Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Orleans launches its new school choice process

The Recovery School District* celebrates the launch of its new school choice process today in New Orleans: Recovery School District's new application is expected to make school search easier

"After years of complaints about how headache-inducing it can be to enroll a child in public school in New Orleans, state officials have officially launched a long-promised single application for every elementary and high school in the city. Almost, that is.

"Parents looking for a place in one of the state's nearly 70 campuses in the Recovery School District will find the process much simplified. Beginning Tuesday, parents can fill out a single application ranking their top eight choices and turn it in at any school in the district.

"But there are still a handful of independent charters schools in the city that fall outside the new central enrollment system. So do the 17 schools -- some traditional, some charter -- that remain under the control of the Orleans Parish School Board.

"This means parents will still have to navigate a patchwork of separate applications and deadlines to cast the widest possible net. But state officials are nevertheless hailing the new enrollment system as a major step forward, even scheduling a kickoff event tonight with prizes and special guests.

"One of the most consistent complaints that I've heard from the community about the RSD, especially from parents coming back to the city, is just getting their kids registered," said Patrick Dobard, who took over as Recovery School District superintendent last month after serving as deputy superintendent last year. "This is something where we've heard from the community and now we're acting on it, something that was just a thought a few years ago."

"Putting the enrollment process in the hands of the Recovery District's central office is supposed to solve a number of problems. Since the agency took over schools in New Orleans back in 2005, it has gone about creating a district of autonomous charter schools that operate independently. They make their own hiring and firing decisions, set their own budgets and create their own curriculum. But allowing each school to operate its own enrollment has proved problematic.

"Parents of students with special needs often complain that charters are sometimes reluctant to accept them. The city's best charters often fill up quickly and it hasn't always been clear when applications for each of them are due. Presumably, the savvier parents could win slots at multiple schools and decide among them while others sit on waiting lists."

*The Recovery School District is a special school district administered by the Louisiana Department of Education. Created by legislation passed in 2003, the RSD is designed to take underperforming schools and transform them into successful places for children to learn.

No comments: