Recently, the Louisiana Department of Education released the latest round of School Performance Scores and it drew a good bit of attention, primarily because a number of the scores went down. But what some may have missed is the fact that the scores went down because our expectations for students went up.
The truth is, more schools actually performed better this year than they did the previous school year, but because we have increased our rigor and become more honest and transparent in the way we measure school performance some scores took a dip.
That was disconcerting to some, but evidence that education policies like these are on the right track got a significant validation with the release of a new independent peer review of the state’s plan to improve student performance under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The review, led by the Collaborative for Student Success, highlighted Louisiana as a clear leader. Louisiana is one of only 17 states to have made enough progress implementing their school improvement plans to even be included in this review and our efforts, they say, show real promise.
The review made special note of “Louisiana’s strong emphasis on equity and its vision for school improvement, with a focus on high-quality instruction and high-quality curricula.” That’s important.
What experts have determined is that if teachers don’t get the training they need and if students don’t have access to a rigorous, on-grade curriculum, we will never close the gaps we see with some of our students or make the progress we need to show real improvement. The review found that Louisiana is the only state in the country that is making this a primary focus of its efforts.
The emphasis on equity is important, too. That means we are paying attention to all of our students, and in doing so, not losing sight of those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, children of color, and children with special needs. If they’re not making progress, Louisiana requires that schools come up with specific plans to help them get to where they need to be.
Given our high poverty rate and low levels of education attainment, this type of attention is critical.
So, what does this all mean in practical terms? Louisiana is moving in the right direction with a plan that experts recognize as a national leader. But a strong plan is only part of the equation. We need our schools and districts to become partners in that plan, embrace it as a way forward, and help us continually improve it.
There’s no question we still have much to do. But all of this should tell us that we are focusing on the things that are most important, and the positive results we have seen in the past should continue and, hopefully, accelerate. Others have expressed confidence in our efforts to do that. We should share that confidence, too.