Edna Karr High School Receives 2013 Gaston Caperton Inspiration Award

Award Celebrates High Schools Promoting High Standards for Student Achievement, Doing Exceptional Work in College and Career Readiness

NEW ORLEANS — Edna Karr High School in New Orleans has been named a 2013 Gaston Caperton Inspiration Award school by the College Board for providing low-income students with the support they need to succeed academically. One of only three high schools nationwide to receive the award in 2013, Edna Karr will receive a $25,000 award to apply toward programs that encourage more students to attend college.

“Inspiration Award–winning schools exemplify the work done by teachers and administrators every day across the country in prioritizing the success of each of their students,” said Amy Wilkins, College Board senior fellow for social justice.  “Though many Edna Karr students enter high school with math and reading skills below grade level, by providing them with rigorous academic opportunities, and by engaging families and community members, the educators at Edna Karr have worked  ¾ and succeeded ¾ at building a schoolwide college-going culture. Their efforts demonstrate that when taught to high levels, all students can achieve at high levels. The College Board is proud to recognize the achievements of Edna Karr High School with a 2013 Inspiration Award.”

College Board representatives presented the award to Edna Karr High School at a celebratory event held this morning on the school’s campus attended by administrators, faculty, students, parents, and community leaders.

Awards Reflect Importance of Access to Higher Education         

Created by former College Board President Gaston Caperton in 2001, the Inspiration Awards honor high schools that help expand access to higher education by providing students with rigorous academic offerings and innovative college-preparation programs. Selected by a panel of higher education faculty from across the country, winning high schools demonstrate significant and consistent growth in the number of students taking honors and college-level courses and in the percentage of seniors accepted to two- or four-year colleges.

The Gaston Caperton Inspiration Award–winning schools do much more than meet basic eligibility requirements: They are selected for their innovative ability to inspire student success. 

About Edna Karr High School

Before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, Edna Karr High School was among the top magnet schools in the city. After the storm hit and schools shuttered, Edna Karr administrators and district officials knew that many students across the city desperately needed a place to learn and decided that it would be a disservice to the community to reopen using academic requirements for enrollment during a time of public crisis. Edna Karr’s facilities fared better than most schools during the storm, and less than four months later, Edna Karr was among the first public schools in New Orleans to reopen ¾ this time as a public charter school.

Accustomed to working with second- and third-generation college-bound students, Edna Karr now welcomed many students who would be the first in their families to graduate from high school. Over the next few years, Edna Karr classrooms grew larger, and overall academic performance dipped as the school transitioned into open enrollment. However, John Hiser, the principal of Edna Karr since 1985, took the challenge head-on and refused to change Edna Karr’s high expectations for student achievement. Before and after Katrina, the Edna Karr philosophy remained the same: to help every student achieve their maximum potential by delivering rigorous academic opportunity through a strong, college-going school culture.  

“When we started serving more students who would be the first in their families to go to college, we expanded our existing guidance team to include a trained college counselor who could work with students one-on-one as they prepared for and applied to college,” said Hiser. “As a result, our students are better equipped to navigate the college admission and financial aid processes, and are now receiving about the same number of college scholarships as our magnet students were. Our goal is to ensure that our students have the support they need to secure bright futures, and we’re here from early morning until late at night to make sure that happens.”

Today, the large majority of Edna Karr students continue to come from low-income families, but are now graduating from high school and enrolling in college at rates well above state and national averages. Last year, while nearly 90 percent of students were living at or below the poverty line, over 90 percent of Edna Karr seniors graduated, and over 80 percent went on to attend college. Edna Karr’s success is possible because from the day students enter as freshmen, they are guided, supported and encouraged every step of the way through graduation. From the moment one walks in the door, it’s evident that Edna Karr teachers and administrators have created an academic culture that inspires every student to achieve at their highest level.