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Study Finds Some New Orleans Schools Tried To Screen And Exclude Students

Mallory Falk

In New Orleans' public school system, schools compete for kids. They receive a certain amount of money per student, so there is incentive to recruit and retain as many as possible. A new study from the Education Research Alliance looks at how school leaders respond to competition.

Huriya Jabbar is a research associate with the Education Research Alliance. She interviewed more than 70 school leaders from 30 different schools — a mix of Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board, charter and direct run.

"And what I find is that even though there is this immense competitive pressure being felt, schools aren't all responding in the ways that policymakers would hope," Jabbar says.

Only 10 schools said they responded to pressure by trying to improve academics. Much more common was marketing existing programs.

Niloy Gangopadhyay is director of Success Preparatory Academy. He says in his experience, academic improvement doesn't necessarily lead to higher demand.

"When we jumped from 35th out of 42, to the next year where we jumped to number nine out of 37, it wasn't as if the demand report showed that families were that excited about the academic reputation and standing going up," he says. "There was no correlation."

In other words, his school didn't receive a huge wave of new applications, even when its performance score went up.

The study also found some schools screened and excluded students. They didn't report open seats, encouraged students to transfer, and held invitation-only promotional events. All ways to enroll the "right" kinds of students.

Jabbar says some of those practices have changed now that there's a central enrollment process and the RSD oversees transfers.

"Schools need to have some sort of centralized oversight to make sure that parents are able to access schools, that there is a fair marketplace," she says.

Other cities are watching New Orleans, Jabbar says, to understand more about competition and oversight in a charter school system.

Support for education reporting on WWNO comes from Baptist Community Ministries and Entergy Corporation.

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