Enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year opened this week in New Orleans public schools. Parents apply for most schools through the One App, a website where they list their preferred schools. One App uses an algorithm to try to match them with their top choice. Sounds simple, but there are a lot things to consider when making your selections.
Ileana Ortiz helps parents through the enrollment process at the non-profit Ed Navigator. She sat down with WWNO’s Jess Clark to share some do's and don'ts of One App.
Below are some suggestions based on their conversation.
Do think through your priorities
There are more than 80 public schools in New Orleans, but you may not get everything you want in a school. So you have to think about what matters most to you and your family. Is it location, is it academic programs, is it certain extracurriculars, teacher diversity, or teacher experience? Those are all things you want to consider.
Go to enrollnola.org to browse schools and eventually apply on the One App.
Also check out the neworleansequityindex.org for info about student and teacher demographics, accessiblity, and other equity factors. You can even filter schools based on certain characteristics.
Finally, louisianaschools.com will show you how well a school did on state tests, along with other demographic information, and rates of absenteeism.
Do know your deadlines
The main round of One App runs Nov. 19 through Feb. 22. Applying earlier does NOT increase your chances of getting in to your school. You can apply the first day or the last day, and it doesn't make a difference. You can also change your preferences as many times as you like before the deadline. So take your time to research. Ortiz encourages families to apply a few days before the deadline, in case of technical issues. Also, keep in mind that a handful of schools have different application deadlines. So check the school's website or enrollnola.org. If you miss the Feb. 22 deadline, you'll have to apply during the second round, in which there are far fewer options. Results come back in April 2019.
Don't list only 'A' and 'B' schools
The reality is, there aren't a lot of 'A' and 'B' schools in New Orleans, and nearly all of them are in high demand. Sometimes there are dozens of applications for a single spot in a grade. The risk in listing only 'A' and 'B' schools is that because these schools are all high-demand, you may not get placed in any of your choices. You'll then get bumped to Round Two of the One App, where there are far fewer options, and generally in less desirable schools with lower school performance grades. So Ortiz always encourages families to be flexible and include a mix of options. Check out some 'C' schools to possibly throw in the mix.
However, don't list a school you're not comfortable sending your child to, because you may be placed there.
Don't fixate on high-profile schools
Some schools are really well known, and they attract a lot of applications - like Benjamin Franklin Elementary (Baby Ben) or Alice Harte Elementary, or Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary. It's always worth considering those schools, but there are some really good schools out there that might be a great fit for your family, even if you don't recognize the name. If in your search a school stands out for meeting one of your priorities, consider it. Maybe pay the school a visit. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Don't assume that a school is not a good fit because it has a 'D' or 'F'
A school performance grade is important, but it's not everything. Ortiz says she has a few students she works with who are attending a 'D' or 'F' school, but that actually have a really strong support systems for English Language Learners, or students with disabilities. The school letter grades are largely based on test scores, and do not take into account the entirety of what a school offers. So don't discount a school just because it has a 'D' or 'F'. At the same time, be aware that if a school has an F, and its charter is up for renewal soon, there is a strong possiblity it will be closed.
Don't assume the school you want is on One App
Nearly all schools in New Orleans are on One App. But there are a handful of high-performing, high-demand schools that are not - Lusher Charter School, Benjamin Franklin High School and Lake Forest Charter School, and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) are NOT on One App. They each have their own application requirements and timelines. In addition, Audubon Charter School, which is on the One App, has some additional application requirements. If you want to get into one of these schools, make sure you call the school or go to their websites to get all the application info and materials.
Don't apply through One App if you're happy at your current school
If you're not at the highest grade level your school offers, you don't have to apply to reenroll. You're automatically enrolled for next year. If you do apply for a different school through One App, you could lose your place at your current school. Ortiz says for families who are happy with their current schools, it may not be a good idea to try for another one, especially if it's a high-demand 'A' or 'B' school. You risk losing your spot in your current school, and not getting into your choice afterall.
Do reach out for help
Feeling overwhelmed? Not surprising - it's a lot. If you're struggling, you can reach out to the Family Resource Centers. They have experts who can help guide you through the enrollment process. There are three locations: Uptown, West Bank and New Orleans East. Location info and hours are at enrollnola.org.