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Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans: Still Too White.

February 2, 2019

Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans is a French immersion charter school located in New Orleans. According to Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) October 2018 enrollment data (see here and here), Lycée Français’s enrollment included 824 students in grades K-8.

Lycée Français has been criticized in the past for both its predominately white student body and higher socioeconomic draw. From 2012:

Allegations that Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans is structured to favor well-off students and that it does not appropriately serve the city’s African-American population resurfaced on Tuesday afternoon when a series of complaints about the new French-immersion charter school were aired before the state education board in Baton Rouge.

Among the complaints were that the school has failed to follow through on an outreach program to a Central City daycare promised in its charter, that it is using state money to subsidize its private preschool, that students in the school’s new second grade are not being given adequate remedial instruction in French and that state education officials are intentionally ignoring those issues. No action was taken on the complaints, but the board asked its staff to investigate the claims and report its findings next month at a meeting in New Orleans. …

[Louisiana state superintendent John] White said that the state has already expressed its own concerns about the diversity of the school, and that Lycee Francais is making improvement. After an extensive outreach using radio ads and flyers to predominantly black neighborhoods last year during admissions, White said Lycee Francais now has a minority population of about 30 percent. (By comparison, Lycee had about 15 percent nonwhite students last year, Lusher had 48 percent, Audubon Charter had 62 percent and International School had 71 percent; the nonwhite population of New Orleans is about 67 percent.)

Six years later (October 2018), of the 824 students enrolled at Lycée Français, 477 (58%) were white; 135 (16%) were black, and 130 (16%) were Hispanic.

According to October 2018 enrollment data, New Orleans schools in general served a student body that was 7% white (3,316 / 46,178) 82% black (37,977 / 46,178), 7% Hispanic (3,338 / 46,178).

As of October 2018, only 42% of Lycée Français’s student body is economically disadvantaged, as compared with 83% of New Orleans students in general.

Thus, it is easy to see that the student body of New Orleans-based Lycée Français is not close to representing the general demographic of New Orleans students.

Lycée Français is a Type 2 charter, which means that the school was authorized by Louisiana’s state ed board (BESE); as such, stats for the school are not part of the demographic stats for New Orleans charter schools as a whole. This technicality aside, it is clear that Lycée Français is allowed to enroll students in a manner that biases its enrollment in favor of white and Hispanic students and against the city’s black students.

Why might this be so?

Well, as a Type 2 charter school, Lycée Français is allowed to draw students from across the state. Now, Lycee Francaise does note on its eligibility and priority page for prospective parents that as a Type 2 school, it has a “legal obligation to reflect the local community.” But there is more to the story.

According to Lycée Français’s FAQs, students in first grade and up must pass a French proficiency test to enroll.

That means that only pre-K and K students can enroll without knowledge of French.

Lycée Français does offer a “tuition-free” pre-K. However, LDOE’s October 2018 stats include no info on this option:

Tuition-free Pre-K4 (Cecil J. Picard LA4 Early Childhood Program)
Eligibility: Louisiana Residents.
Priority:

  1. Applicants who qualify as Economically Disadvantaged (up to 67% of available seats)
  2. Siblings of current students
  3. All other eligible applicants

There is also a tuition-based pre-K:

Tuition-based Pre-K4
Eligibility: Louisiana Residents. 2017-2018 annual tuition is $4,975.00.
Priority:

  1. Applicants with IEPs (not including for Gifted and Talented)
  2. Siblings of current students
  3. All other applicants

Note also that students who try to attend Lycée Français as kindergarteners who did not participate in the tuition-free pre-K are a lesser enrollment priority:

Kindergarten
Eligibility: Louisiana Residents. Tuition-free Pre-K4 students are granted automatic entry to Kindergarten.
Priority:

  1. Applicants who qualify as Economically Disadvantaged (up to 67% of available seats)
  2. Siblings of current students
  3. All other applicants

Beyond kindergarten, the French proficiency exam kicks in:

Grades 1-9
Eligibility: Louisiana residents who pass an assessment of French language proficiency.
Please see review document for details on testing-in eligibility | DOWNLOAD
Priority:

  1. Applicants who qualify as Economically Disadvantaged (up to 67% of available seats)
  2. Siblings of current students
  3. All other applicants

So, there are lost of hoops here, but there used to be more. Consider this archived eligibility/priority page from December 29, 2015:

Tuition-free Pre-K4 (Cecil J. Picard LA4 Early Childhood Program)
Eligibility: Louisiana Residents who meet these qualifications and attend an open house or tour, or participate in a discussion with Lycée staff (in person or via phone) regarding the mission and curriculum of the school.
Priority:

  1. Applicants with IEPs
  2. Siblings of current students
  3. All other eligible applicants.

Tuition-based Pre-K4
Eligibility: Louisiana Residents who attend an open house or tour, or participate in a discussion with Lycée staff (in person or via phone) regarding the mission and curriculum of the school. 2015-2016 annual tuition is $4,580.00.
Priority:

  1. Siblings of current students
  2. Applicants who meet these qualifications (up to 67% of available seats)
  3. All other applicants

Kindergarten
Eligibility: Louisiana Residents that attend an open house or tour, or participate in a discussion with Lycée staff (in person or via phone) regarding the mission and curriculum of the school. Students in LA4 program gain automatic entry to Kindergarten.
Priority:

  1. Siblings of current students
  2. Applicants who meet these qualifications (up to 67% of available seats)
  3. All other applicants

Grades 1-6
Eligibility: Louisiana residents that attend an open house or tour, or participate in a discussion with Lycée staff (in person or via phone) regarding the mission and curriculum of the school and pass an assessment of French language proficiency.
Priority:

  1. Siblings of current students
  2. Applicants who meet these qualifications (up to 67% of available seats)
  3. All other applicants

Open house attendance as an admission requirement was mentioned on page 45 of the school’s 2010 charter application. So was the expectation that parents attend a classroom observation beginning in year 2 of the school’s operation.

These requirements can intimidate parents and also put those who cannot miss work at a disadvantage. Even a mandatory phone call might be too much.

When school choice produces schools with demographics at odds with the communities in which they are located, one can know that those schools have far more qualifiers for entry that do local, board-run, neighborhood schools.

In such cases, the charter schools themselves have the advantage in the game of “choice.”

Still, Lycée Français is trying, n’est-ce pas?

Or maybe the greater community perceives the school itself as the outsider. It does not seem that those chartering Lycée Français polled the community to see if and how the school might complement community needs and desires.

So, when will the demographics of Lycee Francaise become truly representative of the general student body of the city in which it is located?

Pas de sitôt, mon amies. Pas de sitôt.

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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From → Charters

6 Comments
  1. Ruth Hasseler permalink

    Are there that many native French speaking children in New Orleans? How does a first grader …any first grader…pass a French proficiency test?

    • GMTZ permalink

      You go to the library and check out books in French for kids and you help your children learn the basics like my neighbors did after my husband and I convinced to put their son in Lycee with my daughter.

  2. Linda permalink

    A faculty member at Loyola University (New Orleans) is reviewed in Chap. 2 of UnKochMyCampus.org’s “Advancing White Supremacy through Academic Strategy”.
    Unrelated history-
    In the 1800’s slaves from the Jesuit Georgetown University were sold to a Catholic plantation owner in Louisiana. The sale enabled the university to avoid bankruptcy.

  3. B. Adams permalink

    Have you looked into the Gifted and Talented program at LFNO? A Sham and a SHAME!!

  4. GMTZ permalink

    Sounds like a sour article from people who did get in the school. My children are half African American half Native American. We live in pigeon town and proud of it. My family and I are hard working people with reduced lunch. We qualified for free lunch two years ago. I like that my younger kids can attend this school because their older sister was able to get in pre-K years ago. I’m not taking the bus like mad from one school to another thanks to the sibling priority which I think really helps people like us without a car. The school has helped us in the past with bus passes, uniforms and materials. My husband and I both took off from work to make sure our daughter was attending a good school when we first thought of applying. Every parent needs to be involved in their children’s education and evaluate the school they are thinking of sending their children to. I don’t see this as a burden. If I can’t even make time to make an educated choice for the future of my kids how can I expect complete strangers at a school to care more for my own children than I do. Your article is based on assumptions that poor people can’t afford to properly care for their children. Well some of us can’t afford it but it won’t stop us from still seeking the best for our kids and be involved in their education 100%. There are always excuses for not doing you job as a parent. Poverty will be one of many for the parents that won’t commit to parenting.

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