Similar to the rest of the US, the schooling system in New Orleans is divided into three levels: elementary school (Kindergarten to Grade 5), middle school (Grade 6 to Grade 8), and high school (Grade 9 to 12). New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) is the authority in charge of education in the city.
New residents with children should take schooling into account when choosing where to live. But with over one hundred different schools to choose from, this is no straightforward matter.
Factors to consider when choosing a school in New Orleans include the type of school, the standard of teaching, the cost, extra-curricular activities and proximity to the family home and the parent's place of work.
Public schools in New Orleans
Hurricane Katrina had a big effect on public schools in New Orleans. After the destruction, the city attempted to rebuild and raise the standards of public education, and the result is a somewhat improved system.
Charter schools are a sub-set of public schools overseen by external boards. Although they do have more freedom in terms of teaching methodology and admissions, these schools remain accountable to NOPS.
The destruction caused by Katrina allowed the authorities to rethink public schooling in the city and, as a result, New Orleans saw the emergence of a larger number of charter schools with greater financial investment. It is estimated that over 90 percent of New Orleans’ student population attend charter schools.
These institutions have charters that detail the school's operations, programme, goals and methods of assessment. This independence allows charter schools to adjust their teaching methods and largely set their own objectives. Special-needs children are also better catered for at charter schools.
While catchment areas for charter schools tend to be wider, new residents should still factor in proximity to schools when deciding where to live.
New Orleans is also home to a handful of magnet schools. Like charter schools, these are state-funded to an extent, but because they receive external funding as well, magnet schools have more autonomy when it comes to shaping their curriculum. These schools allow students to pursue a more vocational path in line with individual capabilities.
Magnet schools generally focus on a particular subject area such as the performing arts, languages, sports or STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).
Private schools in New Orleans
In addition to the variety of public schools in New Orleans, the city also has around 50 private schools. Many private schools in New Orleans have a religious affiliation, most commonly with the Christian faith.
Generally, private schools offer a higher standard of teaching and more modern facilities than the average public school. Also, there are more options in terms of various honour programmes for academically-gifted students as well as those who demonstrate an aptitude for arts, sports and music.
Naturally, the downside of private education is the hefty price tag. Although the average cost of private schools in New Orleans is slightly less than the national average for the US, they still don’t come cheap. Extra tuition fees, uniforms, books, stationery, extra-curricular expenses and field trips can all weigh heavily on the wallet.
International schools New Orleans
Foreign residents moving to New Orleans may wish to have their children educated at an international school to receive an internationally-recognised qualification or allow them to maintain a degree of continuity despite starting at a new school. While there are no schools in New Orleans that follow the curricula of foreign countries, there are a few private international schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB qualification). Like private schools, international schools are very expensive.
That said, a number of charter schools offer students the opportunity to study for the IB at a fraction of the cost of a private institution. There are also a few public schools that offer French immersion programmes.
Special-needs education in New Orleans
Students with learning difficulties and disabilities are well catered for in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana endeavours to support all students with special needs up to the age of 21, at no extra cost to the parents. The support structures in place are extensive, multi-faceted and cater to a range of disabilities, ranging from autism and ADHD to physical mobility problems.
Students with special needs are accommodated in public schools as far as possible, but specialist facilities are available if a child’s disability is too severe for mainstream schools.
Tutors in New Orleans
Private tuition in New Orleans is fairly limited. Some schools do provide extra lessons for those with minor learning difficulties, but no school is obligated to fund private tuition. Schools can often provide a list of recommended tutors in the local area.
For students in need of extra academic support, there are many reputable tutoring companies in New Orleans. Some of the well-established companies include HYPE Tutoring, Tutor New Orleans and Kumon Learning. These companies offer a range of services, including one-to-one tutoring and small group sessions.