A True OneApp for New Orleans
By: Jill Zimmerman | June 19, 2012
The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) is poised to vote tonight on a resolution in support of working with the Recovery School District (RSD) to create a single, citywide application process for public school enrollment. This is a critical step towards ensuring a fair, transparent, and equitable public school system in New Orleans.
The Cowen Institute’s October 2010 opinion poll found that nine in ten public school parents surveyed (90 percent) strongly agreed that it is important to be able to choose their child’s school, up from 81 percent in 2009. However, the multitude of school application deadlines and processes creates frustrations for parents, students, school leaders, and district administrators. This spring, there were as many as 17 different application processes across the public school system in New Orleans. Application deadlines at the 11 OPSB charter schools ranged from December to April. This fragmented system creates a barrier to school choice for parents who are less informed or enter the system late. It also makes it difficult to track students who move, transfer schools, or drop out.
Urban school districts across the country, such as Cambridge, San Diego, and New York City, have instituted district-wide open enrollment systems for many years. These cities all utilize a single application in which parents rank schools in order of preference. The school districts work to guide parents through the process and provide information about school options. As reported in our November 2011 briefing Case Studies of School Choice and Open Enrollment in Four Cities, nearly all students in these enrollment systems are placed at one of their top choice schools.
The RSD’s OneApp application system, implemented in 2012, mirrors that of Cambridge, San Diego, and New York City. The OneApp student assignment process created by the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice could be easily revised to accommodate OPSB schools, including those with selective admissions criteria. For example, New York City, which uses a similar student assignment process for high school admissions, incorporates seven different admissions methods across more than 400 different high schools. RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard has expressed his support for working with the OPSB to include OPSB schools in OneApp, and has even suggested the OPSB could take over management of the system.
OneApp goes a long way to address issues of equity and access by simplifying the application and enrollment process for parents and families. The RSD’s system also increases the level of transparency and accountability for RSD schools by ensuring they all follow the legally required enrollment process and rules. If OPSB schools are included in OneApp, these positive impacts could be expanded across the city to all students and families.
The OPSB should vote to support Resolution 14-12, and it should begin working with the RSD immediately to create a true OneApp for all public schools in New Orleans.