Letter: Achievement Zone transformative

Children who live in poverty are too often confined to the lowest-performing schools. In Baton Rouge, more than 16,000 — or 1 in 3 — students attend a failing school.

Nearly half of the students in Baton Rouge performing below grade level are concentrated in the North Baton Rouge area. Students in the zone live in communities where more than 1 in 3 adults have less than a high school diploma and crime is four times greater than the city average.

This leads to fewer opportunities, fewer chances for success and creates a bleak reality for future generations. That limits options for families and communities and that should be unacceptable to all of us.

The good news is we have an opportunity to change the course. The Baton Rouge Achievement Zone is the result of a targeted approach to lift kids out of underperforming schools and create conditions needed for transformative change.

By creating a unique partnership between the Recovery School District and the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System, we can create an education system grounded in accountability, parental choice, diverse educational delivery and shared enrollment.

We believe educators — not bureaucrats — are best-positioned to make decisions in schools that drive student success; that schools should develop innovative programming that compete for student, family and community interests; that parents deserve optimal choices that ensure bright academic futures for their students; and that the destiny of our students should not be determined by their ZIP codes.

In New Orleans we are seeing what’s possible when the power of educators is unleashed, and innovation and drive for change become the new normal.

Sci-Academy — a charter high school founded in eastern New Orleans in 2007 — graduated its first class of students in June 2012.

Today, 96 percent of those students attend a four-year university, 91 percent of them are the first in their family to attend college. Further, many are on academic scholarship despite entering high school after years languishing in and shuffled between bad schools where neglect and indifference were the standard. Students now look forward to futures paved with opportunity, and not one in which they are too often exposed to the harsh reality of violence and drugs in distressed communities.

This undoubtedly will change the trajectory of possibility for future generations to come and that’s great news for our state.

We can and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure access to a great school for students in North Baton Rouge and beyond. The success of our city, parish and region depends upon the ability of all of our students to get a great education.

Patrick Dobard, superintendent

Recovery School District

Baton Rouge