To New Orleans’ educators and schools,

I want to begin by expressing a heartfelt thank you. As teachers, coaches, facilities managers, school leaders, nurses, social workers, administrative and support staff, cafeteria teams, and more, you have among the most rigorous and impactful jobs in our community. You do them with skill, dedication, and love. 

Every day, you shape the future of New Orleans. You help students build their confidence and encourage them to pursue their dreams. We are grateful for all of this. We see your impact in so many ways–from the students who want to be teachers themselves, to the stories we hear from our teachers and school leaders to the bands and auxiliary teams we see and hear in Mardi Gras parades. 

Recently, we’ve also seen your impact through the latest Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP) scores, which mark a substantial milestone for our students’ and schools’ recovery from pandemic-era learning loss. We know you strive for the day when every child is learning at Mastery or above, and we aren’t there yet. But this progress is impressive, hopeful, and worth celebrating:  

  • The percentage of public-school students in our city earning Mastery or above went up by 3 percentage points; only five districts in the state achieved higher growth than New Orleans did.
  • The city’s percentage of students earning mastery and above has caught up to pre-pandemic levels in English Language Arts and exceeded them in Science. 
  • The percentage of New Orleans students earning mastery and above has increased in all subjects for students who are economically disadvantaged, students who are Black, students who are Latino, students learning English, and students with disabilities. 

This indicates real progress. Of the five largest districts in Louisiana, ours has the greatest two-year growth of percentage of students earning Mastery or above in All Subjects, ELA, and Math.  

While this year’s scores mark impressive growth, they also remind us of the work ahead. 

Statewide, for instance, just a third of students across grade levels and subjects are achieving Mastery or above. In New Orleans, about a quarter of students are. As educators, you’re keenly aware of this–you’re the ones there with our students each day, taking action and helping them move forward. You know there’s tough work ahead, and you are undeterred. We know you dream of the day when all students achieve at the highest level.  

You also see all that students are up against outside of school. Our students have had a few difficult years. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida, our city’s children have spent a great deal of time out of class. They’ve experienced this added stress atop already high rates of trauma. All this impacts learning, as does the significant poverty and inequity our community has faced for a long time. Amidst these challenges, you make your classrooms warm, supportive spaces where students can focus on learning and grow academically. You also dove into the data, adopted best practices, and used high-quality curriculum to give them a strong foundation for future learning. 

For some schools, these steps helped lead to particularly dramatic growth. A number of K-8 and high schools had over five percentage points of increase in students earning Mastery and above between 2022-2023. This is hopeful news. Two high schools and seven K-8 schools even surpassed their pre-COVID-19 performance in terms of students earning Mastery and above.

This growth is the result of your hard work, love, clear planning, and investment in best practices. Three ReNEW schools, for instance, exceeded their pre-COVID performance, and ReNEW Schaumburg had a seven-percentage point increase in students earning Mastery and above. 

Again, we know that as you celebrate this progress, you’re seeking much more. There’s still, of course, a long way to go before every child in New Orleans is learning on or above grade-level, equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to reach their dreams. In 2019, before the pandemic hit, we predicted that as more schools implemented high-quality curriculum and retained their teachers, we’d see LEAP scores rise. The pandemic hindered that rise, but at NSNO, we remain optimistic and encouraged by your hard work and investment in best practices.

Today, we want you to know that we are here for you as you continue this critical work. We know that, for you, LEAP scores aren’t abstract. They tell stories of progress that students you love are making. They demonstrate the very hard work you and those students have ahead. At NSNO, we want you to know you’re not alone. You need resources and support, and we are here to provide them. We will continue to be here for you through our Instructional Quality Initiative, our talent and leadership programs, policy advocacy, and much more. We’re also exploring how we can best invest in innovation–we know that you’re the experts on this work, and you see both the problems and solutions in ways that others don’t. We hope to find the best new ideas and help them grow and scale. As we go forward, we will keep listening and learning from you, just as your students are. While the work ahead is challenging, we have full confidence in you–your persistence, expertise, and creativity are powerful and inspiring. 

With gratitude, respect and admiration, 

Dana Peterson

CEO, New Schools for New Orleans 

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