VAYLA study reveals student concerns about quality of education at six city high schools

By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

Those with the greatest stake in the city’s educational system – its students – came together today with criticisms and recommendations for reform.

In what it’s calling the most extensive student-led evaluation of the New Orleans public school landscape since Hurricane Katrina, members of the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA) have released a comprehensive critique of six city high schools. The report, based on surveys of 425 students and 50 hours of interviews, was scheduled to be released at 3 p.m. today at the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library on Loyola Avenue, near City Hall.

Among its findings:

-70 percent of students say their teachers can not effectively manage their classrooms.

-70 percent say there are not enough textbooks to go around.

-60 percent say they are assigned less than an hour of homework per day.

Other criticisms include lack of college preparation and limited resources for students whose English is a second language.

VAYLA said the Recovery School District, which since Katrina has emerged as a major player in the city’s fragmented school system, has announced commitments based on the survey findings, including the creation of a student/teacher evaluation system and upgraded peer counseling.

Research leader Linda Tran, a recent graduate of the embattled Abramson Science and Technology School, said that as a result of Abramson’s inadequate teachers, she is concerned that she may be ill-equipped for life beyond high school:

“I’m worried about going to college and not knowing anything, and then flunking out,” she said. “I’m already too far behind. Now, I just hope my sisters and brothers don’t have to go to a bad high school. I don’t want them to experience what I had to experience.”

While Tran is willing to speak out about her experiences at Abramson, the report does not identify the six schools surveyed. Instead, it characterizes them demographically and reveals that two are charters, two are run directly by the Orleans Parish School Board and two by the Recovery School District.

To keep survey responses as candid and honest as possible, research leaders didn’t seek clearance from school administrators before talking to students, VAYLA president Jacob Cohen said.  “It was hotly debated if we should just disclose the names,” he said. “But we wanted to make students feel comfortable. We also felt like a lot of the issues were cross-cutting issues at many schools in New Orleans.”

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • Out of the Mouth of Babes! Students have documented the realities and results of conditions that many educators, parents, and public education advocates have been and will continue to be calling for action to reverse.

    With little reporting by the media, no acknowledgment or action by many of the BESE Board members, and the determination of our governor and legislators to forge on with their form of REFORM, the public has been lulled into believing that there are miracles taking place in the form of charters in Louisiana education.

    By law, every student must be able to take home textbook material upon which assessments are based.

    By law, teachers in Louisiana must be qualified and certified.

    By law, students must be provided with transportation to the school to which they are assigned.

    By law, students can only be expelled for certain offenses.

    By law (2010) our legislators now prevent retired certified teachers from substituting.

    BESE/LDOE have funded millions of dollars to Teach for America for these young, non-certified, inexperienced instructors and waived the requirement that charters hire certified teachers.

    By law, students cannot be prevented from participation in private schools because they can’t afford fees, uniforms, materials etc. yet it has become another tool by which to prevent enrollment of select students.

    This iteration of REFORM has come at a huge cost to taxpayers and yet the results are abysmal. The only thing innovative that the REFORMERS have created is a system to stack the deck against teachers, parents and students so that the RSD and the “treat of takeover” by the RSD can transform our schools into icons of capitalism.

    Wake up voters!! Don’t buy the hype. The entire economy suffers. Communities are being broken apart. Children are being deprived of an excellent and equitable education. Do not elect BESE candidates who cry REFORM. We have heard the cry of the wolf for too long.