We know what works to provide better educational outcomes for all students, including high levels of funding, skilled and experienced educators, rigorous academic programs that teach history accurately and groom students for active political and civic life, and healthy and self- and culturally- affirming school environments. We have spent the last 154 years since Reconstruction, however, in our cities and states across the country actively avoiding equity and justice in our public education systems through inadequate policy and school-level practices that reproduce the same social inequities they are supposed to address.

Even after experiencing all of the school “reform” initiatives over the last six decades, from desegregation, to vouchers and now an all-charter school district, we continue to see the following in New Orleans…

  • 40% of schools have a teaching staff where the majority — over 50% — of teachers have less than 2 years of classroom experience
  • Over 40% of schools are rated either “D” or “F,” and those schools are over 95% Black and low-income
  • 64% of “A” rated schools have selective criteria admissions making most of the “best” schools in the city inaccessible to majority of the system’s students
  • Schools with higher concentrations of low-income students spend more to educate special education students than their higher ranked and better resourced peer schools
  • Black students are twice as likely to be suspended or expelled for the same infractions as white students, while low-income students are nearly twice as likely to receive longer punishments than their more affluent peers
  • Schools with higher percentages of ESL students have less access to bi-/ multi-lingual staff or access to document translation, leaving families in the dark about their civil, student and parental rights

Our More Than Scores platform calls for a systemic response to school-based practices that include a community-centered education system with schools that support the whole child- with the representation, resources, programs and restoration practices that affirm students’ identities, families and communities and provides a strong foundation for them to thrive throughout their lives.

In pursuit of this vision, we demand:

  • Academic rigor through culturally relevant and critical pedagogy — where students understand their history accurately and develop deep social awareness and analysis of their world today
  • A school performance evaluation system that takes into account the school’s progress in addressing inequities
  • Access to technical training and professional mentoring in middle and high school for high wage, high demand jobs and independent business development
  • Affirming, anti-racist, and joyful school cultures that in no way, shape or form are similar to prison or work plantation cultures or practices
  • Restorative practices that hold both students and schools accountable for positive learning environments instead of punitive practices that exclude and criminalize youth but do not push schools to be responsive or change
  • School-district level health and wellness services for students and families including access to college and life counselors, mental and physical health professionals and community health education
  • System wide standards for a high quality, culturally conscious, empathic educator and school leadership community
  • Per-pupil school funding that adequately provides for students’ unique abilities, needs and gifts
  • Prioritization of neighborhood student enrollment to strengthen school and community relationships and support family and school stability


It takes more than academics to educate a child. To develop healthily, persist through school and thrive as adults, children require a positive identity, a strong sense of self and safety, supportive adults and resources. It is the collective responsibility of schools, communities and families to create a foundation that prepares children to be their best selves for a better future while navigating a current world that is not always kind, just or fair.

What we witness in schools, though, suggests a rocky foundation for children:

  • According to its own metrics the system of schools in New Orleans is failing with over 40% of its schools rated “D” or “F”
  • Children are often subjected to conformist, highly regimented and punitive school cultures that do not prepare them for 21st century higher education, professional or social settings
  • Children screen positive for PTSD at three times the national rate- affecting their ability to learn and remember information — but less than a 1/3 of schools provide mental health services on campus
  • 40% of schools have a teaching staff where the majority — over 50% — of teachers have less than 2 years of classroom experience
  • Students in lower performing schools- majority of them Black and low income- are forced to do more with less as current school funding levels do not ensure academic success in high needs, high-poverty learning environments
  • Black students are twice as likely to be suspended or expelled for the same infractions as white students, while low-income students are nearly twice as likely to receive longer punishments than their more affluent peers
  • 63% of New Orleans public schools don’t provide document translation for non-English speaking families leaving them in the dark about their civil, student and parent rights
OPEN believes that the values, vision and resilience of community education — by and from the people, designed to correct past injustice — will propel our current public education system forward. So how did this year’s policy shape and codify community values in public schools?
  • Parental rights strengthened and rejuvenatedHB 387 (Edmonds) revises the Parents’ Bill of Rights for Public Schools, giving parents legally-defined access to free copies of their child’s records, school calendars, and any attendance or uniform fees. SB89 (Bishop) requires parent representation on each charter school governing or management board.
  • Education accountabilityHB509 (G. Carter) requires school boards to make presentations at public meetings relative to plans for schools in need of academic improvement. (Want to see more about accountability? Check out the materials from the 2018 Policy Breakfast, particularly OPSB’s Charter School Accountability Framework presentation.)
  • Letter grade contextsSB152 (Morrish) requires that any school performance scores received after a change to the evaluation methods also include the score or grade the school would have received had the change not been implemented.
  • A half-victory on restorative justice: Despite valiant efforts from advocates and supporters on behalf of Friends and Families of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), Senate Bill 465 (Bishop), which would have added restorative justice and positive behavior interventions as alternative methods to be used in lieu of suspension, did not pass. However, FFLIC successfully lobbied to become a part of the Advisory Council on Student Behavior and Discipline, and is moving the work along with an added focus on racial equity and student rights.
Want more? See the 2018 Louisiana Legislative Session overview or full 2018 education bill roster at the OPEN blog.