Black students in New Orleans are less likely to attend schools ranked A or B, less likely to be taught by credentialed teachers, and more likely to be suspended than students of other races. In 2016-2017, only 19% of Black students scored Mastery or above on LEAP tests compared to 70% of white learners when looking at combined grades and subjects. (Urban League of Louisiana, Advancing Educational Equity in New Orleans Public Schools, 2018) Eighty-seven percent of the 16-24 year olds who are not employed or in school in New Orleans are Black. (Cowen Institute, No Longer Invisible: Opportunity Youth in New Orleans, 2016)
WE NEED THE ASSETS OF BLACK EDUCATORS TO ADVANCE EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS IN OUR CITY.
A robust body of research has established that when students are educated by professionals who look like them, there is an increase in cultural competency, academic success, and student and family engagement. (Institute of Labor Economics, 2017; Tillman, 2004; Pang and Gibson, 2001; Ladson-Billings,1994) Today 80% of New Orleans Public School students are Black but less than 50% of teachers are. (State of Public Education in New Orleans, 2018) If we are going to enhance the pace of educational progress in New Orleans we need to support Black educators who can produce profound impacts for Black children.
BLACK-LED SCHOOLS ARE FILLED WITH ASSETS OF BLACK EDUCATORS.
Many of these schools are doing an excellent job educating children – in 2017-2018 a Black-led, Black-governed school had the highest percentage of 3rd-8th grade students scoring Mastery or above on LEAP tests when looking at combined grades and subjects. (New Orleans Schools that Beat Louisiana’s Average LEAP Score,The Times-Picayune; Leap Scores 2018, The Times-Picayune). Still others lead the way in key areas, like Black teacher recruitment and retention. However, many Black-led schools face challenges accessing the human, financial and political capital needed to sustain and optimize their positive impacts.
STRENGTHENING AND SUSTAINING BLACK-LED SCHOOLS IMPROVES MORE THAN ACADEMICS.
The firing of Black educators and other Black staff after Hurricane Katrina had a devastating effect on the economic, social and political fabric of the New Orleans Black community. Nearly 15 years of education reform have made clear that the work to just “fix our schools” is not enough to address the horrid conditions that wreak havoc on the lives of the poorest Black citizens of New Orleans. No community can be strong without strong institutions. If the positive reforms of the last decade are going to stick, there must be real efforts to build Black institutional capacity to be a positive force in the ongoing effort to educate Black children.