Creating a Governing Framework for Public Education in New Orleans

The Cowen Institute has released four reports in a series of papers on public school governance called Creating a Governing Framework for Public Education in New Orleans. The series is the first of its kind in New Orleans to look at governing framework options for all public schools in New Orleans. The overall goal of the study is to lay out options for the roles and responsibilities for all governing entities in public education in order to support a system of high-performing public schools.

Executive Summary
This document provides an overview of the Cowen Institute’s series of reports on Creating a Governing Framework for Public Education in New Orleans.  The overall goal of these reports is to lay out options for the roles and responsibilities for all governing entities in the city’s public education landscape in order to support a system of high-performing public schools.  This document includes executive summaries of the first three reports in this series as well as introductory material about the project.

Read the Executive Summary here.

School District Political Leadership
A school district’s political leadership is the person or body that is held politically and legally accountable for the overall performance and governance of local public schools.  This report examines the history of district political leadership in New Orleans options for the leadership of the city’s schools going forward.  It assesses the pros and cons of various models of leadership that have been implemented in school districts around the country.

Read this report here.

The Central Office and the School
For most of the 20th century, school systems in the United States have operated as highly centralized organizations that concentrated most authority and decision-making in a district-level administrative office.  This report examines the history of central office administration in New Orleans and looks at models for school system reform as they relate to the relationship between a district central office and the school.  Because New Orleans has undergone a process of decentralization since Hurricane Katrina, the report examines which education functions might be best left with schools and which functions might be done better by a central entity as the system continues to evolve.

Read this report here.

Charter School Authorizers and Charter School Operators
The majority of public school students in New Orleans now attend charter schools.  Charter schools are operated by private non-profits but receive public funds to run public schools.  This report examines the history of charter schools in New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole.  The report looks at options for charter school authorizers, the public entities that award school charters, and for the governance of charter schools themselves.

Read this report here.

Managing Innovation: Models for Governing the System of Public Schools in New Orleans
Released in partnership with the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), this is the fourth and final report of our series on public school governance. The report presents five potential models for governing public schools in New Orleans and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each. Managing Innovation does not recommend a specific model for structuring education governance in New Orleans. Rather, the models are offered as a starting point for a public conversation on the future of education governance in New Orleans.

Read this report here.

Why is this important?
Following a mayoral race and the federal Race to the Top grant competition, this information is critical and timely – not only for New Orleans but to public school districts across the country. Under state law, the Recovery School District must make a recommendation in 2010 as to whether some or all of the schools it took over after Katrina should return to local control. The citizens of New Orleans must now begin to consider the long-term structure that ensures that every child has access to a high-performing public school. The purpose of this series is to inform that dialogue.

About the Series
These first three reports focus on district leadership, the relationship between the central office and schools, and charter school authorizers and operators. The reports provide important background information to policymakers and the community on the possible options for governance structures. With two school districts and over 30 charter school operators in the New Orleans public education landscape, the issues of governance structures, lines of accountability and system-wide transparency take on new importance.

The project expands on the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of authority in the system of schools that has emerged since Hurricane Katrina. The levels of authority that are discussed include the school board, superintendent, central office administrators, principals, and charter management and authorizing organizations. In addition to the reports and an executive summary, we have included a section that outlines specific lessons for New Orleans.

The fourth report, released in partnership with the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), identifies the governance functions critical to the operation of the school system; presents five potential models for allocating those functions to various entities; and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each. The models range from highly consolidated, with one entity responsible for all school governance functions to relatively dispersed.

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