Another Kind of Progress for Education

There was some progress on the education front this week. No, this time it wasn’t about something that happened in the classroom, though that’s the thing that really counts. Instead two things happened that will keep our education improvement efforts moving forward.

The first was the news that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Louisiana’s new school improvement plan – something every state is required to submit to the federal government as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act. That wasn’t a huge surprise because a number of independent groups had already undertaken their reviews of the plan and given it high marks.

What’s significant about it is that the federal approval will hopefully bring an end to the ongoing calls for delay from the usual corners of the education establishment. Louisiana doesn’t need more delays when it comes to our kids and our schools.

The plan does a number of important things, but fundamentally it continues to raise our expectations of schools and students, shines a brighter light on how our schools are performing, and places a stronger emphasis on disadvantaged students to ensure that as other students make progress, they do too. Moving forward now instead of waiting for months is better for our students and better for our state.

The other development of note is at least some of the controversy surrounding Superintendent John White’s employment situation has been put to rest. This week BESE conducted the superintendent’s annual job performance evaluation. He emerged with a rating of 3 stars out of 4 or a rating of “effective and proficient.”

That’s another blow to those resisters of change who somehow feel we would be better off going backwards to the days when our standards were low, we didn’t know just how our students were really performing, and there was no accountability in our schools. Sadly, though, that battle may not be over. There are still those who are trying to unseat the superintendent, and if they can’t do that, they at least want to try to distract him from achieving his goals.

A lawsuit filed earlier this year challenging whether the superintendent could legally remain in office was thrown out because the plaintiffs did not have legal standing. But the court didn’t rule on any of the merits of the arguments and suggested other parties with standing could bring a case. The governor has suggested that he was considering it, but given the major fiscal issues still facing the state, attention to other matters seems more appropriate.

The legal issues involved seem questionable at best and, quite frankly, these political distractions involving the adults do nothing to help our kids. The superintendent works for BESE, they have given him an effective job rating, and it’s time to move on.

Under Superintendent White, Louisiana has seen measurable improvements in student outcomes and the implementation of innovative and nationally recognized approaches to benefit students, teachers, principals, and superintendents. We are expecting more of our students, setting ambitious goals for improvement, and placing a stronger focus on the kids that face the most difficult challenges.

All of these things are positive moves and they should be the real subject of our focus – not the political posturing that is sadly all too common when it comes to public education.

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