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Mixed Results for School Reform Efforts in New Orleans

A year after New Orleans School Superintendent Paul Vallas took the helm, educators in the city's public schools still tackle the challenges of keeping students enrolled and helping them meet required test scores. John Merrow wraps up a series of reports on efforts to reform schools in New Orleans.

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  • JOHN MERROW, NewsHour Correspondent:

    It's graduation time in New Orleans, but the music and the smiles mask a grim reality. Only about half of ninth-graders in New Orleans ever make it this far.

    That's why this man was brought in. New Orleans School Superintendent Paul Vallas, a veteran who headed the Chicago and Philadelphia school districts, has spent his first year here trying to educate a population of nearly 13,000 students. Many are far behind.

  • PAUL VALLAS, Superintendent, Recovery School District:

    Two-thirds of the kids are at least one year older than grade level. A large number of the kids are two years or older than grade level. And I'm talking about 16-, 17-year-old eighth-graders. I'm talking about 18-year-old ninth-graders who are two, three, four years below grade level academically.


    Vallas is talking about students like Brittne Jackson. When we met her last fall, she was a 19-year-old third-year senior who said she had failed the science section of the graduation exam 14 times.

  • BRITTNE JACKSON, Senior, Rabouin High School:

    I always had the Ds and the Fs, because I ain't never went to class and I never want to do nothing.


    Although she wanted her diploma, Brittne spent most of her time working two jobs, totaling nearly 70 hours a week. Between work and traveling to work, Brittne found it difficult to make time to study.

  • KADY AMUNDSON, Teacher, Rabouin High School:

    We've got to catch you up, because you weren't here yesterday. So…


    Kady Amundson was Brittne's biology teacher.


    It's been tough with Brittne. Brittne's a kid that I really care a lot about and I really wanted to see succeed. She's also a kid that I've had to kind of bend over backwards for. She just hasn't come to school a lot.