NAEP Scores Highlight Ongoing Educational Disparities in Louisiana Schools

Photo credit: Danae Columbus

Much has already been reported regarding Louisiana’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) exam scores, particularly regarding how the pandemic resulted in lower scores nationwide. While several reports have touted Louisiana’s improvement in fourth-grade reading scores, most have blasted the state’s poor performance overall.

Any attempt at a positive spin on the NEAP scores “is like going on a diet and bragging that you only gained five pounds instead of ten,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry. “There is no cause for celebration when more than half of students in kindergarten, first, second, and third grades cannot read at grade level.”

However, one aspect that has largely been ignored by local media is the NEAP’s illustration of persistent educational disparity across the state. According to the report, fourth-grade Black students’ average scores were 25 points lower than white students on the reading portion of the assessment. What’s worse, that disparity hasn’t changed significantly since 1998. In math, fourth-grade Black students scored 27 points lower than white students, and that disparity hasn’t changed significantly since 2000.

“Because of the pandemic and the inherent inequities in education, many Black and brown kids simply did not have the resources in their schools to pivot,” said Arianne Jolla, founder of HYPE Academy Private School and Academic Resource Center in New Orleans. “It took longer for their teachers to get trained for virtual learning. Because of that lack of resources and the inherent inequities in education, now the gap is wider. Our kids were already behind, but now, the scores are showing that those kids who were already at the bottom are performing worse.

Jolla has begun calling on BIPOC parents to begin advocating more forcefully for their children, even if that means taking their children’s education into their own hands.

“When parents show up at schools, educators and administrators feel held accountable and tend to do even better by their students and their families. We (school leaders) want to do right by our families. The ones who show up in our buildings and come on our field trips and volunteer at our events are a constant reminder to us to keep first things first,” Jolla said. 

She also believes that more Black educators need to focus on forming their own schools. According to Black Minds Matter, there are fewer than 350 Black school founders in the United States.

“We need to start our own schools. We are the most qualified to do so – within our communities. We tend to run to other communities to save us. We’ve got to save ourselves. If we don’t do it, no one else is going to do it- not in the way that our kids need it.”

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