New Orleans by the Numbers: Public School Enrollment

Educate Now! looks at the public school student enrollment over the past ten years – from October 1, 2004 (the last data before Katrina) to this school year.

The Highlights

Schools are serving a more ethnically diverse student population.

Enrollment Citywide

A higher percentage of students are economically disadvantaged*.


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Diversity in School Choice

This guest editorial appeared on edited it for length, but the full version appears below.

New Orleans charter schools are all the same? Not true: Leslie Jacobs

Diversity_in_School_ChoiceOne key component of New Orleans’ innovative school model is school choice. When schools have to compete for students, they have to perform well or students and parents will choose to go elsewhere. Likewise, choice encourages parents to be more engaged in their child’s education by compelling them to be an active participant in deciding what school their child should attend.

An often repeated critique, however, is that while families have choice, they lack a diversity of choices: New Orleans charters are all the same.

This stereotype was echoed in the recent Cowen Institute report on New Orleans schools, which stated, “the variation in school design is largely limited to high-stakes standards-based teaching and strict discipline policies.”

So is there any truth to this criticism? Are most charter schools in New Orleans carbon copies of each other just focused on tests and discipline?

An argument can be made that statement was true five years ago. It is not true today.

In the early years, many of the charter schools did look alike and were very focused on establishing their school culture, discipline and academic programs.

But one of the key advantages of a decentralized school system is the freedom to innovate and respond to needs quicker and better. Over the past few years, schools have responded to families’ desire for diverse educational and extracurricular opportunities. And new charters continue to recognize gaps in the city’s educational landscape and launch schools to meet these needs.

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High School Performance

The state has released data on high school performance.

The Really Good News

New Orleans showed robust growth on the End of Course Tests (EOCs).

  • New Orleans1 (OPSB & RSD) is 8th in improvement in the state, with 59% of students proficient (scoring Excellent or Good) compared to 52% in 2013.
  • This is a jump of 7 percentage points; the state improved 3 points, from 59% to 62% proficient.
  • Compared to the other 69 districts, New Orleans is now #37, up from #47 last year (up 11 spots).
  • When we look at all New Orleans2, including Type 2 charters and NOCCA, 61% of students are proficient, just 1 point below the state average.

The state has been phasing in the EOCs by testing more subjects each year. This year, for the first time, all six subjects were tested: Algebra, Biology, English II, English III, Geometry and U.S. History. Since 2011, New Orleans has improved 14 points, while the state has improved 7 points.

Percent of Students (OPSB & RSD) Proficient

See below for EOC performance by school.

The Really Good News (part 2)

New Orleans students improved on the ACT

All students are now required to take the ACT. Many take it multiple times, and ACT uses their highest score.

  • Looking at all New Orleans high schools, 50% of students scored an 18 or higher, up 6 points from 44% in 2013.
  • Statewide, 59% of Louisiana students scored an 18 or higher, a 1 point gain from 2013.
  • 18 is the score that ACT says is aligned with college success.

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Grades 3-8 Test Scores Are In

New Orleans Flat; State Flat

The Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) has released the 2014 test scores for grades 3-8. The percent of students performing Basic or above remained unchanged from 2013. This is the first year since Katrina that New Orleans did not improve.

  • The state average remained the same at 69% Basic or above.
  • New Orleans (RSD & OPSB) remained the same at 63% Basic or above.
  • OPSB went down 2 points; RSD remained the same; and Type 2 charters grew 5 points.

Percent Basic or Above – Grades 3-8

District 2013 2014 Change
69% 69% 0
All New Orleans
63% 63% 0
RSD – N.O.
57% 57% 0
84% 82% -2
Type 2 charters – N.O.
73% 78% 5

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Who’s Going to College

Who’s Going to College?

A new report from the Louisiana Department of Education shows how many students from the class of 2012 enrolled in college after high school.

For the Class of 2012 (OPSB & RSD combined):

  • 58% of graduates enrolled in college right after high school.
  • By the fall of 2013, college enrollment went up 10 points to 68% of graduates.
  • This is 2 points higher than the state average of 66%.

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Court Rules in Favor of Teachers Fired After Katrina

What does it mean for New Orleans schools?

The appellate court recently issued a unanimous ruling in favor of the 7,000 OPSB employees (teachers and support workers) who were terminated in the aftermath of Katrina (Oliver vs. OPSB). Educate Now! has received lots of questions regarding the ruling and its impact on the continuing operation of schools, especially since the media has implied that the judgment could bankrupt the school system. Here is what we know.

What did the ruling say? 

  • The appeal court ruled that while the Orleans Parish School Board had the right to execute a reduction in force after Katrina, it failed to create a recall list based on seniority by position – violating its policy and depriving employees of their constitutionally protected property right to be recalled as schools reopened. The court awarded two years of lost wages and benefits, offset by unemployment compensation and other earnings received by the terminated employees during the time in question.

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New Orleans is Over 90% Charter

Educate Now! has reviewed the most recent enrollment data from the state. As of October 1:

  • 91% of New Orleans students are in charter schools.
  • Enrollment keeps increasing by around 1,500 students per year.
  • New Orleans schools have grown more diverse since Katrina.

New Orleans Enrollment Over Time

October 1

(all students)*
2004-05 2009-10 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
TOTAL 66372 38051 42030 43540 44950
Charter 1.5% 61.4% 77.5% 83.9% 91.0%
Direct-Run 98.5% 38.6% 22.5% 16.1% 9.0%
White 3.6% 5.4% 7.9% 6.7% 6.9%
Black 93.2% 90.0% 86.3% 87.3% 86.1%
Other 3.2% 4.6% 5.8% 5.9% 7.0%

*2013-14 does not include 0-3 enrollment or NOCCA (which dropped below 50% N.O. enrollment) but does include Milestone SABIS (with over 50% N.O. enrollment).

According to a recent market share report, New Orleans has the nation’s highest percentage of public school students in charters. In 2012-13, Detroit was second with 51% percent in charters, and Washington, D.C. was third with 43%.

Also, when the Recovery School District closes its last four direct-run schools at the end of this school year, it will become the nation’s first all-charter district.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect corrected state data that increased charter enrollment from 90.2% to to 91%.

Voucher Performance Lacking

At least 45% of students in Louisiana’s voucher program last year attended D or F schools, according to the state.

The state released scores for 22 of the 118 schools participating, and last year these schools enrolled 2,888 of the nearly 5,000 voucher students. The other schools had too few students at testing grades for scores to be released.

Of the 22 voucher schools receiving a score, more than half (13) were in the F range.

  • Seven of the F rated voucher schools are in New Orleans, and together these seven schools enrolled more than 1,000 students in 2012-13.
  • Of the more than 50 K-8 public schools in Orleans Parish, only 3 received an F.

Educate Now! urges parents to really explore all of their choices. The public schools in New Orleans offer some excellent (and better performing) options.

For more on voucher performance, download the state’s annual voucher report and read this article in the Times-Picayune.

2013 School Performance Scores Released

New Orleans Gains Continue!

I am amazed and awed by the continued academic improvement of our schools and students. In 8 years:

  • New Orleans has gone from 62% of students attending failing schools to 5%.
  • We have moved up in the state rankings from 67th to 38th.
  • We have shown robust improvement on the ACT.
  • We have more high performing, high poverty schools than anywhere else in Louisiana.

Congratulations to the remarkable educators across the city. Incredibly well done!

Only 5% of students now attend a failing school –
down from 62% in 2005. 

In 2004-05, 78 public schools in New Orleans, enrolling over 38,000 students, were failing. Today, only 9 schools in the city, enrolling 2,481 students, are failing.*

The End of Failing Schools in New Orleans Is In Sight
Percent of students in failing schools 2005 vs. 2013

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Revisionist History

High School Performance: Then and Now
Or … Leslie’s Rant

A few months ago, I went on WBOK radio to discuss public schools in New Orleans. A number of callers, as well as one of the hosts, disputed the fact that our schools are getting better. I readily acknowledge that we have room for improvement, but quite frankly, I am tired of the revisionist history some folks insist on using to rationalize their opposition to the school reforms taking place in New Orleans.

There cannot be honest disagreement, based on any semblance of facts, on whether schools are doing a better job educating students today versus 2005 – THEY ARE SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER.

To make my point, let’s look at the TOPS data, which is compiled by the Office of Student Financial Assistance (not the Department of Education). Louisiana offers qualifying students a scholarship to a 4-year (TOPS Opportunity1) or 2-year (TOPS Tech) college based on a combination of GPA, coursework, and ACT scores. OSFA has been compiling this data since TOPS began, and the standard for earning a scholarship is the same in 2013 as it was in 2005, so it’s a pretty good measurement to compare high school performance.

So let’s compare.

New Orleans has made remarkable gains since 2005. 

In 2013, 38% of our graduates qualified for TOPS scholarships, an increase of more than 50% from the 2005 rate of 25%.

TOPS Eligibility

# Graduates

View LOSFA’s 2013 TOPS report.

But this isn’t the real story.

Critics of the current reforms say they don’t like that schools are run by two governing bodies – RSD/BESE and OPSB. They want to go back to just one system.

They forget that in 2005 New Orleans also had two school systems: a system of “good” schools and one of “bad” schools – separate and very unequal.

These two unequal systems are vividly captured in the 2005 TOPS data. Read More »