- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A research group’s survey of 30 New Orleans public schools found that competition for students hasn’t necessarily driven efforts to improve academics.

The survey released Thursday was done by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University in 2012 and 2013. It found only 10 schools responded to the competition resulting from New Orleans’ rare, city-wide open enrollment policies by improving academics.

Twenty-five said they responded to competition by marketing existing school offerings.

The study’s author, Huriya Jabbar said 10 schools dealt with competition by, in effect, screening enrollment - advising students to transfer out or advertising invitation-only events. At a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s release of figures, the group noted that was a practice education officials have been taking steps to prevent.

“These findings suggest that schools do not always respond to competition in the way that policy makers hope,” said Jabbar.

Researchers said schools do have motivations to improve academics - among them, state accountability standards.

“The test-based accountability system, we have strong reasons to expect, is partly what’s driving school leaders to focus on academics,” said the group’s director, Douglas Harris.

Almost all New Orleans public schools are overseen now by the state Recovery School District, although some remain under the Orleans Parish School Board. Under that governmental framework, all but a handful are operated by independent charter organizations. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the system moved to a policy of allowing anyone in the city to apply to attend any of the schools.

Jabbar, an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin and a research associate with the Tulane group, said the study drew on interviews with leaders of charter school leaders and principals of 30 randomly selected schools from the more than 80 operating in New Orleans.

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