Magazine article District Administration

New Orleans' Schools Unite to Ease Dropout Rate

Magazine article District Administration

New Orleans' Schools Unite to Ease Dropout Rate

Article excerpt

A new agreement to fund programs that keep high-needs students on track from preschool through graduation marks the first formal partnership between two New Orleans' school systems that work side by side.

The Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District will share facilities and citywide educational services including a therapeutic center for students with severe mental health issues and a system to evaluate preschoolers with disabilities. The state of Louisiana took over and chartered most New Orleans schools--many of which were failing--after the 2005 hurricane destroyed 80 percent of public school buildings. The 90 schools within the district are now governed by one of three entities: the state-run Recovery School District, the Orleans Parish School Board or nonprofit charter operators.

"This is a great opportunity for the two governing bodies to show that we can work together and do what's best for providing services to children," says Stan Smith, interim superintendent of the Orleans Parish district.

Some 90 percent of students in the district are African-American, and 82 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. In 2012, the graduation rate for all New Orleans' schools was .78 percent, up from 54 percent in 2004. The agreement will create a citywide "exceptional needs fund" to help schools provide programs for students at increased risk of dropping out due to disabilities, chronic absences or criminal histories.

To start the fund, the OPSB will contribute $6. …

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