(Marta Jewson/The Lens) Credit: Marta Jewson / The Lens

In 2019, a community coalition led by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans carried out the first New Orleans Citywide Youth Survey. Nearly 4,000 students at 21 New Orleans public schools participated. The findings highlighted some good news about New Orleans students, particularly their high aspirations for the future, belief that education and effort are valuable, and feelings that their teachers challenge them. At the same time, students’ answers underscored a serious concern: pervasive differences in Black and white students’ experiences in their schools and neighborhoods. Black students were less likely to report feeling safe in their schools, their neighborhoods, and in the presence of police. And they were less likely to report that their teachers were successful at managing and connecting with students. 

With this information, the coalition’s organizations have been able to identify and advocate for critical needs among New Orleans’ youth; and school leaders have used survey findings to celebrate successes and consider areas for improvement. For example, one charter management organization responded to their results by creating better structures for including students’ voices in school decision-making. Additionally, the racial disparities documented in the survey have helped organizations advocate for Black students to gain access to advanced courses and experienced teachers. They have also advocated for expanded mental health services and restorative justice processes in schools.  Across the board, students’ answers had little association with their schools’ performance scores, which highlights the importance of understanding aspects of schools beyond test scores.

The survey is being administered again this month, and we call on all New Orleans schools to volunteer to participate in this anonymous 20-minute survey of 6th through 11th graders. The results will provide updated perspectives on the important topics cited above. The 2022 survey will also help us understand how the pandemic and Hurricane Ida have affected New Orleans’ youth. Timing is critical: if we want to understand how students experienced these events, we need to ask now!

Supporting our city’s youth should start with listening to their perspectives, and the New Orleans Citywide Youth Survey gives us that opportunity. If you are a school leader, please provide the survey to your students. If you are part of a New Orleans public school community, ask your school leader to participate. If you are the parent of a middle or high school student, encourage your child to take the survey seriously for the benefit of your school and all the city’s youth.

Signatories (listed alphabetically)

  • Rhonda Alouise, Executive Director, KIPP New Orleans
  • Tanya Bryant, CEO, ReNEW Schools
  • Sharon Clark, Charter Director, Sophie B. Wright School of Excellence
  • Shelina Davis, MPH MSW, Chief Executive Officer, Louisiana Public Health Institute
  • Karen Evans, Executive Director, New Orleans Children and Youth Planning Board
  • Jolene Galpin, CEO, ARISE Schools 
  • Dr. Rashida Govan, Executive Director, New Orleans Youth Alliance
  • Laura Hawkins, Chief of Strategic Advancement & Communications, New Schools for New Orleans
  • Dr. Amanda Kruger Hill, Executive Director, Cowen Institute, Tulane University
  • Myrialis King, CEO, Communities Academies
  • Jamar McKneely, CEO InspireNOLA
  • Kate Mehok, CEO, Crescent City Schools
  • Dr. Tia T. Mills, President, Louisiana Association of Educators
  • Dr. Luis Mirón, Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of Holy Cross New Orleans
  • Sabrina Pence, CEO, FirstLine Schools
  • Meghan Raychaudhuri, Head of School, Homer A. Plessy School Community School
  • Tory Taylor, Parent Representative, Education Research Alliance for New Orleans Advisory Board 
  • Dr. Liz Marcell Williams, CEO, Center for Resilience
  • Emily Wolff, Director, Youth and Families, Office of Mayor LaToya Cantrell

The Opinion section is a community forum. Views expressed are not necessarily those of The Lens or its staff. To propose an idea for a column, contact Opinion Editor Amy Stelly at astelly@thelensnola.org.