At NSNO, our current focus is on the impact of COVID-19 on our schools, students, and community at large. We are doing all that we can to share resources and reflections. Given that the 2020-21 placement results for OneApp’s Main Round were released yesterday, we did want to provide some updates.

Access to Great Schools Has Expanded in New Orleans

Every family wants their child in an excellent school; in New Orleans, families now get to choose what that looks like for them. This is a matter of equity. Many of the highest-quality schools, in our city and nationwide, have long been located in neighborhoods with greater wealth or where more of the residents are white, because of systemic racism. Sometimes, those schools are open to students who live outside the neighborhood, but typically only if they can pass a test. These statements were certainly true for New Orleans in the past. But in New Orleans today, more than 90% of our schools are open-enrollment, which means students from all across the city can apply.

Put simply, access to great schools has expanded. Nearly all New Orleans public schools—95%—are part of EnrollNOLA, the citywide unified enrollment system managed by NOLA Public Schools. Families of students who are new to the district, want to attend a different school, or are entering “transitional grades” (kindergarten and ninth grade) use the centralized online application called OneApp to list up to twelve participating schools that feel like a good fit.

OneApp uses a computer algorithm to place students in schools with open seats, based on students’ ranked school preferences and certain “priority factors.” (These factors, such as having a sibling enrolled in a school or living in a school’s geographic zone, are transparently listed on EnrollNOLA’s website.) This method, which has been vetted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, means that school placement is unbiased and unaffected by connections or relationships. You can read a more detailed explanation and history of OneApp in a previous NSNO blog post.

The EnrollNOLA website provides an explanatory video on the application process. This screenshot demonstrates the way families can rank their school choices.

The Majority of 2020-21 OneApp Applicants Received One of Their Top 3 Choices

11,314 applications were submitted for the first round—known as the Main Round—of OneApp for the 2020-21 school year. Yesterday, these students and families received their results. We share some highlights below:

As in past years, slightly more than half of applicants are students entering kindergarten and 9th grade.  The vast majority of families with students in other grades did not apply to transfer from their current school.

  • 54% of the 11,314 applicants are students who will be in entry-level or “transitional” grades (kindergarten and 9th grade) in 2020-21.
  • 27% of applicants, or about 3,000, are current New Orleans public school students (not entering transitional grades) seeking a transfer. That 27% of applicants represents less than 10% of all students (not entering transitional grades or entering one at the school they already attend1)—which means over 90% did not submit a Main Round application, thus electing to return to their current school.

A large majority of students received a match with one of their top three school choices. 

  • 82% of applicants entering kindergarten and 9th grade received one of their top three choices.
  • 70% of all K-12 applicants received one of their top three choices.

The percentage of OneApp Main Round applicants entering kindergarten and 9th grade who receive a match with one of their top three school choices has remained relatively constant over the past three years.

Nearly all students who applied for a placement at a sibling’s school received such a placement.

  • One of the aforementioned “priority factors” in OneApp is the sibling priority. This means that if the sibling(s) of an applicant currently attend(s) a given school, and the applicant wants to attend the same school, then the applicant will receive priority in the OneApp algorithm for open seats at that school.

  • 96% of eligible siblings received a match at a sibling’s school.2

Most students were placed with one of the schools on their list of preferred schools. 

  • 87% of applicants entering kindergarten and 9th grade received a match with one of the school choices listed on their application.

  • 75% of all K-12 applicants received a match with one of their school choices.

  • 25% of all K-12 applicants were not matched with one of their school choices. A common cause of this outcome is a family listing very few choices, or only listing a small group of the highest-demand schools.

    • Slightly less than half of these applicants were reassigned to their current school.

    • Slightly more than half could not be reassigned to their current school and thus did not receive a placement in this round.3 84% of these applicants only listed three or fewer school choices on their application.

Students who did not receive a placement or are not satisfied with their placement can re-apply during Round 2 of OneApp, which will open on April 6. Students who did not participate in the Main Round, but who are new to New Orleans public schools or want to attend a different school, can apply during Round 2 as well.

It is important to note that the more schools a family lists on their OneApp, the more likely they are to receive a placement in a school of their choice. There is a common misconception that listing just one or two schools expresses a heightened preference for those schools, and gives a student a higher chance of receiving a placement at one of them. This is not the case. A family that lists ten schools on a student’s OneApp is just as likely as a family that only lists one school to be matched with their first choice.

Our schools are working hard to be better each day. They are striving to provide environments where children can be their full selves, growing not just as students, but as individuals, artists, athletes, and community members. And together, we are moving toward the day when every school in our city will be “a top pick.” We will collaborate, doing all that we can to make sure that nothing stands in the way of our childrens’ access to opportunity.

1While most students entering transitional grades (K and 9) need to participate in OneApp because they have to attend a new school in the upcoming year, a small number of New Orleans public schools have different grade configurations, such as K-12 or 8-12. In these cases, a student can be entering what is usually considered a “transitional grade” but not need to participate in OneApp, as they can continue attending their current school.

2This excludes siblings who ranked school(s) other than their sibling’s school higher on their application, and received a placement at a higher-ranked choice. 

3For example, applicants may not be able to be reassigned to their current school if they do not currently attend a New Orleans public school or if they are leaving a K-8 school and entering high school.

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