As New Orleans students start their summer break, some are leaving their schools behind for good. Four Orleans Parish schools closed their doors permanently, and education reporter Jessica Williams over at The Lens covers the impact on students, parents and educators.
One school, charter Benjamin Mays Preparatory School, is closing due to poor performance. Williams says Mays’ school performance score was 53.3 out of 200, in its third year of operation. The other schools are closing for demographic reasons, as there is room for their students at other Orleans Parish facilities. Williams describes the school closures as part of the new ecosystem of education in New Orleans:
"A wrenching process for both families and faculties, closing down failed and unneeded schools is the anvil on which a market-driven school system is trying to forge a stronger set of survivors."
That system is driven by academic performance, as measured mostly by standardized test scores. It does not strongly factor in the emotional toll that constant change takes on families and students, particularly, Williams says, students with special needs. Parents of those students are particularly sensitive to the relationships their children develop with particular teachers or administrators.
One parent Williams interviews describes this cultural shift:
“I went to four schools my entire life,' [Malaika]Amedee said, counting them on her fingers. She frowned. 'I don’t know how this is going to affect them."
Williams says some charter schools in New Orleans have had their charters renewed, and have security for the next decade. But many schools are still in the proving ground period. The shakeout for school survival will continue for years, and while it can be disruptive, Williams points out that no one wants to go back to a model in which failing schools continue to operate without consequences.
This news content made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.