In line with the rest of the USA, the schooling system in New Orleans is divided between three levels:
- Elementary school – Kindergarten to Grade 5
- Middle school – Grade 6 to Grade 8
- High school – Grade 9 to 12
Prospective New Orleans residents with children will need to factor in schooling options when making decisions on whereabouts they’d like to live. New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) is the authority in charge of overseeing education in the city. With over one hundred different schools to choose from, the decision facing new NOLA residents as to where to send their child to school isn’t all that straightforward.
Factors to consider when choosing a school in New Orleans include the type of school, the standard of teaching, the cost of fees, extra-curricular activities and proximity to the family home as well as the parent's place of work.
Public schools in New Orleans
The public-school landscape in New Orleans changed quite dramatically in the post-Katrina years. Before Hurricane Katrina caused havoc for the Crescent City, the school's districts in New Orleans were plagued with the problems of underfunding and lack of staffing.
Even to this day, the better public schools do tend to be located close to the more affluent areas of the city. It is therefore important for new arrivals with children to consider the availability of good public schools when deciding where to live in the city.
The destruction caused by Katrina gave the authorities the opportunity to rethink public schooling in the city and as a result, NOLA saw the emergence of a larger number of charter schools with greater financial investment in the public schooling system. It is now believed that over 90 percent of New Orleans’s student population attends a charter school.
Charter schools are a sub-set of public schools that are overseen by outside bodies. Although they do have more freedom in terms of teaching methodology and admissions, these schools remain accountable to NOPS.
Each of these institutions will have a charter which details the school's operations, programme, goals and methods of assessment. Some charter schools serve particular populations or students that are struggling in a traditional learning environment whereas others follow a particular instructional theme.
While they tend to be more flexible when it comes to catchment areas, those that choose to pursue this option should still factor in proximity when deciding where to live.
New Orleans is also home to a handful of magnet schools. Like charter schools, these are state-funded to a great extent, but because they do receive an element of external funding, magnet schools have more autonomy when it comes to shaping their curriculum. These type of 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 the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).
Private schools in New Orleans
In addition to the variety of public schooling options available to residents of New Orleans, the city also hosts over 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 often hefty price tag. Although the average cost of school fees at private schools in New Orleans is slightly less than the national average for the US, this type of privilege doesn’t come cheap. Those who choose this option for their children will need to be prepared to fork out for tuition fees as well as other expenses such as uniforms, books, stations, extra-curricular expenses and field trips.
International schools New Orleans
Foreign residents moving to New Orleans may wish to have their children educated at an international school in order for them 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 with private schools, international schools tend to charge high school fees.
It is, however, also worth noting that a number of charter schools offer students the opportunity to study for the IB at a fraction of the cost one would pay at a private institution. There are also a number of 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 those with a range of issues, ranging from autism and ADHD to physical mobility problems.
Where possible, students with special needs are accommodating in mainstream NOLA public schools. If a child’s disability is more severe there are specialist facilities available too.
Tutors in New Orleans
Whether it’s a student struggling to keep pace with the set curriculum or those in need of some extra support to tackle university entrance exams, private tuition can be useful in strengthening understanding, boosting confidence, and giving children that extra edge over their peers.
When it comes to private tuition, the support offered by schools in New Orleans is fairly limited. Some schools do provide extra lessons for those with minor learning difficulties, but no school is required to fund private tuition for students. That said, schools can often provide a list of recommended tutors in the local area.
For students in need of extra academic support, there are a number of 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 from one-to-one tutoring to small group sessions.