One of the key goals of K-12 education is to give our students the educational foundation they need to be college or career ready. In Louisiana, we have a good benchmark to measure this preparedness – what percent of our students qualify for TOPS, a program that provides two- and four-year merit-based scholarships to Louisiana public colleges and universities.
Educate Now! recently reviewed the TOPS data, and New Orleans continues to close the gap.
- The percent of Orleans Parish public school students eligible for TOPS scholarships (two- or four-year) has grown from 24.9% in 2005 to 37.2% for last year’s graduates – a gain of 12.3 percentage points.
- During this same time, the state average grew only 5.2 percentage points, from 37.3% in 2005 to 42.5% in 2011.
Eligibility for a TOPS scholarship is a measure of college or career readiness. Two-year technical or occupational scholarships require at least a 2.5 GPA, mandatory coursework, and an ACT score of 17. Four-year scholarships are available at three different levels, but the minimum requirement is at least a 2.5 GPA, mandatory coursework, and an ACT score of 20.
Critics of education reform in New Orleans question if the improvements are real. They discount and distrust the impressive gains in the state LEAP and iLeap tests, and they use the more rigorous school grading system to argue schools aren’t improving.
At the end of the day, however, it is our graduates’ success that is our ultimate report card. The remarkable increase in the number of TOPS eligible graduates is the most powerful evidence yet that education reforms are making a difference in the lives, and the futures, of our students.