The “State of Public Education in New Orleans” assessment provides a baseline of information about how the current system is doing and outlines a set of immediately actionable recommendations for the city that will help achieve the goal of quality education for all public school students. These recommendations are created to support transformation efforts over the next two to three years with the assumption that during this period the system’s structure will remain largely unchanged. While the agenda for the next few years is ambitious, with national, state and local support, it can be achieved.
1. Ensure adequate capacity for the 2007-2008 year.
Since the Recovery School District (RSD) is responsible for opening and operating the majority of schools, it should take the lead on creating a team and plan to ensure enough schools are ready to open in August. This plan should include an aggressive strategy to recruit and retain teachers and staff, a process to streamline procurement, and an evaluation of innovative ways to ensure there are enough schools for all students.
2. Equip and empower all families to choose the best public schools for their children from a range of high-quality school options.
To make choices available for all students, families must have easy-to-understand information about public schools and all students must have access to diverse, high-quality options. Enrollment barriers should be limited, and there should be open access schools in every neighborhood. Additionally, resources must be adequately and fairly distributed to all schools.
3. Strengthen the Recovery School District.
The RSD must strengthen the capabilities of district leadership, develop a 100-day turnaround plan to improve its operations, and develop and implement plans to improve special education, student discipline, and student mental health services. In addition, it should evaluate ways to engage the community, create school networks, and build the expertise of school administrators and teachers. Last, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the RSD’s governing board, should create a process and timetable for returning public schools in New Orleans to local control.
4. Attract, develop, and retain high-quality school principals, teachers, and staff for all public schools.
Public schools in New Orleans should work together to create innovative recruitment and retention strategies aimed at high-quality principals, teachers, and school staff. In addition, schools should expand professional development opportunities that support effective classroom instruction.
5. Support school- and system-level excellence for all public schools.
Public education in New Orleans needs a group or groups focused exclusively on supporting initiatives that benefit all public schools. Responsibilities would include securing and marshalling resources, facilitating collaboration, and building local and national relationships to support school transformation.
6. Create and endorse a short-term action plan and a long-term strategic plan for public education.
Education and community leaders should create a short-term action plan to prioritize key systemwide initiatives that require immediate action. In addition, New Orleans should create a long-term plan for public education that includes input from the community and builds on previous planning processes. This plan should be widely endorsed and communicated.
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