January 25, 2024

2024 - New Year. New Energy. Committed Focus.

Like most people, I get excited when I begin a new year. There is a sense of energy and optimism for the days ahead. In my youth, I would make a list of lofty goals to accomplish and plans on how to achieve them. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before my “new me” list got shorter and shorter as I realized I had bit off more than I could chew. What usually started as a spirited quest to achieve 20 goals surrendered to a disheartened acceptance of achieving one or two and resigning the rest to next year’s list.

Through the years, I’ve learned that channeling my new year’s energy and optimism into achieving one or two significant endeavors is more productive than dissipating it across a long laundry list of minor accomplishments. If you find one or two goals you are passionate about, putting in the time, energy, and effort to achieve those goals is a joy, not a labor, and the rewards are much more satisfying.

At New Schools for Baton Rouge, we are embracing the new year and tasks ahead with that same renewed energy, optimism, and mindset. We are singularly focused on working to ensure every child in our community has access to an excellent education.

Our commitment and focus for 2024 are buoyed by the successes and momentum created in 2023.  

2023 Highlights – Gaining Ground

- We opened two new schools in August – Great Hearts Academy and Baton Rouge Ochsner Discovery Health Science Academy

- The Louisiana Department of Education 2023 School Performance Scores (SPS) showed some positive gains and trends

- 78% of charter schools in EBR increased their SPS from 2022

- 67% of charter schools outperformed pre-pandemic SPS scores

- BASIS Materra was the only A-rated, non-magnet school in EBR

- Madison Prep was the highest-performing non-magnet, open-enrollment high school in EBR

- Charter schools in EBR showed an average growth rate for performance of 4 points

- Charter school enrollment in EBR increased by 3,017 students

- EnrollBR set a priority application period (Oct.-Dec.) record with 657 applications submitted

2024 Focus – A New Spirit of Collaboration and Partnership

In addition to the goals we establish each year of making more great school options available for kids in Baton Rouge, I am optimistic that we will usher in a new spirit of collaboration and partnership with our school district this year. While we have shared goals around ensuring every child in the city gets an excellent education, our work in establishing new charter schools that compete with the district for students and revenue sometimes places us at odds. Unfortunately, some in our community focus on exploiting the “district vs. charter schools” narrative, making the dissension between us appear greater than it is. Since they cannot refute the merits of our approach, they question the conviction of our motives.

We have real challenges to overcome in our schools that can only be resolved by working together. Among other things, we need new and more creative solutions for identifying and nurturing talent; we urgently need to turn around more than two dozen D or F-rated schools; we need to strengthen and expand early learning opportunities; and we must do a better job of preparing kids in high school for college or in-demand, well-paying jobs. We must do this against the backdrop of scarce resources requiring tough decisions and belt-tightening measures.

We know our work may continue to be a sore spot for some. However, we are committed to working with district leadership on addressing the most pressing systemic challenges that prevent children from experiencing success in school every day.

As we turn our focus to 2024, there will be many challenges ahead – some we can control and others we cannot - but in any case, we are dedicated to building a partnership that transforms the educational landscape of Baton Rouge. We can work together to harness the passion, expertise, and resources of national, state, and local entities and leaders to develop and implement innovative and successful education initiatives for the students and families of Baton Rouge.

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