The unique, divided school system in New Orleans that developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina may put African-American students at a disadvantage.
There are two distinct school systems in the city, the Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School District (OPSD).
The larger of the two districts, the Recovery School District, was created after the state seized control of a majority of the public schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
At the end of this week, the Recovery District will face a major change – the last of its neighborhood schools will close its doors for good leaving only public charter schools in the district.
Taxpayers fund the schools in this district; however, the schools are still privately run.
The OPSD is the second district. It includes 14 charter schools and six traditional neighborhood schools.
The highest-achieving schools in this district use a selective admission process, which means students are accepted or denied enrollment based on their test scores and interviews with school officials.
Five of the schools in this district received high marks by the state’s standards, while the Recovery District failed to earn any exceptional ratings.
Now there seems to be a major concern about whether or not the admission policies of the Orleans Parish schools put African-American students at a disadvantage.
The OPSD has what the Washington Post refers to as a “disproportionate number of white children.”
Unlike the schools in the Recovery School District, nine of the Orleans Parish schools require parents to apply to each school separately.
All of the schools in the Recovery District use a program called OneApp, which allows parents and students to fill out one application for all schools in the district.
Applying for each school separately can prove as a serious challenge for some parents, as it will require them to not only fill out multiple applications but also means they would need to keep track of nine different application deadlines and admission requirements.
While the state’s superintendent of education, John White, admitted that there seems to be a problem with equal access to the schools in OPSD, he also said there was nothing he could do about it because the schools are still privately run.
The elected officials on the Orleans Parish School Board are the only people with authority over the admission process.
On Thursday, the acting superintendent of the OPSD, Stan Smith, said the OPSD is adopting the OneApp program in the near future.
“It was not by agreement of the charters; it was by policy adopted by OPSB that these charters will be converted to OneApp at their next renewal,” Smith said.
He also argued against claims that the admissions process is placing Black students at a disadvantage because most of the schools kept the same requirements they had prior to Hurricane Katrina.
Smith said that of the four charters in the district with admission criteria, two kept the same criteria they had as citywide-access magnet schools and another school “operates as a French immersion program and has criteria tied to this program.”