Periodically, CABL updates its “Report Card on Major Education Indicators” and we have a new version out for Winter 2018. It’s something every citizen should look at because it helps frame the argument for why we need to continue to focus and invest in education.
To a large degree the report card is simply a snapshot of where we stand now in a variety of areas dealing with K-12 and postsecondary education. As such, the picture it paints shows a clear need to continue to target the things that will increase and accelerate student achievement.
If you look at student performance over the last few years, it looks to some degree like our progress has plateaued. Has it? Perhaps to some degree, but maybe not the way some of the numbers seem to indicate. It’s important to recognize that we have made some significant changes in our education policies and expectations during the same period of time.
We have raised our academic standards so that they are now more rigorous than they were five years ago. We have also added rigor to our student testing to complement the higher standards. During that transition, student performance has not gone down and for the most part it has continued to inch up. That’s actually a significant finding.
And as these changes become more entrenched in our schools and teaching, we would expect to see our growth continue. We are already seeing that in some ways as the most recent measure we have of student performance on a national test – the ACT college readiness assessment – continues to show improvement, particularly when compared to other states where all students take that exam.
If you check out the updated report card, you might also want to watch this short video CABL has produced. In less than two minutes, it tells the recent story of how we have improved education policies and experienced growth in student achievement. It also explains why we need to stay the course and protect the reforms that are working from the threats that continue to arise.
One other thing the report card tells us is that we need to continue to look at effective ways to help our kids succeed. For instance, Louisiana has done a pretty good job over the last decade or so of expanding pre-school opportunities for four-year-olds. We have also set up a groundbreaking system to improve both quality and accountability in early education and child care centers that receive public funds.
But we still have more to do in this arena, particularly with state funding to help provide families with greater opportunities to place their children in quality early education settings. Obviously, making any new investments is a challenge in Louisiana today, but this is an area where we need to work with the Legislature and state leaders to raise as a priority.
In that sense, this report card, like the others that are produced nationally, represents a look at where we stand now, but it also tells us where we still need to go. Despite the many distractions facing state government these days, we can’t afford to lose that focus.