By Robert Mann
If there is anything that threatens Louisiana’s future more than the pitiful state of its education system, it’s our unwillingness to talk honestly about what ails our schools and their students. Put another way, little will change until we acknowledge and address the deep, systemic poverty that plagues Louisiana and prevents so many young people from realizing their potential.
Louisiana is in denial about its many problems — and nothing exemplifies that better than our repeated failures in education.
Over the past 30 years, we have tried almost every education “reform” any innovative reformer cooked up. We’ve left few policy ideas on the table.
In 1986, the state approved high-stakes tests to determine whether students should advance to the fifth and ninth grades. Since 1999, the state has issued report cards for schools and identified so-called failing schools. We embraced the 2001 national No Child Left Behind Act that required even more student testing and accountability.
We have enacted all kinds of teacher-quality initiatives. When Bobby Jindal was governor that culminated in legislation to eliminate teacher tenure and make it easier to fire those whose students were underperforming.
In the beginning, at least, Louisiana embraced the Common Core State Standards, an array of college- and career-ready benchmarks for K-12 students. We’ve tried charter schools and private-school vouchers.
After trying all this and much more, where do we stand?
Louisiana schools are still among the nation’s worst. We remain last among states in Wallet Hub’s comprehensive annual ranking of education systems. U.S. News rates Louisiana’s schools as the seventh-worst in the country.
And what do the bright minds who run the state’s school system suggest we do about this? Why, they counsel even more “reforms” and doubling down on what we’re already doing.
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