Urban League of Louisiana: “Critical Areas of Opportunity Must Be Addressed by NOLA Public Schools”

Photo by F. Muhammad

Last week, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) released the annual School Performance Scores. Each school in the state is rated A-F based on student performance during state testing, and how many students earn college credit before graduating high school.

While acknowledging the work of New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) teachers, staff, and administrators, the Urban League of Louisiana issued a statement on Thursday saying “despite the gains that have been made at several of our schools, there are still critical areas of opportunity that must be addressed by NOLA Public Schools leadership.”

While some schools did see performance gains, there was a very concerning overall decline in K-8 performance. In 2018, nearly 66 percent of students were not reading on grade level when promoted to the 4th grade. Building a strong foundation in reading through improved childhood education initiatives is key to improving this metric and ensuring New Orleans’ children have a strong foundation for their educational future.

“As an organization that is invested heavily in supporting students from cradle through career, we understand the importance of building a strong educational foundation for infants and toddlers as they transition to kindergarten,” said Judy Reese MOrse, President and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana. “We also know that supporting our teachers and school operators in K-8 is critical.”

Thirty-seven of New Orleans’ schools require urgent intervention. These interventions are triggered when schools earn a “D” or “F” letter grade for three years in a row, and/or have a graduation rate below 67 percent in their most recent year. Additionally, interventions are also triggered if schools earn a subgroup score of “F” for two years in a row, or if they had an out-of-school suspension rate significantly higher than the national average for three years in a row. In most cases, students commonly impacted by these interventions are economically disadvantaged, disabled, homeless, immigrants, or Black. According to the Urban League of Louisiana, while NOPS has begun addressing these issues, more innovation is needed to ensure that these student populations have the services they need to thrive in the educational environment.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact that there is now a 2:1 ratio of underperforming high schools (37) to high performing high schools (19). While the number of high performing schools has risen (a fact that should be applauded), this ratio shows that there is still a lack of opportunity for New Orleans students. “Through our advocacy work, equity-centered research and reports, leadership programs, and dual-enrollment initiatives, we are steadfast in our commitment to partner with NOPS and school operators to ensure that every child has access to a quality public education from birth through high school,” Reese said.

“There are many high points from the School Performance Scores that are to be commended, however, there is still a need for improvement that must take place so that we can accomplish more highs than lows,” said Daina Henry, Vice President of Education & Youth Development of the Urban League of Louisiana. “We are devoted to using our programs, initiatives, and advocacy work to address the areas that need improvement while also continuing to strengthen the assets. We will also use our resources in helping promote high-quality teachers and school leaders and making sure schools retain them in an effort to provide stability for students. We are dedicated in providing the best for our children throughout the state of Louisiana and will continue to work diligently in achieving the best results.”

Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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