This month, we are celebrating nine years since the founding of New Schools for Baton Rouge. In many ways, it feels just like yesterday, but in others–like when I look at my oldest son–I realize how much time has passed. I helped found the organization with dozens of other community leaders around the time my first son was born. Today, he’s growing through multiple sizes of shoes, wrestling with more complex relationships including a girl he may have a crush on at school, and occasionally beating me in board games (I wish I could say I still let him win). While he’s not yet taller than me, I am so proud of the young man he is becoming and I’m equally proud of the contributions my teammates and I have made to Baton Rouge’s education landscape. Our work continues today and remains as urgent as ever.
Over the last nine years, we have helped great school organizations expand the number of schools and students they serve in our community. We have helped scale two dozen schools that today serve nearly 10,000 students. Some of these organizations are home-grown public charter schools, and it has been our privilege to work with them to expand additional grade levels to their already robust, successful, and in-demand programs. Take CSAL and Madison Prep, a 6-12 set of schools under the CSAL organization. These schools were among the first charter schools founded in Louisiana by long-time educator Dujan Johnson two decades ago. Dujan’s vision and his dynamic team of educators have produced some of the most consistently high-performing outcomes for students, most of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These schools are demonstrating that when high expectations are combined with talented educators empowered to lead, we can unlock enormous potential in students, regardless of the background of those students or the obstacles they face. Recognizing the excitement from families and opportunities to create a continuum of learning and support for students, we worked with the CSAL team to support the growth of a K-5 Primary School that recently opened and at scale will provide more than 500 additional students access to life-changing educational opportunities.
Over the next decade, schools supported by NSBR will serve more than half of all students in public schools in Baton Rouge. We are excited that these schools not only provide families more choice and diverse program offerings but also come with a track record of results that ensure students will have more opportunities in life. This month, two new school organizations recruited by Baton Rouge community leaders are applying to the local school board for authorization: Great Hearts Academies and Discovery Charter Schools.
Great Hearts provides a unique, classical liberal arts education to students in grades K-12. This school model has more than twenty years of successful outcomes for students in Arizona, and it has also achieved notable success in Texas. Its schools are in wide demand by families, often boasting waitlists longer than the total enrollment in the schools. Great Hearts focuses on developing the whole child, weaving a unique combination of academics, arts, and athletics to develop students who are empowered with the opportunity to stretch their mind, body, and spirit. Several cities across the nation are competing to recruit a Great Hearts school to their communities, and we have successfully demonstrated the right mix of community demand and opportunity for a campus to thrive and serve Baton Rouge students.
Discovery Schools, founded by nationally recognized education leader Dr. Patty Glaser, has built a unique K-12 school model in Jefferson Parish focused on health sciences. Like Great Hearts, Discovery Schools reflect an enrollment consistent with the demographics of the community, finds thousands of students on its waitlist and continues to deliver some of the strongest academic results in the Parish and state. Dr. Glaser forged a unique partnership with Ochsner Health System whereby students gain access to a co-developed health sciences curriculum on top of best-in-class academics overall. The Discovery team is looking to replicate this successful K-12 model in Baton Rouge and forge additional partnerships in the Baton Rouge Health District.
As with all of our schools, NSBR has worked tirelessly to ensure Great Hearts and Discovery Schools will serve Baton Rouge students at the same level of achievement as evidenced in other geographies where these schools are already thriving. We have vetted their education models to ensure that students from all backgrounds who attend these schools will be successful. Like all public charter schools, Discovery and Great Hearts utilize open-enrollment practices. This means that there are no required tests or criteria students must meet in order to enroll in these schools. Because enrollment demands typically outnumber available seats, these schools utilize a lottery system for student enrollment, as required by state law. Each of these models boasts incredible diversity of student backgrounds, while not compromising on expectations and, more importantly, results. We have worked to help these organizations, which have incredible educators and leadership, build a launch plan for Baton Rouge that prioritizes community relationships and a strong start. We are confident that each will bring unique and successful offerings to Baton Rouge that will enhance our community and strengthen it for the long haul.
Great schools are the foundation of strong communities. We have the opportunity as a community to ensure all students have access to excellent public schools. We invite you to discover these unique, high-quality opportunities for Baton Rouge, as well as explore our other school partners.