Long Road Ahead for New Orleans
Report urges focus on opening schools, hiring teachers
The state-run district that operates most of the public schools in New Orleans must put a priority on hiring top-quality teachers and opening enough good schools in 2007-08 to serve all children, a new report argues.
Two months away from Hurricane Katrina’s second anniversary, the report examines how well the city’s schools have bounced back and what the Recovery School District must do to bring them up to par.
It notes persistent problems finding strong teachers and principals, opening high-quality schools, and addressing operational matters such as shortages of school security guards and hot meals.
The report urges the RSD, which now runs 39 of the city’s 58 schools, to ensure that parents have easy-to-understand information about all their public school choices. The state district also must bolster its own operations and devise short-term and long-term plans for the city’s education system, including a timetable to return them to local control, the report says.
The Boston Consulting Group surveyed thousands of parents, students, educators, and community members to produce the report for the Greater New Orleans Education Foundation, the Scott S. Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University, and the education committee of the New Orleans City Council.
The report focused on the RSD’s tasks because it runs the lion’s share of the city’s schools: 22 district-run and 17 charter schools. The local Orleans Parish school board operates 17 schools, 12 of which are charters.
With a greater portion of students in charter schools—57 percent—than any other school system in the country, and two governing entities in charge, it is important that New Orleans have “a group or groups focused exclusively on supporting initiatives that benefit all public schools,” the study says.
Although “pockets of promise exist” in the city’s evolving education landscape, it says, the promise of real improvement will fade “unless immediate and dramatic action is taken to revitalize transformation efforts.”
Paul G. Vallas, who will take over as chief of the RSD July 1, said the report’s recommendations are “very consistent” with the plans he will present to the Louisiana state board of education this month.
Vol. 26, Issue 42, Page 6