Every year, families apply to public schools in New Orleans through a common application process that allows them to rank their top school choices and be assigned a place in a school based on availability. Placement is based on a lottery, with some extra “weighting” for students that live close to a school or have a sibling there. A very small number of schools have additional eligibility requirements, such as performance on a test or language proficiency.
This process is run by NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS). In prior years, the application was known as OneApp, but now it is simply called the NOLA Public Schools Common Application Process (NCAP). NCAP is the tool through which families apply for public schools in our district.
Importantly, all NOLA-PS schools are now on the NCAP–before this year, certain schools with additional eligibility criteria (Lusher Charter School, Benjamin Franklin High School, and Lake Forest Elementary Charter School) had separate applications. Today, they have become more accessible by including their initial application on NCAP. The NCAP has also expanded to include all state-funded early childhood placements for children 0-3 years old, so families can find early childhood spots for their child.
There have been some other small changes to how families can use NCAP–now, the enrollment site is mobile friendly, which makes it more accessible to families without computers. The district is also running radio advertisements and enlisting the Mayor’s office and public libraries to help spread the word about the enrollment period, which is from November 1-January 21.
NCAP can be completed online or in person at one of the three NOLA-PS “Family Resource Centers.” It enables families to apply to up to twelve participating K-12 schools or up to eight participating early childhood programs of their choice, located anywhere across New Orleans, and ultimately provides each student with a single school placement. Families participate in NCAP by filling out an online form and listing up to twelve schools, ranked in order of preference. The NCAP can be completed in English, Spanish, or Vietnamese.
Once all families submit their forms, NCAP uses a lottery system to match each student with an open spot at a participating school based on their ranked school preferences, along with certain other “priority” factors. (These factors, such as the student’s geographic zone or where their sibling goes to school, are all listed clearly and publicly on NCAP’s page on the NOLA-PS website.)
For the 2021-22 school year, most students ended up in a school of their family’s choosing. The NCAP’s (then OneApp) computer program matched the majority of children with one of the schools on their families’ lists. For students in kindergarten and 9th grade, 91% of families received one of their top three choices. Eighty-five percent of applicants to NOLA-PS schools were matched to a school on their application, with 82% receiving one of their top three choices. Such placement statistics are promising. They tell us that this past August, the majority of our city’s students began the year in schools that they and their family chose.
Our district works hard to ensure that every child has equitable access to an excellent education. And within our schools, our educators are working hard to provide it. Families can connect with those educators, research their options, and talk with their friends and neighbors about what they and their children are seeking in a school. For most families, there are many great options that match their interests and goals. Now, using NCAP, enrolling in those schools is easier than ever.