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Voices of New Orleans Youth: What Do the City's Young People Think About Their Schools and Communities?

A new study by Lindsay Bell Weixler, Douglas N. Harris, and Alica Gerry examines how students view their teachers, schools, and communities.

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Voices of New Orleans Youth: What Do the City's Young People Think About Their Schools and Communities?

by Lindsay Bell Weixler, Douglas N. Harris, Alica Gerry

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Voices of New Orleans Youth: What Do The City’s Young People Think About Their Schools and Communities?

Most cities have lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion about what their young peo­ple expe­ri­ence and how youth view their schools and com­mu­ni­ties. We know a great deal about stu­dent test scores, high school grad­u­a­tion rates, and neigh­bor­hood pover­ty rates, but these data points tell us lit­tle about stu­dents’ expe­ri­ences or how pub­lic pro­grams and insti­tu­tions can bet­ter serve them. This study sum­ma­rizes results from the first New Orleans city­wide youth sur­vey, which we con­duct­ed in con­junc­tion with local edu­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions dur­ing the 2018 – 19 school year. Below, we sum­ma­rize the key find­ings from stu­dents in New Orleans’ pub­licly fund­ed schools. We also dis­cuss dif­fer­ences between the respons­es of white stu­dents and stu­dents of col­or, which is of par­tic­u­lar impor­tance, giv­en the large share of peo­ple of col­or in the city and the long­stand­ing inequities they have his­tor­i­cal­ly faced in school, com­mu­ni­ty, and life oppor­tu­ni­ties. — Teacher Qual­i­ty: New Orleans stu­dents rate their teach­ers high­ly in some areas (e.g., abil­i­ty to chal­lenge stu­dents), but low­er in oth­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly class­room man­age­ment. These rat­ings are some­what low­er than those of a nation­al com­par­i­son group. For both New Orleans and the nation­al com­par­i­son group, stu­dents of col­or rate their teach­ers low­er than white stu­dents on most mea­sures. — School Cli­mate: Though many stu­dents agree that school dis­ci­pline is fair (68%) and bul­ly­ing is not a prob­lem (64%), rough­ly one third of stu­dents do not. Addi­tion­al­ly, stu­dents of col­or tend to report low­er rat­ings than white stu­dents on mul­ti­ple aspects of school cli­mate. — Stu­dents’ Beliefs: Stu­dents fre­quent­ly agree that they val­ue their edu­ca­tion (70%) and that the effort they put into their school­work pays off (71%). Con­sis­tent with nation­al trends, they have high ambi­tions, with 85% report­ing that they will pur­sue a col­lege degree. One of the few areas in which we find that schools’ state-assigned let­ter grade relates to stu­dents’ respons­es is in col­lege aspi­ra­tions: stu­dents in A and B schools are more like­ly to believe that they will go to col­lege, com­pared to stu­dents in low­er-rat­ed schools. — Trans­porta­tion: Most stu­dents (70%) report school com­mutes of less than 30 min­utes. — Neigh­bor­hoods: New Orleans youth fre­quent­ly report hav­ing social sup­port (67%) and feel­ing safe in their neigh­bor­hoods (72%). 44% par­tic­i­pate in ser­vice activ­i­ties in their com­mu­ni­ties, with stu­dents of col­or more like­ly to par­tic­i­pate than white stu­dents. The major­i­ty of white stu­dents report feel­ing safer in the pres­ence of police, while the major­i­ty of black stu­dents do not. Hav­ing input from the city’s youth is invalu­able in under­stand­ing how they expe­ri­ence their schools and neigh­bor­hoods, and we are excit­ed to be able to high­light their voic­es. These results offer insight into how we, as a city, are serv­ing our chil­dren. In instances where these results sug­gest there are con­cerns in our schools and com­mu­ni­ties, we acknowl­edge that these are com­pli­cat­ed issues. There are many pos­si­ble con­tribut­ing fac­tors, as well as many avenues to address them. We hope the results from this sur­vey will prompt new con­ver­sa­tions and pro­vide a call to action to improve the lives of New Orleans’ young people.

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