In 1992, three local college professors decided to try to improve high-school science and math in the New Orleans region. Enlisting business and civic supporters to their cause, they opened the New Orleans Center for Science and Math (known as SciHigh) as a half-day program that students from any area public school could access. Without any preselecting or testing of its students, the school is one of the few completely open science and math academies in the country.
The program’s focus was underserved students, particularly African Americans. Its backers believed that most students could master high-level science, technology, engineering, and math if taught by knowledgeable and demanding teachers. Students quickly proved them right, and 12 successful years followed.
After Hurricane Katrina, the center reopened as a full-time charter school—the New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School. Three quarters of its students are African-American, and a similar number qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Fully 97 percent of these students pass the science section of the state exit exam in their first sitting, and 95 percent do so on the math section. The school offers ten A.P. classes (the most of any open-admission New Orleans school), and 80 percent of all seniors are enrolled in at least one. Its student body of 400 boasts a 93 percent graduation rate.
- SciHigh, noscihigh.org