Nahliah talks school equity on NPR: “So what we’re seeing is a segregation of sorts.”

Our Executive Director Nahliah Webber appeared on WWNO last week to talk about the Equity Index release, school governance, and the importance of data in student supports. Listen to the full interview here or check out the transcript:

When parents in New Orleans are deciding where to send their child to school, many of them use the letter grades schools get based on their student test scores.: ‘A’ for the schools with the highest scores, ‘F’ for those with the lowest.

But what about other factors: How equitable is the school? How experienced are its teachers? Are poor students getting the resources they need? And how equitable are New Orleans schools overall?

A new website called the New Orleans Education Equity Index seeks to help answer those questions. Nahliah Webber is executive director of the Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN), which helped create the index. The network held a panel on the new index Wednesday night at Propeller.

CLARK: Nahliah Webber, welcome.
WEBBER: Thank you thanks. for having me.
CLARK: So equity, that’s a big buzzword in education these days. What do you mean when you say equity?
WEBBER: So when we’re talking about matters of equity between schools, what we’re looking at is, do young people — given their needs and circumstances and exceptionalities — do they have what they need in order to be successful in an academic environment?
CLARK: Okay, so let’s talk specifics — can you talk about some of the factors that you chose to include in this index?
WEBBER: The categories are student characteristics — we want to know who are the students that are in these schools. We look at race, gender, socioeconomic status, if they’re English language learners, if they have exceptionalities, if they need access to special education services. We look at teacher characteristics: we want to know who are the educators that our young people are working with in learning from.
CLARK: One of the factors that the index looks at is per-pupil expenditures. The expenditures for students in A schools, schools rated A on the performance grading system, those students have the highest expenditures per pupil, and it dips down after — in the B
and C schools, those expenditures are lower. Can you talk about what we’re seeing there?
WEBBER: Well, first, the letter grade of the school correlates with the average socioeconomic status of the families in that school. Our poorest students are concentrated in the lowest performing schools. What we’re seeing here is the difference between the additional resources that families can bring to the table in addition to what they are receiving from the student funding formula.
CLARK: And how does that impact the students?
WEBBER: Well, we have students that have more needs with access to fewer resources.
CLARK: What are we seeing in terms of race across the district?
WEBBER: What we’re seeing is that African-American children make up the majority of the public school population in New Orleans — over 80% — but around 50% of the population in A schools, and 92 to 95 percent of the population of D and F schools. On the flip side, we see that white students, though they make up almost 10% of the student population, make up 28% of the population in in A schools. So what we’re seeing is a segregation of sorts between white and black students, where white students — very small population of the school — are highly concentrated in the top-performing schools and African-American students are concentrated in the lowest performing schools.

Nahliah Webber is Executive Director of OPEN, which helped create the New Orleans Education Equity Index. That’s a new website where parents and community members can go to find out how schools stack up against the rest of the district when it comes to equity. it was created through a partnership between the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, Converge, and OPEN. You can visit the website at


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