New Orleans School Partnership Study: What Our Students Need and How We Can Help

Page 1


2 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

Urgent Needs and Targeted Support: How New Orleans Can Stand By Its Schools Over the past year, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, alongside NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS), has had the privilege of hearing from educators and families in our city about their experience in our local education system. We heard about the big and the everyday victories, the open questions and the struggles that still exist. One thing was certain: when it comes to our schools, there’s a great deal of passion, dedication, and progress being made in our city. We know that families are devoted to making sure their children access every opportunity. We know that teachers, coaches, band directors, and other educators are building powerful, productive communities from the classroom to the playing field. We know that our children are developing into the critical thinkers and innovators, leaders and visionaries New Orleans needs. We also know that there remains a lot of room to improve in our educational landscape. Students and educators alike need more support. That’s where our community comes in; local organizations and individuals are eager to provide it. So together with NOLA-PS, we commissioned the “New Orleans School Partnership Study,” and report to discover our students’ most urgent needs and the

most strategic ways to meet them. We heard from families, educators, and community providers about the need for mental health counseling, trauma-informed teaching, and support for students learning English and students with special needs. We also heard that teachers needed support to stay in their roles and develop as professionals. Researchers recorded this feedback and gained additional, related data. They looked across our city and identified the resources that currently exist to meet many of those needs, and their capacity. Then, they landed on recommendations for moving forward that help address the gaps we face and help meet our collective goals. As philanthropists and community organizations look to make the most of their time and giving, this report is both a guide and a call to action. In these pages, we find cause for urgent work and hope for what we can build when we come together. Sincerely,

Andy Kopplin President and CEO, Greater New Orleans Foundation

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 3

A Message From Superintendent Lewis We at NOLA Public Schools know that there is a tremendous opportunity to harness the collective power of the community to support our schools citywide. Our educators have been working for years in partnership with many community-based partners to fill vital service gaps and offer varied programming to our children across the city. The organic collaborations have yielded inspiring and powerful innovations and our children have made meaningful gains in how much they are learning, in their access to varied experiences, and in how many are going on to achieve success beyond high school. Yet, we also know that in the past our efforts across a bifurcated system have been decentralized and have not had the opportunity to benefit from centralized focus, coordination and investments to tackle some of our most entrenched problems, many of which stem from a history of racial inequity that today we stand committed to addressing headon across New Orleans. That is why we at NOLA Public Schools welcomed the opportunity to work with the Greater New Orleans Foundation to review where more support and coordination is needed to help our schools increase their impact now and in the years to come. The results of the study highlight four areas where our schools need additional resources, coordination, partnership and investment. Helping ensure we have a robust and well trained teacher workforce, sufficient expertise and tools to support students with disabilities, the right type of resources and expertise to address 4 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

the mental and behavioral needs of our students, and environments that are welcoming to students new to our country are vital priorities. Over the past year, NOLA Public Schools has already begun working to build better systems of support, in collaboration with community partners, in these areas. For example, the district has: • Invested in building staff capacity to train schools citywide on becoming a trauma-informed school to help address the social and emotional needs of students through a partnership with the New Orleans Health Department and Tulane University; • Planned to offer training opportunities for teachers citywide to become certified mentor teachers so that they have more career development opportunities and support new teachers in improving their practice; • Begun bringing schools together to help them improve how they serve English-language learners and their families based upon a strategy built in collaboration community partners; and • Redirected financial resources to expand specialized programs for students with specific cognitive disabilities and hired specific staff to help families access those programs. These are just a few of the activities aligned to the four priorities highlighted in the report that are already underway. As the report underscores, we know more investment is needed to address these

and classrooms across the city. Together we will build a stronger New Orleans for our children and I look forward to building new solutions and partnerships directly related to the outcomes of this important research. In Service,

Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. Superintendent, NOLA Public Schools

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 5


critical gaps in talent and resources. And that is why we at NOLA Public Schools are excited to address these areas in tandem with our philanthropic and communitybased partners. Today, we have the opportunity to build new and innovative solutions to strengthen our school system and I am grateful for the support of our friends at the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and all others who want to engage in conversation on these topics. My administration has been working this past year to build strategies based upon the current resources available but we know more is needed to help reach more students

What New Orleans’ Students Need, and How Our City Can Help A high school senior is a drum major in the band, and he feels loved and supported at school. This weekend, he witnessed a shooting right outside his door. He shows up for class on Monday and pretends that everything is fine.

themselves struggling to manage it all.

This is our reality.

A second grader loves building Lego towers and helping her classmates with science projects. In English class, however, she struggles; she can’t yet read basic words and keeps crumpling up her worksheets.

Our students are phenomenal. They are learning and growing each day. They also carry great burdens and face real challenges. They deserve help when they need it. No one person or group can provide that help alone—not a parent, teacher, school, or nonprofit—but together, we can be there for our children.

A young man is quick to make his friends laugh and is three grade levels ahead in math. He has just fled violence in his home country, and while he’s excited for the education, community, and stability school will provide, he doesn’t yet speak English.

At the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), in partnership with NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS), we wanted to hear what our students and schools needed most and figure out how our community could help provide it.

There is one counselor shared across all three of these students’ schools. Like each of them, she’s working incredibly hard—but she’s exhausted, and this is her first year on the job.

We sought to foster educational equity by supporting NOLA-PS’s work to raise the achievement of all students while erasing the ways in which their academic outcomes differ based on race, ethnicity, income, disability, and native language.

These students’ teachers had a half-day training on social-emotional learning over the summer, but as they try to help children meet rigorous standards, they struggle to address all their students’ additional needs. They arrive at school at six am and leave at six pm, but there’s still so much to do when they get home. Coaches and band directors find themselves serving as therapists; principals find

6 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

So this report answers a few questions: what are the biggest needs our students face, and how are they being addressed? What can citywide organizations, like nonprofits, do to help schools address them? How will we be able to tell if that support worked? The answers provide a roadmap for action our city can take going forward.


New Orleans School Partnership Study | 7

Executive Summary New Orleans schools have made progress in recent years, but there is still a long way to go to produce a district in which all our children get an excellent education. Our work was informed by the historical context behind today’s system, including the structures of racial inequity created by decades of national and local policy, within and outside of education. It also considered the present conditions of our schools, or the current state of student experience, as influenced by that history. We know that in our country, students from low-income neighborhoods and students of color are segregated into schools and districts with fewer resources and higher needs. We can imagine an “educational debt” owed to students that takes into account what students are owed based on both past and present educational disparities (Ladson-Billings, 2006). This concept, coined by scholar Gloria Ladson-Billings, also involves the concept of “interest,” in which additional resources are needed to address present conditions and past underlying inequities. In taking action now, we aim to “pay down” that debt. Within this context, we know that helping our students meet their academic goals will require strengthening our academics and supporting our educators. We must do more to help our children meet state standards; many are far behind and still not reaching basic or mastery on the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP). The leadership and expertise of our teachers will bring students toward mastery; we must support them, too. To reach educational excellence, we must

8 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

also provide the full range of supports our students deserve, from social-emotional learning to mental healthcare and beyond. We know it is hard for children to focus on class when they are grieving, frightened, stressed, learning a new language and culture, or working with a disability. If our city is to make significant academic improvement, schools need additional resources and partners to help address the needs students bring to school each day. Alongside our children, schools are carrying so much and working so hard. They deserve help, too. So we talked with students, teachers, families, schools, and local organizations. We asked them how outside organizations, like nonprofits, could join in and help schools and educators as they supported students. We knew that some schools in our city would have students with “higher needs,” who faced particular educational inequity and needed more support. These were students whose families made less money, who were Black or Latinx, who were learning English, or who had disabilities. We wanted to find ways to direct services toward their schools in particular. We knew there were many nonprofits and local organizations, or “service providers,” that wanted to help fill the gaps. These were arts and academic enrichment organizations, youth sports organizations, groups that provided counseling, and more. Some of them were already working in schools and were at capacity. Others still had room to grow and wanted to be working with more children. Our job was to figure out what schools


needed most. Then, we needed to identify those organizations that might be right to help. To do so, we conducted surveys and had conversations in focus groups.

Parents, students, teachers, and service providers told us that our schools and students need a number of things: • Students have a wide range of mental health needs. Schools need more certified, licensed personnel, like counselors, to support them. This was a priority according to educators and parents alike. • Students must be set up to emotionally and socially thrive. • Students learning English (“English Language Learners” or “ELLs”) need more help accessing grade-level academic content. • Students with disabilities need extra support. • Students need excellent teachers who are well-prepared and culturally competent, and who stay in their schools.

Based on our conversations, we saw that some resources already existed in our community, but many could not fully meet schools’ and students’ needs. • Counseling for trauma and mental health wellness support exists from community providers, but there’s not enough to go around for all the children that need it. • There are community-based organizations that help with students’ social and emotional development, but they only have capacity to reach about one-third of students in our schools. • Students in the special education program need support, but communitybased providers are currently only able to provide additional supports for onefifth of the special education students that need them. • There are a number of academic programs for English Language Learners, but sometimes they’re not easy for students to access (because of transportation issues, cost, or a lack of awareness). • Schools still need to hire more great new

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 9

teachers, especially teachers of color. Schools must also support all teachers and help them feel able to stay in their roles, allowing them to develop into more experienced, effective educators. • We need to help teachers more strongly support all their students by better understanding them, particularly those who have different racial identities than they do, who have disabilities, who are still learning English, or who are dealing with trauma. • There are many organizations providing academic enrichment, but they only have the capacity to serve about half of the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students that need them. We considered what to do next. After discussion with many teachers, families, students, service providers, and others, we landed on some steps to take. • Help recruit great teachers for our schools, and make it sustainable and desirable for them to stay there. • Make sure teachers are culturally competent, valuing and understanding students’ culture and experience. Help them communicate with students, even those that have different experiences, racial or cultural identities, or economic circumstances than they do. • Survey students on how they feel about their teachers and schools’ cultural competencies, and include measures of their experiences in the Annual School Quality Profile that is part of NOLA-PS’s annual review of schools. • Find ways for current service providers to provide high-quality support to more schools and students. • Connect service providers with schools that don’t already work with them. • Invest in school-based clinicians, such as social workers or counselors, who can provide trauma-informed care.

10 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

• Give educators the evidence-based training and implementation support they need to better serve students with disabilities, students learning English, students experiencing trauma, and students with other mental health needs. • Make sure students learning English can access academic enrichment programs, and create a systemwide “newcomer center” that provides them with intensive academic support. We can also make sure educators have the training they need to help improve academic outcomes for students learning English. • Make sure students with disabilities are truly able to participate in outof-school community programs, like afterschool enrichment. To make sure this happens, we will need: • To explore the potential to help schools and community based organizations organize the resources they have — including people, time and money — to support this work, and/or to make sure schools have enough resources to engage with additional service partners, provide professional development, and more. • To help schools partner with excellent support organizations. • To coordinate services across schools. • To make policy-level changes to support this process. Even if we do these things, we will still have a great deal of work to do in order to right the scales of inequity in our city and to help make schools better. This is a small but important part of helping our students, and we hope it will inspire continued action to provide the education they deserve. In this report, we take a deeper look at these issues, and cover the nuanced story of what our schools need and how our city can better provide it.


New Orleans School Partnership Study | 11

Report: New Orleans Schools Partnership Study In New Orleans, we have made educational progress in recent years, but hard work remains. At GNOF, together with NOLAPS, we wanted to continue to improve education in our city by making the most of the help offered by community partners, like nonprofits. We learned that we needed to focus on partnerships that could support students who have experienced trauma, students with special needs, and students learning English. We examined how schools could offer more social-emotional learning, and we looked at how schools can find, develop, and keep diverse and excellent teachers. From the fall of 2018 through the spring of 2019, our researchers at ERS, Square Button, and Spears Group studied the schools, direct service organizations, and other partners working to meet the needs of nearly 44,700 New Orleans public school students. They collected and analyzed data. They listened to stories from students, parents, and educators. They hoped to find out what students needed most that out-of-school partners could provide. They also wanted to see which schools had the greatest needs, and how those needs looked different from one school to the next. Then, they strategized about how to provide support equitably across schools. When these researchers talked to students, parents, educators, and others that worked in schools, they heard one thing loud and clear—trauma counseling and mental health services were critical and in too short 12 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

supply. Sometimes, students were being diagnosed as having special needs, when really they were reacting to trauma.

One student said, “you won’t know about a counselor unless you have medicine; we don’t have enough social workers for everyone who has problems.” Teachers said they were often left to serve as therapists, even though they don’t have the training. They wanted professionals, like social workers and counselors, who were better able to handle mental health issues. They felt their students deserved it. They also felt that if they were able to focus primarily on teaching, it would help more students grow and learn. Parents, service providers, and community members also felt students with special needs deserved schools and out-of-school programs with more resources to support them. They wanted to make sure parents knew the full range of accommodations their child could receive and were able to advocate for them.

The State of New Orleans Public Schools New Orleans public schools have improved a great deal academically in the last fifteen years, but there is still a long way to go. In

New Orleans Public Schools 2016-17 All Public Schools

82% Black

85% Economically Disadvantaged

73% C, D or F Schools

Excluding “Concentrated Advantage” Schools

88% Black

90% Economically Disadvantaged

82% C, D or F Schools

Concentrated Advantage: Student population >20% white and <=60% ED Source: (Louisiana Department of Education, 2017). School grade excludes one school without school grade data (Wilson Charter).

the 2004-2005 school year, only 6% percent of New Orleans students achieved “Mastery” or above on the LEAP. By the 2016-17 school year, 25% scored at that level (Babineau, K., Hand, D., Rossmeier, V., 2018).

majority of white students attending private schools in Orleans and surrounding parishes; today, one-quarter of New Orleans students are in private schools (Beaubout, B., Webster, K., 2019).

This marks both striking progress and significant room to grow. We need more great educators to lead this growth. New Orleans has higher teacher turnover than many districts nationwide, as well as a higher share of novice teachers than the state average (ERS, 2018; EdFuel, 2018).

In 2017, 82% of NOLA-PS’s students were black and 85% were economically disadvantaged (Louisiana Department of Education, 2017). A small number of schools, however, serve far fewer black students and students that are economically disadvantaged. Some of these schools have selective admissions, like entrance tests. These schools tend to have higher graduation rates, higher college enrollment rates, and are more likely to have an “A” rating from the state (Louisiana Department of Education, 2017).

Racial inequity plays a significant role here. Historically and today, educational opportunity has not been evenly distributed along lines of race, socio-economic status, disability, and language. The process of reaching equity must take systemic racism into account in order to counter centuries of inequity. As a result of “white flight,” Black students are heavily concentrated in NOLA-PS, with the vast

Other schools have higher-than-average shares of Black students, economically disadvantaged students, or English Language Learners. Our researchers found that, in general, the more Black students and economically disadvantaged students a school had, the more likely that school

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 13

Impact of Socioeconomics on Schools “Concentrated Advantage”

All Other K-8



Percent Schools with “A” Grade



Out-of-School Suspension Rate



LEAP ELA Proficiency (Mastery or Above)



Total Number of Schools

Concentrated Advantage: Student population >20% white and <=60% ED Source: (Louisiana Department of Education, 2017) (Orleans Public Education Network & Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, 2017).

was to have a higher proportion of novice teachers (NOLA-PS, 2019). Certain alternative schools in New Orleans are designed to serve a particular group of students, such as those who had been expelled, those who are incarcerated, or those who are parents or employed.

not fully addressing students’ needs. We wanted to figure out to what degree existing organizations were meeting those needs, and where they needed more capacity. To do so, we conducted surveys of youth-serving community organizations in January and February of 2019. We then focused on the aspects of those surveys that related to our four prioritized areas of need.

What Organizations Exist To Support Our Students?

Trauma counseling and mental health services

We set out to determine what needs our schools and students had. We brought together a group of representatives from schools, community-based organizations serving youth, education advocacy organizations, philanthropists, and NOLAPS. Together, we prioritized four categories where those needs might exist:

The need: It became clear that there is a significant need for mental health support in particular. Parents felt that the number one priority for service providers was grief and trauma counseling. Students deserve both counseling itself and classrooms where educators are aware of their trauma and able to support them appropriately.

1. Trauma counseling and mental health and wellness services

What exists today: Based on our surveys, we found that trauma counseling and mental health services from community providers is inadequate compared to the need in our community. Schools partner with mental health providers more than any other type of service, but even

2. Social-emotional programming (classes which teach social-emotional skills within academic instruction) 3. Special education services 4. Academic support We knew there were many communitybased resources in our city, but they were 14 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

so, educators felt that mental health services were the most pressing need not currently being met by outside service providers. • 29 community-based organizations offer mental and behavioral health services, social-emotional learning services, or conflict resolution and violence prevention services. Only seven of these organizations offer counseling. » They can currently reach around 4,600 students each month. » Roughly one-third are free of cost, but the rest provide financial assistance. » A little over half partner with at least one school. • Seven additional organizations provide counseling alone. » They can reach around 1,300 students each month. » Just over half are free, and those that aren’t provide financial assistance. » The vast majority partner with at least one school.

Social-emotional programming The need: Students need more “socialemotional academic development,” in which they learn academic content alongside social-emotional skills. Schools could offer more time for advising, interventions, and mentorship. What exists today: Based on our surveys, we found that social-emotional programming from community based providers has capacity to reach, at most, one-third of students. • 47 local organizations provide mentoring and social-emotional learning services. • They can reach around 12,400 students monthly. • Half are free of cost, but most of those that charge offer financial assistance.

• Around half partner with at least one school.

Special education services The need: Schools also needed help supporting their students with special education needs. They needed to provide a strong education in the least restrictive environment possible, while making sure they have the supports they need to thrive. Students need schools that are able to identify special needs early on, and whose staff has the knowledge, expertise, and resources to make sure students aren’t misdiagnosed by racial or other bias. Students with disabilities also need equitable access to enrichment programs, from within schools and from partners. What exists today: Schools are required to provide certain services and accommodations for students with disabilities. Based on our surveys, we found that non-school, community-based providers help support students with special needs, but they can currently reach, at most, one-fifth of the students that need them. • Six local community-based organizations provide additional support for students with special needs. • They can only reach about 1,000 students monthly. • Half of these community providers are free, but most of those that aren’t offer financial assistance. • Around 80% partner with at least one school.

Academic support We saw a clear need: Most students between kindergarten and 8th grade are not proficient on the state LEAP exams (Louisiana Department of Education, 2017). They need academic support, like tutoring and personal instruction. What exists today: Based on our surveys, we found that academic support from

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 15

community providers reaches, at most, just half of the K-8 students that need it. • 42 local providers currently offer literacy programming, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming, and tutoring for K-8 students. • Currently, they can only reach around 7,000 students monthly. • The majority of programs require some payment from students or schools, but most of those programs offer financial assistance. • Most are after-school programs. • About half partner with at least one

K-8 school.

Academic support for English Language Learners The need: English Language Learners require more academic support as they strive to both learn English and meet academic standards. Some schools have particularly high numbers of English Language Learners. What exists: Support for English Language Learners is available, but other barriers exist, such as students lacking transportation to programs or lacking awareness of the program.

“As a system of schools focused on parental choice and school accountability, OPSB has forged new pathways to ensure equitable enrollment of students, address expulsions and protect student rights, and provide additional resources and settings to support the individual needs of all students.” Orleans Parish School Board

Schools & Community

Central Office

NOLA-PS’s Role in New Orleans Schools The school system is the authorizer, regulator, steward of financial resources and works to address systemwide challenges.

98% of dollars are allocated to schools and 2% are used to support district functions

The district assesses schools on based upon a set accountability, and renews or non-renews them based upon their performance.

The central office centralizes specific functions and processes as necessary (e.g., enrollment and expulsion) to ensure equity and enable efficiency

Charter operators use school resources to open and run schools to the best of their abilities

Students and families choose the best schools for them

Effective schools attract more students and thrive; schools that cannot sustain enrollment close

Source: (Eric Seling, personal communication, October, 2018) (Mary Garton, Amanda Aiken & Dina Hasiotis, personal communication, February-April, 2019).

16 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

The need, based on focus groups and/or quantitative analysis

Do other districts nationally face this challenge?

How does this challenge relate to the unique structure of New Orleans’ system?

Far more students need help navigating trauma than schools are able to support, and not enough schools offer socialemotional instruction

Yes — most urban, high-poverty schools struggle with this

This problem is not related to New Orleans’ structure; it is a struggle in many communities across the country

Students with disabilities are sometimes in schools without the full ability to support them

In some ways — teachers for students with disabilities are hard to find, but most districts have central programs for lowincidence disabilities

This is partially related to our structure; in most districts, the central office would plan and oversee special needs programs (but those programs aren’t always effective)

Students who are learning English need special support to learn on grade level

It depends — some districts have strong, differentiated programs for English Language Learners across their schools; others don’t

This is partially related to our structure; in order to make a central “newcomer center” for English Language Learners, for instance, NOLA-PS may have to make some shifts

The most effective, experienced teachers aren’t distributed evenly across schools

Yes — many districts face this same issue, with the more effective, experienced teachers in schools with the lowest needs

This is partially related to New Orleans’ structure, in that teachers are not recruited at a central district level

• 22 organizations provide academic programming and serve ELL students. • They can currently reach around 9,200 students monthly. • 43% are free of cost, and most others can provide financial assistance. • About three quarters currently partner with at least one school.

So how can we help? The needs We believe that many of the organizations we looked at are doing great work with children, and as a city, we need more community based providers like them

to help meet students’ needs. This is important; the right support can make a big difference for our students. They would help us achieve our vision of a New Orleans in which children’s schools, communities, and homes are set up for them to thrive, and in which they have a consistent, high quality, well-rounded education. In this New Orleans, students would be prepared for both college and careers. They would feel motivated, valued, and like they belong in school. After assessing the landscape, we thought about what we heard from families, students, teachers, and schools. We took in the needs they told us about and the organizations that are trying to address them. We saw these needs through a lens of

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 17

equity, knowing that New Orleans’ public school students have experienced—and continue to experience—racial, economic, and sociopolitical injustice. Every solution can be part of addressing that, and paying back the “educational debt” they are owed (Ladson-Billings, 2006). From all this, we landed on four urgent needs that require citywide attention: • Students need more great teachers in their schools. • Students should be set up to thrive, socially and emotionally. • Students with disabilities should be a priority, and they should get a rigorous education in settings that meet their needs. • Students that are learning English should also be prioritized and educated in ways that are both rigorous and inclusive.

The right context to address them Before we could suggest solutions, we needed to better understand what NOLAPS’s role could look like in all of this. New Orleans’ school system is different than any other, and so it will play a different role in effecting change. In New Orleans’ education system today, 98% of public education money goes to schools themselves. Only 2% goes to the central NOLA-PS office (Seling, 2017). This reflects a philosophy of our system; schools should have a great deal of freedom around their own operations. Even so, NOLA-PS has a critical role. It helps “authorize” schools to launch or stay open, and it runs citywide processes like enrollment, so that children have equitable access to schools. NOLA-PS is responsible for carefully monitoring the performance of each school, making sure that changes are made or schools are closed if students 18 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

aren’t being educated well. It also addresses expulsions, protects students’ rights, and provides additional resources to support students’ individual needs. This makes a difference in our community; students and families have more choice in picking the schools that their children will attend, not just the ones that are in their neighborhood. Today, the district runs an increasingly effective group of highperforming schools. Given our model, we face some problems in the same way as other districts and, in other cases, we experience those problems differently. Because we are decentralized, it can be harder to provide system-wide support and accountability than it would be in a traditionally-structured district. We examined how our structure influenced the needs we were trying to address. Given this unique structure, we thought about which solutions and supports would be best delivered by NOLA-PS, and which might be provided by other organizations. We took a closer look at the history of the following issues and what can be done to address them. We also investigated what partners might be able to help.

Helping children thrive socially and emotionally, and supporting them in processing and healing from trauma Nationally, children of color and children experiencing poverty are at a higher risk of trauma, defined by the American Psychological Association as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster (n.d.).” (Leary, J.D., 2005; DeGruy, J., Kjellstrand, J., Briggs, H., Brennan, E., 2012). Experiences of racism and stereotyping, within and outside of schools, can compound this. The presence

DHHS Cultural Competence Model

Practicing culturally competent instruction enables educators to better meet students’ academic and social-emotional needs. For the purposes of this work, we use a definition adapted from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This definition provides three dimensions of cultural competence within social-serving organizations. 1. A cognitive component, which emphasizes educators’ critical awareness of their own biases and knowledge of the unique identities of the students they serve



2. A behavorial component, which emphasizes educators’ specific skills and practices to learn about students’ culture and use that culture as a basis for learning


3. An organizational component, which emphasizes the role of organizational support to promote ongoing awareness, knowledge, and skill development

Source: (Ladson-Billings, 1995) (Calzada, E. & Suarez-Balcazar, Y., 2014)

of stereotyping and racism also means that students of color and those they love are more likely to be over-policed, pushed out of school, and criminalized, which increases the risk of trauma (Caldwell, L., McDaniel, M., Quigley, M., 2017). New Orleans’ students experience trauma from this economic and sociopolitical oppression, as well as from a high exposure to violence (Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies, 2015; New Orleans Police Department, 2018). The city doesn’t yet have a clear way to centralize or track how schools are providing social-emotional support to address these issues, or how much they’re helping children process trauma. Here’s the status of social-emotional learning and trauma support in our schools: • Many of our children experience trauma. • Some schools offer social-emotional instruction, but others do not. • School staff aren’t always trained to recognize trauma or teach in a trauma-

informed way. • The City of New Orleans, Tulane University, and NOLA-PS won a $500K grant to help put traumainformed practices into place at schools between the 2019-2021 school years (Nobles, 2019). Our children need us to address these things. They deserve access to trauma and grief counseling. They also deserve socialemotional learning, in which social and emotional skills like social awareness and self management are fully integrated into rigorous academic instruction that meets state standards (Aspen Institute Education & Society Program, 2019). Additionally, they deserve schools that understand their trauma and acknowledge racism. Educators should be able to practice “trauma informed” care and teaching, which means their interactions with students are informed by an understanding of the impact of traumatic situations—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Educators using “trauma informed” approaches teach and care for

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 19

High Attrition Equals More Novice Teachers NOLA Public Schools



Years of Experience


9% 10%

25+ 16-24

Rest of Louisiana 8-15






4-7 0-3

Source: (EdFuel, 2018)

the whole child (Ginwright, 2018). Unfortunately, the high number of our students who have experienced trauma means there’s not enough community-based care for the students that need it. Just fourteen community-based organizations offer counseling, and their services are inadequate to meet all our students’ needs. So what can we do? Our research led us to a few recommendations: • Help organizations that offer socialemotional academic programming serve more children. • Invest in more school-based mental health professionals, like social workers and counselors, that can provide traumainformed care. • Help schools collaborate, so that educators can share best-practices in trauma-informed teaching. • Get external partners, like nonprofits, to provide professional development and support in providing trauma-informed

20 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

care and teaching. • Help schools review discipline policies, classroom behavior supports, and ways to implement a socialemotional curriculum. All of these changes will require significant skills and resources be put into place. When we assessed our education landscape, we felt that NOLA-PS, charter management organizations, and schools, with the collaboration of the New Orleans Children and Youth Planning Board, could help plan and/or manage many of these shifts. They could ask organizations like the New Orleans Career Center, the Youth Empowerment Project, Urban League of Louisiana, the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans and more to help implement trauma counseling and provide social-emotional learning support. It is important to check in on the progress of any changes we make. To do so, we could look into how rates of trauma change over time. We can also track shifts in discipline rates across schools, schools’ growth in

social-emotional learning, and how students feel about their school and teachers.

Getting more excellent teachers in New Orleans Public Schools Low pay and poor school funding makes it hard to keep great teachers in the field. Nationally, the gap between teachers’ salaries and those of similar professions has grown significantly (Economic Policy Institute, 2018). In 2017 in Louisiana, the average teacher salary (without benefits) was around 7% below a family living wage (defined as the minimum income to cover basic expenses based on local costs) (Education Resource Strategies, 2018). Though New Orleans has a slightly lower student-to-teacher ratio than the average district nationally, many challenges remain when it comes to recruiting and retaining an excellent group of educators. Here’s the reality of the teaching force in New Orleans: • There is a higher percentage of novice teachers than in many other districts nationwide, and schools with the most black and economically disadvantaged students are the most likely to have a majority of novice teachers (ERS, 2018; EdFuel, 2018). • Some schools do not have formalized structures in place for teachers to advance in their careers while staying in the classroom. • New teachers need consistent support and development to thrive, and the lack thereof can lead to turnover. • The teaching force could better represent the racial makeup of the students they teach. • Representatives of communitybased organizations that partner with schools and education advocates told us that some teachers lack “cultural competence,” which involves their awareness of their own biases, as well as their knowledge of their students’

unique identities (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Cultural competence also requires they learn about their students’ culture and use that as a basis for learning (Ladson-Billings, 1995) (Calzada & Suarez-Balcazar, 2014). According to those community representatives, some teachers don’t have the cultural competencies they need to respectfully and effectively interact with students and families. • Strong school leaders are needed citywide to attract great teachers and help them grow. Our children need us to address these things—they need teachers who are able to stay in their school and grow, and whose principals help them do so. They also need more teachers of color and culturally competent teachers. So what can we do? Our research led us to a few ideas: • Help schools find the time and resources to better support and develop their teachers, and help them develop cultural competencies. • Help school teams collaborate, so that school leaders can share their best ideas on hiring, retaining, and supporting teachers. They should also be able to share best practices around growing cultural competence among their teachers. • Consider partnerships with external groups, like nonprofits, to provide professional development and support for schools around both teaching and cultural competence. • Check in with students. Give them surveys that measure their schools’ cultural competence. When NOLA-PS reviews schools’ success, they can include robust measures of the student experience. These shifts will require significant skills and resources be put into place. New Orleans Public Schools could identify potential New Orleans School Partnership Study | 21

strategies for making many of these shifts. They could call on organizations like the Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools, Black Education for New Orleans, United Teachers of New Orleans, The New Teacher Project, New Schools for New Orleans, and Teach For America for help. We will need to constantly check in on if any changes we make are working. We’ll need to ask how much schools are using the supports, and if they’re having a positive effect on children.

Supporting students with disabilities Schools were not required by law to provide students with disabilities an equal education until 1975 (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Service, 2010). There is a long way to go; nearly 45 years later, we still have not fully met that goal nationally. Students with special needs require our full support, as well as specialized instruction through their Individualized Education Plan, or “IEP.” The IEP includes shifts to a student’s learning process or material, through “accommodations” or “modifications,” that help them learn, grow, and access the general education curriculum. Nationwide, special education intersects with issues of race. Students of color across our country are overdiagnosed with disabilities, or diagnosed with disabilities more than their white peers (Camera, L., 2017), and often, when they do actually have a disability, they are not provided with the treatment and care they need (Morgan, P., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M., 2015). Because of the way New Orleans Public Schools are structured, schools have the flexibility to provide educational environments that best meet their students’ unique needs, but it is harder to know the quality or consistency of instruction across schools. NOLA-PS, importantly, gives more funds to schools for every child with

22 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

a disability.

This allows schools to better provide the support those children deserve. New Orleans’ central office invests $5,200 per student with disabilities at the district level, compared $1,600 in the typical central office nationwide (ERS, 2018; Orleans Parish School Board, 2018). Here’s the reality of special education services in New Orleans, according to the families, students, and community-based service providers we spoke to: • Because the highest needs students are not all at the same school, resources and staff expertise are “spread thin.” • In interviews with our researchers, families, students, and community-based service providers said that students with disabilities don’t have equitable access to great teaching that is adapted to the way they learn; some schools are better at doing so than others. • In interviews with our researchers, families, students, and community-based service providers also said they had concerns that students might be misdiagnosed with special needs. • Out-of-school enrichment programs aren’t fully able—or given the resources to—meet the needs of students with disabilities. Our children with disabilities deserve for us to address these things—they need to be in classes with their peers as often as possible, while also having the shifts and supports that help them learn best. Their disabilities should be supported early on, and school staff need the knowledge and resources to identify if they’ve been misdiagnosed. In focus groups with community-based service providers, we found that students with disabilities also need equitable access to community-based enrichment programs. Unfortunately, today, community-based

services that support students with special needs are only reaching about one-fifth of the students that need them.

Supporting students who are learning English

So what can we do? Our research led us to a few ideas:

Many children who have immigrated to this country arrive at school without knowing how to speak English. Since 1968, schools have been able to receive federal funding to help support English Language Learners (Bilingual Education Act, 1967).

• Make it easier for students with disabilities to be included and meaningfully participate in communitybased programs. • Get external partners, like nonprofits, to provide professional development and support around teaching students with disabilities. This could include bringing together special educators in “convenings” or providing technical assistance directly in schools. • Help educators build their capacity to effectively serve students with disabilities, and help schools find the time to give professional development to teachers around this. • Help school teams collaborate, so that they can share their best practices for serving students with disabilities. • On a citywide level, guide students with disabilities to enroll in those programs that have the ability to best educate them. All of these changes will require significant skills and resources be put into place. NOLA-PS, with the collaboration of the New Orleans Youth Alliance, The Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools, and the Special Education Leader Fellowship could plan and manage many of these shifts. They could use the services of organizations or schools like Community Works, the YMCA, the “Take the Lead” Foundation, Opportunities Academy, Urban League of Louisiana, and the Center for Resilience. Making these changes will require us to constantly check on if they’re working. We will need to ask how much schools are using the supports, and if they’re having a positive effect on children.

Here’s the status of support for English Language Learners in our schools: • Schools get extra funding for every student who is an English Language Learner. • Schools don’t consistently have bilingual staff and materials to support students and engage with parents who don’t speak English. • English Language Learners in middle and high school need more complex support to achieve academically. • Some schools have just a few English Language Learners or English Language Learners with different first languages. This means their teachers are less likely to gain practice and experience supporting English Language Learners. • Many community based enrichment programs don’t have the supports that would allow English Language Learners to meaningfully participate. Our English Language Learners deserve to participate in enrichment programs and be a part of learning communities with both other English Language Learners and native English speakers. They need teachers who are trained and prepared to educate them well and give them the resources they need. So what can we do? Our research led us to a few ideas. We can: • Create a citywide “newcomer center” that provides academic support and resources for English Language Learners. NOLA-PS could lead this process. • Get external partners, like nonprofits,

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 23

to help provide that professional development and assistance in serving English Language Learners. • Help schools coordinate and collaborate so that educators can share best practices for educating English Language Learners. • Help educators gain the skills and practice to better serve English Language Learners. • Help schools find the time to deliver professional learning for teachers on how to provide rigorous, gradelevel instruction for English Language Learners, which may include bilingual education and materials. All of these changes will require significant skills and resources be put into place. NOLA-PS, with the collaboration of Our Voice/Nuestra Voz and the New Orleans Youth Alliance, could plan and manage many of these shifts. They could ask for help from organizations like KidsmART, Community Works, and Young Audiences. It is important to check in on the progress of any changes we make. To do so, we can consider any change in LEAP scores of English Language Learners. We could also look at how many English Language Learners are enrolled in academic programs like tutoring and test preparation. If the newcomer center is created, we can check how many students use it and what they find most helpful there.

Facilitating these changes across all of our schools Because New Orleans schools are organized differently than anywhere else in the United States, putting these changes into place will require special considerations. NOLA-PS has less direct control over schools or how they use their resources. It will be important for them to look into how schools are currently funding work with students’ mental and social-emotional health, supporting English

24 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

Language Learners and students with disabilities, and finding, supporting, and keeping great teachers. Once we better understand this, we can most effectively recommend ways to use money even more efficiently and strategically. We’ll need to continue to bring together many groups, schools, individuals and organizations to think through change together.

So what’s next? To address the depth of students’ needs in New Orleans, we need to prioritize and take clear action. We can create partnerships across the city to take actions to address each category of need. We’ve prioritized twelve of those actions below as examples of what can be done. Where we think a local organization or entity might be able to take the lead, we have listed them in parentheses. Even though the influence of NOLA-PS is different in New Orleans than a central office in many systems nationwide, it still plays a crucial role, especially in policymaking, and many of these action steps begin with them: 1. Assess students’ experience of their schools’ teaching culture through a survey, and include measures of student experience in Annual School Quality Profiles. 2. Build educators’ cultural competence and ability to teach across lines of difference. 3. Make it more valuable for teachers to join the field and stay in the classroom. 4. Help educators better teach students with disabilities. 5. Help students with disabilities find the programs that are best able to meet their needs. 6. Make sure students with disabilities are able to participate in community services and programs, like enrichment programs. 7. Help educators deliver more trauma-

How City-Wide Actors May Support School-Level Actions

Coordinate services to and across schools

Help schools review existing resources and identify opportunities to prioritize or provide additional resources

Curate and certify high-quality partners to support the work

Develop and implement policies that support change

informed support for their students. 8. Help community based organizations that offer social-emotional academic programming serve more children. 9. Invest in having more therapists and counselors in schools that can provide trauma-informed care. 10. Help educators better teach students that are English Language Learners. 11. Create a “newcomer center� that provides intensive academic and socialemotional (or transition) support for English Language Learners. 12. Make sure English Language Learners are able to participate in academic enrichment programs. To take these actions effectively, we will need: 1. To engage in meaningful citywide partnerships. 2. To carefully consider how resources are used and to help schools effectively

use their individual funding toward our collective goals. 3. To make sure leaders prioritize the time and energy of their teachers. 4. To approach all our work while acknowledging past and present racism and inequity, and working to dismantle the impact of institutional racism still being experienced in schools today. 5. To establish cycles of setting goals and tracking progress so we can continually improve our work. We need structures through which success can be measured, tracked and reported to the broader public. 6. To gain a clear, complete picture of how schools are currently using their resources to meet students’ needs. 7. To estimate how much philanthropic support is needed for community-based organizations to expand to provide the support that schools and school networks need.

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 25

When it comes to “next steps,” there’s so much to do. To figure out which actions to take first, NOLA-PS, along with its philanthropic partners, like GNOF, and schools, must ask themselves some questions and come to some common understandings. This study was just the start of the process. We’ll need to get an even deeper picture of how resources are already being used in education in New Orleans. This will help guide our decisions about how much support to provide to each school. We will also need to consider some important questions. How likely is it that each idea will work? How much will they cost? And how many students will they reach? Then, we will need to identify what partners we will connect with, and what role they’ll each play. We’ll need to set goals and monitor our progress so we can continually get better.

26 | New Orleans School Partnership Study

Throughout it all, we must remember the “educational debt” owed to our students due to historical and present racism and inequity. As we move forward, we must always put the voices of students, families, and educators first. They are the experts. They know what it’s like to be in their schools each day. Our teachers are largely putting these changes into place, and our children are growing and working hard in their classrooms. This study aimed to let their voices be our guide, and as we take further action, we will listen to them every step of the way. We are grateful for the chance to support that work with these findings, and hope that our next steps can make things even better in every school. To conduct this study, we contracted with Square Button Consulting, LLC. This study was supported by Education Resource Strategies (ERS) and the Spears Group. We are immensely grateful for the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Baptist Community Ministries, the GPOA Foundation and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.


So where do we start?

References 1.

2. 3. 4. 5.




9. 10.



13. 14. 15.


Ladson-Billings, Gloria. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding Achievement in US Schools. Education Researcher, 37 (5) 3-12. Cowen Institute. (2018). State of Public Education in New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: Babineau, K., Hand, D., Rossmeier, V. Education Resource Strategies. (2018). ERS Proprietary Comparative Database. [Data files]. Watertown, MA: Education Resource Strategies. EdFuel. (2018). EdFuel New Orleans Citywide Teacher Retention Study - NOLA Teacher Data Baseline Request. [Data files]. Washington, DC: EdFuel. The Data Center. (2018). The New Orleans Prosperity Index: New Orleans Public Schools: An Unrealized Democratic Ideal. New Orleans, LA: Beabout, B., Webster, K. Louisiana Department of Education. (2017). Multiple Statistics By LEA For Total Public Students - Feb. 1, 2017. [Data files]. Retrieved from https://www. Louisiana Department of Education. (2017). Feb 2017 Multi stats (total by Site and LEA) and 2016-17 School Performance. [Data files]. Retrieved from https:// Louisiana Department of Education. (2017). 2017 LEAP Performance Summary, 2017 Statewide Equity Report, 2016-17 Graduation Rates, 2016-17 College Enrollment Report and 2016-17 School Performance. [Data files]. Retrieved from https://www. New Orleans Public Schools. (2019). Schools Database. [Data files]. New Orleans, LA: New Orleans Public Schools. Orleans Public Education Network, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. (2017). The New Orleans Education Equity Index: Equity Matters. A Look at Educational Equity in New Orleans Public Schools. New Orleans, LA: Converge, Orleans Public Education Network, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. Louisiana Department of Education. (2017). Percent of Students at Each Achievement Level for Spring 2017 LEAP Grades 3-8 Tests - By Subject, Grade, Subgroup. [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www. Ladson-Billings, Gloria. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding Achievement in US Schools. Education Researcher, 37 (5), 3-12. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Trauma. Retrieved from Leary, Joy DeGruy. (2005). Post traumatic slave syndrome: America’s legacy of enduring injury and healing. Milwaukie, Oregon: Uptone Press. DeGruy, J., Kjellstrand, J., Briggs, H., Brennan, E. (2012). Racial respect and racial socialization as protective factors for African American male youth. Journal of Black Psychology. 38 (4), 395-420. Association for Black Foundation Executives. (2017). Beyond Plight: Defining Pathways to Optimal Development for Black Men and Boys Across the Life Course. New York: Caldwell, L., McDaniel, M., Quigley,

M. 17. Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies. (2015). Emotional Wellness and Exposure to Violence. New Orleans, LA: Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies. 18. New Orleans Police Department. (2018). NOPD Calls for Service; retrieved November 26, 2018. [Data file]. Retrieved from 19. Nobles, W.P. (2019, March). Here’s how the Orleans School Board plans to help traumatized students. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved from https://www.nola. com/news/education/article_aad3a502-0289-53e8a8d8-e4777766f230.html. 20. Aspen Institute Education & Society Program. (2019.) Integrating Social, Emotional and Academic Development An Action Guide for School Leadership Teams. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute Education & Society Program. 21. Ginwright, Shawn. (2018) The Future of Healing: Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement. Medium. Retrieved from 22. Economic Policy Institute. (2006). The Teacher Pay Gap is Wider than Ever. Washington, DC: Allegretto, S. and Mishel, L. 23. Education Resource Strategies. (2018). Low Teacher Salaries 101: How we got here, why it matters, and how states and school systems can compensate teachers fairly and strategically. Watertown, MA: Katz, N., Apfelbaum, K., Frank, S. and Miles, K. 24. Louisiana Department of Education. (2018). 20072018 School-District-State Class Size Summary. [Data file.] Retrieved from https://www.louisianabelieves. com/resources/library/school-system-attributes. 25. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34 (3), 159-165. 26. US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. (2014) Enhancing Cultural Competence in Social Service Agencies: A Promising Approach to Serving Diverse Children and Families. Washington, DC: Calzada, E., SuarezBalcazar, Y. 27. U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Thirtyfive Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA. Washington, D.C.: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. 28. Morgan, P., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M., Maczuga, S. (2017). Replicated Evidence of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Disability Identification in U.S. Schools. Educational Researcher, 46, (6). 29. Morgan, P., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. (2015). Minorities Are Disproportionately Underrepresented in Special Education: Longitudinal Evidence Across Five Disability Conditions. Education Researcher, 44, (5). 30. Orleans Parish School Board. (2018). Defining Excellence: Orleans Parish School Board Adopted 2019 Consolidated Budget. New Orleans, LA. 31. New Orleans Public Schools. (2018), NOLA-PS 2018-19 Organizational Chart. New Orleans, LA. 32. Bilingual Education Act of 1968, Pub. L. No. 90-247, § 702–04, 81 Stat. 816–17.

New Orleans School Partnership Study | 27

Thank you to our partners

28 | New Orleans School Partnership Study