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Strong test performance lofts military charter into ranks of city’s elite schools

Students at the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy scored high on this year’s state end-of-course exams. More than 99 percent passed the tests, and the school beat statewide averages in all subjects by 10-to-15 percentage points.

Eighty-four percent of students had scores characterized as “good” or “excellent,” according to a chart principal Cecilia Garcia used in her presentation to board members at their monthly meeting, May 20.

Freshmen students took the Algebra I exam, while sophomores were evaluated in Geometry, English II, and Biology. Juniors were tested for proficiency in English III and U.S. History. Students who achieved good or excellent scores were treated to a day of games, volleyball, and other activities.

The test results will be reviewed by the state, but the preliminary scores were strong enough to delight the school as staff were informed, Garcia and commandant Bill Davis said.

“There was a fair amount of squealing coming out of Dr. Garcia’s office,” Davis said, describing the teachers’ reactions to the news. “We’re talking about double-digit increases, in many cases, from last year.”

Garcia estimated the school’s performance score would rise from 85.2 (in 2012-13) to around 103. She said that she had been conservative when factoring in the anticipated  results of four make-up exams, so that they would not hurt that overall average. Garcia said this would make NOMMA one of three A-rated high schools in New Orleans, along with Ben Franklin and Lusher.

Davis pointed out that student demographics did not significantly change in the past year. Garcia said the school’s at-risk population was currently 69 percent. But she stressed that NOMMA in no way fulfilled the stereotype of a military school in which students are dragged out of class for small infractions. The school was recently listed in a report by the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana as one of 10 area high schools that expelled no students.

Member Marcellus Grace asked whether the school’s military culture was a factor in the school’s success. Davis stressed the importance of NOMMA providing a “stable of good mentors” for students to choose from.

“Some things work for different people. But here, the structure, discipline, and consistency of purpose really works,” he said. “This is the stable point in their life.”

Davis said an important factor in the school’s success are the two weeks of professional development teachers attend before the school year begins.

Garcia mentioned the after-school tutoring sessions that teachers are required to provide. She said the entire staff helped support classes taking the end-of-course exams.

“Everybody took it seriously,” she said. “They saw the value of some of the interventions last year.”

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  • nickelndime

    NOMMA Commandant Davis needs to get a thesaurus. The word “stable” doesn’t work for me when referring to a group of good mentors. Not to worry though. Considering that NOMMA is a Type 2 BESE charter that was given the nod of approval by Paul Pastorek to his former law firm, Adams and Reese LLP, to form the nonprofit to charter the school, I am sure that the attorneys over there will give the commandant some pro bono guidance, not like what happened over at LYCÉE, with Lee C.ASH Reid’s “billable” hours.

  • nickelndime

    NOMMA: There is that word again, “Stable.” I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but is Ms. Garcia the Madam?!! Yes, it does appear that the commandant is “SOS” stuck on STABLE.