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Erica McConduit, president of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, speaks during the 'Rally for Excellence: Inspire Our Youth,' program Friday, Sept. 23, 2016, at the Xavier University Convocation Center in New Orleans. 

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

School accountability is key to ensuring all students — regardless of Zip code, race, socioeconomic status or differing abilities — have equal access to the high-quality education they deserve. But it’s often difficult to gather information that paints a complete picture of how well local child care centers and schools are preparing children for the next grade level. A new tool created for Louisiana families offers a solution.

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Department of Education released a new online tool called the Louisiana School Finder that enables families to find and evaluate schools and early childhood programs across the state to find the sites that best fit their unique child’s needs. The revamped report card system shows overall school and district performance scores — Louisiana schools, for example, earned a collective “B” letter grade this year — and traditionally reported data points like assessment results, graduation rates and college enrollment. It’s also expanded to offer results by student group, detail student discipline and attendance data, and even highlight facts about the teachers who work at each site, a huge step toward ensuring greater transparency and addressing equity.

In addition, the system gives users information about all publicly funded early childhood centers, prekindergarten and Head Start programs across the state, unifying our early childhood and K-12 education systems. These new ratings, which were unveiled for the first time this year, are derived from site observations and provide a snapshot of each classroom’s climate and how well they are preparing kids to enter kindergarten ready. Statewide, about 1,500 performance profiles are now available.

The Louisiana School Finder plainly communicates the details families need to make informed decisions about their child’s education, and the facts educators, stakeholders, nonprofit organizations and advocates need to understand the gaps that exist, how to direct resources and how to leverage best practices. It is truly a one-of-a-kind community tool.

As president of Urban League of Louisiana, my job is focused on ensuring that all students have the same resources and opportunities as their counterparts. It’s a responsibility that is the heart of my organization. The Louisiana School Finder helps accomplish that mission and positions our state, our schools and our students toward continued success.

ERIKA McCONDUIT

Urban League of Louisiana

New Orleans