AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Most children attend class in buildings we call schools. And in those schools, the kids are called students. But in many big cities, that basic vocabulary is changing. And nowhere is that more true than in New Orleans where just about every school receiving public funding is now a charter school. Reporter Eve Abrams noticed a language shift.
EVE ABRAMS, BYLINE: I started off with a little experiment. I asked a bunch of adults - where'd you go to school?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I went to Newton Elementary School, Newton High School.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Epiphany School.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Folsom Elementary School.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Valena C. Jones School.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: I went to the Moses Brown School.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Word of Life Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Warren Easton High School.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: Public School 38 in Jersey City.
ABRAMS: I also asked a bunch of kids - New Orleans kids. Listen for the difference.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY #1: I go to Belle Chasse Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #1: Trinity Episcopal School.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY #2: Langston Hughes Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY #3: I go to Craig Charter School.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY #4: I go to Kipp. Kipp Central City Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY #5: Arabi Elementary School.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #2: Mount Carmel Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY #6: Sci Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY #7: Success Preparatory Academy.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL #3: Kipp Leadership Primary Academy.
ABRAMS: One word stands out - academy.
LARRY CUBAN: It goes back to Plato. And it has a long history of intellectual exchanges.
ABRAMS: Larry Cuban is a professor emeritus at Stanford University in the history of education. His specialty is school reform and teaching. Cuban says our idea of an academy comes from Europe and travelled to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries.
CUBAN: Think Phillip Exeter, Andover. Private schools for elites where intellectual learning would occur. So it has that kind of pizzazz and kind of cachet.
ABRAMS: Cachet - something struggling New Orleans schools haven't had much of. By naming themselves academies, these schools hope to instill pride in both students and teachers.
CUBAN: I have yet to run across a affluent suburb that does this stuff. Have you?
CUBAN: OK. So it's an urban phenomenon. It's aimed at children of color because it's very hard to get experienced, highly-skilled teachers into urban schools. This is, I think, aimed at both teachers and kids - the renaming.
ABRAMS: And the renaming doesn't stop there.
JADA: A scholar is like a person who's from Akili, who does what they need to do and who's been told what they do.
ABRAMS: At Akili Academy in New Orleans, Jada Brown is a fifth-grade scholar. All Akili's students are scholars.
JULIE PATTERSON: It's a big term for us.
ABRAMS: Out in the school hallway, fourth-grade teacher Julie Patterson says Akili Academy uses the word scholar to set Akili apart from previous schools their students have attended - and to send a message.
PATTERSON: We have big goals for you. You know, we have big ideas. So you're not just a regular, old student. You follow our values. You follow our school rules. That means you're a scholar.
CUBAN: No word is magical in changing behavior.
ABRAMS: But, says Larry Cuban, using words like scholar and academy can change the way students and teachers think about what happens in the classroom. For NPR News, I'm Eve Abrams.
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