This Jefferson Parish High School Is Ranked #1 in Louisiana: ‘We’re Family Here’ | Education


Patrick F. Taylor Science and Technology Academy, a sixth-grade magnet school on the west bank of Jefferson Parish, is Louisiana’s first public high school, according to new rankings from US News & World Report.

Taylor has long been one of the highest-rated public schools in Louisiana, and this year it topped the Leader 2021, Benjamin Franklin High in New Orleans, in the US News ranking. Taylor earned top marks for his performance in state assessments and college readiness, measured by the share of students who took and passed the advanced-level exams.

Sharmeika Daniels, director of the Patrick F. Taylor Academy of Science and Technology.

Principal Sharmeika Daniels, who took the helm at Taylor Academy in 2020, said the school’s success was the result of a team effort between students, teachers, parents and administrators.

“This is the first time I’ve seen a management team, as well as teachers, parents and students, all on the same page,” Daniels said. “We are a family here, and everyone’s contribution is important.”

“True life mentors”

Named for the founder and CEO of Taylor Energy Co., the school near Avondale offers a STEM-based college preparatory program. Daniels said students start learning computer programming in sixth grade.

Allie Johnson, who graduated in June and was president of the Student Government Association, said the teachers at Taylor Academy “were true mentors for life” who always pushed her to succeed. She easily listed half a dozen instructors who shaped her, describing one as a “gift on an Earth”, another as “selfless and unique” and a third as “always there” for her.

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“I will never take for granted how blessed I am to lead such phenomenal faculty and staff,” Daniels said. “All our teachers are on board. It’s not an easy thing to do, to get a whole group of people to agree on a goal.

Amanda Ingargiola, a master teacher who coaches other instructors at Taylor Academy, said, “The teachers here are demanding and the content is rigorous, but that’s what we’ll expect from the kids when they leave us.”

“Brilliant, motivated and committed”

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Taylor Academy serves approximately 800 students from the East and West Rims of Jefferson Parish. Students must score in the 85th percentile or higher on the Jefferson Academies of Advanced Study Admissions Test to enroll.

The student body is 47% white, 22% black, 20% Asian, 11% Hispanic and about 1% Native American or Alaska Native, Daniels said. Approximately 53% of students come from low-income households, qualifying the school with additional federal resources as a Title I school.

Ingargiola said there was a “big misconception” that because students test in school, teachers’ jobs are easy. “I think working with children [who] are really bright, motivated and committed, teachers have to work a lot harder,” she said. “Kids hold you accountable every day.”

Daniels said the school is doing “huge data dives” into their students’ performance to determine who is falling behind and might need more instruction, and who needs a more accelerated curriculum.

“There will never be a student on this campus [who] goes under the radar,” Daniels said.

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Daniels also credited parental involvement. “Our parents are phenomenal: they are involved; they are favorable; they want to know what’s going on,” she says.

She took the helm at a tumultuous time for the school, after the former headmaster left amid allegations of grade correction. Daniels herself is a product of Jefferson Public Schools: She graduated from LW Higgins High School in Marrero.

“They poured so much into me,” Daniels said. “I am who I am today thanks to this foundation.”

She said she was “super excited” about the US News ranking, but added, “It’s never about me. Yes, I’m the main one, but I’m only as good as the people who follow me.

According to US News & World Report, the top five public schools in Louisiana are:

  1. taylor
  2. franklin
  3. Haynes Academy School for Advanced Studies in Metairie
  4. Lusher Charter School in New Orleans
  5. High Red Baton Magnet

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