Momentum for 2019: New Orleans Education in the New Year

January 14, 2019

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:

In 2019, we will:

 

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:

In 2019, we will:

 

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:

In 2019, we will:

 

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:

In 2019, we will:

 

Looking forward

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.

Patrick Dobard
CEO
New Schools for New Orleans