The Louisiana Department of Education has released School and District Performance Scores for the 2018-19 school year. The majority of public schools in New Orleans improved or maintained their letter grades, while roughly a quarter of schools dropped. Compared to other large urban districts in the state, New Orleans stands out for educational opportunity for students experiencing poverty: we have more schools classified as “high-poverty” that earned an “A” or “B” than any of the three other large urban parishes (Jefferson Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, and Caddo Parish).*
NOLA Public Schools’ District Performance Score (DPS) increased from 66.2 to 67.8 points between 2018 and 2019, while maintaining a “C” letter grade overall. This increase is largely due to our graduation rate improving significantly, causing our Cohort Graduation Rate Index to rise from a C to a B. In addition, the majority — 76% — of all New Orleans public schools (including “Type 2” charters and NOCCA) received a Progress Index rating of “A” or “B,” reflecting our students’ significant gains in learning from one year to the next.
This year, a new and important shift was made to better reflect the performance of alternative schools, which educate students who have received long-term suspensions or expulsions from other schools, who are incarcerated, or who have other intensive needs that require a different school environment. These schools’ performance scores are now determined by students’ progress on state assessments, how many credits they earn, and their “12th grade strength of diploma.” Two New Orleans alternative schools’ performance placed them in the top five alternative schools statewide. The NET Charter High School: Central City ranks 2nd, and Travis Hill School, whose two campuses are located within the Orleans Justice Center and the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center, earned the 4th highest spot.
For elementary and middle schools, School Performance Scores (SPS) are based primarily on students’ performance on the annual LEAP state assessments, both in terms of students’ proficiency at one point in time and their progress over time (see below for further explanation).
For high schools, additional metrics are taken into consideration beyond LEAP performance: schools’ cohort graduation rate, students’ scores on the ACT and WorkKeys workplace skills tests, and the quality of each senior’s diploma based on the credentials they have earned (such as JumpStart career certifications and Advanced Placement or dual enrollment early college credit).
Importantly, 2018-19 was the second year of Louisiana’s new SPS formulas, which added a metric that reflects student progress. This new Progress Index evaluates how well schools are doing in terms of helping students to grow academically from one year to the next. Measuring students’ progress in addition to students’ absolute performance on LEAP tests provides a more complete picture of student learning.
We see both high points and need for improvement when we consider New Orleans schools’ performance on the different SPS components—the metrics that they are evaluated on.
Many schools’ graduation rates have increased, as has the percentage of students earning credentials along with their diplomas, such as JumpStart career certifications and early college credit. These increases, along with schools’ continued excellence in student progress, contributed to the fact that around two thirds of our schools’ letter grades rose or stayed the same. (Around 12% of schools cannot be compared to last year, as they received their first SPS in 2019, or they are alternative schools being measured with the new formula.)
A number of schools’ LEAP scores decreased. Our ACT scores decreased as well—as they did statewide and nationwide. This contributed to roughly a quarter of our schools’ letter grades going down.
We believe that by focusing on teacher recruitment and retention, as well as curriculum implementation, we will see improvement in the future in these areas.
Since Louisiana adopted more rigorous academic standards in recent years, we have seen test scores stagnate or dip slightly, as both students and teachers work to adjust. Schools will continue to focus on adopting and truly implementing high-quality curriculum that will help students meet those new standards.
We also know that students perform better when they have a consistent force of excellent teachers. As a city, and at NSNO, we are working to help schools recruit and retain more great teachers. As we do so, alongside schools’ implementation of high-quality curriculum, we expect that student outcomes will improve and SPS scores will rise.
Esperanza Charter School, part of the K-8 Choice Foundation network, was recognized as a 2019 Top Gains Honoree for its success in helping students grow academically from one year to the next. We spoke with Head of School Nicole Saulny about Esperanza’s approach.
Warren Easton Charter High School was named a 2019 Equity Honoree for the success of its students who are part of historically disadvantaged subgroups recognized by the Louisiana Department of Education. We spoke to Principal Mervin Jackson for his reflections.
New Orleans Military & Maritime Academy (NOMMA) is now an “A” high school, up from a “B” letter grade in 2018. Principal Danny Garbarino shared the following.
Homer A. Plessy Community School rose from a “D” letter grade in 2018 to a “C” in 2019. We spoke with Head of School Meghan Raychaudhuri about the factors contributing to this increase.
In its second year of transformation under the InspireNOLA network after being an “F” school, McDonogh 42 Charter School showed significant improvement in its SPS and ranked 5th in the city for open-enrollment schools in terms of students’ year-over-year academic growth. We spoke with InspireNOLA CEO Jamar McKneely about this progress.
TOP GAINS HONOREES
We also want to congratulate all fourteen New Orleans schools that are 2019 Top Gains Honorees! Schools receive this designation from the Louisiana Department of Education if they earn an “A” Progress Index letter grade and do not earn any “Urgent Intervention Required” labels under Louisiana’s ESSA plan, either for discipline or for showing consistently low performance for any student subgroup.
Finally, congratulations goes to the fourteen New Orleans schools that are 2019 Equity Honorees! Schools receive this designation from the Louisiana Department of Education if they rank in the top 10% statewide for performance of students with disabilities, students who are English learners, and/or students who come from economically disadvantaged households, and do not earn any “Urgent Intervention Required” labels (see above).
We are proud of the hard work our schools and students have done over the last year. We have many schools driving real learning for our brilliant students – many of whom face significant challenges, including students at alternative schools. We look forward to more schools improving year after year, and to seeing more “A” and “B” schools in New Orleans. But this is about more than letter grades. This is about a city of children who are better prepared for the next grade, and for life after high school. And we believe that with a consistent force of excellent teachers and well-implemented, high-quality curriculum, that improvement is well within reach. Schools and educators, you are doing fantastic things; let’s keep up the great work!
For more information, please refer to the Louisiana Department of Education’s press release, which includes links to downloadable data files, and NOLA Public Schools’ press release. Individual school report cards, which include School Performance Score breakdowns along with other metrics such as faculty diversity and suspension rates, can be found on the Louisiana School Finder website.
*Schools are defined as “high-poverty” according to the National Center for Education Statistics if more than 75% of their students come from economically disadvantaged households. Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, and Caddo Parish are the four urban/semi-urban parishes in Louisiana that serve more than 30,000 public school students, with at least 70% of students coming from economically disadvantaged households; as “large districts,” each parish has at least 60 schools in total. The number of “A” and “B” “high-poverty schools” in 2019 for these parishes are as follows: 10 schools in Orleans Parish, 8 in Jefferson Parish, 5 in East Baton Rouge Parish, and 2 in Caddo Parish.