When it comes to choosing the right school for your child, New Orleans offers so many choices that it can be overwhelming. This is a topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind, especially now. It’s time to start attending Open Houses and getting a sense for which school is best for your family.
To help us all navigate these murky waters, below are brief descriptions written by representatives of select schools explaining the various educational models available in the city. Part of the nolaParent initiative is to close the gap between parents and schools and open the lines of communication. One common thread that unites all of us, parents and schools alike, is that we all want what is best for our children and our families.
Thank you to all of the schools who contributed to this article.
by Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle-Orléans (EB)
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and Duke University have conducted studies and gathered research on the many benefits for children who become bilingual at an early age through immersion education. These benefits include:
- out scoring monolingual peers in the verbal and math sections of standardized tests;
- higher cognitive flexibility and development;
- better creative thinking skills;
- deeper understanding of their own and other cultures;
- improved understanding of the English language; and
- greater career opportunities.
These benefits are realized when students are allowed to follow a strong immersion education throughout elementary school but especially when the immersion continues through middle school. This length of time ensures advanced “native-like” proficiencies in reading, writing and oral communication skills of the target language.
by Lisa Davis, Development Director, St. Paul’s Episcopal School
What is an Independent School? There are approximately 2,000 independent schools across the United States educating roughly 700,000 students a year. Louisiana is home to 15 independent schools with 10 located right in the greater New Orleans area. Two characteristics of an independent school can be defined as:
Independent in governance, meaning that the schools are organized as not-for-profit and non-discriminatory corporations governed by a self-perpetuating board of directors, as opposed to being “owned” and run by the government (public schools), by a diocese (parochial schools) or by for-profit entities (proprietary schools).
Independent in finance, meaning that the schools charge tuition and raise money to operate themselves, as opposed to being supported primarily by public monies or religious subsidies.
Distinct though each one is, independent schools also have a lot in common. Some advantages of independent schools are: high academic standards, small classes and individual attention, excellent teachers, greater likelihood of a student completing a bachelor’s degree, education for the whole child, and a strong partnership with parents. They also share a commitment to teaching young people academic skills plus the importance of hard work, leadership, personal responsibility, and good citizenship.
Suggested reading: Bassett, Patrick. “Why Choose an Independent School.” Nais.org. 06/12/06. National Association of Independent Schools, Web. 3 Jan 2010.; “The Independent School Advantage.” Nais.org.
Visit the ISAS New Orleans website for a complete listing of all New Orleans Independent Schools.
KIPP New Orleans Schools
by Lisa Abel, Director of Communication and Community Affairs, KIPP Schools
Leading the education reform charge in New Orleans, KIPP New Orleans Schools (KNOS), is the highest-performing, tuition-free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory charter school network in New Orleans and is working hard to create exceptional opportunities for our city’s students.
Part of the nationally renowned Knowledge is Power Program, the KIPP New Orleans Schools’ program boasts a rigorous curriculum. KIPP concentrates on academic gain and character development, a safe, nurturing environment, and extensive enrichment and extracurricular activities. KNOS schools have a longer school day, week and year (7:30am to 5:00pm Monday-Friday, several Saturdays per semester and three weeks in the summer). This additional time exposes students to a comprehensive college-prep education that is not routinely found in traditional public schools. Remediation, acceleration-oriented instruction, diverse field lessons, sports, music, visual arts and extensive year-end trips, make up the KIPP program. On average, our students take home two hours of homework daily. And, our dedicated and innovative teachers, at the heart and soul of KNOS, are available by cell phone each night to support students and their families. We do whatever it takes to ensure that our students become lifelong learners and leaders in school and in life.
More time in the classroom and a keen focus on results is paying off. KNOS students improve more than two grade levels, on average, in a single school year. In addition, we engage and work closely with students and families throughout the high school and college application process. Our KIPP to College program provides alumni with ongoing academic and personal support, school placement, and mentoring and enrichment activities, including college visits.
Against a “No Shortcuts, No Excuses” philosophy and “Work Hard, Be Nice” mantra, the students of KIPP New Orleans Schools, affectionately known as KIPPsters, are on the path to and through college.
by Teddi Locke, Director, University Montessori School
The goal of Montessori education is to foster competent, responsible, adaptive citizens who are lifelong learners, problem solvers and contribute to their community. Learning occurs in an inquiring, cooperative, nurturing environment designed specifically for the child. By manipulating materials and interacting with others, students have meaningful experiences that are ncessary for the abstract understanding of ideas. Each child is considered unique and as a whole. By combining age groups, children develop a sense of community. Through individual and group activities and class routine, the child experiences decision making, concern for his or her and others’ rights, independent thinking and personal responsibility.
Montessori schools can be private or public. Though Montessori schools can differ greatly, they all follow an interpretation of the same philosophy developed by Maria Montessori at the beginning of the twentieth century. Teachers are certified as Montessori teachers when they have had specific Montessori training. In the state of Louisiana, schools can seek approval as a Montessori school by the Louisiana State School Board if they meet the necessary standards.
New Orleans Public Charter Schools
by Elizabeth Garrett, Communications Director, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools
Charter Schools are independent public schools that are free to be more innovative and are held accountable for student achievement. They foster a partnership between parents, teachers and students to create an environment in which parents can be more involved. Teachers are given the freedom to innovate and students are provided the structure they need to learn. In the last five years, charter schools have proliferated in New Orleans with currently 60% of public school students in charter schools. These schools have consistently proven to give parents a choice in quality education for their children.
A recent study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that charter schools in Louisiana are outperforming traditional public schools in reading and math. Overall, since public charter schools have entered the New Orleans public school landscape, school performance scores across the city have continued to improve, making New Orleans a city where every child can have access to a quality public education.
by Rosalie Tomeny, Director of Development, Holy Name of Jesus School
In choosing a parochial school for your child, he or she will receive an excellent, affordable education, grounded in faith-based, Catholic traditions. This faith-based influence guides our curriculums and our faculties and administrations. Catholic schools have a long-standing tradition of educating the “whole child,” in a God-centered environment. Parochial schools are usually part of a Catholic “parish” and as such are the main outreach of the parish to foster Christian formation and growth. While most Catholic schools today have very few religious teaching, the administration and faculty are committed to maintaining the traditions of a Catholic education.
Catholic schools derive their income from the tuition paid by the parents, in addition to a subsidy from the church parish. Parents play an integral role in fundraisers to help support the school and continue to maintain an affordable rate of tuition. While each Catholic, parochial school in New Orleans is autonomous, all are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Catholics Schools of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which provides leadership, service, support and direction to the Catholic school community.
With its long history of providing education to thousands of children in the Greater New Orleans area, it is no wonder that many parents, throughout the generations, choose a Catholic parochial education for their children.
Private School Education
Deciding on a school for your child is one of the most important and hardest decisions a parent can make. In New Orleans, the advantages of private school education include high academic standards, small classes with individual attention, excellent teachers, total education of mind, body and spirit, nurturing environment, inclusiveness, and a school community or family. Students are generally more academically challenged, exposed to value systems and receive more individualized attention. They also participate in elaborate plays and musicals and are allowed unique opportunities to explore their talents. Private schools often place a major emphasis on personal values and community service which achieves the goal of educating the mind, body and spirit. Additionally, private schools offer a safe environment and students who attend private schools generally continue their educational journey to college and beyond. The benefits of Private School Education far out-weigh the costs. When making that hard decision of where your child will go to school, make sure that the school you choose is the right fit for your child and your family.
Reggio Emilia Education
by Emmy DaCosta-Gomez, Executive Director, Abeona House Child Discovery Center
The Reggio Emilia approach was borne out of community response to disaster. After World War II, the Italian government granted cities funds to rebuild a sense of community. Most cities built community centers, but the families in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy used the bricks from bombed out buildings and volunteers from all corners of the community to build a school. In this model, several key points converge:
- respect for all individuals, each child, parent and staff member;
- open communication between parents, teachers, and children in the discovery/learning process;
- sparking of curiosity and development of critical thinking in children;
- an extended-family atmosphere so that parents feel welcome and children feel comfortable;
- recording and reviewing the learning process through documentation;
- freedom of expression through a multitude of media and representations, also known as “The Hundred Languages of Children”
The benefit of a model that responds to the needs, curiosity, and wonderment of children results in skillful children who are not only prepared for kindergarten, but have a deep love of learning, and recognize teachers as partners in the world of ideas.
Single-Gender Education for Girls
by Kristen Dry, Director of Communications, Louise S. McGehee School
In an all girls’ school, each girl is encouraged to succeed by harnessing her potential, finding her voice, taking risks and delivering her very best. At an all girls’ school girls take center stage. Girls fill every role: math whiz, team captain, class president, valedictorian, speaker, player, writer, singer, and athlete. A single sex school provides the inclusive environment needed for girls to take appropriate risks, so they can work and learn collaboratively and competitively without boys as a distraction. Add a rigorous college preparatory education and you have the perfect setting for girls to experience a love of learning, individualized attention and the chance to lead and succeed.
To learn more about single sex education for girls, please visit the website of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. The NCGS is the leading advocate for all girls’ education both nationally and internationally and their website includes useful information, including a video called, “It’s Cool to be Smart-The Effectiveness of Girls’ Schools“.
Single-Gender Education for Boys
by Katherine Diliberto, Director of Admission, Stuart Hall School for Boys
When boys are placed in a single-gender elementary school, they are given an opportunity to learn at their own developmental pace. The boys are given time to mature physically and socially without having to impress the girls. They are placed in an environment that is not threatening where they can create and take risks. The school day is structured to accommodate their need for physical activity and to allow them to engage physically with their world. There is an emphasis on reading, writing, listening, speaking, and organizational skills in the curriculum. The math and science is accelerated and manipulative. Boys can be great leaders. They can handle responsibility at a very young age, but in a co-educational environment, girls tend to be the leaders because they mature at an earlier age. In a single-gender environment, they have no choice. As a result, boys learn the leadership skills they will use for the rest of their lives. The activities and programs in an all-boys school are tailored to the way boys grow and learn. These schools celebrate boys and their strengths.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of single-gender education for boys, visit these websites:
by Jennifer Curry, Office Manager, Waldorf School of New Orleans
Today, with more than 900 Waldorf schools in 83 countries, Waldorf Education is the fastest growing independent educational movement in the world. In North America Waldorf has been available since 1928, and there are now over 250 schools and 14 teacher training centers in some level of development. No two schools are identical; each is administratively independent. The aim of Waldorf education is to inspire in all students a lifelong love of learning and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. Waldorf curriculum is structured to respond to three specific developmental phases of childhood. A Waldorf education provides meaningful support for a child to comprehend these phases fully and to bring “age appropriate” content that nourishes healthy growth for the Waldorf student. In the Waldorf School, basic academics, as well as music, dance and theater, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply subjects to be read about and tested; they are experienced. Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate their intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities, and grow to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.