleans, a number of nonprofit organizations (like YouthForce NOLA, a civic, education, and business collaborative) provide services to schools. New Orleans also involved community groups across the city in planning for unification. There are not yet concrete plans in place to continue this level of engagement post-unification, but interviewees identified it as an area of focus for OPSB. Interviewees noted that support from the local business community is lacking. It is unclear which organizations will push the system toward continued progress and how they will do it—through advocacy, increased transparency, or other avenues.



► Is there a strong and deep coalition of support for the education strategy?

The school board, superintendent, and state are mostly aligned in their support of the education strategy, though the alignment is still at a policy level rather than at the level of implementation. For example, in 2018 OPSB voted to support the governor in his push to address the state’s shortage of certified teachers. The public has backed the return of Recovery School District schools to OPSB, as well as the general direction of the city’s reform efforts. Now that unification is nearly complete, the next step will be to clarify and operationalize OPSB’s new strategic plan and determine who will own and be accountable for which elements of the education system moving forward.


► Does the education system respond to community feedback?

Newly formed Superintendent Student Advisory Committees provide avenues for students to give input on issues of importance to them and on citywide education strategy. A similar committee for teachers launched in April 2018 in partnership with New Schools for New Orleans. A parent committee is set to launch soon. The newly formed nonprofit Our Voice Nuestra Voz works with Latino families to help them advocate for their needs. These groups may address concerns interviewees in 2017 expressed—that community members had few opportunities to provide feedback or engage around issues related to the school system as a whole.

Is the education system continuously improving?


Do schools have the resources they need? School improvement happens at the school level, but making sure resources are available requires sound, citywide policy. Having the right talent in a city is critical for schools to be able to provide students with a quality education. Schools should also have control over their budgets so they have the resources to address the needs of their student population.


► Does funding equitably follow students?

In New Orleans, all recurring public funds follow students using a student-based allocation formula. OPSB has put effort into ensuring a student-based allocation formula is maintained following reunification in July 2018 (based on analysis of fiscal year 2017-18).


► Do schools have the kinds of teachers they need?

Talent is emerging as a major issue for New Orleans, despite a number of internal external pipelines in place. To date, data has not been collected across all schools on teacher retention, quality, or fit, making it difficult to identify talent issues and develop strategies to address them. To start this work, OPSB has begun partnering with New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) to track teacher vacancies. OPSB initiated new school pipeline work, which it is doing in collaboration with nonprofit partners like Camelback and NSNO. This work aims to create new opportunities for teachers and teacher leaders to develop school models based on community need.


► Do schools have the kinds of leaders they need?

To date, New Orleans has had only anecdotal or partial data about vacancies and quality across all of its autonomous schools. There is an interest among system leaders to collect data. System leaders also recognize the need to develop new strategies to recruit and develop school leaders who can push for school improvement and excellence.

Data & Scoring

Where did we get this information?

► Interviews with district, charter, and community leaders

► Policy documents from district, charter, and state websites

► School data from each city

► A 400-parent survey administered in March, 2017 in Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.

How did we score the
system reforms and goals?

Each indicator is scored with a rubric on a 4-point scale. We added the scores for the indicators to get an overall goal score. See the Methodology & Resources page for details.

Score Levels


About New Orleans

After more than 10 years of overseeing a majority of the city’s charter schools, Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD) is transferring its 49 schools back to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) by July 2018 under a unification plan (Act 91). This transition will mark the next chapter of the city’s work to transform how public schools are governed and operated.

School Choice in the City

All New Orleans schools are open enrollment, with some that have selective enrollment. There are neighborhood zones for a share of spaces at most schools, but families are still able to apply to any school across the city using the OneApp process.

Governance Model

This past year (2017-18), New Orleans schools were either overseen by the Orleans Parish School Board or the Recovery School District.

2015 District and Charter Student Body

Enrollment: 43,948 students
Race and ethnicity: 87% black, 7% other (including Hispanic), 6% white 
Low-income: 84% free and reduced-price lunch

2017 School Composition

Source: Enrollment data from EDFacts, 2014-15.
School data from researcher analysis of public records, 2016-17.




The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center at the University of Washington Bothell developing systemwide solutions for K–12 public education. Questions? Email