NEW ORLEANS — A Tulane University think tank has issued its annual report on public education in New Orleans, noting strides made in performance since the state assumed authority over most of the city's schools, but also citing the need for numerous improvements.
The Cowen Institute's report, released Wednesday, comes as fewer New Orleans public schools are deemed to be failing and more students are achieving at least basic, grade-level performance. But only 19 percent of New Orleans public school students have shown mastery of subject matter.
The Cowen report says problems posed by the divided system of governance in New Orleans — the state oversees most schools while the Orleans School Board still oversees some — are being addressed.
For instance, it said all public schools are using the same expulsion policy. And most of them are part of the centralized enrollment system called "One App."
The report also notes that the state and the Orleans Parish school boards have adopted standards for charter school performance, an important step since all of the state Recovery School District schools and most of the Orleans Parish schools are now run by independent charter organizations.
Also praised in the report is a cooperative endeavor agreement signed in March in which the Recovery School District and the Orleans system address challenges they face in serving students throughout the city.
Cowen researchers see little sign of a major change in the divided governance.
"Long-term unified governance under OPSB appears to be out of reach," the report said. "During the 2013-14 school year, 10 charter school operators overseeing 17 schools eligible to return to OPSB decided to stay under RSD oversight. This marks the third year in a row that all eligible charter schools have decided against going under OPSB governance."
Political divisions on the local board, as evidenced by its inability to agree on a permanent superintendent, are a contributing factor, the report said.
"Until a permanent superintendent is named, there may be reluctance to return to OPSB," the report said. "Some school boards prefer to stay with the structure they know (RSD) rather than transfer to the unknown and potentially unstable OPSB."
The Cowen Institute's interactive site with the report: http://www.speno2014.com