Author Archives: Megan Chauvin

Recognizing importance of student growth, EdNavigator gives Tubman “B” rating


EdNavigator, a nonprofit whose mission is to help New Orleans families provide their children with the best possible education, recently released its own grades for K-8 public schools in New Orleans.

StudentsJumpingEdNavigator published its own grades for schools in Orleans Parish on February 2, 2017. Although the state of Louisiana already provides annual grades for schools, EdNavigator’s grades attach greater importance to student growth than those currently provided by the state.

Under EdNavigator’s evaluation, Harriet Tubman Charter School earned a “B” grade for the second year in a row. This grade reflects Tubman’s track record of student achievement, and better demonstrates the progress of students who begin the school year academically behind, make significant strides, but who may still fall short of the proficiency cutoff.

“Measuring growth is so important and we are thrilled that Ed Navigator is using its platform to educate the community about it . Just a few short years ago, Tubman was an ‘F’ school. We have made huge gains along the way, most notably creating an intervention program that supports struggling students,” shared Tubman Principal and Crescent City Schools co-founder Julie Lause.

“The ‘B’ from EdNavigator reflects that most of our students, even very low performing students, are making significant progress each year towards their goal of mastery. We are especially thankful to our teachers who work so hard to help every single scholar make these big gains. We are also grateful that EdNavigator recognizes the important role student growth should play when evaluating schools.”

Academy Sports Bike Giveaway Rewards Tubman Students for their Academic Achievements


TubmanBike3It has become a holiday tradition for Academy Sports + Outdoors to distribute bikes to schools in Orleans or Jefferson Parish. This year, Harriet Tubman Charter School was selected as the lucky school to receive new bikes for 50 of its students just before winter break.

“Academy really wants to show that we are more than just a sports store,” said Aaron*, the Team Sports Manager at the Academy Sports in Gretna.

Aaron , who used to work with the YMCA, identifies himself as a “someone who cares a lot about kids…we really wanted to show local students that their hard work pays off. We think that a bike is a great gift, as it can be used for exercise and fun. It also provides kids with freedom.”

“When you get home after school you can hop on the bike, ride to another neighborhood, and make new friends,” added Aaron .

TubmanBike2Angelo Cross, the Director of Family and Community at Harriet Tubman Charter School, described how Tubman thinks about achievement and how the school selected which scholars would receive the bikes.

“I think we do a great job of pumping up growth and achievement at Tubman in a variety of ways throughout the year. I think what made the bike giveaway a hit was that it was such a surprise, students were not working based on the idea that they were going to win a bike, but really focused on trying to improve their scores.”

TubmanBike1“Fifty students in kindergarten through fourth grade were selected to receive the bikes. We chose students who had the highest absolute scores on a recent test, as well as those students who had demonstrated the most improvement. Initially, I think scholars were just excited to hear that they had scored high or greatly improved. It was such an unexpected bonus to receive something like a bike as a result of their hard work.”

Cross finds that students are already benefiting from the bikes.

“I’ve already heard from several parents that students were using their new bikes over the winter break. Bike winners who have older siblings with bikes were especially excited…now they can keep up with their big brother or sister,” said Cross.

*To protect the privacy of their employees, it is the policy of Academy Sports to withhold the last names of their employees.

Interested in donating to a school in the Crescent City Schools network? Email to learn more. Features Harriet Tubman Teacher in Story Told Over 10 years


GBIn a windowless classroom in Algiers, Gary Briggs Jr.’s sixth-grade students were reading a Greek myth out loud. Phaethon, trembling, stepped up to Apollo, the father he had never known, to ask if he could drive the sun.

“Louder,” Briggs said, pacing. “When you speak I want to hear your ‘Throw me somethin’, mister’ voice.”

The student got into it. “He began to think that his dreams might be very real,” she read.

“I loved this when I learned this in sixth grade,” Briggs said. The Greeks wanted their stories to last. “They’re doing pretty well because we’re reading them today in 2015.” The students expressed their enthusiasm with vigorous finger-snaps. Reading myths, you “see how another culture thinks,” he told them. “We are looking for attempts to explain the way things are in the world.”

Continue reading the full story here.



The Magical Art of Organization: Tubman Celebrates International Binder Week


Each year, the staff and scholars of Tubman eagerly await International Binder Week, an exciting celebration of all things related to getting TubmanArticle2(and staying) organized. One of the keys to success, in school and in life, is staying organized, and the entire Tubman community uses the week as a time to get their desks, backpacks, binders, and other systems in order. “For our students, organizing their academic lives with binders, agendas, cubbies, and desks is critical to their success at Tubman and beyond,” said Principal Julie Lause.

Highlights from the week included binder and desk “fashion shows,” where student finalists presented their binders or desks to celebrity judges. Students also were excited by the return of past judges, such TubmanArticle1as Pierre the Binder Inspector, a renowned French judge known for his deep commitment to organization. Crescent City Schools was able to get an exclusive interview with Pierre the Binder Inspector to discuss with him the importance of being organized. Click here to watch the interview.

Finally, Tubman staff and students were visited once again by the elusive and magical Desk Fairy. Click here to view the delight of some of Tubman’s younger students upon seeing the Desk Fairy.

Crescent City Schools Staff Spotlight: Karen Johnston


Karen Johnston copyKaren Johnston is a K-1-2 teacher and team leader at Harriet Tubman Charter School. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Johnston is a founding team member of Tubman who began as a 4th grade teacher in 2011.

With more than 8 years of teaching experience, Johnston first decided she wanted to teach because of her love for children. She soon realized how rewarding it was to be in a classroom. “It is truly fulfilling to motivate and influence my students’ growth on an emotional and academic level,” she said. “Being able to watch them develop their own abilities, skills, and talents has given me the opportunity to really make a difference.”

When asked about her favorite part of teaching, Johnston said she most values the relationships she is able to make. “It is important to me that I have strong communication with my students and their families. I am providing a service to both, and I want their family members to know I am available when needed.” Johnston also appreciates being able to witness the academic gains of her students. “I love when my former students return for a visit; to see the accomplishments they have made reminds me of the love I have for being a teacher.”

Johnston attributes a lot of her own growth in the classroom to her colleagues at Tubman. “Though my team I have learned the importance of teacher actions and how it has a great influence on student actions. I set high expectations for myself and know that my students will use my example for their own success,” she said. “I truly believe that academic habits and personal values are influential to student progress.”

As one of the first teachers her students will have, Johnston knows that she is responsible for building a strong academic foundation. “I want to encourage my students to take risks and engage their minds in everything they do; I want them to understand that lifelong learning will be what cultivates their dreams.”

Crescent City Schools Staff Spotlight: Rachael Gainer


R. Gainer copyRachael Gainer is the 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Harriet Tubman Charter School. A graduate of Smith College, Gainer will be entering her third year as an educator this August.

It was in college where Gainer first realized she had a passion to be in the classroom. “As I became more aware of the injustices in the education system, I realized I wanted to be active in finding a solution,” she said. “I know we have made a lot of positive impacts, but we still have work to do. I know it is important for me to stay with my scholars at Harriet Tubman.”

When asked about her favorite part of teaching, Gainer said she enjoys the power of being able to open young minds to new theories or ideas. “As an educator you get to impart knowledge to your scholars and spark a desire to consider something their minds had never considered before,” she said. Gainer adds that, in addition to what she can teach in her classroom, she also values what she can learn from her scholars. “I keep my ears and eyes open so I am constantly able to learn things, especially about New Orleans.”

Gainer acknowledges that one of the challenges of teaching is finding ways to invest her students in learning. “I grew up in an environment where memorization and repetition were the tools used to pass information from teacher to student. At Tubman we bring the classroom to life, but in order to do this I’ve had to relearn what it means to be both a teacher and a student.”

Gainer attributes her growth in the past two years to the team at Crescent City Schools and Harriet Tubman. “I can’t imagine any other organization providing its staff with the level of support I have received here. I know that each day I come to work someone is going to push me to be a better teacher,” she said. Gainer also recognizes the growth she has seen in herself as a student. “Working at Harriet Tubman means that you are always responding to feedback, not only from colleagues, but also from students. This has allowed me to practice the skills of listening and learning from others.”


Harriet Tubman Charter School Holds 8th Grade Farewell Ceremony


DSC_0113The 8th grade class of 2015 at Harriet Tubman Charter School attended its Farewell Ceremony on June 4. The evening was full of heartfelt goodbyes and well wishes as 8th grade teachers took the opportunity to speak about each graduating scholar. After remarks were given by 8th graders, Shyan Lawson and Da’Quan Jefferson, each scholar stood up to proudly announce the high school he or she will be attending in the fall.

DSC_0253Tubman’s Director of Family & Community, Angelo Cross, expressed how the high school decision-making process is vital to our scholars’ future. “We believe that the next four years are crucial in ensuring that students build the skills and habits of mind necessary to succeed in college. We are excited that our scholars have selected high schools that will keep them on that path to college,” he said. This was a particularly special Farewell Ceremony as over 90% of the graduates will be attending a “high-performing” high school, which we define as sending 85% or more of its graduating class to college.

6th Grade Teacher and Team Leader Recognized by The Collective – Greater New Orleans


Gary BriggsHarriet Tubman Charter School 6th grade teacher and Team Leader Gary Briggs was recognized on May 20 for his excellence in the classroom by The Collective – Greater New Orleans (GNO).

Briggs, who has taught at Tubman since it’s inception in 2011, has been an influential leader for not only his colleagues but also the community at large. His accomplishments were acknowledged last week during the “Making an Impact Together: Catalysts for Change” event, where he received the Alumni Continued Excellence in the Classroom Award.

The Collective – GNO, is an association of Teach For America’s alumni of color. The organization works to empower students, the community, and alumni to take action towards creating educational equity in New Orleans. They accomplish this by serving students in partnership with the community, building strong ties, and nurturing the leadership potential amongst alumni of color.

Briggs acknowledged what this award means to him. “Being honored by The Collective, a group that cares deeply about ensuring that every child in our city receives an excellent education, was truly humbling. The Collective strongly believes that people of color offer unique perspectives in the classroom, understanding that as a group we hold the potential to influence the lives of thousands of students across the city.”

Tubman Scholars Place at MindSteppers Championship


1The Harriet Tubman Charter School Dance Team was featured in the 2nd Annual MindSteppers Championship on May 15 at the NORDC Lyons Center. With over 100 public school children from Orleans and Jefferson Parishes participating, Tubman scholars took home various awards from the event. MindSteppers was created with the mission to spark interest in partner dancing among kids and teens; a social activity which has been shown to improve children’s behavior, build their self-confidence, and teach them social and life skills.

2Scholars competed in Swing Dance, Salsa, Waltz, Tango, and Merengue. Fifth graders Khamani Simmons and Lajae Todd took home the 1st place award for swing dancing; while 6th grade scholars Armond Jupiter and Warrenisha Washington came in 3rd place. Tubman scholars were also recognized in the Merengue category, as 5th graders Belvin Baker and Ja’mari Myles placed 1st. In the same category, 5th graders Khamani Simmons and Lajae Todd placed 3rd, and 5th graders Khalil Brooks and Raygan Taylor placed 5th.

Ribbons and trophies were awarded according to merit, and dance scholarships were awarded to the competition winners so they may continue learning at a private New Orleans dance studio.

Harriet Tubman dance coaches Kaitlynn Cunningham and Krista Rae Szaflarski enjoyed watching their students grow from this experience. “It has been fun to see them embrace dancing. Their hard work and dedication really paid off,” said Cunningham. “I was most impressed with their ownership and commitment to learning their dances and creating unity among the entire team,” Szaflarski added.

The championship is the culmination of the MindSteppers Teacher -Training Program, aimed at getting partner dancing and its associated benefits in schools across the area.