The Recovery School District ranks first among more than 100 school districts nationally for its school choice offerings, a report from the Brookings Institution said Tuesday.

The state-run district was judged by The Brown Center on Education Policy, with results posted on  Brookings’ Education Choice and Competition Index, a web application that ranks school districts for their commitment to school choice and competition. The accompanying report detailed the rationale for the rankings.

The RSD was the only district on the 107-district list with an “A” grade for school choice. The Orleans Parish School Board received a “B-minus”, and came in sixth on the list, after New York City, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, and Houston.

Since the state took over the city’s failing schools following Hurricane Katrina, the Recovery School District has overseen the majority of schools in New Orleans. The district has handed over control of most schools under its purview to charter operators, but as charter school authorizer, it still has a hand in their management. It oversees 66 schools, compared with the 18 schools in the Orleans Parish School Board’s portfolio.

Brookings praised the RSD for chartering more than 80 percent of its schools, and speaks well of New Orleans for having “a good supply of affordable private schools” and the state for offering tax credits for private school attendance.

Among other metrics, the report judged districts based on their percentage of charters or magnet schools, their willingness to close schools that are under-enrolled, and whether they had a unified application process in place.

Brookings praised the RSD for being the “first and only” district to score an A grade on its index.

The report praises:

  • The RSD’s common enrollment process, OneApp
  • The private school voucher program, and the requirement that schools must administer standardized state tests to students who participate
  • The availability of school performance-score data
  • Free public bus tokens or free yellow bus service

Still, the RSD could make some improvements, the report notes: School performance data should include information on school leaders, rank schools by parental preference, and offer side-by-side school comparisons.

The Orleans Parish School Board received fewer points than RSD for not having a common enrollment system for its charter and direct-run schools, and for not having a published policy tying school closure to low enrollment. It also got docked for having less information available online.

RSD scored below the Orleans Parish School Board in school quality—a legacy of the fact that RSD took over failing schools, leaving still viable schools under school board management. On a 10-point scale, RSD scored three, compared with seven for the parish school board.

The report was to be presented at 12:30 p.m. at the Brookings Institution, with a keynote address by Gov. Bobby Jindal. The Lens will live blog the event here.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...