Jul 11, 2012 6:59 AM by KEVIN McGILL
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A new report says the Louisiana Recovery School District, which runs most New Orleans public schools, has undertaken a much needed effort to transform the city's chronically failing high schools by turning them over to charter groups, phasing them out or closing them.
The report by Tulane University's Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives was released Tuesday. The policy institute at Tulane takes an annual look at the progress and problems of public education in New Orleans.
The report also credits the RSD with improving efforts at providing information to parents by opening Parent-Family Resource Centers. And it says a new centralized enrollment system that lets families use a single application to apply for their top three school choices is a much needed improvement.
It says numerous problems remain, including uneven progress among schools, the lack of a single data-collecting resource and budgets that are getting tighter.
"While it is clear that more work must be done to ensure all students in New Orleans have access to a quality public school, the system of public schools in New Orleans is moving in a positive direction," the report said in its conclusions.
The RSD was established by the state to take over schools considered failing under Louisiana's public school accountability system. After levee breaches during Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, state officials moved to have the RSD take over most New Orleans schools. Now, the Orleans Parish School Board oversees 18 schools, six of which it has put in the hands of independent charter organizations. The RSD lists 66 New Orleans schools in its jurisdiction including 50 charters.
There has been measurable progress in that hybrid system, the report said. But it also noted the need for improvements in several areas.
For instance: "With multiple governing bodies and a lack of clarity in district roles and responsibilities, it is difficult to ensure that all students have access to a high quality education," the report said. "In the decentralized system, there is no one entity that is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all students are educated in New Orleans."
Echoing concerns from its earlier reports, the institute said one aspect of the decentralized governing system is a lack of a central data system.
"In New Orleans' decentralized system of public schools, no single entity is responsible for data collection and analysis," the report said. "Questions about student mobility, student discipline, special education student services and mobility, teacher turnover, principal turnover, and others that a district may have been able to answer in the past can now only be answered by the state, which collects data across the districts and charter schools in New Orleans."
That leaves the state in charge of collecting and providing data that the report says was once available at the district level.
The report: http://www.coweninstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/SPENO-20121.pdf