This chart displays the average ACT score for public and private schools in Orleans Parish by race/ethnicity from 2013 to 2017. Provided by The Data Center.
Researchers pointed out that African Americans still made some strides within segregation. The opening of McDonogh No. 35 in 1917 and Booker T. Washington trade school in 1942, for instance, increased black high school enrollment “30-fold” between 1918 and 1940, the report stated.
Even so, the report said desegregation of public schools became a “chief concern” in New Orleans in the Civil Rights era. Nationally, a series of court hearings for and against desegregation, as well as several protests, led to the U.S. Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision ordering school boards involved in the case to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” However, researchers stated New Orleans schools didn’t begin desegregating until 1960.
That year, a federal judge supervised the integration of four six-year-old black girls into two formerly white schools in New Orleans. Researchers stated those events spurred “ugly white-led riots” and initiated a mass exodus white families in the 1960s and 1970s to private schools and suburban public schools. Somewhat later and over a longer period of time, middle-income black families also departed the public schools, the report stated.
“Schools faced declining public support and came to be seen more as charitable causes rather than shared public institutions,” researchers stated.
The report stated white and middle-class flight provided leadership and professional opportunities for black people who had been shut out of most public schools since Reconstruction. The black community in Algiers, for instance, created the L.B. Landry High School, and researchers stated many black schools became “vital community hubs.”
Even so, researchers pointed out the loss of political and taxpayer support accompanied by white and middle-class flight negatively affected public school students. A higher percentage of New Orleans public high schoolers and 4th graders by spring 2005 scored lower on state standardized tests than the percentage of students as a whole statewide.