One advocacy group, perturbed by a startling recent drop in school performance scores in New Orleans, is questioning whether enough has been done to hold school leaders accountable.
The group, Our Voice Nuestra Voz, said the Orleans Parish School Board should be more transparent about its efforts to improve the 30 schools that received D or F letter grades from the state this year.
And while the School Board released a document this month outlining its vision and specific goals for school improvement, those goals could be even more aggressive, the group said.
“You can not run a D or F school year after year and expect to stick around,” said Mary Moran, the group’s executive director. “OPSB absolutely has to come with the direction and the leadership on this, and I think that they have yet to.”
In response, OPSB officials said their November outline -- which was guided by robust public input -- is only a first step. The end-goal is a strategic plan that will lay out the concrete steps the system will take to get its schools on track.
The criticism over scores comes as the city overall took a troubling 14-point dive in performance this year, and after its corresponding state-assigned letter grade dropped from a B to C.
The slide on the state’s 0-150 point scale and corresponding A through F letter grade system has sparked talk that the steady progress of the past in New Orleans has plateaued, just as the local School Board prepares to reclaim by next year the schools it lost to the state after Hurricane Katrina.
Even before the drop, however, OPSB had worked to ensure that schools under its purview were held to strict standards. The board finalized a performance framework last year, for example, that dings schools which are graded D or below. Such low grades can lead to closures or the non-renewal of a school’s charter agreement.
The school system's latest vision and goals document calls within the next five years for an increase in the percentage of students attending A and B schools, an increase in the percentage of A and B schools in the city, and an increase of students’ reading and math proficiency by as many as 11 percentage points.
Moran said OPSB should aim higher, and that it should have worked harder to involve parents.
But OPSB leaders pointed to public input it gathered at town hall meetings, working sessions and through surveys. Moreover, a more detailed plan for accountability is forthcoming, one that will also "address major citywide issues of concern like teacher retention, early childhood education, and career and technical training," officials said.
The board is due to reclaim its schools by 2018 or 2019, at the latest.
Editor's note: This story was altered on 12/1/17 to reflect that OPSB did not vote to close Mahalia Jackson Elementary because of 2017 academic performance.