Black and low-income students in New Orleans public school are more likely to be taught by rookie teachers than are their white, higher-income peers, according to a report released Monday by the Urban League of Louisiana.
And that's just one of the inequities the report's authors say the Orleans Parish School Board should focus on as it prepares to reclaim all of the city’s public schools next year.
The report said black students are more likely to be suspended than are students of other races, and that schools should offer more advanced courses to black students.
“New Orleans public schools have made strides, but troubling and unacceptable inequities still persist,” said Erika McConduit, the Urban League's president and CEO in New Orleans.
“When African-American students — who make up the vast majority at New Orleans public schools — are less likely to be taught by credentialed teachers, to attend schools ranked A or B, and to have access to advanced courses like calculus, our city’s education system is clearly not meeting the needs of all of its students,” McConduit said.
Responding to the report, OPSB officials highlighted an upcoming strategic plan that will guide decision-making on improving schools.
The Urban League is one of several advocacy groups that have urged the OPSB to hold all city schools to high standards, especially as the charter schools that have spent years under the control of the state Recovery School District prepare to return to the local board's fold. Charter schools, however, will retain a high degree of independence in matters such as curriculum and choosing faculty.
The latest school performance scores, released by the state in November, triggered another round of alarms: The city saw a 14-point drop in its overall score on the state’s 0-150 point scale, with 37 percent of students attending schools graded as D or F.
While Monday’s report mentions other problems, it focuses mainly on inequities among schools affecting low-income students of color.
At so-called high-poverty, high-minority schools — which make up the vast majority of public schools in the city — 22 percent of teachers were inexperienced, 34 percent were not certified and 14 percent taught at least one subject outside of their field of specialty, according to 2017 state data cited in the report.
At the few low-poverty, low-minority schools — Audubon Charter School, Benjamin Franklin High School, Bricolage Academy, Edward Hynes Charter School and Lusher Charter School — only 15 percent of teachers were rookies and 16 percent were not certified, though 22 percent taught outside their fields.
On the issue of suspensions, about 12 percent of black students in the city have had at least one out-of-school suspension, while students of other races have suspension rates of less than 5 percent.
About 60 percent of the city’s predominantly black high schools offer Advanced Placement classes and physics courses, a figure the Urban League conceded was better than other high-minority, high-poverty school districts in the state. But fewer than a quarter of the black schools offer calculus, the report noted, and more diverse schools such as Lusher and Franklin generally have a wider range of advanced courses.
The OPSB and charter operators, who control their own hiring and firing, must work cooperatively to solve the problems, the report said.
It said the board, for its part, could create geographic zones for schools that, by design, are economically and racially diverse, investigate strategies to recruit and retain experienced teachers, and encourage its selective-admissions charter schools to diversify their student bodies.
Students at the city’s public schools are 85 percent black, 7 percent white, 5 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 3 percent other races.