Evaluation of Scaling the New Orleans Charter Restart Model:

The History of Education in New Orleans

Public education in New Orleans has a long and storied history. This timeline presents key events in the development of New Orleans’s public education systems from the mid-19th century through the the installation and evaluation of the Charter Restart Model.

“You have to be an anthropologist of the community. One big mistake we made was that we didn't become students of the history and the community before we entered it.” - New Orleans CRM Principal

The mid-19th century sees a push for public education nationwide. John McDonogh, a merchant and slaveholder, bequeaths a fund dedicated to improving education for white and free black students in New Orleans. School buildings throughout New Orleans still bear his name (including John McDonogh High School, one of the schools in this evaluation).


Plessy v. Ferguson establishes “separate but equal” services and schools for populations of color.


Louisiana passes its first compulsory education legislation.


Brown v. Board of Ed mandates racial desegregation of public schools.


Ruby Bridges enters William Frantz Elementary School as the first child of color to desegregate New Orleans schools.


Despite a voter-approved tax increase in 1980 to support public schools, decades of divestment and financial mismanagement lead to organizational instability, under-resourced classrooms, and crumbling buildings. From 1992-2005, OPSB has 9 different superintendents, loses all financial stability, and exacerbates racial tensions regarding public school operations and governance.


New Orleans Charter Middle School, New Orleans’s first charter school, opens. NOCMS will eventually evolve into Firstline Schools.


Green Dot Charter Schools (which will later create spin-off Future Is Now) opens its first school in CA. Rites of Passage assumes ownership of troubled Arizona Boys Ranch and establishes Canyon State Academy (CLA flagship).


Act 9 authorizes RSD.


Choice Foundation is established in New Orleans to promote school choice (they will assume CMO responsibilities post-Katrina). Ten individuals are indicted on federal charges stemming from kickback schemes and other malfeasance under Orleans Parish School Board.


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in late August. In November, the Louisiana Legislature passes Act 35, which revises the threshold for school failure and clears the way for RSD to take over the vast majority of New Orleans schools.


Additional OPSB members are indicted for pre-Katrina corruption. NSNO is established by founder Sarah Usdin in collaboration with CEO Matt Candler as a systems-level support provider and incubator of new charter principals. A handful of charter schools open in New Orleans as schools come back online: Firstline opens Green Charter, KIPP Believe Middle (KBP and KE flagship) opens, Lafayette Academy (McDonogh 42 flagship) opens, NOCP is founded, and Einstein Village de L’Est (Einstein Sherwood Forest Flagship) opens.


Paul Vallas is installed as the RSD superintendent. Firstline opens Ashe (Clark flagship). Dr. King School reopens as a charter school (later to become Friends of King and the flagship for Craig), the first school in the Lower 9th Ward to reopen.


First OPSB elections since Katrina are held. Sci Academy (which will evolve into Collegiate Academies, and which serves as the Flagship for Carver Prep and Carver Collegiate) opens.


NOCP is granted the charter to operate Sylvanie Williams (which will serve as the Cohen flagship).


USEd awards TIF and i3 funds to NSNO. Crescent City Schools is established in anticipation of turning around Harriet Tubman. Louisiana state superintendent Paul Pastorek, in collaboration with Paul Vallas, decides not to activate the five-year sundown clause in RSD’s authorizing legislation, meaning RSD-run or RSD-authorized schools will remain under state control. Southern Poverty Law Center files a federal civil rights lawsuit against LDE regarding violations of the rights of students with disabilities in more than 30 New Orleans schools.


John White assumes the superintendency of RSD. Neerav Kingsland succeeds founding CEO Sarah Usdin at NSNO. One App (centralized enrollment) is implemented for the first time in New Orleans to alleviate concerns about equitable access to all schools for all families. The first New Orleans i3 cohort of schools opens its doors to students: Clark, Tubman, KBP


John White transitions from RSD to the state superintendency of Louisiana; Patrick Dobard succeeds him as RSD superintendent. OPSB elections are held, including a win for Sarah Usdin. RSD implements a centralized expulsion policy. The second New Orleans i3 cohort of schools opens to students: Carver Collegiate, Carver Prep, Cohen, Craig, Crescent Leadership Academy, John McDonogh, McDonogh 42


NSNO begins communicating the CRM in national forums.


NSNO receives a significant investment from the John and Laura Arnold Foundation, redirecting the core focus of education reform efforts in New Orleans. CLA is removed from the i3 program for noncompliance with their grant agreement. InspireNOLA is founded. The third New Orleans i3 cohort of schools opens: Einstein Extension (now known as Einstein Sherwood Forest)


Neerav Kingsland exits NSNO; leadership team members Maggie Shefa-Runyan and Michael Stone assume co-CEO positions. SPLC settles its 2010 lawsuit regarding treatment of SPED students with OPSB and LDE, ushering in new process and protections for students citywide. The fourth New Orleans i3 cohort of schools opens, although: KE (although inclusion of KE in the evaluation is delayed until 2015).


OPSB and RSD begin initial collaborative activities in preparation for reunification (the return of RSD-authorized schools to OPSB authorization). The OPSB board president is indicted for an OPSB-related bribery scheme. The fifth New Orleans cohort of i3 schools opens: Wilson Charter School.


The Louisiana Legislature mandates 2018 reunification, meaning all RSD-authorized schools will return to local control by July 2018. OPSB elections are held.

“After Katrina there was a tremendous amount of energy to revitalize and improve New Orleans, and we believe it all starts with education.” - Board member of a New Orleans CRM School