April 28, 2015

Building Strong Foundations

As we near the end of the academic year and look toward the next, we are celebrating with our schools the successes they have seen in launching new, proven educational models to replace what were, unfortunately, some of the lowest performing schools in Louisiana.Our goal to provide more than 12,000 students access to great schools by 2017 began in earnest this year as four new schools launched in August. These schools are serving more than 1,500 students today and will, at scale, grow to serve more than 2,700. We are seeing strong evidence of change, but also realize that these historically low-performing schools will not become “A” schools overnight.The highlights of change this year are evident from the strong early parent demand, including enrollment waitlists at all schools, and now seeing high re-enrollment numbers. The schools also experienced strong community and parent support through attendance at school plays, festivals, and chess tournaments.Celerity Crestworth, Dalton, and Lanier are all transformation schools – which means the schools accepted all students who were previously enrolled. While students were generally far behind academically, the Celerity model of developing local educators to build relationships with students set up a partnership at the school where kids trust adults. This was partially achieved by returning to the fundamentals of reading and math, which allowed the teachers to encourage students to become invested in their own success. We expect to see students make even stronger academic growth next year now that the foundations of learning are in place and academic rigor can be layered on even more.Celerity has also prioritized building strong community partnerships, particularly with universities and local non-profits. For example, Celerity is partnering with LSU to forge a relationship where LSU students will complete student teaching requirements in Celerity’s schools. Celerity, City Year, and Southern are exploring a unique program whereby City Year corps members can complete their corps service at a Celerity school and City Year alumni earn a masters degree at Southern while teaching at Celerity.University Prep had the opportunity to literally raise academic expectations from the ground up. Starting with a kindergarten class, the UP team made clear that the road to college would begin there. Most students could barely identify 10 letters when they arrived in August. Today, more than half the students are reading on a first grade level. The school has several community members actively volunteering throughout the year to help with lunch, recess, and morning and afternoon bus pickups. This type of strong foundation, coupled with community support, has laid the necessary foundation for the school to continue to make an impact in the Glen Oaks neighborhood.Our proven schools know how to move students forward and the early evidence this year is similar to the experiences these models have achieved previously. It won’t happen overnight, but 2015 provided a strong start to new school options for kids in Baton Rouge.

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