The Louisiana Department of Education recently released a new roadmap for the future of public education. It includes a list of six major goals, a framework of priorities that reflect the department’s values, and accompanying data that highlight the urgency with which we must work to address Louisiana’s education needs. The summary is only ten pages, and it’s a document all of us should take time to read.
There is no question that over the last decade Louisiana has made progress in education. You can see it in test scores, graduation rates, and postsecondary participation. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years we have seen plateauing in some areas, and in some cases declines. While slight fall backs in achievement levels are not unusual, they need to be addressed when we see them, and that’s what this new effort from state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley seeks to do.
In terms of the goals identified by education officials, they are the right ones, and reflect priorities that CABL has long embraced:
- Students will enter kindergarten ready.
- Students will achieve mastery in third grade and enter fourth grade prepared for grade-level content.
- Students will achieve mastery in eighth grade and enter high school prepared for grade-level content.
- Students will graduate on time.
- Students will graduate with a college and/or career credential.
- Students will graduate eligible for a TOPS award.
It’s clear from these goals that they build on one another. Education begins at birth, not when kids arrive in school. If students are behind when they enter kindergarten, they likely stay behind for the rest of their lives.
The benchmarks for students to be prepared for fourth grade and high school are important because they represent critical junctures in the education process.
And the ultimate goal of the public school system is for all students to graduate and for everyone to receive some form of postsecondary education and a credential. In today’s world, that is the only ticket to a prosperous life and career.
If these goals don’t seem revolutionary or new, it’s because they don’t need to be. They are fundamental and foundational aspirations that we must embrace to help our kids become successful. From time to time we need to remind ourselves of their importance and rekindle the urgency needed to achieve them. That’s what this new roadmap seeks to do.
And while these are goals that have been put forward by a state agency, we shouldn’t view them that way. We should elevate them as state priorities that are critical steps to our ultimate goal – ensuring every adult citizen has a postsecondary credential of value that affords them the opportunity for a meaningful career and a prosperous life.
One thing this pandemic, and the harsh impact it’s had on our economy, has taught us is that education matters. Higher education attainment doesn’t guarantee immunity from difficult economic times, but it does lead to more diversified economies and wage levels that provide workers a greater degree of security.
So, the sooner we claim this new round of education goals as among the very top priorities of our state, the stronger and more resilient we become. It may sound like a broken record, but sometimes that’s what we need to hear.