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Articles: At-Risk

New Orleans schools are operated by one of three organizations. Source: The Cowen Institute.

New Orleans public schools have made great strides in the eight years since the state took over most of them due to consistently low academic performance and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

But several challenges still remain for the decentralized school district, according to an August report from the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane University.

Alvin Crawley became Alexandria City Public Schools’ permanent superintendent last March after being interim since October 2013.

Alvin Crawley relishes the days he can get a little dirty. One recent day, he played kickball with students at Maury Elementary School, and then dusted off his new suit before returning to his office. Another day, he played drums and told African folk tales to fourth-graders during a lunch break at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, an elementary school. And on still another, he and Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille rapped in a student-created music video to stem the cases of bullying.

Superintendent Jesse L. Jackson has made communicating with ESL parents a priority at Lake Wales Charter Schools in Florida.

Lake Wales Charter Schools, an entire K12 charter district in central Florida, is the only charter local educational agency (LEA) in the state. As an LEA, the Lake Wales system functions as its own public school district, retaining administrative and financial control.

Districts must do more to ensure low-income and minority students have access to top-notch teachers, says a new report. Poor students and students of color are less likely to be taught by a highly effective teacher than are other students, but there are some pockets where change is occurring.

Fourth grade teacher Joan Meehan works with student Erica Moye. Meehan had the same students in third grade and says they’re making progress.

Crowds of students who’d left their classes without permission used to prowl the halls of the K8 Clemente Leadership Academy in New Haven, Conn. Students fought, used profanities and verbally abused staff. Teachers spent more time on discipline than instruction. Clemente, long known as a place to send troubled students, sunk under the weight of low expectations to become one of New Haven’s lowest-performing schools.

Don Brann visits an elementary school in the Inglewood district—and listens to staff needs.

Donald Brann, state trustee of Inglewood USD, has only been on the job six months, but already teachers and administrators are seeing that things are different from what they used to be.

After the state takeover of the financially-struggling district, administrators say just having direct access and being able to communicate with him and receive quick answers to their questions is a change of pace. They had never seen the chief administrator visit their schools before.

More than 160 Syracuse students participated in the Say Yes to Education Young Authors Series, and wrote their own books.

A citywide school turnaround program that offers full-tuition college scholarships for urban students has seen early success in increasing high school test scores and college attendance.

The new Taft Information Technology High School was among the buildings in the Cincinnati Public Schools that was renovated or newly built under the master plan.

It’s not little and it’s not red, but the schoolhouse remains the center of Cincinnati Public Schools’ neighborhoods. The schools are where students and residents alike have access to free health care, civic programs, and mentoring provided through partnerships with social service agencies.

These partnerships have transformed schools into Community Learning Centers and are central to the district’s nearly completed $1 billion construction project, Superintendent Mary Ronan says.

Twenty-one students graduated in 2013 from the Peabody Learning Academy in Peabody, Mass., a Simon Youth Academy alternative high school located inside a shopping mall.

Students attending alternative high schools located in shopping malls nationwide are succeeding academically, with an average graduation rate of 90 percent in the nontraditional setting.

A kindergartner from Cincinnati is already planning for college with CFES.

A K12 college awareness program operating in 200 schools and districts is greatly increasing underserved students’ interest in continuing their education, according to a new study. College for Every Student (CFES) is a nonprofit that has worked with districts with high populations of low-income students since 1991.

Nearly half of all students in public schools are now considered low income and therefore eligible for free or reduced lunch. And in 17 states, those students are already the majority, says a new report by the Southern Education Foundation that looks at data from 2010 and 2011.

Students who earn college credit while pursuing their diploma at early college high schools are more likely to graduate and go on to higher education than their peers who attend traditional schools, according to a new study from the nonprofit American Institutes for Research.

Women, minorities, and low-income students from these schools were more likely to earn a college degree than those at other high schools, the study also found.

Freshmen at Merrillville High School receive extra academic attention in the school’s Freshman Wing.

Today, the Merrillville Community Schools Corporation, located in a suburban town outside Gary, Ind., is an award-winning district, having achieved a 90 percent graduation rate in 2012 with 78 percent of its students demonstrating proficiency in English, math, and science.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre interacts with Knox County elementary school students.

Knox County Schools is a flourishing district in Tennessee, with most of its 15 high schools having graduation rates above 90 percent. Within the last five years, the district has also has also seen modest gains in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for grades 3 through 8.

Students in the Samuel J. Green Charter School listen to a math lesson. As part of the “portfolio” strategy, dozens of independent local and national organizations operate charter schools in the district.

It’s been a decade since Louisiana established the Recovery School District to take over the lowest-performing schools in the state. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the RSD took over almost all the schools in New Orleans, and in the process restructured the city’s school system on an unprecedented level.

Over the past 10 years, New Orleans schools have gone from being some of the lowest performing in the country to becoming a working laboratory for a bold experiment in restructuring an urban public school system.