Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Where to Go?

My kid is not in the New Orleans Public School system. But if he were, I am not exactly sure I would know where to register lil po' boy.

From the July 3 Times-Picayune:

Since November's state takeover, 25 campuses have managed to open, serving 12,500 students. About 30 more schools are preparing to open later this summer for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, expanding the city's total public school capacity to 34,000, although closer to 22,000 are expected.
Here’s a list (pdf) of the schools that are or will be open for this coming school year.

The new NOPS system is a three-headed monster, with schools run by the Recovery School District (the state), Orleans Parish School Board, and by charter. The charter schools are then divided into those that are authorized by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and overseen by the RSD, those that report directly to the BESE, and those authorized by the OPSB. While they will all have their own standards, they must at least teach the LA Comprehensive Curriculum.

The RSD-operated schools are open access on a first-come, first-serve basis. The RSD-chartered schools are also open access, but I assume they create their own selection process.

The other charter schools all have their own selection processes.

On the OPSB website, I can’t tell how their selection process works. The OPSB is only running four schools (non-charter) - two primary/elementary (Benjamin Franklin Elementary and Mary Bethune Elementary) and two high schools (McDonogh 35 and McMain) - so I assume it is open access. However, three of the four seem to be selective. Benjamin Franklin Elementary is an accelerated curriculum and the high schools are college prep.

So, where does my kid apply? If he is an above-average student, and as long as I get my butt in the registration line early, it seems like he would have a good chance of going wherever he wants, a better chance if he is a returning student to the same school.

But, what if he is an average or below-average student and his old school isn’t reopening? With many charter schools and three of the OPSB-run schools being selective, at the very least in this case the student would be limited in his choices. That’s not to say that he won’t wind up in a good school. There are 14 open-access RSD schools, four of them high schools. It just makes the whole process a little harder. And once again, how do you know where to apply? Do you have to visit every charter school to see which one your kid might be able to get into? Do you simply apply to the closest RSD school? Are some better than others? What if your kid doesn’t get in?

According to the RSD Plan (doc):
In 2004–2005, 63 percent of schools in the New Orleans Public School system (NOPS) were deemed academically unacceptable, whereas only 8 percent of schools across Louisiana were academically unacceptable.
Because we were a failing school district, we can assume that many of our students were failing also. Where do they apply?

Lil po’ boy is not a public schooler, so I haven’t made any phone calls to get answers for my questions. But, simply perusing the internet and the local media, it doesn’t seem clear to me that the answers are that easily obtained. So I offer them up to the gods of the blogosphere.

My concern is that, even with all the improvements made, the same kids who didn’t have access to the better schools with better teachers and better resources will continue to not have that access. However, I must admit that whatever system we have today is probably better than anything we had before.

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