2018 was a significant year for education in New Orleans. Together, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), schools, CMOs, partners, families, and the community at large came together to make continued progress for children.
Last year, our system of schools met the enormous milestone of unification, meaning schools are now under one local authorizer—the Orleans Parish School Board. Importantly, both OPSB and the state also established a higher bar for accountability.
At NSNO, we were proud to support work that improves outcomes for children and to engage in other high-impact initiatives in support of local education. We launched TeachNewOrleans.net, collaborated with local universities and national partners on a federal SEED grant, began the Instructional Quality Initiative (IQI), and kicked off our focused teacher recruitment and retention work.
Looking beyond this significant past year, we are entering a new phase of the work. We must proceed with sustained momentum into this phase, because our students cannot afford for us to slow down. Our work will continue to put children front and center, and NSNO will continue to be a problem solver. That is what our system needs, and that is what we do—we work to solve some of the most complex problems that affect our schools and we measure progress by our results. Some of this work is about the real nuts and bolts of running a system of schools. It won’t always make for the catchiest headlines, but it will always be about real progress for children, every day. We need true innovation, true collaboration, and constant forward motion.
In 2019, we will move forward on our four priorities: curriculum, policy, portfolio, and talent. We focus on these areas because they address the root causes of a recent plateau in academic gains citywide.
We help schools make the instructional and curricular shifts needed in order for students to meet more rigorous academic standards. We launched the Instructional Quality Initiative (IQI) to align local curriculum to state standards, and most importantly, to improve the quality of instruction citywide.
In 2018, we:
- Reached 84% of the city’s public schools through IQI programming (a total of 64 schools);
- Provided $1.5 million in grants for curriculum and professional development;
- Launched six professional learning communities, or “curriculum hubs,” serving 120 teachers, leaders, and coaches across 36 schools;
- Enabled 161 teachers and school leaders to attend a national training institute through UnboundED; and
- Worked with a cohort, run by UnboundED, of 17 Chief Academic Officers across seven charter networks to share best practices for strong implementation of their new curriculum.
In 2019, we will:
- Launch two additional curriculum hubs and maintain the existing six hubs, serving roughly 160 teachers, leaders, and coaches;
- Provide an additional $1.5 million in grant funding for the purchase of high-quality curriculum; and
- Connect 75% of public schools in the city with partners for professional development.
In our portfolio work, we focus on improving quality school options for students and families across the city. In 2018, we developed a strategy for the coming years to significantly increase the number of New Orleans students served by high-performing schools and decrease the number of students served by the lowest-performing schools. We will do this by supporting proven operators to expand and replicate, supporting promising operators to create more seats for students who would otherwise attend low-performing or vulnerable schools, and stabilizing and improving existing vulnerable charter organizations.
In 2018, we:
- Funded the expansion of 300 middle school seats at two of our city’s highest-quality charter operators;
- Provided support for principals of two OPSB direct-run elementary schools to successfully convert to charter schools;
- Partnered with Bellwether Education Partners to assess the “readiness to grow” of five charter organizations, leading to active plans by three of these organizations to replicate or expand in the next three years, creating 1,250 additional quality seats;
- Recruited and supported IDEA Charter Schools to launch its first school in New Orleans, which will launch in fall 2019 and ultimately serve 1,100 students;
- Supported two quality charter organizations in developing plans to build new private facilities, enabling them to serve 1,000 additional students;
- Provided support to parents and teachers at four closing schools to minimize disruption and ensure these students enroll in higher-performing schools next year; and
- Secured buy-in on NSNO’s new three-year portfolio strategy from key partners, including funders, OPSB, and charter school leadership.
In 2019, we will:
- Support the launch of two new schools in fall 2019;
- Support the expansion and replication of existing proven operators for fall 2019 and fall 2020 launches;
- Support one or more promising single-site charter operators to receive approval to replicate in fall 2020;
- Support charter operators to successfully transition CEO leadership; and
- Begin development of one or more local experienced educators to succeed existing charter school CEOs expected to transition out in future years.
Our focus on policy represents our commitment to preserve an environment conducive to continued improvement—one that values accountability, autonomy, equity, and choice. In the coming year, we will accelerate our policy work to further and more publicly establish NSNO as a leader in citywide education policy efforts. In addition, we will be more proactive in creating or improving policies that help make our schools and students more successful.
In 2018, we:
- Convened advocacy organizations (LAPCS, Urban League, DFER, Education Trust) regularly to work collectively with OPSB leadership and reduce duplication of efforts;
- Ensured that all NSNO-supported policies/actions at OPSB succeeded, and worked collaboratively with the administration to work through any items that we did not support;
- Ensured that no policies or legislation undermining Act 91 were passed;
- Partnered with advocates and OPSB to improve the following policies and processes: Charter School Accountability Framework, transportation, enrollment, charter board composition, OPSB fund balance policy allocations, and school leader engagement; and
- Ensured that only those schools meeting the accountability bar set in the Charter School Accountability Framework were renewed (four schools were not renewed this year for not meeting the bar).
In 2019, we will:
- Work closely with school leaders individually and collectively to identify issues affecting their schools and find ways to solve them;
- Expand the number of organizations we formally collaborate with on policy;
- Take a lead role in coordinating strategic communication from advocates and school leaders to OPSB administration, school board members, and other elected officials in support of specific policies;
- Produce helpful research and analysis on pressing policy issues, including white papers, policy platforms, blogs, etc.; and
- Increase NSNO’s presence and involvement in the upcoming state legislative session.
We lead in coordinating solutions for the city’s teacher recruitment and retention challenges. The NOLA KEEPS program is our specific talent campaign, which aims to halve New Orleans’ annual teacher shortage by 2021.
In 2018, we:
- Were part of the SEED partnership, led by Xavier University, that brought 230 new teachers to New Orleans through five high-quality teacher preparation programs: Xavier’s Norman C. Francis Teacher Residency, Loyola University, TeachNOLA, Teach For America, and the Relay Graduate School of Education;
- Launched TeachNewOrleans.net, the first citywide central hub that includes all public schools for teacher recruitment and hiring in the post-Katrina landscape, which encompasses initiatives such as teacher candidate resume collection and subsequent distribution to all New Orleans schools;
- Launched a study on teacher compensation involving over 60 schools;
- Co-facilitated the Teacher Advisory Council with OPSB.
In 2019, we will:
- Help recruit an additional 285 new teachers to New Orleans through the SEED partnership;
- Create a clear blueprint for city leaders on cutting teacher attrition by five percentage points;
- Provide professional development for talent leads citywide on school culture and best practices for recruitment and retention;
- Recruit 125 experienced teachers to join New Orleans schools;
- Ensure 80% of the 30 teachers deemed “irreplaceable” by their school leaders stay in their roles; and
- Establish a formal partnership with a local university to ensure that at least 50 more teachers enter our public schools.
Moving ahead in education in our city means abandoning the outdated debate about public charter schools versus traditional public schools. Instead, we must turn to what is working and what is not in New Orleans public schools—as they stand today.
Some things are clear: Autonomy works. Chronic underperformance does not. Choice and innovation work. High teacher turnover does not. We need to take what we know and use it to improve our classrooms. We need to explore what we do not know with openness, urgency, and a belief that the right answer is whichever one is best for children.
I am looking forward to a 2019 in which students come first, and the need for better schools is our driving force and unyielding conviction.
New Schools for New Orleans