The International School of Louisiana will drop its language-readiness exam for incoming kindergarten students, but tighten mid-year admissions for first-grade students, officials said Wednesday night.
The school has — for the past four years since it began participating in the citywide EnrollNOLA program (formerly called OneApp) — administered a language-readiness exam to all incoming kindergarteners to assess their ability to learn either Spanish or French in a full-immersion setting. Starting this year, however, that exam will be dropped for incoming kindergarten and first-grade students, said CEO Melanie Tennyson in a board meeting Wednesday night.
“We no longer have any admissions screening for kindergarten,” Tennyson said. “We are a completely open enrollment school.”
At the same time, the school will begin requiring a French or Spanish assessment for students who come to the school for the first time after Sept. 1 of their first-grade year, just like upper-grade students. Previously, the school would accept any new first-grade students mid-year, but it has proven too difficult for them to land in a full-immersion setting after the beginning of first grade, Tennyson said.
“If they came in much later than that, it was really tough to catch up,” Tennyson said.
The school has grown to be one of the largest K-8 schools in the city, with 1,400 students spread across three campuses. The building on Camp Street — now called the “Uptown” campus — has 631 students in grades 3-8; the former Bethune building that ISL calls its “Dixon” campus has 431 students in grades K-2; and the Westbank campus has 336 children.
The school also accepted a student from Texas this week, a native Spanish speaker enrolled in an International Baccalaureate program there whose family moved to New Orleans after their home was destroyed in Hurricane Harvey. The student is in the eighth grade, and has two younger siblings too young for school, Tennyson said.
“They lost their homes in Harvey,” Tennyson said. “They lost everything.”
The school also briefly reviewed the results of state testing in the spring, which showed a 4-percent growth in math and language subject areas, Tennyson said. While those results did not include an analysis of science and social studies, Tennyon said she expects continued growth on the school’s A performance score.
The board lacked a quorum Wednesday night, with only three members attending, so Tennyson gave her report for informational purposes and no votes were taken.