No miracles. Real progress.

June 22, 2015

NSNO was proud to contribute to the Education Research Alliance’s three day conference that concluded on Saturday (June 20). Additional rigorous research on the impact of New Orleans public schools is always a good thing.

Two clear headlines emerged as the convening wrapped up:

First, our students have made large academic gains since 2005. Every indicator under the sun has pointed to this conclusion for a decade. The analysis presented by ERA on Friday adds to the growing body of academic research on the system.

Most notably, ERA calculated that the average student’s performance in New Orleans leapt up about 10 percentile points among peers statewide. In the research world, observing such a large impact is rare – particularly when equitably distributed, scaled across an entire city, and growing larger as the years pass.

For example, major preschool programs have not generated similarly large effects. Nor have system-wide reductions in class size.

There is something remarkable happening in this city. If you see a New Orleans student or teacher this week, tell them “thank you” for everything that they’ve done.

Second, we have to continue moving forward. Tell that same New Orleans student or teacher that you can’t wait to see what they do next.

Noting the progress is important. But our energy must turn to focus on what we need to do to make the system even stronger over the next ten years. We cannot confuse progress with success.

An encouraging decade of academic growth hasn’t erased the pervasive sense that reform was done “to” the city, rather than via collective action by citizens, veteran educators, and African American families in New Orleans.

And our city’s progress hasn’t cured the social ills that young people here face: poverty, violence and trauma, sky-high incarceration rates, fractured mental health services. That is a daunting list. But New Orleans educators are getting to the heart of the challenge.

Even if the work takes decades – and it will – the innovation, problem-solving, and empowerment of parents and educators are things that will make New Orleans a more just place in the future. We have to keep pushing.

The students of New Orleans deserve nothing less. And 2025 will be here before we know it.

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