FirstLine Schools Receives $7 Million Gift from MacKenzie Scott

FirstLine Schools has received a $7 million gift from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. This gift will allow FirstLine to advance its teaching model, which has achieved extraordinary post-pandemic student growth across all four of its New Orleans schools. This is the largest single unsolicited donation FirstLine has ever received, and it is a vote of confidence in the work our leaders, teachers and support staff do in schools across the city of New Orleans every day.
FirstLine’s highly effective, data-driven instruction resulted in major improvements in student outcomes reflected in their 2022 Louisiana Assessment of Educational Progress (LEAP) performance. FirstLine achieved some of the highest student growth scores in the city using a precisely constructed combination of high-dosage tutoring, small group instruction, social and emotional learning, and a wide variety of experiences designed to stimulate student engagement and critical thinking, including FirstLine’s nationally acclaimed garden and culinary education program, Edible Schoolyard New Orleans. FirstLine students’ scores in English Language Arts and mathematics improved significantly across all of our schools in the 21-22 school year. These improvements occurred despite frequent interruptions in instruction, including a three-week closure for Hurricane Ida and multiple pandemic quarantines.

“We are so proud of the work that FirstLine teachers, leaders, and support staff have done, particularly in some of the most challenging circumstances any of us have ever encountered. The pandemic gravely impacted learning. We have a long way to go to recover from the pandemic and accelerate much further than pre-COVID levels of learning, but MacKenzie Scott’s gift is a tremendous affirmation of our work and approach. It ensures that we will have the resources to refine our approach and innovate further so that students may thrive,” says Sabrina Pence, CEO of FirstLine Schools.

FirstLine, a 24-year-old New Orleans based charter management organization, embraces a whole child education philosophy that nurtures students in mind, body, and spirit. Since its inception, it has worked to develop a Vision of Excellence that includes rigorous academics, effective professional development for a diverse group of teachers and leaders, a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, social and emotional learning for students and staff, and the creation of school environments that promote a sense of belonging and community.

FirstLine board chair Charles West says, “We are deeply grateful for MacKenzie Scott’s visionary philanthropy, her belief in the importance of high-quality public education, and her recognition of FirstLine’s pioneering work. Her investment in FirstLine’s approach to teaching and learning will change the life outcomes of thousands of New Orleans children.”