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Education

The OneApp Can Feel Like A ‘Crapshoot’ But This Year Most Parents Got What They Wanted

Akili_Academy
Aubri Juhasz
/
WWNO
Akili Academy fourth-graders sit in the school's courtyard. Nov. 13, 2020.

Months of anxious waiting came to an end for some New Orleans parents earlier this week when the public school district released the results of its early school match process.

The city’s unique all-charter system is open enrollment, which means it’s up to families to rank the schools they’d like their children to attend and hope for the best. Almost all of the district’s 77 schools participate in a centralized enrollment process, known as the OneApp.

The more schools a family ranks, the higher the likelihood a match can be made during the first round of enrollment when more overall seats are available. The district’s algorithm only matches children with schools listed on their application.

While this process is frequently disappointing for many, this year the vast majority of applicants were placed at a highly-ranked school of their choosing, according to district-provided data.

Eighty-two percent of applicants matched with one of their top three school choices and 85 percent matched with a school somewhere on their list.

Another 5 percent of applicants for the coming school year couldn’t be placed at a school on their list and were reassigned to their current school. The final 10 percent couldn’t be placed at all, largely because they didn’t provide the district with enough options.

“While not every school has enough seats, we know that everyone’s application was treated fairly,” Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said in a statement. “I remain committed to working towards providing options and expanding access within our district that meet the needs and interests of all of our students and families.”

The results exceeded many parents’ expectations. Securing a kindergarten spot at a sought-after school can be incredibly difficult, while the same is often true for students entering high school.

After failing to enroll her son in a preschool program using the OneApp for the past two years, Carrie Booher, a 37-year-old mom of two, said she had low expectations.

“I was feeling pretty anxious … it’s such a crapshoot,” Booher said. “I was kind of like, ‘Whatever happens happens and we’ll make something work.’”

She was pleasantly surprised when she viewed her son’s OneApp results Wednesday.

It said he’d been matched with one of the city’s French language immersion schools, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, Booher’s top school choice.

“I was super happy about that,” Booher said. “It seems like overall it’s been a pretty decent year for everyone.”

LaCherie Armour also received good news Wednesday night when her son, an eighth-grader at Pierre A. Capdau Charter School, matched with his top high school.

Next fall he’ll attend Edna Karr High School. Both Karr and Capdau are operated by InspireNOLA, a charter management organization that gives its lower-level students priority access to its high schools.

In New Orleans, schools are allowed to prioritize students for a variety of reasons, including proximity to the school, whether a family member is an employee, or whether an older sibling is already enrolled.

For the current enrollment period, 97 percent of applicants who wanted to attend the same school as their sibling were offered a spot, according to district data.

In a statement, the district said they’ve changed OneApp’s priority process over time to allow a greater number of siblings the opportunity of attending school together.

Last year, the district matched 70 percent of applicants with one of their top three schools and 75 percent with a school somewhere on their list.

There isn’t a good explanation as to why the district’s match rate is significantly higher this year.

While the overall number of applications was down this year by nearly 20 percent, the number submitted for kindergarten and the ninth grade was roughly the same and the successful match rate was even higher.

Ninety-three percent of kindergarten and ninth-grade applicants matched with one of their top three schools and 91 percent matched with a school further down on their list.

In Louisiana, public school enrollment dropped 2.3 percent during the pandemic, largely due to a decrease in PreK and kindergarten enrollment.

While the district does not share early OneApp data at the individual grade level, the total number of kindergarten and ninth-grade applications being on par with past years suggests there hasn’t been a surge in kindergarten registrants so far.

The overall drop in applications isn’t surprising when you consider the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, many parents are inclined to explore their school options on a yearly basis. But this year, many parents told New Orleans Public Radio they were inclined to stay put.

The majority of OneApp applications typically come from students entering kindergarten or the ninth grade and need to secure a spot for the coming year.

Last year, 54 percent of applications during OneApp’s main round were for children entering kindergarten or the ninth grade. This year, that number is closer to 63 percent.

Leonis Rousseve said she originally intended to explore a variety of high school options for her 13-year-old son who has autism. But when the pandemic hit she abandoned that plan.

Instead, she decided to stick with her son’s current school, which fortunately runs through the 12th-grade. The majority of the city’s lower-level public schools run through the eighth grade.

Handful Of Schools Remain Highly Sought After

While the match rate for the coming year is higher than usual, a spot at many of the city’s top-rated schools is still hard to come by.

Some of the city’s most sought-after schools currently do not use the OneApp process, though they’ll be required to after this school year.

Benjamin Franklin High School, Lake Forest Charter School and Lusher Charter School conduct their own highly selective admissions processes.

For students applying outside of the typical entry points, either kindergarten or the ninth grade, securing a spot can be nearly impossible.

Hynes Charter School in Lakeview — the only A-rated public elementary school in New Orleans that uses the OneApp — had the highest number of kindergarten applicants.

More than 540 students applied. The school’s match rate was 16 percent.

Audubon Gentilly had the lowest kindergarten match rate, at 10 percent, despite having a slightly smaller number of applicants.

The most popular high school to use the OneApp was Warren Easton, which received more than 2,000 applications and had a match rate of 26 percent.

The district is instructing families who still need a school placement to participate in the second round of OneApp enrollment, which opens on April 14 and closes on May 21.

In a statement, the district said it will provide families with more information regarding projected seat availability so they can apply to schools where placement is likely.

For the second round of enrollment, some schools have earlier deadlines. Families planning on applying to the International School of Louisiana may need to submit their application by May 7.

The same is true for students applying to Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans who are entering first through eleventh grade.

Some schools will not participate in the second round of enrollment, including Audubon Charter School French, Audubon Charter School Montessori, Edward Hynes Charter School Lakeview French Immersion and Edward Hynes Charter School UNO French Immersion.

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