Even as education officials tout increases in test scores around Louisiana and in New Orleans, the only open-admissions school in Uptown New Orleans that exceeded state averages in any subject last year was New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School — and that was only in two of four subjects.
Among other high schools, New Orleans College Prep was only a few points off the state average in three of four subjects, and Eleanor McMain Secondary School generally trailed Prep by a few more points in each subject. But Sophie B. Wright Institute of Academic Excellence had decidedly mixed results, and the phasing-out Walter L. Cohen High School and the now-closed Sojourner Truth Academy scored even lower.
The state of Louisiana offers end-of-course exams to high school students in four subjects — Algebra, English, Geometry and Biology — and assigns grades at four levels: Excellent, Good, Fair and Needs Improvement. While any grade above “Needs Improvement” is sufficient to pass the grade, officials with the state Department of Education look at the proportion who score “Good” or “Excellent” to evaluate student achievement.
A breakdown of scores for each Uptown high school follows:
New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School | The school known as “SciHigh” bested state averages by just a few points in two subjects, Algebra and English. The school just missed the state average in Geometry, with 47 percent of students scoring Excellent or Good behind the state’s 50 percent, but was farther behind in Biology, with only 40 percent of students scoring Excellent or Good.
SciHigh also kept failing “Needs Improvement” grades to a minimum, ranging from a low of 10 percent failing Geometry to a high of 29 percent failing Algebra.
New Orleans College Prep | While College Prep — the charter operator taking over Cohen (see below) one grade at a time — did not meet the state averages in any subject, it was very close in all but one. English students were off by only three points, and the school was off by single-digit margins in Algebra and Biology. Its Geometry scores were low, however: only 25 percent even scored “Good,” compared to 50 percent statewide scoring “Good” or “Excellent.”
Like at Sci High, relatively few College Prep students failed the courses outright, ranging from a low of 12 percent in English to a high of 27 percent in Algebra.
Eleanor McMain Secondary School | English instruction was a high point at McMain, where 60 percent of students scored “Excellent” or “Good,” not far from the 66-percent statewide average. It missed that mark by 17 or 18 points in each of the other three subjects. McMain students failed the tests slightly more than SciHigh or College Prep, from a low of 18 percent in English to a high of 31 percent in Geometry.
Sophie B. Wright Institute of Academic Excellence | Sophie B. Wright’s scores defy easy classification. In Algebra, the number who scored “Excellent” or “Good” was only 8 points beneath the state average. In Biology, 37 percent scored “Good,” but none scored “Excellent.” But in English, only 34 percent scored “Good” and none “Excellent,” falling well short of the much higher state averages in that subject, and in Geometry only a dismal 4 percent even scored “Good.”
Failing grades were much more common at Sophie B. Wright as well, ranging from 21 percent scoring “Needs Improvement” in Biology to 39 percent in English and 58 percent in Geometry.
Walter L. Cohen High School | Where Geometry was a challenge for other schools, it was Cohen’s bright spot: 46 percent scored “Good” or “Excellent,” just shy of the statewide average of 50 percent. Cohen didn’t make it out of the teens in that measure for English or Biology, however, and did not report Algebra scores. The high school is being phased out year-by-year as College Prep takes over its campus.
Sojourner Truth Academy | Sojourner Truth, which surrendered its charter at the end of this past year in despair of being able to raise test scores, did not have more than 25 percent of students score “Good” or “Excellent” in any subject. Geometry was failed by 60 percent of students who took the test, and about 30 percent failed each of the other subjects.
Nearly all Lusher High School students — 97 percent or more in each subject — scored “Good” or “Excellent” on their end-of-course exams. Lusher students are required to maintain a “C” average in core academics to remain at the school, according to its handbook.