Imagine a city with 20 public high schools. Four or five are excellent, and parents citywide clamor to enroll their children into those programs—schools whose ACT scores sit atop the state and that create true pathways to success in college and career. The remaining fifteen fail to provide a quality education: student performance is among the lowest in the state, families with socioeconomic privilege avoid them completely, and odds of postsecondary success are vanishingly small.
This was New Orleans in 2005. This was still New Orleans in 2010, or nearly so. By 2015, however, the data tells a new and vastly better story.
Today, nearly half of the open enrollment high schools in New Orleans scored an “A” or a “B” on the state’s accountability system. Based on data released today by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), these schools include Edna Karr, International High School, KIPP Renaissance, New Orleans Military/Maritime Academy, Sci Academy, Sci High, and Warren Easton. When schools also serving PARCC-tested grades are included in the final data later this year, the number of high schools with “A” or “B” letter grades could rise to 10 or more. As recently as 2010, no open enrollment high schools met this standard.
The number of children attending public schools in the lowest quartile statewide has been cut by more than two-thirds. In fact, in 2010, the six lowest performing schools in the state of Louisiana were all New Orleans high schools. Today every non-alternative high school in New Orleans scores a “D” or higher in the state’s accountability system. New Orleans has no more failing high schools, outside of alternative high schools that serve students with unique needs.
This means our families have more high-quality options. New Orleans students were consigned to underperforming high schools for too long—an arrangement tailor-made to diminish the incredible potential of thousands of our young people each year. Excellent schools are a vital component of a prosperous and equitable city. Citywide increases in ACT scores, graduation rates, and college enrollment metrics are not just data points; they mean that families researching high schools for 2016-17 have a range of much stronger options.
Our educators, our leaders, our parents, and most importantly, our students are responsible for this remarkable transformation. We still have a long way to travel before we can say that New Orleans is delivering on the promise of excellent schools for all. But today’s announcement is another indication of our progress along that path.