Touting dramatic gains in two years at two of the lowest-performing elementary campuses in Uptown New Orleans, officials with ReNEW Schools hope to pull the programs at the former Laurel and Live Oak sites in the Irish Channel out of “failing” status next year.
ReNEW will also begin operating its third Uptown campus, creating an accelerated high school for older students at the former Bauduit site in the 3600 block of Laurel, complete with a preschool for children they may have.
Improving the grades
In 2010, as RSD direct-run schools, Live Oak’s School Performance Score was 40 and Laurel’s was 45 — far beneath the benchmarks of 65 considered “academically unacceptable” at the time. The following year under ReNEW management, the Live Oak and Laurel were rechristened Batiste Cultural Arts Academy and SciTech Academy, respectively, and both jumped to a score of 61.
When this year’s scores are announced, ReNEW officials are predicting about a 68 for Live Oak/Batiste and a 71 for Laurel/SciTech — still beneath the 75 below which schools receive an F grade from the state, said ReNEW CEO Gary Robichaux earlier this month at the May meeting of the ReNEW governing board.
“It’s going to take us a few years before we get into the C’s,” Robichaux said. “Are we going to be an F this year when the schools come out? Yes, unfortunately that’s the reality of it.”
The current year’s gains, however, will position both schools to rise above the threshold of 75 in the next school year and beyond, Robichaux said.
“We’ll get above 75 next year and get a D,” Robichaux said. “It’s going to take us to 2015 to get into the C-range, and we’ll keep going from there too.”
This year’s scores are expected to have an added dimension that reflects not just students’ raw ability, but their growth over the year, Robichaux said. The new “value-added” factor, Robichaux said, should begin to tell a more complete story to parents about schools such as those in the ReNEW system that are making dramatic gains with students who are several grade levels behind.
Meanwhile, the coming year should represent growth on a number of other fronts as well, based on the ReNEW board’s discussions at the meeting.
ReNEW will be adding another prominent Uptown campus to its management next year, the Bauduit site in the 3600 block of Laurel, after the Arthur Ashe program managed by FirstLine schools moves to the new Bienville campus in the fall. Bauduit will become ReNEW’s accelerated high school to help educate over-age students, Robichaux said, and has also been selected for a free Recovery School District preschool, so that Bauduit students who have children of their own from birth to 3 years old will have a place to put them while they work toward their high school diploma. Bauduit teachers will also be able to use the preschool, but will have to pay to participate, Robichaux said.
Further, the Batiste campus was chosen as one of eight schools around the nation for the Turnaround Arts Initiative developed by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to “receive intensive arts education resources, expertise and the involvement of high-profile President’s Committee artists” such as Batiste’s sponsor, actress Alfre Woodard, according to the official announcement. Part of what earned Batiste the recognition was expanding the school day to include art instruction in the core curriculum, said ReNEW Schools President Kevin Guitterrez, and the program will create more opportunities to bring the art community into the school.
Finally, with an eye to the future, ReNEW leaders have recently changed the language of the school system’s mission. Where ReNEW previously sought to “transform academically unacceptable schools,” the system will now seek to educate “historically underserved students.”
The change serves two purposes, Robichaux said. First, it removes the words “academically unacceptable,” which referenced a former classification used by the state that’s no longer used. Second, and more broadly, it allows ReNEW the opportunity to operate schools that were once considered failing, but have since improved — just as officials hope to see with Laurel and Live Oak next year.
The board’s next meeting is set for 5 p.m. June 14 in the library of Batiste Cultural Arts Academy, 3128 Constance Street.